tv 1968 - America in Turmoil 2018 Liberal Politics CSPAN December 31, 2018 3:05pm-4:37pm EST
years ago. lbj's great society and emboldened liberal activists redefine the role of the federal government and challenge traditional values. but the assassinations of martin luther king jr. and robert f. kennedy dealt shattering blows. our guests are kathleen kennedy townsend, rfk's daughter, and former lieutenant governor of maryland, and michael cohen, author of "american maelstrom, the 1968 election and the politics of division." first, we hear from senator robert f. kennedy during his march 16th, 1968, presidential campaign announcement. >> i have traveled and listened to the young people of our nation and felt their anger about the war that they are sent to fight and about the world that they are about to inherit. in private talks and in public,
i have tried in vain to alter our course in vietnam before it further saps our spirit and our manpower. further raises the risks of wider war and further destroys the country and the people it was meant to save. i cannot not stand aside from the contest that will decide our nation's future and our children's future. the remarkable new hampshire campaign of senator eugene mccarthy has proven how deep are the present divisions within our party and within our country. until that was publicly clear, my presence in the race would have been seen as a clash of personalities, rather than issues. but now that that fight is won, over policies which i have long been challenging, i must enter that race.
the fight is just beginning. and i believe that i can win. i have previously communicated this decision to president johnson. and late last night, my brother, senator edward kennedy, traveled to wisconsin to communicate my decision to senator mccarthy. i made clear through my brother to senator mccarthy that my candidacy would not be in opposition to his but in harmony. my aim is to both support and expand his valiant campaign in the spirit of his november 30th statement. taking one month at a time. it is important now that he achieves the largest possible majority next month. in wisconsin, in pennsylvania, and in the massachusetts primaries. i strongly support his effort in those states. and i urge all my friends to give him their help and their votes.
both of us will be encouraging, like-minded delegates to the national convention. both of us want above all else an open democratic convention in chicago, free to choose a new course for our party and for our country. finally, my decision reflects no personal animosity or disrespect toward president johnson. he served president kennedy with the utmost loyalty and it was extremely kind to me and members of my family in the difficult months which followed the events of november of 1963. i've often commended his efforts in health and education and in many other areas. and i have the deepest sympathy for the burden that he carries today. but the issue is not personal. it is our profound differences
over where we are heading. and what we want to accomplish. i do not lightly dismiss the dangers and the difficulties of challenging an incumbent president. but these are not ordinary times. and this is not an ordinary election. at stake is not simply the leadership of our party, and even our country, it is our right to the moral leadership of this planet. i thank you. >> from march of 1968, a tumultuous year and the announcement that senator robert f. kennedy would seek the democratic nomination. he did so on march 16th in 1968. joining us from west palm beach, florida, is the eldest daughter of senator kennedy. kathleen kennedy townsend, thank you very much for being with us here on c-span. >> it's good too be with you,
steve. >> joining us here in washington is michael cohen, the author of the book "american maelstrom: the 1968 election and the politics of division." coming out in paperback later this year. let me begin with you. president lyndon johnson, a key political figure in what we're talking about. what was his standing as the year began? >> johnson was in a tough political position the beginning of '68. the war in vietnam had become a stalemate. there was a growing opposition to the war within his own party and also on capitol hill. in general, popular support for the war had dipped. so he was in a tough position. he was facing a primary challenge within his own party for the nomination. for renomination of eugene mccarthy and then at the end of january, the tet offensive occurs and that really is the moment, the end of johnson's presidency in some respects, politically. it showed that the administration had been lying about the war. there was no light at the end of the tunnel visible. things had fallen apart in
vietnam as far as u.s. policy there. i think from that point forward, it became clear johnson politically, it was going to be hard for him to survive within his own party particularly because of the opposition that was growing among democrats. >> what was the tet offensive? >> tet offensive was a surprise offensive launched by the north vietnamese and vietcong in 1968. you had vietcong guerillas took over the u.s. embassy briefly. a majority of provincial capitals in the country were attacked. a city was taken over by the north vietnamese. you had massive casualties, mostly by the north vietnamese. it was actually a failed mill stair offensive. at home, politically, it had a huge effect on the psyche of the american people. i think it convinced a lot of people that the war was lost. and the war needed to be winded down somehow. >> and where did this put the vice president at the time, hubert humphrey? >> hubert humphrey is an interesting situation. a classic liberal, someone who had been a big supporter of civil rights legislation. and had been, had strong support
among liberal groups in the democratic party, particularly unions, and when he became vice president for johnson, he became a loyal supporter of johnson, including vietnam. humphrey was a bigger supporter of the war than johnson in some respects, he became the face of trying to sell the war to the american people. you know, this created a lot of problems for him within his own party by liberals who saw humphrey as having turned his back on sort of the party and on his liberal beliefs. so he was you know amongst some groups in the party, he was popular especially among labor and for a lot of democrats he was seen almost as negatively as johnson was seen. >> kathleen kennedy townsend, we want to talk about your father. but i first want to ask you about eugene mccarthy. the senator who announced in november 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.
and my father was ambivalent about it. because he thought that it would be seen only as a fight against lyndon johnson personality versus personality. and he didn't want to have this fight just to be about him and lyndon johnson. he wanted to raise larger issues and when we had spoken out against the vietnam war in 1967, very few people listened to actually what he said. what theicalliy lically listeney publicized was the personal animosity. so that's an important aspect of how my father was trying to make his decision as to whether to run or not. gene mccarthy didn't have that personal animus and that history with lyndon johnson. so when gene mccarthy was running, he was running more clearly against the war. >> when did your dad decide to seek the nomination? what was the tipping point?
