Recently uncovered notes from former President Richard Nixon's aide H.R. Haldeman show the disgraced former president meddled with Vietnam War peace talks as part of his strategy to win the 1968 election.
John Farrell wrote in The New York Times Opinion section on Saturday that as the polling gap between Nixon and Democratic opponent Hubert Humphrey closed, Nixon was tipped off to a possible deal: If then-President Lyndon B. Johnson would stop bombing North Vietnam, the USSR pledged to start peace talks.
Then things got complicated.
What the notes show
Nixon had an operative close to South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu -- Anna Chennault, a member of the pro-nationalist China lobby. And if the peace talks were stalled, Nixon could frame the peace talks as a political stunt, Farrell writes.
"Keep Anna Chennault working on" the Vietnam situation, Haldeman wrote as he recorded Nixon's directions. "Any other way to monkey wrench it? Anything RN can do... Tell [Thieu] hold firm." The peace talks ultimately failed.
I'm reading their hand...this is treason.
Johnson heard of the incident and ordered the FBI to track Chennault. The agency recorded her as telling Vietnamese Ambassador to the United States Bui Diem: "Hold on. We are gonna win... Please tell your boss to hold on."
Nixon beat Humphrey in November 1968 to win his first term as president. He became the first U.S. president to resign from office in 1974.
Nixon later insisted he had done nothing wrong. But federal law prohibits citizens from trying to "defeat the measures of the United States." He was never charged with any crimes, and the incident was largely overshadowed by Watergate.
But critics said this action, as it extended the bloody war, may have been much worse.
These figures put it in perspective.
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