Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gene Case, The Daisy Ad and LBJ's 5 O'clock Club

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Gene Case, the Daisy Ad and LBJ’s 5 O’clock Club

I knew Gene Case, but was quite surprised to learn from his New York Times obit that he worked on the political campaign ads for LBJ in the 1964 election, including the infamous “Daisy” ad that only ran once but made its point – Barry Goldwater would make a very dangerous and reckless president, and LBJ was, by comparison, the “Peace” candidate (choke choke).

I can understand how Gene could have worked for LBJ at the time, and then go to use the LBJ swearing in photo with the caption “Talk About Regime Change,” in order to promote COPA, the Coalition for Political Assassinations.

As a Madison Avenue Ad Man – a personification of a real MAD man, he worked for whoever hired his agency, and I believe that Gene got in the door there for his work with other, local, liberal, New York democrats. And he certainly redeemed himself for any ethical or moral transgressions on those fronts by establishing Avenging Angels and his work with COPA.

Gene was certainly part of the team that kept LBJ in power, or rather kept Barry Goldwater from achieving power, by implying such power in the hands of Goldwater would lead to nuclear destruction. But he also knew, or later learned, that LBJ was not the “Peace” candidate that was promoted and sold to the American people.

Exactly how the LBJ presidency was framed by Texas and New York ad men is clearly understood by taking a look at the “Daisy” ad and how it came into being.

If you just google the ad, which can be found in dozens of veto Youtubes, one of them is titled: “The Daisy Ad by Tony Schwartz,” but even a cursory look into the ads actual production you find that Schwartz was the sound man on the ad, and part of the ad team that created it, though others served in more significant postions as art directors, production, etc.

“Credited with the single most effective and talked about ad ever produced, Tony Schwartz created the Daisy Ad, as it has become known, to highlight the dangers of nuclear arms. It was used by the Johnson campaign in 1964 to clearly illustrate his position on the use of nuclear weapons. Considering the extensive discussion that the ad has sparked, it is remarkable that the ad ran only once.”

[September 7, 1964]

[See: Tony Schwartz bio: ]

How Schwartz came to be soley credited with ad can be traced to various and superficially researched newspaper articles over the years, some of which relied only on Schwartz’s story, one written by the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus, who has also written extensively about the assassination of President Kennedy.

As for Gene Case, he was with Schwartz in New York when Schwartz worked on the sound, and has been credited for the clincher line, “The stakes are too high.” When asked if that was his contribution, Gene deadpanned, “You can blame me for that one,” and indeed, it is a line out of his repertoire for all the issues he thought important.

The best history and pure independent analysis of the ad, which includes an interview with Gene Case, was done by CONELRAD and can be found here:

[Excerpts from CONELRAD in italics (]

The spot was and still is a masterpiece of manipulation, juxtaposing the playful innocence of childhood with the protocol and horror of war. The simplicity of the message was made all the more effective because the 1964 campaign took place less than two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis and within three years of the Berlin crisis in which President John F. Kennedy rattled the nation with his remarks on the importance of civil defense. In other words, the "end of the world" was not an abstract concept for most Americans during this period of the Cold War. It was a very real possibility.

Fragments of the story behind the evolution of this notorious advertisement have been published numerous times over the decades. But not until now has the full history of the spot been told in all its strange glory. CONELRAD has spent the last year examining every aspect of this remarkable moment in popular culture. We have interviewed people involved with the ad—including the Daisy Girl herself—who have never or who have rarely spoken on the record about the spot. Numerous government documents, private papers, books, magazine and newspaper articles were also reviewed so that the complete record could be presented.

The ‘Daisy’ story is a tale of how a group of dedicated men from various backgrounds in government and advertising came together to sell a "product"—the President of the United States. These professionals succeeded spectacularly in their primary objective (no matter that Lyndon Johnson turned out to be defective merchandise), but they also created an indelible icon of the Cold War in the process. This is how it happened.

As detailed in this study, the origins of the ad actually stem from the Goldwater “shadows” who the Democratic Party and LBJ campaign had tailing Goldwater around, recording every speech and public pronouncement, one of which was that the local NATO commanders in the field in Germany should have the option of using tactical nuclear weapons if they are needed in a sudden, unexpected conflict.

