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tv   The Presidency Pat Oliphants Political Cartoons - LBJ to Reagan  CSPAN  November 18, 2019 12:00am-1:21am EST

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house, congress, the supreme court, and public-policy events. you can make up your own mind. c-span is brought to you by your local cable or satellite provider. >> a pulitzer prize winning cartoonist and his work are the subject of discussion at the university of virginia, which has just acquired his cartoon collection. we hear from scholars from miller center. they focus on the presidency from lyndon b. johnson to ronald reagan. [applause] >> welcome. what we are going to have for the next 75 minutes is a kind of meeting of two cultures.
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one culture is represented by the people on this stage who are scholars associated with the miller center at the university of virginia and to study the presidency -- who study the presidency, and expressed in written word. the other culture in this room is pat oliphant. [applause] >> please greet pat oliphant. even more so by the work of pat, which you will see displayed on this screen. the culture he represents is not
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sort of broad gauge and long but highly specific. prospective over the course of more than 60 years as a cartoonist producing more than 10,000 individual cartoons five days a week for the denver post for several years, for the washington star for several years, and then he became the first 20th-century cartoonist to work independently. that is how popular his work was. it was syndicated through newspapers across the country out of his studio. so a specific, daily comment on events as they were occurring. far from being balanced, they were opinionated. that was part of their virtue. obviously, not so much in words, but especially in pictures. not just confined to cartoons, but also to paintings and sculpture. before i introduce our panel, let me speak some words of thanks on behalf of those who were instrumental in helping this program come about.
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take time to visit the exhibition not only at the miller center but also at the special collections library. thanks to the entire staff of the special collections library for all their artwork, not only processing and preserving the collection but also preparing for this amazing excavation. thanks to john unsworth, the dean of the libraries, and university librarian, who has led the effort throughout. and finally, susan conway and patrick oliphant for donating their collection to the university in making this event possible.
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i will introduce the panel and then tell you a little bit about how we are going to proceed from now until the end of our first session. the second session will follow the same format. i am introducing these in the order to which they are sitting on your right. by the way, these introductions are going to be insultingly brief. you can read more about the individuals in your programs and go to the website and learn even more about them. kent germany worked extensively on a john f. kennedy and lyndon b. johnson recording as part of the presidential recordings project at the miller center. ken hughes, also with the miller center, who worked extensively
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and famously in some ways on the lbj and especially on the richard nixon recording project. chester patch, a historian whose research interests and product has encompassed johnson and ronald reagan. robert strong. bob strong was assistant director when the miller center was conducting its oral histories. i am mike nelson. i have an affiliation with the miller center but my day job is at roads college in memphis, tennessee. our format will be essentially this. there are no prepared presentations, no prepared remarks. we are going to be flashing over the course of this session 15 cartoons. just a tiny, curated, but tiny slice of what we could do and should do if we have enough time. it will unfold chronologically
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from the johnson administration through the reagan administration. and then basically, i am going to throw the floor open to brief comments from these panelists. their perspective on what they are seeing and how that relates to what they knew about and now know about what was going on in the administration at the time. if we could have that first cartoon. all right. have at it. >> i will start by saying this one stymied three out of four. so a little bit of background. this is 1966, when lyndon johnson has just undergone surgery. he is getting teasing reviews from the class because he refuses to convalesce. he had gotten a polyp removed from his throat and had a hernia operated on. as soon as the anesthetic wore
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off, he started calling cabinet secretary, white house aides, and he invited reporters in to observe him recovering. so his doctors had said, for two or three weeks, you are not allowed to drive. presidents don't drive because they don't have to. he went driving around his ranch in johnson city. johnson, being johnson, decided that four days out of surgery, he would drive around johnson city. he decided four days out of the around. he would drive so this cartoon is making fun of him. i think there is one reference most of us will get. [laughter] >> lyndon johnson, he loved the newspaper. he loved seeing things about himself in the newspaper. maybe not everything he felt like he liked, but he liked to be the center of attention. and if you look at the various things in this cartoon, it is a little snapshot of lyndon
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johnson. there's a lot of johnson in the cartoons that shows up in those recordings. he loved to stand on cars. he loved to get gold horns to stand on cars and do politicking that way. if you know anything about johnson, he has a lot of stories. different body parts and how those compared to human being body parts and other things. cows quivering in pastures, waiting for bulls. my daughter is here, an 18-year-old high school senior p i am not sure she would know who popeye is, but i think the rest of us might know. popeye might make a comeback, so there's a chance with this cartoon. >> i have trouble imagining lyndon johnson as popeye. i kept thinking about ladybird as olive oil, and that did not seem to work quite as well. and the notion that he would recover quickly and then do damage seems to fit.
