Blue Skies in Camelot: An Alternate 60's and Beyond

Chapter 1
  • Blue Skies in Camelot
    An Alternate 60's and Beyond

    Chapter 1: Big Girls Don't Cry



    Few would contend that they envied Marilyn Monroe on August 4th, 1962. Sure, she had been one of the biggest stars in the world for more than a decade, not to mention its most potent sex symbol. But things, of late, had taken a turn.


    Apart from her divorce to playwright Arthur Miller, the previous year had also marked Monroe’s last appearance on film to date, starring in The Misfits, written by her ex-husband. In the time since, Monroe had spent most of her time dealing with various health problems. Years of neglect, and abuse of drugs had left her tired and in need of help.


    Having been fired from Fox’s Something’s Got to Give, Monroe spent this Saturday, August 4th, primarily on personal business. That morning, she had met with a photographer to discuss Playboy possibly publishing nude photos taken of her on the set of Something’s Got to Give. She also received a massage from her personal massage therapist, talked with friends on the phone, and signed for deliveries. A perfectly placid day, at least in the eyes of housekeeper Eunice Murray, and Patricia Newcomb, Monroe’s publicist.


    In the afternoon, Dr. Ralph Greenson, the psychiatrist charged with treating Monroe, arrived at her home in Brentwood for a therapy session. Greenson heard that the actress and Newcomb had gotten into an argument earlier in the day, and he thought it best that Newcomb leave the house immediately. Not wanting Monroe to be home alone, however, he asked Ms. Murray, the housekeeper, to stay the night and keep an eye on her. It would prove to be a wise decision.


    Following a brief phone call with Joe DiMaggio Jr., whom Monroe had remained close with after her divorce from his father, the starlet turned to retire to her bedroom, but was stopped by the ringing of the telephone only seconds after she had put it down. Confused and annoyed, Monroe answered, to hear a cheery voice on the other end.


    “Heya girl,” The actress grinned, despite herself. It was Peter Lawford, English actor, member of the Rat Pack and brother in law to President Kennedy. “What’s a guy got to do to get a hold of you tonight, huh?”


    Something was eating at Marilyn, she needed to get to her bedroom. Lawford could wait. Oblivion couldn’t. “I’m busy, Pete.” She replied, curt. “Is it important?”


    “Busy, at this time of evening?” Lawford laughed. “Doing what, sleeping? Come on, Marilyn! Pat and I are having a big old party tonight and it just wouldn’t be the same without ya. You’ll come and join us, won’t you?”


    Out of the corner of her eye, Monroe watched her housekeeper, Eunice walk down the hallway toward the actress’ bedroom. Droplets of sweat began to form on her forehead, and her heart started pounding. “Pete, I really must be going. Can’t I ask you to leave a girl alone for a night?”


    Lawford faux-sighed. “Not on your life, doll. You’re a good friend, and friends don’t let friends stay in alone on a Saturday night…” The Englishman kept on speaking, but Monroe stopped hearing what he was saying.


    Eunice had entered Monroe’s bedroom, pulled the door shut behind her with a thud. Moments later, she emerged with a bottle of pills and tears forming in her eyes. Monroe gasped. No one was supposed to find them. Her last resort. Her means of escape.


    “Ms. Monroe…” Eunice babbled and wiped her eyes. “What were you planning on doing with these?”


    Her ruse up, her plans of ending her pain taken from her, Marilyn was trapped. Caged and cornered, poked and prodded, held up to spotlights and examined under microscopes, she had long felt like more of a zoo animal than a person. Less an artist and more an object to be gawked at. She loathed every minute of her existence, and here was Eunice taking away from her the only way out. Monroe slammed down the telephone, hanging up on Lawford.


    She opened her mouth to scream, but all that came were tears of her own. Marilyn fell to her knees. All the world, her struggles, it seemed so perfectly terrible now. It swirled around her, taunting her like the witches in the Disney pictures. Depression kills. That’s what Dr. Greenson had told her. If it kills, why won’t they let it take me? She asked herself.


    In a flash, Greenson was upon her, there with Eunice, still fighting back her hysteria. They were here to help, they said. They were going to make things okay, again.


    They can say it all they want. She thought. Things can never be okay, again.
     
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    Chapter 2

  • Chapter 2: You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me: the 1962 Midterm Elections


    1962 had certainly been a tumultuous year for the Kennedy administration. It had begun triumphantly enough, with John Glenn becoming the first American in space on February 20th. The President, youthful, handsome and full of spirit had doubled down on his administration’s commitment to the Space Race in September, famously saying “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."in a speech at Rice University.




    The President’s “New Frontier” programs were seeing mixed results in Congress. Though Kennedy had managed to secure legislation upping environmental protection of America’s waters, increases to the minimum wage, increases to Social Security payments, urban housing projects, and several other reforms, the strong conservative coalition in Congress prevented many of his other initiatives, such as a Medical Health Bill for the Aged, from making it through.


    Add to all of that the near outbreak of global thermonuclear war that was the Cuban Missile Crisis, and one can easily see that the President was in need of a victory.


    Thankfully for the beleaguered Kennedy, victory came on the evening of November 6th, as the results of the midterm elections trickled in. The Democrats lost four seats in the House of Representatives to the GOP, but beyond that, returns were eminently positive.


    The Dems traded those four House seats for a net gain of four seats over the Republicans in the Senate. This left the President’s party with a 67 - 33 majority in the Senate, and a 258 - 176 lead in the House.


    Throughout the campaign process leading to the election, Republicans had campaigned on Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, hoping to paint him as a weak, ineffectual leader in the face of a true threat to national security. This backfired spectacularly as the Crisis came to a peaceful end just days before the election, swinging public opinion the other way, in favor of the Democrats.


    Following the elections, the ranks of liberal Democrats in Washington would be bolstered, an encouraging sign for the White House, as they sought to take another crack at getting the New Frontier through Congress.


    Notable for the President personally was the victory of younger brother Edward “Ted” Kennedy in the special election to represent Massachusetts as its junior Senator, the same seat JFK held before his election in 1960.

    Also remarkable was the defeat of former Vice President Richard Nixon in the California Gubernatorial election against Democratic incumbent Pat Brown. Nixon had been seen as having a real shot at victory over the semi popular Brown, but had burned bridges with the state’s conservative Republicans following a nasty primary battle with Joe Shell. This lack of enthusiasm among right wing GOP voters would ultimately be the determining factor in the race, costing Nixon the Governorship, and in the eyes of many, ending his political career for good.




    With a newly minted Congress on the horizon, Kennedy prepared his next round of legislative proposals. He hoped to secure passage of a law to promote clean air throughout the country, and began to think about tackling civil rights, the decisive moral issue of the day.


    Politics weren’t all that the President concerned himself with at the White House. There were, of course, the affairs.


    For more than a year now, Kennedy had been carrying on an affair with Mimi Alford, a White House intern who had been 19 when they first met. In addition to their torrid relationship, the President supposedly had countless other forays, all of which were kept well away from the public eye, naturally.


    It would be on November 23rd, a day after receiving the Laetare Medal from Notre Dame, the highest award bestowed upon American Catholics, that the President called Marilyn Monroe again.


    The pair had originally been introduced in February of that year, and the extent of their relationship beyond a one night stand at mutual friend Bing Crosby’s house back in March, seemed to be null. Despite this, Kennedy had heard that Monroe had been checked into rehab by her therapist, and was taking some time out of the public eye while she recovered from her addictions.


    Talking for only a few brief moments, Attorney General Robert Kennedy heard his brother wish Marilyn a “full and swift recovery” and say that he “would love to see her again if he could.” The call quickly deteriorated however, when Monroe’s ex-husband and self appointed protector, Joe DiMaggio took the phone from her and began to lash out at the President, insisting that “you crazy Washington types are the reason she got here in the first place!”


    Bobby convinced his brother to let it go. “There’s business to attend to, Jack.”


    The elder Kennedy sighed. “Isn’t there always? What’ve we got?”


    “President Alessandri, of Chile, will be here in a few weeks to discuss the Alliance for Progress. After that, you have your trip to the Bahamas to meet with Macmillan about the damned skybolts. In the meantime, we’ll have to send letters of congratulations to all the new congressmen, and start cracking away at the next push on the hill.” Bobby rubbed plainly evident fatigue from his eyes. “What’re we moving on?”


    The President thought for a moment before answering. “Tax cuts are probably the logical place to start. We don’t want the conservatives pouncing on us again right out of the gate. After that? We go on clean air, and equal pay for women.”


    “Alright, Jack. That should put us in a good position for reelection.” Bobby turned to leave the Oval Office.


    Reelection. The President mused silently to himself. Easing himself into a standing position, he couldn’t help but notice the pain in his lower back. An old friend at this point in his life, Kennedy did his best to ignore it. His mind wandered once again to Marilyn. She had been a lot of fun, and he meant what he said, about seeing her again. Too bad that prick DiMaggio beat me to it.


    He let the thought escape his mind for a while. It was time to work.
     
    Chapter 3

  • Chapter 3: He’s So Fine: January - July, 1963


    The new year presented a series of challenges and opportunities for the Kennedy Administration. Chief among the President’s concerns was getting his agenda passed, now that he felt he had a Congress he could actually work with. In his State of the Union, Kennedy pleaded for that body to pass an Equal Pay Act for women, saying: "For one true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members. Let this be the measure of our nation."



    Congress would, eventually, pass that Equal Pay Act, and the President would sign it into law. This due in part to the public support of one famous actress...


    While Kennedy was busy pushing Congress to pass more of the New Frontier, Marilyn Monroe was making a dramatic comeback.


    After six months in rehab, and living under the caring supervision of Peter Lawford and her ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio; Monroe emerged a changed and significantly healthier woman. She immediately set to work putting her life back together, beginning with her career.




    Booking interviews with several high profile journalists at The New York Times and other papers, Monroe did not try to hide her addiction, and subsequent recovery. She expressed her frustration at the stigma surrounding mental health issues and treatment in the United States, as well as the “dumb blonde” image that had come to so strongly be associated with her as a performer.


    “From now on,” she declared. “I’m going to dedicate myself not just to my work as an actress, but to causes that I care about.” Of these causes, the biggest was undoubtedly feminism. Monroe gave an attractive, glamorous face to the feminist movement, and made headlines when she went to Washington to speak to President Kennedy about the Equal Pay Act (or E.P.A), not as an entertainer, but an activist.


    A far cry, of course, from the year before, when she raised eyebrows with a breathy rendition of “Happy Birthday” at the President’s request.


    Another happy moment came for Monroe shortly after the passage of the EPA. Still carrying a flame for her, despite the struggles, DiMaggio asked Marilyn to give him a second chance and marry him again. She agreed.


    Across the nation however, not all was cheerful and well. Deep seeded hatred, bigotry and centuries of racial mistreatment throughout the South were about to boil over.


    In Birmingham, Alabama, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., James Bevel and others, instigated a campaign of nonviolent protest against what Dr. King called “the most segregated city in America.”




    Protests began with a boycott led by King meant to pressure business leaders to open employment to people of all races, and end segregation in public facilities, restaurants, schools, and stores. When local business and governmental leaders showed resistance to the boycott, SCLC agreed to assist. Wyatt Tee Walker, an Organizer from SCLC joined Birmingham activist Shuttlesworth and began what they called “Project C”, a series of sit-ins and marches intended to provoke mass arrests.


    The objective of the protests was most certainly met, as Birmingham Police began to arrest protesters en masse.


    The “Birmingham Campaign”, as the movement came to be called, lasted from April 3rd to May 10th, when Dr. King, his fellow campaign organizers, and city officials in Birmingham were able to come to an agreement, which would provide for the desegregation of public places throughout the city.


    Hailed as a massive success for the Civil Rights movement, the campaign also caught the attention of President Kennedy, at whose urging the United Auto Workers, National Maritime Union, United Steelworkers Union, and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) raised $237,000 in bail money to free the demonstrators.




    Bringing global attention to segregation in the south, the campaign spurred Kennedy to take more direct action on civil rights. Just a day after his speech at American University in which he called for peace between the United States and Soviet Union, the President gave his Report to the American People on Civil Rights.


    Delivered on radio and television just after Alabama Governor George Wallace tried to prevent two African American students from attending classes at the University of Alabama, Kennedy’s speech marked a turning point for his administration. From then on, John F. Kennedy would be a vocal crusader for civil rights. In the speech, Kennedy specifically called on Congress to pass a civil rights bill, and vowed to put political and moral force into the fight.




    The President also made head way in foreign affairs during the first half of ‘63. Throughout the month of July, Kennedy visited several Western European countries, including his ancestral homeland of Ireland and West Berlin, where he gave his now famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.


    All in all, a strong showing in both foreign and domestic affairs for a resurgent Kennedy, who, as Bobby pointed out, had to start thinking about reelection. A major fight lay ahead, however, as southern Democrats and other congressional conservatives prepared to dig in on civil rights. Segregationist sentiment ran strong throughout the country, and overcoming it would require the youthful President to show great political tact and skill. Only time would tell if he could rise to the occasion.


    On the Republican side of the aisle, moves were already starting to be made toward the nomination for ‘64. Seen nationally as the frontrunner for the GOP, recently reelected New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller began a spirited tour of the midwest to see what the response to his potential candidacy would be.




    Rockefeller was encouraged by a mostly positive response, and when former Governor Goodwin Knight of California offered to open an office for Rockefeller’s campaign in the Golden State, Rockefeller saw no reason to say no. Additionally, seeing the importance California would hold in trying to wrest the primary from any challenger, and the general from Kennedy in the long run, Rockefeller made a controversial decision: reaching out to Richard Nixon.


    Nixon, still bitter after his loss in the ‘62 gubernatorial race, was seen by most as a spent political entity. Republicans across the country distanced themselves from him, and few believed he had any relevance to the upcoming elections. Rockefeller, with advice from several prominent California GOP staffers, went against the prevailing opinion, calling Nixon, and asking him to join his campaign. “If I win this thing, Dick,” Rockefeller said during that phone call. “I want to consider giving you a spot in the cabinet. Secretary of State or Defense.”


    Still early in the process, the former Vice President was initially hesitant to endorse Rockefeller. He wanted time to think over his situation, save whatever political capital he had left and invest it in a candidate that he thought would help him rebound in the future. Nixon wasn’t ready to give up on politics just yet. “I appreciate your offer, Nelson, it’s very generous. If you don’t mind, I’d like some time to talk it over with Pat.”


    “Of course, Dick, take your time.” The receiver clicked and Nixon leaned back in his chair. He scratched his chin and thought to himself. I’ll have to watch myself, pick the right horse in this race.


    Nixon certainly had options. Michigan Governor George Romney, Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes, and Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, the first female to be a candidate for a major party’s nomination had all declared their candidacies by July of ‘63.




    Out of all of them, however, Rockefeller's biggest opponent for the nomination at the outset was Arizona Senator and conservative firebrand Barry Goldwater.




    A libertarian, Goldwater opposed almost any expansion of government authority and spending, especially the welfare state. The right wing of the Republican party held him in high esteem, though his message alienated many in the party’s shrinking moderate, eastern establishment wing.


    With a protracted primary battle against Goldwater ahead of him, Rockefeller faced another, more personal issue. The New York Governor had, for some time, been carrying on an extramarital affair with Margaret Fittler, a woman he called “Happy”. Rockefeller hoped to marry Happy, but his campaign staff warned him that such a move would alienate many social conservatives within the party, and could cost him the nomination. Rockefeller refused to set Happy aside, and so sought to nip the issue in the bud.


    This meant an upfront press conference, embarrassing questions about when and how their relationship began. Following their marriage on May 4th, Rockefeller met with The Republican Citizens Committee, a caucus of moderate Republicans, and managed to convince them to keep their support with him. “The storm may be harsh,” he told them, impassioned. “But with your support, my campaign can weather the winds, the rain, and ride this thing out.”




    With the moderate wing of the party firmly behind him, Rockefeller turned his attention toward convincing conservatives that Goldwater was too extreme to carry the banner of the Party of Lincoln. It would be a monumental task indeed.
     
    Chapter 4

  • Chapter 4: One Broken Heart for Sale: August - November 21st, 1963


    August began in tragedy for the President and First Lady. Their third child, a boy named Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, died just two days after his birth of infant respiratory distress syndrome on August 9th. Seldom affectionate in public, Jack and Jackie were seen holding hands as they departed from Otis Air Force Base, where they learned that the child had passed.





    The nation mourned alongside their commander-in-chief. It was said by many who knew the first couple that the death of Patrick seemed to bring them closer together, that an unspoken understanding pervaded their subsequent life together. Mimi Alford reported that President Kennedy never attempted to sleep with her again, following Patrick’s death. The President was later seen weeping with the First Lady, she telling he that “There’s just one thing I couldn’t stand… If I ever lost you…”


    “I know… I know.” Kennedy whispered in reply.


    Unfortunately, the times would not allow the President long to mourn. On the 28th of August, some 300,000 activists participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The event, which culminated in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, was seen as a great step forward for civil rights, and highlighted the struggle currently being carried out on Capitol Hill, where the President’s Civil Rights Act was struggling in committee in the House of Representatives.




    Following his speech, Dr. King and several other civil rights leaders met with President Kennedy at the White House.


    While the President was mourning the loss of his son, and working toward civil rights with Dr. King and Congress, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were living it up. The pair were married in a tiny, private ceremony outside of Monroe’s Brentwood home on September 3rd. Though Marilyn had wanted to invite several of her old Hollywood friends and members of the Kennedy family to the event, DiMaggio had flatly refused. “Those people are the ones that hurt you, and I’m not going to let them do that to you again. Do you understand?” Realizing he wouldn’t budge on the issue, the actress eventually relented.




    They set a course for their second honeymoon that would put thousands of miles between them and the sources of her old problems. First they’d stop in Mexico City, then continue on through Latin America before finishing with a cruise through the Bahamas. Marilyn joked that by the time Joe let her come home, she’d be a shoo-in for a role in a new beach movie.


    In Mexico City, they caught some rays and spent several days seeing the sights and taking in the wonderful murals around the city’s Ciudad Universitaria. The art portrayed scenes from Mexican history, and represented to Marilyn, a new commitment on Joe’s part to try and find interests besides baseball, that they could share. In the evenings, they read poetry together.


    During the couple’s last night in the city, the 2nd of October, Joe was returning to he and Marilyn’s hotel, after picking up a volume of poems at a local bookstore. As he turned a corner, near the row of foreign embassies, he heard a heated exchange between a short, but well built American man with cropped hair, and a frustrated looking official in green fatigues, beneath the Cuban flag.


    The American nearly frothed at the mouth with rage. “What do you mean you won’t approve the visa? I need to get to Cuba, so I can reach the Soviet embassy there.”


    In reply, the cuban simply shook his head and rattled off a series of words in spanish. DiMaggio didn’t understand any of it, but it didn’t sound happy.


    Trying to mind his own business, the Baseball legend took a wrong step and found himself brushing shoulders with the angry American.


    The guy spun on his heels and looked up into Joltin’ Joe’s eyes. In all his years, DiMaggio had never seen such a furious expression on the face of another man. “I-I’m sorry, fella. I didn’t see where I was going.” DiMaggio caught himself and tried to keep walking, not wanting anything to do with the other man.


    “Hey, wait a minute!” His countryman called after him. “I know you. You’re… that ballplayer, aren’t you? The one that just married Marilyn.”


    Joe felt his heart beat a little faster, silly as that probably was. This wasn’t the first guy to ever pick him out of a crowd on the street. He was, after all, the greatest living ballplayer. Something about this guy just gave Joe the heebie jeebies. “Yeah, that’s me, Joe DiMaggio. And you are?”


    The man’s lips curled into what could only be called an attempt at a smile. “Hidell. Alek Hidell. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”




    DiMaggio waited for the guy to ask for his autograph, or about baseball, or Marilyn, or anything else. But all he did was stand there. Deciding that this weird, chance encounter had eaten up enough of his time, DiMaggio turned once again to leave. “Listen here, Alek. If I were you, I’d stop messing around with Cuba. It ain’t nothing but trouble, I can guarantee you that much. What do you even want to go there for? You got business?”

    “Hidell” thought for a moment before responding. “You could say that, I suppose.”


    Joe took a deep breath. “Well, whatever it is, good luck to ya, Alek. You ought to find something that means something, y’know? I should be off.” The Yankee Clipper waved goodbye to his countryman and finished the short trip back to his hotel without further incident. That man, “Hidell”, would eventually have his visa to Cuba declined, and would return home to Dallas, Texas, even more of a defeated, bitter man than he already was. It was mid October, and having returned home, Hidell read the paper over breakfast with his wife, Marina. In it, he learned a most interesting tidbit: President Kennedy and the First Lady would be making a stop in Dallas on his goodwill tour through the South, rallying some votes before the election next year. The President, First Lady, Governor Connally and his wife, would all be riding in an open top car as part of the motorcade.


    “Harvey,” Marina asked him. “What are you reading about?”


    This will teach them. Oswald grinned. Show them the error of their ways. Joltin’ Joe was right. This one ought to mean something. “Is that job at the Book Depository still open?”





    On October 7th, 1963, President Kennedy signed the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union. Though not a complete end to the testing of Nuclear weapons across the globe, the treaty did manage to ban tests in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater, areas which the scientific community had confirmed could be especially vulnerable to radiation. If nothing else, it was a definite source of relief for a world still slightly on edge from the events of the previous October. Prominent Republicans including former President Eisenhower and his Vice President, Richard Nixon came out in support of Kennedy’s decision to sign the treaty, winning him additional popularity and support.






    The next day, Kennedy also announced an agreement with the Soviets to open negotiations for the sale of American wheat. Though a Cold Warrior at heart, the President also possessed a great desire for peace. He believed that only through continued negotiation and engagement with the Soviets could cooler heads prevail in the “great twilight struggle” he described in his inaugural address.


    On the domestic front, the President had even bigger plans. Deciding that his reelection campaign should be as much about the issues as it was about personality, especially when he had an even chance of squaring off against Barry Goldwater as he did Rockefeller, Kennedy called together his council of economic advisors into the Oval Office on November 21st, the day before a fateful trip to Dallas.


    “Gentlemen,” The President began, leaning sternly against the resolute desk. “Today, as the Mrs. and I prepare to depart for Texas, I, like James K. Polk before me ask that this country to declare war. Not a war on Mexico to fulfill our manifest destiny, not a war on Germany and Japan to protect the flame of liberty abroad, but a war on the most detestable of domestic conditions. Gentlemen, today, I ask you to prepare a war on poverty. Get legislation ready, we’re marching up Capitol Hill to a fight next year, and I want to make sure we have plenty of ammunition. Do I make myself clear?”


    “Yes.” They all murmured, one after the other. “Thank you, Mr. President.”


    As the dark suits trickled out of the room, one by one, the Attorney General approached his brother. “Jack, you and Jackie ready for the trip?”


    The President sighed and stretched his aching back. “Ready as we will be, I guess. It’s still hard, Bobby, hard as hell. He was so beautiful, such a beautiful boy. To have him taken like that… in the blink of an eye.” Kennedy’s eyes threatened to fill with tears. “You know I haven’t reached for another woman since it happened? I’ve been good, Bobby, as good as I can be. And Jackie… she’s too good for me. I don’t deserve her.”


    In a rare display of brotherly closeness, Bobby put his arms around his sibling. “I know Jack, I know. You can make it right, you know. You’re still young. You and Jackie love each other, I see it every time you two are together. You’re like a couple a kids, holding hands for the cameras!”


    The President chuckled. “Still not as bad as you and Ethel. She pregnant again? Do you two ever stop fucking?”


    Bobby released his brother and shook his head, laughing. “Stay strong, Mr. President. I have a feeling if you keep being good, keep trying to do right, Jackie will come around to you. There’s no understanding like being the survivors of mutual trauma. That’s the real shit.”


