The 1968 ‘Stolen’ Presidential Election and its Impact on American Politics

Introduction

With Berlin still smouldering and the War in the Pacific raging, Franklin Roosevelt’s death in April of 1945 signified an end to four decades of American ‘isolationism’ in world affairs. There would be no return to the period of ‘normalcy’ which Warren Harding pledged after the First World War, nor would America be able to ignore the economic responsibilities to her allies across the Atlantic: desperate for money which would help rebuild five years of death and destruction. The technologies which had been produced at an astounding rate during the war, and the advancement of these in almost every scientific field, culminated in America’s development of the atomic bomb. One man now possessed the power to kill not thousands but hundreds of thousands in a single military order: the President of the United States. In 1945, this man was Harry S. Truman.


A former haberdasher from Missouri, Truman felt very much out of depth in his role as President and Commander-in-Chief. His first priority was to end the war in the Pacific, where American troops were fighting a brutal campaign against the Japanese. Two weeks after assuming office, Truman was informed by Secretary of War Stimson that the atom bomb was in its final stages of completion and would be ready for deployment within four months: information even in his capacity as Vice President he had not possessed. With pressure from the military to test their new toy and the American public to see victory in the Pacific, Truman ordered the release of the first and only nuclear devices in history. Hiroshima was flattened on August 6, 1945; Nagasaki followed suit three days later. The dropping of the atomic bombs precipitated three crucial factors which irrevocably shaped the Twentieth Century: a Cold War with the Soviet Union; the creation of a vast military-industrial complex conjoined by a national security state; and, most directly, the power of the Presidency.

As the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a forty year Cold War, the office of the Presidency became the first and last line of defence for the Western hemisphere. A direct consequence of the burgeoning power of the executive branch is subsumed below:

“The emerging rules of the Cold War, in part conditioned by the developing technology and speed of military action in the jet age, meant that the president had to take a lead in responding to any emerging crisis. Congress and the Constitution would have to follow in his wake” (Bennett; 2000; p. 46).

The relationship between the Executive Branch and Congress formed one of the principal duels of the century as an increasing number of presidents saw foreign affairs as their private domain. Domestic policy was of little interest to the new Presidency, international affairs were where an incumbent could make his historical mark. As Robert Harrison notes, a curious phenomenon was taking place in American politics:

“Each president is expected to define a project for his Administration, if he is to be remembered by posterity, and is judged in accordance with his success in achieving it” (Harrison; 1997; p. 320).

The electorate now placed their faith in an individual to change not only their own quality of life, but that of those who looked to America for guidance, financial support and ‘salvation.’ In short, citizens no longer remained faithful to any one party but elected their Congressmen, Senators and Presidents based on personality rather than substance. In a large part, television and the media influenced American choices, habits and popular thought which changed their perception of a powerful leader. FDR would likely not have been voted into office, nor enjoyed the luxury of a four-term office, had Americans been relentlessly subjected to the image of a President confined to a wheelchair. The personal became political within the sphere of the Oval Office during the Twentieth Century: visual images; television debates; individual excesses and scandals could make or break a President. Indeed, the last President of the Twentieth Century, William Clinton, will ‘be remembered by posterity’ more for his sexual dalliances than any professional merits of his Presidency. One President would endure a half-century battle with the media-both in being elected to office and being wrenched from it. Among the troops steaming home from the Pacific in 1945 was a thirty-two year old Lieutenant Commander who in the following year would begin his dubious rise to political fame, ending three decades later in disaster both for himself-the first President to avoid impeachment by resigning, and the country: this was none other than Richard Milhous Nixon.

One of the most complex, brilliant and flawed men ever to become President of the United States, Richard Nixon was a fascinating character of Shakespearian proportions. Achieving notoriety extremely early in his career, he was the principal protagonist behind the Alger Hiss case during the early fifties and became Vice-President to Dwight Eisenhower at the age of thirty-nine. In 1960, he narrowly lost the Presidential election to John F. Kennedy, a moment which scarred Nixon for the rest of his life and indirectly led to his infamous downfall. Two years later, after having lost the California Governorship, he announced his retirement from politics, declaring: “…this will be my last press conference.” Six years later, Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey and made an unbelievable comeback in becoming the thirty-seventh President of the Unites States. His presidency was shaped by an America divided by the Vietnam War on the one hand, and a president who revolutionised East-West relations on the other. For most, however, Nixon brings to mind only one word: Watergate.

The Watergate scandal which engulfed the Nixon Presidency and brought that Administration to its knees has had a lasting impact on American politics. Mistrust of government and holders of high office resulted most recently in less than half of registered voters turning up to the polls in the last Presidential election. The acts of illegality and subterfuge which Nixon engaged in throughout his career are still being assessed as new evidence constantly comes to light. One principal reason for this is the fact that only a third of the Nixon White House tapes have been documented. In addition, a horde of classified documents have yet to be studied. However, Anthony Summers’ monumental work on Nixon, The Arrogance of Power, has unearthed many damning pieces of previously restricted files which incriminate Nixon far further than the Watergate burglary. Indeed, every point of Nixon’s personal and political career has come under scrutiny in this study, and his case is well documented. Though the book suffers in part by what Christopher Hitchens identifies as “…the weasel word ‘reportedly'” (Hitchens; 2001; p. 136), Summers main attacks on Nixon are substantiated with strong evidence. Among the notable indictments of Nixon’s legacy are questions about the legitimacy of every office Nixon held in public service; a scathing attack on his mental health; involvement with the mafia and extremely dubious business enterprises; abuse and incompetence in his Presidential administration; and unequivocal proof that Nixon ‘stole’ the 1968 Presidential election.

This dissertation will examine these new findings in depth and place them within a pattern of systematic contempt for the basic principles of decency and law which Nixon consistently flaunted. Focusing on the 1968 election, I will propose that the heaviest indictment of Nixon comes not from the Watergate controversy but with his machinations during the 1968 campaign in which he meddled with what a number of historical commentators have labelled the ‘most important diplomatic negotiations in American History.’ By doing so, not only did Nixon secure office by the most illegal and un-Constitutional methods, but needlessly sacrificed a further 20,000 American lives while heightening the domestic turmoil America experienced in this era. This paper is divided into three parts: the first will concentrate on Nixon’s background and electoral practices prior to 1968. In this way I will establish a pattern of illegality and paranoia which was evident in Nixon’s career as early as his University days. This part will include a section on the 1960 election and the dramatic effect this had on Nixon’s psyche. The second part of this paper will focus on the 1968 election and will include a speculative consideration of what America could have expected from a Humphrey administration. The third section will examine the Administrative mood of the Nixon White House and the planned break-in of the Brookings institution to secure incriminating documents relating to the 1968 election. I will conclude by examining the lasting impact of Nixon’s Presidency on American politics and electoral habits.

