Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Flashback: Humphrey, Accepted by the Senate Establishment, and Secure with Youngdahl’s Federal Appointment, Is Given Kudos by Truman as Youngdahl Saves the Day. Gene McCarthy is Named to Ways & Means and Links His Future with Hubert’s—Temporarily. And..


[More from 50 years plus in politics written as a memoir for my kids and grandchildren].

Youngdahl’s Manifold Benefits to Hubert.

The removal of Republican Governor Luther Youngdahl as a certain obstacle to Hubert Humphrey’s career…courtesy of Harry Truman who named him to the federal bench…proved to Hubert that perhaps fate was not dogging the junior senator to oblivion. Three positive things happened to the Democratic party, nationally and in Minnesota, as result of Youngdahl’s removal from politics.

First, the congenitally insecure Humphrey could concentrate on trimming his brashness so as to be accepted by the Senate establishment. It didn’t mean he had to become more conservative; just that he had to follow Senate protocol. This he did. He began to take greater notice of the positive side of the southerners, due to his friend Russell Long of Louisiana. Long pointed out that Texas’ junior senator Lyndon Johnson, on Armed Services (who came to the Senate the same year Hubert did, 1948) knew how to schmooze people and advised Hubert to take lessons. Hubert was never that good at hiding his true feelings as was Johnson, but he respected Johnson’s brilliant tactical sense. So the removal of Youngdahl gave Hubert what he always sorely had to emphasize, his self-confidence which was always masked by a peppery enthusiasm when inside he was dolefully wondering if all would not fall in on him.

Second, and this is a very long Number two so bear with me:

Removal of Youngdahl from Minnesota utterly decimated the Republican party, allowing Hubert freer rein to set up a good DFL machine. When Youngdahl left the governorship, his successor was the lieutenant governor, one C. Elmer Anderson. (It is important here to state that in Minnesota’s Scandinavian lore there are many people named Elmer Anderson. I worked for one of the brightest—a Chicago-born Norwegian orphan who moved to Minnesota as a child, becoming a salesman for of all things an industrial glue company, H. B. Fuller Co., then rising to its presidency, becoming state senator, architect of welfare reform and ultimately Minnesota governor. He was Elmer L. Andersen (with an “s-e-n” ending signifying Norwegian heritage). But C. Elmer Anderson (with an “s-o-n” ending testifying to Swedish derivative) of Brainerd, Minnesota was far different.

He had great personal modesty which was fortunate since he had a great deal to be modest about. When in 1938 Harold Stassen filed for governor, he wanted his lieutenant governor to be a Catholic from central Minnesota, an able lawyer but now totally forgotten young man named Nicholas Kearns. Then (as now) lieutenant governor candidates ran for the nomination apart from the governor—thus Stassen knew Kearns was going to have trouble when a Minneapolis man named Harold Anderson filed at the last minute against Kearns for the GOP nomination. So Stassen knew he had to divide the Scandinavian vote. There was scant time to find someone else named Anderson and Stassen asked his friends to find one.

Finding a man named Anderson within 24 hours who was a Republican and who wanted to run for political office as a Republican in that Depression era was difficult—but with only a few hours to spare, Stassen’s operative in northern Minnesota phoned and said he had located a young man 26 years old named C. (for Clyde) Elmer Anderson who would fill the bill. He had no money, ran a newspaper dealership in that resort town which meant that he would have to wrap up the daily papers and hire kids to deliver them each morning early. “What sort of guy is he?” asked Stassen. No great shakes, said the operative—but he’s clean, has no bad habits. He has no money but he’s willing to do it. I even think he’s a Republican, come to think of it.

“Well, get him to put on his suit and get him down to St. Paul as soon as you can!” said Stassen. “Last day of filing is today and he has to be at the secretary of state’s office before closing time at 5 p.m. Tell him we’ll pony up the $10 filing fee.” C. Elmer Anderson had a suit and he was driven to St. Paul by the Stassen operative. They filed him with Stassen’s $10. Then they drove him to Stassen’s office.

