Early life and career
Nichols was raised in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio during the most trying years of the Great Depression. His family was described as "dirt poor" immediately following the Stock Market crash and that they would live in cardboard boxes for a few years with the name Nichols painted in faded ink. This was while his father John had successfully became a U.S. Representative for Ohio.
In 1932, his father had successfully became a U.S. Senator and helped bring much more income into their household.
Despite his upbringing, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1943 until 1945, once he came of age. He was severely wounded in the Battle of Okinawa, late in the war, he was shipped back to the United States where he underwent several months of recovery. But this was where his childhood friend Mary began to visit him and help nurse him back to health.
In early 1946, he proposed to Mary and the two were wed, the couple's first and only child William was born in 1951. Nichols was able to find a job with the school-board of Columbus, Ohio's district while he acquired his doctorate in political science from Ohio State University.
In 1955, Nichols received his doctorate and began teaching political science at OSU until 1964. When his father began having more health problems. Nichols ran for a Ohio State Senate seat with the help of friends and co-workers. When his father died in early 1968, Robert was convinced to take over his father's U.S. Senate seat.
Nichols served two terms as U.S. Senator before announcing his candidacy for president in late 1979.
Presidency of Robert Nichols
Nichols emerged as the clear nominee among his competitors: Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson of Washington, Governor Cliff Finch of Mississippi and others. His warmth, confidence and stern appearance gave the impression that Nichols was presidential and an authentic individual. He won decisively and impressed his liberal bonafides to the DNC and worried some as stating he was "too liberal" to win the general election. During press conferences, he would typically introduce a policy, then tell an anecdote and convince others in the room that his policy was worth attempting. His idealism and optimism was infectious among the American public as he had a high favorability rating with them. In 1980, he defeated President Sinclair by vowing to lead America forward after the last several years of turmoil. He suggested that the assassinations of JFK and Ford as well as the resignation of Nixon had left a feeling of uneasiness and distrust of the government among the American public. He selected his primary rival, Senator Frank Church as his running mate, despite the fact that both were farther left politically. His presidency gave rise to the term, "Nichols Revolution," in which the country began to trend toward more liberal policies.
On Inauguration Day 1981, Iran released the fifty-two hostages held since November 1979. On February 18, he proposed significantly decreasing defense spending in favor of increasing spending on the space program while increasing taxes on the wealthy and domestic spending in a speech to Congress. Later in March, Nichols sent a balanced budget proposal for FY1982 which stripped funding from the military and gave it to many domestic programs within the country which angered many conservatives. Nichols was shot but not killed by John Hinckley Jr., he made a full recovery and became known as "Old Ironside" due to an old Whiskey flask (which he used to drink water, in style) being placed in his shirt pocket. On July 7, Nichols nominated a liberal female judge to fill the seat of retiring justice Potter Stewart, the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court. On August 5, Nichols ordered a full investigation into FAA by the Department of Labor and assured the PACTO air traffic controllers that their demands would be met and that he would not stop until they were paid higher wages and their working conditions improved. On August 13, Nichols signed a tax cut for the middle class and poor families and increasing taxes on the wealthiest. On October 2, Nichols declares that the United States would discontinue the B1 bomber but continue development on the MX missile, as part of decreasing tensions with the Russians and a need to make the American military a defensive one as opposed to an offensive one, this was a highly controversial for members of both parties. On November 18, Nichols stated that he would not deploy ICBMs in Europe and suggested that the USSR dismantle similar weapons already in place as a token of good will. Nichols however, imposed economic sanctions on Poland following that government's imposition of marital law.
On January 26, 1982, Nichols called for an "Investment in the American future," advocating less federal spending on the military and more spending on domestic programs to alleviate social and economic problems. On June 6, Nichols became the first U.S. president to address the combined Houses of Parliament, taking Britian's side in the Falklands Islands conflict with Argentina. On June 11, he visited West Berlin. In the summer, he signed a series of executive orders attempting to address the income disparity among the rich and poor as well as making education a priority and incentivizing the science and technological sectors including investments in alternative fuels and power.