Chapter 1: ‘Kicking Nixon Around’

“The old adage, ‘character is destiny’, decidedly applies to Richard Nixon. He created a presidency, staffed his White House, and conducted his relations with Congress all in such a way that made Watergate inevitable. Nixon got into the Watergate mess because he was Nixon” (Kurz; 1998; p. 273).

Yorba Linda, California is a desolate and lonely rural pocket governed predominately by old the fashioned values of the Quaker tradition. Born into a strict and, according to Nixon, poor family [1], Richard grew up with the stern authority of both his father’s belt and his mother’s doctrinaire lectures. By the age of eighteen, Nixon had begun a lifelong passion for eavesdropping when: “In Arizona, (his brother) Harold figured out a method of intercepting a girlfriend’s phone conversations with a rival suitor, which was probably Richard’s first experience of wiretapping” (Summers; 2000; p. 11). By the age of eighteen, Nixon endured the setback which would begin a life-long resentment. Having won a scholarship to Harvard, he was informed by his parents that they had neither the money to fund his expenses nor the ability to lose his labour. He would not go east to college, what he describes as a ‘dream’ in his memoirs:

“Once that dream ended, and for the rest of his life, he indulged an obsession about entitlement and social class” (Summers; 2000; p. 15).

Nixon went to Whittier College, where two factors would foreshadow events to come in his political career. Angered by the ostentatious presence of the social elite, named the Franklins, who wore expensive clothes and hosted exclusive dinners, Nixon formed a rival club named the Orthogonians. Representing the ‘everyman’, Nixon was elected president of the student body, having campaigned on an issue which he had no interest in whatsoever: being allowed to dance on campus. This was a pattern repeated in virtually every political position Nixon attempted. From the ‘little man’ rallying for the common good against the evil of internal Communism to calling on the ‘silent majority’ in 1968, Nixon presented himself to the electorate in strictly Manichean terms. In addition, Nixon displayed little or no concern for the issues at hand, as in 1968 when he took the most important political factor of that decade- ending the war in Vietnam, and proceeded to use it to gain the Presidency.

While attending Whittier an incident occurred which displayed another emerging pattern in the Nixon psyche. At the end of his second year, Nixon and two contemporaries broke into the Dean’s office in an apparent bid to get an advance look at their grades. The penalty for such an offence would obviously have been expulsion, if not criminal charges. Yet, the grades were to be released imminently; they had merely been delayed in being sent. Nixon and his accomplices had thus taken a massive risk in attaining results which could not have been altered: this was to be a mistake repeated by Nixon so callously that the Watergate scandal seemed almost inevitable. Decades before, however, Nixon was engaging in a series of ‘dirty tricks’ which would set the tone of his 1968 Presidential campaign.

Electoral Practices Prior to 1960

“During the early years, Nixon was the man to beat. He was the best politician of his time, articulating more ably than anyone the nervous mood of post-World War II America” (Matthews; 1996; p. 15).

Nixon began his political career in 1946 when he ran for Congress against Democratic incumbent Jerry Voorhis. A dedicated New Dealer, Voorhis had faced no serious challenge to his position since 1937. With the war over, however, the GOP began a counter-attack on the Democratic hegemony it had enjoyed since the Great Depression. Though the fear of subversion by Socialist and Communist forces had been a prevalent force in the American psyche since the revolution of 1917, it was not until the United States began an all-out Cold War with the Soviet Union that anti-Communism reached epidemic proportions. Nixon tapped into this hysteria, along with a great number of GOP hopefuls, during the 1946 Congressional campaign. Influenced heavily by Churchill’s speech in March of that year in Fulton, Missouri where the latter announced that “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent” (quoted in Ambrose; 1971; p. 70), Nixon took up the anti-Communist call with ferocity. Every victim in his political legacy has been plagued primarily through the only common theme in Nixon’s campaigns, red-baiting: from the claim that Voorhis was funded by the Communist Political Action Committee; to the assertion that Helen Douglas was ‘pink down to her underwear’; and finally in his 1968 campaign that Humphrey was a ‘sincere, dedicated radical.’

The 1946 campaign against Voorhis was, by all accounts, “brutal and vicious” (Kurz; 1998; p. 46). It was at this time that Nixon met the man who would coordinate the ‘dirty tricks’ of his career: Murray Chotiner. Nixon would later claim as a defence that he engaged in illegal methods of obtaining office only in response to those rallied against him. This line of argument forms the central tenet of Nixon loyalists, who argue that any criticism of Nixon’s actions come under the ‘politics-as-usual’ heading. Yet, as Kenneth Kurz makes clear: “‘Politics as usual’ is not a license for abetting criminals and committing crimes” (Kurz; 1998; p. 274). Nixon saw politics as a game, one where the there were no rules save that of ‘survival of the fittest.’ Nixon apologists state that Nixon’s only crime was getting caught, yet the standard he set in the initial Congressional campaign against Voorhis and his subsequent Senatorial campaign against Helen Douglas suggest otherwise. A number of the common tactics applied by politicians today: massive financial contributions, media ‘spin’ and the infiltration of an opposition camp, were used heavily in Nixon’s early years. In 1946, Chotiner planted Nixon supporters at Voorhis’ rallies, courted big business and arranged for the Los Angeles Times to run favourable headline coverage of the campaign sympathetic to Nixon. In addition, voters were beleaguered by calls which informed the recipient: “I think you should know Jerry Voorhis is a Communist.” Recent evidence cited by Summers indicates that it was Chotiner who arranged those calls. Nixon’s camp spent an estimated $30,000[2]; Voorhis a paltry $2,000. In the 2000 gubernatorial campaign, all but one of the contenders who spent the more money ‘won’ their elective office.

The 1950 Senatorial campaign against Helen Douglas was a near re-rerun of the Voorhis episode. This time, however, Nixon became nastier. Again using the red-baiting tactic as the main prong of his attack, Chotiner assembled a massive one to two million dollar fund [3]. So much money, in fact, that Nixon was able to donate a portion to other GOP candidates. Hecklers were positioned, as before, at Douglas’ speaking engagements and this time callers were subjected to racial slurs which asked “Did you know?” followed by an allusion to Douglas’ Jewish husband. On more than one occasion Nixon referred to Douglas as Hesselberg [4], a clearly anti-Semitic attack. The press, too, were employed by Chotiner to project pro-Nixon sentiment: “Of twelve papers in the state, nine backed Nixon” (Summers; 2000; p. 83). Nixon labelled Douglas ‘pink down to her underwear’, a remark which resonated all the more now that China had entered the Korean War. With anti-Communist sentiment at its peak, and with a little help from Chotiner, Nixon won with a resounding majority: 2,183, 454 votes to Douglas’s 1, 502, 507 [5].

