Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Flashback: More About Fr. Godfrey’s Quiet Insurrection that Turned the Church Militant to Politically Liberal Militant--Influencing Gene McCarthy and Many Others.

[More from fifty years of politics written for my kids and grandchildren].

Its Deceptive “Theology” as Return to Antiquity.

The purpose of this exercise in theology as propounded…sometimes “reported” as theological history, sometimes “explained,” sometimes shrugged off as actual occurrence with no contradiction…by Godfrey Diekmann OSB…is to emphasize the thinking of Gene McCarthy who was far from a passive auditor of lectures but a decided force of his own in the liberal Church. We have seen that Fr. Godfrey’s theology was, if not anti-hierarchal, very liberating for individual action. He was one of a group of progressive theologians who opposed Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae”. If Godfrey agreed with his Church on abortion, his views were not forcefully presented. See how doubt is sown subtly.

Notice there is no real dogmatic insistence, just the recitation of what “modern scholarship tells us.” Read and pretend it’s the lecture.

1. “You will see, gentlemen, that far from the hierarchical rigidity we have today, the idea of a laity that we have today, a laity distinct from the clergy is foreign to the New Testament. Now was ordination a specifically hierarchical process. Latest scholarship shows that rather than the Apostles formally ordaining priests and deacons, priests and deacons were probably ordained by the entire congregation rather by the laying on of hands by the Twelve. Result: at one happy time for all, the ancient Church was a fervent democracy.”

2. “Now about so-called apostolic succession…you see this is often
misunderstood. What does it mean, exactly, gentlemen? Now there is no mention of the laying on of hands by Christ when the apostles were chosen, but it is a fact that the laying on of hands was a gesture used for many purposes in Judeo and Christian scriptures— and they include healing, blessing, baptizing. There is no mention in Scripture of Jesus laying his hands on the apostles when they were chosen.”

3. “It may interest you to know, gentlemen, that since Paul and Barnabas were not members of the Twelve, as you know, neither does it appear that they were appointed by the Twelve. Why as Professor Raymond Brown in your text points out, Paul may have appointed presbyter-bishops but there is no evidence the Twelve did.”

4. “Now you have heard that Peter founded the Church in Rome—but modern scholarship makes that extremely doubtful or that he even served as its first bishop as we use the term today. We know this because the liturgical celebration which marks the ascent of Peter to the Roman church as its head did not make its appearance until the 4th century at the earliest.”

Thus the impression was given that the bishops were not chosen by the apostles to preside over the community. They were elected by the community in the community’s role as Christ—and then honored as Christ honored the Father. “It is important to consider, gentlemen, that just as Jesus followed the Father’s will and was not subordinate to him, neither is the community subordinate to the bishop.

“Thus the way to virtue is through the grace you receive and your willingness to lay before the altar of the electorate your wish to serve.”

The Deceptive Theology for Women Priests:

“Why He Made No Men Priests!”

By this time we have pretty well determined ecclesiastical authority in favor of a community…and a community which is nebulous…so that the individual undertakes to impress his will on the community.

Doubt reigns—and where doubt reigns, it is up to the individual to undertake to be the Church. Now let us consider the role of women in the Church.

Gentlemen, we know that Christ healed the woman who suffered from a discharge of blood (Mk 5;25-34). We learn from Leviticus 15:24-30 that the woman approached Jesus and touched his garments before she could be restrained. There were no hierarchical officials around to prevent the woman from touching him any more than there were to oppose his dealing with outcasts. Why Matthew tells us there were four women approaching him all of whom had some hint of scandal in their lives. So there is nothing in the gospels to imply that Chrisgt held any of the vile attitudes current today about female inferiority. These views, it is clear, came from others—bishops, theologians and even saints who thought they knew better than the gospels. He left it there but would return: the rationale for women priests.

Aha! Perhaps a kid would ask: Father, if Christ loved women so much why didn’t he make one of them priests?

The answer: why, as theologian Raymond Brown reminds us, he did not make any man a priest either! Why should he do for Mary Magdalen what he didn’t do for Peter? We do not hear of individual priests but only the priesthood of the whole Christian community (I Peter 2:5).

The Final Challenge to Authority: Humanae Vitae.

Later…when Gene McCarthy and others have left St. John’s for the world…came “Humane Vitae” the declaration from Paul VI against artificial contraception. Here Godfrey was consulted long before the issuance of the document and like many others, Godfrey thought sure the ruling would come down in favor of contraception. And it very nearly did. A good many Catholic liberals…the Crowleys of Chicago, founders of the Christian Family Movement (parents of many)…all pressed for Paul to change. When he backed up and didn’t, there was great bitterness. Godfrey would come out against the encyclical letter but this is how he believed.

“You see, gentlemen, Paul was trapped by his and his predecessors’ earlier statements. The issue is not sexuality; the issue is the church’s authority in the modern world. Pius XI had issued `Casti Connubii’ which tied everything in one big ball of wax—church, hierarchal authority to birth control. Everything was riding on it. Then came Pius XII with his incessant condemnation of birth control. Thus Paul VI could not go back without harming, in his view, the moral authority of the Church. We have seen how papal infallibility came about—from Vatican I which adjourned in a haste before it could be amended. Now armed with this…this…doctrine, Paul, garbed in his robe of “infallibility” had to plunge forward.”

Notice not a word from this theologian about the moral underpinnings of opposition to artificial contraception. Not a mention that the Church has always taught…always…that all forms of contraception—including contraceptive sterilization…are objectively wrong by the natural law that Godfrey was supposed to invoke and which he doubted, evidently.

The natural law that teaches contraception is separation of love from life, the willful separation of the unitive and procreative aspects of the sexual act where God ordained they be intrinsically united. Nowhere is the point better made than in “Humanae Vitae”—which Godfrey wouldn’t teach, that to quote the encyclical—

“each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life. That teaching often set forth by the Magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning. Indeed, by its intimate structure, the conjugal act while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and woman.”

The contraceptive ethic that denies life is always good, prepared the ground for legalized abortion—and beyond. Since once abortion had accustomed people to the idea that burdensome lives are not worth living the way was cleared for euthanasia as a cure for the aged and “useless.”

By the dynamic 1950s and `60s with the undertow from Vatican II, he

taught that Church theology depended on three legs…the Papacy…the consortium of bishops…and theologians.

That, with luck, could give Godfrey’s liberals two votes out of three. And even if they lost, the challenge to hierarchy was a great boon. Dissent could make all the difference…on abortion…on a “just war”…on the necessity to harness the state to fighting poverty…on the just policy of requiring the rich to forfeit their gains to help the government help the poor. And he did it not as the official apostate priest Luther did—hammering out theses on a church door. Godfrey did it in the classroom and by the magical gift of charming personality that he had…which influenced men the nation over.

All the while, unenlightened by practical, hard-working, secularly scheming Hubert was trying to attain all that he could be, these thoughts were shaping the ineffably intellectual musings of Eugene McCarthy.

Next: McCarthy is promoted to Ways and Means—a big step forward to prestige.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Personal Aside: Since the Server Broke Down Under the Responsorial Load at The Chicago Daily Observer, Let’s Give the Issue of Ron Paul a Rest for a Time

Not only the Observer’s responsorial machinery but that of this website and my own personal email have been filled. A good thing I am not unduly sensitive, friends because I have been called fat in a thousand different ways. Ah it has helped inculcate a humility I sorely need. But temporarily we shall leave the subject of Ron Paul while The Observer recovers from a nervous breakdown. Also Jake Parrillo, my personal webmeister, is in England consulting with Google and will attend to posting this stuff when he can. Be patient.

For now let us return to the dual biographies of Hubert and Eugene…and the Quiet Insurrection at St. John’s, Collegeville, Minnesota that has shaped more of our time than can possibly be imagined…including the vapid pseudo-Catholicism of the Kennedys, John Kerry and that deep-thinking commuter with ancient theological thought, Richard M. Daley.

Flashback: Back to McCarthy and the Powerful New Theology That Made Him…What Was Once the Church Static Becomes the Doctrine of the Imperial Self….Social Justice, Democratization in the Church, all Enunciated by Godfrey Diekmann OSB.


[Fifty plus years of politics for my kids and grandchildren].

The Quiet Catholic Theological Insurrection.

While Hubert was scaling the political heights with minimum interest in formal religion…born Lutheran, adapted to Methodism but practically religiously unaffiliated…dying an intensely long-suffering cancer victim as convert to Crystal Cathedral of Rev. Robert Schuller of Grove City, California, funded by the TV evangelist’s “Hour of Power” (fitting for Hubert)…Gene McCarthy was continually being influenced—and influencing others--by what “the quiet Catholic insurrection” waged at a supposedly conservative Benedictine abbey by theologian Fr. Godfrey Diekmann, OSB (1909-2002).

Dieckmann’s theological reasoning, an offshoot of the late Dom Virgil Michel OSB (1890-1938) who worked with Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin of the Catholic Workers, electrified McCarthy before he joined the Benedictine order as a novice with the name Frater Conan…and continued until McCarthy’s death in his sleep at age 89 in December, 2005. Gene not only was influenced by Diekmann and Michel, he actively participated in the insurrection’s philosophical underpinning. That insurrection has had enormous influence on Catholic liberalism and molds many to this day. The theocratic view has never sufficiently been defined in political terms although it is profoundly political and has been adopted—in far less intellectual application than by McCarthy—as rationale for most modern liberal Catholics from Edward Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, Chris Dodd and John Kerry (including a host of lesser lights like Richard M. Daley)…except that, uninterested generally in theological ideas, they merely mouth the words and apply the teaching to their own partisan ends. Not so McCarthy

All the while Hubert, a dynamic man of practical action with no speculative gifts or insights, rose to Minneapolis mayor, purging the Communists from the Farmer-Laborites and unifying them with the Democrats…fighting for adoption of a minority civil rights plank at the 1948 convention…getting elected to the Senate…overcoming the Harry Byrd-led boycott of his fellow senators…becoming somewhat accepted in the senatorial establishment…helping get Luther Youngdahl named a federal judge thus guaranteeing his own 1954 reelection to the Senate…a charismatic theologian Diekmann was building a rationale to nullify the hierarchical doctrines of the Church in favor of individual liberal political action.

Without describing his reformulation as a revolution but specifying that it was, in fact, a return to the original Church, Diekmann’s emphasis was on the individual and politics—a schema that was continuing to form the views of McCarthy and whole generations of Catholic thinkers, his influence powerfully dominating almost all major “progressive” Catholic thinkers and publications even today, including “The National Catholic Reporter,” “Commonweal” magazine, “America,” the Jesuit periodical and a host of others…the disciples ranging from the openly heretical Fr. Hans Kung through a wide range of academics and popularizers, including the Fr. Richard McBrien of Notre Dame, the prestigious Catholic Theological Union at the University of Chicago, Dr. Garry Wills, Fr. Andrew Greeley and countless others. In fact the dynamic teaching is now so ingrained in the Church that it is not even regarded as a variant of theology…much as the teaching of Hans Kelsen in legal positivism is accepted without much comment in law schools.

