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The Treason of Richard Nixon: From Possibility To Certainty Part Two

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

THE TREASON OF RICHARD NIXON: FROM POSSIBILITY TO CERTAINTY

PART ONE PART TWO

THE AFTERMATH PART II

I did not begin this piece with the expectation that I would reach a point of firm conviction. I thought that the more I read on the subject, more and more uncertainty would pervade about what actually took place and what effect it had on the peace talks. Instead, I found only confirmation, and this was a conclusion that I reached with dread, and no doubt this is why this particulae episode is so assiduously avoided or why there is such an overwhelming momentum towards it having no consequence, that the horrors of Vietnam and Cambodia would have happened anyway – because this episode displays vividly how untransparent a democracy can be, and how much inhumanity you can get away with, just as long as you are a little deft at hiding it. That your transgression is so grievous may perhaps make it easier to hide, as there will be a concerted desire to deny that such a crime could take place – it couldn’t happen here. But it did!

Those looking for exculpatory evidence will have to settle for the possibility that the peace talks would have failed even without Nixon’s interference. I quote once again from Beverly Deepe Keever’s Death Zones and Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting for one such moment:

After the election, [Pham Xuan] An [a stringer hired to help with oral and written translations] and I gleaned a play-by-play of the final confrontations between Thieu and U.S. ambassador Ellsworth Bunker that revealed why the Vietnamese had backed out of going to Paris. A Vietnamese source close to the palace conversations shared with An an –d me his notes detailing what I described as “one of the most bizarre – if not scandalous – American diplomatic maneuvers in war-time history.”

In a nutshell the U.S. chief negotiator in Paris, Averell Harriman, made a proposal that Hanoi accepted on October 27 to begin peace negotiations starting November 6 – the day after the presidential election – for a four-power conference that would give the National Liberation Front equal status and legitimacy with the Saigon government. In Saigon, however, Ambassador Bunker had secured Thieu’s agreement to go to a three-power conference, with separate delegations representing Hanoi, Saigon and Washington, but with the NLF sitting as part of North Vietnam’s delegation. “Here is Bunker getting Thieu’s agreement to a three-way peace conference in Paris,” a stunned diplomat told me. “But Harriman had already sold out Saigon by giving away to Hanoi the most important thing of all – representation of the National Liberation Front.”

The only obstacle to finding such misdeeds as the major impediment to the peace talks, rather than Nixon’s machinations, is that Nixon would bring the NLF into the talks as well. As already pointed out, both Anna Chennault and Nguyen Thieu thought they would get a better deal with Nixon, and both felt they were ultimately betrayed. The possible reason for why there was no earlier withdrawal, why the war continued for another four years, resulting in a settlement on the same terms that would have been achieved in 1968, but now paid for with the dead of Laos, Cambodia, the collapse of the Cambodian government, which would lead to the genocide of Pol Pot – as well as more American and Vietnamese life thrown away – had nothing to do with realpolitik, or domino theories, or balance of power, but the domestic coalition necessary to win re-election. This cynical take was given, of course, by Henry Kissinger, and can be found in The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon by Anthony Summers:

There was something else, as grave a betrayal-if it is true-as the undermining of the peace effort. Henry Kissinger, soon to find fame as national security adviser and secretary of state, offered a cynical assessment of the administration’s position a few months after meeting Nixon. “I agree that the war is a mistake,” he reportedly told a visitor. “I think it is clear now that we should never have gone in there, and I don’t see how any good can come of it. But we can’t do what you recommend and just pull out, because the boss’s whole constituency would just fall apart; those are his people who support the war effort: the South; the blue-collar Democrats in the North. The Nixon constituency is behind the war effort. If we were to pull out of Vietnam, there would be a disaster, politically, for us here, at home.”

In looking for someone or something to contradict the narrative I’ve so far presented, I turned to Conrad Black’s Richard Nixon: A Life in Full, a near hagiography written by a fan and fellow conservative. Black is a man with some ability in research, who often writes with unrestrained venom, often directing it against his eternal enemy: the pious, weak, bleating liberal. I expected to find an entirely different story here, one that might deny entirely what others claim took place; instead, I found little or no dispute on the essential form of what happened, only disputes over its effects, implications, and a few of its smaller details. I wish to do justice to his argument, and do not want the reader to feel they are being manipulated into any agreement, as sometimes happens when a conspiracy theory is sold through a selective and myopic use of research, so I now give full excerpt of Black’s account. I have also left the book’s footnotes in, so readers might easily see which sources have been used for this history:

By October 20, his lead over Humphrey had shrunk in some polls to just 5 percent. Wallace’s vote had shrunk in some polls to just 5 percent. Wallace’s vote was evaporating outside his strongholds of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas, as disgruntled supporters of the main parties drifted back to their natural political abodes. A profoundly regional vote might give Wallace those five states in the South, but the northern Wallace voters were fading, not wishing to waste ballots in what was starting to seem like a possibly tight election.

In these circumstances, there was a real danger of a hung election, with the Electoral College not recording a majority, and the presidential election going to the House of Representatives and the vice presidency to the Senate where almost certain Democratic majorities would presumably elect Humphrey and Muskie. Nixon began challenging Humphrey to agree that in the event of such a development, both sides would support the candidate with the larger popular vote. Humphrey piously uttered and tiresomely repeated the humbug that he would abide by the Constitution; i.e., logrolling in the Congress, no matter what he had to give away to southern committee chairmen to get to the White House.

There was an inevitability of drama throughout Richard Nixon’s career. His second try for the presidency was shaping up to a gripping climax. The North Vietnamese presumably preferred Humphrey to Nixon, and in any case knew that any de-escalation by the United States would be almost irreversible in domestic political terms. The South Vietnamese, for the same reasons in reverse, preferred Nixon to Humphrey. For Johnson and Humphrey to have any chance of claiming progress toward a satisfactory settlement of the war, both Vietnamese sides had to be roped into the talks in Paris.

Most of the journalists who have written on the next phases of this minuet are not reliable, and there is no documentation, and interviews did not yield much, so the story must be pieced together cautiously. The co-chairwoman, with Mamie Eisenhower, of Republican Women for Nixon, was Anna Chennault, widow of Second World War Far East volunteer air force commander (of The Flying Tigers) General Claire Chennault. She was a friend of Thieu’s and served as a contact between Thieu and the Nixon campaign.

Anna Chennault and the South Vietnamese ambassador to Washington, Bui Diem, had gone to the New York to meet with Nixon and Mitchell in early 1968. The Chennault conduit to Thieu was established and Nixon impressed upon the ambassador that he would be a more reliable friend of Saigon than his Democratic opponent (who hadn’t been nominated, but the choice was Humphrey or McCarthy).

From here, it becomes very tangled. Anna Chennault was a strenuous admirer of Nixon, but was romantically involved with the former chief fixer in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first two terms, Thomas G. Corcoran. Corcoran was a longtime friend of Lyndon Johnson, and Corcoran’s law partner, James Rowe, was the co-manager of Hubert Humphrey’s election campaign. Corcoran listened on an extension to one of Mitchell’s telephone calls with Chennault, and cautioned her against any violation of the Logan Act, which forbids U.S. private citizens from conducting negotiations with foreign governments. Chennault spoke to Diem and to Mitchell very frequently29. Diem was a very educated and urbane man whose family owned the Saigon Post.

Some combination of phone taps on Chennault and Mitchell, cable interceptions and decoding on the South Vietnamese embassy (despite the status of Saigon as an ally now being defended by 565,000 American draftees), and possible advice from Corcoran to Johnson or Clifford apprised the administration of the Nixon effort to restrain Thieu from becoming an agent in Humphrey’s election campaign by being overly credulous or cooperative in an election-eve Johnson peace plan30. Mitchell changed his telephone number every couple of days and Diem complained to all sides about telephone and cable intercepts on his embassy31. At one point Chennault was overhead [sic] in a telephone call to a Saigon government official, urging against an early agreement to a peace plan. When asked if Nixon was aware of her call, she said the [sic] he was not, “but our friend in New Mexico” is. Agnew happened to be in New Mexico, so it was mistakenly assumed to be him, and Johnson ordered personal wiretaps on Agnew (who had dusted off the old claim that Humphrey was “soft on communism”). Agnew knew nothing of this and New Mexico was code for something else.

Thus, Hanoi had an incentive to agree to conditions, and Saigon to oppose conditions, that would lead to a bombing pause. Chennault went to Saigon in the midst of the campaign and was in frequent contact with Ambassador Diem. There is no doubt that Johnson was trying to give himself plausible cover for a peace move and deliver the election to Humphrey, and that Nixon was determined not to be robbed of the presidency by the Democrats again. To this end, Nixon, with no illegal dealings by him or his entourage, assisted Thieu in detecting his own self-interest. The allegations have been made, but not substantiated, that Kissinger played a role in this process in Paris. In the absence of any evidence or any need for what was already being otherwise accomplished, Kissinger deserves the benefit of the doubt his enemies have created about his behavior.

The Democrats were outraged at Nixon, but what Johnson was doing was equally questionable. Nixon’s desire not to be the victim again of Democratic electoral trickery is understandable, and there is no evidence that Thieu, a wily and tenacious Vietnamese political general, needed much prompting to discern which side he favored in the U.S. election. Kissinger was playing a fairly innocuous double game of self-promotion, and there was nothing very controversial, at this early stage, in his international contacts.

On October 26, sensing that it was time to interrupt Johnson’s inexorable progress toward a peace move, Nixon, who had used the Paris discussions as an excuse not to comment on Vietnam for seven months, decided to reveal a likely bombing halt. His source was a contact of Bryce Harlow’s, who was reporting from inside the White House that Johnson was about to make a supreme effort to pull the election out for Humphrey. Nixon asked Mitchell to check with Kissinger, but Kissinger had not heard of anything imminent. Nixon purported in his last statement to be confident that was afoot was not “a cynical, last-minute attempt by President Johnson to salvage the candidacy of Mr. Humphrey.” As was often the case with Nixon, what he claimed to disbelieve was what he believed. His suspicions were rarely unfounded and were not misplaced in this case.

The next day, October 27, at a luncheon speech in New York, Johnson denied that any such thing as Nixon had alleged had been agreed, and attacked Nixon as someone “who distorts history” and had made “ugly and unfair charges.”32 That evening, Nixon warned in a nationwide radio address against the evils of a coalition government in Saigon. He was firing blind, because there was no discussion of any such thing at this point, but it was a way of muddying the waters for Johnson and investigating Thieu’s always verdant suspicions.

The same day, Hanoi accepted Harriman’s conditions, provided the Viet Cong could also attend the Paris talks. Despite all the jockeying, nearly seven months had passed in Paris with nothing substantive discussed, and nothing, not even participants, agreed, except the shape of the table. It is indicative of American war-weariness and the jumpy nerves of the election candidates and campaign organizers that anyone imagined Vietnam negotiations would proceed quickly.

The American commander in Vietnam, General Creighton W. Abrams, who had replaced Westmoreland a few months before, as Westmoreland became chief of staff, was summoned home and met with the president at 2:30 A.M., October 29, in the cabinet room. He supported a bombing halt. However, by this time, Thieu was balking. He said he would not join negotiations with the Viet Cong. Johnson and Clifford blamed Nixon, via Chennault, but did not want to acknowledge recourse to illegal telephone intercepts or diplomatic cable cracking of the South Vietnamese, which would have been, to say the least, an unseemly admission a week before the election. Johnson told his ambassador in Saigon, Ellsworth Bunker, to put all the pressure he could on Thieu. Thieu would not move, but Johnson, when he felt he could wait no longer before trying to influence the election, made his big play. On October 31, he told the nation in a television address that Hanoi had promised to respect the DMZ and refrain from attacking South Vietnamese cities, and that both the South Vietnamese government and the Viet Cong were, as he delicately put it, “free” to attend the Paris peace conference as participants. This generated great euphoria, and according to some polls, Humphrey pulled ahead of Nixon. Showing iron nerves, fortified by his intelligence about Thieu’s likely lack of enthusiasm, Nixon briefly returned to his former policy of saying nothing that would compromise the peace process.

On November 2, three days before the election, Thieu publicly announced that he would not join the talks. Nixon had Finch issue a statement to the press expressing “surprise” that the players were not all in place prior to Johnson’s announcement, by which, of course, they meant that the bombing halt was a pre-emptive concession to the enemy to try to salvage the election for Humphrey.

There was great anger in the Johnson and Nixon camps at the skullduggery of the other side. But Johnson and Nixon themselves, two of the most worldly and cynical political operators in American history, were relatively philosophical. Unedifying though this great poker game seems, it was not completely discreditable. Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, though no sane person would ever accuse either of them of taking political ethics to fault, were patriotic Americans. But their methods were unusually open to question at times.

Johnson had lost confidence in the military advice he had received, and as politically exhausted. He felt intensely the sorrow of bereaved armed forces families and could not sleep at night worrying about casualties. He sincerely wanted to move the war toward a solution before leaving office. That such a move would suit his political preferences was desirable and convenient, but to what extent domestic politics predominated in the president’s thoughts will never be known. It was nonsense for Thieu to claim that he would not sit at the same table as the Viet Cong. Most South Vietnamese disliked communism, but were more fearful of the VC and its North Vietnamese sponsors than of the Saigon government, which was still in place only because of the exertions of the United States. They needed reassurance that the anti-communists were likely to be the winning side.

On the other hand, Nixon, unlike Humphrey, Kissinger, McNamara, Clifford, and even, to a point, the beleaguered Johnson himself, still thought there was a possibility to salvage a durable non-communist regime in Saigon, and was prepared to try. Thieu could not be blamed for not wishing to facilitate the victory of those who were going to hand his country over to the communists, with or without an interval that might be perceived as decent from the comfortable perspective of Washington. There is no reason to believe that Nixon did more to motivate Thieu than to ensure that he was aware of what was obvious to anyone who carefully followed the 1968 U.S. election campaign.

On November 3, Nixon, after two days’ silence, ended his second “personal Vietnam moratorium” and responded to Johnson’s maneuver with escalated dissembling. Having approved Finch’s [Robert Finch, lieutenant governor of California, Nixon campaign manager, and a friend of Nixon’s] insinuation that Johnson had made a misleading and overblown announcement about progress in peace talks for partisan reasons, he said on NBC’s Meet the Press two days before the election that he and Finch did not agree on the subject, that Nixon gave Johnson the benefit of the doubt but Finch thought the bombing pause was a political trumpery.

Finch had not issued his statement as lieutenant governor of California but as Nixon’s joint campaign manager, and this was egregious flimflam by Nixon. Nixon took it a step further, by telling the interviewer that if elected two days later, he would be happy, if President Johnson wished to go to Saigon or Paris “in order to try to get the negotiations off dead center.” Though outrageous, this was magnificent effrontery, to offer to go to Saigon, once elected, and tell Thieu to accept what he now implicitly urged him to reject. Nixon carried it off with the expressionless sincerity of a consummate actor and poker player.

It was too much for Johnson, who telephoned Nixon and demanded to know who “Fink” was and what he was up to, and asked about Chennault’s antics also. Nixon said that Finch had the same freedom of self-expression as any other American, and whatever Chennault did was on her own account and not Nixon’s. Johnson persisted in referring to “Fink” – like the father of the narrator in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, refusing to accede to facts – but he had little option but to accept Nixon’s version of his role. He knew it was bunk, but he knew the vulnerabilities in his own official line too, and there was no gain to him in insisting publicly that it was really Nixon who was accusing him of cynical political manipulations. This would do more harm to the Democrats than the Republicans. Nixon had deftly claimed to believe in Johnson’s virtue while his aides did not, and stuck to this charade with perfectly confected earnestness.

In the last full day of the campaign, Nixon continually expressed confidence in Johnson’s motives but disappointment that the hopes for peace had proved chimerical. With a doleful expression, he lamented that Johnson had, with good but over-eager intentions, sold the country a false prospectus. Given that Johnson had set out to steal the election, it must be said that Nixon’s reply, labored though it was, was a political masterpiece, upon which he embellished to the last moments before the polls opened. In his memoirs, published in 1978, Nixon maintains the same air of simple and impenetrable innocence. Johnson, in his own memoirs, professes complete political disinterest, and adds, of the opposition, “People who claimed to speak for the Nixon camp began encouraging Saigon to stay away from Paris and promising that Nixon, if elected, would inaugurate a policy more to Saigon’s liking.”33

This is a book that was published in 2008, after The Arrogance of Power by Summers (published in 2000), after the opening of the ‘X’ envelope of Walt Rostow and the declassifying of its materials by researchers. Black, a one-time publishing mogul, was in prison for corporate fraud when he wrote the book, and this no doubt may have impeded his research efforts; however, neither the Summers book or the ‘X’ envelope are obscure sources, but are in fact very well known and easily available. The lack of any reference to either, that Arrogance is not even listed in the bibliography, gives this portion of the history the strange quality of a massive free floating castle, barely supported by a few haphazardly placed struts of the thinnest and weakest wood. Black, who has no difficulty using blunt language against his enemies, now uses a lexicon as soft as cottonballs and ice cream to describe this bit of sabotage; it was an “effort to restrain Thieu from becoming an agent in Humphrey’s election campaign by being overly credulous or cooperative”. We are also told that the basis for this story lies in some hypotherical haze, “some combination of phone taps on Chennault and Mitchell, cable interceptions and decoding on the South Vietnamese embassy” is how the White House learned of Nixon’s attempts to undermine the peace talks. Yet we’ve known very well for some time how the White House learned of this betrayal: the tip of Alexander Sachs to Eugene Rostow, who passed it on to his brother Walt, Johnson’s National Security Adviser. After this, a tap was placed on Chennault. Black footnotes his information with Nixon’s memoir, which is a slightly unusual choice of source, since Nixon makes no admission of the attempt, and makes no mention of the plot or Anna Chennault.

Black opens his writing of the episode as if it were still mostly ether: “Most of the journalists who have written on the next phases of this minuet are not reliable, and there is no documentation, and interviews did not yield much, so the story must be pieced together cautiously.” With this rather haughty dismissal, Black suggests a man who is used to effortlessly waving his hand to summon food, and has mistaken this gift with the ability to cook. He considers Anna Chennault a reliable enough source to cite her memoir for this chapter, so presumably, her interview with Anthony Summers is equally reliable. In Arrogance of Power, a book whose research appears vastly more thorough than Black’s work, Chennault is emphatic that she was employed by Nixon and Mitchell to foil the peace talks:

In the weeks that followed Chennault had several more meetings with Nixon and Mitchell in New York. They told her to inform Saigon that were Nixon to become president, South Vietnam would get “a better deal.” “The message,” she told the author, “was relayed.”

Asked if Nixon and Mitchell were trying to cut a deal to help win the election, Chennault nodded. “They worked out this deal to win the campaign,” she said. “Power overpowers all reason.”

Black also informs us, “Agnew happened to be in New Mexico, so it was mistakenly assumed to be him, and Johnson ordered personal wiretaps on Agnew…Agnew knew nothing of this and New Mexico was code for something else.” I find this to be a fascinating point, one which directly contradicts a major element of the Nixon-Chennault story. However, since Black provides no footnote, I have no idea what’s his basis for believing this. We know for certain that Agnew was in Albuquerque at the time Chennault called there, and that there were several outgoing calls from the plane at this time: two to New York City, where Chennault was expected to be, one to campaign headquarters, and one to Texas, where Nixon was holding a rally that night. Agnew’s phone on the plane was not bugged; Johnson was given the records of the locations Agnew called in this time period. From “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968 Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969, Document 212”:

The next day, DeLoach called the President with a report on these calls. One of the phones on the plane had been used five times. The first call was made at 11:59 a.m., a personal call from Agnew to Rusk that lasted 3 minutes. The next call was made to Texas and another two calls were made by Agnew staffer Kent Crane to New York City. A fifth call was made to the Nixon/Agnew campaign headquarters at the Willard Hotel in Washington at 1:02 p.m.

The President verified that Rusk had talked with Agnew. He added: “We think somebody on the plane talked to the woman. We think pretty well that they talked to her and talked to Rusk, and talked on the same thing. And we think that they told Rusk-that they wanted to know what was happening in these relations. And Rusk made notes of it, he didn’t exactly know what time, but he estimated that it was about 2 o’clock. And hers, it was immediately followed by a call to her, we think. And what we want to know is what time that was and when it was.”

This was supplemented by the work of National Security Adviser Rostow, as discussed in Arrogance:

The most important discovery, though, was relayed to the president by National Security Assistant Rostow when all the facts were in, ten days after the Albuquerque stopover. In a brief memo, referring to Chennault as “the Lady” and to Agnew as “the gentleman in Albuquerque,” Rostow reported that there had been a call placed to Chennault.26

We are further assured in Life in Full that “allegations have been made, but not substantiated, that Kissinger played a role in this process in Paris,” and this, again, is flatly wrong given the available evidence. “There had to be secret communications between Nixon and the South Vietnamese, as we have seen,” writes Christopher Hitchens in The Trial of Henry Kissinger. “But there also had to be an informant inside the incumbent administration’s camp – a source of hints and tips and early warnings of official intentions.” Nixon reveals in his memoir who this source of information was, and from whom he learned of the bombing halt: Henry Kissinger. “Henry was the only person outside of the government we were authorized to discuss the negotiations with,” says the late Richard Holbrooke, a member of the negotiating team, in Trial. “We trusted him. It is not stretching the truth to say that the Nixon campaign had a secret source within the US negotiating team.” Though he makes a few polite noises about Johnson’s desire for peace, he ultimately presents Johnson’s fight for the peace talks as exclusively a political tactic: “Johnson had set out to steal the election” with this ploy. No mention is made of Johnson’s fight for the peace talks after the election, asking that he cease interference in the negotiations, so there might be a meeting of the two sides. Nor is it written anywhere that Johnson was upset with Humphrey as well for his speeches arguing for a bombing halt without demands, as that was also making it difficult to get the sides to the table.

Similarly, the only reason cited for not releasing the information is the illegality of the wiretaps. The major evidence against Nixon, however, was very much legal, an FBI tap begun after a reliable source had alleged Anna Chennault was sticking herself in a matter of national security. The problem wasn’t that their evidence was illegal, but that there wasn’t enough by the day of the election to credibly and ethically make a case. Johnson is upset about what’s taking place, but he’s also worried about what might happen if word got out: “This is treason.” This leads to the major reason why the information was not released then: it would have destroyed the future president, and possibly triggered impeachment proceedings while the country was in the midst of a war. It also suggests why the secret was held tight for decades; such a revelation would annihilate the trust of the public in their institutions and their servants. This was not a sexual affair, or a small piece of graft, but a presidential candidate tossing lives away so he might ascend the throne. Just as Black leaves out the phone calls after the election as Johnson continues to press for peace negotiations, he leaves out the Johnson inner circle keeping all these secrets under tight wrap, even though they could easily destroy their former opponent. Of Black’s argument that Nixon was somehow justified in his actions simply because he felt he was wronged in 1960 and deserved to win then, I will only say I think it carries a stronger reek of amorality than Black might imagine.

It is true that Johnson was relatively kind about Nixon in his memoirs, writing “I never shared the intense dislike of Richard Nixon felt by many of my fellow Democrats…I considered him a much-maligned and misunderstood man.” Though there’s also a very pertinent fact left out in Black’s mention of these memoirs: that Johnson believed Humphrey would have won the election had it not been for the interference of “people who claimed to speak for the Nixon camp” in the peace negotiations1. It also fails to convey the bitterness of many about what took place, not just over a lost election but that someone had so flippantly played with lives in order to pull off an election win. Some of this ill feeling is conveyed in the book, Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency by Mark Updegrove, an account of the Johnson administration through the words of associates. “I thought the actions by those associated with the Nixon campaign,” says Tom Johnson (no relation), an adviser, “to convince the South Vietnamese government to wait until Nixon was in office were reprehensible.” Larry O’Brien, the head of the Democratic National Committee whose Watergate office was broken into by the Nixon burglars, quotes Johnson as saying, “What kind of a guy could engage in something like this?” I give full excerpt of Updegrove’s account of the scandal. Those quoted are Tom Johnson, O’Brien, Bryce Harlow, and Arthur Krim; Harlow and Krim were, respectively, advisers for Nixon and Johnson:

In mid-October, Johnson began setting the stage for a total bombing halt on the condition that the North Vietnamese de-escalate military operations, an action made as a Hail Mary to catalyze the fruitless Paris peace talks. Both sides also dropped objections to dealing directly with the Vietcong and South Vietnamese respectively. In Saigon, President Thieu gave every indication that he was willing to negotiate on those terms. Then, just before Johnson announced the halt in bombing, Thieu backed off unexpectedly. Despite pressure exerted on Thieu by the administration, he stood his ground, prompting Johnson to go ahead with the bombing halt anyway, a move he announced on October 31. By then, days before Americans went to the polls to determine their next president, the White House got a bead on Thieu’s sudden change of heart – and it pointed to the Nixon campaign.

Intelligence reports showed that Madame Anna Chennault, co-chair of Republican Women for Nixon and the wealthy widow of General Claire Chennault, the famed World War II aviator who attained hero status by leading the Flying Tigers squadron, had urged Nixon to reach out to the South Vietnamese to assure them that they would get more favorable terms from him than those Johnson was proposing. Though no evidence linked Nixon directly to Chennault, Nixon and she had broached the subject of Vietnam at a meeting in his New York apartment in which he asked her to be his “channel to Mr. Thieu.”

An October 27 wiretap revealed that Chennault had forwarded a message from “apparently authoritative Republican” sources urging “Mr. Thieu to abort or cripple the [Paris] deal by refusing to participate.” Johnson strongly suspected that Nixon had sanctioned the communication, which, in effect, hedged the Republican candidate’s bets against the probability of a galvanized peace process having a positive rub-off effect on Humphrey in the neck-and-neck presidential race.

Nixon, campaigning under the slogan “Nixon’s the One,” dangled the notion of his “secret plan for peace” in Vietnam compellingly before the American people on the hustings, with the candidate pledging to unveil its details after his election. As the contest wound down to its final days, the Johnson White House wrestled with what to do with potentially explosive implications that the Nixon campaign had, in fact, derailed the peace process.

ARTHUR KRIM: Nixon, on the record, was saying, “I have a plan [for peace] but I won’t announce it until after I’m president.” Now, as far as Nixon’s connection with that is concerned, I do not know how far it went. LBJ, of course, suspected it and probably knew more about it than he would tell me, but I’m referring to those famous cables.

Just before the weekend of the election, there was a lot of movement in Paris about their finally sitting down for serious negotiations with the South Vietnamese, at a time when the momentum was moving tremendously toward Hubert. The fact that they were going to have a real peace conference was a big factor in the momentum. The president told me very much off the record that they had this cable that Madame Chennault had sent to, I guess it was Thieu or somebody in South Vietnam saying, “Don’t cooperate in Paris. It will be helpful to Humphrey.”

* * *

In a direct exchange with Johnson, Nixon denied any part in the Chennault affair. Johnson upon getting wind of the Chennault cables, called Everett Dirksen demanding to know whether Nixon was at fault. In turn, Dirksen phoned Bryce Harlow, a Washington power broker and adviser to Nixon, who placed an early morning call to Nixon while he was campaigning in California.

BRYCE HARLOW, senior adviser and counselor to Richard Nixon, 1968-71, 1973-74: I told [Nixon], “You’ve got to talk to LBJ. Someone has told him that you’re all over the South Vietnamese to keep them from doing something about peace and he’s just about to believe it. If you don’t let him know quickly that it’s not so, then he’s going to dump. At least he says so. Ev is just beside himself. He says that Lyndon is simply enraged and we ought to do something…you’ve got to do it.” And so he did. He called him. He got him on the phone and said there was absolutely no truth to it as far as he knew.

I’m not convinced it was not true. It was too tempting a target…

But at any rate, Nixon told him no and Johnson put down his pistol, except probably Johnson didn’t believe it. But he probably couldn’t prove it, I suppose.

ARTHUR KRIM: [Johnson] said at that time that he had no evidence of how much Nixon had to do with this but rather suspected that he had. And he said he was going to call Hubert and at least give him the information, let him decide what to do with it.

LARRY O’BRIEN: [W]hen this information finally developed into something assumed meaningful with the Anna Chennault situation, it was very late in the campaign. Should you go or not go? You don’t have the documentation, but it’s clearly beyond the point of thinking wishfully of being suspicious. There is clearly something there. We were convinced of that. But I didn’t focus on that until, I’ll have to say probably 48, 72 hours before the election.

What happened was I went to California. I had our close-out meetings with our California people, trying to utilize my time over those last couple of days as effectively as I could. Humphrey came into Los Angeles very upbeat. I’ll have to say I was upbeat because the reports I received on the Texas venture were upbeat. Humphrey was the old Humphrey with all his enthusiasm. This campaign was coming to a great upbeat climax. Now, in that atmosphere, there was a brief discussion on [the Chennault] matter. I recall it was hasty. He’s going somewhere, I’m going somewhere. It probably didn’t last more than a few minutes, and I must say that my focus wasn’t total. But it did penetrate enough for me to realize that Humphrey had sufficient evidence to consider going public. But it was clear that he really didn’t want to discuss it in detail with me. Not that he was keeping me out of the circle, but he was wavering and leaning toward leaving it alone.

He expressed deep concern, made a couple of references to Nixon personally: “What kind of a guy could engage in something like this?” He was, I guess you’d have to say, shocked.

But now, in the context of what knowledge he had, I think what came across to me was his concern about utilizing it – whether it was justified, whether there was enough evidence so he could hold his head high and not be accused of playing cheap politics at the end of a desperation effort to win an election.

* * *

In the late 1970s, after Humphrey’s death in 1978, Abe Fortas and Clark Clifford informed Mrs. Johnson about the Chennault affair, asserting that Humphrey sat on the information because he believed that the country had suffered enough throughout the course of the last several years, and that going forward would only divide it further. Mrs. Johnson’s only response was “Poor Hubert.”

TOM JOHNSON: I thought the actions by those associated with the Nixon campaign to convince the South Vietnamese government to wait until Nixon was in office were reprehensible. I remain amazed that LBJ and Humphrey did not publicize the actions taken by the Nixon side in this ultra-sensitive matter. It is my belief that Nixon would not have been elected if the public had learned of the efforts to sabotage, or at least to delay, the peace talks until Nixon was president. This was kept as a closely guarded secret.

* * *

Regardless of Nixon’s denials, Johnson remained convinced that he had been complicit in sabotaging the peace process toward his own political ends and the betrayal of his country. Chennault herself put the question to rest nearly three decades later, revealing in a 1997 interview with Nixon biographer Anthony Summers that Nixon had been in the loop on all of her exchanges with the South Vietnamese leadership. Nixon had been “conspiratorial” since asking Chennault for advice on Vietnam as he geared up for the campaign in 1967. “They worked out this deal to win the campaign,” Chennault said of the assurances she gave the South Vietnamese on Nixon’s behalf. “Power overpowers reason. It was all very, very confidential.”

I do not give this lengthy excerpt simply to convey the intensity of feeling about what took place, an anger over something much larger than who won or lost the election, and which Black does his best to downplay. I do so to give the reader a proper sense of the scandal, that this is no conspiracy theory kept alive like a weak fire by a few fringe dwellers and those with an animus for Nixon, but an event that a wide range of writers and researchers can confirm did indeed took place. It is a casual belief that no historical event of any magnitude can be concealed or become invisible by forgetting, and I think this belief false in general, and false in this specific case. This incident has remained largely unknown, thanks to the self-interest of Richard Nixon and his promoters, as well as those in Johnson’s circle who feared that it might have a devastating impact beyond the president who defeated them, and perhaps most importantly, the inertia of what might be called “the system”, which cannot imagine that such a great betrayal could take place and in plain sight.

As a casual example, I give the “Claimed sabotage of negotiations by Nixon campaign” section for the wikipedia entry “Paris Peace Accords” on April 9th, 20142:

Bryce Harlow, former Eisenhower White House staff member, claimed to have “a double agent working in the White House….I kept Nixon informed.” Harlow and Henry Kissinger (who was friendly with both campaigns and guaranteed a job in either a Humphrey or Nixon administration) separately predicted Johnson’s “bombing halt”: “The word is out that we are making an effort to throw the election to Humphrey. Nixon has been told of it,” Democratic senator George Smathers informed Johnson. According to Robert Dallek, Kissinger’s advice “rested not on special knowledge of decision making at the White House but on an astute analyst’s insight into what was happening.” William Bundy stated that Kissinger obtained “no useful inside information” from his trip to Paris, and “almost any experienced Hanoi watcher might have come to the same conclusion”. While Kissinger may have “hinted that his advice was based on contacts with the Paris delegation,” this sort of “self-promotion….is at worst a minor and not uncommon practice, quite different from getting and reporting real secrets.”2 Nixon asked Anna Chennault to be his “channel to Mr. Thieu“; Chennault agreed and periodically reported to John Mitchell that Thieu had no intention of attending a peace conference. On November 2, Chennault informed the South Vietnamese ambassador: “I have just heard from my boss in Albuquerque who says his boss [Nixon] is going to win. And you tell your boss [Thieu] to hold on a while longer.”3 In response, Johnson ordered wire-tapping members of the Nixon campaign.4 Dallek wrote that Nixon’s efforts “probably made no difference” because Thieu was unwilling to attend the talks and there was little chance of an agreement being reached before the election; however, his use of information provided by Harlow and Kissinger was morally questionable, and Humphrey’s decision not to make Nixon’s actions public was “an uncommon act of political decency.”5 Conrad Black agreed that there is “no evidence” connecting Kissinger, who was “playing a fairly innocuous double game of self-promotion”, with attempts to undermine the peace talks. Black further commented that “the Democrats were outraged at Nixon, but what Johnson was doing was equally questionable”, and there is “no evidence” that Thieu “needed much prompting to discern which side he favored in the U.S. election.”6

I admire this entry as I might someone who is able to carve the most elegant shapes out of the most meagre and cheap scraps of paper. It is not simply that it is very dishonest and wrong. Not simply that it is dishonest and wrong on the crucial element of the case, presenting Chennault as someone who was simply passing information from Thieu to Nixon, when the truth was more sinister, that Nixon was telling Thieu to delay participating in the peace talks until Nixon was president, at which point Thieu would get a better deal. It is that every footnote for this section, save one for Black’s book, is sourced to Robert Dallek’s Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power, and this book presents us the same narrative as we’ve seen in other books, very much consistent with the other surrounding evidence, with Nixon and Chennault playing an active role to derail the peace talks. The only qualifier is the same piece of comfort mentioned earlier, that these peace talks might have failed anyway. Christopher Hitchens would review Dallek’s book in Slate, where he scolded it for often taking the most lenient and forgiving attitude of each abominable incident in what he considered an abominable presidency. It is also, however, a kind of virtue, Hitchens believes, a point with which I agree, and for the same reason: that the lack of ideological fire, animus, or passion of the true believer, solidifies the events in the reader’s mind as indisputable.

From “Partners in Crime”, the review by Hitchens of Dallek’s book:

The effect of Dallek’s book is somewhat enhanced by the extreme mildness with which he presents his findings. Indeed, wherever he can do so, he awards the benefit of the doubt. For example, in one of the most appalling instances-the Nixon camp’s attempt to sabotage the Johnson-Humphrey Paris peace talks on Vietnam in 1968-he takes the most exculpatory line that it is possible for a historian to adopt.

I excerpt this book’s description of the act of sabotage, and the reader might contrast it with the wikipedia account now written, citing this very book as its near exclusive source:

How did Nixon use the information provided by Kissinger and Harlow? And more important, did Nixon’s response to Johnson’s peace campaign break any laws and bend accepted political practices? Convinced that Johnson’s bombing halt was politically motivated, Nixon had no hesitation in exerting pressure on the South Vietnamese government of Nguyen Van Thieu to reject Washington demands to begin participating in the Paris talks on November 2, three days before the U.S. elections. Everyone involved in the negotiations believed that progress in the talks partly depended on Saigon’s presence in Paris, and most everyone inside the Nixon and Humphrey campaigns, as well as outside political observers, thought that surging hopes of peace could affect the outcome of an increasingly close presidential election.

From early in his campaign, Nixon had seen a peace settlement or even substantial movement in that direction as crucial to Humphrey’s chances in November. Consequently, in July 1968, Nixon had begun discouraging Saigon from accepting a possible invitation to join the ongoing Paris discussions. During that month, he and Mitchell met in Nixon’s New York apartment with South Vietnam’s ambassador to the United States, Bui Diem, and Anna Chennault, a co-chair of Republican Women for Nixon and the widow of General Claire Chennault of China’s World War II Flying Tigers. Nixon asked Chennault to be “his channel to Mr. Thieu via Bui Diem.” She agreed and periodically reported to Mitchell that Thieu had no intention of attending a peace conference before Nixon, hopefully became president.

On October 31, after Johnson announced the bombing halt, Mitchell phoned Chennault to say, “Anna, I’m speaking on behalf of Mr. Nixon. It’s very important that our Vietnamese friends understand our Republican position and I hope you have made that very clear to them.” Despite Chennault’s assurances that Thieu would not agree to send a South Vietnamese delegation to the talks in early November, Mitchell said, “They really have decided not to go to Paris?” Chennault answered: “I don’t think they’ll go. Thieu has told me over and over again that going to Paris would be walking into a smoke screen that has nothing to do with reality.”

When Thieu continued to resist U.S. embassy pleas that he join the Paris talks, and Johnson heard that someone “very close to Nixon” believed he was encouraging “Saigon to be difficult,” Johnson blamed Nixon for Thieu’s uncooperativeness. At a White House meeting with diplomatic and military advisers on October 29, Johnson said, “It would rock the world if it were said [that] he [Thieu] was conniving with the Republicans. Can you imagine what people would say if it were to be known that Hanoi has met all these conditions and then Nixon’s conniving with them [the South Vietnamese] kept us from getting [a peace agreement]?”

Because he believed that Thieu might still be persuaded to join the peace talks and because he wanted to learn precisely what the Nixon camp was telling Saigon, Johnson instructed the FBI to wiretap Chennault and keep her under surveillance. He also ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to intercept cables between the South Vietnamese embassy in Washington and Saigon. Since the White House believed that violations of national security might be involved, it saw the bugging and surveillance as legal. But there were other risks: National Security Adviser Walt Rostow warned Johnson that the taps posed “real difficulties. She lives at Water Gate – a huge apartment. She is constantly seeing Republicans – the risk of discovery is high.” It was a warning that surely could have been useful to Nixon and John Mitchell in the future.

The intercepts and wiretaps, including taps on “the telephone connection in vice-presidential candidate [Spiro] Agnew’s chartered campaign plane,” confirmed that the Nixon campaign was discouraging Thieu from a part in the Paris talks. As Johnson described it later to Cartha DeLoach, the deputy director of the FBI, Chennault told the South Vietnamese ambassador on November 2, “‘I have just heard from my boss in Albuquerque [Agnew, who was campaigning in New Mexico that day] who says his boss [Nixon] says we’re going to win. And you tell your boss [Thieu] to hold on a while longer.'”

With only four days left in the campaign, Humphrey, who learned about Nixon’s activities from Johnson, wrestled with questions about whether to leak the information to the press or openly accuse Nixon of undermining the peace talks. Johnson was furious at Nixon. Aides recalled that Johnson described Nixon as guilty of “treason”: American boys were losing their lives in the service of Nixon’s political ambitions, Johnson said. The fact that Nixon frustrated Johnson’s hopes of getting a settlement before he left office also incensed Johnson, who wanted the historical record to show that he had made peace as well as war in Vietnam. Because they knew that they would have to disclose how they obtained their information if they revealed it and because they feared it might provoke a constitutional crisis and make it nearly impossible for a Nixon administration to govern, Johnson and Humphrey decided against revealing Nixon’s secret intrusion into the Paris discussions.

Nixon knew that Johnson was “mad as all get-out” over what he was doing to impede the talks. After Illinois Republican Senator Everett Dirksen told Harlow that Johnson had called in a rage, Harlow urged Nixon to speak to Johnson. “Someone has told him that you’re dumping all over the South Vietnamese to keep them from doing something about peace…If you don’t let him know quickly that it’s not so, then he’s going to dump” on you. Nixon denied any involvement, but Harlow never believed him. Stopping the peace talks “was too tempting a target. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some shenanigans going on,” Harlow said later.

On November 3, Nixon called Johnson and categorically denied that he was doing anything to disrupt the peace negotiations. Nixon’s call strengthened Johnson’s decision not to publicize the allegations, and according to a later story in the Sunday Times of London, “Nixon and his friends collapsed in laughter” after he and Johnson hung up. “It was partly in sheer relief that their victory had not been taken from them at the eleventh hour.” William Bundy says that Nixon’s “barefaced lie was his only tenable line of defense.” In 1997, Chennault revealed that Nixon and Mitchell knew everything: “I was constantly in touch with Mitchell and Nixon,” she said.

Did Nixon’s pressure on Thieu have an impact on the 1968 election? The popular vote favored Nixon by only .7 percent, 43.4 percent to Humphrey’s 42.7 percent; 13.5 percent of the votes went to Wallace. The Electoral College was a different story: Nixon had a decisive edge of 301 to 191. If Wallace had not been in the race, it seems almost certain that a majority of his votes would have gone to Nixon.

It is doubtful that successful peace talks or the likelihood of an early peace settlement would have changed the outcome. Humphrey was too clearly identified with Johnson’s unpopular administration. And though some voters might have concluded that Humphrey would steer the country on a new course, the majority saw Humphrey as likely to continue much of what Johnson had been doing in domestic affairs, where many Americans now felt he had overreached himself. And even if Humphrey ended the war, he would remain tainted with his earlier support of Johnson’s activities in Vietnam1.

Whatever my issues with this piece, we have here, indisputably, Nixon actively interfering with the peace talks via Chennault. “From early in his campaign,” Dallek writes, “Nixon had seen a peace settlement or even substantial movement in that direction as crucial to Humphrey’s chances in November. Consequently, in July 1968, Nixon had begun discouraging Saigon from accepting a possible invitation to join the ongoing Paris discussions.” I again take issue with the idea that Agnew’s place was tapped in this sentence, but the conclusion remains the same: “The intercepts and wiretaps, including taps on “the telephone connection in vice-presidential candidate [Spiro] Agnew’s chartered campaign plane,” confirmed that the Nixon campaign was discouraging Thieu from a part in the Paris talks.” John Mitchell, Nixon campaign manager, makes sure that a clear message is sent: “On October 31, after Johnson announced the bombing halt, Mitchell phoned Chennault to say, “Anna, I’m speaking on behalf of Mr. Nixon. It’s very important that our Vietnamese friends understand our Republican position and I hope you have made that very clear to them.””

I do not focus on the small space of this wikipedia entry because it is the final authority on this matter (though for too many people, it will be), and I am not surprised that a contentious incident from the life of a controversial president would be edited in a way to cast him in the most favorable light. I place focus here because for other contentious areas, the event would be well enough known that you could imagine both sides firing back and forth salvos of edits and re-edits. In this case, this historical moment remains sufficiently unknown that many readers would not know why it was in dispute, let alone what the elements of the dispute were.

This post might be ended in a contrast with the obsessiveness given over to the conspiracy theories dealing with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. There is the obvious distinction that here we were dealing with the actual killing of a beloved figure, and that of course this is going to take up more press space. What is astonishing, however, is that so many of these theories involve the military industrial complex or its representatives as the culprits in the assassination. This is an astonishing, incredibly disturbing claim, and were sufficient numbers to passionately and sincerely believe in such theories, I think it would be dangerous, even revolutionary. That the press gives such theories broad play is that ultimately there is no such danger, they are casually discussed as fantastic hypotheticals, where a few overimaginatives might throw out their ideas and the weight of evidence clearly points to the traditional solution, a disaffected rootless loner who sought fame through the great deed of killing a great man, followed by another rootless individual seeking heroic fame by killing the first assassin. To write of the Chennault-Nixon backchannel, on the other hand, we deal with something that is very real, and for which millions paid a price. If one insists that there was a very real possibility of another path in 1968, with a bombing halt, a Humphrey election, and the two sides of Vietnam sitting down for talks, then one might imagine a massive drop in casualties, and afterwards, no Laos, no Cambodia bombing, no Cambodia genocide. Millions who are dead now might well be alive. That possibility is tangible enough that one can understand the avoidance of the subject, and one might even understand the long silence on the part of those who lost only an election.

POSTSCRIPT (13/07/2014): Yesterday, I glanced through Pat Buchanan’s account of the 1968 election, The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority, where he gives a firsthand look of the campaign for which he worked as a speechwriter, a role he would hold on to for the two terms (or one and a half) of the Nixon presidency. His account of the Chennault incident affair is instructive in how insistently blind it is more than forty years later, adhering to a false vision without any acknowledgement of the massive trail of facts which annihilate this illusion. This insistence is educational as it is only possible through the astonishing lack of acknowledgement or discussion in the press of these very obvious, very substantial, and very discomfiting facts. From The Greatest Comeback:

Johnson had changed the debate five days before the election and shoved his whole stack in for Humphrey. If the country believed what appeared to be true—a deal to end the war might be at hand—this could swing it. But the White House did not have all its ducks in a row. Twenty-four hours later, headlines about a bombing halt had been replaced. In the New York Times, the new headline read, “Saigon Opposes Paris Talk Plans, Says It Cannot Attend Next Week.” If Saigon was not aboard, peace was not at hand. Suddenly new questions arose: Have we been had? Who fouled this up? Are we being played one last time by Lyndon Johnson?

Reports that Anna Chennault, widow of the Flying Tigers General Claire Chennault, had contacted Saigon and told Marshal Nguyen Van Thieu to sabotage the talks, as he would get a better deal from Nixon, and that our staff knew and condoned this if we did not orchestrate it, I did not believe then and do not believe now. Humphrey did not believe it. Nixon would never have taken the insane risk of opening a back channel through Mrs. Chennault to Saigon to torpedo a peace agreement negotiated to end the war in Vietnam. Such a revelation would not only have been ruinous to Nixon’s reputation, the revelation of it would have killed his candidacy or poisoned his presidency should he win.

The simplest explanation is often the right one. Saigon had to have concluded that Nixon, with his reputation as an anti-Communist since the 1940s, would be tougher on their Communist enemy than a Democratic candidate who, a month before, had promised an unconditional halt to all bombing of North Vietnam. Why would Saigon want Humphrey, when it was apparent Humphrey had given up on victory? On Saturday, November 2, my thirtieth birthday, I memoed Nixon, “LBJ has committed a major diplomatic blunder.”

THE TREASON OF RICHARD NIXON: FROM POSSIBILITY TO CERTAINTY

PART ONE PART TWO

(On April 10th, the citations for Robert Dallek’s Nixon and Kissinger were added. On July 2, 2014, this post received a long needed edit, which clarified far too many sentences that were made obscure through lousy grammer and lousy writing. Though I have long thought of adding a second conclusion to this piece, that material may end up instead in another post. On this same date I changed the header image to a composition made from stills of Hunter Thompson wearing a mask of Richard Nixon, taken from “Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision”, which can be found on youtube under the title, “Hunter S. Thompson Omnibus 1978”.)

FOOTNOTES FOR RICHARD NIXON: A LIFE IN FULL BY CONRAD BLACK

29 Anna Chennault, The Education of Anna, pp. 173-177

30 Nixon, Memoirs, pp. 326-27.

31 Chennault, p. 175.

32 New York Times, 10/28/68.

33 Johnson, p. 548.

THE ARROGANCE OF POWER BY ANTHONY SUMMERS

26 Chennault told both this author and another researcher that she did not remember having received a call from New Mexico. She speculated that if she had been overheard referring to New Mexico, she was probably meaning to refer to New Hampshire, home state of Robert Hill, one of those she had nominated to Nixon as go-betweens. The documentary record, however, seems to be more reliable on this matter than Chennault’s memory. (Other researcher: conv. Catherine Forslund.)

FOOTNOTES FOR THE WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE “PARIS PEACE ACCORDS”

2 Robert Dallek (2007), Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power, HarperCollins, pp. 73-74.

3 Dallek, pp. 74-75. In 1997, Chennault admitted that “I was constantly in touch with Nixon and Mitchell.”

4 Dallek, p. 75.

5 Dallek, pp. 77-78.

6 Conrad Black (2007), Richard Nixon: A Life in Full , PublicAffairs, p. 553.

NIXON AND KISSINGER: PARTNERS IN POWER BY ROBERT DALLEK

1 This book does not feature citations by footnote, but via page number and the relevant text. The excerpt is taken from the pp. 74-77, and I list the relevant citations here:

PAGE 74 How did Nixon: Dallek, Flawed Giant, 584-87; Bundy, 40-41.
PAGE 75 When Thieu continued: Dallek, Flawed Giant, 585-86.
PAGE 75 Because he believed: Ibid., 586.
PAGE 75 The intercepts: FRUS: Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969, 615-16.
PAGE 75 With only four days: Ibid., 687; Dallek, Flawed Giant, 588, 591-92.
PAGE 76 Nixon knew: Ibid., 590-91; Bundy, 43.
PAGE 76 Did Nixon’s pressure: For the vote and RN’s appeal, see Ambrose, Nixon: Triumph of a Politician, 220-22. The quote about “the Silent Majority” is on 222.

FOOTNOTES

1 From “LBJ Charges Pro-Nixon Move Beat Humphrey” by Jack Anderson, a column from October 2 1971, highlighting excerpts from Johnson’s memoir:

WASHINGTON – Lyndon Johnson charges in his forthcoming memoirs that Richard Nixon’s allies insured Hubert Humphrey’s 1968 presidential defeat by secretly persuading the Saigon government to stay away from the Paris peace talks.

The former President’s memoirs entitled “The Vantage Point,” are being kept under tight wraps. But we can quote the highlights.

Here, for example, how Johnson describes the GOP-Saigon skulduggery:

“People who claimed to speak for the Nixon camp began encouraging Saigon to stay away from Paris and promising that Nixon, if elected, would inaugurate a policy more to Saigon’s liking. “Those efforts paid off.

“On November 1, after previously indicating that they would have made him the talks [sic], the South Vietnamese leaders decided not to participate. That I am convinced, cost Hubert Humphrey the presidency, especially since a shift of only a few hundred thousand votes would have made him the winner.

“I am certain the outcome would have been different if the Paris peace talks had been in progress on Election day.”

Despite this, Johnson is surprisingly kind in his appraisal of Richard Nixon. “I never shared the intense dislike of Richard Nixon felt by many of my fellow Democrats…I considered him a much-maligned and misunderstood man. I looked upon Nixon as a tough, unyielding partisan and a shrewd politician, but always a man trying to do the best for his country…”

2 This entry would, thankfully, be revised to something that relied more on Robert Dallek’s account than Conrad Black’s. Those who want to read the entry as it was on April 9, 2014, when this post was first published, can go to the April 6, 2014 version of the entry.

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The Treason of Richard Nixon: From Possibility To Certainty Part One

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

THE TREASON OF RICHARD NIXON: FROM POSSIBILITY TO CERTAINTY

PART ONE PART TWO

The title is not an attempt at cheap provocation, but an attempt to capture the raw truth of an event almost entirely forgotten and rarely spoken of, perhaps out of conscious avoidance of the disturbing qualities of the event itself. What follows contains no new revelations, and is an attempt at arranging all available materials to craft a substantial narrative around the event, and make a thorough case of what took place, rather than to score a simple ideological point. Those who wish a more succinct piece on the same event might prefer “The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon’s ‘treason'” by David Taylor, or “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry. All of the documents cited in this piece are via Parry’s article, and the full outlines of the plot given below is thanks to Parry’s work and The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon by Anthony Summers. I do not agree with all of Parry’s conclusions on all issues, but that someone is doing such solid, vital journalism while relying solely on the individual donations of readers, is one more shameful mark of the established press now, which is happy to subsidize so many banal and unnecessary voices.

I first came across this scandal, as did many others, in 2002, when I read The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens. Though the future Secretary of State was indicted for many acts, stunning, depraved, and unknown to me, this piece of election subterfuge stood out – had it failed, most if not all of the other acts he would be involved in could not have taken place. Hitchens would, in turn, obtain the substantial proof of the allegation from The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon by Summers, a thorough devastation of the ex-president’s life and career. Hitchens would give a positive review of the book in the Times, “Let Me Say This About That”, and he would appear alongside Summers to promote the book, on the Australian radio program, “Late Night Live” with Philip Adams, on Wednesday, November 15, 2000. In the following excerpt from the interview, Hitchens would single out the book’s reporting and confirmation of the relevant scandal, the spoiling of the 1968 Paris Peace Talks to end the Vietnam war, as its most vital point:

PHILIP ADAMS
Christopher, Kissinger pointed out in his memoirs that Nixon rather liked people to fear his madness. Of course, in ’69, he tells Kissinger to warn the Soviet ambassador that he was out of control on Indochina and capable of anything. Is there any evidence that he behaved this way with his staff and aides, or did he just direct this terrifying prospect at the Russians?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
Oh no, there’s every kind of evidence that his staff and aides grew to recognize the symptoms. I think the locus classicus would be the Haldeman diaries, where you have an almost weary assumption by Haldeman that the president’s at it again. “The P.” as he calls it, in his diaries. And very often, Haldeman will not act on some bizarre instruction or order. Because he thinks that probably when the president either sobers up, because there was a tremendous tendency for one scotch to make a gigantic difference…or just shakes off the mood. Wait twenty four hours, and he’ll have forgotten he told me to do this, or countermand it on second thought. That’s true of what I think is the most salient chapter of Mr. Summers’s book, namely, the conspiracy, because there is no other word for it…to try and sabotage the Paris Peace Talks in 1968.

ADAMS
I’d like you to talk to that, Christopher, because it is the blockbuster revelation, isn’t it?

HITCHENS
It is-

ADAMS
Or the confirmation of it.

HITCHENS
The confirmation. You have the skeleton, and quite a lot of the flesh of the story by inference, and by induction, in the Haldeman diaries, ’cause Haldeman discusses quite freely the fact that Nixon tried, contemplated trying, using, the fact he himself had been bugged. In 1968. As a weapon against the democrats in 1972. Okay, if you think bugging is a scandal, this is Watergate obviously, what if I bring out you bugging me? And then realizing he can’t do that, without revealing why he’s being bugged. Now, that’s all in the memoirs and diaries of his closest associate. And you can also context that it was about Viet Nam he was being bugged in 1968. Now, why would they be doing this? Why would they have- Why would’ve President Johnson wanted to tap candidate Nixon, and the answer is now very plain from the book we’re discussing. That he had opened an illegal backchannel to the South Vietnamese junta and said to them, “Look, if you don’t gratify the democratic administration by consenting to the Paris peace talks, if you don’t do them that favor, and discredit their re-election campaign, you will get a better deal in the incoming Republican administration.”

ANTHONY SUMMERS
Can I break in?

ADAMS
Yes, of course Anthony.

SUMMERS
The breakthrough for me, journalistically, was to be able to obtain the FBI surveillance file. As Christopher Hitchens has said, Johnson, who was given human information, indicating human intelligence, indicating what Nixon and his people were up to in terms of trying to sabotage the peace initiative, he ordered FBI surveillance to try and establish it. In fact, he didn’t establish it fully, because the reports didn’t come in till after the election. Not least because J. Edgar Hoover was less than keen to obey the president’s order in truly expeditious fashion. But the result that we have today is the FBI surveillance file which shows quite clearly that Nixon’s intermediary, Anna Chennault, who I also interviewed extensively, many times, was in constant touch, in those days before the election, carrying messages to the South Vietnamese ambassador in Washington, talking about “her boss”. And it’s complex, and you can’t explain it in a hurry on radio, but it becomes completely clear in context, that when she talks about “her boss”, she’s talking about Richard Nixon.

The FBI surveillance file is now easily available, a document I came across on Robert Parry’s “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'”, and the text which Summers cites is as follows1:

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

The most succinct, and acerbic, overview of the scandal can be found in The Trial of Henry Kissinger, where Hitchens sums it up in one acrid paragraph:

Here is the secret in plain words. In the fall of 1968, Richard Nixon and some of his emissaries and underlings set out to sabotage the Paris peace negotiations on Vietnam. The means they chose were simple: they privately assured the South Vietnamese military rulers that an incoming Republican regime would offer them a better deal than would a Democratic one. In this way, they undercut both the talks themselves and the electoral strategy of Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. The tactic “worked,” in that the South Vietnamese junta withdrew from the talks on the eve of the election, thereby destroying the “peace plank” on which the Democrats had contested it. In another way, it did not “work,” because four years later the Nixon administration concluded the war on the same terms that had been on offer in Paris. The reason for the dead silence that still surrounds the question is that, in those intervening four years, some twenty thousand Americans and an uncalculated number of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians lost their lives. Lost them, that is to say, even more pointlessly than had those slain up to that point. The impact of those four years on Indochinese society, and on American democracy, is beyond computation. The chief beneficiary of the covert action, and of the subsequent slaughter, was Henry Kissinger.

A more detailed overview of the conspiracy was given by a man who was within its near radius, Clark Clifford, Secretary of Defense for President Lyndon Johnson when the peace talks were thwarted, and who gave extensive space to it in his 1991 memoir, Counsel to the President, co-written by Richard Holbrooke, a member of the United States negotiating team at the Vietnam peace talks in Paris. For some lengthy book excerpts I include their footnotes, separate from this post’s footnotes, so that readers may have a solid idea on the sources of their information, and this approach is taken here:

BUI DIEM AND THE “LITTLE FLOWER”

At about this time, a new and potentially explosive factor entered the picture our discovery, through intelligence channels, of a plot – there is no other word for it – to help Nixon win the election by a flagrant interference in the negotiations.

History is filled with characters who emerge for a moment, play a critical, sometimes even decisive, role in a historic event, and then recede again into their normal lives. Such was the function of two people who played key roles in electing Richard Nixon in 1968: Bui Diem, South Vietnam’s Ambassador in Washington, and Anna Chennault, the Chinese-born widow of General Claire Chennault, the commander of the famed Flying Tigers in Burma and China during World War II.

Mrs. Chennault, a small, intense, and energetic woman who was often seen in the company of her close friend Tommy Corcoran, was chairwoman of Republican Women for Nixon in 1968. Early in the year, she took Bui Diem to New York to meet Nixon. When Diem alerted his closest friend in the Administration, Bill Bundy, to the meeting, Bundy raised no objections; it was quite appropriate for an Ambassador to meet with a former Vice President. But Bui Diem neglected to mention to Bundy that, at Nixon’s request, he had opened a secret personal channel to John Mitchell and other senior members of the Nixon team through Chennault and John Tower, the Republican Senator from Texas.10

There was almost no one in Washington as well informed as the popular and affable Bui Diem. The State Department kept him informed of the negotiations in Paris, his own government sent him reports on the Bunker-Thieu [Bunker is Ellsworth Bunker, the U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam] talks in Saigon, and he maintained close relations with many prominent Americans, especially Republican conservatives such as Senator Tower and Everett Dirksen, the Senate Minority Leader. It was not difficult for Ambassador Diem to pass information to Anna Chennault, who was in contact with John Mitchell, she said later, “at least once a day.”11 Even more important, Diem could convey advice from the Nixon camp to Thieu.

In his memoirs, Diem claims he sent only two “relevant messages” to Saigon during October. While they “constituted circumstantial evidence for anybody ready to assume the worst,” he wrote, “they certainly did not mean that I had arranged a deal with the Republicans.” Some of Diem’s messages to Saigon later became public. On October 23, he cabled Thieu: “Many Republican friends have contacted me and encouraged us to stand firm. They were alarmed by press reports to the effect that you had already softened your position.” October 27: “The longer the present situation continues, the more we are favored…I am regularly in touch with the Nixon entourage.”12 Despite his disclaimer, I believe there were other messages, delivered through other channels; Diem correctly suspected he was under surveillance by American intelligence, and tried to fool his watchers by using more secure channels.

Diem was not Anna Chennault’s only channel to Saigon. As he wrote in his own memoirs, “My impression was that she may have played her own game in encouraging both the South Vietnamese and the Republicans.” She took seriously Nixon’s request that she act as “the sole representative between the Vietnamese government and the Nixon campaign headquarters,”13 and she certainly found other routes of communicating with President Thieu [Nguyen Thieu], including the South Vietnamese Ambassador to Taiwan, who happened to be Thieu’s brother.

What was conveyed to Thieu through the Chennault channel may never be fully known, but there was no doubt that she conveyed a simple and authoritative message from the Nixon camp that was probably decisive in convincing President Thieu to defy President Johnson – then delaying the negotiations and prolonging the war. Rather proudly, she recounted one specific message she received from John Mitchell in the last few days of the campaign. “Anna,” she quotes him as saying, “I’m speaking on behalf of Mr. Nixon, It’s very important that our Vietnamese friends understand our Republican position and I hope you have made clear to them.”14

The activities of the Nixon team went far beyond the bounds of justifiable political combat. It constituted direct interference in the activities of the executive branch and the responsibilities of the Chief Executive, the only people with authority to negotiate on behalf of the nation. The activities of the Nixon campaign constituted a gross, even potentially illegal, interference in the security of the nation by private individuals.

We first became aware of these activities through the normal operations of the intelligence community in the weeks prior to the election. Gradually we realized that President Thieu’s growing resistance to the agreement in Paris was being encouraged, indeed stimulated, by the Republicans, and especially by Anna Chennault, whom we referred to as the “Little Flower.” In total privacy – and, at the President’s direction, without consulting Humphrey [Vice President Hubert Humphrey] – the President, Rusk [Secretary of State Dean Rusk], Rostow [National Security Adviser Walt Rostow], and I discussed what to do about this attempt to thwart the negotiations.

It was an extraordinary dilemma. On one hand, we had positive evidence that the Little Flower and other people speaking for the Republican candidate were encouraging President Thieu to delay the negotiations for political reasons. On the other, the information had been derived from extremely sensitive intelligence operations of the FBI, the CIA, and the National Security Agency; these included surveillance of the Ambassador of our ally, and an American citizen with strong political ties to the Republicans.*

*It should be remembered that the public was considerably more innocent in such matters in the days before the Watergate hearings and the 1974 Senate investigation of the CIA.

In a decision filled with consequences for the election and for history, President Johnson, although furious at Mrs. Chennault, decided not to use the information or make it public in any way. There were several contributing factors to his decision:

  • Underestimation of the damage. Bunker [U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Ellsworth Bunker] continued to predict that Thieu would accept our position within a few days. As a result, the President and Rusk seriously underestimated the harm the Chennault channel caused to the negotiating efforts
  • Weakening of support for Saigon. Johnson and Rusk still worried about losing American support for Thieu if information about his behavior and motives became public. For those who liked irony, there was plenty in Thieu’s defiance of Johnson while the Administration continued to shield him from the wrath of American public opinion. President Johnson had sacrificed his political career as a result of his efforts to save South Vietnam, but as far as Thieu was concerned, Johnson was just a lame duck – the choice was between Humphrey and Nixon.
  • Effect on the negotiations. Rusk was concerned that revealing the Chennault channel would reveal to Hanoi the strains between Saigon and Washington, stiffen Hanoi’s position, and disrupt the negotiations
  • Ambivalence about Hubert Humphrey. Finally, and most important, there was the question of President Johnson’s feelings about Hubert Humphrey. Throughout the campaign, the President treated his Vice President badly, excluding him from National Security Council meetings, and threatening to break with him over the platform plank on Vietnam.15 What mattered to President Johnson at that moment was not who would succeed him, but what his place in history would be.

Characteristically, the generous Humphrey does not even mention the incident in his memoirs,16 even though one of his staff told him about Bui Diem’s efforts on Nixon’s behalf, and he could reasonably have claimed that these events cost him the Presidency.

***

Perhaps in the wake of a decade of post-Watergate revelations about intelligence activities, the decision not to go public may seem fussy and old-fashioned; but whether the President was right or wrong, it was an exceedingly tough call. Had the decision been mine alone to make, I would either have had a private discussion with Nixon, making clear to him that if he did not sent a countervailing signal to Thieu immediately he would face public criticism from the President for interference in the negotiations; or I would have allowed the incident to become public, so that the American public might take it into account in deciding how to vote. Had he been the candidate himself, this is what I believed Lyndon Johnson would have done.

All this raises a critical question: what did Richard Nixon know, and when did he know it? No proof – in the terminology of the Watergate era, no “smoking gun” – has ever turned up linking Nixon directly to the secret messages to Thieu. There are no self-incriminating tapes from the campaign, and the whole incident has been relegated to the status of an unsolved mystery. On the other hand, this chain of events undeniably began in Richard Nixon’s apartment in New York, and his closest adviser, John Mitchell, ran the Chennault channel personally, with full understanding of its sensitivity. Given the importance of these events, I have always thought it was reasonable to assume that Mitchell told Nixon about them, and that Nixon knew, and approved, of what was going on in his name.

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

(Picture of Anna Chennault, from the Papers of Anna Chennault, at the Schlesinger Library.)

The FBI intercept of a conversation between Chennault and an associate in the Nixon campaign, known to Johnson along with a select few others, was a possible smoking gun but one of only many that would be unveiled decades later. The vote in 1968 would take place on November 5th, and though some reporting at the time spoke of the bombing halt and the Peace Talks as a last minute maneuver crafted to swing the election in the favor of Humphrey, the work to implement the talks was on-going for a long time. Nor were the intrigues of Nixon to interfere in the talks a last minute move either, but begun a year before, with Anna Chennault, the woman who would serve as Nixon’s weapon for spoiling the talks, already brought into the fold. Despite its occasional reliance on stereotypes, perhaps the most vivid description of Chennault that I’ve come across is from Theodore White’s The Making of the President 1968, and one of the few contemporary books to devote some investigative space to the episode, which was then only unsubstantiated rumor for those outside the circles of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and their closest intimates, though which White ultimately considers to be only a deadly rumor without proof, and deciding the matter in Nixon’s favor:

There is no way of getting at the dilemma of both parties except by introducing, at this point, the completely extraneous name of a beautiful Oriental lady, Anna Chan Chennault, the Chinese widow of war-time hero General Claire Chennault. Mrs. Chennault, an American citizen since 1950, comes of a line that begins with Mei-ling Soong (Madame Chiang K’ai-shek) and runs through Madame Nhu (the Dragon Lady of South Vietnam) – a line of Oriental ladies of high purpose and authoritarian manners whose pieties and iron righteousness have frequently outrun their brains and acknowledged beauty. In the campaign of 1968, Mrs. Chennault, a lady of charm, energy and great name, had become chairman or co-chairman of several Nixon citizen committees, wearing honorific titles which were borne by many but which she took more seriously than most. In that circle of Oriental diplomacy in Washington once known as the China Lobby, Anna Chennault was hostess-queen. Having raised (by her statement later) some $250 000 for the Nixon campaign, she felt entitled to authority by her achievement. And, having learned of the October negotiations by gossip and rumor and press speculation, as did most Americans, she had undertaken most energetically to sabotage them. In contact with the Formosan, the South Korean and the South Vietnamese governments, she had begun early, by cable and telephone, to mobilize their resistance to the agreement – apparently implying, as she went, that she spoke for the Nixon campaign.

Summers, who would interview Chennault for his book, would give a more in-depth account of the background between the intertwining of Chennault and Nixon in the year before the election:

The intrigues of 1968 really began the previous year. While Chennault was traveling in Asia, she received a spate of telegrams asking her to visit Nixon in New York. Robert Hill, a Republican foreign policy specialist, met her at the airport and escorted her to Nixon’s Fifth Avenue apartment. While Hill waited in another room, Nixon introduced her to John Mitchell.

Chennault agreed that day to provide Nixon with advice on Vietnam in the coming months, working through Hill and Texas Senator John Tower. “When we do things,” Nixon told her as the meeting ended, “it’ll be better to keep it secret.” He seemed even then, Chennault recalled, “conspiratorial.”

In July the following year, as the election drew nearer, Chennault went to the Nixon apartment with South Vietnam’s ambassador Bui Diem-a visit documented by both their diaries. A surviving internal staff memo addressed to “DC,” Nixon’s campaign pseudonym, pointed out that it “would have to be absolute [sic] top secret.” “Should be,” Nixon replied in a scrawled notation, “but I don’t see how-with the S.S. [Secret Service] If it can be [secret] RN would like to see. . . .”

Nixon had told Chennault he wanted to “end this war with victory,” a sentiment he now always repeated at the meeting with her and Bui Diem. “If I should be elected the next President,” Chennault recalled his telling Bui Diem, “you can rest assured I will have a meeting with your leader and find a solution to winning this war.” Nixon had met with Thieu in Saigon the previous year. Now, he told Thieu’s ambassador that Chennault was to be “the only contact between myself and your government. If you have any message for me, please give it to Anna, and she will relay it to me, and I will do the same. . . .”

According to Chennault, she met more than once that year with President Thieu in Saigon. He complained about the pressure the Johnson administration was putting on him to attend peace talks and told her: “I would much prefer to have the peace talks after your elections.” He asked her to “convey this message to your candidate.” She did. From time to time President Thieu also sent her word through Ambassador Diem. He also used other messengers, including a colonel on his military staff, apparently because he did not entirely trust his own ambassador.22

In the weeks that followed Chennault had several more meetings with Nixon and Mitchell in New York. They told her to inform Saigon that were Nixon to become president, South Vietnam would get “a better deal.” “The message,” she told the author, “was relayed.”

Asked if Nixon and Mitchell were trying to cut a deal to help win the election, Chennault nodded. “They worked out this deal to win the campaign,” she said. “Power overpowers all reason.”

“It was all very, very confidential,” in Chennault’s description. The air of intrigue was pervasive. At the July meeting Bui Diem remembered, Mitchell had been “silent, didn’t say a word.” Chennault noted that he worried constantly about wiretapping and kept changing his private telephone number. Chennault meanwhile told Nixon she could always be reached through Robert Hill, the party official who had arranged the first meeting, Rose Woods, or another prominent Republican, Patricia Hitt.

This allegation was related by Chennault to Summers, but as well to veteran political correspondent Jules Witcover, which he describes in his memoir, The Making of an Ink-Stained Wretch: Half a Century Pounding the Political Beat. The relevant fragment2:

Much later also, I tracked down Anna Chennault at a small office she kept in Georgetown, and while saying she could not talk because she was writing a book of her own (yet to appear), she insisted she had acted under instructions from the Nixon campaign in contacting the Saigon regime. “The only people who knew about the whole operation,” she told me, “were Nixon, John Mitchell [Nixon’s campaign manager] and John Tower [senator from Texas and Nixon campaign figure], and they’re all dead. But they knew what I was doing. Anyone who knows about these things knows I was getting orders to do these things. I couldn’t do anything without instructions.”

The introduction of Chennault to ambassador Bui Diem is described in another book, The President’s Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, which devotes a chapter titled “This is Treason!” to the backchannel:

Nixon was not a man to take chances. He knew how much he stood to lose if Johnson succeeded in the Paris peace talks. “If there’s war, people will vote for me to end it,” he told his aides. “If there’s peace, they’ll vote their pocketbooks – Democratic prosperity.”

And so he took out some insurance. He needed to know what Johnson was offering Hanoi, how he was selling it to Saigon, and whether, after all this time, all this trouble, the way out of this benighted war might open up just in time for election day.

Anna Chennault was the cochair of Republican Women for Nixon. The Chinese-born widow of General Claire Chennault, who commanded the Flying Tigers in China in World War II, she was petite, striking, and at forty-three nicknamed the “Little Flower” or, alternatively, the “Dragon Lady.” She and Nixon had met in 1954, when he made a vice presidential trip to Taiwan. She was close to President Thieu’s brother, Nguyen Van Kieu. On July 12, Chennault and South Vietnamese ambassador Bui Diem, a popular, affable, and extremely well-connected diplomat, met with Nixon and his campaign manager, John Mitchell, in Nixon’s New York apartment. According to Diem’s account, the purpose was to open a secret back channel between the Nixon campaign and Saigon.

“Anna is my good friend,” Nixon told the Diem. “She knows all about Asia. I know you also consider her a friend, so please rely on her from now on as the only contact between myself and your government.” If you have a message, send it through her, and he would do the same, Nixon said. “We know Anna is a good American and a dedicated Republican. We can all rely on her loyalty.” He promised to make Vietnam a top priority if he won, “and to see that Vietnam gets better treatment from me than under the Democrats.”

Thus had Nixon put in place a way for him to send his own messages, apply his own pressure, make his own promises to Saigon, while staying on top of Johnson’s moves.

There is the possibility that even at this early point, Chennault’s interference may have been discovered, without it necessarily being connected to Nixon. The possibility exists, accompanied by all these uncertainties, because at a later date many of the documents that resulted from the surveillance of Chennault were collected, declassified, and made public. One document, however, commissioned in August 3rd, 1968, by Bromley Smith, a national security aide in the Johnson administration, remains entirely redacted. It no doubt has something to do with the Paris peace talks and Chennault, but anything else can only be guessed at. Here is all of the text that is public at this time3:

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

RECEIVED WASHINGTON COMCENTER
5:33 P.M. SATURDAY AUG 68

RECEIVED: LBJ RANCH COMCENTER
5:05 P.M. SATURDAY 3 AUG 68

TOP SECRET

SENSITIVE

SANITIZED

Z E V
EEA973
00 WTE10
DE WTE 2975

FROM BROMLEY SMITH
TO THE PRESIDENT
CITE CAP81797

T O P S E C R E T SENSITIVE

[REDACTED]

SANITIZED
E.O. 13526 Sec. 3.5
NLJ 10-96
By isl NARA, Date 1-10-11

At the same time that Nixon was using Chennault as an active intermediary with Ambassador Bui Diem and the South Vietnamese, he was being given top secret briefings on the diplomatic negotiations taking place between the Administration and both sides of the civil war. We have a quote from a Nixon ad man when Gloria Steinem profiled the 1968 Nixon campaign, made on September 20th of that year. Had Nixon’s attitude toward Communism changed over the years?, asked Steinem. “Oh no, absolutely not,” replies the ad man. “He understands those people. He knows you have to be tough or they’ll take us over. You see, I have some special knowledge – though, of course, Mr. Nixon has more. I happen to know he’s had top secret briefings – but I have some knowledge from old friends in the military. They come back and tell me the way it really is. If we don’t stop the Chinese here, they’ll keep right on going. Of course, he can’t say anything about Vietnam because it might interfere with the talks in Paris. Mr. Nixon’s a man of real integrity-he won’t take advantage of his special knowledge if it would help Ho Chi Minh, But he knows the enemy, and he knows they hope to win because of all these misguided sympathizers pressuring us here. I’m for him because he won’t let that happen.”4

This would lead up to a conference call between Johnson and the candidates on October 16th, a little more than two weeks before the election, where he would brief them on the negotiations taking place. Thanks to the declassification of these recordings, we now know what was said on the call. From here on, I divide the narrative of this crucial narrative of 1968 by date.

OCTOBER 16, 1968

The audio from the following call, along with its transcript, is available at the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Program, record “WH6810-04-13547-13548”. The call took place between 11:41am and 11:57am, between Johnson, Republican candidate Richard Nixon, Democrat Hubert Humphrey, and George Wallace, former Democrat, segregationist, and candidate for the American Independent Party. The following are excerpts where Johnson makes clear the importance of maintaining secrecy over the negotiations, and the candidates not making any counter-offers in public speeches, as this would jeopardize negotiations5:

(A clip on youtube of the audio of this phone call in its entirety, with accompanying transcript.)

From “Lyndon Johnson and presidential candidates conference call” (1:34-5:23):

JOHNSON
This is in absolute confidence because any statement or any speeches or any comments at this time referring to the substance of these matters will be injurious to your country. I don’t think there’s any question about that.

First, I want to say this: That our position, the government position, today is exactly what it was the last time all three of you were briefed. That position namely is this: We are anxious to stop the bombing [of North Vietnam] and would be willing to stop the bombing if they would sit down with us with the Government of [South] Vietnam present and have productive discussions. We have told them that we did not think we could have discussions if, while we were talking, they were shelling the cities or if they were abusing the DMZ [Demilitarized Zone]. From time to time, beginning back late last Spring, they have nibbled back and forth at these various items. Each time they do, there is a great flurry of excitement. Now, we have been hopeful one day that they would understand this. We don’t want to call it “reciprocity”; we don’t want to call it “conditions,” because they object to using those words, and that just knocks us out of an agreement. But we know that you join us in wanting peace the earliest day we can and to save lives as quickly as we can and as many as we can. So, one day we’re hopeful, and the next day we’re very disillusioned.

Now, as of today they have not signed on and agreed to the proposition which I have outlined to you, nor have they indicated that this would be a satisfactory situation to them in its entirety. Our negotiators are back and forth talking to them, and they have just finished their meeting in Paris this morning. But, yesterday in Saigon, because there are exchanges constantly going on, there came out a report that there was an agreement that would be announced at a specific hour. This morning in Paris the same thing happened, and [Averell] Harriman had to knock that down. We posted a notice here at the White House that said the same thing.

Now, very frankly, we would hope that we could have a minimum of discussion in the newspapers about these conferences, because we’re not going to get peace with public speeches, and we’re not going to get peace through the newspapers. We can get it only when they understand that our position is a firm one, and we’re going to stay by it. And what you all’s position will be when you get to be President, I would hope you could announce then. Because we have really this kind of a situation. If I’ve got a house to sell, and I put a rock bottom price of $40,000 on it, and the prospective purchaser says, “Well, that’s a little high, but let me see.” And he goes–starts to leave to talk to his wife about it, and [First Lady] Lady Bird [Johnson] whispers that, “I would let you have it for $35,000.” And then he gets downstairs, and Lynda Bird [Johnson] says, “We don’t like the old house anyway, and we get it $30,000.” Well, he’s not likely to sign up.

The three things that Johnson is demanding as necessary from North Vietnam is that there be no shelling of the cities of South Vietnam, no crossing of the DMZ separating the two sides of the country, and that the elected government of South Vietnam, the GVN, be at the table. These are the three things he refers to in the next excerpt, where all three candidates affirm their agreement on the need for secrecy and non-interference with the diplomatic negotiations.

From “Lyndon Johnson and presidential candidates conference call” (6:03-7:57):

JOHNSON
Now, we do not have to get a firm contract on all these three things. But I do have to have good reason to believe that it won’t be on-again-off-again Flanagan; that I won’t have to stop the bombing one day and start it the next. Now, obviously, they can deceive me, and we know that in dealing with the Communists that they frequently do that. We have had a good many experiences of that right in these negotiations.

But what I called you for was to say in substance this: our position has not changed. I do not plan to see a change. I have not issued any such orders. I will con–I will talk to each of you before I do, and all of you on an equal basis. I know you don’t want to play politics with your country. I’m trying to tell you what my judgment is about how not to play politics with it. And I know all of you want peace at the earliest possible moment. And I would just express the hope that you be awfully sure what you’re talking about before you get into the intricacies of these negotiations. Over. Now, I’ll be glad to have any comment any of you want to make or answer any questions.

HUMPHREY
No comment, Mr. President. Thank you very much.

NIXON
Yep. Well, as you know, my–this is consistent with what my position has been all along. I’ve made it very clear that I will make no statement that would undercut the negotiations. So we’ll just stay right on there and hope that this thing works out.

JOHNSON
George, are you on?

WALLACE
Yes, sir, Mr. President, and of course, that’s my position all along, too–is the position you stated, yes, sir. And I agree with you that we shouldn’t play any politics with this matter so that it might foul up the negotiations in any manner.

Though he gave his assent in the phone call, Nixon actually had a very different attitude which he was fully open about a few years later. He would also reveal that he knew in advance of the eventual bombing halt on October 31st, through a mole in the negotiating team: Henry Kissinger. It was his involvement which brought this scandal into the purview of Hitchens’ book, and it is in The Trial of Henry Kissinger that the reader can find out where this source is revealed: from the memoirs of the capo di tutti capi himself, Richard Nixon. From Trial:

There had to be secret communications between Nixon and the South Vietnamese, as we have seen. But there also had to be an informant inside the incumbent administration’s camp – a source of hints and tips and early warnings of official intentions. That informant was Henry Kissinger. In Nixon’s own account, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, the disgraced elder statesman tells us that, in mid-September 1968, he received private word of a planned “bombing halt.” In other words, the Johnson administration would, for the sake of the negotiations, consider suspending its aerial bombardment of North Vietnam. This most useful advance intelligence, Nixon tells us, came “through a highly unusual channel.” It was more unusual even than he acknowledged. Kissinger had until then been a devoted partisan of Nelson Rockefeller, the matchlessly wealthy prince of liberal Republicanism. His contempt for the person and the policies of Richard Nixon was undisguised. Indeed, President Johnson’s Paris negotiators, led by Averell Harriman, considered Kissinger to be almost one of themselves. He had made himself helpful, as Rockefeller’s chief foreign policy advisor, by supplying French intermediaries with their own contacts in Hanoi. “Henry was the only person outside of the government we were authorized to discuss the negotiations with,” says Richard Holbrooke. “We trusted him. It is not stretching the truth to say that the Nixon campaign had a secret source within the US negotiating team.”

