Monday, August 28, 2006

Flashback: 1960—My Last Campaign with Quie; Judd Rings the Bell with His Keynote and is Pushed Toward the Vice Presidential Nomination; Viehman Struggles with Deadly Cancer. A Republican Governorship Looms

[More memories from fifty years in politics for my kids and grandchildren].

Viehman’s revolutionary grassroots revival had to be directed from the outset at 3-term Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor Orville Freeman who, unlike Hubert Humphrey, was an unlovable, grim, humorless visage. Part of it wasn’t his fault. He was a severely wounded World War II veteran, having suffered the same kind of facial wound that Illinoisan Richard B. Ogilvie had—the bullet going through the jaw, making it difficult for both men to do anything more than effect a grimace in place of a smile. But having known both, I can say that there was not much humor in either man. Freeman was a high-taxing, Depression-era-conceived Democrat whose wife, Jane, beautiful enough to be a Hollywood starlet, was far more ideologically pure than he—a woman who, if they ever allowed her to speak, would have terrified the state with her Fabian socialism drawn from near-Commie University of Minnesota days. Humphrey caught her act at an out-state farmers’ rally where she called for a statist reform of the economy and public ownership of all business identical with another Minnesotan and said to Freeman out of the side of his mouth, “uh-uh. Orv, she sounds just like Gus Hall. Keep her at home.” (Gus Hall was the Duluth-born Longshoreman, then chairman of the Communist Party USA).

Orv Freeman, a lawyer and pragmatist, at least had some ideals. Ogilvie had the coldest eyes for a politician I ever saw. His goal, perfected by his equally austere aide, one Tom Drennan, a former Sun-Times reporter and ex-Democrat, was non-idealistic, non-philosophic just tactical: to build a Republican party machine tailored on the Daley machine, to apply the Nelson Rockefeller-style corporate state with an army of professional political foot-soldiers who which could raise money, organize and master the new technology of politics to bring dividends on election day. Ogilvie and Senate President Russ Arrington were the sires of what is known as the Illinois Combine where future leaders like Jim Edgar, Jim Mack and Bob Kjellander cut their eyeteeth (but, I digress).

Viehman, perhaps the best state organizer of movement volunteers the party ever produced—who could have rivaled Mark Hanna on the national stage had he lived—was able to foment grassroots discontent with the DFL in numerous ways. He added to the regular base of small business types and free market farmers a cadre of unemployed bitter-enders from the Iron Range mines who blamed Freeman, the DFL and unions for their loss of jobs. To which he added thousands of new residents in the suburbs. His “Neighbor-to-Neighbor” program played big in the Twin Cities suburbs where on the night volunteers were to go door to door, porch lights burned brightly to signify where the Republican votes were. He initially was on the way to add a large component of fellow Catholics to the mix when the John F. Kennedy boom for president began. Kennedy’s emergence captured all Catholic attention. Then Catholic Viehman did a 180 and reached out to Protestants who opposed a Catholic president. It was a case of creativity on his part: a Catholic subtly trading on bigotry to enhance his party.

Viehman, I said, you shouldn’t fool with that anti-Catholic stuff. You and I are Catholics and we know there’s a lot of bigotry in this fear of Kennedy. You shouldn’t help it along to win a political victory.

“Who the hell made you my confessor?” he said. Well, I said, consider this: By fooling around with Catholic haters, you’ll be losing the Catholic vote in the future and strengthen Humphrey if he comes back to Minnesota to run for reelection to the Senate. Catholics will remember that and be tighter with him than ever.

“Not if I run against him,” Viehman retorted suddenly, alluding to his own Catholicism—proof that he had given some thought to elective office. Then he gave me news which I dismissed peremptorily: that he was going to Mayo’s to find out what was ailing him: formidable bowel trouble. He did and the news they gave him was tragic. His only chance was to resign his post and submit to long-range chemo. He took the chemo for a short while and got deathly sick to his stomach from it. He decided to die in the harness rather than living that way—a decision he kept to himself as long as he could. I didn’t fully know it but I called a friend at Mayo, a physician who was in touch with a good many others. I asked: what does he have? He said quietly, you don’t want to know and I can’t tell you. So I knew, all right but I shut up about it.

All the while, Hubert Humphrey was having a devil of a time running in the primaries against John Kennedy. Humphrey found for the first time that his passionate liberal personality was too extravagant when compared to Kennedy’s subtle, more attractive lower key persona—and that as a round-faced, thin-lipped orator he was no match for the incredibly handsome Massachusetts new generation of Irish Brahmin. Also that he couldn’t begin to match the money old Joe Kennedy rounded up for his son. Kennedy defeated Humphrey in West Virginia, proving a Catholic could get elected by voters of that strongly Protestant state, Wisconsin which Humphrey had hoped to capture through its nearness to Minnesota. Kennedy won all seven states whose primaries he entered. Humphrey returned to Minnesota footsore.

