Blue Skies in Camelot: An Alternate 60's and Beyond

Greetings all!

I just wanted to make a short post letting you all know that neither I nor this TL have died over the past few weeks. :) I've recently gone back to college and moving in and getting back into the swing of things has taken up a lot of my time... Much to my displeasure and the detriment of TTL. :p To make matters worse, I had several more updates ready to post but after some careful thought, I'm beginning to consider rewriting them. I'm not sure when I will be able to do that, but I'm hoping it will be sometime in the next week. Thank you, as always, for your patience. You're the best audience an author could ever ask for. :)
Hey, if you think you can do better, then do better. This is an extremely high-quality TL, and it's better to keep the quality high with sparse updates than churn out frequent but less impressive updates. Also, if you need more time for RL or writing, then don't worry about us! We can wait.
 
Greetings all!

I just wanted to make a short post letting you all know that neither I nor this TL have died over the past few weeks. :) I've recently gone back to college and moving in and getting back into the swing of things has taken up a lot of my time... Much to my displeasure and the detriment of TTL. :p To make matters worse, I had several more updates ready to post but after some careful thought, I'm beginning to consider rewriting them. I'm not sure when I will be able to do that, but I'm hoping it will be sometime in the next week. Thank you, as always, for your patience. You're the best audience an author could ever ask for. :)
Don't stress yourself. I just started college this semester myself.
 
Greetings all!

I just wanted to make a short post letting you all know that neither I nor this TL have died over the past few weeks. :) I've recently gone back to college and moving in and getting back into the swing of things has taken up a lot of my time... Much to my displeasure and the detriment of TTL. :p To make matters worse, I had several more updates ready to post but after some careful thought, I'm beginning to consider rewriting them. I'm not sure when I will be able to do that, but I'm hoping it will be sometime in the next week. Thank you, as always, for your patience. You're the best audience an author could ever ask for. :)
Pleae take all the time you need, we'd rather have quality rather than quantity. (Ok, being honest we'd like to have BOTH, in every half-hour updates during prime viewing hours, every day of the week. But you know authors get SO upset when you make just a few simple requests... And then if you kidnap them and lock them in a remote cabin chained to a chair and computer they complaine insesently for weeks on end... Er, never mind. Really I don't know what that was, just ignore it! :) )

Randy
 
I have been rally reading this for like three weeks and I have to say it is an amazing timeline, President Lincoln deserves what ever this sites version of an emmy is for it. On a personal note I hope that Nixion undercuts Reagan and becomes president in 1980, I prefer his middle road(not quite Rockefeller but not paleoconservative politics) to those of Reagan and as long as he doesn't abuse his power overtly Nixon would probably make a pretty good president.(I confess however that I took a quiz to see what president I'd be the most like and Nixon was the 2nd highest result)
 
n a personal note I hope that Nixion undercuts Reagan and becomes president in 1980, I prefer his middle road(not quite Rockefeller but not paleoconservative politics) to those of Reagan and as long as he doesn't abuse his power overtly Nixon would probably make a pretty good president.
While I would also like to see the emergence of a middle-road GOP ITTL, I have a lot of qualms about a Nixon presidency. Even if he is steered away from some of his more egregious abuses of power from IOTL, the man was generally insecure, jealous, and lacked a very strong moral compass. While he had some great foreign and domestic accomplishment IOTL, many of his other policies and actions (throwing a wrench into the 1968 peace negotiations, price freezes) were detrimental to the wellbeing of the country and entirely self-serving. ITTL, he's shown no inclination towards being much better, and after his firing, his enemies list might actually be a bit longer than IOTL. I'd much prefer a Bush-inspired GOP, operating pragmatically but also relying upon a fundamentally moral and somewhat idealistic set of goals (vote Bush in 76!).
 
Id perfer Reagan to win,I liked him OTL because of his strong convictions and Anti Communism, he seems to have moderated comparitvely from OTL and can keep the party together while keeping it on a fourth right honest path, providing a strong alternative to Democratic Keynsianism.
 
Yeah, I'm actually partial towards Reagan eventually being Bush's successor (assuming Bush gets re-elected of course) in 1980. It's an interesting dynamic even without Nixon in the picture. OTL we had a moderate/pragmatic Bush succeeding conservative Reagan. ITTL we're set (if all goes well) for the conservative Reagan to succeed the moderate/pragmatic Bush. I wonder what Reagan will do to appeal to the Bush Republicans to support him. Will Reagan say something like "Read my lips: No Voodoo Economics" as the ITTL equivalent of the "No New Taxes" speech when he gets the nomination?
 