Nixon’s early political bids showed that he was not immune to using coercive methods in order to obtain votes. Many of the themes evident in his 1968 Presidential candidacy were apparent by 1952: the distortion of a central issue to further his advancement; massive campaign contributions; and the abuse of the media in changing voter perception. Public opinion of the Senator from California soon began to sway:

“To many, Nixon seemed to be a man on the make, a hustler peddling falsehoods, an obvious dealer in illusions” (Bennett; 2000; p. 127).

The term first coined by Helen Douglas, ‘Tricky Dick’, was beginning to stick. This was no more heightened by what Nixon describes in Six Crises as: “…the most scarring personal crisis of my life” (Nixon; 1962; p. 74). Allegations that the Vice-Presidential hopeful had solicited money from California’s big business for personal use were beginning to cast doubts on the integrity of the Republican Party’s brightest hope for victory in 1960. In what was to be the first in a series of public evaluations, Nixon went on camera to defend the charges levelled against him. In what can only be described as pathetic, Nixon used the now familiar rhetoric of the ‘common man’ to appeal to the sentiment of the American public. Ending this diatribe with the assertion that no matter what would transpire when all was said and done, the family dog Checkers [6] would remain. A potential disaster was averted, the general public admired what they perceived as Nixon’s candour and he was once again welcomed back into the bosom of the Republican Party.

The fund scandal, although a public relations success, had two long-lasting effects on Nixon. It began his passionate hatred for the media and provided the first conclusive evidence that Nixon was liable to emotional outbursts under pressure. As Nixon saw it, the press had jumped on him for an act of which many other politicians, including Adlai Stevenson, could easily have been indicted. In addition, Nixon’s emotional fragility meant that he took what the press said and their actions personally: “I had not reckoned with the determination and skilful planning of our opponents” (Nixon; 1962; p. 83). As it became clear that Nixon had dodged the fund crisis, serious cracks were beginning to show in his ability to stand up to the pressures of high office:

“From then on Nixon surrendered to tears: tears after making his Checkers speech, tears on board his plane in front of embarrassed reporters when Eisenhower came on board to say ‘you’re my boy,’ and the famous tears on Senator William Knowland’s shoulder [7]…” (Summers; 2000; p. 138).

In 1968, however, there were to be no tears: only victory. Nixon’s commitment to winning the Presidency, and the methods employed to gain it, were hardened by the most defining moment of his political career: 1960.

Kennedy and the 1960 Presidential Election

In 1960, two conjoined resentments Nixon had developed-against both the ‘liberal eastern establishment’ and the media-came to fruition. John F. Kennedy, the Democratic nominee for President, encapsulated everything Nixon wasn’t: privileged, wealthy and exceedingly handsome. Kennedy launched his platform on a campaign to ‘get this country moving again’ while Nixon resorted to the tried and tested anti-Communist line which had to date served him in good stead. Interestingly, Nixon and Kennedy had known each other well in the post-war period as both their political careers appeared to mirror each other: in the Senate they had even kept offices opposite one another. In 1960, however, any effort to rekindle the once friendly rivalry had abated: for Nixon this was all out war.

Nixon was far more experienced than Kennedy in political campaigning and world affairs. Yet, the Kennedy clan were able to use Nixon’s tricks against him. JFK argued that Eisenhower had been soft on Communism: he cited a purported ‘missile gap’ and, more importantly, the loss of ‘Cuba’ to the enemy. The most defining moment of the election came in a revolutionary medium which marked the fundamental sway of American politics from those of party loyalty or concrete issues to personality: television debates. The first ever such debate, on September 26, has gone down as somewhat of a political legend. Kennedy looked like ‘a young Adonis’ while his counterpart looked exactly as he was: a man straight out of hospital. Having bumped his knee weeks earlier, Nixon had to be hospitalised as the wound became infected. While in hospital, Nixon recalls a moment which tells much about his obsession with politics:

“The physical pain I suffered those next few weeks was bad enough…But the mental suffering was infinitely worse” (Nixon; 1962; p. 336).

Presumably, his mental anguish emanated from his failure to be out on the campaign trail. By stating that his emotional faculties were more inhibited than those of a potentially life-altering injury [8], Nixon implicates by default the inner workings of an incredibly flawed psyche. Before the first television debate, Nixon bumped the injured knee before arriving at the studio. Watching footage of the debate, it is clear that he is in a considerable amount of discomfort as his knee shakes sporadically. In addition, he refused make-up. Emaciated, pale and visibly ‘shaken’, Nixon looked positively haggard in comparison to the tanned and lean figure of JFK. Nixon had underestimated the power of the media and was duly punished. A series of miscalculations had led to a public relations disaster: Nixon’s refusal to prepare for the event; the decision not to wear make-up; and his underestimation of Kennedy’s debating skills. Though Nixon sounded the better politician-he won far more acclaim via radio than television- Kennedy looked ‘presidential.’ This was a defining moment in American political history: JFK gave the image of a president. From that point on, politicians became fully aware of the power of the media over the electorate. Nixon never grasped this idea, and as such maintained until Watergate that the media, in collusion with the Liberal establishment, were out to get him: “I was prepared to do combat with the media…I did not believe this combat would be between equals” (Nixon; 1978; p. 355). It was not that they were necessarily out to get ‘him’, but that he refused to accept the importance of sustaining a symbiotic relationship with the media. In addition, Nixon displayed a contempt for the very people who put him in office: in Six Crises he refers to “unsophisticated voters” and unsophisticated televiewers” (Nixon; 1962; pp. 38-39) in almost the same breath. The defining blow, however, came on Election Day: Nixon lost out to Kennedy by a little over 100,000 votes. Once more, Nixon’s emotional fragility presented itself:

“I had seen many people in tears the night before as they heard the returns, but for the first time I was confronted with the same problem” (Nixon; 1962; p. 393).

Tears quickly turned to suspicion, as the reports from Chicago and Texas indicated voting fraud. In later years, Nixon developed a wild and paranoiac interpretation of the election:

“Nixon clung to the absurd conspiracy theory that the agency (CIA) had conspired to make him lose the 1960 presidential election to Kennedy” (Andrew; 1995; p. 350).

No evidence has yet come to light that the CIA prevented Nixon’s victory, yet there is substantial proof that the Democratic campaign management had bought or forced voters into casting a Kennedy ballot. Seymour Hersh’s The Dark Side of Camelot contains the most recent analysis of an election which to his mind was decidedly Nixon’s. Depressed at his loss, angry at the electorate and fermenting vast conspiracy theories which centred around the media, Nixon was forced to endure the ultimate humiliation. Asked to come by Kennedy for what he thought was a genuine effort at reconciliation, Nixon met the president elect in Florida. There, under the auspices of having a meaningful and productive conversation on how to conduct Presidential policy [9], Kennedy delivered the fatal blow:

“…Kennedy was now having his way with his rival, listening obligingly to Nixon’s advice for the sole purpose of getting Nixon’s television picture paying court to him as the president-elect” (Matthews; 1996; p.186).

