KC Johnson

LBJ & Abe Fortas, 2 Sept. 1964

When the Bobby Baker scandal suddenly revived with Delaware senator John Williams’ September 1 allegations (suggesting a conspiracy between Baker and former DNC finance chairman Matt McCloskey, as alleged by former Baker confidante Don Reynolds), the President prepared to fight dirty.

President Johnson: [with Fortas assenting throughout] My judgment—it’s going to be very . . . They can’t run it on all three networks all night and all morning without it blowing up. Now, I just believe it will be, and I think it’s a question of who’s going to survive.

Whether [Matt] McCloskey survives. I think if McCloskey takes the position he did make a political contribution, why, he’s had it.

And I think the question is whether the party’s had it or not. Because he has been the national finance chairman of the Democratic Party in the United States. I think that’s number one.

I think number two, he is the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania, which is a very key state, and this gets back into a [Samuel] Insull deal, or Teapot Dome deal, in the state of Pennsylvania. Nobody will be—[Governor Bill] Scranton will be getting into it, and they’ll be destroying the Democratic Party there.

Now, it’s a question of who’s going to destroy who.

My judgment is that Bobby [Baker] has got some bad marks on him, so has McCloskey—but the two of them can probably show that this is not much of a, this fellow doesn’t have much character.

Abe Fortas: Right.

President Johnson: And I think they can go back, and make ‘em subpoena the records, and see what kind of a guy he is. And say, “Now what is his purpose in doing this? What is his motive? Is he just a good, clean citizen, or he is a fellow that’s been abducting little 13-year-old girls?”

Fortas: Yeah.

President Johnson: And this is what they’re tied up with.

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