Skip to main content

tv   History Bookshelf David Pietrusza 1960 LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon  CSPAN  October 4, 2020 8:00am-8:56am EDT

8:00 am
lbj versus jfk versus nixon, the campaign that forged three presidencies. he recounts the presidential campaign and election of 1960 with the contest for the democratic nomination between john f. kennedy and lyndon johnson to the general election pitting john kennedy against richard nixon. it examines how the onset of television and the rising influence of presidential primaries impacted the election. stand builtkate library hosted this event in january of 2009. david: thank you. glad to be here in company on this crisp, january day. , noe is an old saying matter how popular you are, the size of the funeral will depend on the weather. i am glad to see so many of you with the temperatures hovering negative eight outside.
8:01 am
1960, 3 presidents. three different personalities. ultimatelyions, all for the same office, the white house, the presidency, the leadership of the free world as was determined back then. but, the ambitions are vastly different. , his is annedy ambition of a dynasty. in some sense, a political dynasty. also a financial dynasty. ,is father, joseph p kennedy wanted to be the first catholic president of the united states of america. his ambition was derailed around 1940 as he picked the wrong side of the isolationist debate going into world war ii. and he transferred those ambitions to his son, joseph p kennedy jr.
8:02 am
who, in august, in an effort to keep with his younger brother, on pp 10time exploits nine, is piloting a bomber across the english channel, filled with perhaps the greatest load of tnt in the history of mankind. somewhere across the english channel, that plane blows to bits. they never find a piece of him. windows are shattered in buildings in london, the explosion is so severe. that is the end of that part of joseph p kennedy seniors planned for the presidency. those ambitions were transferred to john f. kennedy jr., who never saw himself as a politician app -- at this point. he saw himself as a writer, historian and journalist. not sure what he was going to be. a bit of a dreamer. when joseph p kennedy senior
8:03 am
want to do do something, his sons do it. in 1946, he runs for congress. by 1960, the ambition, which was , for the presidency he is ready to run. lyndon baines johnson belongs to a different sort of dynasty and ambition. was the dynasty on the way down. his family owned land and slaves in texas and in the american south. washis father, sam johnson a member of the state texas legislature. but, he worked his way down on the social and political scale. sam johnson sponsored a bill to have a world constructed near their hometown. by the time that road is to be constructed, sam johnson is not
8:04 am
only a former member of the state legislature, he is working , doing manual labor, pushing wheelbarrows. that is how far the johnson family had fallen, so very quickly. liken johnson, sort of scarlet o'hara in gone with the wind, lyndon does not promise never to go hungry again. he promises never to be the idealistic fool his father had been, who played a promising political career into working on that road crew. he vowed he would succeed. he would succeed, not only in the most nefarious ways politically, but also that he would be -- let everyone know how clever and nefarious he was. he worked himself up from congressman, aid,
8:05 am
he is elected to u.s. senate by 87 votes. those 87 votes are highly fraudulent. achieved a great landslide of his own in 1964. he becomes senate majority leader and makes it into a position of great responsibility and power, unprecedented. he is the number two most powerful person in the country in the 1950's. and he wants to be president in 1960. is of richardtion milhouse nixon. , thes his story begins ambitions are small compared to jfk and to lbj. he is a typical american. no dynasty there. or family is not going up
8:06 am
down. his father is a streetcar conductor in ohio who moved to california to get away from the cold and frost by each year. nixon goes to school. he does well and is a great student. he excels in debating in high school. he wants to be an fbi man. he gets accepted but then they say no, we changed our mind. you cannot be that. that appears to be as far as he is going, until world war ii, when he, like john f. kennedy and lyndon baines johnson, enrolled in the navy. 1946 is a great year for veterans running for office. intelligent, energetic veterans. he runs in 1946 and is elected to congress. a very rough campaign. and he stumbles into what history it now knows as the