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>> i would just think about the timing. this is late 1966. imagine a depiction of johnson only six months or eight months later. would he look so forceful given that the war in vietnam deteriorated considerably? this represents johnson as a powerful figure. it is something of a zenith or at least it would be a decline afterwards. the other thing that struck me in relation to the convalescence, johnson was a notably un-private man. i heard from journalists how he would take them into the bathroom as he answered their questions, even an afternoon nap, he would shepherd them into questions, even an afternoon the bedroom and change in to his pajamas. he did that in the hospital. he did that overall. so in some ways, that reflected the johnson personality. it is not in the cartoon, but it is certainly that convalescence.
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>> i am going to invoke popeye, not only pre-spinach but post-spinach. where we see him here. although this cartoon is from 1966, i will never forget reading something by david greenberg describing johnson on the day of kennedy's assassination. johnson, up until that time, had been a very unhappy vice president. he had let himself go physically and in other ways. greenberg said once he got the word he was going to be president, he was like popeye after he ate a can of spinach. three years later, occasionally that image seemed appropriate. >> i think we need to say a little something about hubert humphrey, who you might not see, but he is the baby crawling there. asking about tapioca and barbecued spinach. let's think a little bit about hubert.
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on thing in terms of johnson's surgery, hubert humphrey's son had cancer two years before this so this was a major moment in the humphrey families life, so i want to put that out there about little baby hubert. in a few minutes we will see hubert in different forms that mr. oliphant created. >> let's move to the next one. >> i guess since i'm the white house tapes guy, i'll take this one. this is a pretty good depiction of lyndon johnson's life. he was constantly on the phone. you can go through the daily diary and see how many people he talked about. he talked about them with a level of expertise that is dazzling. he would get upset with people taking up his time. there is an early conversation where johnson is talking about
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all of these shit-ass appointments as president when he is trying to think. johnson spends his life, breaks his life into two days. he takes a nap in the middle of the day. somehow, johnson was able to ingest enough calories to handle all of these crises. this is from 1960 seven. remember the detroit riots. johnson makes the decision to send in the army into detroit. that is part of what is going on here. >> just to take off from that, we are all familiar with thinking about franklin roosevelt as the master of radio. kennedy, the first president who masters television. trump is the first master of whatever it is twitter is. lyndon johnson is the master of the telephone. that is a private form of communication, not a public one. in washington, everything leaks, so it's a semi-public form of communication, and it is a helpful tool for thinking about
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his presidency. imagine those conversations because of the work the miller center has done, listen to a number of them. when you spend time listening to johnson on the phone, you know a lot about what kind of president he was. >> can i piggyback on that? whatever my students doing today? they have to listen to three of johnson's telephone tapes on the miller center site. one where he speaks to jackie kennedy 10 days after the assassination, one to richard russell where he bludgeons him into serving on the commission, and the infamous one in which he orders -- i urge you all to listen to those tapes if you have not. they compared the public and private johnson and the two are light years apart. he can have very different personalities even on the phone.
