Monday, November 19, 2018

Betrayal: The Plot to Steal the White House (Partisan Films/MS-NBC, 2018)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2018 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

I ended up on MS-NBC for a show called Betrayal: The Plot to Steal the White House, a special hosted by Rachel Maddow that was not about the allegations of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia to rig the 2016 election in his favor and make sure he won. Instead it’s about the long-rumored intervention of Richard Nixon’s Presidential campaign to sabotage the Paris peace talks to end the Viet Nam war in 1968 so Lyndon Johnson couldn’t have his “October surprise” and be able to declare an end to the war and enable his vice-president, Hubert Humphrey, to succeed him. The alleged go-between was Anna Chennault, widow of General Claire Chennault (who had led the “Flying Tigers” using U.S. planes and equipment to bomb the Japanese positions in China in World War II well before the U.S. formally entered the war) and a major activist in the so-called “China Lobby” that for decades kept the U.S. from recognizing or having normal relations with the Communist government that took over China in 1949. Chennault apparently had enough “pull” with both the South Viet Namese ambassador in Washington, Bao Diem, and with South Viet Namese president Nguyen Van Thieu to get South Viet Nam to stay out of the Paris peace talks (which had actually begun in February 1968 but with only the U.S. and the North Viet Namese government as parties — the U.S. was demanding that South Viet Nam be included and the North Viet Namese were demanding that the Viet Cong, which depending on which sources you believe was either a guerrilla army financed and supported by the North or an independent resistance movement — most likely it was a little bit of both — also be included) until after the election on the ground that they could get a better deal from Nixon than they could from Johnson or Humphrey. 

Maddow blessedly left the parallels between the allegations against Nixon and those against Trump unstated until the very end of the program, and she doesn’t get into the irony that by helping Nixon get elected President Anna Chennault ended up with the policy outcome she least wanted: Nixon and his Realpolitik national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, successfully arranged an overture to the Communist Chinese government in Beijing that led to U.S. recognition, normal trade relations and the ultimate outsourcing of much of America’s industrial production to China (one of the big issues on which Donald Trump would campaign for and win the presidency 50 years later). The reason this is coming out now is that, even though there have been rumors that this happened since 1968, Lyndon Johnson sealed all the documents about it in an envelope and deposited it in the Johnson Presidential Library with instructions that it not be opened until 50 years later … which is now. Maddow also claims that it was to get that sealed envelope that Nixon’s “Plumbers” planned their raid on the Brookings Institution in the mistaken belief that the envelope resided there — they didn’t and the Brookings Institution was never the subject of a Plumbers burglary, but famously the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee were — and to add irony on top of irony, Anna Chennault held her famous lobbying parties from her own home in the residential wing of Watergate!