1970 was a turning point for many things in America. We were slowly getting back on our feet from the 60s, still reeling and no longer innocent. Richard Nixon had narrowly won the Presidency in 1968 – we were heading toward the mid-term elections in 1970 and looking ahead to what might happen in 1972. For one thing, in 1971 – a year after this broadcast of Meet The Press, the voting age would be lowered to 18. The much anticipated Youth Vote was seen as a potential game-changer in upcoming elections. And there was the issue with Women and this gathering new wave of protest and political change in the form of Women’s Liberation, which was gathering more headlines and steam each day.
But in 1970 the Democrats were in desperate need of a makeover – a narrow defeat and a bruising campaign in 1968 took their toll on the electorate as well as the morale of the party. Who was out there who could capture the spirit and imagination of Robert Kennedy? Hubert Humphrey certainly didn’t – and Eugene McCarthy looked a little too radical for center-field Democrats.
Lawrence O’Brien had a long political history – as campaign manager for the JFK as well as RFK campaigns, he was seen as uniquely qualified to turn the Democratic Party into the election-winning juggernaut it was hoping to be.
O’Brien clearly had a lot on his plate, and his acceptance as head of the Party was no walk in the park. O’Brien oversaw sweeping changes in the selection of delegates, the reorganization of the committee’s staff and the recruitment of communications experts as volunteer consultants.
O’Brien was a popular and successful choice – so successful, that it made Richard Nixon’s Committee To Re-Elect The President nervous. So they set about to discredit O’Brien, eventually leading to the break-in at DNC headquarters at The Watergate Apartments in Washington D.C., a move that would ultimately lead to Richard Nixon’s downfall.
But before all that, Lawrence O’Brien was preoccupied with getting the DNC back on its feet, and this episode of Meet The Press, broadcast on March 15, 1970 addresses that.
Here is the complete interview from March 15, 1970.