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

Chapter 85
  • Chapter 85: Please Come to Boston - The Kennedy Clan Struggles in the New Decade

    Above: Former President John F. Kennedy’s health and physical appearance began to deteriorate in the mid-1970s, as the effects of Addison’s Disease and his other conditions worsened (left). The Kennedy Family Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts - home to the former President and his family as well as the seat of power for America’s preeminent political dynasty (right).

    Jack Kennedy did not like growing old. He was no stranger to the laundry list of physical ailments which hounded him in every one of his waking hours. Indeed, he had faced them bravely and with grit and resilience for all of his 56 years. He had managed to lead the most powerful nation in history for eight of them, even while being in the most precarious health of any Commander in Chief since Franklin Roosevelt. There it was again. Much as JFK absolutely cherished being compared to FDR, this was one area in which he would have preferred to be a little more different than his political role model. Days were often shorter for the former President than they used to be. Just after leaving the White House, he would spring out of bed early in the morning to swim laps in the family pool, a daily ritual he had continued in Washington to keep in shape and work out his muscle aches, on recommendation from the best of his personal physicians. After this, Kennedy enjoyed eating a hearty breakfast before spending the afternoon sailing and fishing with his four children, writing more of his books, and taking long walks on the Massachusetts shore line with Jackie. Even as he passed 50, Jack remained an old horn dog at heart. There was nothing sexier to him than making love to his wife, the most beautiful woman in the world as far as he was concerned, at the very edge of the American continent, with the sun passing overhead as it headed for California and the ocean seemed to wash away his cares with the tides. 1974 marked 11 years of devotion and utter fidelity in their marriage. Jack had been a very good boy, indeed. But even the best behaved, most loving of husbands had to eventually come to grips with their own mortality. Even a living legend like John F. Kennedy could not escape the looming specter of death, much as he had been proving the bastard wrong throughout his life.

    By ‘74, something had changed in him, he could tell. He was no longer springing out of bed in the morning. His laps in the pool grew ever harder to maintain until eventually, he stopped trying to do them altogether, and contented himself with just soaking his horribly aching muscles in the tub for hours at a time. More than the aches, Kennedy was frustrated by just how weak he felt. Even walking up and down the stairs seemed to leave him winded, and his previous stomach issues returned until they became a nearly constant nuisance. Even with access to the best doctors money could buy, the best the former President could get was: “this was going to happen eventually.” Modern medicine had performed several minor miracles on Jack Kennedy. His Presidency had been one, as had his heroics in World War II. Money and connections, personal courage and a strong moral compass, all these had served him well, but the physical makeup of his body was tired and his natural defenses were beginning to give out. Addison’s and his other conditions sapped him of his energy, and by the end of the year, he would largely be confined to a wheelchair, as his father had been near the end of his life. Jackie insisted he cut back on his public appearances severely, which also frustrated him to no end. The former President loved to see the American people, absorb the love and adoration they had for him written plain across their faces. He was their conquering hero, and he never grew tired of fighting for them, for their causes. Whether appearing to speak in person at events to benefit charities and veterans’ groups, or calling Bobby or Ted to pitch ideas for legislation to them, President Kennedy’s retirement had never been anything but an active one. Only medical necessity could ever force that to change, and unfortunately, it did. Increasingly reclusive, and forced to dictate the remainder of his book, The People’s History of the United States of America (which would go on to be a bestseller and win Kennedy his second Pulitzer Prize when it was released on the nation’s bicentennial on July 4th, 1976) to a scribe, the former President made the decision to address the issue of his health with his brothers when they came to the Kennedy Compound for his 57th birthday, on May 29th, 1974.

    As always with the Kennedys, appearances were kept up and emotions were deeply buried until the brothers could meet behind closed doors. JFK smiled, joked, and led the family in grace before supper, sang with them after dessert was carried away, and even threw the football around with his nieces and nephews a little before he was taken to his wheelchair by Jackie and led to his office, which had once belonged to his father, so he could speak to Bobby and Teddy in private. Once the children and wives were away, outside playing in the late spring warmth, and Jack felt he could speak freely, he flatly laid out his condition. He began his explanation with an apology, telling his brothers that this was likely the last family event he would be able to fully put together himself. Jackie would continue to be a big help, as would Caroline and John Jr., now 17 and 14 respectively, but he admitted that he no longer felt like he and his immediate family could handle the job of Kennedy Family Patriarch alone. Keeping accounts not just on personal matters, but business and political careers of the various branches alone was a monumental task. Add in JFK’s feeling that he had to give freely of himself as a piece of political capital to each of his family members’ campaigns and initiatives, and it was a wonder that he ever had any time for himself to begin with. He apologized also more specifically because he knew, “I’m about to make each of your lives harder.” Bobby and Ted were both up for reelection to their senate seats in ‘76, and unlike he had four years earlier, Jack would not be able to actively campaign for either of them in the race to come. “I wish things were different, believe me I do.” Jack’s gray-green eyes were replete with bitter sadness as he spoke. “But it seems advice is going to be the best that I can offer this time around. Maybe appear in a TV spot if Jackie lets me out of this damned chair.”

    Bobby kept his face nondescript, a skill he’d become quite adept at over his years of working with Jack and living with their father. “It’s alright, Jack. Your health and comfort are the most important things, now. You’ve done so much for us already.” He put his hand on his elder brother’s shoulder and could feel his sorrow through his Harvard sweater. “We’ll make you proud out there. I promise. Won’t we Teddy?”

    The youngest Kennedy boy averted his brothers’ eyes. It didn’t take a room of intellectually gifted statesmen to tell that he was deeply uncomfortable with everything going on around him. Bobby took note of this, though he said nothing for the time being. He didn’t want to burden Jack with this even as his life seemed to be coming apart around him. The Senator from New York hugged his brother and told him that he would always be there if there was anything, anything he ever needed. Jack thanked him and looked him hard in the eye. “There’s a storm coming for us, Bobby.” The former President said with a strong note of foreboding. “I only hope that we’re strong enough to weather it.” Perhaps heroically, perhaps foolishly, he tried to smile. “I suspect however, that we are.” Jack’s brothers said goodnight to him and kissed Jackie on the cheek as they thanked her for a wonderful evening and watched her lead her husband off to bed.

    Bobby rolled up his shirtsleeves and ran his hands through his hair. He was tired, stressed, and more than a little angry at his little brother’s behavior. He turned and watched as Ted filled up a glass with Jameson whiskey, his hand shaking nervously the entire time. “Teddy,” he barked. “What the hell is wrong with you? That was our big brother in there and you wouldn’t even look at him!” Ted said nothing, but met his brother’s eyes for a second, then took a drink from his glass. The middle Kennedy went on. “This is hard on all of us, but don’t you think it has to be hardest on him? He went from the leader of the free world, the most powerful man on Earth, to hardly being able to walk without his wife’s help. How do you think that would make anybody feel?”

    Ted knocked back the rest of the whiskey and fired back with vitriol. “I don’t know Bobby, you’ll have to tell me! You and Jack were always the smart ones. You’re the one that’s going to carry his name all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in a few years. Then, some distant day, you’ll be in the same place he is, and I expect you’ll be able to give a great lesson on how hard it is to be nearly universally loved.”

    Bobby took a step toward his brother. “What is that supposed to mean?”

    The youngest Kennedy laughed and poured himself another drink. “I’m just the boozy, nice guy Kennedy. You and Jack got to inherit all of Dad’s good sense and Mom’s restraint, but it seems like I’m the one who gets the short end there too.”

    “What are you talking about?”

    Another gulp, another pour. “I’m not a great man, Bobby. I know Jack wants me to be, but I’m not. I’m a fun, likeable guy you feel like you could have a beer with. I don’t inspire anyone, I don’t rewrite the course of history. I go down to Congress and schmooze and get budgets passed on time. Now that’s good enough for just about any Tom, Dick, or Harry, so long as their last name isn’t Kennedy. But your brother becomes the most successful President in thirty years and all of the sudden, everyone thinks you’re Superman. They expect you to throw your weight around and change the world as we know it. It’s too much.” Another attempted gulp. Bobby stopped him.

    “Teddy, I think you’ve had enough.”

    Ted laughed again. “Oh do you, Bob? Let me ask you this: you and Ethel still fucking every night?”

    Bobby’s face went red, ever the First Irish Puritan. “What does that have to do with anything?”

    “It’s been a while since you’ve had a kid, that’s all.” Ted shook his head and had his drink, swallowing hard. “There again, I fail to measure up to my famous brothers. You and Ethel have always been happy as a pair of clams. Even Jack and Jackie managed to sort things out after Patrick passed.” He paused, tears forming in his eyes. “Bobby, it’s been a month since Joan would even sleep in the same room as me. She says I disgust her, that I’m a disappointment and she wishes she never married me at all. Bobby, our marriage is failing.”

    The anger melted from Bobby’s face and was instantly replaced with sympathy. “Oh Teddy…” He tried to put his arms around his brother and comfort him. “It’s going to be okay. You’re not a disappointment to anyone. We’re all just… good at different things.”

    Ted backed away. “Easy for you to say when you’re good at everything. Your bills get passed, your voice is wanted on every appointment. Not everyone likes you, but everyone in the Beltway respects you, whether they’ll admit it or not.” He wiped away his tears and set down his glass. “I’m not good like you and Jack are either. I’m the reason my marriage is failing, and pretty soon…” He looked out the window at his wife, who was making small talk with Ethel and trying to pass as contented. “The whole world is going to hear about it.”

    A little more than a year earlier, the Kennedys, Bobby and Ted, had been in Los Angeles to help longtime family friend, Jimmy Roosevelt campaign in the recall election against Ronald Reagan’s successor as Governor, Republican Edwin Reinecke. Polls were definitely in Jimmy’s favor, and for the first time in the long, difficult career of FDR’s eldest son, it looked like his fortunes were finally about to change. A weekend-long trip of the state for the brothers included speeches at various organizations and whistle stops in several of the major cities and concluded with a massive fundraiser party to be held at the home of Frank Sinatra, a longtime Democratic Party supporter and friend of the Kennedy Clan. At the party, Bobby handled a lot of the heavy political deal making while Teddy enjoyed the offerings at the bar and generally had a good time. He chatted up Sinatra, made a strong first impression on jazz saxophonist Billy Clinton (whom he suggested should one day run for Mayor of Los Angeles), and finally, met a woman who would change his life forever. Sharon Tate Polanski was 31 years old in the spring of 1973, 11 years Ted’s junior and just as beautiful as ever. Hot on the heels of her success in such films as 1973’s Westworld, 1972’s Henry VIII (as Catherine of Aragon), and 1971’s Johnny Got His Gun, an adaptation of Dalton Trumbo’s acclaimed anti-war novel of the same name, Tate was seen as one of the preeminent “smart beauty queens” of early 70’s Hollywood, and she captivated Kennedy from the moment he met her. Not only was she blonde, buxom, and beautiful, she had a wit and personality about her that left the youngest Kennedy spellbound. He spent much of the evening conversing with her about her political leanings and sharing glass after glass of champagne. Gradually, their conversations turned flirtatious, one thing lead to another, and by the end of the night, the two were in a guest room of Sinatra’s mansion making manic, passionate love to each other. Though for most politicians, this would have been little more than a (particularly noteworthy) one night stand, for Kennedy this only the first night of a long, torrid love affair. The depth of Tate’s feelings for the Senator are difficult to discern entirely, though they appear to have been genuine as well, as she made the effort to vacation near the capital or Massachusetts whenever possible. She would make an excuse to her husband, Director Roman Polanski, about “wanting to see the Atlantic” or “take in the nation’s capital”, but the reality was much more scandalous, and a one-time fling in a Sinatra guest room turned into something much deeper and more potentially damning.

    Joan Kennedy caught on before Roman Polanski did. The director was often preoccupied with his rather busy filmmaking schedule and hardly paid any mind to the thought that his wife might be having an affair. For Kennedy’s wife however, the prospect was all too real from the very first time she saw her husband and Tate photographed together at that party in Los Angeles. She had heard from Jackie how awful Jack had been to her early in their marriage, and had even heard the rumors that Bobby was a bit of a flirt in his day as well. Joan also remembered the inappropriate and disgusting advances Ted’s father had made on her on their wedding day of all times. Joan was privy to one of the sad, dark realities of being a man in the Kennedy family: sexual conquests were seen as a mark of power, prestige, and manhood. Jack seemed to have outgrown his adolescent attitudes toward sex through the painful shared trauma he and Jackie had gone through in ‘63, and Bobby’s religiosity seemed to keep his in check to begin with, but her husband seemed to have no such qualms and so happily carried on his father’s “sinful little habit”. Even after Joan confronted Ted about the affair, having hired a private investigator to tail the senator one night after work to a hotel in D.C., who caught more than one damning photograph of he and Tate in each other’s arms, she discovered that Sharon Tate wasn’t the only woman her husband was seeing behind her back. Joan was heartbroken and immediately demanded a divorce. Ted tried to reason with her. He insisted that this was not as big of a deal as she thought it was. “I don’t love her the same way I do you.” He claimed. “She’s not the mother of my children, you are.” These excuses did little to stem Joan’s anger, but they did keep her from telling anyone about what she knew for the time being. That is, until her PI recorded a conversation between her husband and Tate, in which Kennedy told Tate: “I love you more than anything. More than my job, more than my wife, all of it. Sharon, you’re my everything.” That was on May 23rd, 1974, and Joan told Ted that not only was she filing for a divorce, but she had instructed her PI to take the story to the press. For the second time in three years, the Kennedys would be at the center of a national sex scandal. And unlike his beloved brother Jack, Ted had neither titanic public achievements nor a consistent track record of repentance to hide behind. His dirty laundry was about to air out in the open for all to see, and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do to stop it.

    Ted’s marital troubles were surely going to come up as a campaign issue as he faced reelection, but he wasn’t the only Kennedy who would have troubles on the road to 1976.

    If there was a single Democrat in the United States Senate who enjoyed, even relished being a maverick from the party’s establishment in 1974, it was the junior Senator from Minnesota, Eugene McCarthy. A fierce dove on foreign policy, McCarthy had been proud to be one of only two dozen Senators to vote against the Jackson Resolution to send American troops to Rhodesia, and was consistently critical of both the New Frontier Liberal and Southern Populist wings of his own party, not to mention a near constant critic of the Bush Administration and its “Republican enablers” in Congress. Though widely disliked in Washington for distancing himself from both of the party’s preeminent factions, McCarthy’s star began to rise significantly after the 1972 Election, where the Southern wing had failed to stop the GOP and the “New Frontier Coalition” had failed to stop Lyndon Johnson from securing the nomination. Though he and Senator Robert Kennedy agreed on many key areas of policy, there was great personal animosity between the two men. McCarthy considered the Kennedy family “a bunch of phony Catholics, giving all Irish-Americans a bad name with their ‘slick’ version of democratic principles and ‘made for TV’ politics.” He was a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, who supported the principles of the New Deal and the New Frontier, though he would never credit the Kennedys with the creation of the latter, a peaceful foreign policy and continuation of the war on poverty, and on the big social issue of the day was against abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the health of the mother. He claimed that the Kennedys’ refusal to oppose abortion proved his claim about the “phoniness” of their Catholicism, and confirmed that they put political achievement over ethical rightness. McCarthy was also virulently anti-immigrant, and complained that "illegals have the potential to wreck our already fragile industries." Needless to say, he was a complicated man.

    As 1974 wore on, the worsening energy crisis caused the recession to deepen and President Bush’s approval ratings to finally dip after nearly a year of relative highs. The midterms were approaching, and then the next Presidential election would be here before anyone knew it and the President was looking not only beatable, but downright weak. Democratic party insiders were already scouting their ranks for names of potential candidates, especially as that of Robert Kennedy seemed to loom large over all the others, a colossus waiting to be laid low or else coronated. McCarthy was not about to stand by and let another Kennedy nomination happen, not without a fight anyway. The Minnesotan began to grow his political star by appearing more frequently on Beltway talk shows and speaking with increased frequency and passion on the issues which seemed to divide himself from Kennedy and other liberal Democrats ahead of ‘76. He gave speeches stressing his opposition to U.S. aid for Israel, which he considered the leading cause of the oil embargo and the current economic woes crippling the United States with fear. “Ours is currently a foreign policy of what is convenient instead of what is right.” McCarthy said to a crowd of cheering college students at UC Berkeley when he visited the College in June of ‘74. “This must change if we are ever going to claim to be the leader of the free world again.” New Frontier Democrats were getting nervous. As McCarthy’s star continued to rise, the Ted Kennedy-Sharon Tate scandal hit the front page of every major paper in the country, and Ted’s messy divorce seemed to drag on for months leading to the midterms. Every Republican in the country made an effort to drag the Kennedy name through the mud, associating it with decadence and “moral corruption” and forcing every Kennedy-aligned Democrat to either distance themselves from that label or defend it, neither a particularly appealing option in what was poised to be a tight election year. In the midst of all this, and just as the summer of 1974 was hitting its hottest, a veritable political gold mine was dropped in McCarthy’s lap by an anonymous source from within the Department of Justice: evidence that Robert Kennedy had clamped down on civil liberties, and given disgraced former FBI Director Hoover permission to wiretap thousands of Americans, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other Civil Rights leaders during Kennedy’s time as his brother’s Attorney General in the early 60’s. McCarthy had been hoping for just this sort of story to discredit Kennedy’s candidacy before it even began. He could not have asked for anything better.