>> i think -- what michael cohen said, i think the tet offensive was really the tipping point because he had said early in january that he would not run. and then after the tet offensive, i think he changed his mind because he saw that there really was no way that this war was going to be won. the way it was -- and therefore, that lyndon johnson couldn't acknowledge what was going on. that, and lyndon johnson, himself, understood that it could not be won and that lives were being lost in a fruitless, horrible effort. so he -- he decided that he wanted to run and, in fact, he made that decision before the new hampshire primary. when he went out to -- he had made that decision before that time. >> a popular magazine in the '60s and '70s. "teen" magazine, you and your father on the cover. kathleen and father, next president's daughter. you were 16 years old at the
time. what was going on inside -- go ahead. >> i just remember that, it was funny to be in that. that's a nice -- i haven't seen that picture for a long time, so it's very sweet of you to put it up. thank you. >> i mention it because i'm curious what was going on within the family, with you, your mother, ethel kennedy, and other family members considering whether or not robert f. kennedy should seek the nomination? >> well, you know, we really -- we obviously thought our father was terrific, and my mother was a very big supporter of him running because she knew that in his heart, in his gut, he wanted to run for president. she knew that he saw what was going on in the country, not only in vietnam, but with poverty in the delta, the riots in the cities, and she thought that that was his destiny in a
sense. and pushed, you know, was saying he should run. my father, being -- understanding politics, clearly was worried about the issue with lyndon johnson on one hand, and the second issue is that he had run, you know, his brother's campaign in 1960 and he understands that when you want to run for president, you also try to make sure you can win and you've lined it up and thought it through and you got a whole campaign in place which is what he established in 1960 for his brother. he had not done that in 1968. so it was more of a, you know, passionate crusading kind of campaign. which was part of him liked that, part of him held that still, that old political knowledge about how do you put together a campaign? it's kind of an interesti ining
balance. >> michael cohen, beyond the leaders of the democratic party in 1968, what was going on within the party among the rank and file? >> so one interesting figure in '68 is a guy named al lowenstein who had decided by early '67 that lindyndon johnso should not be the nominee of the democratic party in 1968 and he needed to be defeated. this was mainly based on opposition to the war in vietnam. he was a sharp critic of the war. he went around, basically tried to find a democrat to challenge johnson for the nomination. he approached bobby kennedy first. that was his first choice. kennedy said no. as did at least a half dozen figures. george mcgovern among them. he approached mccarthy in the fall of '67 and mccarthy was interested. he had been traveling around the country throughout '67 making his opposition to the war known. mccarthy was not a well-known figure. he was a mercurial figure, he was aloof. not terribly popular on capitol hill. he had actually been the -- the
number-two choice for johnson to be his v.p. nominee in '64. he lost out to hubert humphrey. so when mccarthy challenges johnson it's in part because of lowenstein's lobbying of him. and his activism toward him, trying to get him to get involved. when mccarthy gets involved, this group of anti-war activists rallies around his campaign and basically becomes kind of his army, his political army. it's one of the reasons he did so well in vietnam, one of the reasons why he did well in primaries in wisconsin, oregon, that came afterward. so one of the things that mccarthy did -- why he wanted to run was to create this outlet for anti-war activists to have their voices heard within the party. in some ways it's the most successful thing he did in '68, was that he gave the activists a voice, gave them a way to make their views known. and in the end, those activists were the ones who basically toppled johnson and caused him to -- without mckak tcarthy's
performance in new hampshire, i don't think kennedy gets in the race and without kennedy and mccarthy both in the race, i don't think johnson drops out. >> and we're looking at 1968 here on c-span and a live simulcast on c-span's american history tv. a year in crisis, in turmoil. a lot happening. joining us live is kathleen kennedy townsend and michael cohen, the author of a book on 1968. give us a better sense of eugene mccarthy. why he entered the race. what his personality was like, what his political standing was like. and why he faltered as the primary process continued. >> so mccarthy is an interesting figure. again, like i said before, he was an aloof guy. very sort of an intellectual. had a very kind of -- he had very liberal policies. very sort of conservative demeanor to him. he's somebody who believed in the political process. the reason he ran is because he
believed that -- he was fearful that democrats opposed to the war in vietnam, opposed to johnson's policies, were going to create a third or fourth party. he said this in his announcement speech. so he wanted to give them an outlet within the party. in the political process to, again, make their voices known. and so he had a very sort of, i think, traditional view of politics. even though he -- again, espoused very radical policies as time went on during the campaign. he was also somebody who was a bit lazy. he wasn't really somebody who liked campaigning. used to say his campaign staff would ask him to morning events and he'd always say, i'm not a morning person. he would have a hard time talking to people sometimes. he could be effective on tv and could be a very effective politician. he just wasn't sort of -- he didn't sort of like the details of campaigning. i think mccarthy was somebody who if he had his druthers would have just basically given speeches the entire time. and given people, here's my
position, here's my opponent's position, you decide. but as time went on, you know, he -- that strategy didn't really work so well politically. became more difficult for him to be effective, especially, he became overwhelmed by the activism around him, the energy around kennedy's candidacy. >> kathleen kennedy townsend, what was the relationship like between your father and senator mccarthy? >> well, they were both catholics, but i think they were different kinds of catholics in the sense, as michael pointed out, gene mccarthy was much more intellectual, much more reserved. i wouldn't say that my father also, i would say was kind of shy. but he liked people, he was empathetic. he had the issue of vietnam. but he also spoke very much to working people, to the poor, to the disenfranchised.