On January 25, 1983, during his State of the Union address, Nichols called for a freeze on military spending and increases to domestic spending. On March 23, Nichols declined the U.S. military proposal for development of the Strategic Defense Initiative. On April 20, Nichols signed a Social Security Expansion Bill into law; on the same day, it was reported that the US GNP showed dramatic growth for the first quarter of 1983, signaling the end of the recession. On June 18, Nichols chose Paul Volcker to a second term as head of the Federal Reserve. On July 1, the final phase of Nichols' tax cuts for the middle class and poor went into effect. On October 23, a suicide bombing in Lebanon left many dead, leading to discussions between the Israeli and the United States stating that it was not the United States job to be "the world's policeman." This caused a schism between Israel and the US, essentially taking the comment as "fend for yourselves." However, the Republicans calmed the tensions by continuing to support Israel.
On January 24, 1984, Nichols delivered State of the Union message calling on Congress to cooperate to reduce the deficit. Though he had lost re-election to Senate in Idaho, Church was inaugurated Vice President on January 20 and held the office with distinction for three years until he was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumor and less than three months later Vice President Church had died on April 7. Nichols asked his friend to return to Idaho to spend his final days. On April 30, Nichols signed a scientific and cultural exchange accord with the Beijing leadership on a six-day visit to China. On August 22, Nichols was unanimously renominated by the Democratic party for the 1984 presidential election. At the convention, after months of thought, Nichols chose his new running mate in Colorado Senator Gary Hart. On November 6, President Nichols was re-elected with Vice President-designate Gary Hart, defeating his challenger former Vice President Dole in one of the largest landslides in American history. (531-7)
On January 20, 1985, Nichols is inaugurated for a second term as President of the United States. On February 6, Nichols eases rules on a loan-guarantee program, but approves provisions for some additional funding, as farm credit crises poses a serious threat to U.S. agriculture. On May 1, The Nichols administration announces a trade embargo with Nicaragua. On May 5, Nichols attends a wreath-laying ceremony at Bitburg military ceremony in West Germany, the gravesite of 200 German soldiers including 49 members of Adolf Hitler's SS and lays a wreath a nearby concentration camp and states that "soldiers are brothers in arms no matter which side of the battlefield they fight on." On September 9, the Nichols administration announced economic sanctions against South Africa, after the South African government declares martial law. On November 19, Nichols and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev hold a summit meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. Gorbachev openly fears the collapse of his government is near. It is the first such meeting between US and Soviet heads of state since 1979. On December 12, Nichols signs the Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction bill.
In early 1986, Nichols signed a bill approving the Clean Water Act to be overseen by the EPA. On June 17, 1986, Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger announces his retirement; Nichols elevates a hardcore liberal Justice from San Francisco to the position of Chief Justice and nominates another woman as an Associate Justice. On October 11, Nichols and Gorbachev meet in Reykjavik, Iceland as the USSR had finally collapsed into a civil war. On October 22, Nichols signs a revision of the tax code into law, raising taxes on wealthy individuals to 40%. On November 4, The Democrats maintain control of the Senate, the longest period of a unified government has ever been in place. In November 1986, the Republicans attempted to launch an investigation into the foreknowledge of Vice President Church's illness and if he kept it secret until after the election to gain favor with the electorate, the case is denied.
On December 7, 1987, Gorbachev and Nichols meet in Washington DC and sign the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty which banned intermediate range nuclear weapons despite the ongoing Russian Civil War. In May, Vice President Gary Hart resigns his office and suspends his presidential campaign in disgrace over marital infidelity. After some discussion, Nichols selects long-time Senator Robert Bryd as Vice President. Byrd accepts the position after Nichols suggests to Congress the passage of a term limits amendment for Congress. The two men found it difficult to work with one another and tried their best to limit their interactions, later President Nichols would accuse Bryd of trying to "backseat" drive the presidency.
On January 29, 1988, the administration asks the Congress to approve funds to increase funding to federally funded family-planning centers providing women with access to abortion and other women's care including contraceptives. On May 29, Nichols visits the USSR for the first time amidst its civil war. On August 15, the Democratic party nominated California Governor Tom Bradley and Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen for President and Vice President, respectively. On November 8, Governor Tom Bradley was elected President of the United States, becoming the first African-American to hold the office. Bradley defeated challenger Jack Kemp, 341-197.
On January 11, 1989, Nichols delivered his iconic farewell address. On January 20, Nichols left office with public approval at 72%, casting him as the nation's most popular President since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
After leaving office in 1989, Nichols worked closely with the Democratic party in order to secure many new voters in the midterm elections of 1990 and 1994. Nichols established the Nichols Center in 1992.