Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Flashback: McCarthy Rejects Calls for Party Unity in a Speech and Phone Call to Hubert; Humphrey Seems to Give Up Hope of Winning Even Though The Numbers Are Tight. All this and Anna Chennault Too with Republican Cloak-and-Dagger Duplicity. .


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

With the poll numbers…first invented then like a fulfilled prophecy… quite close between Humphrey and Nixon Democratic party regulars put more heat on Gene McCarthy to endorse Hubert for the sake of party unity. In a speech on October 8, 1968 Gene stipulated three items: that the U.S. accept a new government in Vietnam composed of Communists as well as anti-Communists…a change of the draft laws to allow conscientious objectors “to accept other responsibilities to prove the genuineness of their action” and finally a reform of the political processes within the Democratic party “so we shall not have another Chicago.” The third condition was fulfilled after the election and paved the way with quotas for minorities and people of varying sexual orientation that has harassed the party ever since.

Humphrey kept on challenging Richard Nixon to debates but it was obvious Nixon wouldn’t take the bait. The rumor started circulating that Gene would not run for reelection to the Senate from Minnesota in 1970—whereupon Hubert impulsively told his staff that he—Hubert—might, telegraphing that Hubert didn’t think he was going to win the presidency in `68. But on October 28, McCarthy telephoned Hubert and after a great deal of ambiguous hemming and hawing indicated he would endorse him the next night on the 29th. After waiting so long it was problematic as to how effective the endorsement would be. McCarthy seemed to be at a loss for how to phrase the announcement. Hubert told him, “Well, Gene, you can just say what I’ve been saying all along—that we’ve been friends for 20 years and our families have been friends and we’ll be friends long after this is all over. You’re my friend and I’ve never said anything other than that you are.” But when he hung up, Hubert shook his head and said, “you know, I think Gene’s flaky.” Gene’s statement issued from his Washington office on Oct. 29 said that while Hubert’s position on the major issues “fall far snort of what I think it should be” Humphrey nevertheless had shown “a better understanding of our domestic needs and a stronger will to act.”

He added that to answer those who suspected he was endorsing Hubert to “reinstate me in the good graces of the Democratic party leaders…I announce at this time I will not be a candidate of my party for reelection to the Senate from the state of Minnesota in 1970. Nor will I seek the presidential nomination of the Democratic party in 1972.”

McCarthy’s endorsement as weak as it was encouraged Hubert but what thrilled him was an announcement by Lyndon Johnson that the bombing of North Vietnam would end the next day—October 30. Hubert went on TV with his own paid broadcast and hailed the president’s decision which he strongly implied was affirmation of the step he had suggested at Salt Lake City. Ah but the very next day—November 1—the South Vietnamese announced they were refusing to take part in the peace talks. Why did the South Vietnamese decide to do this with the U.S. election was looming—November 5?.

Enter Anna Chennault.

The South Vietnamese government decided to balk because of the secret intervention of a comely Chinese lady—a key fixture in the “China Lobby” with which my former boss Rep. Walter H. Judd (R-Minn.) was heavily involved. Anna Chan Chennault, a vice chairman of the Republican National Finance committee and co-chairman of Women for Nixon-Agnew, had been born in Bejing and educated in Hong Kong. At the age of 23 she married Gen. Claire Chennault the founder of the Flying Tigers. She bore the general two children and became a U.S. citizen in 1950. After the war he founded China Air Transport and privatized the Flying Tigers. Gen, Chennault died in 1958 in his native New Orleans. She then sold the Flying Tigers and China Air Transport to the CIA using the influence of Thomas (“Tommy the Cork”) Corcoran the old FDR hand who was smitten with Anna. She moved to Washington, D. C. where she became a brilliant hostess, stunningly gowned in brocaded high collared Chinese dresses, entertained lavishly and met all the right people. The godmother of her two daughters was Mme. Chiang Kai-shek.

Anna Chennault made three visits to the Far East each year. She was alarmed by the McCarthy, Kennedy and Humphrey candidacies and decided to help Nixon any way she could. Returning from a Saigon trip in 1967, she brief Nixon on Vietnamese developments. Early in 1968 she brought Bui Diem, Saigon’s ambassador in Washington to meet Nixon and his campaign manager, John Mitchell. As the campaign warmed up she continued to send Nixon notes beginning, “Dear Dick” and to meet frequently with Bui Diem and John Tower, chairman of the Republican Key Issues committee. Tommy the Cork was so intoxicated by love for Anna that he didn’t care if his favorite Democratic party was being maimed or not. Lyndon Johnson got wind of Anna’s dealing and had the National Security Council bug her and determined that she indeed was fooling around in U.S. foreign policy. At this point, Johnson could have blown the whistle, announced that the Republicans were breaking the law and jeopardizing the peace by improper negotiations. It would have nearly ended the Nixon campaign right then and there.

