Different Dominos

Last night, I was really tired and wanted to go to bed early.  But then I heard the start of a story by Rachel Maddow on Nixon, treason, and five years of needless war.  How the Vietnam war was on the verge of settlement at the end of October, 1968, and Richard Nixon scuttled those talks to get himself elected.  How he committed treason.  How he got away with it and set the precedent for Cheney and Bush to get away with lying about Iraq.  How it set the precedence for so many terrible things that have faced our country since 1968.

I wish I was making this up.  I wish Richard Nixon had stayed in California.  Because the world would be a very different place if there had never been a President Nixon.


This is incredibly disturbing.

Here’s the transcript (Sorry, it’s rough.)

>> Thank you at home for joining us. we start with some jaw-dropping information about American politics that has been reported out by a British news source. it’s the BBC. they have just aired a new documentary based on oval office tapes, which proves something about the American presidency and modern history that even the most conspiratorial among us would not be able to believe. it’s about the 1968 election. the democratic electorate was split. they were not unified behind their candidate. on the right, southern white democrats who were against civil rights, they were being peeled off to vote for George Wallace, the symbol of proud segregation. also, different problem for the democrats. people hated the Vietnam war. and the president at the time was a democrat, Lyndon B. Johnson. so if you were against the war, as most Americans at that point were — this is the gallop polling on the war — the number of people who thought it was a mistake — if you were against the war as increasingly everybody was, you were so the psyched to vote for LBJ’s successor. so the democrats were losing their appeal in the south because of racism, and they were losing the anti-war vote. the republican candidate tried to take advantage of that split, and was this handsome devil. Nixon in 1968 was running against a democratic party that he knew was split. he was, in response, pledging to get rid of the draft. and he claimed to have a plan to end the war. he argued that if you wanted the war to end, you needed to elect him. you needed to vote the democrats out of office because clearly LBJ and his party, the democrats and the democratic party, Hubert Humphrey had no idea how to end the war. when you needed was total change at the white house. the democrats had to go to Nixon could come in and end Vietnam. but then less than a week before the election, it all went horribly wrong for Richard Nixon, because less than a week before election, on halloween night, 1968, the democratic president, LBJ, went on TV in a surprise nationally televised address. he made a surprise announcement that peace was at hand. the communist side, the Vietnamese side was going to be make concessions at peace talks. the south Vietnamese were going to agree to a deal. peace was at hand. the terms were all set. peace was at hand. in recognition of the fact that peace was about to be declared, the united states would step back right away and stop all military operations in vehement. LBJ said that on Thursday night. the election was going to be Tuesday. turns out the democrats know how to end this war. that was bad news for Richard Nixon, but good news for the country who wanted the war to be over. good news for the people fighting the war. this was good news, right? almost. Thursday night LBJ made that announcement, that peace was about to be agreed to, by all sides in Vietnam.

That was Thursday night. by Saturday morning, never mind, deal was off. peace was not at hand because the south Vietnamese side has decided actually it didn’t want the deal. in fact, they didn’t want to talk about it deal. they pulled out of the peace talks. and so the war was back on. what happened? what happened between Thursday and Saturday? now we know.

>> good morning. how are you, my friend?

>> fine.

>> I’ve got one that’s pretty rough for you. we have found that our friend, the republican nominee, our California friend, has been playing on the outskirts with our enemies and our friends both, he’s been doing it through rather subterranean sources here, and he has been saying to the allies that you’re going to get sold out. you better not give away your liberty just a few hours before i can preserve it for you. Mrs. Chennault is contacting their ambassador. this is not guess work. she’s young and attractive. she’s a pretty good-looking girl. she’s around town, and she is warning them to not get pulled in on this Johnson move.

