Kennedy vs. Johnson

After Kennedy was nominated for the Presidency, the Vice Presidency came into question. "No one was sure what Johnson would do if Kennedy offered it to him."

Transcript

David McCullough [voice-over]: Kennedy was nominated overwhelmingly on the first ballot. Now, all that was left was the vice presidency and no one was sure what Johnson would do if Kennedy offered it to him.

John Connally, LBJ Campaign Aide: He said, "Well, Jack Kennedy just called. He's coming down to see me." He said, "What do you think he wants?" And I said, "He's going to offer you the vice presidency." He said, "Oh no, he's not. Oh, no. He wouldn't do that." He said, "He's probably going to ask me to manage the campaign." I said, "No, he's going to ask you to be Vice President." He said, "Well, what should I say to him?" I said, "Well, you don't have any choice. You have to say yes."

Robert Baker, LBJ Senate Aide: And I said, "Mr. Leader, let me tell you -- John Kennedy knows that no Catholic has ever been elected President in the history of this country. He knows the only chance in hell that he has to be President of the United States is if you run as Vice President." And I said, "The vice presidency is the worst job in the country. It's not worth a warm bucket of spit," as John Nance Garner said, "But you're one heartbeat away from the presidency."

David McCullough [voice-over]: When Kennedy offered Johnson the vice presidency, no one was happy. The conservatives didn't want Johnson to run with the liberal Kennedy and the liberals wanted one of their own. Finally, the candidate's brother, Robert Kennedy, paid Johnson a visit.

Eliot Janeway, Economist, Johnson Family Friend: I was in the room, in Johnson's bedroom with Johnson and John Connally, the three of us alone on the morning of the nomination for the vice presidency at about 10:30, when Bobby Kennedy stormed in and started screaming at Johnson that if he knew what was good for him, he'd get off that ticket.

Robert Baker, LBJ Senate Aide: So what happened was that Mr. Rayburn and John Connally went in to meet with Bobby Kennedy.

John Connally, LBJ Campaign Aide: And Bobby Kennedy said that all hell had broken loose on the convention floor and that Johnson was going to have to withdraw, just change his mind and not accept the vice presidency. And Mr. Rayburn looked at him and he said, "Aw," and uttered an expletive that I am not going to use.

Robert Baker, LBJ Senate Aide: Old man Rayburn said, "Shit, sonny," and kicked him out.

John Connally, LBJ Campaign Aide: I said, "Your brother came down here and offered him the vice presidency and Mr. Johnson accepted it. Now, if he doesn't want him to have it, he's going to have to call and ask him to withdraw."

Senator Kennedy [Archival, 1960 Democratic Convention]: And I am grateful, finally, that I can rely in the coming months on many others, on a distinguished running mate who brings unity and strength to our platform and our ticket, Lyndon Johnson.

 

 

 

My American Experience

My American Experience photos

Share Your Story

Who is your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Reagan? Clinton? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?



  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH