Pie Chamberlain: In the United States it was a presidential election year, marked by the peaceful if not quiet, transition from the Kennedy Administration to one which Lyndon Johnson could rightfully call his own. We’ll continue with the story of 1964 in a moment.
For Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 political success story, here is John Chambers in Washington.
John Chambers: It took almost the entire year for Lyndon Johnson to emerge from the shadow John F. Kennedy left. But when the voters expressed their will, the President of transition was elected by the largest popular plurality in a century. In January Johnson went before the Congress.
Lyndon Johnson: “Let us carry forward the plans and programs of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Not because of our sorrow or sympathy, but because they are right.”
John Chambers: Congress reversed the field block when Kennedy was leader and enacted controversial bill after bill. The tax cut went through in a matter of weeks. Education bills snarled and personal frictions between aging legislators were oiled by a simple telephone call or two from the new President. Johnson called it the Education Congress. Finally on July 2nd, the most controversial and perhaps the most significant piece of legislation declared the 88th Congress, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. First a dogged Southern Senate filibuster was broken. Rights Bill Floor Manager, Senator Hubert Humphrey knew personal triumph.
Hubert Humphrey: It's a great day, truly, it's a day for sober rejoicing and for a sense of happiness in the nation.
John Chamber: Johnson also introduced the Kennedy idea of the late President plan, but did not have the opportunity to expand. The war on poverty Johnson called it. It whistled through Congress as a major domestic aid program, but related purely Johnson measure, the Appalachia Bill failed. As did the new frontier concept, hospital care for the aged financed under the social security system. It was Johnson’s outstanding congressional defeat of the year.
There was one domestic policy that was clearly President Johnson’s, economizing. First, the President slashed the Kennedy Budget, then he turned out the lights at the White House. Lyndon Johnson never announced he was a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. He just never let anyone forget it.
For back in January, on his sunny Phoenix, Arizona patio, Barry Goldwater had announced.
Barry Goldwater: “I want to tell you that I will seek the Republican Presidential nomination, and I have decided to do this because of the principles in which I believe, and because I am convinced that millions of Americans share my belief in those principles.”
John Chamber: Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton insisted --
William Scranton: “I have told you that I am not a candidate and do not wish to run.”
John Chamber: And Governor Rockefeller of New York said --
Nelson Rockefeller: “I am in this race all away.”
John Chamber: But in June Rockefeller was defeated in the California primary. A week after that, Governor Scranton bid for the Moderate Liberal GOP leadership. He went before a split convention of Maryland Republicans in Baltimore and announced his candidacy.
William Scranton: “The Republican party is in danger, and some say our country may be too.” They say that we are going to San Francisco to hold a convention not a coronation, and I hope you agree that we are not going there to hold the weight.”
John Chamber: But a month later, the heavily Goldwater Republican convention in San Francisco booed Scranton to defeat. To the discomfort of Liberal and Moderate Republicans, Senator Goldwater accepted GOP presidential nomination with this slogan.
Barry Goldwater: “I would remind that Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also, that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
John Chamber: The President waited until the humid Nomination Night of the Democratic Atlantic City Convention to announce his choice to his party.
Barry Goldwater: I hope that you will choose as the next Vice President of the United States, my close, my long time, my trusted colleague Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota.
John Chamber: Humphrey promised a verbal barrage for Republican opponents Golderwater and Miller.
Hubert Humphrey: “And my fellow Americans, most Democrats and most Republicans in the Senate voted to help the United Nations in it's peace keeping functions when it was in financial difficulty, but not Senator Goldwater.”
John Chamber: Then up and down the land, President Johnson and Barry Goldwater attacked each other. In a single 24 hours, two week before election day, the tide seemed first to turn to Goldwater, then heavily to Johnson. White House aid, Walter Jenkins was arrested on moral charges and hospitalized for nervous fatigue. Less than 24 hours after this was announced, the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev fell from power and the communist Chinese exploded their first nuclear device.
Candidate Johnson grabbed his Presidential hat and spoke to the American people.
Lyndon Johnson: “Until this week only four powers had entered the dangerous world of nuclear explosions. Whatever their differences, all four are sober and serious states, with long experience as major powers in the modern world. Communist China has no such experience.”
John Chamber: Then November 4th, at 2:30 a.m. Central time, it became official. The place, the Austin, Texasm civic auditorium.
Lyndon Johnson: "To every worker, to the people of both parties, I say thank you."
John Chamber: Johnson’s plurality was 61%, unique in the century. The new frontier became history, and the President as he first promised in May, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, pledged again to work for a great society.