Though Nixon is very opaque if not rankly dishonest about many parts of this episode in his memoir, never mentioning Chennault or his successful attempt to spoil the peace talks, he is explicit and up front over the use of Kissinger to hand over information. He is equally explicit in his true reaction to the eventual halt: “anger and frustration” at what must be an attempt by Johnson to win the election for Humphrey. Nixon describes the secret diplomatic channel from the starting point of Johnson calling him on October 31st to let him know of the announcement that night of the bombing halt, then moves back to September when he first began using Kissinger to get information on the peace talks, and I follow the excerpt up until the conference call of October 16th:

More than anything else, Humphrey had Lyndon Johnson to thank for the eleventh-hour masterstroke that almost won him the election.

On October 31 I was to address a nationally televised rally at Madison Square Garden in New York. I set aside a couple of quiet hours in the afternoon, and I was sitting in my study at home making notes for the speech later that evening when the telephone rang. It was a White House operator: the President was placing a conference call to Humphrey, Wallace, and me. A moment later Lyndon Johnson was on the line.

He got right to the point. There had been a breakthrough in Paris, he said, and after wide consultations among his advisers, he had decided to call a total bombing halt over North Vietnam. He would make the announcement on television in two hours. As Johnson went one, I thought to myself that whatever this meant to North Vietnam, he had just dropped a pretty good bomb in the middle of my campaign.

Johnson said, rather defensively, “I’m not concerned with an election. You all are concerned with an election. I don’t think this concerns an election. I think all of you want the same thing. So I thought if I laid it on the line that way, and presented it to you, you would at least have a complete, full understanding of all the facts.”

Johnson explained that he had not been able to persuade Saigon to agree to the provisions of the bombing halt, so that South Vietnam would not be joining in the announcement.

When Johnson finished, and we had asked some perfunctory questions, George Wallace said, “I’m praying for you.”

Humphrey said, “I’m backing you up, Mr. President.”

I thanked Johnson for making the call and seconded Humphrey’s pledge of support.

The telephone call over, I could feel my anger and frustration welling up. Johnson was making the one move that I thought could determine the outcome of the election. Had I done all this work and come all this way only to be undermined by the powers of an incumbent who had decided against seeking re-election?

I remembered how categorical Johnson had been at our briefing earlier that summer. Then he had been contemptuous of those who wanted a bombing halt, and his arms had sliced the air as he insisted that he was not going to let one ammunition truck pass freely into South Vietnam carrying the weapons to kill American boys.

In fact, the bombing halt came as no real surprise to me. I had known for several weeks that plans were being made for such an action; the announcement was the other shoe that I had been waiting for Johnson to drop. What I found difficult to accept was the timing. Announcing the halt so close to the election was utterly callous if politically calculated, and utterly naive if sincere.

I had learned of the plan through a highly unusual channel. It began on September 12, when Haldeman brought me a report from John Mitchell that Rockefeller’s foreign policy adviser, Henry Kissinger, was available to assist us with advice. In 1967 Kissinger had served Johnson as a secret emissary, passing Johnson’s offers for a bombing halt to the North Vietnamese via French intermediaries. At one point Johnson even recommended a direct meeting, but the North Vietnamese were recalcitrant, and the “Kissinger channel” came to an end in October 1967. Kissinger, however, retained the respect of Johnson and his national security advisers, and he continued to have entr&eaute;e into the administration’s foreign policy circles.

I knew that Rockefeller had been offering Kissinger’s assistance and urging that I make use of it ever since the convention. I told Haldeman that Mitchell should continue as liaison with Kissinger and that we should honor his desire to keep his role completely confidential.

Two weeks after his first meeting with Mitchell, Kissinger called again. He said that he had just returned from Paris, where he had packed up word that something big was afoot regarding Vietnam. He advised that if I had to say anything about Vietnam during the following week, I should avoid any new ideas or proposals. Kissinger was completely circumspect in the advice he gave us during the campaign. If he was privy to the details of negotiations, he did not reveal them to us. He considered it proper and responsible, however, to warn me against making any statements that might be undercut by negotiations I was not aware of.

I asked Haldeman to have Bryce Harlow call the Republican Senate Minority Leader, Everett Dirksen. “Have Ev tell Lyndon that I have a message from Paris,” I suggested. “Leave the hint that I know what’s going on, and tell Ev to nail Lyndon hard to find out what’s happening.”

I also told Haldeman to have Agnew ask Dean Rusk whether there was anything to “rumors” we had heard.

That same day I sent a memo to my key staffers and writers ordering them to put the Vietnam monkey on Humphrey’s back, not Johnson’s. I wanted to make it clear that I thought it was Humphrey rather than the President who was playing politics with the war.

A few days later Haldeman sent me a memorandum with more information from Kissinger to Mitchell.

Our source feels that there is a better than even chance that Johnson will order a bombing halt at approximately mid-October. This will be tied in with a big flurry of diplomatic activity in Paris which will have no meaning but will be made to look important.

After covering other diplomatic matters, the memo continued:

Our source does not believe that it is practical to oppose a bombing halt but does feel thought should be given to the fact that it may happen – that we may want to anticipate it – and that we certainly will want to be ready at the time it does happen…

Our source is extremely concerned about the moves Johnson may take and expects that he will take some action before the election.

That same day I learned that Dean Rusk had reassured Agnew that there were no new developments and that the administration would not “cut our legs off” with an announcement in October. If there were any change, he said, Johnson would call me right away. Rusk did say, however, that although there was nothing currently planned, the situation was “fast-changing.”

On October 9, the North Vietnamese in Paris publicly called on Johnson to stop the bombing while he still had the power to do so. Johnson, of course, knew what the public did not know: secret negotiations for a bombing halt were already taking place.

Three days later we received another secret report from Kissinger saying that there was a strong possibility that the administration would move before October 23. Kissinger strongly recommended that I avoid making any statements about Humphrey’s hurting the prospects of peace. Rather cryptically, Kissinger strongly reported that there was “more to this than meets the eye.” I thought that this report from Kissinger was uncomfortably vague. Why was he trying to get me to avoid making statements about Vietnam and why was he so insistent about laying off Humphrey? One factor that had most convinced me of Kissinger’s credibility was the length to which he went to protect his secrecy. But what if Johnson’s people knew that he was passing information to me and were feeding him phony stories? In such a tense political and diplomatic atmosphere, I was no longer sure of anything.

Over the next few days rumors became rampant that something big was about to happen in Paris. Reporters demanded to know what was happening, and in response to their questions, the White House press office released a statement that there were no breakthroughs in Paris and no change in the situation.

I was campaigning in Missouri on October 16 when word arrived from the White House that Johnson wanted to clarify matters with a conference call to all three candidates. When the call came, I was in Kansas City’s Union Station, about to address a large rally in the main waiting room. I took his call in a tiny room behind the platform. The “room” was like a telephone booth with a glass door. Throughout our conversation people wandered by, staring quizzically at me jammed into this closet.

We had a bad connection, so that I had to strain to make out Johnson’s words. He told us to read his Press Secretary’s statement. There was no breakthrough in Paris. The rumors were wrong. He urged us not to say anything. He said that there had in fact been some movement by Hanoi, but that anything might jeopardize it. I asked for some assurance that he was still insisting on reciprocity from the Communists for any concessions on our part, and Johnson replied that he was maintaining that three points had to be met: (1) Prompt and serious talks must follow any bombing halt; (2) Hanoi must not violate the Demilitarized Zone; and (3) the Vietcong or the North Vietnamese would not carry out large-scale rocket or artillery attacks against South Vietnam’s major cities. If these conditions were fulfilled, of course, I would support whatever arrangements Johnson could work out.

When I saw Johnson that night at the annual Al Smith Dinner in New York, he gave me further assurances that he would not accept any arrangement without reciprocity, and again requested that I be careful about what I had to say on Vietnam. After the dinner, I instructed Haldeman to pass the word that, in view of Johnson’s request, I would not be making any major speeches criticizing the conduct of the war.

Nixon had Kissinger, but he also had other sources to let him know about negotiation developments, channeled through Bryce Harlow, a Nixon campaign aide who would later serve as counselor to the president. Harlow would tell Nixon’s top aide, H. R. Haldeman, that developments were still too confused to know whether there was to be a bombing halt on the morning of October 16th, with no sources named6, along with two notes that expected a bombing halt based on information passed along from Texas Senator John Tower, one of which is the following7:

Agnew thinks something coming – (large?) day
Rusk leaked normal ease
didn’t want it known they talked =
Ottenad has told people
McW [Charlie McWhorter] heard from someone

Bryce thinks this is all smog

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

McWhorter was another Nixon aide; Ottenad was Tom Ottenad, a reporter for the St-Louis Dispatch who, as we’ll see later, was one of the few journalists of the time to look into the possibility that the peace talks had been deliberately sabotaged; Agnew was Spiro Agnew, Nixon’s vice presidential candidate who also, again as we’ll soon see, was the man through whom Anna Chennault would pass information on her attempts to stop the negotiations.

There was also a note from Bryce Harlow on the October 17th, citing a specific source, Rusk’s deputy, Harry W. Shlaudeman8:

October 17, 1968

TO: DC
FROM: Ellsworth

Called Rusk but he had his assistant, Shlaudeman [Harry W. Shlaudeman, Special Assistant to United States Secretary of State], talk to me. Said Rusk had already talked to Agnew. Said Rusk told Agnew the White House statement spoke for itself. Said Rusk emphasized to Agnew that there are a number of essential matters still under negotiation and discussion at Paris, that it is still up to Hanoi, that they are still working at it, that it is hard to predict, and especially emphasized that the President will be in touch with Mr. Nixon if anything important develops.

The “DC” mentioned here and in all other notes was a codename for Richard Nixon9.

That Nixon had another secret source for information about the on-going talks, someone other than Kissinger, someone high up and deep within the Johnson circle – we know this because he refers to him as such in his memoirs. Whether this man was Shlaudeman, Rusk, or someone else is unknown to me. He remains unnamed and I have come across no revelation of his identity in any other source. From RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, nearly a week after Johnson’s October 16 conference call:

On October 22, Bryce Harlow received information from a source whose credibility was beyond question. It was from someone in Johnson’s innermost circle, and, as events turned out, it was entirely accurate. I read Harlow’s memorandum several times, and with each reading I became angrier and more frustrated:

The President is driving exceedingly hard for a deal with North Vietnam. Expectation is that he is becoming almost pathologically eager for an excuse to order a bombing halt and will accept almost any arrangement…

Clark Clifford, [Joseph] Califano, and Llewellyn Thompson are the main participants in this effort. [George] Ball is in also, though somewhat on the fringe.

Careful plans are being made to help HHH exploit whatever happens. White House staff liasion with HHH is close. Plan is for LBJ to make a nationwide TV announcement as quickly as possible after agreement; the object is to get this done as long before November 5 as they can…

White Housers still think they can pull the election out for HHH with this ploy; that’s what is being attempted.

I fired off a battery of orders: have Mitchell check with Kissinger; have Dirksen and Tower blast the moves by the White House; have Dirksen call Johnson and let him know we were on to his plans. I even considered having Harlow fly to Vietnam to talk to General Andrew Goodpaster to get a firsthand military view of the situation there. But I was simply venting my frustration; no matter what I did, Johnson continued to hold the whip hand.

The initial results of my orders raised some doubts about Harlow’s secret source. Kissinger had not heard anything about Johnson’s plan, and when Ev Dirksen confronted Johnson with the rumor, he denied it with a vehemence that convinced even his skeptical old friend. He said that there was nothing new to report from Paris, and he chided Dirksen for being taken in by such obvious rumors at this stage of his life.

During this period, Nixon was not simply receiving information from various sources on the peace talks. From The Arrogance of Power by Anthony Summers, we know from his interviews with Chennault that on the very day that Nixon was pledging fealty to Johnson, he was meeting with Chennault to undermine them:

In the weeks before the election, with growing signs of an impending bombing halt and the acceptance of peace talks, Nixon publicly voiced support for President Johnson. Privately, he admitted years later, he seethed with resentment. Today any objective reading of the notes and minutes of Johnson’s meetings that fall reveals a president sometimes too hesitant in going forward for the taste of his own aides but genuinely devoted to the cause of peace. Nixon, however, was convinced the peace initiative was at least in part a political ploy, designed to swing the election to Humphrey.

Chennault stoked this resentment, apparently flying to Kansas City to meet with Nixon on October 16, the very day that Johnson briefed Nixon and the other candidates on his Vietnam plans, urging discretion in their public statements.23 She bore with her a long written presentation that deplored the rumored bombing halt and recommended a long-term approach to the conflict. The same day Agnew received a briefing on the coming halt, originating with unnamed sources. Two days later Chennault saw the South Vietnamese ambassador again. A few days after that there was another meeting with Mitchell.

She and Mitchell were now in touch by phone almost daily. “Call me from a pay phone. Don’t talk in your office,” he would urge her. When she joked about possible wiretaps, he was not amused. Mitchell’s message, she said, was always the same: If peace talks were announced, it was vital to persuade President Thieu not to take part.

OCTOBER 28, 1968

A reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, Beverly Deepe Keever, who had arrived in Vietnam in 1962 and would stay for the next seven years, would hear of a possible story related to the Peace Talks and notified her editor. She would write of the event thirty five years later in her memoir, Death Zones and Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting (excerpt is taken from a chapter excerpt dealing with the bombing halt, “The Unexploded Election-Eve Bombshell”), and I bold the most important part:

During October 1968, I was busier than usual covering the impact of a talked-about permanent bombing halt, which was Hanoi’s precondition for entering into peace talks with the allies. Most of my dispatches were published on page 1, often leading the Monitor. I interviewed senior military commanders along the DMZ and in Saigon, secured comments from Western diplomats, including one who had recently visited Hanoi, and sought input from other sources who assessed troop movements in Laos. At the same time I was synthesizing reports that Pham Xuan An [a stringer hired to help with oral and written translations] had gleaned from sources inside and outside the palace and the Vietnamese High Command.

Then, out of the blue, I learned of such outlandish rumblings that on October 28 I sent an advisory to the Monitor‘s overseas editor, [Henry S.] “Hank” Hayward: “There’s a report here that Vietnamese Ambassador to Washington Bui Diem has notified the Foreign Ministry that Nixon aides have approached him and told him the Saigon government should hold to a firm position now regarding negotiations and that once Nixon is elected, he’ll back the Thieu government in their demands. If you could track it down with the Nixon camp, it would probably be a very good story.” I was so busy I had no chance to remember my assist eight years earlier in the NBC studios when my boss, Sam Lubell [with whom she had polled voters in key precincts about the 1960 presidential election], had predicted Nixon would lose the presidency to John Kennedy. Now, Nixon was facing Democrat Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who was saddled with President Lyndon Johnson’s increasingly controversial Vietnam policy. I received no response to my cable from Boston.

The National Security Agency (NSA), would make the following summary of Thieu’s public remarks on that day10:

THIEU’S VIEWS ON PEACE TALKS AND BOMBING HALT

XXCC
[REDACTED] 28 OCT 68 [REDACTED]
[REDACTED]
[REDACTED]

SECRET.
((THIS IS)) A SUPPLEMENTARY REPORT ON MR. THIEU’S SPEECH [REDACTED]
[REDACTED]
1. Since the Vietnamese government is ardently laboring [REDACTED] together with the U.S. side to put into practice the items that were naturally agreed upon at the U.S.-Vietnamese Honolulu Summit Conference (19 July), President Thieu emphasized the point that President Johnson must also keep his promises.

((Thieu)) said that it appears that Mr. Nixon will be elected as the next president, and he thinks it would be good to try to solve the important question of the political talks with the next president (no matter who is elected. ((Thieu)) believes that our standpoint should be prepared and strengthened now rather than in the future.

OCTOBER 29, 1968

It’s on this date that we have the event which would trigger the surveillance of Anna Chennault, which would in turn reveal her connection to the Nixon campaign. On the night of October 28th, Eugene Rostow would contact his brother, Walt Rostow, Lyndon Johnson’s National Security Adviser, about a startling piece of information he’d come across. Walt Rostow would ask that his brother dictate what he’d just relayed, so that he might pass on this important information to the president the next day. The following are the related papers, the two documents dictated by Eugene about a stunning discovery and the memo by Walt to the president introducing his brother’s findings, and identifying the source11:

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

October 29, 1968

Last night I received a telephone call from an old friend in New York, a man of experience and a careful and even exact reporter. He said he had attended a working lunch that day with colleagues in Wall Street. Two were men closely involved with Nixon. One of them explained to the group that Nixon was handling the Vietnam peace problem “like another Fortas case.” He was trying to frustrate the President, by inciting Saigon to step up its demands, and by letting Hanoi know that when he took office “he could accept anything and blame it on his predecessor.”

E. V. Rostow

The “Fortas case” refers to Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas, who was nominated to be chief justice in 1968, but whose confirmation was filibustered to prevent the confirmation, with Fortas eventually withdrawing his nomination. Nixon would appoint Warren Burger as Chief Justice after his election in 1968.

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Oct. 29, 1968

Walt:

I had a further talk with my informant about the luncheon conversation he attended yesterday.

The man who spoke was a member of the banking community, a colleague, a man he has known for many years, and one in whose honesty he has absolute confidence. The speaker is reputed to be very close to Nixon — as close as Gabriel Hauge (it was not Hauge). (He feels he cannot give me his name.)

The conversation was in the context of a professional discussion about the future of the financial markets in the near term.

The speaker said he thought the prospects for a bombing halt or a cease-fire were dim, because Nixon was playing the problem as he did the Fortas affair — to block. He was taking public positions intended to achieve that end. They would incite Saigon to be difficult, and Hanoi to wait.

Part of his strategy was an expectation that an offensive would break out soon, that we would have to spend a great deal more (and incur more casualties) — a fact which would adversely affect the stock market and the bond market. NVN [North Vietnamese] offensive action was a definite element in their thinking about the future.

These difficulties would make it easier for Nixon to settle after January. Like Ike in 1953, he would be able to settle on terms which the President could not accept, blaming the deterioration of the situation between now and January or February on his predecessor.

Gene

In this cover letter, Walt Rostow reveals the name of the source: Alexander Sachs.

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Tuesday, October 29, 1968
6:00 a.m.

Mr. President:

I just called Gene and asked him to dictate to Miss Nivens what he told me last night. Here it is.

I asked him to go back to Alexander Sachs and see how much further detail he can get on the people involved and how close, in fact, they are to Nixon.

W.W. Rostow

After the election, in a report he compiled on the scandal, Walt Rostow would relate the surrounding events of these revelations12:

From October 17 to October 29 we received diplomatic intelligence of Saigon’s uneasiness with the apparent break in Hanoi’s position on a total bombing cessation and with the Johnson Administration’s apparent willingness to go forward. This was an interval, however, when Hanoi backed away from the diplomatic breakthrough of the second week of October. Only towards the end of the month was the agreement with Hanoi re-established. As late as October 28, Thieu, despite the uneasiness of which we were aware, told Amb. Bunker [U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ellsworth Bunker] he would proceed, as he had agreed about two weeks earlier. [REDACTED]

In the early morning hours of October 29 the President and his advisers met with Abrams [The American commander in Vietnam, General Creighton W. Abrams]. Before going to that meeting, I was telephoned at home by my brother, Eugene Rostow. He reported the first of his messages from New York on Republican strategy — from Alexander Sachs.

During the meeting with Abrams word came from Bunker of Thieu’s sudden intransigence. The diplomatic information previously received plus the information from New York took on new and serious significance.

President Johnson, in the course of October 29, instructed Bromley Smith, Executive Secretary of the National Security Council, to get in touch with the Deputy Director of the FBI, Deke DeLoach and arrange that contacts by Americans with the South Vietnamese Embassy in Washington be monitored.

OCTOBER 30, 1968

Deputy Director of the FBI, Cartha “Deke” DeLoach would send the following report to Johnson, a result of surveillance of the Vietnamese embassy13:

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

SECRET/SENSITIVE

October 30, 1968

Following from Deke DeLoach:

Early this morning, approximately 7:45 A.M., Ambassador Bui Diem of the Vietnamese Embassy was contacted by a woman who did not identify herself but whom he seemed to recognize by voice. The FBI believes this woman to be possibly Anna Chenault [sic], widow of General Clare [sic] Chenault [sic]. The woman commented that she did not have an opportunity to talk with the Ambassador on 10/29/68 inasmuch as there were so many people around. However, she thought that perhaps the Ambassador would have some more information this morning. The woman then asked what the situation is. The Ambassador responded that “just among us” that he could not go into specifics on the telephone but something “is cooking.” The woman then asked if Thailand is going to be the representative of both South Vietnam and the Viet Cong to which the Ambassador responded “no, nothing of this sort yet.” The Ambassador then suggested that if the woman had time today she should drop by and talk with him as time is running short. She replied that she would drop by after the luncheon for Mrs. Agnew today.

After receiving this, Johnson would contact his friend Georgia Senator Richard Russell at 10:25 A.M., and explain the problem14:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of this phone call in its entirety.)

From “Phone call between Lyndon Johnson and Georgia Senator Richard Russell” (0:10-1:51):

JOHNSON
How are you, my friend?

RUSSELL
Good. I’m sorry about the phone being off the hook upstairs. Everybody’s running around trying to fix it, and yesterday the phone was (inaudible) somebody’s listening.

JOHNSON
Got some kids. I understand you got some children in the house.

RUSSELL
No no.

JOHNSON
Every phone’s off the hook at my place when I got that sixteen month grandson. He’s a mechanic. He works on it all the time.

RUSSELL
He’s got an inquiring mind. Goes into things. See what it’s about.

JOHNSON
Well, I’ve got one this morning 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-our allies and the others. 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. Watch Yalta, and Potsdam, and two Berlins, and everything. And they’re [the Johnson administration] going to recognize the NLF. I [Nixon] don’t have to do that. You better not give away your liberty just a few hours before I can preserve it for you.”

One or two of his business friends divulged it first a couple of days ago, about the time he [Nixon] made the statement that he had rumors that the staff was selling out, but he did not include me in it. You saw that, didn’t you?

The “California friend” is, of course, Richard Nixon.

From “Phone call between Lyndon Johnson and Georgia Senator Richard Russell” (2:56-4:41):

JOHNSON
The next thing that we got our teeth in was one of his associates-a fellow named [John] Mitchell, who is running his campaign, who’s the real Sherman Adams [Eisenhower’s chief of staff] of the operation, in effect said to a businessman that “we’re going to handle this like we handled the Fortas matter, unquote. We’re going to frustrate the President by saying to the South Vietnamese, and the Koreans, and the Thailanders [sic], ‘Beware of Johnson.'”

“At the same time, we’re going to say to Hanoi, ‘I [Nixon] can make a better deal than he [Johnson] has, because I’m fresh and new, and I don’t have to demand as much as he does in the light of past positions.”

Now, when we got that, pure by accident, as a result of some of our Wall Street connections, that caused me to look a little deeper.

RUSSELL
I guess so.

JOHNSON
And I have means of doing that, as you may well imagine.

RUSSELL
Yes.

JOHNSON
And…Mrs. [Anna] Chennault is contacting their [South Vietnamese] ambassador from time to time-seems to be kind of the go-between, the Chiang Kai-Shek deal. In addition, their ambassador is saying to ’em that “Johnson is desperate and is just moving heaven and earth to elect Humphrey, so don’t you get sucked in on that.” He is kind of these folks’ agent here, this little South Vietnamese ambassador.

Now, this is not guesswork.

The “means of doing that” are, obviously, the various intelligence agencies.

From “Phone call between Lyndon Johnson and Georgia Senator Richard Russell” (5:00-8:21):

JOHNSON
Mrs. Chennault, you know, of the Flying Tigers.

RUSSELL
I know Mrs. Chennault.

JOHNSON
She’s young and attractive. I mean, she’s a pretty good-looking girl.

RUSSELL
She certainly is.

JOHNSON
And she’s around town. And she is warning them to not get pulled in on this Johnson move.

Then he [the ambassador], in turn, is warning his government. Then we, in turn, know pretty well what he [Thieu] is saying out there. So he is saying that well, he’s got to play it for time, and get it by the next few days. Now, the Soviets are climbing the wall, and Hanoi is, and of course our people in Paris are, because they have agreed that they will let the GVN come to the table. That has been the thing we have insisted on. They have met our demands. The Soviets have said that we understand that we’re gonna resume if they violate the DMZ and we can see that immediately after we make the announcement whether they are or not. We have reserved the right for reconnaissance and we have made it clear it’s an act of force, and not an act of war, in our announcement. And we got South Vietnam, and all the allies aboard on a one day. We announce it one day and we meet the next. But Hanoi wanted more time, so they demanded a couple of weeks, and then ten days, and then a week, and we wouldn’t do it, because we thought that Saigon couldn’t stand to wait that long between the time of the announcement and the time of the meeting. So we have insisted on one day because Hanoi had said productive discussions could begin the next day. So, we took them at their word. About that time, Humphrey made a fool speech in which he said that he would stop the bombing without a comma or a semicolon, he’d just make it period.

RUSSELL
Well, that’d kill the whole thing.

JOHNSON
Well, it did for ten days, and then Bundy made a fool speech. And they all of them had to dissect that and take it- (inaudible) Yes yes, the Adlai Stevenson group and they just get the tail of the dashboard right at the right time, they do the wrong thing, every time. But we wore that out, we got it back on the track. And in getting it back on the track, meantime, Nixon gets scared to death, so he gets into the thing. And it gets off the track at the other place. Now, everybody had approved the one day thing. Then they came along and approved the three day thing, and they actually got down to the wording of the announcement, a joint announcement to be made by the two of us. And it was all agreed upon, all satisfactory, and then Nixon gets on and says no use selling out now, just wait a few days. And you can’t trust Johnson, may want to, really he’s gonna pet the North Vietnamese, NLF, on the back, just like Roosevelt did to Russia. And that scares them.

OCTOBER 31, 1968

On 4:10 pm, Johnson would call Everett Dirksen, Republican Senator for Illinois, and explain to him that he’d uncovered Anna Chennault attempting to spoil the peace talk negotiations through the promise that the South Vietnamese would get a better deal with Nixon. The language is colorful, and though the transcript is my own and there may be errors, the sense is still very clear that Johnson is very upset and deeply disturbed by what is taking place. I give the most relevant excerpts15:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of this phone call in its entirety.)

From “Lyndon Johnson Everett Dirksen phone call October 31 1968” (0:34-5:40):

JOHNSON
Everett, we have said to the…first of all, I cannot tell you this, that’s gonna be quoted. Because I can’t tell the candidates, and I can’t tell anybody else. I haven’t talked to a human. I want to comply with it, trust, but I sure don’t want it told to a human.

DIRKSEN
I give you my solemn word.

JOHNSON
Alright. The situation is this: since September of last year, we have told Hanoi that we would stop the bombing. We’re anxious to stop it. When they would engage in, these are the keywords, prompt, productive discussions that they would not take advantage of. That is September. March 31st I came to the conclusion that no living man can run for office and be a candidate, and have them all shooting at him, and keep this war out of politics, and get peace. So I concluded, that I should not run because I’d just prolong the war by doing it. So I said then, we’re stopping the bombing in ninety percent, we will stop it in the rest. If there can be any indication that’ll not cost us additional lives. We got, just a lot of procrastination, up until October. During October, they started asking questions what did I mean by prompt, and what did I mean by productive. Now, the facts of life are, they tried two offensives in May and August and they got very severe setbacks. The facts are that they’ve had thirty thousand forty thousand leave the country to re-fit. The facts are that they’re not doing at all well. But they can continue to supply what they need for a very long time. But in October we started getting these nibbles. What did the president mean? What did he say when he said he had to have prompt and productive, not take advantage. We said, that we would consider productive if the GVN had to be present. They said they were just generals and stooges, and satellites, and Johnson put them in, always saying they would never sit down with those traitors. We said, you’ve got to sit down with them, before we can ever work out the future. We can’t settle the future of South Vietnam without them being present. We’re not going to pull a Hitler-Chamberlin deal. They said they would never do it. So, on October 7th or the 11th, I’ve forgotten, they said, “Well now, what else, is that all the president wants? If we would sit down with the GVN, what would he do?”

Now, they made no commitment, they didn’t indicate they accepted, they just asked the question. But, you know, in trading, when a fellow says how much would you take for that horse, you kinda think that means something. So, we followed it up, and we said, “No, we don’t want to limit ourselves. The GVN’s got to be present, and we’ve got to have productive discussions, and we think they could be productive, if they were present. But we can’t have a (pamajon?) and say we’ll do that, and say we’ll meet a year from now. It’s got to be a prompt meeting, a week, two weeks, three weeks, something like that. So, they said, “Well, if we could work everything out, we could meet the next day.” So, we came back the next day, and said, if you let the GVN come in, and we’ll meet the next day, we would like to take that up with our government. (coughs) They said, “Well, what else do you want? Is that all?” Right off that, [Averell] Harriman said, “No, these are facts of life. We know you’re not going to sell out, and engage in reciprocity, and you’re not going to accept conditions, and your pride, and your asiatic face will not let you do that. You’ve got to save face, we understand that. But we could not sit at a conference table if you were shelling the cities.” In other words, if I were talking to Dirksen in my living room, and my son was raping his wife, he’d have to get up and leave, quit trading, and run and protect her. So, we just could not sit there, if you were shelling the cities. Nor could we sit there, and have a productive discussion if you were abusing the DMZ.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

From “Lyndon Johnson Everett Dirksen phone call October 31 1968” (7:51-11:05):

JOHNSON
And we told them all that. Told the Russians, if that gets into the paper, the deal’s off. That’s why you cannot say this to anybody, it’s gonna get in the paper. Because these folks are the most sensitive people in the world. But, we have said this, and about that time, some of Mr. Nixon’s people come in and tell both sides, “I have information about who you had a glass of beer with last night, you don’t know it, but I do.” And we have ways and means, you get my point, don’t you? You have ways and means of knowing what’s going on in the country. We know what Thieu says, when he talks out in Vietnam, we know what happens here. And some of Mr. Nixon’s people are getting a little unbalanced, and unfrightened, like Hubert did, when he said, no comma, no period. Like Bundy did. About the time you called me last week, they started going into the South Vietnamese embassy and also, sending some word to Hanoi. Which has prolonged this thing, a good deal. The net of it is despicable and if it were made public, I think it would rock the nation. But the net of it was, that if they just hold out a little bit longer, that he’s [Nixon] a lot more sympathetic and he could kinda, do better business with him than they can with their present President. And, in Hanoi, they’ve been saying that, well, if you won’t settle this thing, I’m not bound by all these things. So, I haven’t had this record, and I could make a little better deal with you. There. I rather doubt Nixon has done any of this. But there’s no question what folks for him are doing it. And very frankly, we’re reading some of the things that are happening. So, as a consequence, while Thieu and all of our allies are ready to go on a bombing ceasefire, cessation, it just may be temporary, we might be back on it in the next day, if they don’t follow these two things, if they violate the DMZ, or if they shell the cities. We could stop the killing out there, we could get everything we asked for, the GVN in there, but: they got this question, this new formula put in there. Namely: wait on Nixon. And they’re killing four, five hundred every day, waiting on Nixon.

Now, these folks I doubt are authorized to speak for Nixon, but they’re going in there, and they range all the way from attractive women to old line China lobbyists. And some people, pretty close to him in the business world. I was shocked when I looked at the reports. And I’ve got them. And so forth.

From “Lyndon Johnson Everett Dirksen phone call October 31 1968” (19:52-20:33):

Now, I’ve been at this five years, and if I don’t wanna sell my country out, I’d have sold it out five months ago and gone on, run for president and got this war behind us, then got me re-elected. But I am a conscientious, earnest fella trying to do a job. And I’m gonna do it. I get peace at four o’clock Saturday noon, I’m damn sure gonna get it, come hell or high water, and woebe onto the guy who says you oughta keep on killing. But I really think it’s a little dirty pool for Dick’s people to be messing with the South Vietnamese ambassador and carrying messages around for both of them. And I don’t think people would approve of it if it were known. So, that’s why I’m afraid to talk.

From “Lyndon Johnson Everett Dirksen phone call October 31 1968” (21:56-24:03):

I don’t see it making any difference in the political campaign ’cause first of all, conference won’t happen till it’s over with, I think I’d be glad to say that all the candidates have a, co-operate with me and we oughta have one voice in foreign affairs. And while they criticize my conduct of the war, they have never told the enemy that he’d get a better deal. But this last few days, Dick is getting just a little bit shakey, and he’s pissing on the fire a little. Now, you oughta guide him just a little bit, because they’re not running against me, I’m not gonna be here, you’re gonna be my senator, and you’re gonna represent me, and whatever I want done, I’m gonna be down at Purnell. But he oughta go back to that old (inaudible), say…as a matter of fact, we have a transcript where one of his partners said he’s gonna play this one just like Fortas. He’s gonna take the Republicans and the Southerners and he’s gonna frustrate the President by telling South Vietnamese, just wait a few more days and he’s not connected to this war, he can make a better peace for them. And by telling Hanoi, that he isn’t running this war, didn’t get them into it, be a lot more considerate of them than I can, because I’m pretty inflexible, calling them sonsofbitches. Now, that’s not very easy to work under those conditions. Anymore than it is, when Hubert says he’ll stop the bombing without a comma semicolon but period. They neither one of them got a damn thing to do with it between now and January the 20th. And I’m gonna stop the earliest second I can. And I can stop it for nothing if I want to, I have five times before. But I’m not gonna stop it unless they agree the GVN will be at that table.

What is crucial to see here is the focus on the negotiations themselves. He takes issue with what Nixon or Nixon’s people are doing, but he also criticizes Humphrey for making declaring that he’ll end the bombing without conditions. Both of these things are making it more difficult to set up a peace conference, a conference which he emphasizes will take place after the election. If he’d simply wished to win another term, Johnson says he would have ended the bombing a long time ago: “Now, I’ve been at this five years, and if I don’t wanna sell my country out, I’d have sold it out five months ago and gone on, run for president and got this war behind us, then got me re-elected. But I am a conscientious, earnest fella trying to do a job. And I’m gonna do it. I get peace at four o’clock Saturday noon, I’m damn sure gonna get it, come hell or high water, and woebe onto the guy who says you oughta keep on killing.”

Two hours later, Johnson would again speak to all three candidates via conference call16. During the call, Johnson would once again emphasize the conditions that he’d required to halt the bombing, discreetly chastise Humphrey and Nixon for their interference, and make clear that he was soon going to announce a halt to the bombing:

JOHNSON
Do you hear me all right?

HUMPHREY
Yes, sir.

NIXON
Yes, sir.

WALLACE
Yes, sir.

JOHNSON
I have with me Secretary Rusk and Clifford and General Wheeler and Mr. Helms of the CIA and Mr. Rostow. I’m reading from – I want to read a brief background to you from my conference call to you of October 16 so you can get a predicate to what I’m about to say. I said then-this is in absolute confidence, any statement or any speeches or any comment at this time referring to the substance of this conversation will be injurious. I don’t think there’s any question about that and I know you would not want that to happen.

First, our position-the government’s position today-is exactly what it was the last time all three of you were briefed. That position mainly is this. We’re anxious to stop the bombing and would be willing to stop the bombing if they – Hanoi – would sit down with us, with the Government of South Vietnam present, and have productive discussions. We have told them that we did not think that we could have productive discussions if, while we were talking, they were shelling the cities, or if they were abusing the DMZ. That was on October 16th, when I talked to you. The next sentence said, “From time to time they have nibbled back and forth at these various items.” Each time they do, there is a flurry of excitement, and so on and so forth.

Since that time, they have sent their man back to Hanoi. We have continued to have our regular weekly meetings and other meetings. We have been in touch with a good many Governments in the world, from Eastern Europe to India to the Soviet Union, all these people working every hour to try to (a) get them to accept the Government of South Vietnam – that they’re all puppets and that they’d never sit down in a room with, and (b) trying to inform them that we would be glad to stop the bombing, but that the bombing could not continue stopped if they (a) shelled the cities or (b) if they abused the DMZ.

On Sunday night, I was informed by Paris that there were very good indications that they would let the Government of Vietnam come and be present at the conference and that they fully understood what would happen if we stop the bombing and they shell the cities or abuse the DMZ. When I got back to Washington from New York, I went back to the Soviet Union and pointed out that I did not want to deceive anybody and didn’t want them to be deceived, didn’t want to stop the bombing and have to start it again, but I wanted to make it abundantly clear that if they would let the Government of Vietnam come to the meetings and if they thoroughly understood what would happen, then I wanted to seriously consider this matter. But I had doubts – repeat doubts – that the North Vietnamese would stop shelling the cities or would stop abusing the DMZ. The Soviet Union came back to me on Tuesday or Wednesday and said that my doubts were not justified. Ambassador Harriman came back to me and said, “We have repeated to you at least 12 times-we’ve repeated to North Vietnam at least 12 times-in 12 meetings, and some meetings we repeated it several times-that we could not have a productive discussion in an atmosphere of shelling the cities or abusing the DMZ. Therefore, you may be sure we understand it.” While this was going on, we’d gone out and talked to all of our allied countries, and at that time they all tentatively agreed that this was a wise move.

Now, since that time with our campaign on, we have had some minor problems develop. First, there have been some speeches that we ought to withdraw troops, or that we’d stop the bombing without any-obtaining anything in return, or some of our folks are-even including some of the old China lobbyists, they are going around and implying to some of the embassies and some of the others that they might get a better deal out of somebody that was not involved in this. Now that’s made it difficult and it’s held up things a little bit. And I know that none of you candidates are aware of it or responsible for it, because I’m looking in my transcript here, when we talked before, and I asked for your comments. The Vice President said he had no comment, but thanks very much. Vice President Nixon said, “Well, as you know, this is consistent with what my position has been all along and I made it very clear. I’ll make no statements that will undercut the negotiations. So we’ll just stay right on that and hope that this thing works out.” And then Mr. Wallace said, “Yes, sir, Mr. President, that’s been my position all along, too, the position you stated, and I agree with you that we shouldn’t play any politics in this matter, so it might foul up the negotiations.”

Now, I concluded last March that I couldn’t as a candidate stop this war. And I concluded that I ought to stop it the first day I can. I’m going to try to stop it as soon as I can. Therefore, I am planning to issue an order-I’m meeting with the [National] Security Council tonight -I’m planning to issue an order that will stop the bombing that will set a date for a meeting where the Government of Vietnam will appear, and I’m making it very clear to the intermediaries. I can’t do it in public because they’ll say it’s a condition and reciprocal and we’ll never get an agreement-and you must not make that statement either, but I think you ought to know it. And we’re going to have to wait for 24/48/72 hours to see what happens at the DMZ and see what happens at the cities, and we may have to start the bombing just as fast as we stopped it. But I have considered this matter day and night since March 31st at least.

Johnson would again declare that his primary purpose for the bombing halt was not political: “I’m not concerned with an election. Y’all are concerned with an election.” He would state clearly that any reneging on the conditions would mean a resumption of the bombing, and all three candidates offered their support:

JOHNSON
Now, I would hope, and I’m going to say so in my statement tonight, that this would not be to anyone’s advantage, except to the countries, to peace and to the men in Vietnam.

First of all, the conference won’t be held until after the election, probably, we would hope, the 6th or 7th of November, or sometime in that period. We would hope that the Government of Vietnam would have time to get their men there and, of course, the other governments have got to get the NLF there. I would hope that all of you could say – like you said here the other day – that you felt that you didn’t want to do anything to undercut the negotiations; that you recommended peace at the earliest possible date; this is not peace, this is not a settlement, this is just one step that indicates that if they do not shell the cities, and if they do not abuse the DMZ – both of those would be great military advantages for us at a time when we’re giving up bombing that we can’t do for the next 90 days anyway on account of the weather in North Vietnam. We can use that very effectively in other places.

I told General [Creighton] Abrams to return, to give them all he’s got in South Vietnam and Laos, but be prepared for this order. The order will not go into effect for several hours after it’s issued. It’s got to go all over the Pacific, put out some 12 hours. I would think that when I get through with the Security Council sometime this evening from 8 [p.m.] on, I’ll make a statement to the public. I have confidence enough in y’all that I’ve called you even before I’ve called my own legislative leaders. I’ve told you every bit of the information I have. Every diplomatic and military adviser I have recommends this course.

I would not want it on my conscience that I had left the Presidential arena and refused to run to try to get peace, and then when they agreed, that I – the thing – the thing that I insisted on most, bringing the GVN into the table – that I said, “No, I’ve got to put it off because I’m concerned with an election.” I’m not concerned with an election. Y’all are concerned with an election. I don’t think this concerns an election. I think all of you want the same thing. So I thought if I laid it on the line that way and presented it to you, you would at least have a complete, full understanding of all the facts. I’ll be glad to give you any of the written recommendations. All the files are open to you-be glad to show you what happened. Nobody will know whether it’ll be a success or not until we really get into these discussions and these talks with the GVN present. If they shell the cities or if they abuse the DMZ, General Abrams already has his orders, and he is directed to respond immediately without even coming to Washington.

JOHNSON
Now, my position is this. I can’t wait. I have got every adviser, military/civilian/CIA/Ambassadors-Bunker, Goodpaster [General Andrew Goodpaster], Abrams – every one of them recommend this course. So, I am going to recommend it to the nation. I am going to issue the order. I would just hope you all would do likewise.

NIXON
Okay. Thank you.

HUMPHREY
Thank you.

WALLACE
Mr. President, I just pray that everything you do works out fine, and I am praying for you.

JOHNSON
Well, I need it. Any other comments?

NIXON
We’ll back you up. Thank you, Mr. President.

HUMPHREY
We’ll back you up, Mr. President.

WALLACE
We’ll back you, Mr. President.

JOHNSON
Thank you very much.

I quote again Nixon’s perspective on this discussion from his memoir:

More than anything else, Humphrey had Lyndon Johnson to thank for the eleventh-hour masterstroke that almost won him the election.

On October 31 I was to address a nationally televised rally at Madison Square Garden in New York. I set aside a couple of quiet hours in the afternoon, and I was sitting in my study at home making notes for the speech later that evening when the telephone rang. It was a White House operator: the President was placing a conference call to Humphrey, Wallace, and me. A moment later Lyndon Johnson was on the line.

He got right to the point. There had been a breakthrough in Paris, he said, and after wide consultations among his advisers, he had decided to call a total bombing halt over North Vietnam. He would make the announcement on television in two hours. As Johnson went one, I thought to myself that whatever this meant to North Vietnam, he had just dropped a pretty good bomb in the middle of my campaign.

Johnson said, rather defensively, “I’m not concerned with an election. You all are concerned with an election. I don’t think this concerns an election. I think all of you want the same thing. So I thought if I laid it on the line that way, and presented it to you, you would at least have a complete, full understanding of all the facts.”

Johnson explained that he had not been able to persuade Saigon to agree to the provisions of the bombing halt, so that South Vietnam would not be joining in the announcement.

When Johnson finished, and we had asked some perfunctory questions, George Wallace said, “I’m praying for you.”

Humphrey said, “I’m backing you up, Mr. President.”

I thanked Johnson for making the call and seconded Humphrey’s pledge of support.

The telephone call over, I could feel my anger and frustration welling up. Johnson was making the one move that I thought could determine the outcome of the election. Had I done all this work and come all this way only to be undermined by the powers of an incumbent who had decided against seeking re-election?

Johnson would announce the bombing halt on TV at 8pm that night. A partial excerpt17:

Good evening, my fellow Americans:

I speak to you this evening about very important developments in our search for peace in Vietnam.

We have been engaged in discussions with the North Vietnamese in Paris since last May. The discussions began after I announced on the evening of March 31st in a television speech to the Nation that the United States – in an effort to get talks started on a settlement of the Vietnam war-had stopped the bombing of North Vietnam in the area where 90 percent of the people live.

When our representatives-Ambassador Harriman and Ambassador Vance-were sent to Paris, they were instructed to insist throughout the discussions that the legitimate elected Government of South Vietnam must take its place in any serious negotiations affecting the future of South Vietnam.

Therefore, our Ambassadors Harriman and Vance made it abundantly clear to the representatives of North Vietnam in the beginning that-as I had indicated on the evening of March 31st-we would stop the bombing of North Vietnamese territory entirely when that would lead to prompt and productive talks, meaning by that talks in which the Government of Vietnam was free to participate.

Last Sunday evening, and throughout Monday, we began to get confirmation of the essential understanding that we had been seeking with the North Vietnamese on the critical issues between us for some time. I spent most of all day Tuesday reviewing every single detail of this matter with our field commander, General Abrams, whom I had ordered home, and who arrived here at the White House at 2:30 in the morning and went into immediate conference with the President and the appropriate members of his Cabinet. We received General Abrams’ judgment and we heard his recommendations at some length.

Now, as a result of all of these developments, I have now ordered that all air, naval, and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam cease as of 8 a.m., Washington time, Friday morning.

I have reached this decision on the basis of the developments in the Paris talks.

And I have reached it in the belief that this action can lead to progress toward a peaceful settlement of the Vietnamese war.

Nixon would give a speech that same night at Madison Square Garden. Again, from RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon:

While I believed that Johnson would not go out of his way to help Humphrey unless he were forced to meet a clear-cut partisan challenge, the last thing I wanted to do was to give the President an excuse to get angry with me in public. I hoped to avoid Johnson’s going all out for Humphrey with every resource at the command of the White House.

There was nothing more I could do. Even though I knew what was coming – had known about it for weeks – the timing and impact were completely in Johnson’s hands.

At the Madison Square Garden rally on October 31 I responded to the bombing halt announcement in what I considered the only responsible way: “I will say that as a presidential candidate, and my vice presidential candidate joins me in this, that neither he nor I will say anything that might destroy the chance to have peace.” One reporter wrote: “President Johnson gave Richard M. Nixon a trick and Vice President Humphrey a treat for Halloween when he announced a complete halt to the bombing of North Vietnam last night.” The bombing halt unquestionably resulted in a last-minute surge of support for Humphrey. The militant liberals came back to the fold. Even those McCarthy zealots who had pledged never to support Humphrey now had an excuse to vote for him. The bombing halt also undercut one of my most effective issues – the inability of the Democratic leadership to win a permanent peace. Studies made after the election showed that public opinion had been particularly volatile during this period, and the hope that the halt might lead to a peace settlement resulted in massive voter shifts to Humphrey.

I isolate one part of the last for emphasis, and I italicize the ending for further emphasis: “At the Madison Square Garden rally on October 31 I responded to the bombing halt announcement in what I considered the only responsible way: ‘I will say that as a presidential candidate, and my vice presidential candidate joins me in this, that neither he nor I will say anything that might destroy the chance to have peace.'”

NOVEMBER 1, 1968

Due to time differences, Johnson’s speech would be broadcast in Vietnam the next day. We might return to the memoir of foreign correspondent Beverly Deepe Keever, as she describes the speech, Thieu’s rejection, and her report to her editors on what might have prompted the reversal. This transmission, dealing with possible involvement by the Nixon campaign to foil the talks, was a major scoop, but one that was in vain. All details implying such involvement were eliminated from her reporting, because this involvement did not appear to be just politics, or diplomacy, but outright treason.

[On] October 31, Johnson announced that he had ordered a complete end to the bombing of North Vietnam within 12 hours and that the date for the first negotiation session with Hanoi was set for November 6, the day after the U.S. presidential election. Johnson’s speech was received in Saigon on November 1, which, as I reported, many Vietnamese viewed as an ill-timed insult because it was made on Vietnam’s National Day and the anniversary of the Kennedy administration’s support for the overthrow of President [Ngo Dinh] Diem. Then, just four days before the U.S. election, President Thieu surprisingly rejected Johnson’s peace initiative. In a bombshell televised speech before the National Assembly on Vietnam’s National Day, Thieu announced that South Vietnam would not send delegates to negotiate in Paris by November 6; he feared the Viet Cong’s National Liberation Front would be seated as a legitimate coequal of his government. I reported that his speech was a direct rebuke to President Johnson. “In effect, Mr. Thieu said LBJ double-crossed him,” one longtime Asia observer told me. “And Mr. Thieu is pretty nearly right.”

To explain Thieu’s stunning announcement, I cabled Hayward on November 4: “Purported political encouragement from the Richard Nixon camp was a significant factor in the last-minute decision of President Nguyen Van Thieu’s refusal to send a delegation to the Paris peace talks – at least until the American Presidential election is over.” I relied mostly on “informed sources” for my scoop – an eye-opening exclusive news report – and added that “the only written report about the alleged Nixon support for the Thieu government was a cable from Bui Diem, Vietnamese ambassador to Washington,” confirming what I had asked Hayward to check out days earlier. But my momentous scoop was not published. Hayward cabled back that the Monitor had deleted all my references to Bui Diem and to the “purported political encouragement from the Nixon camp,” which, he wrote, “seems virtual equivalent of treason.”

On the morning of November 1st, all this still lay in the future. The fraying, however, had already begun when Johnson would take a call at 8:30 am from one of the architects of the war, Robert McNamara, congratulating him on the bombing halt speech, after which the President would bring up Nixon’s interference18:

JOHNSON
Bob?

MCNAMARA
Good morning, Mr. President.

JOHNSON
How’re you doing?

MCNAMARA
I knew you’d be the only other person in town working this morning.

JOHNSON
No, no, but we have been working, you know.

MCNAMARA
I know it. I know it. I just wanted to call–I won’t take a second, but I just wanted to call and say–

JOHNSON
Please do.

MCNAMARA
Congratulations. I think it was terrific, Mr. President.

JOHNSON
What we are in trouble about, you see, are these candidates. They have been playing with them. One said he would stop the bombing–no comma, no semi-colon–period.

MCNAMARA
Yeah.

JOHNSON
So they get that and they think that if they’ll wait 10 days he’ll stop the bombing everything will be over with–that’s what Hanoi thinks. Then Nixon comes along and his people tell them that I’m not stopping the bombing and I’m not selling you out and I’m not for letting them take you over and this crowd will sell you out just like they did China, and you better wait until I get in. Now you’ve got all the South Vietnamese and maybe the Koreans thinking that. The damned trouble we’re going to have. We had this thing wrapped up, signed, sealed, ready to go two weeks ago, and we got this speech of stopping the bombing, period. So [Le Duc] Tho took off for Hanoi, and we couldn’t get him back. Then we got this ready, and we found out that they’ve been playing with the South Vietnamese, and we started watching their messages. It’s the damndest mess you ever saw. It’s just almost–well, it’s just heresy. It’s just unbelievable. So we tried to get them aboard. We had a joint announcement that they agreed on with us. But then they all got to fighting and they wouldn’t do it. So today, the last thing I heard, I was up late, was that Thieu said that this was entirely unilateral.

That the South Vietnamese had abruptly changed their demands, and that this might have been caused by interference on the part of Nixon’s intermediaries, was brought up in a phone call later that morning to Senator Richard Russell19:

RUSSELL
Yes?

JOHNSON
Lyndon Johnson. How are you, Senator? Dick, how are you?

RUSSELL
Pretty good, Mr. President. How are you?

JOHNSON
Fine. I just wanted to figure out what you thought over night and what bases you thought were untouched, what your reaction was, to the statement, and what we should have said, we didn’t.

RUSSELL
Well, I thought you made a fine statement, Mr. President.

JOHNSON
Now, the damn fools in Saigon, we don’t know what they’re going to do. Last night, they came back and made three demands on me. One was, we set no date for the conference. Well, I can’t do that, because the main thing I’m getting out of this is they let GVN come to the table. That’s what I’ve been demanding all these years, and now they’ve agreed to it. So I’ve got to have a date. And we so told–no date for the conference. Well, I can’t do that, because the main thing I’m getting out of this is they let GVN come to the table. That’s what I’ve been demanding all these years, and now they’ve agreed to it. So I’ve got to have a date. And we so told–

RUSSELL
I thought that they already agreed they’re we going to meet and talk on Wednesday [November 6 1968].

PRESIDENT
They all agreed 2 weeks ago. And then they agreed to one day a week ago. But after Nixon’s operatives got busy with them, they started playing for January. And the first statement that South Vietnam put out was that this was a unilateral action by the President. And old man Bunker stayed with them all night. They put out another one this morning that said that they hoped it would lead to peace, that you couldn’t tell what if it was good, that he really didn’t know whether any good would come from it or not, just wouldn’t predict.

According to encrypted messages sent by South Vietnam’s ambassador in the United States, Bui Diem, there was never any possibility of any agreement to a peace talk which might result in Humphrey being elected instead of Nixon. If an impasse went against Johnson and brought Nixon to power, then so be it: the diplomatic impasse would continue. From Arrogance by Summers:

In the last week of October Thieu’s ambassador, Bui Diem, sent two encrypted radio messages from Washington to Saigon. The first, he wrote in his memoirs, noted: “Many Republican friends have contacted me and encouraged us to stand firm….” The second – again, this is Bui Diem’s account – mentioned that he was “regularly in touch with the Nixon entourage.”

The former ambassador repeatedly told the author he would let him see the full text of those messages, but never produced them. His published version of the second cable, it seems, was almost certainly an exercise in damage limitation. The actual message was more troubling, according to the former State Department executive secretary, the late Benjamin Read.

Read’s notes cite Saigon’s ambassador as reporting that he had “explained discreetly to our partisan friends our firm attitude” and “plan to adhere to that position.” “The longer the impasse continues,” Bui Diem told Saigon, “the more we are favored,” and Johnson would “probably have difficulties in forcing our hand.”

This same view is expressed in a formerly top secret intercept made by the National Security Agency (NSA) of comments made by President Thieu on October 18, 1968, obtained presumably through surveillance20:

TRANSMITTED HEREWITH IS A [REDACTED] MESSAGE.
PLEASE ADVISE IF ANY LIMITATIONS ON DISTRIBUTION ARE REQUIRED.
THIS MESSAGE WAS TRANSMITTED TO THE WHITE HOUSE ONLY.
[REDACTED]
XXMMENP01FTB23108
3/0/[REDACTED] -68
[REDACTED]

THIEU’S VIEWS ON NLF PARTICIPATION IN VIETNAMESE GOVERNMENT

XXCC
[REDACTED] 19 OCT 68 [REDACTED]
[REDACTED]

[REDACTED] OF WHAT PRESIDENT THIEU SAID
[REDACTED] ON 18 OCTOBER.

[REDACTED] as to whether or not the Vietnamese are opposing the U.S. in this and concerning the possibility ((of the U.S.)) making a decisive move to halt the bombing alone; the following [REDACTED]

He said the U.S. can, of course, cease bombing, but is unable to block Vietnam ((from bombing)). Concerning the enforcement of the bombing halt, this will help candidate Humphrey and this is the purpose of it; but the situation which would occur as the result of a bombing halt, without the agreement of Vietnamese government, rather than being a disadvantage to candidate Humphrey, would be to the advantage of candidate Nixon. Accordingly, he said that the possibility of President Johnson enforcing a bombing halt without Vietnam’s agreement appears to be weak; [REDACTED] just how effective can it be within the short time before the election, even though it is effectively enforced?

Though Nixon had again pledged his loyalty in the conference call, his manner was entirely different off the phone. He and his campaign manager, John Mitchell, were in a panic over the effects of the bombing halt on the election, of the possibility that their meddling had been found out, and yet they were still determined to make sure that Thieu would toe the line and the Peace Talks would not take place. From Arrogance by Summers:

On the evening of the thirty-first, during a conference call to the presidential candidates to brief them on the bombing halt, Johnson dropped a heavy hint that he was aware of the machinations to undermine his efforts. Nixon merely joined the opponents in promising the president his full support.

Behind the scenes, however, panic and pantomime gripped the Nixon camp. Mitchell [campaign manager and later Attorney General John Mitchell] went through the motions of interrogating campaign staffers-none of whom was in the know-asking if they had been “in touch with any embassies.” Then he “reassured” administration contacts that his people had not been talking to the South Vietnamese.

Chennault suddenly found she could no longer get through to Mitchell. Certain now of the wiretapping he had always feared, Nixon’s closest aide was avoiding direct contact with her. That night, however, as she was finishing dinner at the Sheraton Park Hotel, Chennault was called to the phone.

It was Mitchell, tension in his voice, asking her to call back on a safer line. When she did, he picked up on the first ring. “Anna,” he said, “I’m speaking on behalf of Mr. Nixon. It’s very important that our Vietnamese friends understand our Republican position, and I hope you made that clear to them…Do you think they really have decided not to go to Paris?”

Realizing that the administration was working around the clock to change Thieu’s mind, Nixon’s man wanted to make sure he remained firm in his refusal.24 Thieu duly obliged. On November 2, only three days before the election, he announced publicly that his country would not take part in peace talks under present conditions.

NOVEMBER 2, 1968

The withdrawal of Thieu and South Vietnam from the peace talks on this date is described as follows in Richard Nixon’s RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon. As said already, Anna Chennault goes entirely unmentioned in this book, and is absent in this excerpt:

The Democrats’ euphoria was dampened on November 2, when President Thieu announced that his government would not participate in the negotiations Johnson was proposing.

Thieu’s reaction was totally predictable. He watched American politics no less carefully than did the leaders in Hanoi. Given his disapproval of any bombing halt, and the fact that Humphrey was now talking like a dove, it was scarcely in Thieu’s interest to acquiesce in a bad bargain. By holding back his support, Thieu fostered the impression that Johnson’s plan had been too quickly conceived and shakily executed.

Lyndon Johnson would again speak with Senator Everett Dirksen, and more so than in his other conversations, he was obviously very upset. In this excerpt, he describes the slow development of the peace talks, and their interference through Nixon. Though Clifford would write of there being no smoking gun linking the work of agents like Chennault and the Nixon campaign, and though in the past Johnson had expressed uncertainty in his phone calls about whether there was a connection between the candidate and the “old China crowd”, he obviously now believes the two elements to be linked21:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of this phone call in its entirety.)

From “”This is Treason!” Lyndon Johnson Everett Dirksen Phone Call” (0:10-2:58):

DIRKSEN
Hello?

JOHNSON
Everett, how are you?

DIRKSEN
All right.

JOHNSON
I want to talk to you as a friend, and very confidentially, because I think that we’re skirting on dangerous ground. I thought I ought to give you the facts, and you ought to pass them on if you choose. If you don’t, why, then I will a little later.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
We have, on October the 13th, an agreement where Thieu [Nguyen Thieu, president of South Vietnam] and Ky [Nguyen Cao Ky, prime minister of South Vietnam], considering the bombing halt. At that time, President Thieu stressed, quote There must not be a long delay.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
That is, a delay between the halt and the conference.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
On October the 15th, Thieu agreed to a proposal that we worked out of 36 hours.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
On October the 23rd, after the North Vietnamese demanded two or three weeks, Thieu reluctantly agreed to three days delay. On October the 28th, we agreed on the joint announcement.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
Bunker and Abrams [U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam, Ellsworth Bunker and Creighton Abrams, General in the U.S. Army] reached an explicit agreement with Thieu that the gap between the bombing and the talks would be two or three days. With three days the outer limit. Both Thieu and Ky stressed on us the importance of a minimum delay.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
Then we got some of our friends involved. Some of it’s your old China crowd…

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
And…here’s the latest information we’ve got: the agent says that she’s- they’ve just talked to the boss [Nixon] in New Mexico, and that he says that you must hold out, that . . . Just hold on until after the election.

Now, we know what Thieu is saying to ’em out there. We’re pretty well informed on both ends. Now Nixon’s man travelling with him today, said quote He did not understand that Thieu was not aboard. Did you see that?

This spokesperson was one of Nixon’s aides, Bob Finch, whose name Johnson insisted on getting wrong. We return to RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon:

On the heels of Thieu’s recalcitrance, I asked Bob Finch to put the word out to newsmen that the prospects for peace were not as advanced as Johnson’s announcement might have made them seem. Providing background in his capacity as “an aide to Richard Nixon,” Finch explained, “We had the impression that all the diplomatic ducks were in position.” Then for the record he said, “I think this will boomerang. It was hastily contrived.”

Johnson saw the news story with Finch’s comments. He was furious, and he made his displeasure known. Bryce Harlow urged me to call Johnson to calm him down – and I did so Sunday morning, November 3.

“Who’s this guy Fink?” Johnson asked. “Why is he taking out after me?”

I said, “Mr. President, that’s Finch, not Fink.”

He ignored my correction and continued to refer to Finch as “Fink.”

It was on this day that Johnson would receive information that would be published in an FBI intercept two days later, the intercept that Summers considered so vital in confirming a link between Chennault’s efforts and the Nixon campaign, “And…here’s the latest information we’ve got: the agent says that she’s- they’ve just talked to the boss [Nixon] in New Mexico, and that he says that you must hold out, that . . . Just hold on until after the election.”22:

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Received Washington CommCen
9:08 P.M. EDT Monday 4 Nov 68

Received LBJ Ranch CommCen
8:34 P.M. CDT Monday 4 Nov 68

EEA659
00 WTE10
DE WTE 4183

FROM WALT ROSTOW
TO THE PRESIDENT
CITE CAP82650

S E C R E T

THE NEW MEXICO REFERENCE MAY INDICATE AGNEW IS ACTING.

TWO REPORTS FOLLOW.

REPORT ONE:

On November Two Instant, a confidential source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, reported that Mrs. Anna Chennault contacted Vietnamese Ambassador, Bui Diem, and advised him that she had received a message from her boss (not further identified), which her boss wanted her to give personally to the ambassador. She said the message was that the ambassador is to “hold on, we are gonna win” and that her boss also said “hold on, he understands all of it”. She repeated that this is the only message “he said please tell your boss to hold on.” She advised that her boss had just called from New Mexico.

Was Richard Nixon in New Mexico on that day? No, he was in Texas. His nominee vice president, however, was in his plane on a campaign stop in Albuquerque when this call was made.

“Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968 Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969, Document 212” deals with a report of the phone calls from Vice Presidential nominee Spiro Agnew’s plane on that day, one conducted by the FBI and initiated by Johnson a week after the election. The following is from the accompanying summary:

In a telephone conversation on November 12, 1968, President Johnson discussed the Anna Chennault affair with FBI Deputy Director Cartha Dekle “Deke” DeLoach. Johnson told DeLoach that he had “some pretty good information” and “hard” evidence that the most significant directive from the Republican campaign to the South Vietnamese Government occurred by way of a November 2 communication between Vice Presidential candidate Spiro Agnew and Anna Chennault. The President therefore requested that DeLoach check all of the telephone calls originating from the telephone connection in Agnew’s chartered campaign plane at the Albuquerque airport.

The next day, DeLoach called the President with a report on these calls. One of the phones on the plane had been used five times. The first call was made at 11:59 a.m., a personal call from Agnew to Rusk that lasted 3 minutes. The next call was made to Texas and another two calls were made by Agnew staffer Kent Crane to New York City. A fifth call was made to the Nixon/Agnew campaign headquarters at the Willard Hotel in Washington at 1:02 p.m.

The President verified that Rusk had talked with Agnew. He added: “We think somebody on the plane talked to the woman. We think pretty well that they talked to her and talked to Rusk, and talked on the same thing. And we think that they told Rusk-that they wanted to know what was happening in these relations. And Rusk made notes of it, he didn’t exactly know what time, but he estimated that it was about 2 o’clock. And hers, it was immediately followed by a call to her, we think. And what we want to know is what time that was and when it was.”

There were five phone calls from the plane, one to Rusk, one to campaign headquarters, one to Texas, and two to New York City. Nixon, as said, was in Texas that day for a rally. Who was in New York City? Anna Chennault was in New York City. Item one of the “her boss” FBI cable deals with the tap revealing that Chennault had said those words. Item two in the cable dealt with her location on November 2nd23:

REPORT TWO:

The November One, last, edition of the “Washington Post,” a daily newspaper in the Washington, D.C. area, carried an article concerning Mrs. Anna Chennault. The article indicated that Mrs. Chennault intended to proceed to New York City where she would await the election results on November Five, next, with presidential nominee Richard M. Nixon.

On November Two, Instant, at Seven Ten A.M., Mrs. Chennault’s car was observed in the parking garage at Two Five One Zero [2510] Virginia Avenue, N. W.

At One Forty Five P.M., she departed her residence and entered the automobile. It was being driven by her chauffeur and proceeded to the Baltimore-Washington parkway where it was last observed heading north at Two Fifteen P.M.

Arrangements have been made with the New York office of the FBI for them to observe the car en route and to undertake discreet surveillance with reference to her activities while in New York.

The Arrogance of Power by Summers gives this episode thorough examination:

Spiro Agnew had made a campaign stop at Albuquerque, New Mexico, that day-and within the time frame that corresponded to Anna Chennault’s movements.25

Days later, when things quieted down, Johnson would order the FBI to check all calls made by the Agnew party. He was unfortunately ill served. Director Hoover, a long-term Nixon supporter on cordial terms with Chennault, had already warned her she was being surveilled. As much as possible, he told her, the bureau was merely “making a show” of obeying Johnson’s orders.

When it came to the Albuquerque calls, Hoover and his aide Cartha DeLoach ensured investigation was cursory and incomplete. Eventually, realizing he was being stalled, the president himself called to tell DeLoach: “Get me the information, and make it damned fast.”

Out of the mess, and the still partially censored files, come two salient facts. The first is that phone records show that an Agnew aide in Albuquerque, the very aide responsible for briefing Agnew on Vietnam, had made a call during the stopover to a “Mr. Hitt” at Nixon-Agnew headquarters.

Robert Hitt, an official of the Republican National Committee, was paymaster to the wireman Nixon used during the campaign to sweep for bugs and who conducted offensive bugging during the presidency. Hitt would also be named during the Watergate probe in connection with questionable cash transactions. His wife Patricia, cochairman of the campaign committee and a trusted Nixon friend from Whittier days, was as noted earlier one of the people Chennault earlier named as a potential go-between should Nixon wish to pass her messages.

The most important discovery, though, was relayed to the president by National Security Assistant Rostow when all the facts were in, ten days after the Albuquerque stopover. In a brief memo, referring to Chennault as “the Lady” and to Agnew as “the gentleman in Albuquerque,” Rostow reported that there had been a call placed to Chennault.26 Moreover, contrary to an earlier analysis, Agnew himself had had ample time to make the call.

The new information suggests a logical sequence to the events of those days. Following Thieu’s announcement that he would not join the peace talks, as the Nixon side had hoped, he faced renewed pressure from the outraged Johnson administration. In the wake of the announcement, word came to Chennault from Agnew in Albuquerque that she should urge the South Vietnamese to remain resolute.

As revealed by the wiretap on the South Vietnamese Embassy, she duly relayed the message to President Thieu that he should “Hold on,” because “we’re gonna win”: Nixon was going to win the election and would, as promised, give the South Vietnamese a better deal.

With whom did the message originate? Early on Rostow surmised in a report to the president that Agnew was “acting” on behalf of another party. While the report is still partially censored, the security assistant’s supposition is clear enough. Agnew and Chennault barely knew each other; Nixon’s running mate acted for no one but Nixon.27

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

(Puppets by Rick Meyerowitz, for a parody ad in an issue of National Lampoon in 1970. A description of the puppets and the shoot is described by Meyerowitz on his site, in “The Nixon & Agnew Puppets”)

From the same phone call with Dirksen quoted earlier24:

From “”This is Treason!” Lyndon Johnson Everett Dirksen Phone Call” (7:51-8:21):

JOHNSON
I said, now, there has been speeches that some we oughta withdraw troops, and including some of the old China crowd, going in and implying to the embassies.

JOHNSON
Now, Everett, I know what happens there. You see what I mean?

DIRKSEN
I do.

JOHNSON
And I’m looking at his hole card.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
Now, I don’t want to get in a fight with him there. I think Nixon’s gonna to be elected.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
And I think we ought to have peace, and I’m going to work with him.

Johnson would cut even further to the quick in another part of the call25:

From “”This is Treason!” Lyndon Johnson Everett Dirksen Phone Call” (8:46-9:03):

JOHNSON
Well, I don’t know who it is that’s with Nixon. It may be Laird [Melvin Laird, a Nixon campaign aide]. It may be [Bryce] Harlow. It may be [John] Mitchell. I don’t know who it is.

I know this: that they’re contacting a foreign power in the middle of a war.

DIRKSEN
That’s a mistake!

JOHNSON
And it’s a damn bad mistake.

He would cut even further to the bone, and say the unsayable in another fragment of the phone call26:

From “”This is Treason!” Lyndon Johnson Everett Dirksen Phone Call” (4:12-4:18):

JOHNSON
Now, I’m reading their hand, Everett. I don’t want to get this in the campaign.

DIRKSEN
That’s right.

JOHNSON
And they oughtn’t to be doing this. This is treason.

Richard Nixon would end the day with a rally in Texas, as described in his memoir:

On the day of Thieu’s announcement, I told a Texas rally: “In view of the early reports that we’ve had this morning, the prospects for peace are not as bright as they looked only a few days ago.” It was Saturday, November 2, less than three days before the election. Bombing halt or no, the campaign had to continue. I decided to treat Johnson’s announcement as a potentially beneficial diplomatic move botched by lack of planning rather than as a straight political ploy. I told my staff to get our spokesmen asking why we didn’t have the agreement worked out with our allies.

Of course, this we did have an agreement with their allies, the South Vietnamese, a very secret one and very much for the benefit of Richard Nixon.

NOVEMBER 3, 1968

During his furious call with Senator Everett Dirksen, Johnson made clear that he wanted Dirksen to contact Nixon on what was taking place27:

From “”This is Treason!” Lyndon Johnson Everett Dirksen Phone Call” (7:05-7:26):

JOHNSON
Well, now, what do you think we ought to do about it?

DIRKSEN
Well, I better get in touch with him, I think, and tell him about it.

JOHNSON
I think you better tell him that his people are saying to these folks that they oughtn’t to go through with this meeting [in Paris]. Now, if they don’t go through with the meeting, it’s not going to be me that’s hurt. I think it’s going to be whoever’s elected.

DIRKSEN
That’s right.

We can return to Nixon’s memoir on what he says of the events of November 2nd, where he mentions Dirksen contacting him about Johnson’s anger with him. What’s significant in this excerpt is that he mentions the statements by his aide, Bob Finch, critiquing Johnson for his failure to bring about the peace talks, but never brings up the primary thing that has Johnson furious, does not even bring it up to deny it: that he is conducting back channel diplomacy to foil these peace talks. From RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon:

The Democrats’ euphoria was dampened on November 2, when President Thieu announced that his government would not participate in the negotiations Johnson was proposing.

Thieu’s reaction was totally predictable. He watched American politics no less carefully than did the leaders in Hanoi. Given his disapproval of any bombing halt, and the fact that Humphrey was now talking like a dove, it was scarcely in Thieu’s interest to acquiesce in a bad bargain. By holding back his support, Thieu fostered the impression that Johnson’s plan had been too quickly conceived and shakily executed.

On the heels of Thieu’s recalcitrance, I asked Bob Finch to put the word out to newsmen that the prospects for peace were not as advanced as Johnson’s announcement might have made them seem. Providing background in his capacity as “an aide to Richard Nixon,” Finch explained, “We had the impression that all the diplomatic ducks were in position.” Then for the record he said, “I think this will boomerang. It was hastily contrived.”

Johnson saw the news story with Finch’s comments. He was furious, and he made his displeasure known. Bryce Harlow urged me to call Johnson to calm him down – and I did so Sunday morning, November 3.

An excerpt from the phone call at 1:54 P.M., where Johnson speaks of the three necessary preconditions of the talks – no shelling of the cities, no crossing the DMZ, the government of South Vietnam (GVN) at the table – and the failure of the talks, possibly due to Nixon offering a better deal to the South Vietnamese28:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of this phone call in its entirety.)

From “Phone call between Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon” (3:14-5:07):

JOHNSON
Now, the other day, we had talked to Thieu on October the 13th, and stressed that we had to have these points, and he agreed. On October the 15th, we reviewed it with him again, and he bought a 36 hour period between stopping the bombing and the conference. On October the 23rd, he agreed to a three day delay, on October the 28th, we agreed to the communique, that we both make a joint announcement. When and if, we could clear it with them. Get them signed on. Then the traffic goes out, that Nixon will do better by ya. Now, that goes to Thieu. I didn’t say, as I said the other day, I didn’t say with your knowledge, I hope it wasn’t.

NIXON
As a matter of fact, I’m not privy to what you were doing- The whole point is this, I think one thing we have to understand here is that you know, and I know, that with the hawk/dove complex out there, as there is here. And that everybody’s been saying, “Well, now, after the election, what will happen?” And, of course, there is some thought that Hanoi would rather deal now than deal later.

JOHNSON
Oh, yes-

NIXON
They think Nixon will be tougher.

JOHNSON
Ye-

NIXON
And I understand that. And I think that’s one of the reasons you felt you had to go forward with the [bombing] pause.

But my point that I’m making is this: that, my God, I would never do anything to encourage Hanoi, I mean Saigon not to come to the table, because basically, that was what you got out of your bombing pause. That good God, we want them over at Paris. We’ve got to get them to Paris, or you can’t have a peace.

Note that Nixon affects an innocence of the peace negotiations which he himself would later refute. “As a matter of fact, I’m not privy to what you were doing,” he says, though as we’ve already seen, he admits in his memoir that Henry Kissinger, among others, is passing his campaign information, and it is through these sources that he expects there to be a bombing halt.

What happened next on Nixon’s side after he put the phone down is described in The President’s Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy:

Then it was Nixon’s turn to call LBJ. Johnson was angry, accusing; Nixon poured it on thick. He’d gotten a report from Dirksen, he said, and in case Johnson ha missed it, he went over his message on Meet the Press. “My God, I would never do anything to encourage Saigon not to come to the table, because basically, that was what you got out of your bombing pause. That, good God, we want them over at Paris. We’ve got to get them to Paris, or you can’t have a peace.”

It all seemed to be enough. He hung up – and “Nixon and his friends collapsed with laughter,” reported the Sunday Times of London in an account of the episode months later. “It was partly in sheer relief that their victory had not been taken from them at the eleventh hour.”

This mask of innocence was not a momentary guise, but a face that Nixon presented again to Johnson in a phone call again on November 8. Taken from the transcript of the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Program, “WH6811-04-13723-13724-13725”. Full conversation is on youtube, “Richard Nixon Lyndon Johnson Phone Call November 8 1968”, using audio files 13723.mp3 and 13725.mp3, both from the LBJ Library:

Excerpt runs from 1:10 to 3:30, in the clip.

NIXON
Now, getting to the one, the key point: is there anything I could do before that on this business of South Vietnam? If you want me to do something, you know I’ll do anything, because we’re not going to let these people stop these peace things, if you think I can do something.

JOHNSON
Dick, I told [Senate Minority Leader Everett M.] Dirksen [R-Illinois] last night I thought it’d be better to do it that way than to be calling on the trips. I think this: These people are proceeding on the assumption that folks close to you tell them to do nothing until January 20.

NIXON
[Unclear.]

JOHNSON
Now, we think–

NIXON
I know who they’re talking about, too. Is it [Senator] John Tower? [R-Texas]?

JOHNSON
Well, he’s one of several. Mrs. [Anna] Chennault is very much in there.

NIXON
Well, she’s very close to John.

JOHNSON
And the Embassy is telling the [South Vietnamese] President [Nguyen Van Thieu] and the President is acting on this advice. He started doing it back about October 18, following our talk on the conversation on October 16. I had two bad breaks in the month of October. The first one came from the other side. Hanoi felt that because of what Bundy had said–Mac Bundy-

NIXON
Yeah.

JOHNSON
–that to withdraw troops, and what Humphrey had said that he wouldn’t–

NIXON
They could wait.

JOHNSON
Well, he just said, “I don’t–I will stop the bombing, period, I don’t mean comma or semi-colon.” So, Hanoi picked up the next day and went home for two weeks. We had it all wrapped up there and then for the meeting. Now, I don’t know what’ll come out of the conference. But that was the way it was. They went off. In the meantime, these messages started coming out from here that Johnson was going to have a bombing pause to try to elect Humphrey and that they ought to hold out because Nixon will not sell you out like the Democrats sold out China. And we have talked to different ones. I think they’ve been talking to [Vice President-elect Spiro] Agnew. I think they think that they’ve been quoting you indirectly, that the thing they ought to do is to just not show up at any conference and wait until you come into office.

Don Fulsom’s Nixon’s Darkest Secrets, a profile of the seamiest elements of the president, has a number of hypotheses that I don’t agree with, but it does have this interesting insight into this last part of the conversation that I think is worth passing on:

In this discussion, Nixon not only threw loyal Texas Republican senator John Tower under the bus, but he also stressed the words “very close.” What Nixon was apparently alluding to was a not-so-secret affair Senator Tower was having with the fabled Dragon Lady.

The supposed lovers were both right-wingers and heavy partiers on the Washington cocktail circuit. Tower had replaced Lyndon Johnson in the Senate. The two men were bitter enemies. So Nixon probably had that in mind when he ratted out Tower to LBJ.

A former Tower associate says the senator, long after his second failed marriage, freely admitted having a long-term liaison with Chennault. Tower was very fond of Anna, and, the source added, after they broke up, Tower claimed Chennault went on to “a torrid fling” with Thomas McIntyre, a left-wing Democratic Senator from new Hampshire and a “heavy foreign policy hitter.”

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

(Ann Chennault with John Tower. Photograph from Michael Rougier, part of a piece that appeared in the Life issue of August 8, 1969, about a fashionable apartment complex: “Just Everybody Lives There: In Washington, It Used to be Georgetown – now it’s Watergate”. This photo appears on page 42 of the feature. The co-resident mentioned in an adjoining photo, John Mitchell, was Nixon’s Attorney General and Chennault’s point of contact in the sabotage of the ’68 peace talks. He would go to prison for his part in the scandal that shared the name of the luxury residence. His photo is on page 43 of this feature.)

Back to November 3: almost immediately after getting off the phone with Nixon, Johnson would speak with his Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, where Johnson says that he thinks those agents acting to foil the peace talks are acting on behalf of Nixon. The conversation conveys the inability of Johnson and his aides to do anything with the information they have, and the proximity of a deal with the Vietnamese parties29:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of the recording of this phone call in its entirety.)

From “Phone call between Lyndon Johnson and Dean Rusk” (3:46-5:29):

JOHNSON
I told Nixon today, and I think I’m right, I said we thought that Thieu would come to this conference. He had signed on two or three times, even agreed to a joint communiqué.

RUSK
Yeah.

JOHNSON
But we knew we had problems, and I stated to you that we had problems. And I read him the paragraph where I said even the old China Lobby’s operating again and causing us some problems out there. And he said-

RUSK
On “Meet the Press,” he absolved you personally of any motives of this sort. He managed to get in some of what some of his advisors had said, and he said he dissociated himself from them. And then he said he would go-he thought that Saigon ought to go to the table in Paris; that he was willing to go to Paris or to Saigon, or to do anything else that you wanted him to after the elections; that he thought you were doing the right thing, and he was supporting you on it. So, he managed to get in these other wrinkles.

JOHNSON
Yes. I don’t think they say these things without his knowledge.

RUSK
Yeah.

JOHNSON
Of course-

RUSK
Well, certainly not without Agnew’s knowledge, there’s a cut out there somewhere.

JOHNSON
Ah-was Agnew doing the telephoning from New Mexico?

RUSK
Walt-Walt said he was the only top man in New Mexico that he could find-that Agnew was in New Mexico. And if he did do this, just after my telephone call with him, then he and I have got a problem.

JOHNSON
Did he call you from New Mexico?

RUSK
I don’t know where he called me from, because I didn’t have to check that with him. At the time, I thought nothing of it. I had so little information.

JOHNSON
See if your operator hadn’t got that tomorrow.

RUSK
All right, I’ll see if I can.

JOHNSON
Ah, well, what do we do now-just say nothing?

Two hours before his phone call with Nixon, Johnson had a phone call with Florida Senator George Smathers where he spoke of the “her boss” FBI intercept, and where he appears to make clear that he does not trust Nixon at all30:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of a large section of this phone call.)

From “Phone call between Lyndon Johnson and George Smathers” (0:13-2:27):

JOHNSON
His folks get into it. And they say that they know how to deal with these communists, and they’re not going to be soft on ’em. And if they’re elected, they’ll see it right on through with ’em, and that they’ll get a whole lot better deal with Nixon than they will with Johnson.

Now, first, that comes out of one of his associates, one of his top businesspersons. That was communicated to us by means that we have of knowing it. And it was rather shocking, in the light of what he said. So I started personally watching the traffic myself, and the next day, the traffic shows that that is going in and out of Saigon.

Do you follow me?

SMATHERS
Yeah.

JOHNSON
I’m not guessing, George. I know what I’m doing, you see. [They said] that Nixon is going to win; therefore, they ought to wait on Nixon.

So what he’s doing-my judgment is, on the surface, he was playing that he didn’t want to undercut me.

SMATHERS
Yeah.

JOHNSON
Under the table, his people-and this, I think, you can tell him for sure; there’s no doubt about it-his people (a) business-wise, and (b) political-wise were saying that you ought to wait on Dick.

Now, that’s got it pretty well screwed up.

SMATHERS
Yeah, it does.

JOHNSON
That’s a hell of a note, and it’s a sad thing for people that got boys out here [in Vietnam], to have folks leaving these impressions.

SMATHERS
Right.

JOHNSON
They’re going around and implying to some of the embassies that they might get a better deal out of somebody that was not involved in this-the “somebody not involved” is what they refer to as “their boss.”