    The President took a deep breath, wiped his eyes and patted his brother’s back. “Thanks, kid. I think I needed to hear that.” Tapping the Resolute Desk a few more times, Kennedy surveyed the Oval Office carefully. “I’ll be back soon, you hear? Don’t catch this place on fire while I’m gone or anything.”







    Bobby nodded and turned to leave the room. “I’ll do my best. Goodbye, Jack”


    JFK slid back into his seat and sighed once more. Beside the papers and the unread memos and the whisky glasses, a picture of Jackie and the kids stood proud above it all. Sweet Caroline and handsome little John. I’ve sure been blessed. Kennedy thought. Connally and Yarborough are so pissed at each other, I’ll be even more blessed if I come back from this trip alive!

     
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    Chapter 5

  • Chapter 5: I Will Follow Him: The Republican Race Heats Up (August - November ‘63)


    It was September 16th, 1963. Nelson Rockefeller sat at his cushy desk in the Governor’s mansion, one of his recently purchased paintings hanging just above him. The art was more than just a hobby for the Governor, it was a major part of his identity. His family fortune had long made him a connoisseur of the better things, and being a patron of the arts was the greatest pleasure of them all.



    Across from the Governor sat Stu Spencer, Rockefeller’s campaign manager. Between them, a map of the United States, divided up by state and bearing tacks of five colors: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. Each color corresponded with one of the major contenders for the GOP nomination: Blue for Smith, green for Rhodes, yellow for Romney, orange for Goldwater and red for Rockefeller. The purpose of the meeting? To set a strategy for Rockefeller’s campaign. It was still too early to actively seek votes, it would be uncouth to do so with the New Hampshire primary still half a year away, after all.


    The Governor adjusted his boxy glasses and eyed the map with interest. “You really think we’ll do so well in New Hampshire?” He gestured to a large cluster of red pins sticking out of the Granite State. “I hired you to get me elected, not stroke my ego, remember.”


    Stu grinned boyishly. “I know, Governor. Don’t worry, these aren’t my numbers, they’re Gallup’s. Recent poll they did up that way has you up several points on your competitors. Smith and Rhodes didn’t even make it out of single digits.” He rubbed the corner of the map between his fingers, clearly excited at the prospect. “We don’t want to jump the gun, sir. But the numbers are encouraging.”

    “What about Goldwater?” Rockefeller asked, a little too nervously. “How’d he do in the poll?”


    Spencer frowned and let go of the map. He pointed out a substantial amount of orange pins crowded throughout the state. “Better than we’d been hoping. It seems that the story about you and… Mrs. Rockefeller is still weighing on a lot of people.”


    “Of course.” The Governor attempted to hide his fury, to no avail. “What is wrong with these people? Can’t they see that I’m the only real option, here? Why is it that a crazy fucker like Goldwater can talk about gutting Social Security, and dropping Nukes on half of Asia and still be seen as a legitimate candidate? No one bats an eye when he goes on his rants about ‘liberty being faced with extinction’ but I happen to get remarried and suddenly everyone and their mother is questioning my ability to lead?” Rockefeller’s right hand clenched into a fist. “Unbelievable.”


    His campaign manager only nodded, solemnly. Hoping to change the subject and break the awkward silence that ensued, Spencer pulled his chair back and stood. “Coffee, sir?”


    Rockefeller didn’t, couldn’t meet Spencer’s eyes. “Yeah, sure.” As the other man got up to make the brew, the Governor continued. “Do you have any other good news for me?”


    The hint of a smile crept back onto Spencer’s face. “Indeed I do sir, more from New Hampshire. Governor Hugh Gregg has agreed to endorse you, and help with the ground game there. He says ‘I’ll do anything it takes to stop that bastard Goldwater from getting within a mile of the nomination. Your boss is the man for the job.’”


    Relief passed over Rockefeller’s face, he needed Gregg’s endorsement, and many more if he was going to maintain his position as frontrunner. As the news of he and Happy’s marriage had faded somewhat from the public consciousness, it seemed like things were starting to look back up for the New Yorker. “That’s excellent, Stu, just great.” He took the mug Spencer offered him and downed a sip of the bitter black drink. “What they’re trying to do is terrible you know, the right wingers.” He ran his hands through his slicked hair and grimaced. “It disgusts me, what they want to do to this Grand Old Party of ours. They want to throw it to the crazies.”The complaint was an old one, and oft heard, so Rockefeller went no further.


    Later that day, as he appeared alongside Gregg in Concord to accept his endorsement, Governor Rockefeller laid down the gauntlet. When asked by a reporter what he thought about the polls some newspapers were reporting, which had him behind Senator Goldwater by several points, Rockefeller confidently shrugged them off. “I’ve been counted out before, many New Yorkers have. I would remind the American people that I am confident in my ability to win, in the rightness of my policies over Senator Goldwater’s, and am humbly asking them to consider me when the time comes. As for Senator Goldwater, I would like to take this opportunity to formally challenge him to a debate on how our party can best address political issues moving forward.”


    Posing with his shoulders back and a smile on his face, Rockefeller looked directly into the camera as he delivered the final line of his response. “The Senator claims that I am trying to ‘tarnish’ the great values of our nation. Let him come then, and debate with me on how to preserve those values, and carry them forward into the second half of the 20th century and beyond. I look forward to meeting with him, if he so chooses.”





    Across the nation, at a campaign office in Portland, Oregon, Barry Goldwater fumed. “A Republican debate, ha!” He scoffed, surrounded by some of his dedicated staffers as they watched the conclusion of Rockefeller’s press conference on television. “He’s making a great ass of himself, I’ll give him that much.”


    The Senator had not yet officially begun his campaign, and thus did not want to directly respond to Rockefeller’s challenge at all. Yet, he knew that a response would be expected by the press, and if he wanted to have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning this thing and knocking Rockefeller out of the race, he couldn’t hide from the challenge. Still, Goldwater would not debate his rival.


    “A debate would disrupt party unity.” was the eventual quote given to the papers later that day. “Senator Goldwater, at this time, is more concerned with performing his duties in the Senate, where he is a valiant defender of small government and personal liberty, than spending time gallivanting around the country playing politics.”



    Goldwater wasn’t all anger and bluster, of course. Deep down, he looked forward to the general election, should he make it that far. President Kennedy was a personal friend of Goldwater’s, and the Arizona conservative wanted nothing more than a chance to duke it out with his political rival in an old fashioned, issues based,“whistle-stop” campaign across all fifty states in his private plane, flown into town by Goldwater himself, naturally.


    Outlined in his book published in 1960, Conscience of a Conservative, Goldwater’s political philosophy was very much at the right wing of the Republican party. Seen as the natural heir to the legacy of Robert A. Taft, of Ohio, the Arizonan felt that for too long, the “eastern establishment” of the GOP held too much sway, and muddied the nation’s politics by dragging his party closer and closer to the center. He had called President Eisenhower’s economic policy “a Dime Store New Deal”, and generally opposed Ike’s foreign policy, which he considered too soft on communism.


    “My candidacy,” he explained to those close to him, when he decided he would run in ‘64, “Would offer the people of this country a choice, not an echo. A new direction away from taxation, and welfare statism, and weakness abroad.”


    This split in the Republican party: conservatives, moderates, and liberals, remained a constant problem for the GOP. If they wanted to have a chance of unseating the popular Kennedy, they knew that eventually, they would need to unify around whichever candidate could gain the most support. It was this line of thinking that influenced former Vice President Richard Nixon to pick up his phone on the afternoon of November 7th, and call the candidate he felt most deserved his support.


    “Yes hello, Governor? It’s Dick. I’ve thought about your offer, and talked it over long and hard with Pat and the kids. I’ve heard that you’re planning on officially beginning your campaign tomorrow, is that correct? Would you be willing to have me fly out there to speak for you when you do? I’ve listened to Goldwater, and with the way he’s been talking lately, there’s no way we’ll be able to take back the White House if he’s the nominee.”


    On the other end of the line, Rockefeller’s face lit up like the Fourth of July. “That would please me tremendously, Dick. You’d be welcome to stay with Happy and I for a few days, if you wanted. We’re elated to finally get this show on the road.”


    The next day, Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller became the first Republican to officially declare his candidacy for President of the United States. The announcement came outside of the State Capitol in Albany. Alongside him, Richard Nixon, clean shaven and looking as professional as ever, seemed the perfect right hand. Nixon spoke briefly about his decision, heaping praise on the New Yorker and expressing his desire to see “responsible government” prevail the following November. As Nixon and Rockefeller shook hands for the cameras, and President Kennedy flew south to shore up support in Texas, a single message reverberated across the nation: election time was here again.


     
    Chapter 6

  • Chapter 6: The End of the World: November 22nd, 1963


    President Kennedy and the First Lady rose from bed early on the morning of Friday, November 22nd. Though reluctant to leave each other's’ embrace, both had busy days ahead of them, as each was painfully aware. The President gave a speech in a crowded square praising the city of Fort Worth for its burgeoning aviation industry, and a second at the Texas Hotel’s grand ballroom. The second of these was interrupted at the fifteen minute mark by the arrival of Mrs. Kennedy, who received a round of hearty applause. The President smiled warmly at her arrival. “My wonderful wife, ladies and gentlemen.”


    As the speech was wrapping up, Roy Kellerman, the Secret Service agent in charge of the trip, was advised by Kenny O’Donnell that the Presidential limousine should keep its bubbletop on, as the weather reports predicted rain in Dallas during the procession through the city.




    Press Secretary Mac Kilduff showed the First Couple a disturbing advertisement seen in The Dallas Morning News ironically headed “Welcome Mr. Kennedy to Dallas.” The ad morphed into a laundry list of complaints about the current administration, and blamed the President for many of the issues facing the world. Kennedy turned to the First Lady, gripping her hand tightly. “We’re heading into nut country today.”


    At 11:38 AM, CST, the First Couple landed at Love Field in northwest Dallas aboard Air Force One. The cars for the Presidential motorcade had been lined up in a certain order earlier that morning. As he had been instructed, Agent Kellerman began to attach the bubble top to the back of the limousine. Through vexing winds and a steady drizzle of rain, reporters for local and national radio and television news arrived to catch the President as he and the First Lady made their way off of the plane. Still in the swing of their newfound closeness, Kennedy proved the gentleman, and was photographed holding an umbrella over Jackie as she made her way down to the car.


    The First Couple would not be alone in the Presidential Limousine. Also in the car would be two secret service agents, one the driver, and the other in the front passenger seat; Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, Nellie would occupy the middle row of seats. President and First Lady Kennedy would take up the rear seats of the vehicle. As they filed into the automobile, the President cracked a joke about the rain, which nearly every weatherman in the country had failed to predict. The Texas Governor, no friend of the Kennedy administration despite his party affiliation, did not laugh, though his wife did. “Tough crowd.” The President whispered to Jackie, who hardly suppressed the chuckle which ensued. After the first couples posed for a picture in the car, Kellerman attached the bubble top.




    Earlier that day, at 7:23 AM, across the city, Lee Harvey Oswald showed up for work at the Texas Book Depository, carrying an ungodly long, cumbersome object wrapped in paper packaging. When asked by co worker Buell Wesley Frazier what was in the packaging, Oswald simply shrugged the question off. “Just some curtain rods.” He says, dismissively. “Did I tell you about the time I met Joe DiMaggio?”




    The motorcade departed Love Field at 11:45 AM, immediately setting a course for downtown Dallas. There, despite the less than ideal weather, nearly 150,000 people had gathered to see the President and First Lady as the limousine passed by. Kennedy, ever charming, did his best to remain animated and wave to the crowds through the confines of the car’s plastic bubble top. The onlookers and well wishers are a far cry from the critical, even threatening ad that the First Couple read earlier in the day.


    At 12:29 PM, the Presidential motorcade entered Dealey Plaza after taking a 90 degree right turn from Main Street onto Houston Street. As they completed the turn, Nellie Connally turned to the President and grinned, gesturing to the thousands gathered beneath umbrellas and clutching their raincoats. “Mr. President,” she remarked. “You can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.”




    Having waited, rather impatiently, all day for the big moment, Oswald was ready. His “package of curtain rods” had been unfurled, revealing inside a 6.5x52mm Carcano Model 91/38 infantry rifle, with a telescopic sight. Italian made and ordered by Oswald through the mail under his alias of “Alek Hidell”, the rifle would be his tool for this job; the instrument of his vindication.




    The former Marine sharpshooter rubbed his eyes and opened the sixth story window next to his hastily constructed sniper’s nest. “Fuck.” He whispered to himself. “Still raining. Oh well, shouldn’t make too much of a difference.”


    The Presidential limousine came into view as it finished the turn from Main to Houston. Through his scope, Oswald could see the throng that had braved the weather, that had come out to see their “champion”. He scoffed and took a deep breath. They will never understand what I have come here to do. But perhaps their children may be able to. I shall be the Lenin of my age, or the Robespierre. I will be reviled in my own time, but history will forgive me, as it does all great men, all great revolutionaries.


    The vehicle passed the Book Depository. The back of President Kennedy’s head began to line up with Oswald’s crosshairs. Oh Shit. The damn rain was starting to fog up the scope. Better do this quick, I’ll miss my chance. Oswald’s finger reached for the trigger, but his mind was as foggy as the sights on his weapon. He thought back to that trip to Mexico, meeting that baseball player, heard his words echo over and over again in his mind. "Do something that means something..." Oswald's arms trembled and his perfect shot grew shaky and uncertain.


    On the ground, the President felt the squeeze of Mrs. Kennedy’s hand against his own. “What is it, Jackie?” He asked, his famous boyish grin spreading across his face.


    “Come close.” She whispered, giddy. “I don’t want the bores in front to hear.”


    The President leaned in toward his wife, intent on hearing what she had to say. Instead he heard what sounded at first like a motor bike backfiring in his other ear. Confused, he instinctively turned his eyes to the sky. A piece of the limousine’s bubble top flew inward, narrowly missing him and careening into the seat in front of him.


    Before anyone could think, Mrs. Connally screamed, and a second shot was fired, its rapport suggesting the source to be the same as before. This time, the President felt a sharp, hot pain in his right shoulder. He knew in an instant that he’d been hit, even before the blood began to seep from the freshly made wound. The bullet seemed to have passed through him however, as in front of him, Governor Connally let out a grunt of pain just a second after the President felt his.


    Not knowing what else to do, the President ducked, making himself as small as he could in the backseat of the limousine. By now, shrieks of terror were erupting from the crowds of people. Running away in a panic, many vacated the roadside, dropping their umbrellas to the grassy knoll as they sprinted to hopeful safety, away from the gunshots.


    A clumsy third shot rang out in the plaza, but this one seemed to miss the Limousine completely, at least as far as the President could tell. Keeping his head low, he barked to the driver, his voice cold and hard as wrought iron. “Drive! To the nearest hospital as fast as you can!”


    Following orders are something of a speciality for the secret service, and before long, the engine was gunned. The limousine gained speed and a moment later had vacated Dealey Plaza, making all possible speed for Parkland Hospital.

    Kennedy, feeling intense pain, but also relief, wasted no time in sitting up and looking in his wife’s direction. “Jackie!” he cried, praying that she was unharmed.


    Though sitting perfectly still and silent, the First Lady was unharmed. At first unable to speak, she threw her arms around her husband. “Oh, Jack!” She cried, tears beginning to form. “Are you alright? Did he get you?”


    The President gently removed his hand from Jackie’s, now covered in sweat, and held down the wound on his shoulder. “I’m fine. I told you, absolute nut country.”


    The First Lady, seeing the exit wound, removed her hat and held it over her husband’s hand. “Jack, I… I Love you so much.” She pulled him close and kissed him, harder and truer than she had since their wedding day. Still shaking, she reached out to Mrs. Connally. “Nellie, John! Are you alright?”


    Nellie Connally did not respond right away, she was still reeling from what had happened. “Nellie!” The President called to her this time. “What’s going on up there?” He reached forward to try and get a better look and was appalled with what greeted him: a massive hole in the center of the Texas Governor’s chest. Kennedy took a deep breath and steeled himself. The ride to Parkland were the longest seven minutes of his life.




    Back in Dealey Plaza, local police were swarming like hornets around a nest. Oswald, realizing that in his haze he had missed his date with destiny, wasted no time in getting the hell out of there. Cursing under his breath every step of the way, the would be assassin hid his Carcano rifle behind some boxes in the northwest corner of the Depository and swiftly made his way downstairs to the second floor of the building. As he reached the second floor lunchroom, Oswald walked with purpose but with a face completely void of emotion. This would serve him well.


    “Put your hands in the air!” A motorcycle cop - Oswald could tell by the helmet - pointed a .38 revolver at him and held it steady. “Who the hell is this one?” The cop, Baker, according to his nametag, asked Roy Truly, the superintendent of the building, Oswald’s boss.


    “He’s Harvey!” Truly replied. “Let him go, he’s one of mine!”


    No more words were needed. The cop lowered his gun and the pair continued their ascent up to the sixth floor, where witnesses reported hearing gunshots coming from. Oswald saw his chance and took it, walking out the front door of the Depository at 12:33 PM.


    Following a convoluted path back to the rooming house where he stayed during the week, the shooter gathered what cash he had on hand, the .38 Smith and Wesson revolver he’d ordered along with the rifle through the mail, and a suitcase full of spare clothing. Charging out into the street, he flagged down an approaching truck, a 1950 Ford F-6 and whipped out the pistol at the driver. “It’s not worth your life pal, is it?”




    The driver agreed and immediately left the truck, darting down the road as soon as he saw the gun. Once behind the driver’s seat, Oswald got it into gear, reversed, and sped as quickly as he could toward the city limits. Before long, the police would be closing Dallas, and Oswald had no intention of being caught. Not until I do something with meaning. The shooter’s eyes were wide, and full of rage. Not until I go down in history.





    At 1:13 PM CST, acting White House Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff entered a nurses’ classroom at Parkland Hospital filled with press reporters. His hair tousled and soaked with sweat, Kilduff gave the first official announcement on what had occurred. “President John F. Kennedy was the intended target of an assassination attempt this afternoon in Dallas. The President was shot in the shoulder. He is undergoing surgery at the moment in what the doctors are calling severe, but not critical condition. He is expected to not only survive this attempt on his life, but to make a full recovery. Governor John Connally was not so lucky. The bullet which struck President Kennedy’s shoulder passed through the President’s arm and pierced Governor Connally’s heart, rendering him dead almost instantly. I have no further details regarding the assassination of the Governor, but will pass on information as soon as it is made available.”




    Rest in Peace: Governor John Bowden Connally Jr.

    February 27th, 1917 - November 22nd, 1963

     
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    Chapter 7

  • Chapter 7: You’ll Never Walk Alone: Nov. 22nd - December 31st, 1963


    President Kennedy was discharged from Parkland Hospital two days after having been admitted. His shoulder was damaged, but not destroyed, and though he would suffer pain and endure a rather cumbersome cast while his arm recovered from the surgery, he was otherwise given a clean bill of health. The day of the shooting, the President and First Lady refused to be out of each other’s presence until President Kennedy was eventually forced into the operating room. Reporters captured images of the First Lady comforting Nellie Connally, and Vice President Johnson seated beside the pair, the large, heavy features of his face hidden behind his hands in sorrow.




    The nation heard word of the assassination attempt primarily from CBS’ Walter Cronkite, called “the most trusted man in America.” Though reports were slow going at first, the American people, once they learned what had happened to their leader in Dallas, became shocked, horrified, and outraged. An outpouring of emotion and support for the President and his family followed, boosting Kennedy’s approval ratings well into the 70s, or even 80s, depending on the poll one examined.


    ...​


    After stealing the Ford F-6, Lee Harvey Oswald made a beeline for the city limit. Driving recklessly, well over the speed limit and rarely sticking to the proper lane, the assassin soon had a deputy of the Dallas police on his tail, trailing behind on a motorcycle. Desperate as he was to avoid capture, Oswald attempted a risky maneuver. Leaving only one hand on the wheel, the former Marine reached for his Smith and Wesson revolver, turned over his left shoulder and fired four rounds at the policeman on his tail. Despite his velocity, and the challenge of driving while simultaneously firing, Oswald was able to hit the officer twice in the chest, causing the bike to swerve and crash into a nearby telephone pole. No longer pursued, Oswald gunned the gas and managed to make it out of the city before it was completely closed off.


    Unfortunately for Oswald, however, he had murdered an officer of the law, a Deputy Paul Dana, in front of some thirty seven onlookers and witnesses. They quickly gave their testimonies to the authorities, and the trail got a little bit warmer.


    Within a few hours, the FBI and Dallas Police were able to confirm that the man behind the slaying of Deputy Dana was also their shooter from the book depository. Lee Harvey Oswald, an unassuming, quiet man who, by all accounts was a dependable, hard working guy, had tried to murder the President of the United States, and had succeeded in killing the Governor of Texas. The Police found his rifle hidden in the sixth floor’s northwest corner shortly after Officer Baker let Oswald go and walk right out the front door. Warrants went out for Oswald’s arrest, and the Texas Rangers were called up to aid in the investigation.

    Preston Smith, who had just been sworn in as the new Governor of Texas appeared on national television to inform the American people on what was being done to catch the killer. At the end of his interview, Smith turned to the camera to address Oswald directly, saying: “Wherever you are, you son of a gun, know this: we will find you, and we will bring you to justice.”




    Having escaped capture for the time being, Oswald returned to the Ruth Paine home in nearby Irving. There, he collected his wife Marina, daughters June and Audrey, and loaded everything he could carry into his stolen truck. Hoping to avoid capture, Oswald would head for Florida, and from there seek to attain asylum in Cuba. History is waiting for me. He kept saying to himself. There will be another chance, just wait and see.


    Thankfully, Oswald never had a chance to test the validity of his claim on destiny. Later, on the evening of the 22nd, just hours after Oswald returned to Irving, the house was surrounded by Federal Agents. The killer attempted to struggle and escape on his own, even taking another shot at one of the Agents as they brought him to the ground, all to no avail. Oswald was captured, alive. The nation, at least, would be able to breath a second sigh of relief. The man who tried to kill their President was in custody.


    …​


    A hero’s welcome awaited President Kennedy as he and the First Lady returned to Washington. A crowd of hundreds of thousands gathered around Andrews Air Force Base to salute the Leader of the Free World back from his near scrape with death. The people cheered for him and reporters flashed photographs as the First Couple descended the steps of Air Force One.




    In typical fashion for Kennedy, he joked to his brothers, Bobby and Ted, about his recent bump in the polls, when they met him on the tarmac. “Well now, this is just what we needed. Maybe I ought to get shot at more often.” A politician and fighter to his core, the President knew that the attempt on his life, and the sympathy which resulted would work wonders not just in the temporary popularity it garnered for him, but also in the fights on Capitol Hill he was walking back to.


    Though this shooter, Oswald, was yet to be proven guilty, and the police did not yet know what had motivated him, the circumstances surrounding the assassination attempt seemed to strengthen the rightness of the President’s crusade for civil rights. Oswald, a white southerner, had tried to kill the President only months after Kennedy had announced his administration’s commitment to seeing comprehensive Civil Rights legislation passed through Congress. If there was a worse situation for the pro-segregation forces to find themselves in, Kennedy did not know what it was.


    Four days after the attempt on his life, on November 27th, the President spoke before a joint session of Congress to thunderous applause. Kennedy waited nearly twenty minutes as cheers and triumphant cries drowned out his words before finally being allowed to speak. The speech served as a forceful and impassioned call to arms from the wounded, but resolute President. He demanded that Congress act decisively on Civil Rights and the new initiative of economic programs designed to ease the suffering of Americans across the nation: the War on Poverty. “Act not out of sympathy for me, but in memory of Governor Connally.” The President said. “Act today because our nation, the greatest and freest in the history of the world, deserves to see us toil toward the fulfillment of its most sacred promise: that all men are created equal.”




