[More than 50 years of politics written for my kids and grandchildren].
Nothing went right for Hubert Humphrey for many weeks after the Democratic national convention. He couldnt find a campaign chief. He asked Kenny ODonnell, JFKs former White House aide, but was turned down because ODonnell felt it would damage his chances of running for governor of Massachusetts in 1970. He asked Orville Freeman who had left the agriculture department, to write a campaign plan; Freeman did and thought this meant he would be campaign chairmanbut Hubert feared Freeman would botch it up since he had had no national campaign experience. Hence Freeman seemed on the verge of leaving him. Walter Mondale, the junior Minnesota senator, was angered because he wanted Hubert to separate from LBJs conduct of the war immediately and Hubert wouldntso Mondale disappeared. In desperation Hubert turned to Larry OBrien who had agreed just to run Huberts campaign up to the nomination. He offered to make OBrien chairman of the campaign and also of the Democratic National Committee. Reluctantly, OBrien accepted.
Relieved that he had a top professional to run his campaign, Hubert bundled everybody in a planeMuriel, OBrien, the Edmund Muskies (Muskie the senator from Maine was the vice presidential nominee) and headed for Minnesota and his home at Waverly where they would have a long-running skull session. When they arrived at the Twin Cities International airport, there were only 300 people on hand to greet him including one long-haired kid who hoisted a crudely lettered sign that read, Go back to Chicago and Daleys fascist cops, Humphrey! One member of Huberts party lost his temper, reached across the fence, grabbed the sign and tore it up.
In contrast, Richard Nixon had a wonderful convention in Miami Beach (I was there, accompanying Illinois Republican National Committeeman, Bob Stuart who was also Quakers CEO). He started his campaign in Chicago on August 30 with a parade where 100,000 saw him. Demonstrations by peace people were very sparse. But in fact, Nixon was hoping they would picket since as the law and order candidate, the candidate to end civic unrest, he cold capitalize on them.
However on Sunday, September 1, 1968 two thousand turned out in front of the Waverly village hall to pay tribute to the Humphreys and the Muskies. Speaking to the crowd the vice president said, We ought to quit pretending that Mayor Daley did something that was wrong. He didnt condone a thing that was wrong. He tried to protect lives. When he heard that, Gene McCarthy who was also back in Minnesota glowered. Hubert took off for New York to march in the Labor Day parade, passing up the traditional appearance of Democrats in Cadillac Square in Detroit because of the prospect of slim crowds. But in New York he had to sneak into his hotel by a side entrance to avoid angry crowds blocking the front door. Finally after marching 25 blocks in New York and hearing the jeering, he softened his approach to Daleys crushing the demonstrators. He told the New York public TV station that he guessed the Chicago police overreacted and that he was certain Daley didnt want to condone the beating of those people with clubsadding, I didnt condone it.
Back in Waverly, Hubert sat down to work with OBrien and Joe Napolitan, a political ad man and a few others. OBrien and his small staff sat up the entire night, fortified by coffee plotting the campaign that had already begun. In 1960, OBrien had had two weeks to plan the JFK campaign against Nixon. Now he had one night. The campaign was not fancy or expensive, rather like flying by the seat of your pants said OBrien. But the first thing they needed was money. They had spent $4 million on the pre-convention and OBriens and Napolitans media plan called for concentrating the advertising plan in the last two weeks of the campaign.
On Monday, September 9. out went Hubert as a salesman across the country with poor scheduling, no money and scant plans of raising money, flying to Philadelphia, then Denver and Los Angeles. In Philadelphia he got heckled by hundreds before a disappointing crowd of 10,000where they normally could have expected 100,000 from Mayor James Tates organization. Reporters goaded Hubert on how he planned to end the war. Hubert: I think I can safely predict that unless there are any unusual developments, well be able to start to remove some of our troops in early 1969 or late 1968. In Denver he said a bombing halt would have to depend on a reasonable reaction from the North Vietnamese. Johnson fumed back in Washington, called Hubert and chewed him out on the phone. Secretary of State Dean Rusk told the media: No one should suppose that a bombing halt is going to produce peace in a few days. Later that week, making a speech at the American Legion convention in New Orleans, Johnson said curtly: No man can predict when that daypeacewill come. A direct repudiation.
Day by day and week by week the campaign news continued to be terrible. Defense secretary Clark Clifford called to chew Humphrey out on the war situation, saying his off-the-cuff remarks were inaccurate. When he arrived in Texas, Hubert looked in the crowd for Governor John Connally who didnt show up. In California he searched the crowd for Jesse Unruh: a no show.
When he came to Boston on September 19, he was gratified to learn that Ted Kennedy would be on the speakers stand for the first appearance since the assassination of Robert Kennedy. But hundreds of college students booed Hubert despite the fact that Ted Kennedy was on the stage. Some shouted Shame on Teddy! and Sellout! as Kennedy introduced Hubert and declared his support for him. Humphreys 20-minute speech was almost drowned out by protesters. Angered, Hubert turned to them and shouted, We will not move this country forward if it is plagued by those who deny freedom of speech and who deny freedom of assembly to those who offer appeals to reason! Their answer: Bullshit! Bullshit!
He turned around and flew to South Dakota for the simple reason that Sen. George McGovern had agreed to introduce him. But he and Muriel were severely jostled by pickets in Sioux Falls. Humphrey told the media these are intentionally mean anarchists who are determined not to let anyone speak! As he tried to be heard, he turned and told the media: They have met a tough guy. I have no intention of being intimidated, no intention of being shouted down. Take a look at themfilled with hatred, bitterness, bigotry. Look at their faces, filled with violence. They will never live long enough to run me off the platform, the cowardly bastards!
In Springfield, Illinois Hubert decided to change the subject and attack Richard Nixon who was cruising along unruffled as the Republican nominee, having informed the media that he had a secret plan to end the Vietnam warand win itbut one he wouldnt divulge for now. . Standing on the steps of Lincolns home, Hubert said, I think its time we stopped passing like ships in the night. I think its time we discussed our differencesin Peoria, in Springfield or on a television network! He was echoing back to the Lincoln-Douglas debates and the Kennedy-Nixon ones. In Louisville, Kentucky he added: Mr. Nixon where do you stand? Every day you read about that cool, that confident that composed and that smiling Mr. Nixonthe man who campaigns without running, the man who takes it easy and never makes a mistake, who either evades or straddles every major issue. Is it confidence when he refuses to join me in a direct television debate on the issues or is it something else?
However, sunning himself on a beach in Nice, France, Eugene McCarthy was finally quoted on the political campaign. Reporters gathered when he returned in his bathing trunks covered by a long terrycloth robe to his hotel. With pencils poised they asked him for a comment on U. S. politics and the presidential campaign. McCarthy paused to think of a suitable epigram. Then he had one. He said, Nixon doesnt have woof. Humphrey has lots of woof but no warp. Then he disappeared in the elevator. The media pondered this before someone explained it to them: Hes referring to the lengthwise threads in the weavers loomwarpand the crosswise threadswoof.
Reading this in the Washington Post, Hubert turned to Muriel and speculated about McCarthys ancestry in scatological terms.