8:07 am
alger hiss case. he was a promising fellow in the new deal. fellow, another testifies before the house and the activities committee that not only was alger hiss a content -- a comment but that he was in espionage for joseph stalin. people think it is far-fetched and cannot be. richard nixon, at first is one of them. after listening more to alger hiss, things do not add up. he investigates the case and his is convicted of perjury. richard nixon goes to the senate in 1950. in 1952, he is the vice president of the united states at 39 years old. he is young. and he, by 1960, wants to the president of the united
8:08 am
states as well. there have been a lot of comparisons between 1960 and 2008. these things start out with primaries, as they often do. 2008, the primaries seemed to go on and on and on forever. in 1960, it was different. the primaries started during the progressive era of world war i decades have lost popularity. by 1960, they were at their valley of popularity. and of their utility. no1960, richard nixon faces primary opposition. in 2006, the republican party in congressional races. in 1958, the same thing happened to the gop. dwight eisenhower was president
8:09 am
but this was a democratic nation. the gop had one out its welcome, illuminating a lot of potential opposition for the nomination for richard nixon in 1960. one fellows reputation who was was nelson8 rockefeller's. he is the governor of new york. he is energetic and very liberal. he is very wealthy. he wants to be president in 1960. the more he campaigns, he finds the less support in the republican party. by the summer of 1959, he pulls out of the race. this, it deflects any attention from the republican race because there is no race. it is like what happened after john mccain secured the nomination in 2008.
8:10 am
everyone focuses on the hotly contested democratic race. both john mccain and richard nixon needed publicity in 1960. so, in 1960, all of the attention goes in the primary season to the democratic side of the aisle. talkhat is really, when we about primaries in 1960, we are talking plural. we are talking two. there are about maybe eight or nine, officially. most are beauty contests. some are not contested or they are contested by lower rank guys. the only two of which amount to anything in 1960 are in wisconsin and in west virginia. and there, jfk is out to prove he can be viable as a catholic nominee. and he does not have to prove it against lyndon johnson because
8:11 am
lyndon johnson is mr. back row. he is the dealmaker and he is not going to go when the primaries. in any case, primaries don't count for that much free he will not waste his effort. but are in wisconsin and west virginia. humphrey, thetio united state senator from minnesota, a former crusading mayor of minneapolis. is not veryrey viable. in 1960, evenlls though he is going to be the eight yearsominee from 1960, he is registering at about 2% in national polls. only guyare the showing up against jack kennedy,
8:12 am
it becomes transferred to jack kennedy versus you are humphrey, obama emergesck as the anti-hillary campaign. -- candidate. and hillary emerges as the anti-barack obama candidate. he would humphrey is the anti-jack kennedy candidate. jack kennedy thinks he is going to win easily in wisconsin. by bad pollinged data which causes him to campaign in the wrong parts of the state and hubert humphrey turns out to do surprisingly well in wisconsin. he was about to give up. he had no money. little support against the great he decided to go to west virginia.
8:13 am
kennedy machine. he decided to go to west virginia. west virginia is 97% protestant. jack kennedy's initial poll numbers were very strong and west virginia. as more people came to the realization that this guy is catholic, his numbers fall like a rock. it looks like hubert humphrey can pull off a great upset and the rail jack kennedy. respondsedy, however, with a great deal of retail politics. he brings the family in to campaign. hills and hollers of west virginia. of hands andot faces the catholic issue head on. previously, wisconsin contained the highest percentage of catholics in the midwest. so it was a relatively safe state for him.
