tv 1968 - America in Turmoil Liberal Politics CSPAN May 3, 2018 9:56am-11:28am EDT
now we continue our series of 1968, "america in turmoil" with a look back at liberal politics 50 years ago. lbj's great society and embolden great activists. the assassination of martin luther king and robert f. kennedy of a shadow blows. our former lieutenant governor of maryland and michael cohen, author of the milestone. first, we hear from senator robert f. kennedy during his march 16th, 1968, presidential campaign announcement. >> i have traveled and i have listened to the young people of our nation and felt their anger of the war they are sent to
sight a fight and the world. for the raises and the risk of wide awar and further destroys the country and the people it was meant to save. i cannot stand aside from the contest that'll decide our nation's future and our children's future. the remarkable new hampshire campaign of senator eugene mccarthy has proven how deep of a president envisions within our party and country. until it was publicly clear. my presence in the race would have been seen as a clash of personality rather than issues. but, now that fight won over
policies which i have long been challenging, i must enter into the race. the fight is just beginning and i believe that i can win. i communicated this decision to president johnson and late last night, my brother edward kennedy travels to wisconsin to communicate my decision to senator mccarthy. i make clear through my brhe to senator mccarthy that my candidacy may not be an opposition to his but harmony. >> my aim is to support and expand his campaign in the spirit of his 30th statement. >> one month at a time, it is important now that he achieves the largest possible majority next month in wallaisconsin and pennsylvania and massachusetts primaries. i support his efforts in those states and i urge all my friends
to give him the help and their votes. both of us will be encouraging like mind delegates to the national convention. both of us, open democratic convention in chicago is free to choose a new course for our party and for our country. finally my decision reflects no personal animosity or disrespect towards president johnson. you serve the candidate with upmost loyalty and it was extremely kind to me and members of my family and the difficult months which followed the event of november of 1963. i commended his efforts of help in education and many other area and i have the deepest sympathies for the burdens that
he carries today. the issue is not personal. it is our profound differences over where we are heading and what we want to pleaccomplish. i do not like to dismiss the dangers and the difficulties of challenging and in incumbecumbe president. these are not ordinary times and ordinary elections. states are not simply the leadership of our party and our country. it is all right through the moral leadership of this planet. i thank you. >> from march of 1968 . joining us from west palm beach florida is kathleen kennedy, thank you for being with us here
on c-span. >> it is good to be here you, steve. >> joining us here in our studio is michael cohen, he's the author of the book "american maelstrom." coming out in paper back later this year. let me begin with you, president johnson is a key political figure as we are talking about, what is his standing as the years began. the war in vietnam had become a stale stalemate. so he was in a tough position and he was facing a primary challenge within his own party for renomination for mccarthy. that really is a sort of moment that you see the end of johnson's presidency politically. it shows that the administration have been lying about the war and the war was not and no light at the end of the tunnel visible
and things fallen apart in vietnam and as well as the u.s. policy there. it became clear that johnson was hard to survive within his own party because of oppositions growing among democrats. >> what was the ted's offensive? >> you had viet cong taking over and the city was taken away by the north vietnamese. it was a failed military. it had a huge effect on the phsche of the american people. >> hubert humphrey, this is a big supporter of civil rights
legislation and strong support among liberal groups. he became vice president for johnson, he became a loyal support for johnson including the support of vietnam. he became the public faith of selling the war to the american people. this creates a lot of people for him with a lot of party by liberals saw humphrey having turned his back on the party and on his liberal believes. he was still popular among labor but for a lot of democrats, he was seen as negatively as johnson was. >> kathleen, we want to talk about your father, i want to ask you about eugene mccarthy, the senator who announced of 1967 to challenge a sitting president, lyndon b. johnson, what was your father thinking early in that process as eugene mccarthy was ramping up his own campaign in new hampshire and elsewhere?
>> as you know a number of people were asking my father to run for president my father was am b ambivilant about it. he did not want to have this fight just to be about him and lyndon johnson. he wanted to raise larger issues. when he spoken out against the vietnam war in 1967, very view fe few people listened to what he said. that was the aspect of how my father trying to make his decision whether to run or not. mccarthy did not have that history with lyndon johnson. when mccarthy was running, he was running clearly against the
war. >> when did your dad decide to seek the nomination? what was the tipping point. >> i think what michael cohen said, the ted offensive was to pinpoint. he said in january that he would not run and after the ted offensi offensive, i think he changed his mind because he saw there was really no way that this war was going to be won the way it was. therefore, lyndon, johnson could not acknowledge what was going on and he understood that it could not be won and lives were being lost and fruitless and horrible efforts. he decided that he wanted to run and in fact, he made the decision before the new hampshire primary when he went out, he had made the decision before that time. >> a popular magazine in th the '60s and '70s "teen"
magazine both you and your father were on the cover. you were 16-year-old at the time. go ahead. >> i just remember that, it was funny to be in that, i have not seen that picture for a long time so it is very sweet of you to put it up, thank you. >> well, i mentioned it because i am curious of what was going on within the family with you and your mother and ethel kennedy and other families considering robert f. kennedy should seek the nomination. >> well, you know we obviously thought our father was terrific and my mother was a very big supporter of him running. she knew in his heart and gut he wanted to run for president. she knew that he saw what was going on in the country and not only in vietnam but poverty and
the riots in the city and she thought that was his destiny in a sense and bush was saying that he should run. my father understanding politics and clearly worried of the issue of lyndon johnson. on the second issue is that he had run his brother's campaign in the 1960s. when you run for president, you try to make sure you could win and you line d it up and though it through and got a whole campaign in place. he had not done that in 1968 so it was more of a passionate crusading campaign. which was part of them like that and part of them held that still, old political knowledge of how do you put together a
campaign and it is kind of an interesting balance. >> michael cohen beyond the leaders of the democratic party of 1968, what was going on within the party among the ranking files. >> one of the interesting figures is, who decided ear early '67 that lyndon johnson should not be the nominee of the party and he needs to be defeated. this was based on the opposition o f the war in vietnam. he went around and basically tried to find democrats to challenge johnson for the nomination. he put kennedy first, that was his first choice and at least half a dozen figure. he pushed mccarthy in the fall. mccarthy was interested and he already have been traveling around the country for us '67 making oppositions that were known.
