Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Flashback 1960: Why the Judd Keynote Hit Home and How the GOP Sank Back when Its Author Wasn’t Nominated…Viehman Elects as Republican Governor the Very Man He Didn’t Want and the No Thanks from The Winner


[More reminiscences from fifty years in politics for my kids and grandchildren plus for Dr. Paul Green, U. S. History Expert, Who Enjoys Them].

As I followed a spindly, bespectacled skin-cancer-facially scarred 61 year-old Congressman from hotel room to hotel room, state caucus to state caucus where he received standing ovations and boosts for the GOP vice presidential nomination, I wondered how broken-hearted the delegates would be if Judd were not nominated, as I feared he would not be. Mid-western conservatives were in a party dominated by the eastern seaboard since 1940. Willkie was nominated that year over Taft and the then conservative Vandenberg…Dewey in 1944 and `48…then Eisenhower twice. Conservative had an air of despair until Judd gave the keynote.

Not that Walter Judd was an old-style conservative: he represented a new breed of Republican which had broken with the old isolationist strain: having supported the Marshall Plan, aid to Greece and Turkey, having placed Harold Stassen in nomination in 1948, having flown to Paris to convince Dwight Eisenhower to run against Robert Taft. But he was an original “hawk” as distinct from the liberals…the “New York Times” and the Cowles newspapers (in Minneapolis) in the forefront, who believed a non-military man could, better than Eisenhower, negotiate an end to the Cold War. They were learning Democratic, were harsh critics of Foster Dulles but had kind views of Cabot Lodge. But in the keynote Judd did what eastern Democratic newspapers and eastern Republicans feared to do: strike at the foreign policy of Roosevelt and Truman. That’s what got the GOP delegates excited over Judd —and that’s what cooled Nixon on Judd.

Judd was oblivious to Nixon’s deviousness. Judd supported free trade, the up-building of the military when conservatives warned this would lead to war, endorsed expanded foreign aid and who had been a close friend of Senator Harry Truman ever since the two of them shared the same hotel room when they traveled to small mid-western towns after World War II to convince grassroots isolationists that we should join the United Nations, having supported Truman on all key foreign and defense measures (but criticized Truman on other foreign matters particularly vis-à-vis China). Judd got to know Richard Nixon when they were both in the House and was sure Nixon was as non-flexible in foreign policy as he. That’s where he was wrong. Nixon was the essence of flexibility, believed in no permanent things and had used the Alger Hiss case to win the plaudits of the conservative base. Now he was willing to enlarge his base and wanted Cabot Lodge to bring the northeast—always distrustful of Nixon—into the fold with him. Thus he perceived a nomination of Walter Judd as an obstacle.

As Nixon’s then Karl Rove-like pal, Murray Chotiner, had told me: Nixon feared that whenever he would feint and bob in foreign affairs as president, Judd the rigid Cold Warrior would be opposed: moreover Judd was principled. Nixon feared that kind of man. He felt he had taken the temper of Cabot Lodge and saw in him the negotiation-prone vice president Nixon wanted him to be: a malleable northeasterner, close to the Rockefellers and “The New York Times” and the TV networks who had gained quite a bit of TV coverage as UN ambassador speaking out against USSR aggression: but all the same a Nixonian.

What did Judd say in the keynote that inflamed the base? I’ve looked at the text once again before writing this and feel the same shiver that went through me when I heard it at the International Ampitheatre that July. He asked ten rhetorical questions…having changed the text at the last minute from declarative statements…which each time provoked a response that rocked the old building. Let’s look at them and consider the history. First, remember that Judd was not just a world famous surgeon but perhaps the country’s best known medical missionary who with his wife had been captured and held prisoner by the Chinese in the 1930s during the early war between China and Japan. The political establishment disliked criticism of FDR and Truman, wanted encouragement of negotiation with the Communists. With that in mind, here is Judd in fiery stance on the platform:

o “Was it Republicans who recognized the Soviet Union in 1933 and gave it acceptance into our country and world society as if it were a respectable and dependable member thereof?”

o “Was it Republicans who, at Teheran, against the urgent advice of Mr. Churchill, agreed to give the Russians a free hand in the Balkans?”

o “Was it Republicans who secretly divided Poland and gave half of it to the Soviet Union?”

o “Was it a Republican administration which at Potsdam gave the Soviet Union East Germany and left West Berlin cut off from the rest of the free world?”

