The Manila Communiqué: Nixon’s Comeback
In late October of 1966, LBJ met with leaders of several different Pacific nations to begin negotiating new policy goals for the Vietnam War. The result of this summit was The Manila Communiqué: a document that laid out specific policy goals to try to achieve peace in Vietnam.
Though RN was not officially involved in politics that year he was still considered an important leader in the Republican Party and was respected as a political commentator in that regard.
Upon learning about the Manila Summit, RN reviewed the Communiqué and released a document that outlined his position on the decisions reached. On November 3rd, RN sent the article “An Appraisal of Manila” to the New York Times.
RN’s article stated that the Summit had brought them no closer to peace and was giving the Viet Cong greater control over the situation. He stated that the conflict would simply drag on if LBJ continued to implement gradualist policies.
At a press conference the next day LBJ attacked RN for his statements regarding the Communiqué, calling the former Vice President a “chronic campaigner” and asserting that his statement was an opportunistic attempt to collect votes and support.
That same day, RN responded to LBJ stating that his statement was not meant to be a personal attack against the President. He went on to assert that there were questions about the implementation of policies in Vietnam that remained unanswered, and that regardless of personal feelings they needed to be answered.
The press surprisingly and overwhelmingly sided with RN on the issue. As a result RN proved that he was still a relevant political commentator, that he had the national interest in mind, and perhaps most importantly, that the President of the United States saw him as a threat on a political level.
Immediately after the 1966 election RN took a six month leave of absence from politics, vacationing with his family in Key Biscayne, Florida. It seemed at this point that RN had finally eradicated the last traces of his “loser image” that his Last Press Conference had bestowed on him.
While speaking at the Richard Nixon Foundation in 2014, former Nixon assistant and speech writer Pat Buchanan stated that this exchange between LBJ and RN was perhaps the most crucial turning point for RN in his political comeback, and acted as a confident step forward out of RN’s “Wilderness Years”.