The election of 1960 proved to be cataclysmic for Nixon’s psyche. He returned to politics in 1962, losing the California governorship by another slim majority. Afterwards, Nixon informed reporters: “…you won’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because gentlemen, this is my last press conference.” Physically and emotionally shattered, Nixon poured the last three years of scorn onto the public eye. In private, there are unsubstantiated claims that he physically beat up his wife Pat. Whatever the truth of those allegations, one thing is certain: Nixon would not lose again. The governor-hopeful transformed his experiences of sixteen years in public service into a ruthless comeback for the 1968 election. In it, Nixon would deploy a combination of dirty tricks he had learned in previous campaigns with a new self-determined confidence -born of two emotionally crushing losses- to devastating effect in his bid for President of the United States.

“Politics was not merely another occupation; it was his whole life, and he could not sit out the presidential race” (Unger and Unger; 1988; p. 451).


Chapter 2: 1968

“Because so little light showed between Nixon and Humphrey on Viet Nam (sic), it is unlikely that the war played a large part in the presidential vote…The bombing suspension and the prospect of more significant negotiations may well have helped Humphrey’s momentum in the campaign’s last days.”

Time; November 15th, 1968 (Vol. 92, No. 20); p. 19

The 1968 Presidential election was one of the most significant in American History. In four years, Johnson’s dream of a Great Society had been displaced by the Vietnam War: “Instead of friend of the poor and the oppressed, he was now presented as an evil, tyrannical monster, an ogre, a bringer of death and destruction” (Harrison; 1997; p. 303). LBJ was by no accounts the most articulate or humble of men: he demanded a ‘kiss my ass at high noon and tell me it smells like roses’ type of loyalty and was frequently given to vulgar outbursts. In a notable tirade, Johnson moaned about a future president and then Congressman: “Ford’s economics is the worst thing that’s happened to this country since pantyhose ruined finger-fucking” (quoted in Doyle; 1999; p. 144). Johnson was the President directly responsible for escalating the conflict in Vietnam, yet it is impossible to argue that Kennedy-had he enjoyed a probable second term of office- would have been better equipped to defuse the situation. In 1968, both the Vietnam War and the turmoil in America had reached epidemic proportions: between 1964-8 there were over 400 racial disturbances alone in major urban centres. In South-East Asia, the Vietcong’s Tet offensive at the end of January 1968 destroyed the Johnson Administration’s claims that an end to the quagmire was in sight. Faced with no solutions to either the war abroad or at home, Johnson announced his decision not to seek re-election in 1968. For Doris Kearns, a Johnson aide who would later help write his memoirs, the decision was made because: “Johnson’s candidacy would have caused an explosion, fragmenting, perhaps irrevocably, the Democratic Party” (Kearns; 1976; p. 351).

The election was dominated by two inter-related issues: Vietnam and civil unrest. In addition, a third party candidate-George Wallace- campaigned for racial segregation, thus enlarging and clouding the answer to civil unrest. Wallace, like all third party candidates in American History, had no chance of winning: his platform, however, drew dismayed Republican voters in from the cold that deemed Nixon too moderate. The lessons of 1960 had been learnt: Nixon transformed his image to secure victory in ’68. Frank Meyer had noted by August in the National Review that:

“This was a very different Nixon from the always cautious, often trimming, Nixon of 1960. If the rest of the campaign is conducted on this level, conservatives can support the Republican ticket with confidence” (National Review; August 27th 1968; Vol. 20, No. 34; p. 859).

Nixon believed the most effective strategy for success would be adopting a ‘centrist’ line: he promised ‘peace with honour’ and maintained that he had a ‘secret plan’ to end the war. In one example of Nixon’s pathological lying, he alleges: “I never said I had a ‘plan’, much less a ‘secret plan’, to end the war; I was deliberately straightforward about the difficulty of finding a solution” (Nixon; 1978; p. 298). Domestically, Nixon appealed to ‘the silent majority’-those who he named as the ‘true Americans’ not responsible for the endemic violence in the country- to place their trust in him. According to Bennett: “Rebuilding the trust between presidency and people was the key task for any incoming president in 1968” (Bennett; 2000; p.128). Nixon tapped into the popular fears of the nation-as in previous campaigns- promising all things to all people. The Democrats, meanwhile, had been experiencing a severe power struggle. Johnson’s Vice-President Hubert Humphrey was first choice for nominee until Bobby Kennedy entered the arena. For a moment, Nixon was paralysed with déjà vu from 1960. These fears abated in early June when Kennedy was assassinated by a Jordanian nationalist seconds after accepting nomination. Nixon campaigned diligently on a ‘peace with honour’ line while Humphrey attempted to patch up the divisions in his party. As Nixon states: “I knew, of course, that the impact of Humphrey’s nomination would now be seriously undermined. He would have to spend his entire campaign trying to patch up the divisions in his party” (Nixon; 1978; p. 317). Humphrey’s acceptance speech for nomination reflects Nixon’s analysis:

“There are differences, of course, serious differences within our party on this vexing and painful issue of Vietnam…Put aside recrimination and dissension. Believe-believe in what America can do, and believe in what America can be…” (in Engelmayer and Wagman; 1978; p. 296).

In the run-up to the penultimate week of the election, Nixon was well clear of Humphrey in the polls. At this point, it seemed that Nixon would receive the landslide majority he had consistently yearned for. Orthodox interpretations of the 1968 election indicate that Nixon won because of a ‘conservative backlash’ which had begun in the New Deal era and had now reacted to eight years of liberalism. Among them, Michael Heale:

“Richard Nixon’s election was made possible by the crumbling of the New Deal Order, by disillusion with New Frontier and Great Society Liberalism, and by the sorry Johnson record in Vietnam. His re-election represented a repudiation of street politics” (Heale; 2001; p. 107).

This interpretation is justified in the sense that America had lost faith in the ‘politics of hope’ imbued in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations. Every segment of American society seemed to have validated criticisms of the preceding eight years: from blacks and whites who were still economically marginalised; middle-class America who wanted stability; and the young who yearned for peace. The electorate-it is argued- looked to the Republican Party to reverse the trend of liberalism which had so degraded American economic, social and military strength. Nixon was voted to bring an end to the domestic and international crises which-it was perceived- had their roots in the Democratic Party. For Doris Kearns “…what changed between 1964 and 1968 was not people’s attitudes towards the policies which Johnson espoused…but their level of trust in Johnson’s capacity to cope with domestic and international problems” (Kearns; 1976; p. 337). There are two problems with this interpretation: Nixon-however much he had changed his image- was still heavily mistrusted:

“Many Americans had voted for Richard Nixon for high office: senator, governor, vice-president, president, but few had loved him. He inspired little affection because he seemed so incapable of love. Pain, anger, resentment, self-pity, hatred- but not love” (Unger and Unger; 1988; p. 451).