. I wonder what Reagan will do to appeal to the Bush Republicans to support him. Will Reagan say something like "Read my lips: No Voodoo Economics" as the ITTL equivalent of the "No New Taxes" speech when he gets the nomination?
Probably use a Helms or Thurmond Campagin as a foil, Also pound against Inflation (a Republican favorite)
 
While I would also like to see the emergence of a middle-road GOP ITTL, I have a lot of qualms about a Nixon presidency. Even if he is steered away from some of his more egregious abuses of power from IOTL, the man was generally insecure, jealous, and lacked a very strong moral compass. While he had some great foreign and domestic accomplishment IOTL, many of his other policies and actions (throwing a wrench into the 1968 peace negotiations, price freezes) were detrimental to the wellbeing of the country and entirely self-serving. ITTL, he's shown no inclination towards being much better, and after his firing, his enemies list might actually be a bit longer than IOTL. I'd much prefer a Bush-inspired GOP, operating pragmatically but also relying upon a fundamentally moral and somewhat idealistic set of goals (vote Bush in 76!).
I agree. Nixon is entirely self serving and his policies (invasion of Cambodia, taking the US off the Gold Standard, his so called plan to end the Vietnam War) made things entirely worse. ITT Nixon seems to be lurking in the shadows of the GOP with people like Donald Rumsfield dissatisfied with Bush and Reagan's version of how the GOP and conservative in the US should be.
 
I agree. Nixon is entirely self serving and his policies (invasion of Cambodia, taking the US off the Gold Standard, his so called plan to end the Vietnam War) made things entirely worse. ITT Nixon seems to be lurking in the shadows of the GOP with people like Donald Rumsfield dissatisfied with Bush and Reagan's version of how the GOP and conservative in the US should be.
I think that there's a possibility of Nixon in the 80 election
 
I think that there's a possibility of Nixon in the 80 election
It certainly would be interesting to see him how he would position himself in the election since he was a former Secretary of state in TTL and is bitter and angry about being fired and sent to be ambassador to the UK. Imagine him and Thatcher together!
 
Dick Nixon looked at the younger man with an undeniable mix of pride and admiration. When the time came, he promised himself that he would train Rumsfeld as they marched toward the Oval Office once more. A fire was growing inside Nixon's cold black heart. The time had come for some "Real Republicans" to return sense to the party. He would call those young-ins Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Lee Atwater, and together, they would take back the Republican Party from these feel good sissies. And the best part of all? Nixon really believed that together with Rumsfeld, he could do it.
Oh no, Richard Nixon is TTL's Reagan, isn't he?
 
Despite his personality flaws it seems to me that Nixon handled the federal budget much better than Regan did IRL. Plus I kind of like the aloof, miserable old bastard.
 
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Despite his personality flaws it seems to me that Nixon handled the federal budget much better than Regan did IRL. Plus I kind of like the aloof, miserable old bastard.
I think it would be correct to suggest that Nixon, despite how monstrous, was the last New Deal Republican POTUS.
 
Chapter 104
Chapter 104: The Boys Are Back in Town - The 1976 Presidential Election


Above: Congressman Morris K. Udall (D - AZ) and President George H.W. Bush (R - TX) during their third and final televised debate at the College of William & Mary on October 22nd, 1976.


“Some politicians believe that when they have coined a slogan they have solved a problem. I am not one of those politicians.” - U.S. Representative Morris K. Udall (D - AZ)


“History will point out some of the things I did wrong and some of the things I did right.” - President George H.W. Bush


