In a segment aired at the news conference, Johnson tells Sen. Everett Dirksen, the Republican minority leader, that it will be Nixon’s responsibility if the South Vietnamese don’t participate in the peace talks.
"This is treason," LBJ says to Dirksen.
"I know," Dirksen replies, very softly.
Confronting Nixon by telephone on Nov. 3, Johnson outlines what had been alleged and how important it was to the conduct of the war for Nixon’s people not to meddle.
"My God," Nixon says to Johnson, "I would never do anything to encourage the South Vietnamese not to come to that conference table." Instead, Nixon pledged to help in any way Johnson or Rusk suggested, "To hell with the political credit, believe me."
For Johnson and his top advisers, it wasn’t a matter of whether Nixon was telling the truth but whether accusing Nixon of meddling would give the appearance that Johnson — rather than Nixon — was using the war to influence the election.
Tricky Dick, indeed.
Does Humphrey win in ’68 if LBJ goes public and exposes Nixon’s treachery? We’ll never know.