Friday, November 30, 2007

Personal Asides: Henry Hyde 1924-2007): Rest in Peace. May Your Assassin Know No Rest… Bill Brady and Russ Stewart on WLS-AM Sunday.


Henry Hyde.

The man I knew for forty years as “Uncle Henry” is gone. There will not be his like in the Congress again soon. Perhaps never. Some thoughts:

I hope that Congressman Rahm Emanuel has retained some portion of the innate grace from his ballet dancing past not to attend Henry’s wake or funeral. But if he goes it will be typical.

Typical because as everyone in Washington knows including the media that will not publish it, Emanuel, once President Bill Clinton’s hatchet-man (felicitously called his political director) looked skyward in innocence as porno-magazine owner-editor Larry Flynt disclosed that decades earlier Henry had an affair from his Illinois legislature days—which was supposed to tit for tat, to even things up with a president who allowed himself to be pleasured in an anteroom off the Oval Office by a courtesan intern paid by the taxpayers…on occasions enjoying himself with her even when a House member was on the phone talking to him about the possibility of war…who then lied about it under federal oath, lied to the people and then admitted he lied.

You see, chortled Emanuel executing his Grand Pas d’action, Hyde is a hypocrite! Everybody does it! Evil that is performed should be countenanced as self-justificatory. People lie so the truth should be repealed. The Clintonesque media loved it and still do. With that supreme bettement tendu jete Emanuel left the business and went on to become a multi-millionaire investment banker who legally yes but adroitly used his old White House contacts to enrich himself when he knew nothing about banking, to run for office as an interloper in his district and, reverting to his old trade to complain that a female Democratic competitor who lived there all her life, was the beneficiary of an attack by her near-senile supporter who mistakenly said Emanuel had dual citizenship which Emanuel escalated to an anti-Semitic insult; nd, once nominated gain the help of Mayor Daley’s water commissioner and patronage workers to elect him to the House…where he landed a seat on Ways and Means and chairmanship of the “D triple C.” And now as head of the Democratic House caucus. There he stands as a gaunt, grey-faced shadow behind Nancy Pelosi. Very impressive.

Where Rahm is different than anyone else in this game is that everyone else in politics at one time or other had a job to do they didn’t like. As one who knew him many years ago when he was young (young? he was never young) there’s nothing about the work Rahm doesn’t like. Including the job he was shocked, shocked to see done on Henry Hyde, scars of which were carried in Hyde’s failing health and in today’s obituary.

You would not expect a him to feel remorse. So he will step to the bier, lean, gaunt-like, looking for all the world as an advance-man for a famine. He will be in his proper navy blue sincere suit, dark tie with Windsor knot with his cavernous eyes lowered reverently in sorrow. Corleone orders the cortege car to follow the hearse overflowing with expensive flowers bearing the ribbon: “From a bereaved friend.”

Almost as if Henry hadn’t received this threat from the bad-breathed one who said:

You can have it both ways if you’re smart, Henry. Vote for impeachment but see that it doesn’t pass the Committee. Think of your family. Your wife is already dead, god rest her soul but your daughters and sons who look up to you and their children, what will they think of you? Understand this is a war but it is different here than the war you fought in World War II. Then you could fire a gun and kill somebody a mile away. Not now. You want this to go into your obituary? It will if we bring it out or if Mr. Flynt brings it up in his magazine. But you can spare yourself this.

Henry said later to me: “I couldn’t live with myself if I listened to that.” Before retirement when asked if he would go through the impeachment again he said, “honestly, I don’t know.” But when he was confronted by the bad-breathed surrogate who said all this-- you won’t have to go through if you kill impeachment—Henry answered no. Even so, he knew the media world wouldn’t understand the difference between a president sworn to defend the Constitution lying under oath and a guy decades ago with a woman. They didn’t then; they don’t now. They can’t afford to see the difference.

Twice the bad-breathed one approached him. The second time he said fundamentally this--

This is the real world, Henry and just as you prepare to bring impeachment think of what our disclosure will do to you and your family. You go to Mass now every morning and to communion, too. Well think of what those in the pews will think as you go up there to receive the Eucharist Henry; think of what they will say. They will say this is Henry Hyde the adulterer. Think what your grandchildren will say and think about you forever, Henry. Do you understand?

Henry did and carried out his duty. The Flynt charge was made. It hit Hyde harder than he thought it would. It stayed with him for life. Once he told me that he had been hit by the “Irish sickness,” i.e. depression. Much later he began to physically fail after an operation. He began to fall. He had to get a wheel-chair.

He told me with a smile, “I think the wheels are coming off” but a committee staffer Tom Streithorst said, “you know what it is? It’s the affair. It’s killing him physically. He’s of the older generation. Your generation. These days a long-ago episode means very little. But bred as he is in the Judeo-Christian tradition, what was a meaningless thing long ago rides with him now as he looks at his children. He’s mortified. He will never be the same.”

When he brought the bill of impeachment to the august Senate, he was told by Trent Lott that it wouldn’t fly. Lott had been a boy cheerleader at Old Miss, the man with bad breath had reminded somebody with a hint of more to come. Ted Stevens said it was inconceivable to do this for a lie about sex. The man with bad breath? Anyhow, the Republican Senate crumbled. No president can lie under oath, violate the Constitution and not pay a price. He did but they got even.

When I had lunch with Henry near his retirement home in Geneva, I knew he had overcome it. He told one funny story after another. Frankly, I thought he was still under-appreciative of what he had accomplished. That’s why, I hope that before his heart stopped early-early last morning at 3:30 a.m. or so he understood fully where he stands in our firmament.

The man who died yesterday truly fit the title “United States Representative in Congress” where many do not: they are just locals sent to the House to get goodies for their districts and then quit when they can play the lobbying game and make a lot of money. Not Henry Hyde. He stayed until he could stand no more and he went home.

In retrospect, it is clear that he was a man of the Whole House and the Whole Congress. For one thing, it’s an anomaly but his great goals were achieved much easier when the House was run by the Democrats. Maybe that was because Democrats knew him for what he was--instinctively he always was a Chicago blue-collar working guy, an Irish Catholic Democrat from birth.

To his greatest credit: He enacted the Hyde amendment…the first curtailment of abortion since “Roe v. Wade” and passed it repeatedly each congressional session through Democratic as well as Republican houses. It is intriguing that only when Republicans gained control of the House that he ran into trouble with the establishment of that body. There had been an understanding under Republicans following the accession of Newt Gingrich that committee chairmen serve out term limits to allow others to be chairman. Impeachment took up so much time when he was judiciary chairman that when impeachment was completed, he asked Speaker J. Dennis Hastert for am extension to allow him to work on other things that had been on his agenda. The Speaker waggled his eyebrows, pursed his lips as if to say something important and then decided not to. The answer came from Hastert’s top Illinois minion: no, you will have to step down, because as you know, rules are rules.

So Hyde did. Since he had been ranking Republican on House International Affairs he was thought a natural to become chairman of it. But just to be sure he asked Hastert. The Speaker listened to his request, waggled his eyebrows, pursued his lips as if to say something important and then decided not to. The answer came from the same Hastert minion: no, you see, the Speaker favors someone else for the job. Not you..

Thereupon Henry ran for the chairmanship that should have been conferred on him as his right-- against the guy as an insurgent against the Hastert machine, , knocked him off and became chairman of International Affairs.

Whenever Henry is laid to rest they will be burying one of the few “national” House members (only 18 since 1789) in our nation’s history. These few started with…

…the man who could have either a House or Senate seat and decided on the House since it was, in his view, more important and from which he wrote and caused to be passed the Bill of Rights, Rep. James Madison of Virginia. Rep. Fisher Ames of Massachusetts who served in the first, second and third Congresses and devised the committee system; Rep. Henry Clay of Kentucky who as Speaker made the job second in influence only to that of the president (before we went to the Senate) but who at the same time relaxed the Speaker’s autocratic control over members. They include…

… Rep. John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, outnumbered by pro-slavery members and northern compromisers but so influential he was called Old Man Eloquent, whose greatness was made in the House against slavery (following his ineffective presidency) and who died on the House floor; Rep. Thaddeus Stevens of Vermont, the abolitionist, who brought articles of impeachment against President Andrew Johnson; Rep. James Garfield of Ohio, who made his mark as banking and currency chairman to oppose roaring inflation and as Republican floor leader of the House; Rep. William McKinley of Ohio who as Ways and Means chairman glimpsed the future of economic growth he was later to certify as president; Thomas B. Reed of Maine who restored hierarchal control as a powerful Speaker to join in tandem with Theodore Roosevelt. And also….

…Rep. .Joseph Cannon of Illinois who as Speaker re-directed what had become a loose collection of discordant debaters into a legislative power once again; Rep. George Norris of Nebraska who successfully challenged Cannon when he grew tyrannical and made the body more democratic; Rep. Fiorello H. LaGuardia of New York who with Norris banned employers’ from preventing their workers to organize into unions; Rep. Robert (“Fighting Bob”) La Follette of Wisconsin who with his progressive sons who fought the growing power of corporations over U.S. political life; Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a doughty feminist, the first woman to ever serve in the House and who voted against our entry into two world wars. Plus another great woman…

…Rep. Jessie Sumner of Illinois, the agrarian populist who urged farmers to raise less corn and more hell; Rep. Sam Rayburn of Texas who was by all odds the outstanding Speaker of the 20th century during seventeen years ranging from FDR’s progressivism to Dwight Eisenhower’s moderation; Rep. Walter Judd of Minnesota who alerted the country to the Nazi and Japanese threat and to the threat of communism. His strong right arm on Foreign Affairs from Illinois the indomitable Marguerite Stitt Church of Illinois and of course…

… Newt Gingrich of Georgia, no friend of Henry’s, but the most innovative and creative (in policy) Speaker since Clay, yet a disastrous and chaotic mis-manager, reckoned even today as 50% genius and 50% nuts. His hammer, a man who had killed bugs for a living in Dallas, Rep. Tom De Lay of Texas, the most effective majority leader (of either party) in its history.

The history of this country spans what began as an aristocracy and expanded to step-by-step to reach out to the little people. We waged successful battles against slavery, sweatshops, segregation; we instilled taboos against incest, bestiality, cannibalism, prostitution, drug addiction, mutilation, self-degradation. First property owners only voted, then with Jefferson and Jackson the “great unwashed,” then after Lincoln the blacks, followed by the empowerment of labor to somewhat match capital; farmers to equate their power with the railroad barons; women to win the vote alongside the men; motor-voter expanding the franchise.