Despite a spirited primary challenge from Congresswoman Phyllis Schlafly (R - IL) leaving President Bush winded and deeply bitter about politics on the whole, he nonetheless entered the Fall campaign with several key advantages over his opponent, Congressman Udall. For starters, as the incumbent President, Bush had the privilege of presiding over numerous events celebrating the United States’ bicentennial, including a massive parade and display of fireworks on the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C., which was televised across the nation. These and other events produced ample press coverage and dozens of editorials, the vast majority of which were favorable to the President, and showed him to be a “calm, steady hand” amidst a swirl of challenges and national uncertainty. The images of the President beneath scores of American flags and amidst dazzling military parades did a great deal to combat any charges of Bush being a “wimp” in the eyes of the American people. On July 7th, the President and First Lady played host at a White House State Dinner for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip of the United Kingdom, which was also televised on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) network. All throughout the evening, the President and First Lady showed themselves to be smiling, gracious hosts, and warmed the hearts of many with their easy banter with the Royal couple. These events, together with focusing on overseeing the Walker’s Point negotiations and managing bills on the Hill before the election, whilst leaving the majority of the actual campaigning to Vice President Reagan and other surrogates, were all parts of Bush’s “Rose Garden” strategy to win a second term. Instead of appearing to be a typical politician, out to get people’s votes, President Bush portrayed himself as an “experienced leader”, who was busy attending to the duties of his office as the country’s chief executive. It wouldn’t be until late September that the President would finally leave the White House to actively campaign on his own behalf. The fruits of his diplomatic labors, the Walkers Point Accords, were also a major win for the President with the American public, and seemed to prove that his strategy was paying off. He was not going to dignify opposition to his Administration with an active campaign. He had a country to run.


Though the strategy initially worked, as the Accords between Israel and Egypt left the active news cycle, they were replaced with increasingly dire stories of average Americans suffering from the endlessly worsening economy, and grim forecasts from economists about the months to come. The Great Recession reached its fever pitch right as the election was approaching, with national unemployment capping at an astounding 12.2% in October, and the President seemingly “distracted” by presiding over parades and hosting state dinners. Though Congressman Udall did not approve of any attacks on the President personally, nor attacks on the Accords, which he considered to be a sterling accomplishment (sticking with his belief in the Navajo adage that “he who throws mud will lose ground”), Populist Democratic activists and operatives took it upon themselves to write scathing critiques of the President’s priorities, and demanded that voters “turn out in November and show Washington that we want real solutions to that fact that nearly one in eight of us are out of work!” Udall himself wisely told a reporter when asked about whether he considered foreign or domestic affairs to be more important in this election: “Both are of tremendous consequence. I don’t believe that you can claim that one is more important than the other. But people here at home are out of work and really feeling the hurt of this ailing economy. If elected, I will attend to the needs of the American people both at home and abroad, and get people back to work the very first day I sit in the Oval Office.” Though both campaigns received the standard bump in the polls after their respective conventions, the Democrats’ was far larger than the Republicans’, and only seemed to grow as the economy continued to languish throughout the race. By the end of August, Udall held a ten percent lead over Bush in most national polls. “We are grateful, no doubt,” the Congressman joked with reporters about his campaign’s surging popularity. “But like the unfortunate Arizona farmer once learned, we know better than to count our chickens before they hatch.”


In contrast to the Republicans’ “Rose Garden” strategy, Udall and Governor Bentsen tirelessly barnstormed the nation, reaching out to thousands of communities, many of which had never been visited by a major Presidential ticket before. Udall made light of the strategy in an interview with Meet the Press, in which he borrowed an anecdote of the “Great Commoner” William Jennings Bryan to explain how he felt as the Democratic nominee giving a stump speech in a rural, typically Republican region of Minnesota.


“Well back in 1896, Bryan dropped in on a farm, not unlike the ones that Governor Bentsen and I have been visiting, and introduced himself as the Democratic candidate for President. The farmer’s eyes lit up. ‘Wait ‘til I get my wife.’ He said. ‘We’ve never seen a Presidential candidate before!’ And a few minutes later, he was back with his wife and a few dozen of their friends, relatives, and neighbors, and they asked the Great Commoner if he would give them a speech. He said he would be delighted, but found he had no place to stand on from which he could deliver his remarks. He looked around for a kind of podium, something to stand on, but the only thing that was available was a pile of manure, nearly as tall as the farmhouse in which they lived. Bryan, not being above getting his hands a little dirty in the name of the greater good, climbed up on the pile and delivered one of his legendary, fiery speeches against the powers that be and standing up for the common man. Apparently, Bryan’s oration won the audience over, as after his speech they approached him and said, ‘Mr. Bryan, that was the first time we’ve ever heard such a compelling speech by a Democrat.’ ‘Thank you very much for your kind words,’ Bryan replied. ‘For that is the first time I have ever had to deliver a Democratic speech from a Republican platform.”



