Election 1960: JFK vs. Nixon pt. 1
Joe Rubenstein Interviews Dr. Gary Donaldson,
Author of The First Modern Campaign: Kennedy, Nixon, and the Election of 1960
Joe Rubenstein: Greetings to you. Joe Rubenstein here, producer and host of Real Time 1960s. I want to welcome all of our listeners. I thank you very much for your support and for joining me today, hoping you enjoy this first episode of a brand new series, a kind of portal into the world of 60 years ago, where I will document and reflect on the ‘60s, in real time, with both podcasts and our timeline, which features a number of posts each and every day about the history -- world events, politics, movies, TV shows, music, sports, you name it -- of that decade. And that timeline, along with all of our podcasts, our social media links, contact info so you can reach me directly, all that can be found on our website, www.realtime1960s.com.
Today’s topic: Decision 1960, part 1. We'll have a sequel in a couple of months. But today, we’ll cover roughly the first half of the presidential campaign that year: the spring primaries and the July conventions that nominated John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. We’ll talk to one of the top experts in the country on the history of Presidential elections, and we'll do it right now. [Music]
Rubenstein: We are joined this week on Real Time 1960s by a very special guest, Dr. Gary Donaldson, professor of American history at Xavier University of Louisiana, and author of many books, including The First Modern Campaign: Kennedy, Nixon, and the Election of 1960. Gary, it’s great to have you on the show. How are you?
Dr. Gary Donaldson: Thank you. Yes, very good.
Rubenstein: One of the things I appreciated about your book is its evenhandedness. Unlike many historians, especially those who cover Kennedy, it seems, you offer a pretty clear-eyed assessment of each candidate, separating rhetoric from substance. Now, you’ve written about a number of presidential elections, including 1948, ’52, and ’64, so, I’m wondering what your specific goals are when approaching this kind of book.
Donaldson: Well, I’ve always liked to write books about elections, and ’60 seemed to be obvious. I started out writing about 1964. So many people have done so many things about 1968, and 1956 is not very interesting. So, the 1960 election seemed like an obvious way to go. I enjoy the debates, you know, and really trying to make that the first modern campaign. I know that sounds like a bumper-sticker cliché, and it’s probably true. But, to me, it is very much that, that American politics really did change as a result of that.
Rubenstein: Let’s set the stage, as far as the political climate of 1960, starting with the Republicans. Now, despite the fact that Eisenhower had been president for almost two full terms and remained popular, there were divisions in the GOP between the moderates, people like Eisenhower himself and Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York, and the conservatives, whose standard-bearer at that time was Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. So, I’m wondering if you could nail down some of the differences between these two groups in 1960.
Donaldson: Well, Nixon had been very, very, very conservative. He had really been on McCarthy’s right hand. And there was a joke. I think it’s Stephen Ambrose who said that he was McCarthy with a button-down shirt. I think that was probably true. Rockefeller had come from a big city. He needed the support of civil rights, probably needed the support of labor, and so forth. So, Rockefeller was really what’s usually referred to today as a moderate. Now, Goldwater was just getting the conservative side of the Republican party going. You can really argue that the Republican party had three different wings: a left, a right, and a center.
Rubenstein: And Nixon had been the darling of the right wing when he was in Congress. He helped break the Alger Hiss Communist spy case in 1948. And then he was picked as Eisenhower’s running mate to appease the right wing. But, as you note in your book, as vice president, he shifted a bit toward Eisenhower’s middle of the road, giving us the first of several “new Nixons.” So, was this shift out of loyalty to the president? Was it to facilitate his own presidential ambitions? Or did he really have a softening of views?
Donaldson: Probably all of those together. I had always that Nixon wanted to be down the middle of the road because Eisenhower kept talking about being down the middle of the road and being strongly centrist and becoming extremely popular because of it. So, Nixon sort of followed that lead. That’s the way I have always seen it. That was what people referred to as “the new Nixon,” to me, a more moderate Nixon.