mccarthy was not popular on capitol hill. he's been the number two choice for johnson to be his vp nomination in '64 when he lost to hubert humphrey. it is in part because of his activism towards him trying to get him involved. when mccarthy gets involved, these groups of antiactivists rallied around his campaign and became his army. that's one of the reasons why he did well in vietnam and primaries in wisconsin and oregon that came afrwards. one of the things that mccarthy did was to create this outlet for antiwar activists to have their voices heard within the party. >> it is the most successful thing that he did in '68, he gave activists a voice and gave it to them in a way to make it known. in the end, those activists
toppled johnson and causing him to -- without kennedy performing in new hampshire, i don't think kennedy would be in the race. we are looking at 1968 on c-span 3, american history tv. a year in crisis and turmoil, a lot is happening this year. joining us from west palm beach florida is kathleen. >> and michael cohen. >> give us a better sense of eugene mccarthy. why he falter as the primary process continues. >> mccarthy is an interesting figure. he's an aloof guy and intellectual and very kind of -- he's got liberal policies and sort of conservative demeanor to him. he was somebody that believed in the political process.
he ran because he believed that he was fearful that democrats opposed to the war in vietnam, opposed to johnson's policy were going to create a third for fourth party. he wanted to give them an outlet in the political party to, again, make their voices known. and so he had a very sort of traditional view of politics even though -- his spouse of radical policies as time went on during the campaign. he was also somebody that was a little bit lazy and not somebody like campaigning. he would have a hard time talking to people sometimes and he could be effective on tv and effective politician, he was just not -- he did not like the details of campaigning. mccarthy was somebody that would
given speeches. here is my position, you decide. as time went on, that strategy did not work so well politically and became difficult for him to be effective and being overwhelmed by the activism around and the energy around kennedy. >> kathleen, what was the relationship like between your father and senator mccarthy in. >> well, they were both catholics and they were different kinds of catholics in the sense as michael pointed out, jim mccarthy was much more intellectual and reserved. i would say my father is kind of shy, he liked people and he was empathetic and he had more -- he had the issue of vietnam but he spoke very much to working
people to the poor and the disfranchise. he had a much larger heart that embraced a lot of people and touched them and was touched by them. so i think you know they had different personalities and different passions. >> march 16, 1968, you and your family with your father as he announced his kidnapped dacandi same location. what did you remember of that day here in washington? >> well, first of all, it was exciting to have my father announce his presidency. we were thrilled that he was going to run. we were -- a number of people asked were you afraid and one of the things we learned in our family was not to be afraid and o we very very happy about the fact that he was going to run
and he was going do what was in s hea and he really had something to offer this country. there was a lot of chaos but we were customed growing acustocus chaos. it was march 16th, there was this is irish sense of let's get out there and let's fight and make our views known. >> reacting to your father's candidacy. senator, eugene mccarthy, from march of 1968, let's watch. >> what's your reaction of politici politician, can you take it? >> i have not been move to withdraw at this point. i can certainly win in wisconsin and i see no reason that i could not go on and wins the other primaries which i am committed. >> does this cause you in any
way to reassess your overall position? >> i don't think there is any reassessment, david, i have been committed since i first announced to running in the primaries which i had responded and i made changes in my plans either because of new hampshire or announcement of kennedy. >> i hear this rumbling indications of a deal at some point in the future. are you prepared to deal with bobby kennedy? >> i am not prepared to deal with anybody as far as my candidacy is concerned. i committed myself to a group of young people and i thought rather be adults in america society and i will be their candidate and i intend to run as i committed myself to run. i will lease release my delegat.
as far as i am concern, it will be an open and free convention, i will run as hard as i can in every primary and stand affirm as i can in every convention. i will say to my delegates, you're free people and go where ever you want and mistake the best judgment. >> courtesy of cbs news and interview was conducted after the announcement of robert kennedy. >> your reaction michael cohen? >> he thought he should be the first catholic president and not john f. kennedy. >> he never got over the way b bobby kennedy got the race in 1968. the morning afternoon, kennedy says he's reassessing. the feeling among mccarthy among a lot of his supporters was, it
is stolen and the gift is stolen under the christmas tree by stealing his thunder after this in new hampshire. the animosity of people grew. kennedy was not a huge fan of mccarthy either and a lot of people were not. he was a tough person to like. bobby kennedy was an emotional candidate. he was somebody that got his audience wrapped up and excited and he didn't think it was appropriate for politics. he used to say that kennedy had all these outreach groups, americans and hispanics an and -- he had outreach groups as flavors at baskin's robin. i think a lot of sense that as time went on -- i think in a way
that define a lot of his campaign and he'll be critical tsa campaign goes on. >> kathleen kennedy townsend. >> i think michael said it very well. they had different personality type. mccarthy as we have said a number of times, the intellectual and thought that he had done something, you know, very brave and courageous in running against johnson. you know, that's politics and i think mccarthy after he did not win the nomination, he went back
and said oh, what can i learn to help more americans participate, more americans, africans americans and the incident. that was not his way of acts and not where his heart lays. >> a personal note on why you were there this weekend, ca kathle kathleen. >> we were here this weekend because it is my mother's 90th birthday, april 11th, we had a great celebration and vice president biden came and speaker nancy pelosi and a lot of great grandchildren and brothers and sisters and cousins. my mother's believes in my father and her ability to say to
my father, you can achieve things. you can do what your faith calls you. my mother believed in my father which was a very important part of his success. >> i will go to albert. >> caller: good morning to you c-span and miss townsend. >> how are you? >> i >> caller: i am fine, ma'am. i was wondering did your father had anyone in mind to be his mate in the campaign? >> i don't think at that point as you can see for instance when his brother was running for president, they did not make up their mind that lyndon johnson would be kennedy's running mate. it depends on what's going on in
the country and who'll be the most helpful. my father had a tough fight because he had mccarthy and hubert humphrey. he was focused in winning the primaries and he'll have a couple of months to figure out who'll be his running mate. thank you for asking. >> frank from cornyn, new york, good morning. >> caller: good morning, in 1968, the democratic group that supported eugene mccarthy and it was a two-string operation but it was very exciting because we managed to win two of the three delegates. that was one. we went to chicago which was a turbulent experience in some way. i did also -- it was after at
the election. one of his prodigy shot him. i met mccarthy once. as i was shaking his hand and he was talking somebody and did not acknowledge my assistant and i thought this guy may or may not have fired in the belly but he needs to be attentive to the here and now and the people who are working very hard and it was a difficult campaign because we had little money and not much support from regular democrats and in fact when i approached the regular democrats at the meeting, suggested they not support lbj, one of the
prominent lawyer stood up and said "who the hell are you." i can understand his comments. >> michael cohen, thank you for the call. when i was researching my book. i went through the papers and found all the oral history of people worked in the campaign. there were one consistent theme. they did not like mccarthy in a lot of ways, they found him to be aloof and distance and not really engaged in the campaign. they all veered him because he would run. it is an interesting thing of mccarthy that even though he was this difficult person, he was
very courageous, he decided to take on johnson. i don't think johnson would have dropped out of the race. going to the convention and debate about the war of vietnam. mccarthy inspired a great deal of loyalty among his supporters. what i found interesting is among his supporters, they have a great animosity towards kennedy in part because they felt that he stole mccarthy thunder. at the same time he did it when no one else would. it created a lot of loyalty but also people remain involved in the political process. people who worked on both campaigns, mccarthy were the ones stuck around and involved in the political process everyone more so.
