Nixon’s treason

Rick Holmes

In a story that seems to be getting bigger play overseas than here in the U.S., the last set of Lyndon Johnson’s White House tapes, covering 1968, have just been released. The tapes include conversations LBJ had with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley during the chaotic Democratic convention, in which Johnson considered landing Marine One on the roof of the Hilton and making a surprise bid for the nomination for a second term.

It also confirms something long rumored: that Richard Nixon interfered in the Paris peace talks, getting the South Vietnamese to sabotage an October agreement that was about to be sealed with the North Vietnamese. Here’s how the BBC describes it:

“n the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign.

“He therefore set up a clandestine back-channel involving Anna Chennault, a senior campaign adviser.

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

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

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

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

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

Without using direct quotes, the BBC article says Johnson told Clark Clifford, Everett Dirkson and Richard Russell Nixon’s actions were illegal and amounted to treason. But after fuming in private, LBJ chose not to go public, because he would have had to reveal that the U.S. had bugged the South Vietnamese.

So the October surprise didn’t happen, Nixon was elected in a squeaker, and the rest is history.