With Minnesota Protestant Republicans as well as Protestant Democrats, anti-Catholicism was rife, believing what happened to Humphrey was a consortium of powerful Catholic funding and organizing by old Joe Kennedy. I remember being with Quie at a fund-raising dinner in Faribault in mid-Spring, a dinner where a lot of his friends attended. Quie was a devout Lutheran and was highly regarded as a good layman. After the dinner, a prominent Lutheran minister who was his good friend grabbed us, hooked his arms over our necks and drew us together in a mutual hug. Not understanding that I was Catholic, he said, “Albert and Tom, let’s just hope that Kennedy gets the nomination for president. That will do more to coalesce our good Protestant people to join the Republicans to keep a son of Rome from the White House. It will be more important than any other factor!”

Quie tried to wriggle out of his embrace, not looking directly at me. Me, I felt rather unclean with that guy believing I was a fellow anti-Catholic bigot and I corrected him on the spot. For a few minutes a hot revulsion came over me and I decided to vote for Kennedy—but I got over it. I couldn’t vote anyhow because we were bouncing back and forth from D. C. to Minnesota with no fixed home. I really think I would have voted for Kennedy anyhow since Nixon was, for me, a kind of Uriah Heap cum Captain Queeg…rubbing his hands deferentially, eyes sunk deep in his head, plotting-plotting-plotting.

While all this was going on, Walter Judd was laboriously writing his keynote address in pen, then dictating it to his secretary. His phones rang constantly at home as well as at the office with people trying to influence his ideas. New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, just elected two years earlier, decided privately that he would run for president in a Republican challenge to Richard Nixon. He came strolling in to see Judd, drawing on the fact that they had worked together on United Nations and other foreign policy issues since 1945.

Businessmen with close relations to Joseph P. Kennedy called—not imagining that they could sway him, but to remind him that Joe and his son John were staunchly anti-Communist, urging him to craft a unity speech. Then John Kennedy himself phoned from the Senate, to supposedly seek some advice on a foreign policy matter—and to remind Judd that they had served in the House and were in agreement on opposing Communism. Believe it or not they got wind of a bad rumor that Judd might not run for reelection to the House and thus could possibly be available for a top-level adviser post with Kennedy notwithstanding the keynote and after the convention. Not so: Judd would run for reelection.

Not long thereafter—as if by magic—Vice President Nixon, looking haunted as if consumed by machinations, came round with an entourage to give Judd some ideas on the keynote. For Judd there was no choice: he was for Nixon…a decision, I think, that was a mistake in view of what happened long after. In 1960 there was no great dividing issue like abortion or other social policies. On foreign relations, internationalism and a tough approach to the USSR, both Nixon and Rockefeller looked very good—there not being much indication of Nixon’s craven opportunism or Rockefeller’s sickening private womanizing that was on a par with what we later learned was JFK’s. At the time, while I was officially regarded as a Nixon guy, I thought Rockefeller would be a better president (he was for heavier defense spending than either Eisenhower or Nixon and with the world’s sunniest disposition would, I believed, have been able to make a better sale with the American people vis-à-vis Kennedy. Nixon with his shriveled ego and, I must say, reptilian sneaky-ness which he strove to compensate, was all put-on. With him, getting to his real views was like pealing an onion, one layer at a time until you got to the nub and it disintegrated in your hands. As I have said before, particularly when he wept on Eisenhower’s shoulder following his Checkers speech, I always felt Nixon was unmanly. That was my view but who cares what an aide thinks? I kept my anti-Nixon-pro-Rockefeller view to myself.

Back home in Minnesota, Viehman got out of the hospital after a few days’ stay and roared back to the campaign trail, no one knowing what he had been told but suspecting the worst. There were two top flight Republican candidates for governor—one, P. Kenneth Peterson, the newly elected Republican mayor of Minneapolis who won largely because of Viehman’s organizing program: the idea of a Republican in his old mayoralty job gave Humphrey fits. Peterson was a kind of Humphrey act-alike, speaking with machine-gun rapidity but of largely conservative ideas. The other candidate was a man I knew much better—a Chicago-born one-time orphan who moved to Minnesota to stay with relatives, conquered polio as a child, went on to work his way through the University of Minnesota and take an entry level job at an industrial adhesive plant in St. Paul—the H. B. Fuller Company. He became the company’s best salesman, then its top financial guru and finally president in his mid-thirties, ending up a multi-millionaire by his early forties. Then he turned to politics. His name was Elmer L. Andersen and was regarded in Minnesota as sort of embodiment of Paul Hoffman, the international-minded head of Studebaker who dabbled in liberal Republican affairs.