>> kathleen kennedy townsend, did your father ever talked to you of his relationship of president johnson or did you hear what that conversation was like? >> we did not have a personal one-on-one talk about lyndon johnson but it pervaded her house and it was clearly a very tough relationship. as you know my father objected to his brother's choice for vice president, they did not really mesh personality wise at all. they did not get along well. so, that was just clear. they just came from different parts of the world and different backgrounds and they did not get along. i said, you know, looking back 50 years what they did share was
commitment to the dealing with the issues of property in this country. i give -- and johnson also signed the 46 civil rights act and he signed the immigration act which my father very much agreed with. on some issues, they really did agree even though they did not get along. they broke up and the real break came over the war. >> as we set the stage on some of the key players in 1968, we want to talk about the primary campaign that began in new hampshire and ended in california with a victory, 46% for robert f. kennedy, 42% for mccarthy. this ad from the 1968 democratic primary campaign by the r.f.k. campaign. >> robert kennedy and some people who are not registered this year. in ten years, these americans will inherit the problems that
we don't solve today. >> it is suggested that people will have to wear a gas mask in new york city because the air is so polluted. you bathe it every year and th same tng is true to a lesser degree and cities across the united states. that'll spread to the rural area as well unless we stop it. things we can do of automobiles and laws we can pass of dumpings and into the air. we are all going to have to live underground and industry must do something and the demand interests that all of you may taken. >> nebraska can make the difference. >> from the 1968 campaign by robert kennedy. we are looking back at 50 years later. michael cohen is here with us from washington, d.c. and
kathleen kennedy townsend is joining us. gregg from pennsylvania, go ahead. >> caller: i am one of those guys spending time in vietnam. i am not sure which side of the ocean border it was on. a lot of the mess that was going on because of drugs in china. but, i am firmly against the democrats because of the vietnam war and the message turned out to be, you know, draftees but, of course, rich people they can avoid the draft. declining numbers, i am just making my comment. >> gregg, thank you. kathleen kennedy townsend, how
would you address that sentiment? >> when my father was running for president, he said the same thing. how unfair it was that people could go to college. got out of the draft and the people that could afford of college or did not get out of the draft. he said that was unfair. he said that to college students. he was willing to go to people benefiting to say this is unfair and unjust and this is not the way this country should act. i think my father was clear that he did not like the fact that so many people could not afford college went to vietnam and those who are well off were able to get out of it. >> he said it direct lit. oftentimes politicians tell people what they want to hear. that was one of the things that was unique about my father is he's able to tell people what
they did not want to hear and ask them to think about their own responsibility and how they can do better and how difficult it was. he was willing to do that. >> we'll go to washington state, brian is next. >> good morning. >> caller: good morning c-span, great show. question for each of your guests. first question, mr. cohen, do you think that the liberals and politics will be able to make things daylight very clear how things work when each party is in charge of our country and who comes along and has to fix things? >> thank you brian. >> well, that's more of a contemporary question, i suppose. >> i guess i would say that this goes back to the first question from greg and i want to thank him for his service.
you know one of the ioronies it was democrats who propagated the war and lyndon johnso he led the war effort. it created a lot of oppositions through democrats and not just within the parties but in general about their ability to handle foreign policy and military affairs. the irony of vietnam that johnson escalated in part to minimize the political fallout. this was something that came back in the 1950s that it was not tough on communism. the way for democrats to avoid the label was fight in vietnam. the result was it basically showed a lot of people that democrats could not effectively manage foreign policy or the war
effort in vietnam. in a lot of ways, it created a sense of democrats were legal national security, that image have been property gated for 57 years or something then. i am not going to say richard nixon fixed the war that johnson created. but, there is a sense there that democrats created this problem and it undermine them politically for a long time to come. >> kathleen, i want to share with you a column, it is available online at wsj.com. he says the years americans came apart. he talked about the race riots following the assassination of dr. martin luther king. humphrey was seen as a johnson's lackey. and he concluded that the best
and brightest have been brought at the wheel of vietnam. your thoughts. >> i think vietnam did destroy a lot of these establishments because they knew they were not winning it and they were sending people over to vietnam to die in a war that they knew was not going well. they were dishonest of the american people. as i would say and people historically would say you were not going to win that war. if you don't have the people in south vietnam, you cannot property it up outside. it is ironic and so sad now when you this i how many people die from both vietnamese and americans and now you know we can have good relationships with
vietnam and was really, you know a tragedy. i think michael pointed out that lyndon johnson was afraid and democrats would be criticized and losing a common state and lost china and yet they are criticized anyway. at least we could have been criticized and not have so many people die and a quicker reconstructi reconstruction? vietnam. >> will is joining us from wisconsin. go ahead sir. >> caller: this is lieutenant governor, i want to point out something that was missing from the national conversation, we have personality who happens to be running for governor, he happens to be your brother. i want to pick your brain to see what's your sentiment towards this lack of identity for the democratic party and serving a
lack of engagement of support? >> well, i think, first of all, my brother did run for governor of illinois and i think he would have been a terrific governor. his opponent spent $60 million against him of his own money so very tough when you are running against $60 million. across the country, i have to say that democrats have been revived and reenergized because of what's going on in washington. we are winning elections that we have not won in decades and i think there is this new energy and new sense that we got to get involved and we got to get engaged. i will give you statistics on women. 2,000 women ran for office and this year, 34,000 women are running for office. there is a sense that that is our country and we'll get ea
engaged and involved. the other thing that's interesting of who's running is how many people who have served in iraq, in afghanistan are running and they are running as democrats. i hope that this will be sort of the end of the vietnam era that the military cannot beat democrats because so many democrats who are running who have been if the military. >> michael cohen. >> i tend to agree of what kathleen said and in the sense that the division of the party were extraordinary. particularly over the war in vietnam and not just the war over the vietnam. there was a whole series of issues on the rights and crimes. some one like bobby kennedy, he had a lot of oppositions in the party. labor did not like him and democrats could not stand him.