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>> in terms of the circumstances of that detroit riot, this was summer of 1967. johnson at this time, i think, was still expecting to run for president again in 1968. his main rival for the republican nomination, it appeared at that time, was going to be governor george romney of michigan. when the riots took place in michigan, the subtext contributing to what turned out to be so complicated, was that romney did not want to say he could not handle this situation, and therefore needed federal troops did and johnson insisted that romney say he could not handle the situation. even in the midst of a catastrophic set of events that resulted in dozens of deaths, hundreds of millions of dollars in destroyed property, it could not take that sort of political component out of it as two
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individuals who thought they might be running against each other the following year. wanting to make the situation reflects bad on the other one rather than on himself. >> i do want to point out some of the artistry and how johnson gets presented. johnson had very large parts of his body that he imposed on other people. think about the johnson treatment. but the way he presented his nose here. there is this growing nose that johnson has paid if you pay attention to johnson's body shape, it is a distinctly different version of johnson than any i have seen. not this one, but the next one we are going to look at. >> let's move on. [laughter] >> that is baby hubert. and he is running for president. so, johnson -- i cannot tell if those are flies. the ranch is an important part
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of lyndon johnson's life. he loved to go and look at the deer and look at the river and he went to great lengths to acquire hundreds and hundreds of acres of property around him, so this was lyndon johnson's favorite place to be. and you have gone hubert humphrey wearing his boots, which look like ladies bids. they have a very high heel to them. it is kind of a feminized boot. he is skinny. most images of johnson are not of him being skinny, but i think that reflects the end of his presidency. he really was not that old. one thing to think about lyndon johnson is he died before he was eligible for medicare. he was in his early 60's, in his 50's during most of his presidency. he had had a heart attack in the mid-1950's and he would have two more after his presidency so his body is deteriorating, but he is relatively a young person here in this. i love the image of the horse in the background.
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this is an image -- i grew up a little bit in texas, and people love horses and drawing horses on their wall. it was immediately back into texas in the 1970's looking at somebody's house with a picture on the wall. >> this is a painfully accurate depiction of the relationship between lyndon johnson and hubert humphrey. johnson had chosen humphrey as his vice president in 1964 because he needed to have a liberal running mate whose last name was not kennedy. humphrey was the choice. it seemed like the best move humphrey could make at the time. the most deleterious one in the long run for his own presidential ambitions because he had to completely subordinate himself to lyndon johnson especially on the vietnam war. this cartoon was done in the month of the democratic national convention in chicago, when humphrey tried to get a piece plank in britain. it would call for a halt to american bombing of north vietnam.
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as a gesture to get negotiations started to end the war. johnson threatened to denounce humphrey as jeopardizing the lives of american soldiers if he came out for a bombing halt. while humphrey was becoming the leader of the party, he was still very much under johnson's control, and i think this captures this almost cruelly. >> i belong to the generation that was in college when all of this was going on. i cannot read. i feel a draft the way it was intended. if it was supposed to be about johnson being drafted for the nomination, i cannot see that word without thinking something else.
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>> i think it reflects the contemporary perceptions of the johnson/humphrey relationship, but i guess i want to push back a little bit and say i think it is a tad unfair to hubert humphrey. he did try hard to carve out some independent space. the overwhelming personality of johnson made it very difficult, but just to see humphrey as the child in the adult boots i think diminishes humphrey's stature even in the shadow of johnson. >> i will just add this. johnson wanted to be president for a very long time, but he came up in politics in texas at a time when being a senator meant you were associated in the minds of your fellow senators but also in the minds of the national press, the american people. associated with the south.
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no southerner had been nominated for president since zachary taylor. even woodrow wilson was governor of new jersey at the time. for johnson, it was very important that he was going to move on to the national stage as a presidential level politician to rebrand himself as a westerner. this ranch was terribly important to his effort to carve out a new identity. he was inviting people from washington down there all the time so that they would see him and associate him with the west, which had no political baggage attached to it. rather than the south, which did. >> i love this cartoon. [laughter] moving onto the nixon campaign, this is right after richard nixon has announced, as a republican candidate for
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president, that he will end the war and win the peace in vietnam. he is rebranding himself as a dove after having supported every hawkish escalation of the war up until that point. and i think with this, it captures that the commentary at the time, and for years afterwards did not capture, was just how impossible it would be for any of the candidates to come up with a satisfactory outcome in vietnam. nixon was trying to avoid saying he was going to win the war because he knew he could not do that and it would not be credible, and he really did not have much planned for ending it or winning the peace, as we will get into a little bit later. the idea of him scrambling to pull a rabbit out of the hat is perfect, i think. i do want to draw everyone's attention to the facial expression on the rabbit, which i read as cheated. others might take it a different way.