In fact only until the prior decade has authentic Catholic theological thought found some powerful adherents, the most influential being Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the exceedingly influential “First Things”—called “conservative” but which is in fact continuation of scholarship based on Aquinas, Augustine and the Desert Fathers.

It is almost impossible to overestimate the role Godfrey Diekmann has had—far more than his original tutor Virgil Michel-- on contemporary Catholic social thought. He was a man I knew well (as well as his less brilliant brother but gifted artistic brother, Fr. Conrad Diekmann OSB). He had enormous influence on not just McCarthy but progressive Catholic intellectuals prior to—but certainly well beyond—Vatican II…including the writer John Cogley who wrote JFK’s brilliant address to the Houston ministers (but who himself left the Church later in dissatisfaction with its “top-down authoritarianism” as he put it. In fact, while Godfrey never met Chicago’s legendary civil activist John McDermott (a good friend of mine) he had enormous indirect influence on him. McDermott’s theology until the final years of his life were drunk to the dregs from the cup poured by Godfrey. Probably the nearest contemporary to Godfrey is my good friend Fr. Paul Marx, OSB, a Benedictine monk of St. John’s who fully understands Godfrey’s quiet insurrection in the Abbey.

As for me, it was my inestimable good fortune not to be assigned to his Introduction to Theology class in 1946-50 because at 17 fresh from public (not Catholic) high school in Chicago, I was regarded as an improbable convert for Godfrey’s teaching. (Godfrey’s eulogistic talents were reserved for the priesthood-aspirants and the highest academic performers of whom Gene was foremost: known as “the gold ones.”). With my dross fellows, I was fortunately passed over to Fr. Ernest Kilzer OSB, holder of two doctorates (philosophy and theology) who was stolid and regarded as authenticist Church (for which I have always been thankful).

In the afternoons from 1946-50 , my brilliant roommate and others came trooping back to their rooms aflame with the exciting Godfrey Diekmann message. That message had earlier animated Gene McCarthy in the earlier generation from mine. While long gone from St. John’s, Gene kept in touch with it intimately and actively corresponded and talked with Godfrey and his disciples. I recall often seeing them drinking coffee together on occasional Saturdays when Gene was home from Washington. Gene’s fame at St. John’s came not just from his mastery of academics but for the many hours he soaking up insights from Godfrey—but also actively contributing to the discussions from his standpoint as a man of the world with learned progressive monks as well.

What was it that Godfrey taught that became so exciting to my roommate and others—and what did it ultimately come to be?

First, he called himself a theological conservative which is about as duplicitous a description as was possible to give. This is what he taught: In the early centuries of the Church, communities did not wait for hierarchal heaven to give them priests or bishops. They voted for their own priests who stayed with the communities that chose them. There were no candidates submitted by Rome. The signal mark of authority would come “when a community chose its priest.” You can imagine how liberating that sounded—and sounds to someone imbued with strong personal Individuality. How exciting! People choosing their own priests, their own bishops by vote! Let the people rule!

Example, said Godfrey: When St. Ambrose (AD 339-397) was elected bishop of Milan, Godfrey would say, Ambrose was not only a non-priest but not even baptized yet! True. Godfrey’s message was this: God’s grace transcends any hierarchical step-by-step process…the entire formulaic procedure within the Church is bureaucratic and suffocating. The story of Ambrose: How liberating! Would that we could return to it! As we are not likely to, God’s grace should be relied upon to inspire and motivate action…and don’t let the stuffy theocratic politics of the Vatican or anything else stultify you. All very, very nice and there’s something to be said about the stultifying nonsense of bureaucracy. But the case of Ambrose wasn’t exactly as Godfrey…his driving oratory compelling as it was…explained.

The Church that produced Ambrose and others was too early for a hierarchy--although, to be sure there were hidden, subliminal rules. Bishops then were created by intellectual battlefield promotions. Ambrose was no average guy pushed forward solely by God’s grace acting on his fellows. He had a pretty good hierarchal pedigree. . He was the son of the Pretorian prefect of Gaul, studied Greek rhetoric and poetry, was a successful advocate, rising to governor of Aemilla and Liguria, districts of Milan. On the convocation to elect a successor to the Arian bishop Auxentius there was a whole lot of raucous fighting. (Arianism, you will remember from your theology, was the heresy that taught instead of a Trinity, God the Father preceded, was superior to and created the Son). Ambrose got up and used his authority to counsel peace to the crowd. As he was speaking, a kid screamed out: “Ambrose for bishop!” The crowd took it as a sign from God and consecrated him. No one ever identified the kid; whether it was staged or not (here I am too cynical) it worked and the crowd elected Ambrose. But getting elected bishop with his background wasn’t as miraculous as Godfrey may have imagined. You send a guy with Ambrose’s purpose robed patrician heritage into a town meeting and he may very well get elected to anything.

Nor was it unusual for one in Ambrose’s pedigree not to be baptized. Constantine put it off until his death bed because he wanted to save up all his sins for one confession—believing wrongly that one cannot get absolution as a repeat offender. This was regarded commonly at the time. At any rate, Ambrose was baptized and consecrated within a single week. Undoubtedly the gift of grace was with him: he became the most influential protagonist of theological orthodoxy in the West, challenged the Arians, encouraging monasticism, boosting the idea of the Virgin Mary as the patron of all nuns, helped convert Augustine, led an excursion into politics where he reproved some rulers. He was a multifarious talent at a time when the Church was too young to have a fully developed hierarchy.

But you can imagine the model of Ambrose hoisted before a young assembly of students. Ambrose seemingly took orders from nobody; he didn’t have to since Ambrose was from the purple himself. He warned the young emperor Gratian against Arianism and got away with it. After Gratian’s murder, Ambrose convinced the new emperor Maximus to be content with the chunk of the empire he owned and allow Valentinian II to have his chunk. Gutsy, cheeky to the extreme, Ambrose meted out public penance to emperors. But it is important to recognize that before Ambrose died at age 60 he was already constructing hierarchal office, writing catechetical instructions and a commentary on Luke’s gospel. So gutsy Ambrose was; free-form? Not really. He was a pioneer and should not be held up by his free-form example for today; then nobody could really correspond with Rome except by writing and long months of waiting. But when Godfrey extolled Ambrose and cause students to shudder at the long, grinding processes of the Church, he got an audience. Also the fact that Ambrose applied politics was very, very heady.

Future thinkers and activists like Gene McCarthy lapped it up. Idealistic liberals of the Church still do. When Godfrey talked about Ambrose it seemed to the class…as he stalked around…that he himself was Ambrose. A good professor has that quality. But theological history was only a smattering of what Godfrey Diekmann was about. The rest…next.

Personal Aside: Your Assignment Today—Peruse the Readers’ Comments for Yesterday—All 34 or So of Them (at Last Count Monday Night)…and to Most Critics a Challenge.

Delicious, Salacious Reading.

Since I’ve given you down below another 2,300 words to read on Hubert along with my kids and grandchildren, I won’t bother you with much more to read here. But I would advise you to get your kicks by reading the highly spiked and flavorful objections in Readers’ Comments to yesterday’s “Personal Aside.” There you will be told that I am a traitor to my party, to my country, evil, insensate, unfair, a ten-twinkie eater, gross, obese and a great sinner (with one Ron Paul devotee, Jason Acebal invoking prayers for my soul after my grave transgression in writing the critique of the Saturday Paul for President rally). Including a diatribe from one odd revisionist historian whom I hired earlier to make a speech for dough to Chicago “Legatus” which he accepted with alacrity (and which he probably regrets but not enough to return the honoraria), the aghast Dr. Thomas Woods…who tells us all quite apropos of nothing that he goes to Latin Mass…which can only be logical to this Paleo (for Paleos I prefer Tom Fleming and Chris Check). But be assured that prayers and Latin Mass attendance are very relevant to the discussion I launched.

Among the critics who extol their courage in going to the mat in behalf of Dr. Paul, it is noteworthy that very-very few sign their names…including that manly judge of everything treasonous who punctuates his views in capital letters but who has not yet found the courage to sign his name, relying simply on “Lawrence.” I salute Jason Acebal and Dr. Woods for signing their names and urge the doughty Lawrence and others to muster up the courage to do the same. And to the lady who cited Roman Catholic canon law to attest that I am indeed in sin for insulting the unnamed 1,000--my thanks…and recommendation that you look up your Baltimore Catechism circa 1933.

Finally, look at the ill-temper and name-calling appended thereto and tell me if criticisms of any of the other presidential candidates in this website have gotten such belligerent response No. Why is that? Why the bitterness here? Must be there is something different about the Ron Paul people from the Chicago rally, no? We knew that already. But let me issue a challenge.

After all with Ron Paul elected president, this is going to be a brave, new world of freedom, isn’t it? Freedom of everything with no wars or taxes to distract you from the Internet? Why not celebrate the new day dawning by freely summoning up the guts to give your full…and truthful…names? After all, freedom to present your true identity should go hand-in-hand with the courage to back Ron Paul, shouldn’t it?

That should be foremost among all the beneficial pleasures to come from Dr. Paul’s election to the presidency…foremost, that is, after the great goal to “legalize freedom.” And we know what that means, don’t we buckos? Freedom to snuffle pot, hashish and crack and allowi that blue smoke to luxuriate over your lip and waft you on high without the cops running you down. Ah, the courageous self-indulgent New Age beckons with such vigor. Now in testimony to the New Age of Indulgence, crackpo—er, conservatives, why not give your true names on this Readers’ Comments, this very day? Starting with Lawrence.

Dare ya.

Flashback: The Rush to Ewald. Dairy Magnate Flies to Washington Despite Airplane Phobia With Important News and Hubert Rushes from Committee…Racing the Liaison Kid… Fearing the Worst all the While.


[Fifty years plus of politics written for my kids and grandchildren].

Early summer: a June day, 1951. The constituency liaison kid beckons Hubert out of committee. The junior senator, seeing him, knows something is up. When the kid says, “Mr. Ewald is in your office” he looks as if he is ready to run over to the office. At first Hubert decided not to run down the corridors back to his office (it wouldn’t be dignified) but at only age 40, though hobbled with a double hernia that was held snugly in place with a truss…and seeing that the community liaison kid was up for it…he tried to outrace him.

No such luck but by the time they got to the elevator, the junior senator from Minnesota was only a few paces behind. He just had time to catch his breath on the elevator (while the kid elevator operator, studying his law books, stood up in respect: usually senators took their own elevators).

Hubert: The News Can’t be Good.

While the run with the kid was exhilarating, Hubert had a fatal fear in his chest that this would be his last term—fate seemed to play him like that. Here he was a guy who came up the hard way in South Dakota…wanting to go to college to get out of working in a drug store…and the Depression and Dust Storm created such poverty that he had to drop out of the University of Minnesota in order to allow his older brother Ralph to finish (and Ralph never really loved school as much as Hubert).

