Campaign of the Century: Kennedy, Nixon and the Election of 1960
By Irwin F. Gellman
Reviewed by STEVEN TRAVERS
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin once said, “A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.” This kind of logic plays out through all of history. Inherent in this is the fact that the greatest crimes occur in plain sight. Mass murderers become conquerors. The greatest thefts become accomplishments.
So it is with the Democrat Party and their relationship with Democratic elections. We can start with the Civil War. The Democrats were the party of the Confederacy, the opposition, the traitors. They have never gone the other way.
They have always been corrupt, going back to Tammany Hall, to the Kennedy/Boston machine, the Pendergast machine, the Daley machine and the “Chicago way”; to Huey Long and the Southern cabals, to Jim Crow and their association with the KKK; to LBJ and the Texas “tombstone vote”; to voter theft in every big Democrat city today: Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and points beyond.
History tells us all the accusations are true, admitted at one point or another by the actual criminals who committed the crimes, rehashed over and over again by historians, many of whom share sympathy with the party – the Democrats – who have committed these crimes over and over and over.
The story is always the same. Democrat criminals steal an election – or a Supreme Court seat, or push a law through, pick your poison – the Republicans know about it, cry bloody murder, and the Democrats get away with it. Why? Put simply, because they can. Because the media favors them and lets them off the hook (see: Hunter Biden), Hollywood and documentaries attempt to smear those who tell the truth, the Republicans are too cowed by the dominant media culture to stand up for their rights (because if they do they are called traitors and racists, see: January 6). Time passes, and the general Republican attitude is that we are Christians, truth will set us free, God will favor us in the end, the malefactors will have their day of judgment, etc., etc. In the mean time the beatings go on in this life, and a lot of good people suffer the consequences.
All of this eventually comes to a boiling point and that boiling point is called Donald Trump. Campaign of the Century: Kennedy, Nixon and the Election of 1960 by Irwin F. Gellman comes just in time to provide us a primer on how Democrats stole elections then, how they steal elections now, and how this creates a Trump. Again, they do it because they can. Because they are good at it. No, they are experts at it. They get away with it for the same reason Stalin and Mao Tse-tung died peacefully instead of at the end of ropes. Because we live in a world of lies, and these people are masters of the art.
Gellman is a true historian. His politics are not revealed. He just tries to get at what happened. In so doing he does away with some myths and exposes some truths. Naturally, his lead up includes biographical sketches of the two contenders in question. The facts are well known and need no great recital here.
John F. Kennedy of course came from great wealth accumulated illegally by his father, a bootlegger and mobster of the 1920s and 1930s who admired Adolf Hitler enough to suggest that both the U.S. and Great Britain take his side in World War II. He was a war hero only because he was incompetent enough to let his PT boat get shipwrecked in enemy waters. He was the world’s greatest womanizer, to the point where he had an affair with a Nazi spy who used what she learned to help the enemy. He was elected to Congress and did absolutely nothing except bang broads, mostly off the coast of Florida with his friend George Smathers. He decided to run for President, and after failing in 1956 won the 1960 primaries.
Richard Nixon was basically the polar opposite, although the two became good friends. He came from nothing and scratched his way to success through dogged hard work. He served in the Navy and was a small-time California attorney who defeated the incumbent Jerry Voorhis in the San Gabriel Valley/Los Angeles House district Nixon lived and grew up in. This is where Gellman does some good work.
It has been accepted as fact by the Left that Nixon stole the election from Voorhis, a New Deal Democrat. Nixon campaigned hard but Gellman demonstrates that the election was won fair and square because in 1946 veterans of the war had returned and voted in droves for Republicans and fellow veterans like Nixon. They were anti-Communists, the kind of people who built Orange County and the L.A. suburbs. Nixon was their guy.
Then came the Alger Hiss case. Hiss was accused of being a Soviet spy while working in the Franklin Roosevelt Administration and later when he helped craft the U.N. Charter in terms favorable to the Russians. Nixon was an upstart California muckraker. As Gellman skillfully points out, everything Nixon alleged about Hiss was true, most of it proven by the Venona Papers, uncovered after the fall of the Soviet empire in the early 1990s.
Then came the 1950 Senate campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas. Like the Voorhis campaign, Nixon’s detractors tried to say he smeared Douglas as a Communist. Gellman went through the campaign and found what Nixon said of her was true. His Communist rhetoric stemmed from his statement that “she’s Red right down to her underwear,” and what has been found out about Communist tactics in Hollywood. Douglas was a former actress married to Melvyn Douglas.
The Hollywood Ten were all registered members of the Communist Party. These were not accusations, but facts. Ronald Reagan dealt with Communists who tried to harm him physically and throw acid in his face. The film unions were complete Commie fronts. The Communists tried to assassinate John “Duke” Wayne. Any high-profile Democrat candidate was hand-picked by Communists. The California citizenry, particularly in voter-rich post-war Southern California, voted against Douglas’s liberalism for the same reason they voted against Voorhis.
Then came the “Checkers speech.” Gellman noted accusations against Nixon, that he was “kept in style” by SoCal businessmen, was inaccurate. Jim Murray of Time magazine uncovered Nixon’s innocence, and Gellman destroys any argument to the contrary.
As Vice-President Nixon was diligent and loyal. Gellman also dispels myths that President Dwight Eisenhower did not much like his protege. In particular was a statement Ike made at a press conference in which he was asked to name some major programs headed by Nixon in his eight years in office. The famed quote is that Eisenhower needed “a week” to think of one. This was untrue.