Finally…finally…someone stood up to defend the littlest people of all—the unborn. It happened first in the state House and then, after he modestly declined the honor in the U.S. House and could find no one else (they were all afraid), he pulled a scrap from his notebook and wrote in longhand what was to become the Hyde Amendment.

Someday when we get over our contemporary misapplication of “liberalism” which negates the rights of the unborn and get back to what liberalism was meant to be, Henry Hyde…once a blue-collar Democrat and since then a blue-collar Republican…will be remembered as he truly was—the Greatest Abolitionist and protector of human rights.. That time is not here yet. America has a wondrous habit of denial on abortion. It is like (as he once said) the 13th floor in a hotel: a floor that technically doesn’t exist but in reality does.. You get in an elevator and go up through the floors—1-2-3…up to 10-11-12…and 14. Wait! You say: What happened to the 13th floor? Nothing. It’s there only it’s ignored. We call it Floor 14. Like Floor 13 we just choose to ignore it. But thanks to him we have recognized it.

It is no exaggeration to say that Henry Hyde saved millions of lives that would have been otherwise snuffed out. Which served human rights greater than these: Alexander Hamilton, who raged against the slave trade in New York but couldn’t change it; these anti-slave trade leaders talked the talk well but couldn’t change things: Julia Ward Howe, John Jay, Elijah Lovejoy, Lucretia Mott, Tom Paine, Henry David Thoreau, Sojurner Truth, William Wilberforce. Henry Hyde actually passed legislation that not only defended rights but saved millions of lives.

We will see that one day. Not now with this squalid culture but someday.

Henry told me one day…probably anticipating what was to come through his own personal Gethsemane…that the great incentive to be pro-life is this: that no matter how we may have messed up earlier in life, if he defend the unborn children, his great expectation is that when the most unworthy of us arrives Up There, they will hear a chorus of angelic voices. They will be the voices that were stilled by abortion but who will greet us.

As a fellow earthen vessel, I hope a small trio of singers will greet me. I know…I am sure…an orchestral symphony the size of the Mormon Tabernacle choir will and are greeting Henry with a heavenly concert exulting praise for what he has done to stir the nation’s conscience in their behalf.

Well done to the man I used to call in all fondness “Uncle Henry.”

The assassin never laid a glove on your matchless reputation.

God bless you and keep you in His bosom, sir.

Bill Brady & Russ Stewart.

State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) chairman of the Fred Thompson presidential campaign in Illinois and journalist-commentator and political analyst for The Chicago Daily Observer will be my guest on WLS-AM (890) on Sunday at 8 p.m.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Personal Asides: Finish This Bit of Doggerel…Free Association of Thoughts on Political Subjects. .



Finish if you can…with search engines at rest…this bit of doggerel.

“A flea and a fly in a flue/

Were imprisoned so what could they do?




Free Association.

Two Illinois-born septuagenarian journalists are at the head of the line as Washington pundits. Robert Novak, born in Joliet, who for many years has been a friend of mine has the reputation of being a Republican—but that’s not right. He is first of all a news-gatherer and lets the chips fall where they may. He has a tendency to be somewhat mischievous as with his leaked notation the other day that Hillary Clinton people have something on Barack Obama and may leak it.

This angered the Mother Superior of Liberal Self-Righteousness, Carol Marin but when I had lunch the other day with a person high up in the Obama campaign, I learned that the rumor that Hillary’s got something on Obama and may have it divulged has been on the street for weeks. Ms. Marin would like to install the Marquis of Queensbury rules on political journalism so that the onus always falls on conservatives (she interviewed Henry Hyde a few years ago and told him that her elderly aunt couldn’t bring herself to vote for him because the old aunt is Democrat—which I am sure disturbed the venerable Henry not a bit). But sadly the Mother Superior who wears her ideology on her sleeve isn’t making the rules. Anyhow the Mother Superior doesn’t like it when rumors fly that somebody may have something on Obama. That is so-so-so how shall we say, un-genteel. Now if somebody had something on Bush that would be another matter.

Bob is a brilliant economic and social conservative and I would also say an Arab-ist, a tough critic of Israel, a supporter of term limits, what else? He is too much a fan of Jack Kemp for my taste: I believe Kemp is about as much an economic determinist as Karl Marx (only on the free market side). Everything with Kemp is shaped by economics. I vowed that if he ever used that hoary old line “a rising tide lifts all boats” I would regurgitate all over his copy of Adam Smith. Kemp is a classic example of a athletic jock who played ball while his classmates at Occidental were studying, who came late to ideas and has never gotten over it. When I used to go into his office every so often he would drop allusions to Plato’s analogy of the cave. Freshman Philosophy 101. Kemp is also gutless. His running HUD was a disaster.

In addition to everything else, Novak has written the bravest i.e. self-revelatory autobiography I have ever read with the exception of the diary of Samuel Pepys. “Prince of Darkness” is an outstanding piece of work and you should read it—topped only by the TV interview conducted of him on EWTN by Raymond Arroyo who is really one of the best interviewers in the business but who is too much ignored because he is not on the networks or major cable stations. His interviews with bishops are superb.

The other big name journalist from Illinois is David Broder. Reading David Broder doesn’t tell you anything. He eschews gossip of course, eschews ideology and writes ploddingly. In private conversation he is crisp and insightful. He is an excellent speaker. Were he to develop his journalism to match his speaking style he would be truly notable. He is so fusty, so establishmentarian in his ponderous, cliché-driven opinions it is just natural that he has won a Pulitzer prize for commentary. Just the kind of stuff the Pulitzer prize committee would vote for—stuff that doesn’t offend anybody and carries with it a residue of political correctness. I am saddened that Bob Novak hasn’t won a Pulitzer since the stuff he details is fresh and original. But then the Pulitzer people are resolutely unoriginal and if you are a critic of Israel as Bob is that disqualifies you.

Speaking of the journalistic fad to be politically correct, this week we have had a spate of stories about Harold Washington since he has been dead 20 years. I yield to no one in my love for his fun-loving, mischievous personality and his eagerness on election night to privately tell the Sultan of Pout, Jesse Jackson that he should plan to visit Africa more often because the black face and personality here will belong to Harold. I wish I could tell you what he called me one night when we were both on Chicago public radio. He was a Congressman then and I zinged him for refusing to meet with President Ford. At the break in the show he turned to me, roared with laughter and said “Roeser, you’re a whole sack full of a------s.” The engineer waved frantically because we were not off the air and Harold covered his mouth and we screamed with laughter. How can you not like a guy like that.

The outrageous ego-strutting Jackson offended Harold in the election night warm-up before the winner was introduced. But there is no doubt that Harold was the most vivid, warm and ingratiating personality ever to hold the Chicago mayoralty, exceeding even Richard J. Daley. Richard J. was at his best when he forgot about himself and sputtered with anger but Harold was always at his personal best—witty, conversant, literate (far more so than Richard J. or his kid) although he hugely overused the word “burgeoning.” To Harold everything was burgeoning—poverty, the desperation of his enemies, the insidiousness of the Republicans et al.

All these things the media don’t capture in an effort to sanitize and sanctimonize Harold. They also make him out to be a great mayor. He was not. He was a great political movement leader. Government was rather boring to Harold and he exhibited a masterly attention to detail. There was no vision or familiarity with municipal government in him. But politics was a different matter. He said it best: “Politics is more fun than eating Crackerjack or shooting pool.”

Personal Aside: Denny Hastert Quits Because He Has Better Things to Do Than Hang Around to the End of the Term Voters Elected Him to Fill. Good Old Denny.


Please spare us the tears about his leaving. My old student (he was a silent member of a summer-school class I Allen Gittelson and I taught at Loyola 30 years ago under the auspices of the now defunct Taft Institute. It was a course for high school teachers who wanted to enrich themselves in history and political science. I noticed the buff-colored haircut and the eyebrows that would go up and down, his lips pursed as if ready to make a statement—but then seeming to change his mind. That happened all summer. At the end of the course he told us both that he had enjoyed it, that he taught wrestling and history and that he was getting ready to make his first trip to Washington, D. C. to see all the sights.

He was a cipher in the class but the classmates didn’t think so because as a wrestling coach he had won all-state for his school. And he ingratiated himself with the almost all-male contingent, telling stories about how he began as a fry cook in his family restaurant and coaching wrestling that were, evidently, uproarious. He didn’t share them with either Alan or me. I am told you had to be there and hear the tales first-hand to appreciate them fully.

As the state knows, he went to Washington, saw the sights, decided to spend some free time in politics. He got a job as an intern to a state senator. Then after the senator died Denny ran to succeed him. He lost and finished third in the primary election. Then the incumbent died and he was named to the seat. He was a good old boy in Springfield telling stories about wrestling and became very popular. Following which the incumbent congressman, John Grotberg, had a major stroke and never regained consciousness. They kept him on ice while he won reelection, then, checking with the GOP committee and his wife of course, disconnected the apparatus and he died. There was a special primary and Denny won. But he had to face a very popular woman Democrat in the district. Somehow the story gained currency that her marriage wasn’t any good. It was a rumor that was hard to answer because it had so many aspects. She never really answered it satisfactorily. When Denny was asked if he had anything to do with the rumors he waggled his eyebrows, pursued his lips as if to say something but then decided not to.

And Denny won.

He goes to Congress and captivates Bob Michel, the Republican leader, with his stories about wrestling. He becomes a kind of relief valve for Michel. Whenever Michel starts worrying about the fast-rising Newt Gingrich he listened to Denny’s stories. Michel decides he’s not going to run again. Good thing, too, because Newt got the votes to succeed him. One of Newt’s lieutenants was Tom DeLay. When Newt becomes Speaker there is a lot of intellectual firepower in the GOP. Newt was and is a Ph.D in history—50% genius and 50% nuts but he was and is an intellectual power (so disdainful of mere administration that ranks far below ideas in his view that we are rather fortunate he never became president). But to go on with the intellectual treasure-house of the GOP then. The majority leader, Dick Armey was—and is—a Ph.D in economics. One high up leader is Bob Livingstone, an encyclopedic leader of the House, key on appropriations with a patrician background: descendent of the man who swore in George Washington as first president. Tom DeLay, no Ph.D but one who killed bugs for a living but who was and is also street smart. He was the majority whip.

