Friday, August 18, 2006

Flashback: As 1958 Runs into 1959, Plans Set to Get Married…Working with Judd in Washington as He’s Told He’ll Deliver GOP Convention Keynote Address in 1960. The Early Formative Years…in Pigtails…of the U. S’s Most Effective Feminist Lawyer

[Continued memoirs over fifty years for my kids and grandchildren].

Reconnecting with one Lillian Prescott, a beautiful young woman employee of the Cunard company’s cruise department in Chicago (after an interrupted romance seven years earlier) was the most fortuitous step I took in life…which led to marriage, the conception of four children and, indirectly the propagation of the species unto the next generation of thirteen grandchildren—for whom in this advanced stage of decrepitude I write these words (confident they are too busy to read it now but may in later years). Lillian and I renewed our association when I returned to Chicago in the Christmas season of 1958.

I was scheduled to pick her up at a Christmas party and go thence to dinner. When I arrived at the party and she signaled she was leaving, a dispirited male said, as I was getting her coat, “but she just arrived!” He was depressed but not me. We went to the same place we usually dined in earlier years, Robin Hood’s Barn on the near West side. We talked a long time and I invited her to come to Washington as my guest at a Minnesota State Society formal ball in April which she accepted. The times seemed to demand a chaperone and I don’t believe there was one…but I behaved myself nobly.

After the Minnesota State Society ball, I took her driving to Georgetown where I parked my car on Q street northwest and proposed. To my relief, she accepted and we planned a Fall wedding in Chicago. I inquired discreetly if, as a Democrat, she would find it inconvenient to be married to one who makes his living as a working, campaigning Republican. She thought it would not be a problem but she would continue as an Adlai Stevenson Democrat. Well, I figured she would. Then she added that I should understand that she was partial to labor unions, had worked in their behalf as a volunteer in an organization of the Church that had been devoted to the social justice teachings of the Church, “Young Christian Workers.” I agreed since Adam Smith had always maintained that the economy could work best when the consumer had power in the marketplace (by which he did not contemplate unions, but never mind). But I always felt the YCWs were a lefty group. But, hey, to prepare for marriage, I said nothing: a good beginning practice for an association lasting 47 years. I figured that one of us might switch sometime. Yet even as it was, we’d be more interesting to each other with somewhat divergent views. But subsequent events put us on the same philosophical team. She became Republican; I became more conservative and we both are conservative Republicans. A signal event caused this.

It is interesting to note that today, I am a labor union member (paid up member of the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists: AFTRA-AFL-CIO) but beyond support for a living wage, neither of us share publicized union goals. Lillian echoes a refrain made popular by Ronald Reagan that she didn’t leave the Democratic party, it left her. I was a rather liberal Republican…having left the Robert Taft wing…having been influenced by the Heffelfingers…an Eisenhower Republican…not enamored of Richard Nixon…tending more to Nelson Rockefeller but being quiet about it. I suppose I would have stayed a mushy moderate in perpetuity if a radicalizing event had not made it imperative for us…Lillian and I…to become greatly invested in the conservative wing of the Republican party (and it earned for me a reputation either good or ill depending on who views it, as a leading vocalizing conservative of the Illinois GOP, something I never imagined I would be).

That radicalizing event came on January 22, 1973 with the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court which was a shocking affront to our traditional view of the sanctity of life. We have many pro-choice friends but the chasm of the issue is so deep, we never want to bring the issue up with them because our passion is so great, we would quickly alienate them. As we have many times, let me say.

The decision was so enervating, so apocalyptically contrary to our moral and spiritual sense that both of us decided immediately to use any connections we had to overturn the decision—a pact we still observe in an effort to reach a goal we still have fallen short of. From that decision came our willingness to employ the time-honored means of protest used earlier by labor and civil rights demonstrators: rallies, picketing, support of pro-life political candidates…not to forget digging deeply into our pockets and contributing to groups and candidates: the works. But that decision was fourteen years in the future.

At the 1958-59 era, my view was that of a “liberal Republican” by the coinage of the time, the awful label “moderate” not having been popularized then. Liberal in support of international cooperation, firm supporter of military and foreign aid to developing nations so as to withstand the advance of Communism, reasonable maintenance of the farm subsidy program and other domestic blandishments held over from the New and Fair Deals (remember, Nelson Rockefeller was more hawkish than Nixon and called for vastly more money for defense). At the time, we liberal Republicans were called derisively “me too” by isolationists and complete laissez-faire-ites which applied to Walter Judd as well as to me on a minor level. Not long later, Barry Goldwater adopted a hawkish defense posture and since nobody dared call him liberal, the division among conservatives ended.