Rubenstein: And, despite Nixon’s loyalty, there was talk in 1956 that he would be dumped from the ticket. Eisenhower seemed to leave him twisting in the wind there for a while. Now, Eisenhower's dealings with Nixon, from my vantage point, seem almost borderline sadistic at times, or maybe passive-aggressive. Maybe that’s a better term. He was constantly damning him with faint praise or worse. For example, when a Time magazine reporter, in the thick of the 1960 campaign, asked Eisenhower for a major idea of Nixon’s that he'd adopted, he said, “If you give me a week, I might think of one.” Now, he may have been joking but, from Nixon’s perspective, that had to hurt, and it was, actually, used in a Kennedy attack ad. So, what was Ike’s attitude toward his vice president, and how seriously did he consider dumping him in 1956?
Donaldson: I think he really wanted to dump him. I really do. He either wanted to dump him, or he wanted Nixon to become secretary of state, which would also mean that he would be dumped, and Nixon would get the experience he needed in foreign policy. And, finally, Nixon -- you have to realize something. It’s not like Nixon could go back into the Senate or go back into the House. If Nixon got dumped off the ticket, the only thing he could do was go back to California and be a lawyer. That was just about it. So, Nixon went to Eisenhower and said, “Thank you for accepting me as your running mate.” And Eisenhower said, “Well, okay. Fine. Let’s go ahead and take it. Let’s do it.” And I think that’s pretty much the way it went.
I don’t think Eisenhower ever really liked Nixon. Nixon was in the hospital a couple of times, and Eisenhower went to see him. And Eisenhower mentioned, more than once, to Ann Whitman or somebody near him, Brownell, or someone, that nobody ever comes to visit Nixon. But he was really willing to accept him. Eisenhower had been that way in the military, his entire life. There were people close to Eisenhower who were really not very nice people, weren’t liked very well, but Eisenhower accepted them, if they were someone like Patton. If he was competent, then Eisenhower would go ahead and accept people like that.
Rubenstein: We talked about divisions in the GOP. But the Democrats had their own issues, mostly stemming from civil rights. With every push forward, no matter how tentative or minuscule, you had major pushback from the Jim Crow Southerners, who were a big part of that party’s bloc and had been for decades. Now, looking at Adlai Stevenson, former Governor of Illinois, Democrat nominee in both ’52 and ’56, you write, in your book, that he was billed as an intellectual and a liberal, but that he really wasn’t either. I wonder if you could expand on that for the listeners.
Donaldson: I think that has a lot to do with Eleanor Roosevelt, who was perceived, really, as the successor to her husband, and she liked Adlai Stevenson. Now, Stevenson was sharp. He was a good speaker. He was even funny. I think, Democrats on the left sort of saw him as the successor, and of course, he had Eleanor Roosevelt’s support. So, I think, a lot of people wanted to see him as a successor to FDR. And there were a lot of people who seemed to thank that, even though Stevenson was not liberal, that you could put Schlesinger and others around him, who were liberal, the Americans for Democratic Action, and make him be liberal like FDR had been liberal. I think there was that. And, I think, also there was this hatred of Nixon and this idea that Eisenhower was kind of holding things stable and not moving forward.
Rubenstein: Like Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Senate majority leader since 1955, had long-time presidential ambitions. And, also like Nixon, he had to appease various factions in his party. And one thing that strikes me, as I read more about this election, a lot of people, in 1960, in the press, in the civil rights movement, in Kennedy’s camp as well, saw Johnson as a conservative. But he had been a big New Dealer, and he’d also pushed a civil rights bill through Congress in 1957. Emasculated? Yes, but not completely insignificant. And then, of course, later, he became one of the most liberal presidents ever, at least domestically. So, where on the political spectrum would you place Johnson in the 1950s, and what sort of adjustments, if any, did he make to position himself better for 1960?
Donaldson: Johnson had a real problem. He was from Texas and, no matter how hard he tried, people saw him as being the Southerner. He wanted to try to convince voters that he was a Westerner. It just didn’t work, no matter how Johnson tried, mainly, because of Richard Russell from Georgia, who just kept continually supporting him. Johnson’s always been a difficult problem for me. Sometimes he’s conservative, sometimes he’s not so. And you’re right about the 1957 Civil Rights Act and, again, the 1960 Civil Rights Act, which nobody pays much attention to, but it’s also not very important. And you said that both of those bills were emasculated. Well, both of those bills were emasculated by Johnson. And a lot of people saw Johnson as very conservative.