there was some serious of fault line in the parties. you do see the debate of bernie sande sanders, i don't go on the scale of 268. the difference is fundamentals and there is a big wing of the party. i think mccarthy -- who viewed democratic party is illegitimate in general. you had antiactivists that' that's -- last year people always asked me, this is nothing like '68. as divisive as politics have become in our country, it can barely hold a candle and the
animosity between the two parties. >> book is called "american maelstrom" from michael cohen and fairfax, virginia is where our next caller. >> caller: i want to say hi to kathleen. so good to see you, you and your family have been very much in my heart. my husband was a high school senior in 1968. last night, he was showing the so long bobby picture of the arts and style of the washington post to my daughter elizabeth last night and telling her a little bit of the history of that time. i wanted to just say hello and
tell you that i missed you and i am glad to hear that you celebrated your mother's 90th birthday and hope to see you back in this area sometimes soon. my brother sends his love as well. >> thank you very much. very nice, susan. >> the u.s. information agency put together this program, this documentary looking at 1968 and the democratic party primary. here is an exert. >> now mccarthy was facing competition from a new candidate. there were other unexpected events. >> with our hope and the world's hope for peace in the ballot everyday. >> jim and i did not realize it first that he's about to tell
the nation he would not run for presidency again. >> accordingly i shall not seek and i will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president. ♪ vice president of the united states, thank you. >> vice president humphrey became the last major democratic candidate to enter the race. humphrey acquired a substantial number of delegate votes before the national convention. >> thank you very much. that's from the u.s. information agency. michael cohen, let's talk about
the democratic party. what changed after the '68 election. >> this is one of the most interesting things that people will not talk about. pictures of hubert humphrey, he never ran a single primary. that was not on the ballot and did not need to be. a way that dominique were chosen, they were controlled by powerful democrats and big conservative and big democratic party. and so even though kennedy mccarthy faced off in his primaries and ultimately they could not win the delegates and nominations. it was almost, he'll determined that he'll be the nominee of the party. in that situation in which humphrey did not have to go before the democratic voters lead to the decision of the convention of '68. his voice vote on creating a
reform commission. it did not get much coverage at the time. it rechanged our politics. the whole spending years in iowa and new hampshire trying to win voters there, that all happened because of this reform commission which created more democratic existence and nominees should be chosen in the primaries and primaries should be binding. and conventions by and large, that created the modern primary system that we have. it was something that was not really talked about much in '68. i am came out in large number because of the way humphrey chosen it and because of mccarthy's campaign. one of this things mccarthy said was again you need to have an outlet for people to make their voices heard.
we have five or six primaries that are binding and we don't have that party now. one of the important elements was he created this to change the system how nominees are chosen. we are living in a different political world on that. >> james jones who served as the chief of staff to president johnson said that on the afternoon of march 31st when lyndon johnson met with his vice president announcing that he'll not seek for renomination, hubert hum fromphrey said, "i h lost to one kacandidate and i wl lose to another." have you heard that story? >> no, i have not heard that story but thank you for sharing. >> how your father would have campaigned against, humphrey. >> well, obviously, hubert
humphrey had not participated in the primarieprimaries. it would be to go to them and say hubert humphrey is tainted by his association with lyndon johnson and it is only me who actually won the primaries who shown that he can win the votes that should win, otherwise, hubert humphrey will lock illegitimate in the eyes of many voters. that would have been the push and that would have been the argument that my father would have to say. my father knew many of the democratic gov insiders because he met and worked with them in the 1960 campaign. he knew who they were and he had a relationship with them. he could make a strong argument of what needed to be done.
>> it would have been very hard having won primaries as he did. he did beat mccarthy and all the primaries except in organ. i think he would have had a good argument that would look bad. i think it would have been a compelling case. >> i want to go to glenn joining us from pennsylvania, you are on the air. >> caller: good morning. my question is miss kathleen kennedy. would you agree that every time the republicans get into the white house, we have chaos and economic mayhem and i appreciate you and your dad and your own
good intentions and good human being. >> thank you, glenn. >> thank you. i appreciate -- obviously, i am a democrat so i think democrats who are parting the belief that government has a role really makes an effort to make government work and look effectively. i think that's a different attitude than some of the republicans have. now, i think we all agree that we are not talking about present politics but i would say the current presidency epiphany being ahead of the government that does not want to work well. >> whoever ends up come ing after trump would have to fix
what's happening right now. >> next week we'll turn our attention to conservative politics and nomination of richard nixon after his defeat in the 1960s to john kennedy. craig in tulsa, oklahoma, you are next. >> caller: yes, it is an honor to speak to a kennedy and i always respected john. he was always extensiconservatiy ways. liberal politics, it was how we see war. it was a liberal that brought on the idea like the feminine of war. it was in '68 and the liberal politics that brought on the idea and it was nothing wrong of masculine and feminine, it was both good. how we are to the point of liberal politics, we are getting ready to take the action. the first question is when are
we going to bring our boys home? it is not and we need to win. one thing of conservative politics that they say we have to win and there may be sacrificed and that's realistic and the ugly thing of war. it is necessary sometimes and the bad thing of politics is they feminize it. yes, we win, yes, we want our boys to come home. so just promise on liberal politics. >> michael cohen. >> i would say a lot of men felt that the war in vietnam was a mistake and our boys should come home. with uno t there was no real strategy or war effort. there was no political strategy and no clear military strategy for success in vietnam.