    At a highly publicized press conference on July 27th, McCarthy revealed the evidence he had been given and called for the U.S. Senate to investigate Senator Kennedy for his possible abuses of power during his time at the Justice Department. The initial findings of McCarthy’s source were sparse, but damning. It seemed that until he had “wisened up” on Civil Rights around 1963, Robert Kennedy had been just fine with signing off on Hoover’s bullying, dictatorial tactics in order to save his brother’s reputation and chances for reelection from whatever documentation Hoover had on JFK. In the time since, Bobby had long cultivated a reputation as a tireless fighter for American minorities. Much of his base of support came not just from Irish Catholics, but from Latinos, African Americans, and women, all communities who would likely be devastated by these revelations about Kennedy’s conduct. Though he and Jack had both personally come a long way toward being two of the nation’s most tireless champions for civil rights and civil liberties during their time in office, RFK could not deny that the findings about his first two years as Attorney General were mostly true. Later that same day, Senator Kennedy and his chief of staff, civil rights icon and former Freedom Rider John Lewis called a press conference of their own, where Kennedy solemnly and sincerely apologized for his past behavior and submitted himself for investigation if the Senate wished to have one. Republicans and Southern Democrats rejoiced and pounced at the opportunity to take “Prince Bobby”, arguably the most popular politician in the country, down a peg. Though the eventual three month long investigation would turn up nothing which would damn Kennedy any more than the initial report had, his reputation and image did take a massive, direct hit from McCarthy’s well researched and well planned attack. The story was a bombshell and forced Kennedy into a defensive position before he’d even decided for sure whether he was going to run for President or not in 1976.

    Bobby was forced to abandon any hopes he had for running for President in the next two years. Between Ted’s nasty divorce filling the tabloids, Jack being too sick to help campaign or dispel the cloud hanging over his head, and the litany of his former allies running for the hills in the wake of the Senate investigation, Bobby struggled to see a clear way he could make it out of this mess and be reelected to the Senate, let alone be elected President. It wasn’t in the Kennedy Family Doctrine of politics to do anything if you didn’t believe you had a good chance of making it out on top. It didn’t seem like a good time to test the wisdom of that dogma, with the family’s fortunes on the downswing and all. He shared these thoughts of despair only with his wife, Ethel, and John Lewis. He refused to tell Jack for fear of breaking his big brother’s heart. Jack still firmly believed that Bobby was going to be President someday, just as he had been. Bobby couldn’t let him down, not now.

    With RFK implicitly out of the picture for ‘76 and struggling to recover as he prepared to defend his senate seat against an invigorated, if yet to be named Republican challenger, the Democratic Party’s field for leadership was suddenly wide open. Though he hadn’t announced anything yet, it would be uncouth to do so before even the midterms, Senator Eugene McCarthy was clearly the biggest winner of Robert Kennedy’s fall from grace, and began to position himself more and more as a possible answer to the prayers of the nation’s liberal dreamers. In this pursuit he was joined by several other prominent Democrats, including Maine Senator Edmund Muskie, whom many saw as a potential candidate for a second go at the White House after his narrow defeat by Lyndon Johnson in ‘72; as well as the recently elected Governor of California, James Roosevelt II, son of the legendary FDR and the last scion of his father’s political dynasty. Though he was already 67 years old in 1974, and had been defeated in numerous high profile races in the past, Roosevelt was nonetheless inspiring millions of devoted followers and evoking memories of his father with his characteristically eloquent, witty oratory, and his calls for reform and government assistance to counter the worsening recession. As the 1970’s turned darker and the people looked for leaders, it was clear that the next few years were going to produce a large crop for them to choose from.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: Terror Strikes Deep
    Chapter 86
  • Chapter 86: Sundown - The Rise of Economic Uncertainty and Terrorism in 1974

    Above: Patty Hearst (left) and the victims of the so called “Hi Fi Murders” (right); these would become some of the faces of a new epidemic across the United States in 1974: violence, often either politically or economically motivated.

    As the new year of 1974 gripped the country with a bitterly cold winter, the economy, still reeling from the effects of the oil embargo the year before, took a sharp turn for the worse. Unemployment spiked to more than 6%, even as inflation also continued to climb, reaching its own painful 6.3% that January. America’s GDP actually shrank for the first time since the late 1950’s, and the American people were beginning to feel the pinch in their pockets and at the pump. Angry at the newfound expense and uncertainty of their lives, Americans looked to the federal government for a place to lay the blame and began to question whether their representatives down in Washington truly had their best interests at heart. Eager to maintain his popularity after the largely successful, if controversial intervention in Rhodesia, President Bush immediately sought to present possible solutions to the problems facing the nation. He turned to his allies and advisers to help him piece together a comprehensive solution, but received advice he knew would not be easy to implement.

    Secretary of the Treasury and renowned monetarist theorist Milton Friedman had, over the years, developed a host of interesting, complex, theoretical solutions to what he saw as systematic, institutional problems in the U.S.’s economy. These ranged from a “negative income tax” - which essentially amounted to replacing all welfare programs with a massively increased basic universal income, to growing the money supply at a fixed rate relative to productivity growth every year. These notions were abstract and more long term hopes than practical solutions to the burgeoning recession however, and soon the former economics professor handed a simpler plan to the President, which had the added benefit of fulfilling a major campaign pledge from 1972: whip inflation now. Bush had been hoping that fighting inflation could be put on hold until the economy stabilized in the wake of the oil shock, but Friedman insisted. The President was better off, both ethically and politically, if he tackled the underlying cause of the downturn than if he simply soothed the symptoms with tax breaks or Keynesian gluts of government spending. Friedman’s plan involved Bush instructing the Federal Reserve to massively raise interest rates, which would severely curtail the nation’s money supply and ultimately deflate the value of the dollar until it was back within an “acceptable” range, and the people could rest assured that the value of their savings and investments were not being withered away while they slept. The plan was sound, but came at a cost. A cost which the President was all too aware of. If interest rates skyrocketed, then borrowing money would be made next to impossible, aggregate demand would plummet, and the recession would deepen. If deflation did not bring the money supply to heel quickly enough, then the country would be in for a long, brutal couple of years, and the blame would lay just about squarely at the feet of President Bush. White House Chief of Staff Dick Cheney advised against the move, arguing that a more gradual approach on inflation, combined with new tax cuts like the ones President Romney had passed four years earlier, would prove a more reasonable, (and more frankly) less politically damaging response. Friedman countered that such actions would only serve to “slap a bandaid on a gunshot wound.” The choice before the President was clear.

    In the end, Bush chose to act swiftly and decisively, giving Secretary Friedman the go ahead to institute his “radical” plan to slay inflation. The President believed that in a time of crisis, the American people wanted a leader who would act boldly to solve national problems, a belief which had crystalized in the Commander in Chief’s perennial quest to rid himself of the “wimp” label he’d acquired running against LBJ. In his third State of the Union Address, President Bush made turning the economy around through “the Bush-Friedman Plan” a central focus of his agenda for the year, along with proposing new legislation to protect and purify the country’s supply of drinking water, preventing forest fires, and continuing the push for better railways and infrastructure across the nation. These calls for further high speed rail construction were met with outrage from budget hawks like Senator Barry Goldwater (R - AZ), who accused Bush of putting the nation’s future “on a damned credit card” - a relatively new fangled invention at the time. The spending would run the government into a deficit, but would also create jobs and reassure Americans that Bush was working to counter the downturn as his administration simultaneously labored to protect their money. Bush’s popularity stabilized, at least for the moment.

    An unintended consequence of 1971’s Hoover Affair, the revelations about Ted Kennedy’s affair with Sharon Tate, and the Senate hearings into the conduct of Robert Kennedy during his time as Attorney General was a renewed public interest in the secret machinations and behind-the-scenes dramas of the country’s most powerful people. The national zeitgeist became greatly interested in additional oversight for traditionally opaque sectors of the public arena, and one natural target for this grassroots movement was the Central Intelligence Agency. Initially considered “above moral reproach” by the majority of Americans, damning evidence of prior shadowy CIA activity began to emerge in the wake of Secretary of State Nixon and National Security Adviser Kissinger’s removals from office. President Bush voluntarily revealed to the press that Nixon and Kissinger had been plotting the removal of Salvador Allende’s government in Chile through the CIA, using these plans as his rationale for sacking his advisers. Curiously to the public however, Bush did not sack CIA Director Richard Helms, a holdover from the Romney Administration, who seemed to have his fingerprints all over the “Allende plan”. In the weeks and months that followed Nixon and Kissinger’s removal, investigative journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post began to dig deeper and see just what America’s primary intelligence agency had been getting up to over the past few years. Their findings were nothing short of shocking.

    In covert, “black ops” missions conducted throughout the Romney and Bush Administrations, the CIA had been responsible for organizing and committing a great number of war crimes and atrocities during the conflicts in Cambodia and Rhodesia. Uncharged individuals suspected of association with Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge were kidnapped, interrogated through torture, and often beaten to death if they did not provide immediately useful information. The Agency covered up evidence of American servicemen’s “misdeeds” in the region, including raping hundreds of civilian women and murdering local livestock for sport. In Cambodia, entire villages of civilians were burned indiscriminately if the Agency or Military picked up suspicions of communist insurgency there. The chemical herbicide “agent orange” which was used by the U.S. Air Force to clear out dense jungle foliage for more effective bombing raids, was poisoning local water supplies in Cambodia, and though it could not yet be proven, was also possibly causing cancer in some of the people living there. Jellied napalm dropped over jungle forts would also stick to people’s houses and vehicles, spreading the intensely hot flames across the nation and causing untold thousands of unarmed non-combatants to be killed in the crossfire. Bernstein and Woodward contrasted these horrifying tactics with the fairly limited, “surgical strikes” employed by the Kennedy Administration in 1968, and found that the Romney/Bush attacks were more than 100 times more deadly to civilians. In Rhodesia, similar strategies were employed in the name of winning the war “as quickly as possible”. One U.S. marine who attempted to capture images of the village massacres on a 9mm camera was taken in the dead of night and beaten until his captors felt sure his film had been burned and that he would not share what he had found. In the CIA of Richard Helms, secrecy was the ultimate virtue, transparency a death sentence.

    Bernstein and Woodward’s story was a sensation virtually overnight. The images they managed to acquire and print proved the validity of their claims, and caused yet another massive outpouring of public outrage. Young people saw these revelations as a betrayal of the America they had been promised by the Presidency of JFK, a vibrant, heroic nation which sought to make the world a better, freer place. These were not the actions of brave avengers, but of brutalistic imperialist invaders. It seemed to them that the Soviet propaganda had been at least partially right about the American military all along. Even many in the older generation of Americans, which had fought World War II and knew that sometimes horror on the battlefield was a terrible necessity of human conflict, saw the actions of the Romney and Bush Administrations as a step too far. Why was such ruthless brutality being employed against such small, relatively weak nations? Why was America acting like a bully? Others rushed to the military’s defense, of course. William F. Buckley and Vice President Ronald Reagan questioned Bernstein and Woodward’s patriotism, and wondered “what they were trying to prove with their sensationalist yellow journalism”. Public pressure nonetheless mounted for real answers however, and after the investigation into Senator Kennedy of New York came to a fruitless conclusion in August of 1974, a new one kicked off right away, this one into potential abuses of power by the CIA.

    Director Richard Helms, seen by some as the “shadowy kingpin” of these misdoings, had slowly risen to the top of his field through years of working with leadership from both sides of the political spectrum. In many ways, his career perfectly represented the “above politics” attitude many Americans held toward the CIA at the time. A former OSS agent during World War II, Helms had been a student of Allen Dulles and worked his way through the post-war CIA through the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations until he came to be Deputy Director of Central Intelligence for Plans under President John F. Kennedy in 1962. He’d hoped to succeed CIA Director John McCone when he retired in 1968, but was rebuffed by JFK, who saw Helms’ attitudes toward aggression as “disconcerting and dangerous”. President Kennedy instead appointed Clark Clifford, his original first choice for the job. Furious, Helms nonetheless bided his time as Deputy Director and waited for “less of a pinko peacenik” to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He got his wish with the election of George Romney to the White House and was quickly appointed Director of Central Intelligence upon Clifford’s resignation in January of 1970. Helms wasted no time reorganizing his organization, and striving to return it to the high levels of secrecy and viciousness it had seen under the rule of his mentor, Dulles. This was all well and good for Helms, who won accolades and praise from Presidents Romney and Bush, but was less exciting when word reached him in August of 1974 that the Senate Committee on Investigations was calling him to testify on covert operations he had approved, such as the ones circulating in the Post story. Offended that his beloved institution should be brought under such scrutiny, Helms refused to testify until issued a subpoena to do so. Even after submitting to the call to give testimony, Helms was still an absolute maelstrom of a witness. Combative, argumentative, and condescending, the CIA Director often addressed the Senators on the Committee like they were a joke to him, and could not possibly understand the complexities of intelligence work. He argued that he had done his job well. Protecting state secrets and performing espionage on the enemy was the extent of his job description. “I do not, I’ll admit, maintain much concern for public relations.” He admitted during one testimony.

    The Senators on the Committee however, did not back down. Idaho Senator Frank Church (D) questioned Helms most stringently, and accused him of breaching the general trust placed in him by the American public he claimed to serve. “You insist that everything you do is for your country?” Church asked, rhetorically. “Then why don’t the American people have the right to know the truth?” The spectacle of Helms being grilled by Church invigorated sagging Democratic chances ahead of the November midterm elections, and once again pulled President Bush into an uncomfortable position. Would he stand by Director Helms and his past transgressions and look like a vicious warmonger? Or would the President once again give credence to the widespread belief that his staff was working against his interests and that he was an ineffective, bumbling manager? What was more, Bush had a personal stake in the allegations that torture was employed during interrogation sessions. His own beloved son, Dubya, had endured horrendous torture at the hands of the Khmer Rouge and the President had denounced such actions as “beneath human dignity”. Could he stand not only against his own words, but the traumatic experiences of his son as well?

    In the end, the Commander in Chief defended his Intelligence Chief, but also instructed him to resign. “I have seen war.” Bush began his statement to the press on the matter. “Over the waves of the Pacific, I fought to defend our nation’s freedom. My son has seen war. In the jungles outside Phnom Penh, he fought to defend our nation’s freedom. In this great cause, we join with millions of our countrymen, who have laid sacrifices of all sizes upon the altar of our Republic. That freedom often comes at a high price, and we Americans will go to extraordinary lengths to pay that price. But that price should never be so high as to compromise our sacred principles. Life, no matter whom it belongs to, has value. Our foreign policy, particularly in cases where life might need to be taken, should be executed judiciously, and with the utmost care.” Bush replaced Helms with his Deputy, U.S. Marine Corps General Robert E. Cushman, Jr. Cushman, like Bush, had served in the Pacific during the Second World War, and been decorated several times over for his gallantry and valor in combat. If there was anyone who could bring the excess of the Agency to heel, Bush reasoned, it was a lifelong USMC man. The move was welcomed by many who were eager to see Helms let go, but did little to stem criticism of the Administration altogether. Senator Eugene McCarthy (D - MN) accused the White House of “putting our secrets and our national security once again in the hands of the military-industrial complex.” On a barnstorming tour of college campuses across the nation, McCarthy rallied youthful anger against the establishment, and also made sure to address the worsening domestic situation, claiming that the President and Republicans had no real way of ending the seeming economic freefall.

    Born to poor Jewish parents in South Philadelphia on January 30th, 1930, Samuel Byck dropped out of high school in ninth grade to support his impoverished family. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1954, was honorably discharged two years later, married shortly thereafter and had four children. Byck’s life was thrown severely out of order in 1972, when he was laid off from his job and his wife divorced him and took sole custody of their children. After failing several times to find work and beginning to suffer from severe depression, Byck started to harbor delusions that President George Bush and his Administration were conspiring with the wealthy and powerful across the nation to systematically oppress the poor. Byck first came to the attention of the Secret Service just after the ‘72 election, during which he had threatened the President and sent tape recordings of himself rambling about his conspiracy to several public figures including Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D - NY), Jonas Salk, and composer Leonard Bernstein. In these recordings, Byck announced that he considered Arthur Brenner “a personal hero of mine”, and that Byck “longed to take a stand against the uncaring elites”. The Secret Service considered him to be harmless however, and so did nothing.

    On the morning of Friday, February 22nd, 1974, Byck finally decided to try and make his plans for vengeance a reality. At the Baltimore/Washington Airport, shortly after 7 a.m, Byck shot and killed a Maryland Aviation Administration official and illegally boarded a DC-9 Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta. He chose the plane because it was the closest one ready to take off. Byck then attempted to hijack the plane, quickly murdering the first pilot and instructing the second to “fly this damn thing already!” The second refused and so the would-be hijacker shot and killed him as well, and attempted to take off himself. His plan was to get the plane airborne and crash it into the White House, killing President Bush and destroying what he considered to be one of the nation’s “premier symbols of economic oppression”. Byck struggled, fortunately, to ignite the plane’s engines, buying time for local police to arrive and order him to step off the plane immediately. When Byck refused and shot at the officers, they had no choice but to return fire, breaking several windows and eventually striking and killing Byck in the crossfire. Thankfully, no further civilians were injured and the assassination attempt did not so much as disrupt President Bush’s schedule. Were it not for Byck’s private journal, the full extent of his plans may never have been laid bare.