Though Udall and Bentsen’s efforts to crisscross the country and shake as many hands as possible no doubt worked wonders to ingratiate them to the American people, it was the Congressman’s undeniable sense of humor which once again endeared him to many. Boasting a seemingly inexhaustible repertoire of jokes, witty one-liners, and humorous anecdotes, Udall brought a desperately needed levity and with it, humanity, to the race. Explaining why he thought humor appropriate, even essential to his campaign, the Congressman said: “Effective humor is never cruel, ridiculing, or belittling. Ideally, it should be gentle, nudging at a weakness rather than exploiting a glaring personal shortcoming. The best jokes are those which make all of us laugh together at the vagaries of life or the human condition. Told well, the right joke can make everyone in the audience feel a little better about mankind, and a little closer to one another, and closer to the speaker. That’s why humor is still one of the healthiest exercises of a democracy, especially in tough times like these.” The American people warmed to this brotherly, hopeful message almost immediately. To a nation fearful of whether or not their economic health would ever recover in the wake of the recession and the ascendance of new economic powers in Germany, Japan, Mexico, and others, Udall’s good cheer and upbeat attitude evoked in many the lofty, idealistic rhetoric of John F. Kennedy, and even the booming laugh and contagious confidence of Franklin D. Roosevelt. As the weeks wore on, the Congressman continued to climb in the polls.


That isn’t to suggest that Udall’s campaign was, as LBJ might have said “all sizzle and no steak”, however. Realizing that the President was being badly hurt in the press and public eye for lacking what Bush vaguely referred to as “the vision thing” - clear, specific policy proposals to address the nation’s woes, the Congressman came out swinging with a broad, progressive agenda. Udall’s platform featured as cornerstones: staunch advocacy for environmental protection and alternative energy sources to combat reliance on expensive foreign oil; celebration of immigrants and America’s growing sociocultural diversity; public works and education investments to combat unemployment; and an array of economic populism, including Udall’s signature policy proposal, Universal, single-payer health care, as enjoyed by citizens of the United Kingdom, Canada, and many other nations. Ever since losing his eye as a young boy due to his family’s inability to afford proper medical care, Udall had long believed in the need for health care to be considered a “fundamental human right”, and addressed as such through the creation of a national health care program. When pressed for specifics on his plan, Udall ultimately teamed with fellow Social Democrats Bayard Rustin, Ron Dellums, Bernie Sanders, and Ted Kennedy in calling for an expansion of the existing program, Medicare to include all Americans, of any age, who wanted to buy into the program through their taxes. To mollify moderates who were uncertain about such an increase in government responsibility, the Congressman assured the American people that under his proposed plan, private insurance would not be eliminated. Those with the means to purchase different or additional insurance outside of Medicare would still be able to do so. Meanwhile, the cost of healthcare for the average American would, in Udall’s words, “plummet”. To a public concerned about the rising costs of medical bills as they lost their jobs, such a program sounded like a real solution. Many had had about enough of private health insurance to begin with. Though some within his own party undoubtedly opposed such a proposal, Udall knew he could count on at least some Liberal Republicans to back it if elected, and he hoped to use the bully pulpit of the Presidency to push hard for what he considered “the single most important legislation I would back in my first 100 days in office.”




For his part, the President eventually developed answers to questions about “the vision thing” as well. Bush denied that the Great Recession was solely the product of his administration’s strict deflationary monetary policies, and told a reporter that “any serious politician who says they would be doing anything different than I am with the Treasury is either foolish, or lying.” This bold stance angered some Americans, who blamed Secretary Friedman’s sky high interest rates for their inability to purchase homes through mortgages or invest in their businesses. On the other hand, Bush invigorated his base of supporters, who argued that what Bush had done with the Money supply was “brave” and “simply the right thing to do”. They started to make the case that while the Administration may not have done enough to fight unemployment, they were certainly making a large dent in inflation, and making sure that Americans’ buying power was restored after years of downward spiral. Against Udall’s calls for “bold action”, and “new solutions”, Bush touted slogans like “stay the course”, and told the American people that though times were tough, all they had to do was hang in there, and happier, easier days were soon to appear on the horizon. To Bush’s “Greatest Generation” mentality, this kind of “for the greater good” talk of sacrifice was supposed to make him appear Presidential, give him the look of a dignified moral leader. To many Americans, it began to look like the Commander in Chief was throwing in the towel and admitting defeat. To try and counter Udall’s easy-going manner and wise “western cowboy” image, Bush, when he did begin to actively campaign, appeared in a series of informal television appearances with Joe Garagiola, Sr., a retired baseball star for the St. Louis Cardinals and a well-known announcer for NBC sports. During the shows, Garagiola would ask Bush questions about his life and beliefs, as well as offer up questions from members of the audience from each of the major cities they were held in. The talks were so informal, relaxed, and laid-back, and Garagiola and Bush so clearly enjoyed each other’s company, that critics soon called these appearances the “George and Joe Show”. The two would remain close friends after the election, and Bush credited the announcer with getting him “back into this thing”, just in time for the first of three televised debates with the Congressman.