o “Was it a Republican administration that publicly announced that Manchuria would go back to its rightful owners, the Chinese and then secretly at Yalta gave control of Manchuria to the Russians?”

o “Was it a Republican administration that divided Korea and gave control of North Korea to the Communists?”

o “Was it a Republican administration that gave to the Soviet Union the Kurile Islands which had never been anybody’s except Japan’s, thereby endangering both Japan’s and our security in the North Pacific?”

o “Was it a Republican administration that rightly put its hand to the plow in Korea and then when victory was in sight turned back, allowing the Reds to recover so they can still make more trouble in the future?”

o “Was it a Republican administration that fell for the Communist offer of a truce in Korea without requiring that the North Korean aggressors lay down their arms and the Chinese Communists get out of Korea where they had no business to be?”

Notice that even Judd didn’t touch the fall of China which occurred on Truman’s watch. Joe McCarthy and Bill Jenner (the Senator from Indiana) had seemingly poisoned the topic with charges of Communist subversion. Judd had opinions which were privately identical but spurned a question on it which could have finally ripped the roof off the Ampitheatre but, Judd reasoned correctly, would have forfeited his chance at the vice presidency.

The delegation visits went on hour by hour. By the time we went to bed, Judd was the choice of the convention. Rockefeller was all set to deliver New York. They bumped into each other in the Blackstone lobby and I pushed myself forward, pressing against a plump lady whom I discovered to my dismay was Brad Heffelfinger.

Both of us overheard the bargaining. Nelson Rockefeller in a last minute attempt got hold of Judd and promised him the vice presidential nomination if he would do a lateral arabesque and issue a statement of conscience that--. No, said Judd, I cannot do that. You see, I think Nixon is the better man for this job right now than you, Nelson: I’m sorry. But, said Rocky, if you go with me we’ll patch up the northeast. Who the hell is Cabot Lodge but a defeated Senator—defeated by Jack Kennedy? I tell you I can whip up the northeast. Do you not think the name Rockefeller is not formidable in New York?

Judd laughed inexplicably—which he later told me was prompted by his reflection on the anomaly. As an impoverished kid from Rising City, Nebraska who worked his way through college and med school, he never thought he’d be dickering with a Rockefeller, the merchant prince, super-powerful inheritor of economic and political tradition, governor of the most powerful state who was bidding for his help. Walter, Rocky remonstrated, you know the northeast is everything. I am the governor of New York. We’ll have the support of the big papers and networks that Dick can never have. We’ll have a campaign that—he waved his hand—that will never be outspent. (That’s for sure).

But, said Judd, you’ve only been governor for two years—you don’t have the experience in foreign affairs. No foreign experience? thundered Rocky, [scatological reference to excrement] I was Franklin Roosevelt’s coordinator for Latin America! I was his assistant secretary of state when Navy lieutenant Dick Nixon was playing Pinnocle with his buddies on a Navy trawler for Chrissake! Sorry, Nelson, I can’t do it.

Brad Heffelfinger grabbed me by the shoulder so forcibly that he almost ripped my jacket: “Your man has real principles!” she said, happy that Judd didn’t cave which meant her Cabot Lodge was still in the game. Yeah, I said, but principles that’ll screw him up and all of us. He is wrong. Maybe he can’t back out now but he should never gone for Nixon in the first place. Baby, she said, you’ve always said I don’t tell you what I really think—but I really think you’re right! But that’s my good fortune, being for Cabot! Cabot, I said and echoed Rockefeller’s reference to excrement.

At 11 that night while Nixon was being nominated by the convention, Judd was called to the Nixon suite at the Blackstone and I tagged along, banging against Nixon thugs and Secret Service. Nixon had said that there were four possibles: Cabot Lodge, Jerry Ford, House Republican leader, Thruston Morton, Senator from Kentucky and Judd. Wait outside, Judd said. I sighed: How disappointed I was that I couldn’t get inside.

“You’re disappointed!” Elizabeth Heffelfinger who was also waiting outside the door, said: “You little [scatological reference to gaseous emission] I wouldn’t stand for you getting in there while I was locked out!” The crowd of lock-outs belonged to the GOP A list including David Rockefeller who sank wearily on a sofa. Not too shabby for a guy wearing a wrinkled Benson-Rixon suit that had been advertised as “You can look nifty for seventy-four fifty.” After forty-five minutes, Judd came out, looking elated. I assumed the deal was made.

