Frank Sinatra's political change
"The older you get, the more conservative you get"
Sinatra's decision to support the Democrat Hubert Humphrey in his battle against Richard Nixon for the White House in 1968 was not a popular one. Humphrey, as Lyndon B. Johnson's Vice-President, was part of the pro-Vietnam circle and many of Sinatra's fellow liberal performers backed Bobby Kennedy (until his assassination in June 1968) or Eugene McCarthy. And although Sinatra raised much money and gave tips on TV presentation, Humphrey's camp must have wondered what Sinatra's endorsement was worth when the old complaints of the singer's underworld associations appeared in Justice Department memos and Wall Street Journal articles. "Once you get Sinatra on your side in politics" said the satirist Mort Sahl, "you're out of business". Sure enough, in November 1968, Nixon won.
In the summer of 1970 Frank made the surprise decision to back Ronald Reagan -a man whose politics and personal qualities he had previously scorned- in the arch-Republican's bid to be re-elected as Governor of California. The Democratic candidate, Jesse Unruh, had been a follower of Bobby Kennedy and had not been helpful during Humphrey's unsuccessful campaign. Despite Sinatra's protestations that he now backed individuals rather than parties, this was not how the move was interpreted. "They say your hatred of Senator Bobby Kennedy was so great" wrote the entertainer and TV talk show host Steve Allen in an open letter to Sinatra, "that you have waited a long time to get revenge." Allen offered Sinatra the forum of his show to explain himself, but Frank ignored it, and instead backed candidates from Democratic and Republican parties for a variety of posts in California and New York.
"Even Presidents make mistakes"
He later confused his critics further by vocally criticizing President Nixon - "He's running this country into the ground, he scares me" - but cultivating a close relationship with the Vice-President, Spiro Agnew, who became a regular guest at Frank's home in Palm Springs. Frank often accompanied him on the official plane, Air Force 2. And they found much to complain about together, such as the radical protest generation -"rebellion without cause", as Sinatra put it- and the amorality of modern American life.
His political about-turn was complete when he supported Nixon's re-election campaign in 1972, and by 1973 he was singing at the White House. And even after Agnew and Nixon had resigned in disgrace, the former for income tax evasion and the latter after Watergate, Sinatra remained loyal to them as friends. "People make mistakes", he said. "Even Presidents make mistakes."