LBJ stayed mum about Nixon’s treason

The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon’s ‘treason’
By David Taylor

Declassified tapes of President Lyndon Johnson’s telephone calls provide a fresh insight into his world. Among the revelations – he planned a dramatic entry into the 1968 Democratic Convention to re-join the presidential race. And he caught Richard Nixon sabotaging the Vietnam peace talks… but said nothing.

After the Watergate scandal taught Richard Nixon the consequences of recording White House conversations none of his successors have dared to do it. But Nixon wasn’t the first.

He got the idea from his predecessor Lyndon Johnson, who felt there was an obligation to allow historians to eventually eavesdrop on his presidency.

“They will provide history with the bark off,” Johnson told his wife, Lady Bird.

Read more.

3 replies on “LBJ stayed mum about Nixon’s treason”

The Nixon treason to sabotage the Viet Nam Peace Talks is nothing new.. This was common knowledge at least 20 years ago.. I knew about it then, so why is it such a revelation now?.

The ‘X’ Envelope

Ironically, Walt Rostow made that link in his own mind when he had to decide what to do with the file in the wake of Johnson’s death on Jan. 22, 1973. In the preceding four years, Rostow had come to label the file “The ‘X’ Envelope,” a name that he wrote in longhand on the file’s cover.

On May 14, 1973, as he pondered what to do with the file, the Watergate scandal was spinning out of Nixon’s control. In a three-page “memorandum for the record,” Rostow summarized what was in “The ‘X’ Envelope” and provided a chronology for the events in fall 1968.

Rostow reflected, too, on what effect LBJ’s public silence may have had on the unfolding Watergate scandal. Rostow had a unique perspective in understanding the subterranean background to Nixon’s political espionage operations.

“I am inclined to believe the Republican operation in 1968 relates in two ways to the Watergate affair of 1972,” Rostow wrote. He noted, first, that Nixon’s operatives may have judged that their “enterprise with the South Vietnamese” – in frustrating Johnson’s last-ditch peace initiative – had secured Nixon his narrow margin of victory over Hubert Humphrey in 1968.

“Second, they got away with it,” Rostow wrote. “Despite considerable press commentary after the election, the matter was never investigated fully. Thus, as the same men faced the election in 1972, there was nothing in their previous experience with an operation of doubtful propriety (or, even, legality) to warn them off, and there were memories of how close an election could get and the possible utility of pressing to the limit – and beyond.”

Rostow apparently struggled with this question for the next month as the Watergate scandal continued to expand. On June 25, 1973, fired White House counsel John Dean delivered his blockbuster Senate testimony, claiming that Nixon got involved in the cover-up within days of the June 1972 burglary at the Democratic National Committee. Dean also asserted that Watergate was just part of a years-long program of political espionage directed by Nixon’s White House.

The very next day, as headlines of Dean’s testimony filled the nation’s newspapers, Rostow reached his conclusion about what to do with “The ‘X’ Envelope.” In longhand, he wrote a “Top Secret” note which read, “To be opened by the Director, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, not earlier than fifty (50) years from this date June 26, 1973.”

Ultimately, however, the LBJ Library didn’t wait that long. After a little more than two decades, on July 22, 1994, the envelope was opened and the archivists began the process of declassifying the contents.

More on Nixon’s treason

Rumors and whispers of Richard Nixon’s ‘treason’ — sabotaging Vietnam peace talks to help his Presidential campaign — have floated around for years, but newly released tapes from Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency confirm that LBJ knew about Nixon’s behaviour and didn’t bother to report it.

In previously released tapes from Johnson’s Presidency, we had heard about Johnson having a substantial body of evidence showing Nixon schemed to keep the South Vietnamese away from the negotiating table at the 1968 Paris peace talks. Johnson recorded all of his conversations held inside the White House while he was President. (Where do you think Nixon got the idea?) Nixon was accused or dispatching Anna Chennault, a senior advisor, to convince the South Vietnamese they would get a better deal if they didn’t agree to peace, effectively ending the Vietnam war, until after the U.S. Presidential election. Chennault confirmed she spoke with the Vietnamese in her autobiography, The Education of Anna, but nothing more than that. If true, the charge would likely amount to treason.

Nixon’s “treason,” if true, is a specific instance of betrayal of government policy and information, whereas the Trump electoral plan to use Russian information about Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and other information differs in that it was an outgrowth of a larger Russian effort to effort to corrupt U. S. democratic process. It lacked the specificity of Nixons’s “treason” but resulted in a grosser betrayal of our nation.

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