As the Republican candidate in 1968, Nixon was convinced that Johnson, a Democrat who decided not to seek re-election, was deliberately trying to sabotage his campaign with a politically motivated peace effort meant mainly to boost the candidacy of his vice president, Hubert H. Humphrey. His suspicions were understandable, and at least one of Johnson’s aides later acknowledged that they were anxious to make progress before the election to help Humphrey. Through much of the campaign, the Nixon team maintained a secret channel to the South Vietnamese through Anna Chennault, widow of Claire Lee Chennault, leader of the Flying Tigers in China during World War II. Anna Chennault had become a prominent Republican fundraiser and Washington hostess. Nixon met with Anna Chennault and the South Vietnamese ambassador earlier in the year to make clear that she was the campaign’s “sole representative” to the Saigon government. But whether he knew what came later has always been uncertain. She was the conduit for urging the South Vietnamese to resist Johnson’s entreaties to join the Paris talks and to wait for a better deal under Nixon. At one point, she told the ambassador she had a message from “her boss”: “Hold on, we are gonna win.” Learning of this through wiretaps and surveillance, Johnson was livid. He ordered more bugs and privately groused that Nixon’s behavior amounted to “treason.” jobBut lacking hard evidence that Nixon was directly involved, Johnson opted not to go public.
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