    Not a month later, Congress passed The Clean Air Act, fulfilling a major part of President Kennedy’s “New Frontier” agenda: protecting the environment. The President signed the act into law, and turned the pressure up on Congress to work hard on Civil Rights as they left for their Christmas recess. In a private conversation with his brother, Bobby, Kennedy revealed his intention to use his “Bully Pulpit” to twist the arms of as many Congressmen and Senators as they needed to pass the Civil Rights Act. The President said: “They’ll pass the bill, I swear to God they will. The public, bless them, are firmly behind us. If anyone’s on the fence and they don’t want to risk drawing the ire of the American people, they will vote for it.”


    Bobby was less confident, but promised to leverage any influence he could on the Hill toward getting the thing through. Ted would work tirelessly in the Senate alongside his brothers as well. JFK was right to declare that the battle for Civil Rights would be the defining fight of his Presidency, and indeed, the defining fight of the decade, but luckily for the President, he had backup from the other side of the aisle.


    While speaking at a campaign stop in Pittsburgh, Nelson Rockefeller not only wished President Kennedy “a swift recovery from his injuries”, but also gave the Civil Rights Act his “full and unconditional support.” Rockefeller, along with the liberal and moderate wings of the Republican Party, were supportive of the legislation, and hoped to see it passed “with all due speed, seeing as it is long overdue.” Margaret Chase Smith and George Romney also spoke out in favor of the bill, and congratulated the President on his strong moral stance on the issue. Of the GOP candidates, only Senator Goldwater stood in opposition to the Civil Rights Act.


    Citing issues with the legal implications of the bill, particularly its constitutionality in his own view, Goldwater sent shockwaves throughout the nation when he became the first Presidential candidate to openly oppose the law. The stance, while winning Goldwater support among conservatives, and especially with whites in the south, alienated African American communities, and other, more urban constituencies of the Republican Party. The black community’s reaction to Barry Goldwater was best summarized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s response when asked about who he would be voting for next November: “A vote for Senator Goldwater would be a vote for Jim Crow.”




    Taking a much needed break to recover from his injury and prepare for the battle looming ahead on the Civil Rights Act, President Kennedy, the First Lady, and their two children departed Washington to spend Christmas with Bobby, Ethel, Ted, and the rest of the Kennedy clan at the Family estate in Palm Beach, Florida.


    On Christmas Eve, after Caroline and John Jr. had been put to bed, and the sun had long since passed over the horizon, Jack and Jackie sat together on the sofa, holding hands. They had seen much over the last year, from a promise to the world that America would go to the Moon, to the death of their son, Patrick, to nearly losing Jack to an assassin’s bullet. In the dimly lit living room of their cabin, the fireplace causing light to flicker and dance off the Christmas Tree, the President leaned in close and kissed his wife on the cheek. He had taken Bobby’s words to him before the Dallas trip to heart. There was still time for he and Jackie. There was no reason they had to be married and hate each other. He did not have to continue to be his father’s son and live his philandering lifestyle. There was love in their marriage. Real, hard earned love had bloomed between the two and grown stronger since the attempt on Jack’s life.


    That night, as the world awaited the coming of its savior, John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Kennedy nee Bouvier renewed their commitment to each other and Jack promised to remain faithful to her, for the rest of their days. It would not be an easy promise to keep for the sex addicted President, but it was one he intended to abide by. “God has given me a second chance.” He said to Jackie that night, in half a whisper. “Let me try to prove to him that I deserve it.”




    “You do deserve it, Jack.” Jackie held him close. “We’ll get through it together. One step at a time.”


    In all the wars President Kennedy would be forced to fight in the coming days, weeks, months, and years; the First Lady would make sure that he never walked into battle alone.


     
    Pop Culture 1963

  • Special Update! Pop Culture Highlights from 1963



    In the interest of keeping this timeline fresh and catering to some of my interests outside of politics, a short update will be entered at the end of each year to call attention to the major goings on of pop culture around the world. What defines “major”, I realize is fairly arbitrary, but I’ll do my best to report on a variety of subjects. If you are ever interested in what a certain figure is doing in this timeline, or what the fate of a particular subject may be, feel free to let me know!

    Biggest Hit songs of 1963:

    “Ring of Fire” - Johnny Cash

    “Surfin’ USA” - the Beach Boys

    “The End of the World” - Skeeter Davis

    “Blowin’ in the Wind” - Peter, Paul, and Mary

    “If I Had a Hammer” - Trini Lopez


    Other News in Music:

    March 22nd, 1963 - Liverpool based Rock group, The Beatles release their first LP in the UK. Entitled Please, Please Me, the record is a smash hit, and sets the world stage for Beatlemania, a craze surrounding the shaggy haired youngsters which will eventually consume America, Japan, and the rest of the world.




    May 27th, 1963 - The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is released in the United States. The folk singer-songwriter’s second and most influential studio album, Freewheelin’ features the lead single “Blowin’ in the Wind”, which serves to increase Dylan’s burgeoning popularity and scores a hit for both he and pop folk trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary.


    June 7th, 1963 - The Rolling Stones release their first single, a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Route 66.” The song peaks at number 21 in the UK.


    Throughout the year - Thanks to their television specials, appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, and massive record sales, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, world renowned celtic folk singers and a huge inspiration for Bob Dylan, become known as “the Four Most Famous Irishmen in the world.” They are invited to the White House by President Kennedy to perform and outsell even the King of Rock N Roll, Elvis Presley, in Ireland.





    October 16th, 1963 - The Berliner Philharmonie concert hall opens in Berlin, just west of the infamous wall.


    Biggest Films of 1963:

    The Birds - Horror/Suspense. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels. Hedren goes on to win a Golden Globe award for her performance. Today considered one of the greatest horror films of all time.



    Cleopatra - Epic historical. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, starring Elizabeth Taylor as the titular Pharaoh and her husband Richard Burton as Mark Antony. The most expensive film ever made to that point, the picture nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox. Still, the film would win four Academy Awards and be the highest grossing picture of the year.




    Charade - Romantic Comedy/Suspense. Directed by Stanley Dolan and starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Called “the best Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made”, Charade is considered a pleasantly surprising bit of fun.


    From Russia With Love - Second James Bond/007 Film. Directed by Terence Young and starring Sean Connery.

    Something's Got to Give - Screwball Comedy. Starring Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin. Directed by George Cukor for 20th Century Fox.


    Everyone’s Favorite Shows in 1963:

    The Twilight Zone

    The Andy Griffith Show

    The Ed Sullivan Show

    Dr. Who
    - Debuted in the UK on the BBC this year.



    Events in Television - 1963:


    April 11th - The television remote control is authorized by the FCC.


    September 16th - The Outer Limits, a Science Fiction anthology often compared to The Twilight Zone, but unique in its darker tone and visual style, premieres to American audiences.




    November 22nd - The same day that President Kennedy is shot in Dallas, the pilot episode for a new sitcom, Gilligan’s Island is filmed in Los Angeles. The show will go on to become one of the most iconic and enduring comedies ever to grace television.




    December 7 – Instant Replay is used for the first time during the live transmission of the Army Navy Game by its inventor, director, Tony Verna.


    Throughout - For the first time, most Americans say that they get more of their news from television than newspapers.




    1963 in Sport:


    AFL Championship Game: Boston Patriots defeat the San Diego Chargers 51 - 10.



    NFL Championship Game: Chicago Bears defeat the New York Giants 14 - 10.








    World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the New York Yankees 4 games to 0. Future hall of fame pitcher Sandy Koufax is named World Series MVP.





    NBA Finals: Boston Celtics win four games to two over the Los Angeles Lakers.




    Stanley Cup: Toronto Maple Leafs defeat the Detroit Red Wings 4 games to 1.





    Time Magazine’s Person of the Year: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

     
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    Chapter 8
  • Chapter 8: A Hard Day’s Night - January through July 1964


    1964 was going to be a pivotal year in American history. On this much, President John F. Kennedy and his allies, as well as his opponents were in virtually universal agreement. With the assassination attempt behind him, his shoulder nearly fully recovered, and the determination to make his country better set in the President’s heart, battle lines were being drawn on the biggest issue in America: civil rights. Steadfast now in his belief that comprehensive civil rights legislation was not just a legal issue, but a moral one, Kennedy began to give weekly speeches on the issue via television and radio. In these addresses, modeled on Franklin Roosevelt’s famous “fireside chats”, Kennedy broke the issue down for the average American, and explained why civil rights were a necessity for moving the country forward.



    A major step in the right direction for the movement came on January 23rd, with the ratification of the 24th Amendment to the United States Constitution, forever banning poll taxes, a favorite voter suppression tactic of the Jim Crow South. Though the issue of poll taxes would not appear before the Supreme Court until 1966, where they were struck down in a 6 - 3 decision, the Amendment finally took a major instrument of oppression out of the hands of state governments.


    In the House of Representatives, The Civil Rights Act Kennedy and his allies in Congress had drawn up languished in the Rules Committee, whose chairman, Howard W. Smith, a Democrat and avid segregationist from Virginia, indicated his intention to keep the bill bottled up indefinitely.


    The attempt on President Kennedy’s life and his series of addresses on the issue, however, changed the political situation. A series of polls by gallup and other agencies showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans in the North of the country favored the passage of the legislation. Kennedy, utilizing the bully pulpit he wielded as President spoke often and vigorously about the bill’s importance in public, and met with swing votes in private to get the necessary signatures for a petition of discharge, which would send the bill directly to the House floor.


    Though Kennedy rarely involved Vice President Johnson in the goings on of his administration, the President knew that on this issue, the Texan and veteran former Senator could be a great asset. Known for his domineering personality and no nonsense attitude, Lyndon Baines Johnson quickly earned a reputation as Kennedy’s “enforcer” on civil rights. After several tense meetings with lawmakers, many receiving the infamous “Johnson Treatment”, the necessary votes to pass the discharge petition were acquired. Rather than face the embarrassment of a successful discharge, Chairman Smith dropped the issue and allowed the bill to reach the House floor, where it passed on February 10th, 1964 with a vote of 290 -130.



    ...​

    The passage of the Civil Rights Act in the House of Representatives came three days after another movement reached America’s shores, this one from across the pond in Britain: Beatlemania. On February 7th, four shaggy haired lads from Liverpool, England began what would go on to be called the “British Invasion” of Rock N Roll music. The group’s single “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, which had been their fourth number 1 hit in the UK, became their first in the United States. To a nation shocked and angered by the assassination attempt on their President, and desperately wanting an escape from the growing tensions surrounding the Civil Rights movement, the Beatles proved a welcome sigh of relief and comfort.


    After landing in New York’s Idlewild Airport on the 7th, the band gave a press conference before being whisked away to their hotel in Manhattan, where George Harrison hoped to recover from a 103 degree fever. Two days later, on the 9th, the Beatles made their first U.S. television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Ratings for the program showed that 73 million Americans, approximately two fifths of the nation’s population, tuned in to watch the band perform. Their first concerts in the nation, one at Washington Coliseum and another at Carnegie Hall, were both sold out to audiences of 8,000 and 2,000 respectively. Following a second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, this time a live broadcast from Miami Beach, Florida and drawing 70 million viewers, the band returned to the UK, vowing to return in August for their first full tour of the country.


    ...​

    In the struggle with Congress, timing seemed to be on the side of President Kennedy. As the Civil Rights Act came to the floor of the Senate for debate in March, the media began reporting on the trial of Lee Harvey Oswald for the attempted murder of the President, First Lady, and Nellie Connally, as well as the successful murder of Governor Connally. Though the bill had begun to lose momentum in the Upper House thanks to well organized filibusters led by Southern Democrats Strom Thurmond (D - SC), Albert Gore, Sr. (D - TN), and others, the reports of Oswald’s trial, conviction and sentencing (death by electric chair) reminded the American people what a white southerner had tried to do a northern progressive when he fought to do the right thing. The Segregationists’ cause was further set back by the arrival of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to Capitol Hill to hear arguments on the Senate Floor on March 26th, the first meeting of the two ideologically opposed Civil Rights leaders.




    Strom Thurmond, the Senator most fervent in his opposition to the legislation, had this to say during his filibuster of the bill, which clocked in at well over twelve hours: "This so-called Civil Rights Proposals, which the President has sent to Capitol Hill for enactment into law, are unconstitutional, unnecessary, unwise and extend beyond the realm of reason. This is the worst civil-rights package ever presented to the Congress and is reminiscent of the Reconstruction proposals and actions of the radical Republican Congress.”




    A “Southern Bloc” of 18 Democrats and 1 Republican, led by Richard Russell (D - GA), organized their filibusters together to push back as strongly as possible against the bill. Said Russell: "We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our (Southern) states.” These movements not only vexed the President, they angered him on a deeply personal and moral level.


    “How can these men be so fucking unreasonable?” JFK fumed to Bobby one afternoon after being refused a meeting by Senator Albert Gore, Sr. “All we want is equal protection under the law, the protection of the right to vote for all Americans. An end to discrimination. It’s unbelievable.”


    Bobby nodded, also disturbed. “They’re backward, Jack. You know that well as I do. That’s why we’re taking the lead on this, we’re pushing forward because they never will unless we lead the way.”


    After 54 days of filibuster and delay, Senators Hubert Humphrey (D-MN), Mike Mansfield (D-MT), Everett Dirksen (R-IL), and Thomas Kuchel (R-CA), introduced a substitute bill that they hoped would attract enough Republican swing votes in addition to the core liberal Democrats behind the legislation to end the filibuster once and for all. The compromise bill was slightly weaker than the House version with regard to government power to regulate the conduct and action of private business, but not so weak as to cause the House to reconsider the legislation. Following a final filibuster by Senator Robert Byrd (D - WV) lasting 14 hours, 13 minutes, Humphrey managed to gather together the needed votes for cloture, bringing the nearly sixty day long debate process to an end.


    The Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed the United States Senate by a vote of 73 - 27 on June 19th. This new, compromise version of the bill swiftly passed through the House-Senate Conference Committee which adopted the Senate’s version of the bill. The conference bill was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Kennedy on July 4th, 1964. Much was made by both the President and the press of not only the historic nature of the legislation, but of the day on which is was signed. Signing the Act into law alongside Dr. King and several other Civil Rights leaders, Kennedy followed the ceremony with a brief address. In the speech, the President said: “Today, our nation comes one step closer to fulfilling the promise it made to its people 188 years ago today, when the Continental Congress issued forth the Declaration of Independence. ‘We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’”




    Despite this historic victory for Kennedy and the Civil Rights Movement, there was another issue boiling up for the administration in the U.S. Senate. The Republican-led Senate Rules Committee had been conducting an investigation into the financial dealings of one Bobby Baker, a Democratic party organizer and political aide to Vice President Johnson. Baker was investigated for allegations of bribery using money allocated by Congress and arranging sexual favors in exchange for votes and government contracts. The investigation had been ongoing since September 1963, but had stalled somewhat when no links could be found between Baker’s suspicious dealings and President Kennedy. The committee did, however, manage to connect the Vice President to several of Baker’s corrupt bargains throughout the 1950’s. Johnson’s arm twisting on behalf of the Civil Rights Act, along with ancient grudges never buried between the Texan and others in the Senate, had dissolved any of the goodwill left for Johnson in the Upper House. Facing possible hearings and a long, embarrassing investigation which could very well end with his removal from office, the Vice President thought it better to resign his office with dignity. On the morning of July 21st, Lyndon Baines Johnson resigned the Vice Presidency. In his announcement, Johnson relayed his intentions to quietly retire to his ranch in Stonewall, Texas with the Second Lady.




    Mixed feelings arose for the President following his number two’s decision. Johnson, his advice and his legislative experience and aggression had been instrumental in passing the Civil Rights Act, which Kennedy believed would be his greatest legacy. At the same time, the President had never been close to Johnson. In fact, the icy relationship between the two had led to open speculation that the Vice President would be dropped from the ticket when reelection came up in ‘64. Obviously, following Johnson’s resignation, the matter was put to rest. Kennedy would need a new running mate. To that end, the President tasked his brothers, Bobby and Ted, with finding someone suitable.


    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: The Republican Primaries and Convention
     
    Chapter 9

  • Chapter 9: My Guy - The GOP Primaries and Convention


    The race for the Republican nomination for President had become more clear as the new year dawned. With former Vice President Richard Nixon standing firmly behind Governor Rockefeller, the New Yorker had amassed the majority of the party’s moderate wing in his column. This was further strengthened in the lead up to the New Hampshire primary, on March 7th, when former Massachusetts Senator and Vice Presidential candidate Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. lent his support to Rockefeller as well. Though former President Dwight Eisenhower and countless others within the party had encouraged Lodge to make a run at the nomination himself, Lodge did not have any interest in pursuing the Presidency. At the same time, Lodge, who had been appointed U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam by President Kennedy, was unnerved by the rapidly deteriorating situation there.




    Following the coup of President Ngo Dinh Diem in November of 1963 by the South Vietnamese military, which Lodge had initially supported, the Ambassador observed that the subsequent leaders, jockeying for power in the wake of Diem’s fall, were not any better than Diem had been. Because of the rapid power grabs and rampant corruption, South Vietnam lacked a stable, centralized government, and paved the way for “Viet-cong” units and other communist militias to creep into the South, where they would lie in wait for a future invasion. In this path, Lodge saw only the expansion of communism or massive American military commitments to prevent it. Bearing all of this in mind, Lodge could not help but give his endorsement to Rockefeller. The New Yorker for all his faults, represented the party’s best shot at stopping Goldwater, which in Lodge’s mind was an absolute necessity. “If Senator Goldwater is elected this November,” Lodge warned in an interview with The New York Times. “We will see American boys die in a foreign war that cannot be won. Tensions with the Soviets will rise, unprovoked, and unnecessarily.”


    An incensed Goldwater responded to such charges with vitriol and force. “The Ambassador is clearly mistaken.” The Arizona Senator insisted. “I have no intention of involving the American military anywhere unless it is a necessity. Though I would question Mr. Lodge’s commitment to fighting communism. One who would doubt America’s responsibility to oppose red expansion abroad is one who risks running counter to what this country is all about.”


    The feud between Goldwater and Lodge only served to help Rockefeller, who kept himself at arm’s length from the war of words. When the polls closed in New Hampshire on the 7th of March, the results were staggering and forceful: Rockefeller won a resounding victory with 67% of the vote in the Granite State, while Goldwater received only 22%. The remaining 11% was split between Smith and Romney, with Governor Rhodes of Ohio and Governor Stassen, of Minnesota picking up next to nothing.




    Rockefeller’s success, particularly after the scandalous nature of his marriage to Happy, was contingent upon the endorsement of other so called “establishment” Republicans. Nixon, for a time, had been considered by many to be a potential candidate in ‘64. As had Lodge. With both of them behind him, Rockefeller did not have to worry about sewing up the moderate vote, and so could focus his attacks squarely on Barry Goldwater.


    Not all was peachy for the wealthy New Yorker, of course. Deep at the heart of the Republican base, there was a growing discontent among conservatives. For decades now, the GOP had been the whipping boy for the Democrats and their seemingly unstoppable New Deal Coalition. Decades had passed and the power of the Federal government seemed only to increase with each new administration. To these conservatives, working up within the party from its very roots, the “Eastern Establishment” of Rockefeller and his allies was elitist and watering down the ideals which the Republican Party was predicated upon: opposition to the expansion of federal power, a firm, aggressive stance against communism at home and abroad, and the free market. In Senator Goldwater, these conservatives had found their champion, their voice.




    The race between Rockefeller and Goldwater came to a head as the California Primary loomed on June 2nd. Because of decisive victories in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Oregon, Rockefeller held a seemingly insurmountable lead in the delegate count. In response, Rockefeller’s confidence grew. He felt that he had this thing in the bag.


    For his part, Goldwater had campaign effectively and tirelessly across the west and south, rallying around his campaign’s slogan: “In your heart, you know he’s right.” The Arizonan managed to pull wins in Indiana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Florida, and Texas. In his stump speeches, Goldwater stressed his commitment to small government, as well as his clean record of public service, something many voters felt shaky on with regard to Governor Rockefeller, especially considering his marriage to Happy.

    Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine had managed to pull out a surprise win in the Illinois Primary, taking a significant amount of delegates in her own right. She was the first female candidate of a major party for President, and her candidacy attracted plenty of media attention. Not wanting to bow out of the race until the end, Smith refused to promise her delegates to either candidate, and would wait “until the Republicans of the great state of California have made up their minds.”




    The stakes were certainly high heading into the Golden State’s primary. If Rockefeller won, he would be within a handful of delegates from the nomination, and would probably win it on the first ballot. If the state went to Goldwater, the two would be nearly tied, and a long, tiring contested convention would follow. Neither felt that they could afford to lose.


    Rockefeller began campaigning in Oakland on May 25th, once again supremely confident that his victory was assured. Richard Nixon, the state party’s favorite son, had been one of his earliest and most vocal backers throughout the campaign. There was no way the good people of California could go for such a “rabble rouser” as Goldwater, the New Yorker believed. Unfortunately for him, that was all thrown into question the morning of May 30th, three days before the primary, when Happy Rockefeller delivered the couple’s first baby, a boy, named Nelson Jr.


    The newspapers’ coverage of the event made sure to include details about Happy and the Governor’s relationship prior to their marriage. Happy had worked on Rockefeller’s staff prior to either of them divorcing their long time spouses to marry each other, leading many to believe, correctly, that the two had been engaging in an extramarital affair long before they tied the knot. Such information was not new, but hard largely been forgotten by the public in the momentum of Rockefeller’s campaign. The reports brought the issue back to the forefront just in time to be fodder for Goldwater attacks on the stump, the radio and television.


    “Who do you want in the White House next November?” Goldwater joked in a speech. “A leader, or a lover?”


    Polls conducted the day of the primary showed the two candidates in a dead heat. Clearly, it would come down to the wire. Though many Republicans, especially women, reported switching their allegiances from Rockefeller to Goldwater after being reminded of Rockefeller’s infidelity to his first wife, it seemed that Nixon’s support, Rockefeller’s strong position in the rest of the country, and his vigorous campaigning had paid off. The next morning, the news reported that by a slim margin, 51 - 49%, Governor Rockefeller had won the day in California.




    In San Diego, where Goldwater had built his campaign headquarters, there were said to be emotional, turbulent outbursts from staffers and volunteers. Despite their best efforts, and nearly a year of hard work, the rich, snobby, pinkie elitist from New York had beaten their ideological purist. The hero of the “true Republicans” would not be the nominee. The Senator himself was said to have taken his defeat with grace, however. “There’s always next time.” Goldwater reminded his staff. “However, unlike in ‘60, I’m not going to take this loss lying down. We need to remind this party what it stands for. We’ll be in San Francisco for the convention. I will demand the floor.”


    A rule was in place which allowed any candidates with delegates pledged to them to demand the floor of the convention for five minutes to speak. Goldwater did not want to burn too many bridges within the party, should he decide to run again, and so would keep his speech short and civilized. There would be no attacks on his opponent, only a solemn reminder that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice and that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." The speech, which would go on to be called “the defense of liberty” became one of Goldwater’s great political legacies, and would be seen as turning point for the Conservative movement.





    Another major impact that Goldwater’s ultimately unsuccessful run for the nomination in ‘64 had was on the life and career of Hollywood Actor and former Screen Actor’s Guild President Ronald Wilson Reagan. Reagan, a staunch conservative and Goldwater supporter, had recorded a speech in support of the Arizona Senator during the primaries to be aired on Television. The program, entitled “A Time for Choosing”, received high ratings and was considered the best rhetoric employed in support of Goldwater throughout the entire primary process. Because of the success of the speech, Reagan would go on to be encouraged to run for Governor of California in 1966. Only time would tell how that would go, however.