    Despite Byck’s failure to harm the Commander in Chief, the attempt did give the first family a good scare. It also seemed to fit into a larger trend creating even more uncertainty in an already fearful world: political terrorism. Only two weeks earlier, a militant left-wing activist group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army raped and murdered 19 year old Newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst during a botched kidnapping attempt in her home in Berkeley, California. This action and others, the group later claimed, were politically motivated, with the perpetrators explaining that they believed that only through such violent acts could the capitalist system be overthrown. The United Kingdom had already been undergoing its own “golden age” of terrorism with the Troubles in Northern Ireland bringing out the worst of both the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and the so-called Ulster Volunteer Army (UVA). Left wing militias in Western Europe, an intensifying nationalist movement in Quebec, near constant attacks on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and numerous other attacks brought out a new awareness and a new terror to the world: that myriad people were increasingly turning to violence to bring about political change.

    If 1974 was shaping up to be a difficult, tumultuous year for President George Bush, the Kennedys, and millions of other Americans, the same could not be said for one Theodore Robert Bundy, of Tacoma, Washington. Indeed, 1974 seemed to be the year that Ted’s life was finally starting to come together. Clad in a carefully pressed charcoal suit, with his thick black hair pulled back with pomade and his devilishly handsome face curled into a wide grin, the 28 year old prosecutor rang the doorbell, then waited patiently on the porch outside the home he shared with his beloved wife, Stephanie Brooks.

    “Just a minute!” Stephanie called from inside their house. She always took a decade and a half to get ready, Ted thought to himself. It was no matter. He wasn’t in any particular rush. He had something important to do today. Something critical to both he and Stephanie’s futures. But he wasn’t particularly nervous or anxious about the whole thing. As always, Ted was totally in control. In his hands, he gripped a bouquet of forget-me-nots and reflected on the last few years as he stared out at his 1972 Mercury Comet, its body the same color as a blood moon. He liked to say he found the paint job… darkly romantic. It was a cheap car, but diligent; a real fighter, like its owner. The Comet was the vehicle of an ambitious man of limited means, but limitless potential.

    Bundy’s life had not always been quite so charmed, to say the least. He was born November 26th, 1946 to his mother, Louise, at a home for unwed mothers back east in Burlington, Vermont. He never knew the identity of his biological father (with some in the family even claiming that he may have been fathered by his deranged, violent maternal grandfather), and Ted spent the first three years of his life at his grandparents’ home in Philadelphia. There, his abusive grandfather Samuel and quiet, terrified grandmother Eleanor raised him as their own son, so as to avoid the stigma associated with being a child born out of wedlock. Family, friends, even young Ted were told at the time that his grandparents were his parents and that his mother was his older sister. Later, he would discover the truth of his parentage, and the early betrayal by his own flesh and blood would weigh on his already dangerously twisted mind. He would never forgive his mother. Samuel Cowell, Ted’s grandfather, was a tyrannical monster of a man, as well as a prolific bigot. There seemed to be no end to the list of social groups that Samuel hated - blacks, Italians, Catholics, Jews, “and the rest of them” as he frequently said. He was said to beat his wife and the family dog, swung neighborhood cats by their tails, spoke often and loudly to unseen presences, and once threw Louise’s sister, Julia down the stairs for oversleeping. Some of this behavior likely had a profound impact on Ted - who even at the age of three was reported to begin showing some disturbing behavior. His Aunt Julia recalled awakening one day from a nap to find herself surrounded by knives from the Cowell kitchen; her three-year-old nephew standing by the bed, smiling.

    In 1950, Louise changed her surname from Cowell to Nelson and accepted the advice of multiple family members to leave Philly with her young son and begin a new life with her cousins, Alan and Jane Scott in Tacoma, a suburb of Seattle, Washington State. The following year, Louise met Johnny Culpepper Bundy, a hospital cook, at an adult singles night at Tacoma’s First Methodist Church. They would marry later that year and Johnny formally adopted Ted, who changed his last name to that of his step-father. Johnny and Louise would have four biological children of their own, and although Johnny would attempt to include Ted in family outings, camping trips, and activities, Ted was already a tough nut to crack. On one of their first dates in 1967, Ted would tell Stephanie that he considered Johnny to “not be his real father” and that he thought he “wasn’t very bright” and “didn’t make a lot of money.” Nonetheless, Ted considered his childhood in Tacoma to have overall been a happy one. He fondly thought back on his experiences roaming the town’s streets with his young friends, picking through trash cans for pictures of naked women, or reading detective stories. His favorites among the later category were always ones with brutalistic heroes and lots of intense sexual violence. Starting out at Woodrow Wilson High School in 1960, Bundy was never the “big man on campus” but nonetheless managed to be well known and well liked. He was a medium fish in a large sized pond, and for most people that would have been enough. But not for Ted Bundy. He wanted something a little different. Graduating in 1965, Bundy spent most of his free time in high school downhill skiing on local slopes with stolen equipment and forged lift tickets, and developing an interest in politics. Particularly, he served as a “Young Republican” activist for Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s 1964 Presidential Campaign, and was “devastated” when President Kennedy won reelection over Rockefeller that year. The experience was mostly a positive one for the young man, however, and reinforced the idea in his mind that politics was definitely a field for him to watch moving forward.

    After a short stint at the University of Puget Sound, Ted transferred to the University of Washington (UW) in 1966, to study political science. While there, in 1967 he first became romantically involved with Stephanie, his relationship with whom would soon become central to his sense of identity and self. Naturally good-looking, charismatic, and charming, Bundy nonetheless struggled to relate to other people on an emotional level, and nearly dropped out several times when school became “tedious” for him in 1967/68. Two things kept him at UW: Stephanie; and the 1968 Presidential Election. A chance to avenge his party’s loss four years early, the ‘68 race gave Ted another opportunity to try his hand at volunteering for a major political campaign. Inspired by Governor Rockefeller’s endorsement of Michigan Governor George Romney that year, Bundy turned up at the Romney Campaign’s Seattle office in December of ‘67, and asked if he could be a volunteer in the lead up to the state’s primary. Desperate for help, given that the campaign had few friends on the West Coast (firm Goldwater country at the time), the office told Bundy that they were happy to have him aboard. He would even have the chance to serve as a Romney delegate at the Republican National Convention in Miami, an experience Ted would later say changed his life for the better. Bundy campaigned tirelessly for Romney that year and was overjoyed when he won first the nomination and then the General Election in the fall. For the first time in his life, Ted Bundy really felt like he did something of worth, and with meaning. He had a beautiful girlfriend, plenty of friends, and a lifelong vocation ahead of him. What could possibly go wrong?

    Bundy graduated from UW with a mixed academic record in the Spring of 1970, but seemed nonetheless to have developed a redoubled drive toward his future. He immediately asked Stephanie to marry him, and although she initially considered him “immature” and told him she would have to talk it over with her family, within the next two days she had made up her mind. She wanted nothing more than to become Mrs. Ted Bundy. They had a small, warm hearted ceremony with a few friends and relatives, and Ted even managed to bring himself to thank his step-father for helping to arrange the whole thing. They had a short honeymoon in southern California, near where her parents lived, and under the glow of a Los Angeles moon, Ted swore that he would love his wife forever. He did not mention the utter emptiness he felt inside of his chest as the words charged out of his mouth. Shortly thereafter, Stephanie began working as a high school English teacher in Seattle and Ted was accepted to UW Law School thanks to some string pulling and recommendation letters from his grateful friends in the Seattle Republican Party. The young couple were seen as the very picture of marital bliss to all who knew them.

    While at UW Law, Bundy shifted to the right alongside his political hero, President Romney. He became President of the school’s division of the YAF, though he would insist that he considered himself a “moderate” Republican, on all issues except the war on drugs. When it came to drug enforcement and other “law and order” topics, Bundy developed harsh, even ruthless views on how he felt criminals should be treated: as menaces to society itself. He decided that he wanted to become a criminal prosecutor, and did so shortly after earning his J.D. in 1973 and passing the Washington State Bar Exam. He would quickly earn the nickname “swift justice Bundy” for the type of vitriolic performances he specialized in in the courtroom.

    Bundy had planned on working once again on President Romney’s reelection campaign in 1972, and was absolutely devastated by his assassination by Arthur Bremer. “My heart stood still in that moment that I heard on the radio that our President was dead.” Bundy would later recall. “I wanted to take that motherfucker Bremer and tear his motherfucking head off.” Despite the loss, Bundy still poured himself into Republican activism. Though he was lukewarm on now-President Bush, Bundy nonetheless joined Washington Governor Daniel J. Evans’ reelection campaign. Posing as a college student, Bundy would shadow Evans’ opponent: Democrat and former Governor Albert Rosellini, and recorded his stump speeches for analysis by Evans’ team. After Evans was reelected by a wide margin that year, Bundy was hired as a part-time consultant for the Washington State Republican Party by its Chairman, Ross Davis. Davis thought well of Bundy and described him as: “smart, aggressive, and a believer in the system.” He began to tour the Pacific Northwest on behalf of Republican Party candidates, when he wasn’t handling cases for King’s County, of course. It had been on one of these trips, down to sunny California, that he had first experimented in depth with indulging some of the darker regions of his imagination. He would never tell Stephanie, or anyone else about what had happened to sweet little Kathleen, whom he had convinced to climb into his Comet to help him look for his lost dog …

    Back in the present, March 11th, 1974, Bundy had a very particular task in mind as Stephanie emerged from their home, her long, brown hair hanging down and her eyes sparkling in the early spring sun. She was all dolled up in a form fitting dress, looking absolutely, incredibly fine. Just the way he liked her to look, his perfect, beautiful wife. She gratefully accepted the flowers and the couple drove out to Marzano’s, a favorite local restaurant. It was here that Bundy made his ultimately successful pitch: “Honey, what would you think about me running for the Washington State House of Representatives?”

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: We Return to the Great White North!
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    Chapter 87
  • Chapter 87: Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me - 1974 Elections in Canada and France

    Above: Liberal Prime Minister John Turner (left) struggled throughout his Premiership to persuade the people of Canada that he was much more than a “pretty, bilingual face”. This allowed Robert Stanfield (right) and his Progressive-Conservative Party to gain momentum as the left-wing NDP looked prepared to withdraw their backing of the coalition government in the spring of 1974.

    John Turner had been Prime Minister of Canada since taking over from the martyred Pierre Trudeau in August of 1969. For more than four years, the beleaguered Liberal leader had fought as hard as he could to live up to the monumental shoes he had been handed. With the intensifying Quebec independence movement costing more lives and eating up more headlines by the day, a sluggish economy and spiraling inflation seemed to be the final straws. The Prime Minister’s goodwill amongst the Canadian people dried up, and the New Democratic Party, which had helped Turner’s Liberals form a coalition government back in ‘69, now sided with the Tories in calling for a vote of no confidence against Turner and triggering a general election. The NDP and its new leader, David Lewis, accused Turner’s budget for the fiscal year ‘74 of doing “next to nothing” to curb inflation, and thus the value of the Canadian dollar would become perhaps the single defining issue of the election campaign. Progressive Conservative leader Robert Stanfield had bided his time for the past four years, patiently appearing as “an honest partner in opposition” to the PM, though he was quick to criticize what he called the government’s “abject failure to promote peace and prosperity” once it became clear that the majority of the country felt the same way. Stanfield got out ahead of the inflation issue and proposed a “90-day wage and price freeze” to break the momentum of inflation. A so-called “red Tory” for his relatively Keynesian, even socialist, outlook on economic matters, Stanfield put a premium on pragmatism when it come to politics, not ideological purity, a spirit which seemed to endear him to Canadians in these trying times. “For the common good” - an old slogan from the ‘68 election, was dusted off and reused once more, and this time, had an even more pronounced resonance across the Great White North. While the Liberals floundered behind their unpopular leader and the NDP and Social Credit Party struggled to retain their relevance amidst a series of tight races, the Progressive Conservatives rode the wave of uncertainty all the way to their first majority since 1963.

    Total Seats - 264 (133 Needed for Majority)

    Progressive Conservatives - 136 seats (+22)

    Liberals - 100 seats (-18)

    NDP - 24 seats (no change)

    Social Credit - 14 seats (-4)

    Stanfield’s resounding victory was perhaps all the more impressive as he managed to carefully and meticulously manage a difficult alliance between the Red and Blue Tories which comprised his party, as well as MPs and special interests on both sides of the biggest issue of the day alongside inflation: the Quebec “liberation” movement. Following the October Crisis of 1970, public support for the Front de liberation du Quebec (FLQ) steeply declined, even among those with Quebecois nationalist sympathies. Violence, especially for the purpose of political gain, was thoroughly uncanadian. Increased police deterrence and thorough federal investigations also played a role in bringing about the FLQ’s downturn, though by 1974, several issues of Quebec’s place in Canada remained to be solved. Shortly after his ascension to Prime Minister, Robert Stanfield proposed his first major piece of legislation directly to address these issues: an extension of the Official Bilingualism Act of 1969, which would provide government funding for “biculturalism” and strive to endorse a more open, diverse vision of what a united Canada could be. The bill, though inexpensive, found numerous opponents within the PC Party who opposed the measure on principle. Conservative Blue Tories from the western provinces believed that the Federal Government had already gone far enough in tolerating “Quebecois exceptionalism”. Stanfield insisted that such laws were the only way to prevent further violence and division amongst Anglo and Franco-Canadians. The bill was also an attempt to prevent the need for an “independence referendum” for the people of Quebec, something some in Montreal and Quebec City were beginning to demand. The extension, combined with Stanfield’s 90 day freeze on wages and prices formed the basis of the PM’s first 100 days in office.

    Robert Stanfield (PC) - The 17th Prime Minister of Canada

    In addition to the new biculturalism bill and anti-inflation policies, 1974 also brought about other significant changes to Canadian society. For the first time that year, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) allowed females to become members. Ralph Steinhauer made history when he became the first Aboriginal person to become a Canadian Lieutenant Governor when he became the Lt. Governor of Alberta. Earlier that year, Pauline McGibbon of Ontario also became the first woman to serve as Lt. Governor of a Province, marking yet another step forward toward a more progressive Canada. An internationally famous Soviet ballet dancer - Mikhail Baryshnikov defected to the west while staying in Toronto, much to the chagrin of Yuri Andropov, but the celebration of the United States and her allies. The wave of terrorism and political violence which plagued the rest of the world also tragically found its way to Canada. Nine Canadian citizens would be killed when the plane they were flying on was shot down by Syria, nearly causing an international incident. Another Canadian airliner was hijacked over Saskatchewan near the end of November. It would eventually be recovered outside of Saskatoon, but many of the passengers and crew would be killed in the crash. On the brighter side of affairs, acclaimed lawyer Robert Cliche would chair a Royal Commission investigating corruption in Quebec’s construction industry. In this ultimately successful endeavour, he would be aided by an up and coming young Progressive Conservative from Quebec City, Brian Mulroney. August of 1974 also saw the second annual Pride week sweep the nation’s major cities - Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and others, with a passionate public celebration of gay rights. The attendees celebrated their sexuality openly, many of them for the first time, and also called on the government to welcome them into mainstream society and protect their civil rights.

    Another major issue of Stanfield’s new premiership was the developing energy crisis in the aftermath of the 1973 OPEC oil embargo. The province of Alberta possessed substantial oil reserves, some of the largest in the world, in fact, whose extraction had long been controlled by American corporations. Elements of the government of Prime Minister John Turner and his allies in the New Democratic Party felt that these corporations geared most of their production toward the American market, and sent their profits south. As a result, the Liberals believed, little of the benefit of rising oil prices actually went to the people of Canada. This view however, was not widely shared in Alberta itself, where the locals were happy with the current situation. The NDP introduced a bill to create a publicly run oil company late in ‘73. In a very tight minority government at the time, Turner’s Liberals were dependent on the NDP to remain in power, and so adopted the bill as their own. The idea also fit neatly into Turner’s ideas of “economic nationalism”, but by the time the bill was introduced, Turner’s political capital was running low. Public support for his premiership had eroded, Liberals began to break ranks and side with the Progressive Conservatives in opposing the bill. Ultimately, it would die just shy of the needed majority to pass, triggering the NDP’s call for a vote of no confidence.

    By July of 1974 and the beginning of PM Stanfield’s time in power, the oil embargo was over and the prices of petroleum began to stabilize anyway. Blue Tories came to respect their controversial leader for “keeping his head” and refusing to allow the nationalization of a major industry over a short term crisis. Stanfield himself insisted that the Progressive Conservatives’ victory in the election was “a victory for small business, and individual Canadians everywhere.” Stanfield, not wanting to seem “in the pocket” of American big oil, however, did begin to call for Canadian ownership of its energy reserves through independent companies, as well as the development of alternative energy sources - which was to be achieved through tax credits and other financial incentives. During the first year of Stanfield’s government alone, Canadian oil companies sprang up in the thousands thanks to generous federal grants and investment incentives. This is not to say that the PM sought to distance his nation from the United States, of course. Stanfield and American President George Bush shared a marvellous working relationship, and were often compared to one another. Both were easterners in their country who often related more to their western constituents, and both were largely political centrists forced to reign in the more rightward elements of their respective parties when it come time to craft and pursue legislation. Strong proponents of free trade, both Bush and Stanfield would leave behind legacies on that issue and bring it to the forefront of economic discussions, especially in the wake of the devastating recessions rocking North America at the time. While NDP Leader Ed Broadbent and U.S. Congressman Ron Dellums (D - CA) among others were calling for protectionist tariffs and other measures to protect North American labour, Stanfield, Bush, and their supporters favoured a longer term approach of modernization and technocracy to the development of their economies.

    The following handful of years would test the new Prime Minister and his party, but for the time being, Stanfield was off to a strong start.

