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Jon Margolis
Jon Margolis
The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964
ISBN: 0688153232
The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964
The year 1964 marked a watershed in American history: John Kennedy was dead, and in the aftermath of his assassination, the country was trying to figure out what to do with itself. The Warren Commission was busily sifting evidence, Jackie Kennedy was fast on her way to becoming an icon of dignified widowhood, and Lyndon Johnson was tearing down Camelot to build the Great Society. Young men started burning draft cards, rioting blacks burned whole neighborhoods, women began to wonder if the male sex was their oppressor, Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution (which escalated the war in Vietnam), and three civil rights workers were killed in Mississippi.

In The Last Innocent Year, Jon Margolis, a former political reporter for the Chicago Tribune, captures all the drama and emotion of this historic year, re-creating it from the perspective of the statesmen, celebrities, and ordinary people who made its events come alive.

Nineteen sixty-four was the first year since the end of World War II in which America began to lose sight of its habitual optimism, giving way to the era known as the Sixties. This was a time when people were beginning to shake things up, as many diverse, disagreeing factions rose up against the elites that had been governing them. It was also a year in which students spoke out against their elders, and the anger of middle-class working people began to foment. By the end of the year, the commonwealth itself—and the very idea that there was or ought to be a commonwealth—was under attack and was forever changed.

Beginning the day after the Kennedy assassination and following through to President Johnson's defeat of Barry Goldwater in November, Margolis weaves an unforgettable narrative involving some of the most dynamic figures of this century—from Robert Kennedy to Timothy Leary, from J. Edgar Hoover to Martin Luther King Jr., from George Wallace to Fannie Lou Hamer.

This was also the year the Beatles took America by storm, Elizabeth Taylor dumped Eddie Fisher for Richard Burton, and Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston to become "The Greatest." Dr. Strangelove was playing in all the movie theaters, and The Beverly Hillbillies was all the rage on television. The Last Innocent Years provides a snapshot of who we were then, and where we were going.

With the authoritative voice of a veteran journalist, Margolis not only describes the events of that momentous year but places them in a context that is relevant today. He has drawn an unforgettable portrait of a year that changed America forever.
—from the publisher's website

The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964
Program Air Date: June 27, 1999

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Jon Margolis, why do you call the 1964 year `the last innocent year'?
Mr. JON MARGOLIS, AUTHOR, "THE LAST INNOCENT YEAR: AMERICA IN 1964": Well, as I say in the very first sentence of the introduction, there was no innocent year, ever. We--this myth of American innocence is something of a delusion. But 1964 may have been the last year it was a believable delusion, that ever since then, it's been a harder--it's been--it's been harder to convince ourself that--ourselves that we ever were innocent.
LAMB: Where'd you get the idea for this?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, to tell you the truth, the i--the original germ of the idea d--was not mine, and it came from an editor at William Morrow, a guy named Henry Ferris, a young man who hardly can remember 1964. But some of the books about 1968, including one by my friend Jules Witcover, gave him the idea. He thought correctly that s--many of the things that--that bloomed or exploded in 1968 really had their--their origins in '64, or at least were first noticeable in '64. And he thought it would be a g--a good subject for a book.
LAMB: Where were you when you decided to do this book, and what year did you start it?
Mr. MARGOLIS: I started it a little more than two years ago, in '96. I was in Barton, Vermont, in my house in the woods, having quit my job at the Chicago Tribune, but sort of still working for them part-time on a contractual basis, helping cover the--the '96 campaign. But I st--so I started to work on--on the research for the book while still doing some of that, also.
LAMB: Where were you in 1964?
Mr. MARGOLIS: In 1964, I was a very, very young reporter for the Bergen Record in Hackensack, New Jersey, and toward the end of the year, left--left there to go be a reporter for the Palm Beach County bureau of the Miami Herald.
LAMB: When did you get to the Chicago Tribune?
Mr. MARGOLIS: 1973.
LAMB: And for how many years?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, '73 through March of eighty-fi--of '95, and then the sort of partial return in--for--in '96 for the campaign.
LAMB: If you have to pick one incident from 1964 quickly, which one is it?
Mr. MARGOLIS: The most fascinating, the most interesting?
LAMB: For you.
Mr. MARGOLIS: Wow, well, the mo--obviously, the most dramatic and tragic is the murder of the three civil rights workers in Mississippi.
LAMB: Why?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, you had three young men doing--kn--knowingly risking their lives, especially the two middle-class young white men from the New York area, but going down, doing a noble task and being cruelly murdered.
LAMB: What were their names?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Mickey Schwerner, J--James Chaney and Andy Goodman.
LAMB: And how were they murdered?
Mr. MARGOLIS: They were murdered--they were shot on a side road outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi, by--essentially by sheriffs' deputies or by Klansmen, some of whom were--were law enforcement officers, and i--with the knowledge of law enforcement officers.
LAMB: How did you research it?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, there's been a great deal of research on it, inc--as--there's been a s--there's some good books, but I also--there--the FBI has a--has a huge file on it, called the MIBURN, Mississippi Burning file. Of course, there was a movie. The movie takes some liberties with history, as movies tend to do. But the MIBURN files have been collected in books, and I also sort of checked them out myself, as well as reading some of the other books about it. And I went to Philadelphia, Mississippi, and talked to some people down there.
LAMB: Wh--why--why did it happen?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, because Mississippi was the close--in--in--at that time, Mississippi was the closest thing this country has ever had, I believe, to a police state. It was--in--in order to s--as we learned later in South Africa, in order to suppress a large number of people, you cannot have political and intellectual freedom. There was a secret police force, which the--their records are only now coming out, the s--the sovereignty commission, which was part of the state government. The--the county sheriffs in many counties were effectively terrorist organizations to--to scare people against coming down and helping blacks register to vote. Very, very few black people could register to vote in Mississippi. There was really--it was really a reign of terror.

And they considered this an invasion from the North, and they were right, it was an invasion from the North, carefully planned, carefully executed in order to bring elementary democracy to Mississippi. And there was armed and violent resistance against it.
LAMB: Who planned it?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, that was planned only--only by the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Neshoba County and the adjacent county where Meridian is--I forget the name of the county for a moment. But they had been meeting--they had--as soon as Mi--especially Mickey Schwerner and his wife got down there, they were very noticeable. The--Mickey had a little goatee, he had a Mets cap, they were obviously Jewish, they were obviously sort of Bohemianish in their dress. They hung around with `negroes,' to use the term that I use in the book, because that's what people said in--in 1964.

They were--they were integrating the area, and they very quickly came to the attention of the Klan and were sort of a recruiting tool. The--the Klan would drive some, you know, young toughs past and sh--see the Schwerners having a cup of coffee in a restaurant with--or I guess not in a r--yeah, in a black restaurant, together with mixed race, and that would enrage people. And that--that--that was a good recruiting drive for the Ku Klux Klan.

