Post by bigdog
It has become a widely believed myth that Dick Daley stole the election
for JFK in 1960 through voter fraud. While I don't doubt the Daley machine
could manufacture votes in Cook County just as the Republicans could do so
in neighboring Lake County, JFK would have won the election even if Nixon
had carried Illinois. In the wee hours of the morning there were still
three big states up for grabs, Illinois, Missouri, and Texas. Nixon would
have needed 2 of the 3 to win the election. He lost all three. What is
interesting is what would have happened if Nixon had won Missouri and one
of the other two. 14 unpledged electors in Mississippi and Alabama and one
faithless elector in Oklahoma voted for Senator Byrd. Would they have done
that if their votes had meant something. Who knows but it is quite
possible the House could have decided the winner of the Presidency in 1960
had Illinois been won by Nixon.
Nixon wanted to contest the vote, but Eisenhower talked him out of it.
Was Nixon Robbed?
The legend of the stolen 1960 presidential election.
By David Greenberg
John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon
"You gotta swallow this one," says a Republican hack in Oliver Stone's
Nixon, referring to the 1960 election, in which John F. Kennedy prevailed.
"They stole it fair and square."
That Richard Nixon was cheated out of the presidency in 1960 has become
almost an accepted fact. You've probably heard the allegations: Kennedy's
operatives fixed the tallies in Texas and Illinois, giving him those
states' 51 electoral votes and a majority in the Electoral College.
Fearing that to question the results would harm the country, Nixon checked
his pride and declined to mount a challenge.
The story is rich in irony: The much-hated Nixon, later driven from the
presidency for cheating in an election, puts country before personal gain.
The beloved Kennedy, waltzing through life, pulls off the political crime
of the century. Nixon's defenders like the story because it diminishes
Watergate. His detractors like it since it allows them to appear less than
knee-jerk???magnanimously crediting Nixon with noble behavior while
eluding charges of Kennedy worship.
Ironic, yes. But true?
The race was indeed close???the closest of the century. Kennedy received
only 113,000 votes more than Nixon out of the 68 million ballots cast. His
303-219 electoral-vote margin obscured the fact that many states besides
Texas and Illinois could have gone either way. California's 32 electoral
votes, for example, originally fell into Kennedy's column, but Nixon
claimed them on Nov. 17 after absentee ballots were added.
Even before Election Day, rumors circulated about fraud, especially in
Chicago, where Mayor Richard Daley's machine was known for delivering
whopping Democratic tallies by fair means and foul. When it became clear
how narrowly Nixon lost, outraged Republicans grew convinced that cheating
had tipped the election and lobbied for an investigation.
Nixon always insisted that others, including President Eisenhower,
encouraged him to dispute the outcome but that he refused. A challenge, he
told others, would cause a "constitutional crisis," hurt America in the
eyes of the world, and "tear the country apart." Besides, he added,
pursuing the claims would mean "charges of 'sore loser' would follow me
through history and remove any possibility of a further political career."
Classic Nixon: "Others" urge him to follow a less admirable course, but he
spurns their advice for the high road. (William Safire once noted that he
always used to tell Nixon to take the easy path so that Nixon could say in
his speeches, "Others will say we should take the easy course, but ???")
Apart from the suspect neatness of this account, however, there are
reasons to doubt its veracity.
First, Eisenhower quickly withdrew his support for a challenge, making it
hard for Nixon to go forward. According to Nixon's friend Ralph De
Toledano, a conservative journalist, Nixon knew Ike's position yet claimed
anyway that he, not the president, was the one advocating restraint. "This
was the first time I ever caught Nixon in a lie," Toledano recalled.
More to the point, while Nixon publicly pooh-poohed a challenge, his
allies did dispute the results???aggressively. The New York Herald
Tribune's Earl Mazo, a friend and biographer of Nixon's, recounted a
dozen-odd fishy incidents alleged by Republicans in Illinois and Texas.
Largely due to Mazo's reporting, the charges gained wide acceptance.
But it wasn't just Mazo who made a stink. The press went into a brief
frenzy in the weeks after the election. Most important, the Republican
Party made a veritable crusade of undoing the results. Even if they
ultimately failed, party leaders figured, they could taint Kennedy's
victory, claim he had no mandate for his agenda, galvanize the rank and
file, and have a winning issue for upcoming elections.
Three days after the election, party Chairman Sen. Thruston Morton
launched bids for recounts and investigations in 11 states???an action
that Democratic Sen. Henry Jackson attacked as a "fishing expedition."