Then Hubert had to work helping his father in the drug store. He got to go to a castoff school to get a pharmacy degree where he was imprisoned in that damned Huron drug store filling prescriptions while, seemingly, everybody else was allowed to go to college. He could get back to his studies only at age 26…then after he married…and Muriel made sandwiches he sold for 10 cents each to help pay the way (humiliating experience). He gets his degree “magna cum laude” and moves to Minneapolis where he has to be a 4-flat “super”—janitor, stoking up the fire in the basement at 4 a.m., shoveling the snow, cutting the grass in the summer—studying all the while for his Master’s. In those years he would have to lie down with an anxiety pain in his stomach, his mind busy about what other ways he could make a buck.

Then he gets a full-time job with the WPA, spends his evenings making the rounds at political meetings and, when he thinks the time is right, runs for Minneapolis mayor only to lose. Stoking the furnace at the four-plex he engineers a plan to unify Farmer-Labor and Democratic functions, gets the help of Washington Democrats in the effort…tries to pay his debts from the mayoralty loss.

His Farmer-Labor radical enemies try to push him off a pier by seeking to get him to run in a hopeless race for governor: he turns it down to great opprobrium in the party. He runs again for mayor—makes the cut---gets elected. He continually stands off dissident Farmer-Laborites who have gone Communist. He strikes out, makes what could have been a terrible mistake, in trying to dump President Truman for Dwight Eisenhower who rejects the bid. He beats a Farmer-Labor commie for the DFL nomination for the U. S. Senate but everybody tells him the nomination isn’t worth having because Truman is so low in the polls—it’ll be a Republican landslide.

He goes to the convention as a delegate and can’t avoid becoming a rebel (which is what he is anyhow). The regular Democrats have agreed on a bland, make-no-waves “civil rights resolution” which is satisfactory to the southern Democrats—and he challenges it. He’s told that by challenging the civil rights plank…which Harry Truman himself had approved…he’ll cut his throat. His own father warns him not to do it—but then, seeing how Hubert is so idealistic, says “o.k. do it but don’t blame me when you’re served up dead.” Voila! The reform civil rights plank passes and Hubert is lifted on liberals’ shoulders as a hero! But then the south walks out to join the Henry Wallace leftists and Hubert is blamed. Huzza! Truman wins anyhow and so does Hubert. Everything’s wonderful. He goes to the Senate! With wife and four kids, he and his father and mother get a personally conducted White House tour by President Truman himself. Everything seems golden…

Except that the entire Senate hates him, walks on whenever he speaks. He has to go door-to-door to apologize. Now he’s just coming into his own…regarded as a potential liberal leader…and what happens? Minnesota’s golden boy, a liberal, pro-civil rights governor Luther Youngdahl, could challenge him for reelection in 1954…and pffft!...his once bright career could be over.

“Wote fer Looter!”

And this guy Youngdahl (whose name the day he was born was worth 100,000 Scandinavian votes) never faced a gloomy political day. Member of the lucky sperm club, he entered an already prominent Minnesota Lutheran family of clergymen whose surname is legend in the state, growing up a popular golden-haired Scandinavian athlete…a star football player, a star basketball player at Gustavus Adolphus college. He goes to the army in WW I and makes 1st lieutenant. He comes back to a comfortable family income, becomes a lawyer: no sweat. Then is named a judge. Then is named a state supreme court jurist. Then a popular Republican governor drafts him for governor—which means no primary, just virtual appointment: just like that!

When he becomes governor everything falls into place for Luther Youngdahl. He leads crusades against slot machines, crusades to improve the conditions for the mentally ill. Elected governor three times—each time with higher majorities than before. Conservative Republicans hate him because he doesn’t have a conservative bone in his body—but who cares? Recently when President Truman fired Douglas MacArthur he even wrote Truman congratulating him. The Right was up in arms—but he snaps his fingers. Who cares?

Now at age 56 he may decide he wants to be U. S. Senator and maybe president after that. With his charisma and six years in the Senate he could just get the presidency for 1960. By then Hubert would be back teaching at Macalester—if he’s lucky. A has-been.

Poor Hubert. He was hard luck from the start. Half Scandinavian but on his mother’s side whose name never surfaced (Christine Sannes). His surname, Humphrey, was of Brit extraction, which did him no good in ethnic Minnesota. Nobody named Humphrey can beat Luther Youngdahl in Minnesota. Why the very first time Youngdahl ran, the semi-literate miners from eastern Europe on the Iron Range…and the Finlanders, Swedes and Norwegians from the old countries with their lilting sing-song voices…would sing: “Wote fer Loother! Wote fer Looter! Wote for Looter Yo-ung-dall! Ve weel puuut heem in da sta-a-a-a-t haus…in da sta-a-a-t haus in zaym Paul!” (Translated in English: “Vote for Luther, vote for Luther, vote for Luther Youngdahl! We will put him in the statehouse, in the statehouse, in St. Paul!”).

Yeah—this is how it’ll be in 1954—which would have been Hubert’s golden year—“Wote fer Looother!”

Youngdahl’s Message to Hubert Via Ewald.

When he bolted in the door with a bang, he scared Ewald almost out of his pants who had been sitting in the lobby reading a picture book about the Capitol. They convened immediately in Hubert’s sancto-sanctorum private office while a secretary brought coffee.

“Okay,” said Hubert. “I know it’s bad news. Out with it. You wouldn’t have flown here, scared of planes as you are, if it had been good news.”

“Hubert, let me tell you.”

“Let me sit down first.”

“I was at a U of M appreciation dinner for big donors last night and Youngdahl was there. He comes in and gets a standing ovation.”

“Of course.”

“Then he looks over the crowd and after he finishes his remarks he gives me a high-sign to join him. I do and he wants to go to a separate room. We excuse ourselves and go to the separate room.”

“Tell me the bad news quick.”

“We get there and this is what he says. He says, `I know that you are good friends with Hubert and same way you are good friends with me.”

“He wants you to be his finance chairman.”

“He says: `I want you to do something for me. I have just returned from the Mayo Clinic. Nobody knows I went. The physical I took was okay but the staff there says I have congenitally high blood pressure. They gave me some pills but they also gave me some advice. They said the pills won’t work unless I get out of the governorship and take it easier. In fact they said that if I want to live to be over sixty years old—and I’m 56 now—I should do it sooner than later. They also said that I have had what they call a `silent heart attack.’ Do you know what that is, Ray? It is a heart attack that you don’t know you had. They feel the way I throw myself into the governor’s job is the reason. So I’ve got to give up being governor, even though I love it. I’m a detail guy and I get worked up checking on my department heads seeing they do their job.’ But to do it right, being governor is a 15, 16, 18-hour job of administration. And my Mayo doctors say I can’t continue to do it.’”

“Swell,” said Hubert, a Calamity Jane. “So he’d just as soon be Senator where there’s not that much pressure or administrative work.”


“No, Hubert. He wants to get out of politics altogether. He wants to be a federal judge. He was a state judge before and he liked the work. He wants to be a judge again. He wants to get out of the governorship right now and he wonders if you would help him—convince President Truman to name him a federal judge.”

“WOULD I? But is he talking about a Supreme Court justice job? None are open! He’s got to be thinking of a court of appeals job. We have to check to see what’s available!”

“No, Hubert. Listen to me. He’s already checked out the job he’d like. A plain old federal judgeship—nothing else. There’s an opening in Washington, D. C. A judge died. Youngdahl gave me his name—T. Alan Goldsborough. He wants to know if you think you can get Truman to name

Him to that post?”

“CAN I? Let’s call the president this very minute!”

“One more thing…”


“He wants to keep this very secret. He doesn’t want the press to know. It has to be sprung with an announcement by the president that takes everybody by surprise. He wonders if you’re willing to do that. He says the shock will hit the Republican party very big, leaving them with an incompetent lieutenant governor who never planned to be governor—and he wants to delay the bad news until the announcement. Would you cooperate to that end?”


In a late afternoon meeting with President Truman, Hubert, still barely able to believe the news, asked the president if he would consider naming a Republican governor named Youngdahl to the federal bench. Truman said:

“WILL I? He’s a 32nd degree Mason and one of the few governors who backed me in firing MacArthur,” What the 32nd degree Masonic status had to do with it is still anybody’s guess—but Truman himself was 32nd degree.

The next morning Hubert called Youngdahl’s home and told Youngdahl’s wife…Irene Engdahl Youngdahl (God what a great Minnesota name!) of the president’s offer. She giggled. When Hubert asked why, she said: “At this very minute, Harold Stassen is in the governor’s office begging Luther to run for a fourth term in `52 and to place Stassen in nomination that year at the Republican National convention in Chicago for president! He’ll be disappointed.” Yes—but not the first time.

The next morning the governor slipped onto a commercial plane at Wold-Chamberlain field and flew to Washington. Hubert had arranged for a room at the Statler-Hilton under the imaginative name—Smith. The next afternoon, the press was suddenly called to the Oval Office by presidential news secretary Joseph Short. The president stood by his desk and said that he had an announcement…that as the media knew the policy of this administration was to name the best possible people to the federal bench—and for proof…he gestured to a door that immediately opened…here is the next federal judge, Republican Governor Luther Youngdahl.

In a statement issued from his office, Hubert agreed that it is a wonderful thing that old-style partisan politics do not soil appointments to the judiciary in this administration.

It is still regarded as a wondrous occasion that when Hubert said this the walls and the ceiling of his office did not fall in. That they did not is due to the magnanimity of God.


Next: President Truman names 3-term Republican Governor Luther Youngdahl the federal bench…certifying that Hubert is all but reelected and leaving the Republican governorship in the hands of an incompetent which will certify that a DFLer will become governor and start a generation-long trend to liberal government in the state. Or so it is thought,

Monday, September 24, 2007

Personal Aside: A Self-Indulgent Ron Paul Rally—“Legalize Freedom” (We Know What That Means!)…End the War Now…Repeal the Income Tax. In Summary: A Rally that was Appalling and Appealing.


A similar article appears in today’s Chicago Daily Observer.


For one with a long history of conservative Republican political participation…and mine goes back to the 1952 presidential campaing of Robert Taft…the rally Saturday afternoon at the Hyatt-Regency hotel celebrating Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) could not have been a greater shock. Taft, son of the 27th president, was constitutionally (and this word is used advisably) unable to demagogue. His message of hoped-for return to the policies of the past did not contain many personal incentives. In place of entitlements he advocated work, instead of farm subsidies he emphasized the free market. He accepted Social Security and few other accoutrements of the corporate state but not many. He opposed expansion of the size of government, soaking the rich, a multiplicity of federal alphabetical agencies that robbed personal initiative.. He preached the hard lessons of fiscal rectitude. Most particularly in foreign policy in believed in the enlightened self-interest of America First.