“You don’t have to worry about a thing,” said Stassen to C. Elmer. “All you have to do is to let us publicize the fact that you’re running. You see we don’t want you to win at all—but we want you to divide the vote so Kearns wins. Do you get it?”

Elmer nodded and went on his way, figuring that he got an expense-paid trip to the Twin Cities, a good steak dinner and would stand to get some statewide publicity before losing a nomination as lieutenant governor—a net gain for an unknown newspaper distributor. The Stassen publicity machine began to tout the fact that two Swedes were running for the same post on the Republican side and also giving a great boost to Kearns whom the machine wanted to win. On primary election day, Stassen was nominated for governor overwhelmingly but, surprise, so was C. Elmer Anderson, handily defeating Harold Anderson and Nicholas Kearns. But since in those days lieutenant governors were elected separately from governors, the Farmer-Laborites had named a candidate who, were he to be elected with Stassen, could easily derail Stassen’s highly vaunted agenda. What to do?

There was only one thing to do—see that the nonentity C. Elmer Anderson was elected along with Stassen…which meant that Stassen would have to importune his friends to raise money for this nonentity. This Stassen did. Both he and C. Elmer were smashingly elected to their posts in 1938.

After that Stassen tried to ponder why C. Elmer Anderson won the nomination in the first place over two immensely better known candidates and how he won election for lieutenant governor by topping even Stassen’s robust numbers. He decided it had to do with the importance voters placed on the unique way of parting one’s name in the middle. If he had run as Clyde E. Anderson, Stassen reasoned, he would very probably not have won at all—which is what Stassen would have desired. In any event, the good fortune of C. Elmer Anderson at the hands of the Minnesota electorate started a run on the habit of Scandinavian candidates parting their names in the middle. In short order an H. Carl Anderson was elected to the U. S. House from western Minnesota and a P. Kenneth Peterson was elected successively to the legislature and his brother C. Donald Peterson was elected a judge. In southern Minnesota a pig farmer named W. Victor Lundquist was elected to an important county position. The voters fancied those who parted their names in the middle as more important than others.

Since he was stuck with C. Elmer Anderson as his lieutenant governor, Stassen spent some time with the young man, trying to discover his intellectual virtues. The hours he spent almost turned his brain to mush since whatever C. Elmer said filled Stassen with depression and unutterable tedium. C. Elmer was nice enough when he was a private citizen but now that he was lieutenant governor, he was filled with hubris. Stassen once grabbed him by the lapels and told him he was a dolt—which was not wise but one could hardly blame Harold. For a time C. Elmer wondered if Stassen would kill him. But no--recovering his temper, Harold ordered him to buy a few new suits and take a lesson in presiding over the Senate. The lesson didn’t work very well so the Republican politicians said he had to remember only one lesson: when a matter comes up for judgment by the chair, he should look down at the parliamentarian who would write the decision in crayon and hold it aloft.

That worked for the first term. But Stassen, of course, was embarked on a presidential mission—and someday he would have to sacrifice the governorship to run for something else…and he didn’t want C. Elmer Anderson, an albatross whom he, Stassen, had found and financed, to kill the GOP by ever becoming governor. So in the second term, Stassen raised an enormous amount of money for a candidate to oppose C. Elmer on the Republican ticket. That candidate, Edward J. Thye, his secretary of agriculture with a wide acquaintanceship throughout the state, won and became lieutenant governor. When World War Ii started, Stassen resigned the governorship to go to the U. S. Navy where he hoped to compile a war record that was mandatory to be elected president in the postwar era…and Thye became governor. Dusting off his hands, Stassen told himself: that is the end of C. Elmer Anderson.

But not so. Like moss on a tree which you can remove but crawls back, C. Elmer got elected lieutenant governor once more with Luther Youngdahl. Youngdahl had a Christian-in-politics forebearance. He tried to find something good about C. Elmer and found he didn’t beat his wife and wasn’t unkind of his children. Youngdahl forbade him to come to see him since he wanted to think well of C. Elmer and he couldn’t with all the yak-yaking. But Youngdahl had gotten to despise the Republican party anyhow and believed it richly deserved its fate at the hands of C. Elmer.