    The failure of the 1969 French Constitutional Amendment brought about the end of Charles de Gaulle’s reign over the fifth French Republic, and also heralded the rise of his successor, Georges Pompidou, who won the ‘69 elections over his opponent, the centrist Alain Poher with nearly 60% of the vote. During the next five years under Pompidou’s careful management, France would take its first necessary steps toward Cold War reform and progress. An avowed Gaullist, but more pragmatic than his predecessor, Pompidou ended the decades long animosity between Paris and London when he befriended British Prime Minister Randolph Churchill and labored to help bring the UK and Ireland, at long last, into the European Economic Community. This effort was concluded in January of 1973, and served to strengthen relations between the two countries, and shift France once again back toward the western, allied axis. He pursued close relations as well with American Presidents Romney and Bush, and was greatly admiring of and admired by, Secretary of State Richard Nixon. These friendships brought economic aid to Paris, which modernized significantly during Pompidou’s Presidency, though most of the aid dried up after the dawn of the Great Recession late in 1973. President Pompidou also embarked on ambitious domestic programmes, including a sweeping industrialization plan to keep France’s economy competitive; initiating the Arianespace project, which brought French involvement into international space missions; creating the TGV infrastructure project - bringing affordable high speed rail access to the entire nation; and expanding France’s civilian nuclear energy program in response to the rising price of foreign oil. Though Pompidou was popular with the majority of the French population, his dismissal of Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas in favor of Pierre Messmer, a more thoroughly conservative politician left thousands of still disaffected and disappointed young people searching for alternative leadership. After his party’s lukewarm showing in the 1973 legislative elections against the left-wing opposition, which had organized itself around a Common Programme for “real, progressive change”, Pompidou started paying close attention to the organizational and local/regional needs of his own party, the Gaullist UDR. He did not believe, that they could continue to lose ground to the opposition and maintain their hold on the government and public support.

    Pompidou, still in the midst of rebuilding his party and enjoying broad support, passed away from lymphoma on April 2nd, 1974, aged just 62 years. The political elite of France were blindsided by the sudden deterioration and passing of the President, and so an election was called in order for the French people to choose his successor. On the left, the Movement of Left Radicals (MRG), Socialist Party (PS), and the French Communist Party (PCF) called for the implementation of the Programme commun that they called for two years before - a reduction of working hours (down to 40 per week); higher minimum wages; social security expansion; and socialized housing; compensated nationalization of major industrial companies in several sectors; of dozens of banks and financial institutions; and increased market regulation; decentralization and “democratization” of government institutions, including restriction of police custody powers and guarantees of protection for civil liberties; and finally the abolition of both the Warsaw Pact and NATO, and a complete disarmament of nuclear weapons. To say the least, the left heard the people’s cries for real change, and promised them plenty of it. The PCF boasted the largest membership of the three major parties in the coalition, but their leadership worried that any coalition led by a member of the Communist Party would fail to be elected, as the right frequently used the people’s fear of Communist takeover as a scare tactic to win elections. To avoid this fear, the coalition rallied behind Francois Mitterand, leader of the Socialist Party, and for the first time since the beginning of the Fifth Republic stood a real chance of winning the whole thing.

    Furthering the left’s chances for victory was the confusion and chaos which emerged within the incumbent “Presidential coalition” as no clear candidate emerged. Sitting Prime Minister Pierre Messmer announced early in the race that he would only run for President if he was the coalition’s only candidate. As others started to throw in their hats, he followed through on this promise and declined to make himself a candidate. Three candidates did eventually emerge: former PM Jacques Chaban-Delmas; Chairman of the National Assembly, Edgar Faure; and Economy Minister and leader of the Independent Republicans, Valery Giscard d’Estaing. Faure quickly withdrew due to lack of support, leaving Chaban-Delmas and Giscard d’Estaing to vy for the nod. Giscard d’Estaing had several perceived advantages over Chaban-Delmas: he was younger; more eloquent; and managed to paint himself as “the change in the continuity” and “a modern turn” in French politics. He knew that the French people wanted change, but bet, correctly, that millions of them were unnerved by the left’s Programme commun, which d’Estaing accused of being an “extreme collectivist project”. He also benefited from cracks in the ruling UDR party, and Chaban-Delmas’ support continued to decline. Indeed, so lukewarm was the UDR’s desire for a Chaban-Delmas Presidency, that young Finance Minister Jacques Chirac led dozens of his fellow Pompidou loyalists to support d’Estaing, whom he believed would be a stronger candidate to oppose Mitterrand in the general election. As a result of Chirac and others’ fearsome campaigning for d’Estaing, their chosen candidate and Mitterrand won the highest number of votes in the first round, and would face each other in the second round run off. Real change, regardless of the winner, was coming at last to France.

    On May 19th, 1974, the second round of the French Presidential elections were held. It would go on to be the closest Presidential election in the history of the Fifth Republic, and recounts and disputes would linger for several days before a definite winner could be determined for certain. Perhaps inspired by the so-called Carnation Revolution, the peaceful downfall of the Estado Novo regime in Portugal on April 25th brought about after years of civil disobedience and quiet resistance there, the French people turned out en masse to demand not just reform, but radical change. By a narrow 50.4% - 49.6% margin, the Parti Socialiste and Francois Mitterand were elected to the Presidency of France. After decades in the political wilderness, the left were handed the keys of power in Paris. Overnight, the western world was filled with an unshakeable combination of curiosity and worry. The Gaullists had for decades kept France on an independent, if reliably anti-communist path. Now, the communists were part of the ruling coalition. There were sounds of alarm from The Economist and The National Review. Bill Buckley accused the French left of wanting to “bring about a second reign of terror - this time with all of our heads rolling”. Alternatively, the non aligned movement, personified by its newly elected Secretary General Houari Boumediene of Algeria, applauded the French people for choosing the middle road in Cold War geopolitics, and “rejecting their previous path of imperialism and brutalistic capitalism.” In the end, it remained to be seen whether President Mitterand would be able to deliver on his radical promises to the French people.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: The Iron Lady and Nanny Wilson
    Chapter 88
  • Chapter 88: Killer Queen - 1974 in the United Kingdom

    Above: Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Margaret Thatcher. Trained as a protege of sorts by the popular and mostly successful Prime Minister Randolph Churchill, Thatcher would take over as PM herself after Churchill announced his retirement on June 18th, 1974. She would become the first woman to serve as Prime Minister.

    10 Downing Street was already abuzz with activity as Prime Minister Randolph Churchill rose from his bed on the morning of June 18th, 1974. Though he was once again kicking his family’s alcohol habit, Churchill made no plans of waking up early for his last day on the job. It was never his habit to rise any time before 11 o’clock at the earliest, unless there was some sort of emergency. He liked to think he made up for this by often staying up until 5 or 6 in the morning, hard at work on affairs of state even as the sun was coming up. The PM rolled himself out of bed at noon, greeted first and foremost by his beloved Natalie, an artist and muse who had once been involved in a menage-a-trois with Churchill and another woman, before finally agreeing to be his wife in 1964. They made for an odd pair - the reformed journalist/politician and the bohemian artist, and the public were often put off by the rumors and speculation about their past relationship, particularly while Churchill had been married to the mother of his children. Nevertheless, both the Prime Minister and his wife were still quite popular, and most Britons if asked would have said that they were somewhat to see them go. Churchill’s stirring oratory, political pragmatism, and military mind had lead Britain to victory in Rhodesia and an end to the coal strikes at home. This isn’t to say that the PM had fixed everything, however. The Troubles in Northern Ireland and the ever-worsening economy loomed large over the British consciousness, and though Britons may have felt a pang when they heard Churchill would step down, some quietly thanked their lucky stars. Word had begun to circulate from London that the PM was “an old man, tired and winded from what he feels has been his life’s great endeavour.” It was time for a new person to step in and lead. Someone young and bold.

    Some two weeks before, on June 6th, Churchill had named Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Margaret Thatcher Deputy Prime Minister, essentially settling the question of what the PM was thinking in terms of his government’s succession after his retirement. The move was met with bickering and backlash from within the party, of course. There were Heath loyalists leftover from 1970 who felt that the moderate Chancellor of the Exchequer should be given another chance to lead the Tories. What was more, the developing economic crisis which Britain was facing at the time cast serious doubts on Thatcher in the eyes of many. She strongly subscribed to Milton Friedman’s theory of monetarism and advocated massive privatization of public organizations as a means of cutting “excessive state spending” and bringing the nation’s “ludicrous” inflation rates to heel. Britain, like much of the western world at the time, was facing a severe inflation crisis, and most across the political spectrum agreed that swift changes were required in order to save the pound sterling and begin the march back to prosperity. The issue at fault between individuals and ideologies however was what role the government had to play in resolving the crisis. The Labour Party and many within the Conservatives accused Thatcher of being a right wing demagogue, who presented no practical solutions to these economic woes. Thatcher countered that the post-war Keynesian consensus of the variety endorsed by her boss was the true problem, and that only through tough decisions and cutting back on public spending could the UK ever find its way out of the storm. And quite the storm it was. Membership in the EEC was supposed to help soften the blow of the recession which began to hit the UK in November of 1973, around the same time it hit the United States. PM Churchill had promised that the recession was a “temporary setback” and would soon be at an end. He was utterly and completely wrong.

    Already weak due to stagnation and rising overseas competition in heavy industry, the UK’s economy was further shaken by the Oil Shock of 1973. Due to a perception in the Middle East that the west was biased toward supporting Israel in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the organization of petroleum exporting countries (OPEC) issued a strict embargo on oil shipments to several countries, including the UK. The price of oil nearly quadrupled by the beginning of 1974, and British citizens, many of whom were already out of work, began to feel the pinch. Though France and some EEC nations were able to avoid the embargo by supporting the Arab side in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the UK under Churchill refused to back down to what it saw as “unquenched Arab aggression” against Israel, a historical British ally. Churchill had applauded U.S. President Bush’s “courage” in continuing to stand by Israel, and broke with France in allowing U.S. planes to use British airfields to deliver arms and supplies to the tiny nation throughout the course of the war. This move was largely agreed with by Opposition Leader Harold Wilson and much of the general public, but after the oil embargo hit, Wilson walked back his prior support and Edward Heath openly accused Churchill of wrecking the nation’s economy “for the sake of pride”. Shortages of petrol were reported across the United Kingdom and by the end of the year, Churchill was forced to ask petrol stations to voluntarily close their doors on Saturday nights and Sundays. Some 70% of stations complied, resulting in long, aggressive queues for petrol. Fights often broke out as frustrated motorists turned their anger at the situation on each other or on the local police. A few Britons were even killed in the harshest incidents, including several police officers. The images of these confrontations cast a shadow over Churchill’s “happy days” style of leadership, and the public began to turn against the Tories as the new year began. During that winter, Churchill had asked the people of Britain to “band together to ride out this energy crisis” and to only heat one room of their homes during the intensely cold winter. Pundits and the public fumed. Flights across the UK and several Nordic countries were cancelled on Sundays, stranding travelers and slowing business. Strikes by coal miners threatened to break out once again, as many were not being paid enough to afford the vastly inflated petrol and other goods. The PM began to feel like his retirement could not come quickly enough, but he did not want to let Heath, whom he saw as a weak leader, take control once again of the Conservative Party, and so begged his majority not to call a vote of no confidence for just a few more months. “Just give it until the summer.” He reasoned with his fellow Tories. “If we let Wilson call an election just now, we’ll get bloody well flogged.” The Conservatives gave in, and killed a no confidence measure before it could be brought to the floor. Shortly thereafter, in March of 1974, the Washington Oil Summit, hosted by President Bush brought an end at long last to the oil embargo, and it finally seemed like the Prime Minister had been wise in keeping his head. The Tories’ public approval began to tick back up.

    The long-lasting effects of the Oil Shock would linger throughout the 1970’s, but for the time being, the national zeitgeist began to settle a bit. Churchill named Thatcher as his Deputy and obvious successor at the beginning of the summer, and thereafter on the 18th formally announced his retirement in a televised address to the people of Britain. In his brief, but moving speech, Churchill thanked the people of the UK for giving him the chance to serve as their Prime Minister, then asked Her Majesty the Queen, who had just recently returned from a trip overseas to New Zealand, to dissolve Parliament so that new elections could be held on the 12th of July. The severe economic circumstances in which the election was poised to take place promoted both The Sun and The Daily Mirror to characterize it as “a crisis election.” Leading the Tories into the campaign would be the newly coronated Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and something of an untested element in national politics. Having convinced the majority of the Tories to back her in denying Edward Heath the possibility of a leadership election, Thatcher now turned her attention to “selling” her more conservative model for British government to Britons at large. One early event which shocked the nation was when radical right-winger Enoch Powell, an Ulster Unionist MP attacked Thatcher’s Conservative Manifesto for backing continued British involvement in the EEC, and urged voters to put Wilson and Labour back in power. Powell claimed that the main issue in the campaign was whether Britain was to "remain a democratic nation ... or whether it will become one province in a new Europe super-state". He said it was the people's "national duty" to oppose those who had deprived Parliament of "its sole right to make the laws and impose the taxes of the country". This nationalistic attitude appealing to many working class Britons, and started to tip the scales in Wilson’s favor. Hoping to counter Powell’s influence, Thatcher decided to go on the offensive.

    She released a more forcefully worded Conservative Party manifesto - New Ideas for a New Britain, which offered strongly monetarist, but specific solutions to the country’s economic problems, and promised lower taxation would help combat the stagnation of British productivity. The PM also appeared on television from outside 10 Downing Street and spoke to her people directly, calling on them to back another Tory government: “Don’t just hope for a better life. Vote for one! Do you want a strong Government which has clear authority for the future to make the difficult, but necessary decisions? Do you want Parliament and the Government to continue to fight strenuously against inflation? Or do you want them to abandon the struggle against rising prices under pressure from one particularly powerful group of workers? … This time of division, strife, and anarchy has got to stop. Only you can stop it. It's time for you to speak—with your vote. It's time for your voice to be heard—the voice of the moderate and reasonable people of Britain: the voice of the majority. It's time for you to say to the extremists, the militants, and the plain and simply misguided: we've had enough. There's a lot to be done. For heaven's sake, let's get on with it.” Thatcher’s speech was incredibly well received, and because the vast majority of newspapers in Britain at the time were pro-conservative, many of the press’s leading voices called for her government to be reelected. “Don’t just hope for a better life” became the Tories’ leading campaign slogan, and made Thatcher, newly-nicknamed “Fighting Maggie”, a household presence across the country.

    The Labour Party, once thought to be the favorites in the race because of the worsening economic situation in the country, were now firmly on the defensive. Thatcher had knocked the ball into their court, and unfortunately for them, they did not have much punch to throw back with. The Labour Manifesto, titled Let us Work Together was notably radical, a firm push to the left for the party. It was primarily written by Shadow Industry Secretary Tony Benn, considered the leading socialist voice in the UK at the time, and made several sweeping promises. In it, Labour promised "a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people and their families". It advocated compulsory planning agreements with industry and the creation of a National Enterprise Board. This section attracted strong criticism from figures within the party, with Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment Tony Crosland privately calling the nationalisation programme "half-baked" and "idiotic". The manifesto also committed the party to renegotiating the terms of Britain's entry into the European Economic Community, and holding a national referendum on the issue. The Labour campaign attempted to present the party's leadership as competent negotiators, who could restore peace with the unions. Unlike in previous elections Wilson took something of a back seat, allowing James Callaghan, the popular Denis Healey and Shirley Williams to play equal, if not greater, roles in the campaign. In their final broadcast of the campaign a series of leading figures claimed Labour could put Britain "on the road to recovery". In the film Wilson asserted: "Trade unionists are people. Employers are people. We can't go on setting one against the other except at the cost of damage to the nation itself." David Owen, the Shadow Minister of Health, would later call the campaign the "shabbiest" he had ever been associated with, due to Wilson’s overall lack of energy and vision. Wilson had gone into government in the 60’s with high hopes for a brighter, technocratic future. Now, he was battling a younger opponent who happened to be pitching hip new economic theories and had the novel appeal of being a woman. Combine all of this with continued public sympathy in the wake of victory in Rhodesia, and it became clear to many Britons which way the campaign would go. The first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was here to stay.

    1974 UK General Election Results

    635 Seats in the House of Commons

    318 Seats Needed for a Majority

    Conservative Party - 323 Seats (Up from 318)

    Labour Party - 297 Seats (Down from 300)

    Liberal Party - 8 Seats (Up from 6)

    Others - 7 Seats

    In the aftermath of its second consecutive surprise defeat at the hands of the Tories, the Labour Party finally and rather unceremoniously dumped former Prime Minister Harold Wilson as their leader and swiftly scheduled a new leadership election to choose who would champion them as they continued their time in opposition. The time had come, agreed seemingly all factions within the disaffected party, to sweep out the old and in with the new. The challenge which arose after the election however, was one as old as Labour itself. Where should its new direction bring it? Further to the left, down the path of true socialism espoused by Michael Foot and Tony Benn? Or closer to the center, where James Callaghan and his backers clung to moderation? Some attributed Labour’s defeat at Thatcher’s hands to having “abandoned their left-wing principles”. Others insisted that Labour had gone “off its rocker” and cost themselves what should have been a relatively easy election. One man believed that the problem was another issue altogether: Labour already had the right ideas, they were simply not selling them well enough to the British People. Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Denis Healy was, in many ways, the quintessential British politician. Well known to the public at large for his gigantic, bushy eyebrows and creative, witty turns of phrase which revealed an incredible sense of humour, Healy was a brilliant intellectual with a “common touch” - he could talk to anyone, that just about no other politician in Britain had. He was a marvel, and the public loved him for it.