His speeches were laced with statistics and legal scholarship which made his audiences apply the hard work of speculative reason. Thus his prescriptions were not simple nor applicable to a stick-on bumper sticker. On foreign policy, for instance, his “magnum opus” was a 127-page book he wrote in 1951 as a prelude to his entering the race for the presidency. It was called “A Foreign Policy for Americans.” In the book he stated in Chapter One that “I believe the ultimate purpose of our foreign policy must be to protect the liberty of the people of the United States…Only second to liberty is the maintenance of peace”. P. 11. He stated that the tradition of “neutrality and non-interference with other nations was based on the principle that this policy was the best way to avoid disputes with other nations and to maintain the liberty of this country without war” p. 12.

But he added, “I have always felt, however, that we should depart from this principle if we could set up an effective international organization because in the long run the success of such an organization should be the most effective assurance of world peace and therefore of American peace. I regretted that we did not join the League of Nations” p. 12-13. But the UN had failed to protect the peace. He added, “I was never satisfied with the United Nations Charter and stated my criticism definitely at the time. The fundamental difficulty is that it is not based primarily on an underlying law and an administration of justice under that law. I believe that in the long run the only way to establish peace is to write a law, agreed to by each of the nations, to govern the relations of such nations with each other and to obtain the covenant of all such nations that they will abide by that law and decisions made there-under” p. 39.

By the time you finished the book you were filled in completely on the complex thought that Taft had given to international affairs. He rejected the manipulation by which FDR maneuvered us into World War II. Whether Pearl Harbor came as result of presidential manipulation or incompetence he did not offer an opinion—but he stated that once involved in the war he supported the winning of it in the shortest possible time.

With respect to the Korean War which was being waged at the time he wrote the book, he insisted that the action of President Truman was unconstitutional. “…[I]n the case of Korea where a war was already under way, we had no right to send troops to a nation with whom we had no treaty, to defend it against attack by another nation, no matter how unprincipled that aggression might be, unless the whole matter was submitted to Congress and a declaration of war or some other direct authority obtained.” But in the case of Korea, he pledged to win the war if feasible or settle it on honorable terms.

Likewise, he recognized the Communist threat and urged that the U.S. concentrate on turning it back—specifying air power rather than massive enlistment of men. P. 75. But, “while defense of this country is our first consideration, I do not agree with those who think we can completely abandon the rest of the world and rely solely upon defense of this continent. In fact, the very thesis of an effective control of sea and air by the free nations requires that we do interest ourselves in Europe and the Near East and North Africa and the Far East so that Communist influence may not extend to areas from which it is still possible to exclude it by many methods other than land armies.” Pp. 77-78.

However, he questioned and voted against the North Atlantic Treaty and NATO. While the president had the right to send troops to Europe, NATO was a different matter, the creation of “an international army, apparently established by twelve nations, with a commander who is appointed by the twelve nations.” He added: “It seems to me perfectly clear that the president’s power as commander-in-chief does not extend to the delegation of that power to a commander who is chosen by any other nation or any other group of nations” (p34).

When Truman appointed General Dwight Eisenhower as supreme commander, “he exceeded his authority” p. 35. “When the president undertook to carry out that recommendation he usurped the powers of Congress. He had no authority to carry out that particular agreement made at Brussels without submitting it to Congress” p.35.

Why do I go into this ancient history? Because the role of Sen. Taft was and is at great variance with that of Rep. Ron Paul whose demagogic phraseology appeals not to conservatives—but, apparently if Saturday’s meeting was any indication—to a sweaty group of boisterous, screaming, jumping up and down in place, obese youth (obviously from hours spent huddled before computers), shaggy, unkempt, hirsute, noisy, obstreperous, rambunctious and raucous. And that’s before we consider the male contingent.

Why the great interest in this element of youth for a 72-year-old man who, were he to be improbably elected, would be easily the oldest president at 73 and 77 when he would complete his first term? A candidate who touts congressional term limits but who has served nine terms already and under unique Texas law will be running for reelection while he runs for president either as a Republican or nominee of the Libertarian party?

The answer is clear. The message that this candidate brings in one of self-indulgence, ideally suited for the mob he addressed. He preaches peace now and the bringing of troops home as soon as possible—which appeals to the special interest of the group which would disdain military service as inconvenient to its proclivities. He favors abolishing the income tax which attracts the group’s interest in self-enrichment. He distributes a palm card that states a curious objective—“legalize freedom.” Legalize freedom? What does that mean? It’s obvious what it means: code for legalizing drugs which the Congressman before some selective groups advocates but which he decorously did not bring up at this meeting. But “legalize freedom” was the catchword. Every one of the pleasure bunnies in the meeting caught on.

It is the promise of self-indulgence and rather than a conservative campaign is a sop to decadence. Intriguingly enough he is on record as favoring an end to abortion—but he didn’t bring up the issue at that meeting where the youths’ hormones were raging. In place of a scholarly talk of foreign relations as was the case with Robert Taft, there was this bit of doggerel nonsense: the clear implication that we invite attacks on us by being involved on any side in the Middle East…code for support of Israel.

Another subject that never was brought up by the candidate was immigration. He has been identified with two contradictory positions on that issue in the past…one which has supported minimum control of the borders consonant with libertarianism…another which supports wholesale crack-down and the building of a fence. Someone looked over the crowd and possibly decided neither approach would be acceptable to factions of the exuberant and viscerally feeling…not thinking…crowd—so no mention was made.

There was the statement that we should withdraw from the United Nations. Fine: I for one see no need for it—but were we not entitled to a reasoned explanation as to the many reasons why? Just a bumper-sticker shout which was returned by a raucous rejoinder.

Then there came the most outrageous so-called “historical” comparison of all. The candidate said that John F. Kennedy was wise to negotiate with Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis and to agree that in exchange for Soviet missiles being withdrawn from Cuba, U. S. missiles would be withdrawn from Turkey. This was greeted by wild applause as the candidate urged this prescription to be used in our dealings with Muslim extremists. Does he or the group believe that Islamic extremists are the same kind of men that ruled the Soviet Union…men who feared nuclear destruction just as did we? Is he serious in equating Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, with our past adversaries in the Cold War? Converts from Islam to Christianity must live in fear—even in the United States. Does he not understand that to a Islamo-Fascist death, often by self-detonation and death to children by detonation is to be rewarded in heaven? Views in American politics have only one equal—the insensate ranting of the Far Left, of The Daily Kos to which the Paul campaign seems uniquely suited.

But even the Daily Kos would refrain from the valedictory Paul gave the crowd: “We have been told that we have to give up our freedoms in order to be safe because terrorism is such a horrible event. A lot fewer lives died on 9/11 than they do in less than a month on our highways—but once again, who owns the highways? Do we own the highways? No, it’s a government institution, you know.” This implies that if the highways were run privately the death toll would be lower. Really? In a Ron Paul world where likely there would be no enforced speed limits?


You can say all you want about Hitler…monomaniac, racist, genocidal tyrant…but he and his people could really run a rally. From the Munich beer hall putsch through to the end of his regime he was unexcelled. Let me say the manipulation of an already excitable, juvenile, impressionable and deliriously passionate youth audience by the Ron Paul people was unexcelled—at least among those I have observed in this country. Hitler’s meetings would involve people packed like sardines in a room that did not allow much area for expansion. That was the case here. The storm troopers would then lead a preparatory with a brief exultation by one not as articulate as the one who was to come later. That happened, too, although the deputy campaign manager and campaign managers were no slouches. Following the warm-up, Hitler’s people ran a documentary by Leni Riefenstahl, the blonde goddess who dramatized Hitler youth…who was in fact probably the greatest film documentarian at that time in the world. When the documentary…showing bronzed athletes swearing allegiance to the Fuhrer and wide-eyed young people marching joyously as far as the eye could see in perfect precision…a groundswell of music would conclude, lights would go up and someone would shout: “Heil Hitler!” and in he would come. The place would go delirious.

Leni Riefenstahl has gone to her reward and was not available—but in her place was an outstandingly produced video that featured Ron Paul saying only one sentence—this taken from the first Republican debate. “My name is Ron Paul and I am here to defend the Constitution of the United States!” Then the film’s half hour is devoted to panning crowds which are exactly like the crowd packed in the Hyatt-Regency auditorium: bearded, shaggy, pony-tailed, inarticulate, frenetic, unconcerned with ideas. The identification of those in the video with the crowd in the auditorium was perfect. The crowd was alternatively transfixed seeing almost identical representatives of themselves and, in effect, cheered themselves in a cacophony of the Imperial Self. Here was a crowd passionately wanting to have…”legalized freedom”…i. e. the freedom to smoke whatever it wished from marijuana to crack cocaine…pay no taxes…have no war…have no hassle…and not be bothered by restrictions. Were Riefenstahl around, she would have enthusiastically approved the video.

And when the video ended, a voice called out: “Ladies and gentlemen! Dr. R-o-n P-a-u-l !” And the orgy of self-indulgence exploded into an orgasm. He moved into the room swiftly and a forest of hands arose in salutes and waves--you can make of that what you will.

Where Bob Taft spoke as a constitutional lawyer and fiscal scholar…one who had been to Versailles as an aide to Herbert Hoover the World War I food czar…spoke in masterly legal sentences…Ron Paul wasted no time with ramifications. Peace now…end the income tax…”legalize freedom” (we all know what that means, huh?)…don’t tax the Internet (there is a bill to apply postage to emails which is unlikely to even get a hearing much less pass—but it’s good red meat)…get out of the UN!...and “restore our Constitution” which to the crowd means only one thing—more freedom, much more freedom and not order, hell no! Not responsibility! Hell no! F-r-e-e-d-o-m which translated to it means license.

I list this under “Appealing” because I contrast it with the Taft rallies I attended and the Gene McCarthy it was brilliantly derived and entirely nutrition-free with no thought whatever beyond the sloganeering.

Finally, I wish to contrast this with the words Gene McCarthy made at a similar rally against the Vietnam War in Chicago which I attended…not as a follower but as one who knew McCarthy quite well. He began telling the crowd of youth in professorial style the difference between Vietnam and Korea. Unlike Vietnam, he said, “the war in Korea allowed us to make a quit e full moral commitment to the achievements of objectives.” Really exciting phrase, right? “I supported the war in Korea because it was a relatively clear case of aggression against a nation willing to defend itself with the support of the U. S. and other members of the United Nations.” Notice that he was far more in support of Korea than was Bob Taft.

This much I can say: if the Republicans lose the next presidential election…and gamblers’ odds are 80 to 20 it will…there will be a revolution of sorts to reestablish old principles to the party which it sadly forgot….principles of thrift…continuation of tax cuts…deregulation…and true libertarians as well as social conservatives will have says in the reformulation. Let us hope that the reformulation if it is to come following a presidential loss…will be in the mode of Robert A. Taft and not Ron Paul.

Else the Republican party, echoing the New Left, will be Left Out and go the way of the Whigs.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Flashback: Hubert Brilliantly Re-Draws His Image to Be Accepted by the Democratic Senate...

...Becoming Liberal Establishmentarian, not Bomb-Thrower. He Spurs His Staff to the Best Constituent Service in Washington. Then He Gets the Scare of His Life—a Republican Who Could Easily Beat Him in the Next Election.