so he had a much, i would say, larger heart that embraced lots of people and touched them and was touched by them. so i think that, you know, they had very different personalities and different passions. >> march 16th, 1968, you and your family with your father, as he formally announces his candidacy in the same location where john kennedy announced in 1960. what do you remember about this day here in washington? >> first of all, it was very exciting to have my father announce his presidency. we were thrilled that he was going to run. we were. a number of people asked, weren't you afraid? one of the things that we've learned in our family is not to be afraid and so we, so we were very happy about the fact that he was going to run. that he was going to do what was in his heart. and that he really had something
to offer this country. so it was -- there was a lot of chaos. we're accustomed to growing up in chaos, as you know, with ten kids at that point and my mother was pregnant with the 11th. it was a great day. and after march 16th, he went up and he marched in the st. patrick's day parade. so there was this sort of irish sense of let's get out there, let's fight. let's make our views known. >> reacting to your father's candidacy, senator eugene mccarthy from march of 1968. let's watch. >> nart senator mccarthy, what's your reaction as a politician? can you take him i guess is the best question? >> well i haven't really been moved to withdraw at this point. i think that i can certainly win in wisconsin, and i see no reason to believe that i couldn't go on and win the other primaries in which i'm committed. >> has this caused you in any way to reassess your overall position? >> well i don't think there's
any reassessment, david. i've been committed since i first announced to run in the primaries, to which i had responded and i've made no changes in my plans either because of new hampshire or the continue quens consequence of the announcement of senator kennedy. >> i keep hearing a sort of rumbling indications of a deal at some point in the future. are you prepared to deal with bobby kennedy? >> i'm not really prepared to deal with anybody, so far as my candidacy is concerned. i committed myself to a group of young people and i thought rather idealistic adults in american society. i said i would be their candidate and i intend to run as i committed myself to run. if a situation develops at a convention, of course, where i can't win, i will release my delegates. i don't have any other power over them, anyway. i don't have a bloc of delegates whom i can trade with. if i did have, i wouldn't trade with them. so far as i'm concerned, it will
be an open and free convention. i'll run as hard as i can in every primary and stand as firm as i can at the convention. if i find i can't win, i will say to my delegates, you're free people, go for whoever you want and make the best judgment that you can make. >> courtesy of cbs news and that interview was conducted after the announcement of senator robert f. kennedy. michael cohen, as you watch eugene mccarthy, your reaction. >> i think eugene mccarthy had had a tough relationship with the kennedys for a long time. even very tough on jack kennedy, actually. in part because he thought he should be the first catholic president, not john f. kennedy. and he never really got over the way that bobby kennedy got in the race in '68. because basically the night -- the morning after he wins the new hampshire primary, kennedy says he's reassessing whether or not he's going to run. the feeling among mccarthy is a lot of his supporters, one aide put it, these are stolen, the
gifts under the christmas tree from mccarthy by sort of stealing his thunder right after this impressive performance in new hampshire. so the animosity between them grew as the campaign went along. kennedy wasn't a huge fan of mccarthy's either. a lot of people weren't. he was a tough person to like. i think also one thing that's interesting is one thing mccarthy didn't like about bobby kennedy was he was a very emotional candidate. he was somebody who got his audiences revved up and excited. he didn't think that was appropriate for politics. and he also, he used to say kennedy had all these outreach groups, to native american groups, to african-americans, to hispanics. he thought that was not the way a politician should work. he says he has all of these average groups like they're flavors of baskin-robbins. he didn't think it was an appropriate way to run a campaign. he would not have been successful in today eegs poli's at all. it created a lot of animosity and a sense as time went on, mccarthy came to dislike the kennedys and i think in a way, that defined a lot of his campaign as it went along.
he became much more critical of kennedy as the campaign went along. >> let's get a response and we'll get to your phone calls. kathleen kennedy townsend? >> i think michael said it pretty well. i think that they had very different personality types. and gene mccarthy was, as we said a number of times, you know, the intellectual. and thought that he had done something very brave and courageous and in running against johnson and resented somebody else getting into the race. i think he resented my father, but had resented my family for a while because they didn't like their type of campaigning. so that's, you know, that's politics. and i think that gene mccarthy as you can see after, after he didn't win the nomination, it wasn't as though he went back and said, oh, what can i learn to help more americans participate? more americans, you know,
african-americans and indians. the poor. that was not his way of acting and that's not where his heart lay. >> kathleen kennedy townsend is the former lieutenant governor of maryland. she's joining us from west palm beach, florida. before we get to calls, a personal note on why you are there this weekend. >> yes, we were here this weekend because it's my mother, ethel kennedy's 90th birthday on april 11th, in a few days. we had a great celebration last night. vice president biden came and speaker nancy pelosi, steny hoyer, and lots of brothers and sisters, cousins, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. it was a fabulous, fabulous evening to celebrate my mother's extraordinary life and really i would say my mother's belief in my father and her ability to say to my father, you can achieve things, you can do what your
fate calls you. my mother believed in my father which was a very important part of his success. >> we'll go to albert in chicago. democrats line. go ahead, please. >> caller: yes, good morning, c-span, and good morning to you, mrs. townsend. >> how are you? >> caller: how are you, ma'am? yes. i was just wondering if your father had any mind anybody that he wanted to be his running mate during that campaign. >> i don't think at that point, as you can see what, for instance, when his brother was running for president, they didn't really make up their mind until the last 24 hours as to lyndon johnson would be john kennedy's running mate. so the running mate question often depends on what's going on in the rest of the country and who will be most helpful to win the general election. and he had a very, my father as you know had a very tough fight.