in a sense one of the reasons why vietnam was a disaster was lyndon scantrjohnson refused toe a force to either accelerate the war for effort or withdraw the american troops. the fall of '67, the war was a stalemate and i did not understood that. >> johnson could not decide which way to go. in a lot of ways, johnson's policy for the world's disaster. johnson refused to acknowledge that the war is going badly and refused to shift course and refused to signal a strategy and try to sort of stick to this middle ground between too much escalation or withdrawal and it ended up a disaster. i reject the argument that this is somehow -- the war was not being won and that's correct. >> let's put the year in
context. we have been talking about eugene mccarthy to challenge a sitting president in his own party. that announcement was made in november 30th, johnson narrowly defeats eugene mccarty in the new hampshire primary on march 12th. that's the key thing to keep in mind, michael cohen. he didn't lose the primary it was basically his margin of victory. >> he won by 4 points i believe. mccarty won with -- of the vote which was extraordinary and showed the dissatisfaction within the party. bobby kennedy used that as a rationalization for getting in the race. he said i don't wan to divide the party for getting in but clearly the party is divided. the party was clearly -- there was a huge division. one thing worth pointing out about the new hampshire vote, 20% of mccarthy supporters voted for george wallace in 1968 in the general ee lks. it wasn't an anti-vote, it wasn't a bunch of hippies saying
we should bring the troops home. a lot of people thought johnson should escalate the war to get it over with. they didn't care if it was withdrawal or escalation, they wanted to find a way to bring the troops home. mccarty didn't run on this anti-war flat form, he ran on a -- send a protest vote, a message to washington about how you feel about the war effort, how you feel about the johnson administration. in that sense it was incredibly successful, he could bring in not just people who opposed the war but more moderate conservative voters who maybe supported the war effort or didn't support the same goals of the anti-war activists but were upset with the way the war was going. it allowed him to create a big coalition in new hampshire. >> four days after the new hampshire primary robert f. kennedy enters the race, with he showed you that earlier on march 16, 1967. president johnson announcing on march 31st they will not seek reelection.
hubert humphrey enters the race but not until april 27th. senator kennedy winning the california primary on the evening of june 4th and then tragically shot after midnight, dying the following day. hubert humphrey accepting the nomination on august 29th and richard nixon elected president on november 5th. let's go to fred joining us from reynoldsburg, ohio. >> hello, how are you? mrs. kennedy, my sympathies over a long time on the untimely loss of a wonderful person, robert kennedy. >> thank you very much. >> i did a study -- i'm sorry? >> thank you. >> i said thank you. >> you're welcome. >> i was age 23 in the years i've studied humphrey, the articles written he was a very loyal person so he wouldn't oppose johnson publicly, but i read material that says that they broke on the vietnam war and johnson stopped including humphrey in some of the briefings and he was really on
the outside. i felt when i was witnessing this first primary that i would vote in that robert kennedy brought sort of a love and unity, there was a positive to it that i thought trans ended politics liberal or conservative. in contrast i disagree with mr. cohen. my impression at age 2 when i listened to mccarthy i thought he was undermining the military, he was contributing to an atmosphere in which the -- some of my friends i thought were horribly abused and abandoned, the military was blamed for things and they were among the bravest finest people in the world who fought there. bob kennedy i thought brought love and respect across the board. from my feeling and my life at age 23 that i could not in the same breath talk about your wonderful bob kennedy and gene
mccarthy. those are my thoughts. i listen for your comments. >> i just would say in defense eugene mccarthy i don't think he was critical of the military and soldiers themselves. he thought they shouldn't have been in vietnam and thought that the war -- his criticisms were of the political leadership of the country, particularly of president johnson and the strategy that was being utilized in vietnam. i think there were people perhaps were in the mccarthy camp, mccarthy some of his supporters who may have been more critical of the military. >> kathleen kennedy townsend who on the political stage did your father rely on for advice as he began his primary campaign leading up to california? who did he count on? >> well, you know, he had two terrific aides in adam wolinski and peter edelman who he trusted. well what my father -- if you
read his speeches and if you talk to him he really believed in the young and he thought that the young people with whom he spoke on college campuses had a lot to say and that's who he often listened to in a sense. i mean, there were all the old kennedy hands, ted sorensen, dave powers who he would hear about, but what he really was moved by was those who said, you know, go sisi sar chavez, go to the inner city and the delta and two, with marianne wright edelman. so he was listening in large part to his heart and to what was going on with young people. >> he loses the oregon primary and comes back to win the california primary. how did he do that? what changed? >> well, the easy answer is the demographics changed. he won i think -- i can't
remember exactly, but almost 98% of the hispanic vote, for instance, in california. he won huge in some precincts 100% of the african-american vote. so he was winning working -- working class people, he was winning in that group, whereas the people like who -- you know, hispanics and african-americans were not a large part of the population in oregon. so that was one of the -- one of the big differences between the two states. and he, unlike, as i said, about gene mccarthy, my father was tireless campaigner. he got up really early, he worked, you know, 15-hour days all over the state listening to people, engaged with people, hearing people and that thrust, that energy and that ability and determination to win was i think
compelling, but it was also helpful that his message of everybody has a role to play in this society, everybody can participate, everybody should have a job that gives you dignity was also a compelling message. >> the demographics were the reason why kennedy was successful in california and in indiana. in indiana he won a large measure because he won i believe 80 to 90% of the african-american vote, he won 30% of the white vote in indiana and only beat mccarthy by four or five points. in california he had a big polling lead, a double digit polling lead going into that campaign and it narrowed. part was because of his identification with black and hispanic voters. the more kennedy was seen as somebody close to both communities more white voters tended to back away from him. >> and of course, kathleen kennedy, as your father famously said now it's on to chicago and let's begin there, a reference to the democratic convention which we will be talking about
in just a moment. walk us through the evening of your father's assassination, what you remember and the days that followed. >> well, i'm not going to go through that kind of tragedy, that's not what i would want to do. but i think what you saw in the days that followed was the enormous outpouring of affection for my father. the train that went from new york to washington was supposed to be normally two hours, i think lasted seven, eight hours because there were so many people on the tracks that came out both -- as you know, train tracks go through working class areas of the country -- of the states and both white and black came out saluting with their hands over their hearts because they saw that their champion had -- was fallen. and i think that what my father was able to do was to reach out
to people who afterwards did not get along so well. i mean, michael is right that in california is number of whites were afraid of my father's affection with african-americans and hispanics but there was still a large white working class population that believed in my father, they had seen him take on tough issues in his career, they identified with his sense of justice and they really felt that they had lost something. >> yeah, i mean, i just want to sort of add to that. i think -- i didn't write about it much in the book but the train ride to new york to washington is really an extraordinary story of thousands and thousands of people coming out to say good-bye to kennedy. it was a combination not just of people's love for them and love for the kennedys in general but a real sense that you have to
remember that this assassination happened two months after the assassination of martin luther king and the riots that followed that assassination. the country was coming apart at the seams and people felt how much more of this violence could the country take. i do think that, you know, sort of the politics of it i think it really destroyed humphrey's chance of winning the presidency. he still could have won but it really hurt him. and he said that at the time. people came to see the country as falling apart and wanting a change, believing democrats couldn't fix the problems in the country. he said something at the time of something about that the -- that the assassination basically kind of derailed his candidacy and a lot of that i think is true. if you look at the polling even up to that point humphrey was leading nixon in head to head polling. after the assassination of kennedy those numbers shifted. so i do think that it was very seminole moment.
