Friday, September 1, 2006

Flashback: The Struggle to Get Judd to Run Against Humphrey and Moving Back to Minnesota to Work for the Newly-Elected Governor

[Reminiscences of fifty years in politics for my kids and grandchildren].

While working on a Quie newsletter in his Washington office following the convention, I looked up to see two men standing by his desk, grinning that I was so occupied I hadn’t noticed them. One I would have some trouble recognizing: Ed Viehman, the state chairman…thin and pale with a haggard look—the other a face I knew but not the name: a cancer physician from the Mayo Clinic, one of many Viehman had recruited in his organization drive for the Republican party. Why the surgeon was there was clear: he was volunteering some time off to travel with Ed. Ed couldn’t stand the chemo and was making a last stand to keep working until the end came: the physician had decided to travel to Washington with him at his own expense to, as he said, “keep an eye on Ed to be sure that he doesn’t announce he’s running for president against Kennedy in 1964.” (Ed would be long dead by 1964, dying in 1961).

When I asked Viehman why he was in Washington, he said there were two reasons. One reason was, he said with scatological exactitude, the testicles of liberal Minnesota Republican Congessman H. Carl Andersen, which he wanted to forcibly extract in punishment for an attack Andersen made on Viehman and the entire Republican party. Andersen (not to be confused with the gubernatorial candidate, Elmer L. Andersen: in Minnesota there are too many Norwegian surnames with “son” and “sen” endings around), fearing he would be defeated in the fall primary by a liberal GOP challenger as result of Ezra Taft Benson’s unpopularity, attacked not only the Republican farm secretary but everything to do with the Republican party—Eisenhower and Nixon included--in a frantic effort to distance himself from anything conservative in the campaign.

Andersen was now attempting to weasel back to the GOP’s good graces for the Fall election. Viehman was determined to tell him that he would use all his strength to block Andersen’s seniority as a Republican in the House in the future were he to repeat that exercise. The idea that a Republican congressman benefiting from party seniority, then opportunistically attacking his party from top to bottom in its entirety in campaigns to ingratiate himself with the Democrats and finally slinking back to ask take up his seniority bothered Viehman a great deal, as it did me. Not H. Carl, however, who was stunned that Viehman should think the less of him for assailing his own party in his self-interest. Which led him to say, with typical obsequiousness , “if I have offended you, Ed, then I am truly sorry.” If!

Which led Viehman, as weak as he was, to grip H. Carl by the lapel and say, “if-- you little pompous [derogatory supposition of the Congressman’s possible illegitimate birth]—if! We ought to drop you back to the high school industrial arts class where we found you when we got you out of overalls, dressed you in a suit and convinced people you belonged in Congress, you [referral to his mother as a female canine].”

“I will not hit you because you’re a sick man,” said H. Carl, drawing himself away. “And your doctor”—nodding to the Mayo physician—“would object.”

“Go ahead!” said Viehman.

To which the Mayo doctor commented, seeing the Congressman was trembling—taking a gamble but knowing there was little chance of fisticuffs, “I think if you swing first it would be good for Ed to take a poke at you. Therapy. So I approve.”

H. Carl’s eyes almost bugged out of his head. “I-I-don’t want to be responsible…” he stammered.

Whereupon Viehman let go of his lapel and they left.

“Don’t you let me catch you doing anything like that again,” said the doctor to Viehman.

“Why not?”

“Because as your doctor, before he would swing at you I’d slug him which wouldn’t look too good on my record in Rochester. Hitting a Congressman is one thing but hitting one who’s on Appropriations, is far worse from a Mayo perspective.”

If confronting H. Carl was the first reason, the second was to try to convince Walter Judd to run for the Senate against Humphrey. Judd would have to announce quickly and Republican Mayor P. Kenneth Peterson, running for governor against Elmer L. Andersen, would run for Congress. With the first reason, Viehman was successful: H. Carl Andersen, shaken but worried that he would be alienated from the party that could help him win reelection. But on the second—convincing Judd to run for the Senate—Viehman failed.

The same lack of self-confidence that caused Judd to forfeit his chance to run for vice president showed up when he was asked to run for the Senate. Judd argued that his seniority and influence was such in the House that he could lose everything by running for the Senate and losing, saying that foreign policy would be the loser: of that there was no doubt. Miriam Judd reiterated later, privately, that it was the same old thing: morbid shame about his facial scars from the radiation treatments. Judd spent more time as a physician and surgeon counseling Viehman on his colon cancer and in actively trying to find a physician to save Viehman’s life…interrogating the Mayo doctor in such specificity that the Mayo guy was stunned at Judd’s ability to understand what was then the latest research. With that doctor’s permission, Judd began calling clinics and conferring with fellow physicians... without resorting to chemo while the Mayo doctor was overwhelmed at Judd’s knowledge of the disease and keen interest in the matter in behalf of a man he had just met that day.

