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December 2006 | Blog | Book Reviews | Archives: Opinion | Finance | Society | Letters | Humor

"Mushroom Cloud" Ad, by Lee Presser

The "Mushroom Cloud" ad (Johnson vs. Goldwater [1964]) was "the most famous political ad ever made," according to biographer Robert Dallek.

The "Mushroom Cloud" ad was pulled after running only once. Its impact (and therefore its success) came from the number times it was mentioned by the press.

You will also notice that Barry Goldwater's name (Johnson’s opponent) never appeared in the commercial. The impact of the commercial on the press came from the belief that Goldwater, if elected, was more inclined toward war and the use of nuclear weapons than Johnson.

Goldwater’s campaign people called the ad “a dirty low blow.” “The ad was unfair not so much in implying Goldwater was frighteningly bloodthirsty, but in implying that Democrats were not.” [Rick Perlstein]

By August of the next year [1965], following the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, President Johnson began the process that would lead to a build-up of 500,000 solders in Viet Nam.

Lee A. Presser

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