Two 1968 Myths in One
In Time, Jay Newton-Small writes a sentence with a minor mistake and a major one:
Richard Nixon practically perfected the transformation in 1968, initially building his “silent majority” of conservatives freaked out by hippie war protesters and inner-city riots before selling his “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War in the fall.
The minor mistake is dating the phrase “silent majority” to the 1968 campaign. As I have written here before, Nixon introduced it during a Vietnam speech on November 3, 1969. But if the exact words were not part of the campaign, the basic idea was.
The major error lies in repeating the canard that Nixon claimed to have a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War. He never said any such thing. Speechwriter Ray Price once explained:
That myth had its origin in the New Hampshire primary, when a wire-service reporter, new to the campaign, filed an article misinterpreting one line of Nixon’s standard stump speech: that ”a new administration will end the war and win the peace.” 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.
It was his rival for the nomination, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, who derisively added the word ”secret,” and, on that basis, reporters and commentators ever since have snidely accused Nixon of claiming a ”secret plan” he did not claim and denied having.