Declassified tapes of President Lyndon Johnson’s telephone calls provide a fresh insight into his world. Among the revelations – he planned a dramatic entry into the 1968 Democratic Convention to re-join the presidential race. And he caught Richard Nixon sabotaging the Vietnam peace talks… but said nothing.

After the Watergate scandal taught Richard Nixon the consequences of recording White House conversations none of his successors have dared to do it. But Nixon wasn’t the first.

He got the idea from his predecessor Lyndon Johnson, who felt there was an obligation to allow historians to eventually eavesdrop on his presidency.

The final batch of tapes released by the LBJ library covers 1968, and allows us to hear Johnson’s private conversations as his Democratic Party tore itself apart over the question of Vietnam…

Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters clashed with Mayor Richard Daley’s police, determined to force the party to reject Johnson’s Vietnam war strategy…As they taunted the police with cries of “The whole world is watching!” one man in particular was watching very closely.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was at his ranch in Texas, having announced five months earlier that he wouldn’t seek a second term.

The president was appalled at the violence and although many of his staff sided with the students, and told the president the police were responsible for “disgusting abuse of police power,” Johnson picked up the phone, ordered the dictabelt machine to start recording and congratulated Mayor Daley for his handling of the protest.

The president feared the convention delegates were about to reject his war policy and his chosen successor, Hubert Humphrey.

So he placed a series of calls to his staff at the convention to outline an astonishing plan. He planned to leave Texas and fly into Chicago…He would then enter the convention and announce he was putting his name forward as a candidate for a second term…

They…discussed whether the president’s helicopter, Marine One, could land on top of the Hilton Hotel to avoid the anti-war protesters.

Daley assured him enough delegates would support his nomination but the plan was shelved after the Secret Service warned the president they could not guarantee his safety…

They also shed light on a scandal that, if it had been known at the time, would have sunk the candidacy of Republican presidential nominee, Richard Nixon.

By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks – or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had “blood on his hands“…

It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign…He therefore set up a clandestine back-channel involving Anna Chennault, a senior campaign adviser.

At a July meeting in Nixon’s New York apartment, the South Vietnamese ambassador was told Chennault represented Nixon and spoke for the campaign. If any message needed to be passed to the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, it would come via Chennault.

In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris – concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared.

Chennault was despatched to the South Vietnamese embassy with a clear message: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal.

So on the eve of his planned announcement of a halt to the bombing, Johnson learned the South Vietnamese were pulling out.

He was also told why. The FBI had bugged the ambassador’s phone and a transcripts of Anna Chennault’s calls were sent to the White House. In one conversation she tells the ambassador to “just hang on through election”.

Johnson was told by Defence Secretary Clifford that the interference was illegal and threatened the chance for peace.

Nixon went on to become president and eventually signed a Vietnam peace deal in 1973.

Are the two political parties being run today by politicians any different from the era of Johnson and Nixon?

  1. msbpodcast says:

    Are the two political parties being run today by politicians any different from the era of Johnson and Nixon?

    Compare and contrast.

    The parties themselves have not changed since the days of Lyndon Johnson’s Just Society, despite the historic demographic exchange of their respective base.

    North and South reversed political polarity as a result of Lyndon Johnson’s Just Society.

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Jr History Nut says:

      The politics fairly roughly labeled as North vs South have not changed at all. Its the political PARTIES that have switched in who they pander to, gather support from etc. But the South has always been stupid and backwards. The growing fields and dumping grounds of the liberal, manufacturing, and intellectual coasts….. good hard shell building the future, soft squishy middle filled with shit and religion.

      Same as it always was. Cities==where its happening. Country==where the losers go.

      Harsh…..but thems the nuts.

      • If it Walks Like an Idiot says:

        “Cities==where its happening.
        Country==where the losers go.

        But the South has always been stupid and backwards.”

        So whats “happening” in the cities that I am sorely missing?

        Is there anyone else you’d like to insult?

        Dont bother to troll me, you have nothing valuable to contribute.

        Hang yourself.

        • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Jr History Nut says:

          You don’t see the humor at all huh?

          Just the “politics” if politics can be seen in anything so vile????

          Ha, ha.

          Humor: just one of the many markers of a reflective mind, self aware consciousness and higher intelligence……..mostly found in the city. Too busy sloping hogs in the country… dont ya know.

      • Mextli says:

        “Country==where the losers go.”

        You must live in the middle of a thousand acres in Alabama.

        “Cities==where its happening.”
        Yep, gun violence and assholes outlawing soda cups.

        • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Jr Nobel Prize Winner in Economics fan boi says:

          Of note, you do reference Alabama as where a loser might live.


          Like I said…everyone knows its true. AND “country” in the South is the worst.

          How DUMB do you have to be to be dirt poor yourself and go fight and die so that absentee Landlords can keep black people in Bondage…fight and lose a war….and 150 years later still think that was the best thing you ever did?

