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article imageRichard Nixon Wanted Bodyguards to Spy on Edward Kennedy

By Chris Dade     Aug 28, 2009 in Politics
Tapes recorded at the Nixon White House reveal that, so fixated was the man who resigned in 1974, with impeachment over Watergate looming, on the political threat posed to him by Edward Kennedy that he wanted bodyguards to spy on his long-time opponent.
According to a report by the Huffington Post President Nixon, the 37th man to hold the post during the history of the United States, never forgot the defeat inflicted upon him by John F. Kennedy in the Presidential election of 1960.
Concerned about the potential damage Edward Kennedy might cause to his chances of reelection in 1972, although Kennedy was not his opponent in the Presidential contest, Richard Nixon planned that Secret Service bodyguards would be assigned to the Senator from Massachusetts, with a brief to try and uncover evidence of Kennedy being unfaithful to his wife Joan.
Another motive for the personal protection Nixon offered to Kennedy, not being a Presidential candidate the latter man was not entitled to such full-time protection, was that the man then in the White House feared he would be blamed if a third member of the Kennedy family were to be assassinated.
The shooting of Alabama Governor George Wallace in May 1972, whilst he was campaigning to be the Democratic nomination for the Presidency, helped Nixon, or his proxies, convince Kennedy that protection was necessary to avoid any possible repetition of the deaths at the hands of gunmen suffered by President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
Luke A. Nichter is an assistant history professor at Texas A&M University and a recognized expert on the White House recordings that revealed Nixon's intentions. He summarized the mindset the then President possessed, when it came to the matter of him remaining in office, thus:Nixon did not intend to simply win in 1972; he wanted to destroy his opponent. If that opponent was a Kennedy, Nixon cautiously welcomed that opportunity but left nothing to chance. That is what these long-obscured recordings show us
But it transpires that once in place Nixon's plan did not disclose any scandals concerning the man, still then dogged by the incident at Chappaquiddick in 1969 in which Mary Jo Kopechne drowned, and part of what his detractors considered to be a "super swinger jet set". Trips by the Senator to Hawaii and Martha's Vineyard, during which he was tracked by agents acting on ultimately the President's authority, produced no dirt which could be used against Kennedy by his opponent. In fact revelations about the attire of Kennedy's wife, what she did wear or planned to wear but didn't, seem to have been the only details to have come out of the tapes or clandestine activities that could even faintly be described as lurid.
It appears that no agent assigned to protect Senator Kennedy ever gathered any information on Kennedy which was then passed up the chain of command and there are indications that Nixon, whom the Huffington Post says saw himself as a defender of the values of Middle America, had slight reservations about the activities he sanctioned, once saying to his Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman:I don't know. Maybe it's the wrong thing to do. But I have a feeling that if you're going to start, better start now
The protection afforded to Kennedy was not continued by Nixon after the 1972 election, which he won comfortably, defeating Democrat George McGovern in 49 out of the 50 U.S. states and claiming over 60 per cent of the popular vote. Less than two years later, in August 1974 President Nixon was resigning his position due to the Watergate scandal, being succeeded by his Vice-President Gerald Ford. Richard Nixon died in April 1994, aged 81, following a stroke.
Edward 'Ted' Kennedy served over 46 years in the U.S. Senate, dying only last Tuesday at the age of 77, having been to poor health since May 2008 when he first suffered a seizure and was then diagnosed with a type of cancerous brain tumor.
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