8:14 am
a very catholic state. less so., somewhat still a significant catholic population. he is talking to audiences and saying don't hold my politics against me. he is not giving the same speech to protestants until he gets to west virginia. he plays on the patriotism of this state. very patriotic. they respected his service in world war ii. asked my religion or my brother joe's religion when we went to fight after pearl harbor. and they respect that. they paid attention to something else he does during the primary. theye kennedy's urging, bring in franklin d roosevelt jr. to campaign for jack kennedy. senior, roosevelt franklin roosevelt himself was
8:15 am
popular in west virginia. they did a lot of stuff to help people out there. the new deal really impacted west virginia. roosevelt fdr jr. as the hatchet man. he brings up hubert humphrey's world -- war record in world war ii. he is decried as a draft dodger. kennedy says i wish he had not brought that up. that was terrible. myself fromociate the fact that hubert humphrey never served in world war ii. one thing leads to another and there are allegations of mob involvement in jack kennedy's west virginia campaign. there was some. a lot of money is poured into west virginia. even though jack kennedy, by now, very nervous about how this
8:16 am
election is going to turn out, certain overs -- so nervous he flies to washington d.c. to hide out. you want to downplay a defeat. he gets the call from robert kennedy, you won. that is the end of hubert humphrey's campaign and the end of the primaries. 1, 2 and over. but not the nomination. where has lyndon johnson been? he has not been a candidate. candidacynounced his for the presidency of the united states one week before the democratic national convention starts. now, this does not sound like a great strategy nowadays. but it does make more sense back then. 1952, i like stevenson
8:17 am
the nomination of the democratic ballot. 1948, tom tilly captured the gop nomination on the third ballot. harry truman, nominated for vice presidency in 1944 on the third ballot. it was not -- we take it for granted that conventions will be cut and dry. in 1960.not given lyndon johnson is counting on the back deal being made and he can go to his fellow senators and they can go back home and twist some arms and he will arrive with enough votes in his pocket so that in that second, third, fourth or fifth ballot, he can derail jack kennedy. jack kennedy feels almost the same way. robert kennedy says we do not win on the first ballot, we do not win at all.
8:18 am
even in the primaries and the convention through the balloting, there are a lot of promises made. he said they would have to have a large hall, a larger than this the vice presidency to him that year. the docking of kansas, don't you? they all thought they were going to be vice president. jack kennedy, by the time it gets to wyoming, he is over the top. no states in the rollcall that begin with z. when you get to wyoming, it is a campaign.n who is going to be the vice president, who will be the
8:19 am
running bait -- running mate? barack obama could have chosen the super ticket in 2008 and chosen hillary clinton. his big rival. and someone who would bring a great democratic -- demographic edge to the ticket. this was -- 1960 was the battle of identity politics. as 2008 was. in 2008, will a black man be elected president? can a black person be elected president? or will a woman be elected president? in 1960, everyone remembers the aspirations of catholics. that identity politics. but they're forgetting that lyndon johnson was facing the same thing. so it was the sectionalism, being a southerner. no southerner had been nominated since before the civil war. now, we take it for granted. we've had johnson and we've had jimmy carter. we've had clinton, we've had the two bushes and some say we had al gore elected president.
8:20 am
but it wasn't a given then. jack kennedy said i had to go to the primaries to prove that a catholic would be elected. lyndon johnson didn't do that. but lyndon johnson still had tremendous clout in the south. jack kennedy had weaknesses, both because of the catholic issue and because of the civil rights issue and because the south was trending back for the first time really to the republican party. the south had broken loose on the 1952 and 1956 elections when eisenhower took a bunch of states. and it could slide even more under jack kennedy. so you have to play nice with lyndon johnson if you were jack kennedy. but does he? he makes the joe biden choice. he takes the safe choice, initially. somebody who maybe can't hurt you, but someone that's not going to help you.
8:21 am
he asks to offer the vice presidency in private to a senator from missouri named stuart simonton. simonton accepts, but the courts made public jack kennedy will wheelsic, jack kennedy's start rolling and says no, i really should as a courtesy offer this to lyndon. he's not going to take it. [laughter] he is senate majority leader. he lives for power. he's not going to be vice president. this is, you know, john bamberger who was from texas and was about vice president said vice presidency isn't worth a bucket of warm spit. and lyndon johnson certainly knew that and saw what the realities were. so when jack kennedy struggles down the stairs to lyndon johnson's suite in the middle of the night to offer him the vice presidency, he was quite shocked when lyndon johnson excepts it.