          Ha, ha. Famous last words: “Cletus, watch this….”

          • Cletus says:

            Your knowledge of the South and the Civil War is laughably ignorant.

            Obviously you don’t mind portraying millions and millions of black people as ignorant losers because they prefer to live in the South.

            Interesting Liberalthink.

          • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Jr History Buff says:

            Oh Cletus—I’d love to discuss the Civil War with you, but I know you and yours of like minds rarely debate past a hoot and a holler.

            What did I get wrong? Poor whites did fight for RICH whites to keep Blacks in slavery. What you gonna do…. quibble?

            A real gentleman would take on the body of my position, not the perimeter which just exampled the very worst of circumstances.

            I do wonder what percentage of land/slaves were owned by absentee landlords though. OTOH–maybe I’m over identifying with the Irish Potato Famine where that issue was quite telling. Seems the English had no problem at all exporting what food there was back to England while the natives starved. …… Hey….maybe the Irish would have been better served (sic) if they too had been cattle chattel.

            Ha, ha. I do love Hush Puppies.

          • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Jr History Buff says:

            As coincidence would have it, fell upon this article:

            …..and I can confirm its true. Had many a late night arguments about “States Rights” back.

            Amusing how people like to avoid the obvious.

    • CrankyGeeksFan says:

      It was the Great Society not Just Society during the Lyndon Johnson administration.

  2. CPBrown says:

    Nixon was certainly wrong that we wouldn’t be able to “kick him around” anymore, after he lost the CA gubernatorial race in 1962.

  3. So what says:

    Who got the idea from Kennedy who got the idea from Eisenhower, who got the idea from Truman, who got the idea from Roosevelt. What makes you think the current and other past administration haven’t been taping? I don’t believe anyone other than a child can be that naive.

    Look in every presidents closet and I bet you can find something that someone would consider treasonous.

    The revelation that politicians are crooked back street dealing individuals who tell the people what they want to hear to get elected is not news, it’s politics.

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Jr History Nut says:

      True dat, and by and large, its what the peeples WANT===thats why it works.

      I am reminded of whoever said this aphorism: “Most people think that politicians are good kindly folks who just aren’t that smart. The truth is just the opposite.”

      Heh, heh. When you hear something that really appeals to you……do you:

      1. Start Salivating.
      2. Get a Hard On.
      3. Clean your rifle.
      4. Becoming suspicious.

      Says a lot about yourself. If you don’t know, or haven’t noticed….. why not start now?

  4. Anonymous Coward says:

    Out of curiosity, does anybody here sincerely believe that Ho Chi Min was serious about peacefully coexisting with southern Vietnam for the long term (which was the presumed goal of the peace talks), or was it merely a ploy to gain time to regroup, resupply, shore up logistics, and reposition themselves to resume the push towards total conquest when they were ready to do so?

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Jr History Nut says:

      Out of curiosity, does anybody here sincerely believe that George Washington was serious about peacefully coexisting with Great Britain for the long term (which was the presumed goal of the peace talks), or was it merely a ploy to gain time to regroup, resupply, shore up logistics, and reposition themselves to resume the push towards total conquest when they were ready to do so?

      Ho Chi Minh==back stabbed by the USA in favor of our French collaborators in our break away from the British.

      -or- Vietnam was artificially partitioned. Why would ANY leader of the people of Vietnam ((note NOT North or South but the WHOLE COUNTRY as god initially drew the map)) not want his WHOLE COUNTRY to be free? What kind of dirty sell out politics are you advocating????

      Silly Hooman. ((for the record as “I am no troll” (really…I’m not….) I just know Uncle Ho got set up in Paris and screwed after the French got thrown out.

      One of the worst moves ever undertaken by the USA and followed up in about the worst manner possible. Makes even Iraq look good by comparison.

      • msbpodcast says:

        Ho Chi Minh==back stabbed by the USA in favor of our French collaborators


        Ho Chi Min drew up the constitution of Vietnam based on the US constitution.

        He was a total US brown noser up until the US turned him away, and like they say: Hell hath no fury

  5. noname says:

    “allow historians to eventually eavesdrop on his presidency”, yes at one time AMERICA had an open government where no one is above the law and when we prosecuted wall street criminals and the like.

    Ever since GWB destroyed our once mostly classless society, where most American’s believed any one can make it, politicians, security agencies and corporations raping Americans are now too big to fail!

    • Fact or Fiction says:

      You might like to go back like a few DECADES to see where it all started to go wrong.

      Try looking just before the World War ONE era when Teddy Roosevelt & William Howard Taft (both Republicans) wanted to reform taxes but later lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Shortly after winning the Presidency, Wilson and the 62nd Congress (with the House being mostly Democrats and Senate being mostly Republicans) ratified the sixteenth amendment, arguably in direct violation to the Constitution to NOT tax people on their labor. They did it by taxing “incomes” which again was in direct violation of the 1894 Supreme Court ruling that even taxing incomes was “illegal”!