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>> i found this really curious. i thought of someone who did other kinds of tricks. the problem with richard nixon was not that he was an incompetent trickster but that he was way too good at it. >> i guess my reaction was tricky dick, too.
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eisenhower thought nixon was too partisan and immature. nixon did try to rebrand himself as the guy who was more mature, who could poke fun at himself. some of you may remember seeing him during the campaign saying sockets to me. only the new nixon could do that. what we got was another version of the trickster. this one in a magician suit. but still, i think it calls back that image of nixon as the tricky dick. >> i will be the nose guy to point out richard nixon and his nose. too tired with johnson and opinion polls done at the time, they basically asked the survey respondents, do you trust the government to do the right thing unless cases? that number at the john kennedy/lyndon johnson level is bumping up at 80%. by the time we get to richard nixon, it is dropping down while below the 50's and into the 20's, so we see this precipitous drop. the noses in these cartoons are indicating in the american public that faith in the
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government and presidency -- the sense that these authoritative leaders are lying to us. has become ingrained in american culture. it is the political cartoonist that let us know this ahead of time that we should listen more. >> nixon's great advantage, when it came to the vietnam issue in 1968, was that he was able to say i am not this and i am not that. i am not going to be the president who got us into a war, and deeper and deeper into a war, and now cannot seem to find any way out of it. i am also not going to be one of those dovish politicians who, as he would put it, cuts and runs. i don't know that nixon never spoke the words "secret plan." in effect, what he was offering to voters was that i am not either one of those guys or sets of guys, and you could do a lot worse than me. a good bit of rebranding of
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himself while he was vice president and in the run-up to his revived candidacy in 1968. he spent a lot of time touring the world and establishing a general reputation as somebody who was deeply familiar with foreign affairs. he said you can trust me to handle this. that resonated in some ways with a selection of voters who thought we cannot do any worse than we are doing. this is a guy who seems to know his way around the world and he was able to get away, in other words, with being very broad and general and nonspecific in a way that other candidates might not have been. this is actually 1972. you all remember george wallace, the former governor of alabama who ran as an independent candidate in 1968, when nixon was a republican nominee and humphrey was a democratic
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nominee. for a good bit of that campaign, it appeared that wallace might carry enough states to throw the election into the house of representatives, to deny nixon and humphrey a majority. as it turned out, he did not, although he carried 45 electoral votes, which in a closer election might have done the trick. it would have thrown it into the house. along the way, he got over 13% of the vote and established himself as a national figure. in 1972, that's when he decided he was going to pursue his presidential ambitions by running as a democrat, which of course was his party during his career in alabama. having won the florida primary, you see him kissing his on-again/off-again political girlfriend, the democratic donkey.
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>> i just cannot keep thinking of this phrase. he would say pseudo-intellectual. [laughter] >> george wallace was the kind of candidate that we used to say could not possibly be elected president of the united states. events deprived him of the opportunity. it is worth noting he did not win the florida primary. he won michigan, maryland, and tennessee. >> i had a similar thought. you could draw an updated version of this with donald trump kissing an elephant. the difference would be you also have to draw a cartoon of the elephant kissing him back. [laughter] [applause] >> let me say a word about the donkey. i have to think about the context, too.
