Saturday, November 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The worst thing about that "Daisy" ad

LBJ promised peace, delivered war

The worst thing about that "Daisy" ad

As you've possibly read elsewhere, the creator of the most famous political ad in American history died this week. Tony Schwartz, who was 84, developed the celebrated 1964 "Daisy" ad for President Lyndon Johnson, which morphed from an adorable young girl counting daisy petals into a nuclear countdown and then a mushroom cloud. The spot suggested that tough-talking ultra-conservative Republican Barry Goldwater presented a risk of nuclear war; the ad only aired one time, but people have been talking about it ever since. Dick Polman has a good look at its impact.

You see the images a lot, but the words get less play. Here's what LBJ said in the voiceover:

"These are the stakes! To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die."

Those are quite poetic words (based, in fact, on a W.H. Auden poem). Especially coming from a man who just months after winning that election in a record landslide, used a puffed-up and possibly fake incident to escalate a small conflict in Southeast Asia into the longest running war in American history, claiming 58,202 American lives and countless Vietnamese -- all for reasons that largely inscrutable to this day. Talk about going "into the dark"!

Of course, LBJ didn't start a nuclear war, and we'll never know what a President Goldwater would have done (although I would note that his disciple Ronald Reagan was a lot less lethal than LBJ). But Johnson surely did the polar opposite of those lofty words that he intoned. I'm sure that for the families of more than 58,000 Americans, the "Daisy" ad must be painful to watch.  

Watch for youself:

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Will Bunch
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