SMATHERS
Right.

JOHNSON
“Their boss” is the code word for Mr. Nixon.

Clark Clifford would make the following diary entry on this day, published in Counsel to the President:

Sunday, November 3. In growing fury, Johnson told Senator Dirksen that he knew all about Anna Chennault’s activities. Dirksen, the man who probably came closest to being a true friend of both Johnson and Nixon (and who also knew Chennault well), immediately alerted Nixon to Johnson’s fury, warning that Johnson might make it public. Nixon called the President, who was at the LBJ Ranch awaiting the arrival of the Humphreys. (Ironically, hours later, the Johnsons and the Humphreys would make their only joint appearance of the campaign, in the Houston Astrodome.) Sensitive to Johnson’s mood, Nixon realized the danger to his floundering campaign if he could not placate Johnson, and the secret channel to Saigon became public. Anna Chennault and Bui Diem, at John Mitchell’s suggestion, had convinced Thieu to boycott the November 6 meeting in Paris; Nixon now persuaded Johnson that he had had nothing to do with these activities. President Johnson again decided not to go public.

NOVEMBER 4, 1968

We have already mentioned the discovery by Saigon correspondent Beverly Deepe Keever of the interference in the Paris Peace Talks on the part of Nixon, begun on October 28: “There’s a report here that Vietnamese Ambassador to Washington Bui Diem has notified the Foreign Ministry that Nixon aides have approached him and told him the Saigon government should hold to a firm position now regarding negotiations,” she would cable her editor, “and that once Nixon is elected, he’ll back the Thieu government in their demands. If you could track it down with the Nixon camp, it would probably be a very good story.” Her investigation would continue on into November 4, two days after Thieu publicly declared that he would not participate in the talks:

To explain Thieu’s stunning announcement, I cabled Hayward on November 4: “Purported political encouragement from the Richard Nixon camp was a significant factor in the last-minute decision of President Nguyen Van Thieu’s refusal to send a delegation to the Paris peace talks – at least until the American Presidential election is over.” I relied mostly on “informed sources” for my scoop – an eye-opening exclusive news report – and added that “the only written report about the alleged Nixon support for the Thieu government was a cable from Bui Diem, Vietnamese ambassador to Washington,” confirming what I had asked Hayward to check out days earlier. But my momentous scoop was not published. Hayward cabled back that the Monitor had deleted all my references to Bui Diem and to the “purported political encouragement from the Nixon camp,” which, he wrote, “seems virtual equivalent of treason.”

What was taking place on the other side of that conversation, in the United States, would only be learned forty years later. Again, from Keever’s Death Zones and Darling Spies:

Hayward could not have known then, but his description of Nixon’s “virtual equivalent of treason” was being privately echoed at the time by Johnson when he sputtered: “It would rock the world if it were known that Thieu was conniving with the Republicans. Can you imagine what people would say if it Hayward told me within a day or so: “The alleged Nixon involvement was interesting but needed confirmation from this end-which was not forthcoming-before we could print such sweeping charges on election day. It was a good story nonetheless, and you get major credit for digging it out.” Knowing the time-honored journalistic tradition of fairness, I understood when Hayward told me that without such confirmation, the Monitor had “trimmed and softened” my lead. The Monitor’s substitute lead simply implied that Thieu had acted on his own. Upon receiving the Monitor‘s Western edition days later, however, I saw my supposed-to-be scoop relegated to page 2, with no mention of Nixon, under a one-column headline. I could hardly recognize it. Yet 44 years later I was stunned to learn that President Johnson had indeed read and agonized over my lead with his top aides. Just as this book was being readied for publication, I was queried about my scoop’s Nixon-Thieu connection by veteran investigative reporter Robert Parry. On March 3, 2012, Parry published an amazing exposé on his online investigative news service headlined: “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason.'” Parry also included links to the telltale documents he had uncovered.

Forty years later, we would learn that Saville Davis, the Monitor‘s Washington correspondent, had visited both the Vietnamese embassy in D.C. and the White House for comment on this story.

This is the memo from Walt Rostow to Johnson, informing him of Saville Davis’s visit to the Vietnamese embassy31:

FROM WALT ROSTOW
TO THE PRESIDENT
CITE CAP82675

S E C R E T SENSITIVE EYES ONLY

LITERALLY EYES ONLY FOR THE PRESIDENT
HEREWITH FULL ACCOUNT SAVILLE DAVIS – BUI DIEM CONVERSATION.

EMBASSY OF VIETNAM; INTERNAL SECURITY – VIETNAM.

A source who has furnished reliable information in the past advised that on the late morning of November Four, Nineteen SixtyEight Saville Davis, Washington Bureau. Christian Science Monitor Newspaper, contacted a representative of the Vietnamese embassy, Washington D.C., and asked for an appointment with ambassador Bui Diem. When informed that the ambassador was busy, Davis stated he wanted to check out a story received from a correspondent in Saigon and that Davis plans to come to the embassy and wait for the ambassador to see him.

Davis said that the dispatch from Saigon contains the elements of a major scandal which also involves the Vietnam ambassador and which will affect presidential candidate Richard Nixon if the Monitor publishes it. Time is of the essence inasmuch as Davis has a deadline to meet if he publishes it. He speculated that should the story be published, it will create a great deal of excitement.

DTG: 041800Z NOV 68

This is the memo informing Rostow that Saville Davis is at the White House32:

11/4/68

Saville Davis of the Christian Science Monitor is upstairs: 347-4953

He said they are holding out of the paper a sensational dispatch from Saigon (from their Saigon correspondent) the 1st para of which reads:

“Purported political encouragement from the Richard Nixon camp was a significant factor in the last-minute decision of President Thieu’s refusal to send a delegation to the Paris peace talks — at least until the American Presidential election is over.”

He said he will await WWR’s comments.

Johnson was sufficiently excited by Davis’s questions to hold a conference call with two of his senior advisers, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and National Security Adviser Walt Rostow on how to deal with it. Though Nixon accuses Johnson of playing politics with the bombing halt, this conversation heavily stresses that politics must not be played with this, not even through off the record leaks to the press. The conversation would take place on 12:27 P.M. of that day33:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of this phone call in its entirety.)

From “Conference call Lyndon Johnson, Clark Clifford, Walt Rostow, Dean Rusk November 4 1968” (0:11-4:53):

JOHNSON
Hello, Dean? I think you and Clark and Walt ought to meet on this Saville Davis thing.

RUSK
Yes sir.

JOHNSON
It concerns me a great deal. I don’t want to be in the position of me being a McCarthy. I don’t know much more than I told the candidates themselves the other day, which my notes will reflect there. Namely, these folks had tentatively agreed out there to go along and then they started having doubts because we had reports of some folks-the old China Lobby-contacting embassies, et cetera. Now, I can’t get much more specific than that, A, because of the sensitivity of the source-

RUSK
Right.

JOHNSON
-and B, because of the limited nature of the information. I told Smathers that, Senator Smathers, who called saying that he understood from what I told Dirksen that I was likely to make public this information if it were confirmed and if they kept interfering with it. I also told Dirksen that I believed that the friends of one of the candidates was reporting to the folks out there that they ought to wait.

RUSK
Right.

JOHNSON
I did that on the basis of two things-one, the intercept from the Ambassador-

RUSK
Right.

JOHNSON
-saying that he had had a call and the boss said wait and so forth, and second, this China Lobby operation, the Madame involved.

RUSK
Yeah, that’s-

JOHNSON
Now, I don’t want to have information that ought to be public and not make it so. At the-on the other hand, we have a lot of-I don’t know how much we can do there and I know we’ll be charged with trying to interfere with the election. And I think this is something that’s going to require the best judgments that we have. I’m rather concerned by this Saville Davis conversation with the Embassy this morning.

RUSK
Now, which conversation?

JOHNSON
The Christian Science Monitor man called the Embassy this morning and wanted to see the Ambassador and he was unavailable. He told the party answering that he wanted to check out a story received from his correspondent in Saigon; that he planned to come to the Embassy and wait until he could see him; that the dispatch from Saigon contained the elements of a major scandal which involves the Vietnamese Ambassador and which will affect Presidential candidate Nixon if the Monitor publishes it. Time is of the essence inasmuch as Davis has a deadline to meet if he publishes it.

RUSK
Right.

JOHNSON
He speculated that should the story be published it will create a great deal of excitement.

RUSK
Right.

JOHNSON
Now, what he gets from Saigon is well and good and fine. But if he gets it from us, I want to be sure that A, we try to do it in such a way that our motives are not questioned and that if the public interest requires it, and two-and that’s the only thing I want to operate under, I’m not interested in the politics of it-the second thing is I want to be sure that what we say can be confirmed.

RUSK
Well, Mr. President, I have a very definite view on this, for what it’s worth. I do not believe that any President can make any use of interceptions or telephone taps in any way that would involve politics. The moment we cross over that divide we are in a different kind of society.

JOHNSON
Yeah.

Rostow would summarize the conclusions reached in a later report34:

FROM WALT W ROSTOW
TO THE PRESIDENT
CITE CAP82683

S E C R E T SENSITIVE EYES ONLY

DELIVER DIRECT TO THE PRESIDENT

FROM WALT ROSTOW

NOVEMBER 4, 1968

I have just returned from a meeting of over an hour with Sec. Rusk and Sec. Clifford on the China matter.

Saville Davis volunteered that his newspaper would certainly not print the story in the form in which it was filed; but they might print a story which said Thieu, on his own, decided to hold out until after the election.

Incidentally, the story as filed is stated to be based on Vietnamese sources, and not U.S., in Saigon

With respect to the body of information that we now have available, all three of us agreed to the following propositions:

–the information sources must be protected and not introduced into domestic politics.

–even with these sources, the case is not open and shut. On the question of the “public’s right to know,” Sec. Rusk was very strong on the following position: we get information like this every day, some of it very damaging to american political figures. We have always taken the view that with respect to such sources there is no public “right to know.” Such information is collected simply for the purposes of national security.

–so far as the information based on such sources is concerned, all three of us agreed: (A) even if the story breaks, it was judged too late to have a significant impact on the election. (B) the viability of the man elected as president was involved as well as subsequent relations between him and President Johnson. (C) therefore, the common recommendation was that we should not encourage such stories and hold tight the data we have.

Robert Parry’s “The Almost Scoop on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” was a follow-up to his “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'”, devoted exclusively to Keever’s explosive scoop, which might well have shifted an election and had consequences an ocean away. Keever would write of the aftermath in Death Zones and Darling Spies; this excerpt begins with quotes from Parry’s “The Almost Scoop”:

“The Christian Science Monitor‘s inquiry gave President Johnson one more opportunity to bring to light the Nixon campaign gambit before Election Day,” Parry recounts. Before deciding what to do, Johnson consulted in a conference call with Rostow, Defense Secretary Clifford, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk. “Those three pillars of the Washington Establishment were unanimous in advising Johnson against going public, mostly out of fear that the scandalous information might reflect badly on the U.S. government,” Parry explains in summing up their extended answers. Johnson agreed with his advisers. An administration spokesman told Davis: “Obviously I’m not going to get into this kind of thing in any way, shape or form.” Based on these evasive responses to Davis, the Monitor decided against publishing my lead.

My lead gave Johnson a last-minute choice of remaining silent or going public with Nixon’s ploy on the eve of the election. The scoop also crystallized a unique split-screen moment: The most decisive period of the Vietnam War, settling the conditions for ending it, was moving in parallel with a most indecisive period in the American democratic process, the U.S. presidential election.

The White House joined the Monitor in keeping vital information secret from Americans about to cast their ballots for president while GIs and Vietnamese were dying in a faraway war. My incriminating lead provided a hinge-of-history moment- for the American election, the future of South Vietnam, and the thousands of Americans and Vietnamese dying and about to die in Southeast Asia as the war dragged on for four more bloody years. In what Parry describes in another context, my lead zeroing in on Nixon’s “treason” faded away into the United States’ “lost history”-history that in this case would be written with more blood and tears.

Vice President Humphrey was also alerted by his chief speechwriter, Ted Van Dyk, that Thieu was going to hold off sending a delegation to the Paris peace talks, and that “in 1968 the old China Lobby is still alive.” Humphrey fumed, “I’ll be God-damned if the China Lobby can decide this government.” Yet that is what happened. Thieu’s explosive address made national headlines and cast doubts on Johnson’s ability to get the peace talks going and end the war. Nixon’s speechwriter, William Safire, voicing the sentiments of numerous pundits and a reputable polling firm, observed, “Nixon would probably not be president were it not for Thieu.”

NOVEMBER 5, 1968

The election was extraordinarily tight down to the day of the vote, when counting went into late evening and early morning as Nixon and Humphrey held even in the tally of electoral votes, until finally the winner broke out a lead. For those final deciding hours which bled into the sixth day, we take the perspective of the man who won, who worked so hard for this victory and for which others would pay so much; from RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon:

I placed calls to Ted Agnew and Nelson Rockefeller. They agreed that victory was just a matter of time. Then I called in my senior staff. We sat and talked for almost two hours while we waited for the reported results to confirm our predictions. Several times I asked Mitchell or Haldeman to call our people in the key states to break loose better information than the TV commentators seemed able to supply. They always came back with the same message: Don’t worry – things are going well – we’re almost there. Almost. I had been almost there in 1960. Finally, around five o’clock, Mitchell and Haldeman persuaded me to try to nap. It was clear that the outcome would not be definite until the morning and at this point I had been up for almost twenty-two hours. I couldn’t get to sleep, and after half an hour I got up again.

Just before 8 A.M. [H.R.] Haldeman brought in word that both NBC and ABC had declared me the winner in California and Ohio. But there was still no movement in Illinois, and that was what I needed to confirm victory. One more state. At 8:30 the door burst open and Dwight Chapin rushed in. “ABC just declared you the winner!” he shouted. “They’ve projected Illinois. You got it. You’ve won.”

We hurried into the sitting room where the television set was on and we watched as ABC continued to survey the electoral vote count. After we had watched for a few moments, I put a hand on John Mitchell’s shoulder and said, “Well, John, we had better get down to Florida and get this thing planned out.” Before Mitchell could respond, tears welled up in his eyes. He said very quietly, “Mr. President, I think I’d better go up to be with Martha.” This was a doubly moving moment for us both. It was the first time that anyone addressed me by the title I had just won. It was also the first time that Mitchell had directly referred to his wife’s problems, which I knew had been an immense emotional strain on him. Martha had been in a rest home during the last weeks of the campaign, and I fully understood his desire to be with her now.

I went down the hall to the suite where Pat and the girls were waiting. They were so physically and emotionally exhausted that there wasn’t the elation one would normally expect. We all kissed and embraced. Julie went to her room and then called me in. She opened her briefcase and pulled out a piece of crewelwork she had done during campaign flights around the country. It was the Great Seal of the United States, with the inscription “To RN-JN” stitched at the bottom. “Daddy, I never had any doubt you would win,” she said as she hugged me. “I just wanted something to be ready right away to prove it.”

Of those mentioned in this excerpt, Agnew would leave the vice presidency over tax evasion, Martha Mitchell would become a comical figure during the Watergate scandal for her inappropriate blurtings, eventually confined against her will because of her leaks to the press, while H.R. Haldeman and John Mitchell would serve, respectively, as a senior adviser to the president and his attorney general, before both ending up in prison for obstruction of justice in the course of the episode of breaking in and cover-up which would force Nixon from office, Watergate.

The entry from Clark Clifford’s diary on this day, published in Counsel to the President:

Tuesday, November 5. Election Day at last – I spent the day in the Pentagon, lunching with Nitze and Westmoreland, meeting with Air Force Secretary Harold Brown, and carrying out routine business. I was disgusted with the campaign – with Thieu’s treachery, with Humphrey’s vacillation, with Johnson’s failure to give Humphrey enough support, with Nixon’s clever deviousness, with Chennault’s interference. I assumed Nixon would win, but still hoped for a miracle.

The day dragged on without shape or focus. We went about our work almost numb from fatigue and suspense. In the evening I went home to await the results with a few friends, thinking back to narrow victories in 1948 and 1960. But this time, the victory would go to Richard Nixon. With it came the beginning of a generation of Republican domination of the executive branch and the end of the great Democratic tradition that had begun with FDR in 1932 and run for thirty-six years.

NOVEMBER 7, 1968

Two days after the election, Walt Rostow would send the following report with the accompanying cover letter to president Johnson35:

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

SECRET-EYES ONLY

Thursday, November 7, 1968
5:00 p.m.

Mr. President:

If you wish to get the story raw, read the last paragraph, marked.

Walt Rostow

DETERMINED TO BE AN ADMISTRATIVE MARKING
E.O. 12856, SEC. 1.1(a)

BY JOW ON 8/2/94

SECRET–EYES ONLY

The report:

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

SECRET-NOFORN

’68 NOV 7 PM 3:51

1968 NOV 7 20 43

3:39PM RNK
PRIORITY 11-7-68 RNK
TO: WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM, ATT.: MR. BROMLEY SMITH 09
ROM: DIRECTOR, FBI

(SECRET – NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION)

EMBASSY OF VIETNAM; INTERNAL SECURITY – VIETNAM.

On November Seven, Instant, a confidential source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, furnished the following information:

On instant date, an unidentified male was in contact with Major Bui Cong Minh, Assistant Armed Forces Attache, Embassy of Vietnam, Washington, D.C. (WDC). The unidentified individual advised Major Minh that he had just received a call from General Westmoreland’s office, and General Westmoreland desired to see the unidentified man during the evening of November Seven, instant. In view of this appointment, the unidentified man desired to delay his visit to see Major Minh until Saturday, November Nine,

PAGE TWO (SECRET – NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION)

next. Major Minh agreed and the unidentified man and his wife will visit Major and Mrs. Minh on Saturday November Nine, next, (possibly at Major Minh’s residence One Zero Eight Zero Five [10805] Georgia Avenue, Apartment Two Zero One [201], Wheaton, Maryland).

The unidentified man inquired as to how the peace talks were coming, and Major Minh expressed the opinion that the move by Saigon was to help presidential candidate Nixon, and that had Saigon gone to the conference table, presidential candidate Humphrey would probably have won.

GP-1

“If you wish to get the story raw, read the last paragraph, marked,” is the note on the cover letter, and the notable point in the last paragraph is: “Major Minh expressed the opinion that the move by Saigon [the refusal to participate in the Peace Talks] was to help presidential candidate Nixon, and that had Saigon gone to the conference table, presidential candidate Humphrey would probably have won.”

NOVEMBER 8, 1968

A conversation between Johnson and Everett Dirksen, where the president stresses that the message must be sent to Nixon that it remains urgent for Thieu to be at the peace talks. This remains Johnson’s priority, even after the election has been decided36:

DIRKSEN
I talked to Dick this morning.

JOHNSON
Yes Edward.

DIRKSEN
He’s coming to see you about this, at 1:30 is my understanding.

JOHNSON
Yes?

DIRKSEN
And, he has your background. Now, I hated the words. I said, it seems they sent some of their boys out to spy, and tell them to wait. So you’ll know that he knows the story.

JOHNSON
Well, what was his reaction?

DIRKSEN
Well. He said he didn’t send anybody. Well, maybe not. But maybe somebody else sent somebody. But-

JOHNSON
What was his reaction to the request that he tell somebody to go on and get that Paris meeting?

DIRKSEN
He didn’t give me very much reaction. He just cindered a little by saying “We didn’t do anything.” Well, that may well be, but there a lot of those people in (inaudible). You’ll know the kind of background that you have to talk to him to.

JOHNSON
Well, now the point is this’ll not going to wait till Monday. No no. Hell no. This’ll go right now. Because if they don’t go in there this week, we’re just gonna have all kinds of problems.

DIRKSEN
I thought from the arrangement that was made, coming up here on Monday, that’d be satisfactory.

JOHNSON
No, I told you last night, I oughta, I thought I’d hear early this morning, cuz we want Thieu to get a message so he can get a delegation Saigon to Paris next week. We think we’ve held up just every day, we’re killing men. We’re killing men.

On this same day, a secret intelligence report was sent to the President on a meeting between a trusted source and South Vietnam’s ambassador to the United States, Bui Diem. What is of interest is that the counter-proposal is so minutely different from the original U.S. one, and that what is most wanted is not a resolution of the war, but a slowing down of the peace process 37:

8 November 1968

The following is a report by a reliable and trustworthy American of his breakfast meeting with the Government of Vietnam (GVN) Ambassador Bui Diem on 8 November 1968, at the residence.

1. On the way to this meeting, the news had come over the radio that President Thieu had proposed that, under the “our side, your side”, formula, South Vietnam be designated head of the Allies delegation while North Vietnam be head of the Communist one. Bui Diem had the full text of Thieu’s statement. He commented that the GVN position represented only a small change in the original U.S. proposal – rather than a totally new and different formula – but that it satisfied a number of Vietnamese concerns: it gave the GVN a more prominent status than the NLF, it would put negotiations on a Vietnamese-to-Vietnamese basis rather than a U.S.-to-Vietnamese basis, and it would clearly represent a new stage of negotiations rather than a continuation of the previous phase. Asked if he thought there was much chance of Hanoi’s acceptance, he replied “no,” but he added that it put the GVN on the offensive rather than in the position of appearing to scuttle negotiations.

2. Asked if he thought that, under one formula or another, the negotiations would be able to resume soon, Bui Diem said that he thought it would take some time. He said that he thought the fact that the U.S. now had a President-elect would slow down the planning process on the U.S. side, since President Johnson would wish to inform and seek the opinions of the President-elect’s term, and it would also take some time to repair the damage to GVN-U.S. relations. Regarding the latter point, Bui Diem said that, while there was a minor substantiative difference in the U.S. and GVN positions – such as the U.S. willingness to leave GVN and NLF status at the peace talks ambiguous while the GVN wanted more precision – much of the difficulty

DECLASSIFIED
E.O. 12958, Sec. 3.6
NLJ 00-231
By com, NARA Date 12-19-00

SECRET/SENSITIVE

Rostow would also pass on another report on Anna Chennault’s activities, accompanied by a cover letter which urged that they act on the information. Had they done so, Nixon’s political career would have been destroyed four years before Watergate38.

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Literally Eyes Only

THE WHITE HOUSE

WASHINGTON

Friday, Nov. 8, 1968
7:35 am

Mr. President:

First reactions may well be wrong.

But with this information I think it’s time to blow the whistle on these folks.

W. W. Rostow

Literally Eyes Only

The report:

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

245 AM 11-08-68 RDR
PRIORITY
TO: WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM, ATT.: MR. BROMLEY SMITH 02

FROM: DIRECTOR, FBI

S E C R E T – NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION

EMBASSY OF VIETNAM

On November Seven, last, a confidential source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, furnished the following information:

In late evening on November Seven, last, Mrs. Anna Chennault contacted Vietnamese ambassador Bui Diem and advised that the message on that date from South Vietnamese president Thieu “which our boss” was alright. She advised she had given “them” everything when she finally got back to her office to call, that “they” got the whole message.

Chennault stated 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 at which time she will be in touch again and will have more news for Diem.

Chennault continued that “they” are still planning things but are not letting people know too much because they want to be careful to avoid embarrassing “you”, themselves, or the present

END PAGE ONE

NOVEMBER 11-12, 1968

On November 11, Nixon would visit the White House after a five day vacation in Key Biscayne, where he would meet with Johnson and his cabinet for the first time since the election. The moment is described in RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon:

On November 6 we flew aboard an Air Force jet to Key Biscayne for a postelection rest. On the way we stopped in Washington so that I could visit Eisenhower at Walter Reed Hospital. Few moments in my life have been more satisfying than entering his room as the President-elect. When he saw me, his face brightened and he said, “Congratulations, Mr. President!”

After a five-day rest in Key Biscayne we returned to New York to begin putting together an administration. Once again we stopped in Washington, this time for luncheon at the White House with President and Mrs. Johnson

When we entered the Cabinet Room, the briefers were already waiting for us: Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Earle Wheeler, Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms, and National Security Adviser Walt Rostow.

The main subject was Vietnam. The travail of the long war was etched on the faces around me. These were all able and intelligent men. They had wanted desperately to end the war before leaving office, but they had not succeeded. They seemed very nearly worn out. They had no new approaches to recommend to me. I sensed that, despite the disappointment of defeat, they were relieved to be able to turn this morass over to someone else.

When Johnson and I returned to the Oval Office after the briefing, he talked with a sense of urgency. “There may be times when we disagree, and, if such time comes, I will let you know privately,” he said. “But you can be sure that I won’t criticize you publicly. Eisenhower did the same for me. I know what an enormous burden you will be carrying.” He said that he wanted to do everything he could to help me succeed. “The problems at home and abroad are probably greater than any President has ever confronted since the time of Lincoln,” he said. Johnson and I had been adversaries for many years, but on that day our political and personal differences melted away. As we stood together in the Oval Office, he welcomed me into a club of very exclusive membership, and he made a promise to adhere to the cardinal rule of that membership: stand behind those who succeed you.

Johnson would comply with this ideal in the remaining years in which he lived, demonstrating once again that the priority was not Humphrey’s election or victory over Nixon, but an end to the war in Vietnam. If he simply wished for victory over Nixon, he had enough to annihilate his career. However, just as Nixon did not show his true face to Johnson, the president did not turn up all his cards on the table either. The same day that he counseled Nixon on what lay ahead, he demanded from Deke DeLoach the information already cited, the phone calls made from Spiro Agnew’s plane on the day of the “her boss” intercept39.

A CIA intelligence cable on two private parties attended by Thieu on November 11 and 12 would report that Thieu explicitly stated that he’d sent secret emissaries to Nixon’s election campaign40:

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
INTELLIGENCE CABLE

COUNTRY SOUTH VIETNAM

DOI 11-12 NOVEMBER 1968

SUBJECT

PRESIDENT THIEU’S COMMENTS ON PEACE TALKS IMPASSE AT PRIVATE DINNER PARTIES ON 11 AND 12 NOVEMBER 1968

ACQ VIETNAM, SAIGON [REDACTED]

SOURCE

[REDACTED]

SANITIZED
Authority NLJ 10-99
By cbm NARA, Date 1-28-2011

2. During the course of a dinner on 11 November 1968, at which he presided as a relaxed and genial host and self-assured strong man, president Nguyen Van Thieu spoke critically of the unprecedented pressure to which the U.S. government had subjected him during the pre-bombing halt discussions. According to Thieu, the americans had cited the size of the U.S. commitment in blood and money as justification for insisting that U.S. interests prevail and had cited the presence in South Vietnam (SVN) of a half million U.S. troops. Thieu said he had had to remind the Americans that the government of Vietnam (GVN) contribution to the war was in fact, larger than the U.S. commitment.

Thieu characterized the U.S. government action as a “betrayal” comparable to the U.S. abandonment of Chiang Kai-Shek as a result of the Yalta, Teheran and Casablanca conferences. He complained that the Americans had sent the Australian and Korean ambassadors to badger him into accepting the U.S. point of view. Thieu observed that vice president Nguyen Cao Ky, who was not present, was fully in accord with his policy on the Paris talks question, including his recently enunciated “our side-your side” formula.

4. Thieu told his quests that during the U.S. election campaign he had sent two secret emissaries to the U.S. to contact Richard Nixon. He indicated he might reshuffle the cabinet in an effort to please the new U.S. administration, mentioning specifically the posts of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

9. Thieu said that there had been no reaction from Washington to his two-delegation proposal since the recent meeting between President Johnson and President-elect Nixon. He expects Nixon to let Johnson try to solve the talks crisis and to go as far as possible toward reaching a settlement. This would make Nixon’s own job easier after inauguration and would leave for the Nixon administration the obvious measures to be taken to disengage the U.S. from SVN, thus allowing Nixon to be the “hero” who de-americanized the war.

Nixon would detail the November 11 meeting for his memoir, and Clark Clifford would recall it for his own:

I was impressed with the controlled manner in which Nixon conducted himself: always polite and deferential to President Johnson, careful not to reveal his private thoughts on any issue that still lay within the responsibility of the President. Where Johnson liked to obscure his strategy with a stream of Texas stories and rhetoric, Nixon was self controlled, and conveyed the impression of a man weighing every word. But one could easily overlook Nixon’s skill with words, because he left such a strong impression of physical awkwardness.

Rather opaquely, Nixon said he found no significant differences between his own views on Vietnam and those of the Johnson Administration: “I will do nothing until the Inauguration unless it is seen to be helpful by you. We must present a united front” – this from the man whose agents had sung the song of dissension to Saigon only a few days earlier.

“You can be very helpful in the next sixty-five days, especially with Saigon,” I said to Nixon. “I know you want to wind this up as much as we do.”

“The quicker the better,” the President-elect replied.

THE AFTERMATH PART I

The silence of Johnson and his closest aides would be kept after the election, and after Nixon’s inauguration, until their deaths. In my research on this episode, I came across various hypotheses on why Johnson kept their silence on Nixon’s backchannel diplomacy, with the major reason given that the information had been obtained illegally, without a warrant, and that therefore it would somehow damage the Johnson White House as much, if not more, than the Nixon campaign. This misunderstands the nature of the evidence against Nixon, which was prompted first by the tip of Alexander Sachs, which led to the FBI taps on Anna Chennault. This was a major national security issue which Chennault was sticking her fingers into, meddling into secret high level diplomatic talks, and it’s to be expected that a suspect would have their phone tapped, just as they would if they sold weapons or secrets. The tapping of the Vietnamese embassy in the U.S. and the NSA intelligence from Vietnam were incidental to the case, only confirming that for the South Vietnamese leadership, Nixon was the one. Even granting that their silence during the 1968 race was tactical, it does not explain their stone silence afterwards, which was closely kept for a specific reason, given by Clark Clifford in the conference call of November 2nd: “I think that some elements of the story are so shocking in their nature that I’m wondering whether it would be good for the country to disclose the story, and then possibly to have a certain individual elected. It could cast his whole administration under such doubts that I would think it would be inimical to our country’s interests.” As Johnson said in his phone call with Everett Dirksen, “This is treason.”41

Two major stories would touch on the machinations of the South Vietnamese government to influence the 1968 election by sabotaging the peace talks. On November 15, The Chicago Daily News would published an article by Georgie Anne Geyer headlined “Saigon boast: ‘We helped elect Nixon'” which quoted Saigon generals gleeful over scoring Nixon’s victory, but without mentioning the Nixon-Chennault connection42:

CHICAGO DAILY NEWS, Friday, November 15, 1968

Saigon boast: “We helped elect Nixon”

By Georgie Anne Geyer
Daily News Foreign Service

SAIGON – Top Saigon officials are boasting privately they helped assure the election of Richard M. Nixon.

They are pleased about it. “We did it,” one of them said. “We helped elect an American President.”

Their reasoning is that by sabotaging President Johnson’s attempt to call a bombing halt two weeks before the elections they eliminated the support this would have brought for Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

“FIFTEEN DAYS would have done it,” one cabinet minister said, obviously pleased, “but four days wasn’t enough, and we saw to that.”

The same minister charged, privately, that since last spring, when the United States began meetings with Hanoi in Paris, Washington has been “working for Hanoi.” The Saigon government characterizes any negotiation with its enemy as tantamount to treason.

But with Nixon as President, they believe they will have not only a more understanding fellow hard-liner but also will have time. “Johnson was under pressures to get this thing over,” the minister said, “but Nixon will have at least six months or a year.”

THE GOVERNMENT has long said it does not want peace now, that it wants it only when it controls more of the country and can make better use of it. The reasoning is: “We are winning now. Why should we give up anything?”

To many American officials here it is offensive that the government for which Mr. Johnson literally gave up the Presidency and sacrificed his political career should treat him in this way.

Two days later, columnist Drew Pearson would publish “Saigon Generals Played Politics With Election”, and this would briefly mention that Bui Diem had been secretly in contact with Nixon, and may have even passed money to some of his associates 43:

Washington-Saigon Feud

Details Leak Out of Backstage Fight Between U.S. and South Vietnam

By Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson

THE EXPLOSIVE details have now leaked out about the backstage blowup between the United States and South Vietnam, which threatened to wreck the Paris peace negotiations before they start.

All along the South Vietnamese had agreed, in principle, to a bombing halt, provided they were given a place at the truce table. As the delicate negotiations were about to bear fruit, however, they suddenly began throwing up procedural objections. In both Paris and Saigon, the Americans and South Vietnamese wound up shouting angry insults at each other.

The South Vietnamese leaders become convinced that President Johnson was trying to rush through an agreement on a bombing halt just before the election in order to win votes for Hubert Humphrey. They felt strongly that LBJ was selling them out, that he was more concerned about winning the election than winning the war.

The President, meanwhile, learned that Saigon’s Ambassador Bui Diem had been in touch secretly with Richard Nixon’s people. There were unconfirmed reports that South Vietnamese leaders had even slipped campaign cash to Nixon representatives. These reports made Mr. Johnson suspicious that the South Vietnamese were trying to sabotage the peace negotiations in the hope that Nixon would win the election and take a harder line.

In the early part of the new year, another reporter came much closer to the frightening truth, though it remained without the later substantiation of the various intelligence intercepts and the explicit admission of Anna Chennault in her role. This was the journalist Tom Ottenad, mentioned briefly earlier in a Bryce Harlow note as one of those who believed a bombing halt would soon take place. His inquiries at the Vietnamese embassy in D.C. got near enough to what had taken place to set off a warning note by the FBI, passed on to Johnson in the days before Nixon’s inauguration44:

4:45PM 1-3-69 JDR
PRIORITY
TO WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM, ATT.: MR. BROMLEY SMITH 004

WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM
’69 JAN 3 PM 5:11

S E C R E T – NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION

EMBASSY OF VIETNAM; INTERNAL SECURITY – VIETNAM.

On January Three, instant, a confidential source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, furnished the following information:

On the same date, Vietnamese Ambassador Bui Diem, Washington, D.C. (WDC), was in contact with Richard Dudman of the WDC bureau of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, this bureau having previously attempted to contact Ambassador Diem on instant date. Dudman made reference to an article which has been written for the St. Louis Dispatch, about Anna Chennault, concerning reports that Chennault had frequently been in touch with Vietnamese officials in WDC, encouraging Vietnamese officials to go slow with respect to expanded peace talks in Paris. Ambassador Diem denied these reports, stating that Vietnamese decisions are based

END PAGE ONE

PAGE TWO (S E C R E T – NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION)

on a lot of factors, mainly the problems at home (Vietnam), and not on internal politics in the United States.

Dudman questioned as to whether there had not been some concern by the White House, or by Vice President Humphrey about Chennault’s activities, further that the St. Louis Post Dispatch had information to this effect and that there had been some kind of inquiry or complaint to the Vietnamese embassy, WDC, in this regard. Ambassador Diem denied this information, commenting that he (Diem) had been in touch with many friends in WDC, both Democrats and Republicans, and again denied knowledge of an inquiry or complaint in such a matter.

Ottenad would attempt to interview Walt Rostow for this piece, and would later attempt to speak to Lyndon Johnson and his aide, Tom Johnson, on the same subject. These later inquiries were turned down, just as Rostow would refuse to answer any such questions for the January 6, 1969 article45. Rostow may have wished to blow the whistle on the backchannel diplomacy of Nixon-Chennault, but now that the choice had been made to stay silent, he would abide by it46:

1/3/69 11:40 am

Phone conversation, Tom Ottenad of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and W. W. Rostow

Ottenad: I have been working on a story that I wondered if I might talk to you about. It’s on background basis, or however you want to talk about it. It has to do with the last period of the Presidential campaign about the time of the President’s announcement of the bombing halt and steps to broaden the Paris talks. I’ve been told that during that period some Republican contacts were made with South Vietnamese officials urging them to go slow in the hope that from their standpoint, they might get a better shake under Nixon than they would otherwise, and that these contacts–contacts of this type–were made by Mrs. Chennault. We have established this from a number of sources, and it’s not really about that as such that I was inquiring, but rather about another aspect of it. I was told also that this activity had come to the attention of the Administration, and I wondered–I wanted to ask you–if that is in fact correct.

WWR: I have not one word to say about that matter.

Ottenad: Not even on background or completely non-attributable basis?

WWR: On no basis whatsoever.

Ottenad: There is no point about my asking other questions related to it.

WWR: That is correct.

Ottenad: That would be just a waste of your time.

WWR: I’m afraid that’s right.

Ottenad: May I ask about a different but somewhat related matter — because I don’t know whether you will say the same thing to that or not; if it is, of course, I’ll drop the business right there. The other matter I’ve been told of is about this same time. Contacts were made indirectly by South Vietnamese officials with the Nixon camp asking — unsuccessfully, as it turned out — asking for an opportunity to meet with Nixon or one of his aides and hinting that South Vietnamese would not take action on the question of going to Paris until after the election. My question: Did that ever come to your attention.

WWR: I have nothing whatsoever to say about it.

Ottenad’s article, published on January 6 1969, would detail the Nixon-Chennault attempt to sabotage the Paris Peace Talks. Though it would identify Chennault’s role, that she was specifically acting on behalf of Nixon was left an open question, and vigorously denied by off-the-record sources of his campaign47:

Was Saigon’s peace talk delay due to Republican promises?

TOM OTTENAD

January 6, 1969

WASHINGTON – A well-known top official of committees working for the election of Richard M. Nixon secretly got in touch with representatives of South Vietnam shortly before the presidential election.

It was in connection with an apparent effort to encourage them to delay in joining the Paris peace talks in hopes of getting a better deal if the Republicans won the White House.

The government of South Vietnam had been expected to join the Paris discussions soon after President Lyndon B. Johnson announced plans on Oct. 31 to bring both it and the Communist National Liberation Front into the peace talks and to halt all American bombing of North Vietnam. However, it delayed doing so for four weeks.

Its action is credited by some political experts, including some of Nixon’s staff, with cutting the loss of votes that his aides believe he suffered in the election from the last-minute peace move. In this view, the Vietnamese delay lent credence to Republican charges that Mr. Johnson’s action was a political maneuver to help the Democratic candidate, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

Informed diplomats as well as administration sources and a number of Republicans, including some within Nixon’s own organization, have said that Republican contact with South Vietnamese representatives was made by Mrs. Anna Chennault. The initial contact was reported to have been made a few days before Mr. Johnson’s Oct. 31 announcement.

A high ranking official at the South Vietnamese Embassy here said it was “entirely untrue” that Mrs. Chennault had urged officials of his government to go slow in joining the Paris peace talks.

Mrs. Chennault, who was born in Peking is of Chinese descent, but became an American citizen in 1950. She is a vice chairman of one of the committees planning Nixon’s inauguration Jan. 20. The attractive 45-year-old woman, who claims many friends in high government and Republican circles, is to be escorted to the inaugural ball by Gov. Warren P. Knowles of Wisconsin, it was announced recently. Her name figures in speculation for possible appointment to a key position in the Nixon administration.

In a recent interview, she declined to confirm or deny reports that she had been in frequent touch with representatives of the South Vietnamese Embassy shortly before the Nov. 5 election. “Who told you that?” she asked with a half smile.

In response to further questions the petite, vivacious woman, who rates Bui Diem, South Vietnam’s ambassador to the U.S., and other diplomats and world leaders among her friends, refused to give much information.

“You’re going to get me in a lot of trouble,” she remarked. Toying with the high collar of her Chinese-style dress, a personal fashion trademark, she continued with a laugh:

“I can’t say anything…come back and ask me that after the inauguration. We’re at a very sensitive time…I know so much and can say so little.”

Asked whether others had made contact with the South Vietnamese she replied enigmatically, “I certainly was not alone at that time.”

Friends of Mrs. Chennault have said that she was in sympathy with high South Vietnamese officials, including some of the country’s embassy here, who favored awaiting the outcome of the American presidential election before making any move toward joining the Paris peace negotiations.

High administration sources here say that key South Vietnamese officials generally favored the election of Nixon over Humphrey. They say also that they received information from Saigon indicating that many believe South Vietnamese officials there believed Mrs. Chennault was acting on Nixon’s behalf in contacts with representatives of that country. They termed this belief understandable in view of South Vietnam’s reputation for political intrigue.

When told that the Nixon forces disclaimed any connection with her reported actions, Mrs. Chennault remarked with a laugh: “You’ve covered politics. What would you expect? In politics nothing is fair.”

Although Nixon advisers say they learned of Mrs. Chennault’s activities several days before the Nov. 5 election, they apparently took no steps to halt her or remove her from her connection with the campaign. Explaining why, one G.O.P. official said, “She wasn’t our baby. She wasn’t really part of the campaign.”

Another Nixon adviser also emphasized this thought, stressing that Mrs. Chennault was not part of Nixon’s personal campaign staff.

“She was co-chairman of a volunteer organization,” he said. “She wasn’t a foreign policy adviser. We were faced with all kinds of people who claimed to speak for Nixon on various issues but really didn’t.”

Another Republican aide said, “The difficulty is she is pretty free-wheeling. She took a number of independent actions in the campaign. We had to pull her back several times.”

Some sources who are friendly to Mrs. Chennault have said privately that the Nixon camp was aware of her actions. They did not make clear, however, at what point this reported awareness developed.

Sources in the Nixon camp insisted strongly that Nixon was adamant in his refusal to make political capital out of the Vietnamese conflict or of the peace negotiations. “I saw him explode one time and say he was not going to make the war a political issue even if it cost him the election,” said one aide.

In contrast, Theodore White’s The Making of the President 1968 presented the Nixon-Chennault backchannel diplomacy as an unsubstantiated rumor that may well have blown up in the face of the Democratic party, and therefore it was best that it had been left alone and unpublicized. I give lengthy excerpt of the section of White’s book devoted to the episode:

When the American administration announced the bombing halt of Thursday night, it did so believing that it had the full assent of the South Vietnamese government. It had, however, only the assent of its president Nguyen van Thieu. And so solemnly had Thieu been admonished by the American government to keep the secrecy of the preceding weeks of negotiation that he had kept the details of agreement secret even from his cabinet, his national assembly, and his vice-president and rival, Nguyen Cao Ky. Faced with a revolt of his assembly as the news leaked, menaced by a coup d’état of his vice-president, Thieu reneged. On Friday, Saigon time (Saturday, American time) came his shattering statement, “The Government of South Vietnam deeply regrets not to be able to participate in the present exploratory talks.”

There could be no doubt that someone had blundered; of such blunders great issues in politics can be made. But over the weekend of November 1st and 2nd, with the Presidency of the United States apparently at stake, both sides approached the blunder as if it were a political explosive. Given the proper twist, it could explode either way, and one must see the temptation of the Democrats to exploit hidden opportunity, the temptation of the Republicans to exploit public confusion.

There is no way of getting at the dilemma of both parties except by introducing, at this point, the completely extraneous name of a beautiful Oriental lady, Anna Chan Chennault, the Chinese widow of war-time hero General Claire Chennault. Mrs. Chennault, an American citizen since 1950, comes of a line that begins with Mei-ling Soong (Madame Chiang K’ai-shek) and runs through Madame Nhu (the Dragon Lady of South Vietnam) – a line of Oriental ladies of high purpose and authoritarian manners whose pieties and iron righteousness have frequently outrun their brains and acknowledged beauty. In the campaign of 1968, Mrs. Chennault, a lady of charm, energy and great name, had become chairman or co-chairman of several Nixon citizen committees, wearing honorific titles which were borne by many but which she took more seriously than most. In that circle of Oriental diplomacy in Washington once known as the China Lobby, Anna Chennault was hostess-queen. Having raised (by her statement later) some $250 000 for the Nixon campaign, she felt entitled to authority by her achievement. And, having learned of the October negotiations by gossip and rumor and press speculation, as did most Americans, she had undertaken most energetically to sabotage them. In contact with the Formosan, the South Korean and the South Vietnamese governments, she had begun early, by cable and telephone, to mobilize their resistance to the agreement – apparently implying, as she went, that she spoke for the Nixon campaign.

She had, however, neglected to take the most elementary precautions of an intriguer, and her communications with Asia had been tapped by the American government and brought directly to the perusal of President Johnson.

Although Johnson had been made aware of Mrs. Chennault’s messages even before his announcement of the bombing halt, he had not taken them seriously. It was not until Saturday, with the announcement of eleven South Vietnamese senators in Saigon of their support for Richard M. Nixon(!) and the repudiation of the Paris agreement by President Thieu, that the President’s wrath was lit. By Saturday he had accused Senator Everett Dirksen of a Republican plot to sabotage peace (which Dirksen, presumably hastened to relay to Nixon headquarters); and by Sunday, Johnson was in direct and bitter telephonic contact with Richard Nixon in Los Angeles (see footnote, page 383)*.

What could have been made of an open charge that the Nixon leaders were saboteurs of the peace one cannot guess; how quickly it might, if aired have brought the last forty-eight hours of the American campaign to squalor is a matter of speculation. But the good instinct of that small-town boy Hubert Humphrey prevailed. Fully informed of the sabotage of the negotiations and the recalcitrance of the Saigon government, Humphrey might have won the Presidency of the United States by making it the prime story of the last four days of the campaign. He was urged by several members of his staff to do so. And I know of no more essentially decent story in American politics than Humphrey’s refusal to do so; his instinct was that Richard Nixon, personally, had no knowledge of Mrs. Chennault’s activities; had no hand in them; and would have forbidden them had he known. Humphrey would not air the story.

For the sake of the record, I must add that in probing this episode during the weekend of its happening, this reporter’s judgement was that Humphrey’s decision was morally, if not tactically, correct. At the first report of Republican sabotage in Saigon, Nixon’s headquarters had begun to investigate the story; had discovered Mrs. Chennault’s activities; and was appalled. The fury and dismay at Nixon’s headquarters when his aides discovered the report were so intense that they could not have been feigned simply for the benefit of this reporter. Their feeling on Monday morning before the election was, simply, that if they lost the election, Mrs. Chennault might have lost it for them. She had taken their name and authority in vain; if the Democrats now chose to air the story, no rebuttal of the Nixon camp would be convincing; and they were at the mercy of Humphrey’s good-will.

On November 23, 1968, Johnson would speak again with George Smathers, explaining how important it was that they try to bring about a peace deal. This, I think, is one more piece of evidence that the bombing halt was not a political ploy, but a genuine attempt at peace talks – an attempt sabotaged by a political candidate. Here again, Johnson says why he cannot go public with his allegations: because of the sources and because it would destroy Nixon, rendering him unable to run the country when the United States was at war. Audio file is 13763.mp3, Conversation #13763 from “Highlights from LBJ’s Telephone Conversations May 1968-January 1969”, full transcript is on Pastebin, “Lyndon Johnson George Smathers November 23 1968”:

This point in the clip is from to 3:38 to 4:21:

JOHNSON
This bunch of fools moved in, got South Vietnam not to go to the conference, because of Nixon, they just screwed up everything, and it’s taken us three or four weeks, and I didn’t expose it because I just couldn’t use those sources, and I didn’t want to make it impossible for him to govern. I think if I had said to the country: that this is an- and exposed, just brought it out, I think it’ll shock the country so, that he would have been seriously hurt. And so, I just told you, and he told Dirksen, and got it kinda back on the track again. But that damn woman is still messing around, causing trouble. That Ms. Chennault.

This incredible story would afterwards stay in the realm of intangible, unconfirmed mist, occasionally brought to the fore by memoirs of those involved in that election. In his own memoir, The Vantage Point, Johnson would allege that pro-Nixon forces had promised the South Vietnamese leadership a better deal, but would not claim that they were acting on the orders of Nixon himself, the allegations described in “LBJ Charges Pro-Nixon Move Beat Humphrey” by Jack Anderson, a column touting salient excerpts from Johnson’s forthcoming book:

WASHINGTON – Lyndon Johnson charges in his forthcoming memoirs that Richard Nixon’s allies insured Hubert Humphrey’s 1968 presidential defeat by secretly persuading the Saigon government to stay away from the Paris peace talks.

The former President’s memoirs entitled “The Vantage Point,” are being kept under tight wraps. But we can quote the highlights.

Here, for example, how Johnson describes the GOP-Saigon skulduggery:

“People who claimed to speak for the Nixon camp began encouraging Saigon to stay away from Paris and promising that Nixon, if elected, would inaugurate a policy more to Saigon’s liking. “Those efforts paid off.

“On November 1, after previously indicating that they would have made him the talks [sic], the South Vietnamese leaders decided not to participate. That I am convinced, cost Hubert Humphrey the presidency, especially since a shift of only a few hundred thousand votes would have made him the winner.

“I am certain the outcome would have been different if the Paris peace talks had been in progress on Election day.”

When Clark Clifford would bluntly state what he knew of the affair in Counsel to the President, it received a strange rebuke from former Nixon speechwriter William Safire, then a columnist for the New York Times who did not see the episode as an example of Nixon’s duplicity, paid for with American and Vietnamese blood, but as a precedent for the wiretapping of Watergate. The piece was “Clark Clifford’s Confession”, and here is its crux:

WASHINGTON- Do you remember what Watergate was all about? It was about the intrusion by the party in power into the rights of political challengers — the Ins using their power unfairly to block the Outs.

In his eye-popping memoirs, “Counsel to the President,” Clark Clifford shows in exquisite detail how Lyndon Johnson colluded with Moscow — and abused the power of our intelligence agencies — to try to block Richard Nixon’s challenge and swing the 1968 election to the Democrats’ Hubert Humphrey.

That revelation was not Mr. Clifford’s intent, of course; on the contrary, this Democrat, whose civilized partisanship I have long admired, charges the Nixon campaign with “gross, even potentially illegal, interference with the security affairs of the nation” by encouraging South Vietnam to avoid participating in a Paris meeting central to a 1968 election-weekend stunt.

In castigating Mrs. Chennault for foiling the scheme, Mr. Clifford is forced to reveal the basis of his suspicion of her: “the information had been derived from extremely sensitive intelligence-gathering operations of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and the National Security Agency; these included surveillance of the Ambassador of our ally, and an American citizen with strong political ties to the Republicans.”

Recognizing that this was a startling admission of the abuse of government power to defeat a political opponent, Mr. Clifford footnotes: “It should be remembered that the public was considerably more innocent in such matters in the days before the Watergate hearings . . .”

John Mitchell, Nixon’s 1968 campaign manager, knew what Mrs. Chennault — who needed no guidance — was doing. Later, as Attorney General, he learned from the F.B.I. and C.I.A. exactly how the White House orchestrated N.S.A.’s eavesdropping on Nixon’s “Dragon Lady” and C.I.A.’s illegal surveillance of national-security aide Richard Allen. Returning to manage the 1972 Nixon campaign, Mitchell entrusted such unlawful intrusions to amateurs, for which he was jailed.

Clark Clifford’s memoirs confirm that. Watergate’s crimes grew from seeds planted in the power abuses of the Johnson Administration’s “October surprise.”

The piece is so brazen in its dishonesty that I’m sorry Safire is no longer alive so I might yell at him on twitter. As already stated, the wiretapping of Chennault began with the revelations of Alexander Sachs to Eugene Rostow, that high level diplomacy was being messed with. When Clifford writes “we first became aware of these activities through the normal operations of the intelligence community in the weeks prior to the election,” it is this that he is referring to. That it was an inquiry into a matter of national security whose thread appeared to lead to one of the candidates of the 1968 election, and nothing like the free ranging persecution campaign against all enemies of the Nixon White House, is a subtlety missed by Safire, but exactly the sort of dishonesty you might expect to shield against a dart that falls on a tender and vulnerable point. I was not the only one incensed by this column, which would provoke a letter from a former member of Johnson’s cabinet, “The Real Story of ’68 Vietnam Bombing Halt”, written by William Bundy, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs:

To the Editor:

William Safire’s May 23 column (“Clark Clifford’s Confession”) turns history on its head about the covert operation mounted in October 1968 by Richard M. Nixon, John Mitchell and Anna Chennault to ditch President Lyndon Johnson’s agreement with Hanoi for serious peace negotiations to end the Vietnam War. I participated in the events of that month and have recently done extensive research on the period for my own historical purposes.

Mr. Safire states that Mr. Johnson’s bombing halt announcement on Oct. 31, 1968, looking to immediate negotiations, was an “election-weekend stunt.” On the contrary, “Counsel to the President,” Mr. Clifford’s memoir, shows that Mr. Johnson’s terms for a bombing halt, worked out in late June 1968, never changed. As Mr. Clifford relates with feeling, Mr. Johnson resisted many attempts to soften or shade these terms, forcing a platform confrontation that played a big part in the disastrous Democratic National Convention in August. Some election stunt!

About Oct. 29, as Mr. Clifford recounts in more general terms, Mr. Johnson and his inner circle (of which I was not part) learned through intercepted South Vietnam Embassy cables, particularly one of Oct. 27, that Anna Chennault was conveying via Bui Diem apparently authoritative “Republican” messages urging Mr. Thieu to abort or cripple the deal by refusing to participate.

That “smoking gun” cable included promises of later favor from Mr. Nixon, including a possible visit to Saigon before inauguration if he were elected. (As Mr. Nixon well knew, “reading the mail” of allied governments of importance to United States foreign policy was not an exceptional practice in the postwar period.) Thus alerted, Mr. Johnson requested Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance of Mrs. Chennault and the embassy, and the results amply confirmed her activity.

No Clifford “confession” was needed about these actions. The surveillance was disclosed fully in Senate Committee hearings in 1975, the F.B.I. testifying that it accepted Mr. Johnson’s request based on possible violations of the Neutrality Act and the Foreign Agents Registration Act, both concerning dealings by United States private citizens with the governments of other countries. Interference such as Mrs. Chennault’s is certainly something the United States Government is entitled to know about as a matter of national security, in a situation such as prevailed in late October 1968.

On Nov. 3, two days before the election, Mr. Johnson taxed Mr. Nixon with Mrs. Chennault’s activities, and Mr. Nixon categorically denied any connection or knowledge — almost certainly a lie in light of later disclosures. In the circumstances, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Humphrey decided, separately, not to raise what would surely have been a highly divisive issue so late in a campaign. A year later, Theodore White, describing the episode in his book on the 1968 campaign, rightly called Mr. Humphrey’s decision one of the most decent actions ever taken by an American political figure.

Mr. Safire has badly distorted what was indeed a black page in American political history. Clark Clifford’s honest and unflinching account nails down the conclusion that President Johnson acted throughout in the national interest as he perceived it. We still lack an honest account of what Richard Nixon did and knew, or in what interest, other than his own political gain.

The scandal remained in the netherworld of a few tangible facts – that Chennault had contacts with the Nixon campaign, that there were allegations of Chennault contacting the South Vietnamese, that the leadership of South Vietnam had wanted Nixon to win the election – until evidence began to come into place, giving what was ghostly a solid, disturbing form. There was Anna Chennault’s open admission of her role in The Arrogance of Power by Anthony Summers, and the FBI intercept reporting her phone calls to a representative of the Nixon campaign. In 2013, the Lyndon Baines Johnson presidential library would release the recordings of the calls between Johnson, the candidates, and his advisers, making obvious and clear that this was no cheap political stunt, but a serious attempt at ending the war, that was ultimately foiled by one man’s own desires. Finally, and most importantly, was the unsealing of the contents of what would be referred to as the “X Envelope”, one of the few times that history provides us a melodramatic Rosetta stone of the kind that are commonplace in thrillers. This was a collection of relevant documents in the possession of Walt Rostow, Johnson’s former National Security Adviser, including the FBI intercept, important transcripts, and other investigative materials, some of which have been cited here, and all of which can be found in the post by Robert Parry devoted to the envelope, “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'”. Parry would describe what took place with the envelope in 1973, a few months after the death of Lyndon Johnson from a heart attack, as the Watergate scandal which would eventually destroy the Nixon presidency unfolded:

As Johnson’s presidency ended in 1969 – and at Johnson’s instruction – Rostow had taken with him the White House file chronicling Nixon’s Vietnam gambit, consisting of scores of “secret” and “top secret” documents. Rostow had labeled the file “The ‘X’ Envelope.”

Also, by May 1973, Rostow had been out of government for more than four years and had no legal standing to possess this classified material. Johnson, who had ordered the file removed from the White House, had died. And, now, a major political crisis was unfolding about which Rostow felt he possessed an important missing link for understanding the history and the context. So what to do?

Rostow apparently struggled with this question for the next month as the Watergate scandal continued to expand. On June 25, 1973, John Dean delivered his blockbuster Senate testimony, claiming that Nixon got involved in the cover-up within days of the June 1972 burglary at the Democratic National Committee. Dean also asserted that Watergate was just part of a years-long program of political espionage directed by Nixon’s White House.

The very next day, as headlines of Dean’s testimony filled the nation’s newspapers, Rostow reached his conclusion about what to do with “The ‘X’ Envelope.” In longhand, he wrote a “Top Secret” note which read, “To be opened by the Director, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, not earlier than fifty (50) years from this date June 26, 1973.”

The man who had refused to answer the questions of Tom Ottenad, who would keep his silence about a sordid nasty affair till his very death, would leave behind the answers for the far, far future48.

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

TOP SECRET

To be opened by the Director,

Lyndon Baines Johnson
Library not earlier than
fifty (50) years from this date June 26, 1973.

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Those who wanted to know what took place would finally be given a brief mercy; though the envelope was only to be opened fifty years later, in 2023, “ultimately, however, the LBJ Library didn’t wait that long,” writes Parry in “‘X’ File.” “After a little more than two decades, on July 22, 1994, the envelope was opened and the archivists began the process of declassifying the contents.”

The end result of the duplicity in 1968 was the eventual betrayal of everyone. The soldiers, the civilians of Vietnam who would suffer the Christmas bombing, even those who thought they’d benefit from the deal, Anna Chennault and Nguyen Thieu. Anthony Summers, again in his invaluable Arrogance of Power would describe what happened after Nixon’s win:

As late as election eve the word from the White House was that the Chennault matter might “very well blow the roof off the political race yet.” In the end, though, Johnson’s advisers decided it was too late and too potentially damaging to U.S. interests to uncover what had been going on. If Nixon should emerge as the victor, what would the Chennault outrage do to his viability as an incoming president? And what effect would it have on American opinion about the war? “You couldn’t surface it,” recalled Johnson’s assistant Harry McPherson. “The country would be in terrible trouble.”

There was another reason the lid stayed on. Three days after the election Johnson was still considering whether to “blow the whistle” on Nixon. Instead, Rostow recalled, the president “actively sought and obtained Nixon’s cooperation . . . in delivering the word that the President-elect wished the South Vietnamese to proceed in moving towards a negotiation with Hanoi.”

As so often in his career, Nixon’s desperate need was to avoid exposure. Therefore, as both Johnson and Humphrey had predicted he would, Nixon now double-crossed President Thieu. He sent “strong word” to Saigon that it should reverse course and attend peace talks after all.

Anna Chennault was “flabbergasted” to find herself asked to accept Nixon’s new line. “What makes you change your mind all of a sudden?” she asked John Mitchell.

“Anna, you’re no newcomer to politics,” Mitchell responded. “This, whether you like it or not, is politics.”

Chennault stormed out in disgust, only to be harried with phone calls from other Nixon aides. At first she was urged again to send the changed signal to Saigon. When it became clear she would never agree, Nixon’s people began to fear that she might disclose the true story.29 A string of emissaries was sent to beg her not to talk to the press.

Chennault fended off reporters’ inquiries for a long time thereafter, in part, she claimed, because she feared for her safety.30 Later, at a White House function, Nixon thanked her effusively for her help in the election. “I’ve certainly paid dearly for it,” she replied curtly. “Yes, I appreciate that,” he responded. “I know you’re a good soldier.”

The best that could be said of Nixon’s duplicity is that the outcome in Vietnam would have remained the same. This, to my mind, does not make his actions any less vile. If one sells weapons or secrets to an enemy, no excuse can be made from the fact that they were not put to use, and no defense can be made from the claim that those who died as the result of the actions would have died in the war anyway, with other bullets or other weapons, they just happened to use yours. I do not see why there should be a distinction made, in this context, that Nixon’s priorities lay, after himself, with an ally rather than an enemy – it is still considered a treasonable offense when one sells classified secrets to an ally. What is most upsetting is that the will of the American people was subverted, only for the vain desires of one man. They wanted an end to the war as soon as possible, and so Humphrey, against Johnson’s wishes, argued for an unconditional bombing halt, while Nixon promised that he had a plan to end the war, though he had none, all while working backstage to delay any end that might inconvenience him. That this moment of American history is so seldom looked at is due to the very obvious reason that here we have democracy made into a sick joke, where American citizens cannot be given what they want on a simple vital issue affecting their children and their families, thanks to the collusion of a sociopath and a foreign government. While avoiding any blind or naive hopes about the peace process of 1968, Beverly Deepe Keever would speak of what might have been in an email to Robert Parry published in “The Almost Scoop on Nixon’s ‘Treason'”:

“If Johnson had confirmed my story or the Monitor had run it as filed, it’s hard for me to say what the impact would have been on the election…However, given how narrow Nixon’s margin of victory was, certainly Johnson’s confirmation might have swayed enough votes to be decisive.

“Hard for me to say without doing my own legwork, but polls I’ve come across indicate that might have been the case. Bui Diem quotes William Safire saying that Thieu made Nixon president…

“Tho[ugh] I can’t judge the impact of pre-election news about the Nixon camp’s liaison with Thieu, I think the more interesting question for me is: What would the U.S. and Vietnam be like if Humphrey had won?

“I think the final outcome would ultimately be the same for Vietnam, with the Communists seizing control of the South, perhaps via a coalition government to permit the U.S. to save face.

“And the war would have been shorter and less bloody without the incursions and bombing in Laos and Cambodia. Far fewer casualties and less cost to the treasuries on all sides.”

A lot of people would have to learn to be good soldiers. This, whether you like it or not, was politics.

WATERGATE AND THE FIREBOMBING OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE

When putting together the ‘X’ Envelope, former National Security Adviser Walt Rostow would include the following note49:

I am inclined to believe the Republican operation in 1968 relates in two ways to the Watergate affair of 1972.

First, the election of 1968 proved to be close and there was some reason for those involved on the Republican side to believe their enterprise with the South Vietnamese and Thieu’s recalcitrance may have sufficiently blunted the impact on U.S. politics of the total bombing halt and agreement to negotiate to constitute the margin of victory.

Second, they got away with it. Despite considerable press commentary after the election, the matter was never investigated fully.

Thus, as the same men faced the election of 1972, there was nothing in their previous experience with an operation of doubtful propriety (or, even, legality) to warn them off; and there were memories of how close an election could get and the possible utility of pressing to the limit — or beyond.

The two scandals were connected not simply through the callous arrogance of the central player in each, but a tangent which would remain below the surface for decades, waiting for the Chennault-Nixon episode to gather the substance of the hard proof of the ‘X’ envelope and the release of recordings and documents related to Watergate. Where I first learned of the link was, like many, in The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens. We might begin with Hitchens’ excerpt from Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman’s Diaries, an entry on January 12, 1973, when the Watergate scandal had already begun to rage full force:

The P [President Nixon] also got back on the Watergate thing today, making the point that I should talk to Connally [John Connally, former governor of Texas] about the Johnson bugging process to get his judgement as to how to handle it. He wonders if we shouldn’t just have Andreas [Dwayne Andreas, a businessman and heavy political contributor who gave heavily to Hubert Humphrey; his wikipedia entry is “Dwayne Andreas” and a Mother Jones article devoted to the man is: “Dwayne’s World” by Dan Carney] go in and scare Hubert. The problem in going at LBJ is how he’d react, and we need to find out from De Loach who did it, and then run a lie detector on him. I talked to Mitchell on the phone on this subject and he said De Loach had told him he was up to date on the thing because he had a call from Texas. A Star reporter was making an inquiry in the last week or so, and LBJ got very hot and called Deke [De Loach] and said to him that if the Nixon people are going to play with this, that he would release [deleted material – national security], saying that our side was asking that certain things be done. By our side, I assume he means the Nixon campaign organization. De Loach took this as a direct threat from Johnson … As he recalls it, bugging was requested on the planes, but was turned down, and all they did was check the phone calls, and put a tap on the Dragon Lady [Mrs. Anna Chennault].

Hitchens would go on to explain this cryptic post:

This bureaucratic prose may be hard to read, but it needs no cypher to decode itself. Under intense pressure about the bugging of the Watergate building, Nixon instructed his chief of staff Haldeman, and his FBI contact Deke De Loach, to unmask the bugging to which his own campaign had been subjected in 1968. He also sounded out former President Johnson, through former senior Democrats like Governor John Connally, to gauge what his reaction to the disclosure might be. The aim was to show that “everybody does it.” (By another bipartisan paradox, in Washington the slogan “they all do it” is used as a slogan for the defense rather than, as one might hope, for the prosecution.)

However, a problem presented itself at once. How to reveal the 1968 bugging without at the same time revealing what that bugging had been about? Hence the second thoughts (“that wasn’t such a good idea …”). In his excellent introduction to The Haldeman Diaries, Nixon’s biographer Professor Stephen Ambrose characterizes the 1973 approach to Lyndon Johnson as “prospective blackmail,” designed to exert backstairs pressure to close down a congressional inquiry. But he also suggests that Johnson, himself no pushover, had some blackmail ammunition of his own. As Professor Ambrose phrases it, the Haldeman Diaries had been vetted by the National Security Council (NSC), and the bracketed deletion cited above is “the only place in the book where an example is given of a deletion by the NSC during the Carter administration. Eight days later Nixon was inaugurated for his second term. Ten days later Johnson died of a heart attack. What Johnson had on Nixon I suppose we’ll never know.”

Hitchens would then go on to call Ambrose’s conclusions a little too tentative, and we can well see why, because it’s very obvious exactly what Johnson had against Nixon. The sentence from H. R. Haldeman’s entry for January 12, which begins so dramatically, “LBJ got very hot and called Deke [De Loach] and said to him that if the Nixon people are going to play with this, that he would release [deleted material – national security],” ends with the cliffhanger of a national security redaction, but this redaction is no mystery to us, we can light up the information darkness ourselves: “…that he would release everything related to the sabotage of the 1968 Paris Peace Talks by Anna Chennault under the orders of Richard Nixon, that disgusting, blood stained rat fuck cheat.”

Those familiar with Abuse of Power by Stanley Kutler, a fascinating and valuable collection of transcripts of the audio recordings from the Nixon White House, will know well that Haldeman’s diary entry was no isolated instance of focus during the Watergate scandal. The theme sounded in the diary entry, of using Johnson’s tapes as leverage, plays several times in the confidential meetings of Nixon and his intimates as they plan defenses.

A full excerpt of the entry in Abuse of Power on the conversation on July 1, 1972; Nixon with his top aide and major legbreaker, Charles Colson. Audio is from nixonlibrary.gov, “Nixon White House Tapes: July 1972”, “Tape 746 Conversations”, http://www.nixonlibrary.gov/forresearchers/find/tapes/tape746/746-016.mp3 (13:48-14:44).

JULY 1, 1972: THE PRESIDENT AND COLSON, 11:28-11:36 A.M., OVAL OFFICE

Nixon continues his fascination with wiretapping – of himself and others.

NIXON
…I don’t want an impression of the big brother thing, the White House and the President ordering buggings and snooping. But Goddamn Kennedy did it all the time. Bobby Kennedy had a record number of these bugs.

COLSON
Well, you saw Kevin Phillips? Did you see Kevin Phillips’ column this week?

NIXON
No. What did he say?

COLSON
How they bugged [Anna] Chennault’s telephones in ’68.

NIXON
Oh, in ’68 they bugged our phones, too.

COLSON
And this was ordered by Johnson.

NIXON
That’s right.

COLSON
And done through the FBI. My God, if we ever did anything like that you’d have the-

NIXON
Yes. For example, why didn’t we bug McGovern, because, after all, he’s affecting the peace negotiations?

COLSON
Sure.

NIXON
That would be exactly the same thing.

COLSON
That’s right. Well, Kevin [Phillips] did – of course, no one else will pick it up. He’s unfortunately considered our guy. But it’s a very devastating point, that they should not be using that-

One on October 17, 1972, between Nixon and Democrat turned Republican John Connally, former governor of Texas50. Transcript is from Kutler’s Abuse of Power, audio is taken from nixontapes.org, “Chron 4 Oval Office Conversations: July 1, 1972 – November 1, 1972”, OVAL 801-024 / OVAL 802-001, rmn_e801_24.mp3 (segment is 25:43-27:17).

NIXON
Incidentally, you know the situation with regard to our own. I told you about it.

CONNALLY
You just told me the plane was bugged, that’s all that it was.

NIXON
We are never, we are never going to put that out, you know.

CONNALLY
Well, this morning-

NIXON
There’s no reason to embarrass you. But I think that you will know what the situation is. Edgar Hoover told Mitchell that our plane was bugged for the last two weeks of the campaign. Now, the reason for bugging it, Johnson had it bugged. He ordered it bugged. And so was Humphrey’s. I think. I’m not sure about Humphrey’s. I know about ours. But the reason he says he had it bugged is because he was talking about – he had his Vietnam plans in there and he had to have information as to what we were going to say about Vietnam. But the plane was bugged, John, and that whole-

HALDEMAN
Two weeks.

NIXON
-by J. Edgar Hoover, and Johnson knew every conversation. And you know where it was bugged? In my compartment. So every conversation I had, for two weeks Johnson had it. Now, we’re not happy with it. We’re not going to say anything. It would look like hell.

HALDEMAN
I don’t know what the pressure is.

CONNALLY
They asked me at the press conference this morning if this went on during the Johnson administration. I said, “I don’t know; I wasn’t part of the Johnson administration; I was in Texas, being Governor of Texas.” But I said, “I would not want to give that or any other administration in my lifetime any seal of purity.” And everbody laughed.

HALDEMAN
They all laughed.

A month later, we might be the most fascinating exchange on the subject, between Nixon and his close aide Haldeman. Kutler prefaces it with the note that this “is a rather cryptic exchange”, and “apparently, the two men have an agreement of mutual convenience.” The reader who has come this far, or dipped into enough of this post to get a general idea, will not find it cryptic at all, and know exactly what they’re speaking about. The withdrawn national security items, dealing with a “whole series of events” that begin on October 17, obviously deal with the backchannel negotiations with the South Vietnamese government. I give full excerpt of this session as it appears in Kutler’s book. Audio for the video is from nixonlibrary.gov, “Nixon White House Tapes: November 1972”, “Tape 812 Conversations”, specific file 812-008 November 11 1972 Nixon Haldeman.mp3 (from the beginning of the file to 3:00):

NOVEMBER 3, 1972: THE PRESIDENT AND HALDEMAN, 10:46-10:54 A.M., OVAL OFFICE

This is a rather cryptic exchange involving Lyndon Johnson’s bugging of Nixon in 1968. Apparently, the two men have an agreement of mutual convenience; Johnson acknowledges his wiretapping of Nixon, Nixon makes no public complaints, and LBJ recognizes that Nixon did no wrong.

HALDEMAN
I talked to [former Johnson press secretary] George [Christian]. He talked to President Johnson again this morning. Johnson had his staff working all night reviewing his files and everything. Last night Johnson had his staff working all night reviewing his files and everything. Last night Johnson had said to George, you know, they’re going to deny this, and all. This morning Johnson – first of all, after reviewing the files, he’s not going to say anything. He was going to deny it. Now he’s not going to. He’s just going to slough it off.

NIXON
Good.

HALDEMAN
He then went into the whole series of events with Christian, starting October 17-

(Withdrawn item. National security.)

HALDEMAN
-reporting on talks with Ambassador Bui Diem and Thieu [President Nguyen van Thieu] over there. That refers to contacts with Ann Chennault.

(Withdrawn item. National security.)

-construct from this that Madame Chennault was dealing with Agnew. Remember we had that-

NIXON
Yeah.

HALDEMAN
And that’s what he said more than anything. Johnson told George, “I have no idea whether that was right or not.” He said, “I did call Nixon [in 1968] and go through the problem with him, and we agreed to have [Senator Everett] Dirksen…get it straightened out, and Dirksen met with [South Vietnam Ambassador Nguyen Van Bui] Diem on November 9 and went through all that, smoothed it over…

NIXON
You’re citing Johnson?

HALDEMAN
Johnson said that he decided at the time to interpret this as something foolish that someone did without Nixon’s knowledge, and that he and Nixon agreed to do nothing to slow the talks down, and we should look at the way he handled it in his books. That’s his position, which was that Nixon cooperated fully in proceeding with the peace talks and all that stuff. Then he said to Christian, he said – here’s the lead-in line. He said, “It is conceivable that somebody here may have asked the FBI to follow on up this.” See, last night he said it was absolutely not true. And he said, “So maybe it’s possible that Hoover did tell the President that he was asked to do this.”

Christian then said, “You better handle this thing straight…That is true, Hoover did tell the President that; you should know that.” And he said Johnson wasn’t surprised and didn’t try to deny it at all…Now it’s clear, Johnson knows the position we’re in; he knows that you know that Hoover did the bugging and that we did nothing about it. Johnson was very grateful for that…Christian also went into great detail with him about our concern about the FBI leak and our concern that, if we try to move on this story or anything like this, it could be a trap. In other words, the FBI may be prepared to leak on this.

NIXON
That’s right.

HALDEMAN
Johnson understood that immediately. He didn’t have to spell that out at all.

NIXON
Good.

A conversation between Haldeman and Nixon begins on the tangent of preventing the Watergate burglary team from testifying against anyone in the White House by immunizing them, which leads into the recording conducted by Hoover’s deputy, Cartha “Deke” DeLoach. Audio is taken from nixonlibrary.gov, “Tape 835 Conversations”, http://www.nixonlibrary.gov/forresearchers/find/tapes/tape835/835-008c.mp3 (Segment 2 runs from 23:20-28:26, Segment 3 runs from 34:00-40:00):

JANUARY 8, 1973: THE PRESIDENT, HALDEMAN, AND EHRLICHMAN, 11:31 A.M.-1:28 P.M., OVAL OFFICE

The President’s men brief him on the forthcoming burglars’ trial and report on Lyndon B. Johnson’s wiretaps during the 1968 campaign. Nixon believes he can use information of LBJ’s activities to gain Johnson’s and Hubert Humphrey’s support in quashing further Watergate inquiries.

SEGMENT 2

HALDEMAN
Well, the way it appears now is that Hunt is going to take a guilty plea on three counts, and he’ll do it after [U.S. Attorney Earl] Silbert’s opening statement and the jury is empaneled and sequestered. They will ask him, presumably, whether there were any higher-ups involved after he takes his guilty plea, and he’ll say no, and he’ll go to jail. The rest apparently will go to trial. The attorney for the Cubans, this guy [Henry] Rothblatt, is a super guy who wants to – I mean a zealot who wants to play the game with them. Liddy is not going to go guilty. He’s going to go for an innocent plea, go to trial on the basis of [looking] for an error. He thinks he can screw something up somewhere, that they’ll screw something up somewhere and [he will] get off. They all will sit – none of them will testify.

NIXON
But they’ll have to testify.

HALDEMAN
And none of them will take the stand, except McCord, who does intend to take the stand, but McCord has no firsthand knowledge of any involvement of other people; therefore, Dean’s not too worried about his taking the stand. All of the Cubans and Liddy, if convicted – which presumably they will be – and if immunized after conviction by the Congress in order to take them up there for stuff, will sit mute and will take contempt of Congress charges-

NIXON
And spend another year in jail.

HALDEMAN
Rather than testify before Congress. At least that’s their present position.

NIXON
Can the Congress bring them up and immunize them? Can the court immunize them?

EHRLICHMAN
Grand jury.

NIXON
What?

EHRLICHMAN
A grand jury proceeding. The court immunizes them. And the procedure would be after they are sentenced to bring them back in – the grand jury or the Congress, either one.

HALDEMAN
But they intend – the Cubans intend not to talk, and it’s not clear what the defense is going to be with the Cubans at this point.

EHRLICHMAN
Did you see the Marty Schram story over the weekend? There’s a story loose…to the effect that this is a CIA unit that’s bagged a lot of embassies, including the Chilean embassy. And that’s been kicking around now for two or three weeks. Newsday finally ran it. As a story. And they assert there is a CIA project officer that is running this unit and they’ve been in existence for some time51.

HALDEMAN
That may be part of it, they might be using it as (unintelligble) of other things. The one thing Dean raises in the congressional thing is whether we have in any way any hard evidence that the plane [in the 1968 campaign] was bugged. The reason he asked is that he sent me a strategy on the Hill of going for an attempt to force the Congress to investigate hanky-panky in both ’68 and ’72, rather than letting them just go do an investigation of ’72 activities. And he can intercede, but we can also start moving on individual Senators and some of the problems they wouldn’t like known as to what they’ve done and not done, but also the question of whether – see, that plane bug thing was logged out. Who had the story? Somebody had it – the [Washington] Star had the story.

NIXON
Johnson admitted it, I understand.

HALDEMAN
Well, sort of.

NIXON
Did you talk to him?

HALDEMAN
No, George Christian did. He finally admitted it to George. But the question is whether there will be hard evidence on it. The only input we have on it is J. Edgar Hoover, who is dead, I presume.

EHRLICHMAN
Well, [Cartha] Deke DeLoach is around. He’s never admitted it, to my knowledge.

HALDEMAN
Was DeLoach the one who did it?

EHRLICHMAN
Yep. Johnson called DeLoach and had him do it.

HALDEMAN
Well, maybe you do have hard evidence…

NIXON
Well, we have nothing now as far as Johnson is concerned, and we have nothing to worry about. Johnson did not support us, you know he played his usual kniving game, and at the present time I wouldn’t [give] any damn, I’d play that right up to the hilt. What does it do to the Bureau? It’s a nasty story. It’s just too damn bad. They should not have bugged the candidate’s plane!

SEGMENT 3

NIXON
Well, getting back to the bugging…It’s a hell of a reflection on Johnson. You don’t really have to have hard evidence, Bob. You’re not trying to take this to court. All you have to do is to have it out, just put it out as authrotity, and the press will write the Goddamn story, and the Star will run it now.

EHRLICHMAN
I think in the congressional context you have to be in a position to go to somebody like Hubert Humphrey and say Senator, there are very strong reasons why this whole inquiry is not a good idea, and here’s a statement that I’ll show you by a fellow who was in the Bureau at the time, and I think you’ll see the implications.

NIXON
Well, why don’t you get hold of Mitchell and see what he can give you? I assume Mitchell has been told.

HALDEMAN
I had a call to him.

NIXON
Mitchell has said, Bob, he has said candidly that J. Edgar Hoover told him. I don’t know how it came up that we found out about her [the wire-tapping of Anna Chennault, who was a go-between for Nixon and the South Vietnam government], why Hoover would ever have told her, or did we suspect?

EHRLICHMAN
Well, I think it was in that whole period of time involving bugging and the question of authorization and all that. You remember there was a lot of controversy at one point.

HALDEMAN
And Hoover was ingratiating himself with you and was always running around about how Johnson had the White House telephone lines all monitored and all that stuff, telling you what you ought to watch out for and what he was up to.

NIXON
Yeah. He said don’t make calls on your White House phones, I know. Well, why don’t you get at it tentatively?…

EHRLICHMAN
Well, let’s find out if Mitchell has anything hard. He may have squirreled away some files or something. If he didn’t, then I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t go to DeLoach and just say we’ve got this-

NIXON
Does he still work for [Donald] Kendall [of Pepsico]?

EHRLICHMAN
Sure…

NIXON
And then go to DeLoach and DeLoach’s got to come clean on it. We’ll go to Kendall and Kendall puts the arm on him and says he’s got to go ahead and say it. He was ordered to do it and he did have the President’s plane bugged…The reason for it, of course, was in order to get information [on] Vietnam…

HALDEMAN
Well, we could start pushing on the other bugging that Johnson did, because he did a hell of a lot of his own staff and everything else. You know, you could-

NIXON
Try and find the witnesses.

EHRLICHMAN
I was going to say one of the witnesses in the Watergate case is going to be a kid who Hunt recruited who was in the Muskie headquarters and then in the McGovern headquarters-

NIXON
Worked for Hunt?

EHRLICHMAN
Worked for Hunt, was paid $3,500, and finally broke off with Hunt because he refused to bug Gary Hart’s telephone over at McGovern headquarters. That’s going to re-open and re-escalate this whole political sabotage business, I would guess, and that will come fairly early in the trial, I would think, because that’s part of the conspiracy. Now, if Hunt pleads, maybe they won’t have to call that guy.

NIXON
What about Congress?

HALDEMAN
Oh yeah. It’ll be known that this guy’s around…

NIXON
…[A]nd it will come down to this – he was in the headquarters of one, the headquarters of another. That, believe me, doesn’t bother me too much. Good God, there are people planted in headquarters all the time.

EHRLICHMAN
The posture of this is that some people don’t know. It isn’t commonly understood out around the country that this is done or has been done in prior years.

NIXON
We know it was.

EHRLICHMAN
That’s right, sure.

NIXON
Well, let me say we have to use the material on the Johnson thing, and if Mitchell doesn’t have the hard evidence, we just put it out. We’ll float it out there…for now.

HALDEMAN
It is apparently true because (unintelligble) Christian, you see you had told Christian that we knew it. And then Christian (unintelligible) was playing the other side over President Johnson calling him about it. And Christian played it- Johnson, you know there is something to this, we can’t just deny it, you can’t ask the administration to lie. Because it’s provable and known by other people…He [Johnson] admitted it to George [Christian], admits to the discussion, which George found very enlightening, because Johnson had never admitted it to him before.