Johnson was one of those presidents who had a tendency to just follow the wind. If the wind wanted him to be liberal, then, in the 1960s, when Lyndon Johnson was president, he would be liberal. And if you really, really look hard at those bills that were passed by Lyndon Johnson when he was president, not very many of them were really funded properly. Now, people want to blame the Vietnam War, but there was never enough money to make those bills work. And, like I said, people want to blame the Vietnam War for that, but Johnson was just an extremely conservative man. And he gives the -- like Kennedy, he gives the impression, like Stevenson, he gives the impression of being liberal. But there’s something about Lyndon Johnson that’s always bothered me. He’s not really an American liberal, not like FDR had been.
Rubenstein: Well, the reason I would disagree with that is that Johnson's instincts, it seems to me, were to use the power and resources of the government to solve problems. And that seems, to me, like textbook, twentieth-century liberalism.
Donaldson: Yes, I would agree with that. Yes, I think that’s true. But, like I said, if you look at these programs… If he saw the civil rights movement moving in one direction, and he would go riding along with them. And, yes, he did increase the government, and those bills did increase the government but, like I said, if you look at them real closely, you don’t see a lot of funding.
Rubenstein: All right. Shifting to Kennedy, as you said, like Stevenson, historically, viewed as progressive, I guess partially because, as president, he was kind of pushed into being more vocal on civil rights than Eisenhower had been, you know, when spiraling events in the South kind of forced his hand. But, if you look at those debates in 1960, he’s actually running to the right of Nixon at times, not on civil rights, but, certainly, on foreign policy, he’s kind of out-hawking the hawk. And the liberal wing of the party was less than enthused about him. Now, did this have more to do with the father, who had been a big supporter of Senator Joe McCarthy, actually, of Nixon as well, or did this have to do with Kennedy’s own record, or both?
Donaldson: Probably a bit of both. The liberals in the party, looking particularly at Eleanor Roosevelt and Truman, who, to me, is a populist in the party, Kennedy needed their support. He and Nixon didn’t have that many differences, really, particularly when you look at the debates and read the debates. They’re not that different from each other. And it kind of lead to an age-old American concept, that the two political parties are pretty much the same. Well, they’re not, of course but, in 1960, you might have seen it that way, and I could understand that.
But Kennedy -- you know, ever since Obama, I’ve always thought about Kennedy as hope, and hoping for a better future to come, something different, something new, something younger. But then he was killed, so we didn’t get to see any of that, and then Bobby, yes, yes, yes. But then Bobby was killed, so we didn’t get to see that, but there was a genuine hope, I think, that was important.
Rubenstein: But what was it about Kennedy that people like Eleanor Roosevelt opposed so strongly? Because there was a stop-Kennedy movement, right?
Donaldson: Oh, sure, there was. The question is whether or not Stevenson was a part of that or not. I think Stevenson was not. I think that Kennedy had had a lot of interest in McCarthy, and his brother in McCarthy. McCarthy was at the house more than once, in Hyannis Port, more than once. Kennedy had supported the Mundt-Nixon bill. He had even supported HUAC some, and he was a very young, playboy-like kind of guy. And a lot of liberals really didn’t like Kennedy. But, to me, by the time -- by 1960, Kennedy was one of the guys. He was in there. He was in the arena, as Nixon likes to say. I think Nixon hoped to punch him out, but it didn't happen.
Rubenstein: No, it didn’t. But, probably, the two most prominent party figures opposed to JFK’s nomination were Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Eleanor accused him or, I guess, accused his father of buying the nomination. She claimed on ABC-TV that Joseph Kennedy “has been spending oodles of money all over the country and probably has a representative in every state by now,” which drew a pretty hot response from JFK. Talk about the fascinating back-and-forth, much of it public, between Eleanor and JFK.
Donaldson: Yeah, it was in her article she wrote about him, and the Kennedy people called it the “oodles comment.” There was this belief, among the left wing of the Democratic party, that Kennedy was really buying the nomination for the Democrats. Yeah, I’m not sure that it was necessarily true, but there was a belief that was so. And Kennedy did respond and really forced her -- because all the people who worked for the Kennedys were volunteers. They really were. And Kennedy did push her into a corner. Now, they were throwing money around, particularly in West Virginia. But John Kennedy did push her into a corner and force her to come out with retractions or a promise to write retractions. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, shut up. And that was pretty much what he was saying to her. And she did. She was quiet about it. She never said anything else.
