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Context of 'July 18, 1969: Nixon Sees Chappaquiddick Tragedy Damages Kennedy'

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1950: Nixon Accepts Mob Money for House Campaign

Murray Chotiner.Murray Chotiner. [Source: Spartacus Educational]During Richard Nixon’s campaign to represent his California district in the US House, his campaign manager, Murray Chotiner, arranges to have the Mafia raise money for Nixon. Los Angeles mob boss Mickey Cohen raises $75,000 for Nixon in return for unspecified political favors. Cohen will later claim that he raised the money on orders from one of his own bosses, Meyer Lansky. Cohen will sign a confession to the money raising while in Alcatraz Prison in 1962. Chotiner, embarrassed by the revelation, will drop out of politics until 1968, when he rejoins Nixon in his campaign for president (see November 5, 1968). After Nixon’s victory, Chotiner will be named a special counsel for Nixon, joining Nixon’s White House staff. [Spartacus Schoolnet, 8/2007]

Entity Tags: Richard M. Nixon, Mafia, Meyer Lansky, Mickey Cohen, Murray Chotiner

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

New York Times headline for Nixon election victory.New York Times headline for Nixon election victory. [Source: New York University]Republican presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon defeats Democratic challenger Hubert H. Humphrey in one of the closest elections in modern history. The election is too close to call for hours, until Illinois’s 26 electoral votes finally go to Nixon. The Illinois decision prevents third-party contender George C. Wallace from using his 15 electoral votes to determine the winner; the contest could well have ended up being determined in the House of Representatives. Instead, Nixon wins with 290 electoral votes, 20 more than he needs. Humphrey wins 203. Democrats retain control of both the House and Senate. [Washington Post, 11/5/1968]

Entity Tags: Hubert H. Humphrey, Richard M. Nixon

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate, Elections Before 2000

1972 Nixon campaign button.1972 Nixon campaign button. [Source: Terry Ashe / Getty Images]Ten days into his administration, Richard Nixon meets with his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, and two other aides, Frederick LaRue and John Sears. The topic of discussion is Nixon’s re-election in 1972. Nixon wants to have a campaign committee for his re-election set up outside the Republican National Committee, and with separate, independent financing. He also authorizes continuous, year-round polling. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 34]

Entity Tags: John Sears, Richard M. Nixon, Frederick LaRue, H.R. Haldeman

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate, Elections Before 2000

Former New York Police Department detective Jack Caulfield begins his new job as a White House aide. Caulfield was added to the White House by Nixon aide John Ehrlichman after President Nixon’s decision to use private, secretly held funds for political intelligence operations (see January 30, 1969). Caulfield is to conduct various political intelligence operations without being noticed by the CIA, the FBI, or the Republican National Committee. Originally, the idea was to pay Caulfield out of unspent campaign funds from the 1968 elections (see November 5, 1968), but Caufield insisted on being given a White House position. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 67]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Richard M. Nixon, John Ehrlichman, John J. ‘Jack’ Caulfield

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

The New York Times reveals the secret bombings of Cambodia, dubbed “Operation Menu” (see February 23-24, 1969 and March 15-17, 1969). National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger is apoplectic in his anger: shouting to President Nixon, “We must do something! We must crush those people! We must destroy them!” Kissinger is not only referring to the Times, but Defense Secretary Melvin Laird and Secretary of State William Rogers, whom he believes leaked the information to the Times in order to discredit him. (Nixon has an unproductive phone conversation with Laird before his meeting with Kissinger; Nixon opened the phone call by calling Laird a “son of a b_tch,” and Laird hung up on the president.) Nixon suggests Kissinger’s own staff may be the source of the leaks. He is most suspicious of Kissinger’s aide Morton Halperin. By lunch, Kissinger has talked to the FBI about wiretapping suspected leakers. By dinner, Halperin’s phone is tapped. The next day, Kissinger’s military aide Alexander Haig has the FBI tap three more men “just for a few days,” warning the FBI not to keep any records of the wiretaps. The three targets are Kissinger’s aides Helmut Sonnenfeldt and Daniel Davidson, and Laird’s military assistant, Robert Pursley (who will again be wiretapped several months later—see May 2, 1970). At the same time, White House aide Jack Caulfield (see April 2, 1969) arranges for a wiretap on a private citizen, syndicated columnist Joseph Kraft. While the FBI wiretaps are legally questionable, Caulfield’s tap is unquestionably illegal. Caulfield has the director of security for the Republican National Committee, former FBI agent John Ragan, personally install the wiretap in Kraft’s home. The tap on Kraft produces nothing except the conversations of housekeepers, as Kraft and his wife are in Paris. Nixon has the French authorities wiretap Kraft’s Paris hotel room. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 75-76]

Entity Tags: Richard M. Nixon, William P. Rogers, Robert Pursley, Republican National Committee, Morton H. Halperin, Melvin Laird, Daniel Davidson, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., ’Operation Menu’, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Henry A. Kissinger, John J. ‘Jack’ Caulfield, John Ragan, Joseph Kraft, New York Times

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Nixon and Watergate

President Nixon learns of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)‘s involvement in the death by drowning of campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne at Massachusett’s Chappaquiddick Island. “He was obviously drunk and let her drown,” Nixon says of Kennedy, who is considered the Democrats’ leading presidential candidate for 1972. “He ran. There’s a fatal flaw in his character.” Nixon aide John Ehrlichman sends his “on-staff detective,” Jack Caulfield (see April 2, 1969) to the site to pose as a reporter and glean information. Caulfield takes along another former New York police detective, Tony Ulasewicz, who is being paid $22,000 a year out of a secret Nixon political fund handled by Nixon’s personal lawyer, Herbert Kalmbach. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 100-101]

Entity Tags: Tony Ulasewicz, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Herbert Kalmbach, John Ehrlichman, John J. ‘Jack’ Caulfield, Mary Jo Kopechne, Richard M. Nixon

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

Lawrence O’Brien.Lawrence O’Brien. [Source: Public domain]President Nixon targets the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Lawrence O’Brien, for surveillance. Nixon worries about O’Brien, a canny political operative, and especially O’Brien’s ties to Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), whom he believes to be by far the biggest threat to his re-election, even after Kennedy’s involvement in the Chappaquiddick tragedy (see July 18, 1969). Nixon orders his Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman, to have veteran campaign operative Murray Chotiner (see 1950) put together an “Operation O’Brien” to discredit the chairman. “Start with his income tax returns,” Nixon orders. [Reeves, 2001, pp. 174-175]

Entity Tags: Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Democratic National Committee, Richard M. Nixon, Murray Chotiner, Lawrence O’Brien, H.R. Haldeman

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate, Elections Before 2000

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