NIXON
Well, this is one of those things we have to [exploit?]

Wiretapping of the plane would emerge again in Nixon’s conversations after the scandal of Watergate had emerged full force. Part of the scandal was the fact that Nixon had tried to stop an FBI investigation into the Watergate burglars by claiming that national security secrets might be unveiled due to the CIA connections of burglars Howard Hunt and Robert McCord, and the fact that several of the burglars had been at the Bay of Pigs. Nixon was worried that his nominee for the head of the FBI, Patrick Gray, would end up being questioned by these matters, and so he decided to sabotage the nomination by having Gray be asked about the 1968 campaign bugging, which he believed would require Gray to lie, and that headlines about FBI surveillance of a political campaign would destroy his nomination. His paranoia gives Nixon an intense focus on this issue, as well as a myopia. He does not seem to consider the possibility that the moment this subject would be brought up that questions would arise as to why this wiretapping had taken place, and the answer would be that Nixon had acted against the interests of the country, of the fathers and mothers of soldiers overseas, of the soldiers themselves, in order to become president.

From a transcript by Stanley Kutler of a conversation with John Dean on March 7, 1973, with full transcript at the footnote52. Audio file is 871-004a.mp3, taken from “Tape 871 Conversations”, conversation #4. Conversational fragment is also on youtube, “Richard Nixon and John Dean Talk 1968 Campaign Surveillance May 7 1973 – YouTube”:

NIXON
In other words, let’s put him [Gray] on the griddle a little bit as to whether he approves or disapproves of certain things. Let me tell you how this is done the way I would do it.

“Mr. Chairman – I mean Mr. Director – it has been charged that electronic devices were used to – for the purpose of bugging the President – the candidate’s plane [in 1968]…I want to ask you. These charges have come to my attention. I want to ask you whether it’s true or false.” Then say “Now, Mr. Gray, have you investigated these charges? Do you approve of such things? Do you get my point?”

DEAN
Mm-hmmm.

NIXON
But, you see, what I mean is this. Why don’t we now – let’s get the stuff out in this hearing? Now that’s a perfectly logical place to do it. In other words, raise questions…[For example], “in the 1968 campaign, the FBI, at the request of the White House” – never say who – “at the request of the White House did some electronic surveillance of Vice President Agnew’s phone when he was in Phoenix? Is this true or not?…”

DEAN
Just the fact that they’re making the charge is going to be our headline.

NIXON
Secondly – that’s my point. Then, second, it has also been charged that the White House ordered the electronic surveillance. In other words, I want to put Gray in there. I told him that Hoover had told me, and I’m going to make him lie, because I think Gray’s not handling himself well.

NIXON
…Say you’re going to be the director of the FBI. “Mr. Chairman, I am concerned about the FBI being used by the White House for political purposes not only – I mean through the years. Now I want to know – I mean, Mr. Gray, do you have any knowledge that the White House has been doing it this year…Is this true or not? Did the FBI do this or not? Do you approve of that? Will you see that that’s not done in the future?” And then repeat it, see. Then I would go on, but mainly I’d go into this stuff that is new. Everybody knows about what happened in the Kennedy thing and rooting the reporters out of bed and all that sort of thing. But people do not know some of this other crap, about how Johnson used the FBI. But just go right down the line on some of it – stuff that you think is fairly good…[C]ertainly not the stuff [morals charges] with [Johnson aide] Walter Jenkins, but there’s other stuff that’s pretty good.

DEAN
Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

NIXON
….And then Gray lies. He lies, and then we will be willing to call and tell him because he lied under oath and then withdraw his name. Do you get my point?

DEAN
Exactly…

NIXON
….I ordered him when he was in this room. I directed him. I said you are to give a lie detector test to every individual who may have had anything to do with the electronic bugging of the President’s plane in 1968. No, Goddamn it, he hasn’t done that….He didn’t do it, did he? Has he used lie detector tests?

DEAN
No, sir.

NIXON
I told him to get [Cartha] DeLoach in. I ordered him to. Now we’re not going to screw around with a thing like this. Hoover would have lie detected him in one second, you know, if he’d been ordered. What I think is happening here, John, is that Gray – I know the type. He’s a nice guy, loyal in his own way. But he’s panting after the Goddamn job and is sucking up.

Nixon’s obsession that his plane was bugged during the ’68 campaign will be briefly discussed in the next section, “Oliver Stone’s Nixon”, but it appears to have been a misunderstanding on his part of what took place. Anna Chennault’s phones were bugged, because of her frequent contacts with the Bui Diem, the ambassador for South Vietnam and the rumors of her attempts to derail the peace talks. After the election, DeLoach appears only to have been able to pass on the area codes of the numbers which were called from Agnew’s plane – Texas, New York City, and so on. Nothing more specific about the numbers, and certainly not the content of the calls was conveyed. It is for this reason that it was so important that the FBI intercept establish that Anna Chennault was in New York City at the time of the calls. Nixon discovered that they had identified the contact between himself and Chennault, or come very close to it, and he’d misunderstood what methods they’d used and what they’d obtained, that the FBI had wiretapped the planes of the candidates.

The nature of the bugging was discussed by DeLoach himself, during an interrogation that was part of the Church Committee’s congressional investigation of the recent history of the intelligence agencies. From Volume 6 of the Church Committee Report, “Testimony of Courtney Evans and Cartha DeLoach, Former FBI Officials Accompanied By Charles A. McNelis, Counsel”. Here, DeLoach is asked about the retrieval of Agnew’s phone records by Senator Phil Hart of Michigan. Unfortunately, no context is given for this records request (specific page in the document is 193, page 29 of 34 in the pdf):

SENATOR HART of Michigan.
Now, the incident I had in mind bore on another public figure, Spiro Agnew. A request was made to get telephone records of candidate Agnew. What happened on that request?

Mr. DELOACH.
I received a call from Mr. James Jones, who was the top assistant to the President at the time. Senator, to the best of my recollection, late one evening, and he indicated the President wanted information concerning either Mr. Nixon or Mr. Agnew insofar as toll calls made from Albuquerque, N.Mex. were concerned. I told Mr. Jones I felt this was not a correct thing to do, particularly at this time of night, and while we would try to comply with the President’s specific request, we would not do it that night. The President then called me personally in my office late that night and indicated that did he understand my refusal to Mr. Jones correctly, and I said, yes, he did. I said, I thought that it would be wrong for us to try to obtain such information that late at night. The President then proceeded to tell me that he was the Commander in Chief and that when he needed information of that nature, he should get it. However, the conversation ensued that I reiterated my objections to it, and the President indicated all right, try to get it the following day. The Domestic Intelligence Division did get in touch with Albuquerque, and did obtain toll call slips. Now, this was no electronic surveillance, Senator. This was merely a matter of going to the telephone company and getting the results of toll calls made from a certain number several days prior to that to Washington, D.C. I believe there were five all total and this has been a matter of public record in FBI files.

Surveillance of Anna Chennault is brought up again a little while later, this time by Senator John Tower. There is, of course, the undercurrent here that has already been mentioned but goes unsaid in this hearing: Tower and Chennault were lovers. A part of this undercurrent, no doubt, is whether Tower was recorded as part of any surveillance of Chennault. Emphasis is placed on October 30th, 1968, and this is when surveillance began on all American visitors to the Vietnamese embassy in D.C. The following is from DeLoach’s first report, filed on October 30th; we have already seen this, but I quote it again for its importance here:

Early this morning, approximately 7:45 A.M., Ambassador Bui Diem of the Vietnamese Embassy was contacted by a woman who did not identify herself but whom he seemed to recognize by voice. The FBI believes this woman to be possibly Anna Chenault [sic], widow of General Clare [sic] Chenault [sic]. The woman commented that she did not have an opportunity to talk with the Ambassador on 10/29/68 inasmuch as there were so many people around. However, she thought that perhaps the Ambassador would have some more information this morning. The woman then asked what the situation is. The Ambassador responded that “just among us” that he could not go into specifics on the telephone but something “is cooking.” The woman then asked if Thailand is going to be the representative of both South Vietnam and the Viet Cong to which the Ambassador responded “no, nothing of this sort yet.” The Ambassador then suggested that if the woman had time today she should drop by and talk with him as time is running short. She replied that she would drop by after the luncheon for Mrs. Agnew today.

On October 31st, Johnson declared a bombing halt, and the next day, Thieu pulled out from the peace talks. Again in this questioning, no context is given for the reasons for DeLoach’s surveillance of Chennault. From “Testimony of Courtney Evans and Cartha DeLoach, Former FBI Officials Accompanied By Charles A. McNelis, Counsel” (specific page 195 in the document, 31 of 34 in the pdf):

Senator TOWER.
Mr. DeLoach, did the FBI institute physical surveillance of Mrs. Claire Chennault on October 30, 1968, at the direction of the President of the United States?

Mr. DELOACH.
Senator, to the best of my recollection on that specific case, the Executive Director, I believe the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council, Mr. J. Bromley Smith, called me on one occasion and indicated the President of the United States wanted this done. I told Mr. Smith that I thought what he should do is call the Attorney General concerning this matter, and I believe either Mr. Hoover or I later received a call from the Attorney General indicating that this should be done.

Senator TOWER.
Was it done?

Mr. DELOACH
There was a physical surveillance on Mrs. Chennault, yes, sir.

Senator TOWER.
What did it include?

Mr. DELOACH.
The usual physical surveillance, as I recall, Senator, following her to places where she went in the city of Washington and as I recall a statement made this morning, also a trip that she made to New York.

Senator TOWER.
Did it involve the constant monitoring of any and all of her incoming and outgoing telephone calls?

Mr.DELOACH.
I believe the instructions of the President and the specific instruction and approval of the Attorney General, that a wiretap was placed on her telephone, sir.

Senator TOWER.
So, during the period of time between October 30, and November 7, all of her telephonic communications were monitored by the Bureau?

Mr. DELOACH.
I don’t recall the specific dates, Senator, but I do know that such surveillance was established.

Senator TOWER.
Who was the Attorney General at the time?

Mr. DELOACH
In 1968, sir?

Senator TOWER.
Yes, sir.

Mr. DELOACH.
I believe that would have been Mr. Clark.

Senator TOWER.
Would the FBI have undertaken this surveillance on its own initiative had they not been directed by the Attorney General to do so?

Mr. DELOACH.
That was the reason I referred Mr. Smith to the Attorney General. I felt that we should have the Attorney General’s concurrence, and as I testified earlier, to my knowledge the FBI did not place wiretaps on individuals unless it had the approval of the Attorney General. The answer therefore would be “no.”

We return to Nixon’s obsession with this wiretapping. Here is a conversation between Haldeman and Nixon on January 11, 1973, a day before Haldeman’s cited diary entry. The men discuss approaching Cartha DeLoach and getting the information on Johnson’s taping, and that it must be in a form of tangible, irrefutable evidence that’s usable, rather than a case of a series of people claiming knowledge of the event53.

Audio is from nixonlibrary.gov, “Nixon White House Tapes: January 1973”, “Tape 838 Conversations”, http://www.nixonlibrary.gov/forresearchers/find/tapes/tape838/838-018b.mp3 (Segment one runs from 16:10-19:54, segment two, mentioned in the footnote, runs from 27:55-28:40):

NIXON
Have you had any further development, Bob, with regard to the bugging at – I mean in regard to Mitchell and his talks with DeLoach? If he had?

HALDEMAN
Yes.

NIXON
Did he see DeLoach?

HALDEMAN
Yes. He talked to DeLoach.

NIXON
DeLoach denies?

HALDEMAN
No. DeLoach says it’s true and that he has hard – he thinks – he has some hard evidence or some specifics that will lock the thing up.

NIXON
Will he say so?

HALDEMAN
I don’t know whether he’ll say so, but he’ll give us the information so that we can say so, and that’s all we need.

NIXON
Well, what I want is this from DeLoach. We know he knows who is in charge of that, probably is still in the Bureau, a bugger. Do you know what I mean? The point on that is that Gray gives him a lie detector test, calls him in, or asks him – do you see what I mean…? That’s what I’d like him to do. I’d like to get it so it’s nailed down in terms of evidence, rather than that DeLoach told Mitchell or that Hoover, a dead man, told Mitchell, because Johnson will lie about this, if necessary, if we have to use it. My only view is that I would not want to use this story at all. This is something that I would use only for purposes of-

This approach ends on the next day with Haldeman’s diary entry, and the report that if this is brought up, Johnson will most certainly hit back with you-know-what.

The back channel diplomacy looms over Watergate in these conversations, but it also overhangs perhaps the most flagrant criminal act planned in the White House during that administration. This involved what is often referred to as “the firebombing of the Brookings Institute,” a shorthand phrase which misrepresents the primary intent of the act. The firebombing was not an attempt at vandalism, intimidation, or a false flag operation to be blamed on leftist radicals, but a cover for the actual achievement that Nixon wanted to pull off, a theft of papers from the Brookings vault.

The best description of this theft I have found which was planned, but never pulled off, can be found in Will, a memoir by G. Gordon Liddy, one of the leaders of the Watergate burglary team who also performed various intelligence and sabotage operations on behalf of the White House:

I continued my close association with Howard Hunt [a former CIA agent and the other leader of the Watergate burglars], often lunching with him at his club in Georgetown, and it was again through Hunt that ODESSA [a group put together by Liddy for intelligence and sabotage operations in the service of the White House] received its next assignment. Daniel Ellsberg had been associated in the past with Morton Halperin and the Brookings Institution and, according to Colson as relayed by Hunt, either or both of them were believed to be using Brookings for storage of substantial additional amounts of classified documents at least as sensitive, if not more so, than the Pentagon Papers. Further, the Brookings security vault might have evidence shedding light on the identity of any of Ellsberg’s criminal associates in the purloining of Top Secret Defense files; whether Paul Warnke and Leslie Gelb were among them; and whoever delivered the classified documents to the Soviet Embassy. Could we get into the vault, say, by using a fire as a diversion, and retrieve the materials?

The problem appealed to me because I recognized it as one turned down earlier by Jack Caulfield [a private detective used by the White House for investigations of their enemies]. He had mentioned it to me, with much rolling of eyes and nodding of the head in the direction of Colson’s office, as something too “far out” for his imagination and too risky for his nerve. I thought it could be done and so did Hunt. The problem was that the cover under which out men went in there had to be first-rate, and that meant costly. We devised a plan that entailed buying a used but late-model fire engine of the kind used by the District of Columbia fire department and marking it appropriately; uniforms for a squad of Cubans and their training so their performance would be believable. Thereafter, Brookings would be firebombed by use of a delay mechanism timed to go off at night so as not to endanger lives needlessly. The Cubans in the authentic-looking fire engine would “respond” minutes after the timer went off, enter, get anybody in there out, hit the vault, and get themselves out in the confusion of other fire apparatus arriving, calmly loading “rescued” material into a van. The bogus engine would be abandoned at the scene. The taking of the material from the vault would be discovered and the fire engine traced to a cut-out buyer. There would be a lot of who-struck-John in the liberal press, but because nothing could be proved the matter would lapse into the unsolved-mystery category.

Hunt submitted the plan for approval, but this time the decision was swift. “No.” Too expensive. The White House wouldn’t spring for a fire engine.

The task given to Liddy by his superiors was to retrieve the documents in the safe at Brookings because these were part of the national security papers which Daniel Ellsberg had taken, photocopied, and leaked to New York Times. We know that this was not an entirely honest assessment of what was expected to be found in the safe, because in his memoir, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, the former president provides a slight variation on why he wants this mad burglary to take place:

Ellsberg was not our only worry. From the first there had been rumors and reports of a conspiracy. The earliest report later discounted, centered on a friend of Ellsberg, a former Defense Department employee who was then a Fellow at the Brookings Institution. I remembered him from the early days of the administration when I had asked Haldeman to get me a copy of the Pentagon file on the events leading up to Johnson’s announcement of the bombing halt at the end of the 1968 campaign. I wanted to know what had actually happened; I also wanted the information as potential leverage against those in Johnson’s administration who were now trying to undercut my war policy. I was told that a copy of the bombing halt material and other secret documents had been taken from the Pentagon to Brookings by the same man. I wanted the documents back, but I was told that one copy of the bombing halt report had already “disappeared”; I was sure that if word got out that we wanted it, the copy at Brookings might disappear as well.

We might take Nixon at his word here, that he still genuinely thought the bombing halt was a political act, and he wished to know of the secret planning used to launch it as an attack against the campaign during the ’68 election, or that “the events leading up to Johnson’s announcement of the bombing halt” don’t refer to what took place on Johnson’s side, but on Nixon’s. That the “one copy of the bombing halt report had already ‘disappeared'” refers to some of the papers which Rostow took with him. Nixon, whatever his paranoia, whatever his delusions, knew that the backchannel work he orchestrated in ’68 was devastating enough that he made no mention or reference to it in his own memoir, leaving our entirely the name of Anna Chennault. Johnson may well have the restraint and code of honor to stay silent about the file against Nixon – but if something like the Rostow papers fell into the hands of other Democrats, would they show anything like the same discretion? Again, the obsession with the Brookings institute safe is not a single instance in Nixon’s memoir, but surfaces several times, often in his angriest, most frightening moments in the recordings of the White House. Transcript is from Kutler’s Abuse of Power, audio is taken from nixontapes.org, “Chronological Release 1: 443 hours of tapes released by the National Archives during 1999; recordings were made between February 1971 and July 1971”, specific audio file 524a, rmn_e524a.mp3 (segment is 28:55-31:22).

JUNE 17, 1971, THE PRESIDENT, HALDEMAN, EHRLICHMAN, AND KISSINGER, 5:17-6:13 P.M., OVAL OFFICE

A few days after the publication of the Pentagon Papers, Nixon discusses how to exploit the situation to his advantage. He is interested in embarrassing the Johnson Administration on the bombing halt, for example. Here, he wants a break-in at the Brookings Institution, a centrist Washington think tank, to find classified documents that might be in the Brookings safe.

HALDEMAN
You maybe can blackmail [Lyndon B.] Johnson on this stuff [Pentagon Papers].

NIXON
What?

HALDEMAN
You can blackmail Johnson on this stuff and it might be worth doing…The bombing halt stuff is all in that same file or in some of the same hands…

NIXON
Do we have it? I’ve asked for it. You said you didn’t have it.

HALDEMAN
We can’t find it.

KISSINGER
We have nothing here, Mr. President.

NIXON
Well, damnit, I asked for that because I need it.

KISSINGER
But Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together.

HALDEMAN
We have a basic history in constructing our own, but there is a file on it.

NIXON
Where?

HALDEMAN
[Presidential aide Tom Charles] Huston swears to God there’s a file on it and it’s at Brookings [Institution, a centrist Washington “think tank”].

NIXON
…Bob? Bob? Now do you remember Huston’s plan [for White House-sponsored break-ins as part of domestic counter-intelligence operations]? Implement it.

KISSINGER
…Now Brookings has no right to have classified documents.

PRESIDENT NIXON
…I want it implemented…Goddamnit, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.

HALDEMAN
They may well have cleaned them by now, but this thing, you need to-

KISSINGER
I wouldn’t be surprised if Brookings had the files.

HALDEMAN
My point is Johnson knows that those files are around. He doesn’t know for sure that we don’t have them around.

Audio for the following is taken from nixontapes.org, “Chronological Release 1: 443 hours of tapes released by the National Archives during 1999; recordings were made between February 1971 and July 1971”, specific audio file 533a, rmn_e533a.mp3 (segment is 26:54-28:08).

JUNE 30, 1971: THE PRESIDENT, HALDEMAN, MITCHELL, KISSINGER, ZIEGLER, AND MELVIN LAIRD, 5:17-6:23 P.M., OVAL OFFICE

E. Howard Hunt, of later fame with the “Plumbers” and the Watergate break-in, was no stranger to Nixon. Here, the President wants to use Hunt’s talents for breaking into the Brookings.

NIXON
Alright. Incidentally, Brookings. I don’t want anybody at Brookings ever to come in. All their appearances here are cut off. Immediately. That clear? You know what our friend tells us.

HALDEMAN
Brookings has got a lot of stuff now. Don’t you want to send the Colonel over and pick it up?

NIXON
No no no no no. The thing to do-

HALDEMAN
A large file from the Defense Department downstairs- Brookings has no contracts, but they still have a lot of material-

NIXON
…They [the Brookings Institution] have a lot of material, the way I want that handled, Bob, I want Brookings, I want them just to break in and take it out. Do you understand?

HALDEMAN
Yeah. But you got to have to have somebody to do it.

NIXON
That’s what I’m talking about. Don’t discuss it here. You talk to [E. Howard Hunt]. I want the break-in. Hell, they do that. You’re to break into the place, rifle the files, and bring them in.

HALDEMAN
I don’t have any problem with breaking in. It’s a Defense Department approved security-

NIXON
Just go in and take it. Go in around 8:00 or 9:00 o’clock.

HALDEMAN
Make an inspection of the safe.

NIXON
That’s right. You go in to inspect the safe. I mean, clean it up.

JULY 1, 1971 8:45-9:52 A.M.

NIXON
When you get to [John] Ehrlichman now, will you please get – I want you to find me a man by noon. I won’t be ready until 12:30 – a recommendation of the man to work directly with me on this whole situation. Do you know what I mean? I’ve got to have – I’ve got to have one – I mean, I can’t have a high minded lawyer like John Ehrlichman or, you know, Dean [John Dean, White House chief of staff] or somebody like that. I want somebody just as tough as I am for a change. Just as tough as I was in the Hiss case. Where we won the case in the press. These Goddamn lawyers, you know, all fighting around about, you know…I’ll never forget. They were all too worried about the [Charles] Manson case. I knew exactly what we were doing on Manson. You’ve got to win some things in the press.

These kids don’t understand. They have no understanding…of politics. They have no understanding of public relations. John Mitchell is that way. John is always worried about: “is it technically correct?” Do you think, for Christ sakes, that the New York Times is worried about all the legal niceties. Those sons of bitches are killing me. I mean, thank God, I leaked to the press [during the Hiss controversy]. This is what we’ve got to get – I want you to shake these (unintelligible) up around here. Now you do it. Shake them up. Get them off their Goddamn dead asses and say now that isn’t what you should be talking about. We’re up against an enemy, a conspiracy. They’re using any means. We are going to use any means. Is that clear?

Did they get the Brookings Institute raided last night? No. Get it done. I want it done. I want the Brookings Institute’s safe cleaned out and have it cleaned out in a way that it makes [it look like] somebody else broke in.

OLIVER STONE’S NIXON

This episode remained dormant in the three decades after Watergate, and afterwards I look at how, despite the influx of confirming information, it remained on the fringes, an incident perhaps too disturbing, too potentially disruptive, to be given public exposure. For this was a political moment where a presidential candidate did not simply act in a way which people might disagree with, but made sure to betray the people’s will. The voters of 1968 wanted an end to the war, and Richard Nixon, who claimed to speak for the common man, who claimed to write for the silent majority worked to prevent this taking place, so that a few thousand more common men might know the sweet cold dirt.

Before reaching that point, we might stop briefly in 1995, the year after the disgraced president’s death, when Oliver Stone’s Nixon was released. One might expect this man celebrated and vilified for his conspiracies, who prides himself on exposing the underside of American history to give space to this little known moment of collusion between a U.S. presidential candidate and the leadership of a foreign power, but Stone does not, and I think I know why: this conspiracy would interfere with the overarching conspiracy theory which Nixon presents. Nixon is a strange movie, in that I’m uncertain who it was made for; those ignorant of the president and his administration will be utterly lost as to what is taking place and even who many of the characters are, while those with knowledge of the events will be astonished at the dull superficiality with which it treats some of the most fascinating and squalid moments in White House history. In an otherwise perceptive review, “Poor Richard” by David Denby, has this sections contrasting this movie’s imaginative speculations with that of Stone’s JFK:

In all, Nixon sticks much closer to ascertainable fact than did JFK (which was, I admit, entirely reckless on the subject of Lyndon Johnson and the assassination of John F. Kennedy). Stone offers only one major speculative line – Nixon’s alleged involvement as vice-president in CIA plots to assassinate Castro. The plots failed, and the plotters, including Mafia gangsters and Cuban émigrés who became furious at Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs, connived in JFK’s assassination. (Or so Stone’s Nixon thinks.) Years later, even though he had nothing personally to do with Kennedy’s death, Nixon muses incoherently over the old conspiracies and secrets.

What this misses is that the movie’s entire conception is that Nixon inhabits a vast superstructure of conspiracy, by which he becomes president, who he eventually goes against, a betrayal that results in his eventual ouster from office. Nixon is played by Anthony Hopkins as a bewildered child, a middle aged man who still resembles a boy dressed in a business suit, an idiot savant with no sense for people but a genius for diplomacy. The movie makes its conception obvious in a sequence that takes place on the day before the assassination of John Kennedy. Visually, it is very well thought out. Kennedy will be killed while in his motorcade, and we start out in darkness with the corner title “1963 DALLAS” before bright lights switch on and we discover we are at a car show. The movie gives us its most striking image, one that has a power too often lacking in Oliver Stone’s movies, that of ambiguity: beautiful women in red, white, and blue walk about the car holding whips. They are chaste, yet very erotic, an eroticism in the service of industry, and the whips are either idle fun, sexual props, or symbols of menace. This points to the primary appeal for me of Nixon, the contrast of the staid square man, self-appointed representative of the silent majority, wandering among the discordant psychedelic imagery associated with the youth culture then revolting against him.

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Nixon is at this car show, and he is not the villain in what follows – he wears a white hat. The true villain is the wealthy oilman named Jack Jones, and Jones invites Nixon to his mansion where a shadowy council of unnamed men meet. They despise Kennedy, want Nixon to run for president again, and they have a foreshadowing of what will take place the next day. Dialogue is taken from the script, available here:

JONES
Dick, these boys want you to run. They’re serious. They can deliver the South and they can put Texas in your column. That would’ve done it in ’60.

NIXON
Only if Kennedy dumps Johnson.

JONES
That sonofabitch Kennedy is coming back down here tomorrow. Dick, we’re willing to put up a shitpot fulla money to get rid of him — more money’n you ever dreamed of.

NIXON
Nobody’s gonna beat Kennedy in ’64 with all the money in the world.

CUBAN
Suppose Kennedy don’t run in ’64?

NIXON
Not a chance.

CUBAN
These are dangerous times, Mr. Nixon. Anything can happen.

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Nixon leaves Dallas on the day of the assassination, and we have shots of him and those eagerly awaiting Kennedy looking expectantly up at the sky. The cabal that will make Nixon president controls their world like a god of the sky.

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

After the assassination, there’s a scene with J. Edgar Hoover and his top lieutenant, Clyde Tolson.

TOLSON
It’s between Nixon and a Kennedy again, Edgar … Who do you want?

HOOVER
Kennedy — never. He’ll fry in hell for what he did to me. But Nixon doesn’t know that, which is why I’m gonna have to remind him he needs us a helluva lot more’n we need him.

Nixon meets Hoover and Colson at the Del Mar racetrack. A race is just finishing when the horse in the lead, Olly’s Boy, crashes to the ground, the script describing it as such, “Then, Olly Boy’s right foreleg snaps. It sounds like a rifle shot.” The horse falls just as the leading horse in the ’68 election, Bobby Kennedy fell. “Who do you want?” asks Tolson. Hoover: “Kennedy — never. He’ll fry in hell for what he did to me.” Hoover and the shadowy oilmen have arranged for Nixon to be president, expecting that he’ll do their bidding. Hoover: “I’m gonna have to remind him he needs us a helluva lot more’n we need him.”

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

We are given no details of the ’68 election, nothing of the advertising campaign and racial manipulation depicted in vital books like The Selling of the President by Joe McGinniss and Nixon Agonistes by Garry Wills, as these would go against the movie’s thesis of a conspiratorial theory of history, a “beast” as the script calls it, that is a military industrial complex which remains an eternal power behind the throne, occasionally shuffling its figureheads. There can be no room for the Nixon-Chennault back channel either, because this would annihilate the movie’s universe and its conception of Nixon’s character. We would then have a man apart from the beast, from the security state, demonstrating full agency outside of this colossus, and working to prolong a war for his own selfish ends. If a shabby mediocrity like Nixon can act on his own against the wishes of the security state, then the colossus can’t be as all-powerful as this movie imagines it. In the service of a questionable idea, Nixon buries a substantial truth.

The only reference to the Nixon-Chennault episode anywhere this movie isn’t to be found in the film itself, but in the published screenplay, Nixon: An Oliver Stone Film, which is accompanied by a group of essays by veterans of the Watergate affair, such as John Dean and E. Howard Hunt, as well as journalists who covered the scandal. One of these is “Nixon’s Secrets” by the late newsman Daniel Schorr, a short essay that is more interesting than the accompanying film. The piece relates four of Nixon’s paranoid obsessions, what fueled those obsessions, and the lack of substantial basis for any of them. Three of the obsessions are the Bay of Pigs “Secret”, the Diem Assassination “Plot”, and the Hughes-O’Brien Threat. These involve, respectively, that beyond the seamy facts of the Cuban invasion and Castro assassination attempts there was an additional dark secret, that Kennedy had directly ordered the killing of the leader of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, and that Larry O’Brien, head of the Democratic National Committee, had knowledge of a secret loan made by Howard Hughes to the 1972 Nixon election campaign, which led to the break-in attempt of the DNC headquarters at the Watergate. The fourth obsession was the previously mentioned idée fixe that Lyndon Johnson had wiretapped Nixon’s campaign plane in ’68.

The two fragments from Schorr’s essay which follow are an introductory excerpt and the full segment devoted to the bugging of the campaign plane:

It is with no sense of vindictiveness that I examine what made this talented and tormented politician go off the rails. I conclude that his paranoia, whatever its origin, led him to imagine conspiracies that he came to believe and which served as premises for action. The line between deception and self-deception seemed often blurred, leading his subordinates to act on premises that sometimes mystified them. My research leads me to conclude that Nixon nourished at least four grand delusions.

3. The “Bugged” Campaign Plane

It was an article of faith for Nixon that all the dirty tricks, surveillance, and wiretaps he sponsored were simply getting back at Democrats who had done the same things. As his favorite example he often said that in 1968 the FBI had bugged his campaign plane on orders from President Lyndon Johnson. The FBI had, in fact, wiretapped a Nixon supporter, Mrs. Anna Chennault, who served as a contact with the Saigon government. But there had been no eavesdropping on Nixon or his campaign plane. Nevertheless, Nixon told Haldeman he thought the “Johnson bugging process” could be “cranked up” to get the former President to use his influence with congressional Democrats to call off the Watergate investigation.

The message was conveyed to the LBJ ranch and Johnson countered with the threat that “if the Nixon people are going to play with this,” he would release something about Nixon. That something was deleted from Haldeman’s published diary as a national security secret. However, the secret was revealed in the book, Hoover’s FBI by Cartha D. (Deke) DeLoach, who was number 3 in the FBI and liaison with the White House in both the Johnson and Nixon Administrations. Not only did the FBI wiretap Anna Chennault but the National Security Agency intercepted and decoded cablegrams from the South Vietnamese Embassy to Saigon, urging that President Thieu hold off on peace negotiations to get a better deal from Nixon after the election.

What the FBI did not do, DeLoach says, is bug the Nixon campaign plane. For one thing, DeLoach told me, it would have been unfeasible to get a bug on a plane guarded by the Secret Service. But, soon after the election, says DeLoach, Director J. Edgar Hoover, currying favor with the new President-elect, visited him and told him his campaign plane had been bugged on President Johnson’s orders. It was a myth that Nixon believed, probably until his dying day.

The conspiratorial perspective of the movie is very close to that found in a paper by entrepreneur and investor Mark Gorton, that I came across in “The Astounding Conspiracy Theories of Wall Street Genius Mark Gorton” [archive link] by Hamilton Nolan. “Fifty Years of the Deep State” puts forth the thesis that an all-powerful cabal has ruled the United States for the past fifty years, one involved in drug running and murder, their behind the scenes shenanigans occasionally poking through the veil with the Iran-Contra scandal. In this narrative, George H. W. Bush is “the greatest criminal mastermind in American history.” Those who fought against the cabal, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, are felled by assassination and scandal. The section on Nixon, (specific page in scribd document, page 8, opening section is from the very beginning):

Dear Friends and Loved Ones,

Today, Nov 22, 2013, is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. About 6 years ago, quite by accident, I took a passing interest in the assassination of JFK. My research into the assassination of JFK took me on a path into the dark underbelly of the CIA, and from there, I traced a web of criminality that ran throughout the huge sections of federal government, the political power structure, and the business interests that control our country.

As I researched more, I learned that the criminal network behind JFK’s assassination did not retire after his killing. Instead, the need to cover up past crimes has motivated them to commit more crimes in a never ending cycle that continues to this present day.

I have tracked this criminal network through time, and I have learned that this cabal has been the most significant political force in the United States for the last 50 years. Yet most people don’t have any idea that it exists.

Nixon’s Relationship with the Cabal

Nixon was not a Cabal member, but he was controllable. Nixon’s political career had been sponsored by Cabal members Prescott Bush and Dulles Brothers and their Eastern business establishment allies. During his first term, Nixon grappled with the CIA but did nothing serious to reign in its excesses.

As the Cabal behind the Coup of ’63 positioned itself for the 1972 election, Nixon still seemed to be the best option for them. Nixon had a reputation for using dirty tricks, and Nixon was certainly no angel, but much of the dirty, criminal political tricks done on Nixon’s behalf were the work of a network of people loyal not to Nixon but the Cabal.

Once Nixon was elected to his second term as president, he achieved a degree of independence that made him a danger to the Cabal. Deep down, Nixon was never as corrupt as core Cabal members, and toward the end of his first term, he began making plans to purge the entire senior leadership of the CIA. Unfortunately, Nixon did not realize that the CIA had the White House bugged and his senior staff filled with spies, so the Cabal leadership was well aware of Nixon’s plans. Nixon had a reputation for being paranoid. Yet he was not paranoid enough. His enemies had him surrounded to a degree which he did not understand.

Although Cabal members put Nixon on his path to power, they never trusted Nixon, and as early as 1966 (before Nixon is even an official candidate for President), the Cabal worked to booby trap Nixon’s administration, and in 1973, after Nixon had stopped being a compliant servant of the Cabal, they set off the booby trap in the form of the Watergate Coup, and they pulled Nixon down from power just as they put him up.

The traditional story of Watergate is one where Nixon does a bunch of bad things, gets caught, tries to cover it up, and is forced to resign; however, in reality Watergate was a plot by the Cabal behind the Coup of ’63 and corrupt elements within the CIA and military intelligence to depose Nixon.

This is a movie with a president without the freedom of movement to engage in cruel, callous tactics for the pursuit of his own ends, his entire self tied down by the complex he inhabits. He meets with the student protesters at the Lincoln Memorial, and he is startled at how adeptly they diagnose the essential truth. He is powerless, with the choice to start or end a war lying elsewhere.

STUDENT 2
Come on, man — Vietnam ain’t Germany. It doesn’t threaten us. It’s a civil war between the Vietnamese.

NIXON
But change always comes slowly. I’ve withdrawn more than half the troops. I’m trying to cut the military budget for the first time in thirty years. I want an all-volunteer army. But it’s also a question of American credibility, our position in the world…

YOUNG WOMAN
You don’t want the war. We don’t want the war. The Vietnamese don’t want the war. So why does it go on?

YOUNG WOMAN (CONT’D)
Someone wants it …(a realization) You can’t stop it, can you? Even if you wanted to. Because it’s not you. It’s the system. And the system won’t let you stop it …

NIXON
There’s a lot more at stake here than what you want. Or even what I want…

YOUNG WOMAN
Then what’s the point? What’s the point of being president? You’re powerless.

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

The movie’s Nixon does what he can, given his limited freedom of movement. He reduces military spending, he opens relations with Russia and China, he eventually brings the troops home from Vietnam. He stands up to the cabal which appointed him.

JACK JONES
Mr. President–aren`t you forgetting who put you where you are?

NIXON
The American people put me where I am, Jack.

JONES
Really. Well, that can be changed.

NIXON
Jack, l`ve learned politics is the art of compromise. I learned it the hard way. I don`t know if you have. Well, let me tell you this, Jack. lf you don`t like it, there`s an election in November… and you can take your money out in the open and give it to Wallace. How about it, Jack? You willing to do that? Hand this country over to some pansy poet socialist like George McGovern? `Cause if you`re not happy with the E.P.A. up your ass…try the I.R.S.

JONES
Goddamn, Dick. You`re not threatenin` me, are ya?

NIXON
Presidents don`t threaten, Jack. They don`t have to. Good day to you, gentlemen. Thank you.

It is after this that Watergate, led by former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt, takes place. Hunt was at the Bay of Pigs, and he’s often named in conspiracy theories as one of the actual assassins in the killing of JFK. The movie tells us what it thinks was lost on the infamous eighteen and a half minute gap on the tapes handed over the White House: that those brought in to kill Castro would go on to kill Kennedy. They are agents of the Beast, the same Beast that is now ousting Nixon after he rebelled against it.

NIXON (on tape)
…these guys went after Castro. Seven times, ten times … What do you think — people like that, they just give up? They just walk away? Whoever killed Kennedy came from this…this thing we created. This Beast…That’s why we can’t let this thing go any farther.

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

We see Nixon erase this section when the ghost of his mother, Hannah Nixon, appears in the room, and his relationship to the Beast is analogous to his feelings towards his mother, a severe merciless woman. He wishes to please her, he wants her to accept him, yet he also despises and resists her. Two Kennedy brothers die, and the path is cleared for him to become president. Two of his brothers die, and his family now has the money for him to go to college. Richard Nixon pleases the Beast by sword rattling, hippie punching, bombing Laos and Vietnam. He fights against it through detente and defense cuts. “Richard Nixon is a giant of a tragic figure in the classical Greek or Shakespearean tradition,” Stone says in an interview from Nixon: An Oliver Stone Film “Humble origins, rising to the top, then crashing down in a heap of hubris. Nixon himself said that he had been to the highest peaks and the lowest valleys.” There is, however a key difference between the tragic figures of Shakespeare and this Nixon, one that is tied to the movie’s conception and fatal to its effectiveness. Shakespeare may have been worked in a society that resembled a modern police state, but his characters are ultimately free in their choices, and their tragic errors. The choices of Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, Richard III, and others, are their own, not a result of entrapment with any larger system. It is this freedom which creates the tension within their characters, that the very thing they want will destroy them, yet they continue to pursue it anyway – and it is this which makes them fascinating. The contrasting lack of freedom of this movie’s Nixon is what makes him so dull.

THE TREASON OF RICHARD NIXON: FROM POSSIBILITY TO CERTAINTY

PART ONE PART TWO

(All images from Nixon copyright Cinergi Pictures; header image from Point Break copyright Twentieth Century Fox.)

(Clark Clifford’s perspective on the November 11 White House meeting excerpted from his Counsel to the President was added on April 9th, 2014. Many spelling mistakes, mostly in the transcripts, were corrected on that day as well. On April 10th, the quote from Oliver Stone about Nixon resembling a Shakespearean figure was added, as was the document dating the George Smathers conversation, as well the section of the conversation between Nixon and Johnson dealing with John Tower, and Don Fulsom’s observations on Tower and Chennault. The photo of Anna Chennault was added on the same day. The section on the conspiracy theories of Mark Gorton was added on April 11th, 2014. On April 21, 2014, the embedded youtube clip of Lyndon Johnson and Everett Dirksen’s phone call on November 2nd was added. On April 22nd, 2014, a slightly different version of this video was embedded, with two minor errors in the transcript fixed. On that same day, the youtube video of the conversation between Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon was embedded. The youtube clip of the phone call between George Smathers and Lyndon Johnson was embedded on that day as well. On April 25th, 2014, the youtube clip of the phone call between Richard Russell and Lyndon Johnson was embedded. On April 27th, the youtube clip of Everett Dirksen speaking to Lyndon Johnson on October 31st was embedded. On that same date, it was discovered that some of the footnotes had been cut off in one of the last edits. They were put back into place on this date. On April 28, 2014, the youtube clip of the conference call of Rostow, Rusk, and Clifford was embedded. On April 30th, 2014, the video of the October 16 conference call was embedded. On May 1, 2014, the youtube of the November 3 conversation between Johnson and Rusk was embedded. On May 5th, 2014, the section dealing with Cartha DeLoach’s testimony before the Church Committee was added. On this same day, what information Cartha DeLoach passed on to Lyndon Johnson about the calls from Spiro Agnew’s plane was made more specific. On May 6th, 2014, the sentence “Here, DeLoach is asked about the bugging of Agnew by Senator Phil Hart of Michigan. Unfortunately, no context is given for the wiretapping request” was corrected to “Here, DeLoach is asked about the retrieval of Agnew’s phone records by Senator Phil Hart of Michigan. Unfortunately, no context is given for this records request”, as DeLoach only retrieved the records and the discussion in the Church Committee dealt with this, rather than wiretapping of Agnew. On May 7th, 2014, the section from Jules Witcover’s memoir and the accompanying footnote #2 were added. On July 2nd, 2014, the material connected with the book The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy was added. On August 22, 2014, direct links were put in to the phone calls on youtube, to make it easier to go to conversational fragments; while doing so, I discovered that a phone call between Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson that had taken place on November 8 had been placed as part of a conversation on November 3; I corrected the error on that day. Neither the mistake nor the correction affects anything in the larger thesis, the analysis presented, or how Nixon might perceived – the fake unctuousness that appeared to be part of the fake unctuousness of November 3 actually took place five days later. During the week of September 22nd, 2014, numerous youtube clips were added and uploaded which supplemented the transcripts of Richard Nixon discussing the break-in at Brookings and the 1968 campaign surveillance. On October 14 and October 15, videos were embedded of the November 8 conversations between Johnson and Dirksen, and between Johnson and Nixon.)

FOOTNOTES FOR COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT BY CLARK CLIFFORD

10 Most of those involved in this extraordinary episode have told their version of it, none strike me as completely candid, but they are all useful. See Anna Chennault, The Education of Anna (New York Times Books, 1980), p. 174, Diem and Chanoff, In the Jaws of History, pp. 235-46, Nguyen Tien Hung and Jerold L. Schecter, The Palace File (New York: Harper and Row, 1986), pp. 23-30.

11 The Education of Anna, p. 174.

12 In the Jaws of History, pp. 244-45

13 The Education of Anna, p. 176.

14 Ibid p. 190; and The Palace File, p. 29.

15 Carl Solberg, Hubert Humphrey: A Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1984), pp. 391 and 394.

16 Hubert H. Humphrey, The Education of a Public Man: My Life and Politics (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976)

FOOTNOTES FOR THE ARROGANCE OF POWER BY ANTHONY SUMMERS

23 It was previously thought that Chennault merely sent a letter to Nixon in Kansas City. Yet her calendar bears the entry “10/16 to meet R. Nixon in Kansas City, MO.” (Re: letter: Safire, op. cit., p. 90, and detail at Forslund, op. cit., p. 29-.)

24 In her 1980 book Chennault said she responded by telling Mitchell she thought it unwise to “try to influence the Vietnamese.” This seems at odds with her interviews with the author, cited earlier, in which she said she was told to promise the South Vietnamese they would get a better deal with Nixon in the White House. (not “try to influence”: Chennault, op. cit., p. 190.)

25 A report from Rostow to President Johnson, ten days after the event, said that the “phone call to the Lady was at 1:41 P.M. EST. . . .” Agnew had arrived in Albuquerque at 1:15 P.M. EST. Another Rostow report, drawing on FBI surveillance, states that Chennault left her Washington apartment at 1:45 P.M. EST. In his reconstruction of the sequence of events for the president, Rostow referred to having received “new times” on Agnew’s movements. The initial FBI report contained contradictory times. It also offered an earlier time-1:30 P.M.-for Chennault’s departure from home. (Rostow ten days after: Rostow to president, Nov. 12, 1968; re: Rostow and Chennault 1:45 P.M.: Rostow to president, Nov. 2, 1968, both in “X” Envelope; initial FBI report: Cartha DeLoach to Clyde Tolson, Nov. 19, 1968, FBI 65-62098-266.)

26 Chennault told both this author and another researcher that she did not remember having received a call from New Mexico. She speculated that if she had been overheard referring to New Mexico, she was probably meaning to refer to New Hampshire, home state of Robert Hill, one of those she had nominated to Nixon as go-betweens. The documentary record, however, seems to be more reliable on this matter than Chennault’s memory. (Other researcher: conv. Catherine Forslund.)

27 It was Nixon who called Johnson, not vice versa, as is often reported. Having spoken with the president, the Senate minority leader Everett Dirksen had passed word that “something had to be done in a hurry to cool him off.” According to William Safire, Dirksen thought Johnson was “ready to blow his stack-and blow the whistle on the Nixon campaign’s attempt to defeat his peace efforts by getting President Thieu to hold back. Anna Chennault’s name was mentioned.” The message was so troubling that Nixon was roused from his bed and agreed to phone Johnson. (RN made call: Forslund, op. cit., citing LBJ sources, including Defense Communications Operations Unit; Safire, op. cit., p. 93, and MEM, p. 320, contradicting, for example, Witcover, op. cit., p. 442; “something had to be done”: Safire, op. cit., p. 93.)

29 Chennault said she was pressured not to talk by Herb Klein, Nixon law firm colleague Tom Evans, Senators Everett Dirksen and John Tower, and Robert Hill. (Chennault, op. cit., p. 193-; int. Herb Klein.)

30 Chennault did not reveal what she knew for a long time, but it is not surprising that Nixon’s people were nervous. Interviewed before the 1969 inauguration by Tom Ottenad, a reporter on the trail of the story, she said: “You’re going to get me in a lot of trouble. . . . I can’t say anything . . . come back and ask me that after the inauguration. We’re at a very sensitive time. . . . I know so much and can say so little.” In September 1969 she asserted: “Whatever I did during the campaign the Republicans, including Mr. Nixon, knew about.” In 1974 she further amplified that statement: “From the first conversation [with the South Vietnamese] I made it clear I was speaking for Mr. Nixon. . . .” By 1979, with Nixon long disgraced, she was starting to offer more detail. The blanket denials of the Nixon side had upset her, but, she said resignedly, “It was a very vicious campaign. Politics is a very cruel game.” Tom Corcoran said in 1981: “People have used Chennault scandalously, Nixon in particular, I know exactly what Nixon said to her, and then he repudiated her.” (Jan. 1969 int.: Boston Globe, Jan. 6, 1969; Sept. 1969 int.: Washingtonian, Sept. 1969; 1974 int.: Howe and Trott, op. cit., p. 48; 1979 int.: Washington Star, Aug. 20, 1979; Corcoran: WP, Feb. 18, 1981, cited at Forslund, op. cit., p. 52, fn.)

FOOTNOTES FOR THE MAKING OF THE PRESIDENT 1968 BY THEODORE H. WHITE

* For Nixon, under the menace of the Anna Chennault episode, possibly about to be cast by Democrats as the great saboteur of peace, the question was the most pointed. He solved it by questioning not the President’s politics, but his judgement. In elaboration of this theme, Finch was authorized to brief the press and charge that the President had been either irresponsible or premature in announcing a deal before “he had gotten all his ducks in a row.” The President, hearing this had, on Nixon’s instructions, fluttered the ducks in Saigon, brought the matter up in his telephone call to Nixon on Sunday in Los Angeles. After Nixon had mollified the President on major matters, Johnson inquired, “Who’s this guy Fink you got?” “It’s Finch, not Fink,” replied Nixon. “What’s he doing making statements like that without your knowledge?” “Well,” said Nixon, as reported by those who overheard the conversation, “you know how it is, you had George Ball making statements in your administration.” “George Ball isn’t any longer with this administration.”

FOOTNOTES

1 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry:

FBI cable on Chennault mention of the big boss

Received Washington CommCen
9:08 P.M. EDT Monday 4 Nov 68

Received LBJ Ranch CommCen
8:34 P.M. CDT Monday 4 Nov 68

EEA659
00 WTE10
DE WTE 4183

FROM WALT ROSTOW
TO THE PRESIDENT
CITE CAP82650

S E C R E T

THE NEW MEXICO REFERENCE MAY INDICATE AGNEW IS ACTING.

TWO REPORTS FOLLOW.

REPORT ONE:

On November Two Instant, a confidential source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, reported that Mrs. Anna Chennault contacted Vietnamese Ambassador, Bui Diem, and advised him that she had received a message from her boss (not further identified), which her boss wanted her to give personally to the ambassador. She said the message was that the ambassador is to “hold on, we are gonna win” and that her boss also said “hold on, he understands all of it”. She repeated that this is the only message “he said please tell your boss to hold on.” She advised that her boss had just called from New Mexico.

REPORT TWO:

The November One, last, edition of the “Washington Post,” a daily newspaper in the Washington, D.C. area, carried an article concerning Mrs. Anna Chennault. The article indicated that Mrs. Chennault intended to proceed to New York City where she would await the election results on November Five, next, with presidential nominee Richard M. Nixon.

On November Two, Instant, at Seven Ten A.M., Mrs. Chennault’s car was observed in the parking garage at Two Five One Zero [2510] Virginia Avenue, N. W.

At One Forty Five P.M., she departed her residence and entered the automobile. It was being driven by her chauffeur and proceeded to the Baltimore-Washington parkway where it was last observed heading north at Two Fifteen P.M.

Arrangements have been made with the New York office of the FBI for them to observe the car en route and to undertake discreet surveillance with reference to her activities while in New York.

DTG: 030208Z NOV 1968

DECLASSIFIED
E.O. 12958, Sec. 3.6
NLJ 00-231
By com, NARA Date 12-19-00

2 A fascinating section of Witcover’s memoir is devoted to this episode, of which I have included only one paragraph for the main text. The section is on the Google Books excerpt of this memoir, beginning on page 130. It touches on many of the moments, detailed in this post such as the investigation of reporter Tom Ottenad and the secret envelope of Walt Rostow. All of it is worthwhile reading, but I bold one especially striking moment, not of revelation, but assessment by an experienced veteran journalist:

Once Humphrey made his break with Johnson on Vietnam policy, however, he rapidly began to close the gap with Nixon in all the polls. The election came down to the final weekend, with much riding on whether LBJ could bring the South Vietnamese regime to the peace table with the North Vietnamese in Paris. Johnson, through FBI and CIA surveillance and wiretaps of the South Vietnamese embassy in Washington, received strong indications that Nixon and/or his campaign at the last hour had derailed the talks by promising the Saigon regime a better deal under a Nixon presidency.

My friend and colleague, the intrepid Tom Ottenad of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Washington bureau, at this time scared hell out of the White House. “Eyes Only” memos to LBJ from National Security Adviser Walt Rostow, when later unsealed, revealed Tom’s urgent inquiries about the behavior of Nixon supporter Anna Chennault, the Chinese-born wife of the American commander of the famous Flying Tigers of World War II. She was in close touch with the Saigon embassy and Ottenad pressed Rostow on whether she was conveying a deal from Nixon to South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu. Rostow wrote Johnson, “The lady is about to surface.”

Astonishingly, I learned later, when writing a book about the incredible year of 1968 [this is The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 in America, reviewed in the Times by Sidney Blumenthal, “Annus Horribilis”, a review which mentions the Chennault episode], that Johnson had turned over incriminating evidence about Chennault’s activities to Humphrey for use in the final days of the campaign. The idea was that such as act of treason would sink Nixon and elect Humphrey. But Humphrey declined to use it, partly because he felt he could not reveal the sources of the classified material, and – remarkably – he doubted that voters would believe Tricky Dick capable of such an act! Later, in his memoir, Humphrey recounted a memo of his own at the time: “I wonder if I should have blown the whistle on Anna Chennault and Nixon. I wish [his italics] I could have been sure. Damn Thieu. Dragging his feet this past weekend hurt us. I wonder if that call did it. If Nixon knew. Maybe I should have blasted them anyway.”

One of Johnson’s chief aides then, Joe Califano, told me later that Humphrey’s refusal to use the information against Nixon, which would have charged him with a major criminal offense, “became an occasion for a lasting rift” between LBJ and Humphrey. “Johnson thought Hubert had no balls, no spine, no toughness,” Califano reported.

Much later also, I tracked down Anna Chennault at a small office she kept in Georgetown, and while saying she could not talk because she was writing a book of her own (yet to appear), she insisted she had acted under instructions from the Nixon campaign in contacting the Saigon regime. “The only people who knew about the whole operation,” she told me, “were Nixon, John Mitchell [Nixon’s campaign manager] and John Tower [senator from Texas and Nixon campaign figure], and they’re all dead. But they knew what I was doing. Anyone who knows about these things knows I was getting orders to do these things. I couldn’t do anything without instructions.”

In 1973, Rostow sent a sealed envelope to the LBJ Library in Austin containing “a file President Johnson asked me to hold personally because of its sensitive nature” that “contains the activities of Mrs. Chennault and others before and immediately after the election of 1968.” Rostow recommended that the file be kept secret for fifty years. The embargo later was lifted and the file sent to appropriate federal agencies for clearance. But my repeated efforts to gain access have been turned down, with unofficial assurance that no “smoking gun” confirming intervention by the Nixon campaign is included. There the matter rests in what could be a story every bit as significant historically as the Watergate cover-up. The opening of the file apparently will have to await another Democratic administration [this memoir was published in 2005], and might not happen even then. My efforts to get it continued through the Clinton years, to no avail, and again after Rostow’s death in 2002.

3 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry:

top secret memo from Bromley Smith still classif

4 From “In Your Heart You Know He’s Nixon” by Gloria Steinem:

My seat mate, Ed McDaniels, a quiet forceful man who heads the Capitol Recording Company in Washington, a firm specializing in the radio and television electronic needs of political campaigns, had been with Nixon in 1960, and assured me that the candidate hadn’t changed at all. “Cuba was an issue then,” he explained, “but of course Mr. Nixon couldn’t say anything, because he might have given away the invasion we were planning. That’s the big difference: Kennedy had Nixon in a tough spot because he was Vice President, and now Nixon has Humphrey over the same barrel.”

Had Nixon’s attitude toward Communism changed over the years? “Oh no, absolutely not,” he said, obviously glad to praise his candidate. “He understands those people. He knows you have to be tough or they’ll take us over. You see, I have some special knowledge-though, of course, Mr. Nixon has more. I happen to know he’s had top secret briefings – but I have some knowledge from old friends in the military. They come back and tell me the way it really is. If we don’t stop the Chinese here, they’ll keep right on going. Of course, he can’t say anything about Vietnam because it might interfere with the talks in Paris. Mr. Nixon’s a man of real integrity-he won’t take advantage of his special knowledge if it would help Ho Chi Minh, But he knows the enemy, and he knows they hope to win because of all these misguided sympathizers pressuring us here. I’m for him because he won’t let that happen. I’m the head of this company, and I wouldn’t go out in the field for anyone else.”

We can determine when these remarks were made because the article is divided up into sequential days, and this episode takes place on a Friday, and the subsequent Sunday section tells us “Today’s New York Times carried a front page story, “Nixon Visits Negro Slum And Warns White Suburbs,””, and that piece, “Nixon Visits Negro Slum And Warns White Suburbs; SUBURBIA HEARS A NIXON WARNING”, is listed with a date of September 22, 1968.

5 The original file can be found at “Highlights from LBJ’S Telephone Conversations May 1968-January 1969”. Direct link to the original file (mp3 audio): 13548. Transcript is taken from the Miller Center Presidential Recordings Program, “WH6810-04-13547-13548”.

6 From the Nixon Library’s “White House Special Files Box 35 Folder 15 – WHSF35-15” (specific page, page 4):

Richard Nixon Treason Possibility to Certainty

7 From the Nixon Library’s “White House Special Files Box 35 Folder 15 – WHSF35-15” (specific page, page 6).

8 From the Nixon Library’s “White House Special Files Box 35 Folder 15 – WHSF35-15” (specific page, page 5).

9 That “DC” was Nixon’s code name in any campaign intercommunication is mentioned in The Arrogance of Power by Anthony Summers:

In July the following year, as the election drew nearer, Chennault went to the Nixon apartment with South Vietnam’s ambassador Bui Diem-a visit documented by both their diaries. A surviving internal staff memo addressed to “DC,” Nixon’s campaign pseudonym, pointed out that it “would have to be absolute [sic] top secret.” “Should be,” Nixon replied in a scrawled notation, “but I don’t see how-with the S.S. [Secret Service] If it can be [secret] RN would like to see. . . .”

10 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry. The transcript is my own:

NSA report Oct 28 1968

T O P S E C R E T TRINE

XXMMENP01FTB31108
3/0[REDACTED]T44-68
[REDACTED]

THIEU’S VIEWS ON PEACE TALKS AND BOMBING HALT

XXCC
[REDACTED] 28 OCT 68 [REDACTED]
[REDACTED]
[REDACTED]

SECRET.
((THIS IS)) A SUPPLEMENTARY REPORT ON MR. THIEU’S SPEECH [REDACTED]
[REDACTED]
1. Since the Vietnamese government is ardently laboring [REDACTED] together with the U.S. side to put into practice the items that were naturally agreed upon at the U.S.-Vietnamese Honolulu Summit Conference (19 July), President Thieu emphasized the point that President Johnson must also keep his promises.

((Thieu)) said that it appears that Mr. Nixon will be elected as the next president, and he thinks it would be good to try to solve the important question of the political talks with the next president (no matter who is elected. ((Thieu)) believes that our standpoint should be prepared and strengthened now rather than in the future.

3. As for the Vietnamese reaction to Mr. Humphrey’s statement that “Vietnam does not have the right to reject a decision to halt the bombing”, etc. etc. there was a temporary aggravation, and there was an anti-american demonstration with adherents to the Catholic and Hoa Hao religions taking the initiative.

4. The general sentiment ((both)) domestic and foreign, towards Thieu’s 22 October special proclamation was that it was good and a number of Paris newspapers supported his views (the [REDACTED] was not mentioned, and next, ((it)) will depend upon Hanoi’s attitude.

5. On the U.S. side, rumors are spreading that one cannot predict what President Thieu is going to do and is adopting a much too stubborn attitude.

Reference: at the time of the Vietnamese-U.S. talks, the Vietnamese side consisted for the most part of the president, vice president and foreign minister, the U.S. side attended with their ambassador, deputy ambassador, and Mr. Hertz, minister for political affairs.

[REDACTED]

XXHH
350

SANITIZED
Authority NLJ 10-97
By com, NARA, Date 12-17-10

11 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry:

Eugene Rostow memo Eugene Rostow second memo

Eugene Rostow source identified as Alexander Sac

12 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry:

Rostow memo (1)

May 14, 1973

MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD

The attached file contains the information available to me and (I believe) the bulk of the information available to President Johnson on the activities of Mrs. Chennault and other Republicans just before the presidential election of 1968.

As the raw data themselves indicate (and the chronologies I prepared for the President on November 7 and November 11, 1968), the story falls into three parts:

— the period from October 17 to October 29;

— the period from October 29 to the election, November 5;

— the post-election period.

From October 17 to October 29 we received diplomatic intelligence of Saigon’s uneasiness with the apparent break in Hanoi’s position on a total bombing cessation and with the Johnson Administration’s apparent willingness to go forward. This was an interval, however, when Hanoi backed away from the diplomatic breakthrough of the second week of October. Only towards the end of the month was the agreement with Hanoi re-established. As late as October 28, Thieu, despite the uneasiness of which we were aware, told Amb. Bunker he would proceed, as he had agreed about two weeks earlier. [REDACTED]

In the early morning hours of October 29 the President and his advisers met with Abrams. Before going to that meeting, I was telephoned at home by my brother, Eugene Rostow. He reported the first of his messages from New York on Republican strategy — from Alexander Sachs.

During the meeting with Abrams word came from Bunker of Thieu’s sudden intransigence. The diplomatic information previously received plus the information from New York took on new and serious significance.

President Johnson, in the course of October 29, instructed Bromley Smith, Executive Secretary of the National Security Council, to get in touch with the Deputy Director of the FBI, Deke DeLoach and arrange that contacts by Americans with the South Vietnamese Embassy in Washington be monitored.

SANITIZED
E.O. 13526, Sec. 3.5
NLJ 10-96
By isl NARA, Date 1-10-11

Rostow memo (2)

This was done, yielding the FBI evidence the folder contains.

Before the election, President Johnson asked Rusk, Clifford, and me to consider the question of whether the story should be made public. On November 4 we recommended unanimously against that course on the grounds indicated in paragraph 3 of my teletype report to President Johnson, then at his Ranch.

President Johnson agreed.

Therefore, he continued, as he had since October 29, to confine his actions to the implications of Mrs. Chennault’s effort for foreign policy. He indicated to Nixon and (probably) Dirksen that he was aware of “China Lobby” activity interfering with peace negotiations and wished it to stop. (I can only vouch personally for his reference during the conference call with the three candidates on October 31; but on the basis of President Johnson’s later recollections, it is likely that he took the matter up more bluntly with Dirksen on November 2 and when Nixon called on him at the Ranch on November 3.

After the election, he actively sought and obtained Nixon’s cooperation (via Dirksen) in delivering the word that the President-elect wished the South Vietnamese to proceed to cooperate in moving towards a negotiation with Hanoi.

Press clippings reflecting the incident we collected; and, as the file indicates, the matter arose subsequently from time to time.

So much by way of a brief guide to the file.

* * *

I would only add these personal reflections as of mid-May 1973.

I am inclined to believe the Republican operation in 1968 relates in two ways to the Watergate affair of 1972.

First, the election of 1968 proved to be close and there was some reason for those involved on the Republican side to believe their enterprise with the South Vietnamese and Thieu’s recalcitrance may have sufficiently blunted the impact on U.S. politics of the total bombing halt and agreement to negotiate to constitute the margin of victory.

Second, they got away with it. Despite considerable press commentary after the election, the matter was never investigated fully.

Rostow memo (3)

Thus, as the same men faced the election of 1972, there was nothing in their previous experience with an operation of doubtful propriety (or, even, legality) to warn them off; and there were memories of how close an election could get and the possible utility of pressing to the limit — or beyond.

W. W. Rostow

13 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry:

FBI intercept on Chennault

14 Transcript is partly my own and taken partly from “Did Nixon Commit Treason in 1968? What The New LBJ Tapes Reveal.” The original files can be found at “Highlights from LBJ’S Telephone Conversations May 1968-January 1969”. Conversation is made up of two files. Direct links to audio files (mp3 format): 13612, 13613.

Transcript is on Pastebin: “October 30 1968: Lyndon Johnson and Richard Russell”.

15 The original file can be found at “Highlights from LBJ’S Telephone Conversations May 1968-January 1969”. Conversation is made up of three files. Direct links to audio files (mp3 format): 13614, 13616, 13617.

Transcript is my own, and on Pastebin: “October 31 1968: Lyndon Johnson and Everett Dirksen”.

16 Transcript taken from “Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969: Documents 142-169”, Document 166: “Transcript of Telephone Conversation Among President Johnson, Vice President Humphrey, Richard Nixon, and George Wallace”.

17 Video of the speech can be found on youtube: “The President: October 1968. MP901.” A transcript of the speech can be found at the Miller Center: “Remarks on the Cessation of Bombing of North Vietnam (October 31, 1968)”.

18 The original file can be found at “Highlights from LBJ’S Telephone Conversations May 1968-January 1969”. Direct links to audio files (mp3 format): 13701. Transcript is taken from “Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969 Documents 170-192: November 1-12, 1968: South Vietnamese Abstention From the Expanded Peace Conference; the Anna Chennault Affair”, “171. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Robert McNamara”.

19 Transcript taken from “Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969 Documents 170-192: November 1-12, 1968: South Vietnamese Abstention From the Expanded Peace Conference; the Anna Chennault Affair”: “172. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Richard Russell”.

20 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry. The transcript is my own:

NSA Thieu report (1)

ZCZCKAB647
PP [REDACTED]
DE [REDACTED] 2972250
P 232045Z
FM DIRNSA
TO WHITE HOUSE (ATTN: MR ARTHUR MCCAFFERTY)
ZEM
T O P S E C R E T TRINE

TRANSMITTED HEREWITH IS A [REDACTED] MESSAGE.
PLEASE ADVISE IF ANY LIMITATIONS ON DISTRIBUTION ARE REQUIRED.
THIS MESSAGE WAS TRANSMITTED TO THE WHITE HOUSE ONLY.
[REDACTED]
XXMMENP01FTB23108
3/0/[REDACTED] -68
[REDACTED]

THIEU’S VIEWS ON NLF PARTICIPATION IN VIETNAMESE GOVERNMENT

XXCC
[REDACTED] 19 OCT 68 [REDACTED]
[REDACTED]

[REDACTED] OF WHAT PRESIDENT THIEU SAID
[REDACTED] ON 18 OCTOBER.

1. President Thieu pointed out the facts that had been discussed [REDACTED] along with what was reported [REDACTED] concerning the NLF delegation’s eligibility to participate in political talks, the thing they cannot come to an agreement on, President Thieu said he concurs on the items that were agreed upon at the unofficial talks between the U.S. and North Vietnamese delegations, and, as for what U.S. ambassador to Korea Porter said, the problem lies in the understanding.

He said that the reason for the Vietnamese government opposing the NLF’s participation in the political talks in an independent capacity is that the Vietnamese constitution holds the communist party to be illegal, and the point is that the NLF shifts its position at Hanoi’s beck and call; accordingly, ((Thieu)) is adopting the viewpoint that it is all right for the ((NLF)) to participate as a member of Hanoi’s delegation. He said that in the event that the NLF delegation participates in an independent capacity it would not merely mean that we are legalizing the communist party, but the communist side would maintain their coalition, and since we do not know what demands thy would make on the U.S. and Vietnamese governments, we must prevent this.

NSA Thieu report (2)

4. In this matter of the NLF delegation’s eligibility, he is conscious of the necessity of [REDACTED] clearly to the U.S. side the Vietnamese government’s viewpoint before the opening of the political talks. The reason for this is that, for the sake of protecting ourselves against the great possibility, after the political talks are held, of U.S. and world opinion criticizing just the Vietnamese government one-sidedly when the Vietnamese government’s delegation thinks the circumstances ((dictated)) withdrawing from the site of the talks on the NLF matter.

5. [REDACTED] as to whether or not the Vietnamese are opposing the U.S. in this and concerning the possibility ((of the U.S.)) making a decisive move to halt the bombing alone; the following [REDACTED]

He said the U.S. can, of course, cease bombing, but is unable to block Vietnam ((from bombing)). Concerning the enforcement of the bombing halt, this will help candidate Humphrey and this is the purpose of it; but the situation which would occur as the result of a bombing halt, without the agreement of Vietnamese government, rather than being a disadvantage to candidate Humphrey, would be to the advantage of candidate Nixon. Accordingly, he said that the possibility of President Johnson enforcing a bombing halt without Vietnam’s agreement appears to be weak; [REDACTED] just how effective can it be within the short time before the election, even though it is effectively enforced?

6. He said that since the military and political situations within Vietnam are developing to our advantage, the longer we can delay the time ((of the bombing halt)) the greater will be the advantage to the Vietnamese side.

7. He said that in the even the present government recognize the NLF, they will lose the confidence of the people and would not be able to ([REDACTED] control) them. Military authorities or a group of powerful anti-communist people might undertake a revolution.

8. At this time, [REDACTED] to President Thieu the new stand that [REDACTED] the President is adopting, as in item two of [REDACTED] that there is no difference between Korea’s stand in the matter and that of the Vietnamese government, shed light on the point that ((Korea)) is strongly backing ((the Vietnamese government)) and [REDACTED] the opinion that it is best that [REDACTED] two countries work closely together and take as much time as possible ((on these matters).

[REDACTED]
((A)) Not available.
((B)) In series check.
[REDACTED]
XXHH
800

21 The original file can be found at “Highlights from LBJ’S Telephone Conversations May 1968-January 1969”. Direct link to audio file (mp3 format) is: 13706. Transcript is partly my own and partly from “Did Nixon Commit Treason in 1968? What The New LBJ Tapes Reveal.”. Transcript is on Pastebin: “November 2, 1968: Lyndon Johnson and Everett Dirksen”.

22 See footnote #1.

23 See footnote #1.

24 See footnote #19.

25 See footnote #19.

26 See footnote #19.

27 See footnote #19.

28 The original file can be found at “Highlights from LBJ’S Telephone Conversations May 1968-January 1969”. Direct link to audio file (mp3 format) is: 13710. Transcript from “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968 Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969, Document 187”.

29 Transcript excerpt is taken from “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968 Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969, Document 188”. Audio can be found at “Highlights from LBJ’S Telephone Conversations May 1968-January 1969”, direct link to file (mp3 format) is: 13711.

30 Audio is taken from file on youtube “Smathers LBJ VN68”, via “Did Nixon Commit Treason in 1968? What The New LBJ Tapes Reveal.”. The following transcript is partly my own, and partly taken from “Did Nixon Commit Treason”.

I was unable to obtain the time and date of this conversation from “Highlights from LBJ’s Telephone Conversations: May 1968 – January 1969”. However, one can determine that it took place late in the day of November 3, 1968 from this phone call summary. Document taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'”:

Smathers to Johnson White House summary

THE WHITE HOUSE

WASHINGTON

Senator Smathers called to report on a call he got from Nixon. Nixon said he understands the President is ready to blast him for allegedly collaborating with Tower and Chennault to slow the peace talks. Nixon says there is not any truth at all in this allegation. Nixon says there has been no contact at all.

Tonight on “Meet the Press” Nixon will again back up the President and say he (Nixon) would rather get peace now than be President. Also tomorrow night, Nixon will say he will undertake any assignment the President has for him whether that be to go to Hanoi or Paris or whatever in order to get peace.

Nixon told Smathers he hoped the President would not make such a charge.

JimJ
11:25 am
11-3-68

JOHNSON
Then our friend-not the Vice President, but the former Vice President-

SMATHERS
Yeah.

JOHNSON
His folks get into it. And they say that they know how to deal with these communists, and they’re not going to be soft on ’em. And if they’re elected, they’ll see it right on through with ’em, and that they’ll get a whole lot better deal with Nixon than they will with Johnson.

Now, first, that comes out of one of his associates, one of his top businesspersons. That was communicated to us by means that we have of knowing it. And it was rather shocking, in the light of what he said. So I started personally watching the traffic myself, and the next day, the traffic shows that that is going in and out of Saigon.

Do you follow me?

SMATHERS
Yeah.

JOHNSON
I’m not guessing, George. I know what I’m doing, you see. [They said] that Nixon is going to win; therefore, they ought to wait on Nixon.

So what he’s doing-my judgment is, on the surface, he was playing that he didn’t want to undercut me.

SMATHERS
Yeah.

JOHNSON
Under the table, his people-and this, I think, you can tell him for sure; there’s no doubt about it-his people (a) business-wise, and (b) political-wise were saying that you ought to wait on Dick.

Now, that’s got it pretty well screwed up.

SMATHERS
Yeah, it does.

JOHNSON
That’s a hell of a note, and it’s a sad thing for people that got boys out here [in Vietnam], to have folks leaving these impressions.

SMATHERS
Right.

JOHNSON
They’re going around and implying to some of the embassies that they might get a better deal out of somebody that was not involved in this-the “somebody not involved” is what they refer to as “their boss.”

SMATHERS
Right.

JOHNSON
“Their boss” is the code word for Mr. Nixon.

SMATHERS
Right. Right.

JOHNSON
It’s just this simple: as soon as they say that to ’em, they go out to Saigon with it. And we know pretty well what goes to Saigon.

SMATHERS
Yeah.

JOHNSON
Then when it goes to Saigon, he [Thieu] calls his people in, and he gives them instructions. And we know pretty well what happens in that room.

SMATHERS
Right.

JOHNSON
I don’t want you to go into that with Nixon, but . . .

SMATHERS
I won’t.

JOHNSON
That’s what’s hurting the country.

SMATHERS
Right.

JOHNSON
And obviously, it’s so sensitive, I can’t do anything about it, except just say, “Quit it.”

SMATHERS
Right.

JOHNSON
Now, I don’t say that he is doing it-I don’t know that he is. But I know what [Mel] Laird did on the plane a week ago.

SMATHERS
Yeah.

JOHNSON
And then he [Nixon] comes out and always defends me.

SMATHERS
Right.

JOHNSON
Then [California Lt. Gov. Robert] Finch comes out and defends me. It’s just like Lady Bird saying “Smathers is a crook,” and I say, “I don’t believe what Lady Bird said.”

31 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry:

eyes only cable Saville Davis Bui Diem

32 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry:

Saville Davis goes to White House for comment

33 The original file can be found at “Highlights from LBJ’S Telephone Conversations May 1968-January 1969”. Direct link to audio file (mp3 format) is: 13711. Transcript taken from “Transcript from “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968 Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969, Document 188”.

34 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry. The transcript is my own:

Walt Rostow Memo November 4 1968

EEA692
Q0 WTE10
DE WTE 4228

FROM WALT W ROSTOW
TO THE PRESIDENT
CITE CAP82683

S E C R E T SENSITIVE EYES ONLY

DELIVER DIRECT TO THE PRESIDENT

FROM WALT ROSTOW

NOVEMBER 4, 1968

I have just returned from a meeting of over an hour with Sec. Rusk and Sec. Clifford on the China matter.

1. With respect to the passage of the transcript which I had them read, they agreed that Nixon appeared clear in mind that the talks might not begin and you had made clear that they might not begin. We noted, however, that the immediately [sic] following statement could have induced some further ambiguity which Nixon did not follow up at the time: quote Dick, the talks will be held. We have a firm agreement that the North Vietnamese will bring the NLF in and the South Vietnamese will be permitted to attend. End quote.

2. With respect to McCloskey, pursuant to your instructions Sec. Rusk and Sec. Clifford agreed to instruct him to say to Saville Davis: quote obviously I’m not going to get into this kind of thing in any way, shape or form, end quote. He was so instructed in the presence of the two secretaries and myself. Having returned to my office, I have just received a report from McCloskey on his interview with Saville Davis. Saville Davis began by saying: quote I assume you will not be able to comment on this. End quote. He then showed McCloskey the story which was along the lines familiar to you. The story was headed by Beverly Deepe: quote this must be checked with the Nixon people before publication. End quote.

Saville Davis volunteered that his newspaper would certainly not print the story in the form in which it was filed; but they might print a story which said Thieu, on his own, decided to hold out until after the election.

Incidentally, the story as filed is stated to be based on Vietnamese sources, and not U.S., in Saigon

With respect to the body of information that we now have available, all three of us agreed to the following propositions:

–the information sources must be protected and not introduced into domestic politics.

–even with these sources, the case is not open and shut. On the question of the “public’s right to know,” Sec. Rusk was very strong on the following position: we get information like this every day, some of it very damaging to american political figures. We have always taken the view that with respect to such sources there is no public “right to know.” Such information is collected simply for the purposes of national security.

–so far as the information based on such sources is concerned, all three of us agreed: (A) even if the story breaks, it was judged too late to have a significant impact on the election. (B) the viability of the man elected as president was involved as well as subsequent relations between him and President Johnson. (C) therefore, the common recommendation was that we should not encourage such stories and hold tight the data we have.

Immediately following is a further item which just came in. (I assume that Bui Diem brought her in to tell her about Saville Davis’ visit.)

QUOTE
On the morning of November Four, Nineteen SixtyEight, Mrs. Anna Chennault traveled in her Lincoln Continental from her residence to the Vietnamese embassy where she remained for approximately thirty minutes and thereafter went to room

35 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry:

Nov 7 Cover Letter Nov 7 Report

36 The original file can be found at “Highlights from LBJ’S Telephone Conversations May 1968-January 1969”. Direct link to audio file (mp3 format) is: 13722.

Transcript is on Pastebin: “November 8, 1968 Lyndon Johnson and Everett Dirksen”.

37 The original file can be found at “Highlights from LBJ’S Telephone Conversations May 1968-January 1969”. Direct link to audio file (mp3 format) is: 13723. Transcript is from the Miller Center Presidential Recordings Program, “WH6811-04-13723-13724-13725”.

38 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry:

Nov 7 Cover Letter

Cable on Chennault and Bui Diem

39 From “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968 Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969, Document 212”:

212. Editorial Note

In a telephone conversation on November 12, 1968, President Johnson discussed the Anna Chennault affair with FBI Deputy Director Cartha Dekle “Deke” DeLoach. Johnson told DeLoach that he had “some pretty good information” and “hard” evidence that the most significant directive from the Republican campaign to the South Vietnamese Government occurred by way of a November 2 communication between Vice Presidential candidate Spiro Agnew and Anna Chennault. The President therefore requested that DeLoach check all of the telephone calls originating from the telephone connection in Agnew’s chartered campaign plane at the Albuquerque airport. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and DeLoach, November 12, 1968, 8:30 p.m., Tape F6811.03, PNO 1)

40 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry:

Thieu account two emmissaries (1) Thieu account two emmissaries (2)

Thieu account two emmissaries (3) Thieu account two emmissaries (4)

Thieu account two emmissaries (5) Thieu account two emmissaries (6)

41 See footnote #19.

42 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry. A full transcript of the article:

Columnist Georgie Ann Geyer Sabotage of Peace Ta

CHICAGO DAILY NEWS, Friday, November 15, 1968

Saigon boast: “We helped elect Nixon”

By Georgie Anne Geyer
Daily News Foreign Service

SAIGON – Top Saigon officials are boasting privately they helped assure the election of Richard M. Nixon.

They are pleased about it. “We did it,” one of them said. “We helped elect an American President.”

Their reasoning is that by sabotaging President Johnson’s attempt to call a bombing halt two weeks before the elections they eliminated the support this would have brought for Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

“FIFTEEN DAYS would have done it,” one cabinet minister said, obviously pleased, “but four days wasn’t enough, and we saw to that.”

The same minister charged, privately, that since last spring, when the United States began meetings with Hanoi in Paris, Washington has been “working for Hanoi.” The Saigon government characterizes any negotiation with its enemy as tantamount to treason.

But with Nixon as President, they believe they will have not only a more understanding fellow hard-liner but also will have time. “Johnson was under pressures to get this thing over,” the minister said, “but Nixon will have at least six months or a year.”

THE GOVERNMENT has long said it does not want peace now, that it wants it only when it controls more of the country and can make better use of it. The reasoning is: “We are winning now. Why should we give up anything?”

To many American officials here it is offensive that the government for which Mr. Johnson literally gave up the Presidency and sacrificed his political career should treat him in this way.

These officials predict, with grim satisfaction, that the Saigon government will be unpleasantly surprised with the man they think the helped put in the White House.

NIXON HAS already voiced his solidarity with President Johnson’s policies. He appointed Robert Murphy, a diplomat of long experience [to] be his liaison man with [missing] White House on foreign p[olicy] during the two-months [in]terlude before Nixon take[s of]fice.

Murphy is not consider[ed to] be the kind of man to c[omfort] dependent if obstrepe[rous] allies.

43 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry. A full transcript of the article:

Columnist Drew Pearson Jack Anderson Sabotage of

Washington-Saigon Feud

Details Leak Out of Backstage Fight Between U.S. and South Vietnam

By Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson

THE EXPLOSIVE details have now leaked out about the backstage blowup between the United States and South Vietnam, which threatened to wreck the Paris peace negotiations before they start.

All along the South Vietnamese had agreed, in principle, to a bombing halt, provided they were given a place at the truce table. As the delicate negotiations were about to bear fruit, however, they suddenly began throwing up procedural objections. In both Paris and Saigon, the Americans and South Vietnamese wound up shouting angry insults at each other.

The South Vietnamese leaders become convinced that President Johnson was trying to rush through an agreement on a bombing halt just before the election in order to win votes for Hubert Humphrey. They felt strongly that LBJ was selling them out, that he was more concerned about winning the election than winning the war.

The President, meanwhile, learned that Saigon’s Ambassador Bui Diem had been in touch secretly with Richard Nixon’s people. There were unconfirmed reports that South Vietnamese leaders had even slipped campaign cash to Nixon representatives. These reports made Mr. Johnson suspicious that the South Vietnamese were trying to sabotage the peace negotiations in the hope that Nixon would win the election and take a harder line.

THE FINAL BLOWUP really was sparked in Paris, where Ambassador Averell Harriman had carefully kept Saigon’s chief observer. Pham Dang Lam, informed on the progress of the bombing halt negotiations.

Lam understood of course that the National Liberation Front would accompany the North Vietnamese delegation to the conference. But he began bickering over whether they would sit apart from the Hanoi delegation and whether they would be allowed to display the Vietcong flag.

When he demanded that the NLF be regarded as part of the Hanoi delegation and that the negotiations be billed as a three-power conference, Harriman exploded.

“All your pretensions are out of this world!” he is reported to have scolded.

After an angry exchange, Harriman told Lam bluntly: “Your government does not represent all of South Vietnam, Mr. Ambassador, and you would do well to remember that.”

The infuriated Lam fired off a scathing cable to Saigon, accusing the Americans of tricking the South Vietnamese. The cable quoted Harriman as stating that Hanoi had agreed to nothing except that a South Vietnamese delegation could be seated.