Rubenstein: And, as you said, your book talks about 1960 as the first modern campaign. And, certainly, mass media, the primacy of the image -- or “optics,” as we call it now -- was central to that modernization. And 1960 is really where this kind of insidious transformation of presidential politics into reality TV has its origin, which, I guess, was an unintended consequence. But there was something else that year that was different, and that was the greater importance of the primary elections. So, what differentiated the primaries of that 1960 cycle from other presidential cycles?
Donaldson: At the time, some of those states, like West Virginia, were just what we call, today, beauty contests, where the delegates don’t really have to vote any particular way. And, of course, the primaries in 1960, the big one in Wisconsin, the big one in West Virginia, were really mostly designed for Kennedy to get his face in front of the American people, to get his face on television -- 88 percent of the American people had TVs at that time -- and for them to see him and to see that he was competent, that he was not some young, little, scrawny kid with rickets, who was a playboy and wanted to be president, and he could stand up there toe to toe with Nixon and talk to him. He achieved that, first in Wisconsin and, definitely, in West Virginia. The delegates that came out of there didn’t really have to vote for him. Kennedy didn’t care. He didn’t give a damn at all. All he wanted to do was get his face out there.
Rubenstein: As it turned out, Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota was Kennedy’s only competition on the campaign trail that winter and spring, since Johnson refused to campaign -- we’ll get into that -- and Stevenson was kind of playing it coy. And Kennedy took Humphrey on in Wisconsin, Hubert’s backyard. And, for the listeners, there’s a good documentary on iTunes about this primary. It’s called Primary. It’s one of the first, maybe the first, cinema verité films, by a guy named Robert Drew, who did a couple of others on JFK. The best one is called Crisis. That one deals with the integration of the University of Alabama in 1963, where Kennedy -- mostly Robert, actually -- locked horns with Governor George Wallace. But Gary, talk about the importance of Wisconsin in 1960 and how Kennedy managed to win that election on April 5th, although not by a wide margin.
Donaldson: He didn’t win by a wide margin and, when you really took the numbers and broke them down, he got the Catholic vote. And, so, he left Wisconsin to go to West Virginia, and the word was, “Well, we’ve got to go to West Virginia and do it all over again.” He couldn’t go into the general election with only the Catholic vote. So, he had to go to West Virginia, which was primarily Protestant, win in West Virginia and prove that he was a vote-getter. Now, I’ve said this over and over again. There are big names -- MacArthur’s probably the best example, Douglas MacArthur -- no matter where they went, no matter what they did, people just would not vote for them. And there was a fear that Kennedy might be like that. So, Kennedy had to prove that he could get votes, Protestants, Catholics, anybody, everybody, labor, liberals, everybody would vote for him. That was his big achievement in Wisconsin and then in West Virginia.
Rubenstein: And Wisconsin is where Jacqueline Kennedy kind of emerges as a political force in her own right, as far as turning out the vote. She also played a big role in West Virginia, right?
Donaldson: That’s right. In fact, John Kennedy, at one time, that Jackie Kennedy would walk one side of the street, John Kennedy would walk the other side of the street, and Jackie Kennedy had more people around her than Jack did. And he made the point, several times, to some people close to him, “Jackie’s got more attention than me, over there.” [laughs]
Rubenstein: And she would maintain that popularity in the years to come. But, as you said, because Kennedy only scored big with Catholics in Wisconsin, he had to do it all over again in mostly Protestant West Virginia. And this is where Kennedy appears in a TV debate for the first time, with Hubert Humphrey, which you can see on YouTube, by the way. So, what impact, if any, did that debate have on the voting May 10th? Because Theodore White -- political historian who was, actually, a schoolmate of JFK's older brother Joe, who was killed in the war -- White would later help create that whole Camelot myth. But Theodore White had very complimentary things to say about Kennedy's performance in that debate.