So when Youngdahl accepted his federal judgeship, C. Elmer Anderson at last—after fourteen years of waiting—became governor. The GOP thought Stassen’s ambition was unflattering and Youngdahl’s liberalism was awful—but C. Elmer, who was a dreadful stand-pat, was intolerable. In his first news conference as new governor, he had a prepared statement to read. After he finished, he faced a dreadful fate: answering questions by making up the answers himself with nobody around to help him.

A journalist asked him this: “Starting off as governor, what is your impression of the Minnesota Republican party?”

C. Elmer’s answer was: “I am concerned about its lack of apathy”—and swung on his heel and walked back to his office.

The reporters looked at themselves. Did they hear what they thought they just did: a lack of apathy? One reporter chased after him and shouted—“but there’s no lack of apathy, Governor!” C. Elmer responded over his shoulder: “Oh yes there is.”

Under C. Elmer Anderson there was no lack of apathy, believe me. But there was enough gas in the old GOP buggy to elect him on his own in 1952—but after that the wheels started to come off and he was defeated to well deserved oblivion…and apathy…along with his party.

That’s a long point 2…the second advantage that came to the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party with the appointment of Youngdahl to the federal court.

Third (and this is fairly long itself)…came from the liberal nature of new federal judge Youngdahl himself. Appointed to the bench in the District of Columbia, he happened to be the judge with the case of Owen Lattimore assigned to him--twice. You don’t have to be a Joe McCarthy, seeing communists under every bed, to appreciate the significance of Owen Lattimore. I studied his case when I worked for Congressman Walter Judd (R-Minn.) as ranking member of House Foreign Affairs in the 1950s when Judd was specializing in Far Eastern policy. Lattimore was a highly influential expert on Far Eastern foreign policy under FDR and Truman whose best friend was a White House official, liaison to the State Department, Laughlin Currie who served FDR and Truman (a Soviet agent, named in the Venona report who later fled to the USSR). My boss, a former medical missionary to China, was studying the role of Lattimore in connection with the fall of China to Mao and the sequences leading up to the Korean War.

Was Lattimore an influence? Lattimore informed his friends by memo which I studied, “I am in Washington about four days a week and when there can always be reached at Lauchlin Currie’s office, room 228, State Department building, telephone National 1414, ext. 90.” To say that Lattimore had no important policy role in the FDR-Truman administrations is like saying Dick Morris had no important effect on Bill Clinton’s campaign strategy since he was not on the White House staff—and anyhow Lattimore actually was on the U. S. payroll as I ascertained as a staffer, drawing checks from the Office of War Information and the State Department as member of its mission to Japan.

He was sent to advise Chiang Kai-shek from 1941 to 1942 on the recommendation of Soviet agent Currie. He accompanied Vice President Henry Wallace on his trip to Siberia and China in 1944. He toured Stalin’s slave labor camps with Wallace and enthused about them as “a combination of Hudson’s Bay Company and the TVA.” Had Lattimore had to undergo a trial as Alger Hiss did, the Truman administration would have been devastated ands its reputation would have been indelibly changed from what it is now. But he was saved. After facing two Senate investigations in Democratic congresses, which recommended action against him, the case against Lattimore went to the federal district court in Washington, D. C.—twice.

Twice U. S. District Judge Luther Youngdahl dismissed the charges and the Truman administration was spared an embarrassment that could have created a constitutional crisis that could easily have destroyed what remained of the reputation of Truman. Truman now has the reputation of a tough Cold Warrior. All of that was gained in Europe with the Marshall Plan; it was seriously jeopardized in the Far East with the malingering influence of Currie and Lattimore.