      Sounds eerily familiar almost like History repeating itself when you look at GWB and the Obama administrations. Don’t it?

      I’m just saying there’s plenty of “blame” to go around and that it’s NOT necessarily all GWB as you seem to have implied.

      Hopefully, that also answers Eidard’s question: Are the two political parties being run today by politicians any different from the era of Johnson and Nixon?

      Answer: No. Political shenanigans have been going on for a lot longer. About the only thing new is the level of any shenanigans and the ability to record in micro detail every second of every minute just what happened. It’s not like the public will ever be privy to these things (if ever) when they are relevant especially given the bought and paid press! You could even say that the Watergate scandal was all just a fluke where 2 journalists were NOT in on the big picture. (Not that I’m trying to forgive Nixon or anything.)

      • noname says:

        “NOT necessarily all GWB as you seem to have implied” No, it’s not all GWB.

        If you read the link in my reply, you would have summarized I also “implied” Nixon had a part!

        I have no illusions that GWB is the only corrupt & evil republican!

  6. sargasso_c says:

    Judging Nixon requires an understanding of the era and the circumstances of that time.

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Jr History Nut says:

      Ok, I’ll go with that. What about the era is necessary to Underestand Nixon beyond his own personal psychopathy that is subject to standard interpretive models?

      Would you say the same for Jefferson… and why? ((Trick question to be expressed on your response. Actually a good subject about putting people in context and why you do and don’t have to do it. Pros and Cons. The same and different at the same time… and so forth.))

    • msbpodcast says:

      It also requires an understanding of paranoia and a persecution complex.

      Nixon hadn’t been playing with a full deck since 1959.

      He never got over losing to Kennedy.

  7. Tim, googling what phosphorus is says:

    “I am not a cook! … unless it’s gooks in napalm with a sprig of camomile… “

  8. CrankyGeeksFan says:

    Hopefully, no one will doubt now that the challenger in a presidential election isn’t capable of contacting foreign powers.

    Now, for the October Surprise of 1980…

  9. orchidcup says:

    Publicly Nixon was suggesting he had no idea why the South Vietnamese withdrew from the talks. He even offered to travel to Saigon to get them back to the negotiating table.

    Johnson felt it was the ultimate expression of political hypocrisy but in calls recorded with Clifford they express the fear that going public would require revealing the FBI were bugging the ambassador’s phone and the National Security Agency (NSA) was intercepting his communications with Saigon.

    This is what I love about the United States of America, the country of my birth.

    We have the worst politicians and the best democracy that money can buy.

  10. MikeN says:

    Thanks to Nixon’s move, South Vietnam lived without Communism for an extra five years, and if it weren’t for Watergate, probably forever like the South Koreans, whose freedom also came at the cost of 50 thousand dead Americans.

    • CrankyGeeksFan says:

      Do you think that “Vietnamization” was going to work?

      • MikeN says:

        Koreanization worked, despite having the Russians and Chinese as benefactors.

  11. Make Room for Daddy says:

    Johnson orders pants:

    Good ol’ boy. Gotta love’em!

  12. MikeN says:

    By the way, the BBC article you are linking only says ‘treason’ in quotes, but you decided to ignore the nuance and just declare Nixon a traitor.

  13. orchidcup says:

    Richard Nixon was a megalomaniac.

    A quotation by Bertrand Russell gives his interpretation of megalomania:

    “The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history.”

  14. MikeN says:

    Somehow they didn’t mention that LBJ was bugging Barry Goldwater’s campaign along with many others, not just the Vietnamese ambassador. Was it reasonable to audit Nixon many times in the 1960s?

    • CrankyGeeksFan says:

      It depends on what the reason was which isn’t given. LBJ was trying to be apolitical towards the end of his presidency. Nixon accused Hubert Humphrey of playing politics with the Vietnam War.

      Another issue here is the suppression of the news media from breaking this story in 1968. Both The Christian Science Monitor and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wanted to print this.

      • MikeN says:

        So a pause in bombing, or is it a bomb in pausing, to sign a peace agreement before an election was apolitical? It is clear that South Vietnam gets a better deal by not agreeing to the peace agreement.

    • CrankyGeeksFan says:

      Search warrants weren’t required for telephone wiretaps until 1967.

      LBJ mentioned the word “treason”. That might have been enough for the FBI, NSA, etc. to investigate; even after 1967.

  15. Akiro says:

    The Malaysians thank you Mr Nixon for giving our country crucial time to defend itself from the Communist onslaught.

  16. lip, which is a small shell so only small pieces can be used. There is also tiger wood, which is a type of wood, as well as stainless steel on a brass frame. The

  17. The Monster's Lawyer says:

    Nixon – The beginning of the end of the GOP.

  18. RealityBites says:

    Nixon the traitor’s library should be burned to the ground and a sewage works built in its place.

    He was always a traitor right from the start, as were all his supporters, the dumb lemmings that voted for him should be deported.


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