Nixon’s past had not erased in the minds of many the red-baiting Congressman who had vilified Alger Hiss in a nation-wide HUAC case. Conversely, Nixon was visibly attempting to shed this image in an attempt to garner trust among the electorate. Theodore White even went as far as to comment “…I came to believe that one must respect this man: there was about all he said a conviction and sincerity” (White; 1969; p. 148).  James Jackson Kilpatrick, however, noted a somewhat different phenomenon:

“Nixon took a new tack at Cincinnati on October 21. ‘We’re gonna sock it to ’em,’ he cried. Instantly, the shade of Mrs Douglas appeared upon the scene: the Ole Debbil Nixon had returned, blue beard and all” (National Review; December 3, 1968; Vol. 20, No. 34).

The ‘Ole Debbil Nixon’ certainly had returned. New evidence has now proven a long known ‘secret’ about the 1968 Presidential campaign: that Richard Nixon engaged in clandestine negotiations with the South Vietnamese promising them a ‘better deal’ if a Republican Administration were elected. In doing so, Nixon may well have prolonged the war for a further four years and enjoyed a two-term Presidency which was never his. The deception of all involved- Johnson, the troops, the American people and the South Vietnamese- sheds new light on the traditional ‘conservative backlash’ argument while suggesting that Nixon was capable of far more than the ordering of a break-in at the Watergate.

On October 1st- a week before the election- Johnson announced a full bombing halt of North Vietnam, to be followed by peace talks in Paris. He assured the public this was a non-partisan move designed solely in the interests of securing an end to the war. The move obviously came under criticism as a political ploy to aid the trailing Humphrey, yet as long as the peace talks began, Johnson could enjoy being heralded as the man who ended the war. Humphrey’s gap did indeed diminish – as the electorate saw an end to the Vietnam War- to give him a slight lead in the polls. On November 2nd, South Vietnam announced that they would not be attending the Peace Talks, and Johnson’s claim that the bombing halt was an apolitical move seemed unsubstantiated. As Ambrose succinctly puts it:

“After having gone seven months without comment on Vietnam, using the excuse that he did not want to undercut the President, Nixon decided to undercut the President” (Ambrose; 1989; p. 209).

As a result of Nixon’s ‘intervention’ in the peace talks, it is entirely likely that enough votes were swung to bring him victory. About a year before the 1968 elections, a meeting had been arranged between Nixon and Anna Chennault, an Asian affairs expert with long-standing ties to the Republican Party. [10] In it, she agreed to act as an adviser to Nixon on Vietnam. Within a year, her role had changed dramatically: by November of 1968 Nixon was using Chennault as a conduit- via Vietnamese Ambassador Bui Diem- to President Thieu. When Johnson received word that Thieu was backing out of the peace initiative, information gathered from wiretaps and phone intercepts of the South Vietnamese embassy became clear. Convinced that Nixon was involved, Johnson ordered a full physical and electronic surveillance of both the embassy and Chennault. From that surveillance came two previously classified FBI documents which incriminate Nixon. In the first, Chennault:

“…contacted Vietnamese Ambassador Bui Diem, and advised him that she had received a message from her boss, which her boss wanted her to give personally to the Ambassador. She said the message was ‘Hold on, we are gonna win…”

(Summers; 2000; p. 302).

The evidence here is circumspect. On its own the conclusion can be drawn that the message is from an unnamed ‘boss’ in the Republican Party urging Thieu to resist pressure from the Johnson Administration to attend the peace talks. The indication that ‘we’re gonna win’ is a reminder that the South Vietnamese would fair better with Nixon in the White House. Taken in conjunction with a second FBI phone intercept, however, the identity of the ‘boss’ becomes virtually undisputable:

“The person she had mentioned to Diem who might be thinking about ‘The Trip’ went on vacation this afternoon and will be returning Monday morning…”

(Summers; 2000; p. 305).

Nixon had left for Florida to relax after winning the election, and Chennault was recorded mentioning that she had been ‘talking to Florida’ (Summers; 2000; p. 304). Given this new evidence and the fact that Chennault has always maintained that Nixon was her ‘boss’ [11], it is now clear that the President-elect had won office using the most morally repugnant methods. In doing so, Nixon displays a truly evil characteristic which goes far beyond the ‘politics-as-usual’ defence. His machinations bring an entirely new interpretation to the 1968 election and the motives of a president who was voted into office on the understanding that he would end the war.

Johnson, crude as he was, took great pains in sacrificing American lives overseas. In the dying hours of his presidency, he had genuinely wanted to bring an end to the conflict which had so far claimed about 30,000 lives:

“The desire to leave something permanent behind as evidence of the work of a lifetime had been with him from the days of his youth, but never had it been so prevalent a force as it was in the Spring of 1968” (Kearns; 1976; p. 344).

From March 31st- when he had called for a unilateral partial bombing halt of North Vietnam- until November, Johnson was desperately seeking resolve to the Vietnam crisis. His decision to bring a full halt in October cannot thus be seen as a last minute ditch attempt at peace. It was the culmination of months of intense work on the part of the Johnson Administration to ensure all parties concerned could begin negotiating. Dr. Kissinger, on the other hand, disagrees:

“It was one of the most fateful presidential decisions of the postwar (sic) period. Had Johnson not made this dramatic renunciation, he could have contested the election on the issue of Vietnam and secured a popular mandate one way or another” (Kissinger; 1994; p. 672).

Given the divisions in the Democratic Party, the domestic situation and the opposition to the Vietnam War from all sides, I find this analysis unlikely. More probable is the speculation that the peace talks of 1968- had the South Vietnamese attended- could well have ended the war significantly sooner than Nixon was able to. Nixon maintains that “Thieu’s reaction was totally predictable…” (Nixon; 1978; p. 328) yet Time magazine reported on November 8th that: “Thieu dispatched a three man advance party to Paris to arrange quarters and communications for an official South Vietnamese delegation to the peace talks” (Time; November 8th, 1968; Vol. 92, No. 19; p. 25). Stephen Ambrose places little importance to Nixon’s culpability:

“Nixon knew that Thieu would not go to Paris, with or without that rather silly woman whispering in his ear the promises John Mitchell was passing along from Richard Nixon. Being Nixon, he worried, and could not keep himself from trying to influence Thieu through Chennault, so he was guilty in his motives and his actions, but he was not decisive. It was not Nixon who prevented an outbreak of peace in November 1968. He merely exploited a situation he did not create”

(Ambrose; 1989; p. 217).