>> president Lyndon Johnson, 1968, Saturday morning, November 1st, explaining to senator Richard Russell what had gone wrong with this peace deal that everybody thought was going to end the war. LBJ was so sure this was going to end the war that he went on TV Thursday night. the reason peace did not happen, what he was explaining on the phone, is that the republican nominee for president that year, Richard Nixon, had intervened in the peace talks to blow them up. he used an intermediary who was involved in the talks to approach the south Vietnamese Vietnamese side and told them don’t do it. these peace talks in Paris was not going to be a good deal for them. they should not participate. they should just wait until after the election when he, Richard Nixon, would be president and he’d give them a much better deal. Johnson was going to sell them out. he, Richard Nixon, of the one he should deal with. Nixon’s intermediary was caught on tape telling the ambassador, just hang on. we need the war to keep going through the election. it’s outrageous, right? the war could have ended. it was on the verge of ending, except a candidate for office in our country thought that the war ending would help his opponent in the election. he thought he’d have a better chance of getting elected if the war kept going. so instead of getting the war to end, he did what he did. it was astonishing. and president Johnson thought so too.

>> and they oughtn’t to be doing this. i think it would shock America if a principal candidate was playing with a source like this on a matter this important.

>> yeah.

>> president Lyndon Johnson there on the same day as that earlier tape remark be thatter as far as he could tell, this is treason. he says it repeatedly on the tapes. he thinks that is a hanging offense. he thinks that was treason. this was four days before the election that year. having thought that the war was going to be over, now the president finds out the peace deal fell through because a candidate who wanted there not to be peace before the election intervened to make one sidewalk away. now, why didn’t LBJ say anything publicly? this is right before the election. can you imagine how the country would have reacted to that? this is a war the whole country was against. it was going to be over except candidate Nixon intervened to undo the peace deal and keep the war going? can you imagine how angry the American public would have been. but LBJ did not say anything publicly at the time because he thought he couldn’t. the reason he thought he couldn’t is the way he found out what Nixon had done. the FBI illegally wire-tapped the phones of the south Vietnamese ambassador. we couldn’t let anybody know that we were illegally listening into the ambassador’s phone lines so they couldn’t let anybody know what they had heard. so Nixon got away with it. and the October surprise. the Halloween night surprise that the war was ending right before the election, that October surprises ended up getting undone. anybody who was anti-war in the country had no reason to vote for a democrat. the racist right wing voted peeled off the the vote on the other side. and yes, Nixon won. he got by barely. squeaked by on the basis that he was the guy who knew how to end the war, not those dumb democrats. and of course Nixon did not know how to end the war. he didn’t have a plan. and instead of the war ending on Halloween in 1968, the war went on five more years, in which time 15,000 Americans were killed as were untold numbers of Vietnamese. so that happened. that actually happened, and now in 2013, what are we supposed to do with that information? LBJ is dead, Nixon is dead, George Wallace is dead. 15,000 Americans are dead who otherwise would not have been. how does this get made right? it cannot get made right because the people of this decision cannot be brought back from the dead. you also can’t get revenge. you can’t indict Nixon’s ghost. but you can refuse to let him get away with it again. we can make sure it is a way we tell his history and the history of modern politics. you have to include it in the history, both so nobody gets away with it in the long run, but also so we don’t do it again. so we at least don’t dismiss this kind of possibility as some conspiracy theory of nonsense. so we know there is precedent for this particular kind of evil.


Filed under Campaigning, Criminal Activity, Elections, History, Hypocrisy, Law, Politics, Stupidity

46 responses to “Different Dominos

  1. I can’t believe I’m not the only one who ends up watching Rachel when I should be going to bed and it gets me so agitated that I’m wide awake past midnight. That piece on Nixon was super scary and I don’t think she even covered how he and Chuck Colson manipulated Billy Graham with a fake “family Bible” to make Graham think that Nixon was an upstanding Christian fellow so that he could win the Born-Again vote and establish the new religious/concervative South. That “Tricky Dick” was a master manipulator and we’ve been paying for it ever since. Sometimes I wonder if any politician ever tells us the truth. Sigh!


  2. I would imagine that politics have been rife with shenanigans for a long, long time. We just know more about it now–since Nixon. Was it that he did something particularly heinous or that our culture was ready to expose our “leadership” for what it has been and is: corrupt because that what power makes these men?


    • I personally think that this action was particularly heinous. Peace had been negotiated, i’s were being dotted and t’s crossed, but they had an agreement. Until Nixon undermined it, which led to 5 more years.

      Lots of politicians and leaders do bad and/or stupid things (including Johnson with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution). But this action of Nixon’s led (1) to his election (2) to the dawning of the real nasty careers of Cheney and Rumsfeld (3) to lies being hunky-dory in terms of wars and stuff.