Eight days later, close Nixon aides, including Bob Finch and Len Hall,
sent agents to conduct "field checks" in eight of those states. Peter
Flanigan, another aide, encouraged the creation of a Nixon Recount
Committee in Chicago. All the while, everyone claimed that Nixon knew
nothing of these efforts???an implausible assertion that could only have
been designed to help Nixon dodge the dreaded "sore loser" label.
The Republicans pressed their case doggedly. They succeeded in obtaining
recounts, empanelling grand juries, and involving U.S. attorneys and the
FBI. Appeals were heard, claims evaluated, evidence weighed. The New York
Times considered the charges in a Nov. 26 editorial. (Its bold verdict:
"It is now imperative that the results in each state be definitively
settled by the time the electoral college meets.")
The results of it all were meager.
New Jersey was typical. The GOP obtained court orders for recounts in five
counties, but by Dec. 1 the state Republican committee conceded that the
recounts had failed to uncover any significant discrepancies, and they
halted the process. Kennedy was certified the state's official winner by
22,091 votes. Other states' recount bids and investigations similarly
Texas and Illinois, the two largest states under dispute, witnessed the
nastiest fights. In Texas, where Kennedy won the 24 electoral votes by a
margin of 46,000 ballots, the GOP took to the courts. But its suits were
thrown out by a federal judge who claimed he had no jurisdiction. In
Illinois, the appeal was pursued more vigorously, maybe because the
electoral take was higher (27) and Kennedy's margin slimmer (9,000 votes).
Charges focused on Cook County (specifically Chicago) where Kennedy had
won by a suspiciously overwhelming 450,000 votes.
National GOP officials plunged in. Thruston Morton flew to Chicago to
confer with Illinois Republican leaders on strategy, while party Treasurer
Meade Alcorn announced Nixon would win the state. With Nixon distancing
himself from the effort, the Cook County state's attorney, Benjamin
Adamowski, stepped forward to lead the challenge. A Daley antagonist and
potential rival for the mayoralty, Adamowski had lost his job to a
Democrat by 25,000 votes. The closeness of his defeat entitled him to a
recount, which began Nov. 29.
Completed Dec. 9, the recount of 863 precincts showed that the original
tally had undercounted Nixon's (and Adamowski's) votes, but only by 943,
far from the 4,500 needed to alter the results. In fact, in 40 percent of
the rechecked precincts, Nixon's vote was overcounted. Displeased, the
Republicans took the case to federal court, only to have a judge dismiss
the suits. Still undeterred, they turned to the State Board of Elections,
which was composed of four Republicans, including the governor, and one
Democrat. Yet the state board, too, unanimously rejected the petition,
citing the GOP's failure to provide even a single affidavit on its behalf.
The national party finally backed off after Dec. 19, when the nation's
Electoral College certified Kennedy as the new president???but even then
local Republicans wouldn't accept the Illinois results.
A recount did wind up changing the winner in one state: Hawaii. On Dec.
28, a circuit court judge ruled that the state???originally called
Kennedy's but awarded to Nixon after auditing errors emerged???belonged to
Kennedy after all. Nixon's net gain: -3 electoral votes.
The GOP's failure to prove fraud doesn't mean, of course, that the
election was clean. That question remains unsolved and unsolvable. But
what's typically left out of the legend is that multiple election boards
saw no reason to overturn the results. Neither did state or federal
judges. Neither did an Illinois special prosecutor in 1961. And neither
have academic inquiries into the Illinois case (both a 1961 study by three
University of Chicago professors and more recent research by political
scientist Edmund Kallina concluded that whatever fraud existed wasn't
substantial enough to alter the election).
On the other hand, some fraud clearly occurred in Cook County. At least
three people were sent to jail for election-related crimes, and 677 others
were indicted before being acquitted by Judge John M. Karns, a Daley
crony. Many of the allegations involved practices that wouldn't be
detected by a recount, leading the conservative Chicago Tribune, among
others, to conclude that "once an election has been stolen in Cook County,
it stays stolen." What's more, according to journalist Seymour Hersh, a
former Justice Department prosecutor who heard tapes of FBI wiretaps from
the period believed that Illinois was rightfully Nixon's. Hersh also has
written that J. Edgar Hoover believed Nixon actually won the presidency
but in deciding to follow normal procedures and refer the FBI's findings
to the attorney general???as of Jan. 20, 1961, Robert F. Kennedy???he
effectively buried the case.
Another man, too, believed Nixon was robbed: Nixon. At a 1960 Christmas
party, he was heard greeting guests, "We won but they stole it from us."
Nixon nursed the grudge for years, and when he was criticized for his
Watergate crimes he would cite the Kennedys' misdeeds as precedent. He may
have felt JFK's supposed theft entitled him to cheat in 1972. It's an
interesting hypothetical: If no pall had been cast over the 1960 election,
would Watergate have happened? SINGLE PAGE