But DeLay, known as the “Velvet Hammer,” was rather tough to take because he was so intense on getting votes he would aggravate people in his caucus. So Newt got the idea of making an inoffensive guy, Denny Hastert, the deputy whip and having him follow up on the people DeLay offended, wagging his eyebrows, pursing his lips and placing a huge arm around their shoulders to tell them a funny story about wrestling. It worked and Denny was in the leadership of the party in a town that not long before he had visited as a tourist.

Not known for philosophical conviction, for brains or articulation, Denny Hastert made it as so many others have by being inoffensive. One day as he was walking to his office, he stopped to shake hands with a lobbyist. Best thing he ever did. He waggled his eyebrows, pursued his lips as if to say something, then thought better of it and started to tell a funny story about wrestling when—bang-bang-bang—a series of shots came from the office he shared with Tom Delay. A nut had gotten in trying to kill DeLay, might have killed Denny as well but instead had killed a Capitol policeman.

The event produced a bad reaction on DeLay. He wept, grew morose, talked about the uncertainty of life. His work was affected. So Newt and the other elders decided that he should take more time off and play golf at St. Andrew’s in Scotland. Okay but how would he get there? There was a non-profit that could be arranged to pay for the trip with DeLay making a speech on some weighty issue in the clubhouse. That worked and DeLay took a number of trips to regain his composure at the sufferance of the lobbyist who had set up the nonprofit, tax-exempt, Jack Abramoff. DeLay recovered his composure and became the old DeLay—grabbing people by the lapels, promising rewards and stark punishment for defectors and very important starting to plan how to get Texas more Republican congressional districts. This caused a whole lot of controversy along with the free trips to Scotland and elsewhere.

At the same time, Newt as Speaker decided to make more money on the side by selling tapes of his college lectures and books—adopting to his own specifications what he had criticized Democratic Speaker Jim Wright for doing. So Newt was in trouble. He tried to bring government to a halt but Clinton won that tussle. To take his mind off his weighty worries of state, he got involved with a woman not his wife but somebody else’s wife and carried on an affair with her, getting so busy with this and other tasks that he neglected to pay much attention to his constituency, the Republican members of the House.

Then there was a putsch by some of Newt’s former friends who attempted to stab him like Caesar. A ringleader was Dick Armey. But when a reporter found out about it and identified the ringleaders, Armey said he hadn’t been involved at all and ratted on the others, destroying his own credibility in the process since everybody knew Armey was behind the putsch. Newt then decided to retire to make a lot of money. He always valued a lot of money at least as high—maybe higher—than power. He was getting a divorce from wife number two, he had a national name and wanted to shed the boring fundamentals of being Speaker. So after a bad off-year election when the Republicans retained House control but not by much, Newt said he wanted to quit.

Okay but who would take over as Speaker? Dick Armey was discredited in the eyes of his fellow co-conspirators so he decided to quit to make a lot of money. They turned to Bob Livingstone who accepted it. He was ready to ascend to the second highest spot in the nation after the presidency—but alas. His girl friend, a lobbyist with whom he had been keeping company on the side, threatened to spill the beans. So he made a manly breast of things, went home and confessed all to his wife. She pondered about whether to give him the air or not but decided she had had enough invested in this enterprise to keep him. Only she said as a condition he would have to get out of the House and become a lobbyist and thus make a lot of money. Of course he had to agree: what else could he do? So Livingstone was out.

Tom DeLay was already spatting with a Democratic prosecutor in Texas over a number of things and besides he was not necessarily the type to inspire adulation. He was told he was out but he never wanted in. But anyhow he was out. All the while, chafing in his splendiferous Speaker’s office, Newt was getting anxious to move on and make some real money out there so they all got together and suggested—guess who? The guy who instead of answering a question, waggled his eyebrows, pursed his lips and appeared to be on the verge of saying something substantive but then seemed to say the hell with it and remain mum. He had funny wrestling stories and a huge arm he could put around dissident lawmakers and woo them.

Wait! said some, but Denny’s as light as a panama hat! Yes, they agreed, but with the president in power he’s got all the ideas anyhow and Denny will just have to…waggle his eyebrows and--. Well, you get the idea.

So that was fine. Tom DeLay would be the hammer and the White House would come up with all the ideas. Denny would concentrate on wielding the gavel and taking care of the home folks in Illinois. Which he did. Except that a pesky upstart, snotty nosed kid Senator from a rich family, Peter Fitzgerald, who had given up the idea of making a lot of money for public service, would not play ball on the age-old game of getting more federal dollars for Illinois. Fitzgerald didn’t believe he was sent to Washington to be an errand boy. Heresy by Illinois standards. Denny was outraged.

So Denny decided to apply old fashioned discipline to Peter in a number of ways. As Speaker he announced he would act like another Republican senator from the state and pass just as a Senator would on appointments and on projects. Fitzgerald said no. There was one appointment Fitzgerald vowed to make and that was the new U. S. Attorneys including the one from the Northern District of Illinois. He didn’t want to have a good old boy from the Illinois Combine (name coined by John Kass, my friend) to fumblingly screw up the prosecution of George Ryan. The White House’s Karl Rove in concert with Denny Hastert wanted to protect George Ryan. They told Fitzgerald he could name anybody he wanted but he or she would have to come from Illinois.

Fitzgerald looked around at the Combine legal talent from Illinois and decided he would go beyond the state’s borders and so he did by making the announcement public. He chose Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation) of New York. That got George Ryan riled. It got Denny Hastert so riled his eyebrows went up and down on their own and his lips pursed as if to say something but anger fumed out of them. . It got Ray LaHood riled who announced that he was looking for somebody to run against Fitzgerald. He found that somebody who is a charter member of the establishment—Andy McKenna—whose father of the same name is chairman of everything that means anything in boards, and holds down more seats than any other living human, from the “Tribune’ to McDonald’s to Notre Dame. This younger McKenna not the old man, said he would run against the too-pure Fitzgerald. Now this didn’t happen but McKenna is articulating a case for reform in politics.

Not content with finding his candidate against Fitzgerald, , Denny got the Republican state chairman unhorsed and found a substitute—the state treasurer, Judy Baar Topinka. She became state Republican chairman and in her debut on my radio show refused…utterly refused…to endorse the incipient candidacy of Peter Fitzgerald for reelection. To show you how much the truth isn’t in her, she then denied what she said on the radio although 100,000 people heard her. The angle: will you believe your own ears or me? She still carries that conviction to this very day choosing to live in her own fantasy world in private life. Pardon me—not really private life as she still is paid by taxpayers as a member of the RTA. Believing rightly that he could win reelection against one party but not against both, Peter Fitzgerald announced his retirement and as a banker he is back to making a lot of money.

But let us not get sidetracked from Denny Hastert. He tried mightily to help his soul-mate George Ryan politicize the staff of the Abraham Lincoln museum but was foiled by a Fitzgerald near-filibuster. Then his statesmanlike attention turned to the House since he had been told by fellow congressmen and his staff that one of the more lavender Republican congressmen, Mark Foley., had been saying naughty things to a young male page. Whenever he heard this, Denny resorted to his usual stratagem: his eyebrows moved up and down, his lips pursed as if to say something and he promptly forgot about it. When confronted he did the honorable thing and deny he ever heard about it and that he had ever heard his aide mention it.

All the while to distract himself from this sex business, he concentrated on taking orders from the White House where he had been told they had a monopoly on the brains. Thus he grew big on the matter of investing the people’s money. Investing is shorthand for spending. He became the biggest investor in modern congressional history. Waggling his eyebrows, pursing his lips as if to say something before he decides not to say anything he has just completed a record length of service among Republican Speakers by leading one of the most flagrantly excessive spending Congresses of all time. But the record of the spendingest, most riotous Congress plus the lavender tinged Foley caused people not to ask for Denny to campaign for them. As a result he was banned from making speeches in the off-year campaign of 2006.

He stayed home in Plano. Except to go to a steak house where he got suckered by the advanceman for an evangelical hustler and invited the hustler to his house the next day where he allowed the hustler go meet the press and gain national attention with Denny’s views on a number of things.

In 2006, Denny ran for reelection and promised to serve his term. But then the Democrats won the House. His interest in public service was doused. First, waggling his brows and pursing his lips he managed to say it would be his last term. Then waggling the same eyebrows and pursing his lips he managed to add he might resign mid-term. Resign and break the contract with the voters to whom he promised he would finish out his term? Well some would say that. But when you’re on the mat and the referee pounds the flat of his hand on it and says you’re out, what’s the use of staying?

. Good old Denny. His resignation leaves the 14th district without representation. So there must be a special election within 120 days which means the primary will be held February 5—Denny saying, his eyebrows waggling and lips pursed as if saying something profound, “this will minimize inconvenience to the voters and expense to the counties in the 14th congressional district.” General election will be held March 25, 2008. The winner of that special election will serve out the remainder of Denny’s term until November of 2008. Eight months. All that money spent on two elections because Denny wants to spend more time with his family.

All three major Republican contestants praised Denny yesterday. Jim Oberweis’ p. r. man wrote that Oberweis says Denny is the gold standard” of congressional reputation in the 14th. At first he wrote that Denny’s reputation has been sound as the dollar but it wouldn’t sound right.

Why the hurry for Denny to leave Congress? Is he taking his bat and ball and going home now that he can’t be boss? Well, he never was boss, understand. But he’s going home to preside over the Hastert Institute of Something or Other at Wheaton College. And as the students who are as bored as he was in my class watch, he will waggle his eyebrows, purse his lips as if to say something important. But he won’t. He never has. Never will. Good old Denny.

Is this a great country or what?

Flashback: LBJ Asks Hubert to Bring his ADA Friends into Line but They Don’t Go Quietly (As Hubert Sits by Silently). Hubert Tries to Please but Can’t Avoid Johnson’s Ire. Gene Has Too Much Time on His Hands So He Has Great Fun with Hubert. Then...

[More than 50 years of politics written for my kids and grandchildren].

Hubert Can’t Do Anything Right.

Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson waged sort of a Cold War on Vietnam. It got worse when “Rolling Thunder” got underway—the sustained air strikes against targets in North Vietnam below the 19th parallel which opened the door to massive U. S. involvement in the war. Because he was in dissent from LBJ’s policies, Hubert wasn’t invited to the hush-hush “Tuesday Luncheons” where hawks would share ideas with the president. Hubert felt he was definitely on the outside—and he was. Then on February 17 a few Senate liberals made floor speeches in the Senate urging the administration to work harder for a negotiated settlement and rely less on military pressure. One of the senators was Gene McCarthy, signaling his first formal questioning of the Vietnam policy.