      Then there was the mistrust/falling apart of our government after/because of Watergate.

      The list is long, and flows from this action.


      • True. I just wonder about all the thinks kept from us during those times when it wasn’t in vogue to expose the back-room back-stabbing (when that was probably literal). That’s all I was saying. Nixon did some bad things, no doubt.


  3. Sickening. I will pass this along. I must say, it doesn’t surprise me. I read once that Ronald Reagan did some conniving to prolong the hostage crisis in Iran until after the elections so that he could be the hero and end that situation.


    • Yup, that’s true too, although it was widely reported even at the time. And the hostages weren’t released until RR had taken the oath of office. Sickening is right. But of course the common thread is their party offiliation.


  4. Holy sh__. The man was a special kind of evil. And my parents voted for him. And then Dad spent 1969 in Vietnam.


    • I imagine that tidbit about Nixon is even more disturbing to you, then. I keep thinking how much damage could have been avoided to individuals, to the country, to our faith in ourselves to govern ourselves honestly.

      I hope your dad made it without as few scars as possible.

      My parents voted for him, too. And I was for him (in 8th grade) until I was against him.


  5. If only we could go back and change history, how far would we go? The Vietnam era was such a devisive time for our country and even now, we are still grappling with a lot of fallout – especially as information like this becomes more available. It makes me wonder what will be the final page in history on the times we are living through right now – 911, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden.


  6. Frightening! Very, very frightening! The more we know about what happens behind closed doors of men like these, the more we realize that there is much more we don’t know. People knew Hitler was evil. It was there up front in the open for all to see and know. As the world uncovered atrocity after atrocity there was no, “oh, his heart was in the right place. He did it for his country. etc.”. He was just whack job, evil, crazy. Nixon was a special kind of evil that we will never fully know the extent of the damage he did because of the lies, the coverups and the disbelief that anyone could so pull the wool over the eyes of the American public.


    • Isn’t it disheartening about Nixon? He is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, and a very different world than we might have had.

      Hitler? Yep, he’s in a special league all his own.


  7. winsomebella

    Quite illuminating. Amazing what we think we know only to look back later and see behind the curtain. Thanks Elyse.


  8. cooper

    the only thing as annoying as screaming conservative commentators are screaming liberal commentators – and msnbc is rife with them. So my real questions is – with all this damming evidence, why didn’t johnson go public with it? why is this coming out now when everyone is dead and it makes absolutely no difference? Nixon a psychotic paranoid underhanded crook? Yeah, there’s a newsflash. Why is msnbc so torqued by this? All they are doing is sensationalizing the story to maintain a perceived split between the parties – keep everyone sniping at each other like five year olds on the playground. Politics and TV “news” shows…made for each other.


    • According to the piece, the info was gleaned through illegal wiretapping of the South Vietnamese ambassador.

      And yes I agreed mostly I ‘m sick of commentators. It drives me crazy that the so rarely talk to anybody but each other …


    • why is this coming out now when everyone is dead and it makes absolutely no difference?

      It has come to light because of some BBC research for a programme called the “Archive Hour” into the recordings that LBJ made in the Oval Office. It was he ironically who advised Nixon to record his meetings and phone calls.

      I think it is important that it comes out, even after the protagonists are all dead to make sure that history is recorded accurately, and when it is wrong should be corrected.


  9. I saw that story. I remember my first march to end the war, 1968. I remember sitting in front of the TV at night watching the flag draped coffins come off the planes. I remember my cousins coming home so damaged. I remember older friends, leaving and not coming home.

    There was a time we knew, this generation, our generation we knew right from wrong.


    • Thanks for including that song. I haven’t heard it in ages. But you’re right about our generation.

      This story has really got me down. What happened to the ideals. What happened to truth and justice being the American way. Shit.


  10. Oh yes, I nearly forgot, I meant o say this was a great post and the video fantastic – thank you.


  11. There’s no getting away from the fact that after WW2 America decided that it would remain on a “war footing” for ever. Its cheaper than tooling up every couple of decades for war, and it’s great for business. But in order to convince the American people that they sould spend more of their money on the military than the rest of Europe, Japan, Canada and Australia combined, they damn well better have a big fat scarey enemy.
    First it was communism, in Indo China and then in Europe against the USSR wth their satelite states that we gave to Stalin at Potsdam.