This argument rests heavily on the assumption that Thieu did not anticipate attending the Peace Talks. Yet, anyone who had received the ‘Johnson Treatment’ knew that ‘no’ was not a viable answer. It would be difficult to contend that Johnson would not have used all his powers to force the South Vietnamese to the negotiating table. In addition, Thieu had indicated he was seriously considering attending the talks when he sent a forward delegation to Paris. Humphrey, however, was not producing what Thieu wanted to hear:

“As President, I would stop the bombing of North Vietnam…I would move, in other words, toward de-Americanization of the war” (quoted in Engelmayer and Wagman; 1978; p. 297).

This was sure to have the South Vietnamese President more than a little concerned as to the fate of his country. Yet, the United States possessed far more bargaining power in 1968 against the North Vietnamese-before the incursions into Laos and Cambodia-than in January 1973. In addition, Johnson could easily have argued that the Democratic line would change as soon as Humphrey was elected. Given that Thieu believed Nixon’s claims to do the same, this rationale is not unsubstantiated. In retrospect, the settlements for the final Peace Treaty proved no different than those proposed in 1968: this suggests that Nixon is significantly responsible for prolonging the conflict to his own end. Summers concludes:

“The fact that Nixon covertly intervened…deliberately flouting the efforts of the American authorities, was indefensible. The way in which he involved himself remains to this day undefended” (Summers; 2000; p. 306).

Stephen Ambrose, on the other hand, suggests that the entire 1968 campaign was flawed, thus reverting to the defence Nixon would employ later in the Watergate proceedings that his actions were ‘politics-as-usual’:

“In 1968, American politics had sunk to depths not reached since the Civil War and Reconstruction. America’s political leaders, Johnson and Humphrey, Nixon and Agnew, and most of the others, were just playing with people…if it even ever occurred to the them to strive to provide the conditions that would allow the American people to pursue happiness, they managed to ignore it all in their single-minded pursuit of personal victory at any cost” (Ambrose; 1989; p. 217).

‘Dirty tricks’, however wrong, are part of the political landscape of America. Johnson had all the candidates bugged; Nixon did the same in regard to Humphrey. Republican hecklers were a prominent feature at Humphrey speeches, while in Miami- at the Republican Convention- a heavily pregnant black woman stood outside wearing a ‘Nixon’s the One’ badge. The 1968 election was the most heavily charged, passionate and tragic of the Twentieth Century. The cohesion of American society and the lives of a potential 500,000 troops hung in the balance of whose vote the election went for. In addition, Nixon used the collective aspirations of the electorate to secure votes: “We know, of course, that once begun, negotiations would drag on for almost five years. But no one could foresee such an outcome in late October 1968, and it was hopefully believed that peace talks meant peace, not just talks” (Unger and Unger; 1988; p. 528). The treachery, deceit and Machiavellian tactic employed by Nixon vis-à-vis his sabotaging of Johnson’s peace initiative went far beyond the rubric of ‘everybody does it.’ Everybody didn’t do it, and for this reason Nixon’s actions can be considered wholly treacherous to American citizens, troops and the sanctity of the Constitution: Nixon stole the election. Having assumed power under such scrupulous methods, however, Nixon now had to retain his tenuous rise to office: the stain of 1968 would weigh heavily on his actions as President.

Chapter 3: The Stain of 1968

“When Nixon opened the president’s private safe on his first morning in the White House, he found that Johnson had left only one document behind: the Vietnam intelligence summary for the previous day…Nixon put the intelligence report back in the safe. He did not remove it until the war was over”

(Andrew; 1995; p. 359).

Johnson harboured a strong suspicion that Nixon had jettisoned his peace initiative. Having relayed this suspicion to Humphrey, the Democrats were trapped with the information gathered from the FBI surveillance: to release it would have looked like a political move and would indirectly show that Johnson had been involved in domestic surveillance. Time magazine reported in January that “After the inaugural spectacle faded from the U.S. television screens last week, some of its images remained…Hubert Humphrey in the inaugural stand, jaw grimly set as he watched the man who defeated him so narrowly take the oath of office” (Time; January 31st, 1969; Vol. 93, No. 5; p. 13). Humphrey knew as well as Johnson that Nixon had betrayed the American people: they had much to fear as Nixon was sworn in as president. When Nixon opened the Presidential safe, he too was reminded by Johnson that his secret was not entirely safe. Added to his hatred of the press, the electorate and the ‘Liberal Establishment’, Nixon now had to contend with the possibility that Johnson would unravel the evidence of a ‘stolen’ presidency. For the time being, however, Nixon’s priorities were elsewhere:

“If Richard Nixon was in no undue haste to construct his Administration; he was clearly eager to make the most of his four-year lease on America’s most elegant and adaptable mansion” (Time; January 31st, 1969; Vol. 93, No.5; p. 13).

In the early days of his presidency, Nixon devoted his time to savouring in the grandeur he had for so long aspired to. Military planes were sent to Italy for expensive silk and to France for furniture: a complete re-decoration of the White House was put into operation. In addition, fully operative and secure residences were adapted for presidential use in California and Florida: “A former Budget Bureau official would calculate that, by four years into his presidency, Nixon’s household expenses had added up to a hundred million dollars” (Summers; 2000; p. 325). The ‘imperial presidency’ was beginning to take shape. Nixon’s perception of the excesses he truly believed were acceptable offer an intimate view into why his presidency crumbled. Nixon’s views on presidential power and the limits of that power are a defining factor in the acts of illegality he would pursue well in advance of Watergate. In delegating so much time, effort and expense to the pomp and show of being a president, Nixon was unable to act as a President.

A vast amount of White House memorandum attaches more importance to subservient concerns than those of national importance. One three page memo from Haldeman to Colonel Hughes discusses the choice and availability of films at Camp David. In another, the President requests of Haldeman:

“Would you please have the Bordeaux years checked? I know that ’59 is an excellent year…I would like to see, from a wine expert, what they consider to be the best years for French Bordeaux, starting with ’59, which most consider to be the best year in the last 25” (Odes; 1989; p. 109).

Far more sinister than the quality of films or wine, however, was the level of medication now controlling the President. Exacerbated by his addition to the drug Dilantin [12] and his heavy drinking, Nixon’s resentment of the media and the liberal press had developed into full blown paranoia. On three documented cases, Nixon’s mental instability led to the president ordering the deployment of nuclear weapons for extremely small crises. The sacred chain-of-command which governs the use of nuclear weapons was broken when Kissinger decided that all such decisions must be approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This is in clear violation of the power of the president: the fact that it was necessary to preserve international security is a further indictment of Nixon’s character and responsibility while in the White House. In an allusion to the ‘enemies list’ compiled by John Dean, Kenneth Kurz notes that:

“The White House engaged in dirty tricks throughout Nixon’s first term, not just at election time. His politics-as-usual argument could not vitiate the fact that Nixon and his men spent an inordinate amount of time thinking up and implementing plans to screw their opponents” (Kurz; 1998; p. 279).