Then Johnson asked Hubert to work as an intermediary to get the Senate liberals —Wayne Morse of Oregon, Ernest Gruening of Alaska (the only two who voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution) into the fold along with Hubert’s next door neighbor, George McGovern (South Dakota), Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin) and Stephen Young (Ohio)—to at least get them to shut up about their dissent if they wouldn’t get into the pro-Vietnam camp. Johnson purposely didn’t ask Hubert to work on his colleague McCarthy, saving that job for himself.

Hubert said he would try and herded the above-mentioned five to his office to be briefed by McGeorge Bundy the national security adviser. There he sat silently at his desk as Bundy started in. “I’ve gone through the Congressional Record and read what you gentlemen have been saying,” said Bundy. “They’re all very reasonable and thoughtful speeches on Vietnam but when this gets in the papers and then to the rumor mills over in Vietnam, it gives a totally different impression that the country isn’t behind the president.” Nelson took umbrage and asked Mac Bundy: “Does this mean we give up our freedom of speech because some dictator overseas doesn’t understand it?” Bundy said no but it was clear that was exactly what he meant and the meeting broke up with more bitterness than when it began.

Next Johnson asked Hubert to bring in his fellow members of the ADA (Americans for Democratic Action) executive board when the group held a session in Washington. Hubert did. They came in on April 2 for a session that was to last only 15 minutes but which extended to an hour and a half dominated by a Johnson monologue. Now Hubert felt he was being pulled at cross-purposes. Rather than the ADA group understanding his silence to mean that he agreed with them, they felt he was becoming a weak tool in Johnson’s hands and was afraid to express himself. This got Hubert to worrying that he would lose, of all things, the Left in the next election.

It seemed like he couldn’t win: he was on LBJ’s black list for being silent and on the ADA’s as well for holding his tongue. Johnson thought he could pacify the ADA by telling them in advance what he would say five days later in a speech at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He (a) reaffirmed his commitment to win the war, (b) his readiness to begin peace negotiations and (c) his pledge to invest a billion dollars for economic development of Southeast Asia. LBJ thought that would put the dissent to rest—especially the big spending to rehabilitate Southeast Asia. It didn’t. Johnson blamed Hubert for not rallying the liberals to his side and the liberals blamed Hubert for failing to get Johnson to agree with them. So Hubert couldn’t win for losing.

“Goddamn,” Johnson told Hubert, “you were uncharacteristically silent at that meeting. I thought you were the guy I could go to the well with; well, I guess not.” So Hubert decided to go more on the record with support for Johnson where he could honestly be supportive. Then, on April 28, there was a rebellion in the Dominican Republic; the ambassador talked to Johnson on the phone while crouched under his desk. Johnson sent 30,000 troops to quash the rebellion there. Hubert rushed out to make a speech defending Johnson, saying that the U. S. intervention was justified by the need to protect U. S. citizens liing in Santo Domingo. But liberals blasted him, saying Johnson hadn’t gotten the approval of the Organization of American States before sending the troops, saying also that a year earlier Hubert had made a speech against a hard-line approach in Latin America and now had changed his tune, because he was Lyndon Johnson’s pet poodle.

Next Hubert decided to scrub speaking out on foreign affairs altogether and concentrate on Johnson’s Great Society policy domestically which he could wholeheartedly support. So he set a dizzying pace of speeches—averaging twenty five major ones a month, receiving and sifting through at least a thousand invitations a month. But Johnson was driving him crazy—either calling up for long tete-a-tetes in the Oval Office which kept Hubert from making all his appearances and then not getting in touch with Hubert for weeks. Also Johnson would alternately be a bully, berating him or oily and warm, driving Hubert nuts. So to please Johnson and give himself some needed sanity, Hubert proposed to Johnson that he set up a coordinating council, headed by Hubert and outfitted with a tough White House staff which was to see that individual government agencies were implementing the Great Society agenda.

Johnson said that was a great idea and Hubert went home and had the first good night’s sleep in weeks. But the next morning he was told that Johnson adopted his coordinating council plan and gave it to Joe Califano, a New York lawyer who was going to become Johnson’s super-grade top assistant for domestic affairs starting in July, 1965. Hubert began to get anxiety pains again. There was a big announcement with Califano to be the top staffer and Hubert the head of it, made in July. But by October, 1965 the whole thing was disbanded by Johnson, decentralized and referred to the various agencies. Hubert was left standing around without his portfolio, looking ridiculous.

Okay so Hubert turned again to rushing around the country making speeches. But Johnson became angry that Hubert was stealing the limelight. Hubert had a 45 member staff and Johnson, like a child, said it was too big and filled with publicity seekers for Hubert, depriving LBJ of needed press. Hubert decided then to downplay the media but stay in touch with them anyhow, so he scheduled a trip on one of the presidential yachts filled with journalists for drinks and dinner. But as they went down the Potomac river they passed Johnson in the other presidential yacht with his own guests. The captain of Hubert’s boat then received a phone call from the captain of Johnson’s, saying, “the president wants to know who in the hell has his other boat out.”

To remedy this, Hubert decided that if he wanted to use a boat he’d have his military aide contact a presidential aide who would put the request in LBJ’s overnight reading file. Answers would come back on occasion saying “no” which meant that Hubert had to scrub his plans. Same thing with use of planes. Hubert had to write one memo per speaking engagement to Johnson, meaning that if he had three out-of-town engagements he had to write three memos for Johnson’s overnight reading file. Every so often the memos would come back marked “no” which would mean that Hubert would have to cancel the speeches.

All right, Hubert decided, I’ll make a speech defending his Vietnam position—anything to get this guy off my back. He did so on the night of July 27, 1965 at the National Governor’s Conference in Minneapolis, making an emotional pitch for Johnson’s plan and praised a future increase in our military role. There, Hubert told himself, that’ll do it. No sir, Johnson called up shouting that Hubert had made the announcement for more troops before Johnson had—topping the president once again.

Then to make matters worse, Hubert goes to a White House reception and is greeted warmly by Johnson; then as he is relaxing with a drink, Johnson speaks to the group, pulling a news ticker story from his breast pocket quoting Hubert as saying there’ll be a troop buildup and personally excoriating Hubert for being publicity-hungry…in front of a large business group including many of Hubert’s friends from Minnesota. To make matters worse, he was at another gathering at the Mayflower when Gene McCarthy saunters up and in the earshot of many complimented Hubert for getting more publicity than any other vice president in the history of the republic. It was a typical McCarthy jest. This family website cannot report in specifics what Hubert responded to Gene even though the Internet is free of censorship (exposition of what exactly Hubert told Gene to do would test that rule).

Gene Scoffs but Death Isn’t Funny.

Gene McCarthy kept murmuring his dissatisfaction with Johnson and Hubert, making priceless jokes at their expense and sharing drinks with The Little Sisters of the Media, particularly Marya McLaughlin who was interested in Camus and existentialism and importuning Gene with how she could relate her Catholicism to both the novelist and the philosophy. They spent some time reading from Camus and finding pertinent citations from Aquinas—fun for Gene and delightful for her. She wasn’t married and had a lot of time to listen to him, bursting with laughter at his funny asides which pleased him greatly.

At this time Gene was thinking that he was a pretty lucky guy with a fan club across his state, a way to make big bucks from honoraria and the adulation of The Little Sisters of the Media—but then sadness hit. Death of people hit Gene hard: almost like he hated to be reminded that we all must go someday. Remember, he had been having lunch with a disciple who also thought he was very funny—this time a man, Maurice Rosenblatt of the National Committee for an Effective Congress, who would gratefully pick up the tab for Gene’s lunches, dinners and drinks.

He had been lunching with Rosenblatt on November 22, 1963 when the bartender at the Carroll Arms received a call, walked over to Gene and said that his office was on the phone. Gene went over to the bar and was told that President Kennedy had been shot. While never a fan of JFK, Gene was shaken—thinking, as he always did, of this happening to him: not that he would get shot but that he would die—almost as if it came as a shock. He rushed to the Senate and made a speech that was one of the worst of his life (although he thought it was good at the time), saying that we all shared in the “guilt’ of Kennedy’s death. At that time he thought the murder was due to the right wing in Dallas. When it was revealed that Lee Harvey Oswald was a hard-line Communist, trained in the USSR he never mentioned the guilt again.

Well this time, on a hot July 14, 1965, Gene was having lunch with the very same Maurice Rosenblatt who was buying his lunch and drinks at the very same Carroll Arms when the bartender gets a phone call, comes over to Gene and says it is from his staff. Gene walked over to the bar and took the phone call. Then he walked back to his table, finished his scotch and said with soft irony, “Maurice, I’m not going to have lunch with you anymore.” Why not? Rosenblatt asked.

“Adlai Stevenson just dropped dead on a street in London,” McCarthy said. Together they left the bar.

In his eulogy to Stevenson delivered off-the-cuff in the Senate that afternoon, Gene typified his passive, existentialist philosophy of no definitive beginning or end.

This is what he said. The words are illustrative of one who prefers thought to action—a line which both Marya McLaughlin and Mary McGrory who pondered life’s meaning loved:

“We must speak as he would speak—of the strength of our nation, but at the same time, acknowledge the limits of strength and even more importantly, the limits on the use of the strength which we do possess. Adlai Stevenson accepted the role of the statesman which is never to attempt to write the third and final act of the play in history but rather to continue to direct the action of the second act so that none in our own time may be moved or given the opportunity to write the final act which, on the record of history, has generally ended in tragedy.”

If that isn’t a nihilistic, fatalistic, existentialist and indeterminate skepticism where there is no purpose, I never heard it. Can you imagine a president saying this?

Stevenson’s sudden death—more dramatic in its way than a murder—just dropping dead minutes after having been interviewed by the BBC (which film was played over and over in this country as his body was being shipped back)—shook Gene to the utmost. A few days later he himself became ill. He stayed home, experienced pain in urination. He went to the doctor and was rushed to Georgetown Hospital in severe pain. It was a urinary tract infection and for a time he didn’t seem to respond to the antibiotics. Then doctors decided his trouble was prostate. They operated. McCarthy asked a close friend to take care of Abigail and his children were he to die. The friend scoffed. No-no, he said, I’m serious. I want you to do this. I want you to take care of them.