    At the convention, held in San Francisco’s “Cow Palace” from July 12th - 15th, 1964, the Republican Party stood (mostly) united behind their presumptive nominee. Rockefeller remained 30 delegates below the threshold needed to guarantee his victory on the first ballot, however. Eager to remedy this situation, and realizing there was no chance in hell of convincing Goldwater to release his delegates, whom Rockefeller had referred to as “the crazies” throughout the campaign, the New Yorker instead turned to Senator Smith, and her pledged Illinois delegation.


    The day before the speeches and the pomp were set to begin, Rockefeller invited Smith to a meeting with his campaign. “What will it take to get your endorsement, Senator?” Rockefeller asked, hunger for victory plainly evident in his eyes. “Romney’s bowed out and backed me, same with Scranton and Stassen. You’re the only Republican candidate, who isn’t crazy, that hasn’t given me the go ahead.”


    Smith nodded. “That is true, though I wouldn’t call Senator Goldwater crazy. The man simply has a different take on the issues.”


    Rockefeller snorted. “Very well. So, I repeat. What will it take?”


    The Senator from Maine waited a minute before responding. “You took a real beating in that California primary because of the women vote, didn’t you?”


    Rockefeller’s face flushed. “Yes, I would say that’s accurate. What’s your point?”


    “If you want to beat Kennedy, you’ll need every vote you can muster, including from the ladies of this party and this country. What I’m suggesting Nelson is rather simple, really. You want my delegates and my endorsement? It’s easy as pie. Put me on the ticket.”


    The Governor’s eyes went wide. In all honesty, he had never considered that Smith would ever ask for such a concession in exchange for her support. The prospect of having a woman on a Presidential ticket was rather historic, Rockefeller thought. It might be a good display of Progressivism for the only party which ran a candidate opposing the Civil Rights Act in the primaries to nominate a woman to the Vice Presidency. At the same time, however, Rockefeller worried about what he’d lose in nominating Smith. She was a moderate, not much further to the right than he, throwing the ticket out of ideological balance. Additionally, she was from Maine, a Northeastern state and a safely Republican stronghold in most races. These factors would prevent the Governor from potentially picking up a swing state or from following the traditional advice of balancing a ticket geographically as well. Still, the pressure was beginning to weigh on Rockefeller’s mind. If he didn’t secure the nomination in the first few rounds, he risked the Goldwaterites starting something and causing him to lose the nomination to a compromise candidate… such as Smith, the New Yorker realized.


    Rockefeller sighed. “Very well, Senator. You have yourself a deal.”


    And so it was that the Republican Party made history by nominating Nelson Rockefeller and Margaret Chase Smith for President and Vice President of the United States. The decision, and its acceptance by mainstream Republicans was especially impressive for the time given the contemporary news coming out about Vice President Johnson which ultimately lead to his resignation. The Johnson scandal, in addition to the attempt on President Kennedy’s life shone a white hot light on the Vice Presidency, and highlighted its importance in the line of succession.

    In his acceptance speech, Rockefeller called for party unity and “the repudiation of the claim that we need a new type of Republicanism. The Grand Old Party of Lincoln and Eisenhower works just fine for me.” Post convention polls had Rockefeller trailing the President by a few points, but the Johnson Scandal, and Kennedy’s failure to recognize his number two’s shady dealings publically before his resignation were beginning to weigh on him.




    Now it was President Kennedy and the Democrats’ turn for a convention. A single question dominated the public consciousness heading into election season: Who would the President select as his running mate?


    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: Kennedy names his running mate in ‘64.
     
    Chapter 10

  • Chapter 10: You Really Got Me - August 1964 in the White House


    The news of Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s nomination by the Republicans was met with disappointment by the President and his team of advisors in the West Wing. Not only was Senator Goldwater a personal friend of Kennedy’s, he was the perfect ideological straw man to rail against. A race against Goldwater would have been easier, that much was clear. Not only was Rockefeller nearly as liberal as the President on most issues, he had supported the passage of the Civil Rights Act, considered by many to be Kennedy’s crowning achievement since taking office. Rather than a simple matter of rallying the New Deal Coalition against a hard right winger at the fringe of political respectability, the election would likely devolve into a contest of personalities.



    Nonetheless, President Kennedy was ready for a fight. The first step to winning this battle, however, was to find someone to fight it alongside him. JFK still needed a running mate. Bobby had been working tirelessly with Ted and other Washington insiders to assemble a list of acceptable options. To the President of course, the answer was initially obvious: Florida Senator George Smathers. The handsome, smooth talking Smathers was another close friend of Kennedy’s, and had served as an usher at the President’s wedding. Before the assassination attempt in Dallas, as word was beginning to leak about the potential investigation into then Vice President Johnson, Kennedy had privately offered Smathers the number two spot should the Democrats drop Johnson from the ticket in ‘64. The only issue was that by now, July 1964, the political landscape had changed.




    Though Smathers was loyal to the administration’s economic initiatives, he was adamantly anti-civil rights. One of the 18 Democrats in the so called “Southern Bloc” which had filibustered and fought with all their might to stop the Civil Rights Act, “Gorgeous George” as his opponents called him, was not as progressive on racial issues as the administration wanted him to be. If he were selected to be the President’s running mate, Bobby warned his brother, then Rockefeller and the Republicans would paint he and the Democratic party as opportunistic and hypocritical, willing to do whatever it took to appeal to blacks and white southerners alike.


    The President understood the risks associated with inviting a professed segregationist onto the ticket, but he also saw the potential political gains. Johnson, for all the friction between the two men, had secured the “Solid South” for Kennedy in 1960, and Smathers, being from Florida, may have been able to do it again. The question was whether or not Kennedy wanted to bother trying to win the South this time around. Johnson had told the President “this will lose us the South forever” when JFK signed the Civil Rights Act the month prior. Kennedy had not let that fact deter him from signing what he saw as legislation critical to the development of the nation. Though Smathers awaited the call from the President to be added to the ticket, Kennedy would not send it. There was moral high ground to be won here, and the President insisted on holding it.


    Other options put forward by Bobby and Ted included Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, Senator Henry M. Jackson of Washington, Governor Pat Brown of California, and Governor Terry Sanford of North Carolina. A perennial favorite of liberals throughout the nation, Humphrey had been absolutely instrumental in passing the Civil Rights Act in the Senate, even writing and championing the compromise bill which managed to finally get it through. Despite his progressive stance on civil rights being seen as a major strength, Humphrey’s liberal status worried the President. Though Kennedy wielded the respect of the liberal wing of American politics, he was strongly disliked by conservatives. This was especially true after passage of Civil Rights and the declaration of a war on poverty. He could not afford, he decided, to alienate the moderates and the middle of the spectrum by selecting someone as liberal as Humphrey for his number two. Of course, it didn’t help Humphrey’s chances that he was from a safely Democratic state and that he and the President had bitterly fought over the Democratic nomination in 1960. The White House did not want to let that grudge die so easily.




    Henry “Scoop” Jackson of Washington State was a horse of a different color. 52 years old, a war hawk, ardently anti Communist, and firmly supportive of Civil Rights, Jackson had been a strong contender to be Kennedy’s running mate in 1960 before being edged out by Lyndon Johnson. Recently appointed as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Jackson brought strong environmentalist credentials to the ticket, and had been a driving force in spearheading much of the New Frontier legislation in Congress. Being from the West Coast, Jackson could potentially help the President break out in some of the Republican strongholds there, such as California and Oregon. States Kennedy would need to contend in to counter losses in the South, angry from the Civil Rights Act’s passage. He was also a Senator who was no stranger to legislative battles. If reelected, Kennedy knew he was in for a series of uphill fights such as the one he’d just finished on Civil Rights. With LBJ no longer around to help him twist arms, perhaps Jackson could fill the gap.




    Pat Brown as a possible running mate intrigued Kennedy greatly. A popular Democratic governor presiding over a traditionally Republican state, Brown potentially brought a lot to the ticket. During his tenure in Sacramento, California had modernized significantly. New infrastructure projects, reforms to the state’s system of higher education, a higher minimum wage, and anti discrimination laws were all created under Brown’s watch. This record, in of itself, was rather impressive. With its population already massive and steadily growing, California would soon overtake New York as the nation’s most populous state and come 1970, become the most valuable in the electoral college. If the President could count it in his column come election night, he might not have to break as much of a sweat over losing the South. What was more, Brown had even supported then Senator Kennedy’s bid for the Democratic nomination in 1960. On the other hand, Brown was not the most exciting pick, in terms of his personal charisma. He also did not offer much in the way of expressing unity within the party. Selecting Brown would essentially tell the South that they were no longer important, in any way, to the President. Kennedy decided that he would keep an eye on Brown.



    Finally, there was Governor James Terry Sanford of North Carolina. Born the same year as the President, 1917, Sanford had led quite the remarkable life before his ascent into politics. An Eagle Scout in his youth, Sanford graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1939 and became an FBI agent. During World War II, Sanford saw combat in the European Theater in the Army, as part of the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment. For his bravery and wounds sustained at the Battle of the Bulge, Sanford was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart before being honorably discharged in 1946. A liberal Democrat and supporter of Kennedy’s domestic agenda, Sanford also stood out to the President because of one quality in particular: he was a southerner who was also a progressive leader on Civil Rights. Believing in equality, Sanford fought to dispel the untrue belief held throughout the country that all southerners were opposed to Civil Rights. He represented, to Kennedy, the best possible replacement for Johnson and a remarkable gesture of what the future of the Democratic party, and indeed, the United States, could look like. A war hero, a supporter of civil rights, and a southerner. The President was sold. He ordered Bobby into the Oval Office and told him to get Sanford on the phone right away. “Tell him to fly up to Washington, I want to put him on the ticket.”




    The media announced shortly thereafter that Sanford accepted the President’s offer, and that the Democratic party largely supported the pick. Despite positive press response and polling data, as well as Sanford’s status as a Southern Governor, not all was well for the White House as the summer turned sweltering and July gave way to August. LBJ’s prediction about the South would prove prophetic, and before the Democratic convention could even take place, there were dissenters threatening to tear the party asunder.


    Long a major subset of the New Deal Coalition, many socially conservative, economically liberal white southerners felt betrayed by the party of Roosevelt and Truman when they saw the announcement of the presumptive ticket for ‘64. Though not quite as progressive as Humphrey or some others in the country, Kennedy/Sanford seemed to these Jim Crow voters a stab in the back. Worse still, the Republican ticket wasn’t any better in their eyes.


    Rockefeller and Smith were both northeasterners, and had both supported the “damn ni**er bill” (as Senator Strom Thurmond referred to it) Kennedy signed earlier that summer. Smith was also a woman, something many conservatives saw as “unseemly” on a Presidential ticket for the time. Feeling dejected, ignored and without a candidate palatable to their beliefs, plenty of southerners were pleased to hear that there would be another option: Alabama Governor George Corey Wallace.




    A poster child for segregation across the nation, Wallace previously made headlines when he stood in front of the door to the University of Alabama, blocking African American students from attending classes on the newly integrated campus. Though eventually forced to back down, Wallace further made a name for himself in November of 1963, when he announced he would be challenging President Kennedy in the Democratic primaries for President the following year. The attempt on Kennedy’s life in Dallas had been a major setback to Wallace’s campaign, as public sympathy turned the nation solidly behind the wounded President. After handily losing most of the primary contests to Kennedy or favorite son surrogates in support of the President, Wallace seemed defeated. Following Sanford’s addition to the ticket however, Wallace made a second announcement which shook the nation to its core: he would run for President as a third party candidate in 1964, with Senator Robert Byrd (D - WV) as his running mate.


    “I cannot help but run, my fellow Americans.” the Alabama Governor said in his incendiary statement. “For the current state of affairs is simply unbearable for hardworking, decent people in this country. Furthermore, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”


    Aside from Wallace’s independent run, which was seeing a large number of conservative backers from both parties, the President also faced issues once again in foreign affairs. On August 2nd, 1964, the Destroyer U.S.S. Maddox was performing a signals intelligence patrol as part of DESOTO operations in the Gulf of Tonkin. While performing the patrol, the Maddox was pursued by three North Vietnamese Navy torpedo boats of the 135th Torpedo Squadron. Maddox fired three warning shots and the North Vietnamese boats responded with the launching of several torpedoes and machine gun fire. Maddox expended over 280 3-inch and 5-inch shells in a subsequent sea battle. One U.S. aircraft was damaged, the three North Vietnamese torpedo boats were damaged, and four North Vietnamese sailors were killed, with six more wounded. There were no U.S. casualties. Maddox "was unscathed except for a single bullet hole from a Vietnamese machine gun round", according to a subsequent Navy report.




    It was claimed by the National Security Agency that a second “Gulf of Tonkin incident” occured two days later, on August 4th, but this was later proven to be false. The evidence collected on this second incident found that false radar images created the illusion that more torpedo boats were approaching. Nonetheless, the first incident, on the 2nd, shook the nation ferociously and forced the escalating situation in Vietnam to the forefront of the national consciousness.




    Throughout the previous years of his administration, President Kennedy had accelerated American involvement in South Vietnam, increasing the number of military advisers there to nearly 16,000 by 1964. He had also supported the coup which resulted in the overthrow of President Diem in November, 1963, believing that Diem’s corruption, instability and oppression of buddhists were undermining the legitimacy of the South against its aggressive communist neighbor to the north. By the time of the attack on the Maddox however, the President was wrestling with the future of American involvement in the country. In an interview on the issue, Kennedy said: “In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Vietnam, against the Communists.”


    Stuck between committing to protracted military involvement in the region, as most of his military advisers wanted, or full withdrawal, which would likely mean the fall of the south to communism, Kennedy needed a solution. He summoned a council of confidants to reach a decision. Invitees included Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. With these three men seated around him in the Oval Office, the President ran through his options.




    “Gentlemen, we have quite the situation laid before us, as I’m sure you’re well aware.” The President rubbed his temples and shook his head. “Our boys have been fired upon by communists in south Asia. The public, and most of the uniforms are calling for escalation and war with the north, if need be. I don’t want us sending more boys down there to get shot at unless it’s the only way forward. I just want to be cautious, damn it. Meanwhile, I’ve got Rockefeller and the Republicans breathing down my neck and saying I’m weak on communism. Opportunistic fuckers, politicizing an attack like this.” He turned to Lodge, the sole Republican in the room. “No offense, Henry.”


    “None taken.” Lodge cleared his throat.


    “So.” Kennedy sighed. “What do you suggest I do?”


    McNamara adjusted his glasses and answered first. “Mr. President, your first step is to go before Congress. Ask for a resolution giving you permission to launch retaliatory air attacks on the North. That ought to quiet the talk of ‘weak on communism’ without changing our commitment levels in the region overmuch.” Breaking only to sip from a glass of water, the Secretary of Defense continued. “But that won’t be a permanent solution. Eventually, we’ll have to decide if we can live with Vietnam falling to the reds.”


    “Out of the question.” Bobby Kennedy answered before his brother could. “Are you kidding, Bob? Be serious. You saw what happened to Truman when Mao won in China, the Republicans hung that around our necks and haven’t let it go since. Besides, it’s like dominoes, you know. One falls to communism, pretty soon they all will.” The Attorney General paused to soften his tone a little. “Is there any way we can ensure the south will stand without the need for a large amount of troops? The Republic of Vietnam does have an army of its own, after all.”




    For the first time in the meeting, Lodge spoke of his own accord. “Mr. President, I believe I know of a way to help the south without having to send in troops.”


    Kennedy eyed him with interest. “Go on.”


    “Based on my experience there, sir, the biggest issue facing the south is a lack of stability. The central government is plagued by infighting, and ever since Diem got the boot, there’s been a ceaseless struggle to figure out who’s in charge. Thanks to this, the north has been able to expand its supply network, move guerrillas and agents into the south, and gain the support of much of the local population. We need to invest resources into stabilizing the south, reorganizing its government and military to better defend itself from its communist aggressors.”


    “So what do we do to make that happen?” Kennedy asked, rising from his chair to lean against the Resolute Desk.


    “Simple.” Lodge answered. “Make them a protectorate.”


    The President laughed. “Henry, for the second time tonight I don’t mean to offend, but if that’s the best you’ve got, get out of my Office.”


    Lodge’s face creased into a frown. “Sir?”


    “Henry, why do you think the Vietnamese fought the French?” Kennedy shook his head. “They threw off the yolk of colonial possession, and they’re not likely to welcome it back again just to oppose an ideology we tell them they’re not supposed to like. The first half of your idea was legitimate, however, and I plan to make it my primary response.”


    Standing tall and proud, Kennedy turned his back to the other three men, so he could look out the window for a moment while he rendered his verdict. “I will make a speech before Congress, asking for a resolution to bomb North Vietnam in retaliation for the attack on the Maddox. Then, I’ll tell the CIA to increase operations in the South, figure out who we can rely on to make a solid leader. Once we find out who we can trust, we’ll do what we must to get them in the Presidential Palace, and provide support to stabilize his government. After that, we’re getting out.”




    A collective gasp filled the room. “Mr. President?” Lodge finally managed, aghast.


    Kennedy turned around, confident, his voice stern. “We’ll keep sending money, supplies, but in terms of advisers and manpower, we’re pulling out, gentlemen. We get in over our heads in this, and we’ll regret it for the rest of our lives. Our nation will regret it even longer than that. Eisenhower left this thing in my lap, and look how that turned out in Cuba. Bob,” He looked at McNamara. “You’ll recall we talked before about a timetable to pull out. When’s the soonest you think we can make it?”


    “Safely?” McNamara raised an eyebrow. “1967, I’d say. We’ll have to make sure the south is equipped to fight the north once we’re gone.”


    “We’ll do our best. I’m not getting us into some sort of quagmire to save face.” Kennedy replied. “The lives of our boys are worth more to me than playing politics.” The meeting over, the President dismissed his advisers.


    “Thank you, Mr. President.” They answered, leaving the Oval Office one by one.




    The President’s speech before Congress was well received by both the public and the press, who remarked that the address was “forceful, yet restrained, and statesmanlike.” The legislature responded by passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Kennedy the authority to order retaliatory air strikes on Hanoi and the rest of North Vietnam. At the same time, Kennedy’s plans for finding a stable leader for the South and bringing American troops and military advisers home were put into action. As promised, a full withdrawal of Americans from South Vietnam would be finished by 1967, but only after the President felt assured that the South could stand on its own against a northern invasion. Communism would not spread on his watch, but neither would a war begin.




    As Martin B-57’s rained hellfire on the reds in Southeast Asia, Kennedy and Sanford geared up for the election against Rockefeller/Smith and Wallace/Byrd at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. There, both candidates, along with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and other guests spoke vigorously in favor of the upcoming War on Poverty, and of Kennedy’s strong, but peaceful slate of foreign policy. “Let us not abandon the journey of a thousand miles we began with a single step,” the President said before a roaring crowd. “But let us continue to march toward the great potential of our country, the greatest and freest in the history of the world.”




    Next Time: President Kennedy makes an important state visit abroad, the election of 1964.
     
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    Chapter 11

  • Chapter 11: I Feel Fine - The Election of 1964




    Above: The President and First Lady share a joke and campaign together in Lansing, Michigan. Governor Rockefeller appears in New York City to push out the vote in his home state.


    The election of 1964 began, in true American fashion, with stampedes, parades, fireworks, marching bands and barnstorming. Though national opinion polls slightly favored the President and Governor Sanford over Governor Rockefeller and Senator Smith, each poll was within the margin of error, and therefore untrustworthy. Governor Wallace and Senator Byrd polled at a dismal third throughout the country, except the Deep South, where they led the opposing tickets by healthy margins. Lines were drawn, advertisements written and aired, speeches given and applauded. The race for the White House was officially underway.

    At the tail end of August, following the Democratic National Convention and the first heavy bombing runs in North Vietnam, President Kennedy was experiencing a boost in the polls. Not one to take any advantage lying down, the President assembled his usual team of confidants and advisors to determine their campaign strategy. Because of Rockefeller’s liberal status and leanings on several issues, many of which were similar to the President’s own positions, the reelection team ruled out attacking the New York Governor on his stances. Rather, Bobby Kennedy declared, 1964 was going to be a contest of personalities. “The people like you, Jack. They think you’ve got their best interests in mind. They know you, they can rely on you. Electing Rockefeller would be putting their faith in an unknown element, who may or may not stick up for them like you do. We can run with that.”

    The President nodded, sipping coffee from a mug, bearing the image of PT Boat 109, the boat that had made him a war hero. “That’s great. But how do we take Rockefeller down and keep him there? In politics, if you’re not on offense, you’re on defense.”

    Kenneth “Kenny” O’Donnell, special assistant to the President and close friend and confidant of both he and the Attorney General, provided an idea. “Mr. President, there was quite a rough patch in the primaries for Rocky after the news broke about he and Happy’s relationship and subsequent marriage. The story nearly cost him the California Primary. I know it may seem… beneath us, but sex sells. Let’s get a bunch of pictures in the papers of you with the First Lady and John and Caroline. We’ll print them all day long and remind the country what a devoted family man you are. Then, in the next page, we’ll smear the Governor, show the people that while you were caring for your family and working hard, Rockefeller was off chasing tail-”




    “Slow down Kenny.” The President interrupted, his voice sharp and cool. “I agree that Jackie and the kids will be a big part of the campaign, they’re the best part of me. We better make sure the cameras see as much of them as they can. But I won’t drag the Governor and Mrs. Rockefeller through that again.” His eyes were two chips of greyish green ice, boring holes into O’Donnell. “Print the pictures, leave out the attacks.” What Kennedy left unsaid was that in 1960, he might have considered such tactics in a heartbeat, but nearly being killed and losing Patrick had had a dramatic effect on him. He had remained true to his promise to Jackie, and thought it best to leave private affairs out of the campaign as much as possible, lest someone out some of his less than ideal escapades. “Any other ideas?”


    “One here, sir.” The bookish voice could belong to none other than Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the “court historian” and personal aide to the President. “The people know you’re wealthy, there’s no getting around it. You’re the son of a multimillionaire, went to Harvard, the whole nine. In a clash of identities race, it’s all too easy to get painted as an elitist. The good news though is that your opponent isn’t any more middle class than you are. Go to union halls and factory production lines. Make stops at railway stations and airports, get your picture taken in the heart of a black neighborhood in Chicago. Do everything you can to get one message across plain and clear to the nation: you are a man of the people.” A proud smile sprang up across Schlesinger's face. “I can see the stump speech now: ‘While Governor Rockefeller sits in his ivory tower collecting art and reading the classics, I’ve been out making a difference for hard working families like you. Fighting tooth and nail to see Civil Rights for all Americans, a new slate of economic prosperity enjoyed by all, and all the while, avoiding a stray bullet or two.’ Show them your sense of humor. You’re the youngest man ever to be elected President and Rockefeller is nine years your senior. Use it to your advantage, your vigor, your energy. ”


    The President would go on to adopt Schlesinger’s strategy, making every effort to appear in working class contexts, clad not in the finely pressed suits of Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, but in khaki pants and rolled up denim shirts, with Caroline or John Jr. in his arms and the First Lady never far from view. Though some on the right accused Kennedy of “damaging the prestige of the office of the President”, the people of such crucial swing states as Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and California, each full of working class voters and union members looking for a candidate to back their worldview and values, found the campaign forthright and refreshing.


    On the Republican side, work was tirelessly done to counter any gains made by Kennedy and Sanford. Governor Rockefeller accused the President of “ducking the issues” by declining to appear in a series of televised debates with him, as Kennedy and Vice President Nixon had in 1960. Rockefeller also benefited from the generous support of numerous surrogates within the GOP. Nixon, Lodge, and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower all campaigned on the New Yorker’s behalf, with Eisenhower recording a television advertisement alongside Rockefeller and extending his official endorsement the first week of September.


    “If you support good, efficient government and a strong national defense,” Eisenhower said in the ad. “Then make sure to vote for Nelson Rockefeller to be your President this November. He’s just the man for the job.”