The seriousness of this issue was later more clearly demonstrated when former members of Kennedy’s cabinet (including Arthur Schlesinger) attended a conference in Cuba with Russians and Cubans involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it was learned that the Russian military commanders on the ground in Cuba did have the authority to use tactical nuclear weapons if the United States invaded Cuba during the crisis. So if President Kennedy had taken the advice of most of his cabinet and military commanders, and invaded Cuba to take out the offensive missiles there, it most certainly would have sparked a nuclear war that would have quickly spread to Germany and the entire world. So Goldwater’s call for NATO commanders to have the authority that is normally held only by the President, showed how reckless he really was, and could rightly be branded the “Hawk” candidate, next to LBJ.

While Goldwater later backtracked and said he wanted to give the power to use nuclear weapons to only the NATO Commander, rather than officers in the field, it was too late, and the damage was done. Goldwater was the Hawk and LBJ was now the Peace candidate, and the LBJ campaign, with the backing of the Democratic Party stalwarts, nailed the issue with the “Daisy” ad.

The study of the ad shows how they operated, and some campaigns operate today, with the Texas ad agency hired by LBJ to handle his public relations and advertising, working closely with the Democratic Party officials, who have teams of advance men and “shadows,” who keep tabs on the opposition candidate(s), keeping an eye and ear out for any tidbit of information that could, at the right time, be used against them. Like Goldwater’s NATO Nukes flub.

Of course the Republicans do this too, as Watergate showed us, and the “shadows” on the team are usually assigned to the Special Projects, Plumbers Unit, or as LBJ’s Goldwater Shadows were called – The 5 O’clock Club.

JFK had already had one meeting to plan reelection strategy for the 1964 campaign, at which he approved the overall slogan, “Peace and Prosperity,” so LBJ inherited the peace plank, along with JFK’s cabinet and advisors.

While he kept many Kennedy men, he did bring in his own team, including Jack Valente, an advertising man himself, and Bill Moyers, who became LBJ’s top campaign advisor, and who in turn brought in Loyd Wright from his stint helping to organize the Peace Corps and their days together at the University of Texas, Austin.

They chose DDB – Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), who JFK had liked because of their ads for Avis (“We try harder”) and Volkswagen (“Think Small”), and while he wouldn’t divulge the campaign strategy, Bernbach was quoted as saying, “It’s the easiest account we ever got.”


"Big Blue Book"

Presidential aide and speechwriter Richard N. Goodwin recounts in his memoir "Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties" an unannounced visit from the President to a West Wing campaign strategy session. Johnson's folksy remarks as quoted by Goodwin reveal the President's philosophy of how the race should be conducted:

“You fellows are the experts, but this is how I see it. I'm the president. That's our greatest asset. And I don't want to piss it away by getting down in the mud with Barry... My daddy once told me about the time a fire broke out in a three-story building in Johnson City. Old Man Hutchinson was trapped on the third floor and the fire ladder was too short to reach him. So Jim Morsund, he was one of the volunteer fire chiefs, grabbed a piece of rope, tied a loop in it, threw it up to Mr. Hutchinson, and told him to tie it around his waist... Then he pulled him down.”

“Now Barry's already got a rope around him and he's knotted it pretty firm. All you have to do is give a little tug. And while he's fighting to keep standing, I'll just sit right here and run the country.” [ 33 ]

In addition to the higher-minded strategy meetings referenced by Goodwin in his book and attended by himself, Bill Moyers, Clark Clifford Jack Valenti and others, there was also a secret White House campaign apparatus known informally as "the Department of Dirty Tricks," "the anti-campaign" or "the 5 o'clock Club." It was a sixteen-man team that was headed by Johnson aides Myer "Mike" Feldman and Fred Dutton. Feldman reported directly to Johnson on the team's activities. This group—which met twice a day—monitored Goldwater's statements and positions and prepared various "books" that captured all of his ripe material. The 5 o'clock'ers also engaged in other more questionable activity such as feeding hostile questions to reporters covering Goldwater and otherwise trying to manipulate the mainstream media treatment of the senator.[ 34 ]

To aid DDP, the fruits of the 5 o’clock Club’s opposition research and all of the other ancillary ammunition collected against Goldwater was provided to the advertising team.…Sid Myers told CONELRAD… the most important (theme) was nuclear responsibility because at the time he (Goldwater) was saying we should use tactical nuclear weapons in Vietnam….”