Four years prior, in 1972, Senator Johnson and President Bush had both agreed not to hold televised debates, as they had not yet become an annual tradition, and neither LBJ nor GHWB felt that the spectacle was necessary in such an “important” election, following the assassination of President Romney. By 1976 however, the networks and National Committees of both parties believed that the people would demand debates, and that they give the candidates a chance to face off, before the public, to win their approval. Three debates were thus scheduled for the Presidential candidates, with a fourth to be held between Vice President Reagan and Governor Bentsen, to show off their ideas and skills as well. The witty, eloquent Udall was thrilled by the news, while the distant, sometimes awkward Bush began to worry that he would be eaten alive by his clever opponent. Bob Michel and Jeb Bush, the President’s own son and a senior advisor for the campaign, began to drill the President for an hour and a half each day on debate prep, trying to get him ready for any question which might be thrown his way. Meanwhile, Udall, Tim Kraft, and Mo’s older brother, Stewart went hard on their own debate prep as well. Neither candidate wanted to be outmatched in front of the nation on the issues. The first debate, held on September 23rd, was to be primarily centered on domestic issues. This was, of course, heavily in favor of Congressman Udall, whose policy proposals and campaign message were specifically tailored to address the nation’s growing concerns about the economy and the direction of the country at home. For 90 minutes, Udall and President Bush went toe to toe in front of Moderator Pauline Frederick of NPR and a panel of journalists who formulated and asked the questions. As agreed upon by both campaigns, the audience in attendance were asked to keep their noise and interruptions to a minimum while the candidates answered the questions. As Max Frankel of The New York Times read the first question to President Bush, about the recent unemployment figures and what, if reelected, his administration would do to combat them, Udall knew the debate would be his to lose. The President stumbled through an awkward forty-five second answer, when he had been given sixty to use if he’d wanted to. He reiterated his talking point about “staying the course” and “riding the storm out to better days ahead”. When it was his turn for a rebuttal, Congressman Udall flashed a big grin and countered, “Do we really want to tell the American people to stay the course when we know we’re going the wrong way?” The crowd erupted in laughter and applause, and the moderator was forced to ask them to settle down before the Congressman could continue his answer. The interaction left the President flustered, and his opponent did not let up, hammering him with wit, well-reasoned arguments, and a fair bit of oratorical flair. For instance, when asked to differentiate his economic proposals from those of the current administration, Udall mused:“For those of you who don’t understand the President’s economics, they’re based on the principle that the rich and the poor will get the same amount of ice. Under the President’s plan, however, the poor get all of theirs in winter.” On inflation: “We ought to turn inflation over to the post office. That’d slow it down.” And, more heartfelt when speaking about the environment: “I think politicians sometimes badly underestimate the true feelings that Americans have for this breathtaking land.” Though the President managed to effectively shrug off Udall’s charges that he was “fiscally reckless” by not paying for increased spending with additional taxes on the well to do and large corporations, he failed to effectively counter the Congressman’s clear, thorough understanding of the economic trials facing everyday Americans. Mo had been out on the road, talking to real people, learning about their issues and their struggles. Bush, by contrast, appeared cold and out of touch. By an overwhelming majority, the public and the media crowned Udall the clear winner of the first debate. His poll numbers shot up even further after the strong, jovial performance, giving him a nearly twenty point lead over the Bush/Reagan ticket by the first week of October. Bush knew he would need to strike back, hard, in the next debate if he was going to make up the lost ground.