8:22 am
-- accepts it. and everybody is shocked and everybody is upset on all sides of the democratic spectrum. robert kennedy, who has always hated lyndon johnson and vice versa, is outraged. kenny o'donnell, one of jack kennedy's closest advisers says, you betrayed every single person that has supported you in your first move of the nominee. and the labor unions are all outraged. the americans for democratic action, the liberal group was outraged. on lyndon johnson's side, his southern senators, his allies are just flabbergasted. they don't want to lose their ally. their man in leadership in the senate. and particularly upset are fellow texans, lyndon johnson's fellow texans.
8:23 am
so everybody is mad. but, politics is politics. and jack kennedy tells kenny o'donnell, kenny, i'm 43 years old and i'm not going to die in office, don't worry. everybody kisses and makes up, lyndon johnson is used to a great effect in the south. they really don't know what to do with him in the rest of the country and he doesn't want to campaign in the rest of the country. but he goes out and is an asset to the democratic ticket. richard nixon decides for his part to go for that super ticket option. his inclination is to offer the nomination to nelson rockefeller. new york then really was the empire state. it had 45 electoral votes. it was the biggest state, the biggest prize that way. and nelson rockefeller probably could've helped and carry new york.
8:24 am
the nelson rockefeller's ego is such done that he does not want -- such then that he does not want to take that number two spot. he turns him down. at this point, nixon makes a horrible choice. he selects henry cabot lodge, former united states senator from massachusetts. then, the united states ambassador to the united nations to be his running mate. it's kind of like a peace offering still to the eastern liberal or moderate establishment in the republican party and it is a horrendous choice. for one thing, having lost the senate seat in 1952, to jack kennedy, he has demonstrated irrefutably that he could not carry his own state in the general election. he is also a terrible campaigner, unable to inspire crowds. doesn't come across all that well on television.
8:25 am
and he's lazy. he's just plain lazy. he will take naps in the afternoon. and the people assigned to shepherd his campaign say, look, we don't mind taking naps, but does he have to change into his pajamas every day? [laughter] so this is not a good choice. the campaign goes on and also, he does something which is, he goes off the reservation and speaking in harlem to a group actually in spanish harlem, he makes an announcement that richard nixon will have a black member of his cabinet. this is news to richard nixon. and richard nixon responds by kind of fleeing from the thing. and the whole episode has the effect of alienating both southerners and blacks. it wins for nobody because of the way nixon has handled it and
8:26 am
the whole thing was done so heartlessly. the civil rights issue is very, very important. the way that richard nixon loses both the white south and the black voting population of the north is very, very key to the election. and one of the keys to how that happens involves dr. martin luther king. now, as the south had been trending republican under eisenhower, the black vote, which had historically been republican and had gone democratic starting with franklin roosevelt, was coming back to the gop. in 1956, blacks voted 40% for dwight eisenhower. and it looked like it could have held up that way in 1960. but towards the end, what happens is this.
8:27 am
martin luther king has moved to atlanta, georgia from alabama. he is arrested and goes to jail for the night. it's the first time he spent the night in jail. and he would be out the next morning, not a big deal, except that not long before that he was pulled over for a moving traffic violation in georgia. and he had been released on parole. and when he is arrested for this sit-in, it's a violation of his parole and the judge in rural georgia decides, you are going to prison camp for six months for a traffic violation. this is pretty outrageous, it was also pretty tough prison camp. the king family, particularly dred scott king, feared for martin luther king's life.
