United States presidential election, 1964

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President Lyndon B. Johnson was still popular, despite the fact that America was increasingly involved in the Vietnam War. Johnnson's popularity ensured his nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate, while the Republicans chose conservative senator Barry Goldwater as their candidate. Goldwater wanted to change the strategy for the war in Vietnam (once saying he would use an atomic bomb to stop Chinese supply lines.) Johnson countered that he would not escalate the war in Vietnam. Johnson won a landslide victory in the election.[1]

This would be the last time the Republican Party campaigned solely towards its right-wing base supporters. Goldwater subsequently realised that relying on the Republican base alone would not be enough to win an election, and took steps to ensure that from 1968 onwards the Republicans would campaign across a broader political spectrum while still holding true to Conservative values.

Democratic convention

Johnson orders illegal FBI spying

Johnson ordered illegal FBI wiretaps on enemies and allies alike. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, whose Department included the FBI, both were wiretapped during the convention without their knowledge. Johnson received nearly hourly reports on their private conversations and activities at Oval Office where he orchestrated convention events.

During the controversy over seating the all-white Mississippi delegation a protest demonstration was occurring outside. Johnson phoned the head of a television broadcast network and instructed him,

Get your G****m cameras off the n*****s out front and back on the speaker's stand inside, G****m it![2]

In 1975 the New York Times noted,

the 1964 incident is an even graver offense than the original Watergate break-in, for it represented the turning of a police instrument of Government [FBI] to illegal activities for political purposes.[3]


Johnson's misuse of CIA

In 1964 E. Howard Hunt, Jr. was serving as chief of covert action for the CIA's Domestic Operations Division. He was order to spy on Goldwater's campaign headquarters. He set up a special unit and arranged daily pick-up of "any and all information" about Goldwater and his plans. These included advance copies of the candidate's speeches, texts which often had not yet been made available to the press. The consequence of this was that before Goldwater had even opened his mouth, Democrats had five speakers primed to reply. Hunt was ordered to spy on Goldwater directly from Johnson himself through on intermediary. The materials picked up at Republican headquarters, including press releases and travel schedules, were delivered to a White House aide who was a former CIA official.

Testifying before the House Select Committee on Intelligence on November 6, 1975, CIA Director William Colby acknowledged that in 1964 a CIA official attached to the National Security Council prepared campaign material for Johnson and, with the help of another CIA employee, got advance texts of Goldwater's speeches and reported regularly on the campaign to the CIA.[4]

Civil rights violations

Two weeks before election day Johnson instructed Bill Moyers to transmit an order to the FBI to run checks on numerous members of Goldwater's campaign and Senate staffs in an effort to obtain derogatory information about their possible sexual aberrations. What Johnson was looking for, Moyers told the FBI, was information about "fags" on Goldwater's staff.[5]

Walter Jenkins

One month before the election, White House Chief of Staff Walter Jenkins was arrested in a pay toilet of the men's room of the YMCA, two blocks from the White House. It was not the first time Jenkins had been arrested on the same charge. The police had apprehended him in the same washroom in January 1959 in a similar homosexual episode.

Jenkins called Abe Fortas to say he was in serious trouble. Fortas tried to contact Lyndon Johnson who was campaigning in New York. When he was unable to do so, the Fortas acted on his own. He advised Jenkins to check into a hospital in order to be out of reach of reporters. At the same time Fortas and Clifford went to the offices of the Washington Post, Washington Star and Daily News to hush up the story. United Press International however, broke the story. Meanwhile, the book at the police station containing the Jenkins' arrest record disappeared. But a photograph of the particular police blotter had been taken.

When the news broke there was public concern over Jenkins' access to classified information and his susceptibility to blackmail. LBJ asked FBI dire for J. Edgar Hoover to investigate. LBJ went even further, he told Hoover what the final report should say. Johnson suggested the report should state that Jenkins was overly tired, that he was a good family man and a hard worker, and that he was not "biologically" a homosexual.

Within the week Hoover sent the results of the FBI's "extensive investigation" over to Acting Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach. The FBI investigation, said the director, "disclosed no information that Mr. Jenkins has compromised the security or interests of the United States in any manner." The report, issued two weeks before the election, claimed that "a favorable appraisal of Mr. Jenkins' loyalty and dedication to the United States was given the FBI by more than three hundred of his associates, both business and social."

candidates popular vote electoral vote
Lyndon B. Johnson 43,126,233 486
Barry M. Goldwater 27,174,989 52
Eric Haas 45,186 0
Clifton DeBerry 32,705 0
Earle Harold Munn 23,267 0


See also


  1. Encyclopedia of Presidents, by Jim Hargrove, Children's Press, 1987, pp. 67-68.
  2. Alfred Steinberg, Sam Johnson's Boy, Macmlllan, 1968, pp. 681-682
  3. Victor Lasky, It Didn't Start With Watergate Dell, 1978, p. 186
  4. Lasky, p. 187
  5. Eric F. Goldman, The Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson, Dell, 1969, p. 299
  6. A Pictoral History of the U.S. Presidents, by Clare Gibson, Gramercy Books, 2001, p. 125.