An election for the books

December 02, 1997|By Martin D. Tullai

IN THEIR attempt to defend John F. Kennedy from the disclosures by Seymour Hersh in his critical look at Kennedy in ''The Dark Side of Camelot,'' Sun columnists Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover bemoan Mr. Hersh's ''liberties with the truth.'' But perhaps they have been less than forthright in their search for the truth when they conclude that Mr. Hersh's version of what happened during the 1960 presidential election ''will reinforce the lament of die-hard Nixonites that Kennedy did indeed steal the presidency.''

Only pro-Nixon folks hold this view? Hardly!

Such accusations were due to strange and questionable events in Illinois and Texas.

An omission

Astonishingly, Messrs. Germond and Witcover noted apparent voting irregularities in Illinois that led to Kennedy winning that state and concluded that ''even without Illinois' 27 he still would have been elected.'' But they didn't mention the alleged voting fraud in Texas.

Kennedy's margin of victory in the electoral college was 84 votes -- 303 to 219. (Harry F. Byrd receiving 15 votes.) In 1960, there was a total of 537 electoral votes.

A reversal of the results in Illinois and Texas would have shifted 51 votes from Kennedy to Nixon, making Nixon the winner.

A number of creditable sources suspected foul play in the 1960s election:

1) Pro-Kennedy columnist Marquis Childs said that the Mayor Richard Daley-controlled wards in Chicago supplied the 10,000 votes to put over the Kennedy-Johnson ticket, which won in Illinois by 8,858 votes.

2) Presidential biographer Theodore White said that perhaps enough votes were stolen in Texas and Illinois to have gained victory for Kennedy: ''Democratic vote-stealing had definitely taken place on a massive scale in Illinois and Texas.''

3) The Chicago Tribune said: ''The election of Nov. 8 was characterized by such gross and palpable fraud as to justify the conclusion that Nixon was deprived of victory.''

4) A Look magazine article, ''How to Steal an Election,'' reported that many Americans only half-believed, prior to 1960, that a candidate could be robbed of an office. But subsequently, ''For the first time, many thousands of Americans suddenly realize that elections can be stolen.''

5) The N.Y. Herald-Tribune, in a series of articles dealing with election shenanigans in Texas, told of a minimum of 100,000 fraudulent votes tallied for the Kennedy-Johnson ticket. And yet the Democrats carried Texas by the slim margin of only 46,242 votes.

6) New York Times columnist Tom Wicker, hardly a Nixonophile, in a forward to Neal R. Peirce's ''The People's President,'' observed that there were ''highly plausible charges of fraud'' in Illinois. ''It is not certain that Kennedy honestly won an electoral college majority despite the history books and his inauguration,'' Mr. Wicker said.

7) FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover expressed the view that the election results could best be explained by fraud, not human error.

Nixon's stance

Despite the closeness of the election and the evidence of irregularities, Richard Nixon did not challenge the results. Why not? Nixon told the Herald-Tribune: ''Our country can't afford the agony of a constitutional crisis and I will not be a party to creating one just to become president or anything else.''

In fact, Nixon pressured the Herald-Tribune to discontinue a 12-part series on the election's irregularities after four installments had been published.

Nixon also convinced the editors of Chicago's Daily News and Tribune to end their editorial campaigns demanding a recount of the Cook County vote.

As Abraham Lincoln declared: ''History is not history unless it is the truth.''

Martin D. ''Mitch'' Tullai teaches history at St. Paul's School in Brooklandville.

Pub Date: 12/02/97

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