And they organi--they were trying to--they were after him. And whether at--at one point people decided actually to kill them is a little unclear. Some of the people involved didn't really think it would end in murder. They thought it would be, you know, some slapping around and some maybe beating up pretty badly as--as a `get out of town' message. But for some of them, obviously, that was not enough.
LAMB: How long was it a story back in 1964?
Mr. MARGOLIS: From June 21st, when they disappeared, really for the rest of the year. The bodies were not discovered for--for some time thereafter, for a few weeks. The Mississippi establishment's first reaction was to say that it was a fraud when--before the bodies were discovered, that they had run away, that it was all a--a fake. Senator Eastland even sai--told Lyndon Johnson that he didn't believe that they were dead at all, he thought they were d--they'd run to Chicago or something like that.

And then the bodies were found, and then the FBI, which of course, had been very, very slow in this entire area, had no office in Mississippi. But then when the FBI did step in, under pressure from President Johnson, they did quite a good job, and they--they f--they found out who did this. Of course, nobody's ever been charged with murder for it, people were charged with violating civil rights. But the state of Mississippi, to this day, has never brought a murder charge against anyone.
LAMB: One of the things I picked up in your book was that you used the LBJ tapes.
LAMB: And we've got a tape of LBJ, the president, talking to Mickey Schwerner's mother. But before we do that, how did you get into the tape business?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, I found out about it fairly early in doing my research, and I went down, I talked to the people at the LBJ Library down in Austin. They're very, very helpful. It's an excellent library. And I went down and spent several days going--listening to the tapes myself, reading some of the transcripts. But you really have to listen to them. It's kind of hard to understand every word, but you really have to listen to them, t--'cause the transcripts don't give you the full flavor, especially of President Johnson's inflections and very colorful phraseology.

And then--then late--I bought--even when I came back, I w--I ordered a few; you can--you can order them and they'll send you the tapes and tr--and transcripts. They're very good about that. Some came out quite a bit later, some of the most interesting, and I r--I ordered them last year, bef--while I was revising the book. But fortunately, they came out in time for me to get them in.
LAMB: I don't know how much of this we'll get to. Here's a--it's about a minute, and it's from June 23rd, 1964, LBJ talking to Mrs. Nathan Schwerner. Let's just listen to this.

(Excerpt from audiotape, June 23, 1964)

President LYNDON B. JOHNSON: Ms. Schwerner...

Mrs. NATHAN SCHWERNER: Hello, President Johnson.

Pres. JOHNSON: ...are you the mother of the...

Mrs. SCHWERNER: Of--of Michael.

Pres. JOHNSON: Yes. We have received word from Mr. Hoover that the investigation in the car indicates that there were no people in the car, and that it's very likely that none of them were burned, as could have been possible under the early information.

Mrs. SCHWERNER: Yes, thank you.

Pres. JOHNSON: And I have talked to the governor there, and he is making all the facilities of the state available in the search, and they have seen some tracks leaving the car.


Pres. JOHNSON: And they're going to try to continue. We are flying people in from the FBI tonight, and I just wanted you to know that. And that was the little hope that we didn't have earlier, and I thought that we would enjoy it as long as we could.

Mrs. SCHWERNER: Thank you so much, President Johnson. I appreciate this. Thank you very much.

Pres. JOHNSON: Thank you, ma'am. (End of excerpt)
LAMB: Lyndon Johnson was how much involved?
Mr. MARGOLIS: In that particular event, not too much. He knew how to--that that was something which he should--number one, he wanted to stay away from it. And number two, he knew to delegate power to Hoover. He also, however, got Allen Dulles to go down there as sort of his special envoy. It was not an entirely successful trip. Dulles was rather an imperious fellow. He went down and first tried to tell some of the black leadership that they should cut out these demonstrations, that it was messing things up, they should stop trying to go register people. But then he--I mean, he was outraged at the murders and he did call for more FBI presence in--I believe it was--he was one of those who said the FBI should have an office in Jackson. The FBI had no office anywhere in Mississippi. Hoover--the FBI under Hoover until then was not interested in civil rights.

In fact, early in 1964, when a man was murdered--a black man named Allen--I believe, Marcus Allen--was murdered--he had tried to help people--and it wasn't even--it was more complicated than that, I won't get into it--but he was murdered and it was clearly connected to a voting rights drive. And the FBI went down and--and--was called in, and f--very quickly concluded that there's no connection wi--with a voting rights drive because he never registered and he never tried to register. And in fact, nobody's tried to register. Well, nobody's tried to register 'cause you get killed. But the FBI, in effect, gave its imprimatur to political murder in Mississippi in--on Januar--in January or February of 1964. That--that's probably not what it int--intended to do. It just intended to stay out of it and it was not anxious to get involved.
LAMB: Could 18-year-olds vote in 1964?
LAMB: How big was the country? We have 270 million people now.
Mr. MARGOLIS: A hundred and 90--about 190 million people. In--in July f--with the first--the Census Bureau came out with its estimate of just about 190 million people, and it was the first time that more people lived in California than in New York.
LAMB: What was our unemployment?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Unemployment was about 5.3 percent or 5.4 percent.
LAMB: Inflation?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Inflation was quite low.
LAMB: Where were we in the military at that point? What were we doing with our forces?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, not much. We had advisers in Vietnam, s--15,000 or 17,000. And before the year was out, we had more. But aside from that, it was the--sort of the post-war status quo.
LAMB: Did you spend any time looking at front pages of newspapers?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Oh, I spent a great deal of time looking at front pages of newspapers.
LAMB: Which ones?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, The New York Times and then I s--then what I did was I would go over--switched over to go through Time and Newsweek. First, I started just going through the whole year of New York Times. That was really gonna take me a long time, so I would--went over to Time and Newsweek, and when there were particular days that I knew I should look at The Times, then I looked at The Times. And I also looked at lots of other papers for specific stories, and just out of serendipity, if I happened to come upon them. And also, when I went--I spent a month at the University of California at Berkeley and went through popular magazines. And they have a wonderful library system, of course, and Nelson Pollsby, who was then still head of the Institution for Governmental Studies, fixed me up as an--as a visiting scholar. Of course, you and I know that I'm not a scholar, and he knew it, too, but I was visiting, and he gave me--he gave me the run of the library system. And I looked through things like Look magazine and other popular magazines, and some of the avant-garde, wacky magazines, some of--the titles of some of which I will not say on television. And, you know, all that provided was--was very helpful in kinda getting the flavor of the year, 'cause I wanted to convey the flavor as well as the specific events.
LAMB: How old were you in 1964?
Mr. MARGOLIS: I turned 24 in September of '64.
LAMB: What was the music of that year?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, in--in February of that year, The Beatles came to America. They--the--"I Want To Hold Your Hand" had become popular in--late in sixt--very late in '63, in December. And then--but, you know, that revolutionized popular music. There were, you know, Leslie Gore's--Was it "You Don't Own Me," or one of those Leslie Gore songs was popular. There were lots of--I mention a lot of the songs. There were lots of sort of pre-Beatles, kind of a bland rock 'n' roll; most of it, not all of it; some of it was OK.
LAMB: Did she have "It's My Party"?
Mr. MARGOLIS: I think it may have been "It's My Party." That may have been a year or two later. I--I must say I haven't gone back to check exactly which songs were, but the big--the big music story was, of course, The Beatles. Well, another song that was very popular late in '63--I really start the book the day after the Kennedy assassination. "Louie Louie" was popular in--in--late in '63, and, you know, at the bowl games on January 1st, that was a--one of the s--one of the songs that the kids were dancing to.
LAMB: Who were the big sports figures?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, Roger Staubach started the year as the--it--it was the year of the quarterback, and he was the--the quarterback of the year of the quarterback. And everybody knew that Navy was going to beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl and be the number-one team, and Texas won rather handily. It was not a good--not a good start of the year for--for the--for the world's leading quarterback.

