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John's Notebook: Doing the right thing

John's Notebook, July 16
John's Notebook: Turning down opposition research 01:42

President Trump said any person in a campaign would have done what his son and top advisers did -- meet with a person advertised as a Russian government agent with dirt on an opponent. 

Politics, the President said, is not the nicest business.  It's not. In 1940, FDR instructed aides to spread rumors about his opponent's affairs. In 1968, Richard Nixon worked with the South Vietnamese to avoid peace talks that would have helped his opponent Hubert Humphrey.

But there are also examples of the opposite: people behaving morally when it was easier not to.  

In 1964, One of Lyndon Johnson's top aides was arrested for lewd conduct. Barry Goldwater's staff wanted him to make an issue of it. Goldwater said no. He didn't want to ruin the man. In 2000, a top aide to Al Gore received George W. Bush's private debate briefing book. He turned it over immediately to the authorities. In 2008, John McCain forbid his staff from using an ad that referred to Barack Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright or to raise that issue in any other way. He believed it was a sneaky way to use Obama's race against him.

In 1968, Lyndon Johnson's team had wiretaps that proved candidate Nixon was working to block the Vietnam peace talks, but they believed it immoral to use the covert information to expose Nixon. Said Secretary of State Dean Rusk:"The moment we cross over that divide, we're in a different kind of society." They were worried about something more than victory.

Politics is not the nicest business, but there are still times when people do the right thing.  We'll be back in a moment.

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