because he had gene mccarthy and then hubert humphrey. so he was really focused on winning the primaries. and then he had a couple of months to figure out who would be his running mate. thank you for asking, though. >> frank from corning, new york, good morning. >> caller: good morning. in 1968, i formed with others in corning, new york, a dissident democratic group that supported eugene mccarthy. and it was a shoestring operation. but it was very exciting because we managed to win two of the three delegates. i was one who went to chicago which of course was a turbulent experience in some ways. i did also meet al lowenstein, and i think it might have been after the election he came through here. and you know about his tragic end. it's one of his proteges i
believe shot him or something like that. but i met eugene mccarthy once when some of us went down to new york city for a periodic meeting we had. and what struck me was as i was in line to shake his hands, he was talking to somebody and didn't seem to acknowledge my existence and i thought, this guy may or may not have fire in the belly, but he needs to be more attentive to the here and now and the people who are working very hard. it was a very difficult campaign. because we had very little money and not much support from regular democrats. in fact, when i approached the regular democrats at a meeting and suggested they not support eugene mccarthy -- i'm sorry, lbj, one of the prominent lawyers stood up and said, who the hell are you? i had been in town only three
years. i came here in '65. so i could understand his comments. >> michael cohen. thank you for the call, frank. >> that's a great -- that's a great story and it reminds me of an interesting -- when i was researching my book, i went through mack carthy's papers and found all these oral histories of people who worked on the campaign. there was one consistent theme. people would sort of say, staffers or people involved in the campaign somehow, that they didn't really like mccarthy in a lot of ways in a personal level. that they found him to be, you know, aloof, to be sort of distant and not really engaged in the campaign. and yet they always revered him because he had run. it's an interesting thing about mccarthy. that even though he was this, again, very difficult person, he did something very courageous in '67, '68. he decided to take on johnson. had he not done that, i don't think johnson would have dropped out of the race. i don't think you would have
seen the anti-war wing of the party be able to express themselves. go to the convention and debate a plank about the war in vietnam. so in that sense, you know, mccarthy inspired a great deal of loyalty among his supporters. i found interesting also is that among his supporters, they had a great deal of animosity toward kenne kennedy, actually. in part because they felt he had stolen mccarthy's thunder. mccarthy had been courageous enough to challenge johnson. he had less to lose than kennedy. that's fair to say. but at the same time he did it when no one else would. i think it created a lot of loyalty, but also people who remained involved in the political process after the '68 campaign. i think if you look at people who worked on both campaigns, i think more often than not, people worked for mccarthy were the ones who stuck around, for mcgovern in '72 and remained involved in the political process even more so than people who worked for kennedy. i don't mean on the high level. i mean on the lower grassroots level. >> kathleen kennedy townsend,
did your father ever talk about his relationship with president johnson? or did you ever hear conversations about what that relationship was like? >> well, we didn't have a personal one-on-one talk about lyndon johnson but it certainly pervaded our house and it was certainly a very tough relationship. as you know, my father objected to his brother's choice of johnson for vice president. they didn't really mesh personality wise at all. and they didn't really get along very well. so that was just clear. they just came from different parts of the world and different backgrounds and they didn't get along. but i've said, you know, looking back 50 years, what they did share was a commitment to dealing with the issues of poverty in this country. and i give, you know, johnson
also signed the '64 civil rights act and he signed the immigration act, which my father very much agreed with. so on some issues, they really did agree, even though they didn't always get along, but they broke up -- the real break came over the war. >> as we set the stage on some of the key players in 1968, we want to move on and talk about the primary campaign that began in new hampshire, ended in california with a victory. 46% for senator robert f. kennedy. 42% for eugene mccarthy. and this ad from the 1968 democratic primary campaign by the rfk campaign. >> robert kennedy, and some people who aren't registered this year. in ten years, these americans will inherit the problems we don't solve today. >> it's suggested in the next several decades the people are going to have to start wearing
gas masks in new york city because the air is becoming so polluted. 750 pounds of refuse you breathe every year and the same thing is true to a lesser degree in cities all across the united states. that will spread to the rural areas as well unless we stop it. the things we can do about automobiles. there are laws we can pass about dumping and throwing refuse in lakes and streams and into the air. otherwise as secretary gardner said, we're all going to have to live underground. industry must do something and then individual citizens and then the demand, the interest that all of you might take in it and i think that's what's going to make a difference in this country. >> nebraska can make the difference. >> from the 1968 campaign by robert f. kennedy, and we're looking back 50 years later, "america in turmoil." michael l cohen is here in washington, d.c. kathleen kennedy townsend is joining us from west palm beach, florida. greg is our next caller from new castle, pennsylvania.
go ahead, please. >> caller: hi. i'm one of them guys that ended up spending a year in the jungles of vietnam, including a place called a-105, which we're not sure which side of the laotian border it was always on. a lot of the mess that was going on in laos because of drugs in china. but i'm firmly against the democrats because of the vietnam war and the mess it turned out to be, you know, and the draftees and, but of course, the rich people, they could always, you know, avoid the draft. so, you know, being one of the old dumb grunts now and in declining numbers, i'm just making my comment. >> greg, thank you. kathleen kennedy townsend, how would you address that sentiment? >> well i think it's an excellent sentiment. in fact, when my father was running for president, he said the same -- he said the same
thing. how unfair it was that people who could go to college got out of the draft. and that the people who couldn't afford college didn't get out of the draft. he said that was unfair. and he said that to college students. so he was willing to go right into people who were benefitting from the unfair system and say, this is unfair. this is unjust. this is not the way this country should act. so i think my father was very clear that he didn't like the fact that so many people who couldn't afford college went to vietnam and those who were well off were able to get out of it. >> from northeastern washington -- >> and he said it directly. what's unusual, i want to underscore, because oftentimes politicians tell people what they want to hear. and i think one of things that was unique about my father is he was able to tell people what they didn't want to hear and ask them to think about their own responsibility and how they could 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, is do you think the liberals in politics will be able to make things daylight, very clear, how things work when each party is in charge of our country and then who comes along and has to fix things? >> thank you, brian. >> that's more of a contemporary question, i suppose. i guess the thing i'd say is this goes back to the first question from greg. i just want to thank him for his service. you know, one of the ironies about vietnam, of course, is it was democrats who were the ones
who propagated the war and it was lyndon johnson, you know, perhaps the most liberal president we've ever had, one of the most liberal president s we've ever had, who led the war effort. and you know, he did create lot of opposition in democrats, not just within the party, but in general about their ability to handle foreign policy and their ability to handle military affairs. the irony of vietnam in a sense is johnson escalated in part to minimize sort of the political fallout from letting vietnam fall to the communists. and i think this was something that came back from who lost china debate in the 1950s, the sense that dems weren't tough enough on communism. so the way for democrats to avoid that label was to fight in vietnam. one of the reasons johnson escalated the war in vietnam. the result was that it basically showed a lot of people that democrats couldn't effectively manage foreign policy. couldn't effectively manage the war effort in vietnam. so in a lot of ways, you know, it created i think a sense the
democrats were weak on national security, weren't effective on national security and that sort of image i think has been propagated for 50-some years since then. and i'm not going to say that richard nixon fixed the problems that johnson created. although, obviously, he got the u.s. out of vietnam. but you know, there is a sense there i think that democrats created this problem and it undermined them politically for a long time to come. >> kathleen kennedy townsend, i want to share with you a column by pat buchanan who joined us a couple weeks ago to look at 1968. it's available online at wsj.com. he says "the year america came apart." among the things he talks about, the race riots, following the assassination of dr. martin luther king, the loss of your father and the surging anti-war movement which demoralized, made the democrats bitter and angry. humphrey was seen as a johnson lackey. and he concludes by saying "the american establishment, the best and the brightest, had been broken at the wheel of vietnam."