Gene Case, then a 26-year old copywriter working on the Johnson DDB team, told CONELRAD that he was among the group of ad men who visited Schwartz’s studio that day. He stated that “the idea (for the Daisy ad) existed in a sound environment first, but Sid put the pictures to it.”[49] CONELRAD interview with Gene Case, Feburary 13, 2007]

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when Schwartz began being credited in the media as the creator of the Daisy spot. Myers speculated for CONELRAD: "I think somebody had written an article and somehow got his (Schwartz's) name – sometime very early – and just went to him for all the information. And from then on it perpetuated and he became the gold stone of who did it." The earliest citation CONELRAD was able to find in which Schwartz is assigned sole credit for the Daisy ad is a 1968 Washington Post story by Walter Pincus. [ 51 ]

Detonating Daisy

The completed Daisy spot was presented to and approved by the "client" in a White House meeting on August 20th. The confidential DDB memo recounting the minutes of the meeting list the spot as "Little Girl – Countdown" and documents that the President himself was present for "all or part of meeting." Whether Johnson actually saw the Daisy spot before it aired has never been definitively settled, but the memo's attendance note suggests that he saw it on this date. It should be pointed out that this memo also references the President's dissatisfaction with his voice on one of the ads that was screened for him.

When asked by CONELRAD if he could recall his first impressions of the ad, Lloyd Wright laughed and said: "'Wow.' That was my reaction. Wow, that really does hit. We knew it would have an enormous impact. It was a very impactful ad." Wright added that "There was some debate (on whether to air the spot). Bill and I discussed it. We always tried to anticipate reaction. We judged that there would be—a very powerful reaction. But we judged it to be so effective in pursuit of our strategy that any risk involved was worth the taking."

Richard N. Goodwin who was present at the screening wrote about the experience in "Remembering the Sixties": At the end of August, our small "council" assembled at the White House to view the final product… We watched with mounting jubilation as the screen showed a small girl with wind-tossed hair, plucking petals from a daisy as she stood in innocent solitude… After the viewing-room lights went up, the advertising executive looked with anxious uncertainty towards his momentarily silent and expressionless audience.

Finally, a voice was heard – I think it was Bill Moyers' – "It's wonderful. But it's going to get us in a lot of trouble." He was expressing what we all knew. The spot was a winner, but it would almost certainly be attacked as "unfair," even "dirty politics," by establishment pundits and publications.[ 64 ]

President Johnson's opening rhetorical salvo of the general campaign occurred on the same day that the ad premiered (September 7th). In a speech from Cadillac Square in Detroit, he stressed the importance of presidential control of nuclear weapons. Ironically, Johnson's affirmation of arms responsibility had been preceded by a plane ride without his "football" officer (the person who accompanies the President at all times with a briefcase containing nuclear strike plans). This breach in protocol was never fully explained, but according to a New York Times article, it was prompted by politics—Johnson was originally scheduled to be transported to Detroit on Air Force One, but because the Democratic party was paying for the flight, a smaller Jetstar plane was used. Johnson's physician and his "football" aide had to fly on a separate Jetstar because the President's 12-seat plane was full.[
65 ]


Please note that copies of most of the internal memos, audio and film records that are referenced in this article are available on the Daisy Documents, Daisy Audio and Daisy Video pages respectively.

33 Richard N. Goodwin, Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1988), pp. 303-304

33 Dallek, Flawed Giant, p. 174.

51. Waler Pincus, “O’Brien and Aides Spark Party Hunt for Men, Funds,” Washington Post, September 29, 1968.]

64. Goodwin, Remembering America, p. 305….

65. "Johnson Took Trip without his Doctor or Code on Plane," New York Times, September 9, 1964.

64. Goodwin, Remembering America, p. 305. Editor's note: While Goodwin describes this screening as showing "the final product" he adds that it was an abbreviated version omitting President Johnson's "We must either love each other..."speech excerpt. Goodwin writes that he preferred the shorter version to later, longer versions in which President Johnson's voice is heard. It was the sixty second version with President Johnson's speech excerpt that was broadcast on NBC on September 7, 1964. A call, a fax and a letter sent to Mr. Goodwin from CONELRAD seeking an interview were not responded to.

65. "Johnson Took Trip without his Doctor or Code on Plane," New York Times, September 9, 1964.

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