of course a very tragic moment, it goes without saying but seminole in the nation's politics in the sense that it really did i think turn people to the view that how much more could this country take. and you think the problems we see now, i'm not minimizing them at all, they're significant. when you have two major assassinations in two months, political assassinations it really does i think cause people to question what is happening in the country and can the country survive. >> and the what if question, kathleen kennedy townsend had your dad lived would he have gotten to the nomination in 1968? >> well, it's always hard to speculate. as i said, i think he would have because i think that he was -- he won the california primary, won every primary that he entered except for oregon and he had a good relationship with the insiders and i think could have made a very good argument that he was the candidate that could bring and pull people together.
so i believe he could have won. i think that if he wasn't nominated and he had won all these primaries it would really hurt humphrey because it would look like he wasn't really the candidate of the people. and i think humphrey would have understood that as well. that's what i believe. you know, it's easy to say because who knows actually what would have happened, but i do think that my father understood after the california primary that he had to get along better with gene mccarthy, that they had to make a deal in some way and the question is whether gene mccarthy would be willing to do that because he was, as you heard earlier, bitter with my father, but it might have been possible to say for the good of the country we've got to work together. >> so i will say this and this is not a criticism and i mean
this as a positive, but bobby kennedy ticked a lot of people off, a lot of people within the democratic party. labor did not like him. the southern democrats not a fan. of course, lyndon johnson didn't like him at all. i actually think it would have been very hard for him to win the nomination in large part of johnson, i think johnson would have done everything he possibly could to prevent kennedy for being the nominee. i do think that the threat of kennedy being the nominee would have been enough to convince johnson to have given humphrey more leeway to distance himself from the white house on the war in vietnam. this ended up being i think the reason why at a tactical level humphrey lost. he couldn't distance himself from johnson and the war. he couldn't bring back liberals in his own party to support his candidacy. only in late september when he sort of distanced himself from johnson and the war, the speech in salt lake city did liberals come home. i think had kennedy lived just the mere presence of him as a possible nominee would have been enough for johnson to do
everything he possibly could do to help humphrey be the nominee which would have meant i think saying to humphrey if you need to say something on vietnam i don't like i think people will support it. after kennedy was killed that was no longer an issue. johnson fought tooth and nail to prevent humphrey from distancing himself in any way. humphrey tried in the summer of '68 to craft a message that would be somewhat his own message on the war that would say he wasn't johnson's lackey and johnson wouldn't let him do it and humphrey to his discredit went along with that and ended up in the convention in chicago at the dnc he endorsed basically johnson's position on the war after his entire campaign in which is mccarthy and kennedy challenging him on the war in vietnam, voters coming out saying we want a change in the war, johnson ended up ens dorging his position. if he come out on the war and been critical i think he would have won the election. >> our series 1968 america in
turmoil. greg in pittsburgh, pennsylvania, you're next. go ahead, sir. >> yes. thank you. i was a nine-year-old on the tracks in baltimore and as you can tell i'm welling up just thinking about it. but my question -- my question is this: as looking forward and i hope this isn't too far off track, but what was the trajectory in the democratic party after 1968 that made them incapable of mounting such a fracture challenge to richard nixon four years later? can you summarize what was going on within the party that they were not able to put together reasonable challenge to nixon by 1972? thank you. >> thank you. >> well, i would say, i mean, the party was the party was hopelessly divided, divided not just on the war but sustain the establishment and activist wings. you had a situation in which george mcgovern ends up being
the nominee in '72, several of the unions refused to endorse him, you had a lot of moderate conservative democrats who didn't support mcgovern's candidacy. you had huge divides in the party. and i shouldn't minimize vietnam because it was obviously important. mcgovern was a strong anti-war candidate and a lot of democrats didn't support that position. but i think also you had this huge divide between southern democrats and northern democrats particularly over civil rights, johnson -- mcgovern was much more liberal on civil rights issues and a whole lost of cult rat issues and that ended up i think creating huge divisions within the party. i do think for what it's worth if humphrey in '68 those divisions are not as severe. i think humphrey was better positioned to be able to navigate both sides of the party than george mcgovern would have been. >> for our radio audience our guests here in washington michael cohen and joining us from west palm beach, florida, kathleen kennedy townsend.