    Though Rockefeller had burned bridges with much of the party’s conservative wing during the tense primary season, he knew that he would need his base to turn out enthusiastically if he stood any chance of unseating Kennedy, who was as popular within his own party as he was with independents. This meant reaching out to Senator Barry Goldwater, as much as Rockefeller loathed the very thought of it. The New Yorker sent surrogates to Goldwater’s office in Washington, but was repulsed when they were met with a rebuff. “Good luck winning the White House,” the Arizonan wrote in a note, addressed to the nominee. “Me and my ‘crazies’ will be staying home on election day.” Aides reported that Rockefeller cursed and shouted for nearly an hour after reading that note. Taking Goldwater’s lead, actor and recent conservative talking head Ronald Reagan also declined to endorse Rockefeller when given the opportunity. Privately, the Governor began to doubt his ability to win.


    Campaign manager Stu Spencer tried to light a fire under his boss, telling him to “summon that fabled nexus of money, influence, and condescension known as the Eastern Establishment” to help him win the race. “You are looking at it, buddy,” Rockefeller told Spencer. “I am all that is left.”


    Not all was gloom and doom for the Governor, however. Despite the lack of an endorsement from Goldwater, the Republican Party mostly solidified behind Rockefeller anyway, and polls showed the gap between he and the President narrowing as September gave way to October. This was thanks, in no small part to the work of Senator Smith, who was a passionate and dedicated campaigner in her own right. She toured the country nonstop throughout the autumn, visiting poor neighborhoods and countering the narrative that Governor Rockefeller was “above” worrying about the plight of the disenfranchised and the less fortunate. She also made strides for feminism in the country, speaking on the importance of women’s involvement in the political process, and urging women of both parties to vote on election day, saying: “Whomever you deem fit for your vote this November, know that I beg you, in the strongest possible terms, to vote for that candidate! All of us move forward together when we exercise our rights.”




    At the beginning of October, new polling data from Gallup was released and quickly devoured by both campaigns. The polls’ message were clear: the race was in a dead heat.


    ...​


    Never really taking a break from campaigning, the President and his staff had a lot riding on the upcoming state visit abroad which Kennedy was going on. There was media speculation, political manoeuvring and of course, disparaging comments made by his opponents, but the President would not be deterred. For the first time since the Yalta Conference in 1945, a sitting U.S. President would visit the USSR.


    Some had advised JFK not to make the trip at all. The issue posed by Rockefeller’s claims that Kennedy could be doing more to combat communism abroad would not be aided by the image of him shaking hands with Khrushchev in the Red Square, they said. Yet still, Kennedy insisted. In the eyes of the President, there was more at stake in a trip to Moscow than politics. If he went, he had a chance to further his relationship with the First Secretary and perhaps continue the thaw of the Cold War which had begun following the diffusing of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Besides, The President thought. Such a trip could be just the thing to remind the public of my leadership and strength.


    The President and First Lady stepped off of Air Force One in Moscow on the morning of Monday, October 5th. Waiting on the tarmac to meet them was First Secretary Khrushchev himself, along with newly appointed Premier Alexei Kosygin, a liberal and reformer within the Communist Party. “Mr. President, Mrs. Kennedy,” Khrushchev grinned from ear to ear and offered his hand to shake. “Welcome to the Soviet Union.”






    The second major summit between Khrushchev and Kennedy lasted four days and covered a wide variety of topics. Chief among the discussions however were the possibility of continued arms reduction treaties, the tenets of Kosygin’s economic reforms, which were being drawn up for the new year, as well as a very special proposal of Kennedy’s creation: a joint Soviet-American mission to the Moon.


    Though the space race had been a major tenet of Kennedy’s campaign in 1960, and his recent promise to reach the Moon before 1970 had upped the ante on the Soviets, the American saw the potential such a mission could hold for relations between the two nations. “Reaching for the stars is the ultimate destiny of the human race,” the President said to the First Secretary over dinner on the final night of the summit. “Join me and together, we can teach the world that despite our differences, mankind can achieve stupendous feats when we combine our efforts.” Khrushchev was initially lukewarm on the idea, but his personal liking of Kennedy, as well as the resources which would be saved if the two superpowers joined forces to reach the Moon eventually convinced him. The First Secretary would bring the idea before the Supreme Soviet before the end of the year for their approval.




    Polls conducted following the President’s return to the country the next week vindicated his political instincts. When respondents were asked if they agreed with the statement: “I believe that President Kennedy has a firm grasp on foreign affairs.” 71% answered that they did. The visit, while certainly controversial among some on the right, was widely celebrated as a show of strong leadership and detente across the political spectrum, and provided the President’s campaign with a much needed shot in the arm heading into election night. Kennedy/Sanford jumped ahead in the polls with only a few weeks left to go.


    November 3rd, Election Night, came before the nation knew it. After making a final speech in Queens before a crowd of several thousand supporters, Governor Rockefeller returned to his home in Albany with his wife and young son to await the results as they poured in. President Kennedy watched the news with Jackie, Bobby, Ted, and others from the television set in the White House Residence. Whoever won, the President would find out from Walter Cronkite and CBS News.


    The results were tight in several states, especially New York, where Rockefeller fought vigorously and ultimately in vain against the state’s entrenched Democratic establishment; and Virginia, a state Richard Nixon had won in 1960, thrown into question by the addition of Terry Sanford to the ticket. George Wallace and Robert Byrd with their segregationist rhetoric and hard line social conservatism did well in the Deep South, and even managed to pick up the electoral votes of Alabama. Unfortunately for them however, they failed to make enough of an impact to throw the election to the House of Representatives or otherwise disrupt the electoral college. By just after midnight however, the nation knew which ticket had handily won.


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    Triumphant cheers and cries broke out in the White House as President Kennedy and his family reveled in their victory. Despite the hardships of an assassination attempt, the loss of another baby, and the resignation of his Vice President after one of the hardest legislative battles in American History, John F. Kennedy had weathered the storm and been reelected by the American people to a second term. The President promptly called Terry Sanford and congratulated him on becoming Vice President Elect of the United States. No sooner had he hung up the receiver than a call came through the line for Kennedy. It was Governor Rockefeller, who had called to concede the race.


    The men shared a short, civil conversation in which Rockefeller made it clear that despite the rivalry between them, he wanted to offer Kennedy his sincere congratulations and wished him the best of luck throughout the next four years. The President accepted the concession with grace and charm, telling Rocky “I was honored to have had the chance to run against you, Nelson. You brought the best out of me, I think.” After hanging up the phone, Kennedy took Jackie into his arms and kissed her. “Thank you.” He told her, as sincere as could be. “Thank you for everything.” Everywhere he went throughout the campaign, whether it was parades and women’s clubs or to the doorstep of his nation’s sworn enemy, the First Lady had been there with him. In some ways, she had been just as instrumental to her husband’s reelection as he had been.


    ...​


    The results were obviously a disappointment to the GOP, though thanks to Rockefeller and Smith’s moderate policies and effective campaigning, their down ballot losses were substantially mitigated. The Democrats expanded their majority in the House of Representatives by picking up an additional 14 seats. This brought the balance of the House to 272 Democrats - 162 Republicans.


    In the Senate, the Democrats broke even, holding 23 of their 25 seats up for grabs, and managing to pick up two from the defending Republicans. Though a 66 - 34 majority was nothing to sneeze at, President Kennedy was somewhat disappointed by the result of one Senate race in particular: that of Senator Ralph Yarborough (D - TX)’s loss to George Bush (R). Yarborough had been the lone southern Democrat to vote in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and as such had earned Kennedy’s respect as a no nonsense liberal who would vote his conscience regardless of the political fallout. Unfortunately for Yarborough, the fallout had been slightly too severe to overcome this time as he lost his race by approximately 1.2% to the newcomer Bush.


    George Herbert Walker Bush, son of former U.S. Senator Prescott Bush, World War II aviation hero, Yale alumnus, oil tycoon and multimillionaire before the age of 40; served as the Chairman of the Republican Party of Harris County, Texas, but wanted a more active role in policy making. To that end, he had, at the age of 40, thrown his hat into the race for the Yarborough’s Senate seat. Running just slightly to the right of Yarborough, the moderate Bush copied the policies of Rockefeller, whom he positioned himself as a strong supporter of. Despite Rockefeller losing the state to President Kennedy, and Governor Preston Smith winning reelection over his Republican challenger, Jack Crichton, Bush managed to convince enough Democrats to support him over Yarborough, whom he derided as a “Washington insider, who’s lost touch with the values of his constituents.” Whether or not such comments were intended to court the votes of pro-segregation white working class males, Bush won over that demographic and with it, the race.





    In all, the message sent by the American people in the 1964 election rang out and was heard by the rest of the world, loud and clear: hope, personified by the young and charming President Kennedy, was here to stay.


     

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    Chapter 12

  • Chapter 12: Glad All Over - A Foreign Snapshot of 1963 - 1964




    1963 was just not the Tories’ year. Still shaking off the chills of the worst winter in some fifteen years, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and his government suffered an increasingly troublesome string of setbacks. In January, the UK was denied entry into the burgeoning European Economic Community via a veto vote by President Charles de Gaulle, of France. De Gaulle, seeing British membership in the Community as a potential “trojan horse” for US influence into the organization, was firm in his opposition to the proposed enlargement. As a result, Britain, Ireland, Norway, and Denmark all had their applications suspended. Macmillan privately hoped de Gaulle would relent, as membership had been one of the Tory government’s principal foreign policy goals, but it quickly became apparent that the Frenchman wouldn’t budge.




    The issues did not relent either. On June 5th, Secretary of State for War John Profumo admitted to misleading Parliament and resigned over his affair with nineteen year old model Christine Keeler. The affair caught headlines the world over and proved a massive embarrassment to the Macmillan government. In addition to the distasteful conduct on the part of Profumo, his relationship with Keeler also created a potential security risk as she was engaged in another relationship at the time, with one Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attache. Whispers of possible sharing of state secrets emboldened Labour members of the House of Commons to drag the scandal, and the public’s exposure to it, out for as long as possible. The BBC reported, along with most major British publications, that the Conservatives stood “a snowball’s chance in hell” of winning the next general election, scheduled for October, 1964.


    It was more than sex scandals that shook the Britons’ confidence in the Tories, however. Prime Minister Macmillan’s government had done much to repair the UK’s image and standing in the world following the serious blunder of the Suez Crisis in 1956. Domestically, Macmillan governed from the political centre, relying on the nationalistic policies of the postwar consensus to rebuild the war torn economy. And rebuild it he did. By the early 60’s, the economy was booming. The Prime Minister could boldly claim to the people of Britain: “You’ve never had it so good!” Such dramatic positivity would not last long.


    Through the trials and tribulations of 1963, the tories appeared tired. They had held power in Parliament since Winston Churchill’s surprise victory over Clement Attlee and Labour in 1951, nearly thirteen years. Where once the party had been synonymous with a strong and free Britain, they now fell prey to satire, and open mockery. By contrast, the Labour party never looked better or more united. Following a morale crushing defeat in 1959, Labour came out on the other side with a sleek, charismatic new leader in Harold Wilson. Replacing Hugh Gaitskell after his recent passing, Wilson brought new technocratic ideals and a “soft left” approach to Labour and planned on sweeping his party into power next year.




    With hardships piling up at his doorstep, and the opinion polls suggesting an utter landslide to remove his party in ‘64, the ageing Prime Minister surprised no one when he announced his intention to resign on October 10th. What did surprise the public however, was the naming of his successor. Several candidates were considered, among them: Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas - Home; Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Austen Butler; and Lord President of the Council, Lord Hailsham. Each had their merits, but in the end, Macmillan pulled some strings and managed to get Home selected, due to his perceived inoffensive nature. “Unite the party.” The retiring Prime Minister told his successor. “Do what you must and win that election.” A controversial pick due to the unlikelihood of his ascent, Douglas-Home renounced his peerage and took over the reigns as Prime Minister. It seemed to Home that Macmillan had left him with a virtually insurmountable task. But it was not in the Tory spirit to surrender, and so Home would fight.




    1964 wound up being a quiet year for the United Kingdom. Her Majesty gave birth to a fourth child, a son whom she and Prince Philip named Edward. The UK won a single gold medal at the winter Olympics in Austria, and 4 gold, 12 silver and 2 bronze medals at the Summer games in Tokyo. Beloved actor/comedian Peter Sellers got married. Beatlemania continued to sweep through every corner of Britain, just as it landed on the shores of America. To some in the Conservative Party, including the new Prime Minister, there was reason to hope that the General Election would not go as poorly as initially expected. These hopes would prove unfounded.


    October 15th, 1964 marked the end of the Conservatives' thirteen year reign, and the beginning of the new Labour government, under Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Picking up a narrow, but respectable majority of fifteen seats, Wilson set to work steering Britain into a more liberal future. This began in earnest in December, with the House of Commons banning capital punishment in the UK and resolving a dispute between companies and power utility unions to avoid a general strike. Wilson’s government then set its eyes on liberalizing laws regarding homosexuality, access to abortions, and forever banning theatre censorship. Wilson vowed to spend the next year fighting for stronger and better funded public education, but resistance to this final idea remained stiff. “While America deliberates on its future,” Wilson said in a speech before the Commons. “Britain charges ahead.”


    …​





    April 1963 brought General Elections to Canada, as Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and his Progressive Conservative Party sought to fend off Lester B. Pearson and his Liberals. A deep split had formed earlier in the year within the Conservatives over both Diefenbaker’s mercurial leadership as well as the issue of whether or not to allow American Nuclear Weapons to be stationed in Canada to protect against a potential Soviet attack. Diefenbaker and his allies opposed the missiles, while some within his party, as well as the opposition Liberal party supported bringing them in. Following two votes of no confidence in the House of Commons, elections were held.


    Lester B. Pearson, the leader of the Liberal party, was already something of a political icon in his native land. The only Canadian to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize (in 1957, for his hand in resolving the Suez Crisis), Pearson nearly became the first Secretary General of the United Nations in 1945, and was seen as instrumental in the foundation of both that organization and NATO. Pearson ran on a platform which promised “60 days of decision” at the beginning of his term, if elected, on health care reform, a public pension, affordable student loans, the introduction of a new Canadian flag to replace the familiar “Red Ensign”, and other legislative reforms. With a popular platform behind them, and a divided party opposing them, the Liberals picked up 44.3% of the vote across the nation, and added 35 seats to their ranks in the House of Commons. This allowed them to form a majority government, loosely allying themselves with the seventeen members of the social democratic NDP to pass legislation. Liberals credited the popularity of President Kennedy in the United States and Harold Wilson’s rise to prominence in the UK with helping to influence more liberal sentiment in Canada’s races.




    The new Prime Minister wasted little time in getting to work on his agenda. He soon became the first sitting Prime Minister to make a state visit to France and expressed his commitment to strong ties with all fellow NATO nations, not just the United States and UK. In March of ‘64, Canadian forces began what would become a decades-long peacekeeping mission in Cyprus, earning Pearson the respect and friendship of President Kennedy. The Government then moved to fulfill campaign promises. In April of that year, the first Social Insurance cards were issued to Canadians. These developments were followed by the “Great Canadian Flag Debate”, in which various new designs for the Canadian flag were proposed and argued over in Parliament.


    The Progressive Conservatives, still lead by Diefenbaker tried, and failed, to filibuster attempts to introduce a new flag, preferring the traditional ensign be kept. It was the Conservatives’ opinion that the old flag represented the nation’s ties to the UK and other Commonwealth Realms, such as Australia and New Zealand, and should not be replaced so quickly. Liberals, including many Quebecois felt that the ensign did not represent all of Canada’s cultural complexity and richness, focusing only on its English heritage, while ignoring that of those with French ancestry, or Scotch or Irish or anything else. Eventually, despite strong misgivings by many MP’s, Pearson’s preferred design won the day and was voted in as the new national flag on December 16th, 1964.



    With a new banner to rally behind, one which reflected the nation’s motto: “From Sea to Sea”, Pearson vowed to move forward with his progressive agenda, focusing primarily on his boldest ambition of all: universal health care for all Canadians. Throughout the Great White North a new day was dawning. Reform and change had come to Ottawa.






    The Soviet Union, like the United Kingdom and Canada underwent a change in management during the warm, pleasant summer months of 1964. Since the national embarrassment that the Cuban Missile Crisis had been, nominal head of state and presidium chairman Leonid Brezhnev had been discussing the possibility of removing Khrushchev with his colleagues. To Brezhnev and his ilk, Khrushchev was growing too old and erratic to be a viable leader for the country moving forward. Growing economic problems within the nation inflamed the situation and added further pressure to the First Secretary’s leadership. Brezhnev, certain that the time had come for a change, began to position himself to be Khrushchev’s successor when he believed the time to be right.


    In the spring of 1963, Frol Kozlov, Khrushchev's protege, Secretary of the Central Committee, and likely successor, suffered a stroke and was publicly outed as a severe alcoholic. Wasting no time and sensing that his chance to seize power may be nearing, Brezhnev approached Khrushchev to petition for himself to succeed Kozlov in the position. To Brezhnev’s joy, Khrushchev agreed. From his new seat of power and authority within the government, Brezhnev prepared to execute his plan to remove the First Secretary from Power. There was only one more step to laying the groundwork: Brezhnev wanted to be named Second Secretary of the Communist Party, the deputy leader of the Soviet Government. It was in this pursuit however, that Brezhnev was disappointed.


    Having spent much of the summer in Moscow, awarding Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova the Order of Lenin and naming her a Hero of the Soviet Union for being the first woman in space, as well as preparing for the state visit of American President Kennedy in the autumn, Khrushchev quickly became privy to Brezhnev’s plans, and took several steps toward thwarting them.




    The first of these was to consolidate his base of allies within the party. In particular, Khrushchev reached out to Vladimir Semichastny, head of the KGB, and Alexei Kosygin, his current Deputy Premier. Semichastny and Khrushchev had always had an “at arms’ length” relationship, with the First Secretary believing that the KGB should stay out of political affairs and focus on its mission: intelligence gathering. Realizing that if he did not have Semichastny on his side in a potential power struggle, he would likely be removed from office, Khrushchev managed to put his personal beliefs on the issue aside for a time. He brought the Intelligence head into his inner circle, and briefly allowed him to have a say in discussions of foreign affairs. As for Kosygin, Khrushchev welcomed the man with open arms. A staunch Khrushchev ally when the First Secretary first came into power in 1953, Kosygin had since been allowed to drift from his boss. A moderate reformer and supporter of detente with the west, Kosygin fit nicely into Khrushchev's developing plans with the Americans for increased disarmament.



    Unlike Semichastny however, Kosygin’s support did not come freely. He had a list of requests in exchange for his loyalty. These included the following: that if Khrushchev remain as First Secretary, he step down from his position as Premier, allowing two different individuals to serve as the country’s head of state and head of government. Further, Kosygin wanted Khrushchev’s support in his own pursuit of the Premiership, as well as the position of Second Secretary of the Party for himself. A tall order, to be sure, but Kosygin deemed it a fair one. If Khrushchev accepted these terms, Brezhnev would lose two of the biggest supporters of his plot. The aging First Secretary, not quite the fighter he once was, decided this was as good of a deal as he could expect, and agreed to name Kosygin his “undisputed successor” to lead the Soviet Union.


    Later that year in September, only two weeks before the planned visit of President Kennedy, Brezhnev, unaware of the shifting political situation, gave Semichastny the signal that it was time to trigger the plot and remove Khrushchev. As the First Secretary was returning from a holiday near the Black Sea, Semichastny, Kosygin, and other Khrushchev loyalists met their leader at the airport. They staged a hostage situation using KGB agents to give the appearance that the coup had been successful and “escorted” Khrushchev to the Kremlin where he was to meet with Brezhnev, to discuss his new living situation after being removed from power. Of course, history did not play out that way.




    Upon reaching the Kremlin, KGB agents escorted Khrushchev to his office, where the Secretary of the Central Committee waited for him impatiently. After the First Secretary’s arrival, Brezhnev explained to his “captive” that the rest of his life would consist of quiet retirement, far away from political affairs, insured by a modest state pension. The First Secretary nodded, seeming to take it all in. With a look of expectation on his face, Brezhnev ordered the agents to take Khrushchev away. They did not move.


    Confused, he gave the order a second time, still no change. This time, Khrushchev could not stop himself from smiling. “No, Comrade Brezhnev. You do not give orders in this room. Only I do. Take him away, boys.”


    Brezhnev’s face flashed with terror as he realized what was going on. Sensing that running would do him no good, he dropped to his knees and pleaded for his life. “Comrade Khrushchev, please forgive me. I only did what I thought was best for the Revolution.”


    The First Secretary chuckled. “Of course. Because what is best for you, Comrade, is what is best for the Revolution.” Khrushchev stood and the KGB agents tied Brezhnev’s hands behind his back. “Unfortunately for you, I am not so kind as to provide you with a retirement and state pension. You hardliners want to ruin the good progress we have made. That simply cannot be allowed.”


    Brezhnev let out a final scream before being led from the room by the agents. Later that day, Moscow police found his body in the back room of a popular gentlemen’s club. A broken glass near his hand and the toxicology report revealed his fate: poisoned by arsenic in his vodka. It appeared that one of his enemies, perhaps some criminal, had gotten to him. A true shame. He seemed to have such a career ahead of him.



    Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev

    December 19th, 1906 - September 26th, 1964


    …​




    The news of a slow, steady withdrawal of U.S. military advisors and troops from South Vietnam hit the military community and the South Vietnamese junta like a bolt of lightning. After a decade of build up and support from the Americans, Chairman Nguyen Khanh of the Military Revolutionary Council could hardly believe his ears as Ambassador Lodge walked him through the changes. By the end of July, 1967, the Americans would have completely left the country, with the exception of Navy and Air Force units in the vicinity, to patrol the coasts and perform retaliatory strikes when necessary. Khanh’s government and its still fledgling military would stand alone against the increasingly aggressive and invasive Northern Communists and their despised militia, the Viet-Cong. Khanh was on the verge of expressing his outrage and feelings of betrayal when Lodge was able to soothe him with news of what was to come in place of the departing advisors.




    As President Kennedy had promised Lodge, American aid in the form of money, resources, and weapons would continue to flow into South Vietnam. While Khanh and his fellow commanders organized the South’s military to oppose any aggression by the North, American foreign aid and Peace Corps volunteers would enter the country, building schools, hospitals, and infrastructure throughout the cities and countryside alike. “Down this path,” Lodge explained. “Your people can rally behind your government, Mr. Chairman. For the first time, the people of South Vietnam will flock to your banners and do everything they can to root out subversives and guerrillas.”


    Khanh was unsure. While he admitted that stabilizing the political situation in the country was the first step toward ensuring that the populace would, at the very least, not actively aid his enemies; he also doubted the Americans’ intentions. Why would they, after fourteen years of active military activity in the South, suddenly shift their attention toward civil infrastructure and needs of the people? There had to be some sort of catch. Lodge revealed that there was, and shared the price for American help in stabilizing the country: the creation and implementation of a new, democratic constitution by the end of 1965.


    “We are opposed to the spread of Communism of course,” The American ambassador said matter of factly. “But we also believe in the principles of democracy. If you want your people to accept your rule, you will need to let them feel that they have a part in deciding it. So write a constitution, hold elections, and accept all religions and backgrounds into public life. Do this, and most of the challenges to your leadership will be silenced.” Lodge puffed from a cigar.“To sweeten the deal,” Lodge continued, handing a manilla dossier to the Vietnamese leader. “The President is willing to continue CIA operations in the country and in the North throughout his tenure. We will do our part to make sure that if the Communists try anything, you’ll know about it well in advance.” Silence filled the room as the ambassador finished his offer, and the translator completed his work. Seconds passed, growing and dragging in the sweltering humidity of Saigon. Sweat trickled down Lodge’s forehead. “What do you think, Mr. Chairman? Do you accept?” The heat wasn’t all that was getting to the American. Nerves were beginning to set in. His nation’s entire foreign policy of containment lay on Lodge’s mind as he awaited Khanh’s answer. He couldn’t let his country down.


