June 19, 1968 The impact of his brother's death takes its toll on the President's health and he once again is bed-ridden for three days due to complications due to Addison's Disease. Photos taken from his first year in office, compared to his final year, show a man looking much older than his chronological fifty-one years. His hair has grayed at the temples and crow's feet, forehead wrinkles, and lines down his cheekline are very prominent.
July 3, 1968 The CIA's "Phoenix Program" is ramped up to cover all of Vietnam. Kennedy's advisors fearing that a "domino effect" could spread to Cambodia, Laos, even Thailand from Vietnam, get him to approve a coordinated effort to disrupt the economy of Vietnam. A plan to assassinate Ho Chi Minh is not approved though, as reports come in of his increasingly poor health and the belief he'd die within two years.
July 10, 1968 Six days earlier than OTL, Abdul Rahman Arif is overthrown as President of Iraq by Ba'athists led by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr. al-Bakr's deputy is a rising star in the Iraqi Ba'ath Party named Saddam Hussein. The CIA analysts believes Hussein is a stalwart anti-Communist and see positive signs at his rise in the Iraqi Government.
August 5, 1968 The Republican National Convention begins in Miami Beach, Florida. Richard Nixon wins the nomination for President. Nixon formulating his "Southern Strategy" picks Gov. Spiro Agnew of Maryland (a border state, traditionally Democratic, and "Near South") as his running mate. Nixon leaves the Convention with a 48-37% lead over Vice President Long according to Gallup.
August 17, 1968 Three days earlier than OTL, Warsaw Pact forces invade Czechoslovakia to overthrow Alexander Dubček's government for pushing reform. It ends "Prague Spring" and hopes for reform in other Eastern European countries. All leaders in the West denounce the move, but Nixon uses it as "further evidence of the Kennedy/Long Administration weakness on the Soviets", but carefully tempers the words to not appear "Goldwateresque".
August 22, 1968 The Democrats hold their Convention in Chicago. It is an upbeat and cordial affair, with Vice President Russell Long winning the nomination easily. The mood is upbeat, even as President Kennedy's poll numbers waver at 51% (a slight uptick occurs in the wake of Bobby's death). Long, under advisement from Kennedy, chooses Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota as his Vice-President; a reversal of Kennedy-Johnson, a Northern President and Southern Veep.
President Kennedy's "farewell address" is given on August 25th at the Convention. To thunderous applause and sixteen interruptions for minutes-long cheering, he recounts the successes of his eight years in office. Noticeably, he downplays much of the civil rights achievements to focus on the economy, the space program, and foreign policy (naturally, no mention of Vietnam). The near-omissions of the civil rights agenda angers some black and liberal Democrats, though none of that anger shows at the Convention.
At the end of the Democratic Convention, Gallup shows Nixon with a 44-36% lead over Long. The Democratic plan is for the President to make a few limited campaign appearances for Long in the Northeast, but create several joint events with Kennedy in major urban areas in October.
A key personal issue emerged though. Katherine Long had not lived in the same town as the Vice President for nearly his entire career in D.C. The typical excuse given was that she was "staying home with the children, away from the public spotlight". But her absence in the lead-up to the Convention was becoming "uncomfortable" for the Long campaign. In a biography written in 1984, it is claimed that Katherine was "bribed" by Long to leave home and campaign with him, with the promise that she would have carte blanche to take up any cause she wanted as First Lady; but if Long lost, they would divorce. Regardless, Katherine Long joined the Vice President on the podium when he accepted the nomination and made at least sixteen appearances on the campaign trail. ((Note: This scenario is very similar to Henry Fonda's character in the movie "The Best Man" (1964)))
September 1, 1968 Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia meets with Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi, to reaffirm peace between the two countries. This increases frustration and disfavor among the Cambodian military and its anti-Communist leader Lon Nol.
October 18, 1968 Apollo-7 is launched with Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee on an eleven day mission to test the Command Module and the lunar docking capability. The mission is a success and paves the way for circumlunar Apollo-8 mission in two months.
October 24, 1968 Gov. George Wallace holds a huge rally at Madison Square Garden in NYC. Wallace has increasingly gained support in the old South, challenging Russell Long even in his home-state of Louisiana (trailing Long by a mere 2% in a local paper's poll). The fight between Long and Wallace over Democrats in the South has played perfectly to Nixon's "Southern Strategy", though he still fears Wallace stealing too many right-wing votes from the GOP in the Midwest and possibly even the West. As in OTL, Wallace picked General Curtis LeMay for his running mate, and LeMay's jingoistic rhetoric ruining the ticket's image.
November 5, 1968 The 1968 Presidential election is held. In contrast to OTL, one significant change occurs. Vice President Russell Long wins the state of Louisiana, rather than George Wallace. However, he loses Maine (no Edmund Muskie on the ticket as in OTL) and also loses Washington State very narrowly to Nixon. Ultimately the vote count is 33,393,783 for Nixon, 32,361,839 for Long, and 8,201,118 for Wallace.
Nixon's victory is roughly 800,000 more than OTL's 1968 victory, thus granting him a slight boost to the claim of "mandate", especially with a reasonably prosperous and at peace United States. As in OTL, many post-1968 elements became a part of the American political system. More and more Southern Democrats, in rejection of the party's pro-civil rights position, became Republicans. The McGovern-Fraser Commission began the primary system, so Russell Long was the last Democrat to not be selected by the primary process.
December 28, 1968 Apollo-8 is launched for a lunar orbital mission. It is commanded by Frank Borman, with Michael Collins and William Anders as his crew. (NOTE: Due to alterations to the timeline, Michael Collins never suffered his back injury and thus James Lovell was never made the Command Module Pilot for this mission. Similarly, Buzz Aldrin was never rotated to the Back-up Crew. This all has a significant effect on the Apollo-11 mission.)
Back to Part Four Timeline:No Dallas Part Four