    Denis Winston Healey was born in Mottingham, Kent on August 30th, 1917, but moved with his family to Keighley, in the West Riding of Yorkshire at the age of five. His parents were Winifred Mary and William Healey and his middle name was given in honor of Winston Churchill. Healey had one sibling, a younger brother born in 1920 named Terrence Blair Healey, known as Terry. His father was an engineer who worked his way up from humble origins, studying at night school and eventually becoming head of a trade school. His paternal grandfather was a tailor from Enniskillen, in Northern Ireland. Throughout his youth, Healey’s family often summered in Scotland, and young Denis began his education at Bradford Grammar School. In 1936 he won a scholarship to Oxford to study the classics. While studying there, he became involved in Labour politics for the first time. Also while at Oxford, Healey joined the Communist Party in 1937, but left and severed all ties with the organization after the Fall of France in 1940. While at University, Healey met future Tory leader Edward Heath, then known as “Teddy”, whom he would succeed as President of Balliol College Junior Common Room, and who became a lifelong friend and political rival. He achieved a double first degree, then joined the British Army to serve his country during World War II.

    Being a fiercely patriotic young man, Healey enlisted as a gunner in the Royal Artillery before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in April, 1941. Serving with the Royal Engineers, he saw action in the North African Campaign, the Allied Invasion of Sicily, and the Italian Campaign. He was even the military landing officer (“beach master”) for the British assault brigade at Anzio in 1944. After the war, he became an MBE (member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) and married his fiance and best friend, Edna May Edmunds in 1945. Though he was offered to remain in the service and attain the rank of lieutenant colonel, Healey left the service with the rank of Major. He also declined to enter a prestigious career in academics as he knew right from the get-go what he wanted to pursue: politics. Over the following decades, Healey would slowly but surely make a name for himself in the Labour Party and beyond as one of the most preeminently passionate and likeable champions of the cause of social justice in all of Britain. Less left wing than Foot and Benn, but more progressive than the Shirley Williamses and James Callaghan’s of the world, Healey advocated for a Labour Party that was “the party of the people” - they were quick with a joke and even quicker with a smile, and brought in people from all walks of life rather than playing the tired, repetitive message of class warfare that had always tarnished Labour’s image with Middle Class Britons. Healey wanted a party that everyone could find something in, and so when he threw his hat into the ring for Labour leadership in 1974, people listened. Though he struggled in the first round as the moderate and right wing votes in the party split between several other candidates, as the party faced the possibility of a Callaghan or Foot leadership (which no one except at the ends of the party really, truly wanted), Healey’s likeable, compromise-prone star began to rise. In the second round he finished third, but right on the heels of Callaghan, who had lost votes to both Healey and Foot, and was beginning to see that his candidacy was numbered. Despite his desire to lead the party, Callaghan stepped aside and backed Healey. As the third round began, Healey overtook Foot and found himself elected leader of the Labour Party amidst much hope for a brighter future. In his victory speech, Healey declared that “this is a new day for Labour and for Britain!” and vowed to take back the House of Commons in the next general election. He would have a chance to fulfill that promise before even he could ever expect.

    Though England had been narrowly bested by Poland in their qualifying match for the 1974 FIFA World Cup, the UK, as it happened, would still be represented at the big tournament in West Germany. For the first time in sixteen years, Scotland’s national football team would be making it to the World Cup. Managing Alba’s team for his second year as skipper was Willie Ormond, a Scotsman originally hailing from Falkirk, who had made his name as one of Hibernian’s Famous Five forward line, as well as winning three league championships in the 1940’s and early 1950’s. Replacing Tommy Docherty after he departed in ‘73 for Manchester United, Ormond immediately set to work bringing his country’s team to order. Thanks to careful management and a sharp eye for plays, Ormond’s leadership soon brought Scotland to the 1974 World Cup.

    In the first round or group stage, Scotland found themselves paired with Yugoslavia, Zaire, and the winner of multiple past world cup championships: Brazil. The group wound up being incredibly close, as each of the teams played to several draws, but Scotland was never defeated. Picking up a 3 - 0 win against Zaire in their first match, Scotland then pulled a draw with mighty Brazil in a 0 - 0 bout before holding Yugoslavia to a dramatic and exciting 4 - 4 match. Because no team managed to pull more than one win against each other (with poor Zaire losing to all three nations), the top two teams would be selected by goal difference in their matches against Zaire. In the end, Yugoslavia (who had scored 9 - 0 against Zaire) and Scotland were at the top and would advance to the next round. This was considered a major upset over Brazil, and gave the whole UK something to cheer about.

    The second round saw Scotland paired with the Netherlands, Argentina, and Communist East Germany, each of whom would in turn prove to be fearsome opponents. In their first match of the second round, Scotland managed to pull out a tight 1 - 0 win against East Germany, which built momentum for their highly anticipated second match, this time against Argentina. Despite the odds being stacked against them, Alba somehow managed to come out on top of a 3 - 2, highly defensive game, adding another win to their column. At last, Scotland came to face the Netherlands, perhaps the most formidable of the three times, and beneath a grey sky and dreadfully rainy weather, Scotland’s team did her country proud, and defeated the Dutch 4 - 2. Amazingly, an undefeated Scotland was headed for the World Cup final match against Poland, the nation who had knocked her fellow UK country, England, out of the finals only months earlier. Host West Germany and the Netherlands would play each other in the third place play off.

    All over the United Kingdom, anticipation built until the whole nation was collectively holding its breath. In a year of turmoil in Northern Ireland, economic hardship, and massive political upheaval in the streets, it seemed like Scotland’s National Football squad was giving Britons something to come together and root for. In supporting their Scottish brothers, all of Britain was united. The 1974 Final Match drew record ratings across Britain, and as 75,200 screaming fans looked on in the Olympiastadion in Munich, Scotland pulled off what was previously thought to be impossible. They did what their English contemporaries could not, and came from behind to edge out the slimmest of victories against Poland, 2 - 1. Not only was Scotland the only undefeated team at the World Cup, Scotland were the Football champions of the world! Massive celebrations rocked the UK from Edinburgh to London and everywhere in between, a tremendous outpouring of celebration and Scottish national pride swelled until it rang from every church bell. The biggest underdogs in FIFA history had pulled off the impossible.

    Inspired by the success of their national team, a new movement began to break out across Scotland: a demand for devolution from Westminster to Scotland and Wales and the creation of a Scottish Parliament. The issue became a major one on the campaign trail in the 1974 General Election, and though it would be a handful of years before devolution occurred under another government, the ball toward that situation started rolling thanks to Ormond and his lads on that summer day in Munich.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: The Graveyard of Empires
    Chapter 89
  • Chapter 89: Nothing from Nothing - The Soviet-Pakistani Invasion of Afghanistan

    Above: Weary Soviet troops return to an Armored Personnel Carrier after an unsuccessful attack on enemy positions north of Kabul (left). The Mujahideen, groups of Islamic insurgents opposed the Soviet invasion fiercely (right).

    The date was July 9th, 1974. First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Yuri Andropov leaned back in the firm, but comfortable leather chair he kept for reclining in his offices at the Kremlin, and puffed casually, almost carelessly on a marlboro cigarette. On his desk, a bottle of starka vodka had been opened and a glass poured and occasionally sipped at. Beside this was a first edition copy of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, cracked open to a page about halfway through. All around, the stirring melodies and movements of Beethoven’s sixth symphony blasted from expensive, British speakers. Nearly none of these luxuries would have ever been available to even a well off Soviet citizen, but for the leader of one of the world’s two great superpowers, these were just the sort of “trifles” he required to keep his mind sharp, his heart content. Andropov, though few in the west knew much of anything about him for certain, had always been a purveyor of the finer things in life. During his time as KGB head, he’d learned valuable lessons not just about espionage, counterintelligence operations, political blackmail, and violent autocratic leadership, he had also developed quite the nicotine and alcohol addictions. These were not weaknesses in his eyes. Rather, they were assets. Over a bottle of vodka, a man was more likely to let something slip which when sober, may have been a closely guarded secret. With a cigarette in your mouth, you can allow your verbal opponent to underestimate you, to believe that you are orally fixated or some such nonsense. Besides, Andropov enjoyed these things. And given that leading the CCCP was possibly the most stressful job in the world, who could tell him not to enjoy himself every now and then?

    Also occupying his desk this afternoon was a personal cable from President Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry of Pakistan, protecting and encrypted up to the highest levels of confidentiality and security. Within this cable, President Chaudhry delivered the magical words Yuri Andropov had been longing to hear: “First Secretary, tell your generals that we are ready to deal with our mutual problem.” For months, even years, Andropov had watched in relative peace and quiet as the forces of the imperialist scum put an end to revolutionary conflicts in Southeast Asia and Rhodesia. At Helsinki in 1971, Andropov spoke harshly but mostly played diplomacy, playing the then-President Romney a song of cooperation, and of peace. In truth, Andropov loathed the peacetime tedium. He was built for spreading the revolution, by force if necessary. The people of Afghanistan, the Soviet Union’s neighbor to the south, were being repressed by a brutal, right-wing, nationalist dictator, who had banned the country’s communist party, forcing hundreds of its members into exile over the Soviet border. Now, with a new ally in Pakistan prepared for anything, and the politburo frothing at the mouth to strike at the right-wingers with everything they had, Andropov believed that the time had come for the Russian bear to show its claws to the rest of the world.

    Andropov cabled the Pakistani President in reply via the KGB’s secure networks. His response was simple: “We will move this night.” The First Secretary picked up his office’s phone and waited for the operator to get him directly in touch with Viktor Kulikov, the Marshal of the Soviet Union and commander in chief of the armed forces. Andropov ordered Kulikov to initiate Operation Avalanche - and not to tell Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. “Let the papers tell him.” Andropov said with a cold laugh and a sinister grin. “He and Premier Kosygin are in for quite the surprise come morning.

    Thousands of miles from Moscow, at the USSR-Afghan border, Lt. Colonel A. Lomakin was given the go-ahead from high command: his airborne infantry battalion was to take off and drop themselves at Bagram and Shindand airfields, in accordance with War Plan Omicron. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had begun. As Lomakin’s men descended upon the unwitting Afghan airports from the skies, two divisions of Russian armor and mechanized infantry began to pour over the border and into the rocky, mountainous countryside to support them. The Afghan border guards were worried about a potential attack by the Soviets, but the invasion had come far earlier than anyone in Kabul had anticipated. Many Afghan soldiers were left without heavy combat gear and were forced to fight the Soviet tanks with small arms and improvised explosives. Within a few hours, the Soviets had secured many of the larger border crossings and begun to push south toward the capital. Fortunately for the Afghan soldiers, Lomakin and Marshal Kulikov were cautious and did not want to overextend their supply lines. Thus, they allowed their armies a few hours to regroup after they seized the initial checkpoints. This gave the Afghans a bit of crucial breathing room and recovery time. Many retreated to Faizabad, where they planned to make a concerted stand against Soviet advances with the aid of heavier weapons.

    Just an hour or so after Lomakin first launched the invasion, Afghanistan’s army was also met with an assault on their southeastern border by Pakistan. Realizing that Kabul was heavily fortified and protected further by the Hindu Kush mountains, the Pakistanis decided to take advantage of their own mobility through armor, and sent several divisions of tanks north through the Registan Desert, into the lower altitude parts of the country. Once again, the Afghans were ill-equipped and ill-prepared to counter the Pakistani attacks, and were forced over and over again to retreat to higher ground, inflicting few casualties along the way. By the end of July, Pakistan would control most Afghan territory south of the Helmand River and the Hindu Kush range. This region was full of Pashtun Afghans, the very people whom Pakistan feared because of President Khan’s nationalistic tendencies, and tens of thousands of them became refugees as they fled north to avoid persecution and violence by the Pakistani invaders. In a nutshell, Afghanistan was caught between a Bear and the crescent moon, with each squeezing a little bit tighter by the day. It became clear that the nation could not hold out for long. The government in Kabul needed to act, and quickly.

    Andropov and Chaudhry offered the people of Afghanistan a very simple means of preserving themselves: overthrowing the government of President Khan. In an ultimatum delivered on July 10th via telephone by the First Secretary himself, Andropov informed the Afghan leader that if he lifted the ban on left-wing political parties and ceased his clamping down on the dissemination of Soviet propaganda in the country, then the Soviets and Pakistanis would withdraw their troops. “It is a very fair offer.” Andropov smirked, already knowing what his opponent would say. Khan refused to be blackmailed, and so the war would continue. After this, the Soviets and Pakistanis promoted public outcry in Kabul for Khan to resign and allow new elections to be held. “The people of Afghanistan do not want war.” President Chaudhry proclaimed. “They want their freedom to organize and value their own labour. As long as Daud Khan sits in power in Kabul, they cannot claim what is rightfully theirs.” Khan realized by the middle of August, with Soviet tanks only a few hundred miles from the Presidential palace, that he had little chance of retaining his position alone. He began to send out messages to the rest of the world, begging for aid, especially to the United States and other western nations, whom he believed would oppose the invasion on principle alone.

    Internationally, the invasion was, for the most part, condemned in the strongest possible terms. On July 21st, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution, protesting the joint Soviet-Pakistani attack by a vote of 104 for, 18 against, and 12 members of the body absenting. Only Soviet allies Angola, East Germany, North Vietnam, and Pakistan supported the “sweeping” intervention. U.S. Representative to the UN Nelson Rockefeller yelled until he was red in the face on the floor of the assembly, charging the USSR with “shattering the fragile spirit of detente we had worked so long and so hard to build.” The Soviet representative said nothing in reply, but walked out of the room halfway through Rockefeller’s speech, drawing further criticism from abroad. Though few in the geopolitical community were eager to come to the defense of President Khan, “a thoroughly loathsome man”, in the words of former British PM Randolph Churchill, fewer still were pleased about the Soviets’ flagrant abuse of their military might to interfere with the self-determination of their neighbor to the south. Chairman Zhou Enlai of the People’s Republic of China joined with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India in being the first world leaders to condemn the attack personally and not through proxies. Both China and India (along with western aligned Iran) would soon serve as training grounds and supply caches for anti-Soviet and anti-Pakistani militias, who would then be smuggled back into Afghanistan to help oppose the invasion, and the new government that the Soviets were hoping to prop up there. The whole operation would be funded, planned, and overseen by the American CIA, with the express (if secret) approval of President George Bush. Arab Monarchies in the Persian Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia, also provided significant funding to the burgeoning anti-Soviet militia movement in Afghanistan.

    The rag-tag alliance of genuine freedom fighters, islamic jihadists, future terrorists, and anarchists who made up these militias would come to be known by the West as the “Mujahideen”. In Arabic, this is simply the plural form of “mujahid” - an individual engaged in jihad - literally, “struggle”. Typically, jihad had religious connotations, similar to the Christian concept of the crusade. Many of the young men who flooded into Afghanistan in the late summer and early autumn of 1974 were intensely religious Muslims who saw the invasion of their country by the “godless” Soviet infidels as a pure, undeniable instance of evil having its way on Earth. They could not stand by and allow atheists to invade them and tell them how to run their own country. The militias also fought with President Khan’s military, complicating the situation even further. Khan was nearly universally despised by the common people of his country, and militias with charismatic, strong-willed warlord leaders were often greeted as conquering heroes by villages tired of the yolk of nationalist rule from Kabul. In addition to the native Afghans who joined these militias, thousands of foreign Arabs also flocked to the country in order to participate in jihad. It was held by many Muslim sects at the time to be the ultimate form of sacrifice one could make for their faith, and in a world that was as spiritually confused as Planet Earth in the 1970’s, it was perhaps an understandable, if tragic, path to take. Thousands of Indian mercenaries and adventure seekers also arrived in Afghanistan, eager to fight once more with Pakistan, their old rival and nemesis. Old scores for many had yet to be settled, and the pay, provided through blank, untraced Cold War checkbooks, was good. Regardless of their individual intentions or rationale for fighting, most groups received direct or indirect aid from the U.S., who hoped not just to frustrate Soviet attempts to spread their influence through arms, but also to spread American influence in the area after the tanks rolled on home to Moscow. It seemed at the time the perfect compromise between right-wing “rollback” theory of the kind espoused by Vice President Reagan and his fans, and the more pragmatic “realism” endorsed by President Bush. Few worried at the time what the consequences of arming such radicals might be further down the line.

    Despite international condemnation and outrage, as well as the beginnings of a spirited grassroots movement against their occupation which centered itself around the central mountains, Pakistan and the Soviet Union continued their assault until at last, after two and a half months of fighting, Kabul fell to Soviet troops on Monday, September 23rd. Harsh fighting in and around the capital had inflicted heavy casualties, far more than expected, on the invading armies. In retaliation for the stiff resistance of Khan’s army, Soviet troops pillaged the capital horribly, committing murder, rape, vandalism, and flagrant looting as they captured the city street by bloody street. President Khan himself was caught with his proverbial pants down as he was trying to board a helicopter to escape the palace and flee to exile in Sri Lanka. Images would later emerge and be circulated by the world’s media of Khan being summarily executed by Soviet soldiers in a firing squad, despite receiving explicit orders from the high command not to do so. It seemed to much of the west that the USSR’s military had lost control of its men, and unleashed several divisions of butchers upon the innocent people of Afghanistan. In the south, Pakistan committed similar, if less large scale atrocities, and talk began to emerge from Islamabad that in peace negotiations, Pakistan would claim swaths of Rigestan, a southern border region of Afghan desert up to the Helmand River, where most of their army was currently in camp. This was ostensibly to create a desert buffer between Pakistan and “any nationalist attempts to form Pashtunistan in the future”, but was viewed, perhaps correctly, by most of the world as an aggressive territorial expansion performed by the same nation that had tried to forcefully annex Kashmir not a decade earlier. Yuri Andropov, the man truly in charge of the situation denied Pakistan any territorial gains, though he did promise that any new Afghan government, formed and approved by the USSR, would pay generous “reparations” to Pakistan to make up for their previously aggressive rhetoric. This sort of “plunder by war” argument incensed the international community, but satisfied Pakistan. On October 5th, 1974, they withdrew their forces to Islamabad, and made peace with the new government.