8:28 am
it was a question of what would you do? of richard nixon's black advisors said, you know, can you intervene? make a statement and speak out. and he reacts very realistically and says he can't interfere with the judge and says, well, there's politics in this right is wrong for there's all kinds of things that can often hide behind legalisms. and nixon again, trying to win both camps, white south, blacks in the north, fall between two stools and doesn't get either. jack kennedy is advised to make a phone call, a simple phone call to dred scott king extended -- caretta scott king, extending his sympathies. a very human gesture, but one fraught with peril because it could alienate the south. he does this and then robert kennedy, acting as a go-between, robert kennedy is very upset with that phone call. but then he is dispatched to go between a judge. and martin luther king is released the week before the
8:29 am
election, black neighborhoods in the north are flooded with 45 million pieces of literature alluding to these incidents and how the kennedys helped while richard nixon did nothing. and also, radio ads on black stations trumpet this message. and jack kennedy bumps his percentage of the black vote up. still not overwhelming. we think nowadays it's an automatic, blacks vote 90% to 95% democratic ticket. not back then. and richard nixon, even after this, still manages to hold out at about 30% of the black vote. but it's enough. it's enough in a very, very close eyelash type of election. as 1960 began, the candidate of the television age was not jack kennedy, it was richard nixon.
8:30 am
why? because richard nixon's candidacy, his political life, had been saved twice by television. in 1952, after he was charged with having a slush fund band was almost thrown off the republican ticket by dwight eisenhower, it was one of the great problems of his election, he is saved by his checkers speech, the most widely-watch program for a long time in broadcast history. and then, he is saved by a debate with khrushchev, the kitchen debate in moscow, where he stands up against american free enterprise against soviet totalitarianism, and says your children will have freedom. he says that at the convention. but he is the guy who should win the debates in 1960, when they decide to move into a debate format.
8:31 am
they never had it before. how would you structure these things? you could structure it like lincoln and douglas county go around the state live and talk for hours on a topic, but instead, they opted for the format we see today, moderators, wide-ranging, follow-up questions, and jack kennedy, people didn't know how he could do. he didn't have that reputation as a great oratory. he spoke fast, his voice would rise to high levels, high-pitched, how would he do? he had some success in the senate with labor racketeering investigations, but he was not a workhorse of the senate, he had activities that he was pursuing, both political and extracurricular.
8:32 am
so nixon has really nothing to gain, except if he doesn't debate, that creates another issue and people say he is afraid. so it seems like he is going to win. and as we know, he didn't. it is really a question, one of the many ironies of the 1960 campaign, where richard nixon had always been healthy his old -- whole life, and jack kennedy had always been sick. jack kennedy had twice been given the last rights of the catholic church, he was so ill and sickly. but in 1960, he is doing pretty well, his addison's disease is doing pretty well, his back isn't bad, he is ok. richard nixon bangs his knee on a car door campaigning in north carolina, it swells up and he is hospitalized. it throws his 50 state strategy of campaigning in all 50 states, the first time any candidate would do this, and he has to
8:33 am
rush when he gets out of the hospital to maintain his campaign. he is sick, makes himself sicker, and this is just before the first debate in chicago. kennedy is bronzed, healthy, confident, well-prepared, aggressive. richard nixon is sick. he has lost weight, his suit and shirt hang loose upon him, he has certain physical characteristics which are not designed to win a debate. he does not react well to heat, so he sweats a lot, a lot, and he shifts his eyes about a great deal. [laughter] aside from that, he starts off the first 20 minutes of this debate in a very cringing way. in the first obama-mccain debate, obama was criticized for agreeing six or seven times with
8:34 am
mccain, and that was said to be a sign of weakness. and richard nixon took this to extremes in the first part of the first debate with jack kennedy. this was still a democratic nation, big voter registration edge for the democratic party. jack kennedy, wherever he spoke, always emphasized the fact he was a democrat. he knew this was a winning pitch to make to people. he starts out in his opening and says, i represent the party of wilson, roosevelt and truman, and we have brought you social security and the tennessee valley authority and fought for health care, rural electrification, and all these good things. and mr. nixon represents harding and coolidge and hoover, the party that brought you the great
8:35 am
depression. and howard k smith, the moderator, says, mr. nixon, how do you respond? and he said, i have no comment. this is basically taking the fifth amendment if you are a republican. [laughter] this is not good. nixon pulled himself up from that in the rest of the debate, although his body language is still very poor. and he doesn't wear makeup, so he is that that so he has that 5:00 shadow thing going on, which in nixon's case was an 8:00 shadow. the total visual effect of nixon, as one of jfk's aides said, was looking like an escaped convict. thank richard jansen in the original fugitive. [laughter] so he loses, although on radio, a lot of people think he does well.