AS IT HAPPENED, the cable arrived while President Nguyen Van Thieu and Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky were conferring in Saigon’s Independence Palace with U.S. Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker and Deputy Ambassador Samuel Berger.

They had already agreed upon a joint statement which would have announced the bombing halt and the expanded peace conference. At South Vietnamese insistence, they had also agreed to add: “The two Presidents wish to make it clear that neither the Republic of Vietnam nor the United States will recognize the National Liberation Front as an entity separate from North Vietnam.”

The approval of the joint communique seemed to clear the way for a bombing halt. When Bunker informed Thieu that the peace talks would begin on Nov. 2, however, the South Vietnamese President balked. He secretly believed, it later came out, that the date had been set to help Humphrey on the eve of the Nov. 5 election.

Thieu objected that the South Vietnamese delegation couldn’t possibly be ready in time for a Nov. 2 meeting. It would take time, he said, to arrange the accreditation and transportation.

At this point, Lam’s explosive cable was delivered to President Thieu. His face clouded as he read it and he asked the Americans to step into the next room so he could consult with his advisers. After the consultation, an angry Thieu handed Bunker the cable and demanded an explanation. Bunker suggested that Lam must have misunderstood Harriman and promised to return with a clarification.

It was 1 a.m. Saigon time when Bunker and Berger hurried back to the American Embassy. They put through an urgent phone call to President Johnson, who dictated a letter to Thieu over the phone. In the letter, the President stated that he had no idea what Lam was talking about and that the United States would be bound by Bunker’s word.

Bunker hand-delivered the letter to President Thieu at 2:30 a.m. and the bombing halt was postponed 24 hours while the South Vietnamese stewed over it.

THE NEXT meeting was heated. Thieu said he had never understood that the NLF would be accepted in Paris as an independent delegation. He demanded “firm and unequivocal assurances” from Hanoi that the Paris negotiations would be between Saigon and Hanoi, not Saigon and the NLF.

Ambassador Berger replied that President Johnson had made a commitment to end the bombing and indicated that he would go ahead without Saigon’s approval. Thieu asked Berger acidly whether he was a “representative from Hanoi” and said South Vietnam couldn’t stop President Johnson from doing whatever he wanted.

Ironically, both Bunker and Berger have glowingly praised Thieu in their secret dispatches to Washington and have quietly supported him in his political struggles with his flamboyant Vice President Ky. As evidence that Thieu and Ky now stood together against Washington, however, Ky stood dramatically behind Thieu’s chair.

“You have been asking me for a year to stand behind this man,” Ky told Berger. “Well, I am standing behind him now.”

© 1968. Bell-McClure Syndicate Inc.

44 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry. The transcript is my own:

FBI Intercept Bui Diem Chennault visited embassy

4:45PM 1-3-69 JDR
PRIORITY
TO WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM, ATT.: MR. BROMLEY SMITH 004

WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM
’69 JAN 3 PM 5:11

S E C R E T – NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION

EMBASSY OF VIETNAM; INTERNAL SECURITY – VIETNAM.

On January Three, instant, a confidential source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, furnished the following information:

On the same date, Vietnamese Ambassador Bui Diem, Washington, D.C. (WDC), was in contact with Richard Dudman of the WDC bureau of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, this bureau having previously attempted to contact Ambassador Diem on instant date. Dudman made reference to an article which has been written for the St. Louis Dispatch, about Anna Chennault, concerning reports that Chennault had frequently been in touch with Vietnamese officials in WDC, encouraging Vietnamese officials to go slow with respect to expanded peace talks in Paris. Ambassador Diem denied these reports, stating that Vietnamese decisions are based

END PAGE ONE

PAGE TWO (S E C R E T – NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION)

on a lot of factors, mainly the problems at home (Vietnam), and not on internal politics in the United States.

Dudman questioned as to whether there had not been some concern by the White House, or by Vice President Humphrey about Chennault’s activities, further that the St. Louis Post Dispatch had information to this effect and that there had been some kind of inquiry or complaint to the Vietnamese embassy, WDC, in this regard. Ambassador Diem denied this information, commenting that he (Diem) had been in touch with many friends in WDC, both Democrats and Republicans, and again denied knowledge of an inquiry or complaint in such a matter.

According to the source, Ambassador Diem, in response to a direct question by Dudman, denied that he (Diem) had been in contact with, or had attempted to contact, President-Elect Nixon during the weeks prior to the election on November Five, last. Dudman then questioned the relationship of Mrs. Chennault to the

END PAGE TWO

PAGE THREE (S E C R E T – NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION)

Vietnamese embassy, to which Ambassador Diem commented that Chennault had been in Vietnam for many years and had many Vietnamese friends. Dudman questioned as to whether Chennault had not been a frequent visitor to the Vietnamese embassy, WDC, and Ambassador Diem commented that Chennault has visited the Vietnamese embassy from time to time, but not frequently.

Dudman questioned as to when Chennault was last at the Vietnamese embassy, WDC, and when ambassador Diem could not recall exact dates, Dudman questioned as to whether Chennault had not been to the Vietnamese embassy during the weeks prior to the presidential election, but again Diem stated he could not recall exact dates.

Diem commented that he hoped they were speaking as friends and that his (Diem’s) name would not be mentioned. Dudman agreed and tentative arrangements were made to lunch together on January Eight, next.

According to the source, later on the same day another representative of the St. Louis Post Dispatch attempted to contact Ambassador Diem, but was unsuccessful.
GP-1

END AND PLS ACK

WH QSL K
DE WH AND ACK 004

45 Taken from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry. The transcript is my own:

Tom Johnson letter to LBJ about Ottendad and Hal

February 11, 1970

MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD:

Tom Ottenad, St. Louis Post Despatch, came to my academic office, BEB 716, at 3:50 p.m. yesterday afternoon.

He said he had two objectives: first, to explore the role of Mrs. Chennault in October-November 1968; second, to get historical background perspective on the war in Vietnam.

With respect to the first, I told him that I would say “not one word.” He went on to say that that was the position I took when he approached me in Washington; but certain other people who had taken that position, whom he had now seen, have given him further information. I said: “I am not in that category. I will say not one word.”

He said, “Is there any way I could change your view by giving you absolute assurances that what you told me would never be attributed?”

I said: “No. I will say not one word.”

He then went on to ask about where the war in Vietnam now stands against the background of events since 1958. I told him I did not mind talking about the broad history of the war if it were understood that it would be on deep background, with no attribution whatsoever unless I were to give explicit permission for what he would use. I then gave him an absolutely harmless account of events in certain time phases as follows:

— 1958-61: the improvement form the end of 1961 to May 1963;

— The accelerating disintegration from May 1963 until early 1964; the improvement down to Tet;

— The very radical improvement in latter 1968 and early 1969 after recovery from Tet.

He volunteered that the Nixon people have now made an assessment that Tet was the favorable turning point in the war and now have a view of the significance of Tet identical with that of the Johnson Administration.

I then left to play tennis.

Walt Rostow

Tom Ottendad attempts to interview Johnson about

return to Tom.

yb
2/27/70

ADMINISTRATION ADMINISTRATIVE MEMO

1:00 p. m.

MR. PRESIDENT:

I talked with Bob Haldeman on February 25. I told him we appreciated the contributions of Colonel Borman and Dr. Robert Gilruth from NASA.

I asked Bob had he heard anything about the Ottenad-St. Louis Post-Dispatch questions. Bob said he had not, although Ottenad had written about the Madame Chennault episode last year. I told Bob the type of questions which were being asked and that nobody had been authorized by President Johnson to say one word on the matter. I told him that President Johnson had been requested to see Ottenad but had refused,” so had I.

I also told Bob that all of our people in Austin had been directed not to say anything on the matter and had followed that guidance.

Haldeman said he was most appreciative that we had advised him of this information and would keep the telephone call completely confidential. He said that it looked as if the Post-Dispatch was trying to stir up more trouble on this matter and they sure did not need that.

Haldeman seemed genuinely pleased and surprised that we would call on such a matter and expressed his thanks again for the attitude we have been taking toward President Nixon.

Tom Johnson

46 A transcript of the document, retrieved from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry.

phone conversation tom ottenad st louis dispatch

47 A transcript of the full article, retrieved from “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry:

Was Saigon’s peace talk delay due to Republican promises?

TOM OTTENAD

January 6, 1969

WASHINGTON – A well-known top official of committees working for the election of Richard M. Nixon secretly got in touch with representatives of South Vietnam shortly before the presidential election.

It was in connection with an apparent effort to encourage them to delay in joining the Paris peace talks in hopes of getting a better deal if the Republicans won the White House.

The government of South Vietnam had been expected to join the Paris discussions soon after President Lyndon B. Johnson announced plans on Oct. 31 to bring both it and the Communist National Liberation Front into the peace talks and to halt all American bombing of North Vietnam. However, it delayed doing so for four weeks.

Its action is credited by some political experts, including some of Nixon’s staff, with cutting the loss of votes that his aides believe he suffered in the election from the last-minute peace move. In this view, the Vietnamese delay lent credence to Republican charges that Mr. Johnson’s action was a political maneuver to help the Democratic candidate, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

Informed diplomats as well as administration sources and a number of Republicans, including some within Nixon’s own organization, have said that Republican contact with South Vietnamese representatives was made by Mrs. Anna Chennault. The initial contact was reported to have been made a few days before Mr. Johnson’s Oct. 31 announcement.

A high ranking official at the South Vietnamese Embassy here said it was “entirely untrue” that Mrs. Chennault had urged officials of his government to go slow in joining the Paris peace talks. He said:

“There has been a lot of speculation about our attitude in the talks. We base our decision on a lot of factors and not on internal politics here.”

He conceded that he and his colleagues had been “in touch with a lot of our friends, both Democrats and Republicans.” He did not identify them.

The official said Mrs. Chennault had had a long relationship with South Vietnam. She is a visitor at the embassy here “from time to time – not really frequently,” he added.

Mrs. Chennault, widow of Gen Claire L Chennault, commander of the World War II Flying Tigers, was co-chairman with Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower of the Women for Nixon-Agnew National Advisory Committee and a vice chairman of the Republican National Finance Committee.

She was a hard-working fund-raiser and said she collected more than $250,000 for Nixon’s campaign. Campaign records on file in the House of Representatives show that she contributed at least $1000 herself to the G.O.P. presidential campaign.

About the same time, in a separate move, representatives of South Vietnam reportedly made contact with the Nixon camp two or three times, unsuccessfully seeking a meeting with the Republican presidential candidate and hinting that their government would put off until after the Nov. 5 election any move toward joining the Paris negotiations.

Herbert G. Klein, director of communications for the President-elect, and other Nixon aides have said that Nixon had no personal connection with either action. Both moves were said to be contrary to his expressed wish and his avowed policy of avoiding any action that might jeopardize chances for peace.

The aides say further that the reported Republican contact with South Vietnamese sources was an individual action that had not been authorized by Nixon. As for the overtures from the South Vietnamese to the Republican organization, they say that, on Nixon’s instructions, these were ignored.

Mrs. Chennault, who was born in Peking is of Chinese descent, but became an American citizen in 1950. She is a vice chairman of one of the committees planning Nixon’s inauguration Jan. 20. The attractive 45-year-old woman, who claims many friends in high government and Republican circles, is to be escorted to the inaugural ball by Gov. Warren P. Knowles of Wisconsin, it was announced recently. Her name figures in speculation for possible appointment to a key position in the Nixon administration.

In a recent interview, she declined to confirm or deny reports that she had been in frequent touch with representatives of the South Vietnamese Embassy shortly before the Nov. 5 election. “Who told you that?” she asked with a half smile.

In response to further questions the petite, vivacious woman, who rates Bui Diem, South Vietnam’s ambassador to the U.S., and other diplomats and world leaders among her friends, refused to give much information.

“You’re going to get me in a lot of trouble,” she remarked. Toying with the high collar of her Chinese-style dress, a personal fashion trademark, she continued with a laugh:

“I can’t say anything…come back and ask me that after the inauguration. We’re at a very sensitive time…I know so much and can say so little.”

Asked whether others had made contact with the South Vietnamese she replied enigmatically, “I certainly was not alone at that time.”

Friends of Mrs. Chennault have said that she was in sympathy with high South Vietnamese officials, including some of the country’s embassy here, who favored awaiting the outcome of the American presidential election before making any move toward joining the Paris peace negotiations.

High administration sources here say that key South Vietnamese officials generally favored the election of Nixon over Humphrey. They say also that they received information from Saigon indicating that many believe South Vietnamese officials there believed Mrs. Chennault was acting on Nixon’s behalf in contacts with representatives of that country. They termed this belief understandable in view of South Vietnam’s reputation for political intrigue.

When told that the Nixon forces disclaimed any connection with her reported actions, Mrs. Chennault remarked with a laugh: “You’ve covered politics. What would you expect? In politics nothing is fair.”

Asked whether she had feared that Mr. Johnson’s peace initiative might cost Nixon the presidential election, she said, “I think many people had that concern.” Asked whether she regarded the President’s move as politically motivated, she replied indirectly:

“We have been very much concerned. Every time we have a bombing halt the enemy takes advantage to supply their troops and move the men south. Our casualties in the last few weeks have not decreased noticeably.”

Mrs. Chennault said that since Nixon’s election she had received “personal invitation” from both President Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam and President Chung Hee Park of South Korea “to come and talk to them as a friend.” She has made frequent trips to South Vietnam.

She said that since Nixon’s election she has encouraged “my friends” to join in the Paris peace talks. “I told them it is important for South Vietnam to send a delegation to Paris,” she remarked. On Nov. 28 South Vietnam finally announced that it would take part in the Paris discussion. However, because of a procedural dispute, the broadened talks have not yet started.

Mrs. Chennault, who is rated by many observers as a hawk on Vietnam and a hard-liner on Asian Policy has said that she regarded herself as “a bridge to build better relations between the East and the West. I understand American politics and also the feelings of our friends in Asia. But I am first an American and second a Republican.”

Although Nixon advisers say they learned of Mrs. Chennault’s activities several days before the Nov. 5 election, they apparently took no steps to halt her or remove her from her connection with the campaign. Explaining why, one G.O.P. official said, “She wasn’t our baby. She wasn’t really part of the campaign.”

Another Nixon adviser also emphasized this thought, stressing that Mrs. Chennault was not part of Nixon’s personal campaign staff.

“She was co-chairman of a volunteer organization,” he said. “She wasn’t a foreign policy adviser. We were faced with all kinds of people who claimed to speak for Nixon on various issues but really didn’t.”

Another Republican aide said, “The difficulty is she is pretty free-wheeling. She took a number of independent actions in the campaign. We had to pull her back several times.”

Some sources who are friendly to Mrs. Chennault have said privately that the Nixon camp was aware of her actions. They did not make clear, however, at what point this reported awareness developed.

Sources in the Nixon camp insisted strongly that Nixon was adamant in his refusal to make political capital out of the Vietnamese conflict or of the peace negotiations. “I saw him explode one time and say he was not going to make the war a political issue even if it cost him the election,” said one aide.

The reported overtures by South Vietnamese representatives to the Nixon campaign organization came in the last week or the presidential campaign. “On two and maybe three occasions we received messages indirectly from high South Vietnamese representatives,” a Nixon adviser has said.

The message, he said, requested a meeting with Nixon or one of his top aides. The communications suggested also that South Vietnam might delay until after the American election its final decision on whether or not to join the Paris peace talks, it said.

The Republican sources said that the Nixon camp “did nothing” about the South Vietnamese overtures. “Our instructions from Nixon were to give no response,” he explained.

48 From “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'” by Robert Parry, Walt Rostow’s cover letter:

top secret note regarding sealed documents Cover letter to LBJ Library director to be opene

LITERALLY EYES ONLY

June 26, 1973

TO: Mr. Harry Middleton, Director, LBJ Library

Sealed in the attached envelope is a file President Johnson asked me to hold personally because of its sensitive nature. In case of his death, the material was to be consigned to the LBJ Library under conditions I judged to be appropriate.

The file concerns the activities of Mrs. Chennault and others before and immediately after the election of 1968. At the time President Johnson decided to handle the matter strictly as a question of national security; and, in retrospect, he felt that decision was correct.

It is, therefore, my recommendation to you that this file should remain sealed for fifty years from the date of this memorandum.

After fifty years, the Director of the LBJ Library (or whomever may inherit his responsibilities, should the administrative structure of the National Archives change) may, alone, open this file. If he believes the material it contains might be opened for research, he should then consult the then responsible security officials of the Executive Branch to arrange formal clearance. If he believes the material it contains should not be opened for research, I would wish him empowered to re-close the file for another fifty years when the procedure outlined above should be repeated.

W. W. Rostow

The three page overview memo by Rostow is at footnote #11.

49 The document from which this quote is taken is listed in footnote #11.

50 The full transcript from Stanley Kutler’s The Abuse of Power, transcript is on Pastebin: “October 17, 1972: Nixon, Connally, Haldeman”.

51 We can see this story quoted at the time via Google News, “Watergate Men Linked To Burglary” and “Break-In Figures Said Linked to Burglary”. Schram himself would revisit the story at thecabin.net, “Martin Schram: Watergate exclusive at last confirmed”:

It took a quarter of a century, but we finally have confirmation for the last Unresolved Scoop of the Watergate Era.

“Watergate Burglars Broke Into Chilean Embassy as Cover, Tapes Show,” said the headline that stretched across page A9 of The Washington Post last week.

“In Tapes, Nixon Talks of Plans for Foreign Embassy Break-Ins,” said the headline that stretched across page A13 of The New York Times that same day.

The news came as a bit of a shock, a very welcome shock, to a journalist who, as Newsday’s Washington bureau chief, had reported back in 1973 the front-page news that the burglars who broke into the Watergate building had also broken into the embassy of Chile, which was then headed by a Marxist, President Salvador Allende.

To be perfectly candid, the journalist had been proud that he had scooped the competitive Watergate media-world. But then he waited with dismay as no other journalist (not Woodward nor Bernstein) and no federal investigator (not the FBI nor the Senate Watergate Committee nor the Watergate special prosecutor) had been able to confirm his report. Not for weeks, nor months, nor years.

That 1973 embassy break-in scoop went unconfirmed for 26 years, until Richard Nixon was finally heard to fess up. In newly released White House tapes, Nixon talked twice about embassy break-ins. In May 1973, he told Gen. Alexander Haig: “There are times, you know, when, good God, I’d authorize any means to achieve a goal abroad (including) the breaking-in of embassies and so forth.”

That month, he told his counsel, J. Fred Buzhardt: “When we get down, for example, to the break-in, the Chilean Embassy — that thing was part of the burglars’ plan, as a cover … a CIA cover.”

52 From Stanley Kutler’s The Abuse of Power; numbers in parentheses indicate a start and end time in the audio file lacking a transcript, transcript is on Pastebin: “March 7, 1973: The President and Dean”.

53 From Stanley Kutler’s The Abuse of Power:

JANUARY 11, 1973: THE PRESIDENT AND HALDEMAN, 10:20-11:03 A.M., OVAL OFFICE

Haldeman informs Nixon that former FBI executive Cartha DeLoach will share his knowledge of LBJ’s bugging orders. The President decides to ratchet up the pressure on Johnson. But Nixon miscalculates. According to Haldeman’s diary, LBJ said he would counter by revealing Nixon’s back-channel dealings with the South Vietnamese government to delay the peace talks. Furthermore, by January 1973, Johnson’s influence is negligible in national affairs and particularly in his party; finally, Johnson dies on January 22.

SEGMENT 1

NIXON
Have you had any further development, Bob, with regard to the bugging at – I mean in regard to Mitchell and his talks with DeLoach? If he had?

HALDEMAN
Yes.

NIXON
Did he see DeLoach?

HALDEMAN
Yes. He talked to DeLoach.

NIXON
DeLoach denies?

HALDEMAN
No. DeLoach says it’s true and that he has hard – he thinks – he has some hard evidence or some specifics that will lock the thing up.

NIXON
Will he say so?

HALDEMAN
I don’t know whether he’ll say so, but he’ll give us the information so that we can say so, and that’s all we need.

NIXON
Well, what I want is this from DeLoach. We know he knows who is in charge of that, probably is still in the Bureau, a bugger. Do you know what I mean? The point on that is that Gray gives him a lie detector test, calls him in, or asks him – do you see what I mean…? That’s what I’d like him to do. I’d like to get it so it’s nailed down in terms of evidence, rather than that DeLoach told Mitchell or that Hoover, a dead man, told Mitchell, because Johnson will lie about this, if necessary, if we have to use it. My only view is that I would not want to use this story at all. This is something that I would use only for purposes of-

HALDEMAN
Dean’s idea also goes the other way, which we may want to figure out a way to play around with, which is to use it on Johnson, because a lot of the problem we’re dealing with on the Hill stuff, and all you get [Joseph] Califano and some of those people into, and if Johnson turns them off, it could turn them the other way. In other words-

NIXON
Why doesn’t somebody go down and tell Johnson?

HALDEMAN
Well, here’s the other side of it. The Star is back on the story again.

NIXON
Yeah.

HALDEMAN
See, the Star had it during the campaign. They’re back on it also.

NIXON
On the Johnson bugging?

HALDEMAN
Mm-hmm. And that’ll stir Johnson up, and that gives us a way to get back to Johnson on the basis that, you know, we’ve got to get this turned off, because it’s going to bounce back to the other story and we can’t hold them – and scare him. And at his stage and with his attitude right now, he’s strutting around like crazy.

NIXON
I know.

HALDEMAN
He may decide to get word out to his troops and, if he did, that could be very helpful.

NIXON
Could Connally go to him? Who’s the best? Who could talk to Johnson about this? Mitchell?

HALDEMAN
George Christian. [Then working on behalf of Democrats for Nixon, while maintaining ties to LBJ.]. He’s known to be loyal to both of us.

NIXON
Call George in and say-

HALDEMAN
George knows the whole story, so you’re not letting any new-

NIXON
Well, at least it can be done…and done now…[Have] Johnson start to use some of it. He could use it not only to Califano, but possibly even to Humphrey. How do we know the Star is back on the story?

HALDEMAN
They contacted DeLoach…What I’ve got is from John Dean.

NIXON
And DeLoach says it was true and he has hard evidence; is that correct?

HALDEMAN
Yeah. I’ve got a call in to Mitchell now. I think he’s meeting with DeLoach now, as a matter of fact. He said he’d have to call me back. I called him a half an hour ago.

NIXON
The story has been a great problem. Don’t you think so?

SEGMENT 2

NIXON
…Well, get Christian in, would you, today, like today, or whenever you can, or tomorrow and say that they’re on this damn story again and are on DeLoach and he’s to go tell Johnson that we’re trying to keep an eye on it. We’ll do our best, but he’d better get ahold of Califano and Humphrey and anybody else he knows and tell them to pipe down on this thing…[W]e will use it without question, Bob, if it comes out to nut time. Do you agree?

HALDEMAN
Sure.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brian De Palma’s Blow Out: “Good Scream.”

(Everything I post is to some degree unfinished, but a movie about which so much can be said and so dear to my heart as this one, I will no doubt have more to say about, and so this post might be considered more unfinished than others. An invaluable resource on all things De Palma, which I have already mentioned here is the site De Palma a la Mod; an excellent resource for this specific post was the three hour plus episode devoted to this movie by The Projection Booth podcast, “Episode 140: Blow Out” hosted by Mike White, Rob St. Mary, with guest Jamie Duvall, and featuring interviews with Nancy Allen, Dennis Franz, and producer Fred Caruso. The podcast is frequented quoted in the following and I’m grateful for their diligent and in-depth work. SPOILERS for Blow Out, Dressed to Kill, The Fury, The Black Dahlia, Casualties of War, and The Parallax View. Since this is a fairly in-depth examination of this movie, it is assumed that whoever reads it has already seen Blow Out and requires no summary or description of the plot, and none is given.)

Something’s Got to Give had portrayed Marilyn as a shipwreck survivor who has been out of the world for years. She was to ask her rescuers, “Who’s President now?” Told it is Kennedy, she would respond, “Which Kennedy?”

Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers

PAULA
Where were you when Kennedy got shot?

HARRY MOSEBY
Which Kennedy?

Night Moves

SEGISMUND
A dream!
That seem’d as swearable reality
As what I wake in now.

CLOTALDO
Ay-wondrous how
Imagination in a sleeping brain
Out of the uncontingent senses draws
Sensations strong as from the real touch;
That we not only laugh aloud, and drench
With tears our pillow; but in the agony
Of some imaginary conflict, fight
And struggle – ev’n as you did; some, ’tis thought,
Under the dreamt-of stroke of death have died.

Life is a Dream by Pedro Calderón de la Barca

There came Death expertly threading his graceless bicycle through traffic at the intersection of Wilshire and La Brea where, because of street repair, two westbound Wilshire lanes were funneling into one.

Death so swift! Death thumbing his nose at middle-aged horn honkers.

Death laughing, Screw you, buddy! And you.

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

SEGISMUND
In all the shining circuits you have gone
About this theatre of human woe,
What greater sorrow have you gazed upon
Than down this narrow chink you witness still;
And which, did you yourselves not fore-devise,
You registered for others to fulfil!

Life is a Dream by Pedro Calderón de la Barca

I face the difficulty that anyone does who writes about one of their great passions, that the insights you have, the details you wish to point out, all an expression of the fervent excitement I have for this movie, these things have already been pointed out, are already well known, and your analysis is ultimately a self-centered demonstration, only of your own devotion, rather than giving off anything of valuable luminescence. I do not think what follows is an entirely well worn path, and I try to avoid the rote or the obvious, but given that this is one of Brian De Palma’s most cherished films among his fans, I no doubt repeat things others have many times before. As always, it carries the value and disadvantage that it is only my view, an idiosyncratic map of a movie that has meant so much to me for many years.

STRONG AS A COBWEB IN THE WIND1

It’s often classed as a conspiracy theory movie, and though this is definitionally correct, it’s also a misrepresentation that might disappoint viewers expecting a creature of this zoological class. The approach of most of this genre of movie is polemical, and the conspiratorial schematic it presents is part of the polemic: such a conspiracy is possible, now. The Parallax View might be the most memorable example of this, attempting to make the implausible plausible, a conspiracy theory without melodrama in music, direction, or characterization, told in the language of social realism; where the assassination of political figures in the United States takes place, a cover-up with the accompanying murder follows, and the very man investigating the conspiracy becomes its patsy, the assassin’s weapon placed in his dead hand. There is the outlining of a plausible schematic, and at the same time the conspiratorial group is invested with powers that verge on the mystic. They are able to travel everywhere, they are near invisible, they can kill whoever they wish, and they are flawless in their actions, never giving themselves away or making a mistake – when they appear to do so in Parallax, they are actually just laying down a trail of breadcrumbs to lead the hero to his doom.

Blow Out inverts this almost immediately; it is not the villains who possess a power that might be considered almost divine, but the hero. Jack Terry goes out into the park to record sounds, and we see him able to hear at vast superhuman distances, the same mechanical gift which gives him entry into the world of the twisting plot that follows. He moves his microphone and picks up what to the viewer’s ears sounds like the leg rubbing clicks of some night insect, yet Jack’s knowledge of sounds is superior to ours, and he already hears something unnatural, mechanical in these insect-like sounds. They are not insect noises at all, but Burke pulling the wire back and forth of his watch, a nervous tic he falls into whenever he waits before pulling one of his acts of subterfuge, and we hear this same sinister noise when he is lying in the car before going into the garage to change the tire, and finally, before killing the prostitute at the train station.

Blow Out: the sound of the wire in the watch.

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After the sounds of the wire snapping in and out, Jack hears another sound from Burke at extraordinary distance which no one else nearby hears, the crunch of leaves as the man adjusts his position on the ground. The soundman then focuses on the owl, and the two briefly share the sides of the screen, both creatures of superhuman hearing. The owl cocks its head, picking up a sound so faraway it doesn’t even appear on the soundtrack and not even Jack hears it, the senator’s car approaching. The owl then turns its head entirely as the car drives quickly down the road and Terry shifts his attention as well, hearing the squeal of the tires long before the car is anywhere near in view.

Blow Out: hearing at a distance.

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The other trope of conspiracy movies, unused in Blow Out, is a hero moving along the nodes of the conspiracy before reaching its nexus, the heart, or one of several hearts of american power. This might be the Parallax corporation in Parallax, the top echelons of the CIA in Three Days of the Condor, the White House, no matter – but we have a sense of the hero navigating through the labyrinth and getting closer and closer to a center of the universe, the truth finally unveiled. By contrast, Blow Out begins on the fringes and stays on the fringes, with Jack’s position remaining essentially static. Jack and Sally are portrayed as being on the edges, of being unimportant people, not the Jim Garrison of JFK, but something like a face in the Dallas crowd and a minor dancer at Jack Ruby’s, through the movie’s compositions. There is Jack, on his listening expedition, the camera moving further and further out, till he is an insignificant point in the landscape.

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack as a tiny speck on the bridge

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack on the bridge, a small point

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack on the bridge, a smaller point

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack on the bridge, an even smaller point

A similar sequence, after Jack rescues Sally:

Blow Out: figures in the landscape.

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Jack is in the hospital, after the rescue, and he is sealed off in rooms while the frenzy erupts outside.

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - frenzy outside

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack in hospital, frenzy outside

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack smoking in hospital, frenzy outside

Jack is given a condescending point and summoning finger, as if he were a delinquent child, by a cop on behalf of one of the Philadelphia brahmins:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack gets pointed at

Jack and Sally meet for a drink as he tries to persuade her from leaving the city, and we have a prolonged establishing shot where the focus is split between them and the men at the bar.

Blow Out: Jack, Sally, and the men in the bar.

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There is the obvious culmination of this in the moment where Sally fights for her life, as we shift from the justly famous shot of her screaming in terror with the flag behind her, a woman in trouble whose suffering is briefly made operatic and epic, her screams heard on Jack’s earphones and this is the center point of his life, the point to which he has moved towards and whose effects will radiate out for the rest of his existence – and then, Sally is an unnoticed and indistinct point in the tower as the unhearing crowd celebrates below, as she’s caught under Burke’s wire again:

Blow Out: a figure in the distance.

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That Jack and Sally remain on the edges of the conspiracy is a function and a necessity of the plot, but it also is very much to do with the position of these characters in society itself. They are part of the overly broad, overly general category “working class”, and though the label is overly vague, there is the obvious marker in both characters, which is that neither goes to university and there appears to have been no expectation that they would get a degree, joining one of the coveted professional classes, of doctors, lawyers, engineers, or tenured professors. Jack’s only recourse for acquiring a technical education is through military service – his family does not have the money for university, and Sally is not surprised that this would be his only option. America is both supposedly a classless society while being very much a country with a class hierarchy, and we can see the prevalence of such a hierarchy by the fact that characters from this class – other than cops, firefighters, and soldiers – rarely appear in movies unaccompanied with a polemical theme about their economic status. The movie must be about bettering themselves, about being someone other than themselves, about acquiring a university education – Blow Out, in contrast, is simply about these characters on their own terms. They are not made stupid, crude, or ugly as an expression of their class, they are not seen solely by those outside of their class, but rather, the movie’s perspective is their own. It’s difficult to conceive of Jack Terry having much interest in a university education, not because he’s unintelligent or incurious, but because his interest is so focused, so specialized around sound technology, that he would rightly wonder what a degree in any field would offer him. That Jack Terry fails by the movie’s end is not because of any lack of education or lack of intelligence, but because he sees the unveiling of the conspiracy as a redemption for the failed police sting, and he wants that redemption so badly that he becomes careless. This sin is not made into a problem or issue of any particular class, but a fatal error possible of every member of the audience.

I have written of an assassination plot and its cover-up, at which Jack and Sally are positioned at the very far fringes, and we now reach the final point which makes Blow Out very distinct from other conspiracy thrillers: there is no conspiracy. The events of the movie are not the result of a convergence of shadowy figures and forces, but the result of only one man, and that’s Burke. He has been given the simple assignment of having Manny Karp take photos of Sally and the governor together, and either by accident or on his own maverick initiative, he commits a murder. Everything that follows, the cover-up, the serial killings, the erasing of Jack’s tapes, the death of Sally, is Burke acting on his own, with campaign manager Jack Manners wanting nothing to do with this out of control lunatic he hired for a very simple piece of campaign sabotage.

The conversation between Burke and Jack Matters, campaign manager for the president:

JACK MATTERS
You were supposed to get some pictures of McRyan, not kill him.

BURKE
I understood the objectives of the operation…I never concurred with them. But I didn’t kill him, it was an accident.

MATTERS
You accidentally shot out the tire of his car!

BURKE
As you may recall, this was my initial plan as proposed at our meeting of June the 6th.

MATTERS
We rejected that plan, don’t you remember?

BURKE
Course I do admit I had to exceed the parameters of my authority somewhat, but I always stayed within an acceptable margin of error. After all, the objective was achieved. He was eliminated from the election.

MATTERS
Burke. I don’t know you. I’ve never seen you. Don’t ever call me again.

BURKE
Just a minute, sir. We’ve got some loose ends. I’ve changed the tire, made it look like a blow out. I’ve erased the sound guy’s tapes, so everybody will think he’s a crackpot. Karp’s disappeared, but I’ll find him. That still leaves the girl. I’ve decided to terminate her, and make it look like one of a series of sex killings in the area. This would completely secure our operation.

MATTERS
WHAT OPERATION!

Brian De Palma's Blow - Burke on the phone

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Matters on the phone

The Projection Booth podcast put together an episode, “Episode 140: Blow Out”, full of vital details on the movie in which they touched on the way information on the conspiracy is conveyed, far different from that in other movies of the genre. Mike White is the co-host, along with Rob St. Mary (fragment is at approximately 24:19-26:12 in the recording):

MIKE WHITE
So, it’s an interesting story of who’s watching who and who knows what when. Because that’s the other thing that I find very interesting about this one is the way we’re being handed information, like I was talking about with the television earlier, which kinda comes back a few times. I mean, there’s Manny, we see him on the TV, and that’s when Jack’s buddy comes in, and turns on the television set for him. But this whole idea of when do we know things versus when Jack knows them? Like, Burke putting the tire, the replacement tire, with the car, Nick Ryan’s car. We know that before Jack knows, and Jack is insisting “Check the tire! Check the tire!”, you know. It’s like, okay, we already know that that’s going on, and then we know as well, because we have Burke saying “I’ve erased all of his tapes,” so they’re going to think he’s crazy, we know that before Jack knows, and we get that amazing scene, of Jack going in, and playing all of his tapes, and having everything coming out blank, and that whole camera move, you know, I don’t wanna say three sixty, because that would imply the camera was in one spot and just turning around, cuz that camera is really exploring the space and going around, throughout the entire room, and just the way we run into Jack as you’re going around clockwise, it’s just a remarkable set piece.

This unveils a crucial aspect of Blow Out, but this is only a partial aspect. It is not simply that the audience knows things before Jack learns of them, but that we know things with certainty, that Jack only hypothesizes about – and of which he never gains hard evidence. Only the audience is able to clearly see that there is no conspiracy, that all the malice which takes place is caused by Burke. For Jack, this is all a cloud of unknowing, on which he projects a vast network which doesn’t exist onto this opaque expanse. “Who’s ever in on this thing has a contacts in the police, because they want McRyan to sink without a trace,” Jack tells Sally. “They don’t want to hear about my gunshot.” There is not Burke alone, but a they: “They have erased my tapes, they’ve made you disappear, and next it’s going to be me.” The asymmetry of information between Jack and the audience begins almost immediately after the accident, when Jack dives into the water to save Sally, at the same time the audience clearly sees Manny Karp move away from his hiding place under the bridge and run away, a figure entirely unseen by Jack.

Blow Out: Manny Karp under the bridge.

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Blow Out: Manny Karp fleeing the scene.

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By the end of the movie, he still has no idea whether the attempt to compromise McRyan came from the opposing camp, or McRyan’s own campaign manager, the man who asked that he lie about being at the scene of the accident. Jack’s suspicion is not glib paranoia, but comes from difficult worldly experience. He worked for the King Commission2, where he saw cops take money from gangsters to avoid prosecution, and he saw cops turn on their own when these crimes were revealed. Mackey hates him for his part in this, “I know all about you and your fucking tapes, you put a lot of good cops away”, and Jack must consider the obvious possibility that Mackey is working against him out of vengeance for what he did in the past3. In something like Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor, or even All The President’s Men (if we’re unfamiliar with the real-life basis of the last), we learn things at the same pace as the heroes, while in Blow Out we’re given a situation that is entirely its opposite. Jack Terry has a gift of far reaching and discerning hearing which exceeds ours, yet he learns almost nothing more of the plot behind the accident, while we are shown all.

THE DROWNING POOL, THE BAGMAN, THE BURGLARS,
ASPIRIN ROULETTE

The approach of Blow Out places an emphasis on the intimate, and the vivid sensual of noise and light, rather than the traveling of a convoluted plot which twists through the nodes of the conspiracy. As already said, this conspiracy has a node of one, Burke – there is no conspiracy – except that which Jack Terry has past basis to imagine. Instead of explorations of the echelons of power, we are with the characters close-up. We are given a lengthy sequence as Jack splices together the photos of the crash accident and syncs the audio with this film where we see his dedication and skill in his work; the well-known scene where Jack discovers the disorienting violation of his audio tapes having been erased, as the camera spins dizzyingly around and we hear the absence in what’s been left, not silence, but a chugging rumble and a whirring siren; the squalid scenes between Manny and Sally where we see the desperation and misery of her life. This is the core of the movie, rather than a murder plot, which, as said, remains largely a mystery to Jack by the film’s end.

I would liken the movie’s relationship to the historical scandal which initiates the plot with Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates, which takes the event of Chappaquiddick and rather than dwell on the specifics of that actual scandal, turns it into a kind of novella of vivid, often fantastic, sensation, where a woman drowns in a senator’s car, only to be revived, and the revival revealed to be an illusion, and again she dies, but no, by some miracle survives, all on an infinite loop, the recurrence of the death and the false promise of survival an unending nightmare. The senator’s tongue down the girl’s throat melts into the choking dark water, then into the suction hose that pumps her stomach in a revival attempt, the hose becoming the senator’s tongue again. The senator is obviously Edward Kennedy, but those wishing for a scathing satire will be disappointed; no mercy is shown by Oates in the portrayal, but her focus is more abstract, creating a fantastic horror world, and portraying the liberalism of the early nineties as a kind of a church in decline, where novices such as the dead woman have lost interest in the tenets of the faith and community good works, preferring idolatry of the church elders like the senator.

A fragment of Black Water, one of the many describing the crash, conveys the hypervivid sensation which takes precedent over plot points or attempts to parallel historical fact:

She heard the single expletive “Hey!” as the car skidded into a guardrail skidding sideways, the right rear coming around as in a demonic amusement ride and her head cracked against the window a red mist flashing across her eyes but she could not draw breath to scream as the momentum of their speed carried them down a brief but steep embankment, an angry staccato tapping against the car as if dried sticks were being broken, still she had not breath to scream as the car plunged into what appeared to be a pit, a pool, stagnant water in the marshland you might think only a few feet deep but black water was churning alive and purposeful on all sides tugging them down, the car sinking on its side, and Kelly was blinded, The Senator fell against her, and their heads knocked and how long it was the two of them struggled together, stunned, desperate, in terror of what was happening out of their control and even their comprehension except to think This can’t be happening, am I going to die like this, how many seconds or minutes before The Senator moaning “Oh God. Oh God” fumbled clawing at the safety belts extricating himself by sheer strength from his seat behind the broken steering wheel and with fanatic strength forcing himself through the door, opening the door against the weight of black water and gravity that door so strangely where it should not have been, overhead, directly over their heads, as if the very earth had tilted insanely on its axis and the sky now invisible was lost in the black muck beneath – how long, in her terror and confusion Kelly Kelleher could not have said.

Because Blow Out‘s focus is on the world of its two major characters, the initiating event incidental, the accident itself has the quality of a dream of overlapping scandals, of the Kennedy assassination, Chappaquiddick, and the government cover-up of Watergate. I would argue that the movie’s lack of focus on the conspiracy event, its disinterest in outlining a surrounding labyrinth, leaves us with images, the vast park, the sinking car, the drowning woman, the dead governor, abstracting the accident like Black Water does, and partly disconnects the event from actual history – when it is very much connected to past history, in the characters of Burke, of Manny Karp, of the accident, all of which are taken from the hard details of the intersection of Watergate and Chappaquiddick, and of which I think De Palma was familiar.

Richard Nixon was obsessed with all of the Kennedys, their good looks, their charm, their wealth, their connections to the eastern establishment that he despised, an animus that ran from the brother he ran against and lost, to the last survivor, even after the debacle of Chappaquiddick. This obsession shows up in that other movie which touches on Watergate, All the President’s Men, when Carl Bernstein talks to a secretary who used to work in the White House about one of the Watergate burglars, E. Howard Hunt:

BERNSTEIN
Did you know…Howard Hunt? Didn’t he work in the office?

SECRETARY
Yeah, I knew Howard. He’s a nice person. He’s secretive. He is secretive. But. A decent man.

BERNSTEIN
Do you have any idea…what he did?

SECRETARY
Well, the White House said he was doing some investigative work.

BERNSTEIN (smiles)
What do you say?

SECRETARY
He was doing investigative work.

BERNSTEIN
On what?

SECRETARY
Different things.

BERNSTEIN
Like what? I’m just asking you.

SECRETARY
Well…the scuttlebutt for a while was that he was investigating Kennedy.

BERNSTEIN
Why?

SECRETARY
White House is real paranoid about Teddy Kennedy. I remember seeing a book about Chappaquiddick on his desk. And he was always getting material out of the White House library, the library of congress, anything he could find.

(the previous dialogue is not from the published script of All the President’s Men, which can be found here, but is a direct transcript from the movie since there are substantial differences between the lines in the movie and that of the script.)

This obsession is also revealed in the Nixon White House tapes, in these moments where the president tells his close advisors that he wants Ted Kennedy’s Secret Service protection to be used for surveillance, in order to gather damaging information which can be used to destroy him in the 1976 presidential campaign:

(Transcripts are taken from Stanley Kutler’s Abuse of Power and the transcript at whitehousetapes.net, Thursday, September 7, 1972 – 4:47pm – 6:15pm. Audio for the first segment is the file rmn_e772_06.mp3 taken from the nixontapes.org audio archive, specific page “Chron 4 Oval Office Conversations: July 1, 1972 – November 1, 1972”, entry OVAL 772-006. Audio for the second segment is the file rmn_e772_15b, also taken from the same site, same page, entry OVAL 772-015b. The tangential issue dealing with the names Schultz and O’Brien has to do with George Schultz, then head of the Treasury and Larry O’Brien, head of the Democratic National Committee. The Nixon administration was trying to go after O’Brien through IRS audits.)

The ongoing attempt to find dirt on Ted Kennedy intersected with the Chappaquiddick drowning, which prompted the Nixon White House to send out a private detective to research the area to find any witnesses or dirt they might use to further damage the Massachussetts senator. The man they sent out for the assignment, Tony Ulasewicz, is described by another Watergate burglar, G. Gordon Liddy in his memoir Will. The Caulfield mentioned is Jack Caulfield, another private detective in the pay of the Nixon White House:

We found “Tony,” later identified at Watergate hearings as Anthony Ulasewicz, at Apartment 11-C, 321 East 48th Street, Manhattan. Caulfield had described the place as “a very elaborate pad – beautiful, wait’ll ya see it. My guy Tony’s puttin’ the make on one of the Chappaquiddick broads. The joint’s wired for sound. He gets her in the sack a few times, wins her confidence, and we get the facts.”

When “Tony” opened the door, I couldn’t believe what I saw. First there was “Tony” himself; a big, overweight middle-aged man who in his best day would not exactly rival Redford. Still, Casanova himself was an ugly man, and maybe “Tony” had something only a woman could appreciate. The apartment itself was something else. It was small, so small that the “bedroom” was nothing but a tiny converted alcove with a pitiful, homemade wall erected across its opening and a curtain for a door. The wall, in which he was trying to hide a tape recorder, was covered in the fake brick sold at Montgomery Ward stores in poor neighborhoods to dress up aging kitchens. A white shag rug was on the floor, and the windows were hung with red imitation velvet drapes. The decor was strictly better-grade Juarez whorehouse circa 1951.

I note two things. Jorge Luis Borges praises the magical precision of the phrase “half as old as time,” in a poetic stanza4, as opposed to the more banal and obvious “as old as time,” and this magical precision is there in describing an apartment as “better-grade Juarez whorehouse” as opposed to simply “Juarez whorehouse”. The other, more important point, is that the description of the sleazy Ulasewicz and his tiny, squalid apartment is very reminiscent of a character we are already well familiar with, Manny Karp.

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Sally and Manny in his room

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Sally and Manny in his room

Ulasewicz’s voice, a practical, matter of the fact, guttural well familiar with the ass end of politics, comes across well in a BBC documentary on the Watergate scandal (“Watergate 1/5: Break-in”, “Watergate 2/5: Cover-up”, “Watergate 3/5: Scapegoat”, “Watergate 4/5: Massacre”, “Watergate 5/5: Impeachment”), showing up in “Cover-up”, when the detective is recruited for another assignment, to pay off hush money to the Watergate burglars.

Segment running from approximately 24:24-26:35:

NARRATOR
Five days after the break-in, the burglars were brought to court to be released on bail. The president’s men set about organizing their hush money. Richard Nixon’s private lawyer, Herb Kalmbach, got the assignment.

MAURICE STANS (CAMPAIGN FINANCE CHAIRMAN)
Herb Kalmbach was a close personal friend of mine, and I trusted him in every respect. So, when he came to me and said he’d like all the money I could find up to a hundred thousand dollars, I said, “I can’t find a hundred thousand dollars,” but I know where there is some money, can you tell me anything more about it? He said, “I can only tell you it’s a matter of the White House needing some money – related to the campaign.

NARRATOR
Kalmbach collected seventy five thousand dollars of Nixon campaign funds. But he had to find someone to deliver it.

TONY ULASEWICZ
I got a call…to come down to Washington. And to meet with Mr. Herbert Kalmbach. I came to the hotel in Washington, D.C., I came up right away…he didn’t have his socks on, and he apologized for that. And I’d been in the army, in the navy, and he apologized for not having his socks on. At any rate, he got into this story, he’d met with John Dean. A park bench across from the White House. Dean said that on the highest authority, it was decided, that Herb Kalmbach would provide funds and that Tony Ulasewicz, the only one they could trust, would distribute said funds, to those who broke into the Watergate building. So now, he has an attaché case, and he’s got seventy five grand in there. The seventy five thousand now, he’s taking it out of the attaché case, and putting it on a bed. Now, seventy five grand, you know, is quite a bit of lettuce. And there was a laundry bag in the closet, one of these, very thin brown paper that you put your laundry in and leave it out by the door. And I plucked all that cabbage, and I put it into the bag, tied it up with the string, maybe twice over, put it under my arm, and said we’ll be in touch. Now, I’ll await your instructions.

Segment running from approximately 40:16-41:43:

NARRATOR
Nixon’s re-election machine looked unstoppable. But he knew that if the Watergate burglars started talking, it would be all over. So his campaign funds were used to buy more than just rallies, they bought silence. Howard Hunt and his wife began taking delivery of the hush money to distribute to the burglars.

TONY ULASEWICZ
I’m gonna do these drops at the airport. And I would- Because lockers were always handy. I’d get a locker number, I’d take the key, put the money in the locker, take the key out. And I’d tape it underneath the telephone. Then I would call on another phone, I’d call the person, whatever name we’d use, Mrs. Hunt at that time, one time Mr. Hunt appeared and picked it up, and I’d say the key is taped- Take that key and go to the locker and pick up your drop. And that’s the way we did it. And it worked very well.

If Karp is made in the image of Ulasewicz, then Burke is a replica of the Watergate burglar already mentioned, G. Gordon Liddy. There is a constricted, lunatic fanaticism to Liddy, and a blind worship of force, both of which can be seen in Burke. It is possible that Liddy’s later behavior can be traced to his overwhelming desire to serve in the army, and fight in Korea, the latter hope dashed when he busted his appendix after a bout of drinking followed by a sit-up contest. This failure to serve may have caused him to overcompensate later on, where he invested every aspect of life with the rigor of a Prussian and coiled violence of a Cossack. Liddy would work in the White House, ostensibly as legal counsel to the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP), but really to perform intelligence gathering and sabotage of their democratic opponents. The political aides inside the Nixon White House would brag and brag about the presidential rallies they’d organized, which soon ran on Liddy’s nerves. “Hey, you guys,” he’d ask, “you want to see a real rally?,” after which he took them to one of his favorite movies, Triumph of the Will.

Liddy would present something called GEMSTONE to Nixon’s Attorney General for approval. GEMSTONE was a series of plans to disrupt Democratic rivals and gather information on these rivals through spies and surveillance, each element named after a gem or mineral element. Liddy does a thorough job describing the presentation in Will, and the following are some representative excerpts:

DIAMOND was our counterdemonstration plan. At the time, we still expected the [Republican convention] to be held in San Diego. I repeated my objections to the site, then pointed out that the best technique for dealing with a mob had been worked out years before by the famed Texas Rangers.

I pointed out that we would be dealing with skilled and determined urban guerillas who had been distributing manuals for violent guerilla tactics against the convention, including homemade bombs; that the Sports Arena area would be impossible to hold against a well-led mob attack; and that I proposed to emulate the Texas Rangers by identifying the leaders through intelligence before the attack got under way, kidnap them, drug them, and hold them in Mexico until after the convention was over, then release them unharmed and still wondering what happened.

RUBY concerned the infiltration of spies into the camp of Democratic contenders, then the successful candidate himself. COAL was the program to furnish money clandestinely to Shirley Chisholm of New York to finance her as a contender and force Democratic candidates to fight off a black woman, bound to generate ill-feeling among the black community and, we hoped, cause them difficulty with women.

EMERALD outlined the use of a chase plane to eavesdrop on the Democratic candidate’s aircraft and buses when his entourage used radio telephones.

QUARTZ detailed emulation of the technique used by the Soviet Union for microwave interception of telephone traffic, and I explained in detail the way it was done by the Soviet Embassy.

For use in gathering information at the Democratic National Convention at Miami Beach, Hunt [this is the already mentioned Watergate burglar, E. Howard Hunt] and I had an option to lease a large houseboat moored within line of sight of the Fontainebleau [a hotel in Miami]. This would enable it to be used as a communications center for CRYSTAL – electronic surveillance. It was an opulent barge, with a lush bedroom featuring a large mirror over the big king-sized bed. We’d get our money’s worth from the houseboat. It would double as headquarters for SAPPHIRE because it was from there that our prostitutes were to operate. They were not to operate as hookers but as spoiled, rich, beautiful women who were only too susceptible to men who could brag convincingly of the importance of what they were doing at the convention. The bedroom would be wired for sound, but I disagreed with Hunt’s suggestion that movie cameras be used. That wouldn’t be necessary to get the information, might cost us the women recruited who might object to being filmed in flagrante, and, as I pointed out to Howard, there wasn’t room to install them overhead anyway.

I presented a plan for four black-bag jobs, OPALs I through IV. They were clandestine entries at which microphone surveillances could be placed, as well as TOPAZ: photographs taken of any documents available, including those under lock. As targets I proposed the headquarters of Senator Edmund Muskie’s campaign on K Street, N.W.; that of Senator George McGovern on Capitol Hill; one for the Democratic National Convention at any hotel, because we had access to just about anything we wanted through all the Cuban help employed in the Miami Beach hotels. One entry would be held in reserve for any target of opportunity Mitchell wished to designate as we went along. I looked at him questioningly, but he just kept sucking on his pipe, suggesting none.

The total cost of these operations, Liddy would tell Attorney General John Mitchell, was one million dollars.

John Mitchell made much of filling and relighting his pipe and then said, “Gordon, a million dollars is a hell of a lot of money, much more than we had in mind. I’d like you to go back and come up with something more realistic.”

As I restacked the charts, John Mitchell continued, “And Gordon?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Burn those charts; do it personally.”

“Yes, sir.”

Again, these plans for illegal wiretaps, break-ins, use of prostitutes for surveillance of members of an official political party of the United States were all presented for approval to the highest arbiter of justice in the land, Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell. In Blow Out, Burke receives his orders from the president’s campaign manager, Jack Manners, with the killing of the governor and the later cover-up all rogue operations which had been presented to the campaign manager, and which he has already rejected. Who does Manners look uncannily like? John Mitchell, Nixon’s attorney general and, in the 1968 and 1972 elections, his campaign manager.

There was another operation that Liddy was involved in, outside of the command structure of John Mitchell, and that dealt with a reporter named Jack Anderson, who’d infuriated the White House by his publication of stories reliant on insider leaks that were devastating to the administration. Liddy is forthright in Will about the plan of action against Anderson, put forth by fellow Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt at a luncheon, also attended by a medical doctor named Edward Gunn. Both Gunn and Hunt were formerly of the CIA.

The purpose of the luncheon, Hunt had explained to me previously, was to take advantage of the expertise of Dr. Gunn in preparing, for the approval of Hunt’s “principal,” a plan to stop columnist Jack Anderson. Even with each other, Hunt and I often, when discussing the most sensitive of matters, used the term my principal rather than identify our superiors. I, at least, had several. Hunt, to my knowledge, had only one: Chuck Colson.

Anderson, Hunt reported, had now gone too far. As the direct result of an Anderson story, a top U.S. intelligence source abroad had been so compromised that, if not already dead, he would be in a matter of days. That was too much. Something had to be done.

I took the position that, in a hypothetical case in which the target had been the direct cause of the identification and execution of one of our agents abroad, halfway measures were not appropriate. How many of our people should we let him kill before we stop him, I asked rhetorically, still not using Anderson’s name. I urged as the logical and just solution that the target be killed. Quickly.

My suggestion was received with immediate acceptance, almost relief, as if they were just waiting for someone else to say for them what was really on their minds.

Liddy would also explain in Will his justification for assassinating a journalist:

There is a point beyond which I will not go, and that is anything my conscience tells me is malum in se (evil in and of itself) or my judgement tells me is irrational. I have no problem with doing something that is malum prohibitum (wrong only because of the existence of a law prohibiting it).

An example of malum in se would be the sexual assault of a child. In every society such a thing would be recognized as wrong. It would require no act of the legislature forbidding it to inform people that it was wrong. An example of malum prohibitum, on the other hand, would be the statute prohibiting driving through a stop sign without coming to a complete halt. Absent such a law, to do so would be a morally indifferent act.

Common sense tells us that minor problems require and justify but minor responses, and only extreme problems require and justify extreme solutions. In the case of killing it is well to remember that the Ten Commandments, translated correctly from the original Aramaic, do not contain the injunction “Thou shalt not kill.” It reads, “Thou shalt not do murder.” Quite another thing. There are circumstances that not only justify killing but require it (when one is charged with the safekeeping of a child, for example, and the only way to prevent its death from another’s attack is to kill that other person). These are all situations that require informed and responsible judgements.

A number of methods of assassination were discussed. There was the possibility of applying LSD to the steering wheel of Anderson’s car, which might trigger a disruption of motor functions, causing Anderson to fatally crash his vehicle. You could play a game called aspirin roulette, where one of Anderson’s aspirins was substituted with a lookalike pill that was a lethal poison. Another suggestion from Liddy: “I submitted that the target should just become a fatal victim of the notorious Washington street-crime rate.” One more was to smash into Anderson’s car, killing him, but making it look like one more traffic accident. Liddy would recall this last approach when he was a guest on “The Howard Stern Show” (this interview is on youtube, “G Gordon Liddy on Howard Stern Show Full Interview 2015”, and this section comes at 13:35):

STERN
If you had killed Jack Anderson, like you proposed to the Nixon Administration, what would you have used? Because you did advocate an assassination.

LIDDY
Yeah. Well, what we decided to do was…we knew the route he came into the office…and it included a traffic circle.

QUIVERS
You’re going to shoot him in the circle?

LIDDY
No, you’re not gonna shoot him in the circle. There’s a way you hit the car in a certain way, and it would flip and kill him.

STERN
The bullet, when they-

LIDDY
There’s no bullet, there’s a car accident.

QUIVERS
You’re hitting the car with a bullet, right?

LIDDY
No. No. You are hitting the car with another car.

This background is brought up to make obvious that the elements of the conspiracy in Blow Out are neither radical nor fantastic, but a very real part of American history, with a few small paths changed. Rather than gather information after Chappaquiddick, imagine if Tony Ulacewicz had been tasked with getting damaging information before it had taken place. Instead of Hunt and Liddy hiring prostitutes for purposes of surveillance as part of the SAPPHIRE section of the GEMSTONE plan, Ulacewicz would bring in a woman with the objective of destroying a candidate. Instead of assassinating a journalist for the greater good of the country, we might imagine Liddy, or a figure like him, believed that the killing of a governor was one of those situations that served a greater and necessary purpose. Rather than kill the man through an ersatz car accident, he would take the suggestion of Robin Quivers, and hit the tire with a bullet. It was a situation that required “informed and responsible judgement,” to use Liddy’s phrase, and perhaps the killing of a senator or a governor fell under the category of malum prohibitum rather than malum in se. Perhaps the killing of three women to cover up the assassination might fall under malum prohibitum as well. If anything, Blow Out is perhaps more conservative in its conspiracy, because we have only the actions of a rogue agent. As we can see in the excerpted section, however, one of the top officials in the White House may well have been behind the initial order to kill Jack Anderson. We now have audio tapes of Nixon personally ordering a break-in at the think tank, the Brookings Institute5. In this movie, we have a single agent acting on his own. In reality, we had a White House that went rogue.

Recording of Richard Nixon and his aides on June 17, 1971, when Nixon ordered a break-in at the Brookings Institute in order to steal coveted documents. This would be one of several times when Nixon would order a break-in at the Brookings and the theft of such documents; other incidents recorded on tape, and on youtube, include “Richard Nixon Orders Brookings Institute Break-in on June 30 1971” and “Richard Nixon Orders Brookings Institute Break-In July 1 1971”.

AUDIOPHILIA / PERSONAL EFFECTS / I AM OF BOTH YOUR DIRECTIONS

Blow Out was at first not called Blow Out, but something else entirely, as described in The Projection Booth podcast, fragment going from 46:50 to 48:00:

MIKE WHITE
The title, Blow Out, was not the original title for this film. Personal Effects was the first title for it…which I found to be a very interesting title, really, because you’ve got both the idea of the sound effects and them being your effects, but then the whole idea of personal effects, usually, when you talk about someone passing away, you are given their personal effects. And so it’s just this kind of nice play on words, and him going to Blow Out was definitely much more of a throwback to Blow Up, which I think is a very nice homage that he’s doing with the title, and you’re right, there’s definitely some nods back to Antonionni but…I don’t know, the thing when it comes to Antonionni’s films, at least the few that I’ve seen, it always feels like somebody took his movies and put them in a pot of boiling water, boiled out all the emotions, and then what’s left is what gets projected on screen? Because it just never feels like I care about any of the people in his films, it always feels like a bunch of sleepwalkers going through the motions, whereas with Blow Out, I definitely felt like there was so much emotion, and I really cared for these characters.

There are several associations with the phrase “Personal Effects”, the most obvious that it’s the name of Jack Terry’s sound engineering company, never said aloud, but there in the print on the glass of the door:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Personal Effects

Personal effects, as White says, are the possessions you might acquire after someone’s death, which immediately makes one think of Sally, but I find the phrase hints at Sally in another way: Jack works in sound effects, while Sally works in make-up, which might be thought of as personal effects. De Palma’s movies are often extraordinarily succinct, wasting few words on lengthy exposition or backstory. We sense characters visually, through their expressions, their posture, movements, clothes, and their work. Kate of Dressed to Kill is one of the most memorable characters in any of his movies, yet she has almost no dialogue, with Kate made a tangible, memorable presence entirely in her face, as she observes, reacts, is chased, and chases back. The vocations of Jack and Sally are handy metaphors for aspects of these characters which, in another movie, might be made more explicit.

The sensibility of a conspiracy theorist, or simply someone looking deeply into a particularly obscure world and discerning a pattern, is well captured in the profession of a sound engineer. Jack Terry doesn’t just hear at great distance through his technology, his hearing is extraordinarily acute through years of experience, able to discern small subtleties of sound. “You heard the blow out,” the cop tells Terry of what he heard on the night of the accident. “Yes I heard the blow out, but the first sound I heard was the bang.” Replies the cop: “That’s some kind of an echo.” Jack: “No. Look. I know what an echo sounds like, I’m a sound man, and, the bang was before the blow out.” He insists that the sound is there, though no one else can hear it – when Jack plays back the tape for Sally, she says, “I mean, I heard a noise, maybe it was a gunshot.” Only when she hears the sounds accompanied by Karp’s film is she able to clearly recognize the gunshot. This is very much like the closed off world of someone who might be investigating a historical or political mystery; they insist they perceive a pattern, yet others, not knowing the details of the various minor characters and coincidences of this unilluminated corner of the world cannot say with certainty whether their theory is credible, only seemingly credible, or false.

Blow Out: hearing the gunshot.

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This is also something like what a movie director feels – whatever the setbacks and problems in filming, whatever others say, they see a vision in the screenplay and the footage that others do not, and sometimes these certainties crashes thuddingly to the ground, and other times this mad vision is exhilaratingly right. The viewer has the luxury of certainty, the movie showing us that Burke clearly was behind the governor’s death. This certainty is often expected on the part of the audience, that the hero’s suspicions are always right, that the hero is always correct and righteous in his actions, and this very attitude is upended by the movie’s finale. De Palma is well aware of how easily the audience can fall into unquestioning assent that a movie’s protagonist is always right, and later in his career he uses this to play a rather nasty trick in Mission: Impossible. There, in an early scene, we are shown footage of a senator speaking on TV, who Ethan Hunt will impersonate at the embassy. This speech is played loud enough for the audience to easily make out every word, for us to easily discern its meeting, and this senator is greeted with withering disdain by the television host, and dismissive laughter by our heroes:

ETHAN HUNT
We’re using Waltzer?

JIM PHELPS
He’s our guy.

HUNT
Isn’t he chairing the arms services committee?

PHELPS
Not this week. This week he’s fly fishing, at the Oughterard Slough in County Kildaire with one of our best Irish guides.

CLAIRE
He won’t be back anytime soon.

WALTZER
-irrelevant at best, or unconstitutional at worst.

TV HOST
With all due respect, Senator, it sounds as if you want to lead the kind of charge that Frank Church led in the nineteen hundred and seventies.

WALTZER
No- No-

TV HOST
…and in the process destroyed the intelligence capability of this country.

WALTZER
I wanna know who these people are. And how they’re spending our tax payers’ money. We were living in a democracy, the last time I checked6.

Brian De Palma's Mission Impossible - the gang laughs at Senator Walzer

Brian De Palma's Mission Impossible - John McLaughlin interrogates Senator Walzer

Brian De Palma's Mission Impossible - Senator Walzer explains why an overreaching national security state is a bad idea

De Palma, I think, is very much a skeptic of the national security state, and he puts what is probably the sanest attitude in this movie, and the one he probably most likely agrees with, in this marginal character who simply wants greater accountability and transparency for an intelligence agency that might well be acting outside of the constitution. This attitude may well have greater resonance in the present time than at the time of the movie’s release, given what we now know. Yet how can this senator possibly be right, if he is some reedy voiced senior, dripping in earnestness and piety, looked on with ridicule by a heroic character played by the biggest movie star in the world and mocked so mercilessly by the host of a TV show? It is perhaps helpful to note, and allows us to return to the subject of Blow Out, that this same TV host is John McLaughlin, an alumnus – like G. Gordon Liddy and John Mitchell – of the Nixon administration, where he was a speechwriter and one of the staunchest defenders of the president, even after Watergate broke7. Yet how could this Nixon devotee possibly be wrong, if a character played by Tom Cruise agrees with him?

There is nothing obviously unsympathetic about Jack Terry, there is no karmic payback in Sally’s death. Jack is more heroic and virtuous than most of us; he worked to end corruption in the Philadelphia police department, and he saves Sally from drowning. Jack is a man who is the audience’s heroic proxy, and his quest for redemption is our quest for redemption as well – we wish him to succeed as it gives us hope that we too might begin again, that we will have second and third chances. There is the expectation of movies that they will affirm our heroic fantasies, and Blow Out gives us a partial affirmation, providing us the concrete proof that Jack is entirely right in his belief in an assassination attempt, and then pulls the rug out from us – Jack fails in his mission because he badly misjudges the situation, and this misjudgement is a result of his quest for redemption by exposing the conspiracy, yet we in the audience wish him on in this reckless mission. We expect the very mechanics of the type of movie we’re watching – a thriller with a charismatic Hollywood star – will save him, that a hero in this context cannot fail. Yet he does.

Sound effects are Jack’s specialty, and make-up is Sally’s. Though we are never told any exact details about the matter, I think it can be inferred that she has suffered great abuse, and had to abide such abuse. We see her with Manny Karp as he paws at her, as she initially resists with little energy, as if she has become conditioned to expect a steady dose of such maltreatment in this life. This might be what allows Jack to act as he does in his worst moments in the movie, sending her back to get the film from Karp, humiliating her and then intimidating her into doing this, knowing that she won’t fight back.

SALLY
What are you going to do?

JACK
What do you mean what am I going to do? What are we going to do?

SALLY
What do I have to do with this?

JACK
Oh, will you cut the shit, Sally. I know what you were doing in that car.

SALLY (quietly)
What do you know.

JACK
That you and your friend Karp were setting up McRyan to be blackmailed, getting scummy pictures of you and the candidate getting laid after the Liberty Ball, right? What did you do, tell him that running water under a well-lit bridge gets you hot?

SALLY (quietly)
Who told you that.

JACK
I got a look at your earlier work. Some motel candid camera shots. You got nice tits. Who was paying you to flash them at McRyan?

JACK
Nobody wants to know about conspiracy, I don’t get it. Let me tell you something. I know what I heard and what I saw. And I’m not gonna stop until everyone in this fucking country hears and sees the same thing. And you’re gonna help me. Yeah you. You’re gonna find your pal Karp, and you’re gonna get that original film. Because this isn’t any good, I need the original. Because if we don’t get this out and in television for everybody to see, they’re gonna close the book. And any loose ends that happen to be hanging out like you or me, are going to be cut right off. So you got your choice. You can be crazy or dead, either will do.

SALLY (on the verge of tears)
Alright, alright. I’ll try and get the film. Then will you just leave me alone about all of this?

JACK
I wish I was the only one you had to worry about.

SALLY
You know if you’re trying to scare me, you’re doing a good job.

JACK
I’m trying to save our asses.

SALLY
I’ll look after my own ass, thank you.

When Jack tells Sally, “And you’re gonna help me. Yeah you. You’re gonna find your pal Karp, and you’re gonna get that original film,” he gives her the same condescending, commanding pointed finger that he received from the cop, when he was told to change his story:

Blow Out: "…and you're going to get that original film!"

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There is an economic element to this intimidation as well: we see the sizes of their respective places, and Jack’s is clearly bigger, a two storey house. Money determines your importance, and whatever the miseries of his work, he is doing far better than her, has more money, is relatively more important, and this intimidates her as well. The assassination film is his project, and he forces her to do what’s necessary that it be completed. Jack stashes the audio tape away in the ceiling, and the camera takes its perspective, looking down, Jack’s guiding polar star which he makes Sally’s guiding polar star as well. When we shift to the scene at Karp’s, it ends with Manny unconscious, the camera looking down again from the ceiling on the wreckage, the outcome of Jack’s obsession.

Brian De Palma's Jack and Sally at Sally's

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack and Sally at Jack's

The respective houses of Sally, and then Jack’s.

Blow Out: looking down from the ceiling.

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Sally tells Jack, “I know how to fix a face”, and he asks her in the conversation at the bar, “How about if I broke a nose? How would you deal with a broken nose?”, and she says, “Ah, that’s easy.” You’re reminded that make-up is a useful skill to have to hide bruises, to conceal the personal effects of a man kicking the shit out of you. Sally, of course, knows how to apply make-up so that it doesn’t even look like she’s wearing make-up, and she’s equally able to adopt a pose where one cannot easily tell how much of it is natural girlishness, and how much a survival strategy to forget past hurts and avoid further suffering.

She is a particularly nettlesome character to some viewers, and the discussion on The Projection Booth with regards to her is especially enlightening. This excerpt conveys succinctly the broad range of feelings towards her, as well as what her character embodies, fragment running approximately from 18:54 to 22:49:

MIKE WHITE
Jack saves Sally, pulls her out of the sinking car. We’ve got the governor, who might have been the next president, in the car with them, setting off this whole political intrigue. So, what did you guys think about Nancy Allen as Sally?

ROB ST. MARY
She seems almost child-like. At times. And child-like to a point, for me, is a bit annoying. It’s almost like she’s so oblivious to what’s going on, is so sorta naive, that it’s almost, it’s kinda hard for me to have sympathy for her at times, because I’m like, you are so dumb. You can’t even kinda figure this out. There are parts where she just seems way too ten years younger than she should be, she seems like a girl in her early teens or something, and I don’t know why I got that feeling, but I definitely got it in the early go, and as she progresses, it gets better, like the character gets a little hip to what’s going on, and sorta realizes the implications of what she’s dealing with.

JAMIE DUVALL
It’s a tough performance to grapple with in many ways, and I think it was a completely brave choice the way she chose to play it. Because you could see her as a complete air-headed bimbo at the movie’s start, with the high voice and the, you think it’s too exaggerated, but I think she starts with a stereotype, and she slowly humanizes it. And I think that her idealism, her kinda wide eyed idealism, is very fitting with the theme of the movie, because she’s the stereotypical hooker with the heart of gold. In her position, she has probably seen a lot of terrible things in life, and yet she maintains that kind of wide-eyed dreamy innocence in some way. While Travolta’s character, he’s grasping at the last straws of his idealism. And this is his, through the course of the movie, this is his one chance to try and make things right. I like the contrast between those two characters and I like that the innocence in her is exaggerated.

WHITE
Yeah, there’s a telling moment towards the end of the film, I know we’ll eventually get to it, kinda want to throw out this here now: do you guys see her as just being, I know this is going to sound really frickin ponderous, but: do you see her more as a symbol of America’s innocence and, you know, Jack is maybe someone who is post-sixties whereas she is maybe pre-sixties kind of thing? Do you see her as kindof that desire for a simpler, better time and that she kinda lets some of these things, because she has been in these bad places. I know that you said, Jamie. I know that you- you see her caught in one of these candid motel photograph kind of things and yet, she doesn’t seem like she’s that person. She just seems to be kinda oblivious and wants to move on with things, and look for the better way whereas Jack doesn’t, do you see her as that symbol of innocence?

DUVALL
I do think you can very easily see her as that. She’s got her blinders on, to the dangers of the world around her. But she can’t escape them forever. And- I think there’s a reason why she’s killed in front of a big American flag, at the end of the film. I mean-

WHITE
Oh, SPOILERS.

DUVALL
Oh, I’m sorry. It’s pretty hard to avoid when you’re talking about where that character goes and what she means to the story. You know, her demise. Yeah, I think that’s a beautiful reading, and I love how you used the term countercultural, because De Palma is a countercultural film-maker. He’s always been a political minded film-maker. And I think that both of these characters kinda represent that in some way.

The startling, iconic shot just mentioned is, of course, this one:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Sally at the flag

Though an outwardly simple character, Sally has several fascinating ambiguities, such as whether she ever worked as a prostitute, how much she was involved in that work, and how she reconciles the frequently rough life of sex work with a kind and trusting disposition. The sections of The Projection Booth when Nancy Allen speaks of her character might be its most insightful moments, as she seemingly acknowledges that Sally worked as a prostitute while also denying it. We sense perhaps the protectiveness actors adopt for their own characters, but perhaps also the way an actor cannot express a detail about their character without also adopting the perspective of the person portrayed: I wear the kind of elegant expensive boots that a prostitute of the time would wear, but I’m not a prostitute since I’ve insisted on forgetting that I was ever such a thing, and so how could I be something that I don’t remember being?

A fragment that runs from 2:15:08 to 2:15:54:

MIKE WHITE
Your character, even though I sense she’s a prostitute, is one of the nicest people in the film.

NANCY ALLEN
Well, she’s not exactly a prostitute (laughs) as I said before. She is in her- She is working with this guy, this creepy detective, to expose these horrible cheating men. So, in her mind, she’s really doing a service to other women. Of course, she’s in complete denial of what she’s doing. As I am of her character, because I don’t see her as a prostitute. I see her as a very sweet, well-intentioned, young girl, who was easily manipulated and trusting, of men. So, you know, I can relate to that.

Another fragment, running from approximately 2:28:55 to 2:33:51:

MIKE WHITE
Where did you come up with that voice to do?

NANCY ALLEN
The voice came after, I had a visual, sometimes I try, just when you think about a character, and I had this visual of her as a, just a little rag doll, just a little raggedy ann, curly red haired, I don’t know, it kinda floated through me as I was walking around, as I tend to do, just mulling over characters, and I had a visual of her, and Brian wanted me to do a Philadelphia accent, which I had a really hard time with. I just hate accents so much, I was really resistant to doing it. We talked about characters like Giulietta Masina in, god, I’m going blank now- You know, not so bright, well intentioned, kindof character, do you know the movie I’m thinking of? With Giulietta Masina and Anthony Quinn? What is that movie, I know you know what one I’m talking about, I know what one I’m talking about.

WHITE
Is it La Strada?

ALLEN
YES! Thank you. Brilliant. You win the prize. So, we were talking about that, and I said, what if I just do kindof a New York-ese, not well educated kind of way of talking that, and just- The idea of, I was trying to think, why do women, certainly the women that I know, [goes into higher pitched, babyish voice, which sounds a lot like Sally] You know, this is kind of one of their voice days. [back to normal] And I thought, well, you know what? These are women who are resistant to growing up, keep their child like qualities, it works for them to a point, I mean, obviously, as you get older it’s a little bit unappealing. But- so- Maybe that’s going to justify- Take that idea and apply it to this character. And so, that’s where that came from. I will tell you, I think one of the first things that I shot was the hospital scene. With John. Who was unshaven, and wouldn’t wear make-up, and poor George Litto, who was producing at that time, came to the set, and he said “I’m paying three million dollars to a movie star, and he won’t wear make-up?” And then he looked at me and said, “Are you…you using that voice throughout the whole picture, or just in this scene?” And he just walked away, shaking his head, he didn’t know what to do with either of us. That’s where all of that came from.

WHITE
Whenever I think of you in the film, I think of your voice, but I also think of that coat, that you wear.

ALLEN
Oh, yes! [laughs] YES. There were many of those. Ann Roth made, six or eight of those, with the fox collar and…yeah yeah yeah, it was a great coat.

WHITE
It was like crushed velvet?

ALLEN
EXACTLY! Very good. Indeed it was. And I had very expensive boots. Always very expensive boots, because Ann Roth had done Klute, and she’d done a lot of research about hookers and girls like that, and they always had good shoes. Great boots.

WHITE
But you weren’t a hooker?

ALLEN
Well, THAT’S RIGHT. That’s what I say. [laughs]

WHITE
I guess the coat helped my perception of that.

ALLEN
She [Ann Roth] had such a great touch of detail, I don’t know if anyone has noticed it, because there’s probably only one scene where it’s visible to the eye, but when I talked to her about the character and I told her my visual concept, and things I was thinking about with her, and the idea, that some day she was going to be a make-up artist, a movie star. I liked the idea that this young girl had an idea about lucky charms, and things like that. So, she put together, I still have it somewhere, it’s a rabbit’s foot, on a thin pink satin ribbon. That I always wore, and it was either under- but I always wore that charm when we were shooting. It was, those little details really make a difference when you have something like that. That’s what’s so great about the collaboration of film, where an actor can work with another actor, and a director, and a costume person, and make-up person, and really great costumes, and wonderful hair and make-up, it really fleshes out a character, and all of a sudden you look at yourself, and you go, yeah, that’s her. That’s it. This is it exactly, and you start to feel it in a big way.

This mixture of ambiguity and simplicity, the kindness, the voice, all make me link this character to an actress now inextricably connected to the Kennedys, and that would be Marilyn Monroe. The accident at the heart of the movie, which might feel like a dreamy conflation of american tragedies, might also carry the echo of a lost hypothetical: what if Marilyn Monroe had hooked up with the one Kennedy brother she didn’t, and was there in the car with him at Chappaquiddick? Though I think Allen has a wider range, I can see Monroe’s peculiar genius making her a perfect fit for the part of Sally had Blow Out somehow been made in the 1950s, one of those roles where she would have been great, but which would also provoke the question of whether she was acting, or just playing Marilyn Monroe…or whether she’s always playing Marilyn Monroe. This tragic icon would get paid $50 to be photographed nude by Tom Kelley, who would sell the pictures for $500, which then went into a calendar that made a profit of three quarters of a million dollars; “He says he heard all about our fine divorce work and offers us six grand,” says Manny Karp, explaining the meeting with Burke for the McRyan job. “Six? You told me three,” says Sally. “Yeah, well, three before and three after,” says Karp. Sally: “When were you going to tell me about the three after?” Monroe, we’re told in The Genius and the Goddess, “was a prostitute, in cars on shady side-streets, in return for small amounts of money to buy food,” just as Sally had to do paid sex work to survive; the most striking similarity is that Monroe, despite the very grim circumstances of her life, was able to exhibit a girlish, open-eyed, friendly attitude, and how much of that was affect beneath which the actual Marilyn was enwrapped is an open question. Nunally Johnson, a screenwriter and friend of Monroe would say that she was “generally something of a zombie. Talking to her is like talking to somebody underwater“, and this might be something like the exasperation people have with Sally, where you might ask, what part of you isn’t gauzy cotton candy?8

I don’t think I’ve ever had this complaint with the character, because Sally has always made perfect sense to me, someone who has been very badly hurt over and over again, and has made herself into a strange kind of creature, an unknowable amnesiac submissive, to avoid being hurt again. In her first scene after the drowning, Sally moves about drugged, finally so comatose she has to be pushed onto her bed. In her last scene, she’s dragged about in a tight grip by Burke. Manny gets her in the beds of men for divorce work. Jack pushes her into retrieving the film from Manny. Throughout the movie, she acquiesces to being a device in other plots, culminating in the last, which she finally resists, a victim in a series of killings. We might see in the three characters of Jack, Burke, and Sally, a trinity, with Jack the middle point. Burke is technically adept like Jack, able to tap into and re-wire the phone system much like the title character of Three Days of the Condor, yet he is a sociopath, a man entirely without any sense of the humanity of others. Jack does have this feeling, along with Burke’s precision and focus, yet when his obsession overtakes him, when he forces Sally to retrieve Karp’s film, he loses this empathy. Sally has none of the engineering gifts of these two men, but is far more compassionate, with a far greater sense of the feelings of others, and this makes her guilt ridden, and it compels her to forget, to sometimes act as if some things never took place. “Manny, we got him killed,” she says tearfully to Karp, about governor McRyan’s accident. “Don’t give me any of this conscience shit,” says Karp. “You’re a pig, Manny,” she says, “And I’m a pig too.” Though it’s never said openly, one reason why Sally connects with Jack, feels such sympathy for him, is that they both know what it’s like to be haunted by the past, a death they feel complicit in causing.

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Burke

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack looks down while editing

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Sally

One can understand why Allen felt the rabbit’s foot so crucial, because this is a character, whatever her outward circumstances, who somehow remains wide eyed and optimistic. She believes that luck will guide her to a better life, and this is the same magical thinking cure of most Hollywood movies, that we needn’t worry, that things will somehow turn out for the best in the end. The rabbit’s foot will protect Sally’s life, and Jack Terry will somehow prevail, save her, and become a hero by uncovering an American coup, and in another movie we can easily imagine this happy ending. But not this one. The one detail that Allen misremembers is that the rabbit’s foot was not a hidden talisman serving as just a helpful lodestone to the actress visible only in one scene – it is prominently displayed throughout the movie, another example of De Palma effectively using the visual, clothing and props, to convey a character well. Sally is wearing the rabbit’s foot when she dies:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Sally in hospital gown with rabbit foot

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack and Sally at restaurant with rabbit foot

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack in blue Sally in red with rabbit foot

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Sally dead

I see Sally as someone like Marilyn Monroe, where we’re no longer sure where the artifice begins and ends, but I also see her as a play on the types we might see in the kind of exploitation movie that’s shown in the opening. Sally would be the squeaky voiced Bimbo, but rather than leave her as the flat expendable type of a low grade horror movie, she’s made into something complicated, a woman of kindness, suffering, and desperation. She’s accompanied by another possible type from the exploitation movie, the nameless hooker played by Deborah Everton, who in another movie would be a woman to be hated, the Bitch or Slut. Though we know almost nothing of this character, the performance makes this character into something other than a flat type as well, a woman who has to put up with lousy, tiresome, nasty work for her pay. She can turn on a charming, luminescent face and turn it off on a dime, which aren’t simply the skillset of a hooker, but the basic necessity of anyone in the service industry, whether you’re a waiter, counter person, barista, or tech support, with the demand that you remain friendly towards the customer putting you on the edge of hating the customer as well. The hooker gives a beaming smile to Burke, then with a quick turn it fades off, the fade out accompanied by the clank of the telephone door. The friendliness is machine like, just as working in the service industry is like an unending lesson in how to be a friendly machine, and you have to be a friendly machine because you have no other choice. “You need the money that bad?,” Jack asks Sally about her extortion work. “C’mon, you know where I work,” she replies. “I get paid to smile my ass off and show the twenty seven colored lipsticks they’re pushing. You know how much I make? Shit is what I make.”