    Then when communism colapsed under it’s own doomed weight America very quickly needed another enemy to replace it. Bring on the Alkieda, they’ll do nicely. If we hit them hard enough and often enough they’ll keep coming back and the big merry go round can keep turning.

    And they Gave Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize?


    • I don’t know that it’s all bad policy, Bill. I don’t really have a problem paying for defense, even a hefty bill. Our participation in NATO (and not the sad sack UN) has been effective at rebuilding Europe and helping to keep peace in Europe (except for that Balkans thing — which did not escalate). But when they start using those toys, well, that’s a whole different ball game.

      But again, I really lay this whole “be afraid, be very afraid” on the GOP. That’s what they do. That’s how they get/remain in power. That and hate.

      And yeah, Henry Kissinger and the Nobel Peace Prize. ‘Scuse me while I puke.


      • I agree about NATO but don’t be so hard on the UN. It is the sum of it’s parts and that includes the five ermenant embers who use their veto time and again to prevent progress on issues like Israel.
        America spending so much on the Military is not in the cause of defense, instead, it’s offense. The military defend American “Interests” and that’s anything that the prevailing adminstration says it is. America believs that anything that happens anywhere in the world is their business when it’s clearly not.


        • Ah, I worked in a UN organization for 3 years, my husband for 5. They have wonderful, laudatory goals, but I don’t think their impact matches. Nor their effectiveness. Sad, really.


  12. Weren’t there also talks between Reagan and the Iranian hostage takers in teh run-up to the election between hiim and Carter, or am i misremembering this?
    One of the saddest things about this is that there are some partisans on either side embrace and cheer their guy doing whatever it took…


    • Youu are exactly right. Reagan made “unspecified promises to Iran in return for holding onto the Hostages for another week. Carter almost had them out and just like the Nixon thing, it mysteriously fell through only to work as soon as there was a change of President. Funny that, isn’t it?


    • Guap, I remember that, too. And the hostages weren’t released until Reagan was sworn in — I remember watching that on TV. It is horrible and unconscionable — but I don’t think it rises to Nixon’s transgression. He stopped the peace talks and as a direct result the war lasted 5 more years.

      I don’t go along with the “both sides do it” argument at all. Yes, both sides commit crimes and do bad things. The scale of them on the GOP side simply dwarfs the $$$ in the freezer and the penis problems of the Democrats.


  13. God, this is sick. Thank you for posting it, Elyse.
    I am really sad to say that none of this surprises me in the least. I think at this point I would be shocked if I found out that war was not being waged for profit and political gain in this country.
    I will never, ever vote for either major party again. Ever.


    • As you said, “I would be shocked if I found out that war was not being waged for profit and political gain” but the depth, the fact that he was willing to commit treason, well, that just has me floored. Someone I once knew used to say “everybody has their price” — and I think that sadly that’s true. Even with as little, ummm, love, as I have for Nixon, I would never have imagined this.

      As you can see below with Guap and Bill’s discussion, there is a common thread here — the GOP. Democrats screw up, they commit crimes, but they don’t rise to the level of the GOP. So I will continue to be a Dem.


      • Well, for sure I’d vote Dem before R., but I guess I am just tired of thinking that my crook is less crooked than their crook. Maybe its because I teach little kids about American Democracy, but I just keep thinking that we are better than this.
        We need to demand much, much more than THIS.


  14. Nixon was elected when I was in HS, and resigned when I was in college. Although that is a great song, the events at Kent State remain in the minds of many.


    • Sorry for the Kent State reference — I was just thinking of something that embodied people who wouldn’t have died had Nixon not literally committed treason. What are the numbers — 15,000 dead in US troops, and of course they don’t count the Vietnamese.

      I had never heard of this, not even a hint. It is terribly, terribly disturbing. The world would be such a different place.


  15. Horrible, but not surprising in any way. I was in college in the Nixon years. We had a party when he resigned.


    • If only we could have partied over his political demise years earlier. What an evil man. I’m not at all surprised that he spawned Cheney, too, to screw up the next generation. It’s so disturbing.


  16. I was just reading an article about a new book coming out about Cheney, documenting his political career. As you can imagine, there are no apologies from him for anything…


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