The World Series that year was--was the Cardinals beating the Yankees. Bob Gibson s--was a--one of--but Curt Flood was on the Cardinals that year. And of course, the--the major sporting event, I suppose, because it was not just a sporting event, was Cassius Clay, as he was then known, defeating Sonny Liston on February 25th, in Miami.
LAMB: In politics, who were the big names then?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Robert Kennedy. For the--for the Republicans, Barry Goldwater, Nelson Rockefeller, William Scranton, and there were a few others, but those I--those I'd say would be the--the major ones.
LAMB: As a way to get into the mood of the year, here's a conversation with Jacqueline Kennedy on July the Fourth, 1964, with Lyndon Johnson. Do you remember where they--the two of them were?
Mr. MARGOLIS: They were both in Washington. He was in the White House, and I believe she--well, she may have been in New York then, actually, or she may have still been at her home in Georgetown.
LAMB: It says here on my sheet that she was in Hyannis Port...
LAMB: ...'cause it was a holiday.
Mr. MARGOLIS: I'm sorry. It was a holiday. It was July Fourth. She was in Hyannis Port.
LAMB: Here is a minute and 25 seconds, July F--Fourth, 1964. (Excerpt from audiotape, July Fourth, 1964)
President LYNDON JOHNSON: Hi, Jackie. How are you?
Mrs. KENNEDY: Happy Fourth of July.
Pres. JOHNSON: Thank you, my dear. Did you have a good day?
Mrs. KENNEDY: Oh, yes. Are you in Texas?
Pres. JOHNSON: What'd you do, go out on the boat?
Mrs. KENNEDY: Well, no, it's so rainy nobody could, but General Taylor came up and then we saw him off.
Pres. JOHNSON: Uh-huh.
Mrs. KENNEDY: Are you--are you at your ranch now?
Pres. JOHNSON: Yes, I just came off the lake. I've been out in a boat all afternoon.
Mrs. KENNEDY: Oh, I'm so glad, so you get some rest.
Pres. JOHNSON: I got a b--sunburn and I'll probably be blistered now.
Mrs. KENNEDY: Oh, no, no. You'll--you'll look marvelous with a sunburn.
Pres. JOHNSON: Well, I--I hope so. I hope you're doing all right.
Mrs. KENNEDY: Yes, I'm fine, Mr. President.
Pres. JOHNSON: How are the children?
Mrs. KENNEDY: Oh, fine, thank you. And yours?
Pres. JOHNSON: Good. Lynda's with us. Lucy's in Washington having dates.
Mrs. KENNEDY: I know. I noticed she didn't come. I thought it was something sinister like that.
Pres. JOHNSON: You know, she came in and said that she wanted a very special birthday present on July the 2nd, and we asked her what it was, and she said she just wanted to go one whole day without an agent.
Mrs. KENNEDY: (Laughs)
Pres. JOHNSON: What do you reckon happened?
Mrs. KENNEDY: And did you arrange it?
Pres. JOHNSON: Oh, yeah, I arranged it.
Mrs. KENNEDY: Good work.
Pres. JOHNSON: What do you reckon happened?
Mrs. KENNEDY: I hate to think, and don't you.
Pres. JOHNSON: It's sure good to hear your voice, and I hope that you're feeling all right.
Mrs. KENNEDY: Oh, yes. Well, it was nice to talk to you, and give my love to Lady Bird.
Pres. JOHNSON: Fine. I long to see you.
Mrs. KENNEDY: OK. We'll see you soon.
Pres. JOHNSON: Thank you, dear.
Mrs. KENNEDY: Goodbye, Mr. President.
Pres. JOHNSON: Bye. (End of excerpt)
LAMB: What are you thinking as you're listening?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, that and another conversation. They often were quite flirtatious with one another. I'm not implying that there was anything between them beyond friendship and--and that sort of talk, but they were often quite--quite flirtatious and almost double entendres with one another, not so much in that w--in that w--that conversation. And they were clearly quite friendly, f--e--even from before the assassination. One of the interesting conversations between them has t--indicates that Mrs. Kennedy had given then-Vice President Johnson, and perhaps Mrs. Johnson, some of the pills that she and President Kennedy had gotten from the doctor in New York, known as `Dr. Feel Good,' I believe his name was Dr. Jacobsen. That was all quite legal at the time, but they were--I don't--I don't know exactly what they were, but they were feel-good pills. And--'cause Johnson said he really wanted to get another one of those pills.
LAMB: What was Jacqueline Kennedy in this country in 1964?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Oh, an icon. She was m--even m--well, I don't know whether more or whether she became more or less of one over the years. It ch--it changed, obviously. When she married Aristotle Onassis, th--her--her image became somewhat more complicated. But that was in '68. But in 1964, she was--she was the bereaved widow and she was--everybody--the whole world felt sorry for her, the whole country felt sorry for her and the whole country looked up to her in--because of the way she had acted in those four days of the assassin--from the assassination to the funeral, which was, indeed, quite admirable, a woman who knew that--that history would--would--was stopping here and would take note, and who acted accordingly and perfectly, one might say.
LAMB: Barry Goldwater's name is all through your book.
Mr. MARGOLIS: Yes, Barry Goldwater comes out of the book rather an admirable fellow, I would--I--I--it seems to me. I certainly came out of it with admiration for him--out of the r--doing the research with admiration for him as a person. Toward the end, he ref--on two occasions, he refused to do things that some of his more hot-headed advisers wanted him to do to try to win the e--the election, I think because he knew he wasn't gonna win it, anyway. One, he was--he refused to allow the showing of a film that some of his supporters had created, which was really, when you look at it now, a rather silly unsophisticated film, called "Choice," but it--it used a lot--tried to scare people into thinking that, you know, the world was coming to an end, there was gonna be crime and America's way of life was in grave danger. And it--it wasn't anymore racist--in fact, it was less racist probably than the Willie Horton ads of 1988, but--but Goldwater looked at it and said, `This is nothing but a racist film. I won't have it--I won't have it shown.'