8:36 am
lyndon johnson is listening to the car radio and he thinks nixon has one. -- won. nixon does well in the final three debates, but only first debates really count. you don't get a second chance to make a first impression, even though richard nixon had been around for a while. and that was really one of the defining points of election. it goes to be a very, very close election. all year, posters do get it right aside from jack kennedy's pollsters in the primaries. they say it is going to be close, and it is close. in the electoral college, it is not, but in popular votes, it is. the congressional quarterly did a study which, because of voting in the south, who was on the ballot in what state, that says richard nixon got more popular votes than jack kennedy.
8:37 am
and even if he didn't, it was incredibly narrow. only in six states does jack kennedy get more than 52% of the vote. four of those are in new england, one is dark and one is georgia. these are his landslide states. it goes to the middle of the night, jack kennedy goes to bed not knowing whether he is going to win or lose, although before he goes to bed, he gets a call from mayor richard j. daley of chicago, who says, senator, with a little help from your friends in chicago, you are going to be president of the united states of america. the polls had closed, there is not a lot they can do legally at this hour, and between richard j. daley and sam giancana, who shared a mistress with jfk, judith exner, and control
8:38 am
certain words in chicago, and in chicago, and lyndon johnson's old friends in texas, the final results of that election were, shall we say, controversial for decades. jack kennedy is awoken the next morning by ted sorensen and his press secretary pierre salinger, and is told he has won the presidency. and they wait for several hours for richard nixon's concession. and robert finch, press secretary to nixon, comes out on tv and says, it's over, we wish you the best. and that's it. and john f. kennedy flips off the tv and says, nixon is going out the same way he came in, no class. so jack kennedy has attained his ambition.
8:39 am
ultimately, it will be a question of all three ambitions being fulfilled, but be careful what you wish for. jack kennedy achieves the presidency, travels to dallas, and we know what happens. lyndon johnson becomes president, inheriting not only that office from kennedy, but a little thing called vietnam. and he must leave the presidency under a cloud, a very bitter, saddened man, which enables richard nixon to make his comeback. and in 1972, after he has beaten hubert humphrey in 1968, there is the watergate break-in, a very mystifying event. not so much the cover-up in
8:40 am
being mystifying, but the original motive. one of the theories is that they are breaking into the offices of kennedy loyalist larry o'brien, now the democratic national chairman, to ascertain what he knows about richard nixon's connections to howard hughes, and certain payments of hughes to richard nixon and bebe rebozo. because o'brien worked also for hughes, worked for kennedy, obviously was not pulling for richard nixon in this campaign. and one of the things you could say about and in the 1960 election, one of those things, there are a million things you can say swung the election when it is that close, one of them were allegations in a little october surprise of a loan to the nixon family to donald nixon, richard nixon's brother, friend enterprise he had in california called nixon burgers, from howard hughes, a very unsecured loan, which not only helped derail nixon in 1960, but also, when he ran for governor of california in 1962. so it was the shadow of 1962 and
8:41 am
the race lost there, which caused richard nixon's downfall, ultimately. so you have a question and a case of three ambitions, finally realized, hopes and dreams finally destroyed, and three great, personal presidential tragedies. thank you, very much. [laughter] -- [applause] if we have any questions, raise -- >> if we have any questions, raise your hand and the c-span microphone will seek you out. in the front row? >> i'd like to know whether you have seen "frost-nixon" yet, and what you thought. there is a scene depicted that a sensible happened before the final jfk taping, in which
8:42 am