Elected to the state Senate, Andersen became interested in social services and metropolitan planning and became the darling of old ladies, the League of Women Voters, the pro-Democratic editorial pages and minorities with a special affinity for the Jews (who would do anything for him but vote for him). At the same time, he mobilized a great segment of progressive Republicans who wanted to return to the glory days of Harold Stassen and Luther Youngdahl. His was truly a stunning story—but he was too liberal for me. He was not only liberal but an anti-partisan, believing that parties harmed governance. An idealist with many illusions: politics could be cleaner if all of us would only get along…the DFL had many good points; it was just that they didn’t understand economics…conservatives and particularly Viehman traded too much on anger and hate.

Today’s times are far different from those—but if you were going to cast Elmer Andersen in a contemporary ideological package you would have to think of Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Chris Shays of Connecticut—with this exception: unlike them, he was an intellectual who read Camus, thought greatly of philosophy and studied history of Minnesota and the Midwest in its entirety. I never reached a point in discussing liberalism with him where I found him saying, “I don’t agree with liberals there.” He was a true liberal. I shuddered.

But unlike Humphrey who loved political dickering, Andersen’s preferences were for reform of politicking, much like the starry-eyed John Gardner who had started Common Cause. His views on labor and civil rights were identical to Hubert Humphrey’s. But unlike Humphrey, he appeared soft. Too soft, I thought, to be governor, someone who disdained political combat. Even his eyes had a cocker spaniel’s soft languid quality. He didn’t seem to have any conservative heroes: least of all Walter Judd. His ideas on international affairs were like Adlai Stevenson’s. Nope, put him down as too non-combative in everything: a cookie-pusher. But in this I was wrong. Very wrong.

But Andersen was obviously, much too liberal for Viehman. “I didn’t build this party up from nothing to turn it over to the likes of that liberal do-gooder, corporate fat-cat, fruit-cake Elmer Andersen,” Viehman told me in a phone call which he represented as from his office but which was actually from his hospital bed. Fruit-cake was his term for anyone who was liberal, even flaming heterosexuals: he equated liberalism with effeminacy. Even Humphrey was a fruitcake to Viehman which he assuredly was not, attracted as he was to one a beauteous DFL committeewoman and former journalist. She was married to a super-rich Democratic broker: she a leading Jewish philanthropist civic leader with raven hair, olive complexion and stunning smile, who dressed down to under-accentuate her charms but who could turn men’s knees to Jello whenever she drew close in pretended rapt attention to their views.

I’ve seen hardened Republican conservatives sound liberal in discussions at civic events to please her. Viehman would bump into her occasionally but swore off discussing political matters with her saying, “I can’t keep on track. All I do is look at her and go nyyaaa-nyaaa and sound like an idiot.” Once he and I saw her conversing to a small group at a civic event. Viehman gazed at me with crossed eyes signifying rapture. None of us knew for sure how close she and Hubert were but imagining they were, Viehman would groan and say of Hubert: Lucky man!.

Andersen, a neuter-like Buddhist monk type, was not affected by her. For him, the meeting would be fulfilled if she had good words to say about one of his closest friends, Rabbi Gunther Plaut. Were he to meet Marilyn Monroe, he would comment that she was an interesting species of English derivative from Kentucky and since she was named Norma Jean Mortonson, could she possibly be Norwegian? Who but Elmer would wonder that? But that didn’t mean that Andersen, a married man and father, was what common parlance would call a fruitcake. Yet he wasn’t particularly masculine, either. Nobody, not even his best friend and worst enemy, would link him with the young Democratic committeewoman. Before him, the archbishop of Canterbury or the Cardinal head of the Propagation of the Faith in Rome. But Elmer Andersen? . Inconceivable.