Rather than hating this prostitute for the coldness you need to make it through the day doing certain kinds of work, we empathize with her. Any hatred for this character, who might be the nasty Bitch the audience is supposed to hiss at in another movie, does not emanate from anyone sympathetic who we might connect with, but the lunatic serial killer Burke, who stares after her with cold loathing. We’re briefly given something of this perspective in Blonde, the fictional account of Marilyn Monroe’s life by Joyce Carol Oates, when it enters the mind of the photographer who shoots Monroe’s calendar. “Shooting a girl’s ruined face and her breasts jiggling and her ass and she’s young-looking as a kid stuffed into a woman’s body, innocent like something you’d want to smudge with your thumb just to dirty up.” These women move from exploitation types where their killings would be simply a dramatic musical cue and gore, blood dripping over bare tits, say, to a place where their deaths have a tragic weight, where the audience resists the possibility that Sally might die. The women have a sorrowful end, but the movie does not smudge them with its thumb. After Sally’s death, she is reduced back to something inhuman again, a mere sound effect, an accompaniment for a horror movie’s routine, expected death that means nothing. Her last breath on earth is now a small useful element, like gristle or copper residue, left over from one industrial process that can be re-used in another, in this case the manufacture of low cost nudie slashers. We are given a horror movie where the victims are more substantial than we expect them to be. We get the deaths promised in the film’s mock opening, and at the same time, not what we wanted at all.

Blow Out: a day at the office.

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As always in De Palma, there is voyeurism. If voyeurism is an activity where we, the observers, are allowed the excitements of sex and violence without cost or involvement, then movies might be thought an ideal expression of this form, the same privilege as in real life, but where the observed activities will play out exactly as we wish – the man or woman will take off their clothes until they’re fully naked, the hero will wreak cruel vengeance, the woman in peril will be saved. All three of these describe vicarious fantasies of De Palma’s movies, and in all three movies, the fantasies are subverted. Dressed to Kill provides us sexual voyeurism, where Nancy Allen’s Liz strips down to her bra and panties, then turns on a lunatic killer by describing her fantasy of submitting to sex at knifepoint. We are then given a near recreation of this same fantasy, with Liz first showering nude when the same lunatic killer enters the house, and then Liz in a state of helpless and abject terror before her throat is cut. The very thrills that turn on the deranged killer are there to turn us on as well. We are given a titillating close-up of an unconscious nurse unzipped of her uniform, the kind of chest bursting outfit only found in exploitation movies and porno, before we shift perspective to see who is peeking on this erotic vision, and we see whose eyes we share, those of the masturbating grotesques of the asylum. The director plays the same trick on us as we gawk at a sapphic pairing in The Black Dahlia before we cut to the voyeur, another crippled grotesque, and, of course, the beginning of Blow Out, where we peek on co-eds in panties, bra, or less, and we are revealed in the mirror as one more deformed, moronic lunatic.

Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill

Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill

Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill

Dressed To Kill: The abyss stares back.

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The Black Dahlia: the monstrous voyeur.

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The Fury is about a young man gifted with telekinesis who is programmed to hate the arabs he is told murdered his father, and his perspective becomes so distorted that he lashes out with rage and kills some Saudi sheiks visiting the United States. He is presented to us as a damaged sociopath, but when the movie’s other telekinetic character, who throughout has always been afraid of the destructiveness of her powers, finally unleashes her abilities to annihilate her enemy, it is our catharsis. The images that shape the sociopath of the movie shape us as well9.

Though Sally does sex work, like Liz in Dressed to Kill, at no point is the idea of sexual fantasy played with. Though Sally is a beautiful woman, the movie’s perspective is distinctly unerotic. Here, I think one might mention one last trait of Sally which she shares with Marilyn Monroe, and this is why Sally is the center of a fantasy, but not a sexual one. What recurs in every account and biography of Monroe’s life was her extraordinary vulnerability, a reaching out for a love that would save her. This, I think, is part of the fantasy of Monroe after her death, that you might be this man – if only she’d known you! – whose love would be subtle and tender enough to rescue her from the claws and rusty nails of this wretched life. There is the similar fantasy of the end of Blow Out, a vulnerable child-like woman unable to fend for herself who will be rescued by the hero, the hero a proxy of ourselves, redeeming everything in his life that has gone before. The Fury and Dressed to Kill foil the audience’s desires implicitly: you are given what you want, but you are likened to a monster. Blow Out is explicit: the fantasy is destroyed. The woman in trouble dies.

AMERICAN LIGHTNING / MEMORIES OF THE U.S.A. /
THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION

As already said, the characters of Blow Out, people without college educations, people who would be considered part of that vague and stigmatized grouping, “working class”, are often placed on the fringes and the bottom tier roles of American movie life, the top roles reserved for executives, lawyers, doctors, and other members of the professional class, and the Philadelphia they live in is a visual reflection of this. What we see of the city is squalid and dirty, with an underlying current of despair and exhaustion, a sense perhaps of a partly abandoned city, a chunk of the population having already left for the outlying suburbs. We are given unflashy, unvarnished grit, a place of greys and faded light all the while the bright divisions familiar to all, of the American (and French) tricolor recur again and again, standing out in this stark landscape, before becoming the light that overcoats the tragic night scene at the liberty bell.

The color theme begins with the joke opening. The dancers in red and white negligées, the blue light behind them. Blow Out is a serious movie, but not self-importantly serious, and this scene contains one of my favorite lines in a De Palma movie for its beautiful delivery, “Oh, go to Sue. Fuck off.”:

Blow Out: "Oh, go to Sue."

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The dominant red of the room in which the couple have sex. Red, obviously, is a good color to associate with sex. The main part of Blow Out is a movie without erotic sex (does anyone consider the blow job in the train station to be erotic?) and the only time this strong, overwhelming red recurs is in episodes of violence. The red of Manny Karp’s room when he forces himself on Sally, and is then knocked out by a beer bottle, the red light of the construction site where the first woman is killed, and the red light of the tower where Sally dies.

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - students having sex

The red, white, and blue seen very briefly in one of the passing students:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - two passing students - red, white, and blue

The opening ends abruptly and we are in the screening room. Jack is in a blue shirt, there are the red curtains, and the man running the console wears white.

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - in the screening room at the beginning

Small hints of the theme in the props of Jack’s office, the red white and blue of the schedule and the clock; the news with the liberty day logo and the newscaster in a tricolor outfit:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - newscaster split screen

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack's red white and blue chart

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack puts on coat

We leave the color scheme almost entirely in the pastoral setting of the accident, except for one element, the woman’s red coat:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - couple with woman wearing red coat

During their first moments together after she’s recovered, Jack and Sally are in a setting which feels like a kind of purgatory, overwhelming white without any of the three colors:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack and Sally in the hospital

This creates a striking contrast with the motel setting, where the colors come into play stronger than ever before. The cars in the parking lot bathed in red light from the motel insignia, which is a bell pattern in neon:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack by the car at the hotel

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - bell pattern at hotel

Burke changes the tire; blue coat, blue bag, red screwdriver, red wire cutters:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Burke's bag of tools

The red, white, and blue wallpaper of the motel room, the red, white, and blue bed settings, the blue drapes, the blue doors, the red phone, the red ashtray, the red chandeliers, Jack’s blue shirt, Sally’s white gown:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - outside hotel

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack and Sally at the hotel, Sally with coffee

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack and Sally in hotel listen to recording

The red, white, and blue of the design on the door of the editing room where Jack puts together the edit of the accident photos and his sound recording:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - electrocuted duck on the door

The outside shot of Jack’s building as he finishes the edit of still photos and sound, red fire engine doors and red car, Jack works in a red shirt. Jack almost always wears combinations of red and blue:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - mural and passing car

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack with the tape smoking cigarette

There is the student of the opening that we briefly glimpse, in a red, white, and blue pattern, and the first victim who we follow for an extended period wears the very same tricolor mix, first spotted on an escalator where she is preceded by a crowd with prominent red and blue:

Blow Out: seen on the escalator.

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Brian De Palma's Blow Out - first victim in supermarket

The two passing women who briefly obscure our gaze during this pursuit:

Blow Out: red and blue women.

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The red, white, and blue of the bus that blocks our view:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - red white and blue bus

The red light that bathes the construction site, that shades Burke’s face, the tricolor pattern of the poster, which matches the pattern of the motel wallpaper, the red and blue of the victim’s sweater:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Burke after the killing

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Burke looks up at poster

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - victim with red and blue sweater

The red, white, and blue of the construction machines as we rise away from the building site:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - cement mixer

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - cement mixer at another angle

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - cement mixer in tricolor

With Mackey, Jack is now in all blue:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack in blue with Mackey

Jack goes to Manny Karp’s photo place, in red, shop with red dresses, passerby in blue:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack walking on the street past dress shop

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack walking on the street

At Manny Karp’s place, the red of the carpeting, the blue of the cop’s uniform, the whites of the photos. A sidenote: the pictures on the wall and the wallpaper make clear that the motel room at the beginning is in the same motel, perhaps the same room, where Sally and Manny do their divorce work:

Blow Out: hotel rooms.

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Jack bullies Sally into getting the photos back from Manny, he’s in blue, she’s in red:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack tells Sally she has to get the photos from Manny

The overwhelming red of Manny Karp’s place:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - at Manny Karp's place

Jack at the scream auditions, all blue, red curtains, the director in red:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack and director at scream auditions

The editing room when the tapes are erased, blue door, red extinguisher against white background:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - blue door and red fire extinguisher

Jack at home, red shirt, red cabinet, blue phone, white wall:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack on the phone

Jack and Sally speak on the phone, red shirt for Jack, white housecoat with blue trim and blue phone for Sally:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack and Sally on the phone

Burke is taping these calls, and the tape reels are blue and white:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Burke's blue and white tape machine

The red, white, and blue of the prostitute and the sailor in the train station:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - sailor and hooker

The woman alone now in the phone booth:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - hooker in the phone booth

Red dress, blue toothbrush, white bristles:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - hooker in the bathroom

Sally in the train station; strong reds in this movie are associated with violence, and a group of children cross the station floor, the chain of red foreshadowing her doom:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - schoolkids in red foreshadow Nancy's doom

Jack realizes something is wrong, red shirt and blue outfit:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack searches for Sally at station

As the chase begins, blue jeep and red car in the parking lot:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - van in the parking lot

The tricolor of the parade members is obvious. The crowd sequence flooded with red and blue light should be well remembered by anyone who has seen the movie, and the following is a brief overview. The obvious zenith is Sally in front of the American flag, followed by the soldiers in revolutionary garb ringing the bell:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack shaded in blue

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - women with rifles

Blow Out: red and blue light.

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Brian De Palma's Blow Out - ringing the bell

Blow Out: too late.

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Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack and Sally re-united

After Sally’s death, we move to a snow covered landscape, a bookend to the white background of the hospital room where Jack and Sally first spoke. Jack is all in blue, and he wore a blue trenchcoat and blue tie when he discovered Freddie’s body:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack on the bench at the end

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - after Freddie the cop is killed

The white backgrounds of the snow covered park and the hospital room are one bookend, the other is the camera traveling from the tree leaves, to Jack’s technical equipment, till we reach a close-up of Jack himself, which is a mirror of the sound engineer on his listening expedition. Then, we moved along the antenna, now we move along the earphone wire:

Blow Out: moving along the antenna and the wire.

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The liberty bell strangler was finally killed, red white and blue:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - liberty bell strangler finally killed

We revisit Sally’s death in this last scene, and so the dominant color is the red of the studio drapes:

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack in the studio at the end, visibly upset

The use of this motif goes beyond the simple purpose of dramatic movement from low volume to crescendo; that these colors, recognizably American colors, reach their full bloom in a tragic act of violence that takes place in the background of a patriotic ritual, suggest the contradictions of the American character, a fascination with violence while denying that such attraction exists, or that the violence one is attracted to is anything but righteous, and yet this ambivalent fascination is not entirely a bad thing: it provided a vital heart to American movies and literature for decades. The finale of Blow Out is horrifying, but it’s also bravura, brilliant film-making, it’s gorgeous. Blow Out opens with a couple having sex in a room filled with red, and when the same dominant red appears later, it’s always there when violence is about to take place. This is a movie about a country at a time when violence was considered more acceptable than sexual desire, but it’s also about two characters, Jack Terry and Burke, whose sexual energies are sublimated in their obsessions. Film-making is an obsession as well, and the rich blooming colors of the ending are a counterpoint to the tragedy, but they are also the bright lights of ecstasy, the obsession fulfilled of the film-maker.

On The Projection Booth‘s “Episode 140: Blow Out”, the movie’s upsetting terminus was discussed by both producer Fred Caruso and Nancy Allen, as well as the possibility of a happier coda.

This fragment runs approximately from 1:55:30 to 1:57:17 (audio is occasionally quirky here, but is entirely audible and coherent):

FRED CARUSO
Let me tell you about the end of the picture. I mean, the film was well-received, as a decent business, but there was always the question, “Should Nancy Allen have lived at the end?” When John Travolta goes to the hospital and sees her, should her eyes have opened, should they have kissed on the lips, the music comes up, and a happy ending at the end. Yes, he could still be the soundman, he could still go back to his laboratory, he could still hear all of that stuff…but rather than making it such a sad, sad ending, black veiled, black cloud over the picture, what should the real ending have been in the movie? That was a question the studio had, George Litto had, I had, Brian had, and then Brian of course, said, “Look, that’s the ending of my movie. That’s how I end my movie. If the audience likes it, fine. If the audience don’t like it, fine.” So, there’s always been a controversy as to would the picture have been more popular with an audience, and done more business, if, and also if you recall, the one sheet advertising that you saw in the newspaper and the front of the theater, was a picture of John Travolta, black and white, with a horror scream, his face looked like a horror scream, and it said Blow Out, which made that look like a horror movie. Rather than a suspense love story. That’s the question, which would have been better, which would have been the better way to do it. I don’t know. But that was always wandering in the background, even as the picture got released.

This fragment runs approximately from 2:23:00 to 2:24:30:

MIKE WHITE
I heard that there was a different ending to the film at one point.

NANCY ALLEN
A different ending? No, we, myself, [editor] Paul Hirsch, and…I forget who else, really lobbied to…once John got involved, and then you have the two of us together…my argument, well, Paul Hirsch said, “You can’t have- John Travolta can’t not save the girl.” (laughs) You can’t kill her. And people are going to love these two, and they’re going to hate you for doing this. My feeling was, she can die, but you have to really have to let them have that moment together, we have to feel that maybe there’s love, maybe there’s something, so people can really feel his loss. So, there was conversation. There was never a different ending. The only thing different, as I said earlier, there were no parades, there were no mummers’ parades, there were no fireworks, none of that existed, that was all developed to make it a bigger, more important picture, now that we had John in there. “Wait a minute, this is John Travolta,” you have to make- I believe it was George Litto who talked to Brian and said you know, we gotta do this, gotta make this bigger, so, that’s how that piece developed. But, Paul and I, whoever else was vying for a slightly different thing with John and I, we lost, John and Brian said, “NOPE,” it’s not happening. So, that’s what I remember.

The death of Sally does not strike me as capricious sadism, or arbitrary in any way, or anything other than organic to the material, a finale that feels necessary just as the death of Anna Karenina feels necessary, where one cannot imagine any other possibility that wouldn’t ring false, a betrayal of the story. The movie’s closing would have no tragic power if De Palma had contempt for this character, and killed her off because he wanted her to die. It has a tragic power because he, like the audience, wants this character to live, just as he wants Oanh of Casualties of War to live, and yet if these women were to survive, it would make everything that came before it meaningless. It would transform these movies into their antitheses, where none of the choices of the characters had any dramatic weight, because the very structure of the movie would ensure that these decisions would have no consequence, because events would always turn out for the best. What I’ve just described is a shared trait of most Hollywood movies now, and one which makes them, whatever the overdramatic stakes and whatever the portentous music, so entirely lacking in tension, for the simple fact that the game is rigged, and we are sure the heroes will end up in the proper winning square, whatever they’ve done beforehand on the playing board.

Though I know some have dismissed the last scene as a ludicrous twist, I can only see it as striking a very uncomfortable, uncannily truthful note. Jack Terry once used his skills for investigation, and he now uses them again for the purpose of perceiving more deeply. Sally Bedina is someone who forgets or pretends to forget the most difficult episodes of the past, and her gifts lie in concealment. Jack Terry is discouraged from looking deeper at a mysterious accident, and encouraged by the governor’s aide and the police to adopt something closer to the attitude of Sally, to stop remembering what’s so inconvenient. “We’d like you to forget about her, forget you ever saw her,” Lawrence Henry, the governor’s friend asks of Jack, speaking of Sally. “One playmate just vanishes from McRyan’s car, just like that?,” asks Jack. “That’s right,” says Henry. This kind of amnesia of historical events is often wrongly attributed as unique to the United States, when it very much isn’t, though it’s perhaps most striking in America because of its many virtues. It is an amnesia that perhaps began with its very birth, with the idea that no man or woman who was enslaved was truly human, and so this historical crime never actually took place. “Your past catching up with you?” someone asks a nervous Marilyn Monroe in Blonde. “I told you darling,” she replies. “I don’t have any past. ‘Marilyn’ was born yesterday.” There is a tradition, occasionally an American tradition, to cleave the horror from great tragedies to make something more palatable and profitable. In Gone With the Wind, the slaves are happy men and women who fight on behalf of their masters. M*A*S*H begins as a satire of the bloody absurdities of the Viet Nam war, and ended up an incredibly successful sitcom without any connection to the horrors of that war. The mass death and devastation of New York City is replayed as a background of colorful apocalypse in Man of Steel and Star Trek: Into Darkness. The horror of this last contains an extra frisson because it was connected to something very real, very upsetting, and now it is spliced into something without any such weight – and this splicing is exactly what Jack Terry does. He still has evidence of the conspiracy, having made a copy of the audio tape, and he could easily put it together with a series of photos again, since all that Frank Donahue ever wanted was just the audio tape. Jack Terry, however, has stopped investigating, and now he’s trying to do what Sally does, which is to just forget.

Jack Terry is involved in image-making, and throughout the movie, we are shown images made that turn out to be misleading, wrong, false, or exploitive, the surface horror of the viscera, rather than the squalid horrors of Sally’s life. “When these policies are carried out, and the economic climate improves, as we expect it will…the people will rally to support the president, in the upcoming primaries,” says campaign manager Jack Matters on TV in the opening. “A lot can happen between now and then.” The “lot that can happen,” which the TV doesn’t reveal has nothing to do with the policies, but the photos of Sally with McRyan. We are told on TV that the first woman is the victim of a ritual sex slaying, when we know her death is part of a cover-up plot. The movie ends with the news telling us that Burke was finally killed by Sally, when we know it was Jack. Neither Jack nor Sally are ever mentioned as being anywhere near the accident site. The news is misleading, or it is callously opportunistic. “EXCLUSIVE! PHOTOS OF MCRYAN’S DEATH!” blares the newsstand ad for the magazine with the pictures that Jack edits together, and the PHOTOS OF MCRYAN’S DEATH! have nothing to do with any larger investigation of the accident, but blood, guts, corpses. Jack works on movies that are horror and death as entertainment, and the newspapers are in the same business as well.

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack Manners on TV

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack at the newsstand

Jack Terry returns to cheapie horror, where blood, and death, and killing, disconnected from anything is acceptable. In this, he might also be tracing the very arc of his creator, who started out as a political film-maker before becoming very successful making thrillers, and would always arouse revulsion when he moved back into anything political. A movie about a sex criminal like Dressed to Kill or a fictionalized account of a crime fighting squad like The Untouchables is just a fun night at the movies. To make a movie about sex criminals in an actual historical context, with a very real individual fighting for justice in Casualties of War is to touch a third rail that everyone wishes did not exist. That he uses a tragedy for its necrokineticism, that Jack Terry is so emotionally destroyed that he uses a victim’s last moment to give a cruel flourish of an exclamation mark to a terrible movie’s scary moment, that isn’t what’s wrong with Jack Terry; because this kind of exploitation is commonplace and expected. The problem is that Jack Terry just can’t forget.

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - Jack Terry doesn't want to hear the scream

(On March 25th, 2014, some exact quotes were added, specific livelier substitutes in place of generalizations; no meanings were altered. Some new images were added as well, such as the comparison of the houses of Jack and Sally, as well as the text on the pointing fingers of Jack and the cop. The section on the hooker played by Deborah Everton was added as well. On March 26th, some small fixes were made, footnote #3 about Mackey in the flashback and the comparison of the personality types of Sally, Jack, and Burke was added. On March 28th, the text was again edited for various aesthetic fixes, and small issues of grammar. No new material was added on that date. On April 14th, 2014, the excerpt from Hunter Thompson’s The Great Shark Hunt was added to the footnote on John McLaughlin. Through a massive error, a version of this post was uploaded in late March without proper tags. This was corrected on April 21, 2015. On this same date, this post underwent a session of copy editing. On April 22, 2015, the second to last sentence, “That he uses a tragedy for…”, which originally had a very awkward rhythm, was re-written into its current form. On April 22, 2015, the audio recording on youtube of Richard Nixon’s order to break into the Brookings Institute was added to footnote #5. On April 23, 2015, this embedded clip was moved from the footnote to the main text, and links were added to the audio recordings of other occasions when Nixon ordered this break-in. On April 24, 2015, embedded gifs were added of various sequences to supplement or replace still images from those same sequences. On June 22, 2015, many of these gifs were replaced with vines.)

(All images from Blow Out copyright Orion Pictures. Images from All the President’s Men copyright Warner Bros. Images from Dressed To Kill copyright Filmways and associated producers. Images from Mission: Impossible and The Fury copyright Paramount Pictures. Images from The Black Dahlia copyright Universal Pictures.)

FOOTNOTES

1 This subhead, as well as the part of the later subhead, “I am of both your directions”, is taken from the stanzas of a poem by Marilyn Monroe, excerpted in Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers:

Life –
I am of both your directions
Existing more with the old frost
Strong as a cobweb in the wind
Hanging downward the most
Somehow remaining
those beaded rays have the colors
I’ve seen in paintings – ah life
they have cheated you…
thinner than a cobweb’s thread
sheerer than any-
but it did attach itself
and held fast in strong winds
and singed by leaping hot fires
life – of which at singular times
I am both of your directions-
somehow I remain hanging downward
the most
as both of your directions pull me.

2 The King Commission is an obvious substitute for the real life Knapp Commission (the wikipedia entry, “Knapp Commission”), which arose after Frank Serpico would testify to corruption in the NYPD. A number of movies feature the Knapp Commission, or an obvious stand-in, in their plots, including The Pope of Greenwich Village and Prince of the City. De Palma would spend many years developing Prince before it was taken away, to be directed eventually by Sidney Lumet.

In her interview on The Projection Booth, “Episode 140: Blow Out”, Nancy Allen would explain the connection between Prince, Blow Out, and the King Commission scene, fragment runs from 2:28:00 to 2:28:55:

MIKE WHITE
That flashback, with Travolta, to that moment where the cop got killed, just adds so much to our understanding of him.

NANCY ALLEN
Oh yeah. It really does. And that was Brian’s opportunity, that was his wink and nod to Prince of the City, which he was originally supposed to direct. So, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that story, Prince of the City? About the corrupt cop. Well, he spent a lot of time developing it, he spent a lot of time with that cop, so I think this was Brian’s way of saying, well, you took the movie away from me, but I’m going to put a little bit of it in here anyhow. So, it served a good purpose, it exorcised those feelings for him, but I also think it served the character very well.

3 The further twist to this suspicion is that Mackey was there when things went very wrong at the taping of the undercover cop. When they’re prepping him, Jack very clearly says, “Mackey, hand me the tape.” No doubt Jack always considers the possibility that the whole incident might have been a case of internal sabotage to destroy the commission.

Brian De Palma's Blow Out - wiring up Freddie

4 From the lecture, on youtube, “This Craft of Verse: The Metaphor – Jorge Luis Borges – Audiobook” (runs from 35:16 to 35:57):

Since I spoke of “as old as time,” I must quote another verse, a verse that is perhaps bubbling up in your memory. I can’t recall the name of the author, I know it quoted in Kipling in a not too memorable book of his called From Sea to Sea. “A rose red city / Half as old as time”. Had the poet written “A rose red city / As old as time,” he would have written nothing at all. But half as old as time, gives it a kind of magic precision.

5 An article from the time when this tape was first released is “Tapes Show Nixon Ordering Theft of Files” (author unlisted):

Recently released audiotapes capture President Richard M. Nixon ordering his top aide, a year before the Watergate burglary, to break into the Brookings Institution and steal its files on Vietnam, The San Francisco Examiner reported today.

The newspaper quoted from a conversation between Nixon and his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, part of 201 hours of private tapes released this week by the National Archives.

During a conversation on June 30, 1971, in the Oval Office, Mr. Nixon asked Mr. Haldeman to take the institution’s files relating to the Vietnam War, the Examiner said.

According to a partial transcript provided by the newspaper, Mr. Nixon said to Mr. Haldeman: “The way I want that handled, Bob, is through another way. I want Brooking — just to break in. Break in and take it out! You understand?”

A transcript of a meeting from Stanley Kutler’s Abuse of Power, where breaking into the Institute was discussed:

JUNE 17, 1971, THE PRESIDENT, HALDEMAN, EHRLICHMAN, AND KISSINGER, 5:17-6:13 P.M., OVAL OFFICE

A few days after the publication of the Pentagon Papers, Nixon discusses how to exploit the situation to his advantage. He is interested in embarrassing the Johnson Administration on the bombing halt, for example. Here, he wants a break-in at the Brookings Institution, a centrist Washington think tank, to find classified documents that might be in the Brookings safe.

HALDEMAN
You maybe can blackmail [Lyndon B.] Johnson on this stuff [Pentagon Papers].

NIXON
What?

HALDEMAN
You can blackmail Johnson on this stuff and it might be worth doing…The bombing halt stuff is all in that same file or in some of the same hands…

NIXON
Do we have it? I’ve asked for it. You said you didn’t have it.

HALDEMAN
We can’t find it.

KISSINGER
We have nothing here, Mr. President.

NIXON
Well, damnit, I asked for that because I need it.

KISSINGER
But Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together.

HALDEMAN
We have a basic history in constructing our own, but there is a file on it.

NIXON
Where?

HALDEMAN
[Presidential aide Tom Charles] Huston swears to God there’s a file on it and it’s at Brookings [Institution, a centrist Washington “think tank”].

NIXON
…Bob? Bob? Now do you remember Huston’s plan [for White House-sponsored break-ins as part of domestic counter-intelligence operations]? Implement it.

KISSINGER
…Now Brookings has no right to have classified documents.

PRESIDENT NIXON
…I want it implemented…Goddamnit, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.

HALDEMAN
They may well have cleaned them by now, but this thing, you need to-

KISSINGER
I wouldn’t be surprised if Brookings had the files.

HALDEMAN
My point is Johnson knows that those files are around. He doesn’t know for sure that we don’t have them around.

6 The dialogue from the movie is my own transcript, as it is a little different from the script which can be found here. The speech by Waltzer is whole and uninterrupted in the screenplay, but the themes are the same:

SENATOR WALTZER

I’ll go you one further. I say the CIA and all its shadow organizations have become irrelevant at best and unconstitutional at worst. It’s time we throw a little light on the whole concept of the Pentagon’s “black budget.” These covert agency subgroups have confidential funding, they report to no one — who are these people?! We were living in a democracy the last time I checked.

7 A photo of McLaughlin and Nixon, taken from “John McLaughlin (host) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia”:

John McLaughlin and Richard Nixon

From “Jesuitical Defense is given for Nixon” by Philip Nobile, an interview with McLaughlin from the time of Watergate:

Only one White House staffer would dare say that – compared with some ecclesiastical skeletons, Watergate is like the “peccadilloes of novice nuns.” He is the Rev. John McLaughlin, a Jesuit priest and presidential speechwriter. Although Father McLaughlin once ran for the U.S. Senate as a liberal Republican peace candidate, he now is a member of Richard Nixon’s church. The dictionary defines “Jesuitical” as “crafty, cunning, equivocal. Father McLaughlin is certainly all that in defense of the President. I have never heard a more benevolent explanation of the Watergate mess. Charity begins at home but McLaughlin abuses the virtue by whitewashing the entire affair.

Q. Aren’t you uncomfortable serving Richard Nixon in these times?

A. No. I believe the President is morally innocent in the developing events.

Q. You mean the President is without sin himself?

A. The most he can be charged with is holding too loose a rein on subordinates but the price of holding tighter would probably have meant forsaking singular and important initiatives, both foreign and domestic, which I would not have wanted to see him do.

Q. Why are you so convinced of Richard Nixon’s innocence? Despite everything that has been revealed so far, how can you still believe he has committed no wrong?

A. I know from the President’s demeanor, his habitual thinking regarding matters of ethical significance, his deference to people, his determination to leave lesser details to others and others to keep these details from him – the confluence of these factors leads me to that conclusion of the President’s innocence.

Q. If you were a betting man, would you wager that the President will serve out his term?

A. I certainly would.

McLaughlin also makes a brief, but memorable, appearance in Hunter S. Thompson’s The Great Shark Hunt:

At that point in time, most of Nixon’s traditional allies were beginning to hear the death shrieks of the banshee floating over the White House lawns at night, and even Billy Graham had deserted him. So Clawson [White House Communications Director Ken Clawson], in a stroke of cheap genius, put a sybaritic Jesuit priest and a mentally retarded rabbi on the payroll and sent them forth to do battle with the forces of Evil.

Father John McLaughlin, the Jesuit, wallowed joyfully in his role as “Nixon’s priest” for a month or so, but his star faded fast when it was learned he was pulling down more than $25,000 a year for his efforts and living in a luxury apartment at the Watergate. His superiors in the church were horrified, but McLaughlin gave them the back of his hand and, instead, merely cranked up his speechmaking act. In the end, however, not even Clawson could live with the insistent rumor that the Good Jesuit Father was planning to marry his girlfriend. This was too much, they say, for the rigid sensibilities of General Haig, the White House chief of staff, whose brother was a legitimate priest in Baltimore. McLaughlin disappeared very suddenly, after six giddy weeks on the national stage, and nothing has been heard of him since.

But Clawson was ready for that. No sooner had the priest been deep-sixed than he unveiled another, holy man — the Rabbi Baruch Korff, a genuine dingbat with barely enough sense to tie his own shoes, but who eagerly lent his name and his flaky presence to anything Clawson aimed him at. Under the banner of something called the “National Citizens’ Committee for Fairness to the President,” he “organized” rallies, dinner parties and press conferences all over the country. One of his main financial backers was Hamilton Fish Sr., a notorious fascist and the father of New York Congressman Hamilton Fish Jr., one of the Republican swing votes on the House Judiciary Committee who quietly voted for impeachment.

8 The excerpts from The Genius and The Goddess by Jeffrey Meyers:

The nude calendar that Mankiewicz mentioned originated in May 1949 when Marilyn was an obscure and occasionally impoverished model. Tom Kelley photographed her perfect body, a modern Venus, in several poses and paid her a modest $50. He sold the pictures for $500 to a company that put them on calendars, sold them throughout America and made a huge profit of $750,000. In the best photo Marilyn is shot sideways (to hide her pubic hair) and from a ladder ten feet above her. Her long wavy blond hair flows from her backtilted head and mingles with the blood-red waterfall of drapery beneath her.

It’s sadly ironic that Marilyn herself did not live to see the sexual revolution and suffered greatly for being its symbol. She’d experienced intense sexual pleasure with Jim Dougherty and with Fred Karger in the mid-1940s; but by the 1950s, under the stress of promiscuous sex and stardom, she’d become frigid. In the late 1940s, when she was modeling and trying to break into movies, she rarely had natural and spontaneous sex. Instead, she was a prostitute, in cars on shady side-streets, in return for small amounts of money to buy food. It’s astonishing – after all her acting lessons and her brief appearances in movies – that she would not only sell her body for the price of a meal, but would also risk humiliation and shame, predatory pimps and police, robbery and beating, sadism and sodomy, venereal disease and pregnancy.

Employing a metaphor that colleagues often used to describe the frequently remote, self-absorbed and almost somnambulistic Marilyn, the screenwriter and producer of the movie, Nunnally Johnson, said Marilyn “is generally something of a zombie. Talking to her is like talking to somebody underwater. She’s very honest and ambitious and is either studying her lines or her face during all of her working hours, and there is nothing whatever to be said against her, but she’s not material for warm friendship.” Johnson also felt she was as unresponsive as “a sloth. You stick a pin in her and eight days later she says ‘Ouch.'” Despite Marilyn’s difficulties, this first Cinemascope picture was a great success and grossed five times its lavish budget of $2.5 million.

9 The Fury and Dressed to Kill are discussed in greater depth on this site in “Brian De Palma’s The Fury, Or: Hollywoodland” and “Brian De Palma’s Dressed To Kill, Or: Two Women”. The Black Dahlia is discussed at very, very great length in a five part series of posts: one, two, three, four, five.

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Roger Stone: Pretty Reckless Is Going Straight To Hell Part Nine

ROGER STONE:

PRETTY RECKLESS IS GOING STRAIGHT TO HELL

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR PART FIVE PART SIX

PART SEVEN PART EIGHT PART NINE PART TEN

Roger Stone - Pretty Reckless is going straight to hell

(Originally, this piece was intended to be made up only of nine parts. Due to the already excessive length of this section, there will now be a tenth, which will be posted on February 24th.)

He stood still on the sidewalk for several seconds: How had it all begun? Why had Liddy asked them to go into the DNC? The radio had this morning mentioned that Brezhnev would be visiting Cuba this week. Détente or no détente, the fundamentals still applied. Maybe there had been Cuban money going to the DNC. For the first time, standing here by a curb, Hunt asked himself: Had Manuel Artime – wasn’t he a friend of Rebozo’s? – somehow been connected to the burglary? Perhaps even been its prime mover? Had Manuel asked him to do it?

He was certain of nothing. While outlining his memoirs, he had noticed how speculations kept getting tangled in actualities, how he sometimes disappeared into several narratives concurrently and ended up unsure of which one he’d really lived.

–Thomas Mallon’s Watergate

For instance, we may be getting ready to decide that the CIA was the real producer of Watergate (that avant-garde show!), but where is the proof? We have come to a circular place. The CIA occupies that region in the modern mind where every truth is obliged to live in its denial; facts are wiped out by artifacts; proof enters the logic of counterproof and we are in the dream; matter breathes next to antimatter.

“A Harlot High and Low: Reconnoitering through the secret government” by Norman Mailer

“Because your crystal ball / Ain’t so crystal clear”
“Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys

THE WELL DRESSED MAN PART NINE: I PALINDROME I / MARTYRS / THE SECRET HISTORIES / EMPTY VOICES, EMPTY ROOMS

Part eight of this long piece ended on political characters seemingly playing their very opposite, where we lose certainty of whether anyone is truly playing their role, or whether they’re playing a double game. Roger Stone works on a series of conservative causes, claims that he wishes the United States had gone to war against Saudi Arabia, but also laments the fact that both parties are in favor of military intervention and manages the 2012 Libertarian Party presidential ticket. His company uses its connections to Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum to get a military contract, then he appears at a Quincy Tea Party rally decrying excessive federal spending. He is saddened that there are only two parties, yet he proudly claims that he helped destroy a third choice, the Reform Party. “The republican establishment in Washington does not like John McCain,” he says on November 3, 2008. “He really is a maverick.” One month later, he complains that “McCain, who’s an establishment figure,” cut his own throat when he signed the bailout bill in the summer of that year, that his being part of the establishment is what lost him the race. “Why consider running for Governor? And why now?” he is asked, when he briefly made noises about running as the head of the Florida state. “Like most Floridians, I am dissatisfied with our choices,” he replies. Rick Scott has lost his way, he says. Charlie Crist, on the other hand, “is a dangerous chameleon that believes in nothing.”242

That he often appears to have no connection to any position, except his own practical interest, makes one wonder if perhaps Stone might not have been playing a true role as a consultant for the Gary Johnson campaign, but rather, attempting to achieve the very opposite, a split vote to bring about a victory for Mitt Romney. There is the equal question of Bruce Fein, who took a very hard right position with regards to war and foreign intervention, a commaless approach to capturing and killing terrorists, before suddenly changing position and demanding that Dick Cheney be brought to trial. He works as a consultant for Ron Paul, a lawyer for Lon Snowdon, Edward’s father, and works on Rand Paul’s lawsuit against the NSA – though at two crucial points, there are outbursts that seemingly sabotage the proceedings. He expresses suspicion that Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange may be exploiting Snowden. He and his wife accuse Rand Paul of plagiarism. His wife, Mattie Fein (also known as Mattie Lolavar), has an equally strange history, heading up a think tank whose purpose was setting up a government in Iran after a regime change, and who was allegedly part of a political operation with Roger Stone’s consulting firm, IKON, which involved obtaining information from Israeli intelligence, while at the same time making sure never to attribute the information from this source. We might ask if Bruce Fein is also playing a dual role, a man who is a mole within the anti-surveillance community, attempting to cripple it from within. This question does not arise, I think, out of paranoia, but a secrecy as plentiful and ever present as oxygen, placing all characters under suspicion – is this person’s outward intent in fact obscuring the actual intent, an intent that is entirely its inverse?

I PALINDROME I

The secrecy that surrounds Bruce Fein is that of the defense industry and the surveillance state. The obscurity surrounding Roger Stone is the vast force of secret money now ever present in elections. As for how this enshrouds everything in mystery, I give as an example an incident from the 2012 Broward Sheriff’s race, a race already touched on in part seven. As already said, this was a campaign between Al Lamberti and Scott Israel, with heavy money for Israel’s political advertising going to the controversial Elnatan Rudolph. The anti-Lamberti ads were bought by Citizens United for Reform, and all of these ads can be seen on the Citizens United for Reform channel on youtube. During this barrage against Lamberti, a set of mysterious videos were uploaded to youtube. They were short simple monologues by a woman obviously reading a script, who accused Scott Israel of having an affair with her when she was seventeen and forcing her to get an abortion. They had the qualities of attacks associated with Roger Stone, personal and cruel, like the Warren Redlich mailer, like calling Hesham El-Meligy the Al-Qaeda candidate, like Janet Rzewnicki and Ann Stone alleging that Tom Carper hit his wife, that Dan Gelber was against jewish schools, like Stone claiming with certainty that a Michelle Obama “whitey” tape exists243 – yet in this case the attacks were launched against the very candidate that Stone was alleged to be helping, a candidate who would later hire two of his associates, Dianne Thorne, longtime girl friday, and Michale Colapietro, his ghostwriter on The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ. All three of these monologues are still on youtube, “ScottIsrael2012: The Real Scott Israel for Broward Sheriff”, “ScottIsrael2012: The Real Scott Israel for Broward Sheriff – Take 2”, “ScottIsrael2012: The Real Scott Israel for Broward Sheriff – Take 3”, and I give a still accompanied by a transcript from the third (stills and accompanying transcripts for the other two are at the footnote)244:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Hi Scott, it’s me again. You know, that…at seventeen, because of you, I had to have an abortion. And now, I’m finding out that you have three kids. And a kid from another marriage. And a kid from another marriage. And a wife of twenty years. And you’re happily married. Like…are you serious? Do you really think I’m stupid? I mean…we’ve been, you know, working together. For quite a while. And, I’m just finding this out now. I’m pretty taken back, especially for a former policeman, Susan must be really happy with you. She must be so thrilled with you for having an affair. With a seventeen year old girl. Who you got pregnant. And had to have an abortion. Yeah, I’m sure she’ll be really happy about that one. Well, good luck.

Israel would immediately issue an angry response. It was another ad funded by Citizens United for Reform, this one featuring the candidate’s wife, “Susan Israel’s Statement on Sheriff Al Lamberti’s Lies”. The following is a transcript of the ad:

Sheriff Al Lamberti and his supporters have sunk to a new low. Attacking my family and falsely accusing my husband, Scott Israel, of marital infidelity. I know politics is dirty, but this is too much. As a wife and a mother, I have to speak out. Al Lamberti has gone too far. Hiring some actress to make false claims of marital infidelity against my husband in a dirty video is low. Even for a Republican like Al Lamberti. Accusing my husband of statutory rape? A crime? This is an outrageous lie. Al Lamberti should be ashamed of himself. Lamberti has smeared my husband, Scott Israel, with a video that attacks my family, and even makes fun of my children. Scott Israel is a good and honest man. A good father, and a good husband. These attacks are despicable lies. It’s an assault on my family, on my husband of twenty one years. It’s disgusting, hurtful, and it’s absolutely false. Bringing up my children is beyond the pale. It tells you what kind of man Al Lamberti is. On TV, Al Lamberti is lying about my husband’s twenty five year record in law enforcement. He knows that the charges of misconduct against my husband were fully investigated and proven false. Lamberti knows the files are not missing, but legally expunged because the claims were false. My husband is a good man. Scott Israel will end the politics and the self-dealing in the sheriff’s office. He’ll bring diversity to the top ranks of BSO [Broward Sheriff’s Office] and he’ll end racial profiling, and protect the rights of gays and lesbians who work at BSO, which isn’t happening today. Al Lamberti, you should be ashamed. Don’t believe the lies about my husband, Scott Israel. Scott Israel is a good man, and qualified to be sheriff.

These youtube clips were properly considered contemptible – yet here is where my suspicion comes in, where things are their opposite, an optical illusion in which black birds flying east are suddenly white birds flying west. Would it not be incredibly effective to post a group of gutterball smears, against your own candidate, as a kind of effective fire insurance for your own attacks 245? Your candidate is not the villain, but the victim. I do not suggest these things out of any feeling against Scott Israel or for Al Lamberti – only that the attack made by this woman, one that is cruel, stupid, and obvious, is seemingly so much like a Roger Stone attack, and because of the secrecy surrounding the massive funding of any campaign now, even a tiny sheriff’s race in Broward, Florida. Perhaps the only route to an answer to who was behind these youtube clips, and what their true intent was, lies with an ancient and well-worn directive: cherchez la femme. Who is this woman, and were these clips a misguided act of malign volunteerism, or was she hired, and by whom?

This strange attack leads us into another unusual event, one entirely forgotten and one unknown to me until my research for this post, during the 2011 Republican primary. Though now forgotten, there was a time when Texas governor Rick Perry was high up in the polls, on the cover of Time, a formidable threat to Romney, and a strong contender for the party’s nomination. It was during this brief moment of crackling desire for a Rick Perry presidency that someone took out a full page ad in the Austin Chronicle weekly, a simple question in the large black font best associated with six episodes of a galactic saga246: “HAVE YOU EVER HAD SEX WITH RICK PERRY?” After that was a more specific, equally blunt question in smaller type: “Are you a stripper, an escort, or just a ‘young hottie’ impressed by an arrogant, entitled governor of Texas?” The man who’d paid for this ad was an Austin resident named Robert Morrow, and he’d soon explain why he’d put up this ad. “What it boils down to is this: is that Rick Perry is a man who campaigns on christian values,” he said on the Alex Jones “Infowars Nightly News: Special Report” (on youtube: “Infowars TV Interviews Rick Perry Sex Scandal Accuser 1/2” and “Infowars TV Interviews Rick Perry Sex Scandal Accuser 2/2”) “He uses bible buzzwords for political gain, he appears on-stage in Houston with all these preachers, yet he’s living a double life.” How did Robert Morrow know about Rick Perry’s infidelities? “The reason I know that, Alex, is because Rick Perry, his enabling entourage and I, like the same women.” (partial transcript at the footnote)247

JONES
Well, that’s quite a charge. Again, I’m gonna be honest with you, Robert. You wouldn’t even be here right now if a lot of people I know vouched for you, and said you were a stand-up guy, they’ve known you for many many years. Some of them a decade, I’ve known for a decade. And, I’m not saying, oh, you’re lucky to be here. I’m saying, I wouldn’t have you here, if a lot of people I know and trust, said you were a stand-up guy. That means two things are happening. Either all these people who are telling you this information are lying to you; or they’re telling the truth. And either way, this is dangerous. So, let’s get into the allegations.

MORROW
Okay, the reason they’re credible is because there are multiple allegations. I met a stripper a couple years ago, she said “I was working on-stage in a club, and a man comes up to me, and he says, ‘Here’s five hundred dollars. That’s just for starters if you come with me.'” Because that’s what a dancer might make in a whole night, with table dances and tips like that. She said, “Sure, I’ll do it,” and she got into her regular clothes, and she was delivered to…Rick Perry. And when she got to Rick Perry, she told me a couple years ago, before the 2010 gubernatorial race, she said that she and Rick Perry started fooling around, and she was trying to give him a “Monica Lewinsky”, I think it was oral sex, and her words to me were, “I think he was too coked up, to get it up.” K? After they’d been playing around for a while, and it was time for her to go, Rick Perry paid her an outrageous sum of money well into the four digits. Rick Perry’s not a rich man; he’s only worth a million or two dollars. It’s not a lot of money compared to who he runs around with. It makes me think that Rick Perry is taking bribes and illegal gifts from his entourage to fund his extra-curricular activities. And that was just one lady.

Morrow on Jones from behind

Morrow on Jones front view

Jones holding newspaper

Morrow didn’t just have one reliable source for the information, so far he had two. “I know other women in town, strippers, young hotties, some escorts, and this is what blew me away: I heard from another lady, who’s had direct dealings with Rick Perry’s entourage.” She had met with Rick Perry’s entourage- no, actually, she’d heard from an unnamed man, a story about Rick Perry and his entourage.

MORROW
I know other women in town, strippers, young hotties, some escorts, and this is what blew me away: I heard from another lady, who’s had direct dealings with Rick Perry’s entourage. And she told me, this man told her, when Rick Perry goes on the road, he gets the quote “young hotties”. Hence, I use the phrase “young hotties” in my ad. And he told her, he says that they take these young women and they go back to Rick Perry’s hotel room, and they’re literally having orgies and group sex in the hotel room. Perhaps, maybe, Rick Perry is having sex with a woman on a sofa and his friend is having sex with another young hottie on a bed. So, that was two. Now, the second person who told me this, is very credible, she’s educated, she knows her way around the world politically here in Austin, she’s not some sortof seventeen year old runaway on drugs or something. She’s somebody who runs with the elite of Austin, Texas. So that was the second source on that. So, after I heard that, I said, “It is confirmed.” Rick Perry is obviously being flagrantly adulterous, his entourage is procuring strippers for him, renting the hotel rooms, calling the escort services, then recently, this week, yet another young lady who’s friends with yet another popular, long-time escort, said that, yeah, you know, this lady, her friend, had a tryst with Rick Perry in one of the nicer hotels in Austin, Texas. So, that’s three right there. And I’ve been unable to get these people to go public for obvious reasons, you know, trying to get a stripper, or an escort, or a gay, closeted gay man, to go public is very difficult for obvious reasons, hence my ad. So I took out this ad, “Have you ever had sex with Rick Perry?” as a plea, to the greater community, to quit covering for Rick Perry, this you know, christian buzzword spouting hypocrite, who’s leading a double life.

It is confirmed. Rick Perry, Morrow assured Jones, was in a dangerous place. Rick Perry was sitting on a keg of “slut fueled nitroglycerine,” according to Morrow. “On the womanizing,” said Morrow, “I’m not just 99% sure that Rick Perry’s running around with strippers and hookers, I’M ONE HUNDRED PERCENT SURE ON THAT.” If you were willing to shout it out on TV, how could it possibly be wrong? There were the strippers, the escorts, the young hotties, but there were also something else. Alex Jones had done his research, and he knew something about the Republican party: “the main way to enter the upper echelons of the Republican party is homosexual sex.” That’s what goes on in Bohemian Grove, that’s what goes on in Skull and Bones, that’s what goes on in Gayle, as Jones says it. Rick Perry had an honor known to only a select few: “you type Rick Perry into Google for years, and ‘gay’ comes up.” Morrow had confirmation on this rumor as well. An “incensed homosexual man” had revealed that an ex of an ex had had sex with Perry. It is confirmed.

JONES
Well, I’ve gotta say, Robert, that…we’ve seen what’s happened with a New York governor who passed a law to take the property away from men who hire prostitutes, throw them under the jail, while he was visiting high end prostitutes. We’ve seen all these Republican leaders caught in bathrooms, and going after their pages. We know about Bohemian Grove. And so, doing my research, I know that to get into the upper echelons of the Republican party, especially, they don’t feel comfortable around you, unless you’ve done some things they can use against you. And the main way to enter the upper echelons of the Republican party is homosexual sex. That’s what goes on in Skull and Bones, in Gayle [this is exactly how I hear Jones say it, and I think his implication is clear], that’s what goes on at the same time in Bohemian Grove. So I know that stuff goes on. Again, I mainly stick with the issues that I can prove. And we’ve all heard these rumors living in Austin. And there’s been newscasts about the rumors of Rick Perry…I would completely, still, ignore all of this if he wasn’t out there saying, I’m a christian conservative leader, you need to get behind me.

And then knowing, he’s actually the opposite in his real policies. And even in the last election cycle for governor, conservative groups did actually discover his bankrolling of porno parlors across Texas. And that’s now a big issue again. And then, when I first saw this, I didn’t believe it, I went and found it on the state ethics commission website, it is true, that when he was in Florida, in a famously alternative life-style area, I want you to talk about that, he visited the La Te Da, men in drag, cabaret. And he later said, “Well, no, my wife visited that.” Yeah, right. So, it just continues to crop up. And so because it was christian conservatives that have gone after him in the last few campaigns over some of these reports, he’s now trying to become that. And I saw Ron Paul supporters really getting after him in events in the last few years, so now he’s trying to become Ron Paul. He is a political chameleon. And so, the question comes down to: is this some elaborate hoax, where people are lying to you? Are you lying? Which people who know you say you’re not. Or, is this a dirty trick? Of disinformation. Or is it true? But, what do you say about the porno parlor bankrolling and the transvestite visiting?

MORROW
Okay. Well, Alex, as you know, living here in Austin, Texas, the rumors of Rick Perry’s homosexuality and gay affairs have been voluminous, intense, and will just not go away.

JONES
Oh, you type Rick Perry into Google for years, and “gay” comes up.

MORROW
And, there’s-

JONES
The first thing.

MORROW
There’s so much smoke…that it has to be fire. And I want to tell you something, Alex. I never believed the gay rumors on Rick Perry for years and years and years, and then I certainly didn’t believe them when I found out all about these stirppers and escorts, he and his entourage are cavorting with. That has changed. I’ve come into credible information that Rick Perry is a rampant bisexual adulterer, not just strippers and young hotties, but gay men as well. This monday, before I even ran this ad, an incensed homosexual man contacted me, and he says, “You know what? After seeing Rick Perry on that stage in Houston, with all those extremist preachers, all that hardcore anti-gay rhetoric, I just can’t take it any more.”

He said that an ex of his ex, had sex with Rick Perry. A gay fling many years before he became governor, and that he wants to take this guy public, and he and his friend are going to approach this man, who had sex with Rick Perry according to them, and get him to go public. And I said, well, what I did was I gave them to a reporter who’s working the gay angle on Rick Perry, and he’s having some progress, by the way, and so maybe, eventually, in a few months, these reporters work these stories, nail down these sources, we will move beyond the hearsay stage on Rick Perry as a rampant bisexual adulterer, to the credibility stage of people coming forward. So, the whole point of me running that ad is folks, there is so much stuff out there, you know, if you know, if you’ve been involved with him, sexually at all, or you know people who have, please come forward. And let’s go on the record, and get it above board, because people need to know.

Morrow’s anger over Perry’s bisexuality may not have been entirely anger over hypocrisy. In 2005, the same Robert Morrow would send out an email accusing Margot Clarke, who was running for a city council seat, of only caring about three groups of people. “Clarke’s supporters are … environmental radicals, socialists, and ‘in-your-face’ homosexuals who demand that the rest of society worship salamanders and support ‘gay’ marriage.” You can google an article I wrote on Perry, said Morrow on the radio show “Outcast Austin” (episode “OutCast Austin – Volume 173 – 08/23/2011 – Interview with Robert Morrow”), when his Perry ad appeared. “It’s called ‘Tea Party Fraud Rick Perry is Political Herpes’.” “You’re a very subtle man, I see, Robert,” replied the host, Steve Rice248.

Though Jones has a reputation of being a hard nosed skeptic, he gave a credulous reception to Morrow’s claims. However, it was on the “Exclusive Interview: Rick Perry Smear Artist Speaks Out” episode of “The Gill Report” (parts one and two) that Morrow was asked harder questions. He opened early with a variation on the same line, “Rick Perry, his enabling entourage and I, like the same women,” that he also used on “Outcast Austin”, “Rick Perry, his entourage and I, like the same women. How can I be more clear than that?” Asked the “Outcast Austin” host, “Those are nice wholesome girls, is that what you mean?”249 When did you discover that Rick Perry had this propensity for hotties, asked Steve Gill, the host of “The Gill Report”. Was it before 2006, the last time you’d voted for him? “Well, it’s…no. It was not, actually it’s because I have a propensity for hotties. And it just turns out that Rick Perry, his entourage, and I, like the same women.” There was something strangely insistent by Robert Morrow that he liked the same women as Rick Perry, as if it were a talking point, and so perhaps the next part of “The Gill Report” was inevitable250:

GILL
Now, your facebook says you like guys too, there have been a lot of stories that you also swing the other way as well. I mean, is that, like-251

MORROW
Well, on facebook it says who do you want to be friends with, and I want to be friends on facebook with both men and women. So- I’m just interested in women in-

GILL
You do not have sexual relationships with men? So, the claims that you’re gay are not true?

MORROW
It’s ridiculous. I will say this-

GILL
But you’re also saying that Rick Perry’s gay too. You’re saying Rick Perry not only likes young women, you’re also throwing out the implication that he’s also gay.

MORROW
Absolutely. I want to tell you that that second one right there. About the womanizing, I am 100% sure on that, because like I said I know strippers, young hotties, people who’ve been with Rick Perry and his entourage. I never believed the gay rumors about Rick Perry that have been going around for about eight years now. Especially when I learned about the womanizing, I did not believe them. However, that has changed, because I’ve been in contact with some very angry homosexuals who’ve called me about Rick Perry.

GILL
And it’s easy for someone to say I had sex with somebody. I mean, a gay guy could call me today and say, “You know, I had sex with Robert Morrow,” and I could take out a full page ad and that would have the same credibility in terms of fact based that you’re relying on.

MORROW
Well, but- that’s true. On Monday-

When the host made this simple testing of Morrow’s claims, the confidence ended, and was replaced by angry, nervous insistence:

GILL
So, should we traffic in these kind of unsubstantiated rumors in the political arena? Is that the Ron Paul way?

MORROW
I have nothing to do with Ron Paul’s campaign.

GILL
Wait- wait- you just said you’ve campaigned and you’ve been a Ron Paul supporter.

MORROW
I think, you know, Ron Paul is not putting me up to this, because Ron Paul doesn’t run around with the young hotties that me and Rick Perry, and his entourage do.

GILL
We don’t know. Somebody could call me today and say “I had sex with Ron Paul,” and we could put it out there as the fact, and it would be just as based as what you’re doing. I mean, anybody can say anything.

MORROW
Listen carefully to me, okay? I met a stripper about two years ago. And, before the 2010 governor’s race, and she told me, that she was in the club one night. And a guy comes up to her and says, “Here’s five hundred dollars. Just come with me.” And of course, five hundred dollars is about what a dancer would make all night-

GILL
Keep in mind, you weren’t there, all you’re saying is that what a stripper, because man, I know, strippers, and hookers on drugs, if I’m gonna go for somebody that’s absolutely is credible, that is absolutely believable, no question about it, are you operating on is what a stripper told you, right?

MORROW
Steve, hold on for a second.

GILL
Well, isn’t that the case.

MORROW
Go ahead. Hold on for a second. She was very credible, and she told me these things-

GILL
She’s a very credible stripper.

MORROW
Hold on, hold on. She told me these things in confidence, not in the context of a presidential campaign or a gubernatorial campaign. So she says she was taken to Rick Perry, because Rick Perry does not go into strip clubs himself, he has an entourage go grab the girls, and so she was taken to him, and then they started-

GILL
Based on what she says. Based on what she says.

MORROW
I-i-i-it’s true.

Morrow couldn’t challenge the fact that it was all secondhand information, rumor and innuendo, because all he had was the hot gas of rumor and innuendo.

GILL
It’s true because she said it.

MORROW
I don’t have a blue dress with Rick Perry’s semen on it. I have reports from credible women in Austin, Texas-

GILL
Who are strippers and prostitutes and hookers.

MORROW
Strippers and hoo- Escorts and people- And friends who have-

GILL
Who get paid money to do whatever somebody wants them to do. Do you think there might at least be the shred, Robert, that somebody might be paying her to tell stories?

MORROW
Yes-

GILL
Because she’ll take money to do other things.

MORROW
Well Steve, you have to understand that- There’s a couple things. I learned about these things several years ago, not in the context of a presidential or gubenatorial race. They had no idea I was a political activist, who happens to hate Rick Perry’s guts, which I do for many reasons, but politically, and from what I know about his personal life. And so the reason-

GILL
But all you know about his, again, all you know about his personal life is what these hookers, strippers, and prostitutes have told you.

“The Gill Report” then got closer to the essential question of almost all politics, the one Alex Jones somehow had never been able to ask, “Who’s funding this? Who’s funding these ads?”:

MORROW
You know, it’s true, unless you’re there yourself, you don’t know to the one hundredth percent level-

GILL
You don’t know on any percent, other than, they are telling you a story that you can’t verify at all. Let me move to the other- Who’s funding this? Who’s funding these ads?

MORROW
I pay for it myself.

GILL
What do you do for a living?

MORROW
I’m a self-employed investor.

GILL
Self-employed investor. And apparently, you’ve done real well for yourself, if you can take out full page ads.

MORROW
Yeah.

GILL
What’s the source of your investments?

MORROW
It’s a local paper, you know, it was a pretty piece of coin, but it’s not nearly the money Rick Perry and his entourage- Here’s what goes on: Rick Perry does not get the girls himself. He has an enabling entourage, who gets the girls, in ritzy hotel rooms, very nice ones here in Austin, and they’re the ones who call the escort services, just like Tiger Woods entourage would be getting girls for him.

GILL
But you actually had the girls coming forth and saying this. That’s what your ad is trying to do, is get some girls to come forth and say, okay, I had sex with Rick Perry.

MORROW
Here’s where we’re at, Steve. I’ve been unable to get these women to go public, to go on the record, in front of a reporter-

GILL
Maybe because it’s not true.

MORROW
It is true.

GILL
Okay. Because you’re gonna believe your hooker friends.

“The Gill Report” soon returned to the question of the ad. Did Morrow pay for the ad to run in a weekly newspaper, or a daily newspaper?

MORROW
It’s a local weekly newspaper. The Austin Chronicle.

GILL
How much is this thing costing you?

MORROW
No comment. I pay for it with my own money, though.

GILL
Did they give it to you for free?

MORROW
Noooooo. No.

GILL
So…why won’t you tell us what you’re paying for it?

MORROW
I just keep that private. That’s the only thing I’m not releasing.

GILL
I mean, their ad rates are public, aren’t they?

MORROW
Yeah, I pay normal ad rates. You can call them and find out how much I pay.

GILL
Now you said you were an investor, I’m a little bit intrigued by that. What kind of investments do you make on behalf of people?

MORROW
Oh. I’m a self-employed investor. I don’t manage other people’s money. I never said that I did, so don’t, don’t make that assumption.

This simple and most essential question, what Robert Morrow paid for the ad, he refused to say. It all came from the money he’d earned as an independent investor. An article from 2008, “Some people just love to hate the Clintons” by Adam C. Smith, would suggest that the money Morrow paid for this ad didn’t come from his brilliant investment skills, but the privileges of the one percent. In “Some people,” he was described as someone “who has no steady job but enjoys a family inheritance.” Back then, he was obsessed with the Clintons. Smith meets with Morrow for lunch. “Chelsea is the seed of Web Hubbell and not Bill Clinton. Would I bet my life on it? No. I would bet my pickup truck,” he says, the angry stream interrupted by chomps of salmon. “Hillary Clinton was sleeping with both of her law partners, Webb Hubbell and Vince Foster. And she’s a lesbian, too.”252

Robert Morrow was obsessed with Hillary Clinton. Robert Morrow was obsessed with Rick Perry. But there was one man, more than any of the others, who Robert Morrow was especially obsessed with, and that was the man who’d murdered JFK. “You’re also real big into the whole CIA killed JFK business-” said Steve Gill. “I think Lyndon Johnson and his Texas oilmen used their CIA military connections to kill John Kennedy,” Morrow replied. “That is my personal opinion. Many people think that.” Morrow would make this belief into his personal identity. His twitter handle was @LBJCIAkilledJFK. It was a belief that was the very same as the thesis of Roger Stone’s book, The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ. The book’s preface had the line, “This book stands on the research of citizens who have doubted the government’s version of events as depicted by the Warren Commission, including,” and there among the included was the man who’d fought Hillary Clinton between bites of salmon his parents’ wealth had bought. The book’s chapter, “Lyndon Johnson – The Man,” carries the indictment “Veteran JFK assassination researcher Robert Morrow correctly labels Johnson a ‘functioning lunatic.'” I’d say it takes one to know one, but how well functioning is Robert Morrow? In the last chapter, there is a final mention, hosannas to the martyred few who dare to ask questions about that terrible day: “Anyone who asks probing questions, no matter how sound, are dismissed as crackpots. Courageous Americans who have dedicated their lives to seeking the facts of the assassination-citizens like Mark Lane, Vincent Salandria, Robert Morrow, Raymond Marcus, and Mary Ferrell-have earned this flaky distinction.” Oh, I don’t think Morrow is a crackpot because he investigates Kennedy assassination theories. I think he’s a crackpot because he writes things like “George Herbert Walker Bush and his Homosexual Pedophilia”: “George Herbert Walker Bush is a notorious and long time homosexual pedophile – both from his days as a Houston congressman in the late 1960’s and his involvement with the Franklin pedophile ring, based in Omaha NE and run by Bush friend Lawrence E. King, of the 1980’s.” “This book will change history forever!” is one enthusiastic blurb on Amazon for The Man Who Killed Kennedy, a blurb by a historian named Robert Morrow253. In a Reason TV interview promoting the book, “Did LBJ Kill Kennedy? (And Why It Matters): Q/A with Roger Stone”, Stone was asked about his next book project. “Talk a little bit about your future,” the interviewer prompts. “Yeah, I’ve got a couple different books in mind,” Stone replied. “I’d like to do a book on Hillary Clinton. I don’t believe Chelsea Clinton- I believe Chelsea Clinton is the daughter of Webb Hubbell, and Hillary Clinton, and I’m gonna try and prove that in print.”254

Stone Morrow and activist

(activist Mary Krenek, Roger Stone, and Robert Morrow at an event promoting The Man Who Killed Kennedy255)

I note the obvious qualities of the Perry attack which are so similar to others launched by Stone, that it is personal, cruel, obvious, and stupid. The ad was supposedly paid for by Morrow, a man who occasionally traded stocks, but otherwise without work, who refused to say exactly how much he had to shell out for the full page, insisting that it was the one thing he would not reveal. As mentioned in part eight, Stone’s old colleague, Charlie Black, was on the Romney team as an informal adviser. Evangelicals were resistant to Romney, a Mormon, while Perry could reliably count on their support – unless, of course, they started believing the rumor that he was unfaithful, or that he was in the closet. The ad was paid for by CASH, Citizens Against Sexual Hypocrisy, and in 2008, Stone had set up a group called CUNT, against Hillary Clinton, whose letters stood for Citizens United Not Timid. Stone had a simple rule for these kinds of nasty attacks, one given in Stone’s Rules: “Use a cut-out. Front men are indispensible.”

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

MARTYRS

I will not give a thorough review of The Man Who Killed Kennedy, and if the book has not been soundly dismissed as lousy scholarship, that is only because it has been largely considered amateur hour work beneath consideration. Its only notable aspect is that it might be seen as a continuation of Stone’s attempt to redeem the administration he was inextricably part of, the one headed by the master criminal whose every grin appeared a rictus of pain, whose face now lodged between the hard old deltoids of Roger Stone, a clump of thousands of dark points. The Man Who Killed Kennedy puts forth the thesis that it was Lyndon Johnson who was behind the killing of the 35th president, acting out of hatred for the man at the top of the ticket, and to halt an ongoing investigation into one of his aides, Bobby Baker, which threatened to destroy his career. Watergate comes about not because of the paranoia and arrogance of the Nixon administration, but because Nixon demanded certain classified files from the CIA related to the Kennedy assassination. “Nixon’s effort to obtain the JFK assassination records,” writes Stone, “was an attempt to seize leverage over the rogue agency. This was to be Nixon’s “insurance policy” against the CIA.” The agency, feeling threatened, deliberately placed double agents among the Watergate break-in team, who made sure that they would be arrested, the team would be found out, the plot discovered, and Nixon forced to resign. “This is why I believe Watergate was a CIA operation,” writes Stone, “that capitalized on the stupidity and amateurishness of G. Gordon Liddy, CREEP Campaign Director Jeb Magruder, and John Dean, the three Nixon aides who advanced the plans for the Watergate break-in, which leaked to the CIA.”256 Watergate is no longer an act of executive arrogance, but a martyrdom that comes about as a president wrestles with an out of control security state.

Rather than go through the book’s main plot point by point – and leaving out entirely tangential areas like George H.W. Bush’s supposed complicity257 – I think I can show the overall extraordinarily poor scholarship of The Man Who Killed by looking at two crucial areas. Stone’s thesis hinges on a group of men who were part of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, including CIA agent E. Howard Hunt, being involved in the assassination of the president. A key piece of supporting evidence is Hunt confessing to his part in the assassination on his deathbed, with this confession made public by his son, Saint John Hunt258. Stone makes no mention of Hunt denying for decades that he had any part in the assassination, going so far as to sue the writer Jim Maars for defamation when he wrote an article that alleged he took part in the killing. We are told in Stone’s book of a Marita Lorenz testifying under oath that she saw Hunt pay off an assassination team, testimony that was made at this very defamation trial – yet the context of a libel trial goes entirely unsaid in the book. Most of the Hunt family was estranged from Saint John Hunt, who’d had a difficult life dealing with drug addiction, and they were vocal in condemning the confession as exploitation of a man who was eighty eight and suffering from the effects of old age259. I will confess to be a non-conspiracy theorist with regards to the Kennedy assassination; however, I can conceive without difficulty a far more convincing and honest presentation of a hypothesis where Hunt is a key player, yet one which acknowledges his lifelong denial and the conditions of his near-death confession. Stone’s book does not simply not acknowledge these things, it refuses to even admit them, giving no mention of these details – Hunt’s lifelong denial, the lawsuit, the family’s condemnation of the confession as exploitation – that have just been given here.

The book is premised on Stone’s authority, that he was there, or at one of the theres, the Nixon White House when Watergate went down, and yet the work involving this subject might be even shoddier. As said, Stone lays out a hypothesis that the CIA agents on the team, James McCord and E. Howard Hunt, deliberately sabotaged the mission in order to bring down the White House. Again, Stone makes no effort to acknowledge the accounts which might utterly annihilate this thesis. G. Gordon Liddy, a Watergate veteran who achieved even greater fame than Stone by making himself into a flat cartoon, the congenial neo-fascist, would write of his role in various CREEP activities in what should be considered an essential book of american history, the memoir Will. Though I am unsympathetic towards Liddy, I find his account to have an honest tone, without exaggeration, where the writer appears to have no hesitation presenting himself as ridiculous, brutal, or unsympathetic. Woodward’s blurb on Amazon strikes a similar note: “His story rings true…It is credible.” Liddy is a former FBI agent, with no experience in the CIA, and Stone alleges no such experience in his book. Liddy is explicit in his memoir that it is he who brought both Hunt and McCord onto the team260. The CREEP plumber team’s break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters was to begin with their going into the Watergate hotel, taping down some of the locks on the inside, then re-entering the hotel once the DNC offices were empty. During this operation, a security guard removes the tape placed on the locks, which causes incredible tension among the Watergate team. After being caught, Hunt would eventually plead guilty, something Liddy would refuse to do, with Liddy never speaking to Hunt again as a result. I emphasize this point to make clear that Liddy does not write anything in his memoir to exculpate Hunt out of sympathy for the man. He is, however, very clear that it was his decision and his decision alone that they went into the Watergate after that, which would result in them being caught. Hunt, Stone’s supposed double agent, is depicted as passionately opposed to the decision to go forward. After it’s discovered that the tape’s been removed, “Hunt was sure it had been a guard. He wanted to abort [my italics].” It is Liddy, the former FBI agent, the man with no experience in the CIA, who overrules the seniormost man in the team who is conneted to the CIA, Hunt, in order to send them back into the hotel, and it is because of that decision that the team is caught261. You might attempt to put forth a theory which includes Liddy’s role, or finds some evidence that disproves his account in Will; however, any serious piece of scholarship must reckon with Liddy’s account, and The Man Who Killed Kennedy does nothing of the kind.

Most peculiar is Stone’s citation of Watergate: The Hidden History by Lamar Waldron for his theory on the Watergate burglary: “Investigative journalist Lamar Waldron makes a compelling case in his book, Watergate: The Hidden History, that the purpose of the break-in was to obtain records detailing Nixon’s authorization as vice president for the CIA recruitment of Mob assassins to assist in the assassination of Fidel Castro.” Stone’s praise does not appear isolated to the space within his own book – a user named “Roger J. Stone” on Amazon also gives a full throated endorsement of the work (link): “Although as a long time Aide to Richard Nixon I interpret some things differently, Waldron’s scholarship cannot be questioned. This is a fascinating history with starts [sic] to connect the Bay of Pigs invasion, the JFK Assassination , Watergate and the Nixon pardon. I cannot recommend this book enough.”262 The praise is unexpected, in part, because the Nixon of Waldron’s book is one of the most unsympathetic portrayals out there, an incredibly corrupt man whose path to the White House is funded by mob money, and who wins elections through lowball anti-semitic attacks. The Nixon White House of Waldron’s book resembles less a political operation and more a criminal enterprise. There is another, more germane point as to why Stone’s praise is unexpected. To re-iterate, Stone’s thesis is that Watergate was the result of the CIA taking out Nixon after he asked for files incriminating the agency in the Kennedy assassination. Waldron’s thesis, directly and explicitly, contradicts this. The first chapter of Hidden History gives an overview of its perspective:

This book carefully documents how Nixon’s ties to the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Fidel Castro became inexorably linked to the Mafia’s two massive Hoffa bribes to Nixon. While CIA assassination plots with the Mafia may seem like old news now, it’s important to remember they were only first revealed to the American public in 1975, after Nixon’s 1974 resignation. In 1972, Nixon-and his CIA Director, Richard Helms-would have gone to any lengths to keep voters from finding out about his Castro assassination plots. Those plots were entwined with Nixon’s huge Mafia bribes for Hoffa, and the exposure of those massive payoffs during the 1972 campaign would have dominated the headlines and shattered Nixon’s chances of winning reelection. Richard Nixon was worried that the Democrats (and the Chilean embassy) had one specific Dossier that, if released, could unravel everything. That Dossier-the previously mentioned compilation of CIA attempts to assassinate Castro, which spanned Nixon’s terms as Vice President and President-was the main target of the Watergate burglars, as one of them admitted after his arrest.

It is the paragraph on CIA head Richard Helms, and his protégé, E. Howard Hunt, that includes a sentence that runs entirely counter to Stone’s thesis. I bold it:

Once Hunt was a White House operative, he continued his close ties to Helms and was in a position to provide a steady stream of important information to his mentor. CIA Director Helms was so fond of Hunt that he gave visitors to his office copies of the hack spy novels Hunt wrote. More important, it’s now documented that in the weeks leading up to Watergate, Helms was involved with pitching a TV series based on Hunt’s novels to Hollywood producers. That should end speculation that has persisted for years, that the failure of the last Watergate break-in was a CIA operation deliberately designed to bring down Nixon.

Again, there is nothing wrong with praising a book as quality scholarship, and then arguing with one of its key points. However, if you cite such a work, offer the highest praise for its diligence, then I think you are obligated to address why such a book is wrong on a central interpretation with which you disagree. The Man Who Killed Kennedy offers nothing of the kind.

The most important point of Stone’s book, one unnoticed by its largely sympathetic reviewers on the fringe right, is that the concept of Watergate as a CIA coup was an idea already pushed at the time of the break-in by the Nixon White House, as an attempt to shift blame for this engulfing disaster. The following excerpt from Johnathan Schell’s The Time of Illusion, an excellent history of the Nixon years, conveys this well:

All the Watergate defendants but one were following the White House scenario to the letter. The exception was James McCord. He was seething with scenarios of his own. He hoped to have the charges dismissed, and besides, he had been angered by what he understood as a suggestion from one of his lawyers that the blame for the Watergate break-in be assigned to the C.I.A., his old outfit, to which he retained an intense loyalty. There was some irony in the fact that McCord’s anger had been aroused by an Administration plan to involve the C.I.A. in its crimes. McCord believed that Nixon’s removal of C.I.A. director Richard Helms, in December of 1972 – at the very time that McCord himself was being urged to lay the blame for Watergate at the door of the C.I.A. – was designed to pave the way for an attempt by the Administration itself to blame the break-in on the agency and for a takeover of the agency by the White House. He had worked for the White House, but he did not see the reorganizational wars from the White House point of view. He saw them from the bureaucrats’ point of view; in his opinion, President Nixon was attempting to take over the C.I.A. in a manner reminiscent of attempts by Hitler to take control of German intelligence agencies before the Second World War. The White House, that is, belatedly discovered that it had a disgruntled “holdover” on its hands. And this particular holdover really was prepared to perform sabotage; he was prepared, indeed, to sabotage not just the President’s policies but the President himself, and, what was more, he had the means to do it. McCord was putting together a scenario that could destroy the Nixon administration. In a letter delivered in December, to his White House contact, the undercover operative John Caulfield, McCord pronounced a dread warning: If the WHite House continued to try to have the C.I.A. take responsibility for the Watergate burglary, “every tree in the forest will fall,” and “it will be a scorched desert.” Piling on yet another metaphor of catastrophe, he wrote, “Pass the message that if they want it to blow, they are on exactly the right course. I am sorry that you will get hurt in the fallout.” McCord was the first person in the Watergate conspiracy to put in writing exactly what the magnitude of th Watergate scandal was. Many observers had been amazed at the extreme hard line that the President had taken since his landslide reelection – the firings in the bureaucracies, the incomprehensible continuation of the attacks on Senator McGovern, the renewed attacks on the press, the attacks on Congress’s power of the purse, the bombing of Hanoi. They could not know that at the exact moment when President Nixon was wreaking devastation on North Vietnam, James McCord was threatening to wreak devastation on him.

That there was a deliberate attempt from almost immediately after the break-in to try and mislead FBI investigators into thinking it was a CIA operation, and this attempt was initiated from the apex of the White House, is conveyed effectively in the invaluable Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes by Stanley Kutler. Here is when the idea is first given mention:

JUNE 21, 1972: THE PRESIDENT AND COLSON, 4:00-5:15 P.M., EXECUTIVE OFFICE BUILDING

Nixon aides, such as Haldeman and Colson, later developed a fondness for explanations that blamed the CIA for Watergate. This conversation is probably the origin of the idea, anxious as they were to “develop a theory.” It probably also is the beginning of their notion that “Watergate was stupid and therefore the President could not have done it.” Throughout the affair, Nixon contemptuously dismissed wiretapping as a serious issue; he insisted that he had been bugged in 1968, typically adding, “Everyone did it.”

SEGMENT 1

COLSON
…I think that, I think that we could develop a theory as to the CIA if we wanted to. We know that he [Hunt] has all these ties with these people.

PRESIDENT NIXON
He worked with them.

COLSON
Oh, he was their boss, and they were all CIA. You take the cash, you go down to Latin America.

These excerpts further show the development of blaming the break-in on the CIA, of lying about CIA association to the FBI to stop the investigation, but begin first with the possibility of blaming the break-in on the columnist Jack Anderson:

JUNE 22, 1972: THE PRESIDENT AND HALDEMAN, 9:40-11:25 A.M., EXECUTIVE OFFICE BUILDING

HALDEMAN
Yes. We’ve got another thing which has taken hold a little bit, which is we’ve started moving on the Hill, letting it come out from there, which is that this whole thing is a Jack Anderson thing, that Jack Anderson did it. That’s what the Hill guys think, that this is – and we’re trying to move that around now. We started a rumor yesterday morning and it’s starting to come back already.

PRESIDENT NIXON
What?

HALDEMAN
That Jack Anderson has put all of this together, he was bugging the Democratic offices.

PRESIDENT NIXON
Oh, yes.

HALDEMAN
Becaue these Cubans are tied to him. These are agents he’s used, and now he’s trying to do a diversionary cover-up of this other thing, and all this other stuff. The great thing about this is it is so totally fucked up and so badly done that nobody believes-

PRESIDENT NIXON
That we could have done it.

HALDEMAN
That’s right…

PRESIDENT NIXON
Well, it sounds like comic opera, really.

HALDEMAN
It really does. It would make a funny Goddamn movie.

PRESIDENT NIXON
I mean, you know, here’s these Cubans with their accents. [Laughing]

HALDEMAN
Wearing these rubber gloves, standing there in their well-made, their expensive well-made business suits, wearing rubber gloves, and put their hands up and shouting “Don’t shoot” when the police come in. It really is like a comic opera…Also they have no case on Hunt.

PRESIDENT NIXON
Why?

HALDEMAN
Because there is no case on Hunt. They have not been able to make him. They can’t put him into the scene at alll.

PRESIDENT NIXON
We know where he was, though.

HALDEMAN
But they don’t. The FBI doesn’t.

PRESIDENT NIXON
That’s right.

HALDEMAN
They’ve pursued him and been unable to tie him in at all to the case.

PRESIDENT NIXON
What about the disappearance? He’ll come back?

HALDEMAN
Well, they’ve got no warrant for him, so they don’t care whether he disappeared.

PRESIDENT NIXON
He has disappeared?

HALDEMAN
He has disappeared.

PRESIDENT NIXON
Yes, the Hunt thing is beginning to run out recently.

HALDEMAN
The legal people, the FBI, who are running the investigation, have no – there’s no way to fix Hunt on the case. They have issued no warrant for him. They don’t care whether he disappears or not. The only thing is, is his name’s in the phone book, in the guy’s address book. But so is the hotel clerk’s name.

JUNE 23, 1972: THE PRESIDENT AND HALDEMAN, 10:04-11:39 A.M., OVAL OFFICE

HALDEMAN
The FBI interviewed Colson yesterday. They determined that would be a good thing to do…An interrogation, which he did, and that, the FBI guys working the case had concluded that there are one or two possibilities: one, that this was a White House [operation], they don’t think that there is anything at the Election Committee – they think it was either a White House operation and they had some obscure reasons for it…Or it was a-

PRESIDENT NIXON
Cuban thing-

HALDEMAN
-Cubans and the CIA. And after their interrogation of-

PRESIDENT NIXON
Colson.

HALDEMAN
-Colson, yesterday, they concluded it was not the White House, but are now convinced it’s the CIA thing, so the CIA turnoff would-

PRESIDENT NIXON
Well, not sure of their analysis, I’m not going to get that involved…

HALDEMAN
No, sir. We don’t want you to.

PRESIDENT NIXON
You call them in. Good. Good deal. Play it tough. That’s the way they play it and that’s the way we are going to play it.

HALDEMAN
O.K. We’ll do it.

PRESIDENT NIXON
Yeah, when I saw that news summary item, I of course knew it was a bunch of crap, but I thought, that, well it’s good to have them off on this wild hare thing because when they start bugging us, which they have, we’ll know our little boys will not know how to handle it. I hope they will though.

HALDEMAN
Good, you never know. Maybe, you think about it…

PRESIDENT NIXON
When you get in these people…say: “Look, the problem is that this will open the whole, the whole Bay of Pigs thing, and the President just feels that” – without going into the details – don’t, don’t lie to them to the extent to say there is no involvement, but just say this is sort of a comedy of errors, bizarre, without getting into it. “The President’s belief is that this is going to open the whole Bay of Pigs thing up again. And because these people are plugging for, for keeps, and that they should call the FBI and say that we wish for the country, don’t go any further into this case,” period…

JUNE 23, 1972: THE PRESIDENT AND HALDEMAN, 1:04-1:13 P.M., OVAL OFFICE

PRESIDENT NIXON
…Hunt….knows too damn much and he was involved, we have to know that. And that it gets out…this is all involved in the Cuban thing, that it’s a fiasco, and it’s going to make the FB – ah CIA – look bad, it’s going to make Hunt look bad, and it’s likely to blow the whole, uh, Bay of Pigs thing, which we think would be very unfortunate for the CIA and for the country at this time, and for American foreign policy, and he’s just gotta tell ’em “lay off”…

HALDEMAN
Yeah, that’s, that’s the basis we’ll do it on and just leave it at that.

