Jump to content
The Education Forum

JFK Had Second Thoughts About LBJ As VP?


Tom Marchand
 Share

Recommended Posts

Has anybody heard the story of JFK sending RFK to talk LBJ out of accepting the VP nomination?

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/rfk/peopleevents/e_1960.html

At around 11 a.m. on the day a nominee was to be presented, John Kennedy visited Johnson in his hotel suite and offered him the job. Robert Kennedy maintained afterward that his brother offered the job to Johnson only as a courtesy, and then felt trapped when he accepted. "Now what do we do?" the candidate asked, then answered by sending Bobby back to talk Johnson out of it. Around 4 p.m., with tensions running high all around, John Kennedy called Johnson to assure him he was the one. Ignore Bobby, he said, because "he's been out of touch and doesn't know what's happening."
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Has anybody heard the story of JFK sending RFK to talk LBJ out of accepting the VP nomination?

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/rfk/peopleevents/e_1960.html

At around 11 a.m. on the day a nominee was to be presented, John Kennedy visited Johnson in his hotel suite and offered him the job. Robert Kennedy maintained afterward that his brother offered the job to Johnson only as a courtesy, and then felt trapped when he accepted. "Now what do we do?" the candidate asked, then answered by sending Bobby back to talk Johnson out of it. Around 4 p.m., with tensions running high all around, John Kennedy called Johnson to assure him he was the one. Ignore Bobby, he said, because "he's been out of touch and doesn't know what's happening."

Tom,

What happened at Dealey Plaza was really the coup d'grace.

The coup d'etat that eventually made LBJ President took place in the Los Angeles hotel rooms on the last night of the 1960 Democratic National Convention when they belatedly decided who would be the Veep on the ticket, a well documented event orchestrated by Phil Graham, John Connally and a few others.

At the same time they also decided to hold the next, 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, another inexplicable decision.

BK

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Has anybody heard the story of JFK sending RFK to talk LBJ out of accepting the VP nomination?

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/rfk/peopleevents/e_1960.html

At around 11 a.m. on the day a nominee was to be presented, John Kennedy visited Johnson in his hotel suite and offered him the job. Robert Kennedy maintained afterward that his brother offered the job to Johnson only as a courtesy, and then felt trapped when he accepted. "Now what do we do?" the candidate asked, then answered by sending Bobby back to talk Johnson out of it. Around 4 p.m., with tensions running high all around, John Kennedy called Johnson to assure him he was the one. Ignore Bobby, he said, because "he's been out of touch and doesn't know what's happening."

This subject has been discussed at some detail here:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=6161

It included the following:

In 1960 Lyndon Johnson’s closest political supporters urged him to enter the race when John F. Kennedy emerged as favourite to win the Democratic Party nomination. Sam Rayburn was especially keen for Johnson to defeat Kennedy. So was John Connally who established a Citizens-for-Johnson Committee. As Ralph G. Martin, pointed out, Johnson felt no need to campaign against Kennedy as he was convinced he “would destroy himself on the religious issue”. (1)

Theodore H. White argued in “The Making of the President” that it was impossible for Johnson to win by taking on Kennedy from the beginning. “These men (Johnson, Rayburn and Connally) knew that the Johnson candidacy could not be muscled by seeking individual Convention delegates…. Their plans rested squarely on their control of Congress, on the enormous accumulation of political debts and uncashed obligations that, between them, Johnson and Rayburn had earned over years of the legislative trade.” (2)

It was not until 5th July, 1960, that Johnson finally declared himself an official candidate. Johnson had been forced to leave it as late as this because he was unwilling to resign as Majority leader of the Senate. He therefore had to wait until Rayburn and himself had recessed Congress on 3rd July. Johnson immediately went onto the attack by pointed out that: “Those who have engaged in active campaigns since January have missed hundreds of votes. This I could not do – for my country or my party. Someone had to tend the store.” (3)

Johnson now portrayed the front-runner as being “too young and “too inexperienced” (4) He also tried to get at Kennedy via his father. He described Joe Kennedy as being pro-Hitler. He was therefore opposing John Kennedy as he “did not want any Chamberlain umbrella man!” (5) Johnson also made reference to Kennedy’s health, pointing out that he had Addison’s disease. (6)

Despite this dirty tricks campaign, Johnson was unable to stop Kennedy being nominated. Johnson was obviously upset by this result but comforted himself with the fact that as Majority leader, he remained the second most powerful man in American politics. The great surprise is that Johnson was willing to sacrifice this power in order to become Kennedy’s running-mate.