The President got his chance in San Francisco on October 6th, when the second debate, hosted by Edwin Newman of NBC News was held. Its focus? Foreign policy and defense issues, very much the President’s wheelhouse. While Congressman Udall managed to hold on and offer strong answers concerning his campaign’s beliefs on foreign policy (even as the Social Democrats who backed him were debating many of the issues amongst themselves), he simply couldn’t hope to keep up with Bush’s extensive knowledge and expertise. Bush laid out clear foreign policy objectives: contain Soviet aggression via soft power diplomacy and financial and military support to the “freedom fighters” in the Mujahideen in Afghanistan; encourage further economic and diplomatic ties with both the hopefully soon to be reunified Republic of Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China under Zhou Enlai; and continue to pressure South Africa to abandon its horrific apartheid policies via the ban on arms sales to them. Bush notably declined to endorse Representative Dellums’ bill to pass economic sanctions on South Africa, something Congressman Udall did promise to sign if elected. Bush’s strongest moment of the night arguably came during his closing statement, in which he declared: “My fellow Americans, just this summer, my administration negotiated an agreement which constitutes the first substantive step toward peace in the Middle East in more than a generation. You’ve heard a lot of words tonight from my opponent and myself. But actions always speak louder than words. Remember that some talk about change, my administration has done it. Please consider that, and the progress we have made in the past four years, when you cast your ballot this November.” Both men had given an admirable performance but in the end, the press and people agreed, the President hammered a strong win in this debate. Bush still had a long way to go if he was going to catch up with Udall and Bentsen in the polls, but his victory stopped the bleeding and showed the American people that he was smart and he was tough.




The 1976 Vice Presidential debate, held next on October 15th in Houston, Texas, and moderated by James Hoge of The Chicago Sun Times, was, like its Presidential counterparts, a lively, spirited affair. Governor Bentsen was on his home turf in the Lone Star State, but Vice President Reagan came ready to do battle with a smile on his face. He knew he and the President were down in the polls. They needed some heavy artillery offense if they were going to claw their way back. The Vice President aimed to deliver, though he would employ his gently chiding, ever sunny wit in order to do so. While Reagan went on the offense from the outset, accusing the Udall/Bentsen ticket of “openly embracing socialism” and “coming the closest to left-wing extremism that our nation has ever seen”, the Vice President expected Bentsen to get defensive and roll around in the mud, at which point, Reagan would have already won. Instead, Bentsen simply denied the charge, and went on the offense against the administration and the “frankly lousy job” they’d been doing for the American people. Reagan was thrown off of his game and several times throughout the debate appeared confused or flustered by specific policy questions. Governor Bentsen meanwhile, stayed on task, answered questions politely and succinctly, all the while getting in occasional jabs at the President and Vice President’s policies as he did it. While Bentsen certainly wasn’t as witty as his Presidential candidate, he was certainly holding his own with Ronald Reagan. Perhaps the highlight of the debate came near the end of the night, when the Vice President was answering a question about “Heaven forbid, should the need ever arise, would he, given his history of deeply conservative politics and views, be able to be a President for all Americans?” Reagan smiled and turned to an old campaign tactic he’d used when asked similar questions at town halls across the country. He claimed that he “knew the American people, and believed his views weren’t as extreme as some claimed they were. Further,” Reagan added. “I firmly believe in that old adage of Harry Truman’s, ‘the buck stops here’. Like President Truman, who served ably as Vice President to Franklin Roosevelt, I believe that should, God forbid, the need ever arise, I would be able to assume the office of President for all Americans.” Bentsen apparently took issue with Reagan’s answer, as he had in debate prep sessions when he learned that Reagan had taken to comparing himself to Truman at every opportunity on the campaign trail, hoping to appeal to working class, blue collar Democrats who longed for a return to Truman’s style and candor. The Texan struck back, starting his rebuttal with the infamous takedown: “Mr. Vice President, I served with Harry Truman. I knew Harry Truman. Harry Truman was a friend of mine. Mr. Vice President, you’re no Harry Truman.” The audience broke into laughter and applause at the line, giving Bentsen a strong platform on which to base his real rebuttal: “You don’t stand for the common man, the workers and everyday people of this country. Harry Truman stood for a Fair Deal. Mr. Vice President, what do you stand for?” Reagan had given the debate his all, but in the end, Bentsen was just too wily and well prepared for his assault. Bentsen was declared the winner.