And then after Walter Jenkins, President Johnson's chief of staff, was caught in a homosexual encounter in the men's room here in Washington at the YMCA, some of Goldwater's staff wanted him to--to use this. And he refused to do it. For one thing, I think he w--knew he was gonna lose and he knew that if you're gonna lose, you might as well lose like a gentleman. And he was a gentleman. And I think he had a--he was a very tolerant man, and I don't think he had any--in--he--I think he would have felt degraded if--had he tried to use that.
LAMB: What was the Daisy Ad?
Mr. MARGOLIS: The Daisy Ad was shown only once in the middle of a showing of a television movie of David and Bathsheba, not a very good movie, with Gregory Peck and I forget who else. And it was an ad in which a w--showed a young girl--a little girl--picking a daisy, picking the f--and counting the--the numbers down as she picked each little petal off, 10, 9, 8, 7, and I guess she--and--an--and then it came--it--it segued, as we'd now say, into a c--countdown of a bomb ex--a bomb test and showed the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion, and then the voice of Lyndon Johnson saying, `We must love one another or die,' fade out; that was it. It showed once. It--the Goldwater people were furious. It implied--they s--thought it implied that he was a warmonger. Even some Democrats said it was--c--complained about it. Even Hubert Humphrey, who was the vice presidential candidate, said he thought it was unwise. I think that was all preorchestrated. Didn't on--it only had to show once because the--the television news ran it over and over again as--as a story, just as it still happens with some ads--political ads these days.
LAMB: You say in your book, `The Johnson campaign didn't care. The men who ran it--Moyers, Jim Rowe, Richard Goodwin, Jack Valenti and the advertising genius, Tony Schwartz--knew that respectable opinion would condemn them. Too bad, the Daisy Ad ran just that once. But more than any other political commercial in history, it was news.'
Mr. MARGOLIS: Right.
LAMB: And you go back to that list of people and a lot of them are still around today, Richard Goodwin, husband of Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jack Valenti runs the Motion Picture Association of America, Bill Moyers, big in public television. And I don't know where Jim Rowe is.
Mr. MARGOLIS: I don't either.
LAMB: How about Tony Schwartz? Have you--did you talk to him about the--is he still alive?
Mr. MARGOLIS: I talked to Tony Schwartz about that ad years ago in--in another context. I don't know the answer to that question, whether he's still alive. I had--didn't try to talk to him again this time.
LAMB: Did you talk to any of those folks or was that...
Mr. MARGOLIS: About this? No, I had--I did talk to some of those people, but I did not talk to them specifically about this.
LAMB: Any lessons learned by--you know, you say it was news. Did he--I mean, we've seen that happen in ads like the Willie Horton ad.
Mr. MARGOLIS: Right. Well, it--this was the first one of--this was the first TV ad that was a story, and it certainly was not the last.
LAMB: One little thing that popped up in your book, John Steinbeck. How did he figure that year, th...
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, John Steinbeck was a--excuse me--was a friend of the president and he was called down to Washington just before the convention, and he helped write--he did write the president's acceptance speech. It wasn't a very good acceptance speech. It's--as I said, not for the last time. The last time was in 1996 when Senator Dole's acceptance speech was written by a rather good novelist, and it wasn't a very good acceptance speech. And s--there--you know, there are different skills. I don't think Bob Shrum could write a good novel, but he writes a pretty good political speech.
LAMB: So we've talked about--it's the Freedom Summer.
Mr. MARGOLIS: Freedom summer, yes.
LAMB: That was where they all went to Mississippi. And you say that the Vietnam War--let's go back to that one for a little more. What wa--what'd you find in the newspapers about the Vietnam War? How prominent was it in '64 in the newspaper?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, mildly, only mildly prominent. When something happened, when the president was about to--when a meeting was going to be held, when Secretary McNamara went to Vietnam, then it would b--which he did a couple times, and some--once with General Taylor, and ca--they would come back and say, `Well, things aren't going so well, but we're very confident. All we have to do is show that we're strong and we'll--we--we'll prevail.' `We,' meaning the g--the government of Vietnam. `We'll prevail.' But behind the scenes, many people really knew that it wasn't going well at all, including Lyndon Johnson, who knew from the beginning that it was not winnable, but who couldn't figure out how not to get more and more involved.
LAMB: From what you saw in '64, who was for it, who was against it?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, the--most of the Republican conservatives were for either going in strongly or not doing anything, although they--they never really said get out. The problem was almost nobody was against it, from what we would now call the left. Almost nobody was saying, `This is not worth it, this is not a good idea, this is not winnable.' One of the few people who did say that was Richard Russell, and, Richard Russell wa...
LAMB: Who was he?
Mr. MARGOLIS: A senator from Georgia, chairman of the foreign--of the--of the Armed Services Committee of the Senate, a veteran, a highly respected senator, been in the Senate for many years, and one of the most powerful men in the country. And at one point, he gave Lyndon Johnson what I thought might have been great advice. He said, `Let's arrange for another coup'--there had already been about two by then--`and--and have the new guys tell us to get out, and then we can get out.'

Now under or--ordinary circumstances, Richard Russell might have been adequate political cover, 'cause he generally was considered sort of conservative, although he wasn't all that conservative on--on domestic policy, except for race. He might have been adequate political cover for any president, but by then, he'd been so marginalized by racebecause, among other things, what he mainly was in 1964 was the leader of the Southern filibuster against the civil rights bill, which, of course, was the most important piece of legislation passed in that year. And Russell was the--was--was his chief opponent, leading the forces fighting Humphrey and f--fighting the president on--on the civil rights bill.
LAMB: When did Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald?
Mr. MARGOLIS: The day--the Saturday--the day after the assassination--or was it the day after that? Was it Saturday or Sunday? I think it was Sunday.
LAMB: So it was back in 1963.
Mr. MARGOLIS: '63.
LAMB: And when you found that, were you d--were you surprised about any of the coverage of that?
Mr. MARGOLIS: No. No. I actually remembered that pretty well. No, I was not surprised at the coverage of that. I re--I really--th--that was still in--pretty--pretty vivid in my own mind.
LAMB: Another note was that Arlen Specter at that time, senator from Pennsylvania, was on the staff of the Warren Commission.
Mr. MARGOLIS: O--on the Warren Commission, and went down to Dallas to do some of the re-enactment of the assassination, was one of the most important members.
LAMB: Now the Warren Commission was what?
Mr. MARGOLIS: The Warren Commission was established by President Johnson immediately--or almost immediately after the assassination. He really didn't want to do it. Hoo--J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, really was very much opposed to it because it might find that the FBI had not done everything 100 percent right, and that's--Hoover was more interested in the FBI's image than just about anything else. But there was tremendous sort of establishment support for it. The Washington Post, Stewart Alsop, who was at that time a--an influential columnist, and some other people said this really should--should not just be handled by the Texas authorities.

