Shock and ... say what? Economic Shocks Confirmation of the inconclusive election results were broadcast shortly after the New York Exchange opened for trading on Thursday, November 9. Within a few hours the Dow Jones Average, which had been edging toward the 1,000 mark on November 8, fell 125 points (roughly 13% of its value) within the space of a few hours. Widespread panic selling set-in with the initial shock of the news, although by late afternoon the market had stabilized somewhat. The Chicago Board of Trade commodities exchange saw a rise buy orders for precious metal futures, a sign that investors were looking for an inflation hedge. Arthur Burns, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, became concerned about potential capital flight. After first shocks, the situation stabilized as investors took a wait-and-see attitude. However, the initial panic had ripples across markets around the world, and opened the door to what was characterised as “a potential cyclical downturn.” The widely reported fall in the Dow average contributed to an overall feeling of nervousness about the economy in the last two months of 1972. Global Reaction Public opinion around the world was confused about the mechanics of the Electoral College; especially in much of Western Europe where coalition governments were the norm. There were a few instances of pre-mature “Nixon is finished” celebrations before the actual meaning set in. The European press began a process of dissecting the American electoral process. French editorials made much of the merits of their process of directly electing the French President in a two step process (first round and run-off elections) and recommended the Americans do the same. They received back angry retorts to “mind their own business.” Pravda ran a series of editorials proclaiming the result as proof that the American people were rejecting the ruling structure. Oddly, they credited George McGovern has having somehow revolutionized the American proletariat and argued that his progressive platform would sweep away “the plutocratic power elite.” The same editorials also warned about “a growing fascist tendency” in the form of Wallace. Pravda expressed the firm belief that the “autocratic command structure (of American government) would fall on the weight of the callous corruption in capitalist contradictions.” (An American observer called this alliteration worthy of Agnew). Official editorial policy in much of the Communist world ran much the same, except for China, whose official press treated it as a non-event. The most The People’s Daily said was that “the choice of the next American President will pass to the Congress,” and left it at that. What the Soviet leadership made of the situation is unclear: they had at their disposal well-trained experts who understood exactly what was going on in the United States, but tended to view any such information through their own ideological filters. It was later reported that General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev wondered aloud to Soviet Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin if Nixon had engineered this in order to expose enemies in his own Republican Party, as a prelude to a purge. Dobrynin thought the idea laughable, but didn’t dare express it in those terms to Brezhnev’s face. Like many world leaders, the Soviet leadership quickly boned up on John McKeithen, a man most in the Communist and Free World knew little-to-nothing about. North Vietnam The foreign capital whose reaction was of greatest import that fall was Hanoi. In the fall of 1972 Nixon’s National Security Advisor had been secretly conducting face-to-face negotiations with Central Committee Member Le Duc Tho in an effort to re-start the stalled official peace talks in Paris. The North’s 1972 Easter Offensive had been stopped by American airpower, and had shown the fundamental military weakness of the Saigon regime. The North’s leadership wanted the Americans to get out, as a prelude to the North overrunning the South’s Army once the US forces were gone. In fact, by August 1972, the American troop presences was down to a token level, with air units and special forces remaining the most active in combat. Le and Henry Kissinger were working toward a final settlement as the American election approached. The North Vietnamese leadership watched with growing concern as Nixon’s once unassailable lead in the polls collapsed, especially with the revelations made by William Sullivan at the Ervin Hearings (neither Op. Menu nor the 1968 October Surprise came as a surprise in Hanoi; which eroded confidence in the Nixon administration’s ability to keep secrets.]. Unlike their Soviet counterparts, the North Vietnamese leadership took what they read in American newspapers seriously, and combed the editorial pages for indications of what was coming. Their own foreign contacts from outside the Communist world were able to inform North Vietnamese leaders that President Nixon was indeed in serious trouble as Election Day approached. From the end of September, Le Duc Tho developed a wait-and-see attitude about the Americans, using the replacement of South Vietnamese President Thieu’s regime with a coalition government as a pre-text. Progressed in the talks halted, frustrating Kissinger, who knew exactly why that was happening, but he was powerless to do anything about it. Some North Vietnamese leaders favoured pushing the Nixon administration harder, to see if they could capitalize on the President’s desperation to get an agreement before the election. Le Duc Tho warned against such a strategy; there was still a chance that Nixon would be re-elected and pushing him to the wall might complicate matters in that event. Nixon exploded when he heard