Few of us remember how San Diego lost the 1972 Republican National Convention to a colorful bribery scandal — sparked by a “Please Destroy This” memo — that sent the White House into a spasm of gay-baiting and assassination plotting.
But the mess was actually one of the most epic disgraces in a San Diego history that’s full of them, a debacle so aggravating that the city tried to make itself feel better by giving itself a new slogan. For better and, on occasion, for worse, “America’s Finest City” is still with us today.
As the Republican National Convention in Cleveland reaches its climax on Thursday, the same day that Comic-Con begins in San Diego, here are five facts about San Diego’s close call with Richard Nixon and the national spotlight.
Mayor: No Convention! Nixon: But It’s My ‘Lucky City’
Nixon loved San Diego. He called it his “Lucky City,” and no wonder: A Republican stronghold during his time, San Diego helped him dominate California each time he ran for Senate, vice president and president.
He liked San Diego so much, in fact, that he preferred to end his campaigns here. So it’s no surprise he wanted to hold the 1972 GOP National Convention, where he’d be nominated to run for a second term, in the sunny city that had been so good to him.
“He felt safe there. It was Nixon country and near Orange County, and as (staff) put it in a memo, ‘there are few Negroes,’” said Mark Feldstein, author of “Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture,” in a 2010 Voice of San Diego interview. “He really was a recluse in a lot of ways. It was close enough to the Western White House in San Clemente that he could helicopter back and forth and sleep in his bed at night.”
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I remember how Pete Wilson tried to plaster over the scandal with his "America's Finest City" slogan. What I don't remember is the idiot who introduced the term 'world class" into our civic dialogue. It's one of the most misused terms ever. I find there is very little about San Diego that is "world class", but that hasn't prevented our elected officials and their appointees on board like the port and Civic San Diego from using to describe every new stupid proposal that come there way. Friends tell me that every time they read the term, or hear it at meetings, they feel like throwing up. I tend to agree with them. The term should be eliminated from our civic dialogue.
I have long thought the nickname for San Diego ought to be "America's funniest city".
As for conventions, since the voter registration has swung Democratic, how about going for the Democratic National Convention in 2020? I'd rather host that than a Super Bowl.
Watching Cleveland's GOP convention makes me wonder if any city really gets enough out of hosting a political convention. Some positives, beauty shots & nice comments from people running for office (and they have lots of credibility, right?), but also any city also gets branded with whatever happens at that convention. See 1968 Democratic convention. The Democratic party, the labor movement, and Chicago style of government did not come out well with that one.
Cleveland will at least get exposure as much more than a fading rust belt city, but this questions remains;
Is the juice worth the squeeze?
I remember the civic boosters' efforts to take our collective mind off losing the convention, mostly a series of quaint and homey events: e.g., bathtub races and family picnics on Mission Bay that continued for several years after 1972.
In retrospect- an odd way to act like being jilted by the GOP at the altar didn't mean anything- culminating in 1996, when the city finally hosted the RNC...and paid an estimated $50 million for it, off the books, by underfunding its pension obligations.
We should have stuck with the bathtub races.
My namesake's staff member was accurate with the observation that ‘there are few Negroes' in San Diego and that remains true today in this Mississippi Of The West.
@rhylton What’s with this “Mississippi of the West” routine?Is there something illegal or immoral about having 10% or less blacks in a large city? We’ve got plenty of latinos from all over Central and South America, plus Vietnamese, Philippinos, Koreans, Japanese, etc and a fair number of muslims from all over the world.This isn’t exactly New Hampshire.
If blacks choose not to come here in sufficient numbers to suit your “diversity” notions, be reminded that it’s still, at least until November, a free country. And, I note that, despite demographic changes, District 4 is still represented by a black even though I’m told that it’s no longer a majority “black district".
@Bill Bradshaw @rhylton Well Bill baby,Sir, your comment reminds me of a famous comment from James Watt, former Secretary of the Interior; one that had a short but spectacular life in the 1980s, when it was fashionable to mock affirmative action (a method for obtaining dreaded "diversity") Watt remarked: "I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. As you may remember, Watt resigned within weeks of making that statement. I would see you resign from your feeble attempt at taking me to task, and focus instead on why the moniker applies -one that was not applied by me and for which I take neither credit nor blame.
So sir, how many blacks, jews and cripples have you in District 4? I have little doubt that you keep track of that stuff.