PRESIDENT NIXON
I don’t want them to get any ideas we’re doing it because our concern is political.

HALDEMAN
Right.

PRESIDENT NIXON
And at the same time, I wouldn’t tell them it is not political…

HALDEMAN
Right.

PRESIDENT NIXON
I would just say, “Look, it’s because of the Hunt involvement.”…

That what took place under the Nixon administration was in fact a centralization of power, a creation of an octopus of executive overreach, with such agencies as the FBI, the CIA, and the IRS made into weapons against any enemy of the Nixon White House, is a point obviously ignored by Stone and, again, well conveyed by Schell. I give lengthy excerpt:

In 1969, the Administration had sought to establish working links between the Justice Department and the C.I.A., among others; now, in June of 1970, the President ordered a “reassessment” of the government’s intelligence-gathering activities at the highest level. Haldeman assigned Tom Huston, who had once been an Army intelligence officer, and who described himself as a “Jeffersonian Republican,” to oversee the work. On June 5th, as the uproar over the invasion of Cambodia was subsiding, the President called in Director Helms of the C.I.A.; the Director of the F.B.I., J. Edgar Hoover; the head of the National Security Agency, Vice-Admiral Noel Gayler; and the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Donald Bennett. He asked them all to meet with Huston to work out a coordinated plan for dealing with internal threats. At the first meeting, Huston informed the group of a decision by President Nixon that in facing the domestic threat, “everything is valid, everything is possible.” After several meetings, the group agreed on a plan. A secret corps made up of representatives of the four intelligence agencies; the counter-intelligence agencies of the Departments of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force; and – if the Interagency Group on Domestic Intelligence and Internal Security, as the new corps was to be called, thought it necessary – the State Department, “and such other agencies which may have investigative or law-enforcement responsibilities touching on domestic intelligence or internal security matters,” and overseen by the White House, would be, in effect, empowered to commit a wide variety of crimes against the members of any group that it suspected of being subversive. The Interagency Group would be empowered to open mail, to tap telephones without warrants, and to break into people’s houses and offices. Huston knew that these activities were criminal: he wrote that surreptitious entry was “clearly illegal” and “could result in great embarrassment if exposed.” Of course, the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. had been doing all of these things for years without written instructions from the White House; yet the Nixon Administration, in proposing the new plan, was attempting to do much more than ratify an existing state of affairs. For one thing, the White House envisioned a broadened scale of operation, and one objective of the Interagency Group was to be “maximum use of all special investigtive techniques, including increased agent and informant penetration by both the F.B.I. and the C.I.A.” For another thing, whereas in earlier days, the unlawful spying upon and harassment of American citizens had had to be secret to some extent from the highest officers of the government, now an instruction had gone out from a President ordering the agencies to break the law. In other words, all restraints internal to the executive branch were to be lifted. The proposed coordination of the agencies into a single force would be an important step, too. The citizen who ran afoul of the F.B.I.’s Cointelpro program or the I.R.S.’s Special Service Group might suffer serious interference in his life, but the person whose name got onto the computers of an organization that commanded the combined resources of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the N.S.A., the D.I.A., and the I.R.S., not to mention the State Department, the Treasury Department, and the other agencies and departments of the government, would be up against a virtually irresistible foe. He would be up against a secret police organization that could reach into his life in countless ways – into his work, into his public life. Even more dangerous, however, than the links of the agencies to each other would be their link to the White House. By placing the Interagency Group under White House guidance, the Administration would be able to direct it towards targets of its own choosing; and since the President was inclined to believe that his political adversaries were also adversaries of the nation – for no number of C.I.A. reports could shake his conviction that the disorders at home were planned abroad – the new group could become a powerful political instrument in his hands.

Those who wish to hear members of the Nixon administration discuss the Interagency group, also known as “The Huston Plan” (after Tom Huston, a top level aide in the Nixon White House), can hear them talk about its inception and abandonment in the face of opposition from J. Edgar Hoover (who resisted any such security program outside of his control) in a series of recordings after the Watergate scandal had engulfed top members of the administration and presidential counsel John Dean had revealed the existence of the plan to the Senate Committee investigating Watergate: “Richard Nixon Fred Buzhardt Huston Plan (Domestic Surveillance) May 16 1973 9:48-9:54 A.M.”, “Richard Nixon Fred Buzhardt Discuss Huston Plan May 16 1973 10:23-10:25 AM”, “Fred Buzhardt Talks to Robert Mardian About the Huston Plan (Domestic Surveillance) May 16 1973”, “Nixon Haig Fred Buzhardt Discuss the Huston Plan (Domestic Surveillance) May 16 1973”, “Nixon Speaks to Haldeman on Watergate Strategy, Plumbers, Huston Plan May 20 1973 12:26-12:54 PM” and “Nixon Fred Buzhardt Al Haig Talk Huston Plan (Domestic Surveillance) 8:45-9:33 PM May 23 1973”.

The frightening creation of the Interagency Group on Domestic Intelligence and Internal Security, an incredibly powerful entity for surveillance and persecution, an obvious first step for police state tyranny, goes expectedly unmentioned by Stone, as this would immediately make his claim of a CIA coup ridiculous, that these entities which had been designed to enforce state laws had already had their independence subverted, so that they would enforce or not enforce the law as it convenienced Richard Nixon. It is perhaps equally to be expected that Stone cleaves off the work of the plumbers as rogue actions, separate from CREEP activities. When one looks at Liddy’s main project, a series of coded assignments under the umbrella name of GEMSTONE, it becomes very obvious that Liddy’s work was very close to that of CREEP, and to that of Stone throughout his career: the secretly funded subversion of the opposition, through smears, division, pranks, and surveillance. Among GEMSTONE projects, there was RUBY, the secret infiltration of democratic campaigns, just like Sedan Chair II, the mole hired by Roger Stone. There was COAL, and you really had to give an unfriendly laugh to that name, because that GEMSTONE project involved the clandestine funding of a candidate who was a black woman, which would “force Democratic candidates to fight off a black woman, bound to generate ill-feeling among the black community and, we hoped, cause them difficulty with women.”263

This, of course, bears an obvious similarity to Stone’s work on the 2004 Sharpton campaign, which he helped staff and made loans to, in order to create dissent within the Democratic primary, and which, hopefully, would diminish the enthusiasm of black voters in the general election. Liddy and Hunt simply took these activities a step further. Gaining opposition research not just through moles placed in rival campaigns, but through break-ins and burglaries. This leads to another striking omission in Stone’s discussion of Watergate: Stone doesn’t write at all of the fact that the first target of the Watergate burglary team was Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon war secrets. Ellsberg was smeared, the office of his psychiatrist was broken into in an attempt to find some compromising material, and when he spoke at an anti-war rally the Watergate burglar team tried to give him a severe beating264. None of this, nothing related to the case of Daniel Ellsberg, perhaps the defining whistleblower case of that era, is mentioned by Stone. This is, perhaps, a canny move on his part. There are differences, but there are also striking similarities between Ellsberg and Edward Snowden, two men who helped expose secret histories, and the way in which the Nixon White House used every lowball tactic to destroy Ellsberg would make obvious that Nixon was no victim of the security state, but one who used the security state as a mafioso uses a baseball bat and a quarry, as tools to dispose of one’s enemies.

When Watergate erupted, it exposed the long use of the surveillance state inside the country, which in turn would set off the investigations into the secrets of what might be called the hidden state within the state. It would be thanks to the Church Committee, headed up by senator Frank Church, that the history of clandestine warfare and secret assassination attempts would be exposed. This point also goes unmentioned by Stone in The Man Who Killed Kennedy, most likely because it makes his whole ludicrous schemata even more ludicrous. The CIA wants to bring down Nixon because he’s trying to rein them in, so they take him down through the use of CIA double agents on his plumber team, even though the very use of such agents is what triggers an in-depth investigation into the agency and greater oversight than they’ve had in decades. Frank Church, the man who headed up the committee, would lose his seat in 1980, thanks to the work of Roger Stone’s NCPAC. In Secrets, Daniel Ellsberg explains the various attempts he makes to leak the information of the Pentagon Papers out to the public. Before going to the New York Times with the Papers, Ellsberg contacted several politicians about conducting a filibuster and reading the Papers into the congressional record. Among those he went to were George McGovern and Mike Gravel. Though McGovern was initially fully willing to take on the responsibility of reading the papers, he would eventually back down out of fear of reprisals. Gravel, however, would never abate in his commitment to read the papers on the floor of congress, if such a step was necessary. McGovern would also be defeated through the efforts of NCPAC in 1980. Gravel would lose the race for the vice president’s slot on the 2008 Libertarian Party ticket to scamdicapper Wayne Allyn Root265.

THE SECRET HISTORIES

The Man Who Killed Kennedy is rooted in the author’s revelation that what he writes of is a secret he’s been privileged with, an extraordinary message that has had to be held tight until this time. It includes moments that no doubt any person would remember the rest of their lives, such as president Nixon abruptly startled when he realizes he’s met Jack Ruby before, or an American ambassador stating outright that there was a secret plot to the assassination, or an Attorney General encouraging Stone to write a book on the secret plan behind the murder – though only at a safe fifty year distance. I do not make these episodes more melodramatic than they are, they are inherently melodramatic, and if they actually took place, the events themsleves could not help but be sick with the gravitas of a world suddenly shaken and tilted, the supposed clean lines of history now revealed to be a schizophrenic dust cloud.

This is a moment from the introduction involving former ambassador John Davis Lodge, brother of former ambassador to Vietnam during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Henry Cabot Lodge:

In 1979, we sat in his Westport, Connecticut, home enjoying a cocktail. I knew that JFK had planned to fire ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge upon his return from Dallas on November 24, 1963. I also know that Lodge knew why he had been summoned to see the President.

Lodge had done Kennedy’s dirty work coordinating a campaign with the CIA to assassinate Catholic Vietnamese President Diem. I couldn’t resist asking John Lodge about his brother.

“Did you ever ask your brother who really killed Kennedy?” I said.

His lips spread in a tight grin. “Cabot said it was the Agency boys, some Mafiosi,” he looked me in the eye . . . “and Lyndon.”

“Did your brother know in advance?” I asked.

Lodge took a sip of his Manhattan.”He knew Kennedy wouldn’t be around to fire him. LBJ kept him at his post so he could serve his country.”

This episode has such a powerful effect on Stone that it puts him on the fateful path by which he now gives us the secrets of the killing, “It was then that I eventually decided to write this book.”

This is another moment, with the former president:

I spent hours talking one-on-one with former President Nixon in his office at 26 Federal Plaza in downtown Manhattan, his apartment on the East Side, and later in his modestly appointed townhouse in Saddle River, New Jersey. Nixon was neither introspective nor retrospective in the conversations. “The old man,” as staff called him behind his back, was passionately interested in what was happening today and what would happen in the future, but it was difficult to get him to dwell on the past. Generally speaking, when we talked about his peers and the circumstances surrounding the Kennedy assassination, he would grow taciturn, blunt, and sometimes cryptic. When I asked him point blank about the conclusions of the Warren Commission into the assassination of President Kennedy, he said “Bullshit” with a growl, but refused to elaborate.

It is Nixon who gives him the kindling for Stone’s theory:

Based on my conversations with him contained in this book, Nixon indicated that Johnson was a conspirator and ordered the CIA to deliver all records pertaining to the Kennedy assassination to the White House after his inauguration in 1969 in order to confirm his belief. As we will see later, this request would play a key role in Nixon’s downfall in Watergate.

The moment with John Mitchell, former Attorney General:

When I was on the Committee to Re-elect the President staff in 1972, direct communications with “Mr. Mitchell” as everyone called him, were a violation of the chain of command. I reconnected with the former attorney general during my service in Ronald Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign. Mitchell helped recruit former Kentucky Governor Louie Nunn for the small Reagan for President Committee headed by Senator Paul Laxalt. I saw Mitchell pretty regularly from 1976 to 1988.

Mitchell, who had discussed Nixon’s thoughts and beliefs regarding the Bay of Pigs and the JFK assassination, helped me interpret many of Nixon’s more oblique references to both. Mitchell knew he was revealing truths that, prior to the 1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations hearings, would be viewed as “kooky.”

Even then, I was fascinated by the controversy surrounding JFK’s murder. “I might write a book about it someday,” I told Mitchell. He took the out the pipe that had been clenched between his teeth, “Wait until the fiftieth anniversary,” he said. I agreed. For those who wonder why I have waited until now to write this book, you now have your answer.

Here’s when Nixon reveals that he once knew Jack Ruby:

“Johnson was vain, cruel, loud, devious, and driven,” Nixon told me.

Many of the same Texas oilmen who wrote big checks for Dick Nixon also wrote big checks for Johnson.

“He liked to squeeze their nuts,” Nixon said. “He would tell them the oil-depletion allowance was in trouble unless they coughed up cash—and milked ‘em.”

“That was the difference between Lyndon and me,” Nixon snorted after a very dry martini in his Saddle River, New Jersey home. “I wasn’t willing to kill for it . . .” Nixon grew silent and pensive, staring into his martini. I knew from my years as a Nixon loyalist and “Nixon’s man in Washington” during his post-presidential years when a conversation with “RN” was over and when not to speak.

Nixon stirred.

“It’s a hell of a thing. I actually knew this Jack Ruby fella. Murray Chotiner brought him in back in ’47. Went by the name Rubinstein. An informant. Murray said he was one of Lyndon Johnson’s boys . . . we put him on the payroll,” Nixon’s voice trailed off.

What went unsaid was that Nixon had realized the connection between Johnson and the execution of Lee Harvey Oswald. I knew Murray Chotiner had been the eminence grise of Nixon’s early political career. Chotiner was a Los Angeles mob lawyer who ran Nixon’s first campaign for Congress in 1946 and his 1950 campaign for the Senate. That Chotiner brought Ruby in was no surprise—his mob connections ran deep. Chotiner had strong connections with Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, and Mickey Cohen. He was also the middleman between Louisiana mob kingpin Carlos Marcello and Nixon.

This is further confirmed, in a colorful anecdote by Nick Ruwe, Nixon’s former deputy chief of protocol:

Nick Ruwe told me that, on November 24, 1963, he arrived at Nixon’s Fifth Avenue apartment—an address he shared with Nelson Rockefeller ironically—to accompany Nixon to a lunch with Mary Roebling, a New Jersey socialite and Nixon family friend at Cote Basque. It was 12:30. Ruwe came into the room as Nixon turned the TV off. He had just witnessed Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald. Ruwe told me, “The Old Man was white as a ghost. I asked him if everything was all right.” “I know that guy,” Nixon muttered. Ruwe said that Nixon didn’t elaborate. He knew better than to ask questions.

I think whatever eventful life you’d led, you would always remember these moments, that they would be like a powerful magnet buried within you, distorting anything you saw on the assassination, as if you’d seen an unveiled vision no one else had, and any history without its mention would seem false to you. Henry Cabot Lodge believed that the vice president had killed the president of the United States. Richard Nixon recognised Jack Ruby because he’d known Jack Ruby. All of history would contort around those poles, and any time you’d speak or write about the assassination, those two details would inevitably protrude, and one could understand, without difficulty, that Roger Stone could, rightly or wrongly, believe that Lyndon Johnson had been behind the assassination, that some malevolent puppeteer was behind Jack Ruby, that Ruby’s killing of Oswald was a killing for hire. Whatever oaths I swore, my sense of that event would distort in that fashion. Lyndon Johnson was directly involved in the killing of the president, he’d known Ruby and put him on Nixon’s payroll, which meant he’d been behind the killing of Oswald, he’d been behind the whole shebang.

Now, Roger Stone has accued Lyndon Johnson of murder, murder of a president, and it is perhaps an idiosyncrasy that we treat death due to warmaking as a different category than plain old murder, but we do. If Stone were to level these same charges, with plausible accompanying evidence, when Johnson was alive, then he would face trial for murder, a separate and unrelated judgement from the obscenity of the Vietnam war. I’ve given this lengthy preface, because if a man makes such a charge of murder, not a random or provoked outburst, but hundreds of pages devoted to the allegation, and there is evidence that the accuser does not believe the allegation, then I think it is incumbent to publish such evidence. As said at the very beginning of this long piece, I came across what appears to be a memoir of Roger Stone’s on a very public, very legal document sharing site, which displays a voice uncannily like that of Stone’s, and replete with obscure details which would not be easy to pull off by a casual hoaxer. In this memoir, he also gives lengthy space to the assassination, and he does mention Lyndon Johnson as a possible player. The essential, indisputable players, however, the ones to which he gives the majority of his focus, is the mob. He makes no mention of this Lodge anecdote. He makes no mention that Nixon knew Ruby. He does not write at all of Ruby being put on anyone’s payroll, or Johnson knowing Ruby in any way. Though he writes of politicos such as Nixon at great length in other parts of the book, he does not write at all of Nixon, of Lodge, of Ruwe, or of Mitchell clamping down on his pipe and giving fateful suggestion. These episodes that would reverberate through anybody’s life, are not there at all, as if they never took place.

That Stone’s perspective on the assassination in his memoir causes one not simply to question the credibility of the theory he puts forth, but whether he even believes his own allegation, is why I now give lengthy excerpt to the relevant sections in his memoir. The excerpt starts from his discussion of the mafia’s involvement in politics and the presidential killing, continues through his bringing up Lyndon Johnson as a possible player, to the chapter’s very end. I note, perhaps unncesssarily, that this memoir was written in 2008, after his conflicts with Eliot Spitzer, and long after any discussions with Nixon, Lodge, Mitchell and Ruwe (who died in 1990266) would have occurred:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

I make the concluding note that Stone himself is quite severe on those who he believes manufacture or embellish history. According to Nixon, the supposed lies of The Final Days caused Pat Nixon to have her stroke. This, it should be emphasized, is according to Richard Nixon, which, in turn, is according to Roger Stone in Dirty Tricks. “There is simply is no corroboration that the 37th president walked around late at night talking to the Presidential portraits,” writes Stone. In the next paragraph, he smears Carl Bernstein by having him hit someone up for a loan for ten grand after they’ve just met. Again – this bears the caveat, according to Roger Stone. During a recent conference on the anniversary of Watergate, Stone would tweet out a blurred photo of Bernstein holding his book as a kind of endorsement. When you’re trying to hawk a book with a conspiracy that you don’t even believe, and your most prestigious promotional venues are “Off the Grid with Jesse Ventura”, I guess you take what you can get267. “When I wrote about Roger Stone 28 years ago,” Jacob Weisberg tweeted, who’d written the first and now unavailable profile of Stone, “State-of-the-art Sleazeball” [re-published in August 2016 in Slate, “State-of-the-art Sleazeball”], “I thought he was a menace.” With the publication of The Man Who Killed Kennedy, Weisberg had changed his mind. “Turned out he was merely a fool.”268

EMPTY VOICES, EMPTY ROOMS / I BRING THE APPLAUSE

I have stressed that Roger Stone is a man of no fixed beliefs, and yet reading about the Nixon era also clarifies what is permanent in the man, that the tactics and tools of that time would be used the rest of his life. When such gutterball shivings were exposed during the Watergate hearings, the reaction was of horror. That these same tactics were then recounted in Matt Labash’s “Roger Stone, Political Animal” and Jeffrey Toobin’s “The Dirty Trickster” as funny games, suggest an apathy in the press and a gangrene in democracy itself: we are powerless, and we will be badly treated, so we may as well laugh at the tricks of those who maltreat us. One reads Liddy’s memoir, and you suddenly sit up when he describes a counterdemonstration organized to attract attention away from anti-war rallies which take place after the mining of Haiphong harbor, because this organization of an almost entirely Cuban crowd in Miami suddenly makes you think of the faction of the Brooks Brother riot that Roger Stone supposedly organized in Miami during the 2000 election, not the Republican operatives inside the building, but a mainly Cuban crowd outside, a crowd that nobody appears to have seen except Roger Stone269. There are also these two moments, again from Schell’s The Time of Illusion, both showing off the same tactic, which might cause those familiar with Roger Stone’s career to suddenly laugh in recognition.

Here is one instance:

Charles Colson, using a White House apparatus for placing spurious advertisements in the press, ran an ad in the Times titled “The People vs. the New York Times” and taking the Times to task for an editorial critical of the mining [of Haiphong]. The advertisement did not say so, but “The People” in this case were the people in the White House. Over at the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, part of the staff was put to work sending in thousands of fraudulent “votes” to an informal television poll of public reaction to the mining. Donald Segretti got in touch with a number of his saboteurs in Florida and ordered them to stop harassing the Democrats long enough to send in messages of support. When all the instructions had gone out just about every spy, saboteur, con man, extortionist, forger, impostor, informer, burglar, mugger, and bagman – for that, astonishingly, is what they were – in the employ of the White House was at work manufacturing the appearance of public support for the President.

Here is another:

The Republican Convention brought to perfection in microcosm a Nixonian style of action which had been developing since he first assumed office. For years, the President’s speechwriters and public relations advisers had been engaged in a novel enterprise. Most Presidential speechwriters have restricted themselves to writing what the President employing them is to say, but President Nixon’s speechwriters also involved themselves in writing what was said about the President by others. They wrote the plays, and they wrote the reviews, too. The White House writers wrote speeches for Administration officials and friendly members of Congress to deliver about the President. (At the Convnetion, they even wrote the cues for the applause to those speeches.) They wrote rigged letters-to-the-editor and telegrams-to-the-editor with messages like “Thank goodness this country has President Nixon.” They had organized campaigns of telegrams of support to be sent to the White House, tried to arrange for newspaper columns to be written supporting the President. And, since the President’s speechwriters are, probably to a greater degree than any other employees of the government, creatures of his power – are, in fact, his alter egos, or “ghosts” – it could be said that the praise for the President which they arranged was in fact praise of the President for himself.

Whenever anybody wrote anything about Stone on-line, or about The Man Who Killed Kennedy, or sheriff Scott Israel, or the gaming company Genting, you started to notice a pattern in the comments. Enthusiastic support from the same names, over and over again, people who commented only about those things and nothing else, a tiny loud tribe of obsessives who wrote with ardor only of Roger Stone, a Broward sheriff’s race, Genting, and The Man Who Killed Kennedy.

There was someone named “Philip Dodge”, who showed up in the small number of comments for “The FishbowlDC Interview With Roger Stone”. Commenter mucholderguy had a nasty, funny quip: “He’s real brilliant in his own mind, isn’t he?” Philip Dodge had a lengthy reply: “Stone is playing with the reporter. For whatever reason he is being disarming and you seemed to have bought a ticket, too! Don’t be fooled. This is the man that advised Ronald Reagan how to win the cold war and saved us all from annihilation.” SteveGreer70 was as unimpressed as mucholderguy: “Roger needs better hair” Dodge, again: “Stone has been known to wildishly alter his coiffure over the years. Looks to me like he’s setting in for some serious business. The Libertarian Party is currently buzzing with rumors about a big move Stone is considering and I don’t mean the news that he has his favorite candidate the Manhattan madam Kristin Davis running for Mayor of New York City.”270 Who Philip Dodge was, and why he was so passionate about Roger Stone remained mysterious. The Philip Dodge Facebook page was minimal – he was a member of the Libertarian Party of Florida, a fan of Ron Paul’s, a man whose activities were entirely devoted to The Man Who Killed Kennedy, with one strange quality to his physical appearance in his AV. It was not that of a celebrity, but of another unknown man entirely, that of Hal Jones, President and CEO of Hal Jones Development, who was involved in Destination Resorts. Whether this was a case of Jones posting comments endorsing Roger Stone’s book under an alias, while retaining his own profile picture, or someone creating a dummy acount and carelessly filching the picture of Hal Jones for the profile, unaware of how easily these things can be traced, I leave to the reader’s judgement.

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

(Taken from “The FishbowlDC Interview With Roger Stone”; the Facebook page of Philip Dodge; “Circuit Events Host Committee – Circuit of The Americas – Home of the Formula 1 US Grand Prix | Nov. 15-17 2013”)

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

(Hal Jones headshot, taken from “Circuit Events Host Committee – Circuit of The Americas – Home of the Formula 1 US Grand Prix | Nov. 15-17 2013” and the headshot from Philip Dodge’s Facebook)

“Of course I read it and found it fascinating,” commented Philip Dodge in the story “Roger Stone’s New Book Says LBJ Killed JFK”. “Not only is it impossible to put down once you start reading sensational detail after sensational detail, but Stone supplies evidence every step of the way to make his case.”271 “Corsi challenges Bill O’Reilly to JFK-assassination debate”, was the headline, and Philip Dodge had something to say: “Roger Stone is the only one in the mix that actually sat in on many a secret meeting alongside Tricky Dick in the post-LBJ White House.” Anything else? “Sources like Daily Beast and National Enquirer all indicate the Roger Stone book will be the ‘history changing’ epic among the latest crop of books and that’s probably why it has risen to #1 in presales at Amazon.”272 “Ventura: LBJ Had The Most To Gain From JFK Assassination”. Philip Dodge, the comment below: “The important book to remember will be Roger Stone’s which doesn’t come out for two more weeks. In the book ‘The Man Who Killed Kennedy – The Case Against LBJ’ Roger Stone performed laborious research on subject matter and materials that he gleaned from a place no one else has, namely the Post-LBJ White House right at Nixon’s side when many a secret was bandied about. It is no accident that Jesse Ventura’s book makes the same assertions but it is the Stone book that will be providing the proof including fingerprints.”273 There was “The List: Facts about President John F. Kennedy’s love of sports”, which Philip Dodge managed to make about his usual obsession. “There are many, many new revelations about JFK, LBJ and Nixon in Roger Stone’s new book ‘The Man Who Killed Kennedy – The Case Against LBJ’ where Stone uses his insider knowledge having served presidents to spell out the truth about corruption, power, greed and the greatest crime of the 20th century.”274 Surprisingly, Philip Dodge had something to comment on at “Roger Stone: ‘Nixon thought LBJ killed Kennedy'”: “This book is an amazing work. While nearly a hundred books about JFK were written this season, this one has risen to number #3 with it having been in circulation for less than three weeks and that happened for a reason. Roger Stone is a stickler on the facts. He performs exhaustive research. For those of you who have not read the book yet I would suggest that you do it sooner rather than later.”275 “NY Times best selling author Roger Stone to visit Palm Beach for book signing” had this comment by Doug: “This guy’s conclusions are flimsier than one-ply toilet paper.” Philip Dodge replied: “Anybody with a wit of sense that really read Stone’s book could not make such a statement. It is chock full of multiple arguments that would stand up well in a court of law. I would urge readers to examine it for themselves and not rely on worthless internet chatter.”276

jakeslaw would comment on “Ex-GOP Bad Boy Roger Stone Eyes Florida Run”, “Roger stone and his wife Ann were part of the problems that the GOP has had these many years. They would compromise on principles to gain power. They support abortion and think it is just about money.” Philip Dodge: “Stone was smart enough to jump ship to the Libertarians at the last minute before the smell came in. Chastise him as you may, he in ernest [sic] represents the same values we believe in and I would take a governor founded in Barry Goldwater’s conservatism any day compared to a pompus [sic] Rick Scott who looks like a bald-headed turtle or a ‘not yet out of the closet’ former gov like Crist.”277 – incidentally, in 2011, Roger Stone joined the board of GOProud278. “Roger Stone pondering a campaign for Florida governor with an emphasis on pot”, once again, had Philip Dodge: “I am grateful to Stone for advising Reagan how to win the cold war and the result was that we were all saved from oblivion. Stone possesses the brass to turn Florida into the leading state to save the entire country. I know he has the money to beat Rick Scott and Charlie Crist is now a joke so the question is: Are Floridians ready to embrace a third party Libertarian candidate? I dare say, yes!” There was also a comment from a lovely blonde, Juanita Feenis: “Rick Scott and Charlie Crist are wimps. Stone represents a kind of personality with guys and wisdom that would rival Chris Christie’s ‘baron of governors’ status.”279 Feenis had also commented on “Ex-GOP Bad Boy Roger Stone Eyes Florida Run”: “When I grew up, my father would watch Roger Stone on CNN’s ‘Crossfire’ all the time and remarked how much sense Stone made. That was back when CNN actually had some ratings. As far as I’m concerned, Stone is well qualified, better known and better liked than the current or former governor in the upcoming election. If he runs, he will have my vote.”280 Feenis also had an opinion on “CBS Omits Spitzer’s Political Opponent Allegedly Provided Him With Prostitutes”: “Jay Leno asked Eliot Spitzer ‘How could you be so stupid?’ and Eliot Spitzer had a rambling answer. I don’t think Spitzer is sane. The disgraced former Governor and AG is not the right person to control the taxpayers money. He has the temperament of a pit bull. I’ll take calm, cool, collected, and smart any day when it comes to handling money which is why I think Kristin Davis is a better fit for the job.”281 “Eliot Spitzer to Jay Leno: ‘Hubris’ was my failing”: Ms. Feenis: “Folks, he is nuts. I don’t want him controlling my money. Spitzer makes Kristin Davis look more and more like the best candidate for comptroller with every appearance he makes.”282

Feenis was a fascinating, well rounded woman. She wanted to see Roger Stone elected governor of Florida, she wanted Kristin Davis as comptroller of New York City, but she also had a passionate interest in the gambling industry. She had something to say with regards to “Boyd Gaming retains ownership of the name ‘Stardust'”: “While the casino industry has been ever expanding in America, the economic strain and ubiquity of gambling houses has created a slump in general revenue. Certain Asian sectors like the one’s [sic] Genting thrives in are not experiencing any slump at all. They can bring in beaucoup hard dollars and entice foreign tourism like no one else.”283 “Genting buys Echelon for $2 billion Resorts World Las Vegas”: “It is a great day for Las Vegas! Genting will literally bring in billions per year to the economy. Jobs, local money, Vegas is back! Sheldon Adelson is turning over in his grave…oh wait, he’s not dead yet! No matter. Genting will be bringing in enough rich Asians to provide the entire city with a much needed stimulus even the Sands.” Here, she was joined by another woman, Karla von Stetten: “Genting resorts have their own fanbase. This new complex will bring in droves of foreign tourists. After four years of misery we now have been presented with salvation. Go Genting!”284

What were Von Stetten’s other interests? “Who was Lee Harvey Oswald? Questions linger after John F Kennedy’s assassination”, Von Stetten: “The new Roger Stone book ‘The Man Who Killed Kennedy – The Case Against LBJ’ explains all these things once and for all and does so in a very entertaining and authoritative manner. Remember, Stone was Nixon’s side kick back in those days and they discussed many a secret.”285 “CNN’s Tapper to Eliot Spitzer: Shouldn’t You Have Gone to Jail?” Von Stetten: “Spitzer is a vile and contemptible individual that should never be permitted to hold public office.”286 “Manhattan Madam to Eliot Spitzer: ‘Gosh, It’s Going to Be a Fun Race!'” Karla Von Stetten says: “Throughout his career he has been a bully who used underhanded tactics on anyone (including innocents) that got in his way. He had a miserable record as a prosecutor losing almost all of his trials. Spitzer has never paid for any of his illegal acts. He should go away and live off the rest of his father’s money and not that of the taxpayers. I’m voting for Kristin Davis.”287 “Letters at 3AM: JFK and That Hard Rain” Karla von Stetten: “TUESDAY. ‘The Man Who Killed Kennedy – The Case Against LBJ’ author Roger Stone will visit Austin to answer questions and sign books. As a longtime political operative, Roger Stone advised every Republican president from Nixon to ‘W.'” This got a reply from another commenter, Richard Knox: “I always enjoyed watching Roger Stone on the old CNN Crossfire when he would guest host. I am excited to hear he has a best seller. Where will he be appearing in Austin on Tuesday?”288

Just as Philip Dodge bore a startling resemblance to Hal Jones, Karla Von Stetten appeared to be an exact double for a Michèle, who appeared in a German magazine as their “Page One girl”, “Michèle of Stetten AG” (NSFW), or “Michèle aus Stetten AG”. Stetten AG is, I believe, Stetten, of the canton Aargau (AG) of Switzerland.

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

(first image taken from screenshot of “CNN’s Tapper to Eliot Spitzer: Shouldn’t You Have Gone to Jail?”, second is a screenshot of Von Stetten’s Disqus profile from the same link, third is a screenshot of the twitter handle @KarlavonStetten, fourth is taken from “Michèle of Stetten AG” – NSFW)

The Richard Knox who replied to Von Stetten shared many of her interests, as well as those of Philip Dodge, and Juanita Feenis. “Eliot Spitzer to Jay Leno: Wall Street Rooting Against Me” Knox: “Spitzer seemed at home in Hollywood. That’s where he should stay. What are the statutes of limitations on blackmail, whore-mongering or the Mann Act? We don’t need a lunatic to take care of NY taxpayers hard earned money. California is the ideal place for him where he will fit in fine with celebrity reprobates.”289 “Florida poll: Charlie Crist tops Rick Scott” “Good news for Charlie Crist, right? Maybe not,” wrote Knox. “Now that he has flip-flopped on the marijuana issue to help his lawyer pal John Morgan line his pockets, Crist has further alienated even the most disenchanted Republicans. Now please tell me what’s the chance that Charlie Crist who is despised among black voters given his ‘Chain-Gang’ Charlie reputation oppressing minorities is going to shine in the Democratic strongholds of Florida like Miami-Dade?”290 Knox was incredibly knowledgeable about some obscure politicos. “FBI Arrest Mayors Of Miami Lakes and Sweetwater in Florida: Mike Pizzi, Manuel Morono Charged in Corruption Schemes” Knox: “Today’s environment where government employees feel empowered to make up stories against decent public servants like Michael Pizzi makes me scratch my head and wonder if America will ever come back from the cataclysmic brink. Pizzi is about as innocent as they come. The consulting firm of Becker & poliakoff hired a bottom feeding individual Jose Keichi Fuentes along with his partner Richard Candia. When the firm got put in a spotlight implicating them of having conducted criminal acts, the various stooges had to get thrown under the bus starting with Candia who was also arrested in this recent bust. I do not trust the FBI.”291

Knox’s interest in obscure politicians was matched by William Windorf, a man with a single Like on his Facebook page, for The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ. “Cats would not ‘grab a banana and eat it’ because he knew it was sprayed with camouflage to disguise the fact that the fruits and vegetables were all past their prime at Gristedes,” Windorf posted to “John Catsimatidis Spending Big on Billboards, Lip Balm and Candy”, about John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota’s opponent in the New York City Republican mayoral primary. “This is why he was fined over and over again along with selling tainted meat and fish. Where did you think all the money came from to pay for billboards?” “Few Mayoral Candidates Stand Up to Chassidim on ‘Metzitzah B’peh'” provoked this reaction from Windorf: “I heard Catsimatidis had been repeatedly fined for foisting bad food products on the customers and I knew he was vulgar from his cussing remarks at the Republican meeting but what I just leanred was that he maintains no personal hygiene whatsoever.” This comment at The Jewish Press also featured a complaint from Philip Dodge. “Catsimatidis used to spray dye coloring on his fruits and vegetables at Gristedes to conceal they were rotten inside from the unsuspecting public. Talk about non Kosher he received fines for selling rotting meat and fish. This is not the man I want for my mayor.”292 Karla Von Stetten was equally upset about the hygiene of Catsimatidis. “Daughter of Republican Mayoral Hopeful John Catsimatidis is Sort of a Mini-Celebrity in China”, Von Stetten: “Her appearance is quite provocative to the Chinese. It is notable that she has been quoted in the Times for repeated scolding her mayoral candidate father just how dirty Gristedes is.” “Which NYC Mayoral Candidates Think Spying on American Muslims is Unconstitutional?”, Von Stetten: “I see they left Catsimatidis out, probably strategically. According to the Empire State Ledger nobody wants to sit next to him because he hasn’t bathed or brushed his teeth.”293

“Roger Stone previews ‘CIA coup’ theory of Watergate at Woodward-Bernstein event” got this comment from Windorf: “I am delighted to hear that Roger Stone is releasing another book. “The Man Who Killed Kennedy – The Case Against LBJ” was an excellent book which I keep on my coffee table in the living room. It always draws comments from my guests. Stone being the greatest living authority on Nixon means we will finally be presented with the truth about Watergate.”294 “How a Texas Paper Brought Down Billie Sol Estes”, also had Windorf: “It is curious for him to die right when his name comes back into the news thanks to Roger Stone’s new book implicating LBJ and pals in the Kennedy assassination. Billy Sol Estes is a key figure in the book,” which prompted this reply from David: “Mr. Windorf – Roger Stone’s book is not to be released until later this year. I am curious as to where you saw the information about Billie Sol Estes.” David received no reply from Windorf295. “Bimini SuperFast Makes Inaugural Voyage” was a story about a cruise from Miami to a gambling resort on Bimini. The enterprise was owned and run by the gaming company Genting, also known as Resorts World, and the story got a comment from Windorf. “I had a really good time on the ship, especially in the Aqua Bar and Grill. I would highly recommend this get-away for anyone with an extra $49 bucks and some time to kill while visiting Miami.” Windorf had other things to say about the Bimini SuperFast and Genting. “Controversial resort opens up Bimini to the world”, Windorf: “Resorts World is well known for making dramatic improvements to anywhere they set up shop. Because Bimini is environmentally sensitive, you can’t rush them with their plans to carefully tip-toe through the offshore area in a way to preserve and protect the reefs and beaches. Some locals quite frankly don’t understand that there are natural growing pains whenever a major improvement is brought to an area.” “Bahamas National Trust calls for disclosure on Bimini facility”, Windorf: “The Genting Group is known worldwide for being highly sensitive to the well being of local areas where they break ground. Environmentalists can expect to finally have an ecosystem that is well protected and living symbiotically with the activities of the mooring dock. It is a win-win situation.”296 “Analysts give mixed reviews for Genting’s Strip plans” prompted a lengthy reply from Windorf. “Genting has performed a bit of magic and Las Vegas will greatly benefit from it. Genting will pull in rich tourists from all over Asia. Vegas gets plenty of fresh dollars and the other Genting properties like New York which is oing quite well and Miami, yet to be built see first hand how Genting a formidable and well respected world player brings prosperity wherever they set up stakes.” He was not alone in his enthusiasm for the gaming multi-national. “Analysts aside, there is no other force on this Earth that is willing and able to do what Genting is doing in Las Vegas,” said Juanita Freenis297. “Disney Said to Be Dishing Big Bucks in Tallahassee, Preparing for Destination Casino Fight”, again brought out Windorf, against Disney and someone he saw as one of their paid for allies. “There should be a moratorium how many times “expert” testimony spouted by academicians like Robert Jarvis, obviously a paid hack, gets published.” His appearance was notable here, because right below he was joined by Philip Dodge, making a similar complaint. “I follow the casino/gambling fight carefully and frequently see Robert Jarvis on the wrong side of the issue. He is right that Disney is scared but in this case Disney and No Casinos are stealing from Florida’s future,” Dodge wrote. “Jarvis has worn out any credibility he might have once had by being a go-to professor willing to say whatever any reporter wants to hear in order to further his name recognition.”298

“Sofia Vergara and Nick Loeb: Brawling Over Her Ex on New Year’s Eve?”, about a financial executive who briefly considered a Florida Senate run and his better known actress girlfriend, featured a strange moment of fusion. There was William Windorf commenting on the story, “Nick and Sofia were not fighting with each other. Rather, they were fighting off the bodyguards of well known South Beach thug Ferrydoun Khalilian who has a way of rubbing people the wrong way. It’s over now and Khalilian will soon be deported anyway”; but there was the profile picture of Philip Dodge, the profile pic of Hal Jones. This was a subject which clearly impassioned William Windorf, because he also commented on “Sofia Vergara & Boyfriend’s NYE Fight Caused Boob Explosion?!”: “Despite reports like these, Nick and Sopia were not fighting with each other, rather they were fighting with moronic bodyguards from Iranian thug Ferrydoun Khalilian who’s claim to fame was co-owning failed nightclubs with Paris Hilton. Now he’ll have a hard time staying at a Hilton.” 299

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Depending on who was behind “William Windorf” and “Philip Dodge”, we might have had a confrontation between two old adversaries in the comments for the Independent Political Report post, “Roger Stone Considers Run for Florida Governor”. Both Dodge and Windorf made enthusiastic noises about a Stone candidacy. Dodge: “Nixon and Reagan were not advocating the legalization of marijuana but Roger Stone is along with promoting a number of forward thinking Libertarian ideals. He could bring nationwide publicity to the Libertarian Party. Let’s see what he has to say at his next appearance.” “Roger Stone might have some detractors here at IPR (Do I detect some jealously?),” wrote Windorf. “Libertarians do not otherwise have any candidates in Florida that could even come close to Stone in political savvy, financial resources and national notoriety.” Dodge’s claims got a reply from Warren Redlich, the man who’d been smeared by Roger Stone and who’d soundly beat Stone’s own candidate Kristin Davis in the 2010 New York governor’s election. “By all means listen to his lies and decide how good they sound.” Redlich had a fairly strong suspicion of what was taking place. “Would anyone be surprised that this is William Windorf’s only comments on IPR, and Phillip Dodge only has 2 comments, both supporting Stone,” wrote Redlich. “I smell troll.”300

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

(Profile pictures of Juanita Feenis and William Windorf, taken from the Facebook pages of Windorf and Feenis.)

All of these characters were passionately interested in the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and all of them were strongly supportive of Scott Israel. Most of them were there for “Update: Demos Fed Up With Sheriff’s Blunders”. William Windorf: “Where is the poll to prove the assertion that the ‘demos are fed up?’ No evidence, no proof whatsoever is cited. Citizens who know the crime rate has gone down (not conspiracists who think the statistics are faked) feel the sheriff has done quite well during the first leg of his service.” Karla von Stetten: “What I glean from this hatchet job of reporting and commentary is that the so-called missteps of the sheriff have reduced the crime in the country. Good job Israel. Have the rest of you Lamberti loving whiners considered that your vehemence bring down the Esprit de corps at BSO, diminishes the respect of the community for the department and actually makes Broward a more dangerous place to live?” Dick Knox: “Let’s face it, the few democrats mentioned never supported Israel to begin with. I’ll bet Israel requested that budget increase to keep veteran officers on the job and maybe get them a tiny raise. You can’t blame him for that.”301 Richard Knox would also comment on two stories by Bob Norman. One dealt with the past record of one of the sheriff’s hires, “Legal problems may stop BSO hiring”, Knox: “Am I the only one that looks at this report and smells something bad? It looks like Sheriff Scott Israel’s office unearthed the legal ‘trouble’ that she forewarned the Sheriff about namely some bounced checks from her college days which she made restitution on. Does that warrant a big investigative news story? Oh wait, there were some unpaid traffic tickets too! Watch out!” The other had to do with the hiring of associates of Roger Stone, “Sheriff Scott Israel makes new hires to ‘connect with community'”. Knox: “Dianne Thorne was briefly involved with a different Tea Party than the one Bob Norman is trying to associate her with. It really seems like Bob Norman is accusing Sheriff Israel of somehow playing dirty pool here but is doing so without any evidence.”302

One might play this game endlessly, and so I stop now, to give thanks303. Thank goodness this country has President Nixon. Thank goodness this country has Sheriff Scott Israel. Thank goodness this country has Genting. Thank goodness this country has Roger Stone, the man who saved our world from nuclear annihilation.

POST-SCRIPT (05/11/2014):

A video of Roger Stone on tour to promote his book, Nixon’s Secrets, when he was at Avenue Books on October 24th, 2014, has him introduced and shaking hands with Robert Morrow, before Stone addressed the overflow crowd at the vast venue. From the video “Roger Stone Presentation on “Nixon’s Secrets” at Brave New Books”:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

(Since publication, some small errors in spelling have been made. Some pictures of Johnson and Dodge were added for comparison, and the point about the striking similarity between Von Stetten and a page one model was added on February 23rd. The comments Von Stetten made about John Catsimatidis and the detail about Robert Morrow’s Margot Clarke email were added on that date as well. February 23rd, 2014 also saw the addition of the material on William Windorf and the Bimini SuperFast. On February 26th, the material on Charlie Crist and Stone’s contradictary statements on John McCain were added to the opening paragraph. On that same date, the reference to Dodge and Windorf both showing up on the page “Disney Said to Be Dishing Big Bucks in Tallahassee”, about the fight between Disney and Genting, was added. The points about Carl Bernstein and the accompanying footnote were added as well. Jacob Weisberg’s tweet – also added on February 26th. The footnote #256 dealing with Jennifer Fitzgerald, James Parrott, and George H.W. Bush was added on February 28th, as was the footnote dealing with other possible sock puppets like Adele Jeter and Erica Benafucci. Footnote #245 dealing with smears used as a counterattack on “Buzzsaw” was added on March 3rd, and the epigraph from Norman Mailer’s “A Harlot High and Low” was added on the 4th. On March 15th, the section dealing with Stanley Kutler’s Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes was added. On April 9th, 2015, this post underwent a session of copy editing. On April 18, 2015, links to the recordings in which members of the Nixon administration discuss the Huston plan were added.)

ROGER STONE:

PRETTY RECKLESS IS GOING STRAIGHT TO HELL

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR PART FIVE PART SIX

PART SEVEN PART EIGHT PART NINE PART TEN

FOOTNOTES

242 Most of these contradictions have already been discussed, and sourced, in previous parts. The use of earmarks is discussed in part six. The strange contradictions are discussed in part six and briefly in part eight. Stone’s use and misuse of third parties, alongside his mourning the lack of a third party is discussed in part eight.

I give a partial transcript of his speech at Quincy, “quincy 912 09 Roger Stone” (part one) and “quincy 912 10 Roger Stone” (part two).

From “quincy 912 09 Roger Stone”, 5:02 to 6:25:

There is no doubt that when the Republicans had the leadership in the White House and in Congress, we did spend more than we should have, both parties, including my own, are complicit in what has happened to America. Because since Ronald Reagan was president, I’m sorry, conservatism in our domestic policy has not been tried, and therefore, has not failed. Now, I think it’s funny that those on the left, the people who so revere the civil rights protests, and anti-Vietnam war protests, of the 1970s and the sixtires. The anti-war movement. When it was them, who were screaming the obscenities…but now, they say, that you, all of you, well, most of you…were paid by the insurance companies to be here. Put up your hands, how many got paid to be here today? The HMOs, did they pay you? The insurance companies? Exactly. This is a real grass roots rebellion. As I said earlier, this White House has their head in the sand.

The quote about McCain being a member of an establishment and an actual maverick comes from “Roger Stone on New Media and Old Campaign Tricks” conducted on November 3, 2008. The following is taken from a partial transcript that can be found in part eight, footnote #204. I bold the mention:

GILLESPIE
How brilliant a political strategy was the Palin pick? [the delivery conveys no irony, and there is no subsequent laughter]

STONE
Breathtaking. Because it takes advantage of discord in the democratic party caused essentially by the dumping of Hillary Clinton. They not only don’t nominate her, even though she gets eighteen million votes, they don’t consider her seriously for the ticket, leaving the Republican party a big fat opening. Now, a lot of people thought that all of the women who supported Hillary were ultra-liberals and therefore they couldn’t possibly be attracted by a Palin candidacy. That’s turned out to be false. Many of the women who supported Hillary supported her because they felt it was important to elect a woman president, they thought the role of women was expanding, this would be history making. We’re gonna get thirty percent of the people who voted for Hillary. They’re gonna vote for the McCain-Palin ticket. And that’s very significant. I also like it because it wrenched control of the Republican party away from the party establishment. The republican establishment in Washington does not like John McCain. They don’t like him because they can’t trust him to go along and keep his mouth shut. He really is a maverick, I disagree with Matt Welch in this regard. [a reference to the Matt Welch book: McCain: The Myth of a Maverick] And Sarah Palin didn’t go to Yale. She’s not part of the fraternity here in town. She’s truly an outsider in the sense that McCain is an outsider. So I think that she is out of the Goldwater Reagan Laxalt brand of western frontier conservatism which is not an Ivy league establishment eastern institution brand of republicanism. I think she’s a breath of fresh air.

The quote about McCain being an establishment figure is taken from the interview, “TPMtv: Josh Marshall Enters… THE STONE ZONE”, conducted on December 3, 2008:

JOSH MARSHALL
What about the whole thing suspending the campaign…there was a big rap against McCain towards the end for just being erratic…That was obviously a key word for the Obama campaign…

STONE
The problem here…I never thought there was anything wrong with suspending his campaign…and going to Washington as a device that served to get everybody’s attention. The problem is what he did when he got to Washington, which was, in essence, embrace a bailout that now, in retrospect, doesn’t smell too good. Both its efficiency, its effectiveness, really did what it was supposed to do…in fact, the money’s going to places we told people it was going to. McCain’s classic mistake: he had no rationale for his candidacy, in the post-economic crash period. He was handed one: folks, I went to Washington, I saw the deal on the table. I agree with the House Republicans, it stinks. It’s not a main street deal, it’s a Wall Street deal. It’s bailing out the same thieves that got us into this mess. I’m against it. Evidently, Senator Obama and his party are for it. That’s the difference between us and them. Let him struggle. Now he has a rationale to run on this campaign and close on it. Instead, McCain, who’s an establishment figure, goes to Washington, signs on the Goldman bill, of, by, and for Goldman Sachs…we bail out AIG because Goldman has a position there…but we don’t bail out Lehman Brothers because they’re not in the Goldman quagmire…I mean, it’s an amazing piece of legerdemain to come to the legislature…McCain shouldn’t have endorsed it, he’d have had a populist issue to close on, and he might have won the race.

The quote about Crist being a chameleon who believes nothing is taken from “Roger Stone: A gallus-snapping campaign for governor?” by Jacob Engels:

Why consider running for Governor? And why now?

Like most Floridians, I am dissatisfied with our choices. As someone who believes in limited government and fiscal responsibly, I have become disappointed in Governor Scott as of late. He founded his political career opposing government-mandated healthcare and he is now embracing it.

He seems to be abandoning what got him elected. Throwing money at teachers won’t fix our broken education system yet that is what he seems to be proposing. Former Governor Charlie Crist is even more dangerous. He seems to change positions like the wind. I’m not sure what he stands for, other than the election of Charlie Crist.

Scott is a good man who seems to have lost his way. Crist is a dangerous chameleon that believes in nothing. We’ll see.

243 The following is a transcript of “Roger Stone Brings Up the Infamous ‘Whitey’ Tape!” (youtube). The bolded sections are where Stone gives it mention:

GERALDO RIVERA
Roger, I want to start with you. You have some news, or at least your own incendiary prediction on Michelle Obama’s allged vulnerabilities. What do you know, or at least, what do you think you know?

STONE
Well, there’s a buzz which I believe now to be credible, some indelible record exists of public remarks that Michelle Obama allegedly made, which are outrageous at worst – at best – but could be termed racist, including some reference to white people as “whiteys”. Allegedly. And there’s been a race here, Geraldo-

RIVERA
Now, wait a sec- wait a sec- Roger, you can’t just say that when there’s no proof for it-

STONE
No no, let me finish. There’s been a race here between Clinton research people who are seeking this tape, and the republican opposition researchers and the Republican National Committee. I now believe a network has this tape, I believe that reliably, something like that could roil the race, which explains why, to me, Hillary Clinton is staying in this race. What other reason is there to stay in this race, other than hoping that there is a bomb, at high level, Clinton operatives say there is a bomb of this nature. I have heard that from credible-

RIVERA
Hold it there…okay. We hear that you heard it. Let me go to Michael Brown for his response, and let me also point out that Roger Stone was the person who said that he heard that New York governor Eliot Spitzer was using the services of prostitutes, and at least in that incendiary allegation, there was some facts behind it, and ultimately it was proven true. But Michael Brown why don’t you respond to what you just heard from Roger Stone?

BROWN
Well, I’m not gonna question whether he believes what he’s saying is true. But I will say that the Republicans are up to their usual stuff, when they cannot beat Democrats on issues, they always go personal negative. That’s what this is all about. We’re gonna see this for the next six months from the Republican party, this is what they do. I don’t know why we should be shocked by all of this. I think they’re starting a little early, they’re probably off their timeline a little bit…I’m not surprised by this, it has nothing to do with anything except flat-out politics, and it’s ugly, and these are the kinda things that don’t help the American people come to the polls to vote. They don’t keep people inspired and I’m sure the Obamas will obviously prevail on issues like this and stay focused on issues, assuming he’s the nominee.

STONE
This really has very little to do with the general election, this has a lot to do with why Hillary Clinton is staying in this race. Look, there’s already a buzz in Washington. At least seven news organizations have contacted me, wanting to know, how to get their hands on this tape, giving me more information than I had after I spoke to each one of them. I now believe the tape exists, I believe a network has it. If this pans out to be true, based on Michelle Obama’s previous comment, that this was the first that she had been proud of her country…which I think shows, an attitude that is problematic.

RIVERA
And I’ll give you a hundred bucks if it’s true. I’ll give you a hundred bucks if it’s true. I don’t believe it’s true. Michael Brown, you respond.

BROWN
Well, his premise is that this is why Hillary Clinton is staying in, hoping that this bombshell derails Senator Obama’s nomination effort. That’s not why Senator Clinton is staying in the race. She’s staying in the race, hoping that now she has the popular vote lead, the superdelegates will say, maybe Senator Clinton is the best person to take on John McCain. That’s why she’s staying in the race. She wants to make the argument to superdelegates. And to obviously put out this notion that there’s some race between the Clinton campaign and the news media organization is nonsense. This is a republican tactic-

STONE
And the republicans.

BROWN
And the republicans. Roger, you and I both know that this is a republican tactic, this is what they do. And this is what we’re going to continue to see for the next six months, because they have no answer about the war, they have no answer about gas prices, they have no answers about health care, so they do smear. That’s what they do.

RIVERA
Michael Brown, thank you. Roger Stone, thank you, we’ll see.

244 A still from the first along with transcript:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Hey, Scott. You never told me you were a policeman. And as for Susan, twenty years of marriage, I thought it was only fifteen. Yeah. So, I guess you didn’t include that in our…six month little relationship we’ve been having. But of course, that’s between you and me. Let’s hope no one, including your triplets, see this video. Have a nice night.

A still from “Take 2” along with transcript:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Hi, Scott. So, you already know I had to have an abortion because you have a wife and three kids. Really, Scott? Twenty years? A wife of twenty years? Susan, or whatever her name is. Triplets? I mean- Is this for real? Like, you know I was only seventeen when this had to happen, honestly I just can’t believe this.

245 I believe there is evidence of Richard Nixon emplying a similar tactic at some point during his career, it is just a question of finding it. However, Stone is certainly familiar with this approach, as might be seen in a fragment from the episode of “Buzzsaw: LBJ and the Killing of JFK with Roger Stone (Nov 24, 2013)”. I make no attempts to argue the many claims made in – that Robert Kennedy’s catholicism and Barack Obama’s race were advantages in their elections – only quote this to make clear that Stone is familiar with this method of attack, and that he considers it an effective form of attack. Excerpt runs from 34:33 to 35:56, I bold the relevant portion:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

ROGER STONE
The military industrial complex is not ideological. They’re about money and power. They’re neither right nor left. They will invent a candidate on the right and left if they need one. So, people were upset about George W. Bush; so, they created Barack Obama. Who’s fully unqualified to be president of the United States. Who served in the state Senate, and the U.S. Senate, and has written two biographies, but no major legislation of any kind. So, the military industrial complex, the American media establishment, they can go either right or left depending on what’s required at the time.

TYREL VENTURA
And it makes sense, coming out of the Bush presidency, with Cheney and all of that, we’re feeling very constricted, we’re feeling very down, we need a new champion of the people.

STONE
Plus they take advantage of the democratic [sic – most likely “demographic” is meant here] change. We have more and more minority voters. So, maybe it was time for the first minority president. Being black was not a detriment to his candidacy, it was an asset to his candidacy. Just like Kennedy’s being catholic was a benefit, not a drawback. In fact, Bobby Kennedy had millions of pieces of violently anti-catholic literature attacking John Kennedy printed, he put Hubert Humphrey’s name on it, and he mailed it to the voters in West Virginia. All the catholic households, only.

246 The incongruous use of this font was brought up in many places, including the comments for “‘Have You Had Sex with Rick Perry?’ Asks Ad” [archive link] by Maureen O’Connor, such as devinhoward’s “Interesting font choice. Is CASH going to use the information to exploit weaknesses in a large battle station? A small exhaust port maybe?” (link)

247 Quotes and excerpts of this Alex Jones program taken from the following partial transcript:

JONES
We are joined by Robert Morrow, the man of the hour, to tell us about himself and why he’s running this ad, and what evidence he has that indeed Rick Perry is gallavanting around, being a hypocrite, telling us he has all these christian values…I should add that it’s also coming out in newspapers across the country that Rick Perry is an investor in a chain of porno movie outlets. That’s all over mainstream news. And the religious right is running an attack ad against him for that. And, I did confirm in the Texas ethics commission, filings that Rick Perry reportedly did go in Florida to a male drag queen…uh…strip club to see some type of event…and there’s reports on that going back two years. So we’re gonna talk about it all. Where there’s smoke, is there fire? I mean, I’ve heard these rumors for many, many years. Robert Morrow, tell us a little bit about yourself, and then why you’re doing this.

MORROW
Well, Alex, I’m a local political activist here in Texas. I’m a three time delegate to the Texas state Republican convention, 2006, 2008, 2010. I have voted for Rick Perry in the past, 1998, 2002, 2006. What it boils down to is this: is that Rick Perry is a man who campaigns on christian values. He uses bible buzzwords for political gain, he appears on-stage in Houston with all these preachers, yet he’s living a double life. The reason I know that, Alex, is because Rick Perry, his enabling entourage and I, like the same women.

JONES
Well, that’s quite a charge. Again, I’m gonna be honest with you, Robert. You wouldn’t even be here right now if a lot of people I know vouched for you, and said you were a stand-up guy, they’ve known you for many many years. Some of them a decade, I’ve known for a decade. And, I’m not saying, oh, you’re lucky to be here. I’m saying, I wouldn’t have you here, if a lot of people I know and trust, said you were a stand-up guy. That means two things are happening. Either all these people who are telling you this information are lying to you; or they’re telling the truth. And either way, this is dangerous. So, let’s get into the allegations.

MORROW
Okay, the reason they’re credible is because there are multiple allegations. I met a stripper a couple years ago, she said “I was working on-stage in a club, and a man comes up to me, and he says, ‘Here’s five hundred dollars. That’s just for starters if you come with me.'” Because that’s what a dancer might make in a whole night, with table dances and tips like that. She said, “Sure, I’ll do it,” and she got into her regular clothes, and she was delivered to…Rick Perry. And when she got to Rick Perry, she told me a couple years ago, before the 2010 gubernatorial race, she said that she and Rick Perry started fooling around, and she was trying to give him a “Monica Lewinsky”, I think it was oral sex, and her words to me were, “I think he was too coked up, to get it up.” K? After they’d been playing around for a while, and it was time for her to go, Rick Perry paid her an outrageous sum of money well into the four digits. Rick Perry’s not a rich man; he’s only worth a million or two dollars. It’s not a lot of money compared to who he runs around with. It makes me think that Rick Perry is taking bribes and illegal gifts from his entourage to fund his extra-curricular activities. And that was just one lady.

JONES
Well, that’s one source. Before you went public with all of this, and contacted me a month ago, you say you were contacted by high-end escorts as well.

MORROW
I know other women in town, strippers, young hotties, some escorts, and this is what blew me away: I heard from another lady, who’s had direct dealings with Rick Perry’s entourage. And she told me, this man told her, when Rick Perry goes on the road, he gets the quote “young hotties”. Hence, I use the phrase “young hotties” in my ad. And he told her, he says that they take these young women and they go back to Rick Perry’s hotel room, and they’re literally having orgies and group sex in the hotel room. Perhaps, maybe, Rick Perry is having sex with a woman on a sofa and his friend is having sex with another young hottie on a bed. So, that was two. Now, the second person who told me this, is very credible, she’s educated, she knows her way around the world politically here in Austin, she’s not some sortof seventeen year old runaway on drugs or something. She’s somebody who runs with the elite of Austin, Texas. So that was the second source on that. So, after I heard that, I said, “It is confirmed.” Rick Perry is obviously being flagrantly adulterous, his entourage is procuring strippers for him, renting the hotel rooms, calling the escort services, then recently, this week, yet another young lady who’s friends with yet another popular, long-time escort, said that, yeah, you know, this lady, her friend, had a tryst with Rick Perry in one of the nicer hotels in Austin, Texas. So, that’s three right there. And I’ve been unable to get these people to go public for obvious reasons, you know, trying to get a stripper, or an escort, or a gay, closeted gay man, to go public is very difficult for obvious reasons, hence my ad. So I took out this ad, “Have you ever had sex with Rick Perry?” as a plea, to the greater community, to quit covering for Rick Perry, this you know, christian buzzword spouting hypocrite, who’s leading a double life.

JONES
Well, I’ve gotta say, Robert, that…we’ve seen what’s happened with a New York governor who passed a law to take the property away from men who hire prostitutes, throw them under the jail, while he was visiting high end prostitutes. We’ve seen all these Republican leaders caught in bathrooms, and going after their pages. We know about Bohemian Grove. And so, doing my research, I know that to get into the upper echelons of the Republican party, especially, they don’t feel comfortable around you, unless you’ve done some things they can use against you. And the main way to enter the upper echelons of the Republican party is homosexual sex. That’s what goes on in Skull and Bones, in Gayle [this is exactly how I hear Jones say it, and I think his implication is clear], that’s what goes on at the same time in Bohemian Grove. So I know that stuff goes on. Again, I mainly stick with the issues that I can prove. And we’ve all heard these rumors living in Austin. And there’s been newscasts about the rumors of Rick Perry…I would completely, still, ignore all of this if he wasn’t out there saying, I’m a christian conservative leader, you need to get behind me. And then knowing, he’s actually the opposite in his real policies. And even in the last election cycle for governor, conservative groups did actually discover his bankrolling of porno parlors across Texas. And that’s now a big issue again. And then, when I first saw this, I didn’t believe it, I went and found it on the state ethics commission website, it is true, that when he was in Florida, in a famously alternative life-style area, I want you to talk about that, he visited the La Te Da, men in drag, cabaret. And he later said, “Well, no, my wife visited that.” Yeah, right. So, it just continues to crop up. And so because it was christian conservatives that have gone after him in the last few campaigns over some of these reports, he’s now trying to become that. And I saw Ron Paul supporters really getting after him in events in the last few years, so now he’s trying to become Ron Paul. He is a political chameleon. And so, the question comes down to: is this some elaborate hoax, where people are lying to you? Are you lying? Which people who know you say you’re not. Or, is this a dirty trick? Of disinformation. Or is it true? But, what do you say about the porno parlor bankrolling and the transvestite visiting?

MORROW
Okay. Well, Alex, as you know, living here in Austin, Texas, the rumors of Rick Perry’s homosexuality and gay affairs have been voluminous, intense, and will just not go away.

JONES
Oh, you type Rick Perry into Google for years, and “gay” comes up.

MORROW
And, there’s-

JONES
The first thing.

MORROW
There’s so much smoke…that it has to be fire. And I want to tell you something, Alex. I never believed the gay rumors on Rick Perry for years and years and years, and then I certainly didn’t believe them when I found out all about these stirppers and escorts, he and his entourage are cavorting with. That has changed. I’ve come into credible information that Rick Perry is a rampant bisexual adulterer, not just strippers and young hotties, but gay men as well. This monday, before I even ran this ad, an incensed homosexual man contacted me, and he says, “You know what? After seeing Rick Perry on that stage in Houston, with all those extremist preachers, all that hardcore anti-gay rhetoric, I just can’t take it any more.” He said that an ex of his ex, had sex with Rick Perry. A gay fling many years before he became governor, and that he wants to take this guy public, and he and his friend are going to approach this man, who had sex with Rick Perry according to them, and get him to go public. And I said, well, what I did was I gave them to a reporter who’s working the gay angle on Rick Perry, and he’s having some progress, by the way, and so maybe, eventually, in a few months, these reporters work these stories, nail down these sources, we will move beyond the hearsay stage on Rick Perry as a rampant bisexual adulterer, to the credibility stage of people coming forward. So, the whole point of me running that ad is folks, there is so much stuff out there, you know, if you know, if you’ve been involved with him, sexually at all, or you know people who have, please come forward. And let’s go on the record, and get it above board, because people need to know.

JONES
Well, these rumors have been rampant around here in Austin since high school, but…they could just be that, political…retribution against Perry by his enemies, then the rumor gets picked up, and gets parroted by people that are seeking private attention, “Oh, I know Rick Perry,” that could be a possibility, where it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, that this rumor got started, and now different groups are lying to you.

MORROW
Well, Alex, on the womanizing, I’m not just 99% sure that Rick Perry’s running around with strippers and hookers, I’M ONE HUNDRED PERCENT SURE ON THAT.

JONES
Well, you told me that you liked…these women…and that you go to some of these and separately, without them knowing you’re politically active, they were volunteering this?

MORROW
What makes their story so credible is, that these ladies, who are about the age of Rick Perry’s twenty-four year old daughter, Sidney, they’re in their mid-twenties, they told me these things in confidence, and not in the context of a presidential campaign or a gubenatorial campaign. It was just chitchat. They had no idea I was a political activist, they had no idea I hated Rick Perry’s guts for other reasons, because of political reasons and so forth.

MORROW
I’ll tell you this. Rick Perry, Alex, is sitting on a keg of…slut fueled nitroglycerine that if it ever exploded would make Anthony Weiner look like a mere pimple popping.

248 Robert Morrow’s email is mentioned in “Naked City: News briefs from Austin, the region, and elsewhere.” edited by Lee Nichols and Cheryl Smith:

With the Place 3 run-off election only hours away – election day is Saturday, June 11 – charges and countercharges were flying from the Jennifer Kim and Margot Clarke campaigns. On the Kim side, the attacks were mostly surrogate: The Austin Apartment Association, which has endorsed Kim, distributed Texas Monthly publisher Mike Levy’s scurrilous attack letter (see “Frontrunner Dues and Blues,” June 3), and Robert Morrow, a local GOP precinct chair, sent out a flaming e-mail diatribe, heavy on the gay-bashing, that makes Levy’s letter look mild by comparison. (Sample Morrow rhetoric: “Clarke’s supporters are … environmental radicals, socialists, and ‘in-your-face’ homosexuals who demand that the rest of society worship salamanders and support ‘gay’ marriage.”) Meanwhile, the Clarke campaign reviewed Kim’s campaign finance filings, and with the Toll Party’s Sal Costello issued a press release charging that Kim has reneged on a pledge to reject contributions from the “toll lobby.” (Kim’s latest filing is indeed heavy with developers, RECA members, and related business sources.) The Clarke campaign has actually been distributing Morrow’s hysterical letter to their own supporters, with the comment, “Don’t let them win!” – M.K. (Michael King)

That this is the same Morrow as the one who would publish the RIck Perry ad is confirmed in “Point Austin: Have You Been Screwed by Rick Perry?” by Michael King:

I’m sure most of you have been checking your old date books to determine whether you’ve ever had sex with Rick Perry. Of course, you might not remember, since Perry’s talents as a paramour likely mirror his narcissistic approach to public policy.

That sort of foolishness is brought to you courtesy of Robert Morrow, the Austinite who garnered national coverage last week with his full-page Chronicle ad requesting leads on the new presidential candidate’s sex life. For the record, Morrow placed his ad (and alerted other publications) on his own; this news desk read it when our readers did. Morrow’s a hard-right GOP activist (of the Ron Paul variety), and his obsessively sexual conspiracy theories are old hat around here. He first came to Austin’s attention with a viciously gay-bashing attack on former state rep Glen Maxey, a strong supporter of former City Coun­cil candidate Margot Clarke in the 2005 election.

The quote from “Outcast Austin” is taken from the very partial transcript in the footnote below.

249 Quotes from “OutCast Austin – Volume 173 – 08/23/2011” are taken from a transcript made only of its opening and ending:

RICE
So, what inspired you to put this ad in The Chronicle?

MORROW
Well, Steven. Rick Perry, his entourage and I, like the same women. How can I be more clear than that?

RICE
That. Uh. Okay. Sorry. Those are nice wholesome girls, is that what you mean?

RICE
So, what’s the next step for you from here?

MORROW
Uh, there is no next step. If people know things, related to Rick Perry, the way he lives his double life in the gutter, which I’m-, see what you have to understand is, I’m not 99% sure that Rick Perry runs around with strippers, young hotties, and escorts – I’m one hundred percent sure.

RICE
Wow. All right. Well, do you want to give out your email address to everyone one more time?

MORROW
My email address is- You can also google an article I wrote on Rick Perry. It’s called “Tea Party Fraud Rick Perry is Political Herpes”.

RICE
(laughs) So, you’re a very subtle man, I see, Robert.

MORROW
Straight to the point, my friend.

250 Excerpts and quotes are made from the program’s full transcript:

GILL
Robert Morrow is on our newsmakers line today. Robert, welcome to the show.

MORROW
Great to be here Steve.

GILL
Now, tell us a little bit about your background, because obviously you’ve got a bone to pick with Rick Perry. Do you know Rick Perry?

MORROW
No…I’ve met him a couple of times. I’ve been involved in local Texas politics, you’re correct, I’ve been a delegate to the Texas state Republican convention, 2006, 2008, 2010.

GILL
And…have you run for office, run campaigns for others for office?

MORROW
No, I’m just a grass roots volunteer for Ron Paul. Actually, I started volunteering for Ron Paul four years ago in 2008. And, by the way, I have voted for Rick Perry in the past, in 1998, 2002, and 2006. But I’ll never do it again.

GILL
Now, when did you discover that he had this propensity for hotties? Was it before 2006?

MORROW
Well, it’s…no. It was not, actually it’s because I have a propensity for hotties. And it just turns out that Rick Perry, his entourage, and I, like the same women.

GILL
Now, your facebook says you like guys too, there have been a lot of stories that you also swing the other way as well. I mean, is that, like-

MORROW
Well, on facebook it says who do you want to be friends with, and I want to be friends on facebook with both men and women. So- I’m just interested in women in-

GILL
You do not have sexual relationships with men? So, the claims that you’re gay are not true?

MORROW
It’s ridiculous. I will say this-

GILL
But you’re also saying that Rick Perry’s gay too. You’re saying Rick Perry not only likes young women, you’re also throwing out the implication that he’s also gay.

MORROW
Absolutely. I want to tell you that that second one right there. About the womanizing, I am 100% sure on that, because like I said I know strippers, young hotties, people who’ve been with Rick Perry and his entourage. I never believed the gay rumors about Rick Perry that have been going around for about eight years now. Especially when I learned about the womanizing, I did not believe them. However, that has changed, because I’ve been in contact with some very angry homosexuals who’ve called me about Rick Perry.

GILL
And it’s easy for someone to say I had sex with somebody. I mean, a gay guy could call me today and say, “You know, I had sex with Robert Morrow,” and I could take out a full page ad and that would have the same credibility in terms of fact based that you’re relying on.

MORROW
Well, but- that’s true. On Monday-

GILL
So, should we traffic in these kind of unsubstantiated rumors in the political arena? Is that the Ron Paul way?

MORROW
I have nothing to do with Ron Paul’s campaign.

GILL
Wait- wait- you just said you’ve campaigned and you’ve been a Ron Paul supporter.

MORROW
I think, you know, Ron Paul is not putting me up to this, because Ron Paul doesn’t run around with the young hotties that me and Rick Perry , and his entourage do.

GILL
We don’t know. Somebody could call me today and say “I had sex with Ron Paul,” and we could put it out there as the fact, and it would be just as based as what you’re doing. I mean, anybody can say anything.

MORROW
Listen carefully to me, okay? I met a stripper about two years ago. And, before the 2010 governor’s race, and she told me, that she was in the club one night. And a guy comes up to her and says, “Here’s five hundred dollars. Just come with me.” And of course, five hundred dollars is about what a dancer would make all night-

GILL
Keep in mind, you weren’t there, all you’re saying is that what a stripper, because man, I know, strippers, and hookers on drugs, if I’m gonna go for somebody that’s absolutely is credible, that is absolutely believable, no question about it, are you operating on is what a stripper told you, right?

MORROW
Steve, hold on for a second.

GILL
Well, isn’t that the case.

MORROW
Go ahead. Hold on for a second. She was very credible, and she told me these things-

GILL
She’s a very credible stripper.

MORROW
Hold on, hold on. She told me these things in confidence, not in the context of a presidential campaign or a gubernatorial campaign. So she says she was taken to Rick Perry, because Rick Perry does not go into strip clubs himself, he has an entourage go grab the girls, and so she was taken to him, and then they started-

GILL
Based on what she says. Based on what she says.

MORROW
I-i-i-it’s true.

GILL
It’s true because she said it.

MORROW
I don’t have a blue dress with Rick Perry’s semen on it. I have reports from credible women in Austin, Texas-

GILL
Who are strippers and prostitutes and hookers.

MORROW
Strippers and hoo- Escorts and people- And friends who have-

GILL
Who get paid money to do whatever somebody wants them to do. Do you think there might at least be the shred, Robert, that somebody might be paying her to tell stories?

MORROW
Yes-

GILL
Because she’ll take money to do other things.

MORROW
Well Steve, you have to understand that- There’s a couple things. I learned about these things several years ago, not in the context of a presidential or gubenatorial race. They had no idea I was a political activist, who happens to hate Rick Perry’s guts, which I do for many reasons, but politically, and from what I know about his personal life. And so the reason-

GILL
But all you know about his, again, all you know about his personal life is what these hookers, strippers, and prostitutes have told you.

MORROW
That’s the women he runs with. And by the way-

GILL
Wait. That have said he runs with them. I mean, you don’t know if he actually spends time with them. You know they say that.

MORROW
Well, you don’t know because you’re not in the room yourself

GILL
So, it’s not- It’s secondhand information.

MORROW
Well, actually, this lady was firsthand.

GILL
And if she was calling and saying “My name is Jonelle, I’ve got pictures, here’s my story,” that would be different than her telling somebody else, maybe get a bigger tip from you-

MORROW
It wasn’t in the context of any presidential or gubernatorial race. That’s why it’s so- Be patient with me, Steve. I’m gonna walk you through this.

GILL
But my point is still, all of this is not what you know, it’s what somebody that we don’t know, we have no way to judge her credibility-

MORROW
You know, it’s true, unless you’re there yourself, you don’t know to the one hundredth percent level-

GILL
You don’t know on any percent, other than, they are telling you a story that you can’t verify at all. Let me move to the other- Who’s funding this? Who’s funding these ads?

MORROW
I pay for it myself.

GILL
What do you do for a living?

MORROW
I’m a self-employed investor.

GILL
Self-employed investor. And apparently, you’ve done real well for yourself, if you can take out full page ads.

MORROW
Yeah.

GILL
What’s the source of your investments?

MORROW
It’s a local paper, you know, it was a pretty piece of coin, but it’s not nearly the money Rick Perry and his entourage- Here’s what goes on: Rick Perry does not get the girls himself. He has an enabling entourage, who gets the girls, in ritzy hotel rooms, very nice ones here in Austin, and they’re the ones who call the escort services, just like Tiger Woods entourage would be getting girls for him.

GILL
But you actually had the girls coming forth and saying this. That’s what your ad is trying to do, is get some girls to come forth and say, okay, I had sex with Rick Perry.

MORROW
Here’s where we’re at, Steve. I’ve been unable to get these women to go public, to go on the record, in front of a reporter-

GILL
Maybe because it’s not true.

MORROW
It is true.

GILL
Okay. Because you’re gonna believe your hooker friends.

MORROW
-an escort, or a gay person. It’s very hard to get those people to go forward and tell the truth. You know, your aunt might not know that you’re a stripper, your family might now know you’re a closeted gay guy. So, the reason, the point of the ad is this. Asking people to quit covering for Rick Perry. And come forward, and tell the truth about the way this man really lives his life.

GILL
Will you run a similar ad asking people to come forth and tell the truth about Ron Paul and his propensity for pork barrel spending? I mean, he votes against the pork barrel spending, but gets it for his district. Does that hypocrisy bother you?

MORROW
Ron Paul does not vote for pork barrel spending, what he does-

GILL
He just accepts it.

MORROW
Hold on. When anybody wants to come into his office, he will sign a piece of paper saying, yes, he’s for the earmark, but then he votes the reconciliation bill on the very last vote, and that’s the vote that counts.

GILL
He just doesn’t want his fingerprints on it, he wants the other guys in congress to pass it, as part of the big package, so his district gets it, his supporters get the money, he just doesn’t want to vote for it himself. That seems hypocritical.

MORROW
I don’t think Ron Paul should be signing thess earmarks-

GILL
Will you run a full page ad pointing out that he’s a hypocrite? Because that’s what you’ve done with Rick Perry.

MORROW
Well, uh, I agree, I happen to agree with you on this, Steve.

GILL
Well, will you run an ad? Will you put your money where your mouth is?

MORROW
Well, you know, there are a thousand other things that I think are more important than that. I mean, he votes against the trillion dollar wars, he protects your civil-

GILL
So, it’s okay he’s a hypocrite, as long as he votes the way you like, most of the time. Is this ad a once a week newspaper, or is it a daily newspaper, I don’t know anything about this.

MORROW
It’s a local weekly newspaper. The Austin Chronicle.

GILL
How much is this thing costing you?

MORROW
No comment. I pay for it with my own money, though.

GILL
Did they give it to you for free?

MORROW
Noooooo. No.

GILL
So…why won’t you tell us what you’re paying for it?

MORROW
I just keep that private. That’s the only thing I’m not releasing.

GILL
I mean, their ad rates are public, aren’t they?

MORROW
Yeah, I pay normal ad rates. You can call them and find out how much I pay.

GILL
Now you said you were an investor, I’m a little bit intrigued by that. What kind of investments do you make on behalf of people?

MORROW
Oh. I’m a self-employed investor. I don’t manage other people’s money. I never said that I did, so don’t, don’t make that assumption.

GILL
That’s what I’m trying to figure out. You say you just take your money and you just invest it.

MORROW
That is correct, absolutely.

GILL
Now there’s a Robert Morrow, because you’re also real big into the whole CIA killed JFK business-

MORROW
I think Lyndon Johnson and his Texas oilmen used their CIA military connections to kill John Kennedy. That is my personal opinion. Many people think that.

GILL
There’s another guy named Robert Morrow who claimed he worked for the CIA and did this, is he any relation to you?

MORROW
No, that’s a different one. He died around 1998 or 99. He really did work for the CIA, but it’s not me.

GILL
Okay, I just saw the meaning of the name was the same, and the conspiracy theory’s kinda the same as well- Talk a little bit more about this business, your bone to pick with Rick Perry. We got the young hotties, that bothers you, you think he’s gay, that bothers you, you think he’s a hypocrite because the HPV-L virus injections that he went along with-

MORROW
He went along because his former chief of staff Mike Toomey is a lobbyist for Merck, the maker of Gardicil, and gets paid hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s why- If you wave a dollar bill in front of Rick Perry’s nose he’ll do anything. Kinda like the girls he hangs out with.

GILL
And the girls you hang out with. Because these are the girls you hang out with as well.

MORROW
Fair enough.

GILL
If it is low moral character for Rick Perry to do this, why is it not low moral character for you to hang out with hookers, escorts, strippers, and gay men?

MORROW
Well…number one, I’m not married. Number two, I don’t base my campaigns on christian terminology and bible talk like he does. Number three, I don’t appear on a stage in Houston, Texas, with extremist preachers spouting anti-gay rhetoric while living a double life.

GILL
And again, all your knowledge of Rick Perry, I just want to make sure that I’m understanding, is not based on anything you are personally aware of, it is all based on what somebody has told you. So, it’s all basically second-hand information.

MORROW
Well, yeah, I’m not in a hotel room while Rick Perry and his entourage after they carded an escort service or having their fun and games, I’m not personally there. I don’t socialize with the man.

GILL
But again we don’t- And that’s okay, you’re just, again, basing it on what people who’ve told you, that you’re putting your trust in, and which are the hookers, the escorts, and the-

MORROW
That’s the- let’s take a moment and walk through the credibility of the people I’m talking about. The first one was a stripper, who told me she tried to have sex with Rick Perry, and her quote to me was: “I think he was too coked up to get it up.” That’s what she said to me. And when it came time for her to leave, Rick Perry gave her an outrageous amount of money, well into the four digits, so much so it makes me think he’s taking either bribes or illegal gifts from his entourage to fund his extracurricular activities.

GILL
Again, based on what this hooker said-

MORROW
YES! OF COURSE, GILL! YOU ARE CORRECT!

GILL
Now, does she- let’s see, if she’s a hooker, she’s also- last time I checked, I don’t think prostitution is legal in the state of Texas. So, we now know she’s a criminal, and therefore-

MORROW
Not only that, Rick Perry signed a law that stiffened the laws that send you to state prison-

GILL
No pun intended.