The third and final Presidential debate, hosted by ABC News’ Barbara Walters on October 22nd in Williamsburg, Virginia was seen as “make or break” time by the Bush/Reagan camp. Just as the President had built some momentum with his win in the foreign policy debate, the Vice President had lost it by coming up short against Governor Bentsen. Now, nearly fifteen points behind the Democrats’ once more, and with national economic forecasts only seeming to get worse by the day, Bush vowed to give the last debate everything he had left in the tank. Needless to say, the President went into the debate nervous. He stumbled during an early answer, producing a minor, if humorous gaffe: “For three and a half years, I’ve worked with Vice President Reagan. We’ve had triumphs, made some mistakes. We’ve had some sex... uh... setbacks.” Fortunately, Congressman Udall was gentle, letting the opportunity to pile on go in the spirit that “humor should never belittle or demean”. He did, however, criticize the President’s campaign for its “lack of concrete plans to bring about an economic recovery.” To this, the President replied, “the free market is our plan for a recovering economy. Freedom works.” Though his answer pleased hardcore conservatives, this answer rang hollow yet again to a public largely dismissive of the administration’s promises that it was working to combat the economic crisis. In the end, Udall delivered a wonderfully humble, disarming closing statement, saying, “The worst thing they can think of to say about me is that I’m too funny to be President. Well let me tell you, as Will Rogers would say, ‘Everything is changing. People are taking comedians seriously, and the politicians as a joke, when it used to be vice versa.’ If elected I offer this country everything I’ve got - and hopefully a few laughs along the way too.” Udall was once again declared the winner and as they shook hands to thank each other that night, Bush came to believe that he was heading into an abysmal election night. He and the Vice President fought as hard as they could, but in the end, the country was ready for a change.




Democrats across the nation rejoiced. After eight years of a divided Congress and Republican rule from the White House, they rode a wave of populist anger against the Bush-era malaise all the way to majorities in both Houses of Congress and a newly minted Democratic Administration. At that, Mo Udall showed tremendous promise as a leader, and a uniter. To a country weary from economic hardship and violence in the news, the President-elect from Arizona carried a sense of optimism and most importantly, hope with him to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The mood was decidedly glum and subdued meanwhile at the Bush Family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, where only months before the President had made history by negotiating the Walker’s Point Accords. Part of George H.W. Bush had expected this outcome, yet another nonetheless hoped to the very end that his predictions of doom were overstated and he and the Vice President could somehow eek out a narrow victory from the jaws of defeat, just like he and President Romney had done back in 1968. His first call was to “Ronnie”, his number two and perhaps closest friend in the world, to thank him for everything he had done and apologize for coming up short in the end. “Don’t apologize for any of it, Mr. President.” Reagan replied. “You fought and you were right. They wanted something else. What else can you do?” After a tearful huddle with Babs, Dubya, Hillary, Jeb, and the rest of the Bush clan, the President then called Congressman Udall to concede the race and wish him the very best in the years to come. “We are all counting on you.” He told his lanky opponent. “The fate of the country, the entire free world rests on your shoulders now. My hopes, prayers, and thoughts are utterly with you.”

Udall was initially speechless at the President’s grace in defeat. He thanked him with equal magnanimity, and said that “from this day and for the rest of our lives, I hope that we may consider ourselves friends.”


“I would like that too, very much.” Bush replied.


The moment, one of the first in a long series of poignant instances of Udall’s Presidency, was captured in a soon to be beloved photograph for Time Magazine, by a 19 year old intern and student of Radcliffe College at Harvard. Her name? Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, eldest child of former President John F. Kennedy, and increasingly, a young woman feeling tremendous pressure to decide exactly what she should do with her life. Since her father left office in 1969, Kennedy enjoyed the relative peace and quiet which came with growing up outside of the White House and the Washington media parade. Though she was still a Kennedy, and that name alone brought paparazzi and unwanted attention wherever she went, she managed to avoid it somewhat easier than her younger siblings, John, Rosemary, and Robert, who along with their Mother and Father seemed unable to escape the ever present cameras. Despite a natural inclination toward the arts, Kennedy had agreed to cover the Udall campaign for Time because her father seemed so genuinely excited by Mo as a candidate. After years of worsening health and quiet suffering, he seemed a little like his old self again. He even managed to make a few public appearances to speak in Udall’s favor, something his family had previously no longer thought possible. Caroline wondered at the ability of words, policy, and the public arena to move people, stronger perhaps than even the finest painting or most beautiful piece of music. There was real passion in politics, and despite her quiet personality, she felt herself being swept up by it. By the time election night 1976 had come and gone, Caroline called her father and told him what she was going to do. When she returned to Harvard, she switched majors to Political Science, and prepared for the path to Law School.



