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Flashback Friday: On This Day In 1964, L.B.J. Rules Out R.F.K. For V.P.

Jul 30, 2010

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July 30, 1964:

Amid widespread speculation over whom he will choose to join him on the Democratic ticket, President Lyndon Johnson announces that no members of his Cabinet will be considered as his running mate.

The meaning of the move is clear to everyone.  What Johnson was really saying is that, despite the clamoring among many in the party, there is no way he will select Attorney General Robert Kennedy, brother of the slain President John Kennedy, as his number two.  Relations between LBJ and RFK, never good, got considerably worse after President Kennedy was assassinated the previous November.  Simply put, the two detested each other.

Johnson's actual statement ruled out, in addition to Kennedy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman, as well as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson and Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver.

The announcement leaves Minnesota Sens. Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy as the frontrunners for the vice-presidential nomination; Johnson will ultimately select Humphrey.

Kennedy, in a gracious statement, said it is up to the presidential nominee to pick a running mate, and he understood Johnson's decision.  But later, he wryly said that he sent a note to the other Cabinet members that read, "I'm sorry I took so many nice fellows over the side with me. "

On Sept. 3, Kennedy would resign from the Cabinet to run as the Democratic nominee for the Senate from New York, a race he would win.

Also on this day, Sen. Clair Engle, a California Democrat who was suffering from brain cancer and who had already announced his retirement, dies at age 52.  Within the next week, Gov. Pat Brown will name Pierre Salinger, who had been President Kennedy's press secretary, to fill the seat.  Salinger had won the Democratic nomination for the Senate in the June primary, edging out Alan Cranston.

Flashback Friday is a weekly feature on Political Junkie.

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