Palin, Nixon, And The “Secret Plan”

At CQ Politics, Jonathan Allen contrasts Sarah Palin and Richard Nixon.  “Palin doesn’t have Nixon’s interest in, or knowledge of, foreign affairs,” he writes. “Imagine the reaction if Palin suggested she had a “secret plan” to win the war in Afghanistan.”  He is undoubtedly right on his major point, but I must nitpick the second sentence. As Frank Gannon and yours truly have noted on this site, RN never said that he had a secret plan to win the war in Vietnam.  That urban legend started with a wire report that inaccurately paraphrased his comments at a town meeting.

The CQ article links to a piece that acknowledges this point, while suggesting that RN let the myth stand during the 1968 campaign because it worked to his advantage.  Actually, as Nixon speechwriter Raymond Price has written:  “We on the Nixon staff immediately pointed out, to all who would listen, that he had not claimed a `plan.’ Nixon himself told reporters that if he had one, he would have given it to President Johnson.”  Nelson Rockefeller kept the canard alive as a way of attacking Nixon.  Richard Reeves reported in the New York Times on March 19, 1968:

When he has been alone with friends, Mr. Rockefeller has scornfully mocked Mr. Nixon by patting his suit pocket and saying that he keeps a peace plan there while hundreds of Americans die each week in Vietnam. The Governor has said that he will ‘pound away’ at Mr. Nixon’s secret plan during the Oregon campaign.

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