Lyndon B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power

By Rowland Evans; Robert Novak | Go to book overview
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Chapter XIV CAMPAIGNING FOR KENNEDY

I didn't run for Vice-President, but I'll tell you why I'm proud to be on this ticket. A strong, dedicated man walked into my room one morning and said, "I want you to help me." It took a pretty big man to walk down two flights of stairs to ask that of the man who had opposed him all the way down to the Canal Zone.

-- Lyndon Johnson, campaign speech in Hartford, Connecticut, September 9, 1960

On Friday morning, July 16, 1960, John F. Kennedy exercised his sudden new power as national party leader and summoned the Democratic National Committee into session at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles for the purpose of replacing Paul M. Butler as chairman. Obediently, the committee followed Kennedy's instructions to the letter and elected Senator Henry M. Jackson of Washington, one of the many disappointed suitors for the vice-presidency, as Democratic National Chairman--the first Protestant to hold that office since Cordell Hull in 1925.

Although Jackson was not picked until Los Angeles, Kennedy had long since decided he needed a Protestant for the job and that the new chairman would be used primarily as a front-man and speech- maker. The National Committee's headquarters in Washington would actually be run by Lawrence F. O'Brien, Kennedy's political aide, with the title of Director of Organization. His selection, along with Jackson's, was announced to the National Committee at the Friday morning meeting.

Understandably, Kennedy quite forgot about Lyndon Johnson, his running mate for all of twelve hours, when he called that meeting of the National Committee for Friday morning. Also understandably,

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