In the days right after the assassination, the--the public image of law enforcement in Texas was really pretty awful, perhaps unjustifiably, but it was not good. So the--the country just thought Dallas and the state of Texas could not be trusted to do this on their own, and there was a feeling that the FBI should not do it on its own because it would in--perhaps be investigating itself. And so this special commission was formed. Earl Warren said he would not do this. He thought it was a violation of the separation of powers and unconstitutional. And the president called him into the Oval Office and browbeat him into it. He was the first--Earl Warren was the first victim of what later became known as the Johnson treatment. He just--when he wanted you to do something, he would not let up. He'd stick his big face right up against your face and talk and talk and h--it was pretty hard to--to resist.
LAMB: How did President Johnson talk Richard Russell into going on the commission?
Mr. MARGOLIS: He didn't really talk him into it as much as he sort of euchred him into it. He said, `I want you to be on this commission.' Russell said, `No, I'm not a well man.' Russell was--he wasn't that old. He was in his late 60s, but he was not well. He had em--emphysema. He said, `I don't want to be on it.' And he said, `But I'll think about who should be the head of it.'

And he didn't know at that time that Warren was waiting outside the Oval Office. Johnson called him some hou--not a day, but some hours later and said, `I--I ma--I've made this announcement. You're on the commission and Earl Warren's the chairman.' And Russell, who couldn't stand Warren, partly 'cause of the school--the Brown vs. the Board school integration decision, and didn't have any admiration for him, said, `Oh, no, no.' He said, `I won't do that. You can't do that to me.' You--and Lyndon s--Johnson said, `I just did that to you.' And, you know, `I--I'm gonna push you around and I love you, you're my friend. You--you--you've been everything to me, but this is your country calling you, telling you you have to do this.' And finally, it was the one thing that R--that--that Russell couldn't--couldn't resist, when--you know, it--it--basically, `OK, you're my commander in chief, I'm gonna do what you say.'

But, you know, their relationship had been that Russell was the mentor to young, energetic, ambitious Lyndon Johnson when Johnson came to the Senate in--in '59, I guess, or maybe even--no, it was earlier than that, in the--in the early '50s--in for--excuse me, in '49--when Johnson came to the Senate in '49, I believe it was, Russell--he--he sought out Russell and sort of--well, we would now say kind of apple-polished Russell to--to become his--his favor--his young favorite.
LAMB: You also point out that Nikita Khrushchev was ousted by Leonid Brezhnev.
Mr. MARGOLIS: In October.
LAMB: What impact did that have on the year?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Almost non--well, it had the impact of knocking the--it was late in the year. I--I--I basically end the year on Election Day, and this was in October. It had tremendous impact for the--for--for the European and history later, and Russian and, therefore, American. But at that time, its main impact was to knock the Walter Jenkins story off page one very quickly. And so there was that and also the Labor Party took control in Britain for the first time in quite a number of years. And those two events together knocked the Walter Jenkins story off page one.
LAMB: Is Walter Jenkins still alive?
LAMB: Who was he and why was he a story?
Mr. MARGOLIS: He was--he was very, very close to the president. He was the president's chief of staff. He'd been very close to him for many years. He was a married man with several children. He and his wife were both very close to President and Mrs. Johnson. And he got drunk one night--and he was working--he just was working so hard on the campaign and on being White House chief of staff--got drunk, something snapped in him, and he--as I sai--I think I said, in the book, he f--under--fell under the compulsion of a--of something he thought he'd put behind him. And he hadn't. And he went to the men's room of the YMCA, which at that time was known--not the same building that's here now--known as a gathering--gathering area for--for--for gay men.
LAMB: What happened?
Mr. MARGOLIS: He f--e--entered into a--a--an embrace with a--somebody from the old soldier's home, another man, and was--and the FBI--or actually, I think not the FBI, but the DC police, knowing that this was a--a hangout for gay sex, had put some cameras and peep holes in--in place, and he was discovered.
LAMB: And then what kind of publicity ensued?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, nothing for a while. Th--it--it--they kept it under cover for a while. In fact, Republicans knew about it before Democrats did, through law enforcement circles. But finally it came out about--I think it happened in August--in late August. The party where he had too much to drink was at a party at the Newsweek Washington bureau. It didn't come out until October and it was quite a f--quite a s--furor--quite a stir for a few days. The president was terribly upset.

The president found out about it while he was campaigning in New York on behalf of Robert Kennedy for the United States Senate, as well as on behalf of himself. Found out about it that night, immediately commissioned a poll, and the poll found that it wasn't really gonna be too--too damaging.
LAMB: We have an--an audiotape, one of the Lyndon Johnson Oval Office recordings, between Lyndon Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird Johnson. Why is this significant? Just give us a little bit, and then we'll listen to the tape. It's a three-minute tape.
Mr. MARGOLIS: She was trying--she--she really wanted to make some gesture of a friendship to--to the Jenkins family, especially to Mrs. Jenkins, and--but also, she was worried that Mrs. Jenkins was going to turn on them and would go to the press or perhaps to the Republicans if Lady Bird and Lyndon Johnson were not nice to her. And so it was both an act of great compassion on her part, and I have no doubt sincere compassion, but also political shrewdness.
LAMB: Do you think she knew that this was being recorded?
Mr. MARGOLIS: I have no idea. That's a very good question. She must have known that many conversations were being recorded, but I don't know specifically whether she knew that this one was.
LAMB: Do you think he re--h--remembered all the time?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, that's a good question. I don't think he remembered all the time. No, I think it was one of those things he put in place. And at least it was--you know, if you asked him, `Do you know--don't you know this is being recorded,' he would have said, `Oh, yeah,' but I think it--it, you know, was not really in his conscious mind most of the time.
LAMB: Do you remember the exact date of the election that year?
Mr. MARGOLIS: November 5th.
LAMB: This is October the 15th then, right before the election...
Mr. MARGOLIS: Right.
LAMB: ...running against Barry Goldwater.
Mr. MARGOLIS: Right.
LAMB: Let's listen to three minutes and nine seconds of Lyndon Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird Johnson. (Graphic on screen)

