tv Race for the White House CNN March 18, 2016 8:00pm-9:01pm PDT
1960 america, land of the free is terrified of the red menace. >> america was very unsettled. the soviets had the bomb and because of that, there was uncertainty there, there was fear. >> america has confidence in its president, father of the nation in world war ii, dwight d. eisenhower. but even presidents have to retire. who can step into his shoes? many think this is the man, eisenhower's vice president for eight years, richard millhouse nixon. >> richard nixon is well known
to the american people. >> nixon's not scared as the russians as nikita krushchev finds out. >> it turned into an exchange, back and forth, back and forth, jabbing with the fingers. the words didn't matter. it was the images that mattered. he was presidential. he seemed ready for the white house. >> meanwhile, traveling through the bleak wisconsin landscape, there is another man who believes he's destined for the white house. he's young, he's inexperienced, and he's almost unknown.
his name is john f. kennedy, and he aims to win the wisconsin democratic primary. >> how are you this morning? >> you'd stand right there. my job would be to shake hands with jack kennedy. shake hands with teddy, bobby. we worked hard. >> i come here today as candidate in the wisconsin primary. >> kennedy is smart. he knows if he can prove himself a vote winner here in the primaries, the democratic party will have to take him seriously as candidate for president. >> this was a new way of campaigning. this was a new way of becoming the nominee. >> first of all, he's going to have to beat hubert humphrey. >> hubert humphrey, democrat senator from minnesota, is confident he'll win wisconsin
voters. >> let me tell you, i've been working for the dairy farmer ever since i set foot in the senate of the united states. >> so we knew we had a tough job to win. it was a monumental challenge. >> kennedy does have one advantage -- being a kennedy. his father joseph, rich, powerful and the former ambassador to great britain has always wanted a son for president. >> politics was definitely a family affair. you had a large family who was out there saying we are supporting our brother, our brother-in-law. and that i think it was a very compelling picture. >> and if the mite of the kennedys isn't enough, then there's j.f.k.'s ever present, ever glamorous wife, jackie. >> you put the two together and
people were just in awe. they were the beatles before the beatles. >> for the icing on the campaign cake, frank sin at tra serenades wisconsin can a special version of "high hopes." >> so i started singing and kennedy said, "it's never been sung like that before." >> doesn't happen very often when a bill board number one singer decides to use his talents to sell a political campaign. >> glamour, show business and family, who can compete with that? not hubert humphrey.
>> humphrey recognized what he was facing. he called himself the corner drugstore compared to a chain. the kennedys were a chain, powerful, big. >> do you do you do, ma'am. >> and he was passing out palm cards on the streets. >> i'm senator humphrey. this doesn't work too good either. >> it just at any time work. >> a desperate humphrey lunges for kennedy's achilles heel. j.f.k. is a catholic and no catholic has ever been elected president. >> there was a very strong anti-catholic feeling. >> j.f.k.'s team fight back. it's bare-knuckle time as kennedy aide paul corbin comes out swinging. >> paul corbin was a political hack. he was also a dirty trickster.
he would stop at nothing. corbin arranged to have a lot of anti-catholic literature shipped into wisconsin so right away a lot of voters were offended. and they think that the bigoted stuff was coming from hubert humphrey. >> corbin's dirty trick works. thousands of incensed catholics get up and vote for kennedy. >> we won. it was tough but we won. >> after victory in washington and a landslide in west virginia, kennedy headed straight to the nomination. with you the democratic bosses are out to get him. the first knife in kennedy's back is plunged by former president harry truman. >> senator kennedy, are you
certain that you're quite ready for the role of president in january 1961? >> do not think it was a forgone conclusion that kennedy would be the nominee after west virginia. he was the dark horse candidate. he was the outsider. he was not washington's choice. ♪ (cell phone rings) where are you? well the squirrels are back in the attic. mom? your dad won't call an exterminator... can i call you back, mom? he says it's personal this time... if you're a mom, you call at the worst time. it's what you do. if you want to save fifteen percent or more on car insurance, you switch to geico. it's what you do. where are you? it's very loud there. are you taking a zumba class? twell what if i told you that peanuts can work for you? that's right. i'm talking full time delivery of 7 grams of protein and 6 essential nutrients. ever see a peanut take a day off?