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the democratic south was starting to crumble, at least on presidential terms. it was moving white southern voters who were supporting republicans, and how the democrats would maintain strength in the south became a difficult question. and certainly, as much as the national democratic party wanted to keep that base in the south, if the base mental wallace or or wallacellace type candidates, it was a very, very difficult relationship. >> it is a good thing jimmy carter came along. i was going to make a note of the teeth, which will come up in a second. george mcgovern at the left end of the party.
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wallace was winning primaries in a way that frightened both of the other two wings of the parties and it was on the day he won the maryland primary that he was shot in maryland, and with such disabling wounds that he had to end his candidacy. there is no chance at all he would have become the democratic nominee and it is hard to see how he could have made things worse for the democrats that year. they ended up losing every state but one when nixon ran for reelection. he was being forced off the national scene and changed things in ways we will never be able to fully understand. >> another cartoon i love. this is from right before 1972 presidential elections when a lot of press coverage was about
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how richard nixon cannot possibly get the terms he demanded from the north vietnamese. and nixon was able to surprise the critics and get exactly the terms. unfortunately, the terms were not peace with honor as nixon and his assistant henry kissinger were presenting to the public. nixon and kissinger we now know from the white house tapes got an integral deal with the north interval deal- an
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with north vietnam that would keep south vietnam independent for a year or two after nixon withdrew the last american troops and they realized their terms would really doom the out -- so they were not counted as peace. right before the 72 elections they accepted the terms, realizing they would lead eventually to the communist victory in vietnam. kissinger went on television and announced that peace was at hand. i think this picture more than the headlines of the time captured what was going on, which was a massive trick. >> in all of these, i try to imagine what would the subject have thought of the drying -- drawing appearing in the newspaper. i'm not sure nixon would have been bothered by this. i think he might have thought, i am in fact pulling it out of a hat. henry kissinger would not have liked it. [laughter] >> i thought about the nixon kissinger relationship where nixon is the magician and kissinger is the invisible
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figure behind. how that changed over the course of a year. quickly where kissinger became the magician and became the guy who did all the marvelous things no one could imagine and became the essential figure of stability at a time when the nixon presidency was crumbling. kissinger is the magician's assistant but became the main act very quickly. >> i want to point toward value of the archives for us understanding the entire era. because we have 15 cartoons that give us a really nice snapshot of this time in history and what
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strikes me even as we are talking as we teach students the value of perspective, maybe we are in a post-truth phase of american life. i do not know if we are. but history is one of the things which everybody has their own opinion about it and we need evidence to look through the lens of art and commentary that is represented in the archive. in the 20 minutes we have been up here, we have begun to see something coming through this pen that i had not seen before i came into the room i do not have a hat on, but if i did, i tip it to you. thank you. >> one of the criticisms sometimes you hear of cartoons is they are didactic. they are telling you exactly to plant one thought in your mind and when i saw this cartoon, i had a very different reading on it. -- than my colleagues did.
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so i think oliphant was a more subtle cartoonist. or maybe i missed it. to me what i got was that nixon was the front man and kissinger was the one behind the scenes actually making things happen. that was an image kissinger cultivated in his back channel conversations with reporters and other members of the washington community. i wonder, did i just lose something there or could someone read the cartoon that way that way as well as in a more nixon centric way? >> just now after looking at it, it looks like there is a monster consuming him and maybe it is richard nixon consuming himself. >> i think kissinger thought of himself exactly the way you described, but this cartoon
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presents him huddled underneath handing of the bird that is not exactly the portrait of power he would have wanted. >> i yield to my betters. we have another nixon cartoon, at least one more. this is from right after nixon's most famous and self-destructive press conference. the i am not a crook press conference which needs no further introduction. this is another one i love. if nixon planned the press conference as his truth offensive to fight back against the watergate hearings, this is late in 1973. in the year since he had won the reelection landslide, the senate watergate hearings had begun. quite a few things had happened and nixon's image was greatly
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tarnished. approval ratings went from the high 60's into the 40's and even below into the 30's and this is a great reference to one of the things that came out in the senate watergate hearings, the existence of richard nixon's enemies list. items of evidence produced during blockbuster testimony in which the americans learned their president kept a list of enemies they wanted to use the federal government against. >> i was just thinking, isn't it nice to look back on a president in an age that was so innocent and simple that the worst public concern was whether the president was a crook?