Donaldson: I don’t really know if that that debate had a great deal of impact. I do know that Theodore White said something about the round face of Kennedy on the television, to show that he has no horns, or whatever the quote was, and I think that was all very important.
Rubenstein: Ironically, that rounded face was a side effect of the cortisone treatments for Addison's Disease, which Kennedy denied having, but which he most certainly did have.
Donaldson: Right. That was the same with the -- he was so tanned at the first debate with Nixon. Well, he was so tanned, not because he’d been in the California sun, which is what is always said, but it was because he was taking cortisone shots.
Rubenstein: Another good point you make in your book, which is fascinating to consider, is that Lyndon Johnson missed a huge opportunity by not competing in West Virginia. That’s a state whose voters would certainly have found him an attractive candidate. First of all, he was Protestant. He had his roots in the New Deal and in the South. And he also had first-hand experience with poverty. You know, West Virginia had the lowest median income in the country, and it still does, I think. So, it’s fascinating how this kind of uncharacteristic passivity on Johnson’s part may have changed the entire course of the country. Because that primary was critical in JFK’s march to the nomination. So, what was Johnson thinking? I mean, how did he plan to win the nomination without campaigning?
Donaldson: That’s a question that’s always bothered me. Johnson was an extremely reticent man. There were times when he decided that he was just going to quit, just going to give up, in the 1960s, and just stop being president of the United States. He kind of did that, often. And his idea was that he thought that he could use his resumé and his achievements in the Senate to appeal to voters, and they would vote for him. And he kept sticking his toe in the water, and then, like, “Nah, maybe not. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.” And, by the time he decided to jump in, it was just too damn late. He would have been a good candidate. He could have made a real mark in West Virginia, but he just wouldn’t do it. He just wouldn’t.
Rubenstein: We mentioned earlier the two oppositional figures in the GOP, Goldwater, and Rockefeller. But, in the midst of Nixon’s dealings with those two in 1960, he also established a relationship with Ronald Reagan, who, I believe, was still a Democrat at that point. But he would change that registration and campaign for Nixon and then for Goldwater in '64. So, who initiated that relationship, of what did it consist, and what did Nixon and Reagan see in each other in 1960?
Donaldson: Reagan did initiate it, I think. Reagan wrote longhand letters out all the time. They were both from California. They both had started poor and had risen up, both of them had, and I think Reagan appreciated that. Reagan hated Rockefeller and, any time that he could damage Rockefeller, he would. And, when Nixon tried to bring Rockefeller into the campaign, Reagan was mad about it and wrote to Nixon, telling him, “Any association with Rockefeller is going to get me out of the program.”
Rubenstein: Was Reagan’s hatred of Rockefeller personal or just political?
Donaldson: Oh, it was probably just political. I don’t think there was anything personal. Nixon wanted Rockefeller on the ticket with him, and I think that was right move. That was the right thing to do.
Rubenstein: I agree.
Donaldson: But Rockefeller would have nothing to do with it.
Rubenstein: The Democrats had their convention first, and Kennedy arrived in Los Angeles just 161 votes shy of a first-ballot nomination. But there were still other candidates supported by different elements of that stop-Kennedy movement. Johnson officially jumped into the race on July 5th, just six days before the convention. Stevenson hadn’t officially declared, but he had liberal support from people like Eleanor Roosevelt and Eugene McCarthy. And then there was Senator Stuart Symington, supported by his fellow Missourian, Harry Truman. Truman probably would've been just as happy with Johnson, if not more so. But there was some very public friction between Truman and Kennedy. They had these dueling press conferences and then a boycott of the convention by Truman. So what was that all about?
Donaldson: Truman always hated Kennedy. He always did. I don’t know if it goes back to Joe Kennedy or what. But Truman was always a populist. He didn’t like the Harvard mouth. He didn’t like the big money from daddy, and, you know, he didn’t like all that stuff. Truman never really got along with Eleanor very well.
Rubenstein: Right, which may have been a culture clash as much as anything. But, with that stop-Kennedy movement, was that the threat it was made out to be? And how did the Kennedy forces finally kind of break the back of that movement at the convention and knock his competitors out for good?