[Fifty plus years of politics for my kids and grandchildren].

A Bid for Acceptance.

After throwing himself on the mercy of the court, apologizing to every Senate member for his brashness, Hubert Humphrey was still an outsider although a penitent one. In desperation he sat down with Sen. Russell Long (D-La.) his old classmate with whom he served on the debating team at Louisiana State and asked Long what he should do.

“Russell and the others, including fellow freshmen like Lyndon Johnson, Bob Kerr and Lyndon Johnson had friends in the South. Muriel and I were very young. We had a young family and we weren’t very social. We didn’t go to a lot of parties and the few we went to weren’t very helpful. We were lonely and bitter. I was particularly bitter at the president [Harry Truman]. Every time I went to the White House, he would spend part of the time telling me what a menace Harry Byrd was to liberal government. Here I took Byrd on—and where were my liberal friends when I took on Byrd and when I was getting beat up?”

For a time Humphrey was so unpopular that even Russell Long, his old colleague, didn’t want to seen helping him. Things got no better—and in fact worse when Humphrey got into a shoving match with Indiana’s Republican Sen. Homer Capehart when Capehart pushed Humphrey out of the Senate’s radio studio in the basement of the Senate Office Building. Capehart insisted Humphrey called him a “S. O. B.” The Senate establishment, Democrats and Republicans, instinctively took Capehart’s side. It even got to Alben Barkley, Truman’s vice president. One day when he strode through the cloakroom in his cups, Barkley (a former majority leader) said in tones Humphrey could hear: “Say, that’s a great thing Minnesota has done for the country. First they sent us thei Ball. Then their Thye. Now their goddamn hindend!”

When Russell Long finally got down to advising Humphrey, he told him that what he must do is to show mastery of detail on some legislation—but not become so cocky about it that he would offend. He said, “there’s a way to show you know everything there is about a bill but not stick your chest out and brag. It’s up to you, Hubert, to find out how to do that.”

Humphrey decided to do it with the 1951 tax bill. He boned up on it by the hour, staying in the office well into the night as the cleaning crew mopped up. He decided that zero in on eliminating so-called corporate loopholes that, he would maintain, cost the government billions of dollars. So he went to the floor and introduced a series of twelve amendments. Immediately he was assailed by two fiscal leaders of the Senate—Georgia’s Walter George (D-Georgia), chairman of Finance and Colorado’s Eugene Milliken, the ranking Republican. But this time Humphrey gritted his teeth and was not just civil but graciously humble, declaring his deferentiality to them but nevertheless engaging in a debate over minutia. Long watched from the sidelines and every so often would give Humphrey a thumbs-up. The result: some of Humphrey’s amendments were accepted—not all but some.

Humphrey made only one mistake when his old cocksure attitude resurfaced. He invited Sen. George to teach him about finance and George agreed: it started as a lovefest but then Humphrey added, unnecessarily, “yes, I welcome the tutorial from the chairman. I’m magna-cum-laude. I can learn. Teach me.” To this Long stood up and gestured with an angry thumbs-down. Fortunately the braggart’s words passed by George and Milliken unnoticed. By the time the debate was complete, George and Millikin both walked over to his desk and congratulated him.

When Long decided Humphrey was on the way to being rehabilitated, Long, who was Hubert’s next door neighbor, took him out walking in their neighborhood late at night. Long said, “Hubert, you’re coming along okay. Now what yhou have to do is to stop going into the Senate’s dining room for lunch but go into the little private dining room in the back where the leaders eat.”

Well, said Humphrey, they don’t like me.

“So what? Go in there anyway and get `em to like you! I’ll be there to try to help along.”

So the next day Hubert went into the private dining room and sat down at the table with the leaders of the Senate, all Democrats—Walter George, Harry Byrd, John Sparkman (Alabama), Burnet Maybank (Maryland). Long recalled that as Hubert sat down and smiled, his hands were trembling. Long then told a joke and Humphrey responded with one that was highly self-derogatory. Everybody roared.

Stirring Up the Staff to High-Powered Service.

No sooner was he gradually being accepted in the Senate, then Humphrey turned his attention to his staff. He addressed all of them early one morning, from the lowest bottom-runger to the top administrative assistant. This is what he said as he paced around:

“I am pleased with your facility in answering the mail and in returning phone calls—but there is much more we should be doing. I want this office to be the world’s best at solving problems for our constituents. That means when someone drops a postcard asking for help, you call them up on the phone, identify yourself and tell them Sen. Humphrey read the postcard and has asked you to call. And then by God I want you to break your [deleted] to get it done. Meg, I want you to look at the mail for me and have one objective. If there is an old lady who needs help, I want you to have me call her—and if I’m not around you call her. The hell with this replying by mail unless you absolutely have to. You can’t imagine what a thrill it is for some of these old people…and young, too…to get a call from either a Senator himself or someone who says the Senator had to go to committee but “asked me to call.”

“At the same time, Darlene your job is to read the weekly newspaper and clip `em. If there is somebody who’s celebrating a 90th birthday in Dundas, Minnesota, I want you to clip it and write a letter for me to him or her. I want everybody who has a baby to get a baby book from HEW, sent with my compliments, right from this office. While she’s looking through the papers, Andy, your job is to follow her up and look for news that we can capitalize on. If a town’s water tower leaks, I want…by God…you to call out there and offer to be of help and see what we can do to get federal aid. Then you keep it in a book by county and town.

“To Neil who’s whose in charge of federal grants. I want you to nail down all the granting agencies and find out where the requests are from Minnesota and get an early indication of when the grants will be decided. And I want you to get over to the press secretary and have the press secretary write releases that Sen. Humphrey announced today that as result of the pressure his office has placed on the government down here, a new post-office is going to be built in Faribault starting next summer.”

He sipped some water. “Now as you know the USDA issues a handbook of agriculture—a beautiful, leather-bound volume entitled `Food’ which tells everything from how to grow it, how to cook it and all the nutrients. Each senator has an option of getting a thousand. I want more than that—I want to get 10,000. The USDA is very stingy with the books and doesn’t like to exceed the quota. But I want 10,000 to be shipped out to every farmer, every expectant mother, every new bride in the state. I know how to get the 10,000—but I’m testing you. How do we get the 10,000?”

Silence. Then there were some suggestions. The office tries to get hold of some assistant secretaries of agriculture and cut a deal. No, said Humphrey, won’t work. Next suggestion. How about if we go to the Government Printing Office and cut a deal? No, said Humphrey, that’s illegal. Next suggestion. They were stumped. Then a kid working in Humphrey’s mailroom raised his hand. Yes, said Humphrey.

“We’re an agricultural state. But Rhode Island isn’t. Not only that but House members get a small allotment—250 for each congressman. We should cut deals with big city congressmen where nobody needs the books. What about Chicago, New York city, Philly, Detroit? We should see if they give us their allotment we do something for them!”

Humphrey leapt up on a chair. “Terrific! There are all kinds of things big city House members want that we can supply. Republican House members with little access to the White House for constituents’ tours want our passes—and we can get enough passes to fill a warehouse! You’re nominated to make deals with all those urban House people. That’s the kind of creative thinking I want!”

When the town hall meeting was over, he jerked a thumb toward his administrative assistant who followed him into his private office.

“I want that kid promoted as soon as you can do it to get him out of the mailroom and into constituent service,” he said. The kid was running Humphrey’s entire constituent service, linking Washington to his three state offices—Minneapolis-St. Paul-Duluth and Rochester--18 months later.

The Fright of His Life in the Next Election.

Humphrey woke up every morning thinking how much time he had left before the drive for reelection would begin. He was elected in 1948 and took office in 1949. By 1954 he would have to face reelection. Although he built the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party from a wretched fragmented group; of eccentrics into a viable political party, Humphrey knew the Republicans had the one person who could defeat him…defeat him easiy, almost by a landslide—and that person was positioned to do it. He was the Republican governor, Luther Youngdahl. Youngdahl was a magnetic, prematurely grey, stunning handsome man, with great bearing and an oracular mien that could very well outdo Humphrey on the stump. He was presidential caliber; an ethically pure, total abstainer with no faults anyone had ever identified: great family man, he made his pledge to never taste liquor or smoke on his twelfth birthday in his Lutheran church, in the presence of his parents and his pastor.

Moreover, Youngdahl was far from a conservative but as liberal as Humphrey and had made a national reputation in cleaning up the mental health facilities that had suffered for years under DFL as well as Republican hands. He toured the mental hospitals, found that some inmates were being put in strait jackets. But a new day was dawning in the treatment of the mentally ill—with drugs not strait-jackets.

Youngdahl spotlighted his reforms, got the legislature to appropriate huge sums, traveled the state and had strait-jacket burnings. Families of the mentally ill had color photographs of him hanging on their walls. Not only was Youngdahl a governmental and public relations marvel but his entire family was involved in the Lutheran church. His brother Reuben was a nationally know pastor of Bethany Lutheran in Minneapolis. Not only that but Youngdahl himself was a near-operatic tenor. Often when he went on the stump, he would talk brilliantly, then swing into song with the crowd joining in. In my first day covering the Iron Range of Minnesota where Finns, Norwegians, Slavs, Lithuanians, Romanians and other mine workers lived, there was a favorite homemade song that chorused from one saloon to another. It went in the miners’ own semi-literate, highly lilting Scandinavian mixed with eastern European broken English:

“Wote fer Loot’er! Wote fer Loot’ter! Wote fer Loot’er Youn-da-ha-dahl! Ve vill poot him in da stat’house, in da stat’house in Zem Paahl!”

This was a man who could write his own ticket for reelection in perpetuity, without worrying about what conservatives thought. He was so confident of himself that when Truman fired Douglas MacArthur…an event that riled up thousands in Minnesota… Gov. Youngdahl wrote the president a letter and released it to the press—saying Truman did the right thing. And there wasn’t a peep out of the conservatives, they were that much in awe of the Republican governor.

For a man with an outward bravado, Humphrey at his core was frightened and insecure about his lack of finesse. Luther Youngdahl was like a 6 foot 4-inch Nordic God who typified the best of Minnesota’s Scandinavian strain. Humphrey was a transplanted 5 foot 10-inch South Dakotan, half Celtic, half Norwegian. He was not particularly affiliated with any church and even if he were, it wouldn’t help him against Youngdahl. Youngdahl could polish off his speeches with singing. Humphrey couldn’t carry a tune.

Lord, said Humphrey to his chief fund-raiser, Ray Ewald, Twin Cities a multi-millionaire dairy owner, I know I can’t beat Youngdahl. I know it.

“Aw sure you can,” said Ewald.

No, Ray, said Humphrey. I am fated to lose to somebody like that. Everything I got I had to fight for. Everything Youngdahl has comes to him by Dame Fortune: his looks, his stature well over 6 feet, his singing voice. I tell you, I’ll wage a good fight but I don’t think I can--.

“Stop that talk,” said Ewald.