For some reason my old classmate Jerry Eller, his administrative assistant, decided to change the nature of the illness and said he had been operated on for a back ailment. Back ailment, urinary, prostate: soon the word got all over town that Gene was riddled with cancer on all fronts. That squared with a rumor set out by the Republicans who were running the campaign against him the year before that he had leukemia—because his pallor was somewhat ashen even at age 49. Cancer, leukemia: nothing like that. Prostate when caught early is not fatal nor is an inflamed urinary tract.

He lived 40 years after that and died at age 89 cancer free. Eller knew he was the same old Gene when, once recovered, he returned to Minnesota for a speech. He said of the welcoming committee: “They didn’t want to shake my hand—they wanted to feel my pulse.” Mordant wit from a relativistic skeptic.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Personal Aside: Richard Caro…All Alone…is Fighting the Taxpayer’s and Constitutionalist’s Battle Against Blago.

The Chicago Tribune didn’t stretch itself unduly to mention a lawsuit brought as a public interest by my friend Richard Caro. But what the legislature won’t do…and what all the combined weight of the editorialists’ cannot evidently accomplish…Richard—who passes the plate every Sunday at 11 a.m. Mass at St. John Cantius (the mother church of authentic Catholicism) is accomplishing. He is like Roland at the pass, the heroic medieval soldier who held the pass in Spain enabling his comrades to pass through unharmed by the Saracens and who with his dying breath blew the trumpet that summoned reinforcements.

Who is Richard Caro and what is he doing? He’s a mild-mannered (deceptive) public interest lawyer, a doctor of jurisprudence, who is today’s version of the English barons at Runnymede who taught the tyrant King John a needed lesson in 1215—and got him to sign the Magna Carta, the charter of our liberties…the charter that says the sovereign as mighty as he is must be bound by the letter of the law. As the world knows, this state has a Democratic governor who has won two terms as testament to the ineptitude of the Republican party, the venality of special interest contributors who have given him $30 million for his war-chest and the general indolence of voters who have been seduced by his expensive and totally duplicitous TV commercials.

With only a third of the fiscal year having p[assed, Illinois has already spent half of its $6.8 billion health care budget but King Blago is moving to expand state-subsidized health insurance to reach some 147,000 adults which will cost Illinois at least $225 million a year by his own estimate.

The legislature isn’t doing anything, the Republican party isn’t doing much , the Democratic legislature is fretting but it is the lone Richard Caro who has brought suit against the governor—with no funds, no help—suit against the Governor, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Illinois comptroller.

Caro has been dogged in his persistence.

You would think this would be a story somewhere, wouldn’t you? Not in Illinois save in The Chicago Daily Observer. Where are the columnists who like to chronicle one lonely lawyer against the multitude? Where is Carol Marin who aches so much for the underdog? It is because Richard Caro is fighting for constitutional processes and that he is not—so far as I know—a recognizable liberal. That’s why.

My guess is that despite the Tribune and Sun-Times’ editorials that give only a glimmer of attention to the law suit that has great importance to all Illinoisans, Caro will come out the victor. Too bad he isn’t a socialist or a gay, a liberal nun, an AIDS patient, an unwed mother, a renegade priest with yellow hair, an oracular black minister who speaks in heroic couplets, or any other member of the special minorities the media favor. He’s just a faceless married man from Riverside with a young family who’s representing the taxpayers and constitutionalists who insist the executive must obey the rules, who’s paying most of the bills on his own.

Whenever I see him passing the collection plate at St. John’s I ask: who’s passing the plate for him?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Personal Aside: The Paul Gottfried Article on Ron Paul.


Paul Gottfried on Ron Paul.

Paul Gottfried is a venerable commentator and scholar of the Right who is Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania and a former Guggenheim scholar. His columns are distributed by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation which used to disseminate Joe Sobran until Sobran lost his health. I’m going to cite Dr. Gottfried here but to read his column go to

Gottfried a distinguished writer who, believe it or not, was writing for conservative publications when I was a wee broth of a lad, has a high regard for Congressman Ron Paul as expressed in his column entitled “Their Worst Nightmare.” It appears to Dr. Gottfried that the neo-cons’ worst nightmare is that Ron Paul will run on a third party ticket in 2008 which…given Paul’s new celebrity and prowess at raising funds on the Internet…would elect Hillary Clinton, with Paul occupying roughly the same force as Ross Perot did in 1992 to elect Bill Clinton.

I have heard some libertarian followers of Dr. Paul express the view that the election of Clinton is a necessary expedient for the country to absorb preparatory to its turning to the right. Without Clinton turning off the electorate with another liberal presidency and the Republicans continuing their weak approach, some libertarians have told me, the election of a true liberty-oriented candidate such as whomever would be Paul’s successor in 2012 would not be achievable. To use historical allusions, one libertarian put it this way to me: “I hate to use this analogy but it is apt. The Communists saw the need to elect the Bolsheviks with Alexander Kerensky in order to win later with Lenin. There is some thought that Hillary would be the Kerensky of this movement, so alienating the electorate that the election of a Ron Paul philosophically committed libertarian conservative would come naturally later.”

I would ask your comments on this feasibility and in particular would welcome those who support Dr. Paul to give me their views. I understand that he has said he would not run as a third party candidate again. Let me ask these questions: (1) Do you think that the phenomenal rise of Paul as a grassroots candidate which is far different than his Libertarian candidacy before…with access to money and publicity…should cause him to change his mind? Specifically were you to advise him now would you urge him to consider a third party run if he does not win the Republican nomination? (2) Do you agree that he should do so even if he takes a sizable chunk of conservative votes away from the Republican nominee and causes the election of either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

Let this be a plebiscite. I look forward to your views for in all seriousness I would imagine this view is far from impossible. Thanks. Try t to steer away from vitriol against each other and concentrate on being an analyst.

Flashback: As Senator, Hubert was a Hawk of Hawks. But He Double-Crosses Johnson…Gene Loses Election as Assistant Majority Leader Because He’s Too Lazy and The Little Sisters of the Media Sympathize.

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

Hubert and Gene’s Pragmatism Shaped Them.

Both Hubert and Gene were relativists. As we have seen, Hubert’s philosophy was pie-tin shallow and entwined with the psyche of an uncomplicated small town drugstore liberal who could hustle through the Depression and who wanted very much to go as far as he could in the political milieu including to the presidency. A patriot whose eyes could mist over when he saw a pumpkin pie cooling on a window sill (thinking of the old days in South Dakota), he was a Babbitt, imbued with a Rotarian’s upward ascendancy. His religious background was strictly Horatio Alger with Norman Vincent Peale thrown in. Born a Lutheran, he switched to Methodist, then Congregationalist, finally dying as a member of Dr. Robert Schuler’s televised evangelical “Crystal Cathedral” where it you feel good about yourself you save your soul (very simplistic but not far off from Gene’s more convoluted nihilistic New Age Catholic modern theology ala Godfrey Diekmann OSB, actually). About himself and America Hubert was a die-hard optimist. Not Gene.

Gene, of course, was schooled initially in the philosophical absolutes of Aristotle and Aquinas but after the Benedictine novitiate which he quit in objection to a critical novice master, he adopted a liberal Catholic version still regnant in some quarters where he did not seek to discover truth but attain a variant adaptable to his needs. Godfrey Diekmann OSB the liberal theologian at St. John’s both influenced McCarthy and was influenced by him. Godfrey was very big on theories that had some early Church Fathers writing into some gospels views that were not Christ’s. Whether true or not, it spurred all kinds of doubt about what in the gospels is true—for clarification of which, of course, one would have to go to the First Source to discover: Godfrey himself, of course, the Imperial Self. It imbued a kind of Catholic relativism in theology which you find in “America” and “Commonweal” magazines which Gene was happy to accept. In addition to his earlier wide reading of the Church fathers, McCarthy dipped into Yeats, Nietzsche, Foucault and Joyce. He regularly quoted obscure poetry very few read but which had the ring if not the resonance of profundity. He generated skepticism, depression with respect to the world and its faults, non-idealism and fatalism.

But still Hubert and Gene were pragmatists with compass needle always pointing to Self.

Hubert the Early War Hawk.

Until he became vice president, Hubert Humphrey was a Cold War hawkish liberal. Hubert’s hawkish-ness ended when he lowered his hand after taking the vice presidential oath. But his hatred for Communism never died; it stemmed from his Minnesota political history. He helped fashion a workable unity between the moribund and conservative Democratic party of Minnesota and the red hot radical, pro-Commie Farmer-Laborites of the `30s. To do so, he joyfully lopped off heads of old 1930s Lefties so his new party could get elected. He had no trouble identifying the Lefties. They supported the presidential campaign of Henry Wallace, were soft on the Nazis when Germany and the USSR had had a non-aggression pact, but became vigorously anti-Nazi when Hitler attacked Russia in June, 1941. They were the followers of Elmer Benson the last Farmer-Labor governor. Hubert went county-by-county with a list and conducted the purge which showed the Benson-ites the door and was pictured much as the old Renaissance painters depicted God the Father angrily pointing to the exit as Adam and Eve sorrowfully trudged out of the Garden of Eden. He was highly efficient in this purge which won him great attention and benefited his party enormously.

In the Democratic-run Senate, the young Hubert was more anti-Red in his foreign-defense policy than anyone else save Henry Jackson of Washington state. In the early 1950s and `60s, Hubert’s views were more clearly aligned with those of Barry Goldwater who crusaded on the theme “why not victory?” In January, 1950 Hubert told the Senate, “if we lose the south part of Asia…we shall have lost every hope that we ever had of being able to maintain free institutions in any part of the Eastern world.” The following year, 1951, he called the Indochina war “a war against the same Communism” as the war in Korea and compared the loss of Southeast Asia to the loss of Korea.

In 1953 he said: “The threat of international Communist aggression is most acute in Southeast Asia.” In 1954: “To lose Indochina to the Communists may be to lose all of Southeast Asia. It is unthinkable. It cannot happen. It will not happen.” Humphrey cooperated with Ike’s secretary of state John Foster Dulles to get a SEATO [Southeast Asia Treaty Organization] through the Senate, which ratified it 85 to 1. It led to the first initial involvement by the U. S. in Vietnam by the Eisenhower administration (700 military advisers). Three months later Hubert criticized the Eisenhower administration as being insufficiently dovish, not working hard enough to spare Vietnam from Communism, saying, “If we abandon free Vietnam we shall have abandoned all of Southeast Asia…If free Vietnam falls or if the Communist elements take over, then every country in the corridor of Southeast Asia will be in more difficulty and we shall not be able to stop it.”