In his book, The Making of the President, Theodore H. White, expresses shock at both Kennedy’s decision to offer Johnson’s the post, and his eventual acceptance of what appeared to be a demotion. White adds that this mystery will only be solved by “tomorrow’s historians”. (7)

The idea that Johnson should be Kennedy’s running-mate was first suggested by Philip Graham of the Washington Post. Graham, the key figure in the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird, had been campaigning strongly for Johnson to get the nomination. However, when Graham arrived at the Democratic Party Convention in Los Angeles on 8th July, Johnson told him that Kennedy would win by a landslide. Graham then had a meeting with Robert Kennedy and was finally convinced that Johnson had indeed lost his race to be the presidential candidate.

According to Katharine Graham, her husband and Joe Alsop, arranged a meeting with John Kennedy on 11th July. Alsop started the conversation with the following comment: “We’ve come to talk to you about the vice-presidency. Something may happen to you, and Symington is far too shallow a puddle for the United States to dive into.” Graham then explained the advantages that Johnson would “add to the ticket”. What is more, it would remove Johnson as leader of the Senate. (8)

Kennedy agreed that Johnson would be a great asset. He knew that Johnson could deliver Texas. As Victor Lasky pointed out: “Every phase of the state’s election machinery from precinct tally clerk to the State Board of Canvassers was in the hands of Organization (read LBJ) Democrats.” (9)

Hugh Sidey of Time Magazine, interviewed Kennedy on the eve of the Los Angeles convention. He later claimed that Kennedy told him: “if I had my choice I would have Lyndon Johnson as my running mate. And I’m going to offer it to him, but he isn’t going to take it.” (10)

After the meeting with Graham and Alsop, Kennedy told his aide, Kenneth P. O’Donnell, that it made sense to have Johnson on the ticket but he knew that he would never accept the position as it would mean he would lose his powerful position in the Senate. Kennedy assured O’Donnell that Stuart Symington, “who was acceptable to both the labor leaders and the Southerners” would be his running-mate. (11)

The mystery that has to be explained is not that Johnson was offered the post, but that he accepted it. Bobby Baker has provided an interesting account of the discussions that went on about the possibility of Johnson becoming Kennedy’s running-mate. Baker describes how Johnson told him that Kennedy was coming to see him at his hotel. John Connally was of the opinion that Kennedy would offer him the job. Johnson asked Baker what he should do. Baker replied: “It’s no disgrace to hold the second highest office in the land and be one heartbeat away from the presidency.” Connally added that Johnson would be able to deliver Texas for Kennedy.

At this stage Johnson appeared to be against the idea. He told Baker that he would have “trouble with some of my Texas friends if I decide to run.” Sam Rayburn was one of these “Texas friends” who was strongly opposed to the suggestion that Johnson should become Kennedy’s running-mate. He quoted another Texan, John Nance Garner, who held the post under Franklin D. Roosevelt, as saying: “The office ain’t worth a pitcher of warm spit.” However, according to Baker, John Connally and Phil Graham “worked on” Rayburn until he “came round” to the idea that Johnson should become Kennedy’s running-mate.

There still remained a significant number of opponents to Johnson’s strategy. Baker adds in his autobiography that “several Texas congressmen, spoiled by LBJ’s special attentions to their pet legislative schemes, begged him not to leave his powerful Senate post.” (12)

According to Baker, one of Johnson’s political friends resorted to threats of violence against Johnson if he became the vice-presidential candidate. This was oil millionaire, Robert S. Kerr. In their book, The Case Against Congress, Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson claim that “Robert S. Kerr, oil millionaire, uranium king, cattle baron and Senator from Oklahoma… dominated the Senate’s back rooms in the late 1950s and early 1960s.” (13) Pearson and Anderson point out that Kerr main concern in Congress was to preserve the oil depletion allowance.

In “Wheeling and Dealing” Baker described what happened when Kerr arrived at the meeting in Johnson’s hotel room: “Kerr literally was livid. There were angry red splotches on his face. He glared at me, at LBJ, and at Lady Bird. ‘Get me my .38,’ he yelled. ‘I’m gonna kill every damn one of you. I can’t believe that my three best friends would betray me.’ Senator Kerr did not seem to be joking. As I attempted to calm him he kept shouting that we’d combined to ruin the Senate, ruin ourselves, and ruin him personally.”