With a Republican judge sparing him, President Truman had great reason to be grateful to Hubert Humphrey…for convincing him to name a Republican governor as federal judge who single-handedly saved the administration from a second Alger Hiss-like embarrassment. It was for that reason that Harry Truman, thinking seriously of running for reelection in 1952 and needing a fresh young voice as vice president, put Hubert as number one of his list. Hubert was thrilled. Here he had been worrying about being reelected to the Senate in 1954 until Youngdahl took himself out of the way—but now he had a chance to become vice president of the United States in 1953 at the age of only 42, with plenty of time to graduate to the number one position. Was this a great country or what?

McCarthy as “Christian in Politics.”

All the while, Gene McCarthy was honing his reputation as a “Christian in politics” through extension of national and international connections with the Catholic church, courtesy his friend Fr. Godfrey Diekmann, OSB. Godfrey had extended his own influence by his reliance on “a return to the ancients,” skillfully parsed to circumvent any hierarchal nature of the Church. Pius XII was on the throne and a vigorous foe of the Left. His pronouncements on Communism had great effect. So Godfrey in his lectures began a recitation of why the Papacy should command such autonomous attention anyhow. After all, the ancient fathers, Godfrey said, believed changes in the Church should come from the interaction of all its members in open and shared reaction to the Spirit. That was not remotely true but a myth. Obviously when communications took months in the communicating, bishops had to innovate but this idea was never, ever consummated. But the Godfrey inspired myth was designed to begin a popular call to destabilize the papacy.

Reasoned Godfrey: Pius IX, (reign: 1846-1870), was sick with epilepsy which led him to emotional tirades—(unstable: get it?). He had sketchy education like most Italian clerics of his time (get it?). In theology he was only sparingly informed (get it?). And he had a weak staff around him (get it?). He started off making concessions to political liberalism which Godfrey welcomed—but then backtracked during a time when Paris and Vienna were being overturned by revolutionaries which Godfrey disapproved of.

To crack down and react against a sea of dissent, he had devised the “Syllabus of Errors” which put the Church on the opposite side of modernism—some okay, some drastic but all of which Godfrey hated. And even more important, Pius called a Council—Vatican I composed of 700 bishops from all five continents that defined the doctrine of infallibility, declaring that when the Pope speaks “ex-cathedra” or from the chair on faith and morals—and only then—he cannot err. In the voting, 533 bishops voted in favor and only 2 (including the bishop, interestingly enough, of Little Rock, Arkansas) against. This is the Council Godfrey despised because it endorsed the supremacy of the Pope which didn’t fit Godfrey’s view of the Church at all..

Godfrey reasoned that the doctrine could have been either watered down or radically reformed except for the intervention of history. But it was a pretty near unanimous endorsement. Three days before it was adopted, Napoleon III declared war on Prussia ensuring his own downfall. The Pope found himself confined to the Vatican—calling himself “a prisoner of the Vatican.” So since Vatican I was interrupted by the war, Godfrey maintained “infallibility” was a myth, concocted by a sick old man with epileptic fits, a weak staff and emotional hiccups. Thus all of us know it doesn’t mean much anyhow—since the only “infallible” pronouncement was to define the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

In his lectures from the 1940s through the `50s, Godfrey looked forward to a new Council—a Vatican II—which would return the Church to what he wished it would be…and which he had mythologized it was, the free-form laity influenced by the spirit of God much like a theological Rotary Club. His fervently expressed wish even trickled down to me, a student in the sub-par theological classes of Fr. Ernest Kilzer, OSB. One day in 1949 I asked Ernie about what good a Council would do.

“Let me say, Godfrey lives for it,” he said. “But if you ask me, if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

That was the first time I ever heard that statement.

Influenced by Godfrey and concurrently influencing Godfrey, Gene McCarthy…the “Christian in Politics”…now on the House Ways and Means committee decided that the way to spiritual attainment was via the free and untrammeled conscience of Wise Men (ala Plato) of which he was par exemplar. With Hubert’s rise in esteem both in the Senate and with President Harry Truman, Gene resolved to tie himself to Hubert…for a time at least, recognizing that Hubert was not the intellectual that Gene Himself was. But as Godfrey always said, one uses those who can be useful.

1 comment:

  1. "much like a theological Rotary Club"

    That is a marvelous phrase worth committing to memory!