    Khanh considered the offer for another moment. He was still a young man, as far as leaders go. Only 37 years old, more a general than a politician, he had never run for office in his life. He would have to learn how to win votes and make speeches soon if this new order came to pass. The thought made him somewhat uncomfortable. Still, he saw the value in what was laid before him. It was probably as good of a deal as he could expect from this ambassador, this President back in Washington. “Very well, Mr. Ambassador.” The general said at last. “I accept your proposal.”


    The two men shook hands, and so defined the policy of American involvement in South Vietnam for the next several years. CIA Director John McCone and President Kennedy agreed on the decision to withdrawal from the country, with McCone arguing that expansion of the War in Vietnam would arouse national and world discontent over the war, before it defeated the North Vietnamese regime. Instead, the Agency would focus its efforts on covert operations to sabotage the North’s capacity to prosecute an invasion of the South, primarily through targeting supply shipments along the so called “Ho Chi Minh Trail” through Cambodia and Laos. Additionally, the Agency would encourage anti-Communist sentiment in villages throughout the North, and seek opportunities to remove prominent Northern leaders such as Vo Nguyen Giap wherever possible.



    “We will not fight the people of Vietnam’s battles for them, but we will provide them with every comfort, every support, and every aid possible in the defense of our shared values. We did not abandon Europe in their hour of need, and we will not abandon Southeast Asia.” President Kennedy’s mind was set. He would not allow American to be involved in any Vietnam War, but he would not let the South lose one either.
     
    Chapter 13

  • Chapter 13: Fun, Fun, Fun - 1963 - 1964 for Marilyn and the King




    After nearly a year spent out of commission recovering from her addiction to barbiturates, Marilyn Monroe, "the Queen of Hollywood" as she would come to be known, gave her career a much needed shot in the arm with a masterful performance in the biopic film Harlow. Still shaky on her ability to perform at all in the wake of her illness, she leaned heavily on her beloved husband, Joe, to help her steady herself and, pushed onward by his encouragement turned things around. Harlow was a box office smash and a critical darling, netting Monroe her first Golden Globe award and ensuring that she would remain a major box office draw for years to come, now as a serious actress, not just a sex symbol.

    After leaving rehab, but before beginning production of Harlow, Monroe made headlines promoting a new book she found “endlessly fascinating.” Released by Betty Friedan in February of 1963, The Feminine Mystique was a seminal work in what would become known as Second Wave Feminism. Monroe called Friedan and asked her if she would visit California sometime so that they could discuss the book together, despite Friedan’s initial reservations, she agreed and the two met for dinner. The actress would credit reading the book and her meeting with Friedan as two of the driving forces toward her feminist activism throughout the rest of her life. To Monroe, whose career had begun with a nude spread in Playboy and several roles as the “dumb blonde” in comedies, the arguments made by Friedan struck an especially resonant chord.




    “Women should not have to objectify themselves in order to make a living.” Monroe said in an interview given after advising President Kennedy and Congress about reasons to pass the Equal Pay Act. “I’ve been blessed with good looks, I will not deny it. But I’m also an actress. I want to tell stories and make people feel, empathize with my characters. There’s more to my performances than being some kind of sex kitten. The same goes for women all across this country. Secretaries, nurses, and everything else that women do. There’s no reason to doubt that a woman could be a doctor, or a lawyer, even President if she wanted to!” And work Marilyn would not struggle to find. Harlow, surrounded by free publicity from her activism, would go on to confirm Monroe’s new status as one of Hollywood’s serious leading ladies.


    On a personal note, Monroe’s second marriage to DiMaggio had also been instrumental in her recovery and comeback. At times tumultuous given their different backgrounds and outlooks on life, the conservative, catholic former Yankee Clipper’s relationship with Monroe was nonetheless deep, fulfilling, and full of passion. Whenever the actress was in need of encouragement or a reserve of strength to call on, Joe was there. Likewise, when Joe had an inkling to get involved in baseball once again as a coach, it was Marilyn who gave her approval. “Just try and pick a team in California, darling.” Monroe said with a smirk. “You know I can’t bear to be without you for long.”




    …​


    April 17th, 1964 was a day of mixed emotions for Elvis Aaron Presley, the King of Rock N Roll. In Graceland, the home he had purchased for himself and his parents in 1957 for $102,500; the King rolled out of bed and ambled over to his wardrobe to find a black suit, and matching tie. Normally averse to dark, depressing appearances, Presley had to make an exception today. He was to attend a funeral.



    Colonel Tom Parker, Presley’s cantankerous, often dictatorial manager, had been driving along I-40 five nights prior, coming back from one of his high stakes poker matches when another vehicle, a massive Ford truck, crossed quickly into Parker’s lane without signalling first. Parker was caught off guard and had no time to react as the Ford smashed into his sedan, driving it off the road and into a telephone poll beside the highway. First responders to the accident declared Parker dead at the scene. 54 at the time of his death, Parker had been the man behind Presley’s career path from the beginning, but especially as of late. He saw for Presley, a future in Hollywood as a veritable money printing machine. “Three films a year, three soundtracks, millions of dollars.” He’d told the singer. “What’s not to love?”


    For Elvis in truth, the answer had been “a lot.” After returning to the United States from a stint in the army in 1960, Presley had only been allowed to hold three concerts before being whisked away to Hollywood to start making movies. Though he enjoyed being an actor quite a bit, Elvis never had a chance to star in anything dramatic. Each time he’d reach for a script with some real weight to it, Parker would dash it aside in favor of another cheap, cheesy musical comedy. By ‘64, they’d become formulaic to Elvis. He missed interacting with his fans. As stressful and demanding as touring could be, the roar of the crowd and the energy of live music inspired him far more than the same old song and dance that the Hollywood movies were becoming. He was due for a change, he felt.


    The conflicting emotions came in how Elvis felt about the Colonel’s death. He was ready to be done with the stupid movies, he knew, and Parker’s death would mean more freedom to pursue his own interests. But without the Colonel’s help, he would never have been the massive star he grew to be. And filmmaking hadn’t been all bad for Elvis. Two songs from movie soundtracks: “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Return to Sender” gave him number one hits, and several of the albums hit number one as well. They kept him in the spotlight while new artists, like the Beach Boys and the Beatles took his place as the hot new commodity in Rock N Roll music. Further, it had been while filming one of these movies, the soon to be released Viva Las Vegas, that Elvis met the woman he considered the second love of his life: Swedish-American actress Ann-Margret.



    Called “the Female Elvis” by many in the entertainment industry for her sex appeal, beauty, charisma, and singing and dancing abilities, Margret and Presley had undeniable chemistry together during the filming of Viva Las Vegas. What many in the production team were unaware of was that the chemistry had been real, and the two began a torrid love affair when the cameras weren’t rolling. Presley, who had been quietly dating Priscilla Beaulieu, a young woman he met in Germany when she was only fourteen, was immediately smitten with Ann, whom he felt was the only performer he’d ever worked with who was his equal in every measure. On April 17th, as the King fixed his collar and combed his hair back, Ann climbed out of bed to help him with his tie.


    “I’m really sorry about the Colonel, Elvis.” She said, her voice soft and sweet, like morning dew on the green grass of home. “Is there anything I can do for you?”


    Elvis turned and looked at her, beautiful and wrapped only in the bedsheets they’d tangled in the night before. He managed a smile. “That’s alright, Ann. You being here is already helping a lot.” His hands fell to his sides, and she nearly giggled as she finished the windsor knot and tightened it just slightly. Being Elvis’ lover was a wonderful experience, Ann had decided. He wasn’t like many of the men of Hollywood she’d been with since hitting it big the year before with Bye, Bye, Birdie. There was a tenderness to him, an earnest boyishness that suggested a sort of irresistible, hopeless romanticism. When he sang “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You”, it wasn’t just a record to make money and further his career, he meant every word from the very depths of his soul. After a few months with him, Ann had come to a potentially dangerous conclusion: Elvis Presley was not just a fling, he was her soulmate.


    “I could come with you, if you would like.” She said, her arms twisting around his neck and pulling him closer to her. “I didn’t know him as well as you did, but I hate to see you so blue.”


    The King nodded and let out a relieved sigh. “Thank you. It’d mean a lot.”


    The funeral was a short affair. Parker may have been a genius of marketing and promotion, but he’d made few friends along the way. Elvis had to ask some members of his entourage, the so called “Memphis Mafia”, to fly in and serve as pallbearers for the casket. No eulogies were given, and a simple stone was erected with the Colonel’s name on it. It was almost fitting how businesslike the whole thing was. Presley joked to Ann as they left that if Parker had been allowed to arrange it, he would’ve charged for admission.



    “Colonel” Thomas Andrew Parker

    June 26th, 1909 - April 12th, 1964


    Even with Parker gone, his mind for image would prove posthumously vindicated once again. Viva Las Vegas, with its catchy title track, and the combined firepower of Elvis and Ann’s charisma, was each of their biggest hits to date. The couple celebrated with the cast and crew at a Hollywood party and after several months of deliberation; Presley made a decision that would change his life forever. Following a painful, tear filled call with young Priscilla, who was still holding out hope that Elvis would someday come back for her, ending their relationship; Elvis clinked a fork against his glass of champagne to gather the attention of everyone at the party.


    The King cleared his throat and showed off his gleaming pearls as he began to speak. “Tonight is uh, a very special occasion, of course.” His eyes scanned the room and for a brief moment he felt almost sheepish. The shy, nervous boy from Tupelo had grown up to be the most recognizable face in the world, and yet his stomach was full of butterflies as he carried on. “I’ve already toasted George [Sidney, the film’s director], and everyone on the staff for this great success. But there’s something else I want to say.” He turned his gaze to Ann, who’d arrived at the party in a gorgeous gown of midnight blue and spent the whole night glued to Presley’s arm. “Ann, you were the best co-star a guy could ever ask for. Tell you the truth, I think people give me too much credit. You’re the one that made this whole movie work. Everyone give it up for Ann.”


    The actress gleamed as the guests applauded heartily. “And, on a personal note,” Elvis, for all his fame, blushed as he stumbled over the words. “She’s helped me through a lot these past couple months. For the one person living under his rock who didn’t know, Ann and I are going steady, and I couldn’t be happier about that.” More claps, a few whistles of approval. “Tonight though, I have a request of my wonderful co-star.” The crowd watched with bated breath as the King fell to one knee and produced a black velvet box from his pocket. “Ann Margret, would you make me the happiest fella who ever lived, and marry me?”


    Every eye in the room shot over to Ann at the speed of light. Leaping up from her seat, she ran to Elvis and planted a kiss on his lips. “Yes! Yes, you rascal! A thousand times yes.”




    The pair were married on August 16th, 1964 in a private ceremony at Graceland. To celebrate their newfound bliss, Presley postponed any decisions about his career for the time being, and set out on a honeymoon with Ann which saw them criss cross the Atlantic as they visited her family in Sweden, toured the Colosseum in Rome, and caught some sun in Palm Beach, Florida. While stopping in London on their way back from Stockholm, Margret and Presley were seated at a cafe on the corner of two streets, enjoying some tea and biscuits, when they were approached by a handsome, clean shaven man in a suit and tie. Assuming he was some newspaperman, Presley was about to politely dismiss him when the man smiled uncontrollably. “Excuse me, Mr. and Mrs. Presley? I hope you don’t mind the interruption, but I have a few lads that are huge fans and meeting you would absolutely mean the world to them.”


    Elvis returned the grin. This was what he missed most during his imprisonment in Hollywood. “Alright sir, we’re not in any hurry. Tell the boys to come on down.” He offered his hand out to the well dressed man. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr.?”


    “Epstein.” The man replied. “Brian Epstein.”




    Ten minutes later, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr made their way down to the Cafe and were photographed shaking hands and swapping stories with the King and Queen of Rock N Roll. The first meeting of the Beatles and Elvis was not a long one, but it did plant the seeds for a burgeoning friendship between the band and their idol, especially between Elvis and Paul, who seemed to click with each other almost instantly. Though they were busy with tours and concerts for the rest of the year, the band agreed to visit Presley at Graceland at their earliest possible convenience, and even hinted at the possibility of touring together. This final prospect delighted Elvis mightily. As overjoyed as he was toward his new life with Ann, the road was his calling, and it was time for the King to take another triumph through his domain.


     
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    Pop Culture 1964

  • Special Update! Pop Culture in 1964


    Another year come and gone and it’s that time again! Let’s have a look at what was big in pop culture this year.


    Billboard Year-End Hot 100 Singles of 1964 (Top 10)

    1. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” - The Beatles

    2. “She Loves You” - The Beatles

    3. “Hello Dolly!” - Louis Armstrong

    4. “Oh, Pretty Woman” - Roy Orbison

    5. “I Get Around” - The Beach Boys

    6. “Everybody Loves Somebody” - Dean Martin

    7. “My Guy” - Mary Wells

    8. “Where Did Our Love Go?” - The Supremes

    9. “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” - Manfred Mann

    10. “People” - Barbra Streisand



    News in Music, through the year


    January 16th - Bob Dylan’s third album, The Times They Are a Changin’ is released in the United States.


    February 1st - Indiana Governor Matthew E. Walsh declares The Kingsmen song “Louie, Louie” to be pornographic and asks that the record be banned.


    March 6th - Elvis Presley’s 14th motion picture, Kissin’ Cousins is released in the United States.


    March 14th - Billboard Magazine reported that 60% of all singles sold in the past month in the United States were Beatles records.


    April 16th - The Rolling Stones release their eponymous first album.


    April - Drummer Keith Moon joins The Who.


    May 20th - Judy Garland completes a successful concert tour of Australia and heads back to America to appear at the premiere of Mary Poppins in August, in which she stars as Winifred Banks, mother to Jane and Michael, alongside Julie Andrews (the titular nanny) and Dick Van Dyke as Bert.


    June 5th - The Rolling Stones start their first U.S. tour.




    June 11th - Pete Townshend of The Who destroys his Rickenbacker guitar onstage after a show at the Railway. A Rock tradition is born.


    July 6th - The Beatles’ first film, A Hard Day’s Night is released and becomes a smash hit in the United States and United Kingdom.


    August 8th - Bob Dylan released his fourth studio album: Another Side of Bob Dylan.


    August 22nd - The Supremes reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the first of five massive number one hits, “Where Did Our Love Go?”




    August 26th - The Kinks release their iconic single, “You Really Got Me”.


    September 22nd - Fiddler On the Roof opens on Broadway to rave reviews.


    October - Dr. Robert Moog unveils his prototype synthesizers, which will come to revolutionize popular music.


    October 25th - The Rolling Stones perform on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time, as part of their second U.S. tour. They are touted as a “bad boy Rock N Roll band” as opposed to the squeaky clean Beatles. Fans of the two bands begin to antagonize each other in High Schools across the nation.


    December 11th - Soul singer Sam Cooke is killed under mysterious circumstances in Los Angeles, California. Shortly thereafter, his arguably greatest song “A Change is Gonna Come” is released.




    December 24th - The Beatles top the UK charts at Christmas for the second year in a row with “I Feel Fine”. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel record their first handful of songs for Columbia Records.


    1964 in Film - The Year’s Biggest


    My Fair Lady - Musical. Directed by George Cukor, starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. The highest grossing film of the year, My Fair Lady raked in over $75,000,000 for Warner Brothers. A popular and enduring musical, several of the songs have since become American standards.


    Goldfinger - Action/Espionage Thriller/007 Franchise. Directed by Guy Hamilton and starring Sean Connery as James Bond. The third film in the series, Goldfinger is the first Bond film to be a major blockbuster, with its budget being roughly equal to the previous two entries combined. Marilyn Monroe was reportedly offered the role of Bond Girl Pussy Galore, but declined. Rumor has it that Monroe described the part as “demeaning, embarrassing, chauvinistic trash” and refused it due to her feminist activism. Nonetheless, the film went on to be a hit.


    Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - Political Satire/Black Comedy. Directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Peter Sellers in multiple comedic roles, Dr. Strangelove offers a send up of Cold War fears of nuclear annihilation such as those suffered during the Cuban Missile Crisis only two years before. A masterpiece, Strangelove would go on to be one of the first films preserved by the Library of Congress in 1989.


    Mary Poppins - Musical/Fantasy. Directed by Robert Stevenson, starring Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, and Judy Garland.


    Everyone’s Favorite Television Programs in 1964


    The Addams Family

    Gilligan’s Island

    Bewitched

    The Dick Van Dyke Show

    Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.




    News in Television and Film


    A new Sci Fi series boldly goes where no man has gone before...


    March 11, 1964 - Gene Roddenberry drafts a short treatment for a science-fiction television series that he calls Star Trek, inspired by his experience writing episodes for Western shows and films like Forbidden Planet.


    April, 1964 - Roddenberry presents the Star Trek draft to Desilu Productions. He meets with Herbert F. Solow, Desilu Director of Production. Solow sees promise in the idea and signs a three year long development contract with Roddenberry. Lucille Ball, head of Desilu, is not personally involved, but is critical in getting the pilot produced. Desilu had a “first look” deal with CBS, but that network refuses to purchase the show, as they are already producing Lost in Space.


    May 1964 - Solow, who previously worked at NBC, met with Grant Tinker, then head of the network's West Coast programming department. Tinker commissioned the first pilot – which became "The Cage". NBC turned down the resulting pilot, stating that it was "too cerebral". However, the NBC executives were still impressed with the concept, and they understood that its perceived faults had been partly because of the script that they had selected themselves.


    NBC made the unusual decision to pay for a second pilot, using the script called "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Male lead Jeffrey Hunter, playing the part of Captain Christopher Pike in the pilot, is offered a rewritten part in the new series; a Captain James T. Kirk, but declines, citing his interest in pursuing film roles. Only the character of Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, was retained from the first pilot, and only two cast members, Majel Barrett and Nimoy, were carried forward into the series. This second pilot proved to be satisfactory to NBC, and the network selected Star Trek to be in its upcoming television schedule for the fall of 1966. More on this in the 1966 update.





    Throughout - Color broadcasting becomes the norm for most of NBC’s programs in the United States, including the early pilots of Star Trek.


    September 13th - A Fistful of Dollars, an Italian “spaghetti western” film earns positive reviews and modest financial success in its home market. It is the first film to feature a brand new leading man by the name of Clint Eastwood.




    October 18th - Jackie Mason appears on The Ed Sullivan Show and is subsequently banned from future appearances when he is shown to be give Ed “the finger” on air. A week later, The Rolling Stones also appear on Sullivan’s program. Likewise due to their “offensive music and rude behavior”, they will never be invited back either.


    November 11th - Marilyn Monroe stars in the titular role of Harlow, a biographical film about the 30’s movie starlet alongside Peter Lawford, Leslie Nielsen, and others. Though production of the film had been delayed by six months to allow for Monroe’s recovery from her addictions and finish filming The Birds, the producers declared that the end product was well worth the wait. A critical and commercial success, Harlow cements Monroe’s reputation as one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, and bags her her first Academy Award, for Best Actress.





    December 6th - NBC debuts the Christmas special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It will become a Holiday tradition, moving to CBS in 1972.


    1964 in Sport:


    AFL Championship Game: Quarterback Jack Kemp leads his Buffalo Bills to their first championship over the San Diego Chargers 11 - 7.




    AFL MVP: WR Gino Cappelletti of the Boston Patriots


    NFL Championship Game: Cleveland Browns win 27 - 0 over the Baltimore Colts.




    NFL MVP: QB Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts



    The World Series: The New York Yankees win 4 games to 3 over the St. Louis Cardinals in a hotly contested Series. New York Centerfielder and future Hall of Famer, Mickey Mantle is named Series MVP. The Series marks Yogi Berra’s first Championship as the Yanks’ manager. Following the conclusion of the regular season, former Yankee and baseball great Joe DiMaggio announced that he would be taking a position as a hitting coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers, in order to be closer to Marilyn more often.






    NBA Finals: The Boston Celtics pick up their second championship in a row. They go 4 games to 1 over the San Francisco Warriors.




    Stanley Cup: The Toronto Maple Leafs win out over the Detroit Red Wings once again. This time 4 - 3.





    Time Magazine’s Person of the Year: President John F. Kennedy

    For a successful reelection campaign and seeing comprehensive Civil Rights legislation through Congress.





    Nobel Laureates - 1964
    Physics - Charles Hard Townes; Nikolay Basov; Alexander Prokhorov

    Chemistry - Dorothy Hodgkin

    Physiology or Medicine: Konrad Emil Broch, Feodor Felix Konrad Lynen

    Literature: Jean-Paul Sartre

    Peace: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



    Other Pop Culture Headlines from the Year


    January 17th, 1964 - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl is published in the United States for the first time.


    February 25th, 1964 - Boxer Cassius Clay defeats Sonny Liston for the World Heavyweight Championship.




    March 15th, 1964 - Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, co-stars of Cleopatra marry in Montreal. The media frenzy surrounding the event kicks off the celebrity relationship craze which will consume popular culture in the ensuing decades.


    March 1964 - Marvel Comics creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby bring back Golden Age hero Captain America to lead their new team of superheroes: The Avengers. President Kennedy admits to being a huge fan of the character and applauds the decision.




    April 17th, 1964 - The first Ford Mustang Sports Car is released for sale by the Ford Motor Company.



    August 14th, 1964 - Coca Cola purchases the rights to make, bottle, and distribute Mountain Dew: a strange, citrus flavored soft drink from the Tip Corporation.




    November 28th, 1964 - The Mariner 4 spacecraft is launched from Cape Canaveral. It’s mission: to study and photograph the surface of Mars. It reaches the surface of the Red Planet in July of the following year.


    Throughout 1964 - “Buffalo style” Chicken wings, deep fried and covered in hot sauce, are made for the first time at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.




    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: President Kennedy begins his second term and the War on Poverty.
     
    Chapter 14

  • Chapter 14: Count Me In - January through June, 1965




    An inch of snow softly blanketed the ground and clouds hid the sun on the morning of January 20th, 1965. It was time for John F. Kennedy to once again swear the oath of office and be inaugurated for his second term as President of the United States of America and Leader of the Free World. A noontime temperature of 38 degrees was hardly balmy, but warmer than many inaugurations of years past. As the President approached the bandstand in front of the Capitol to go and swear the oath, the First Lady smiled. Holding hands for all to see, as was now their usual custom, Kennedy turned to his wife. “What is it, Jackie?”


    “It’s not snowing like it was last year, Jack. It’s warmer too. I think it’s a good sign.” She put her other hand over her husband’s and squeezed it tightly. “There’s blue skies ahead for us, my love.”



    The President returned her smile and nodded solemnly. “Here’s hoping you’re right, dear.” The crowd of several hundred thousand roared as Chief Justice Earl Warren administered the oath to the reelected Kennedy. Though a few years older than he had been in 1960, when he became the youngest man ever to be elected President, JFK was wiser and still a decade younger than the average chief executive. In his heart, Kennedy was ready to do what he must to make his second term count. No longer would he be concerned merely with politics and popularity, he was going to fight for what he felt was right for the country. For starters, this meant prosecuting a war not against Communists in Vietnam, but against poverty.


    “We speak about the millions starving in Red China,” Kennedy said in his speech that January morning. “We point out that this is a great sin of the Communist way of life. Yet, when greeted with the reality of thousands of Americans who don’t have enough to eat, we turn our backs and say there’s nothing we can do for them. I reject this position. I refuse to believe that there is any problem, any issue, any societal ill that this great American system of ours cannot solve. We will fight this great plague of poverty. We will fight it in the streets. We will fight it in the school house. And we will fight it at the voting booth. I vow to you, my fellow Americans, that I will not rest until every American has the opportunity to share in that most elegant of ideals: the American dream.”