But as the time got nearer to reelection, he would confess to his confidant, Russell Long the same thing.

“Hubert,” said Long, “you’re gettin’ yourself sick thinkin’ like that. Cut it out!”

Then one day, the rotund, beaming Ray Ewald bounced into Hubert’s Washington office after flying Northwest from Minneapolis without telling Hubert he was coming.

“The senator’s in committee, Mr. Eward,” said he secretary. “What can we do for you?

Get him out of there as soon as you can, said Ewald. I got news that he must hear!

The ex-mailroom kid, now duked up as top constituent-service officer, wheeled out the door and raced down the hall, just making the elevator before the door slammed shut…then on the first floor raced again, dashing through the traffic like it was an obstacle course, , dodging between orderlies pushing mail carts, zig-zagging around old Sen. Theodore Francis Green of Rhode Island, the 89 year old patriarch with a cane…putting on a last burst of speed to get to the committee room. The minute Hubert saw him from the committee stand…the kid puffing out of breath… he arose and excused himself knowing instinctively that something was up..

“Sir--Mr. Ewald…Mr. Ewald’s here to see you!”

Hubert was 40—reasonably fit--and he and the constituent-service officer ran as fast as their legs could carry them, the kid leading the way joyously…tourists and visitors appalled at seeing them racing down the corridors without dignity…past Theodore Francis Green with his cane, he calling after Hubert to ask what the hell was up…to the elevator and both of them—the boy and Hubert—raced against each other to the office door. The boy won; Hubert stopped, laughing to catch his breath, then burst in.

Hubert didn’t know why Ewald had flown in but it would have to be of overriding political importance since Ewald was terrified of flying.


Next: What Ray Ewald says changes Minnesota history…and that of the Democratic party…indelibly.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Flashback: Joe McCarthy and His Followers Try to Insist that Gene was Less than Militantly Anti-Communist


[Fifty years plus of politics written as a memoir for my kids and grandchildren].

McCarthy vs. McCarthy vs Kennedy.

Reelected in 1950 without much trouble in heavily Irish Catholic and Democratic St. Paul, Gene McCarthy pursued a second uneventful term. But by 1952 at the behest of House Majority Leader John McCormack (D-Mass.) and with the enthusiastic backing of Fr. Godfrey Diekmann OSB at St. John’s who was deeply concerned that anti-Communism would unleash an anti-civil liberties crusade that would seriously harm the Democrats, Gene, age 35, agreed to debate Sen. Joe McCarthy on network radio and TV. I saw the debate and while I didn’t rate Gene as a hands-down winner as many liberals emotionally did, I felt he handled himself…as a sophomore congressman, a member of the House Agriculture committee with no experience in foreign policy…at least as a draw.

The mythology since is that in the debate Gene humbled Joe. I am not sure Joe McCarthy was ever humbled in debate—not even by Joseph Welch, the Boston Brahmin attorney representing the Army several years later. What got Joe dethroned was a combination of booze and the general consensus of senators that he had to be coerced as a menace to free debate who whenever he was cornered would imply his adversary was a Red. The Senate as a club met informally and decided to take Joe down. The supposedly famous Welch confrontation (where the high-powered lawyer wiped a tear away and said, “at last, sir, have you no decency?” struck me as effeminate and odd. Thereupon afterward most of the senators on McCarthy’s committee abandoned him to the mores of the time. I am not sure anyone humbled McCarthy in debate, although I will concede that the Edward R. Murrow television program which caught McCarthy snuffling and picking his nose did a lot of damage. But like everything liberals do, the media were engaged in a coalition to do the assassination.

Having said this, on the telecast on June 22, 1952, Gene McCarthy was his calm, cool, practiced self on Theodore Granik’s “American Town Hall of the Air.” The sponsor was Bohn Aluminum and Brass Corporation which began the half-hour with a commercial that warned “to keep America the way it is, freedom must be protected from the seeds of socialism.” However the moderating was fair. Sen. McCarthy made the pitch: “We know we have lost an average of 100 million people a year to Communism since the shooting part of World War II ended. Not 100,000; 100 millio. Since the shotring part of World War II ended, the total lost has been about 700 million people. Right, Gene?”

Gene responded: “Senator, I don’t think you can say that we have lost them. We never had them. Of course, it is not our policy to have people. I think that we can say that we have saved much of the world from Communism through the sound foreign policy which the Democratic administration did initiate and which was given bipartisan support by the Republicans as long as it seemed to be going along very well.”

Joe: “You said we never had these people. We have had the Chinese people, 450 million of them as our friends for over a hundred years. This present administration has betrayed China.”

Gene: “…I don’t think we have betrayed anyone. If we look back at the American foreign policy it becomes clear that we have not had a consistent foreign policy since 1920.”

Joe: “Since 1930.”

Gene: “Since 1920…Let us go back and reexamine our Far Eastern policy for a minute. The U. S. did support the Most Favored Nation treatment in the Orient and that was the basis of our policy until the year 1900. Actually, all this meant was that if anybody was exploiting the Chinese and Orientals, we insisted that we have the same right to exploit them…”

This is, if I may say so, the most leftwing explanation of the Most Favored Nation policy that I have ever heard. It was early Blame America. Joe didn’t pick up on it.

“…After 1900 we began to talk about the Open Door Policy. This meant we were willing to exploit them in greater degree than anyone else if we could get the advantage.”

I guess Theodore Roosevelt who opened up China to trade was an exploiter. That’s vintage Godfrey Diekmann OSB, imbibed straight, right from the bottle.

Joe: “Let us bring it down to date, if we may. As of tonight there exists one of the most treasonable, traitorous orders that has ever been issued by any nation in war or peacetime. I am sure you will agree, Gene.”

Gene: “I am not sure.

Joe: There exists as of tonight an order to our Seventh Fleet which says that if our friends on Formosa, if they try to stop the Communist shipping, our Seventh Fleet will sink our friends and shoot their planes…If that is not treason, I ask you what is treason?

Gene: “I would deny it is treason unless the words `conspiracy’ and `conspirator’ and `treason’ have been redefined. You have to look at it in relation to the whole problem of the Far East. The question is one of whether we are going to be involved in an all-out war in that area or not.?”

That was a good answer and score one point for Gene.

The debate was a draw but the mythmakers, particularly Harry MacArthur, the TV critic for the Washington “Star” proclaimed that this debate would mark the beginning of Joe’s political decline. Wishful thinking but it did not. But it did boost Gene’s stock among liberals.

The debate stirred some out-of-touch Republican dinosaurs in St. Paul to imagine that if an Irish Republican could be enlisted to run against Gene and fly the bloody shirt in a who-is-more-anti-communist battle, perhaps the Catholics would be moved to vote McCarthy out of office. It was insensate nonsense. No one would possibly buy the thought that Gene McCarthy, former Frater Conan of St. John’s, was a Red. The Republicans…about as stupid as always…found a good looking lad named Roger Kennedy. A very good looking lad. But he was too young, a law student though rich—and he wasn’t Catholic.

It didn’t do the reputation of Roger Kennedy’s campaign strategist much good—Warren Burger. Burger got 36 attorneys to sign an ad charging that McCarthy had claimed a certain amendment granting preferential hiring treatment to those government officials who had been dismissed as possible security risks—a rather stupid amendment in view of the temper of the time…but McCarthy did it to ingratiate himself with the Left. Burger found 36 lawyers to say it was a terrible idea and who signed an ad; McCarthy’s people found 28 attorneys to say it was a good idea and signed an ad. In one debate where Roger Kennedy couldn’t show up, Burger did and stated “a bad security risk shouldn’t be employed by the government anywhere and the congressman is still for a proposal to give job preference to people dismissed as security risks.”

McCarthy answered: “Veterans still come first. And keep[ in mind that these people must be cleared by a board before being eligible for other jobs. Without the amendment, when a security risk was discharged, that was the end of the road for him. Yet the loyalty risk had an appeal.”

Not a very convincing point for those red-hot days but--.

Since Roger Kennedy had been a TV announcer at one point, he made a stir in a debate with Gene, using all the old formulae that Gene was soft on Communism as was the Truman administration. Here Abigail McCarthy responded in true demagogic style telling the media that her daughter Ellen came home from school one day and asked, “Mama, what is a Communist?” Answer: Why do you ask, dear? Ellen: “Because the children are calling Daddy one.”

This has been standard operating procedure used by spouses for any charge, pro-communist or whatever--and may well have been in Alexander Hamilton’s initial strategy book issued to the Federalists in New York state. On cue, the sob-sisters of the St. Paul “Pioneer-Press” went on a wailing binge.

McCarthy was reelected easily by a 34,000-vote majority. Then he began taking bows for “standing up to Joe McCarthy-style witch hunting.” Writing in “Commonweal” magazine, a Catholic periodical, on the subject “A Christian in Politics” Gene knocked off a mysterious theorem that could only have been fostered by Godfrey Diekmann OSB.

What is the line? Curious and improbable as were all of Godfrey’s and most of Gene’s. It goes: “The calling of a Christian is not to judge the world but to save it.”

Get it? But if you don’t make a judgment about the world, how do you save it? I have pondered that one for 40 years and have not come up with the answer yet. But it sounds….good…sounds so preciously non-judgmental and liberal.

McCarthy typically remembered the campaign of Roger Kennedy for the remainder of his life, voting against Burger’s confirmation to the Supreme Court on June 9, 1969 with great satisfaction. No let’s-forget-the-old-days-and-let-bygones-be-bygones for him. By now he and Abigail hds three children—Ellen, 7, Mary, 5, and Michael 4. A fourth child, Margaret would arrive a year later.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Personal Aside: The Message Will be Short Today—Peraica and Stewart to Tangle on Next Sunday’s Political Shootout.


Peraica & Stewart.

The message will be foreshortened today due to editorial obligations with The Chicago Daily Observer…but fear not, I’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Suffice-it to say that the two guests on next Sunday’s Political Shootout on WLS-AM (890) will be Tony Peraica, the only announced Republican candidate for Cook county states’ attorney and Russ Stewart, dogged and intrepid questioner, lawyer and political analyst for the Nadig Newspapers as well as a regular columnist and editorial board member for The Chicago Daily Observer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Personal Aside: Jim Durkin and Charlie Johnston Score Well in Rivalry for their Favorite GOP Presidential Candidates…Greenspan Wobbles in Clarification Because He is a Human Being, After All.


Durkin & Johnston.

State Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and Charlie Johnston, grassroots expert and columnist for “The Chicago Daily Observer,” made a good pair on my Sunday WLS-AM talk show…and not because they got along all that famously. While having great respect for each other, they are enthusiastically backing different presidential candidates…Durkin serving as Illinois chairman for the McCain for president committee and Charlie who has signed up as a delegate for Rudy Giuliani. They tussled without bitterness but with good ripostes: Durkin saying that Rudy had one memorable day, 9/11 when he acted the hero but McCain has had years in the harness—five of them as a POW who turned aside offers to be freed because he was not first in line among the POWs. Charlie zeroed in on McCain’s prior sidings with liberal Democrats; I chimed in with a question on how a candidate like Giuliani…in addition to his own personal imperfections…has, in wife No. 3 the possible holder of the World Cup in spectacular marriages and living-together arrangements.