Not so. Not until long after the convention ended and we were back in Washington did I hear what happened—details that square with Judd’s oral history and his interview for a biography many years later. Nixon received Judd warmly and said, “The question of the vice presidency is down to two. The press speculates it’s four but it’s two—Lodge and yourself.” Judd said that he believed the winner was Lodge because he already had his acceptance speech written.

“But it’s not so far gone in his favor that it couldn’t be reversed if we decided that it is the best thing to do,” said Nixon. Then Nixon, the wily, the serpentine, the reptilian, asked: “Would you be willing to give his [Lodge’s] acceptance speech?” Judd hadn’t seen the speech, of course, but Lodge had been playing the easy-does-it Northeastern game. Later Judd wrote in a memorandum for the history books: “[H]e was not offering me the nomination but only offering me a chance to show him how I would be a better candidate than Lodge—which I wasn’t honestly sure I could do.”

“…which I wasn’t honestly sure I could do.” Why not? Miriam Judd, his wife, told me later. It was his concern for his raw, peeled face like raw hamburger—which he regarded as making him a curiosity, something that could be ridiculed by late night TV people…a humiliation that this surgeon could not handle. So what did Judd tell Nixon? Again, from Judd’s memorandum:

“I told him I felt I was qualified for the position and I knew I would bring the ticket a great deal of strength, particularly in the Midwest and South, because I had spoken to so many and such a variety of audiences there. But I recognized that he, Nixon, was weakest in the Northeast and that Lodge ought to be able to bring more support there because of its being his own base, because of his years of exposure on television at the United Nations where he had done an excellent job and because I thought he would be an exceptional appeal he probably had to women voters. I added, of course, I would be glad to nominate Lodge if he, Nixon, wanted me to.”

That is the tip-off. Judd was afraid to take the assignment: thus he was dissing himself. So, it wasn’t all selflessness, Miriam Judd said. It was a deep-rooted inferiority because the early radiation he received on his face when he was a young medical student and physician—before scientists had any reckoning of the damage that could be caused—convinced him his face was a drawback…and more than that: that he wouldn’t be able to live with jests and whispers about his appearance. Judd never acknowledged this; he insisted that what he said in his memo was it in its entirety.

I never believed him. He cited other excuses when he talked to me. One was his age: 61. Not important, Eisenhower having been older as president, elected at 62, suffering a heart attack at 65, an intestinal bypass at 66 and a slight stroke at 67 that impaired his speech for 24 hours as none better than physician Judd knew. Eisenhower lived to age 79. He also said he wanted more time, at age 61, for reflection and for refurbishing his spiritual life. That also was baloney. He kept up a steady schedule of travel, speaking and writing, serving as a contributing editor of the “Readers Digest,” dying at age 96.

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. was nominated and proved to be one of the more indolent, apathetic and non-inspirational campaigners in modern times—hitting his hotel at 6 p.m., disdaining late hours and even turning down media requests. His blandness didn’t add anything to Nixon’s own newly-adopted blandness. Still in all, the Nixon-Lodge campaign came close to the nation’s record of scoring over Kennedy-Johnson.

In summary, years later, Judd wrote, “My great error was that I overestimated Lodge’s vote-getting capacity and underestimated my own. It was the greatest mistake of my life from the standpoint of the country. If I had made a real effort myself and given the green light to a good many key people who were wanting to put on a real drive for my nomination…we could have gotten the delegates to nominate me, the ticket would have gotten a great more votes in key places, Nixon would have been elected and the whole course of history in these United States and the world would have been vastly different.”

If only 4,500 voters in Illinois and 28,000 in Texas had changed their minds, those 32,500 votes would have moved the states with their 51 electoral votes into the Nixon column, giving him an electoral majority of two. With Ed Viehman’s heroic campaign waged in 1960 despite his own deadly cancer, Kennedy won Minnesota by only 22,000 out of 1.5 million cast. If Walter Judd had been on the ticket, Minnesota and its electoral votes would have been in the Republican column. Thanks to Viehman, Minnesota elected Elmer L. Andersen as governor, defeating Orville Freeman, the co-pilot of Hubert Humphrey’s mighty DFL organization. Viehman’s grassroots architecture carried the day for Andersen and reelected Quie by such a margin that he was never in doubt again.