You can listen to the LBJ tapes at

(Excerpt from audiotape)
Mrs. LADY BIRD JOHNSON: Can you hear me now?
President JOHNSON: No, no, I can't. You just have to talk real loud.
Mrs. JOHNSON: All right. I would like to do two things about Walter. I would like to offer him the number-two job at KTBC. Do you hear me?
Pres. JOHNSON: I wouldn't do anything along that line now. I'd just let them know generally through Tom that they have no problem in that connection. Go ahead. Next?
Mrs. JOHNSON: I d--I don't think that's right. Second, when questioned--and I will be questioned--I'm gonna say that this is incredible. For a man that I've known all these years, a devout Catholic, the father of six children, a happily married husband, it can only be a small--a--a period of--of a nervous breakdown balanced against him.
Pres. JOHNSON: I wouldn't say anything. I'd have--I just wouldn't be available for anything because it's not something for you to get involved in now. And we're trying to work that out with the best minds that we have working on it. And Eddie Wyse is on the way down there today. And whatever you do, don't do anything rash. Talk to Eddie and Clark and Abe. I feel this stronger than you do, but I don't want you to hurt him more than he's hurt. And when we move into it, we do--we do that. We blow it up more and get it more.
Mrs. JOHNSON: All right. I think if we don't express some support to him, I think that we will lose the entire love and devotion of all the people who have been with us or so drain them.
Pres. JOHNSON: Well, you get ahold of Clark and Abe and them and tell them how you feel about that and see--you see what advice I'm getting. And I'm late now and I'm going to make three speeches, and you can imagine what shape I'm in to do it. So don't create anymore problems than I've got. Talk to them about it. Anything you can get them to approve let me know.
Mrs. JOHNSON: All right. Abe approves of the job offer. Abe approves of the statement.
Pres. JOHNSON: What?
Mrs. JOHNSON: Abe approves of the job offer. Abe approves of such a statement when questioned.
Pres. JOHNSON: Well, talk to Clark.
Mrs. JOHNSON: I must say that Clark does not approve of the latter.
Pres. JOHNSON: I think that you ought to let them know. I don't see any reason to know publicly because then you've become--you confirm it, you approve that you're part of it, everything else. You just can't do that to the presidency, honey. (End of excerpt)
Mr. MARGOLIS: She was something. She is something, I guess. She--she was one of the few people who--who he couldn't--you know--he--he wouldn't talk--he couldn't browbeat her, and that was--I thought that was really funny when I r--I remember, laughed aloud when I heard it the first time when sh--he said, `Well, tal--these are bad ideas, talk to Abe.' And she says, `I have talked to Abe and he thinks they're good ideas.'
LAMB: Now was--what was Abe Forrest...
Mr. MARGOLIS: Abe Fortas.
LAMB: ...doing then?
Mr. MARGOLIS: He was just a--a--he had n--I believe he had no official position then. He was a lawyer...
LAMB: Just a lawyer.
Mr. MARGOLIS: ...with a big firm in--which bore his name, among others.
LAMB: And Clark Clifford was doing what?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Clark Clifford also was just a--I th--well, Clark Clifford ha--had an office in the White House. He was c--a counsel to the president, but--but Fortas was--was a--in private life.
LAMB: What does it say, beyond th--the obvious here, anything that Lyndon Johnson didn't want to help his friend and his wife did?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, he--he didn't want to not help him, because remember he said at the outset, `Let them know that we--they don't have to worry about financial things. I don't want him off--make him an offer of this job because I don't want to get locked into that. But let them know that we're gonna take care of them.' But it--he--he was not indifferent, but he also was--is, you know, three weeks away from a presidential election.

He w--he wa--he was way ahead all year, but he was afraid all year. He was always afraid he was gonna lose. He was afraid he wasn't even gonna get nominated. You--one of the interesting things, I think, in the book is that two days before he was going to be nominated by acclimation, he called up two and three of his friends and his wife and said, `I'm gonna withdraw. I don't want to run again.' And they didn't think he was kidding.

I talked to George Reedy, who--who died just within the last several weeks now--but I talked to him at length twice when I was doing the book and Reedy was one of the people he called and said, `I'm not gonna run.' And this is during the Democratic Convention. This was like the Monday or Tuesday--this was Monday. Wednesday is the day of the nomination. And on Monday, Johnson called Reedy. He'd first called somebody else and said, `I'm going to withdraw. I'm gonna read you wi--my withdrawal statement.'

And he thought that he was gonna lose. He actually thought that Robert Kennedy was trying to take the nomination away from him, not just that Robert Kennedy was trying to get himself on the ticket as vice president, which Johnson had already ruled out, but that Kennedy was--and they--and that this whole Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party challenge to the Mississippi delegation at the convention, which was part of Freedom Summer, that that had all been hatched in the attorney general's office, which was, of course, nonsense; it had not been.

But Johnson had a terrible fear and--and--of Robert Kennedy. He did not hate Robert Kennedy as much as I think Robert Kennedy disliked him. But he had a terrible fear of him and he couldn't deal with him. And it made--Robert Kennedy made Lyndon Johnson lose touch with reality sometimes. And so he was--you know, even though he was way ahead in the polls here in October, he--he was not a man to take anything for granted.
LAMB: When did he tell Robert Kennedy that he was not gonna have him on the ticket as vice president?
Mr. MARGOLIS: July. July, I believe, 10th is roughly--around there. Called him into the Oval Office, sat him down, clicked--pushed a button that it was being recorded and Kennedy could see the red lights. And read aloud from a statement that Clark Clifford had written for him, which I thought was rather peculiar. The president of the United States could--can explain to anybody and it--could not explain to anybody in his own words why he was not going to be on the ticket with him. It's entirely Lyndon Johnson's choice. The--the Democratic Convention was not about to rebel against him, so--but he felt he had to read a written--prepared statement.
LAMB: Did Robert Kennedy know when he walked in that office that he was...
Mr. MARGOLIS: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: So it was--the whole thing was a setup. I mean, when he walked in there--I mean--and he still read to him?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Yes. I have no explanation, either.
LAMB: Well, one of the things you hear on the tapes--and on our radio station, we've run these tapes for the last year and a half--is that--a long series of conversations between Lyndon Johnson and everybody he could get to listen to him about what he was gonna do with this whole business of the vice presidency. What did you learn as you looked at the tapes and the transcripts?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, I learned that it w--it was never gonna be Robert Kennedy. It was almost always going to be Hubert Humphrey. And Johnson, to some extent, was almost playing games with everybody, including Humphrey. At one point at a dinner party, he--he s--leaned over and said to Humphrey, but said it loud so that almost everybody else at the dinner party could hear, `I think I'm gonna drop Mike Mansfield's name in the hopper as a possible vice presidential candidate.'

And, of course, Mansfield was not interested at all. He--he said he wanted nothing to do with it. Then Johnson kept dropping other people's names. McNamara, various governors and senators, Pat Brown out in California. But really, it was always gonna be Humphrey. There was--clearly, he had to think about it.