nixon, lubricated by alcohol, calls frost and engages in a rambling discussion about how they are similar and both had these resentments. i wonder if that was license, or if you have information that was an actual call that had been made. david: you are at my advantage. i am not a great movie person nowadays, but richard was certainly lubricated the night he told the press in 1962 that you won't have richard nixon to kick around anymore. he was blasted then. but in terms of the bitterness, the eisenhower-nixon relationship, where he had been on thin ice all through the
8:43 am
1950's, not only was he almost dumped in 1952, he was almost dumped from the ticket in 1956. eisenhower offered him a number of posts if he would leave the vice presidency. and all during that election, eisenhower stayed away from him. there was a telling moment that -- at the republican convention in 1960, where eisenhower flies into chicago, a motorcade before a million or 2 million people, everyone has a chance to cheer him, at who does he ride in the car with? senator from kentucky and edward dirksen. richard nixon is waiting for him at the hotel. he doesn't get to ride with him. even election day, eisenhower flies a helicopter to gettysburg
8:44 am
vote. to vote. he comes up and reporter say, who did you vote for. eisenhower points to his watch, where there are tiny pictures in the face of the watch, of his grand children. auntie says, i voted for them. he won't even then, say he voted for nixon. you can see why nixon is so insecure, because he is always fighting for his political life. i think the 1960 election increased that bitterness, and the question of vote stealing in chicago and texas, historians may debate this, but if you are richard nixon, you have to be aching about this all the time and saying, this is not going to -- thinking about this all the saying, this is not going to happen to me again and if this is the way the game is played, i'm going to play it. and he ultimately plays it very badly. >> you have a very amusing
8:45 am
anecdote at the end of the book about richard nixon on election day, 1960. would you care to share that? david: yes. richard nixon is the ultimate control freak, the buttoned down candidate, the man who is running everything himself, not exactly a free spirit. but on election day, he goes off to vote in a little tract house in california, gets in the car, goes to see his mother and such, and at some point he instructs the driver to pull over. the driver is pulled out of the car, nixon gets behind the wheel and speeds off. he ditches the press, which is -- he ditches his entourage, he has two guys with him, his military attache and a los angeles police sergeant. imagine joe friday in the backseat. [laughter]
8:46 am
and he just wants to get away from everything, and he starts driving south to orange county, and south, and south, and his press secretary doesn't know, no one knows where he is. where is the vice president? he likes to go for a ride, we know where he is, they had no idea. he stops for gas, they keep going down, and somebody in the car says, mr. vice president, we are almost in tijuana. tijuana, i haven't been there in 20 years, have you ever been there? no. let's go. [laughter] so on election day, the leader of the free world is headed toward tijuana, goes to the border, where is a good place to get some mexican food? [laughter] and they tell him old heidelberg. [laughter] so nixon spends his lunch time at old heidelberg in tijuana,
8:47 am
getting mexican food and cerveza. he heads back across the border and the people at customs are asking usual customs questions. they are asked if they are u.s. citizens and nixon says, im, but -- i am but i don't know about the fellow in the back. [laughter] he gets near san juan capistrano and says, this is what of my favorite catholic places, let's stop. 1960, the first catholic president elected, which candidate spends part of the day in a catholic church? richard nixon. nuns are waiting to him and -- waving to him and whatever. that was richard nixon's excellent adventure on election day 1960. [laughter] any other questions?
8:48 am
>> i'd like to know your opinion on the future of the national political convention, in the light of everything being a done deal. do you think they are on the verge of becoming obsolete? or is it too big a commercial for the parties not to put on? there is no drama anymore. david: i will preface this by saying, i'm a historian, not to profit. -- not a profit. it is always dangerous to predict, although history does help give you some perspective to analyze things after they happen, but we almost saw a brokered convention this year. it didn't happen, but if the superdelegates had broken the other way or if they had not broken, if they had just split, it could have been a first ballot or second ballot thing.
