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Arts & Culture

Bombs Away: LBJ, Goldwater And The 1964 Campaign That Changed It All

"Bombs Away" looks at the impact of the political ad, “Peace Little Girl,” on the 1964 presidential campaign between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater. Pictured, a still from the ad.
Courtesy of American Public Television
"Bombs Away" looks at the impact of the political ad, “Peace Little Girl,” on the 1964 presidential campaign between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater. Pictured, a still from the ad.

Airs Monday, May 18, 2015 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Richard and Doris Kearns Goodwin
Courtesy of American Public Television
Richard and Doris Kearns Goodwin
Barry Goldwater, Jr.
Courtesy of American Public Television
Barry Goldwater, Jr.
Linda Bird Robb, the elder of two daughters of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson.
Courtesy of American Public Television
Linda Bird Robb, the elder of two daughters of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson.
Luci Baines Johnson, the youngest of two daughters of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson.
Courtesy of American Public Television
Luci Baines Johnson, the youngest of two daughters of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson.

Three-year-old Monique Corzilius counts to 10, pulling petals from a daisy. A voice from mission control then counts down as the camera zooms into Monique's dark pupil. An atomic blast and ensuing mushroom cloud consumes the TV screen as President Lyndon Johnson's voice proclaims "We must either love each other, or we must die."

This political ad, “Peace Little Girl,” aired only once or twice during the 1964 presidential campaign between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater, but it ushered in a new era of the television attack ad. (Watch the ad below)

The 1964 campaign also reshaped the American political landscape in other significant ways. Johnson's "Great Society" and civil rights agendas pushed southern states toward the Republican Party and brought the northeast in line with the Democrats, creating America's contemporary geopolitical map of red and blue states.

Barry Goldwater's rift with "the liberal Republican establishment," or "Rockefeller Republicans," served as the basis for his landslide defeat in the general election, but also for the rise of an out-spoken and blossoming conservative movement. Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign also spawned the political career of Ronald Reagan, and inspired future conservative offshoots like social and Christian conservatives as well as the Tea Party.

"Bombs Away: LBJ, Goldwater And The 1964 Campaign That Changed It All" includes interviews with historians and participants in the campaign, including Richard and Doris Kearns Goodwin, Barry Goldwater, Jr., Victor Gold, Joseph Califano, Larry J. Sabato, Professor Robert Mann and Monique Corzilius.

Produced by WCVE, distributed by American Public Television.