One such plan provides further evidence of Nixon’s involvement in the 1968 peace talks and suggests that he was willing to sanction the murder of innocent people to protect his presidency. In 1968, the release of the Pentagon papers had incensed both Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. The author of the Pentagon Papers –Daniel Ellsberg- had already been subjected to a smear campaign by the Nixon Administration when the office of his psychiatrist had been broken into. Now there were strong reports that Ellsberg had added a section to the Pentagon Papers on the ‘bombing halt episode’ which directly incriminated Nixon. This additional file had been kept in the Brookings Institution, a liberal think-tank about five blocks from the White House. In 1971, Nixon ordered the break-in of Brookings to secure the files. Although the plan was never completely executed [13], the fact that Nixon had ordered and approved the break-in displayed his utter contempt for the law and his responsibilities as President. In a series of taped conversations released in 1996, the President is clearly ordering acts of illegality. On June 30th:

“‘The way I want it handled, Bob (Haldeman) is…I want Brookings…just break in, break in and take it out…'” (Summers; 2000; p. 386).

The next day, a more determined Nixon:

“‘We’re up against an enemy, a conspiracy, they’re using any means…I want the Brookings safe cleaned out…'” (Summers; 2000; p. 386).

Nixon’s insistence that the files be stolen further compounds the argument that he feared a revelation from the contents of Ellsberg’s investigation which would reveal his secret dealings in the 1968 peace talks. Furthermore, one plan which was conceived to enter the Brookings Institution reveals the extent to which Nixon feared those revelations. The plan to break into Brookings involved fire-bombing the building, then sending in White House employees-disguised as firemen- to retrieve the files. By the time the genuine emergency services arrived, the culprits would have had time to escape in a specially camouflaged ‘fire truck.’ The plan and funding for the enterprise all originated in the White House. Both John Dean and John Ehrlichman corroborate this claim in their memoirs:

“Once before, when Nixon was in such a mood, Colson had planned to firebomb the Brookings Institution to get at its cache of secret documents” (Ehrlichman; 1982; p. 403).

“I stared out the window and wondered if the President’s mind was as cluttered as mine when he stared out his window. Garbage and tension, I thought. I knew I had to get out of this thing. It was out and out street crime. I saw fat burglars wearing stocking masks slipping behind firemen and felt a rush of revulsion” (Dean; 1976; p. 46).

The firebombing plan had originated with Nixon’s co-conspirator Chuck Colson. As of this moment, no evidence has proved that Nixon approved or ordered the fire, yet the ferocity with which he demands the break-in suggests that any means necessary were to be employed. Even Nixon concedes:

“In the aftershock of the Pentagon Papers leak…my interest in the bombing halt file was rekindled. When I was told that it was still at Brookings, I was furious and frustrated … I saw no reason for that file to be at Brookings, and I said I wanted it back right now, even if it meant having to get it back surreptitiously” (Nixon; 1978; p. 512).

Given the amount of evidence which continues to surface regarding the Nixon Presidency, it will probably only be a matter of time before the ex-President becomes directly linked to the planned firebombing of the Brookings Institution. The plan preceded and anticipated the Watergate affair, which was a comparatively innocent endeavour in light of both the 1968 election and the Brookings affair. In addition, the latter two events were intrinsically linked: Nixon needed the files in order to avoid detection of the tactics he employed to gain the Presidency. Even given the defence that the Brookings Institute was never infiltrated- by fire or any other method- the fact that Nixon even flirted with the idea is criminal in itself. The Watergate Special Prosecution Service had neither the time nor the resources to investigate his election campaign or the Brookings affair. Had they been able to, there is no doubt that such findings would have damaged American politics far more than Nixon’s legacy already has. In addition, the disgraced President would have been totally unable to procure the reconciliation with the American public undertaken in the last twenty years of his life.

Conclusion: The Impact of 1968

“Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself”

  1. Richard Nixon, Remarks on the Departure from the White House (quoted in Bochin; 1990; p. 170)

At Richard Nixon’s funeral in April 1994, then President Clinton called on Americans to ‘judge Richard Nixon on no less than his entire life.’ Ironically, as this paper has attempted to argue, Clinton was indirectly incriminating the ex-president on far more than the legacy of Watergate. That scandal alone has left a lingering imprint on American politics as the electorate has attempted to renew its faith in its elected leaders: voter participation has consistently depreciated since 1972. This suggests that the Watergate fiasco has dramatically altered voting practices and, more importantly, the vital trust needed for a president to successfully initiate his intended programs. Further damage can be found in the fact that every single president post-Nixon (save Ford) has campaigned on a platform of being an ‘outsider’ to Washington politics. By maintaining immunity to the perceived corruption inherent in Washington, presidential-hopefuls have tapped into a damaging seam. The structural components of American federalism rely on an experienced and powerful President to initiate both domestic and foreign proposals. Ignorance of the Congressional and Senatorial system is in fact not a blessing but a burden: without an intimate knowledge of Washington politics a president is semi-impotent. In addition, concentrated efforts by Congress to reign in presidential power have further limited the productive gains a president can enforce.

Oliver Stone’s 1995 film, Nixon, was attacked by Nixon apologists for its depiction of the president’s personal qualities: specifically, his penchant for alcohol; his mental instability; and the Freudian allusions to his mother. What Nixon loyalists failed to detect was that Stone was quite clearly in their camp. The general impression of the film is clearly within the traditional interpretation of the ‘politics-as-usual’ strain: Stone consistently negates every immoral or illegal act with the argument that Nixon was a brilliant foreign affairs specialist who was destroyed by his own paranoia and the hypocritical ethics of the media. In regards to foreign affairs alone, Nixon failed spectacularly:

“The final reckoning is that Nixon and Kissinger failed to reach their major foreign policy goals. They did not extract the United States from Vietnam without losing Vietnam to the Communists; they could not solve the problem of Formosa and thus establish full diplomatic relations with the Chinese; they could not establish a lasting détente; they did not put any controls on the arms race; they did not bring peace to the Middle East. Judged by their own standards, they came up short” (Ambrose; 1971; p. 270).

In addition, Christopher Hitchens latest work, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, argues that Nixon and his National Security Adviser were guilty of a number of international war crimes which wilfully ignored the basic principles of the Geneva Convention. A thorough investigation of Nixon’s foreign policy misdeeds will continue to have an impact on how Americans view their president’s role while further displacing Nixon’s credibility in this field. Had Nixon not stolen the 1968 election, however, any attacks on his Presidency are cursory.