Wobbly Greenspan the Human Being.

The Washington “Post”…giddy for a while with the thought that Alan Greenspan can be used against President Bush and the Republicans…has been giving him great honorifics recently ever since his book came out which zings President Bush. So the prelude up to his earlier quotes was that Greenspan is a towering intellect, probably the most perspicacious economist of all time (oh come now: what about Milton Friedman?). But as the “Post” had to recognize yesterday, in the promotion for his book, the former Fed chief has been running off at the mouth in the same excitable way that a freshman congressman does—pontificating about all manners of issues not within his ken and then having to back up and correct himself.

He started off saying, in words that brought thrills to the American Left and Paleo Right: “the Iraq War is largely about oil.” Now he is backtracking. “I was not saying that that’s the administration’s motive,” he clarified in an interview Saturday. He said that he himself had presented the White House with the case that removing Saddam Hussein was important for the global economy. Then he swings into complicated theological musings. “I never heard them basically say, `we’ve got to protect the oil supplies of the world’ but that would have been my motive.” Oh? So the weasel-worded Alan is now saying in effect two things: he believed the Iraq War was important because of oil and also it wasn’t —the bigger issue was Saddam Hussein. “I wasn’t argument for war per se, but to take [Hussein] out, in my judgment, it was something important for the West to do and essential…” One can deduce that taking Hussein out, if it was a bigger issue than oil, would be his possible possession of nuclear weapons and the disruption this would have on the economy. But as he bobs and weaves, he comes back to the issue of oil and you are forgiven if you conclude that…yes indeed…it was oil that was foremost in his mind. “If Saddam Hussein had been head of Iraq and there was no oil under those sands, our response to him would not have been as strong as it was in the first Gulf War. And the second Gulf War is an extension of the first. My view is--.”

Okay what is your view after all this muddy rhetoric, Alan? “My view is that Saddam, looking over his 30-year history, very clearly was giving evidence of moving towards controlling the Straits of Hormuz, where there are 17, 18, 10 million barrels a day” passing through. He added disruption of even from 3 to 4 million barrels a day could translate into oil prices as high as $120 a barrel (compared to recent high of $80 last week and loss of this would mean “chaos” to the global economy. Now get this. He summarizes: “I’m saying taking Saddam out was essential”—but adds he is not implying the war was an oil grab as the Left and U. S. paleos generally believe. . “No-no-no!” Riding the world of Hussein is a means of “making certain that the existing system [of oil markets] continues to work, franklyh until we find other [energy supplies] whnich ultimately we will.”

There—now if that isn’t clear, it isn’t your fault. Greenspan supported the decision made by a neo-conservative president…spoke a sensational headline-making statement to publicize his book…and like a freshman congressman is backing down when the heat gets to him. Which means he’s human, as much as “The Washington Post” dislikes to admit it.

For what it’s worth, I—and many other conservatives I know—don’t believe for a moment that safeguarding our access to oil is worth the lives of a single American soldier. Nor do I…and many others I know…believe that taking out Saddam Hussein was worth American lives either. The only thing that the precious treasure of American lives is worth is to protect the peace and liberty of the United States. Bush believed…as did every other government on the face of the earth…that Iraq had access to weapons of mass destruction. That they did not…and this is not a foregone certainty even now…did not and does not vitiate his taking steps to protect the peace and liberty of the United States by striking at Iraq for that reason and as a harbor to terrorists. The greatest Middle East scholar, Bernard Lewis, points out that for the first time, the Islamic world has come to grips with the fact that the West has had a leader who will not shrink. To me it is marvelous…knowing how malleable U. S. politicians are…that this president has not yielded to pressure from the media…the Democrats…the Paleos in his own party who are in lockstep with the hard left zealots. But if I believed we did it for solely oil, I would be disillusioned.

And also for what it’s worth, I—and almost every other conservative I know—agree with Greenspan on the hideous proclivity of the Bush administration to over-spend. No president is perfect—not is George W. Bush. The value of Greenspan’s book seems to be…as I poured over it for nothing at Barnes & Noble…that the real triumph for our system came not from Greenspan but capitalism itself.

His book is really an insightful delight because it says things meaningfully that a number of us—but not the Left nor the paleos of the Right—comprehend. Neither Left nor Paleo Right would have had us engage the Soviet Union as we did during the long days of the Cold War…and hysterical agents of both sides are as critical (but not vocal about it) of Reagan who won the Cold War as they are of George W. Bush. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was the defining economic development for the world as Greenspan sees it—when the failure of economic planning was evident for all to see. Any belief that Communism would have fallen by its own weight ignores the pressure that Reagan and others put on the tottering USSR system. The Left and the Paleo Right would not have put that pressure on because it would not have accepted for a moment that need to build Star Wars which ultimately led to the poker game play that won the stakes.

At bottom, Greenspan approaches but does not present a thesis as to why with our rising prosperity, our culture and learning has not progressed. Why was the top-rated radio show of 1939 “Information Please” where a panel of intellectuals…Oscar Levant on music…Clifton Fadiman on general knowledge…critic John Kiernan and others… vied in answering radio queries about the arts and history for $500 prizes…compared with the disgusting and decadent top-rated shows of today like “American Idol” where amateur belly dancers vie to become multi-millionaire entertainment icons. The answer is as old as the New Testament: material success without a belief in God and the eternal verities cannot and will not elevate the human condition.

Flashback: Humphrey Starts Off as an Outsider in the Senate, Becomes a Firebrand and is Humiliated by His Peers for Which He Apologizes…McCarthy Enters the House with Cynicism, Dry Wit and Needling of Others.

[Memoirs of more than fifty years in politics for my kids and grandchildren].

In 1949 Hubert Humphrey became the first Democratic-Farmer-Labor U. S. senator in Minnesota history. There were three Democratic senators before him…far earlier: in fact two were elected right after statehood in 1858-- Henry Mower Rice (1858-63) and James Shields (1858-59). Charles A. Towne made it from 1900-01. All the rest were either Republicans or Farmer-Laborites. The state’s populists were divided between the Democrats and the Farmer-Laborites which resulted in Republicans being elected for almost a century. Today Minnesota is still the only state that does not have a Democratic party but what is officially known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party (DFL).

I See My First President.

In October, 1948, as a 20-year-old sophomore at St. John’s I hitch-hiked with two Democratic buddies, Harry Arth and Art Hessburg, the 75 miles to Minneapolis to see a president of the United States, Harry Truman, at a DFL rally (we stayed at a Hessburg’s parents’ St. Paul home that night). We all wanted to see a president of the United States (including me even if I didn’t agree with him). We went to Minneapolis Auditorium that chilly night and had no trouble getting in…no guards, no real police presence (outside of a few cops snoozing in a police car outside).

The rally was to honor Harry Truman, then all but counted out for election. In order to swell the crowd, Humphrey had scoured the highways and byways to fill the place and it was still one third empty. In desperation he called one of his pals who co-founded Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) to add some lift to the crowd. He was Hollywood screen actor Ronald Reagan who was emcee, who introduced Humphrey (with Humphrey taking the honors of introducing President Truman). So that night instead of seeing just one president, we saw two as well as a future vice-president who came very close to becoming president.

Many years later after Truman had become (improbably) an icon, Humphrey a national figure and Reagan called a great president, I am told the number of people who claimed to have been in the Auditorium that very night has swelled to the point where the dingy place could never possibly have held them all—almost like the number of old geezers who saw Babe Ruth point at the fence before he hit a home run at Wrigley Field. But of the three after election day 1948, Truman was certainly the most self-satisfied since the media prognosticators had counted him out, Humphrey was the most ebullient and Reagan probably the most thoughtful—thoughtful because he had long entertained doubts about liberalism. Before Truman’s 1949-51 term was over, he would be on the track to conservatism, volunteering to head “Democrats for Nixon” in 1950, “Democrats for Eisenhower” in 1952 and making the switch to conservative Republican by 1964 to campaign for Barry Goldwater.

Humphrey’s ebullience, of course, never changed. Originally regarded as a dangerous leftwing zealot by some fellow party members, he was in fact a centrist and one of the last leaders of the old anti-communist centrist factions of the Democrats—please God may they return soon.

People forget how financially hard-up Hubert was when he came to the Senate. He had resigned as Minneapolis mayor shortly after election and had no income, relatively speaking, until early January, 1949. He sold his house and came to Washington to find one, looking at 125 houses in eight days, finally deciding with Muriel on one in Chevy Chase, Maryland for $28,000. He used the money from his Minneapolis house as a down payment but still had to borrow from his father—the man he had been borrowing from for decades ($1,100) to pay the moving van before it would release his furniture which sat in a van on a Washington street for two full days. The vacating Republicans from the eightieth congress that they ruled had unceremoniously moved out and so there was nobody with authority to give newly-elected lawmakers interim offices—so Humphrey had to use the offices of lobbyist Paul Porter as a temporary headquarters.

The Humphrey family now included Muriel and their four kids—Nancy (9), Hubert (Skip) 6, Bobby, 4 and Douglas 11 months. President Truman gave the entire Humphrey family—with Dad Humphrey and his mother--a memorable personal White House tour on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve 1949. But aside from that, Hubert found the standoffishness of the Senate on both sides of the aisle distinctly chilly. This was because he was acting chairman of the ADA. Nobody cared for that organization or people associated with it. Conservative Democrats were still smarting from the whipping Hubert gave them on the civil rights issue at the Philadelphia convention and Republicans were siding with the establishment Democrats, feeling that the brash Humphrey was going to disrupt the Senate with his civil rights “demagoguery” as he did his own convention.

No One Wanted to Introduce Hubert Around.

The Senate of 1949 was Democratic, presided over by Vice President Alben Barkley. But Democratic or not, traditionally, a new senator is led into the chamber by his colleague from his state. When Humphrey showed up to sit in the gallery prior to his being sworn in, he was spotted sitting up there but no one would volunteer to bring him down to the chamber and introduce him around. Joe Ball whom he defeated declined—an ungracious act. Humphrey’s soon to be colleague, Republican Ed Thye was not interested and made himself very scarce: very ungentlemanly. Nor were there takers on the Democratic side. The only two who might have done the job—Sen. Paul Douglas (D-Ill.) and Sen. Herbert Lehman (D-N.Y.) were in committee. Others declikned since they had an eye on not alienating the big southern powerbrokers, Harry Byrd (D-Va.) and Dick Russell (D-Ga.). Lyndon Johnson (D-Texas) was too busy brown-nosing Dick Russell and the other conservative Democratic elders—so none other than Sen. Lister Hill (D-Ala.)…a maverick, anti-civil rights but pro-internationalist…did the job and took him around. The press Humphrey got on the first day didn’t help him. “Time” magazine called him a “brash, bustling…hard-working, fast-talking fireball from the Midwest” who was also a “glib, jaunty spellbinder with a `listen, you guys’ approach.”

