(Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy in 1968 - kicking off what would be an insane and tragic year)
From February 11, 1968, after declaring his candidacy for President, Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy went on the talk show circuit, laying out his platform for what would be a tumultuous election year. President Johnson was knee-deep in the malaise of Vietnam and domestic unrest would skyrocket in the coming months with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. Those events hadn't happened yet and in February it was just looking like an interesting horse race with dark storm clouds looming very closely.
David Broder (Washington Post): “Senator, despite your many statements on the subject and perhaps because of bad reporting by those of us in the press, people are still confused as to your basic purpose. Do you wish to take the nomination away from President Johnson or is your candidacy simply a vehicle for allowing people to express disagreement with his policies on Vietnam and other issues?”
Sen. Eugene McCarthy: “I don’t see it as having that limited purpose. My objective is to bring about a change of National policy both with reference to the war and also with reference to national priorities. And as I see it, in order to accomplish that, as things are going, it will be necessary to take the nomination for the Democratic Party from President Johnson. So that is my objective.”
As a background, the Tet Offensive had been launched only 12 days earlier and the war escalated shortly after with additional combat troops being sent to Vietnam. George Wallace declared his candidacy only three days earlier. An unexpected win in the New Hampshire primaries boosted McCarthy's chances while casting doubt President Johnson's chances of solidifying the party. RFK did not declare until March, after LBJ announced his intention not to run. All in all, events would move very quickly after this broadcast.
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