In 1960 he warned against a belligerent Communist China: “I happen to believe that the most dangerous, aggressive force in the world today is Communist China…It is from the Chinese Communists that the Free World faces danger.” True he warned John F. Kennedy not to get overcommitted to Vietnam in 1962 but added “In all this activity there is grave risk but I say most sincerely that the greatest risk is Communist aggression, Communist conquest and Communist advance. This we cannot permit if it is humanly possible to stop it.”

In the Gulf of Tonkin resolution debate in August, 1964 he said: “The aggressor seeks to bite off piece by piece the areas of freedom…Our objective is to achieve stability in the area so that we can go to the conference table. But we ought to make it clear to the world that we do not intend to sit at the conference table with a gun to our heads.’ At this time he was greatly influenced by Edward Lansdale, a retired Air Force major general and counter-guerilla expert. He opposed withdrawal of the 16,000 U. S. troops in Vietnam on the grounds that “it would shake the other Southeast Asia nations.” He said, “we must stay in Vietnam until the security of the South Vietnamese people has been established.”

Earlier, it was Hubert who decided to be more anti-Communist than even Joe McCarthy who was terrifying the country by proving to the satisfaction of many that Reds had penetrated some high places in the FDR and Truman administrations. Hubert did this by introducing an amendment to outlaw the Communist party on an appropriations bill, something Joe never tried—which passed and was signed into law by Dwight Eisenhower. The only problem being the language had been written in such a hurry as to be confusing and hence un-applicable in the courts—but it earned Hubert the enmity of the Far Left. He touted this as a badge of honor to help his future as presidential candidate.

Vietnam’s Unpopularity Alarms Hubert.

It was his expectation that he would be a presidential candidate in 1968 that caused Hubert to reappraise Vietnam. Very soon after he was sworn in as vice president, and in contradistinction to what he had earlier pledged to Johnson, Hubert started to separate himself from LBJ on Vietnam. He was servile to Johnson, endured ridicule when he was forced to don a Stetson and ride a horse on Johnson’s ranch a few weeks after election. The media mocked him because he looked awful astride a horse. They began to regard him as so servile to Johnson as to be a buffoon and Johnson made fun of his lack of dexterity on a horse with the media when Hubert’s back was turned. The media decided that this was the end of the old fiery Hubert, that he had sold his soul for a mass of pottage to be vice president. They were far wrong.

He had decided that he would have to separate from Johnson on the Vietnam War, a very gutsy thing for a vice president to do. The reason was in his own self-interest. From the start he never believed Johnson would run for a second full term in 1968. Johnson’s health precluded that, he decided. He was right.

The first sign of dissent came on February 10, 1965 only a few weeks after inauguration. At a meeting of the National Security Council the question was what to do to retaliate for a Vietcong attack four days earlier on a U. S. compound at Pleiku and a nearby base. Nine Americans had been killed and more than 100 wounded. On the same day they raided an enlisted men’s barracks at Qui Nhon that killed 23 Americans. By the time of the meeting, we had already conducted two reprisal air strikes on the Vietcong. Up for discussion was the proposal for a joint U. S.-South Vietnamese strike at three targets in North Vietnam. Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin was in Hanoi and the National Security Council hawks felt it would be advisable for Kosygin to see that we would not idly dismiss the earlier attacks. The few doves, mainly George Ball, the undersecretary of state, worried that in the bombing Kosygin might be killed and that it would thus begin World War II on a global basis. Hubert agreed and advised to delay the attacks until Kosygin left for the USSR. LBJ was startled. This was the first break with his own views.

LBJ wanted to unleash the attack regardless of Kosygin and felt it would be good for Kosygin to feel the earth move under his feet from our bombing. But in deference to Hubert though gritting his teeth at the time, he agreed on a compromise-- to delete one of the targets, a bridge 75 miles south of Hanoi. Hubert still wanted to wait but Johnson, Robert McNamara and the Joint Chiefs wanted to hit the targets. They won the argument by winning LBJ to their side. This was the beginning of “Operation Rolling Thunder” which formally began March 2 which led to the massive American involvement in Vietnam.

Hubert decided to build a record in memo writing that could be used to substantiate his position for a future presidential run. He began writing privately to Johnson. The first one said the advisers had been advocating what in essence was “Goldwater’s position.” He spoke to Johnson privately and theorized a policy 180 degrees from what he had told Johnson his would be. He went farther. He argued that Korea should have taught us never again to become involved in a land war in Asia. He warned that since we no longer had an monopoly on nuclear weapons, there was a danger Red China would intervene in Vietnam. He expressed worry that Vietnam would drain resources from the War on Poverty which he enthusiastically supported. He pointed out he didn’t have much confidence in the government of South Vietnam since the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem.

Johnson was, understandably shocked. He became turned off because this was a far different Hubert than he had been led to expect. It got so that Johnson told Hubert “we don’t need all those memos, Hubert. Frankly I don’t think you ought to let them lying around your office because there’s going to be people coming and going and as much as we put security controls on them, somebody always makes extra copies. There’s nothing you can put on paper that you can’t tell me personally and say it better.” That was a slam from the president. But Hubert didn’t change.

By February, 1965 while being publicly ridiculed as LBJ’s lap-dog, Hubert was privately at odds with Johnson over the war but he really didn’t care. He was not the senator now but one who was thinking of how he would defend the war later. So it took him a little while to find out that he was being excluded from the so-called “Tuesday luncheons” where Johnson and his military and political advisers crafted policy on the war. Hubert’s foreign affairs top staffer, John Rielly (a fellow graduate of St. John’s, a St. Cloud native, a friend of mine who later became president of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations) says that there was a stretch of at least eleven months where Hubert didn’t know it but months where he was almost totally out of the foreign policy loop.

All the While, Gene…

At first he kept his counsel on Vietnam to himself, concentrating only on droll sarcasms making fun of Hubert and Lyndon. Then he sought the assistant majority leader’s job…Hubert’s old job…but he was famous for his lackadaisical approach to hard work and disappearing after lunch to the Carroll Arms hotel sandwich shop. So he lost. Russell Long got the post he coveted but as a consolation prize the Dem elders gave Gene a seat on Foreign Relations as well as Finance, turning down the new senator from New York, Bobby Kennedy who also wanted the seat—a fact that cheered McCarthy.

Abigail told him that the combination of petulance and refusal to buckle down and work hard was a loser’s trait. She was right which alienated them all the more. Gene was preparing to split with Johnson all the more because of her—since Abigail was such a party regular.

Gene made his first departure from the Johnson Vietnam policy the same month Hubert did—February, 1965. That was when he was called to a meeting in Humphrey’s vice presidential office for a report on Vietnam with McGeorge Bundy (the national security adviser to LBJ). Bundy had just returned from Vietnam and gave a glowing report. Yet, Bundy the aristocratic former dean of Harvard had a knack of treating those who differed as dull witted. This irritated McCarthy who was always sensitive to how he was being treated. So he sat down for drinks with The Little Sisters of the Media (he never had a liquor problem, could make a light scotch last an hour) and leaked his discomfiture which gained some currency.

Then on Feb. 18 McCarthy went to the White House for a briefing by McNamara. Secretary of State Rusk and CIA Director John McCone. All of them said the political situation had stabilized over there but the next morning the government of Gen. Nguyen Khanh was overthrown. This gave Gene the pretext for a bushel of wisecracks which he shared with the Little Sisters of the Media, particularly with one whom he took to taking drinks with privately one-on-one, comely, dark-haired Marya McLaughlin of CBS-TV who thought him excruciatingly funny.

In contradistinction to Hubert, Gene was developing a much more passive regard for government, developing a libertarianism and a powerful skepticism about the bureaucracy and policy makers. Gene also further developed a cynicism about most things—his marriage (the problem was that Abigail thought she was more politically astute and a far better writer than he, which was the truth), the Church, the Vietnam war, the Democratic party. He began to memorize Yeats’ poetry and recite it by the yard as he sipped scotch. Things were brewing in his mind on how to get even with a great number of people—LBJ who spurned him, Hubert who got the vice presidency he wanted, Bobby Kennedy whom he believed (wrongly I think) iced the deal for Hubert taking the vice presidency and the majority of the Senate Democrats for voting down his bid to be assistant majority leader. Even smart Aleck Abigail who sometimes publicly disagreed with him when friends wanted to idolize him.

He thought a lot about retiring from the Senate—but Abigail who was drawing some big-time fans for herself in Washington society would be outraged and he couldn’t bear that. And too, he was drawing pretty big honorarium fees for his speeches (then this was quite legal) so he couldn’t afford to do so.

Thus by the end of 1965 two protagonists who had vowed eternal loyalty to LBJ and his war were well on the way to total disagreement: one motivated by his desire to be free to impediments on Vietnam when he would run for president…the other by pure vindictiveness masked by a veneer of opposition to the morality of the war. Sadly, Gene was also becoming not just cynical but depressed and fatalistic about the human condition as well as being rather cavalier about accepting luxuries, side benefits and gratuities from big business which gravitated to him because of his seat on Finance. .

The fatalism spurred a profound skepticism about political reform. He often used this line: “When you purify the pond the lilies die.” Brilliant line. He then told this story taken from Gibbons’ “Decline and Fall.”

As the Roman Emperor Pertinax learned after he followed a succession of corrupt tyrants to the throne. Pertinax adopted a zero tolerance quotient on corruption so that the wheels of commerce threatened to stop in Roman commerce. The fruit and vegetable vendors who paid a pittance to get favorable sites for their wagons to sell their wares near the temple of the gods were told henceforth things would be on a first-come-first-served basis: no gratuities to Roman guards. That meant that some from out of town would have to arise at 2 a.m. or so to get their place. Outrageous.

As Gibbon and other historians report, stringent virtue like this disturbed Roman business and the middle class--so that by general consent one night when Pertinax was praying to the gods a Roman guard slipped up behind him and strangled him—which was the end of the too-virtuous emperor. But understand, strangled him with a golden cord in deference to his rank. After that the progression of emperors reverted to embrace some—but not all—of the old ways and commerce improved. This the latter day ironist McCarthy said he approved.

