Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and the Ad That Changed American Politics
Mann, a LSU professor of journalism, has written a crisp, short volume about the famous 1964 Johnson campaign ad that – without ever mentioning Goldwater’s name – labeled him as someone too dangerous to trust with his finger on the nuclear trigger.
Mann makes clear the ad’s success – and it was shown only one time by LBJ’s campaign – came from the ad resonating with existing widespread fears about Goldwater’s stance on nuclear weapons, not from imparting new information to voters. He also suggests it may have been unnecessary, since Johnson was already poised for a landslide victory.
The author also deals with a trivia question of interest to hard-core political junkies, namely who was the actual creative spark behind the ad. And he packs the appendices with interesting memos circulated between the members of LBJ’s top White House aides, officials at the Democratic National Committee, and the head of Doyle Dane and Bernbach, the ad agency in charge of Johnson’s TV campaign, that shed light on the thinking inside in the Democratic campaign that fall.
One Johnson adviser who doesn’t come off particularly well in Mann’s account is Bill Moyers, later of CBS News and now of PBS fame. Moyers and a crew of White House aides dubbed “The Five O’Clock Club” somehow obtained advance copies of Goldwater’s schedule and speeches (from a mole in Barry’s HQ?) and Moyers himself in October 1964 asked the FBI to investigate a dozen Goldwater staffers.
All in all, a good read for the politically obsessed.