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i wish we were back in those innocent times. [laughter] i want to pick up on what kent said. many of the names on the enemies list were on other lists he would compile. they were journalists. his aides kept tally of those in the media who were friendly or unfriendly, tv, print, and would use the power of the presidency to exclude them from news handouts and news conferences, time and again he would say he did not want a reporter from the new york times allowed into the white house again. and the aide would nod and then say yes and then not carried -- carry out those orders. there really was a tension between nixon and the news media that began in 1969 when he became president and only intensified because of vietnam and watergate. >> real quickly, i think there is an important lesson about the
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presidency we often forget. presidents are always in front and always putting up a front. how do you know what the real richard nixon or donald trump is? it's a real problem and a problem for scholars and one of the things i have learned in my affiliation with the miller center over the years and conducting interviews is how often the public image that has captured everyone's attention is wrong. and how important it is to puncture whatever that reputation is. richard nixon famously reinvented himself in the 1968 campaign and it is beginning to come apart here. we need to constantly be on the alert so we are not fooled by the many images we see.
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>> i agree. >> i would like to add look at all of the reporters. can you remember a time when presidents felt like they had no choice but to hold press conferences on a regular basis? even when it was politically inconvenient for them. we all watched the press conferences because we only got three channels and they were broadcast live on all three at the same time. so in some ways, the cartoon speaks to an earlier era in the way in which the media and public are able to see the president, as well as commenting on the particular circumstances of that very memorable press conference. isn't it interesting at that time, nixon's response when people accused him of having done things wrong was to try to cover them up.
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he bought the premise that if a president has done the things of which he is accused and it comes out, he will lose office. i do not know that that is the current government situation in the white house today, we denying something flat-out or saying, even if i did it, it doesn't matter, there's nothing wrong with it, is a very different kind of response to serious accusations. we are ready for the last nixon cartoon, coming up. chin to nose with president nixon on the left of the screen. >> it's right after the existence of the secret white house tapes nixon recorded came out during the senate watergate hearings. a lot of people were shocked that the president secretly
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recorded his conversations and an aide to john f. kennedy said jfk never would have done that and a day later it came out that he had, as well, as well as johnson and eisenhower and presidents going back to fdr. the difference was in nixon's case, the tapes immediately became criminal evidence. so the special prosecutor wanted to subpoena them, and did, and nixon fought the subpoena tooth and nail to the extent of firing cox. that brings us to the moment before that, which is a western showdown.
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i love the caption, eyeball to eyeball kind of pointing out nixon's habitual shifty eyedness. >> i am guessing the devil at the bottom is not archibald cox. just a guess. >> the reference seems to me even if not intended, the eyeball to eyeball reference of kennedy and khrushchev during the cuban missile crisis. it elevates a domestic conflict to the level of international confrontation and one could read into it the implication that the integrity of the republic is almost at risk at this time in the same way as it was during the cuban missile crisis, although in very different ways. but the analogy is very interesting and worth thinking about. >> this is a kennedy washington and nixon washington eyeball to eyeball. it also looks like nixon is holding a tape but it looks like a weapon he is about to throw. >> all of these cartoons were published in a daily newspaper and meant to comment on the
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daily news. am i alone in seeing the cartoon bring back a whole era? that summer when we heard john dean in the white house counsel for nixon testify under oath to incriminating conversations he had been part of the president in the oval office. and having his testimony discredited and then, one day, we learned that there are actual audio tape of these conversations in dispute and who would have imagined a president would install a voice activated recording system? but nixon had done it and we found out about it one day and so the question became, we can settle this. who is telling the truth?