your thoughts? >> well, i think that -- i think vietnam did destroy a lot of the establishment because they knew that they weren't winning it. and they were still sending people over to vietnam to die in a war that they knew was not going well. and they were dishonest with the american people. and it was a disaster, and as you, as i would say in my, think people -- historians would say, you weren't going to win that war. if you don't have the people in the south vietnam, the government, itself, didn't want to fight, you can't prop it up from outside. and it's so ironic and so sad now when you think of how many people died. both vietnamese and americans. and now, you know, we can have good relationships with vietnam and it was really, you know, a tragedy.
i think michael pointed out that lyndon johnson was afraid that democrats would be criticized for losing a communist state as they had lost china. and yet they're criticized anyway. so at least we could have been criticized and not have so many people die. and have probably a quicker reconstruction of vietnam. >> will is joining us from racine, wisconsin. please go ahead, sir. >> caller: how are you doing there, mrs. lieutenant governor? i just wanted to point out something that's missing from a sort of national conversation. we have a personality who happens to be running for governor of one of the states that dems got to win. illinois. he happens to be your brother. i just wanted to kind of pick your brain and see what are your sentiments to this sort of lack of an identity for the democratic party and sort of a lack of engagement of support?
>> well, i think there is -- i think, first of all, my brother did run for governor of illinois and i think he would have been a terrific governor. as you know, his opponent spent $60 million against him of his own money, so it's very tough when you're running against $60 million. but across the country, i have to say, i think the democrats have been revived and re-energized because of what's going on in washington. we're winning elections that we haven't won in decades. and i think there's this new energy. and new sense that we've got to get involved. we've got to get engaged. i'll just give you a statistic on women. 2 years ago, 2,000 women ran for office. this year, 34,000 women are running for office. there is a sense that we -- this is our country and we're going to get engaged and get involved. and the other thing that is
interesting about who's running is how many people who have served in iraq. in afghanistan. they're running as democrats. so i hope that this will be sort of the end of the vietnam, you know, era, that the military can't be democratic because so many democrats are running who have been in the military. >> michael cohen? >> i was going to say, it's interesting, i tend to agree with what kathleen kennedy townsend just said in the sense that in '68, divisions in the democratic party were extraordinary. particularly over the war in vietnam. but not just over the war in vietnam. i mean, there was a whole series of issues on civil rights, on crime. a whole bunch of things that really divide the party. you had a wing of the party, the more conservative democrats, southern democrats who, i mean, for example, someone like bobby kennedy, i mean, you know, he had a lot of opposition within the party. labor didn't like him. southern democrats couldn't stand him. there was a lot -- there were
serious, serious fault lines in the party. nothing like that today. you do see this debate between the bernie sanders wing of the party and establishment wing of the party and it's not -- they're not, i don't want to paper them over. there are some serious differences, but nothing on the scale of what we saw in '68. i think the differences then were sort of fundamental and there was a big wing of the party. i think mccarthy supported anti-war activists who viewed the democratic party and johnson as illegitimate in general. when the general election began, had anti-war activists that regularly picketed and interrupted hubert humphrey's speeches, refused to support him because of his views on the war in vaietnam. back last year, in 2016, i should say. people always ask me, is this like '68? it's nothing like '68. as divisive as the politics have become in our country, it could barely hold a candle to what we were seeing in '68 as far as the divisions that were existing and as far as the animosity not just between the two parties but inside the two parties. >> the book is called "american
maelstrom: 1968 the election and politics of division" with our guest michael cohen here in washington. in fairfax, virginia, is where our next caller is coming from. susan, go ahead, please. >> caller: my name is susan. i'm calling with a comment. i wanted to say hi to kathleen. i'm richard mackey's niece. so good to see you. >> oh, no kidding. >> caller: so good to see you, kathleen. you and your family have been very much on my heart. my husband was a high school senior in elkton, maryland, in 1968, and last night, he was showing the picture, the "so long bobby" picture on the arts and style of the "washington post" picture to my daughter, elizabeth, last night, and telling her a little bit about the history of that time. so i want to just say hello. >> thank you, susan. >> caller: and tell you that i miss you. >> thank you. >> caller: and hope that -- glad
to hear that you celebrated your mother's 90th birthday. and hope to see you back in this area some time soon. and my brother, andy strayhorn, 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 primary. here's an excerpt. >> and now mccarthy was facing competition from a new candidate. senator robert kennedy had decided to run. >> with the decisions that are made by this convention today. >> there were other unexpected events. >> with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day. i do not -- >> jim and ann did not realize it first as they listened to the president's speech that he was about to tell the nation he would not run for the presidency again. >> partisan costs.