You didn’t want to cuss in front of him for fear he’d be shocked. He was a good church Lutheran who never swore, drank modestly, didn’t smoke, was a collector of rare books and would not laugh when an improper joke was told but would look reproachfully at the story-teller. “He obviously doesn’t have a conservative bone in his body,” said Viehman who liked men to be more brawling, vehement and explosive and if multi-millionaires (even if born poor) who did not come across as a namby-pamby. Surprisingly enough, Brad Heffelfinger, the liberal mega-multi-millionaire dowager-fund-raiser of the Republican party, who knew everybody’s weakness from diligent surfing of political gossip could either take fellow liberal Elmer Andersen or leave him. “I don’t know,” she said. “He is more…well…feminine than I am.” Well, so were many of us. But by which she didn’t mean effeminate (which he wasn’t). “He gives you the attitude that you get when you’re with a high church archbishop,” she said. “With him, you want to watch your language. What kind of a man is that?” He died at 95 a kind of secular patriarch of Minnesota Republican liberalism (his last act was to endorse John Kerry), a non-believer in Reagan, a man whom I faithfully served and ended up admiring because of his character but whom I never figured out.

“We’ve got to nominate Peterson,” insisted Viehman. “A man’s man goddammit and I’m going to secretly help him even though as state chairman I am supposed to be neutral. Don’t tell anybody.” I was too busy working with Judd and Quie to care. Concerning Judd, before the keynote address—worried that he would never finish writing it—I had given up on the vice presidential thing. There was little interest beyond intellectual conservatives. Now I was becoming increasingly alarmed at the slow, agonizingly slow, progress he was making on the keynote. He’d take it home, bring back a draft, read it in the office and toss it away. The tossed away drafts I read were good but he wasn’t satisfied. When we went to the Chicago convention, he still didn’t seem pleased with it (not that I or anyone else had seen it). The night before he was to deliver it, he sat down in his hotel and started it over from scratch. I despaired. Minutes before he stepped onto the podium he had revised it again, changing declarative sentences into interrogatories for the audience to respond.

However long it took to produce, he delivered what should be regarded as the greatest keynote in political history, a model for others of both parties to study. It is endemic of the continuing liberal bias of the media that it took Teddy White’s verdict—that it was a cacophony of hate—and disliked it. But it ranks with Catiline’s oration against Cicero when he decided to turn and fight, with Queen Elizabeth I’s inveighing against the Spanish Armada but most of all Mark Antony’s rallying of mourners to vengeance over the body of Caesar. The incorrigible lateness of the writing precluded a teleprompter—but Judd didn’t need one…nor did he ever use one. The speech title was over-long: “We Must Develop a Strategy for Victory—to Save Freedom—Freedom Everywhere.” But that was the only thing wrong with it. The genius surgeon who once worked 24 straight hours operating on wounded Chinese soldiers had turned out a genius manuscript.

I’ll synopsize the talk later but it was…as you have suspected…of all the addresses I’ve heard, it was not to be topped. Better than Humphrey at his best at the Dem convention of 1948…tied with MacArthur’s speech to Congress in 1951…tied with JFK’s inaugural. Tied with Reagan at the 1976 convention concession with the city on a hill. Tied with Reagan’s address to the boys of Pointe du Hoc. You have to take into account the atmosphere that surrounded the convention where Judd tossed the blockbuster. A great orator probably only has one speech that good in him—and this was it. Why was it a lighted match tossed into an ammunition dump?

The GOP with a conservative base had felt that Eisenhower, for all his glory, had not recognized it. Richard Nixon was supposed to be the conservative balance-wheel but his image-makers were designing what they called a “new Nixon.” The “new Nixon” was a conciliator and half-liberal. Kennedy used to be described as an idealist without illusions. As it proved, Nixon was a reptilian (I must use that word again) illusionist without ideals. And conservatives suspected it at the convention. The conservatives felt they had nobody. They had beseeched Goldwater but he was too new. As the convention rolled along, as I wrote earlier, Nixon turned up in New York, sat down with Nelson Rockefeller and concluded what was known as the “Treaty of Park Avenue” where Nixon bought into all the domestic programs of the liberal Rockefeller because Nixon believed he needed the northeast to win election. That was like a kick in the stomach to the conservatives. Nixon was utterly unable to conceive that the Treaty was bad, so wrapped up was he in his own pathetic insecurities that to ease he sold conservatism out.

All day long, the convention drowsed to long recitation of bland speechifying of platitudes. Then at prime time came the oration from a spindly surgeon with a pock-marked face reminiscent of the monstrous one of Sinclair Lewis who was afflicted with the same facial skin cancer. So bad you didn’t care to look at it, but whose words were so compelling you had to. It was so memorable that it spawned an instant Judd-for-Vice-President movement blossomed among the delegates. The speech was so beautifully partisan, stinging the Democrats so badly that Robert Kennedy told Teddy White and other journalists that he would never forgive Judd. Coming in the wake of blandness many delegates felt that he would be the vice presidential candidate Nixon originally was: destined to bring the fight to the Democrats. They reasoned that the new Nixon would try to be the born-again GOP liberal. There should be someone who is both statesman and battler who could take the argument to the voters the way the delegates wanted the argument to sound. Nixon’s people, who had assured Brad Heffelfinger that her Cabot Lodge, was number one for the job, now backtracked.