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go to the tape. and it was a matter of time, assuming nixon did not burn the tape, which some thought he should or should have done looking back, but what an extraordinary thing that this would then become evidence in a criminal case and known to the public and now available for our ears. let's say goodbye to richard nixon and turned to his successor, his appointed vice president. we have skipped over spiro agnew and the circumstances of his resignation in the coming of the 20 for the amendment which for -- 25th amendment, which for the first time provided for the appointment of a new vice president when the vice presidency became vacant. and it turned out to be gerald ford, who the time was the republican minority leader in the house of representatives, had been an established figure in washington for 25 years and i wonder, as you look at these, was ford nixon's first choice to
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be his vice president? what did he hope he would accomplish by appointing ford to the office instead of someone else? >> ford was easy to get appointed. i know that nixon really wanted john connelly, a democrat who was closely associated with lyndon johnson and very conservative and had joined nixon as his treasury secretary in his first term and then ran democrats for nixon. but apparently there was no way to get a democratic turncoat. were there other candidates? ford was just the easiest to get
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appointed. nixon was kind of dreading the fact that ford was kind of a popular replacement. as long as spiro agnew was vice president, they could not impeach him. with ford they had somebody a lot of people could accept in the role. >> he was made fun of, particularly about hitting his head too many times while playing football. lbj started the cte trend before it was a thing. >> i would like to say a word about the band-aid on his forehead.
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the image that became attached to gerald ford was clumsy. falling down, bumping into things. chevy chase cannot do a proper impression of him but was not good at falling down. it is one of those images that is false. gerald ford had a football scholarship to the university of michigan. that is a non-trivial athletic accomplishment. and in his adult life was an accomplished athlete and a number of sports. the clumsiness got attached to him not because it was true about him as a person, because it was metaphorically correct. an awkward president, not elected, apointed, who succeeds the only president whoever resigned from office, has to navigate the period following that disgrace, and it is full of bumps and errors.
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the clumsy ford stuck. but it is not altogether inaccurate picture of who he was. >> i would endorse that. and it became criticizing his competence to be president, the falling down was an indirect way of doing that. think of the debate where he said under his presidency, we will be no soviet control in eastern europe. and the moderator kind of looked at him, are you sure you want to say that? and he doubled down on it. so stumbles were visible. but there was a real doubt ford was up to the challenges of the office. 1986. way while reagan challenged him in 1986. >> if you think of sharks in the water and gerald ford making himself available for comedians
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to make fun of, it is also that television had become much different by that time. watergate made television a much different thing. so seeing the loss of face in the presidency and pardoning richard nixon, he opened himself up to that at a time when there was money to be made by really making fun of presidents. so it comes off for comedians to make fun of presidents in a way they had not before watergate. >> one thing about ford. he was the first vice president in history who was elected neither president nor vice president. he became president through this new process in the constitution. the significance of that is that prior to becoming vice president, and not too long a while, president, was that the largest constituency in which he had ever had to run for office was a congressional district in michigan. a rocksolid republican congressional district in michigan. so to translate that experience into the presidency, especially
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in a time in the aftermath of nixon where people were looking to the presidency for some sense of reassurance and that things will be ok, he was in a difficult situation. on top of that, not many years before becoming president, the political parties had opened up their process for choosing their nominees for president, which meant in 1976 the door was much wider than it had ever been for ronald reagan or another challenger to come and take him on. ronald reagan had been elected governor of california two times. he had been on a larger stage. he had been a movie star for years. he knew how to relate to the mass public in a way ford never had a chance to learn. but this gives us a chance to move on to the reagan presidency. i'm sorry, to the carter
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presidency and then the reagan presidency. >> the first thing you notice is that carter's teeth are larger than the donkey's teeth. carter must've been a problem for political cartoonists. normally, they have been drawing you for years from the various things you have done in most cases. he does come from almost out of nowhere. and then there were some issues about how he was properly drawn. some of them drew his body as a peanut. the good people in plains, georgia, erected a 15 foot high peanut with a grin on it in order to hopefully stop passing by cars and have them visit plains and the gift shops. later, they came up something
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different. a traffic light. he is new to the scene. this is an iconic scene for every president. after you have been elected, you suddenly have things to deal with and they turn out to be extremely hard. kennedy was asked at the end of his first year in the white house what surprised him the most and he said all the bad things i said during the campaign about washington turned out to be true. it is a daunting challenge. maybe even more daunting for the candidate without any national experience. >> and just to pick up on that and go beyond it, it seems to be a fundamental question that historians study and debate, how much of the failings of the carter presidency really can be attributed to jimmy carter, his inexperience, and how much has
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to do with the issues and problems that are represented in the cartoon? it seems as if he is coming into the office facing extraordinary challenges. so there is more to the story. >> i think about carter coming up, a guy from south georgia, a nuclear engineer, an officer. he came out of nowhere and is coming into the office. i think part of it was maybe there is a freshness. this baptist guy from south georgia that could bring something fresh and new. historically, these are in the form of books.