As Gellman points out, it was the end of a long press conference and Eisenhower was tired. The questions were over and Ike announced if there were any further questions he would answer them “in a week,” at his next scheduled presser. The question came as he was leaving the stage and the answer the President provided while walking away did not indicate he needed a week to think of one, but merely that he would give his answer in a week.
Furthermore, Ike was disconsolate, first that a man utterly unready for the job had succeeded him, but also that his legacy would not be carried on. Gellman uncovers the fact that Ike said after Nixon’s loss that it was only the second time in his life he felt unwilling to go on; the first being when an injury ended his football career at West Point.
JFK’s philandering was monumental and widely know, but not reported. There is no doubt had the tables been turned every Nixon dalliance would have been headline news. Gellman studiously points out the media bias of 1960, which was tremendous although nothing compared to today. Many of the journalists later made mea culpas, realizing how unprofessional they had been in favoring Kennedy no matter their personal preferences.
The Kennedy campaign had an exquisite operation, mainly run by Robert Kennedy, that complained to news organizations if they made any kind of accusation or leveled any criticism at Jack. The religion issue also worked to JFK’s favor, for the most part, with Democrats crying religious bias at the slightest hint of opposition to Kennedy. This was a primer for the way Barack Obama did the same thing in 2008 and beyond.
Gellman’s description of how the Democrats stole the election is superb. He mentions that it was then as it is now simply the way those people have always done business, and makes specific mention, using the research of respected Democrat-friendly historians such as Robert Caro and Robert Dallek, both of whom have written exhaustive biographies of both JFK and LBJ, how it was done. LBJ perfected the art of the “tombstone vote” in elections for both the House and Senate from Texas. He calculated just how many votes he needed and stole that many, such as his 87-vote margin 1948, earning him the sobriquet “landslide Lyndon.” These tactics helped Kennedy capture Texas and all its electoral votes in 1960.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley perfected the art of the “packaged” vote, which the Democrats used and was exposed in the documentary 2000 Mules in 2020. This meant finding “people,” mostly black, who were dead, or had not voted, or could be bought with some whiskey or “walking around money”; or were not registered but were registered by Daley operatives who then filled in their ballots; all enough to give JFK Illinois and enough of the Electoral College to win the election. The election offices in big cities then as now were run by friendly Democrats who just wink and smile at the chicanery, then promote the narrative that the election is “fair,” and those who say differently are promoting lies. The idea of a Democrat doing the right thing has become some kind of an anachronism.
Gellman also puts the lie to Democrat accusations that while the Democrats stole votes, so did Nixon, particularly in “down state” precincts in Illinois. There is scant evidence of that. Once the deed was done, many Democrats had loose lips and bragged how they pulled it off.
Further galling was the reaction of Katherine Graham and the Washington Post, who openly celebrated Kennedy’s win. Since she and her paper moved Heaven and Earth to undo Nixon during Watergate, this bodes the question, “Where was the Post when the greatest political crime up until that time occurred right under their noses in 1960?”
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the dirty, rotten wind blowing over the Potomac River.
Gellman makes only a brief reference to Nixon’s motivations after the defeat. Publicly he was the “good loser” who chose not to fight the results for the good of the country. Privately he and his entire family were convinced they’d been robbed. It was this conviction, that the Democrats play dirty and one must fight fire with fire, that motivated Nixon to authorize the activities that brought him down during Watergate. In this regard, Gellman’s book is really only Act One of Macbeth or any of several other Shakespeare epics.
It also is read today in light of what we know about the 2000 election, when the Democrats used all means to try and steal the election for Al Gore; the 2008 Minnesota Senate campaign, won by Al Franken only after his party picked over the carcass of votes for months following what should have been a GOP win; plus Obama’s 2012 “victory,” which requires the educated to believe that he switched the vote by 23 points (according to Gallup) between October 15 and Election Day. Yeah, riiiiight!!
Stacey Abrams and numerous Democrats over the past decade have made the same accusations that Republicans made after 2020, and if it was the Democrats who stormed the Capitol on January 6, they would be hailed as “freedom fighters,” just like all the thugs burning cities and killing cops after the George Floyd case.
As Ray Bradbury so famously wrote, “And so it goes.”
Finally, Gellman tells the truth about historians. Many Republicans like George W. Bush have said “history will vindicate me,” but this is a joke. While Caro and Dallek make points favoring Republicans, this is rare. Theodore White, for instance, was considered the ultimate voice on the 1960 election, but he was ridiculously biased and wrong about a great deal of it (his unpatriotic reporting also played a large role in Mao Tse-tung eventually murdering 70 million human beings). Modern historians are Left-wingers, many polluting college campuses where they indoctrinate the young in Marxism. They are not likely to shed true light on events favoring conservatives whether it be in 1920 or 2020.
Steven Travers is a former screenwriter who has authored over 30 books including the brand new Best Sports Writing Ever and Coppola’s Monster Film: The Making of Apocalypse Now (2016). One Night, Two Teams: Alabama vs. USC and the Game That Changed a Nation (2007) is currently under film development. He is a USC graduate and attorney with a Ph.D who taught at USC and attended the UCLA Writers’ Program. He played professional baseball, served in the Army JAG corps in D.C., was in investment banking on Wall Street, worked in politics, lived in Europe, and was a sports agent before finding his calling as a writer. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, L.A. Times, StreetZebra, Gentry magazine, Newsmax and MichaelSavage.com. He lives in California and has one daughter, Elizabeth. He can be reached at USCSTEVE1@aol.com or on Twitter @STWRITES.