    That government, the Democratic People’s Republic of Afghanistan was founded just three days prior by the formerly banned far-left People’s Party of Afghanistan and witnessed by several thousand Soviet soldiers and their commanders. Nur Muhammad Taraki, a leading Afghan communist hardliner, was made the new government’s first General Secretary and immediately promised his Soviet handlers that he would institute a purge of any and all “imperialist, western, or capitalist forces” within his country, and swore his allegiance to Moscow. While Taraki conducted his purges and worked to pacify his new regime, 115,000 Soviet soldiers would remain in the country until such time as Taraki and Andropov felt confident that the insurrection represented by the fledgling Mujahideen was extinguished. With their overwhelming numbers, extensive training, and superior weaponry, the Soviets were more than confident that they would win the day over bands of roving warlords and their followers. Over the next decade, an exhausting and bitterly divisive ten years of desperate guerrilla warfare for the Soviet Union, they would be proven dead wrong. The Great Russian Ursus was caught unawares in the bear trap that was the Graveyard of Empires.

    Across the world in Washington on October 7th, Vice President Ronald Reagan waited outside the Oval Office for President Bush to get out of a meeting with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, CIA Director Robert Cushman, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Air Force General George Brown. Reagan had, as was customary, been told next to nothing about the meeting, save what he could have gathered from the guest list. It was about the situation in Afghanistan. It was top secret. It was serious. He tossed a jelly bean into his mouth and mused about the last several years of his life. Here he was, in the capital city of the greatest nation on Earth. And he could do absolutely nothing. Reagan knew what he was. He was a talking head, a smiling face used to help sell products to an audience of consumers. Reagan recognized it so easily because he’d been doing it for almost all of his adult life. He ran the GE Theater, tried and fail to sell Barry Goldwater as a Presidential candidate in 1964. Now, he was pitching true conservatism, an ideology for the common man, to a younger, more educated, more privileged Commander in Chief who was only interested in compromise and his own vision of a “kinder, gentler nation.” Reagan laughed to himself. Did this whippersnapper not understand that America wasn’t built, that the world wasn’t made by being “kind” or “gentle”? The world belongs to the brave and the bold. That was Reagan’s thinking on foreign policy. Why sit and worry about the particulars when your fundamentals are sound? The Vice President strongly felt that as long as a man was honest, and had forthright intentions, he could do no wrong in Washington. Perhaps he had been thinking of his good friend Jimmy Stewart’s performance in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Perhaps Reagan was wondering if he would ever get his chance to speak some truth from the nation’s highest office.

    White House Chief of Staff Dick Cheney, his hairline already receding at a mere thirty-three years of age, cracked open the door between his own office, where Reagan was waiting in an armchair, and the Oval and tipped his head with a frown. “How you doing, Ron? The President will see you now.” Cheney had changed dramatically over the last two years since they first met, Reagan thought. Gone were the pluck, the smiles, and the spirit of the game. They had all been replaced by a cold, calculating glare, carefully crafted and meticulously practiced until his eyes were as foreboding as a prairie winter in his native Wyoming. This was the face of a man who had pushed through a budget that next to no one in Washington would admit to wanting. This was the face of a man who had dodged difficult questions and lied openly to reporters to save his boss’s good name. This was the man who had strategized Bush/Reagan's landslide victory in ‘72, and walked through every moment of his life aware of that fact. Dick Cheney had turned into a lean, mean, political machine. Reagan gulped deeply, then followed Dick into the Oval.

    President Bush sat behind the Resolute Desk and shifted papers back into manilla envelopes. Each was marked “confidential” and was not to be discussed at this new meeting. Reagan didn’t have to have attended Yale to figure that one out. The Vice President approached his boss with his trademark smile and offered a firm handshake. Ronald Reagan was always good for a grin and a handshake, a bit of varnish and some polish on your shoe. His was not always an easy happiness, weathered by age, loss, divorce, and the childhood difficulties of the Great Depression. These were all factors that President Bush could not yet possibly understand. “Good Afternoon, sir.” Reagan said evenly. “It’s a pleasure to see you, and I thank you for agreeing to meet with me on such short notice.”

    The President smiled slightly, though he was clearly stressed by whatever he had learned in the meeting prior. “You’re quite welcome, Ron. Like I promised you, you’re a part of the team. Any concern you have is also a concern of mine. What’s eating you that you wanted to meet in person?” Dick Cheney moved to his usual position, standing menacingly behind the President. To Reagan, he almost looked like one of those gargoyles they used to put on medieval cathedrals.

    Reagan took a deep breath, then eased it out his nostrils. “Sir, I’ve heard a concerning rumor and I wanted to ask for the truth of it. Are you planning on dropping me from the ticket in ‘76?”

    An uncomfortable silence filled the room, passing over all three men. “Absolutely not.” Came the President’s forceful reply, though he hesitated for a second longer than Reagan would have liked. “Who or what in the world would ever give you a rotten idea like that?”

    The Vice President shrugged. “Well, Mr. President, I don’t like to speculate or take part in gossip, but Nancy and I were attending a show the other night at the Eisenhower Center. During the intermission I got to talking with that nice, young Congressman from New York. You know the one, he used to be a football star? Kemp, Jack Kemp, I think. Anyway, while Jack and I were chatting about our thoughts on the Redskins’ chances this year, Nancy came up to me in a huff and told Jack that he needed to excuse us for a moment. Once we were alone, Nancy put her arms around me and said ‘Ronnie, they think they’ve got us!’ She told me that Jesse Helms’ wife had just told her that she’d heard from someone here on the staff that someone was holding strategy meetings about the reelection campaign without inviting my people. Nancy said that Jesse was worried this might mean there were secret plans being made to drop me from the ticket. I told Nancy to relax and we’d just try and enjoy the show, but I’m afraid I needed to ask, sir. Why would Mrs. Helms be led to think that way?”

    Bush sighed deeply. “Ron, you’re the best right hand man I could ever ask for at this job. You really are. You’re spirited, eloquent, and you connect with the people. I need you if I ever want to get reelected. Please don’t ever think I would do such a thing in this lifetime as even think of replacing you. I’m afraid Mrs. Helms and Nancy must have heard wrong. You know how it is. There’s always some staffer looking to get themselves in with a journalist at the Post or some such. National politics is all hearsay anyway. If that’s all you were worried about, I’m happy to put your mind at ease.” The President stood and patted Reagan’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’re in this for the long haul, together.”

    Reagan felt better and nodded to the commander in chief. “I’m sure Nancy will feel better.” His face lit up slightly, with a joke. “She was really getting attached to our rooms at the Naval Observatory over there.” He gathered himself and prepared to exit the Oval. “Thank you, Mr. President. I’m so sorry that I ever doubted your sincerity.”

    “Don’t mention it.” Bush replied. “There’s no need for apologies, I understand. Goodnight, Ron.”

    “Goodnight, sir.”

    A third voice, like a hammer slamming into a nail joined the conversation again. “I’ll show you out.” Dick Cheney strode across the room in three long steps and brought the Vice President into his office. In the dimly lit room, the Chief of Staff reached for his personal radio and turned it on, some Vivaldi concerto started to fill the space. Cheney grabbed Reagan by the wrist and looked into his eyes. “It was me who’s been thinking of dropping you from the ticket.” He revealed with callous indifference. “The President doesn’t know anything about it.” He gestured for Reagan to sit. The Vice President did, dumbfounded. “I had the staffers put together an internal poll, ask likely voters how they would feel about re electing the President if he had a more reasonable running mate. The results were inconclusive, but they’re running the questions again, and I look forward to seeing what stories they have to tell when they’re done.” Cheney stood over Reagan, puffing out his chest like some horrible beast. “I’ve heard what you’ve been saying to the press, Ron. And I don’t like it one bit. You’re saying we should ask the Olympic Committee to ban the Soviets from participating in Montreal in ‘76, in protest of the invasion. You’re telling the Post that you think ‘there’s more we ought to be doing to stop Soviet aggression’. What the fuck do you want us to do, Ron? Send the nukes to Moscow, be done with the whole thing? There’s a process to these things, and you do not get to decide what that office does.” He gestured toward the Oval. “I know you want to be in there, someday. You want to be calling the shots. Well let me tell you something, your best shot, your only shot, is to be reelected in ‘76, then win the President’s endorsement and run in 1980. I’m sorry for jerking you around like this, but you’ve already betrayed the party once, when you ran against President Romney. I needed to make sure that I could count on you this time around. Can I?”

    Reagan nodded, terrified.

    Cheney grinned, a vicious, toothy smirk. “Good. We’re going to score big in the midterms thanks to all of this Russia nonsense. That should set us up nicely to end this recession, bring back the good times, and win us a second term. From there, who knows? Maybe we have sixteen straight years of Republicans in the White House.” Cheney slapped Reagan’s back. “Until next time, toodle-oo.” He turned and returned to the Oval, pouring himself a cup of coffee as he went.

    The Vice President collected himself once more and stood. He had no idea the sort of monster who stood on the shoulder of the most powerful man in the world.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: America Heads to the Polls
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    Chapter 90
  • Chapter 90: You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet - The 1974 Midterm Elections

    Above: Congresswoman Shirley Temple Black (R - CA) and Mr. Gary Hart (D - CO) were two candidates for the United States Senate in 1974 who surprised many political pundits with their come from behind victories. Both were instantly seen as “rising stars” and “faces to watch” in their respective parties, and both harbored a similar ambition: “One day, I am going to be President of the United States”.

    1974’s midterm elections were a complicated matter for American voters to sort through. Chaotic domestic concerns combined with a fearful situation abroad in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to produce an electoral dilemma: should the people vote for change; or to confirm their support for the steady hand of President Bush? At home, the administration’s austerity measures and efforts to combat inflation were beginning to take their toll on an already weakened American economy. The U.S. GDP shrank by almost 1% through the 1973 - 1974 fiscal year, and the slowdown showed few signs of stopping. If anything, things were only going to get a whole lot worse before they got any better. Secretary of Treasury Milton Friedman insisted that his plan to kill inflation, to stop runaway drops in American purchasing power, were more beneficial in the long run than short term stimulus. Interest rates skyrocketed and with them, so too did unemployment, which reached 8% at the beginning of the summer. By the month before the elections, it was nearly 8.5%. Friedman severely cut back the available money supply in the country in order to try and raise the value of money once more, a process called deflation. But the process of doing so made it harder for already cash strapped businesses to make investments or pay their workers. Thus, layoffs ensued. A stock market crash at the beginning of the year and the residual effects of the oil shock had done little to stem fears about the health of the economy, and for a time, it looked to many like the Democrats were in for big gains at the polls. These predictions however did not take into consideration an age old phenomenon in American politics: the October Surprise.

    When the Soviet Union and Pakistan invaded Afghanistan on July 12th, national security and military issues immediately surged to the top of every voter’s list of most important concerns. It was as if all of the sudden, domestic worries were blissfully put away for a moment, and the entire world turned to pay attention to a small, mountainous nation in Central Asia. Though some everyday Americans were more concerned with the economy than an aggressive war half a world away, Cold War paranoia was old hat in American political consciousness, and many who were considering demanding a change would wind up voting for the Republicans, believing that the party of Eisenhower might be better poised to protect them from a suddenly once-again hostile Soviet Union. Some even went so far as saying that the Soviets “needed to be taught a lesson” and only the GOP could provide such tough foreign bluster. The Democrats were the party of Jack Kennedy and detente. It was time to bring in the tough guys. Sensing that they could gain an edge with this issue, the GOP took the Soviet ball and ran with it. Republican senate, gubernatorial, and house candidates all ran masterful smear campaigns, accusing their Democratic opponents of being “peaceniks” and questioning whether the Dems would have the cojones to do what it took to keep the Soviet Union contained. Democrats shot back that such thinking was a by-product of a forgotten age. They reminded the American people that it was really President Kennedy that had won South Vietnam’s independence through peace and diplomacy, rather than war. It was also JFK who had opened up China and brought them to the negotiating table with the west. President Bush had his diplomatic achievements to be sure, they said, but President Romney, for all his good qualities, had been naive at foreign affairs, and cost thousands of Americans their lives in Cambodia. They argued that the American people should trust them to protect their interests overseas. Generally, the public would vote with the Republicans, rallying behind their Commander in Chief and advocating for some “tough love” at the very least with the USSR. In the House of Representatives, Speaker Gerald Ford (R - MI) was pleased to find that this trend would grow his majority to have a little bit more leverage on Capitol Hill.

    U.S. House of Representatives (218 needed for a majority):

    Republicans: 234 seats (+15)

    Democrats: 201 Seats (-15)

    House Leadership:

    Speaker of the House: Gerald R. Ford (R - MI)

    House Majority Leader: John Jacob Rhodes (R - AZ)

    House Majority Whip: Robert H. Michel (R - IL)

    House Minority Leader: Tip O’Neill (D - MA)

    House Minority Whip: John Brademas (D - IN)

    The Republicans also made gains in the Senate, eating away further at Majority Leader Mike Mansfield’s (D - MT) ever slimming advantage there. Throughout much of the country, President Bush’s high favorability numbers held sway with voters, who turned out in droves to vote Republican all the way down the ballot. Times may have been tough economically, but the people were not yet ready to abandon the leader who promised them a way out, and soon. In California, a formerly Republican stronghold which had turned increasingly into a swing state with its largely liberal population along the coast, sitting Senator Alan Cranston (D) was expecting to weather the storm and be reelected to his seat rather easily. His advocacy for total Nuclear disarmament however cost him big time in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and he began to see his opponent, popular Republican Congresswoman Shirley Temple Black catch up to him in the polls. Rep. Black released vicious, scathing attack ads accusing Cranston of wanting to “disarm” American military might, and then followed up on these by appearing in a second, more positive series of TV spots with conservative Hollywood celebrities, such as legendary actor Jimmy Stewart and singer Doris Day. Black’s promise: that of a prosperous, powerful America resonated strongly with the people of the Golden State in ‘74, and they rewarded her with a slim election to one of their coveted Senate seats. The same story was told across party lines in the Rocky Mountain State of Colorado, where aging incumbent Republican Peter Dominick expected to ride an easy red wave to yet another term. The conservative Senator could not have anticipated, however, the spirit and drive of his opponent’s insurgent opposition campaign. Gary Hart, who had piloted George McGovern’s ill-fated race for the Democratic Nomination in ‘72, had returned home to Colorado to try and focus on building a political career of his own. He first won a relatively easy Democratic Primary. Few candidates believed that they could unseat Dominick in such a strongly Republican year. Unlike his contemporaries, Hart liked to think, he was born with guts. In a highly energetic, perfectly strategized campaign, Hart chose not to defend his liberal ideals, but rather to go on the attack, painting Dominick as too old, out of touch, and not particularly interested in governing anymore. The Aspen native pointed out Dominick’s lax attendance record at sessions of the Senate, his relatively limited slate of policy proposals, and even his decision not to actively campaign as signs of a career winding down. Shockingly, the people of Colorado agreed. On election night, Hart shocked even his closest supporters by winning the Senate seat with just under 55% of the vote. Even as the nation turned toward conservatism, Colorado voted for a change.