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adoring crowds greet kennedy at the democratic convention. >> we had great hopes that jack was going to win. he had won all the primaries, but it wasn't a sure thing. >> good afternoon from the sports arena in los angeles, california, the site of the democratic national convention. >> kennedy holes up with his brother bobby and his team. his hotel suite becomes a command bunker. his target, the old guard of the democrats. he knows they plan to crush him. >> kennedy had a major foe trying to bring him down at every opportunity. his name was lyndon b. johnson, the senate majority leader from texas. >> johnson wants the nomination for himself, and he's prepared to play dirty. >> lyndon johnson's allies and friends at the convention begin to talk about kennedy's health
problems. >> kennedy had serious health problems. addison's disease. he had a hormonal deficiency that could have killed him. in fact, his father put medicine in safe deposit vaults all over the united states so that kennedy would never run short. >> so what johnson does is he makes it a campaign issue. >> the kennedy forces denied it vociferously. and had doctors come out and say he was above average in health and energy and vitality and never had so-called addison's disease and they lied through their teeth. >> kennedy's illness is never mentioned again. it's a victory for jfk's team, if not for truth. >> had the american public known just how sick jack kennedy was, he probably could not have been a presidential candidate.
>> now they work the convention floor. >> john f. kennedy. >> to win the nomination, they must get an outright majority. >> kennedy had the most advanced operation any candidate in either party had ever had at a national convention. bobby kennedy was the campaign manager. >> he's tough. he's brash. and he can be mean. and he's leading the vote counting on the floor of the convention. >> they knew exactly what they were doing. >> the delegates start voting. >> johnson believed that he'd win. kennedy was worried. he thought he had it sewn up, but he wasn't certain of it. >> mr. chairman, my only vote will make majority for senator kennedy.
>> yes! >> kennedy won the nomination, but he did not unify the party. there were many senior democrats suggesting that he couldn't win in november. >> in a surprise move to heal party wounds, kennedy names as his running mate lyndon b. johnson. >> one of the smartest things that kennedy did was to make lbj his running mate. he had the wisdom to know that he needed texas, and he needed southern votes. and lbj was able to deliver texas. >> let me say first that i accept the nomination of the democratic party. the republican nominee, of course, is a young man, but his party is the party of the past.
>> nixon was watching kennedy's acceptance speech, and he thought it was weak. he thought kennedy came across as being privileged and effeminate, not that good on tv and nixon thought to himself, i can beat him. >> richard nixon. >> 12 days later an unopposed richard nixon secures the republican nomination. >> thank you. >> when mr. khrushchev says our grandchildren will live under communism, let us say his grandchildren will live in freedom. >> nixon's speech fires the opening shot of the election. the race for the white house is on. ♪ kennedy kennedy kennedy ♪ kennedy for me ♪ kennedy ♪ kennedy >> the kennedys do what kennedys
do best, spend money. >> it was called the jingle ad. every product was sold with a jingle, so why not a candidate? ♪ it's up to you ♪ it's strictly up to you >> that ad aired a lot during the daytime. so at the time, and it's somewhat sexist to say, it was aimed at housewives watching soap operas. ♪ kennedy >> what is the most important issue confronting the american people in this election campaign? >> nixon was selling security, stability, you know what you get with me, you know what you had with eisenhower, let's stick with what works. >> i'm going to wear this in the st. patrick's day parade in boston. >> the press loved kennedy and kennedy loved the press. >> they thought he was charming. they thought he was fun. they went on sing-alongs on the campaign plane. >> nixon was exactly the
opposite. they thought he was awkward, weird, uncomfortable. >> the press liked jack, and they did not like dick. >> nixon's staff had urged him to develop a better relationship with the press, and finally nixon had agreed to go down and socialize with them at the pool at the hotel in the evening. well the press was all there drinking and enjoying the pool, and all of a sudden they saw nixon appear at the opposite end of the pool. he waved, jumped in, got out and went right back to his hotel room. and that was nixon press relations. >> press men loved kennedy. churchmen not so much. across the country protestant
ministers are directing anti-catholic hatred at kennedy. chief among the bigots is dr. norman vincent peale. >> i'd like to give you all a very warm welcome today. >> in front of a mass meeting he declares -- >> faced with the election of a catholic, our culture is at stake. >> it was protestants versus catholics. >> and america in 1960 is still a protestant nation.
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♪ we can't let you download... uh, no thanks. i have x1 from xfinity so... don't fall for directv. xfinity lets you download your shows from anywhere. i used to like that song. the whole city of houston was almost in turmoil. the christian anti-communist crusade had the city scared. and the ku klux klan, they're all attacking senator kennedy as a catholic that he shouldn't be president. the opposition were so strong and so vocal and so wide, i felt he needed help.