Some of his Southern supporters thought that Humphrey was too much of a pro-civil rights liberal and would hurt in the South, so that was a bit of a factor. But basically, it was always gonna be Humphrey.
LAMB: What was Lyndon Johnson's relationship with Robert McNamara, from what you saw in 1964?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Correct. Good, but not warm and--not warm and close. They had not known each other that long. And I don't think McNamara was--you know, he's con--something of a proper gentleman, somewhat reserved. But it was a good relationship. It was a friendly relationship.
LAMB: And as you know, right in that '64 period is when the Vietnam thing...
Mr. MARGOLIS: Right.
LAMB: ...started to heat up.
Mr. MARGOLIS: Oh, absolutely.
LAMB: What was Robert McNamara's recommendation to Lyndon Johnson regarding Vietnam?
Mr. MARGOLIS: To s--to keep--to keep going, to step up bit by bit. But in a sense, Mc--McNamara was not the impetus for stepping it up. It was more complicated than that. And I don't know that you can go back and--and point the finger at anybody and say, `It was his fault. It was his fault.' It was almost in the dynamic.

One of the things that happened was that at some point ch--when--when--when McNamara came back at one point and said, `Things are not going well at all.' And then the CIA called and said, `This thing is gonna be a dis--looks like a disaster. We could lose this war any minute unless something happens,' Johnson told McGeorge Bundy to--to come back to him in 60 days, I think, with recommendations. McBu--McGeorge Bundy set up four working groups. The working groups of all these foreign policy intellectuals went to work doing their thing. And what they came up with was recommendations for a bigger American ground war in Europ--in--in--in--in Vietnam, which Johnson didn't want to have.

But it was kind of--the dynamic was if you're not gonna get out, and that was not an option, because the consen--the foreign policy consensus, liberal and conservative, believed that we had--that this was part of a Russian plot to rule the world, that it was not--the idea that it was a nationalistic uprising of Vietnamese was almost off the charts at that time. Later, people began to realize that this was also an important element of it. But everybody remembered Khrushchev's speech where he said, `There are three kinds of wars, and the third isn't war of national liberation and we'll always be on the Socialist side.' And this was a war of national liberation.

So the assumption was that the s--that the Russians had started this, that if we lose here--it was the domino theory, which Johnson could believe. First place, he played dominos. He liked to play dominos, so it was a--it was a metaphor that--that he could accept readily. And, really, almost nobody doubted it, not the liberals nor the conservatives. Remember, these were the liberals but--basically. These were liberal foreign policy experts who got us--who got--who sort of inadvertently, step by step, got the country more deeply involved in Vietnam.
LAMB: Jack Kennedy had hired Robert McNamara.
LAMB: Robert McNamara was then secretary of Defense.
LAMB: What was the relationship of Ro--Robert McNamara to Bobby Kennedy?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Oh, very close. Yeah, very close.
LAMB: So when we listen to the tape of Robert Kennedy and LBJ on the vice presidential thing, does--does the president trust Robert Kenne--McNamara?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Does he trust Robert McNamara? Yes, but he also knows it'll--he trusts him, his judgment, but he also figures it'll--it'll--some of this'll leak to Bobby Kennedy.
LAMB: Do you think he knew, Robert McNamara, that he was being taped?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Oh, sure. Oh, did McNamara know he was being taped? Probably. Probably.
LAMB: This is a conversation on August 1st, 1964. Two minutes, Robert McNamara and Lyndon Johnson. (Excerpt from audiotape) Mr. ROBERT McNAMARA: I think the--the--the Kennedy matter, though, is going very well, Mr. President.
Pres. JOHNSON: Well, now tell me. I see all these--these bad stories... Mr. McNAMARA: Well...
Pres. JOHNSON: Mary McGrory and Joe Kraft and... Mr. McNAMARA: Well, I--Kraft--I didn't think the McGrory story's too bad. The Kraft story was awful. But you've got to expect one or two of those. And the rest of it I thought went very well. And I talked to Bobby again yesterday a couple of times after I talked to you, and he still seemed in good spirits and there didn't seem to be anything building up.
Pres. JOHNSON: Uh-huh. Well, now is he--is he planning on running for New York Senate? I see a lot of speculation on that. Mr. McNAMARA: Well, I--well, I don't know. I talked to him and I--about several alternatives and I told him he just had to take a more constructive approach to his own future than to think about traveling a year abroad. That doesn't make a damn bit of sense to me, unless he knew what he was gonna do when he got back. If he knew what he was gonna do when he got back, then going a year abroad made some sense. But since he didn't know what he was gonna do when he got back, he ought to think of running in New York or--or asking for some appointment in the executive branch. So he said he'd think about it. I don't--I feel very sure that as of midday or late yesterday, he didn't have any idea what he was gonna do.
Pres. JOHNSON: Somebody told me he was having a meeting with Averell and Forrestal and a bunch of them up there at Hyannis Port, and I would assume that was presumably to talk about New York.

Mr. McNAMARA: It might well be. I strongly encouraged him to--to run in New York. I thought that would meet your objective, and I knew Teddy felt that. And it seems to me it's by far the best thing for him to do. I--I think on the whole, it went off a lot better than I anticipated it might, Mr. President. I really thought there could have been a scene to start with and some bad newspaper articles after that. Hell, nobody reads Kraft. He--he doesn't have any national following. And that's the only bad one I've seen. (End of excerpt)
LAMB: First thing I--did--did every--did nobody read Joe Kraft?
Mr. MARGOLIS: I don't know. I read Joe Kraft. I remember--I rem--Joe Kraft was still writing when I first came to Washington. He was a very nice guy.
LAMB: Had a column.
Mr. MARGOLIS: Yeah. Had a column. I liked Joe Kraft.
LAMB: Another thing you read in your book is about a man named Deek Lo--Deloche.
Mr. MARGOLIS: Of course.
LAMB: And at one point, you're--you're--you're suggesting in here that the FBI was working for Lyndon Johnson on his behalf...
LAMB: the Democratic Convention?
Mr. MARGOLIS: ...I do--I do--I don't suggest. I mo--I more than suggest it, yes.
LAMB: Wiretapping his own Democratic politicians?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Putting a tail on his own attorney general, who was their boss.
LAMB: Robert Kennedy.
Mr. MARGOLIS: Robert Kennedy. Acting as the president's political secret police force, reporting four times a day to Bill Moyers, among others.
LAMB: And Bill Moyers went along with it then?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Obviously. I don't know. He wouldn't talk to me.
LAMB: He would not talk to you?
LAMB: Why not?
Mr. MARGOLIS: I don't know. He's the only person who wouldn't talk to me.
LAMB: What's your reaction when that happened?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, I explained to the secretary, who--I called him back a second time and said, `Let him know that he may not come out of this looking too good, and I want to give him a chance to--to explain.'
LAMB: Well, expand on the whole thing of--of using the FBI to wiretap your own. The...
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, the president--the president was really worried about this Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party protest. This was a group of people who had organized their own sort of shadow Democratic Party in Mississippi, which was integrated. It was actually much more of a loyal Democratic Party than the official Democratic Party, which came out for Barry Goldwater and against the United Nations and was--was not at all loyal to the president. But the--but Johnson was very upset about it, and he called the FBI, and the FBI sent a group of people up to Atlantic City. Some of them, using NBC press credentials, masqueraded as newspeople and went to press conferences.