    The Senate of the 94th Congress

    Democrats (Majority) - 52 (-5)

    Republicans (Minority) - 48 (+5)


    John J. Sparkman (D)

    James B. Allen (D) - Easily reelected in 1974, D Hold


    Theodore F. Stevens (R)

    Frank Murkowski (R) - Defeated Democrat Gravel for open seat. R Gain


    Barry Goldwater (R)

    Paul Fannin (R) - Easily reelected in 1974. R Hold


    John L. McClellan (D)

    Dale Bumpers (D) - Unseated Incumbent Fulbright in Dem Primary. D Hold


    John V. Tunney (D)

    Shirley Temple Black (R) - Narrowly defeated incumbent Cranston. R Gain


    Gordon L. Allott (R)

    Gary Hart (D) - Narrowly defeated incumbent Dominick. D Gain


    Abraham A. Ribicoff (D) - Narrowly reelected in 1974. D Hold

    Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. (R)


    William V. Roth Jr. (R)

    Joseph R. Biden (D)


    Lawton Chiles (D)

    Jack Eckerd (R) - Defeated incumbent Collins. R Gain


    Sam Nunn (D)

    James Earl "Jimmy" Carter (D) - Elected to fill Talmadge’s Seat. D Hold


    Daniel K. Inouye (D) - Reelected in 1974. D Hold

    Spark Matsunaga (D)


    Frank F. Church (D) - Reelected in 1974. D Hold

    James A. McClure (R)


    Charles H. Percy (R)

    Donald Rumsfeld (R) - Easily reelected in 1974. R Hold


    Richard Lugar (R)

    Edgar Whitcomb (R) - Defeated incumbent Bayh. R Gain


    Jack R. Miller (R)

    David M. Stanley (R) - Elected to fill empty seat. R Gain


    James B. Pearson (R)

    Bob Dole (R) - Easily reelected in 1974. R Hold


    Walter B. Huddleston (D)

    Wendell Ford (D) - Narrowly defeated incumbent Cook. D Gain


    Russell B. Long (D) - Ran unopposed in 1974. D Hold

    John J. McKeithen (D)


    Margaret Chase Smith (R)

    Edmund Muskie (D)


    John Glenn Beall (R)

    Spiro T. Agnew (R) - Defeated incumbent Mathias in GOP Primary. R Hold


    Edward M. Kennedy (D)

    Silvio O. Conte (R)


    Philip A. Hart (D)

    Robert P. Griffin (R)


    Hubert Humphrey (D)

    Eugene McCarthy (D)


    James O. Eastland (D)

    John C. Stennis (D)


    W. Stuart Symington (D)

    Thomas F. Eagleton (D) - Reelected in 1974. D Hold


    Michael J. Mansfield (D)

    Henry S. Hibbard (R)


    Roman L. Hruska (R)

    Carl T. Curtis (R) - Reelected in 1972, R Hold


    Howard W. Cannon (D)

    Paul Laxalt (R) - Elected to fill empty seat. R Gain

    New Hampshire

    Thomas J. McIntyre (D)

    Louis Wyman (R) - Replaced retiring incumbent Cotton. R Hold

    New Jersey

    Clifford P. Case (R)

    Harrison A. Williams Jr. (D)

    New Mexico

    Joseph M. Montoya (D)

    Pete Domenici (R)

    New York

    Robert F. Kennedy (D)

    Ramsey Clark (D) - Defeated GOP incumbent Javits thanks to independent Conservative Roy Cohn splitting the vote. D Gain

    North Carolina

    J. Terry Sanford (D) - Easily reelected in 1974. D Hold

    Jesse Helms (R)

    North Dakota

    Milton R. Young (R) - Reelected in 1974. R Hold

    Quentin M. Burdick (D)


    John Glenn (D)

    Robert Taft, Jr. (R) - Reelected in 1974. R Hold


    Dewey F. Bartlett (R)

    Henry Bollman (R) - Defeated incumbent Monroney. R Gain


    Mark O. Hatfield (R)

    Bob Packwood (R) - Reelected in 1974. R Hold


    Hugh D. Scott, Jr. (R)

    Richard Schweiker (R) - Reelected in 1974. R Hold

    Rhode Island

    John O. Pastore (D)

    John Chafee (R)

    South Carolina

    Strom Thurmond (R)

    Ernest Hollings (D) - Reelected in 1974. D Hold

    South Dakota

    James Abourezk (D)

    Leo Thorsness (R) - Defeated incumbent McGovern. R Gain


    Albert Gore, Sr. (D)

    Howard H. Baker, Jr. (R)


    Lyndon B. Johnson (D)

    Barefoot Sanders (D)


    Frank E. Moss (D)

    Jake Garn (R) - Replaced retiring incumbent Bennett. R Hold


    Winston L. Prouty (R)

    Richard W. Mallary (R) - Replaced retiring incumbent Aiken. R Hold


    Harry F. Byrd, Jr. (D)

    William L. Scott (R)


    Warren G. Magnuson (D) - Reelected in 1974. D Hold

    Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson (D)

    West Virginia

    Jennings Randolph (D)

    Robert C. Byrd (D)


    William Proxmire (D)

    Gaylord A. Nelson (D) - Reelected in 1974. D Hold


    Gale W. McGee (D)

    Clifford P. Hansen (R)

    Senate Leadership:

    Senate Majority Leader: Mike Mansfield (D - MT)

    Senate Majority Whip: Russell B. Long (D - LA)

    Senate Minority Leader: Hugh Scott (R - PA)

    Senate Minority Whip: Howard Baker (R - TN)

    Other Races of Note:

    Leader of the Congressional Black Caucus and the preeminent voice for social democracy in the United States, Congressman Ron Dellums (D - CA) is reelected to his house seat by a wide margin. Dellums campaigns on a pledge “never to vote for war”. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. encourages Dellums to run for higher office, possibly the U.S. Senate or Governor of California in the future. Dellums also promises to bring Anti-Apartheid legislation to the floor of the House in 1975.

    Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia (D) is elected to fill retiring Senator Herman Talmadge’s seat. His brand of folksy, evangelical populism will endear him to many as a potential Presidential candidate in 1976.

    Despite a spirited campaign and the support of many emboldened conservative New Yorkers, Governor Jim Buckley (R) is narrowly defeated in his reelection bid by Congressman Hugh Carey (D) of Brooklyn. Carey vows to get New York City out of its bankruptcy crisis and to end “the attitude of dismissal and demagoguery in Albany”. NYC Councilman Mario Cuomo (D) is elected Lieutenant Governor.

    Governor Lloyd Bentsen (D - TX) is reelected by a comfortable margin over Republican challenger Jim Granberry. He begins to talk to friends and family about a potential Presidential campaign in 1976.

    Barry Goldwater, Jr. (R - CA) son of the legendary Conservative firebrand from Arizona, is elected to fill the House seat left open by Shirley Temple Black when she is elected U.S. Senator.

    Libertarian activist, Air Force flight surgeon, and certified M.D. Ron Paul (R) is elected to represent the Texas 22nd in the U.S. House. He decided to enter politics after President Romney took the United States off of the Gold Standard back in 1971.

    Governor Jimmy Roosevelt (D - CA) is reelected to a full term of his own over his Republican challenger, State Legislator Houston Flournoy. Filled with renewed optimism about his political prospects, and seeing Robert Kennedy out of the picture for ‘76, Roosevelt begins to quietly assemble a team of advisers for a Presidential campaign of his own. Jerry Brown (D - CA), the son of former Governor Pat Brown, is elected Roosevelt’s Lieutenant Governor.

    A former Attorney General under President John F. Kennedy, an aggressive supporter of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights, and a bona-fide, progressive New Frontier Liberal, Ramsey Clark (D) is narrowly elected U.S. Senator from New York over popular Liberal Republican incumbent Jacob K. Javits. This win is largely thanks to the independent conservative run of former Joseph McCarthy Attorney Roy Cohn, who split the Republican vote. As the Junior Senator-elect from the Empire State, Clark positions himself as a strong ally and right hand man to his now-senior colleague, Robert F. Kennedy.

    And perhaps best of all… In San Francisco, charismatic political organizer and “coalition builder” Harvey Milk (D) is elected to the California State Assembly. The first openly gay elected public official in the United States, Milk’s narrow victory marks a tremendous moment of progress in the movement for LGBT+ rights, and the start of what would ultimately prove a historic political career.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: The Mid-70’s in Music
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    Indonesia Retcon
  • Salutations readers and audience members, I must announce that I have a brief retcon to make for TTL:

    In previous posts answering questions posed to me about Indonesia's fate ITTL, I stated that events there transpired in much the same manner as they did IOTL. Thanks to a thoughtful and informative message from @C2sg, I have been presented with some new facts concerning JFK's positions on Indonesia which I believe merit the retcon. Here is the new version of what has transpired there since the PoD:

    Shortly before being reelected to his second term in 1964, U.S. President John F. Kennedy paid a visit to Sukarno, the first President of Indonesia in Jakarta and began a concerted effort to enforce the newly minted "Kennedy Doctrine" there. The Kennedy Administration, seeking to prevent further Indonesian drift toward the Communist bloc after years of the Eisenhower Administration's covert support for Permesta regional uprisings in Sumatra and Sulawesi, made the state visit the first in a series of diplomatic courtship efforts aimed at simultaneously democratizing Indonesia and also bringing the country into friendship with the United States and its allies. After forcefully negotiating the New York Agreement, which brought an end to the West Guinea conflict on the side of Indonesia in 1963, JFK made promises that he would curtail any CIA operations aimed at Sukarno's removal in exchange for Sukarno steering his country closer to the U.S. sphere and allowing for open, free, and fair elections in his country. Sukarno, despite his reluctance, agreed. Since then, Indonesia has remained a mostly unaligned nation, with slight U.S. leanings and Sukarno has made good on his vows toward democratization. In 1970, Sukarno passed away and elections were called to elect his successor. His Vice President, Mohammad Hatta was elected and has served as Indonesia's second President since.


    Thank you again to @C2sg for helping me to make these alterations. Much obliged!
    Louisiana Senate Retcon
  • Hello everyone! I have another brief retcon to announce for TTL.

    Thanks to a fruitful and enlightening conversation with @AndyWho, I believe it unlikely that Elaine Edwards would continue to serve as Senator from Louisiana ITTL. Instead, here is what occurred in the State's 1972 U.S. Senate race to replace the deceased Allen J. Ellender...

    Unlike IOTL, Governor John McKeithen did not miss the filing deadline to run for the soon-to-be open Senate seat and so participated in the Democratic Primary, running against the moderate to conservative Louisiana State Senator, J. Bennett Johnston, Jr. Johnston, though initially seen as a potentially strong candidate by Lyndon Johnson and his machine, quickly ran afoul of LBJ and company with his opposition to integration through busing. McKeithen's record on race relations was, at the outset, possibly worse, as he had first been elected Governor in 1964 as an avowed segregationist who opposed President Kennedy's Civil Rights Act. In the years since, however, McKeithen took steps to moderate his position on race, even going so far as to call in the National Guard to protect Civil Rights protesters under attack by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. McKeithen appointed the state's first African American judges since Reconstruction, and he called on his state's Congressional delegation to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1968, winning a second term on his newly inclusive platform. By '72, McKeithen's Governorship was drawing to a close, and with Johnston unwilling to budge on busing, McKeithen sensed an opportunity. Allying himself with the Johnson-ite wing of the party and painting himself firmly as a populist supporter of the New Frontier, McKeithen managed to win LBJ's endorsement, and eventually the primary and Senate seat, becoming Louisiana's junior U.S. Senator alongside Majority Whip Russell B. Long. As of 1975, McKeithen is still the junior U.S. Senator from Louisiana and he faces reelection in 1978.

    I owe many thanks to @AndyWho for helping with all of this information! Much obliged. :)
    Chapter 91
  • Chapter 91: Come and Get Your Love - An Update on the World of Music

    Above: “The Man in Black” Johnny Cash with his wife, June Carter, and their son, John Carter Cash.​

    The early 70’s had been a fruitful, blessed period in the oftentimes tumultuous life of Johnny Cash. After The Johnny Cash Show was brought to a close in 1973 after five seasons on the air, Cash decided to take a short break from show business to focus on himself and his family, which by 1970 had found a young new member in he and June’s son, John Carter Cash. The boy was beautiful, happy, and healthy, and his father couldn’t thank God enough for him. Cash also started to see a shift in his image amongst the public. Whereas before he had mostly been relegated to the position of “country music’s greatest outlaw”, he now found himself becoming something of a secular saint for the American spirit, a hero of the people, a role he took to with great humility and solemnity, as summed up in 1971’s classic “Man in Black”. As the Seesaw Seventies brought millions of Americans to questions of faith, purpose, and meaning, Cash represented the steadfastness of religiosity, patriotism, and gentle strength - values which were in cherished short supply at the time, many thought. This isn’t to say that Cash had all the answers to people’s questions, and he certainly never thought of himself as any sort of hero, but he did take seriously the responsibility that came with this sort of reputation. As he spent the days playing with John Jr. and the nights in bliss with June, Cash also brought himself on a spiritual journey, reinforcing his faith in a powerful way - a journey which would ultimately produce The Gospel Road - a 1973 documentary about the life of Jesus co-written and directed by Cash’s close friend, Rev. Billy Graham. Cash never lost his taste for political activism, either. After playing a free concert at Wounded Knee in support and solidarity with the American Indian Movement that same year, Cash released Ragged Old Flag, a “patriotic protest” record, which captured both Cash’s undying love for his country, as well as his belief that “thing’s need changing everywhere you go.” The album was, like 1964’s Bitter Tears, controversial to a deeply conservative country music establishment, but still managed to go several times gold nonetheless, and further cultivated the myth of Cash - the man who couldn’t be bought or bossed around by record executives. Young folks, introduced to acoustic rock and folk by the Beatles earlier in the decade, began to turn to Cash’s music as well, winning him a new generation of fans and massive respect from the nation’s youth. An interesting side note - Senator Robert F. Kennedy would ultimately credit his and his brother’s personal friendship with Cash with inspiring him to push for “This Land is Your Land” to become the nation’s new national anthem, an idea first suggested by RFK in the late 60’s, but reintroduced by Cash when the latter served as the Grand Marshal of the United States’ bicentennial parade in Washington, D.C. on July 3rd, 1976.

    Track Listing of Ragged Old Flag

    1. Ragged Old Flag

    2. Don’t Go Near the Water

    3. All I Do is Drive

    4. The Ballad of Wounded Knee

    5. King of the Hill

    6. Pie in the Sky (We Can Save Us All)

    7. Lonesome to the Bone

    8. On My Mind

    9. Good Morning, Friend

    10. I’m a Worried Man

    11. Torture the Sky

    12. What On Earth Will You Do (For Heaven’s Sake)

    13. This Land is Your Land

    While Johnny Cash focused on political activism, sticking up for the oppressed and the downtrodden, and other affairs of his big American heart, other Country Musicians rose to popularity following his example. Townes Van Zandt, who had the biggest hit of his career with 1973’s “Pancho and Lefty”, became the new hot ticket in Nashville. A fresh generation of talent, including Van Zandt, began popularizing “outlaw country” - a genre built on mournful ballads and jubilant tunes, all infused with deeply introspective lyrics and emotional overtones, often celebrating the myth of the American West as an allegory for the ups and downs of modern life. The genre also contained plenty of rock n roll influences and so began to appeal to rock audiences as well. Other big stars of the day such as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard helped define and popularize this genre, and while squeaky clean country would always remain popular, especially in the conservative South, darker, more gritty country helped expose the genre to a wider audience. Nelson, whose career began as a disc jockey and session musician in 1956, was reaching a highly productive, critically acclaimed period in his storied life. Nelson was responsible for “Crazy”, a classic which - when recorded by Patsy Cline - became the biggest jukebox hit of all time. In the mid seventies, the Texan began to experiment with mixing genres - adding saxophone and other jazz influences to many of his tracks, and released Phases and Stages in ‘74, a concept album about a divorce with side A sung from the perspective of a woman, and side B sung from the point of view of the man. Kris Kristofferson was also born in Texas, into a military family (his father, Lars would eventually become a U.S. Air Force Major General). Kris himself served in the Army for five years after graduating with a degree in English Literature from Oxford. While serving, he started writing songs, and ultimately turned down an offer to teach English at West Point when he was discharged in 1965. Rather than continue his military career, Kristofferson was inspired by Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and others to become a singer/songwriter. His family was devastated and severed all ties with him in outrage. They never reconciled. Once in Nashville, Kristofferson divorced his first wife, found himself burdened with medical debts from his son’s defective esophagus and didn’t think he could get much lower when he found himself sweeping floors for a living at Columbia Records. There, he met June Carter and after asking her to give her husband one of his demo tapes and Kristofferson landing a helicopter on Johnny Cash’s lawn to get his attention (true story), Kristofferson’s songs seized Cash with a great enthusiasm and interest. That year, 1966, Cash recorded “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, one of Kristofferson’s songs, and took it all the way to number one on the charts. This brought Kristofferson a Country Music Award for Songwriter of the Year, and began his career as an influential writer for dozens of artists. His song “For the Good Times” became a hit for Elvis Presley and “Me and Bobby McGee” was immortalized by Janis Joplin, who after she emerged from rehab with a clean bill of health in autumn of 1971, asked Kristofferson, her longtime on-again, off-again boyfriend, to marry her. He agreed and together, they started writing, recording, and touring with new material - a blend of outlaw country with the psychedelic rock of the 60’s. Throughout 1974, Kristofferson, Nelson, and Van Zandt crisscrossed the country playing sold out shows, often making small, cameo appearances at each other’s concerts on a whim. Later, in the early 1980’s, the trio would join with their mentor, Johnny Cash in forming the Highwaymen, Country Music’s preeminent supergroup.

    Waylon Jennings was a pioneer of the outlaw country genre who also helped define the overall sound of the 1970’s. Frustrated by what he saw as the “Nashville sound’s” dictatorial rule over artist’s music, Jennings decried mainstream country at the time as “countrypolitan”. Just as Cash had chafed under the establishment’s disapproval of activism in music, so now did Jennings fight back against orchestral arrangements, hired musicians for small parts, and lyrics so censored and scrubbed of meaning that he might as well have been Pat Boone. Jennings’ 1972 album Ladies Love Outlaws gave Van Zandt style songwriting a harder edge and a fiercer backbeat, and when his label refused to re-sign him after the album’s release, Jennings started over at RCA, working and collaborating frequently with Willie Nelson. Like Cash and Nelson, Jennings reached out to rock audiences, and found success with more upbeat songs. Jennings was remarkable for his powerful singing voice, noted by his “rough-edged quality” as well as his phrasing and texture. He was also noted for his unique “spanky twang” guitar style. To create this sound, he used a pronounced 'phaser' effect, plus a mixture of thumb and fingers during the rhythmic parts, while using picks for the lead runs. He combined hammer-on and pull-off riffs, with eventual upper-fret double stops and modulation effects, all played on an old 1952 Fender Telecaster. This electric, plus his long hair, beard, and black leather vest and black hat, combined to give Jennings a signature, instantly recognizable image. Merle Haggard’s status as a “country outlaw” was more mixed than his contemporaries - though he was ironically the only one among them who ever did hard time, serving a stint in San Quentin State Prison in California from 1958 to 1960, when he was released on parole. This was for an attempted robbery of a Bakersfield Roadhouse. While in San Quentin, Haggard saw a concert put on by Johnny Cash, which he would later credit with inspiring him to become a country music star. Once pardoned, Haggard immediately committed himself to music, and supported his dream by digging ditches for his brother’s electrical company during the day. In 1965, Haggard has his first top-ten hit with “Strangers”, written by Liz Anderson, the mother of future country star Lynn Anderson. After that, his career was off and running. Haggard’s then-wife and frequent backup singer, Bonnie Owens, would later recall that this time was also haunted by her husband’s experiences in Prison. Often, Owens would find Haggard shaking at night only ever to say “I’m real scared” over and over again. Despite his anxiety issues, Haggard had hits throughout the late sixties with “Mama Tried”, “Sing Me Back Home”, and of course the infamous anti-hippie anthem, “Okie from Muskogee”. The last of these made Haggard a favorite of right-wing leaning Americans, and the bane of the counterculture movement. He would make up some ground however with the song’s follow up - “Irma Jackson”, a ballad about an interracial relationship which Haggard vehemently defended against his newfound conservative fan base, saying “Johnny Cash and I believe in freedom of speech. If you don’t, don’t come to our concerts!” Often, image and reality blended freely in outlaw country.

