January 20

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Jan 20, 1969:

Richard Nixon takes office

Richard Nixon is inaugurated as president of the United States and says, "After a period of confrontation [in Vietnam], we are entering an era of negotiation." Eight years after losing to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election, Nixon had defeated Hubert H. Humphrey for the presidency.

Shortly after taking office, Nixon put his new team in place. William Rogers replaced Dean Rusk as Secretary of State, Melvin Laird replaced Clark Clifford as Secretary of Defense, and Henry Kissinger replaced Walt Rostow as National Security Adviser.

In 1962, Nixon ran for governor of California and lost in a bitter campaign to Edmund G. ("Pat") Brown. Most observers believed that Nixon's political career was over at that point, but by February 1968, he had sufficiently recovered his political standing in the Republican Party to announce his candidacy for president. Taking a stance between the more conservative elements of his party led by Ronald Reagan, and the liberal northeastern wing led by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Nixon won the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach.

For his running mate, he chose Spiro T. Agnew, the governor of Maryland. His Democratic opponent, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, was weakened by internal divisions within his own party and the growing dissatisfaction with the Johnson administration's handling of the war in Vietnam. Although Nixon and Humphrey each gained about 43 percent of the popular vote, the distribution of Nixon's nearly 32 million votes gave him a clear majority in the electoral college.

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