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. thank you. >> and vice president humphrey became the last major democratic candidate to enter the race. his heir to the support that had been given to the president. humphrey acquired a substantial number of delegate votes before the national convention. >> thank you very much. yes, sir. thank you. hello there. >> from the u.s. information agency, michael cohen, let's talk about the democratic party. what the structure was in 1968 and what changed after the '68 election? >> this is one of the
interesting things people never talk about. we just saw the video and there are pictures of hubert humphrey who was the nominee of the democratic party in '68. he never ran a single primary in '68. that was not on the ballot and didn't need to be because the way that nominees were chosen. d to be because of the way nominees were chosen of the party, state conventions, controlled by powerful democrats, sort of big city, big democratic power brokers. so even though kennedy and mccarthy faced off in primaries they couldn't win enough delegates. once humphrey entered the race in april of '68 it was predetermined he would be the nominee unless mccarthy or kennedy could convince delegates to change allegiance from humphrey to them. one of the few things reformists was this voice vote on creates a
reform convention to change the way democrats chose their nominee. that decision has completely rechanged our politics. the whole primary system we have now, the whole spending years in iowa and new hampshire, trying to win over support of democratic voters there, that all happened because of this reform commission, which basically created for democratic system and basically said a nominee should be chosen in the primaries, primaries should be binding, did away with state conventions, by and large. and that has created this sort of modern primary system that we have, and modern political system we have. again, it was something that was not really talked about much in '68. it was something the reformists were pushing. but it came about in large measure because of the way that humphrey was chosen, but also because of mccarthy's campaign. you know, one of the things mccarthy said was, again, you need to have an outlet for people in the party to make voices heard. we don't have that because of these five or six primaries that are binding and most of the delegates are chosen at state conventions. the really important element of
mccarthy's campaign, he created this impetus to change the system. we are living in a different particular world because of that. >> james jones, who served as the de facto white house chief of staff to president johnson said that on the afternoon of march 31st, 1968 when lyndon johnson met with his vice president, anoupsing he was going to not seek renomination, huber humphrey reportedly said "i had lost to one kennedy and i will lose to another." have you heard that story? >> no, i haven't heard that story. but thank you for sharing. >> what about huber humphrey, though, and his standing in the democratic party and how your father would have campaigned against him? >> well, he -- obviously, if hubert humphrey had not participated in the primaries, it was hard to campaign against
him. so the campaign against hubert humphrey would have had to be with the insiders of the democratic insiders, which would be to go to them and say, hubert humphrey is tainted by his association with lyndon johnson and it's only me who has actually won the primaries, who's shown that he can win the votes that should win. otherwise hubert humphrey will look illegitimate in the eyes of many democratic voters. that would have been the argument that my father would have to say. and obviously my father knew many of the democratic insiders because he had met and worked with them in the 1960 campaign. and as the attorney general and as a senator he knew who they were and so he had a relationship with them. i think he could have made a pretty strong argument about what needed to be done. i think that it would have been very hard having won as many primaries as he did, you know,
he did beat gene mccarthy in all the primaries except for oregon, he beat him in the biggest california primary, i think he would have a very good argument that it would look bad for the democratic party to nominate huber humphrey. and i think it would have been a compelling case. >> we'll come back to the california primary shortly. let's go to glen joining us from potstown, pennsylvania. you're on the air. >> caller: yes, good morning. my question is, ms. chaplain kennedy, would you agree that every time the republicans get in the house who have a financial chaos, economical mayhem, and i appreciate your dad and your uncle jack and bobby for their good intention and the good human being --
>> thank you, glen. >> thank you. i appreciate what -- obviously i'm a democrat, so i think the democrats who are a party that believe that government has a role really makes an effort to make government work and work effectively. and i think that's a different attitude than some of the republicans have. i don't think we're talking about -- i think we all agree that we're not really talking about present day politics. i would say the current president is the epitome of being head of a government that doesn't really want it to work well. >> yeah, i mean, i would just say to that, whoever ends up coming after president trump will have to find a way to fix what's happening in washington right now. >> and by the way, this week we're focusing on the democratic party and the state of liberal politics. next week we'll turn our attention to conservative politics and the republican party and to the nomination of
richard nixon after his defeat in 1960 to john kennedy. craig in tulsa, oklahoma, you're next. >> caller: yes, it's an honor to speak to a kennedy, and i always respected -- he was almost a conservative in many ways. i want to point out that liberal politics, unfortunately in '68, it was a change for how we face war, it was the liberals that brought them the idea that it's like the femininization of war. eleanor roosevelt spoke to the mothers of the nation and said you may have to sacrifice your sons but we have to win. it was in '68, in liberal politics that brought on the idea, and there's nothing wrong with masculine or feminine, both good, you can't femme innize war. when we get ready to take an action, the first question, is when are we going to bring our
boys home? there's nothing wrong with that, but it's not but we need to win. i think one thing about conservative politics, they say we have to win, and there may be sacrifice. that's realistic in, you know, the ugly thing of war. it's necessary sometimes. and i think a bad thing of liberal politics and they femininized it. look, we win, and yes we want our boys to come home, but it shouldn't be timelines and bring our boys home now, even before we start, so just a comment on liberal politics. >> craig, thank you, michael cohen. >> a lot of men felt the war in vietnam was a mistake and that the boys should come home. i would just say that one of the reasons why vietnam was the disaster that it was was because there was no real strategy behind the war effort. there was no political strategy. there was no clear, i think, military strategy for success in vietnam. and, in a sense, one of the reasons why vietnam was a disaster that it was is because
lyndon johnson refused to choose a course either to accelerate the war effort or to withdraw the american troops. the fall of '67, the war was clearly a stalemate. everyone understood that. and johnson couldn't decide which way to go. accelerate the war and get it over with or bring the american troops home. johnson's policies were a disaster and led to the political difficulties. he refused to acknowledge the war was going bad by, refused to shift course, refused to seek an alternative strategy and try to seek this middle ground between too much escalation or withdrawal. and it ended up as a disaster. so i don't really -- i sort of reject the argument that this was somehow because of liberals thought the boys should come home. liberals thought the war shouldn't end because the war wasn't being won. that was correct. >> let's put the year in context. we've been talking about ju neen
mckr mccarthy, challenged a sitting president in his own party. president johnson narrowly defeats him 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 four points, i believe, but it was touch a tight -- he won more than 4% of the vote, extraordinary. and, you know, i think showed the dissatisfaction within the party. and bobby kennedy used that as a rationalization for getting in the race. he said i don't want to divide the party by going in. but the party was clearly divided. there was a huge division. one thing worth pointing out be-new hampshire vote. 20% of maccarthy supporters votd for george wallace. it was an anti-war vote. it wasn't a bunch hippies saying we should bring the troops home. a lot of people voted for
mccarthy, they thought johnson should escalate the war. they wanted to find a way to bring troops home. one thing about mccarthy, a lot of credit for, he didn't run on this anti-war platform. he ran on a senate protest vote. sent a message to washington about how you feel about the war effort, 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, anti-war activists, but were upset with the way the war was going. it was a big coalition in mafrp. >> four days after the new hampshire primary robert f. kennedy enters the race. we showed you that earlier on march 16th, 1968. president johnson announcing he will not seek reelection. huber humphrey enters the race, but not until april the 27th.
key thing to keep in mind. winning the primary on the evening of june 4th and then tragically shot after midnight, dying the following day, hubert humphrey accepting the nomination on august the 29th, and richard nixon elected president on november the 5th. >> caller: hello, how are you, and mrs. kennedy, my sympathies over a long time and the untimely loss of a wonderful person, robert kennedy. >> thank you, very much. >> caller: i did a study of -- sorry? >> i said thank you. >> caller: i studied humphrey. articles he's written, he's a very loyal person. 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.
and 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 positiveness that transcended politics, liberal or conservative. in contrast, i disagree with mr. cohen. my impression at age 23, i thought he was undermining the military. he was contributing to an atmosphere in which some of my friends, i thought, were horribly abused and abandoned. the military was blamed for things and they're among the bravest, finest people in the world who fought there. and in contrast, bob kennedy, i thought, brought a 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.