It is important to state that my old boss Walter Judd, Anna Chennault and their close allies were firmly convinced…as was I…that LBJ and Hubert’s earnest desire for peace was going to sell out the South Vietnamese in the same way that FDR had sold out the Poles at Yalta. I have always believed this. By the way, Tommy the Cork ended up doing service for both sides: ostensibly advising Anna, then ducking back to tell the Humphrey-Johnson people what the Republicans were doing) but none of us knew it completely…I suspected however…at the time. But again: why didn’t Johnson blast us out of the water since he had telephone tapes from the NSA?

Amazingly, Johnson did nothing. Why he did not has always been a matter of conjecture. One thing is certain: had he been the Democratic nominee against Nixon, he would have blazed out with the Chennault story. Whether he was still rueful about Hubert’s sidling away from him in Salt Lake and decided it would serve him right to lose because of his lack of fealty when he had promised loyalty all along…or whether at the bottom the old Cold War warrior Johnson didn’t want to give the North Vietnamese a good deal…he proceeded with the plans for a peace talk. When the South Vietnamese balked…in obedience to Mme. Chennault…Johnson didn’t say a word. For his part, Hubert always felt Nixon was not in on the Chennault negotiations. That was ridiculous. Nixon and especially John Mitchell were up to their armpits in discussions with the South Vietnamese via Anna Chennault and convinced the South that if they balked at the peace overtures, a new Republican administration would ensure they would get a better deal. So the peace overtures failed and with it Humphrey’s last gasp at victory.

So in this rich drama there were many-many examples of duplicity. A few of them: In 1964, both Hubert and McCarthy pleaded with LBJ that each one would be loyal to the end of an unpopular war. Bobby Kennedy oversaw his brother’s strengthening the South Vietnamese with our troops in an effort to show Khrushchev that just because Kennedy had goofed on the Bay of Pigs and the Berlin Wall, there would be no weakness here. Then once John Kennedy was dead, Bobby turned around and became the shaggy-haired demagogue for peace we all remember. Hubert was named Johnson’s vice president and sure enough when the heat came on and he would be the nominee, he waffled and sold Johnson out. McCarthy who had promised LBJ his fealty ruined the Democratic party by unleashing a torrent of peace-at-any-price which is with it yet, along with “reforms” that ended the Democratic bosses’ control over the party—boss rule that had the maturity to choose many fine candidates. And Johnson got even with Hubert by not doing anything when he had the clear goods on the Republican negotiations via Chennault…which might well have exploded into public recriminations against Nixon and elected Hubert. More than enough treachery to go around.


  1. Thanks again for the wonderful continuing history lesson. I'd like to add one fact and a bit of speculation. The fact is that more than one book has stated that Johnson wanted to get Anna Chenault's dealings out in the open, but had second thoughts for fear that letting this loose would have revealed unauthorized wiretaps that got the information. The speculation is that LBJ had always hated Nixon (generally agreed), because in the 1940s Johnson had supposedly had an affair with Helen Gahagan Douglas when both were in the House of Representatives. Johnson remained fond of her, and never forgave Nixon for his vicious 1950 Senate campaign against her. No matter his frustrations with Humphrey, in the final analysis I can't believe Johnson could ever have supported Nixon.

  2. You wrote: "After the war he founded China Air Transport and privatized the Flying Tigers. Gen, Chennault died in 1958 in his native New Orleans. She then sold the Flying Tigers and China Air Transport to the CIA"

    Well, Civil Air Transport remained CAT, though it's true that some Flying Tigers veterans were involved in their airline. (There was another, unrelated outfit called the Flying Tiger Line, later acquired by FedEx.) The CIA became involved in CAT while Chennault was still its president, though he had moved out of day-to-day supervision of the airline, which became a U.S. government contractor in Korea and Vietnam (where they flew support missions for the French). In time the CIA took over completely and transformed CAT into Air America. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

  3. Jackson was a proto-Ron Paul for standing up to the National Bank and
    Francis Biddle. Like Paul, he was a champion of free banking. Lord deliver us from the fetters of the Federal Reserve! Harding did indeed escape notoriety for his sexual escapades, at least during his life-time. But if you have any proof that he did not father the daughter of Nan Britton, I would like to see it. McCain is a belligerent little albino whose answer to every foreign policy conundrum is
    Bombs away!I saw him interviewed on our unfortunate Balkan adventure once. He confessed he didnot know why we were there, and that he didn't care, either. There was just one thing he was sure of-we needed to put a hundred thousand pair of boots on the ground. War for the hell of it seems to be his
    motto. He is weak on a lot of issues, but his willingness to commit American troops to Iraq for a hundred years (!)
    absolutely disqualifies him. Taken in conjunction with a recognition of his violent temper,he scares me. But maybe you admire the aggressive leadership style of a man who would grab ninety year-old J. Strom Thurmond, throw him against the wall, choke him, and threaten to kill him. Not me.
    ---Dave Wade

  4. tom, i know your a smart man, i used to love your blog more when you wrote about current political events. your blog is now loaded with miniscue detail of long gone events. cutting edge sells better. and i take my hat off to you for your wonderful book on the father ignatius. i wish i would have met him. write a book and dedicate it to your kids and grandkids about the history you've been through. but your blog i recomend to be more modern. i hope i did not hurt your feelings.