jeff is on the phone from warm strings, georgia. go ahead, please. >> mrs. townsend, i was curious, in what ways were your father's views similar to his brother john toward richard nixon and in what ways were they different? >> that's a good question. well, interestingly enough, when richard nixon and my uncle john kennedy were in the senate together they got along. they had both fought in world war -- i mean, they got along as a republican/democrat but there was not the same animosity we had between parties that -- in the '50s that there is now. i think that's in large part because they had both fought in world war ii, so there was a respect for people who were in the trenches together who put their life on the line together. you may disagree on some policies but after all of what you've shared is the threat of death and seeing your fellow soldiers die. so i think that there's -- that
always creates a kind of bond. my father, you know, then ran the campaign against nixon, i don't think they respected him during the campaign as much clearly when you run against somebody it can be rather very tough and difficult. so i think that the president kennedy changed his views about nixon or changed his relationship to nixon in a sense during the 1960 campaign and that carried forward with my father. >> phil from omaha, nebraska, you're next. go ahead, please. >> hello. ms. townsend, glad to see you. i remember you came to omaha about ten years ago for catholic democrats and i got to meet you. the reason i called was because in 1980 there was a collection of speeches of your father and i have always found the scottsbluff speech to be a symbol of his campaign because
it was a heart felt leap of faith in the founding fathers and then he basically was -- because of the disconnect he felt this should be a collaborative effort by the president if he had been elected president he would have traveled to keep the connection. i wonder if that's what we need today in order to -- because there is a little bit of a disconnect. not quite as much as '68. do you think there is anybody in any party that may be able to believe that as well. >> thank you, phil. >> thank you. well, thanks for reading my father's speeches, i really appreciate that. i think he has a lot to say and i think it speaks to us today as well. we haven't discussed what he did say and did do after the martin luther king assassination and i think that's an important point of what my father was able to do which is to -- if you don't mind me going into that, which is to go into indianapolis to the inner city and to say to people
there that martin luther king had died, which they didn't know, and then talk about how his own brother had been killed by a white man, so to try to say we all have suffered and there is pain. and then during the speech he asks -- he said we all have to have love and compassion for those who suffer, whether they be white or black and let us say a prayer for our country. indianapolis was one of the few cities in the country that didn't break out into riots because there was a politician who could reach out to people's pain and say, i understand where you're coming from, and let's work together. and i think that -- you can see, number one, that if somebody is able to do that and does do that and has the courage to do that after he was told by the chief of police and the mayor don't go into the inner city, he did it anyway, that it makes a
difference. so there is actions one can take that can lift people's spirits up and bring peace. that's, i think, your question. as to who can do it today, i think we've got a whole slew of candidates on the democratic side and it's very exciting to see what they say and what they'll do and we'll learn more over the next 24 months about who does it the best. >> we encourage you to follow us on twitter @cspanhistory. we have a question that we would like you to answer and we will have it up for the full week and some of the responses next week as we focus on 1968 america in tur royal. the question is this: which party has changed the most since 1968? you can follow us on twitter and cast your vote and we will have it up during the course of the week. let's turn to chicago and the convention. the convention was in late august to coincide with lyndon johnson's birthday. >> that's right. >> expecting that he was going to be renominated, giving the democratic party only two months
to get ready for the november election. how significant were those anti-war protests? >> hugely significant. in the sense that it created an aura around the party of dysfunction. it was impossible to look at that convention and see what the democrats were doing and not conclude the democrats were a party that was just incredibly fractured and, you know, i think it raised questions in people's minds, reasonable questions, that could democrats govern the country. they couldn't even run a convention. that was certainly the sentiment among a lot of people. i think it's worth also pointing out that the people -- the protests in chicago did not represent, i think, the core of the anti-war left. many of mccarthy supporters stayed home from chicago for fear of violence. the are groups that were there, the hippies and abby hoffman and jerry ruben and folks like that, they had a much, i think, more frankly nilist i can view of
politics, i think they wanted politics, they wanted to see the mris overreact which of course they did in a way to sort of point out the corruption in american politics. since they were successful. i mean, it's often forgotten, but the host -- the -- chicago created a dmigs to look at the violence and basically it had been a police writhe, the police had been the one doing the writhing instead of the demonstrators. they overreacted, acted in a way that was cruel and incredibly almost -- i don't want to say homicidal, that's too strong, but pretty violent towards the protesters. those images, those pictures really i think did a lot of damage to the party and made it very hard for humphrey to run his -- run for president. it's interesting the stories that he initially criticized the chicago police which ended up creating a backlash because most people actually thought the police acted appropriately. they were fine with the violence against the protesters.
they didn't like apt war protesters. most people supported it and then he had to backtrack from that position which angered liberals. when the race started he was basically running in the high 20s, low 30s in the polls and was double digits behind nixon. ended up rallying by the end of the campaign but started off incredibly hamstrung as a candidate. >> kathleen kennedy townsend how serious was hubert humphrey in asked your uncle ted kennedy to be his running mate? >> he probably, you know, thought that there was a lot of affection for my family, but i think my uncle -- i know my uncle was not interested. he thought we were a torn apart family. myother had 11 children without a father. there was a lot of healing that had to go on in our own family. >> let's go to tom in erie, pennsylvania. go ahead, please.
>> good morning. what sticks in my mind the most about both robert kennedy and john kennedy is they were the last leaders that we had, political leaders that truly represented the broad middle class in america. what's happened since then is that we've wound up with the republicans representing the top no more than 10%, the democrats representing the liberal -- the far left radical liberal left and the 80% of us in the middle have no representation in national politics and very often in state politics. do you foresee anybody coming forward in the near future that has the potential to truly
represent america's middle 80%? >> tom, thank you. let's turn to kathleen kennedy townsend. >> well, i would respectively disagree. i think that president clinton did a very good job in lifting up the middle class. i think we had the best economic performance for middle class and actually for working people in the '90s through the economic policies. that was a very productive time. i think that president obama worked very hard to develop a strong middle class and obviously i think the healthcare bill, although it wasn't popular, really helps people because they know they can have healthcare even if they lose a job. so i would disagree with the premise in a sense, but that's -- that's my understanding on my part. it is -- the question is -- and i think there are going to be a
lot of democratic candidates as i said earlier who i think will reach out to different aspects of the democratic party and you will be able to decide who is going to do the best job of appealing, i hope, to all of us and it's not just a faction of the party. >> again, our question which party has changed the most since 1968, you can follow us @cspanhistory. let me go back to april 1968, vice president hubert humphrey accepting his party's nominat n nomination. >> but take heart, my fellow americans, this is not the first time that our nation has faced a challenge to its life and its purpose. and each time that we have had to face these challenges we have emerged with new greatness and with new strength. we must make this moment of crisis, we must make it a moment
of creation. as it has been said in the worst of times a great people must do the best of things and let us do it. we stand at such a moment now in the affairs of this nation, because, my fellow americans, something new, something different has happened. this is an end of an era and there is the beginning of a new day.