>> fred, thank you for the call. let's begin with michael cohen. >> in defense of gene mccarthy, he was never critical of the military. he thought the war was -- his criticisms were of the political leadership in the country, particularly of president johnson. and the strategy that was being utilized in vietnam. i think they were people perhaps were in the mccarthy camp, mccarthy and his supporters who may have been critical of the military. >> kathleen kennedy, who upon 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, he'd -- you know, he had two terrific aides in adam wolinsky and peter edleman who he trusted. really, my father, if you read his speeches and talk to him, he 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. there were all the old kennedy hands, ted sor enson, dave powers, who he'd hear about. what he really was moved by was those who said go see caesar chavez, go into the inner city, go to the delta with marian wright edleman. 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. and he won huge in some precincts 100% of the african-american vote. so he was winning working class people. he was winning that group. whereas the people like hispanics and african-americans were not a large part of the population in oregon. so that was one of the big differences between the two states. and he, unlike, as you said about gene mccarthy, my father was a tireless campaigner. he got up really early. he worked, you know, 15 hour days, all over the state, listening to people, engage with people, hearing people. and that thrust, that energy, and that ability and determination to win was, i think, compelling. but i think 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 in large measure because we won 80% to 90% of the african-american vote, 30% of the white vote in indiana and only beat mccarthy by four or five points. in california he had actually a big polling lead, double digit polling lead going into the campaign and it narrowed. part of it was because of his identification with black and hispanic voters. the more he was seen as close to both communities, the more white voters backed away. that happened in california. >> and kathleen, as your father said, let's move on to chicago. a reference to the democratic convention. walk us through the evening of your father's assassination,
what you remember in 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 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, 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's right that in california a 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 just want to to add to that. -- i didn't write much about it in the book, but the train ride from new york to washington is really an extraordinary story of just thousands and thousands of people coming out to say good-bye to kennedy. and i think it's a combination not just of people's love for him, and love for the kennedys in general, but i think a real sense that you have to remember that this assassination happened two months after the they assassinated martin luther king
and the riots that followed that assassination. the real sense when kennedy was killed that the country was coming apart at the seams. they felt this was sort of -- how much more of this violence could the country take? and i do think that, you know, sort of the politics of it, it really destroyed humphrey's chance of winning the presidency. he still could have won, but it really hurt him. he said that at the time, people came to see the country as falling apart and wanting a change, and believing democrats couldn't fix the problems in the country. and he said something at the time of something about that the -- you know, that the assassination basically kind of derailed his candidacy. and i think that's 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 it was a very seminal moment, very tragic moment, but in the nation's
politics, it really did turn people to the view that how much more could this country take? and you think the problems we see now, and i'm not minimizing them at all, they're significant, when you have two major assassinations in two months, political assassinations, it really does cause people to ask the question what is happening in the country? >> the what if question, had your dad lived, would he have gotten 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 that for the good of the country we've got to work together. >> so i'll 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. and, of course, lyndon johnson didn't like him at all. and i actually think it would have been hard for him to win the nomination, in large part because of johnson. johnson was doing everything he possibly could to prevent kennedy from being the nominee. but i do think 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 humphrey lost. he couldn't distance himself from johnson in 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 did liberals sort of come home. i think had kennedy lived, the mere presence of him a possible nominee would have been enough for johnson to do everything he possibly could do to help humphrey be the nominee.
saying to humphrey, in you need to say something on vietnam i don't like, i would have supported it. after kennedy was killed it was no longer an issue. johnson fought tooth and nail to prevent humphrey from distancing himself in any way. he tried repeatedly to craft a message that would be his own message on the war, that would say he wasn't johnson's lackey. and johnson wouldn't let him do it. 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. his entire campaign in which mccarthy and kennedy challenging him on the war, voters coming out and saying we want a change. humphrey ends up endorsing johnson's position. had he done something different, been critical of johnson, he probably would have won the election. >> america in turmoil, greg in pittsburgh, pennsylvania, you're next, go ahead, sir.
>> caller: yes, thank you. i was a 9-year-old on the tracks in baltimore. and as you can tell i'm welling up just thinking about it. my question is this, looking forward, and i hope this isn't too far off frank, but what was the trajectory in the democratic party after 1968 that made them incapable of mounting such a fractured 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 problem is the party was hopelessly divided. it was divided when not just on the war, but between sort of its establishment and sort of activist wings. so you had a situation in which george mcgovern ends up being the nominee in '72, several of
the unions refused to endorse him. a lot of moderate, conservative democrats didn't support mcgovern's candidacy. huge divides in the party. and i shouldn't minimize. 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. mcgovern was much more liberal on civil rights issues and a whole host of cultural issues. that ended up creating huge divisions within the party. for what it's worth, if humphrey win it is '68 the divisions are not as severe. 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 springs, georgia.
go ahead, please. >> caller: 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 -- they got along as a republican/democrat, but not the same animosity we had between parties in the '50s that there is now. and i think that's in large part because they had both fought in world war ii. so there's a respect for people who are in the trenches together, who put their life on the line together. you may disagree on some policies, but after all 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, 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. and so i think that the president kennedy changed his views about nixon, or it 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. >> caller: hello, ms. townsend, glad to see you. i remember you came to hoomaha n years ago. the reason i called is because collections speeches on your father, and i always saw the scottsbluff speech to be a symbol of his campaign because he was a heartfelt leap of faith in the founding fathers.