Neither recognized it nor thanked Viehman. Immoderate expression of gratitude is regarded as weakness by successful politicians. They will say thank-you to supporters on election night but that’s it. Without all of you, they say inwardly, I still could have done it. That view of politicians has never changed for me during my work in two states during the 20th and early 21st centuries. To be successful, they have to have supreme faith in themselves with egos that leap tall buildings at a single bound. That he didn’t have that spiraling ego proved to be the downfall of Walter Judd who believed what his followers did not: that he was ugly—and so, wounded in his own self-esteem, he did in fact become a cripple. Fittingly, he often expressed expansive gratitude for the help of others. A sign he was too modest and un-self-consumed requisite for the long haul.

In the rearview mirror of history, I disagree with Judd’s statement that “the whole course of history in these United States and the world would have been vastly different.” By the time Nixon did become president, nine years later he had developed a Kissingerian view of “realistic” fatality about this country’s lessened will in the Cold War—a “realistic” fatality that existed until another president turned it around, Ronald Reagan. I imagine that Nixon would have possibly tried to carry out Eisenhower’s plan to overthrow Castro at the Bay of Pigs. It would certainly have failed as it did for Kennedy. But Kennedy redeemed himself with the Cuban Missile crisis. I am not sanguine that Richard Nixon, at bottom a very weak, insecure man, would not have blinked before Kennedy. Kennedy blinked too, of course, pulling missiles out of Turkey. I am not sure Nixon would have stopped there with concessions. At bottom he had the soul of a vice president—not a president. You can’t sell meat-loaf as filet mignon. But if Nixon-Judd were elected and Nixon died with Judd in charge then history would have changed—for the better.

Concerning Judd’s instinctive backing away (something I feel he couldn’t acknowledge) I believe, as did his wife, that he had purposely failed to fight for the role and convince Nixon that he was the right man out of a crippling inferiority complex about his looks. The ravaged face, the burned-away lips,could have been explained from the standpoint of his humanitarian experience, could have been made into a plus. But it begins with one’s own view of himself. Tragically, Walter Judd’s own view of his looks blinded him and caused him to fall short of realizing a remarkable career. But that is what is known as the human condition.

I consoled myself—not much—by thinking that he would be willing to run for the Senate later that year against Hubert Humphrey. At least with that hope in mind, I went to the celebratory cocktail party and delicious buffet thrown by an ecstatic Brad Heffelfinger for her favorite, the man she called fondly Cabot Lodge. I looked at him across the room: the paste-up plastic smile, the black patent-leather hair and once again saw the visage of Freddie, the foppish would-be swain of Liza Doolittle in Shaw’s “Pygmalion” which was later celebrated as “My Fair Lady” which opened on Broadway in 1956. Now whenever I see re-runs of the film with Audrey Hepburn, whenever I see Freddie I always think of Cabot Lodge.

Cabot Lodge went on to carve out a dishonorable role in history. He was named Ambassador to South Vietnam by JFK and, most historians confirm, actively participated in the overthrow of Diem—an act that was supposed to usher in a better government but which knocked the only stable prop out of the government…leading to worse and worse successors, topped by the country’s ultimate fall to Communism. The Lodge-plotted overthrow led to Diem’s assassination and the murder of his brother as well. Nice guy Nixon had picked. A true relativist like the manipulator who chose him as consort. I never had the chance to ask Judd what he thought of the assassin he had offered to place in nomination.


  1. John Thomas MCGeeanAugust 30, 2006 at 5:36 AM

    I turned twenty one a few weeks after Nixon was nominated. I remember well that Key Note Address of Walter Judd.
    Regarding the Keynote Speech: I have heard most of them and I only Remember two of them. Frank Clement's 1956 KeyNote at the Democratic Convention and Walter' Judd's speech in 1960.
    I think perhaps Rockefeller would have been a better candidate, though I did not think so at the time.

    If Judd had been on the ticket, I think the GOP would have won the Presidency in 1960. Henry Cabot Lodge was not much of a Candidate. (He lost to Jack Kennedy in 1952 and could you blame Mass. for electing JFK?)

    If Nixon had his druthers, he would have chosen Walter Judd. It was a blown chance for excellence.

  2. Loved your article. Question: Why wasn't Illinois Gov. William Stratton or Everett Dirksen not considered?