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this is written material he will sit down and go through. lyndon johnson did not read books. some presidents read books, others don't. some write letters to their mothers, others have their aides do it. it looks to me there is a freshness to it. and we might not go back to having all of these things in one place again. there is one democratic candidate who had plans of that. it is an incredibly difficult job when we think back at the cartoons with lbj and how much time it took and how you had to be an expert in so many different things or have experts in your white house providing you a foundation in the domestics sphere and in policy.
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but now we do not think about the expertise that lies behind the presidents. the professionalism that is there. >> looking back at the coverage carter got in 1976 as an outsider, i remember seeing a barbara walters special in which she described him as unusually sexy for a presidential candidate. and kennedyesque in his charisma. that would not last. tells the >> that's true. one of the virtues of having these snapshots is they remind us of whatever the lasting image of jimmy carter is, as not smiling, as overburdened i challenges of the office -- by challenges of the office and the times is that we forget the extraordinary sense of optimism and new energy that accompanied his election.
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doonesbury had a running character in the cartoons in the first few months of the administration. the secretary of symbolism. the joke was that carter was so good at mastering the symbols of the office and in order to win our support, that is how high he was riding at the time. as kent pointed out, his election as president parks a transition. we had been electing washington figures president ever since world war ii and with 1976, the fact that he had never been in washington, which he reminded us of as a candidate, turned out to be a political virtue. he was from georgia. he had done things and was going to bring the sense of fresh blood and spirit into washington. that marks a historic turning point at which a complete
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outsider began to be a more appealing political persona for president. >> the other way cartoonists responded to the carter administration is by drawing things about his southern, rural heritage. there was a cartoon of a scene out of the white house on the cinderblocks. and another of the press secretary coming into the office and asking the staff, there is a cartoon of the white house with a tire swing in front of the door. what is this? why is it funny? and his staff explained people do not really put tire swings in their front yard. he went home that night and took down the tire swing.
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that he had put in his suburban virginia home and his kids were very upset. [laughter] one question you might ask, whose staff would be or upset, kennedy or carter? it is a tossup. the political advisor to jimmy carter said we lost the election in 1980 for three reasons. bad economy, iran hostage crisis, and ted kennedy. if we had been able to fix one of those three, we would have stood a chance. but with the three of them against us, we did not. this is a cartoon that says carter doesn't beat kennedy in the season, he just comes equipped for the car crash.
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>> i have never seen this before and looked long and hard at it. we are now 50 years after chappaquiddick. some of you might've seen the retrospective shows and movies that bring the cultural understanding to something that happened in different circumstances. i once went to chappaquiddick to see the bridge and i reached my own conclusions about who was at fault. i read this as much more critical of kennedy than of carter. maybe carter's white house staff was not happy about it with the president in the backseat and prepared to swim for his survival, but it seems to me that kennedy is driving and driving carter presidency over the edge into the deep. it reflects some of the thinking
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at the time that i think a lot of the criticism was also muted because it was a kennedy. >> it also reflects the struggle between a liberal and moderate member of the democratic party. not that any of us have heard of anything like that. [laughter]
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