As I was working the convention in Chicago after Judd’s speech started a spontaneous procession with the Minnesota standard bouncing along and homemade signs extolling Judd for vice president, I jumped up with a start. There coming in the door of our press room was Ed Viehman, fresh from Rochester, at age 38 looking like an apparition of death with a ruined visage from which the press instinctively recoiled in shock. “Is Walter going to make vice president?” he rasped (his marvelous voice affected by the chemo as well). The press and I couldn’t take our eyes off him and I said I didn’t know. But now, maybe.

As the post-keynote pressure came on, the eager to placate certain future nominee, Nixon, hurried to list Walter Judd as one of the very top finalists to placate the conservatives. Brad Heffelfinger phoned me from the Lodge hotel suite, catching me at the Minnesota press desk and shouted in a voice so charged with fury that I clamped the receiver tight to my ear, worried that she could be heard throughout the room. She started as she always did: “You little----! You told me you had given up on this vice president thing and now Judd’s tied with Cabot! If he gets it and not my Cabot I’ll never forgive you!” As she cast serious doubt on the legitimacy of my birth and ancestry, I tried to tell her (a) I had nothing to do with the boom and (b) I only heard the speech when she did—on television. But she could sense, even as a liberal, that the convention was going for Judd.

As all politicians do, she turned immediately to her own political problem: “how can I not support a fellow Minnesotan—especially Walter-- for vice president?” I told her: You have to support Walter as a favorite son for vice president. Many others have done it and covertly worked for others. But as I saying this a messenger came saying that Judd was on the way to visit various state delegations who wanted to hear him again and again, preparatory to supporting him.…and if I wanted to keep up with the rolling tide of history, I’d have to hang up on her and follow him in the entourage.

So I said: Brad, you have to get on the Judd wagon at least officially. If you don’t and he gets it, you’ll get a challenge for National Committeewoman from the conservatives as sure as I’m standing here and you’ll lose. Frankly, I still think Lodge is going to get it because Nixon has no soul and if Nixon wants him, he can find ways to deliver. Nixon wants to sew up the northeast and he thinks Lodge can do it. That’s all that counts with Nixon.

She was pondering what to do when we ended the conversation. Then I went chasing down the hall following the slim, bespectacled surgeon, his face, freshly peeled at Mayo, like raw hamburger, his very lips burned away, loyal wife Miriam at his side, I banging my way through the television cameras as he went caucus to caucus with the revolution igniting.

Now there was a possibility—admittedly slim, so slim as to be microscopic—that for the first time in U. S. political history, a convention would take things into its own hands and nominate for vice president one who hadn’t been earmarked by the presidential candidate. This would be different from the Democratic convention of 1956 when Stevenson threw the choice to the floor and said he’d take whomever they chose. Everyone knew Nixon wanted Cabot Lodge and now it could be a floor revolution which would embarrass the certain presidential nominee while enthusing conservatives.

But it was fun while it was happening. Lodge had showed Brad Heffelfinger his pre-written acceptance speech for vice president. Brad told him that professionally she’d have to be for Judd but never mind, she was really for Cabot—which made no hit with Cabot who smiled manfully as if he were undergoing a hemorrhoid examination. He had thought it was all sealed. Or was it? At this point, Lodge was supposed to be the hottest card at the convention but Judd was getting the media and the push from the grassroots…and Judd was chalking up more delegation requests for appearances. Lodge was ensconced in the presidential hotel suite with Brad and Peavey, waiting for a call from Nixon and Brad was breaking it to him gently that she had to be for Judd technically. The calls for Lodge to appear to delegations were tepid; the delegations he spoke to were tepid and his remarks were measured and tepid. He had to wonder if Nixon, famous for jumping ship when scared would pick Judd and leave Lodge, UN ambassador with an undelivered speech that had been approved by the Nixon people? Could it be possible that Republicans would stage a runaway convention?

Possible? In my dreams. At the end, it told more about Nixon, Lodge and Judd than I would ever imagine. The 1960 election—the election of John F. Kennedy—was decided, I firmly believe, with the vice presidential selection by Nixon of the wrong man to run with him. A terribly wrong man. Which Nixon later acknowledged. The man with no firm convictions, who almost backed out and declared defeat when the heat came on for his Alger Hiss hearings, who hadn’t fully decided what it was he believed, was wrong yet again.

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