Johnson responded to this outburst by telling Baker to take Kerr in the bathroom and “explain things to him”. Baker did this and after hearing about the reasons for Johnson’s decision to accept the post, “Senator Kerr put a burly arm around me and said, “Son, you are right and I was wrong. I’m sorry I mistreated you.”

What did Baker tell Kerr that dramatically changed his mind on this issue? According to Baker, he told Kerr: “If he’s elected vice-president, he’ll be an excellent conduit between the White House and the Hill.” What is more, if Kennedy is defeated, Johnson can blame it on Kennedy’s religion and be the likely victor in the attempt to be the Democratic Party candidate in the 1964 election. (14)

Kerr would have been well aware of this argument before he entered the bathroom with Baker. If Kerr did change his mind about Johnson’s becoming Kennedy’s running-mate, then Baker told him something else in the bathroom. Maybe he explained that Johnson would become president before 1964.

What we do know is that Kennedy’s close political advisers were shocked when Johnson accepted the post. They, like Kennedy himself, expected him to reject the offer. Why would Johnson give up his position as the second most powerful position in the country? Kenneth P. O’ Donnell was highly suspicious of Johnson’s motives. When he mentioned this to Kennedy he replied: “I’m forty-three years old, and I’m the healthiest candidate for President in the United States. You’ve traveled with me enough to know that. I’m not going to die in office. So the Vice-Presidency doesn’t mean anything. I’m thinking of something else, the leadership in the Senate. If we win, it will be by a small margin and I won’t be able to live with Lyndon Johnson as the leader of a small majority in the Senate.” (15)

The problem with this argument is that Johnson was also aware that as Vice President he would lose his political power. This is why Kennedy told his aides that Johnson would turn the offer down. Yet there is evidence that Johnson was desperate to become Kennedy’s running-mate. One of Kennedy’s most important advisers, Hyman Raskin, claims that Kennedy had a meeting with Johnson and Rayburn early on the morning after his nomination. According to all other sources, at this time, these two men were strongly opposed to the idea of Johnson becoming Kennedy’s running-mate. However, Kennedy told Raskin a different story. Johnson was very keen to join the ticket and “made an offer he could not refuse”. Raskin took this to mean that Kennedy was blackmailed into offering Johnson the post. (16)

This view is supported by another of Kennedy’s close advisers. Pierre Salinger was opposed to the idea of Johnson being Kennedy’s running-mate. He believed that the decision would lose more votes than it would gain. Salinger claimed that Kennedy would lose the support of blacks and trade unionists if Johnson became the vice-presidential candidate. Although Johnson would deliver Texas his place on the ticket would mean Kennedy would lose California. A few days after the decision had been made, Salinger asked Kennedy why? He replied, "The whole story will never be known. And it's just as well that it won't be." Salinger also got the impression that Kennedy had been blackmailed into accepting Johnson. (17)

Kennedy must have been very concerned about this development. Why would Johnson blackmail him into accepting a post that had less power than the one that he already had? It only made sense if Johnson was going to continue using this strategy as vice president. Maybe this was only the first of many threats of blackmail. Would Johnson use his position to force Kennedy to appoint his friends such as John Connally and Fred Korth to important positions in his administration?

Kennedy must also have considered another possibility. Did Johnson plan to replace him as president? This seems to have been on Kennedy’s mind when he told Kenneth O’Donnell that he did not intend to die in office.

Given these events, it is possible that the assassination of John F. Kennedy was considered as early as 1960. If so, it is important to look closely at those people who played important roles in obtaining for Johnson the post of vice president.