    The second inaugural was well received and the President prepared to once again enter office with an approval rating hovering between 61 and 65%, depending on the poll one studied. It seemed that many in the country were happy to follow their charming, energetic leader wherever he would take them. Right off the bat however, new challenges presented themselves which the White House would need to address. For starters, the President would need to shuffle around his cabinet to replace US Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson II, whom Kennedy had appointed back in 1961.



    Stevenson had passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack not a week out from Kennedy’s second inaugural. He was 64 years old. In replacing Stevenson, the President wanted to appoint a new UN Ambassador who would carry forth the administration’s foreign policy of detente and containment. One who would show the world that while the United States would not stand by and allow Communism to spread, it would not go picking fights with the Soviets, Chinese, and other nations of the world. After considering several options, the President decided to send current Secretary of State Dean Rusk. Rusk had been one of the first members of Kennedy’s cabinet to express doubts about American involvement in a conflict in Vietnam, and the President took this skepticism as proof that Rusk was just the man for the job. This of course left a new hole within the cabinet, and the President was back at square one, leading to the need to shuffle even more of the executive branch. Kennedy, never afraid of a challenge or the prospect of something fresh, quickly set about reorganizing his advisors into positions as he saw fit. With a nearly two thirds majority in the Senate, he correctly held little doubt that his choices would be approved.


    The Kennedy Administration (As of 1965)


    President - John F. Kennedy

    Vice President - J. Terry Sanford


    Secretary of State - Robert S. McNamara

    Secretary of Treasury - C. Douglas Dillon

    Secretary of Defense - Robert F. Kennedy

    Attorney General - Nicholas Katzenbach

    Postmaster General - John A. Gronouski

    Secretary of the Interior - Stewart Udall

    Secretary of Agriculture - Orville Freeman

    Secretary of Commerce - Luther H. Hodges

    Secretary of Labor - W. Willard Wirtz

    Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare - Anthony Celebrezze


    Tidying up the West Wing wasn’t the only task awaiting President Kennedy as he settled in for the next four years, however. Across the nation, passion, anger, and violence for and against the Civil Rights movement were beginning to boil over. On one end of the spectrum, students and activists in places such as Berkeley, California, were fighting discriminatory practices and demanding that their voices be heard. On the other, racially charged fury had led to murder in Mississippi.


    The protests in Berkeley had started peacefully enough. In the summer of 1964, a Demonstration was held outside of the Sheraton Palace, a hotel near the Berkeley campus. The protest called for an end to the hotel’s discriminatory hiring practices, and sought for the hotel to hire black individuals for executive positions within their organization. Though the demonstration was organized by the Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination, many of the 4,000 protesters who attended were students at UC Berkeley. The University believed that media coverage of the event, and of student involvement in it, reflected poorly on their institution, and so on September 16th, 1964, Dean of Students Katherine Towle released a letter stating that political organization was no longer permitted on campus grounds. The students, needless to say, were outraged.


    On Thursday, October 1st, Jack Weinberg, the chairman of campus CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) was sitting at a table in front of Sproul Hall and was arrested for violating the new ordinance banning political activism. Before the squad car being used to arrest Weinberg could leave campus however, students around the car sat down and prevented it from leaving the spot where it was parked. Students began to give speeches from atop the squad car, decrying campus policies, and demanding the “return of free speech to Berkeley”. The next evening, around twenty four hours after Weinberg’s initial arrest, representatives of political groups on campus signed an agreement with the administration regarding student free speech, allowing for protest and political organization at the school. Dubbed “the October 2nd agreement”, the deal was seen by many liberal Americans as a triumph of non-violent protest. Conservatives in the state and beyond saw the issue differently. Actor and possible Republican candidate for Governor of California in the upcoming ‘66 election, Ronald Reagan spoke for the beliefs of many when he called the protesters “unwashed bums”.




    The struggle between the students and the college was far from over, unfortunately. In December, talk spread around campus that the administration was proposing that Jack Weinberg be expelled for his actions during the October 2nd protest. It also got around that the campus was unwilling to drop charges against other activists involved in political activity, something the students found unacceptable. In response, 1,500 students occupied Sproul Hall on December 2nd, 1964 and brought all academic work in the building to a grinding halt. Though the protesters were once again not violent, and did not cause any damage to school property, the University called the police and had them forcibly removed. 773 students would eventually be arrested for their participation in this utterly innocuous act of civil disobedience in the name of free speech.


    The protests in Berkeley were not unique to that college, either. All across the country, students were taking up arms against what was, in their eyes, a backward, out of touch establishment. Students worried that despite their status as legal adults, their voices were not being heard in politics. The voting age was 21, and many politicians derided young people and protesters for their unpopular, “rabble rousing” behavior. The President, however, vowed to be different. Rather than mocking the protesters, he expressed solidarity with them. In his second inaugural, Kennedy referenced the protests in Berkeley as one of his “battlefields of freedom at home” which formed the central theme of the speech. He declared that the youth of the country would be the ones to inherit it, and play the biggest hand in building its future. Though he caught flack from the right wing of his party for his comments, Kennedy did not change his tone, and the youth who grew out their hair and listened to the Beatles also had another poster on their wall, that of President Kennedy.




    Despite the great strides being made by young activists for Civil Rights, there was also uproar being caused at the other end of the spectrum. In June of 1964, three young men associated with CORE named Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney, were participating in the “Freedom Summer” campaign by helping African American residents of Mississippi register to vote. Fighting over 70 years of institutionalized discrimination and voter suppression, the teens traveled from Meridian, Mississippi, to the nearby town of Longdale. There, they spoke with the congregation of a church that had been burned and continued their work of registering black Americans to vote. The three workers were arrested following a traffic stop for speeding outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi, and were held in a local jail for a number of hours. Once they were finally allowed to leave town via their car, Goodman, Schwerner, and Cheney were pursued by Law Enforcement and others before being pulled over and abducted. Driven to a nearby stream by their abductors, the teens were then removed from the vehicle which had detained them, and were shot at close range, killing them instantly. Their bodies were then taken away and buried by a nearby dam.




    Initially labeled as a “missing persons” case, the wreckage of the teens’ car was discovered, burned and dismantled, three days after their disappearance. Extensive searches of the area by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, state and local authorities, and over four hundred United States Navy sailors turned up no sign of the boys. It was only two months later, following a tip off from an anonymous source, that the teens’ bodies were discovered and dug up. Throughout the subsequent federal investigation (state authorities refused to look into the matter), the FBI discovered links between the murders and the local chapter of the White Knights of the Klu Klux Klan, as well as the Neshoba County Sheriff’s Office, and the Philadelphia, Mississippi Police Department. It later emerged that members of each of these organizations were not only tied to the murders, but were directly responsible for perpetrating them and their subsequent coverup. The nation was incensed.




    Though those responsible for this atrocious act of violence would not be prosecuted until the federal government brought 18 counts of Civil Rights abuses against them in 1967, President Kennedy was not content to take the matter lying down in the meantime. Appearing on national television on March 6th, 1965, the President gave another speech on Civil Rights, and called the murders “one of the greatest tragedies in the modern history of our nation.” In this speech, Kennedy demanded that Congress act not just on the legislation being proposed for the War on Poverty, but also to create a Voting Rights Act, which would enforce the fifteenth amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing that all American citizens were secure in their right to vote.


    The President worked with newly minted Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, as well as Senators Mike Mansfield (D - MT), and Everett Dirksen (R - IL) to create a strongly worded bill. Kennedy insisted on bipartisan involvement in the bill’s creation, as Johnson’s warning about the South, and Wallace’s candidacy the previous year lingered heavily on the President’s mind. Even with a two thirds Democratic majority in the Senate, he could not count on Southern Democrats to see this bill through. Thus, he would rely on the support of Republicans, whom he hoped Dirksen could help court. In addition, Vice President Sanford was asked to caucus around his fellow southerners, and see if none of them could be brought to “see the light” and support the measure.




    With some arm twisting on the part of Sanford and the President himself, Senator George Smathers of Florida came around to agreeing to vote for the bill, though only if this information be kept secret until the day of the vote. “I won’t be having my name touted around as some champion of this stuff.” Smathers told the President in a whisper over the phone. “This is a favor to you, Jack. Nothing more.” Senator Barry Goldwater (R - AZ) and Senator George Bush (R - TX) joined Dirksen in leading the Republican charge in favor of the bill. Though Goldwater had vocally opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which he felt had been unconstitutional, the Arizonan had no such issue with the Voting bill, and so happily helped Kennedy see it through. The bill passed the Senate on May 26th, the House on July 9th, and was signed into law by the President on August 6th. Speaking at the bill signing alongside Vice President Sanford and the parents of the boys killed in Mississippi, Kennedy relayed his hope that this legislation would mean that the young men had not died in vain. “The righteous outrage sparked by their murder at the hands of bigots has delivered to this country not just a wake up call, but legislation to prevent discrimination of the kind those heroic boys sought to defeat. I can only hope that this act provides some sense of meaning to their deaths, as justice is sometimes a slow, painful pursuit.”


    In general, the first half of 1965 proved an excellent start to President Kennedy’s working relationship with Congress in his second term. In addition to the Voting Rights Act, the President and Vice President Sanford worked tirelessly with Senate Majority Leader Hubert Humphrey (D - MN) and Speaker of the House John McCormack (D - MA) to craft and pass legislation supporting Kennedy’s war on poverty. The first of these initiatives resulted in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provided massive amounts of funding to Primary and Secondary schools throughout the country. Additionally, the education bill set aside funding for new school construction, formed a national corps of teachers, defined each student’s right to an equal opportunity for an exceptional education, and created rigorous performance standards for students and teachers alike. Announced by the President in February at a press gathering at his alma mater, Harvard University on February 3rd, and then signed into law on April 11th, the bill was only the first of many to come.



    Other parts of the War on Poverty and the New Frontier were already being introduced in Congress and were undergoing debate in committees. The President let McCormack and Humphrey handle the details there. Unlike the pushes for Civil Rights, the economic initiatives were largely popular throughout the Democratic party, and thus were more of a partisan battle than a great moral crusade. Kennedy wanted to stay above the fray for a bit, and allow Humphrey, the more talented parliamentarian, to work his magic. A great respect was growing between the two men, though neither was humble enough to admit it. Pride was a dangerous thing, and the two titans of the Democratic Party were both full of it. Nonetheless, Vice President Sanford noticed this affection and wrote in his diary, “I predict that every night they each go to bed thankful for the work of the other. May we live to see a day where they can express that openly.”


    Other major events of the period included: the assassination of Malcolm X, a major leader of the black power movement on February 21st, by members of the Nation of Islam. The marches from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery in response to the police murder of activist Jimmie Lee Jackson and several other Civil Rights issues in the state, garnered national attention via their widely televised nature, and helped secure the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who led the march, also wrote to Malcolm X’s widow, expressing his sympathies for her loss, and saying that “While we did not always see eye to eye on methods to solve the race problem, I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had a great ability to put his finger on the existence and root of the problem.”






    Bombing of North Vietnamese targets by the Air Force continued under the watchful eye of Secretary of Defense Robert Kennedy. At the same time, transport ships containing American soldiers stationed in South Vietnam began to return to American shores, their passengers awaiting redeployment elsewhere in the world. The process was slow going, in keeping with the administration’s promise to Chairman Khanh. The Americans would not leave completely until 1967, so they could ensure the south’s ability to hold against northern aggression. On April 28th, President Kennedy authorized sending U.S. Marines to the Dominican Republic to protect American citizens there in the wake of a military coup and the ensuing Dominican Civil War. Though the President was no “master of war” as Bob Dylan would sing about, he was not about to give off the image that he, or his country, was weak. His approval numbers continued to slowly rise to around 65 - 67% by Independence Day.



    Finally, on June 7th, following months of intense debate and support spearheaded by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and Hollywood Actresses such as Marilyn Monroe, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Connecticut law banning the use of contraceptives was unconstitutional. Access to “the pill” and other means of birth control was radically changing the lives of women, and men, across the nation, and was one of the driving forces behind the Second American Sexual Revolution, which began during this time. Not a bad start to the year for President Kennedy and his liberal causes. Perhaps the First Lady’s hopes for blue skies would prove founded.




    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: July - December 1965, As the War on Poverty Continues, another in Southeast Asia begins.

    PS: Happy New Year! :D Thank you all so much for the feedback, support, and for reading the TL. Here's hoping we can keep it up as we move into 2018. Cheers!
     
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    Chapter 15

  • Chapter 15: Eve of Destruction - July through December 1965





    Above: An American military adviser meets with South Vietnamese soldiers in the wake of artillery strikes from the North on American air bases.

    Of all the many changes First Secretary Khrushchev sought to make to the Soviet Union before he retired, perhaps the most prominent was the warming of relations with the United States. From the flash point that had been the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviets learned that more productive relations with the Americans would lead to more favorable outcomes. Maintaining this new detente however, would prove difficult. Left wing revolutionary movements the world over looked to the Soviet Union, the home of the revolution, for help: logistical support, guns, bombs, financial backing and supplies. How could the proletariat of the world unite and overthrow the bourgeoisie without Communism's most powerful practitioner leading the way? For years, Khrushchev had backed such revolutions and done all he could to reverse Stalin’s policy of “socialism in one country”. He’d crushed the Hungarian uprising in ‘57 and considered Fidel Castro a personal friend. But such moves came at the cost of alienating and arousing the anger of the west. The Americans would never come to the table, never cooperate, if the Soviets were engaged in ideological warfare with them all over the globe. Thus, Vietnam, and the rapidly escalating conflict there caught Khrushchev’s attention in the early months of 1965.

    The Nikita Khrushchev that emerged from the vacuum left by Stalin’s death to seize sole control of the USSR more than a decade ago likely would have continued his nation’s policy there. Artillery shells, medical supplies, cash infusions, and more would be shipped to Ho Chi Minh’s government, anything to score a victory against the capitalists and their backward beliefs. The Nikita Khrushchev of 1965 however, was a changed man. Tired, wizened, and more experienced, the First Secretary knew that there were other issues staring down his nation besides the war in Vietnam. Domestically, the Soviet Union suffered from a sluggish economy and widespread shortages. Wages were high but there was nothing for the Soviet people to spend them on as production quotas fell years behind schedule. Premier Alexei Kosygin, Khrushchev’s heir apparent and right hand man had developed economic reforms which would introduce profitability and sales as the two key measures of enterprise success. These and other changes, designed to decentralize and stimulate the Soviet Economy as well as reward and incentivize workers, were well received but bogged down in the Supreme Soviet, facing stiff opposition from Hardliners within the party. These more conservative communists insisted that the USSR did not currently have the resources to focus both on internal reform and external ideological expansion. It became clear to Khrushchev that as the Red Square thawed and spring began, he would need to pull back resources from foreign intervention and focus for a time on the economy. With a call to his foreign minister, the First Secretary made his decision on Southeast Asia final: there would be no additional aid sent to North Vietnam. “Let the Viet-Cong do what they must to oppose the South.” He said to Kosygin, during a private meeting at the Kremlin. “The Americans are pulling out, and so are we.” Looking out the window at the city around him, the beating heart of the World Revolution, Khrushchev cleared his throat. “How confident are we that the reforms can be pushed through before the end of the year?”

    “Without a war to worry about?” Kosygin grinned. “Absolutely certain.”​





    ...


    Despite the end of Soviet supply shipments, the North Vietnamese soldiered on with their plans of national reunification. Still bolstered by thousands of tons of Chinese equipment pouring across their shared border with the People’s Republic, Ho Chi Minh’s army began work on a new series of offensives which shared one target between them: American Air Force Bases. From these bases in Saigon and other strategic locations across South Vietnam, the Americans could launch B-57’s and rain death and destruction on the North with practical impunity. Vo Nguyen Giap, the supreme commander of much of North Vietnam’s forces, saw the capture or sabotage of these bases as paramount to a Communist victory. On March 8th, 1965, three bases, all near the border between North and South Vietnam were attacked by divisions of the People’s Army at 0600 hours local time. Unfortunately for the Vietnamese, the Americans were ready for such a move.




    As soon as he took over at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Robert Kennedy proved to be a very “hands on” sort of manager. Janitors and staffers would often find the light on at his office into the wee hours of the morning, maps of South Vietnam and the surrounding waters spilled out across his desk. The Secretary himself would be sunken into his padded chair, his sleeves rolled up and a look of steely determination on his face. If his brother insisted on withdrawal, then Bobby was going to make sure it was a successful, calculated one. Under Kennedy’s recommendation, United States Army Chief of Staff Harold Keith Johnson ordered General William Westmoreland, the commander of all American forces in Vietnam, to defend these air bases with everything he had. Fighters were to be scrambled and bombers given the go ahead to launch on Northern forces to diminish the strength of the attacks. Meanwhile, Secretary of State McNamara and Ambassador Lodge pressured President Nguyen Khanh, who had just won South Vietnam’s first election under its newly written constitution, to send what help he could in the form of infantry divisions and artillery support. Though the defense was initially somewhat disorganized, the outnumbered Americans and South Vietnamese held out against the Communists, who ran out of artillery shells and ammunition three days into the offensive. As Giap gave the order to retreat, a celebration was held in the Oval Office between the President, his brother, and other members of the Foreign Policy team. Not only had the Kennedys proven the brass wrong, that South Vietnam could be held primarily by the South Vietnamese, they had also projected strength without confronting the Soviets in any way. As CBS and other networks beamed home images of the Stars and Stripes flying defiantly over the bases, and news that the Soviets were pulling support from the North, public support for the administration swelled. By August, President Kennedy had a 75% approval rating.




    This public support proved a godsend to the President’s agenda. In the late summer months of 1965, the war on poverty went into full swing and Kennedy’s relationship with Congress became one of success after success. First came the Housing and Urban Development Act; which created the cabinet level department of the same name, increased federal funding for existing housing programs, and created new grants for the elderly and disabled. Next, the Public Works and Economic Development Act. This provided grants for economically distressed communities, and helped revitalize rural areas of the nation, which the President felt had been ignored somewhat during the Eisenhower years. After this came the Immigration and Nationality Act, spearheaded by Ted in the Senate, this bill ended the nationality quotas and requirements laid out for immigration to the United States and marked an important turn in American immigration policy. Finally, the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act; the Highway Beautification Act; the Vocational Rehabilitation Act; and the Higher Education Act, providing millions in Federal scholarships and aid to students across the country so that they could go to college.




    Strong environmental protection, a better immigration system, and a significant boost to funding for education. All of these new policies were progressive milestones in their own right, and fulfilled many of the President’s promises laid out in his New Frontier. But there was one final initiative that JFK wanted to accomplish in the spring and summer of 1965: medical insurance for the needy and aged. Initially conceived of as far back as Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 platform for his Bull Moose Party, a single payer system of health insurance for Americans over the age of 65, with disabilities, or those too poor to afford private coverage, was seen as a must for completing the nation’s social safety net. The President wanted to succeed where previous Democratic Presidents Roosevelt and Truman had failed. He tasked Ted, along with Senate Majority Leader Hubert Humphrey with seeing these two programs, called “Medicare” and “Medicaid” through Congress. Despite support from such powerful organizations as the AFL-CIO, and the American Nurses Association, the bill was opposed by the AMA and nearly never made it through the Senate. Because the proposal was limited in the amount of coverage it provided, many liberal Democrats threatened to kill the bill unless amendments were added to expand its scope. Simultaneously budget hawks in the GOP became concerned that the proposed amendments would make the bill cost more than the proposed payroll tax to cover it anticipated. Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, were already lukewarm on the idea of public health care of any kind, for anybody, and threatened to abandon the act completely if Humphrey and Kennedy didn’t work to make it cheaper. Thankfully for the administration, the amendments added by the liberal Senators were defeated in the conference committee with the House. Vice President Sanford and Humphrey worked around the clock to make deals and secure liberal support. They vowed that even if the scope of the bill was limited somewhat, future pushes for expansion could be secured when the opportunity arose. With these promises and their arms sufficiently twisted, the liberals fell in line and helped pass the bill through the Senate 70 - 30.



    Called the Social Security Amendments of 1965, these acts would become the twin pillars of the modern American healthcare system, and earned Kennedy the moniker “The New FDR” in the minds of millions across the country. The President signed the act into law in Independence, Missouri, with former President and First Lady Truman alongside him. “Today we mark a turning point for health care in this country.” The President said as he lifted his pen for the television cameras. “With the signing of these acts into law, millions of seniors and the less fortunate in the United States will now be able to afford health care coverage, and not have to worry over injury or falling ill.” Conservatives lambasted the law, but the majority of Americans joined former President Truman in congratulating the young President. He had won a great victory in his ongoing war on poverty.


    Perhaps it was the unshakable feelings of optimism and triumph permeating the White House in August of 1965 that caused the administration to forget the power of the forces they grappled with. Maybe it was the natural consequence of a string of hard earned, meaningful victories. It could have been the fact that First Lady Jackie Kennedy announced on August 5th, that she was once again pregnant at the age of 36. The nation and the President were overjoyed at the news. Whatever the case, darker tidings hit the nation like a ton of bricks on the 11th, when a string of violent riots broke out in Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood.




    Earlier that day, an African-American motorist was pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving. A minor roadside argument broke out between the driver and the cop, and then escalated into a fight between family members and police. The community reacted in outrage to allegations of police brutality that soon spread, and six days of looting and arson followed. Los Angeles police required the support of nearly 4,000 California Army National Guardsmen to quell the riots, which resulted in 34 deaths and over $40 million in property damage. Despite the best efforts of the nation to heal its wounds and create positive progress for race relations, it seemed that old scars were the hardest to seal away completely. Governor Pat Brown condemned the violence, but also spoke sympathetically of those who participated. He wrote a sweeping legislative slate for the State Senate to consider, which included bettering conditions in education and employment for Los Angeles’ less well off neighborhoods. Most of these reforms however were dismissed as too expensive or irrelevant. A poll conducted by Gallup shortly after the riot showed that as many Americans believed Communism was behind the violence as believed it was motivated by inequality and mistreatment.


    For his part, the President watched the images of the riot beamed back over the television in abject horror. Kennedy had known that the struggle for Civil Rights would not end with the passage of two laws through Congress, but he had not expected the violence to resume so swiftly. He turned to Jackie, who sat beside him on the sofa, her left hand on their unborn child and her right clasping her husband’s. “God help us.” Kennedy shook his head. “There’s still so much we need to make right.”
     
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    Chapter 16
  • Chapter 16: Catch Us If You Can - The State of Space in 1965





    In Gene Roddenberry’s second pilot for his new program, Star Trek, William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise joined many in calling Outer Space “the final frontier”. Kirk’s ship is given a five year mission by the United Federation of Planets: to explore strange new worlds and add to humanity’s collective knowledge about the unknown. A beautiful sentiment, and one that played well on television and in science fiction, in general. But what about the real world? What “treks” were being made into Space by the powers that be at the time on planet Earth? All around, progress was being made, and politics were being played. Space it seemed, was not immune to the age old tendency of man to come into conflict.

    In the United States and Soviet Union, Earth’s superpowers, and the two nations furthest along in space travel, the future of their respective programs was somewhat in question. Since Sputnik’s launch in 1957, the two nations had engaged in a “space race”, funding new technologies and pushing the boundaries of what was considered possible in space exploration. The Soviets up to now had held the upper hand, not only beating the Americans to put a satellite in orbit, but with a man in space as well. On April 21st, 1961, Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin blasted off and into the hearts and minds of millions across the globe. He became an icon in an instant, after less than a day spent among the stars. Just two weeks later, on May 5th, the Americans caught up by blasting one of their own Astronauts, Alan Shepard into orbit. The body blow to American pride was palpable however and played a role in President Kennedy’s vow to win the greatest prize of all: beating the commies to the moon. Years after the President’s bold announcement though, the politics of space had changed. The Apollo Program, the NASA venture bent on completing Kennedy’s hefty objective, was expensive. So costly in fact was the program that in the wake of the War on Poverty, the President worried that the venture might be placed on the chopping block by budget hawks in Congress. What was more, as the geopolitical landscape changed and Kennedy became less interested in competition with the Soviets and more in cooperation and coexistence, the idea of “beating them” at anything seemed counterproductive. All of this weighed on the President’s mind when he made his offer to First Secretary Khrushchev: let us work together to land a man on the moon.