and it is the special genius of the democratic party that it welcomes change, not as an enemy, but as an ally. not as a force to be suppressed, but as an instant of progress to be encouraged. >> 1968 hubert humphrey the democratic nominee. michael cohen. >> just to that last caller, i mean, one of the ironies he mentioned kennedy and the middle class is that kennedy did -- the candidate that did the best among middle class voters was mccarthy. interesting thing to that point there's something about the humphrey speech is interesting. he almost won the nomination -- almost won the presidency i should say and did so in part because labor rallied around him. he had long standing support among unions and had -- going back to the '40s and that -- they rallied behind him, they
also rallied behind george wallace who they found as somebody antithetical to the interest of labor. in a sense that was the last -- i mean, really not the last one but certainly maybe the best one i can think of labor really almost -- almost bringing democratic nominee over the finish line and from that point on democrats had a fractured relationship with the labor movement. in '72 as i mentioned before a lot of unions supported nixon against mcgovern and a big part of the reason frankly was race. this is something we have talked a lot about today but the racial issues that emerged out of the late '60s ended up being damage to democrats. >> let's go to lou in green lawn, new york. go ahead, please, republican line. >> good morning, steve. thank you. mrs. townsend, thank you so much for being on the show this morning. we are all very grateful for
your father's dedication to america. he was such a good man. >> thank you. >> you know, i was 12 years old and i was in social studies and we were following the primaries with mr. goets, my teacher and i spoke up the next morning and i asked my parents about the primary, who had won and they had told me about your father and we are all still very upset. we miss your father very much. but i want to tell you that we all need to come together as a country to face our problems. we can't be divided. it's so important for all the churches, all the faiths to come together and find common ground. >> lou, thank you for the call. kathleen kennedy townsend, your reaction? >> i think -- i think that's true and i think that part of that is from both sides of the
aisle to respect the other side, to understand that even if we disagree on policies, both sides love america and each side -- you know, each person has a sense of dignity within themselves. i think that really when my father talked about how we need love and compassion towards those in our country it was really a wonderful thing to say because i think what he was able to understand is that even if he disagrees with somebody he can respect where they came from and he can respect the dignity that they have as a human being. at one point he said we are all on this earth for a short period of time and we all have a hope that our children will do better and have an opportunity. that's what we share. and let's figure out a way that we cannot demonize the other
side rather than work with them. i think it would be a much better politics. unfortunately, as you know, that's not how people raise money, that's now how people get viewership on cable tv, but it is the way to build a stronger country and i thank you for your comments. >> michael koeb, let's look at the electoral vote totals from 1968. richard nixon getting 301 electoral votes compared to 191 for then vice president hubert humphrey, governor george wallace obtaining 46, the popular vote was closer. why did richard nixon win? >> why did nixon win? that's a good question. i would say a couple it factors. primarily the sense of dysfunction in the country, i think a desire for americans to -- to quote a phrase used in 1920 election return to normal y normalcy. '68 is a very -- it's hard to sort of understand it now, but how just dysfunctional the country was and how divided it was. the sense of country was coming
apart at the seams. you not only had the riots after the king assassination, both assassinations, the violence in chicago but half a million troops fighting a war in vietnam that a good force of the country opposed. >> i think that was a big factor for nixon. i think also an important factor was humphrey's inability to just ans himself from johnson. if he had done so he might have pulled the race out. you read the electoral numbers but i have the numbers my book, but tens of thousand votes in each states switch sides and humphrey wins. i think another win and humphrey pulls the nomination out -- pulls the election out. it was that close. and i think, you know, one thing to remember about nixon is that he started the race with about 43% of the vote in the poll and that's what he ended up with. he didn't really bring more people behind him. nixon was not a popular figure. one thing someone asked earlier how bobby kennedy felt about nixon. i will tell you my research in the book the one that was sort
of -- that was consistent about every political figure i looked at republicans and democrats is none of them liked richard nixon. they didn't trust him, didn't like him, didn't respect him. i think that was a view held by a lot of americans. i think it speaks to how weak a candidate he was in the year in which republicans should have, i think, won by a larger margin, he barely defeated humphrey. also the wallace factor which i think certainly helped -- didn't necessarily hurt nixon's totals and probably would have been a larger margin had wallace not been in the race. >> kathleen kennedy townsend, final question. 50 years later what's the legacy of 1968 for liberal causes and for the democratic party? >> i hope that the top legacy is that we should participate, we should get involved and we should have our voice heard and that the voice of the young have a lot to teach us. as my father said, they have the
least ties to the past and the greatest steak in the future and i think that the young made enormous difference in 1968 and i think the young can make a lot of difference today. >> yeah, i think i tend to agree with that. i think one of the lessons of '68 was that, you know, you saw participation by not just young people but all kinds of people who opposed the war in vietnam and wanted to see political change, rallying behind two candidates and that i think led to an important political shift in the country. and i think one of the take a ways for liberals from '68 is that the engagement can make a difference and i think you look -- we could go 15th anniversary of lyndon johnson dropping out of the presidential campaign and a lot of that was because of the anti-war activists and liberals who came out and opposed his renomination. so i think -- i think kathleen kennedy townsend is right, a lot of it is about participation. >> the book is called "american
maelstrom, the 1968 election and the politics of division." our guest is michael cohen here in washington. and joining us from west palm beach, florida, is kathleen kennedy townsend, the eldest daughter of senator robert f. kennedy. to both of you, thank you very much for being with us here on spap and c-span 3's american history tv. we appreciate it. live sunday morning on 1968 america in turmoil, we look at the impact of the vietnam war at home. while the war was fought in the jungles of vietnam, student marches and acts of civil disobedience on american streets dominated u.s. headlines. joining us to talk about that turbulent time are doug stanton, the 1968 tet offensive and the epic battle to survive the vietnam war and filmmaker lynn novak whose most recent project was the ten-part documentary the vietnam war. watch 1968 america in turmoil live sunday at 8:30 eastern on
c-span's washington journal and on american history tv on c-span 3. 50 years ago on march 31st, 1968, the linden banes johnson announced his decision not to run for reelection that year. up next on reel america, lbj's entire 40-minute address from the oval office. he begins by outlining steps to limit the war in vietnam. >> each week american history tvs reel america brings you archival films that provide context for today's public affairs issues. ♪ ♪