MORROW
-if you commit a felony under Rick Perry. Even more than-

GILL
So you’ve got a woman who’s breaking the law, but you’re gonna put your trust that she’s telling you the truth- do you know if she’s used drugs?

MORROW
Uh, I don’t know, I will tell you this, that you know Steve, who’re you going to trust, a stripper, a hooker, or a politician?

GILL
Now, granted, I will give you that one, Robert. When it comes to credibility issues, if I have the stripper here telling me and Rick Perry sitting next to her telling me his side of the story, I’m not sure who I’m gonna believe in terms of which one’s actually screwing people for money. But. I’ll give you that one.

MORROW
John Edwards-

GILL
But we don’t have her saying this. And again, unless your ad produces people, we don’t have people who we can judge their credibility of, okay, you’re a drugged up prostitute breaking the law, and we’re gonna believe what you say. Granted, if you’re gonna break the law, you’re gonna be breaking the law with other lawbreakers, and they’re gonna be the ones who can be witnesses-

MORROW
EXACTLY, of course, hey remember-

GILL
But we don’t have her coming forth. We have her telling you.

MORROW
Do you remember the Bobby Ann Williams story, with Bill Clinton? Twenty years ago?

GILL
Yes. Yes.

MORROW
She was telling the truth. By the way, I’m the nation’s #1 anti-Hillary activist. If you google Robert Morrow Hillary Clinton, you’ll see a lot of my work.

GILL
And I like the fact that on your ad you completely exclude folks who wear Hillary Clinton pantsuits and boots, I think, was the phrasing of it, which I appreciate.

MORROW
The ad was not targeted to Anita Perry, because she, like Hillary, knows exactly what Rick Perry is doing, so she’s wearing her Hillary Clinton boots. But anyhow, back to the point: in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president, by that time, he’d had hundreds of women, right? Would you agree on that?

GILL
Yeah. But we’ve had women come forward.

MORROW
Yeah. At that time, only three women came forward: Gennifer Flowers, Sally Purdue, and Bobby Ann Williams. And all three of those were subjected to the Clinton terror campaign, Hillary’s private detectives, Jack Paladino, Anthony Pellicano…so it’s really hard to get folks to go forward when, you know-

GILL
But you’re saying this thing’s been going on for twenty years, when he was merely a state representative, when he was merely an agriculture commissioner for Texas, he’s governor…I mean, again, this woman who’s telling you all this stuff, it’s not like Rick Perry’s somebody no one’s ever heard of, she’s telling gossip about a guy who’s governor. I mean, people gossip and lies about people all the time.

MORROW
And…so was Gennifer Flowers, Sally Purdue, and Bobbi Ann Williams, my friend, okay?

GILL
But just because other people came forward and could prove their story by access, by I was with the governor, I mean you’ve got plenty of people who have proof in those cases, that’s the biggest thing I see that’s missing in this one, but hey if your ad produces results, we’ll see what happens. Robert Morrow, thanks for being with us.

251 The information Steve Gill mentions is taken from Robert Morrow’s about section on his Facebook page, of which the following is a screenshot:

robert morrow about page cropped

252 From “Some people just love to hate the Clintons” by Adam C. Smith:

“I’ve got other aspects of my life when I’m not, you know, stopping Clinton pond scum,” insists Morrow, who has no steady job but enjoys a family inheritance. “Um, I like to work out at the gym. I like to go hiking. I like to ride my bicycle.”

253 The blurb can be found on the Amazon page for The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ, and the following are screenshots of the editorial endorsements, with Morrow’s the last in the second screenshot:

man who killed kennedy amazon reviews cropped pa man who killed kennedy amazon reviews cropped pa

254 From “Did LBJ Kill Kennedy? (And Why It Matters): Q/A with Roger Stone”:

NICK GILLESPIE
And this is published by Skyhorse books, which publishes a wide range of things, some are in the conspiracy frame, Jesse Ventura is one of their authors, they do other kinds of various things. You’re going to be doing more books with them. Talk a little bit about your future.

STONE
Yeah, I’ve got a couple different books in mind. I’d like to do a book on Hillary Clinton. I don’t believe Chelsea Clinton- I believe Chelsea Clinton is the daughter of Webb Hubbell, and Hillary Clinton, and I’m gonna try and prove that in print.

255 I make the identification of Mary Krenek from the Facebook page of Robert Morrow, when the picture was his av. Dave Nalle I have no idea what that photo means Robert Morrow just liberty activist Mary Krenek kissing Roger Stone at his book signing at BNBooks.

Of incidental interest is the following exchange: James Thompson Sr. This is got to be the dumbest thing I have ever seen your [sic] a real fool, from a viet nam vet Robert Morrow James Thompson – Vietnam Vet – go fuck yourself. You were the fool for murdering all those people in Vietnam. Go to hell. James Thompson Sr. Sounds like your [sic] already in hell , you damned fool

robert morrow facebook comments

256 From The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ by Roger Stone and Michael Colapietro:

From the beginning of his presidency, Nixon sought the CIA records that would prove the connection of the Bay of Pig veterans to the Kennedy assassination. Although White House Chief of Staff H. R. “Bob” Haldeman said that Nixon had turned him down when he suggested reopening and gathering the facts surrounding the JFK assassination, Nixon’s White House domestic policy advisor John Ehrlichman said that Nixon had requested all of the CIA records on the Kennedy assassination and had been rebuffed by the agency. It is logical that Nixon, a lawyer, would ask Ehrlichman, a fellow lawyer, to obtain the records rather than Haldeman, who was not.

Nixon’s effort to obtain the JFK assassination records was an attempt to seize leverage over the rogue agency. This was to be Nixon’s “insurance policy” against the CIA. If threatened, Nixon would expose the agency’s involvement in Kennedy’s death, which took place at the time that he, Nixon, was in political exile without formal governmental influence of any kind.

This is why I believe Watergate was a CIA operation that capitalized on the stupidity and amateurishness of G. Gordon Liddy, CREEP Campaign Director Jeb Magruder, and John Dean, the three Nixon aides who advanced the plans for the Watergate break-in, which leaked to the CIA.

257 The suggestion made in The Man Who Killed Kennedy is that Bush was somehow complicit in the killing as well, and the fact that he was a former head of the CIA is played up in this regard. I will not deal with this allegation, except to one detail. We are given the sinister point that Bush passed on to the FBI that a James Milton Parrott had made threats against the president. The theory put forth is that Bush was trying to set Parrott up as a kind of patsy in the killing:

Before leaving for Dallas, Bush called the Houston FBI field office at 1:45 p.m. and promptly identified himself and his location in Tyler, Texas. “Bush stated that he wanted [the call] to be kept confidential but wanted to furnish hearsay that he recalled hearing in recent days . . . He stated that one James Milton Parrott has been talking of killing the president when he comes to Houston.”

Bush dropped a dime on an unemployed twenty-four-year-old Air Force veteran who had been honorably discharged, albeit upon the recommendation of a psychiatrist. During questioning, Parrott acknowledged that he was a member of the Texas Young Republicans and had been active in picketing members of the Kennedy administration. He also insisted that he had not threatened the president’s life.

Parrott was a member of the ultra-rightwing John Birch Society and had vigorously opposed Bush during his campaign for GOP chairman of Harris County—a major offense to Bush running for a minor office, and he never forgot the offender. Parrott had been painting “Bush for Senate? signs when the FBI arrived to question him. Ironically, Parrott would surface again—as a volunteer for George Bush’s 1988 Presidential campaign. Was Parrott also a Patsy?

This very story is listed as the secondmost among the points of why voters should not re-elect Bush in a 1992 feature from the extinct Spy magazine, “1000 Reasons not to vote for George Bush”. It would be surprising if Stone were not somewhat familiar with this piece, since the major part of it is the topmost point, “No.1: He cheats on his wife”, and the author is Joe Conason, a man who’s used Stone as a source in the past, most recently for a Chris Christie Bridgegate story, “To Roger Stone, Bridgegate ‘Cover-Up’ Is Another Watergate — And He Would Know”. A substantial amount of space in the piece is given over to Bush mistress Jennifer Fitzgerald, who is also given mention in The Man Who Killed Kennedy, a rather inflammatory allegation of sexual impropriety, but one that few reviewers have noted, and which should be a lesson to future controversy dwellers – if you want accusations of presidential infidelity to go unnoticed, stick it next to accusations of presidential murder. From The Man Who Killed Kennedy:

Bush’s 1980 campaign was hampered when it hired his long-time mistress, Jennifer Fitzgerald, as his scheduler. Fitzgerald hoarded information; power struggles plagued the campaign. Barbara Bush once famously exploded at Fitzgerald in the back of a limousine when she touched Bush’s knee. Senior campaign aides plotted to remove Fitzgerald, and eventually Bush’s savvy campaign chief James A. Baker, III gave Bush a “her or me” ultimatum. Fitzgerald would leave the campaign, only to be hired later to handle the vice president’s schedule (she was kept in the vice president’s ceremonial Capitol Hill office rather than the White House). Fitzgerald let it be know that she had a trove of love letters from the vice president and wouldn’t be going anywhere.

The story of this affair is also told in Dirty Tricks, with a slightly nastier tone:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

The Jennifer Fitzgerald affair is the firstmost point in the thousandfold series of points in the Spy piece, and the second deals with this same James Parrott. It also has a conspiratorial take, though it also has a lastmost sentence which Stone makes no acknowledgement of ever having read, but which make him a strange kind of patsy for a plot involving Stone’s suspect. What kind of patsy is in the employ of one of those complicit in the assassination, but can’t even be bothered to stay silent about the true culprit? I bold the final, and most crucial sentence from “No. 2: The JFK Thing” by David Robb:

Internal FBI memos indicate that on November 22, 1963, “reputable businessman” George H.W. Bush “telephonically advised that he wanted to relate some hearsay that he had heard in recent weeks, date and source unknown. He advised that one James Parrott has been talking of killing the president when he comes to Houston.” Who? Agents investigated and found that 24-year-old James Parrott was a Young Republican who regularly picketed Kennedy-administration officials when they visited Houston. The FBI also learned that the Secret Service in Houston had been told that in 1961, Parrott had said he “would kill President Kennedy if he got near him.” Parrott, however, had not been near the president, or even in Dallas, on November 22. Was Bush just being a misguided do-good weenie? Or was he trying to throw the FBI off the trail? (Conspiracy theorists have linked Bush with the assassination in part because of the appearance of his name in the address book of one George de Morenschildt, a Dallas aristocrat who had befriended Lee Harvey Oswald.) Parrott, now a GOP functionary, told us he is a Bush supporter, at least since Pat Buchanan was eliminated. He denies having threatened JFK and believes Oswald shot him – under orders from Khruschev, Castro and Lyndon Johnson – and that there is still a Communist plot to take over the U.S.

258 From The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ by Roger Stone and Michael Colapietro:

The cooperation of Operation 40 and the mafia element is integral to the assassination of John Kennedy. They would be necessary to Lyndon Johnson because this was not good ‘ole boy Texas justice-a more sophisticated plan was needed. The CIA and Mafia element would likewise be dependent on LBJ to effectively control the location, chain of command, and evidence.

“I can just visualize Harvey and LBJ forming a kind of a thieves, compact between them,” said Operation 40 agent and Watergate recruiter and organizer E. Howard Hunt. “I think that LBJ was an opportunist, and he would have not hesitated to get rid of obstacles in his way.”

“There was no other group that honored, if I can use that term, the clandestine limitations the way the CIA did,” Hunt added. “They could do something, turn their back on it, then move on to something else.”

Hunt, who was on his deathbed at the time of his confession, said that he was approached to be a “benchwarmer” on the assassination, which was known in certain channels as “The Big Event.” Was Hunt in Dallas on November 22, 1963? In 1974, the Rockefeller Commission concluded that Hunt used eleven hours of sick leave from the CIA in the two-week period preceding the assassination. Saint John Hunt, E. Howard’s son, remembered his mother informing him on November 22, 1963 that Howard was on a “business trip” to Dallas that day. Later, eyewitness Marita Lorenz testified under oath in a district court case in Florida that she saw Hunt pay off an assassination team in Dallas the night before Kennedy’s murder. Saint John Hunt: “One of the things he [E. Howard Hunt] liked to say around the house was let’s finish the job,” said Saint John Hunt. “Let’s hit Ted [Kennedy].”

Saint John Hunt explained that the reason why his father had waited until he was dying to confess was his fear for the lives of himself and his family. Hunt’s wife Dorothy had died in a commercial plane crash in Chicago, which killed forty-five people in 1972. Hunt did not believe it was an accident.

“Later on in his life at one of these bedside confessions, tears started welling up in his eyes, and he said, ‘You know, Saint, I was so deeply concerned that what they did to your mother they could have done to you children, and that caused the hair on my neck to stand up.’ That was the first disclosure from my father that he thought there was something else going on besides sheer pilot error,” said Saint John Hunt.

259 The appeal, E. Howard Hunt, Jr. v. Victor L. Marchetti Nos. 85-5400, 85-6078 contains many of the facts of the trial, the initially successful libel suit on the part of Hunt, followed by a reversal. The judgement was upheld in this appeal:

1 E. Howard Hunt, Jr., appeals three district court rulings made during the retrial of his libel suit against Liberty Lobby, Inc. The jury on retrial rendered a verdict for Liberty Lobby. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

2 In 1978, Liberty Lobby published in its nationally distributed weekly newspaper, the Spotlight, an article which stated that the Central Intelligence Agency would attempt to implicate Hunt and others in the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Hunt filed suit against Liberty Lobby seeking damages for libel. A jury trial resulted in an award to Hunt of $650,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. A panel of this court reversed. Hunt v. Liberty Lobby, 720 F.2d 631 (11th Cir.1983). On retrial, the jury rendered a verdict for Liberty Lobby. In this appeal, Hunt asserts the following errors in the conduct of the second trial: (1) that the district court improperly permitted Liberty Lobby to withdraw an oral stipulation made during the first trial that Hunt was not in Dallas on the day of the Kennedy assassination; (2) that the court improperly charged the jury that any wrongdoing by the article’s author could not be imputed to Liberty Lobby; and (3) that the court improperly excluded from evidence a portion of the deposition testimony of the publisher of Spotlight.

Note that despite the upholding of the verdict, the publishers conceded that Hunt was not in Dallas, to prevent Hunt from introducing evidence to contradict this claim.

II. WITHDRAWAL OF THE STIPULATION

3 In his opening statement at the first trial, the attorney for Liberty Lobby stated, “We are not going to come forward and try to prove that Mr. Hunt was involved in the Kennedy assassination…. [T]here is no question in my mind that he was not involved. There is no question in the minds of the people at Liberty Lobby.” Later, out of the presence of the jury, the attorney further stated, “I think I stipulated in opening argument, in my opinion, in our opinion, that [Hunt] probably was not there [in Dallas]. We are not going to prove that he was in Dallas.” The court explained to the jury that “for the purposes of this trial, the defendants have acknowledged and conceded that [Hunt] was not in Dallas, Texas, on the date of the assassination of President Kennedy.” To this statement, the attorney for Liberty Lobby responded, “So stipulated, your Honor.” Later in the trial, the Liberty Lobby attorney was able to rely upon the stipulation to prevent Hunt from introducing evidence regarding his whereabouts on the date of the assassination.

The controversy of Hunt’s deathbed confession is best conveyed in “Watergate plotter may have a last tale” by Carol J. Williams; the Kevan mentioned is Kevan Hunt, the late spy’s daughter:

St. John was estranged from his father from the late 1970s to the start of this decade.

He was convicted twice on felony drug charges in the Bay Area but served no prison time. When he became homeless, he renounced his drug habit, renewed ties with his father and siblings and moved to this Pacific Coast timber and fishing town. He now works assisting elderly patients in their homes and is a student at College of the Redwoods.

David, now 43, also abused drugs after his mother’s death and the years he spent in the violent milieu of Cuban exile politics. He now sells Jacuzzis at a West L.A. spa shop.

The sisters remain estranged from the brothers but all were on good terms with Hunt and his widow Laura and their children, Austin and Hollis, when the veteran CIA operative and spy novelist died.

Despite the brothers’ efforts, their father’s role will probably never be known.

The materials they offer to substantiate their story, examined by the Los Angeles Times, are inconclusive.

Hunt answers questions on a videotape using speculative phrases, observing that various named figures were “possibly” involved. A chart Hunt sketched during one conversation with St. John shows the same rogue CIA operation he describes in the memoir. None of the accounts provides evidence to convincingly validate that their father disclosed anything revelatory.

Hunt’s widow and her two children, 27-year-old Austin and 23-year-old Hollis, dismiss the brothers’ story, saying it is the result of coaching an old man whose lucidity waxed and waned in his final months.

Kevan bitterly accuses her brothers of “elder abuse,” saying they pressured their father for dramatic scenarios for their own financial gain. Hunt’s longtime lawyer, Bill Snyder, says: “Howard was just speculating. He had no hard evidence.”

260 From The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ by Roger Stone and Michael Colapietro:

Watergate is no less a coup d’état by the CIA than the assassination of JFK by a rogue faction of the CIA, working in concert with elements of organized crime and at the direction of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Serving as the youngest member of the notorious Committee to Re-elect the President in 1972, I knew Watergate burglars James McCord, the security director at CREEP, and G. Gordon Liddy, the general consul to the CREEP finance committee by day and seeker of covert intelligence by night.

That anyone would use actual CREEP personnel who could be traced directly to the President’s re-election committee in a covert operation shows the amateurish nature of the Watergate break-in. That some burglars carried address books with White House phone numbers in them shows either a stunning ineptness or an effort to take Nixon down. Indeed, the mistakes in Watergate were legion.

White House plumber G. Gordon Liddy’s grandiose plan to break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters, the search for files, and the planting of listening devices was no doubt reported to the CIA once Liddy recruited James McCord, Security Director for CREEP and long-time CIA asset. I believe that the company saw the opportunity to remove the threat of Nixon’s exposing their role in JFK’s murder. It is not coincidental that it was McCord who wrote a letter to the Watergate burglars’ trial judge John J. Siricia, exposing the cover-up and pointing to higher-ups in the White House and CREEP.

McCord was likely a double agent, who intentionally botched the surreptitious entry into the Watergate. It was McCord who re-taped an office door after security guards had already found it taped and removed the adhesive once. The taping of the door was unnecessary because the door opened, unlocked, without a key. But the tape served its purpose as a clear signal to security. Following the break-in, McCord left tape on some of the doors. McCord also burned all of his files in his home fireplace, with a CIA agent present to witness the paper conflagration.

261 From Will by G. Gordon Liddy:

The decision was up to me. I was the leader and it was my responsibility. The others accepted that and would abide by my judgeement. I knew that lock-taping was a common, if disapproved, practice of maintenance personnel in large builings. That should not have alarmed the guard, who could be expecte to remove it. I saw no reason that the guard should think anything other than that the maintenance people would have to be letured.

I left McCord and said to Howard: “Jim doesn’t share your concern. He’s willing to go, wants to get it over with.” I pointed out that it had been a while since the tapes were put on and that if here’d been any commotion we’d have heard about it from the observation post or our men downstairs. “Everything seem quiet,” I said. “All things considered, I think we should go.”

From Will, on the permanent separation between Hunt and Liddy, during a conference between them at the time of the Watergate grand jury:

“There’s no sene in holding out any longer,” Hunt began, “they know everything.”

“What do you mean, ‘everything’?” I interrupted.

“I mean they’ve got it all. They know all about the Beverly Hills entry. They’ve got the ODESSA files.”

“How do you know?” I asked.

“They showed them to me.”

“O.K. So somehow they got the ODESSA files. Why help the bastards?”

“Gordon, I may as well tell you now. I’m not holding out any longer. There’s no point to it. I’m co-operating with the prosecutors.”

I stood and moved back from Hunt’s side as if from a loathsome thing, I started to say something, thought better of it, and walked out. I have never spoken another word to Howard Hunt.

262 From “Product Reviews: Watergate: The Hidden History: Nixon, The Mafia, and The CIA” on Amazon:

Although as a long time Aide to Richard Nixon I interpret some things differently, Waldron’s scholarship cannot be questioned. This is a fascinating history with starts to connect the Bay of Pigs invasion, the JFK Assassination, Watergate and the Nixon pardon. I cannot recommend this book enough.

A screenshot:

Roger Stone praises Road to Watergate

263 From Will by G. Gordon Liddy, a report on the counter-demonstration organized in Miami:

RUBY concerned the infiltration of spies into the camp of Democratic contenders, then the successful candidate himself. COAL was the program to furnish money clandestinely to Shirley Chisholm of New York to finance her as a contender and force Democratic candidates to fight off a black woman, bound to generate ill-feeling among the black community and, we hoped, cause them difficulty with women.

I presented a plan for four black-bag jobs, OPALs I through IV. They were clandestine entries at which microphone surveillances could be placed, as well as TOPAZ: photographs taken of any documents available, including those under lock.

264 The Nixon administration’s attempts to smear Ellsberg, and break into his psychiatrist’s office, are described in Secrets:

These were the objectives of a Hunt memo to Colson on July 28, 1971, which came out almost two years later as a result of an inquiry launched in our courtroom. The subject heading was “Neutralization of Ellsberg.” It began: “I am proposing a skeletal operations plan aimed at building a file on Ellsberg that will contain all available overt, covert and derogatory information. This basic tool is essential to determining how to destroy his public image and credibility.”

There followed a list of eight “items” that represented “desiderata,” identifying potentially useful sources of information to this end, ranging from clearance materials to interviews with my former wife and former colleagues at Rand and ISA. Two of these items were: “Request CIA to perform a covert psychological assessment/evaluation on Ellsberg” and, fatefully, “Obtain Ellsberg’s files from his psychiatric analysis.”

The last proposal, which led to the burglary of the office of my former psychoanalyst in Beverly Hills, Dr. Lewis Fielding, and the hiring of Howard Hunt have commonly been seen, with reason, as a beginning of the undoing of the Nixon administration. The motives that lay behind both of these have scarcely been guessed at, however, and the guesses have been wide of the mark. The most authoritative statement of the aims both of the SIU and of the Fielding break-in is by the man in charge of the unit, Egil Krogh, who is at the same time the only one who has been thoroughly candid. In his statement to Judge Gerhart Gesell at his sentencing, after a guilty plea for approving the Fielding break-in, he laid out both the aims of the burglary and the intended uses of the information sought from it. “The aims of the operation were many.” One of these aims was “to ascertain if prosecution of Dr. Ellsberg would induce him to make further disclosures that he otherwise would not.”

The failed assault on Ellsberg during an anti-war rally; the NSSM-1 mentioned is a National Security Study Memorandum overseen by Ellsberg, which concluded that an unfavorable resolution of the Viet Nam conflict, the withdrawl of the United States, would not lead to other countries falling under communism:

The reason for Nixon’s direct involvement, as early as June 23, 1972, and continuing, has turned out to be his concern to keep Howard Hunt from revealing the earlier Fielding break-in and other illegal actions of the Plumbers. As I learned later, the burglary of my psychoanalyst’s office in September 1971, though best known, was not the last or most dramatic of these. Eight months later, on May 3, 1972, on orders from Colson to Liddy and Hunt, the White House secretly flew a dozen Cuban-American CIA “assets” from Miami to Washington to disrupt a rally that I and others were addressing on the steps of the Capitol and to assault me physically.

This was the rally described earlier, five days before the mining of Haiphong and eight days after Senator Gravel had released NSSM-1 to the press. The purpose of the planned assault on me remains obscure. However, an Oval Office tape of May 2 reveals that Nixon was aware that I had chosen this moment to reveal NSSM-1 at last. Whatever else I had from NSC files could be presumed to be on the verge of disclosure. According to Nick Akerman, the attorney on the Watergate Special Prosecution Task Force (WSPTF) who investigated this incident (with over one hundred interviews), some members of the team from Miami had orders “to incapacitate [me] totally” Different members of the team had different perspectives on their functions. All of them reported that Hunt and Liddy had shown them my picture (and that of Bill Kunstler, also at the rally) and told them I was the “target.” Several told the FBI or WSPTF that, as one put it to Time, “We were to call him ‘traitor’ and punch him in the nose.” Bernard Barker (who with Eugenio Martinez recruited the team in Miami) told the journalist Lloyd Shearer later that his orders had been to “break both [my] legs.” (The team found the crowd too friendly to me to make it safe to carry out their mission. Some of them instead assaulted young participants on the edge of the crowd and were led away by police, who released them to two men showing government credentials. Several of them were driven that night by Hunt and Liddy to reconnoiter “their next objective,” the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee.) Just weeks after this, several who had participated in both of these criminal efforts directed by the White House – the Fielding burglary and the roughing up of demonstrators on May 3 – were arrested in connection with the Watergate break-in.

265 From Secrets by Daniel Ellsberg:

Tuesday night, June 29, Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska cast his whole vote, twice: first on the Senate floor, where he was the only senator to attempt a filibuster against the war and finally the only one to accept the Pentagon Papers from me and try to read them into the record; second, later that night, in a hearing of the Subcommittee on Buildings and Grounds of the Senate Public Works Committee that he had hastily called.

He had rushed up from the Senate gym on Friday, June 18, to take a phone call that his aide suspected was from me. (The Washington Post published its first story that morning and was clearly about to be enjoined.) Without introducing myself, I asked him from a pay phone whether he was serious about conducting a filibuster, and if he would like to use the Pentagon Papers for this purpose. He said yes to both questions firmly. On June 24, Ben Bagdikian, despite his qualms as a journalist, carried out his promise to me to transfer the box with a second set of the papers to Gravel (from one car to another in front of the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Avenue).

At 5:55 P.M. on Tuesday, June 29, Senator Gravel was blocked by a Republican parliamentary maneuver from launching a one-man filibuster in the Senate chamber that he meant to last till the draft expired thirty hours later on Wednesday midnight. He proceeded to use his whole influence, as no other senator had dared. He called a night hearing of the obscure subcommittee of which he was chairman and, as the only senator present, began reading the Pentagon Papers into the hearing record at 9:45 P.M. in front of television cameras. He inserted the rest of the papers that Bagdikian had conveyed to him into the record as he adjourned the one-man hearing at 1 A.M. Then, with the help of his staff, he distributed great bundles of previously unpublished top secret documents to a crowd of newsmen and to the Associated Press, which put them on its news wire across the country. He did this without the assurance of congressional immunity for these actions, and with a strong prospect (partly realized) of ostracism by his colleagues, with possible censure or loss of his seat.

Gravel’s introduction in “Freedom Freaks”, an account of the 2008 Libertarian Party convention by Michael Idov:

With Barr otherwise engaged, the biggest name on the debate dais is former Alaska senator Mike Gravel. Another neophyte, he joined the party nearly three months ago after bowing out of a run for the Democratic nomination. Gravel used his time in the national spotlight to tape ornery cable appearances and inscrutable YouTube promos, all of which are now running on a loop at his booth (including a seasonal one that informs us, in song, that he’s “running for president, and he’s filled with Christmas cheer”). Gravel is candid about his motives and expectations. He’s mostly mad at the Democrats—who, he says, pushed him out of the race for criticizing the U.S. stance on Iran—and would enjoy a platform from which to dish out some mild payback. His floor team includes Neal, a long-haired Wiccan who has a beef with Barr “because he tried to stop Wiccans from worshiping in the military” and granddaughter Renee, 20 years old and in full Goth regalia featuring a spiky dog collar. “He’s the kind of grandpa you see on TV,” she says of Gravel, tongue stud flickering between her teeth. “The one who comes to visit for Christmas, opens the presents. You know?” (I do, in fact–I’ve seen the video.) “This will either end my career, or give me a boost for the next six months,” Gravel tells me. “I’ll take either.”

The losses of Church and McGovern as a result of NCPAC are described in the excellent “Follow the Dark Money” by Andy Kroll:

NCPAC famously spent $1.2 million in the 1980 election relentlessly attacking six Democratic lions of the Senate; four of them—McGovern, Birch Bayh of Indiana, Frank Church of Idaho, and John Culver of Iowa—would lose. On just one day during the ’80 campaign, NCPAC ran 150 anti-Church ads on Idaho radio stations. NCPAC also spent $2 million to help Reagan beat President Jimmy Carter. In the 1984 presidential election, it dropped another $2 million hammering Walter Mondale. The country had never seen anything like Dolan’s outside attack machine—and he knew it. “We’re on the cutting edge of politics,” he told the Washington Post in 1980.

266 Ruwe’s obituary, “L. Nicholas Ruwe; Aide to Presidents, Ex-Ambassador” from May 8th, 1990.

267 From Dirty Tricks:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Stone’s tweet:

268 The tweet by Jacob Weisberg:

269 My skepticism over Stone’s involvement in the Brooks Brothers riot is relayed in part four.

From Will by G. Gordon Liddy, a report on the counter-demonstration organized in Miami:

Earlier reports mentioned plans for a rally on Saturday evening, May 13, at Bay Front Park, Miami, Florida. Because of differences of opinion in the Cuban community and some internal jealousies, it was thought best to cancel the rally and to substitute a motorcade on Saturday afternoon.

Accordingly, on the afternoon of Saturday, May 13,a motorcade of 200 automobiles and 60 trucks was assembled at the Central Shopping Plaza, 37th Avenue and 7th Street, NW, Miami. “The vehicles were placarded with signs such as “Nixon – We Back You 100%” and “Free the POWS Now,” as well as a number reading “Tell it to Hanoi.” The motorcade lasted two and one-half hours (2:00 P.M. to 4:30 P.M.); starting at the Central Shopping Plaza, the route went south on 37th Avenue to the Tamiami Trail, then to Biscayne Boulevard and then all the way back up Flagler to 32nd Avenue. As the motorcade proceeded with lights on, more than 200 more vehicles joined the caravan, having a total of nearly 500 vehicles (automobiles and trucks).

The reactions of the street crowds on the way was very favorable. The route took the caravan through areas populated heavily by Cubans, and there was much shouting of “Viva Nixon.” Traffic was nearly paralyzed. The police were sympahtetic and helpful. At one point when the caravan stopped while police cleared traffic, one store took the popular music off its outdoor phonograph speakers and played “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Persons on the scene stated that Miami Herald coverage was biased against the motorcade in that it published no photographs with strong pro-Nixon sentiment, but only those which could be taken two ways, e.g., “Free the POWS now.” The Herald report (Section B, page 1) should not be relied upon as an accurate description as the actual event and the reaction thereto was far more favorable to the President.

270 A screenshot of the comment at “The FishbowlDC Interview With Roger Stone”:

philip dodge hair comments cropped

271 A screenshot of the comment at “Roger Stone’s New Book Says LBJ Killed JFK”:

philip dodge roger stone new book cropped

272 A screenshot of the comment at “Corsi challenges Bill O’Reilly to JFK-assassination debate”:

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273 A screenshot of the comment at “Ventura: LBJ Had The Most To Gain From JFK Assassination”:

Philip Dodge Ventura LBJ had the most to gain

274 A screenshot of the comment at “The List: Facts about President John F. Kennedy’s love of sports”:

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275 A screenshot of the comment at “Roger Stone: ‘Nixon thought LBJ killed Kennedy'”:

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276 A screenshot of the comment at “NY Times best selling author Roger Stone to visit Palm Beach for book signing”:

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277 A screenshot of the comment at “Ex-GOP Bad Boy Roger Stone Eyes Florida Run”:

Philip Dodge Ex GOP Bad Boy Roger Stone Eyes Flo

278 From “Roger Stone Joining GOProud’s Advisory Board” by Chris Geidner:

Republican political operative Roger Stone — known primarily for his work on opposition research and negative ads — is joining the advisory board of GOProud, adding another another voice to the group’s advisory board that is certain to inflame liberals.

In a release announcing the move, Stone said, “I am a libertarian Republican in the Barry Goldwater mold and I believe deeply in personal freedom, equality and getting government out of the bedroom, which is why I am proud to serve in this capacity.”

279 A screenshot of the comments by Philip Dodge and Juanita Feenis at “Roger Stone pondering a campaign for Florida governor with an emphasis on pot”:

philip dodge roger stone pondering a campaign fo

280 A screenshot of the comment at “Ex-GOP Bad Boy Roger Stone Eyes Florida Run”:

juanita feenis ex gop bad boy roger stone eyes f

281 A screenshot of the comment at “CBS Omits Spitzer’s Political Opponent Allegedly Provided Him With Prostitutes”:

juanita feenis cbs omits spitzer political oppon

282 A screenshot of the comment at“Eliot Spitzer to Jay Leno: ‘Hubris’ was my failing”:

juanita feenis eliot spitzer to jay leno hubris

283 A screenshot of the comment at “Boyd Gaming retains ownership of the name ‘Stardust'”:

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284 A screenshot of the comment at “Genting buys Echelon for $2 billion Resorts World Las Vegas”:

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285 A screenshot of the comment at “Who was Lee Harvey Oswald? Questions linger after John F Kennedy’s assassination”:

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286 A screenshot of the comment at “CNN’s Tapper to Eliot Spitzer: Shouldn’t You Have Gone to Jail?”:

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287 A screenshot of the comment at “Manhattan Madam to Eliot Spitzer: ‘Gosh, It’s Going to Be a Fun Race!'”:

karla von stetten manhattan madam to eliot spitz

288 A screenshot of the comments at “Letters at 3AM: JFK and That Hard Rain”:

karla von stetten letters at 3am jfk and that ha

karla von stetten letters at 3am jfk and that ha

289 A screenshot of the comment at “Eliot Spitzer to Jay Leno: Wall Street Rooting Against Me”:

richard knox eliot spitzer to jay leno wall stre

290 A screenshot of the comment at “Florida poll: Charlie Crist tops Rick Scott”:

richard knox florida poll charlie crist tops ric

291 A screenshot of the comment at “FBI Arrest Mayors Of Miami Lakes and Sweetwater in Florida: Mike Pizzi, Manuel Morono Charged in Corruption Schemes”:

richard knox fbi arrests mayor of miami lakes cr

292 The comment for “John Catsimatidis Spending Big on Billboards, Lip Balm and Candy” does not appear to be at the original story anymore, but it’s still at William Windorf’s Facebook page, screenshots below:

william windorf facebook pt1 cropped william windorf facebook pt2 cropped

The screenshot of the comments of Philip Dodge and William Windorf at “Few Mayoral Candidates Stand Up to Chassidim on ‘Metzitzah B’peh’”:

windorf dodge catsamandis cropped

293 The screenshot for “Daughter of Republican Mayoral Hopeful John Catsimatidis is Sort of a Mini-Celebrity in China”:

karla von stetten daughter of republican w750px

The screenshot for “Which NYC Mayoral Candidates Think Spying on American Muslims is Unconstitutional?”:

karla von stetten what nyc mayoral candidate w75

294 A screenshot of the comment at “Roger Stone previews ‘CIA coup’ theory of Watergate at Woodward-Bernstein event”:

william windorf roger stone previews cia coup cr

295 A screenshot of the comment at “How a Texas Paper Brought Down Billie Sol Estes”:

william windorf how a texas paper cropped

296 A screenshot from “Bimini SuperFast Makes Inaugural Voyage”:

william windorf bimini superfast makes inaugural

A screenshot from “Controversial resort opens up Bimini to the world”:

William Windorf Controversial Resort cropped

A screenshot from “Bahamas National Trust calls for disclosure on Bimini facility”:

William Windorf Bahamas National Trust cropped

297 A screenshot of the comments of Feenis and Windorf at “Analysts give mixed reviews for Genting’s Strip plans”:

juanita feenis analysts give mixed reviews cropp

298 A screenshot of the comments of Windorf and Dodge at “Disney Said to Be Dishing Big Bucks in Tallahassee, Preparing for Destination Casino Fight”:

william windorf disney said to be dishing big bu

299 The background information on Nick Loeb is well-known and can be found in many places. I grabbed it from “Sofia Vergara’s Fiance, Nick Loeb, ‘Lives Like A King,’ Says Source” by “Naughty but Nice Rob”.

A screenshot of the Windorf comment from “Sofia Vergara and Nick Loeb: Brawling Over Her Ex on New Year’s Eve?”:

william windorf Sofia Vergara and Nick Loeb crop

A screenshot of the Windorf comment from “Sofia Vergara & Boyfriend’s NYE Fight Caused Boob Explosion?!”:

william windorf sofia vergara caused boob explos

300 Screenshots of the comments of “Roger Stone Considers Run for Florida Governor”:

warren redlich independent political report pt2

warren redlich independent political report pt3

warren redlich independent political report crop

301 Screenshots of the comments of “Update: Demos Fed Up With Sheriff’s Blunders”.

Dick Knox:

Dick Knox Demos Fed Up With Sheriff Blunders cro

Karla Von Stetten:

karla von stetten Demos Fed Up With Sheriff Blun

William Windorf:

william windorf Demos Fed Up With Sheriff Blunde

302 The comments for “Legal problems may stop BSO hiring” and “Sheriff Scott Israel makes new hires to ‘connect with community'” are no longer at the original stories, however they are listed in Richard Knox’s Disqus profile:

richard knox sheriff office pt1 cropped

richard knox sheriff office pt2 cropped

303 Among other names with the strange pattern of commenting exclusively on matters related to The Man Who Killed Kennedy, Roger Stone, gambling, and other related interests we might list a few more.

There is Erica Benafucci, commenting on “Richter delays Florida casino gambling bill”:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Erica Benafucci Richter delays Florida casino

Benafucci on “Lyndon B. Johnson arranged John F. Kennedy’s assassination – Roger Stone – News – World – The Voice of Russia”:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Erica Benafucci Lyndon B Johnson arranged John

Benafucci on “Inside the world of JFK conspiracy theories”:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

erica benafucci inside the world of jfk conspi

Benafucci on “The Brooklyn Independent GOP Fountainhead: Roger Stone spoke at Bay Ridge Manor to contingent of The Brooklyn Young Republican Club”:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

erica benafucci the brooklyn independent gop cro

This last features comments which, other than Benafucci’s, are almost entirely hostile and somewhat amusing:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Another name that follows this pattern is Adele Jeter. There she is with a comment on Facebook for The National Enquirer story, “PRESIDENTIAL AIDE: LBJ ARRANGED JFK’s ASSASSINATION blockbuster new evidence”:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

adele jeter facebook page cropped

“Roger Stone Bashes Medical Marijuana Push as Charlie Crist Front”:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Adele Jeter Roger Stone Bashes Medical Marijuana

“Roger Stone’s Gov run: True leadership or brilliant strategy?”, alongside Philip Dodge:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Adele Jeter Roger Stone Gov run cropped

“Roger Stone will “probably” run for Florida governor”:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

Adele Jeter Roger Stone will probably run for go

“Libertarian Roger Stone will not run for Governor of Florida”:

Roger Stone - Pretty reckless is going straight to hell

adele jeter libertarian roger stone will not run

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Roger Stone: Pretty Reckless Is Going Straight To Hell Part Eight

ROGER STONE:

PRETTY RECKLESS IS GOING STRAIGHT TO HELL

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR PART FIVE PART SIX

PART SEVEN PART EIGHT PART NINE PART TEN

Roger Stone - Pretty Reckless is going straight to hell

THE WELL DRESSED MAN PART EIGHT: THE WIFE OF THE WELL-DRESSED MAN / DIVIDE AND CONQUER / THE BIG ENCHILADA

(Of invaluable help in following the intricate politics of the Libertarian Party since the 2008 election was the Liberty for America journal; I recommend its work to the curious and scholarly, their back issues can be found here. Equally helpful for following the conflicts within the Libertarian Party at that time, some involving Johnson and Stone, was the website, The Independent Political Report.)

The opening moments of that visit often came back to me over the next decade, during three elections in South Vietnam and two in the United States. Nixon came up to the large room on the second floor of [General Edward] Lansdale’s villa where the team members were gathered in a semicircle to greet him. I had never seen him before in person, and never did again. He was jet-lagged and rumpled, with the jowls and heavy five o’clock shadow of the Herblock cartoons. But in the long discussion that followed, he was alert and articulate. He went around the circle and shook hands with each of us. Then he joined Lansdale, standing in front of two armchairs side by side, and said, “Well, Ed, what are you up to?”

Getting right to business, Lansdale said, “Mr. Vice President, we want to help General Thang make this the most honest election that’s ever been held in Vietnam.”

“Oh, sure, honest, yes, honest, that’s right” – Nixon was seating himself in an armchair next to Lansdale – “so long as you win!” With the last words he did three things in quick succession: winked, drove his elbow hard into Lansdale’s arm, and, in a return motion, slapped his own knee. My colleagues turned to stone.

–Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir

This eighth part gives good space to the role of Roger Stone in the 2012 election, which was marked by several pieces given over to the longtime fixer’s switch from the GOP to the libertarian party, such as “Roger Stone’s Steakhouse Politics” by Gabriel Sherman, say, or “Roger Stone to GOP: Payback’s a Bitch” by Mark Warren, or “GOP trickster Roger Stone defects to Libertarian party” by the Washington Post, all asking questions and wondering what philosophical shift this implied. My belief is that this is the wrong question to ask, as Stone has nothing like a consistent political philosophy or beliefs. The only relevant questions are: who is he grifting, and how big a grift is he trying to pull off?

This same question can also be asked of his wife – not Nydia Stone, but his first wife, Ann, who is very much a kindred spirit. She is almost entirely invisible in the profiles by Labash and Toobin – going entirely unmentioned in the first, and only given brief mention exclusively as a wife in the second – “Stone and his wife at the time, Ann, became famous for their lavish life style, which included a chauffeur-driven Mercedes and tailor-made clothes,” “In the nineties, Stone divorced Ann and married Nydia Bertran,” – rather than as a formidable political force in her own right. I do not think he was the best or most loyal of husbands, but he gives her a complimentary mention in his memoir, and I don’t think this is a case of gallantry or politeness, but simply giving his ex-wife her just due. There are two people, Stone writes, who taught him everything about direct mail, and getting a message out to conservative donors and activists. One of them is Jim Martin, the man who managed to put out the message that the inheritance tax should be called a death tax. The other is his ex-wife Ann E.W. Stone. She, along with Martin, “are both two of the most brilliant marketers I know”187.

Direct mail was the secret fuel of the conservative movement, and its master was Richard Viguerie. Through pleas to fight communism in the United States or abroad, for the cause of persecuted christians or persecuted capitalists, direct mail harnessed a massive amount of money from small donors to fund conservative political causes and groups, including NCPAC – an ordinary PAC as opposed to a Super PAC which relies on the funding of a small number of single wealthy donors, or sometimes a single wealthy donor, such as the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson. Both Ann Stone and Richard Martin, the names singled out by Roger Stone, were two of Viguerie’s best students. “Funding Father”, is a 2003 Washington Times ode by Martin to Viguerie. “Shy about personally visiting contributors,” Martin writes, “Mr. Viguerie realized he could contact 1,000 or 10,000 potential donors by mail without spending any more time, effort or money than it would take to personally solicit a single contribution from one potential donor.” He is perhaps not overstating things in the next paragraph. “Legions of candidates, from the courthouse to the White House, have benefited from Mr. Viguerie’s expertise, and legions of others have tasted defeat as a direct result of his ability to raise money and promote action simply by sitting down at his typewriter.”

Easily the best discussion of the phenomenon is “The Long Con” by Rick Perlstein, and the title is not idle malice. Perlstein gives substantial evidence that questions how much of the money raised went to their intended causes and how much ended up in the pockets of the mail wranglers. There’s also the ways in which these political appeals resemble snake oil sales of elixirs and sure fire investments, whose appeals the dedicated conservative got as well, with the mailing lists sold off to commercial bidders of cheap, cruddy stuff and grifts. All this reaches the obvious and expected nadir with direct mail’s electronic ancestor in “Newt Gingrich & Herman Cain Are Now Making Money Off Spam” by Ben Adler, where subscribers to the mailing lists of both men receive news on how Obamacare is destroying lives, the betrayal of the dead of Benghazi, but also the ways their erectile dysfunction problems can now be solved, and how you can get rich quick now. This same theme, false politics overlapping with the deceptions of the con, is there in the career of Ann Stone, woefully unreported, except for brief outbursts of scandalous exposure.

The name of her husband cameos in the Watergate hearings, and she makes a similar brief appearance in what I think was a much larger scandal, Iran-contra. This scandal of the Reagan administration involved the sale of weapons to Iran to provide funding for the contras of Nicaragua, all without congressional oversight, all for the purpose of getting weapons to these rebels of Central America after congress had specifically banned such funding. Here she is, in the “Iran-Contra Investigation, Appendix B, Volume 3: Depositions (specific pages 162-163)”. The man being interviewed by Congress is Adolfo Calero, the head of the contras, their chief lobbyist for funds, who was also connected to the man at the center of the scandal, Oliver North, and was well aware of the illegality of the Iran-Contra money188. I boldface the appearance of her name:

Q And was there any other source of money? Did you get any money from Secord? [Richard Secord, another Administration figure involved in the scandal]

A No, no.

Q And you still had ammunition and weapons left from what you had managed to squirrel away in 1985?

A Yes. And then at one time we got a $75,000 donation. I don’t know where it came from. We got $50,000 from phone calls that I made. And that was paid to [REDACTED] and that money had been sent to Ann Scott, no Ann Stone. And $75,000 that checks that were made did not pass through our account, checks that were paid directly to the [REDACTED]

It was most likely a much larger scandal than Watergate in terms of what was done, though without any of the repercussions of that one. Watergate had pushed Roger Stone into shameful exile, his name briefly the equal of a leper’s sore. By Iran-contra, however, conservatives had managed to figure out how to turn an unconstitutional action into a fundraising opportunity. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like this,” says a direct mail expert of the time, as she pulls in $54 000 collected on a single day, from an appeal sent out after Oliver North testified on his proud involvement in anti-constitutional activity. This wasn’t a traitor, a criminal, a felon; this was a patriot, persecuted by the spineless liberals of the Northeast establishment. The direct mail expert, the title character of “North Appearance Spurs Contra Fund-Raising, Spokeswoman Says”, is our heroine as well:

A fund-raising appeal sent out by the Contra rebels on the heels of Lt. Col. Oliver North’s congressional testimony has drawn a “mind-boggling” response, a fund-raiser said Friday.

The mailing, capitalizing on the wave of public sentiment that North raised during a week of testimony about the Iran-Contra affair, was sent early last week to 200,000 people drawn from conservative mailing lists, said Ann Stone, a mail consultant who sent the appeal for the Contras’ official money gathering arm, the Nicaraguan Development Council.

The money is to be spent on nonlethal supplies for the rebels and for expenses of their Washington office, she said.

Ms. Stone said the mailing paid for itself on the first day the returns came back, with $54,000 collected that day.

The appeal, in the form of an “Urgentgram,” went out over the signature of Adolfo Calero, one of the most recognized names in the U.S.-backed Contra leadership. It said in part: “In the past few days a man I am proud to call my friend, Lt. Col. Oliver North, has laid out the reasons our men and I fight the communist Sandinistas who have enslaved Nicaragua.

“These enemies will not give up simply because Ollie North told the truth about the Nicaraguan communists. They continue to spread lies and disinformation – we must counter them.”

The letter concludes with a plea for “whatever you can afford to send – $1,000, $500, $100, $50, $25 or less.”

“I thank you. I’m sure Ollie North would be grateful too.”

I wrote of this scandal being transformed into one more conservative persecution complex, the upstanding man doing the righteous thing, only to be stabbed in the back by the perfidious liberal, and this is not my reading, but the one that Ann Stone and Richard Viguerie are happy to make explicit, the very one that they use to pull in cash, all there in “Conservatives Using 50s-Style ‘Soft on Communism’ Tactic in Contra Aid Fight” by Donald Rothberg. Ann Stone might be more discrete than her husband, might be smarter in sticking to the shadows, but make no mistake that she is as vicious and tough a pit fighter as he is. Of those who might think the United States should not interfere or get involved in Central and South America, “We are saying either they are fools or they are collaborators,” says Ann Stone.

WASHINGTON (AP) Conservative supporters of the Contra forces in Nicaragua are gearing up a 1950s-style campaign labeling opponents of U.S. aid as “soft on communism.”

“We are saying either they are fools or they are collaborators,” said Ann Stone, a conservative fund-raiser.

“The perception of being soft on communism really has hurt a number of Democrats,” said Richard Viguerie, whose company pioneered direct-mail fund- raising for right-wing causes and candidates.

Ms. Stone and Viguerie are flooding the mails with millions of letters urging people to send money and also call their representatives or senators urging them to support President Reagan’s $100 million aid package for the Contras fighting the Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

In the same article, there’s Terry Dolan; a year away from dying of AIDS, turning everything into a simple question:

John T. Dolan, chairman of the National Conservative Political Action Committee, said his group is running ads against some aid opponents. He described the theme as, “Are you for a communist government there or are you for getting rid of it? It’s as simple as that.”

Typical of the mail being sent was a letter dated March 14 and signed by Dolan.

“We have only one week to act,” the letter began. It went on to talk about a 14-year-old girl who “lost her eye fighting against the communists in Nicaragua. … She fought so our boys wouldn’t have to go down there to keep communism from spreading up through Mexico.”

Ann Stone is raising funds for Nicaragua, but she’s pulling in money for a much larger issue than Nicaragua. This isn’t just about Nicaragua, it’s about Viet Nam, and liberals betraying Americans on Nicaragua, liberals betraying Americans on Viet Nam. It’s about liberals betraying America.

Conservative fund-raisers have been going through a dry spell in which contributions have been down. Many now see Central America as an issue that might get conservatives to whip out their checkbooks again as they did when the United States ratified treaties during the Carter administration calling for gradual transfer of the Panama Canal from U.S. to Panamanian control.

Conservatives branded the treaties a “giveaway.” “It’s kind of like a Panama Canal issue where close to 100 percent of the conservatives are on board,” Viguerie said.

Asked if she agreed, Ms. Stone said, “Absolutely. You’re talking about an anger among many Americans not only going back to the Panama Canal, but all the way back to the redressing of wounds and complaints people had from the Vietnam War and the way many in the liberal community dealt with that issue.”

It was while researching something else, that I came across Stone’s name in the midst of a recent scandal, and it gives you some sense of the way she belongs to the shadow world of politics that the piece covering the scandal simultaneously acknowledged that she was a very powerful figure without noting that her ex-husband was Roger Stone – possibly a valuable biographical detail, but one absent in a long, in-depth, and very well done piece of investigative reporting. “National Women’s History Museum Makes Little Progress After 16 Years” by Andrea Stone (no relation) and Christina Wilkie describes the sixteen year long effort to build a museum devoted to honoring women’s achievements, but one with strikingly little to show for it, without even a location for a building secured or picked out. There were two women involved in the project, Joan Bradley Wages, a democratic lobbyist, and “Ann E.W. Stone, a veteran Republican political operative”. Stone, the authors write, “seemed like an ideal backer: a well-connected Washington insider on the fault line of women’s politics, a pro-choice Republican with good fundraising credentials and a knack for publicity. Stone has been a member of the museum’s board since it was founded and has twice served as treasurer. She has been the senior vice president since 2007.” Stone held a central role in the development of the museum, and a central role in the scandal – that nothing apparently was achieved in over sixteen years, while getting a rather healthy stream of money from the museum189.

Stone’s work for the museum, along with that of Wages, was recorded as in-kind donations, a rate fixed to each hour donated with the accumulated salary of those hours considered a donation to the museum, helpfully improving the museum’s revenue and picture of financial health. In 2010, Ann Stone’s company the Stone Group was the biggest single non-cash contributor to the museum, donating over $370 000 in in-kind donations. In 2009, she’d personally donated over $27 000 worth of volunteer time. The year after that, she suddenly gave far more of her time, over 1700 hours, which works out to nearly 43 weeks of time at forty hours per week. She would count 780 of these hours as in-kind donations, valued at between $150 to $1000 per hour. Her total personal contribution was over $200 000. Wages would also make large amounts of in-kind donations through volunteer time, 1450 hours in 2009, first valued at over $398 000 before auditors took issue with her $275 per hour rate, at which point her in-kind donations were revalued as being worth a little over $189 000. When the writers of the investigative piece asked for an explanation for the sudden jump in volunteered time, Stone grew flustered and said she’d call back with an explanation. She did not call back. A president of the nonprofit charity watchdog, Charity Navigator, would say that the fact that Stone and Wages were also the museum’s biggest volunteers was “very, very unusual.”190

While she was giving these highly valued donations of her time to the project, the museum was paying her companies for their direct mail services, spending at least $194 000 since 2005. They would also spend money with Total Direct Response, the company of Lora Lynn Jones, the business partner of Ann Stone for the past thirty years. Both Stone and Jones have already appeared in this narrative (“Roger Stone: Pretty Reckless Is Going Straight To Hell Part Four”), in 2000, when companies associated with them print out the fundraising letters for the “Committee to Take Back Our Judiciary”, the mysterious group formed to pressure the Florida Supreme Court to vote in the Bush campaign’s favor. “Were you as outraged by the Florida Supreme Court’s efforts to highjack [sic] the presidency for Al Gore as I was?,” the letters screeched. “We must raise at least $4.5 million by the ‘Vote No’ campaign to organize Florida voters to reject the retention of these three liberal Supreme Court justices.” This direct mail fund-raising campaign cost $150,000, the project funded by a single payment of $150,000, whose source appears to be still unidentified191.

This detail, as well as Stone and Jones, all appear in this excerpt on this mysterious committee, from “Election Law: Supreme Plot” (archived) by Dan Christianson, from Daily Business Review, July 10, 2003:

The direct mail fund-raising campaign cost $150,000. According to Judge Hooper, Roger Stone came up with the money that Committee campaign records later listed as a “loan” from an Alexandria, Va.-based firm called Creative Marketing. The mailing address reported by the Committee for Creative Marketing was the same as that of the Stone Group, a fund-raising and marketing firm owned by Roger Stone’s ex-wife, conservative Republican activist Ann Stone. Investigators could find no company by the name of Creative Marketing.

Mary McCarty said Roger Stone told her he and his partner, Craig Snyder, would be personally responsible for repaying the $150,000 that funded the “Dear Friend” mass mailing.

There were also questions about who the money went to. Judge Hooper found that Roger Stone “or his Organization” actually paid the $150,000 not to Creative Marketing but to a Virginia company called Unique Graphics and Design, which, according to Virginia State corporate records, had as its principals Ann Stone and Lora Lynn Jones. The Committee subsequently paid Unique Graphics an additional $50,000 in May 2001 for purposes that remain unclear.

Last November, Lora Lynn Jones testified in a deposition that it was Roger Stone who hired Unique Graphics for the Florida work, gave her “marching orders,” and was responsible for paying the tab for the fund-raising letter. Lora Jones said she asked for and received the entire $150,000 payment by wire, in advance, because Roger Stone had “burned” her once before on a job.

Neither Hooper nor the FEC determined why the Committee listed “Creative Marketing” rather than “Unique Graphics” as the recipient of the payments. In another anomaly, a Daily Business Review examination of Virginia State corporate records found that “Unique Graphics” was NOT a legal entity when the two payments of $150,000 and $50,000 were made and received. The company’s charter was terminated in 1994, and the firm was purged from the state’s records in 1999.

And despite state records showing that Ann Stone was a principal of “Unique Graphics”, Lora Jones said she was the sole owner and employee. She also said, however, that she was a longtime employee of the Stone Group.

Jones would donate 2050 hours in volunteer time to the museum in 2010, 2050 hours of volunteer time valued at a little over $164 000, 2050 hours of volunteer time that would break down to an average valuation of about $80 per hour, 2050 hours of volunteer time that Jones said included “chores”, such as moving furniture and picking up supplies192.

This was one project that Ann Stone was involved in, but there was a second project which she was even more actively involved in that had even more intriguing questions. It all came out in “The curious spending of Republicans for Choice” by Josh Israel. The focus was a PAC chaired by Stone whose ostensible purpose was to support pro-choice Republican candidates at all levels of government, to bring about a more moderate Republican position on abortion, one more proximate to the beliefs of mainstream Republicans. The piece was aptly named, since this was a PAC that had raised and spent over $5.5 million since its inception in 1990, but according a decade’s worth of data (from 2000 to 2010), less than 5% had gone to political candidates, committees, or independent expenditures. Between 2005 and 2010, the year that “Curious spending” was published, one half of one percent of the million dollars at the PAC’s disposal had gone to federal or state campaigns. In contrast, according to the FEC, the average federal PAC of the 2007-2008 election cycle had spent 35% of its funds on federal candidates. Republican Majority for Choice PAC, a PAC with a very similar agenda to Republicans for Choice, spent more than 87% of its funds on candidates, committees, and independent expenditures. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund spent 72% on these. Two Republican anti-abortion groups, the Republican National Coalition for Life PAC and National Right to Life PAC, spent 79% and 91%, respectively, on candidates, committees, and independent expenditures193.

The expenditures for the Republicans for Choice PAC were similar to those of the National Women’s History Museum: Capstone Lists, The Stone Group, and Ann Stone herself. Since 2001, Stone received nearly a quarter of a million dollars in reimbursements from the PAC, for such things as “travel and entertainment,” and “automobile maintenance repairs”. The Republicans for Choice PAC paid for $685 of her parking tickets194. There were several ways you could look at this. That, according to Ann Stone’s comments to a Politico piece which summarized the allegations, this was a misunderstanding of her PAC, and that “our PAC was never primarily designed to support candidates by giving money. In fact I was clear with him [the reporter of the original piece, Josh Israel] that was a small part of what we were set up to do.” The reason why Republicans for Choice used The Stone Group and Capstone is because no such firm with Republican ties would do so, out of fear of retribution by the party. As for now, the party may have calmed down, and “maybe I could have bid the work out but since my firm was named as one of the top in the Nation by a vote of our peers, why settle for less with another firm?”195 So, there was the possibility that it was a misunderstanding on the part of the writer. The other two possibilities, left to cynical, suspicious minds, were those which open this post: how big is the grift and who is Ann Stone grifting?

There was the simplest possibility, an outgrowth of the theme of Rick Perlstein’s “The Long Con”, that she was raising money of which the vast majority were going to herself rather than the cause for which she was raising. There was, however, the possibility of an even larger, longer con, tied to when the group began. Stone’s Republicans for Choice would make a very public appearance in such articles as “G.O.P. Group Formed to Support Abortion Rights” by Robin Toner, along with one of the only profiles of Ann Stone in a mainstream magazine, People‘s “A True-Blue Conservative Chooses to Break Ranks” by Elizabeth Gleick. Republicans for Choice would be created several months after another conservative abortion rights group, mentioned in “G.O.P. Group Formed to Support Abortion Rights”, had already been created with the very same purpose, to support pro-choice Republicans: Pro-Choice America. We have, a week after the publication of “G.O.P. Group Formed”, the piece “Abortion Issue Simmers In GOP” by S.A. Paolantonio, about the possibility of abortion dividing the Republican party. “It’s our biggest fear,” Ann Stone’s ex-husband, Roger Stone, is quoted as saying in the piece196. We are then given an imagining of a very dramatic split of the Republicans over this issue during a presidential convention:

Imagine anti-abortionists repelling any changes in the platform committee, and an abortion-rights advocate, say, Rep. Nancy Johnson of Connecticut, proposing a platform change from the convention floor. The chairman denies her motion, and abortion-rights supporters – a majority of GOP leaders, according to a Boston Globe poll last week – walk out of the convention.

Imagine this on live television.

It is this crisis point in the klieg lights that many Republicans are desperate to avoid. Last week, a new group called Republicans for Choice – so far about 300 legislators, fund-raisers and members of Congress in all 50 states – embarked on a mission to take control of the party’s policy-making apparatus before the 1992 convention. Their goal: Excise the anti-abortion plank in the Republican platform.

As already said, one of the issues Roger Stone deals with is voter fragmentation, eliminating it on his own side, while creating division among potential supporters of your opponent. This is not the same as eliminating ideological division, which is expected to exist, but to make sure that ideological division cannot be expressed on his own side, while being given as much outlet for expression in the opposition. Every effort must be made to keep George Wallace from running in the general, when he will split conservative votes, while every measure possible should be taken that he runs in the democratic primary, fostering division among democratic voters and perhaps depressing enthusiasm and turnout in the general. This would be the larger scale grift. To deal with this potentially devastating split in the Republican party – “It’s our biggest fear,” says Roger Stone – one might imagine a possible effective counterstrategy: to control the splitting faction, to create a pro-abortion rights Republican PAC which takes in money for the purpose of electing pro-choice Republican candidates, but instead does nearly nothing with it. Electing pro-choice Republican candidates, after all, would not simply change the position of the party, but create a party split, just as busing, crime, drugs, and the issues those words explicitly expressed, or the one they implied – race – had split the democratic party for more than a decade and a half. Rather than letting this issue split the party, you have an advocacy group that doesn’t advocate – it would be a little like taking a dangerous electricity and running it into the ground. We might also imagine this approach taken with another project. Let’s suppose you were conservative minded and thought the idea of women getting their own museum was ridiculous. What would be a more effective approach for halting construction: throwing yourself in the middle of the road, to block the construction equipment, or making yourself head of the construction team, and slowing down the pace to the point where nothing is done?

With regard to Republicans for Choice, this is only a theory, and the best supporting evidence that this was the true intent of the group is that Ann Stone was once Roger Stone’s wife, very much a kindred spirit, a virtuoso at direct mail from whom he learned everything, as merciless a political pit fighter as he was. Other than that, we have only small hints that this is what Republicans for Choice was attempting to do. There is “McInnis served on Republicans for Choice board for nearly a decade” by Scot Kersgaard, which points out that McInnis, a Republican candidate for Colorado’s governorship, was on the board of Stone’s Republicans for Choice from 1996 to 2005, at the same time that he served in the House of Representatives, where he went from being pro-choice to voting mostly against abortion, with the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) giving him a rating of zero percent on abortion issues in 2003. “Yet after receiving that rating,” the piece notes, McInnis “continued to serve at least two more years on the RFC board. Did the board actually offer advice in the running of the organization as implied or were members merely figureheads?” More succinctly: what is a pro-life congressman doing on the board of a pro-choice organization? When McInnis ran in the Republican primary for governor of Colorado, he would support a “personhood” initiative in the state, which was expected to ban abortion in the state. McInnis lost197.

There was another story that perhaps gave weight to this theory, “Republicans for Choice vs. Republicans for Choice” by Jeff Johnson, about the conflict between Stone’s Republicans for Choice PAC and Republicans for Choice, an affiliate of Planned Parenthood. Stone’s group supported the appointment by George W. Bush of Priscilla Owen to the Fifth Circuit, while the Planned Parenthood affiliate was opposed. “I worry that if we in the pro-choice movement attack even those judicial nominees who are responsible and acclaimed jurists that we will appear like the ‘boy who cried wolf’ when the really bad nominees come forward,” wrote Stone. “We need to pick our fights and this should not be one of them.” “Republicans for Choice”, you discovered in this article, was a name that had been trademarked by Planned Parenthood in 1990, with an agreement between the group and Stone allowing her to use it, with necessary qualifiers to avoid confusion. Yet the confusion appeared inevitable, given the names; Stone’s website was republicansforchoice.com, while republicansforchoice.org was the affiliate’s. “We are Republican first and pro-choice second in their eyes,” said Stone of her disagreement with Planned Parenthood. “Our group was organized to be party-friendly and to work out the issue within the party … I have been a target more often than not because they see me as being ‘too Republican.'” In their mailer “Priscilla Owen Nominee for United States Court of Appeals For the Fifth Circuit: Executive Summary”, NARAL would write the following as their basis for opposing the nomination:

In almost every case concerning reproductive rights decided by the Texas Supreme Court during her tenure, Owen has sought to restrict a woman’s right to choose. In most of these cases, she did not merely uphold the Texas legislature in its decision to create a barrier to reproductive choice, she actually attempted to rewrite the statute to create her own, additional, barriers.

Stone would say the following in reaction to Planned Parenthood’s opposition of Owen: “To call her an ‘anti-choice extremist’ is ridiculous. It’s laughable.”198

There was one final detail in the history of Republicans for Choice, a reminder of what a hard pit fighter Ann Stone could be, so very much like her former husband in the nasty smears he could come up with, a cruel moment that the all encompassing historical amnesia had helped forget. It was two weeks to the end of the 1996 race for the governor of Delaware, and the Republican candidate, Janet Rzewnicki, was far behind the incumbent, Tom Carper, when Ann Stone held a news conference where she made a stunning accusation. There were, said Stone, sealed court records which proved that Carper abused his wife. Further, Stone said, “people in Delaware I trust,” had told her it was true. Carper had admitted to slapping his first wife once during their marriage in documents from a 1981 child custody dispute. Martha Carper, the governor’s current wife, would angrily deny Stone’s allegations in a press conference called almost immediately after Stone’s. “There are no documents sealed or unsealed because there are no documents in Family Court or in any other court.” The chair of the state Republican party would also denounce the allegations. “Ann Stone does not represent the Delaware Republican Party. We don’t practice that type of politics here in Delaware,” he’d say. “I think the whole thing is a malicious attack on the governor without a foundation.” Both Rzewnicki and her campaign manager insisted it was up to Carper to prove that he didn’t beat his wife. “If there’s nothing to hide, unseal the records and let the people of Delaware decide on this issue. I’m certainly not calling Tom Carper a wife-beater, but I believe that the people of Delaware have a right to know the entire story,” said Rzewnicki. “Show that he didn’t do it again and that’s the end of it,” said her campaign manager. Four members of the Republicans for Choice would resign in the wake of the accusations. They objected to Stone “raising issues that allegedly occurred over 15 years ago and with nothing but rumor and innuendo that they have occurred since then.” They also believed that Stone’s accusations, which I italicize what might have actually been an important and very intended effect, “could prove to be damaging to pro-choice candidates.” The question, unanswered, is the same here as it is in other parts of the story of Roger and Ann Stone: how large a game are they playing? Was this simply a clumsy smear, or a smear with the intent to do harm to the pro-choice movement in the Republican party? Janet Rzewnicki had previously served on the board of Republicans for Choice. In 1982, in Tom Carper’s first race, the issue of domestic abuse had also been brought up by his opponent. His opponent then was Tom Evans, and the campaign of Evans was run by a man known well to both Ann Stone and the reader, a man by the name of Roger Stone. Tom Evans would lose that race In 1982. Janet Rzewnicki would lose the governor’s race in 1996199.

This same question, how large a game is being played, is at the forefront of Roger Stone’s involvement of the 2012 election. It is this on which attention should have been focused, rather than on any supposed philosophical metamorphosis. I have already mentioned the pieces by Gabriel Sherman and the Washington Post whose purpose, arguably, is not even analysis of this shift, but simply presentation of a colorful character, the Roger Stone schtick with the malice of the Redlich smear entirely forgotten, with only the supposed pretense of such analysis. A far more insightful piece, one which served as the impetus for this lengthy essay, was from the NSFW Corp, “The Gary Johnson Swindle and the Degradation of Third Party Politics” by Mark Ames. The other writers treated Roger Stone as an amusing carnival act, while Ames looked at Stone and the product he was promoting, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, as a crueler kind of joke. “Gary Johnson,” Ames writes, “is proof that our democracy is finished, a fistula of bad politics swelling up under Lady Liberty’s armpit.” The next paragraph:

It’s surprising to me how little skepticism or critical interest there is in Gary Johnson’s third party campaign, especially since he’s been hard-sold to progressives as the “real alternative” or “principled” or “more progressive than [NAME OF CORRUPT DEMOCRAT SCUMBAG HERE].”

The article’s ultimate thesis is simple, a reprise of the theme of voter fragmentation. Just as Wallace was employed to split the democratic vote in 1972, Gary Johnson will be employed to split enough democratic votes in key states for Romney to win the election. Ames dismisses most of the analysis of Stone and Johnson except for one piece, by David Sirota, “The libertarian/marijuana conspiracy to swing the election”. The subhead gives us a succinct summary, “Robocalls urge pro-drug legalization voters to support libertarian Gary Johnson, and could push the state to Romney”, and a few excerpts give us the argument:

The armchair pundits in Washington and New York typically write off these latter two factors as forces destined to aid the president’s reelection campaign. The conventional wisdom is rooted in oversimplified cartoons and caricatures of voter preferences. Essentially, the idea is that the marijuana measure will bring out liberal, Obama-loving hippies, yuppies and crunchies from Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins, while the libertarian candidate’s campaign will siphon conservative votes that would otherwise go to Mitt Romney, thus making Johnson the Republican “version of Ralph Nader,” as the New York Times predictably projects. But that kind of hackneyed red-versus-blue story line – so prevalent in the national media echo chamber – ignores how these forces are playing out on the ground.

This is particularly true considering the intersection of the pot initiative and the Johnson campaign. Despite the punditocracy’s narratives to the contrary, the former New Mexico governor has already been taking as much – or more – support away from Obama in Colorado as he has been from Romney, according to polls. And Johnson’s anti-Obama effect could be come much more pronounced in the next few weeks, thanks to how his supporters are deftly leveraging all hoopla around the marijuana initiative to sharpen their candidate’s appeal and message to disaffected Democrats.

This message is not just word-of-mouth anymore; it has been elevated to the big leagues by a new voter outreach campaign. Indeed, a new automated telephone call focused on the pot measure and playing to liberal disappointment is right now hitting Democratic households in Colorado. Here’s what the message says (you can listen to the full audio below):

Hello fellow Democrat. Like you I was thrilled to vote for Barack Obama in 2008. In 2008, candidate Obama promised not to use the Justice Department to prosecute medical marijuana in states where it was legal. But the real Obama did just that, more than doubling prosecutions, putting people in prisons and shutting down medical marijuana facilities in Colorado. That’s not the change you wanted on health freedom. But you can still be a force for hope and change by voting for Gary Johnson.

Officially funded by the Libertas Institute, the message is accurate in its factual broad strokes. Candidate Obama did explicitly promise to restrain the Justice Department from prosecuting medical marijuana offenses in medical marijuana states, and President Obama has nonetheless overseen an intense Justice Department crackdown on medical marijuana in those states, directly contradicting his pledge.

Though the national media has made the unilateral decision to ignore the massive and destructive Drug War, Johnson and his supporters clearly see the issue as a perfect opening for maximum local – and by virtue of the Electoral College, national – impact. They can make a full-throated libertarian case against the Drug War in a state whose politics are uniquely aligned to convert that argument into an election-winning game-changer for the Republican presidential nominee.

However, Sirota then argues against the idea of an intentional vote split:

Is this a brilliant GOP conspiracy theory? In other words, is the libertarian candidate deliberately trying to help Romney, as Obama partisans will no doubt grouse? Almost certainly not, as Johnson is no fan of Romney, to say the least. He has run a consistently honest and principled campaign that has been equal – and equally harsh – in its criticism of both parties. For that, despite being on most state ballots, he has been mercilessly shut out of the national debate by America’s bipartisan Political-Media-Industrial Complex. But apparently not shut out enough to potentially shift the outcome of the entire 2012 election.

For some, this will be sufficient refutation against such election shenanigans. For myself, I find Sirota’s claim to be superficial and weak. It ultimately implies that Johnson necessarily be a willing and intentional instrument for a vote split, when that is unnecessary. The only thing crucial is that there be a candidate credible on specific issues in key states to achieve this split – if Gary Johnson wants to run in the general election, then he will be suitable for the enterprise. “GOP donors funding Nader: Bush supporters give independent’s bid a financial lift”, by Carla Marinucci, is a piece on wealthy Republicans such as Nijad Fares, a man who gave $200 000 to Bush’s 2000 inaugural committee, and frozen food magnate Jeno Paulucci, who between 2000 and 2004 donated $150 000 to Republican causes, making large contributions to the 2004 Ralph Nader campaign200. This might be either an expression of deep ambivalence over capitalism, or part of the obvious ploy to keep Nader in the race and pull votes from Kerry, another vote split that would make a Republican victory more likely. Does anyone doubt that Nader was as much a man of principle as Gary Johnson, that he was far more critical of both parties than Johnson was? Yet he was also a useful instrument for a vote split, so useful that the GOP gave money in 2004 to make sure his campaign kept going.

That there was very effective message control with regard to Johnson, with emphasis on marijuana, gay marriage, and an oversized security state, with no mention of inconsistencies in Johnson or the seaminess of a backer like Stone, might be seen in some of the mainstream coverage the Johnson campaign received. The sole issue of Molly Ball’s profile of Johnson in the Atlantic‘s “Pipe Dreamer” is pot legalization. There’s the essay by Roger Stone, which Michael Musto links to, “Obama Actually Betrayed The Gay Marriage Cause”, following Obama’s 2012 statements on same sex marriage. The final quote is: “Barack Obama is playing a cruel and cynical game with peoples lives and happiness. He did nothing to establish that gay marriage is a right yesterday.” No mention is made of Stone’s association with the virulently anti-gay Larry Klayman. No mention is made of Stone’s support for the man he often uses as a lawyer, Paul Rolf Jensen, the same Jensen mentioned in “Attorney For Birther Army Doc Is Former GOP Staffer And Anti-Gay Crusader” by Justin Elliott. Jensen would file suit against twenty five Presbyterian pastors who officiated same sex weddings. “Jensen is a bulldog. A true student of the law. A brilliant litigator,” Roger Stone is quoted in the story. Stone signs off on the birther lawsuit as well, saying that Jensen knows the “damage this case can do to Obama. Won’t be adverse to trying to call Obama for testimony.”201

The emphasis on Johnson restraining the national security state was there in the posts by Conor Friedersdorf pounding the drum for Johnson. The most well-known, “Why I refuse to vote for Barack Obama” came down hard on the president for the U.S drone program, and for a war in Libya that Friedersdorf saw as unconstitutional. Friedersdorf repeatedly chastises liberals for their amorality in voting for Barack Obama. One of the last paragraphs:

The whole liberal conceit that Obama is a good, enlightened man, while his opponent is a malign, hard-hearted cretin, depends on constructing a reality where the lives of non-Americans — along with the lives of some American Muslims and whistleblowers — just aren’t valued. Alternatively, the less savory parts of Obama’s tenure can just be repeatedly disappeared from the narrative of his first term, as so many left-leaning journalists, uncomfortable confronting the depths of the man’s transgressions, have done over and over again.

All this caused me to be very surprised to discover, only after the election, that Gary Johnson had very explicitly, without manipulation or editing, said in 2012 that he was uncertain whether or not he’d end the U.S. drone program in Pakistan. Again, explicitly, and without manipulation or editing, he’d also said in 2012 that he wanted to keep the Guantanamo Bay prison open. That he supported a nuclear strike that would wipe out Iran if they were ever to develop nuclear weapons. That he was for a military strike team going into Uganda to capture or kill Joseph Kony, though he also somehow believed NATO’s work in Libya was unconstitutional, all of this given out in a muddle of an interview that would be an embarrassment to a high school student, let alone a presidential candidate. In the day prior to the 2012 announcement on gay marriage, Friedersdorf would write a nasty column taunting liberals for having the gall to vote for Barack Obama given his lack of support for this issue: “‘Lucy’ Obama and His ‘Charlie Brown’ Progressives”. Neither the involvement of Roger Stone in the Johnson campaign, nor Stone’s association with Klayman and Jensen, would ever be mentioned by Friedersdorf. After the election, you waited to hear what Friedersdorf would say about Rand Paul, a politician he’d done so much to promote, when he compared same sex marriage to marriage between the human and the non-human. “It is difficult, because if we have no laws on this, people will take it to one extension further — does it have to be humans?” asked the always thoughtful Paul in an interview with the always thoughtful Glenn Beck. Perhaps a chastisement, or the emphatic declaration that if you were not for same sex marriage, then you had no principles, you were not a libertarian. Instead, readers got this: “Rand Paul Is a Savvier Politician Than Karl Rove Would Prefer”, an interview with Karl Rove at the Aspen Ideas festival. There were no further notes on the subject. I should emphasize I do not think Friedersdorf is complicit in any kind of conspiracy here – I think he’s just a helpful fool, addicted to his self-righteous libertarianism, like someone whose head is stuck far up his ass and who keeps it there because they get off of the reek202.

“Swindle” gives emphasis to the Sirota piece as supporting evidence, yet there is plenty of other material out there which gives further basis. There is this excerpt from “The Libertarian (Ever) Hopeful” by David Weigel, with Johnson speaking about a meeting he just had with Grover Norquist:

Gary Johnson is late. He’s pretty happy about the reason: too many interviews on the schedule today. That was never a problem when he was running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Now that he’s the front-runner for the less-exclusive Libertarian Party nod, people want to talk to him.

“We started out at Grover Norquist’s meeting,” says Johnson, putting down his iPad to join me at a Dupont circle coffee shop. Norquist’s meeting of conservatives is off the record, but attendees can confirm that they crossed the threshold. “I thought it was a really good reception. Part of being out there, campaigning, talking to people, is being able to read body language. And it was all good. Nobody was dozing off. Nobody was shaking their heads. They were actually shaking their head this way.” He nods vigorously.

We’re talking on the day that Newt Gingrich announced the end of his profound presidential bid, when the Republican Party, supposedly, was learning to love Mitt Romney. It’s a few days before Johnson will claim the Libertarian Party’s nomination, potentially becoming a spoiler for Romney. The heads really nodded this way? No heads shaking that way?

“No, none, zero,” says Johnson. “I really believe I’m gonna take it from Obama rather than Romney. I joke, you know-maybe all those pot-smoking, marriage equality, get out of Afghanistan voters for Romney are going to switch to me. Then, boy, he’ll be in trouble!”

The dissent to this view, is expressed in “Spoiler Alert! G.O.P. Fighting Libertarian’s Spot on the Ballot” by Jim Ruttenberg. The text linking to it in Sirota’s piece refers to it as “that kind of hackneyed red-versus-blue story line – so prevalent in the national media echo chamber”. A few excerpted paragraphs should give some sense of the argument:

The fear of Mr. Johnson’s tipping the outcome in an important state may explain why an aide to Mr. Romney ran what was effectively a surveillance operation into Mr. Johnson’s efforts over the summer to qualify for the ballot at the Iowa State Fair, providing witnesses to testify in a lawsuit to block him that ultimately fizzled.

Libertarians suspect it is why Republican state officials in Michigan blocked Mr. Johnson from the ballot after he filed proper paperwork three minutes after his filing deadline.

And it is why Republicans in Pennsylvania hired a private detective to investigate his ballot drive in Philadelphia, appearing at the homes of paid canvassers and, in some cases, flashing an F.B.I. badge – he was a retired agent – while asking to review the petitions they gathered at $1 a signature, according to testimony in the case and interviews.

The challenge in Pennsylvania, brought by state Republican Party officials who suspected that Democrats were secretly helping the effort to get Mr. Johnson on the ballot, was shot down in court last week, bringing to 48 the number of states where Mr. Johnson will compete on Nov. 6.

Both sides agree that Mr. Johnson, whose pro-marijuana legalization and antiwar stances may appeal to the youth vote and whose antigovernment, anti-spending proposals may appeal to conservative fiscal hawks – and to supporters of Mr. Paul – has the potential to draw from both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama.

Aides to Mr. Romney, while playing down his impact on their candidate, say Mr. Johnson is more likely to hurt Mr. Obama in the potentially critical state of Colorado, where a marijuana initiative Mr. Johnson supports is expected to draw young voters to his cause on Election Day.

They have said they are keeping a keener eye on Virgil Goode of Virginia, a conservative Constitution Party candidate who is on the presidential ballot in Virginia and 28 other states.

So, despite the headline, Romney’s aides thought Johnson was more of a threat to Obama than their candidate, and were more worried about the hard right conservative candidate Virgil Goode splitting their vote than Johnson. “Spoiler alert: Poll finds small following for Libertarian candidate” by Dan Merica further argues that Johnson would take votes away from Romney rather than Obama, but makes the mistake of looking at the country wide picture, rather than state by state: “Obama leads Romney 52% to 46% when Romney and Obama are the only candidates in question, but Romney’s support goes down three percentage points with the inclusion of the third party candidates. Obama’s support only drops one point.” The Johnson campaign know this countrywide analysis is inconsequential, and they are explicit that in specific states, they will be costing Obama votes: “Generally, in places like Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada,” says Johnson’s campaign spokesman Joe Hunter, “it appears that Governor Johnson’s appeal comes from folks that supported Obama in 2008 and are now disillusioned with the president.” Adding: “Who cares if Johnson takes votes from Romney in California?”203 This analysis is also made by Roger Stone, though not in 2012, but in 2008, during Nick Gillespie’s class at the University of Miami in a discussion on that year’s election. It occurs in Stone’s answer to a question about the importance of the latino vote204:

GILLESPIE
So, what happens with the hispanic vote? It’s largely catholic, and seems to be pretty much up for grabs.

STONE
I think it is up for grabs. I mean, the problem is, once we become depicted as an anti-immigrant party, we begin losing hispanic votes. But hispanic voters are strong believers in hard work, strong believers in the work ethic, they’re patriotic, they love uniforms, they respect the military, I think it is a vote that McCain must make in-roads into, in Colorado, in New Mexico, at least – in order to win this election. And that actually, in my opinion, the key. In other words, I think in the final analysis, you should not look at the national polls that show this tied or McCain up three points or Barack Obama up three points, that’s largely meaningless. As you study, you actually look at Ohio, Missouri, Colorado,