Donaldson: Well, I don’t think that that was really very strong. I think part of the problem was that Johnson refused to kind of really be the leader of the stop-Kennedy forces. Obviously, Steven was not going to do it. And, of course, the delegates -- he held most of the delegates. Wyoming finally put him over the top at the very end of the balloting, and from that point on, I don’t think there was anything -- he just shoved the rest of them out of the way.
Rubenstein: Succeeding in his quest for a first-ballot nomination, the next order of business was to choose a running mate. And there’s been no shortage of wildly diverging stories about the final choice of Johnson and how that played out. I mean, that pick, to me, seems like an absolute no-brainer. But, before we get to the various stories about whether Johnson accepted or didn’t accept, initially, and Robert Kennedy’s role in all that, what were some of the factors that Kennedy had to consider when mulling his top two choices, Symington, and Johnson, for running mate?
Donaldson: Oh, the question, undoubtedly, was Texas. I mean, if Johnson could deliver Texas, Kennedy could win. That’s all there was to it. And I’m like you. I mean, the Boston-Austin axis, or whatever it was called, was a smart thing to do. I mean, even though the Kennedy people didn’t like Johnson, called him “Mr. Cornpone” and all that stuff, and Johnson didn’t have that big college education and all those things, but to pull Johnson in, to get him out of the Senate, was just smart, smart, smart. And he did. And the whole thing, like I said, was Texas. He had to win Texas. It turned out he won New York. That surprised me. But he had to have Texas.
Rubenstein: As far as the offer to Johnson, has it ever been established how that played out on July 14th between JFK, RFK, and Johnson, because a number of commentators have pointed at this as kind of the first shot of later antagonism between Johnson and Robert Kennedy. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. Nor is it clear to me how deep -- or how consequential, let’s say, because it did exist -- how deep that antagonism ran. Because, if you look ahead to 1964, Johnson actually had a strong hand in Robert Kennedy’s very close election win to the Senate. Johnson campaigned very hard for Robert Kennedy in New York multiple times. Of course, having a Democrat in the Senate was in his interest as president. But what went on in Los Angeles in 1960 with that Johnson pick?
Donaldson: Supposedly, Bobby went up to the room more than once. Johnson had already accepted. Bobby opposed it, didn’t like it, told John that that was a big mistake. Arthur Schlesinger said it was a big mistake.
Rubenstein: On what grounds were they saying it was a mistake? Because that sounds crazy to me.
Donaldson: Because Kennedy was the youthful, new guy. Now, I made the point in the book that Kennedy was not new. He really was not new. He was young. He had long hair. He had young people around him. All of that’s true. But Johnson already had a heart attack. He looked like an old guy. He was an old pol. He’d been in the Senate for a while. Richard Russell thought he was great. Sam Rayburn thought he was great. He was one of the old guys. Kennedy was one of the new guys, and the people around Kennedy were considered to be new people. And now, here, John Kennedy’s bringing in Lyndon Johnson, who appeared, to them, at least, to be a riverboat gambler, which, of course, he wasn’t. They just didn’t like him. He wasn’t part of the circle. But, of course, like you and I both agree, he was the right thing to do. He was the right thing, undoubtedly so.
Rubenstein: The big story, heading into the Republican convention, was the ongoing negotiation between Nixon and Rockefeller. Rockefeller refused to join the ticket or to endorse. Until finally, on July 22nd, just three days before the Convention, Nixon initiated a meeting at Rockefeller’s apartment, where they hashed out what became known as “the Fifth Avenue treaty,” or, to Goldwater, “the Fifth Avenue surrender.” Essentially, it was the party platform for 1960, which met most of Rockefeller’s preferences, including stronger civil rights and a more vigorous defense policy.
Was the right-wing opposition to that treaty about the substance or the way it was done? Because I can understand -- I mean, if you look at it from the perspective of a Republican delegate from some other part of the country, you know, the idea that your platform had been hammered out by two people in a Fifth Avenue penthouse, that may have been tough to swallow. I mean it’s not really how a platform is supposed to be constructed, right?
Donaldson: Right. Well, the platform had already been written by Percy and some others in Chicago, I think it was. And this was, what, a 14-point statement. Rockefeller would not leave his apartment. Nixon came there. It appeared, to Goldwater and others, that Rockefeller had summoned Nixon to his lair [laughs], and simply dictated, to Nixon, well, this is the way it would be.