Social policy wasn’t a divisive issue then. I remember, just before Roe v. Wade was handed down I accepted the commission as co-chair with, of all people, Lieutenant Governor Neil Hartigan of “Men for the ERA.” I saw nothing wrong with the ERA before Roe but everything wrong after the decision came down: it would have mandated a constitutional right to abortion in and of itself to support and enhance Roe. Of course I couldn’t continue in that role. So critics reverted to being called a male pig, sexist, arch-reactionary just as I had been termed a “me too” liberal patty-cake a few years earlier. Re-reading this, I have just committed a great digression but I’ll let it stand.

Lillian and I set a wedding date for October 10, 1959 and I returned to Washington to work part-time for Quie and part-time for Judd while trying almost full-time to lobby for Judd to be Nixon’s vice president. The minor circumstance of political duplicity should be showcased here. Elizabeth Heffelfinger had only one constant—that of getting Cabot Lodge to be first vice president and then president. You remember she wanted privately to have Eisenhower torpedo Richard Nixon at the convention in 1956 and pick Lodge. To do it, she politically romanced Harold Stassen whom she didn’t particularly care for and helped put him up to the stratagem of trying to destroy Nixon’s credibility, working on him so that he believed that Eisenhower might pick him—Stassen—as a successor. She knew Eisenhower wouldn’t but she wanted Stassen to be the “Judas Goat”—fomenting the idea that Nixon was a liability.

Stassen crudely mishandled his own fortunes but raised the specter of Nixon the liability. After he did and Nixon was retained as vice president, Stassen never understood why Elizabeth never returned his calls. Simple. He had done his job and she had no further use for him—so Stassen spun off into irrelevancy. Then she determined to get Cabot Lodge to run with Nixon in 1960 so she politically romanced Nixon and along with others seriously importuned him to pick Lodge at the convention.

All that while, I was aligning with others trying to help Judd get picked…so I was working against my great guru without telling her and certainly without any pang of conscience. We did get Nixon to pick Judd as the keynoter for the Republican convention—believing that if Judd did a good job (he was a world-class orator) on prime time, Nixon might change his view and select him for veep. As soon as the Judd selection was announced, she called me and said, “You little viper! Did you arrange that?” She gave me far more credit than I deserved although I was a minor cog in a cabal that advocated Judd for keynoter. I answered correctly but duplicitously, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” She roared with laughter, responded with a barnyard epithet and we talked about other things, each knowing that we were working for rivals temporarily. That has always been what is fun in politics for me. The next minute we would be plotting some skullduggery for our mutual enemies.

Meanwhile, Ed Viehman had in fact taken over the state chairmanship of the Minnesota Republican party. It was in so-so shape when he was elected. The party had run a lackluster candidate for governor in 1958, a former U. S. Attorney who had served one term in Congress before being defeated, George MacKinnon. As a first term House member he worked with Richard Nixon to pass the House version of the Taft-Hartley Act. MacKinnon was a brilliant man, excellent lawyer and a somewhat forbidding candidate and an arch-conservative. I remember I escorted him on a few days’ leave from Washington to train a trainee publicist for the campaign.

I picked up starchy conservative MacKinnon at his Minneapolis house and met his shy, 12-year-old daughter, Kit MacKinnon, in pigtails who opened the front door. Whenever I came there she would insist on handing me candies with very sticky, unwashed, even grey-dirty fingers. She was just a gawky kid then but grew up to be none other than Catharine MacKinnon, one of the leading feminists in the United States, who got her Ph.D and law degree at the same time at Yale, an unprecedented achievement. She has authored many books on the deleterious effects that pornography has had on women, working with Gloria Steinem and others. She worked with Linda Boardman who was exploited in the porno film as “Linda Lovelace” in a legal action that went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. Today as one of the foremost feminist lawyers in the country she is exceedingly better known than her late father who lost decisively to Orville Freeman in the governor’s race. But if I am not mistaken she propounded the hilariously hideous idea that all marriage involves rape which shows how far she had migrated from her proper, Episcopalian father. (Another digression but if I don’t write things when I think of them I never will).

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