In his victory speech outside his family’s home in Tucson, a jubilant, smiling Udall thanked President Bush and the Republicans for a “spirited, honest, uplifting campaign” and vigorously rallied his supporters with another favorite anecdote. “Tonight,” the President-elect began. “I am reminded of a statement by that great American, Nelson Rockefeller of New York. He once declared, ‘I have been both rich and poor, and I can honestly say that being rich is better.’ To all of you here and now on this triumphant night, I say that I have won and I have lost, and winning is a whole lot better!” The crowd roared its approval and chanted “Udall! Udall!” for a solid twenty minutes before the night’s victor was escorted by the Secret Service back to his bedroom so that he could catch some much needed shut-eye before the real, critical work of the transition would begin the following day. Udall, famous for his laid-back, good natured attitude, was eager to appear vigorous and ready to tackle the country’s problems. He would meet with the defeated President Bush in the morning to begin discussions on transition between their administrations. As it had for generations before in this uncommonly functional democracy we cherish in the United States of America, the peaceful transition of power was laid in place. The people had spoken; and their leadership would listen. Freedom had worked its magic again. As they worked to discuss the transition and ensure the smooth transfer over to the incoming Udall Administration, the President and President-elect made good on their promise to become friends. Images of the pair shaking hands, laughing at each other’s jokes, and evenly openly embracing demonstrated a clear lack of malice between even the country’s leading politicians. These were widely spread in the press and are credited with helping to ease tensions and clear the air after years of rising political gridlock, friction, and animosity in the country. Perhaps the icing on the cake, stories would later emerge of a beautiful, gracious letter which President Bush left for his successor. This began a Presidential precedent which remains unbroken to this day. The text of that letter, which Udall found on the Resolute Desk on the day of his Inauguration, was as follows:


“Dear Mo,

When I walked into this office just now, I felt the same sense of wonder, respect, and responsibility that I felt five years ago. I know you will feel that too.

I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness which some Presidents have described.

There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give out advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.


You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.

Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.

Good luck -

George/”





It is often said by historians that President George Herbert Walker Bush entered the Oval Office on a wave of tears and left it on a wave of jeers. Throughout his five and a half years as President, Bush strove first and foremost to build bridges. He labored to heal the nation’s wounds in the wake of hardship and tragedy. He was a hero of the Second World War, who earnestly fought for peace in the Middle East and in Latin America. Though considered one of America’s least popular Chief Executives when he left office on January 20th, 1977, history and its students have since left him more favorable reviews. While he receives low marks for his oratory, ability to inspire, convince, and effectively lead and sway public opinion, he, along with John F. Kennedy, is considered arguably the finest foreign policy President of the post World War II era. Though his administration’s monetary policies were horrifically unpopular at the time, deepened the Great Recession, and ultimately cost him what should have been an easy second term of his own, economists would later credit Bush with having the “guts” to do what was economically right in the long-term for the country. Because Bush and Secretary Friedman managed to slay inflation across their four years of high interest rates and difficult decisions, the economy would roar back to life in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, with productivity and real purchasing power for middle and working class Americans both increasing simultaneously. Few average Americans give President Bush credit for making this recovery possible, but without his tough calls and courage to face public criticism, it is possible that the “Great Udall Economy” of the 1980’s would never have been possible. As is tragically so often the case, Bush was simply a poor salesman for his policies, and his out of touch, ivy league demeanor made him a hard sell to millions of Americans looking for a charismatic, feel good Commander in Chief. Because of his efforts in creating the Walker’s Point Accords, President Bush would share the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize with Anwar al-Sadat and Yitzak Rabin, becoming the third U.S. President (after Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy) to achieve that prize. After leaving the White House, President Bush lived a mostly quiet life with his family outside of the public eye. He would occasionally enter the headlines once again for his interest in sky-diving and thrill seeking - his post Presidential hobby; as well as for shaving his head in solidarity with a young boy suffering from cancer in the mid 2000’s. He also, along with his lifelong friend and successor, President Udall, would support a myriad of charities and philanthropic causes throughout the rest of his life. President Bush would pass away peacefully on November 30th, 2018, at the age of 94. To date, he remains the longest lived U.S. President in history, and though not close to considered one of the “all time greats” like Lincoln, FDR, or Washington, he is generally well regarded by many historians, and often ranks in the top half of American Presidents in terms of performance.


"No problem of human making is too great to be overcome by human ingenuity, human energy, and the untiring hope of the human spirit." - George H.W. Bush, 37th President of the United States.


Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: The 1976 Down Ballot Races
 
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