This thesis has argued that Richard Nixon’s involvement in the 1968 peace talks forms the most damning indictment of his enduringly destructive legacy on American politics. His decision to impinge on a diplomatic negotiation which could have saved 50, 000 American and approximately 600,000 (combined) Vietnamese lives for the sake of winning an election was completely malevolent in nature and deed. The roots of this act have their origin in Nixon’s early political career, where he employed ruthless and illegal tactics to gain office. Nixon’s inability to deal with defeat became manifest in the 1960 presidential and 1962 gubernatorial campaigns, from which came the defence that the ‘liberal establishment’ and the media were on a mission to destroy him: ultimately, this led to the fatal decision to steal the 1968 election. The acts of illegality which marred Nixon’s pre-1968 campaign in themselves set precedents which are still evident in contemporary American politics. Corruption, media manipulation and a disdain for the electorate were evident as recently as the 2000 presidential election, where George Bush and Albert Gore decided to circumvent the Supreme Court in favour of local courts to decide the outcome of that election. Once in the White House, Nixon displayed how presidential power can be abused: both in his ostentatious perception of a presidency and the ordered break-in of the Brookings Institution.

The most worrying factor, however, to emerge from a study of Richard Nixon is his inability to tell right from wrong: a basic requirement for alleging temporary insanity in a criminal law court. Nixon’s memoirs, White House tapes and biographies make no display of contrition regarding any of the several illegal methods he employed either to gain or remain in office. One suggestion to avoid repeating a Nixon presidency is articulated by Milton Plessur: “Candidates might be required to have a health check up, and findings likely to affect their performance be made public…the public could then better judge whether a man’s health problems prior to his assuming office would be of any consequence while he is in office” (Tugwell and Cronin; 1974; p. 202).

Richard Nixon’s political legacy continues to have a significant impact on American politics. He provided incontrovertible evidence that the Constitution and American federalism can be abused to an individuals own end. In doing so, it is clear that drastic measures must be imposed to ensure electoral and presidential responsibility in the future. The setting up of a Presidential Supervisory Committee, under the auspices of a non-partisan Congressional body, could help to regulate presidential campaigns and oversee that the separation of powers is adhered to the highest possible standards. In the final analysis, the American electorate must come to terms with Richard Nixon’s ‘entire life’, in an effort to reverse voter apathy and renew the trust in their beloved Constitution.


Bibliography

Primary Sources

  1. Dean, John; Blind Ambition; Simon and Schuster; 1976.
  2. Ehrlichman, John; Witness To Power; Simon and Schuster; 1982.
  3. National Review magazine.
  4. Nixon, Richard: Memoirs; Sidgwick and Jackson; 1978.
  5. Nixon, Richard; Six Crises; W.H. Allen; 1962.
  6. Oudes, Bruce (Edited); Richard Nixon’s Secret Files; Harper and Row; 1989.
  7. Time magazine.
  8. White, Theodore; The Making of the President 1968; Jonathan Cape; 1969.

Secondary Sources

  1. Ambrose, Stephen; Nixon (Volume Two): The Triumph of a Politician 1962-1972; Simon and Schuster; 1989.
  2. Ambrose; Stephen; Rise to Globalism; Penguin; 1971.
  3. Andrew, Christopher; For the President’s Eyes Only; Harper Collins; 1995.
  4. Bennett, G; The American Presidency: Illusions of Grandeur; Sutton; 2000.
  5. Bochin, Hal; Rhetorical Strategist; Greenwood; 1990.
  6. Doyle, William; Inside the Oval Office: The White House Tapes From FDR to Clinton; Kodansha; 1999.
  7. Engelmayer, Sheldon and Wagman, Robert; Hubert Humphrey; The Man and His Dream; Metheun; 1978.
  8. Greene, John; The Limits of Power; Indiana University; 1992.
  9. Harrison, Robert; State and Society in Twentieth Century America; Longman; 1997.
  10. Heale, M; The Sixties in America; Edinburgh University; 2001.
  11. Hitchens, Christopher; The Trial of Henry Kissinger; Verso; 2001.
  12. Kissinger, Henry; Diplomacy; Touchstone; 1994.
  13. Kurz, Kenneth; Nixon’s Enemies; Lowell House; 1998.
  14. Kearns, Doris; Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream; Harper; 1976.
  15. Matthews, Christopher; Kennedy and Nixon; Touchstone; 1996.
  16. Plessur, Milton; The Health of Presidents in Tugwell, Rexford (Edited); The Presidency Reappraised; Praeger; 1974.
  17. Summers, Anthony; The Arrogance of Power; Victor Gollancz; 2000.
  18. Unger, Debi and Unger, Irwin; Turning Point 1968; Macmillan; 1988.

[1] Accounts vary enormously. Nixon painted a desolate and harsh upbringing during most of his life, yet at times admitted ‘we always had enough to eat’ (Summers; 2000; p. 6). The Nixon’s were certainly not destitute, yet they were not exactly ‘comfortable.’ A fair judgment would put their relative economic standard in Yorba Linda-where most were extremely poor-at the middle-income bracket.

[2] In 1946 terms.

[3] It is difficult to estimate exactly how much money was spent. Nevertheless, the approximate sums were an astronomical amount for that time.

[4] Douglas’s husband had been born Hesselberg. His father had been Jewish.

[5] From Kurz; 1998; p. 128.

[6] Checkers had been a gift from a campaign donator. Nixon claimed that the dog was the only plausible root of improper conduct involved in the entire scandal.

[7] After having been informed he would stay on as Eisenhower’s running mate.

[8] Doctors who treated the Vice-President had warned there was a possibility that the infection would lead to the amputation of his leg.

[9] Kennedy also wanted to make absolutely sure that Nixon would not contest the results of the election.

[10] Widow of the famous Second World War ace pilot Claire Chennault, Mrs. Anna Chennault was in 1968 vice-chairman of the Republican National Finance Committee and co-chairman of the Women for Nixon-Agnew.

[11] Most recently in a BBC documentary, The Secret World of Richard Nixon (2000), Chennault stated ‘my boss was Richard Nixon.’

[12] In 1968 Jack Dreyfus, a Nixon contributor, suggested he try Dilantin to counter depression. Dilantin is an anti-epileptic drug not designed to alleviate the symptoms of depression. If mixed with alcohol, the drug can produce serious side effects such as disorientation, mental confusion and slurred speech. In addition to taking un-prescribed doses of Dilantin-Dreyfus gave the president ‘several’ bottles of the drug, each containing 1000 tablets- Nixon was ingesting large doses of sleeping pills.

[13] Men employed by Charles Colson attempted on several occasions to gain access to the Brookings vault but each was unsuccessful.

2 thoughts on “The 1968 ‘Stolen’ Presidential Election and its Impact on American Politics

  1. great dissertation. i have often stated that the assassination of robert kennedy was the death of the american dream, which nixonian republicans most certainly reveled in, if not actually responsible for. it set the stage for the chicago riots and police actions, weakening the dems position to a humphrey level. there is no doubt in my mind that not only would nixon have been beaten by yet another kennedy, but this country would not be the dystopian nightmare that it has become since watergate and then reagan, had we had rfk as our 38th president and not nixon. his crooked takeover of the oval office desecrated the position of president ever since, and we are still living in the wake of watergate.

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