The Latter-Day Gene McCarthy Resembled Ron Paul.

I guess I’m responsible for giving people who support Ron Paul for president the idea that he is the nearest thing to the late Sen. Robert A. Taft. Bad comparison. I compared him to Taft because the Ohio senator was the last conservative to be a minimalist in foreign policy. But there are great differences.

General comparison between Taft and Paul are inexact for many reasons whereas the similarity between Gene McCarthy and Ron Paul are great. You would never find Taft advocating term limits (he believed the voters should exercise that at the ballot box). Likewise he would never be caught dead serving ten terms in the House while advocating term limits, an anomaly. Taft, the patrician constitutional lawyer, son of a president who went to Versailles as an aide to Herbert Hoover, was far more intellectually complicated than Paul— precise than Hubert (who was broad brush), more of a workmanlike legislator than Gene and Paul. These five points tells you Taft’s complexity which was the bane of his campaign managers.

First, Taft bitterly opposed the way FDR maneuvered us into World War II by instilling an embargo that made it inevitable that Japan would strike us from the standpoint of preservation of its honor if for no other reason…a matter FDR the consummate deceiver knew full well. To oppose the war and continue with the argument even when it was being waged, as Taft did, was hugely courageous and political poison but he never vacillated. He supported the winning of the war but never forgot the duplicitous nature of our involvement. He was dead on right here.

Second, he opposed our entry into the Korean War as an illegal act. This was a war in which the Congress utterly had no voice, no resolution to be considered or anything. To Taft, with Korea already at war we had no right to send troops to a nation with which we had no treaty to defend it against an attack by another nation unless “some other direct authority was obtained.” Meaning a resolution. Meaning he would have accepted a resolution similar to Iraq (with Korea there was none). With Iraq he might or might not have voted with the resolution—it is uncertain.

Third, Taft opposed our joining NATO, another unpopular stand. But his opposition was not that he felt opposing Communism in western Europe was not our fight (similar to Paul’s views now). It hinged on the “lack of the right of the president to merge American forces with an army which he cannot exclusively command unless there be congressional authorization.” There was a vote to join NATO but not the authorization and Taft was right once more. .

Fourth, Taft opposed several very popular moves. The Nuremburg trial of captured Nazi leaders on the basis of ex-post-facto law. He opposed Truman’s attempt to take over the railroads by federal order and draft the strikers which came at a time when the country was seemingly paralyzed by the strike. Right once more. He opposed Truman’s taking over the steel mills during a national emergency by fiat as unconstitutional—unconditionally right.

Fifth, Taft favored the UN and in fact had favored us joining the League of Nations (where Paul wants us to withdraw) but criticized the UN charter and said that until proper amendments were added to it, we should rely on military alliances which is anathema to Ron Paul people. He was right about the alliances. Ron Paul would not agree.

As we will see, Gene McCarthy in his late years is the proper role model for Ron Paul. So much so I wonder why I never thought of it before.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Personal Asides: Who’s Your Favorite GOP Presidential Candidate? A Plebiscite… Strange, is it not, that Columnist Andy Greeley--With Opinions on Everything Else—Hasn’t Commented on the Lavender Priesthood Issue?

Who’s Your Favorite?

With Iowa’s caucuses dominating the news, why don’t we take a non-scientific, unofficial plebiscite among ourselves—strictly on the honor system as to whether you’re Republican. Who do you favor as the Republican candidate who (a) best typifies GOP principles and (b) can win? Cast your ballot in Reader’s Comments.


Father Andrew Greeley, the columnist favorite of the “Sun-Times” has much to comment on, most of which comes from the Democratic National Committee playbook. He wrote last week about the unsuitability of New York city being a model for the U.S., a thrust at Giuliani. He is no expert on urban affairs or New York but that makes no difference to the newspaper which is grateful to have any Catholic reader, even one who disregards key moral teachings of his Church. Let’s see. Although not a foreign policy expert, this sociologist-priest has written extensively about Iraq and its follies. He has written about the economy on which he is not expert.

But Andy is a doctor of sociology and a professor of same at the University of Arizona. This would equip him to at least give us his thoughts on an issue of keen interest to his Church and city. There is no doubt that Andy is not lavender nor lavender-enabling. No one could write semi-heterosexual pornography with such zest and detail and be. But still he has not found time to write about recently is priestly pedophilia. There was a time when he did—but now he does not. Despite the fact that the Cardinal—his close friend with whom he dines and takes to the opera—has opposed extension of law suits beyond their deadline. Not a word about how the Dan McCormack case was botched. Not a word about how Voice of the Faithful, a liberal-oriented lay group, criticized George and recommended he not be elected president of the USCCB. There was a time when Andy said obliquely in one of his books that homosexuality will be a problem in Chicago. That was when he was on the outs with Cardinal Bernardin; but they made up and nary a peep since. He was so much a friend that he calculated how to make Bernardin pope (gasp!) in a series of self-reflections which he (unfortunately for him) combined with other memoirs which he sent to the Notre Dame library and which were published…which strained their friendship causing him to ruminate about scandals in the archdiocese. Now he is in good standing here.

Thus, not a word in his column about the election of George as president of the USCCB. Especially not a word about one who most certainly he must know, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson (in Arizona Greeley’s stamping grounds) who ran Mundelein and the adjunct Niles college seminaries into near cesspool status.

Why the silence do you suppose? Because possibly the people who have taken the heat for misfeasance are for the most part are political liberals and most are Democrats of the 1960s school, although Andy far antedates them in his fidelity to the party since it is his boast that he never, ever voted for a Republican. Period. The soft-core novelist priest who used to wear Bill Clinton’s golden saxophone emblem on his black clergy jacket lapel signifying that he was a big donor to the abortion president does not wish to add to the woes of his liberal friends most of whom have wittingly or not invested in lavender enabling.

Just wait for a conservative prelate (if one can be found: lots of luck) to get into some kind of trouble. He had better not spit on the sidewalk as the Chicago saying goes. Then you will see Andy’s hackles rise.

Flashback: Hubert Learns the Joys and Woes of the Vice Presidency. You Die, I Fly was Supposed to be the Motto of the Job but Not with Hubert.

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

NOTE: These memoirs about Minnesota have caused a good many readers whom I knew in those years to write to this website—some asking how to communicate with me personally about those years. They may write to me at I thank them for their interest.

Make no mistake, the thought of being president stayed with Hubert Humphrey all the while he was vice president—and then some. He was so servile a vice president to Lyndon Johnson that, as Gene McCarthy said many times, he “lost his manhood.” But every vice president of the U.S. has to be deferential—even LBJ to JFK. Dick Cheney as well but then the world knows that he is his own man.

Besides, any view about Hubert’s vice presidency as sacrificing manhood, coming from Gene, a reservoir pool of bitterness, would have to be suspect. Gene resented anybody who had the job he wanted, and it was a sure thing that Johnson picked the right man. Gene’s nature was to be unreliable, dilatory and disloyal (bound to only one vision—his own). He was disloyal to Hubert to whom he owed a great deal to Hubert and didn’t recognize he did. He was disloyal to LBJ who pushed him from Gene’s earliest days in the Senate and didn’t recognize he did.

He was emotionally immature, very passive, far from a hard-worker and in a clinch couldn’t be expected to make a quick decision, had no real absolutes…as it proved even on the war in Vietnam... and was governed by a misty theology that sprang from a combination of his thinking and Godfrey Diekmann’s.

Neither Gene nor Godfrey could run anything, even a funeral procession. Hubert had at least been mayor, got things through a hostile city council, chase remnants of the Capone gang out and made it a wholesome city once again. Throughout his public life, Gene had the easiest job in the world—U.S. Rep, U. S. Senator. You vote on things, have no responsibility over anything other than you 24-member (or so) staff. There is a good reason why the electorate declines to elect many senators from the outset (only Harding and JFK in the 20th century). That’s because there is no administrative quotient in the job—it has the easiest job specs other than city librarian.

As a matter of fact, librarian probably has more administrative decisions to make: what books to buy, what newspaper subscriptions to take. The role of Senator, grandiose, is pathetic when considered as a stepping-stone to the presidency. Yet Republicans and Democrats recently seem to prefer senators—the Dems: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama this year, John Kerry in 2004, Al Gore who had been a senator before veep; the Repubs: Nixon in `60 who had been senator before veep; Goldwater; Nixon again, Dole—Dole i.e. “Senator Bought,” ugh.

Hubert was only vice president for two days when his heart sprang up—thinking he would become president. On Jan. 22, 1965, two days after being sworn in, he was preparing for a trip to the St. Paul Winter Carnival the next day. But when he got home that night he was sneezing and felt rotten. He went to bed immediately and got up about 2 a.m. for a hot toddy (hot water plus lemon and a good shot of bourbon) to conquer the chills. Muriel said he shouldn’t go to St. Paul and he agreed. He just got back into bed and turned on his heating pad when his bedside “hot line” rang. It was George Reedy, Johnson’s press secretary, who said that LBJ was just taken to Bethesda Naval Hospital for treatment of an undisclosed illness.

Reedy really didn’t know what it was that ailed Johnson and he couldn’t find out—but as everybody knew, Johnson had suffered a severe heart attack when he was in the Senate and this could be another. So Hubert immediately felt better. He got up and sat in his kitchen with Muriel. Every vice president carries on in intolerable length of how they dread that call that the president is dead—and they all lie because they all want the presidency. All that is except one: Thomas Marshall who was genuinely petrified that Woodrow Wilson would, in fact, die, since he knew he wasn’t up to the job in any sense. An affable boozing nonentity known for the statement “what this country needs is a good five cent cigar!” he was as shallow as a pie-tin and knew it although he had been governor of Indiana and U. S. Senator. He has been known also for his statement that since more vice presidents have come from Indiana than any other state, “Indiana produced more second-rate men than any other.” And so with Wilson seriously incapacitated (so much so that he would lie in bed giggling to himself on occasion) and Mrs. Wilson (who had a fourth grade education) running things, ordering the cabinet around, Marshall never made a move to try to be an acting president. Too scared.