They infiltrated the corps of the c--and other civil rights organizations and the--I don't know whether they actually infiltrated the party itself, but people who were asso--you know, organizations that were associated with it. Julius Hobson, a very highly regarded Washington, DC, black public official, was up there reporting to the--meeting with the--with the civil rights leadership but reporting to the FBI. And they actually put a tap on Martin Luther King's phone in his hotel room and on a couple of other of the leaders of the civil rights organizations that were having meetings with this Ma--Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party contingent.
LAMB: Was there ever a time when--when the system here in Washington got outraged over the fact that the FBI was being used?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, la--nobody knew then. Later, when...
LAMB: How long di--when does it first come out?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, in the '70s on the Church committee. The--the--the Senate investigation headed by Senator Frank Church of Idaho l--so much stuff came out there that a lot of stuff--that a lot of it was not--didn't--wasn't paid too much attention to. This sort of came in the middle range, I think. But tha--that's when we first knew about it. But it's all in documents from those committee hearings and elsewhere. And after it was over, Deloche sent--sent Moyers a very nice sort of chatty letter headed--sal--the salutation was `Dear Bishop,' which was the FBI's kind of nickname for Mr. Moyers.
LAMB: Where'd you find that letter? Because it's in here.
Mr. MARGOLIS: I found it in the files--in--in the Senate files, investigating committee files.
LAMB: On some other things, you did a lot on the Tonkin Gulf.
LAMB: What was it?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, the Gulf of Tonkin incident was on August the 2nd, if I'm remembering this correctly, 1964. Two American destroyers--or, first one, and--and then a second night a second incident--two American Navy ships were, or were not perhaps, fired upon by North Vietnamese torpedoes. Small, small torpedo warship--boats--boats, really, not ships. And that was the incident that got the president to go to the Congress and ask for a resolution giving him the auth--the authority to take all necessary steps to protect--to protect American military people and military facilities i--in--in and around Vietnam. It was the functional equivalent of a declaration of war. And it was the s--basis by which Johnson and later President Nixon waged war in Vietnam. And it probably never happened. As Johnson himself said, `Those sailors were probably shooting at a bunch of fish.' And besides which, even if it did happen, they were not unprovoked. If--if there were attacks, they would not have been unprovoked attacks because we were supporting South Vietnamese commando raids on North Vietnamese islands and North Vietnamese coastal outposts.
LAMB: Some other little things before time runs by. Strom Thurmond became a Republican in 1964. Impact?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, it was part of the whole conversion of the South--transformation of the South from a--from solid Democratic to what is almost solid Republican today, actually. Perhaps that's changing a bit now for--for various reasons, but certainly, it has been more Republican than Dem--Democratic for the last couple of decades. And this was really the beginning of it, and it was basically all over civil rights.
LAMB: You call James Reston--Scotty Reston, the former bureau chief of The Washington--The New York Times, a flawed predictor.
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, I--because I--after I mention a flawed prediction, with--which was that--oh, well, he--he had--he had predic--he had predicted--earlier in the book he had predicted that Barry Goldwater could not be the Republican nominee and that it would be Bill Scranton and he'd--and--and there was at least one other prediction. Heaven knows, I was a political reporter for 20 years and I made--I mean, I'm--I'm the guy who wrote in 1984 that there was no way Walter Mondale would choose a woman as his running mate. So I'm not--I'm not--all of us who have done this have made s--equally silly mistakes. But in this case, I said he was a flawed political predictor but he made a very good prediction. His assessment of the Warren Commission report, it was--was the context in which I said that.
LAMB: Who invented the term `the Great Society'?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, Richard Goodwin either in--didn't exactly invent it, but he took it from some earlier--earlier mentions and he molded it into the Great Society speeches that Johnson gave in Michigan in May of '64.
LAMB: Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, Jack Kerouac, Alan Gre--Ginsberg.
Mr. MARGOLIS: All there.
LAMB: 1964. What--who were they, and...
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, Ginsberg was the poet who was not in the country at that time, but he was one of the people who had--he and Kerouac were really not very, very active in '64. In fact, I think Ginsberg was over in--in India somewhere. But they had been the--the sort of founding fathers of a--of a kind of an artistic cultural rebellion which was first called the beat generation and then I guess later it was called hippies and I don't even know--it didn't really have a name anymore in '64, but it was a--a rebellion against the orderly, the logical, the well-organized, the--the technical, the established, the proper.
LAMB: What was the hardest thing about writing this book?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Organize--the f--the hardest thing about the writing the book--doing the research was great fun, both at the libraries and in--and in t--in talking to people. The hardest part about writing the book was--writing the book was organizing it, was trying to--I tried to blend the pol--the political, the cultural, the social, some of the economic things, development of the West and the automobile industry's doings. And I tried to blend it all in wi--and--and have it not read like a total hodgepodge. But all--and not be boring. So it was very difficult. I think I succeeded in making it not boring. It was very difficult to blend it all in and to organize it. But it was--it was--it was fun.
LAMB: Everybody figured that when you left the Chicago Tribune and moved to Vermont, you retired.
Mr. MARGOLIS: I keep telling everybody I'm too young and too poor to be retired. You should not retire until you have at least one bad hip and enough money to buy a condominium in Florida. Happily, I'm--all systems are go and unhappily, I don't ha--have quite that much spare cash. I wouldn't--wouldn't buy a condominium in Florida anyway. Paris, perhaps, but not Florida.
LAMB: Why'd you move to Vermont?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, I took a buyout from the Tribune in '95 because it was available, because I thought I could afford to do it, because I was ready to stop being a reporter and a columnist. I had done it and I think if you stay a columnist too long, you end up becoming a parody of yourself. It's happened to several people. I won't mention any names. And we had owned some land in Vermont. We had built a little house there. It's--it's beautiful. It's...
LAMB: Where is it?
Mr. MARGOLIS: It's in a little--outside of a little town called Barton in what we call the Northeast Kingdom up in the northeastern, least populated, least prosperous part of the state. Lots of woods. Lots of trout streams in which I spend a great deal of time from now through October trying to fool trout into thinking that the little thing tied at the end of my leader is an actual bug.
LAMB: How do you make your living?
Mr. MARGOLIS: Well, I--I sort of don't--you know, I basically went away with enough of a package that I can pay the rent and eat. And for--to live in the opulent manner to which I wish to become accustomed, I do some free-lance writing, such as this book and some other stuff.
LAMB: Our guest has been Jon Margolis, former Chicago Tribune reporter. The book is "The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964, The Beginning of the `Sixties.'" Thank you very much.
Mr. MARGOLIS: Thank you.

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