>> pastor herb meza believes he has the fix. >> i immediately invited john kennedy to come and speak. we needed to hear from him. >> meza's plan is almost holy in its simplicity. >> the offer was to have kennedy come and address a group of protestant ministers numbering about 400 in the houston area. kennedy agreed to do it. >> when meza's congregation hear that kennedy's coming, all hell breaks loose. >> i remember an elderly lady from new orleans who wrote to me and said, i'm 65 years old. i've been teaching sunday school for 20 years. i hope your daughter marries a nigger. and that was the kind of climate we were in. >> may i call this special meeting of the association of
ministers of greater houston to order. let us stand for prayer. >> america tunes in to see the debate live. >> god be merciful unto us and bless us. >> tonight the men of god are not men of peace. >> senator kennedy sat next to me, and he said, reverend, how are things doing? he was shaking. i was amazed. i told my wife later, he was shaking. senator john f. kennedy. but after i introduced him and he got up to speak, all that disappeared. he became so cool, so collected, and he began taking questions. >> the reason for our concern -- catholic hierarchy. >> the policy of catholic leadership. >> including the political realm. >> he answered every single question put to him.
and some of them were very pointed and very ugly. >> there will be many catholics who will be appointed if you're elected president. >> i'm not the catholic candidate for president. i'm the democratic party's candidate for president. >> i was deeply moved by some of the things that senator kennedy said that evening. among them i remember he said -- >> finally, i believe in a nation where religious intolerance will someday end. where all men and all churches are treated as equals. >> where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice. >> the kind of america i believe in. >> they gave him a standing ovation. everybody got up and applauded for about a couple of minutes. >> praying the religious controversy is resolved, kennedy's team focused on the swing states. nixon, meanwhile, adopts an ambitious strategy to win over the electorate one by one.
>> nixon pledged to visit all 50 states, and it was the dumbest move of the campaign. >> as much as we all adore hawaii and alaska, they're a long way away. and the time that was devoured and measured in the number of votes that you're going to get, it's a bad formula. you just sort of drain your energy. >> nixon traded his physical advantage, the fact that he was in better shape and kennedy traded it away because he created this impossible and unnecessary goal that tired him out. he also got sick. >> nixon was physically clumsy. famously so. he dropped things. he could barely turn on a radio. and he's getting out of a car and he cracks his knee on the
car door. and he winds up in the hospital with a serious infection for two weeks. he can't campaign. >> and he lost about ten pounds, and he's looking sallow and he's looking gaunt. and he wasn't himself. at that point he should have said we're not going to be able to make the 50 states. >> and we can't take a chance now on that kind of inexperienced leadership. that's the issue of this campaign. >> but he was stubborn. he could be bull-headed. and instead he made his commitment to do all this traveling. it was a terrible mistake. >> nixon is exhausted, haggard, trailing in the polls, but then there is a ray of hope. the first ever televised presidential debate. >> nixon was convinced that this was going to be the moment when he unmasked jack kennedy.
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with only seven weeks until election day, the nation prepares itself for the first ever live televised presidential debate. >> this was the largest audience for any public event to that point in american history on television. this was 70 million people. this wasn't a 10% or 20% of the electorate. it was near 100% of the electorate. on the day of the debate, nixon had regular campaign events. he didn't save up his energy. >> he went to the carpenters union who got to endorse a democrat in order to rally them. this is the day of the debate. >> meanwhile, jack kennedy is sunning himself, taking a nap, maybe doing a little bit of studying, but basically preparing himself by relaxing.
when they get to the studio, nixon is all nervous and anxious. >> and as he gets out of the taxi, he hits his knee again. >> so nixon arrives for the debate in agony. and he's looking for kennedy. where is kennedy. kennedy cruises in, calm, steady. >> they're asked if they want makeup. and jack kennedy says no. and nixon who wants to be manly says, well, i don't need it either. meanwhile, kennedy goes back and gets some max factor applied to him and nixon sends somebody down to michigan avenue to buy a hideous thing called shave stick which he rubs on like gray grease across his face. >> nixon was pacing around the studio. he was asking people questions.
>> i think i better shave. >> well, it was past time for all of those questions. >> studio, 30 seconds to air. >> kennedy did not present himself until he was fully ready. he wasn't going to stand around with richard nixon and chat before the main event. he was going to come in like the prize fighter he was. >> and nixon made every mistake you could think of in that debate. >> look at the faces of the two candidates in this debate. and ask yourself, who is presidential and who is scared. >> the contrast is dramatic. >> and now for the first opening statement by senator john f. kennedy. >> mr. nixon. >> kennedy looks cool, confident, presidential.