    Khrushchev had his own doubts about the prospects of such an initiative. For one thing, the hardliners in the Supreme Soviet wouldn’t like it any more than the Conservatives in the American Congress would. For nearly two decades the United States and Soviet Union had been mortal enemies, nemeses that could exterminate each other and the entire world at the push of a button. Fear, mistrust, and paranoia led to children hiding under desks in air raid drills and a crisis in Cuba that nearly marked the end of civilization as we know it. To suddenly turn the other cheek and shake hands with such an enemy, worse still a capitalist enemy, seemed to many a betrayal of the revolution. But like Kennedy, Khrushchev, saw the possible boons that such a joint mission could bring. In addition to lower costs for each of the powers, the USSR stood to gain new technology from an exchange with the Americans. Khrushchev was a realist at heart, and unlike the hard heads in the Red Army, he wasn’t foolish enough to believe that the Soviet missiles could compete with their American counterparts. If the two countries worked hand in hand, then the Soviets would have more resources to fix their ailing economy and restructure their frankly broken infrastructure.

    It was a hard sell, but Khrushchev didn’t come to power after Joseph Stalin by lacking power of persuasion. He managed to get it approved, along with Kosygin’s reforms in the Autumn of ‘65. “The ball’s in your court now, Mr. President.” The First Secretary thought to himself as he shook hands with legislators and prepared to give a speech on the mission the Soviet people. “Don’t let me down, the moon men are waiting for us.”

    Kennedy found that he had as much trouble with the mission in Congress as Khrushchev had in the Kremlin. Though many liberals were supportive of the gesture, conservatives influenced moderates against the idea and screamed bloody murder. “At best,” Senator Barry Goldwater (R - AZ) said on the Senate floor. “This idea is the pipe dream of a naive idealist. At worst,” he paused and shook his head. “A thinly veiled attempt at treason. Our President would sell out American technological secrets to our greatest enemy, the totalitarians of Soviet Russia, all for what, so we can save a couple of bucks in an already bloated federal budget? Mr. President, I challenge you to understand that cutting corners in the name of national security is a fool’s errand, and urge you to reconsider this ill-conceived mess.”


    Unfortunately for the President, Goldwater wasn’t alone. For the first time in his Presidency, it seemed that Kennedy was decidedly on the wrong side of public opinion on an issue. In a Gallup poll asking, “Do you believe that the United States should cooperate with the Soviet Union on a mission to the moon?”, only 23% responded that they did. Republicans and hawkish Democrats like Washington’s Henry “Scoop” Jackson, threatened to curtail NASA’s budget for the Apollo Program unless the President could offer them a guarantee that the Russians would have nothing to do with an American mission to the moon. Jackson, seen as a leading contender for the Democratic nomination in 1968, was an outspoken critic of the Kennedy administration’s foreign policy. Ever since Kennedy’s announcement of a withdrawal in Vietnam, he had been calling the President “a weak dove, a total peacenik who refuses to stand up to Communist aggression.” He conveniently ignored that Kennedy’s leadership and negotiations with Khrushchev had led to the Soviets removing their support of Ho Chi Minh’s regime, a major foreign policy victory in its own right. Despite Democrats’ calls for Jackson to pipe down, as he was attacking his own party’s popular leader, the Senator took his attacks one step further. In an interview with Meet the Press, Jackson called on President Kennedy to “stop hiding in the Oval Office and explain to me and the people of this country why you seem so fixated on selling out NASA to the communists.”


    Unperturbed by Jackson’s attacks, Kennedy did think that taking the time to use his greatest strengths: his charisma and charm, to sell the mission to the American people might not be a bad idea. The administration got a half hour network time slot for the President late in the afternoon on October 17th, right as people would be getting home from work and flipping on the television. In a concise, forceful and optimistic address, the President explained his reasoning for pursuing a joint moon mission. “With every dollar that we save by not having to replicate the work of the Soviet Union in outer space, we can build nuclear missiles and traditional arms to keep our nation secure. We can feed the hungry on the streets of Los Angeles and Detroit. We can build schools that will be the finest in the world, fine enough to train tomorrow’s greatest minds. My opponents say that this mission would be selling out to the Communists, I disagree. I contend rather that it will be our means of better preparing ourselves to compete with them in every way. For the strength of a nation is measured not just in feats of raw power and its capacity to destroy, but in acts of charity, and goodwill among men. If we can show the world that people of different beliefs can work together to achieve something amazing, haven’t we proven the victory of what Abraham Lincoln called ‘the better angels of our nature’? I ask you not to look upon the conflicts of today, but on the possibilities of tomorrow. Let us prove that our species is capable of leaving this primordial crib, and reaching out to touch the stars. Thank you.”


    The public was initially lukewarm on Kennedy’s speech, but reacted positively enough to turn the tide of the debate on Capitol Hill. In a follow up Gallup poll which asked the same question as before, 54% of Americans now said that they supported the mission, or at least, were willing to pursue basic cooperation with the Soviets on space exploration. Kennedy had not swayed Jackson, Goldwater, and their fellow hawks, but enough moderates backed down from confronting Kennedy over the issue that NASA was no longer at risk for budget cuts. Once again, the young President had saved one of his major initiatives through the power of his personality. Every day, Kennedy was proving the importance of charisma to a modern President, and that he possessed a masterful ability to use the media to court public opinion toward his side. On December 23rd, 1965, the President made a call to First Secretary Khrushchev in Moscow, telling him to form a committee to select which Cosmonauts and Soviet scientists he wanted to be involved in the program.

    Khrushchev got to work, and tasked Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space and Hero of the Soviet Union, with building the team. Gagarin would be considered in command of the Soviet division of the mission to the moon, and would depart for Cape Canaveral, USA, once his choices had been assembled.



    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: A Very Special Look into the Race to determine the next Governor of California.

     
    Chapter 17

  • Chapter 17: California Dreamin’ - The lead up to the ‘66 California Gubernatorial Race



    1965 was winding to a close and Ronald Reagan felt a fire lighting beneath him. After years spent playing characters on the silver screen, Reagan was preparing for his biggest role yet: state politics. An outspoken spokesman for conservatism, the actor and former President of the Screen Actors’ Guild had been seen as a key surrogate for Senator Goldwater’s impassioned, if ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination the year before. His oratory and ability to really connect with the folks made him a potentially powerful political player, and the timing could not have been better. Pat Brown, the incumbent Democratic Governor of the Golden State was popular, but seeing his favorability wane. In the wake of the Watts riots and the protests at Berkeley, Brown was earning a reputation for being “weak on crime and unrest.” While the Governor appeared on television and before the state legislature calling for reform and investment to resolve civil rights disputes, Reagan promised to restore civility by force. As the actor announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination for the state house in October of ‘65, Reagan made one theme central to his message above all others: law and order.

    “To Governor Brown and the Democrats,” Reagan said in his announcement speech. “The solution to the ills facing our great state is to give in to the demands of communists and criminals. Bums and vagrants hold an entire university hostage, riots disrupt the peace and lead to death on the streets of Los Angeles, and yet the Governor and his liberal cronies say ‘these people are our future.’” He paused and allowed his signature grin to pass his face. “When asked about the possibility of running against me, Governor Brown accused me of having a nineteenth-century attitude on law and order. That is a totally false charge. I have an eighteenth-century attitude. That is when the Founding Fathers made it clear that the safety of law-abiding citizens should be one of the government's primary concerns.” The thousand or so people who had gathered to watch Reagan make his announcement in front of his ranch cheered and applauded. “I can make two promises to you all this very day. If elected, I will send the welfare bums back to work, and I will clean up the mess at Berkeley!” The applause became deafening and Richard Nixon, who had come out to watch the outsider make his announcement was impressed.

    After the speech, the former Vice President pulled Reagan aside and shook his hand. “You’ve really got a way with words, Ron.” Nixon said, calculated admiration in his eyes. “You had those people in the palm of your hand for that entire speech.”

    “Thank you, Dick. Much obliged.” Reagan’s smile seemingly never vanished. He had an easy confidence that Nixon had only seen once before, on the face of the man who’d cost him the White House in 1960. Tall, handsome, “experienced” without being old, and full of fiery charisma, Reagan seemed to be the just the man to take back the Governor’s Mansion in ‘66. The actor gestured toward a lawn chair and invited Nixon to sit while Nancy chatted up the reporters. “To what do I owe the pleasure of hosting a former Vice President this afternoon?”



    “I’ll keep this short and to the point.” Nixon replied. “I’m interested in giving your campaign my endorsement, if you’re willing to accept it.” The former Vice President shifted somewhat uncomfortably in his seat. Helping other candidates get ahead was always part and parcel of politics, but it had always been his least favorite part. All of this endorsing, scratching backs and pulling favors. Nixon grimaced. Surely I’ll get something at the end of all of this, right?

    Reagan’s grin solidified after his guest made his offer. “Well Dick, that’s awfully generous of you. And I really appreciate the help.” He sat back in his chair and poured each of them a glass of iced tea from a pitcher resting on a nearby table. “I think the earlier we unify the party, the easier a time we’ll have against the Governor when the general election rolls around.”

    “I’m glad you bring him up again, because there’s something I should mention.” Nixon responded, enjoying a sip of the sweet beverage. “Should you win the nomination, rumor has it, it’s not Brown you’ll be going up against.” He set down the glass and wiped some sweat from his forehead. “It’s Roosevelt.”



    To Governor Pat Brown, it seemed like the very Earth had moved without warning underneath his feet. Just a year ago he was on top of the world. He had been the popular Democratic Governor of a Republican-leaning state, a state that was now the most populous one in the nation. He had been on the shortlist to be the President’s running mate, and seemed in a solid position to make a run at the White House himself in ‘68, if he played his cards right. And yet, the deck it seemed was now stacked against him.


    Despite no executive failing on his part, the riots in Watts and the protests at Berkeley dominated headlines across the state, and the nation for months on end. President Kennedy’s announcement that he stood in solidarity with the protestors had soothed media relations and lent the Governor some credibility for a time, but did little to counter the growing momentum against Brown’s candidacy within his state itself. To Californians who were seeing increased tax rates and violence in their streets, inequality and injustice were not to blame. Incompetence in the State House was. After an interview resurfaced in which Brown promised not to seek a third term, pressure mounted further for him to remove his hat from the running, especially from his own party. Polls showed that a majority of the state’s voters planned on voting against Brown should he run again, and Democrats were not willing to surrender the Governor’s Mansion of the nation’s most populous state so easily. After meeting with a collection of confidants and personal friends, the Governor made his decision official: he would not seek a third term.

    Though this theoretically made Democrats’ lives easier, as they could nominate a candidate who wasn’t tied directly to the riots and protests, it also became an issue when the party’s other current option in the primary wasn’t selling their product very well. Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty was stumping hard to unseat Brown for the Democratic nomination, and now his path to victory seemed assured. Yorty had earned the enmity of many within his own party when he endorsed Richard Nixon for President over JFK in 1960. Many liberals accused him of “ideological hopscotch”, changing his positions whenever he felt it might benefit his poll numbers. What was more, as Mayor of Los Angeles, Yorty also faced criticism for the racial injustice in his city which lead to the violence Californians saw in Watts. By allowing the controversial mayor to win the nod in ‘66, Democrats would be abandoning their opportunity to counter Reagan’s sunny, “outsider” image.


    There was one man, however, whom the state party thought could possibly stop Yorty: Congressman James Roosevelt II. The eldest son of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, the congressman had made a career, it seemed, of near misses with political achievement. He had been the Democratic nominee for Governor of California once before in 1950, when he was soundly defeated by the popular Republican incumbent Earl Warren. He had considered running for Mayor of Los Angeles against Yorty in April of 1965, but had been dissuaded by President Kennedy, who was clued in to the developing meltdown of Pat Brown. “Stick it out in the House a little longer, Jimmy.” The President had asked him, being familiar with the Congressman as Roosevelt had long been a protege of Kennedy’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy. “Something great will be waiting for you, I have a feeling.” The congressman took the President’s advice and sure enough, despite Yorty’s convincing mayoral reelection, the party came a calling for the son of FDR.


    Both Yorty and Roosevelt were known for their charisma and flamboyant campaigning. It came as no surprise then that the two candidates barnstormed all across the Golden State, stumping for votes and molding the messages of their respective campaigns. For Roosevelt, it was the ultimate, final test of his mettle as a politician. Though he would never reach the soaring heights of his father, he could become something more than just another Congressman, toiling away endlessly on legislation without a name, that will never be remembered beyond the walls of the Parliamentarian’s chamber. He struck a remarkably moderate chord, calling for progressive social change and liberal economics while also chastising the protesters at Berkeley and the rioters in Watts. He said in one speech: “These young people getting involved with violence defeat the very causes which they claim to champion. We can have no positive change in this state if violence is wielded as its implement of agency. I can promise the people of California this: a vote for Roosevelt is a vote for reasonable, seasoned leadership. Not the lies and corruption of Yorty nor the right wing extremism of Reagan, but of that steady, reliable New Deal consensus built around the ideals of my father. Vote for me and I swear to bring that consensus to Sacramento.”

    For his part, Yorty fired back that Roosevelt was “another Washington crony. An insider riding on Daddy’s endless coattails to positions of power and influence he never deserved in the first place.” Though at first these populist appeals seemed to be working, Yorty overstepped his bounds when he questioned his opponent’s military record, accusing him of receiving a commission only because he was the President’s son. Though this may or may not have been the case, Roosevelt also won a Naval Star for immense combat valor, and was an all around decorated veteran of the Second World War. To many fellow veterans and moderates in the state, such attacks were at best distasteful and crude, and at worst unpatriotic. Within a week of the “so called Lieutenant Colonel” speech, Yorty trailed Roosevelt by double digits. He never bounced back.

    By the time the primaries rolled around, in June of 1966, the winners could have been predicted from a mile away. Ronald Reagan, with the backing of Richard Nixon and nearly every other Republican in the state, easily destroyed San Francisco Mayor George Christopher to become the GOP nominee. As Nixon had predicted at Reagan’s announcement party, he would face off in November with James Roosevelt, the son of Reagan’s great political role model and hero. Polls predicted a tight race, as the GOP hoped to win back control of the nation’s most populous state, and Democrats remained popular throughout the country thanks to President Kennedy’s continued charisma and appeal.



    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: Elvis and the Beatles Rock the World
     
    Pop Culture 1965

  • 1965 in Pop Culture: The Year that Elvis and The Beatles Rocked the World




    Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 Singles of 1965 (Top 10)

    1. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” - The Rolling Stones

    2. “Wooly Bully” - Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs

    3. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” - The Righteous Brothers

    4. “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” - The Four Tops

    5. “Help!” - The Beatles

    6. “Unchained Melody” - Elvis Presley

    7. “My Girl” - The Temptations

    8. “Downtown” - Petula Clark

    9. “Help Me, Rhonda” - The Beach Boys

    10. “I Got You Babe” - Sonny and Cher

    News in Music, through the year


    January 4th - The Fender Musical Instruments Corporation is sold to CBS for $13 Million.


    January 12th – Hullabaloo premieres on NBC. The first show included performances by The New Christy Minstrels, comedian Woody Allen, actress Joey Heatherton and a segment from London in which Brian Epstein introduces The Zombies and Gerry & the Pacemakers.


    January 21st - Following up on their first meeting at a cafe in London, The Beatles fly to the United States to visit Elvis and Ann Margret at Graceland. That night, the musicians joke around and record demo tapes of dozens of Rock N Roll and Blues songs from each others’ catalogs and other tunes of years past. A single one of these tapes, a Beatles cover of “That’s All Aright” is eventually remastered and released as a single, with a cover of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” sung as a duet by Ann-Margret and Presley on the B side. The proceeds of the record all go to charity and its release heralds the launch of an international tour, co-headlined by the artists, one which will carry them across America, Canada, Western Europe and conclude in London in October. In an interview with Time Magazine, Presley and Paul McCartney jointly declared that “Rock N Roll is here to stay!”




    The same day, across the world in Melbourne, Australia, Roy Orbison and the Rolling Stones begin a tour of their own.


    March 6th - The Temptations’ “My Girl”, written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, from Motown Records, hits number 1 in the United States.


    March 18th - While on tour in Australia, the Rolling Stones are charged five pound fines each for urinating on the wall of a petrol station. Pictures of frontman Mick Jagger giving “the bird” to local police spread around the world and cement the band’s popularity and status as the bad boys of Rock music.


    March 21st - The Supremes score their fourth consecutive number one hit with “Stop! In the Name of Love”.


    April 21st - The Beach Boys appear on Shindig! Performing their most recent hit, “Do You Wanna Dance?”.


    May 5th - British blues-rock band The Animals are instantly killed when their tour bus careens off the side of a crowded highway near Los Angeles, California. Known primarily at the time for their hit “House of the Rising Sun”, they will eventually attain a cult following.




    May 8th - The British Commonwealth makes music history as it achieves a clean sweep of the U.S. Hot 100’s Top 10 slots with the year’s biggest hit, “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones occupying the number one slot. A week later, the sweep is ended as Elvis Presley’s “Unchained Melody” shoots up to the number one spot.


    May 9th - Bob Dylan performs two concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London during a tour of Western Europe. Audience members include Donovan and the Royal Family.


    June 16th - Without Paul Simon’s permission or knowledge, Producer Tom Wilson adds a heavy backing band to Simon and Garfunkel’s new song “The Sound of Silence”. The song is eventually released as a single and hits number one on New Year’s Day, 1966.


    June, throughout - The term “folk rock” becomes popularized by the music press.


    July 25th - Bob Dylan is booed for playing an electric set at the Newport Folk Festival. Other acts include Joan Baez and Donovan.


    August 6th - While finishing up a suite of concerts in Paris, the Beatles release their fifth studio album, Yesterday. Though the band had originally intended to call it Help! after the song and planned film of the same name, due to the tour with Elvis, the film is scrapped in development.


    Track Listing:

    1. “I’ve Just Seen a Face”

    2. “The Night Before”

    3. “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”

    4. “I Need You”

    5. “Another Girl”

    6. “You’re Going to Lose That Girl”

    7. “Ticket to Ride”

    8. “Help!”

    9. “It’s Only Love”

    10. “You Like Me Too Much”

    11. “Tell Me What You See”

    12. “Act Naturally”

    13. “Yesterday”

    14. “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”

    August 15th - The Beatles and Elvis play Shea Stadium, the first rock concert to be held in a venue of that size. The concert sets a record for attendance (55,600+) and for revenue. Plans are made to use recordings taken of the event to create a live album and film to be released before Christmas. Headlines were made on every music magazine as the Fab Four and the King bring the stadium to its feet to end the show with a dramatic rendition of “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”. John Lennon called the moment, “the greatest, perhaps, in my entire life.”


    October 15th - Guitarist Jimi Hendrix signs a three year recording contract with Ed Chaplin as a session musician in San Francisco. He quickly grows bored of the work and looks to start his own band.


    October 26th - As their tour with the King comes to an end, The Beatles return to their native Britain and are appointed Members of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II.


    December 3rd - Presley announces plans to take a long trip to California while Ann works on a new film. During this, Margret is offered the role of Catwoman in the pilot of a television treatment for Batman starring Adam West and Burt Ward. While she ultimately rejected the role due to scheduling conflicts, she did express interest having a role in the series, hinting to the producers that she might accept a future offer of a role in the series later on. Meanwhile in the Golden State, Presley sets up shop in San Francisco to record material for a new album. It is while recording songs for this album, including a Ritchie Cordell number called “I Think We’re Alone Now”, that the King became acquainted with one Jimi Hendrix, whom producer Chet Atkins happened to hire one day to lay down some backing tracks on rhythm guitar…




    1965 in Film - The Year’s Biggest

    The Sound of Music - Musical. Directed by Robert Wise, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Easily the highest grossing film of the year, and a major hit for 20th Century Fox, several of the film’s songs such as “Edelweiss”, “Do-Re-Mi”, “My Favorite Things”, and the titualar “Sound of Music” have become beloved by millions around the world. The film makes history by replacing Gone With the Wind, as, for its time, the highest grossing film ever made.


    Doctor Zhivago - Drama/Epic Historical. Directed by David Lean. Coming off the great success of 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia, Lean scores big again with this story of pre-World War 1 Russia. Starring Geraldine Chaplin, Julie Christie, Alec Guinness, and Omar Sharif.


    Thunderball - Action/Espionage Thriller/007 Franchise. Directed by Terence Young and once again starring Sean Connery as James Bond. Successful, though not to as great of an extent as Goldfinger had been the year before, Thunderball is nonetheless another solid entry in the series.


    For a Few Dollars More - Spaghetti Western. Directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood. The second in what comes to be known as the “Dollars Trilogy”, the film catapults Eastwood to international stardom and earns 250 times its budget in return at the box office.


    Everyone’s Favorite Television Programs in 1965


    The Andy Griffith Show

    Bonanza

    Gunsmoke

    The Beverly Hillbillies

    Hogan’s Heroes



    1965 in Sport


    AFL Championship Game: Jack Kemp and the Buffalo Bills once again topple the San Diego Chargers, this time shutting them out 23 - 0.




    AFL MVP: Quarterback Jack Kemp of the Buffalo Bills.


    NFL Championship Game: The Green Bay Packers defeat the Cleveland Browns 23 - 12.




    NFL MVP: Fullback Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns


    The World Series: Thanks to the efforts of newly hired batting coach “Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio, the Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series 4 games to 3 over the Minnesota Twins. Pitcher Sandy Koufax is once again named World Series MVP.




    NBA Finals: For the third year in a row, the Boston Celtics continue their dominance with another championship. This time, they beat out the Los Angeles Lakers 4 games to 1.




    Stanley Cup: The Montreal Canadiens go 4 games to 3 over the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Cup.




    Time Magazine’s Person of the Year: Alexei Kosygin, Premier of the Soviet Union

    For pursuing comprehensive reforms to the Soviet economy, and an overhaul of relations between East and West.





    Nobel Laureates - 1965

    Physics - Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, Julian Schwinger, Richard Feynman

    Chemistry - Robert Burns Woodward

    Physiology or Medicine - Francois Jacob, Andre Michel Lwoff, Jacques Monod

    Literature - Mikhail Sholokhov

    Peace - UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund)


    Other Pop Culture Headlines from the Year


    February 17th, 1965 - Part of NASA’s operations to fulfill President Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon, with or without Soviet help before the decade is out, Ranger 8 is launched from Cape Canaveral. It’s mission: to photograph potential landing sites on the surface of the Moon. The probe is successful and completes its assignment before crashing into the Lunar surface.


    May 5th, 1965 - Lead Guitarist Jerry Garcia and his band, The Grateful Dead, play their first show in Menlo Park, California, outside of San Francisco. At the time, they were performing under the name “The Warlocks”.




    August 1st, 1965 - The classic science fiction novel Dune is published by Frank Herbert.


    October 4th, 1965 - Pope Paul VI becomes the first papal head to visit the United States. He gives mass at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral and meets briefly with President Kennedy, the nation’s first catholic leader.


    October 28th, 1965 - The Gateway Arch is completed and unveiled in St. Louis, Missouri.


    Throughout - The Miniskirt is a huge trend in “swinging London” and will become the fashion statement of the Sixties.


    Next Time on Blue Skies on Camelot: The First Half of 1966 in the Kennedy White House
     
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