Political Scandals

Evidence Suggests Nixon Wanted To Thwart Johnson's Vietnam Peace Talks

A newly found note a Nixon aide wrote in 1968 suggests the former president detailed how to stymie peace talks in Vietnam before he was elected.

Evidence Suggests Nixon Wanted To Thwart Johnson's Vietnam Peace Talks
The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and Oliver F. Atkins

Former President Richard Nixon had long been accused of derailing peace talks in Vietnam to boost his chances of winning the 1968 election — and newly uncovered notes support that claim.

An author working on the former president's biography found the notes in Nixon's presidential library and shared them with The New York Times.

The writing isn't Nixon's but a campaign aide's. That aide wrote down a conversation he supposedly had with Nixon, who said they should secretly "monkey wrench" the Vietnam peace talks then-president Lyndon B. Johnson was working on.

Nixon was running against Johnson's vice president, Hubert Humphrey. Polls at the time suggested Humphrey was catching up to Nixon in the final months of the campaign.

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If a peace deal was secured under Johnson's tenure, some say it likely would have helped Humphrey's chances in the election.

According to the aide's notes, Nixon told him to have a campaign ally convince the South Vietnamese not to agree to a peace deal until after the 1968 presidential election.

On Election Day, Nixon won the contest handily with the Electoral College, but was still polling less than a point higher than Humphrey.

More than 20,000 Americans were killed between the date of that note, Oct. 22, 1968, and the war's end, roughly seven years later.

The author that found the note told The New York Times, "Potentially, this is worse than anything [Nixon] did in Watergate."

In the Watergate scandal, it's not clear if Nixon instructed burglars to wiretap phones inside the Democratic National Committee's office, but there was evidence that he tried to cover up the effort. Nixon resigned from the presidency before he could be prosecuted.