>> i want people to start to look to america. >> nixon looks nervous, looks anxious. his eyes are darting about. he keeps looking at kennedy. what's kennedy up to? he's sweating. he's uneasy. it's the exact opposite of the image he's supposed to project. >> the things that senator kennedy has said many of us can agree with. >> and again and again the vice president would say, i agree with senator kennedy. >> and i subscribe completely to the spirit that senator kennedy has expressed tonight. >> and it made him look like basically second fiddle. >> and the fact is television sees it all. >> nixon's supporters are cringing and kennedy's aides are gloating. mayor daley of chicago says nixon looks embalmed. >> would you like to comment on that statement? >> i have no comment. >> reporter joe alsip says that nixon looks like a suspect in a
statutory rape case. nixon's own running mate, henry cabot lodge, says we've lost. >> tv polls show kennedy wins the debate. but radio listeners side with nixon. and an arrest in alabama could play to nixon's advantage when civil rights take center stage. >> i met richard nixon when i was in the ninth maybe tenth grade. and we got to shake hands with him. i thought richard nixon would be a good president. >> there's a huge public misperception on civil rights. they think that nixon was some kind of hideous racist and jack was the friend of the black man. not true. nixon had a strong civil rights record in the 1950s.
he was a friend of martin luther king. >> the republican party was the party of civil rights. the democratic party was the party of secession and segregation. every single member of the ku klux klan was a member of the democratic party. >> so going into the election, nixon had reason to believe he would have a lot of black support. >> just three weeks before the election, martin luther king is arrested. he and 50 other african-americans had entered a whites-only restaurant. >> the police were called. they refused to move. and they were all put in jail. including king. it got even worse when he was transferred in the middle of the night to a state penitentiary in rural georgia. >> and he's at risk there.
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close friends. >> she called me in panic. that's terrible. and i said we'll see what we can do. absolutely, yes. and i thought, you know, if these beautiful, passionate kennedys would just show it by a phone call, it would mean something to coretta. >> wofford contacts kennedy's brother-in-law sargent shriver who is in charge of civil rights. >> hello? >> wofford asks if kennedy will call coretta to offer his support. >> he says it will only work if i present the idea to kennedy without any of the staff hearing. >> shriver knows kennedy's team will block anything that might cost them votes in the south. >> the kennedys were never great advocates of civil rights. generally they regarded it as a problem for their campaign. they would have preferred not to discuss it at all. >> but that's not shriver's only problem. kennedy is about to leave on a
plane. >> so shriver had to race to the airport. >> behind the scenes, nixon tries to secure the release of his friend, dr. king. >> richard nixon wants to do something, and he calls the white house, and the white house refuses. they won't do it. >> nixon fails. can shriver succeed in his mission? >> shriver got there, but the staff was all around kennedy. >> shriver waits until kennedy is alone. >> all right, guys. let's go.
>> ready to go, jack? >> finally, he had about two minutes with kennedy, and he said, we've all been worrying about what we can do to help. what about calling coretta king? >> kennedy's fearful of alienating southern governors and southern democrats by being pro civil rights. but that all changes. >> kennedy calls coretta king to offer his support. >> that was a big decision. kennedy decides to do what is morally right. >> a simple phone call was a very noble thing to do. undoubtedly he did this for political reasons, but he did it.
nixon did not. >> when kennedy's call leaks to the press, his brother bobby all but froths at the mouth. >> he was white with anger. he said sargent shriver and i have probably lost the campaign. he was furious. >> my father was a little disturbed about that because he was worried how well that would go over with some of the, you know, white governors. >> the deed is done. but bobby soon realizes he can turn the situation to his brother's advantage. he demands the release of king. >> and so my father called the judge. and at that point, things really shifted.
>> i understand from very reliable sources that senator kennedy served as a great force in making the release possible. >> all of a sudden jack kennedy was champion of the greatest civil rights leader of them all. >> i'm positive it changed the voting patterns of a lot of african-americans. >> and nixon's support amongst black voters falls off. nixon usually had good political instincts about this kind of thing, but he just blew it. >> there's no doubt that bobby and john f. kennedy exploited that brilliantly. jack kennedy was no civil rights -- he wasn't marching anywhere, that fella.