Nor was Judd doing it in expectation of favors to be returned. Viehman could not possibly help Judd with the party where he was sky-high, not with campaign funds which the Rockefeller people had promised to collect if Judd would run for the Senate (believing that Nixon would lose in 1960 and Judd might run with Nelson in 1964 as Senator). The time he spent with Viehman, consulting, talking to the Mayo doctor and phoning Rochester and clinics throughout the country was impressive. It lasted until evening and his staff had gone home. Finally Judd took them to his house where Miriam cooked them dinner, Judd discoursing all the while about cancer in such specificity that only the Mayo doctor understood him.

Judd’s spending lots of time trying to help Viehman rather than concentrating on his own career proved to me that Judd had such a good character with an inward spirituality that he would not be a good candidate. Self-interestedness, ego and self-absorption amounting to egomania are requisite qualities for any potential or actual candidate. Ergo: Judd, being a humanitarian with a sterling character was a saint but could not be a good opponent to Hubert. Too bad but true. To prove the difference, I told Quie when he came back from the Education and Labor committee that Viehman had been in the office to which he said, “oh, I see” and went about his work humming a song to himself, not asking about the health of the man who elected him to the House—Viehman’s potential for more service to him having lapsed with the certainty of his imminent death.

It would be unfair to attribute that coldness just to Quie—but it would be fair to apply it to virtually every candidate I have dealt with in two states during the past fifty years…a span that runs from Gene McCarthy through the different gradations of ideology to the latest candidate for suburban city council. From 1955 to now, I can think of two exceptions: Judd and someone I am close to in this state who is in the Democratic party. That’s all: two in fifty years. Nor is this said in bitterness: just as fact. It would be far easier to expect a canine to appreciate Mozart than an ordinary—even brilliant—politician to be grateful…not just to express gratitude, that’s easy—but to mean it. When Viehman could finally get a word in about something other than his own condition, he asked Judd if P. Kenneth Peterson would be acceptable to run against Hubert. Judd said of course and they called Peterson that night, Peterson accepting the suggestion with alacrity. That meant that Elmer L. Andersen would be running unopposed for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Before I returned to Minnesota to handle the Quie campaign (Judd not needing me because his reelection to the Congress was assured due to the magnificent press he had received as the keynoter), a young lady took a job in the Quie office as stenographer and typist with whom I cultivated a friendship for many years. She was Rose Zamaria, a serviceman’s wife, originally from Pottstown, Pennsylvania, who had to work to support her family. She had worked initially for Congressman Albert Thomas, a Texas Democrat, who represented Houston-Fort Worth, a veteran but she switched to the Republican side of the aisle to get a slightly fatter paycheck. She stayed with Quie for a few years and then went back to work for Thomas who was beginning to fail with some premature senility. She was his right hand administrator and was with him in Dallas on November 22 when Kennedy was killed. Her later observations made for fascinating stories—but I am getting ahead of myself. Right now Lillian and I with our baby Tom are going back to Minnesota to run the Quie campaign in the Fall of 1960.

The campaign was duck soup because Quie was perceived to be a solid congressman in the Augie Andresen mode (and won overwhelmingly). All the while, Viehman, ill but working 18 hours a day, was putting the GOP’s ground troops into place so that liberal Republican Elmer L. Andersen, a man Viehman disliked, could win. Andersen did win (as did Humphrey who didn’t do all that well, surprisingly: the reason was that the bloom was off the rose because of his repeated primary losses to John Kennedy, particularly in neighboring Wisconsin).

In Minnesota, the GOP gained seats in the legislature and one seat in the U. S. House. After that victory, I was asked to become press secretary to the new governor. I didn’t know if I would like it or not but I knew one thing: the trips back and forth between Minnesota and Washington were wearing on Lillian and I and we wanted to put down roots. Also, I had learned that Washington is the logical conclusion of political activity: that the more interesting part was the politics back home. And what better place than Minnesota and what better job than helping a new Republican governor who, thanks to Viehman, had overthrown the major part of the Humphrey dynasty: the governorship?

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