The biggest mistake, probably, Nixon made was to go home, afterward, and sleep until noon, the next day. And that gave Rockefeller enough time to put it out, to show the world, really -- it ended up on the AP and several other wire services and mimeographed sheets at the convention -- that he had written it all, and Nixon had just kind of sat there and took dictation. So, I think, for the right wing, whether it was the content, or the people involved, who they were, it seemed to be a Rockefeller statement that Nixon just kind of went along with. I really do feel, to heal the party’s wounds, Nixon and Rockefeller should have run together in 1960, and I think that would have been an unbeatable couple to run in that year. I think that Kennedy would have had a lot of trouble with those two.
Rubenstein: Yeah, I agree with you. So, with Rockefeller out of the running for the number-two spot, Nixon follows the advice of party leaders, Eisenhower, Everett Dirksen -- he was the Senate minority leader then -- and so Nixon picks Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. as his running mate. Old political family, World War II veteran, two terms as Senator from Massachusetts -- actually, he was beaten by JFK in '52 -- so what was the thought process behind this pick? And, in your opinion, was there a better available choice for Nixon?
Donaldson: Well, there has to have been a better choice. Henry Cabot Lodge was a very quiet man. There was a definite push for Nixon to bring in somebody with foreign policy background. And it was perceived, whether it was right or wrong, that Lodge was a foreign policy guy. He had been an Ambassador to the UN, I think. The thing that I always recall about Henry Cabot Lodge -- and you may not know this -- is Henry Cabot Lodge was a very, very tall man. And Richard Nixon was very short. And, for the two of them to appear together on a podium was wrong. It was really a mistake for a tall vice-presidential candidate to stand next to a short presidential candidate. And that really made Nixon look terrible.
Rubenstein: Yeah, Nixon always seemed to get the short end of the stick when it came to optics, especially that year.
Donaldson: Yes, I know. And then, of course, on top of that, Lodge made a statement or two in Harlem about Nixon’s candidacy, about Nixon’s Cabinet, that Nixon had to backpedal on, I think.
Rubenstein: Without consulting Nixon, he pledged, in Harlem, that their administration would appoint an African American to the Cabinet.
Donaldson: That’s right. And Nixon had no intention of doing anything like that.
Rubenstein: Right. At least, not solely on that basis.
Donaldson: And he had to walk that back. And I think Lodge was -- I don’t want to say detrimental, but he didn’t really help Nixon very much. Eisenhower liked him, because Lodge had really taken the mantle in 1952, when Ike continued to -- I don’t know if you recall this -- Ike could not leave NATO. He could not run for president and be a general at the same time. So he had to stay commander of NATO and let Henry Cabot Lodge run his campaign for him. And Ike loved that. He just thought that was great. He thought that Lodge was one of the good guys. And there was a perception that this Boston Brahmin type, paired up with Nixon from the West coast, would really help the candidacy. And Lodge was perceived as a moderate, and Nixon was still considered to be on the right.
Rubenstein: And those two picks, Johnson and Lodge, that may have been the difference right there, in what turned to be an incredibly close race. So, it’s fascinating and, man, what a dramatic and pivotal election that was.
The book is called The First Modern Campaign: Kennedy, Nixon, and the Election of 1960. Pick it up. It’s concise, yet penetrating, and full of critical insights that we didn’t have time to get into today. Gary, amazing work. Thanks so much for being part of the show. I really appreciate it.
Donaldson: Thank you. If you’re going to do any other campaigns, give me a call. [laughs]
Rubenstein: Will do. All right, a quick look at our next episode, right after this. [Music]
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Rubenstein: Coming up on the next episode of Real Time 1960s, a deep dive into Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, which was terrifying moviegoers all over the country 60 years ago. It’ll be a combination of personal observations and fascinating facts about that film’s production, some of which will definitely surprise you.
Don’t forget to visit us at www.realtime1960s.com for our timeline, each and every podcast, links to social media, how to reach us directly, everything you need to know about this brand-new project, this portal into the past that we are creating. Thanks so much for joining us. Take care, and I'll see you soon.