Notes

1. Ralph G. Martin, A Hero For Our Time, 1983 (page 155)

2. Theodore H. White, The Making of the President, 1960 (page 53)

3. Alfred Steinberg, Sam Johnson’s Boy, 1968 (page 524)

4. Theodore H. White, The Making of the President, 1960 (page 160)

5. Alfred Steinberg, Sam Johnson’s Boy, 1968 (page 525)

6. Theodore H. White, The Making of the President, 1961 (page 160)

7. Alfred Steinberg, Sam Johnson’s Boy, 1968 (page 525)

8. Kenneth P. O’Donnell & David F. Powers, Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye: Memories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1972 (page 117)

9. Theodore H. White, The Making of the President, 1960 (page 206)

10. Katharine Graham, Personal History, 1997 (pages 282-283)

11. Victor Lasky, It Didn’t Start With Watergate, 1977 (page 58)

12. Seymour Hersh, The Dark Side of Camelot, 1998 (page 122)

13. Kenneth P. O’Donnell & David F. Powers, Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye: Memories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1972 (page 218)

14. Bobby Baker, Wheeling and Dealing, 1978 (pages 123-126)

15. Drew Pearson & Jack Anderson, The Case Against Congress, 1968 (page 132)

16. Seymour Hersh, The Dark Side of Camelot, 1998 (page 126)

17. Pierre Salinger, With Kennedy, 1966

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have never heard of this before, but I thought if there was anywhere this would be appropriate, it would be on this thread......Robert

J.G. Ballard

Born in Shanghai, China in 1930, J. G. Ballard began his writing career in the 1950s. Recognized as one of the most important science fiction writers, his novels include Crash, among many others.

Author's Note: The assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, raised many questions, not all of which were answered by the Report of the Warren Commission. It is suggested that a less conventional view of the events of that grim day may provide a more satisfactory explanation. In particular, Alfred Jarry's "The Crucifixion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race" gives us a useful lead.

The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race

Oswald was the starter.

From his window above the track he opened the race by firing the starting gun. It is believed that the first shot was not properly heard by all the drivers. In the following confusion Oswald fired the gun two more times, but the race was already underway.

Kennedy got off to a bad start.

There was a governor in his car and its speed remained constant at about fifteen miles an hour. However, shortly afterwards, when the governor had been put out of action, the car accelerated rapidly, and continued at high speed along the remainder of the course.

The visiting teams. As befitting the inauguration of the first production car race through the streets of Dallas, both the President and the Vice-President participated. The Vice-President, Johnson, took up his position behind Kennedy on the starting line. The concealed rivalry between the two men was of keen interest to the crowd. Most of them supported the home driver, Johnson.

The starting point was the Texas Book Depository, where all bets were placed on the Presidential race. Kennedy was an unpopular contestant with the Dallas crowd, many of whom showed outright hostility. The deplorable incident familiar to us all is one example.

The course ran downhill from the Book Depository, below an overpass, then on to the Parkland Hospital and from there to Love Air Field. It is one of the most hazardous courses in downhill motor racing, second only to the Sarajevo track discontinued in 1914.

Kennedy went downhill rapidly. After the damage to the governor the car shot forward at high speed. An alarmed track official attempted to mount the car, which continued on its way cornering on two wheels.

Turns. Kennedy was disqualified at the hospital, after taking a turn for the worse. Johnson now continued the race in the lead, which he maintained to the finish.

The flag. To signify the participation of the President in the race Old Glory was used in place of the usual checkered square. Photographs of Johnson receiving his prize after winning the race reveal that he had decided to make the flag a memento of his victory.

Previously, Johnson had been forced to take a back seat, as his position on the starting line behind the President indicates. Indeed, his attempts to gain a quick lead on Kennedy during the false start were forestalled by a track steward, who pushed Johnson to the floor of his car.

In view of the confusion at the start of the race, which resulted in Kennedy, clearly expected to be the winner on past form, being forced to drop out at the hospital turn, it has been suggested that the hostile local crowd, eager to see a win by the home driver Johnson, deliberately set out to stop him completing the race. Another theory maintains that the police guarding the track were in collusion with the starter, Oswald. After he finally managed to give the send-off Oswald immediately left the race, and was subsequently apprehended by track officials.

Johnson had certainly not expected to win the race in this way. There were no pit stops.

Several puzzling aspects of the race remain. One is the presence of the President's wife in the can an unusual practice for racing drivers. Kennedy, however, may have maintained that as he was in control of the ship of state he was therefore entitled to captain's privileges.

The Warren Commission. The rake-off on the book of the race. In their report, prompted by wide spread complaints of foul play and other irregularities, the syndicate lay full blame on the starter, Oswald.

Without doubt Oswald badly misfired. But one question still remains unanswered:Who loaded the starring gun?

From:

The Evergreen Review Reader, 1967-1973

by Barney Rosset.

Edited by Robert Howard
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...