Aside from him, every other vice president loved the thought of succeeding to the top job. Even Harry Truman about whom a great myth was concocted when he said, “I tell you boys if you ever pray, do it now because I feel the whole world has fallen in on me.” Bunk. The only one who ever reacted honestly (aside from Thomas Marshall) was Alice Roosevelt Longworth who said when their family was notified that President McKinley had been shot, the kids all danced around and said, “hurrah! Daddy will be president!” TR tried to shush them up but it is all but certain that as a bear of an activist, he was as joyful as the kids. But like all others he had to put on a hang-dog face, be photographed looking wistfully to the horizon, wishing for all the world that this had never happened. Bunk. Nobody including John Adams (Thomas Marshall excepted) ever took the job without hoping he’d become president.

So as Hubert was downing his second hot toddy—lemonade laced with bourbon—and feeling much better and more receptive toward life, the phone rang again. He grabbed it and said expectantly: “Yes?” It was Reedy again saying that Johnson was hospitalized with a heavy cold, that’s all. “Oh,” said Hubert, “I’m so glad!” Click. Buzz. Rats. The “Wall Street Journal” Washington staff already had written the story which was set in type ready to go on a minute’s notice, starting: “Hubert Horatio Humphrey, who yesterday became the 37th president of the United States as a result of Lyndon Johnson’s death, will run an unmistakably activist, liberal administration.” Changes that would come would reflect a different style from Johnson’s not content, the WSJ said and prosecution of the Vietnam War would continue to be imparted “vigorously.” Hubert could visualize the self-same story but it was not to be. Oh well.

With that late night jolt, Hubert got well all of a sudden and prepared to go to Minnesota, a cold or not. Reason: the health scare with LBJ hospitalized gave rise to the expectation that Hubert would be president one day and Hubert wasn’t about to miss out on that excitement in his native state no matter how sick he was. He got there and told the Minnesota press with the proper hangdog face, “I realized my fears and apprehension were unfounded and now I can smile again!” Bunk.

When he said that I once again thought of Michelson sticking his finger down his throat in a simulated preparatory vomit. But of course that is what the public—wise beyond measure to the hypocrisy of politics—still wants to fool itself and believe. If Hubert had been honest and had used his favorite expression “oh pshaw!” that Johnson didn’t die, there would be a seismic earth shock in public opinion. The public in other words knows better but wants a vice president to pretend the hypocrisy of faux sorrow and faux relief when told the chief executive would live.

Most vice presidents—with the exception of Dick Cheney who is truly the number two with all the accoutrements and power in the conceptual design of the founders—are kick arounds and usually chafe about it. Going to state funerals is their least favorite duty. But early on Hubert was planning in his mind’s eye for a big funeral he would go to.

That would be Winston Churchill’s who was lingering, lingering and ready to die at any moment. Heading the U.S. delegation and going to Churchill’s funeral would enable Hubert to rub elbows with all the world’s leaders and place him on a par with them which could be wonderful to shape public opinion that would see him as a future president. There he could return to his hangdog expression and raise misty eyes to heaven to thank it for Churchill’s life (gag again) and privately thank God he was sent to London. . But that wasn’t to happen.

After Churchill died, Hubert waited impatiently for the phone to ring with Johnson’s staff telling him he was to board Air Force One for London. But no call came. Hubert started to get stomach pains again out of anxiety, thinking that Johnson would send someone else to hob-nob with international leaders. Then the phone rang. Hubert said again , “yes?” But his face fell. It was Johnson all right but Hubert had to stay here. Chief Justice Earl Warren would lead the U. S. delegation. What got Hubert crazy was that the White House didn’t issue a word of explanation when there was a very good one at hand: with Johnson recovering from a heavy chest cold he wanted Hubert to stay in this country if he should have to become president. Well, Johnson wasn’t about to nurture that thought, obviously. The real reason may have been that LBJ couldn’t tolerate Hubert running around with all the foreign leaders. Show me a president who can.

But at least he could have used the excuse he gave Hubert to the press. Not at all. Not a word from the White House—and the media started playing the age old Washington game that the vice presidency was being downgraded.

Yet these were all minor league things. The real troubles for Hubert involved our strategy in Vietnam. After all the pledges Hubert had made about his undying loyalty, Johnson had every right to expect that Hubert would back him to the hilt in a hawkish approach. But the war was getting to be very unpopular and very expensive to future electability of one who would back it to the hilt. This would be a character test for Hubert. He was expected to see it through with Johnson and go down with the ship of need be. Well now the water was coming up through the floorboards. .

Gene His Old Epigrammatic Self.

Meanwhile the other candidate who had promised to stay loyal if Vietnam turned sour—and who doubted that his old patron Hubert would-- Gene McCarthy, was his old querulous and enigmatic self: spoiled, as Abigail had said in their hotel room fight in Atlantic City, having been told too often that he was the reigning intellectual of both parties. He missed the limelight as Destiny’s Tot. Where as a vice presidential possibility he traveled the country and in Chicago met and discussed things with Mayor Richard J. Daley and all the crowned heads of the media, now he was just another senator. Nothing more than a face card which was slipped back in the deck, consisting of, as The Little Sisters of the Media felt, 99 demagogues and Gene McCarthy. While he rubbed his scabs raw with misgiving, he tried to get his mind off his envy by seeking to influence the appointment of Hubert’s successor who would be the junior senator from Minnesota.

The DFL governor of Minnesota was Karl Rolvaag, a man whose sobriety extended daily from about 9 a.m. to a quarter to noon where it lapsed. Hubert got hold of Rolvaag promptly at 9:15 a.m. the day after he and LBJ were elected and didn’t ask, but gave it as his recommendation as the leader of the Minnesota party that Rolvaag should appoint the state attorney general, Walter (Fritz) Mondale to his Senate seat. Rolvaag agreed. Rolvaag owed much to Hubert. Others had tried to dislodge him from the gubernatorial nomination in favor of Mondale, the young AG on the strength of the rumors, all true, that Rolvaag was an inconsolable drunk. Hubert denied this and objected. Rolvaag was eternally grateful when Mondale didn’t run against him for the nomination—which was due to Hubert.

McCarthy got hold of Rolvaag at 2 p.m. the same day but was greeted with a happily fluid governor with an attention deficit. McCarthy wanted Rolvaag to concentrate on the fact that he should name to the Senate Congressman John Blatnik from the Iron Range. Blatnik probably was the better choice. Rolvaag had trouble concentrating an answer and the conversation was unsatisfactory. Actually Rolvaag not only agreed with Hubert but felt rightly that he owed as much if not more to Mondale than even to Hubert. It involved a hideously salacious story that both covered up.

The famous story relayed onlookers from the media, Adolph Johnson of the Associated Press, Arv Johnson (no relation) of WCCO radio, Bob Doder of UPI and Art Michelson then of WTCN-TV and repeated by others who were there, is thus: They were all together covering a DFL parley one hot summer day in 1962 in Brainerd, a tourist resort town. Rolvaag was running for governor. After the parley, they went as guests of the DFL to a luxurious resort. Rolvaag started drinking although this time it was vodka so his breath wasn’t detectable. Mondale arrived at the resort late in the afternoon on that incredibly hot day, wearing a spiffy white linen suit. It was boiling hot and Rolvaag suggested, as the gubernatorial nominee, to impress Mondale with his sobriety that while the others on the ticket were engaging in drinks, he and Mondale forego this and go out on a speedboat to the middle of the lake and cool off. Mondale readily agreed, gratified that evidently Rolvaag had eschewed the drinking (not realizing that the lieutenant governor had had consumed far more than his quota).

The lake had been dredged to make it deeper at the shoreline to accommodate deep hulled tourist boats, the depth exceeding twelve feet. Mondale got in the prow of the boat, sat looking speculatively out to the lake while waving at the swimmers and boaters who were cruising by…confident that Rolvaag who knew a lot about speedboats unhooked the sturdy padlocked chain that tied the power craft to the concrete pier. Alas, Rolvaag had not remembered to do this.

Instead, the lieutenant governor sitting in the back, grabbed the tiller, gunned the powerful engine and roared off. The chain reacted against the concrete and the power of the engine—jerking the boat violently. The violent backward snap could have broken Mondale’s and Rolvaag’s necks but instead pitched them high into the air and then down to the lake bottom in an instant. There, Mondale, stunned and imagining that he may have had a stroke, touched the lake bottom and was preparing to zoom up when he saw Rolvaag flailing at his side. He grasped the situation in an instant. When they both came up for air, Mondale found they were the subject of mixed mirth and astonishment from the tourists who had just seen two major Democratic-Farmer-Labor party officials nearly drown. Rolvaag was gratified to be on the surface. He was instantly sober and contrite. But as he was helped to shore, Mondale’s attitude toward the lieutenant governor, resorts, boats and starchy linen summer suits that crumble like a wet newspaper in the water, changed forever.

Mondale only cursed lightly after he and the lieutenant governor paddled ashore because he did not wish to add to the newsworthy-ness of the occasion. Having provided sufficient levity for tourists that afternoon, he ordered his aide to drive him immediately back to Minneapolis, stopping along the way for dry clothes, after which he reportedly made some pungent observations about Rolvaag’s illegitimate ancestry (inaccurate since Rolvaag’s father, properly married in Lutheran rites to the lieutenant governor’s mother, was the immortal novelist Ole Rolvaag who wrote the landmark “Giants in the Earth” in Nowegian, translated into English, a study of immigrants in Minnesota which is still required reading in public high schools of the state).

Mondale reportedly called Hubert to allay the news that Rolvaag had quit drinking. Now Gov. Rolvaag who felt guilty about the matter could repay Mondale by agreeing with Hubert and naming his former sodden swimming partner to the U. S. Senate. Gene was not happy about Mondale’s appointment, saying to his coterie, The Little Sisters of the Media: “Fritz is the new brand of Senate liberal. He’s like that toothpaste that comes in a plastic bag with a brush—you get it all at once.” What did that mean? Like most of Gene’s devastating comments: what you want to make of it. But it captivated Marya McLaughlin of CBS-TV his favorite vehicle of transmission. She carried it through political circles where it reached Mondale’s ears—and Humphrey’s--within a day.

Abigail bit her lip. The Little Sisters of the Media and their closeness to Gene were getting her goat. With Gene’s irreverence they were seeing that he was collecting a lot of Democratic enemies—Hubert, hundreds of delegates and convention guests who saw him acerbic, ungenerous, petty, bitter and the bad loser at the Minnesota post-convention party, President Johnson, now Fritz Mondale.

This bitterness would culminate into what?

She would find out along with many others.