>> now kennedy is riding the polls like a tame pony and victory is in sight. but nixon has one last card to play, his old boss, ex-general and president dwight d. eisenhower. >> john kennedy is amazed that eisenhower has not been doing more for nixon. and he's been worried about it because he knows how popular eisenhower is. >> eisenhower defeated hitler. kennedy should be a pushover. ll. yes! no! enough attack ads and name calling... yes, that was a foul you jerkface! yes! and we are the bug chicks. and i'm jess we are a nano-business. windows 10 really helps us get the word out about how awesome bugs are. kids learn to be brave and curious and all kids speak the language of bug. "hey cortana, find my katydid video". oh! this is so good. (laughs) if you're trying to teach a kid about a proboscis
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♪ six days to the election and richard nixon drops the republicans' h-bomb on jfk in the form of dwight eisenhower. >> we brought him in with 100 policemen, ticker tape and the whole thing. and it was a smashing success and we needed it. it was a good bump at that time. >> there's a surge to nixon. on the eve of the election, the polls predict a nail-biting finish. >> by november 7th, the kennedy campaign think kennedy can win. they believe kennedy should win. but they're not sure kennedy will win.
>> jack and a heavily pregnant jackie cast their votes and fly to hyannis port to be with the kennedy clan. >> just about everybody on both sides knew that this was going to be an extremely close election. and so everybody was nervous. >> none more so than richard nixon who casts his vote with his wife, pat, in california and then makes a break for the border. >> nixon was gloomy as usual. thought he was going to lose. went off with a pal to mexico to drink margaritas and to desert the press. >> essentially throughout the day they kept getting reports, good and bad. they didn't know what they meant. no one ever does. in the evening, the first returns were very pro-kennedy. >> we want kennedy. >> kennedy wins connecticut and the network broadcasters are saying that it might be a landslide. but by midnight the picture is changing. and nixon is starting to pick up
midwestern and western states and it's clearly going to go down to the wire. >> the great shock of the night for the kennedy forces and the first time when they thought they had lost was when kennedy failed to carry ohio. >> that was a huge setback for the campaign, and there was a lot of concern. how could we get this wrong? >> the popular vote was too close. no one knew for some time which candidate had actually won. >> nixon returns to california to be with his family and staff at the ambassador hotel. >> i remember he came in in his pajamas and he said, hey, guys, this thing is not going to get decided tonight. get some sleep. and with that, he turned around and left the room. >> john kennedy went to bed. you know, that night. and said i'm not going to stay up biting my teeth, wondering
what's going to happen. i'm going to get some sleep. >> while the two rest, the race tightens. just after midnight, nixon is woken to be told that he has lost the key state of illinois. the writing is on the wall. >> if the present trend continues, mr. kennedy, senator kennedy will be the next president of the united states. >> nixon, we forget that he was capable of being gracious. when he had to go concede, his wife is on the verge of tears standing next to him, but nixon himself was quite gracious about it. >> but as the sun rises on washington, accusations start circulating of electoral fraud in illinois. republican officials set off to investigate.
>> they said in chicago, the cemetery wards were coming in strong for kennedy. >> as time goes on, it leaks out that in one black district, there were more votes cast than there were people living in the district. it was corrupt. >> as the dead of illinois cast their votes for kennedy, there are more allegations of fraud in texas. >> if texas and illinois had gone for nixon, he would have won the election. so it mattered. >> all eyes are on nixon as he prepares to fly to washington. will he contest the result? >> now, i put the plane at the end of the air strip to get him as far away from the press and other people as possible. there was an old mechanic listening to a little hand radio.
>> the votes are in but illinois is still not clear. was it jack or was it dick? >> at that moment, he said, get ike on the phone. i think the succession of the presidency of the united states should never be in doubt. and they discussed that he would not contest the election. and that was it. ♪ just give me a chance >> it was a very honorable and patriotic thing to do on nixon's part. it was the right thing to do. it would have thrown a cloud over the election of john f. kennedy. i think it would have been dreadful for the united states. >> it's the closest election of the century with the highest turnout on record. kennedy wins with a slim majority of just 120,000 votes, to become the youngest president
in american history. without the votes of millions of african-americans, kennedy would have lost the presidency. ♪ >> and so, my fellow americans, ask not what your country can do for you. ask what you can do for your country. >> it must have been a bitter moment for nixon. he'd had eight years as vice president. he had really thought that he would be sworn in that day. >> but kennedy was better at dirty tricks than nixon and nixon knew it. and it planted a seed with nixon that he never forgot. >> and that was the origin of watergate.
did someone put up a lot of money to have the democratic headquarters infiltrated and, if so, who and why? >> justice will be pursued no matter who's involved. >> do you have information implicating president nixon? >> i have no comment. >> the president of the united states demanded the attorney general fire the special prosecutor. >> that is the definition of tyranny. people have got to know whether or not their president's a crook. well, i'm not a crook. >> i don't think there was ever any discussion that there wouldn't be a cover-up. >> congress must move ahead with impeachment proceedings. >> there can be no whitewash at the white house.