of Kissinger’s lack of progress. After calming down somewhat, the President ordered Kissinger to release a statement saying that an agreement with North Vietnam was near. Separately he ordered Defense Secretary Laird and Air Force Chief of Staff General Ryan to increase the intensity of bombing in the North - Operation Linebacker, which continued through the election, giving Le further reason to delay coming to terms with Kissinger. Kissinger toyed with releasing a statement prior to the election that the United States and North Vietnam were close a final agreement that would end the war. Nixon wanted it to save his election chances. Kissinger decided against it, arguing that if he had done so, and Hanoi had repudiated the announcement, his negotiations with Le would end and Nixon would look foolish on the eve of the election. In a rare moment of agreement, Kissinger, White House Chief of Staff H.R. Halderman and Presidential counsellor Robert Finch were able to persuade the President on this point, and no statement was issued. In the immediate aftermath of the election Le Duc Tho became “unavailable” to Kissinger. The North Vietnamese were going to wait until the American election had been decided before committing to anything. McKeithen’s comments late in the campaign about the corrupt nature of the South Vietnamese regime lead Hanoi to believe that they might be able to make a better deal with a McKeithen administration. Domestic Public Reaction Apart from a general sense foreboding about the economic impact of the election, many Americans were largely dismayed because nothing like this had occurred in living memory; even in close elections like 1948 and 1960 there had been a winner by Wednesday morning. By-and-large average Americans were no better informed on the mechanics of their Electoral College than foreigners were. For many this was a jolt in awareness about a part of the election most had taken for granted, or even rarely noticed. Interest in the Constitution, and twelfth amendment in particular, spiked in the immediate aftermath of the election; there was much written about the subject in the popular press. Previous examples of a deadlocked presidential elections, from 1800, 1824 and 1876 received a new airing; with commentators quick to point out that the 1800 precedent was obsolete(else McKeithen and Nixon would have been competing to see which of them became President and which became Vice President). The presidential election of 1824, and the vice presidential election of 1836, were the closest analogies. In 1824 four presidential candidates had split the Electoral College vote in such a way that none of them won outright and the election had to be decided by the 18th United States Congress (from among the top three candidates). The House elected John Quincy Adams as the sixth President on the first ballot. (Back then it had been the outgoing lame-duck Congress that decided the election in February 1825; in 1973 it was the newly elected Congress that would do it in January – if it got that far). The 1825 vote had included allegations of a corrupt bargain between Adams and another candidate, Henry Clay, to prevent Andrew Jackson from being elected. Popular speculation started about which modern candidate (Nixon or McKeithen) more closely resembled Jackson or Adams. George Wallace was the latter day Clay, a comparison some Clay scholars found insulting to the memory of one of the greater Americans of his age. Was another corrupt bargain in the offing? [Clay encouraged his supporters in the House to vote for Adams and subsequently became Adams’ Secretary of State; Clay apologists were quick to point out that Jackson – the (very sore) loser in the deal - made that charge, but that both Adams and Clay had denied such a bargain was struck before the House voted]. John Calhoun had won the majority of the Electoral votes for Vice President in 1824 and so he was elected in the Electoral College. The Senate had elected a Vice President only once, in 1836, and that had been occasioned by a sex scandal unrelated to the Presidential candidates in that election. In both cases, the precedents were well out of date. ”It’s so complicated,” was a common complaint. ”What have we got now, a parliament?” was another comment. ”I voted. Everyone else voted. Didn’t McKeithen get more votes? Shouldn’t he be president, like the people voted?” ”I hope Nixon sends that crook back to New Orleans for good.” In 1877 an arbitration panel composed of members of Congress from both parties, and chaired by a Supreme Court Justice with the deciding vote, had resolved a dispute over the allocation of Electors from the 1876 election two days before the March 4 inauguration of Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. The 1877 precedent was relevant because between them both the Nixon and McKeithen campaigns were filing court actions in over twenty states, disputing the certification of Electors in what had been very close races. Recounts were in progress, and would likely be challenged by the losing campaign in court. (Nixon told Halderman “Hire every fucking lawyer you can find and have them dispute everything. I could have done that in sixty, you know, I could have won, shown how the Kennedys fucked me then, but Ike stopped me. Well there’s no Ike now. Get the bastards!”) Some form of arbitration or court intervention seemed likely unless the campaigns cut a bargain. ”This means some pinko judge is gonna choose the next president, right?” one person-in-the-street commented. Conservatives and strict constructionists in the legal community voiced a similar - if more nuanced- opinion, generally denouncing judicial intervention in elections. That was music in the ears of the man waiting in Montgomery.