and then he basically was -- because of his disconnect he felt there should be a collaborative effort by the president, if he would have been elected president he would have traveled to keep the connection. and i wonder if that's what we need today in order to -- because there is a little bit of a disconnect, but not quite as much as '68. do you think there's anybody in any party that might 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 had 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 to go into that, which is going into indianapolis to the inner city, 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's pain. and then at the -- 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. and 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's -- 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's actions one can take that 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 at c-span history. and we have a question that we'd like you to answer and we'll have it up for the full week and some of the responses next week as we focus on 1968, american turmoil. the question is this. which party has changed the most since 1968? you can follow us on twitter and cast your vote and we'll 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, expecting he was going to be renominated giving the democratic party only two months to get ready for the november election.
how significant was anti-war protests? >> it's hugely significant in the sense that it created a -- i guess aura around the party of dysfunction. you know, i mean, it was impossible to look at that convention and see what the democrats were doing and not conclude 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? couldn't even run a convention. that was a sentiment among a lot of people. it's worth also pointing out that the people who were -- the protests in chicago, did not represent, i think, the core of the anti-war left. many of mccarthy's supporters stayed home from chicago for fear of violence. the groups that were there, the hippies and, you know, abby hoffman and jay reuben and folks like that, they had a much, i think, more, frankly, nihilistic view of politics. they wanted violence and wanted
to see the police overreact, which they did, in a way to point out the corruption in american politics. in a sense they were successful. i mean, it's often forgotten about this, but the post -- the chicago created a commission to look at the violence. they basically concluded the police were the ones rioting opposed to the commdemonstrator. the police overreacted, acted in a way that was cruel and incredibly -- i don't want to say homicidal, too strong, but pretty violent toward the protesters. but 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. most people supported it and then he had to backtrack from
that position, which upset liberals. it created a lot of problems for him politically. he was running in the high 20s and low 30s in the polls. double digits behind nixon. he started off incredibly hamstrung. >> kathleen, how serious was hubert humphrey in asking your uncle senator ted kennedy to be his running mate? >> he probably, you know, saw that there's 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. my mother 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 eerie, pennsylvania. go ahead, please. >> caller: 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 those -- 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 will -- that has the potential to truly represent america's middle 80%? >> tom, thank you. and let's turn to kathleen
kennedy townsend. >> well, i want respectfully disagree. i think that president clinton did a very good job in lifting up the middle class. i think they had the best economic performance for middle class and actually for, you know, 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 health care bill, although it wasn't popular, really helps people because they know they can have health care even if they lose a job. so i would disagree with the premise in a sense. but that's -- that might be understandable 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 we'll be able to decide who's going to do the best job of appealing, i hope, to all of us. and that it's not just a faction of the party. >> again, our question, which party has changed the most since 1968? you can follow us @c-spanhistory. and we'll go back to 1968. >> 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've 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. there 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. >> to that last caller, one of the ironies, you mentioned kennedy and the middle class is that the best amongst urban middle class voters was mccarthy. he did much better than kennedy did among middle income voters. interesting thing, to that point, there's something about the humphrey speech which is interesting, he almost won the nomination -- or the presidential nomination, i should say, and did so in part because labor rallied around him. he had long standing support among unions and going back to the '40s. and that -- they rallied behind him and rallied against george wallace who hthey saw as someboy
who was antithetical to the interest of labor. labor almost brought the democratic nominee over the finish line. from that point on democrats had a fractured relationship with the labor movement lt in '72 a lot of unions supported nixon against mcgovern. and a big part of the reason, frankly, was race. this is something we've talked about a lot today. but the racial issues in the late '60s were what cut the support of working class white voters. >> lou in greenlaw, new york, go ahead, please, republican line. >> caller: good morning, steve, thank you. mrs. townsend, thank you so much for being on this show this morning. we're all very grateful for your father's dedication to america. he was such a good man.
>> thank you. >> caller: you know, i was 12 years old. i was in social studies. and we were following the primaries with mr. getz, my teacher. and i woke 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're 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 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. and 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. he at one point said, you know, we're 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, but rather work with them. i think it would be much better
politics. unfortunately, as you know, that's not how people raise money. that's not 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 cohen, let's look at the electoral vote totals in 1968, and richard nixon getting 301 compared to 191 for hubert humphrey. 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 of factors, primarily the sense of dysfunction in the country. i think a desire for americans to -- to quote a phrase used, return to normalcy. '68 is hard to understand it now. but how just dysfunctional the country was and how divided it was, the sense that the country was coming apart at the seams. you not only had the riots after the king assassination, after
both assassinations, the violence in chicago, but you had half a million troops fighting a war in vietnam that a good portion of the country opposed. i think that was a big factor for nixon. i think, also, for an important factor was humphrey's ability to distance himself from johnson. if he had done so he might have actually pulled the race out. you just read the electoral numbers, but a couple tens of thousands of votes in the states to switch sides, humphrey wins. another week humphrey pull it is election out. it was that close. i think, you know, one thing i remember about nixon is he started the race with 43% of the polling, nixon was not a popular figure. one thing someone asked earlier, i will tell you that my research in the book, the one thing that was sort of consistent about every political figure i looked
at, none of them liked richard nixon. they all just didn't trust him, didn't like him, didn't respect him. and i think that was a view held by a lot of americans. and i think, you know, it speaks to how weak a candidate he was. and the year in which republicans should have been -- should have, i think, won by a larger margin he barely defeated humphrey. and also the wall lace factor which hurt nixon's attempt. >> we'll focus on the republican party next week. 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 had the least ties to the past and the greatest stake 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 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 to war in vietnam and wanted to see political challenge, rallying behind two candidates and that, i think, led to a important political shift in the country. and i think one of the takeaways for liberals in '68 is that you -- 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. kathleen kennedy townsend is right, it's about participation. >> 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 kennedy. to both of you, thank you for being here. we appreciate it. next, from our series 1968, america in turmoil, a look back at conservative politics 50 years ago. perceived liberal excesses, and disenchantment with the size of government gave rise to the political right, the resurgence of richard nixon. ronald reagan ahead his debut as a presidential candidate. our guests are robert merry, editor of the american conservative, and author of where they stand, the american presidents in the eyes of voters and historians. matthew dalik, george