The bipartisan reaction was very chilly. Hubert listened to his father Dad Humphrey and shut up for a few months. But by March he had enough. Ironically on March 14, when he made his maiden speech (in behalf of a bill to establish a Missouri Valley Authority similar to the TVA) he said Congress was guilty of talking too much and getting too little done. A little ironic coming from the voluble Humphrey.

Sen. Harry Flood Byrd, chairman of Finance, turned in his chair, removed his spectacles and stared steadily at Hubert, then glanced over meaningfully to Sen. Bob Taft (R-Ohio), the uncrowned Senate leader who smiled and shook his head sadly. Humphrey was telling them they talked too much! Afterward Illinois’ Paul Douglas walked over to Hubert and clapped him on the back—which didn’t help either as Douglas was regarded as an impractical dreamer-theorist. But Humphrey didn’t give opprobrium much mind. In June he spoke for seven hours and 46 minutes against an amendment to the Taft-Hartley “reform” bill causing Bob Taft to charge he was conducting a filibuster. No, said Humphrey, “it just takes that much time to analyze one of the one hundred mistakes of the Taft-Hartley Act!” which got Taft’s temper up; the overstatement was typical of Humphrey: far from as “slave labor act” as Humphrey and Truman described it, Taft-Harley has continued to be the major labor management act even today.

In his first year, Humphrey introduced a plan that ultimately became Medicare; he got named rather late in the first year as chairman of a labor and public welfare subcommittee which sent out the first “impacted areas” school aid bill aimed toward federal aid to education. He boosted a FEPC (Fair Employment Practices commission) and said ominously, “if this bill is beaten, it will be our Southern colleagues who will be to blame” which antagonized the conservatives even more. The bill was beaten; Humphrey asked Truman to appoint an FEPC by executive order but Truman refused. Humphrey growled privately and rustled up a lot of press as a Young Turk (he was 37). But by the time he was 38, he got into a battle that threatened to derail his effectiveness for good.

For years Harry Byrd had run his own fiefdom called the Senate “Committee on Non-Essential Expenditures.” It was a sacred cow and regularly made headlines much like Sen. Bill Proxmire (D-Wis.) did for many years by issuing press releases on “golden fleece.” Humphrey trotted down to the Senate floor one day and as the press exulted made a fiery speech introducing a bill to end the life of the non-essential expenditures committee. He charged the Byrd committee was itself a non-essential expenditure spending more than a million dollars (even then not a major sum) in its existence each year, saying that many of its charges of federal waste were “undocumented.” He hadn’t given it much thought but made the speech in response to some of his allies at the ADA who didn’t like Byrd’s criticism of Truman’s fiscal and foreign policies. And he also hadn’t done his senatorial courtesy homework. Protocol required notifying Byrd that he would attack the work of the Byrd committee on the floor. That was a no-no. Everybody in the Senate canyon whispered that this was a brusque Midwestern rube.

Six days later, Byrd responded after making a great deal of preparation to get Republican and Democratic sympathizers mobilized. Turning on Humphrey without much observance of senatorial courtesy, he declared Humphrey was guilty of ‘nine misstatements in two thousand words, averaging a misstatement in every 250 words” and saying “the senator speaks like the wind.” He pointed out that Humphrey had asked for a $250,000 appropriation to investigate the coal industry only the day before attacking Byrd. Then Byrd went personal in words that rank with some of the bitterest ever spoken in the Senate:

“As the senator from Minnesota is a publicity expert himself, his statement, though not intended as such, should be regarded as a compliment from one who welcomes and has been singularly successful in creating publicity for himself and his objectives. If he has ever hidden his light under a bushel, I am unaware of it. And I have not observed any indication that he is of a shrinking violet type, evading publicity.” Then all the Senate patriarchs of both parties got up to defend Byrd and assail Humphrey—from Walter George of Georgia to Taft of Ohio to Milliken of Colorado to Tom Connally of Texas to the Democratic majority leader Scott Lucas of Illinois. The roll went on and on while Humphrey frantically tried to secure recognition from the chair which ignored him. George of Georgia, probably the most distinguished of all, thundered: “It was the height of reckless irresponsibility for any man to suggest the Byrd committee is nonessential.”

When Humphrey finally got recognition, he sputtered, “The Senator from Minnesota is no shrinking violet and before this debate is over he will not be an apple blossom either!”—a jibe at Byrd’s ownership of a prosperous apple orchard in the Shenandoah Valley. Then mixing his metaphors: “When I introduced the bill I knew I would set loose a hornet’s nest. I was advised I’d be mowed down. There has been some lawn mowing going on today but the shrinking violet has not been clipped!”

Then, as Humphrey was rolling on excitedly in self-defense, almost the entire Senate got up and trooped out.. Only New York’s Herbert Lehman and Illinois’ Paul Douglas remained. The vacating of the Senate was a stinging rebuke. In fact it was the first time in the modern era that this had been done in the history of the Senate. Humphrey wrote a long letter to “The New York Times” defending his position but notwithstanding this, whenever he spoke, a number of senators walked out. His future effectiveness was in grave danger. Gradually, tough as it was to do, Humphrey realized he had been grossly wrong on two counts—first, he had not mastered his subject, had used sloppy ADA research which was easily answered; second, he learned that how you say a thing is more important in the Senate than what you say—that the protocol demands referring to colleagues as gentlemen.

“It was the most miserable period in my life,” Humphrey later said to the press—a comment he repeated on occasions to me. He had to go virtually to each senator hat-in-hand and confess his brashness. But he did it. And he learned to apply witty self-derogation about his brashness and verbosity. Later he even speculated as a frail cancer victim, when there was a possibility surgeons would replace his bladder with a rubber one, that his Senate colleagues feared this could mean he could delay interminably a trip to bathroom, allowing him to speak even longer which would keep the Senate in overtime.

Next: How Humphrey rehabilitated himself in the Senate to become a key member of its Establishment including the South—and how he changed his style without sacrificing his liberalism.

McCarthy in the House: Ironic Wit, Proud Detachment.

Gene McCarthy began his career in the House not making such a rash mistake as did Humphrey. But even if he had, he would never have apologized. He never, so long as I knew him, made fun of himself—never. It was because of Godfrey Diekmann’s Doctrine of the Imperial Self. Under that doctrine, traditional grounding in doctrine was supplanted by personal identification with social justice on a make-it-up-as-you-go basis. McCarthy’s reputation as a theologian—part of his aura in the late `40s-- was undeserved. Rather he applied Godfrey’s scorning wit and jests directed to others (not imitating Godfrey who could also laugh at himself). With the quiet, reflective but inwardly proud McCarthy, there was no room for self-derogation.

In contrast to Hubert who burst on every scene like a bombshell, Gene McCarthy wisely informed his constituents he would probably use his first term in the House for “building and learning.” Accordingly he never appeared to be in a rush or overwhelmed with the importance of congressional work. In fact, he got tied up in traffic at the Capitol and almost missed the swearing-in ceremony. He wanted to be named to Foreign Affairs but wasn’t—ending up on the unglamorous Post Office and Civil Service. Because he was not brash in the slightest sense but had a dry, needling wit directed at (a) the Republicans and (b) some of the more pompous governmental figures, he became—to his surprise and that of his staff—quite popular with his first-term colleagues. His tall good looks, Ray Milland-like appearance and genial manner and a forerunner advance publicity of Catholic progressivism slowly generated around the Hill.

One fellow-first termer was Ohio Democrat Wayne Hays. A not-too-bright ex-Belmont county official from Flushing, Ohio, Hays was a kind of loner because of first term insecurity; McCarthy was a loner and first-termer as well but he was very secure, just intellectually bored with a lot of the debate on the floor. Hays and McCarthy would sit together in the House chamber. Hays recalled that every so often McCarthy would whisper to him: “This is a hell of a way to make a living, huh, Wayne?” Also, on occasion McCarthy would nudge Hays during an acrimonious debate and whisper, “why don’t you say something?” Hays later told an interviewer, “Once or twice I did and I immediately got into hot water.” McCarthy seemed to enjoy Hays’ discomfiture. Hays added: “I found out that Gene was a great guy who, as my father would say, would mould the bullets and get somebody else to shoot them.” It was obvious that Gene was having droll fun with the gullible Hays.

Hays overcame his insecurity to become one of the more arrogant panjandrums of the House He stayed in Congress for 14 terms, becoming chairman of the Administration committee which handled the housekeeping for the House: its parking facilities, restaurants etc. When he was angry at someone, he would order the air conditioning be shut off in the congressman’s office. He continued as a tyrant until 1986 when the divorced Hays hired a blonde clerical worker for the administration committee, Elizabeth Ray. She couldn’t type or take shorthand but was given the understanding that she was to be his mistress. This lasted two years. When Hays got remarried he failed to invite Ray to his wedding, leading her to pout and tell the media she was good enough to be his mistress at an annual taxpayers’ pay of $14,000 in place of clerical skills--but not fit to attend his wedding. He confessed all and resigned from the House. So much for a first term congressman, uncertain and insecure who became pompous and demanding. Gene McCarthy never adopted that attitude. He was always quiet and introspective.

In his first term, Gene set a pattern for a generally liberal voting record he would follow in Congress—supporting the Truman anti-USSR program in foreign policy and also the Truman progressivism on domestic. When he could, he switched committees—to Agriculture. It was not as strange an assignment as many thought: Ramsey county had a vigorous truck farming industry that existed in what are now suburbs, Gene had come from as farm background…and, of course, if he had any thought about running for the Senate he’d have to understand agriculture.

He soon caught the attention of House Majority Leader John McCormack of Massachusetts for one purpose and one alone: Gene was an Irish Catholic markedly different from another Irish Catholic House member also from Massachusetts--John Kennedy. McCormack despised Kennedy and vice versa (the Kennedys and the McCormacks had long been at odds). Gene soon discovered the animosity and maneuvered his way into McCormack’s good graces by trading on the old man’s hatred of Kennedy. Gene would sip some bourbon in a back room off the floor with the older man. McCormack had very slight formal education but learned politics from the streets of Boston. Kennedy, of course, had gone to Harvard—so Gene ridiculed Kennedy with devastating humor that tickled the old guy enormously. But he was careful not to jibe at Kennedy frontally with the result that he was one of the few Congressmen who was invited to Kennedy’s wedding to Jacqueline Bouvier. At the same time, McCormack, a late learner about Catholic social justice principles, got McCarthy invited to make speeches for the Democratic National Committee…while Godfrey Diekmann who rustling up speech opportunities, to the National Catholic Education Association in Cleveland, to write occasionally for “Commonweal” magazine—where he wrote that governmental interference in matters of personal morality is a greater danger than interference at the material level.

Next: How Gene met the rise of Sen. Joe McCarthy and anti-Communism amid charges he had been weak on internal security and Red subversion—the challenge coming from a Kennedy.