Richard Nixon's 1968 Campaign for President
By David Henderson
The first thing that Martin did for Richard Nixon—one of the first things—it’s dated July 4, 1967—is to make the argument for abolishing the military draft and moving to an all-volunteer armed force.
This is my Hoover colleague Annelise Anderson reminiscing about how she and her husband, the late Martin Anderson, got involved in Richard Nixon’s 1967-68 campaign for president of the United States. Obviously, for those who know my view on the draft, this was my favorite segment of the 1.5 hour discussion on C-SPAN. It’s titled “Richard Nixon’s 1968 Victory,” and was shown on September 21, 2018. The whole thing is way more fascinating than I expected it to be. The moderator is Geoffrey C. Shepard and the 3 other panelists, besides Annelise, are Kenneth L. Khachigian, Patrick J. Buchanan, and Dwight L. Chapin. All 3 were in the Nixon campaign and then the Nixon administration. Chapin later went to prison for lying to a grand jury.
I’ll get to some highlights but first I’ll do my own reminiscence of the Nixon election. I was 17 years old that fall and had just started my second year of college. I had recently self-identified as a libertarian, once I knew what the word meant, and the 1968 election was the first one I followed at all closely, but not nearly as closely as I do now. Although I was no fan of Nixon’s Democratic opponent, Hubert Humphrey (witness the fact that in November 1969 I confronted him about his views on the draft—a story I tell in The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey), I didn’t like the fact that mainly student groups throughout the country were shouting Humphrey down at many of his campaign speeches. “Dump the Hump” went the chant. It was pretty ugly.
But I was so naive about politics that when I read Ayn Rand’s endorsement of Nixon and her highlight of some small criticisms he had made of the FCC and Social Security, I thought he would abolish those within months of becoming president. There’s a lot I didn’t know, to put it mildly.
On the evening of November 5, 1968, my fellow libertarian and University of Winnipeger Don Redekop and I took a bus to Clancy Smith’s place where, along with some other libertarians in their early 20s, we watched the election results. At around 1 p.m. Central time, Clancy drove us home with our still not knowing who won.
I got up late the next morning and found out that Nixon had won. I was euphoric. I shouldn’t have been. Again, there’s a lot I didn’t know. Little did I know that less than 5 years later, I would be working in the Old Executive Office Building less than 200 yards from where Nixon worked.
Fast forward to about August 1993. My wife, daughter, and I were in coach on a United Airlines flight from Newark to LAX. Nixon was in first class with one Secret Service guy. His wife, Pat, had died 2 months earlier. I wasn’t a big fan of Nixon’s, to put it mildly. I thought, back when I was working for him in the summer of 1973, that he should be impeached—over price controls. But I always appreciated, and still do, his role in ending the draft. I’m a pretty spunky person and so I thought I would take my daughter, who was 8 at the time, to the first class section, introduce her to him, and thank him for his role. Then I remembered an interview with him that I had read in the Oakland Tribune in 1980. Asked what his biggest policy mistake was, he answered “ending the draft.” The hell with him, I thought, and that was the end of it. In retrospect, though, I should have taken my daughter to meet him.
Now to the highlights:
13:40-15:30: Writing a book on Nixon’s policy proposals. Got the request on Sunday, put it together, and had books on Friday.
32:25: Mentions Peter Flanigan. I remember being at some event that Ralph Nader spoke at, sometime in the late 1970s, I believe, although it might have a speech he gave at UCLA in 1974 or 1975. Ralph referred to Flanigan as the most evil man in Washington. But I had independent evidence that suggested otherwise. When I was a summer intern at the Council of Economic Advisers in 1973, I got copies of all of Sam Peltzman’s memos and read them all. What I remember is that whenever Flanigan’s name came up, he was on the economic freedom side of the issue. Years later I met Flanigan and told him (a) what Ralph had said and (b) what I thought.
38:50: Nixon’s pithy explanation for why Rockefeller dropped out: “It’s the girl.”
42:50: After Martin Luther King is murdered, Nixon goes to visit his widow and Martin Luther King, Sr.
56:10: Hunter S. Thompson says that Nixon will be president of the United States because of the 15 minutes of ugly clash between protesters and cops.
1:05:40: Late in October, Pat Buchanan says we’ve lost Michigan and we’re down 43 to 40. Nixon’s watching the Oregon Ducks vs. USC football game and says thanks and goes back to intently watching.
1:12:10: Roger Ailes tells Nixon he needs to make television his friend.
1:15:00: Sun lamp.
1:18:40: Bryce Harlow.
1:24:20: Russian collusion in 1968 election?
1:28:00: Chapin says that Nixon’s convention speech in Miami was a “work of art.” This has certainly motivated me to look at it.
HT2 Marlon Bateman