8:49 am
you could have had some tremendous tension. but you haven't. if you get a deal which is so fractured, and if the thing is not strong enough, it is now a very compact, i nary situation, so you get like, mccain wrapping things up very quickly. but if things stretch out and you have a fractured convention and you have no front runner emerging, then you can have an interesting convention. or you could have a big fight over platforms, such as 1948, the civil rights plank the democrats, or the democrats in 1968. you can get some drama. even in the 1960 convention, there was drama over the platform, and richard nixon had flown to new york to keep nelson rockefeller on board, which ticked off the conservatives,
8:50 am
which led to an abortive nomination for barry goldwater that year, and ultimately helped him with the nomination in 1964, and tilt the whole direction of the republican party, to this day. so you never know. one of the advantages i had over theodore white in "the making of the president," is that i have 40 or 50 years to see how it turned out. he didn't have that advantage. he couldn't know the significance of goldwater, the republican convention, or eugene mccarthy in the democratic, or that hubert humphrey would turn out to be this, or that all three men would turn out to be presidents. he didn't know. so the answer is, who knows?
8:51 am
yes? >> you present a very balanced book. what i'm going to ask is not in the book, which makes me think it never happened. the theory has always been and nixon says it in his book "six crises," that he did not challenge the election in illinois because of his magnanimous nature. magnanimous and richard nixon are not synonymous. i was told that downstate republicans in illinois told richard nixon, don't open that box, we have been out-cheated. it is not a question of magnanimous but it is just don't go near it, let it go. and he never addresses it. and you never address it, which makes me wonder if it ever happened. david: i think even -- i think
8:52 am
one of the things -- not so much magnanimity, but he realized the mechanisms weren't there to effectively challenge these things. we see, like, what is going on in minnesota? how long does it take to count these things? and the state senate election in queens, they were counting until, like last week. so it is statewide thing where the stakes are so high, these recount mechanisms were not in place. they could have tied up the presidency forever. who knows? i would hazard a guess that chicago republicans or democrats were better at stealing votes than downstate illinois republicans, and probably had more votes to steal. now the theory is spreading, and i think it is apocryphal, they said to nixon, don't challenge
8:53 am
illinois, because we stole kentucky. i'm not sure where that comes from. one of the things i worry about as a historian is, if you see something like that, it is almost a throw away line, you don't see any documentation for it. the thing about chicago, the interesting thing about vote fraud in chicago in 1960, was that the allegations evident investigations of it were beginning in october. the stories were caring in "the chicago tribune," admittedly a republican paper, that daley was really gearing up to steal the election that year, not for jack kennedy, but a local grudge match where the states attorney of cook county was up for reelection, former democrat, former daley ally, and he wanted to get this guy, get this guy
8:54 am
out, and he wanted the governorship and all that kind of stuff. and if he could steal the presidency in the bargain, so much better. and then the texas thing. one of those little things about texas and illinois is this. every mistake a losing candidate makes is magnified and everything a winning candidate does tends to not. when the allies landed on the , itg beach in normandy didn't matter, you win. nixon, in the last week of the campaign, flies to alaska to keep the 50-state pledge. and historians go, that is the dumbest thing, why is he doing this? aside from keeping his word, which is something you don't associate with richard nixon, but it's like, ok, jack kennedy is having the same problem.
8:55 am
he wants to be in california, and is stuck by his campaign people in new england, which is stupid. if alaska had been projected for democrats, richard nixon takes it. now, if he doesn't take alaska and he takes illinois and texas, say there is no fraud and he doesn't get alaska's electoral votes, he loses in the electoral college by one vote. so the wheels are always turning in richard nixon's head. i think that is it. i thank you, all, very much for coming, some great questions on and the warm response. thank you, very much. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on