Richard Nixon’s ‘Silent Majority’ Plan

Fifty years ago, the president mapped out a future that could well have saved South Vietnam from Communism.

by Conrad Black

There has been some comment about the 50th anniversary, this past Sunday, of Richard Nixon’s appeal to the “Silent Majority” of Americans to support his policy of handing over the conduct of the Vietnam War to the South Vietnamese and gradually withdrawing without making preemptive or unilateral concessions to the North Vietnamese. The country had waited over nine months since President Nixon’s inauguration to find out what he proposed to do about the War. He had campaigned saying “I have a plan” (a phrase that has been in the news more recently). He had frequently criticized the way the war was being waged as American participation steadily increased under his predecessors, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Most of the reflective comment has implied that Nixon was further dividing the country and exploiting the prestige of his office to mobilize the quiescent Americans who would choose to believe their president over the conscientious demonstrators who rightly objected to the war and wanted simply to give up and leave “by plane and by ship” (in the then-current expression). Mr. Nixon has also been in the news lately as commentators who criticize the outrageous partisanship of Adam Schiff’s handling of the spurious Ukraine impeachment drive cite the impeachment hearings of the Nixon era as a model of congressional due process. It was nothing of the kind — it was a disgraceful persecution of an extremely successful and capable president, but at least in the Watergate affair, some people had broken some laws, though there is still no conclusive evidence that Richard Nixon was among them.


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