    Rock N Roll meanwhile moved in several distinct directions throughout the mid 1970’s as well. As international headlines filled with stories of economic and political uncertainty and everyday folks complained of having less and less bread to bring home in their pockets, Rock music gave them two different ways of coping with their problems. They could explore their fear through the heavier, melancholic, or even manic depressive riffs of hard rock and heavy metal bands like Led Zeppelin, aussie upstarts AC/DC, and Black Sabbath, or they could try and escape them through colorful, arena-filling glam, a genre popularized by David Bowie, Elton John, Queen, and two new bands on the scene in the mid-70’s: Redbone and The Sweet. Formed in the late 60’s by brothers Pat and Candido “Lolly” Vasquez-Vegas on the American West Coast, Redbone (who took their name from a cajun term referring to a person of mixed racial heritage, as the brothers were of Yaqui, Shoshone, and Mexican ancestry) performed at local clubs around Los Angeles while writing and playing on records of such stars as Tina Turner, Sonny & Cher, James Brown, Little Richard, and eventually, Elvis Presley, the last of whom would “discover” the band and ask them to open for him on his 1974 North American Tour. Redbone agreed and that same year, they broke through to the mainstream in a massive way with the release of their smash number one hit single “Come and Get Your Love”. The first Native American rock group to have a number one single domestically and internationally, Redbone would also release other big tunes throughout the decade, such as “We Were All at Wounded Knee” (in tribute to the AIM protests there), “The Witch Queen of New Orleans”, “Wovoka”, and “Maggie”. Meanwhile across the pond in England, The Sweet were one of many members of Apple Records’ now prodigious roster of talented acts, and with Beatles producer George Martin at the helm, they created a fittingly sugary hard glam sound which a rare touch of British whimsy with American sounding bravado. The result was some of the most iconic tunes of the decade, especially 1973’s “Ballroom Blitz” and 1974’s “Fox on the Run”. Though never as epic sounding as Her Majesty, Queen, or as appealing in crossover as the great Elton John, The Sweet were a reliable hit factory for Apple Records and Paul McCartney even asked them to open for the Beatles on their ‘74 European tour. No collection of classic ‘70’s hits would be complete without The Sweet.

    Meanwhile, in the middle class neighborhood of Forest Hills in the New York City borough of Queens, John Cummings and Thomas Erdelyi had been playing in various high school garage bands together since 1965. Originally called the Tangerine Puppets, the band gained a forceful new member in Douglas Colvin, whom “Johnny” and “Tommy” quickly befriended when he moved to the area from Germany in ‘67, as well as another in Jeffrey Hyman, a drummer/singer whose glam metal band, Sniper, called it quits after a handful of lackluster gigs at Max’s Kansas City, the famous venue that had previously launched Aerosmith. Cummings and Colvin invited Hyman to join the Tangerine Puppets in early 1974, and soon thereafter, Colvin hit upon the idea of giving himself a stage name - “Dee Dee Ramone”, a pseudonym inspired by Paul McCartney’s old nickname “Paul Ramon” which he used while the Beatles played their early shows in Hamburg. The bassist soon convinced Cummings, Erdelyi, and Hyman to join him in this name scheme and by their first official gig together on March 30th, 1974 at Performance Studios, “Joey”, “Johnny”, “Dee Dee”, and “Tommy” were christened “The Ramones”. The band shocked their initial audience with their “outrageous” sound. The songs they played were very fast and very short, most clocking in at just under two minutes. Because Max’s Kansas City had left a bad taste in Joey Ramone’s mouth, the band labored to get a booking at New York’s other major music club at the time - CBGB’s. They eventually managed to achieve this and made their debut there in August. Punk magazine co-founder Legs McNeil wrote of the impact of their performance: “"They were all wearing these black leather jackets. And they counted off this song ... and it was just this wall of noise ... They looked so striking. These guys were not hippies. This was something completely new." Overnight, the Ramones became regulars at the club, playing alongside fellow future punk legends Blondie, and drawing larger and larger crowds until inevitably, the record labels came a calling. By 1975, the Ramones would have a record deal and the genre they helped to found - “punk” would be taking off.

    Though the mid 1970’s was chock full of classic music, no matter what genre you look at, there was one album in particular, released in November of 1974, just on the eve of the American midterm elections, which seemed to perfectly distill that moment in history into ingenious poetic and musical forms and broadcast them out for the entire world to hear. Disheartened by the lack of commercial success his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park had attracted in 1973, decorated Cambodian War hero and former army medic Bruce Springsteen headed back to the studio with his E Street Band to write, record, and ultimately release what would go down as one of the definitive albums in the history of Rock N Roll: 1974’s Born to Run. The process began with Springsteen, a critically acclaimed and clearly gifted songsmith, noting that his songwriting process from Asbury Park was very centered on his own personal experiences - the songs were littered with specific references to New Jersey, and thus made them somewhat exclusive, like looking in on someone else’s poetry. For this new album, Springsteen sought to maintain his poetic focus, but to widen the songs’ themes and lyrics to welcome the experiences and perspectives of more people, and to give them more mainstream appeal. The first song “born” out of this newfound perspective wound up being the album’s iconic lead single and title track, which, throughout the decades, would stand as the paramount anthem of what it meant to be an American in the tumult of the “seesaw seventies”.

    “In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American Dream.

    At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines.”

    With the economy spiralling down the drain, millions of Americans out of work, and the promises of peace and prosperity made by the end of the wars in Cambodia and Rhodesia seemingly hollow, Springsteen painted a picture of an idealistic nation full of dreamers desperately clinging to the hope of having something to dream about. Big cars, big platitudes from Washington politicians, and big movie and television franchises advertised false escape from this spiritual rut, and Springsteen demanded honesty in his America. His music would become the hymnal of the working man, the subscriber to “dad rock”, and a voice of everything blue collar America was supposed to stand for - the grit, the determination, the heartache, the disappointment, and ultimately, the redemption millions of souls prayed for and received. His songs were like tiny operas, as tragedy and romance played out majestically within the span of his slick, saxophone infused Rock. His three hour marathon live shows added to Bruce’s image as “The Boss” - the champion of the working man, and helped to make him an even bigger star than the songs ever could have just through radio play. When Springsteen sang “Tramps like us, Baby we were Born to Run!”, everyone in that audience was Wendy, waiting for the Boss to swing them up onto his motorcycle with him and take them to a better, more hopeful place, somewhere new. Even in the decline and depression of 1974, Bruce Springsteen’s music offered a light at the end of the tunnel. Born to Run became one of the best selling albums of the year and made the Boss into a superstar.

    Track Listing of Born to Run

    1. Thunder Road

    2. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

    3. 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)

    4. Backstreets

    5. Meeting Across the River

    6. Born to Run

    7. Incident on 57th Street

    8. She’s the One

    9. Jungleland

    10. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)

    Almost all of the tracks on the album, not just“Born to Run”, would also become classics and beloved Springsteen songs over the course of the Boss’s career. “Thunder Road” was called by Rolling Stone at the time: “a magnum opus in five minutes”, and “Rosalita”, a story of forbidden love between the singer and the titular girl, whose parents disapprove of her relationship with a Rock N Roll star, would serve as the E Street Band’s closing number in concert for over a decade. The earnestness of Springsteen’s music attracted the attention of music industry bigwigs the nation over and won him the Grammy Award for best new artist that year as well. While in Los Angeles to accept the award and hobnob with fellow musicians, Springsteen also had the good fortune of getting to jam at the Hollywood Bowl with world renowned saxophonist Billy Clinton and the even better fortune of taking Lynda Carter, 1972’s Miss World America, the soon-to-be Wonder Woman, and widely hailed as “the most beautiful woman in the world” out on a quiet, but classically Springsteen date, driving around the hills together on his Harley Davidson motorcycle, away from the attention and publicity of Hollywood. There, they discovered in each other a mutual passion for art and liberal political activism, with Carter serving as an early advocate for LGBT rights, and pro-choice rights for women, and Springsteen’s songs acting as his “rallying cry against big business capitalism”. The two decided to continue their companionship, writing long distance letters of pining and courtship to each other for several years before ultimately deciding to make their devotion to each other into a relationship in 1977, when Springsteen finally moved to California, where he would record his next smash album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and Carter, though continuing to star as Wonder Woman in the DC cinematic universe, would begin to shift her career toward a focus on her prior dream: to become a renowned singer-songwriter, inspired by her beau’s example.

    The pair would eventually release a duet, “If I Should Fall Behind” together in 1992.

    Whatever your preference in Rock N Roll: hard, glam, punk, or heartland, the 70’s had it covered in spades. The decade would continue to amaze and revolutionize, with entire new genres like Disco and hip-hop, which would come to help define the decade’s complex, rich pop cultural legacy.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: More Pop Culture in 1974

    OOC: Two notes for you, my dear audience -

    First, I am deeply sorry for the slowed pace of TTL and its supplement as of late. School is really kicking my ass and I'm just trying to keep my head above water until summer vacation, lol. :) I do have a few updates ready, but I want to write a few more before I publish anything after this for the next week or so, at least. Thank you for your patience, I hope to resume the usual schedule ASAP.

    Second, I know that there is a LOT of music I did not cover in this update. Some of the topics I wanted to cover bled into the next Pop Culture update, and I am sure that there are some that I have missed entirely. Please feel free to ask questions and I will try to answer them as best I can. :D The post made not too long ago about Cambodian Pop Music was fascinating, and I intend to answer the questions you all had about that, but I want to do some more research first.
    Update on Kurt Cobain and Ian Curtis
  • What are Kurt Cobain and Ian Curtis (who have both been born at this point) doing as of yet ITTL?

    EDIT: Oh, there was also this I found on the TV Tropes page for Monty Python.
    Kurt Cobain and Ian Curtis have thus far mostly followed their OTL paths, given that they are both quite young. Curtis, bookish, intelligent child that he was, excelled while a student at St. John's College, earning top marks in History, Divinity, and especially, literature, where he displayed not just a knack, but a true talent for analyzing and writing poetry. He soon grew disillusioned with academic life however, and dropped out out St. John's in January 1975, just before the start of the Spring term. A strong-willed individual, with gripping fascinations with music, fashion, and the power of words, Curtis got a job at the Manchester City Center before eventually finding more stable employment with the Ministry of Defence as a low level civil servant. Though the pay wasn't exceptional, it was enough for Curtis to support himself and, the beginnings of a young family. On August 23rd, 1975, Curtis married Deborah Woodruff, to whom he had been introduced by a mutual friend, Tony Nuttall. Initially becoming friends and dating in 1972, when both were just sixteen years old, the couple's wedding was held at St. Thomas' Church in Henbury, Chesire. Curtis was 19, Woodruff only 18, but they loved each other passionately, and soon, their union would produce a daughter, Natalie, on April 17th, 1979. Though the couple initially lived with Curtis' grandparents, they shortly thereafter moved into a working class neighborhood in Chadderton. In their new place, which while small they managed to make feel like a home, there was one room set aside that would soon become colloquially known by the couple and their acquaintances as Ian's "songwriting room". He desperately wanted to form a band, but his prospects seemed slim. It wouldn't be until attending a Sex Pistols concert the following year that he would meet a group of childhood friends, and the great Joy Division would be born...

    At this point ITTL, Cobain is only a small child, having been born in 1967 to Donald and Wendy Cobain in Aberdeen, Washington. Deeply interested in both music and art, young Kurt is receiving lots of positive reinforcement from his grandmother, Iris Cobain, who was a professional artist, and can often be found drawing characters from his favorite films and cartoons, such as Donald Duck and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, in his bedroom. His parents' marriage is growing quite rocky however, and Kurt, happy, excitable, caring and endlessly sensitive child that he is, is struggling to understand the changes which are occurring all around him. He finds some escape in his music, watching cartoons, and drawing, but he's worried about what the future may hold for his family. I can't promise that Kurt will definitely follow the same path he took IOTL, meaning his future is wide open to be determined by whatever butterflies, world events, and other changes close to home may bring. Could we see a world in which Kurt becomes a cartoonist instead of a musician? It's quite possible. But it could also be that Kurt decides to focus his energies elsewhere entirely. For now, I'll say no more.

    I'm mildly dissapointed that Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu fighting" wasn't mentioned at all in the latest update. How did it fare up ITTL?

    But still, great update.
    Thank you, @DumbersTC! :D I wanted to mention "Kung Fu Fighting", as it was still written, recorded, and released ITTL, still becoming a smash hit for Douglas admist the swirling popularity of the Kung Fu movie craze. With a surviving Bruce Lee, perhaps the fad can carry on a little longer, and manage to snag Douglas another hit or two if he remains a novelty act? Only time will tell.
    Pop Culture 1974
  • Pop Culture 1974 - A Rumble in the Jungle

    Above: In what has been called “the single greatest sporting event of the 20th Century”, The Greatest of All Time, Muhammad Ali overcame underdog 4-1 odds to defeat the then undefeated, heavy hitting George Foreman. The first is famous for the introduction of Ali’s acclaimed “rope-a-dope” tactic. It was watched by over 1 billion viewers, becoming the most watched live television broadcast ever at the time and earning over $100 Million gross.

    Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 Singles of 1974 (Top Ten)

    1. “Come and Get Your Love” - Redbone

    2. “Bennie and the Jets” - Elton John

    3. “Born to Run” - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

    4. “Fox On the Run” - The Sweet

    5. “Jungle Boogie” - Kool & The Gang

    6. “Dancing Machine” - The Jackson 5

    7. “Hooked On a Feeling” - Blue Swede

    8. “You’re Sixteen (You’re Beautiful, and You’re Mine)” - The Beatles

    9. “The Joker” - Steve Miller Band

    10. “Waterloo” - ABBA

    News in Music, Through the Year

    January 3rd - The Beatles, The Band, and Elton John kick off a monumental U.S. tour. Elton’s singles “Crocodile Rock” and “Bennie and the Jets” were Apple Records’ biggest selling in years. Queen, another group of major rising stars at Apple, will join the tour in April.

    February 10th - Legendary record producer Phil Spector and his wife, Ronnie Spector, are walking near their home together in Los Angeles when all of the sudden Ronnie is struck by a car and tragically killed. She was only thirty years old.

    RIP Ronnie Spector (1943 - 1974)

    February 16th - After two years of bitter litigation and court battles, American rock band Grand Funk Railroad finally managed to retain the right to use their name over their former manager, Terry Knight. Knight did however, receive a hefty cash settlement.

    February 18th - Yes sells out two shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden without doing a single bit of advertising. That same day, KISS release their self-titled debut album.

    February 20th - Cher and Sonny Bono file for divorce after ten years together.

    March 1st - Canadian band Rush release their self-titled debut album. Original drummer John Rutsey would soon be replaced by prolific lyricist and rock icon, Neil Peart.

    March 12th - On a late night bender after a sold out show at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, John Lennon of the Beatles gets into an altercation with a photographer outside of The Troubadour Club in Los Angeles. Onlookers at the scene recall seeing Paul McCartney call Lennon “a fucking idiot” and drag him with help from Ringo Starr and Elton John into a cab to get him back to the hotel.

    April 6th - 200,000 Music fans attend the California Jam Rock Festival. Artists performing at the event include Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Black Sabbath; Deep Purple; Chicago Transit Authority; and the Eagles. This same day, ABBA launches their international career when their song, “Waterloo” wins the Eurovision contest.

    April 17th - Queen play their first North American show in Denver, Colorado, opening up for fellow Apple Records stars, Elton John and the Beatles. Their finale of “Seven Seas of Rhye” earns a ten minute standing ovation.

    April 25th - Jim Morrison and his longtime companion, Pamela Courson are found dead in their Hollywood apartment. She, seemingly from a heroin overdose, he from a gunshot wound to the head. It would later be found that rather than call the police, Morrison committed suicide when he saw his Pam was gone.

    RIP Jim Morrison (1943 - 1974)

    RIP Pam Courson (1946 - 1974)

    May 7th - Led Zeppelin announces it will found its own record label, Swan Song Records to help promote their own material more independently and to provide bands who would otherwise not be signed by a label a chance to make music. Singer Robert Plant attributes the band’s decision to the prolific success of the Beatles’ Apple Records.

    May 11th – The New York Police bagpipe band performs shortly after midnight at the Portsmouth, RI Ramada Inn, in connection with a National Police Week event, prompting a drunken spree lasting until dawn by at least a dozen off-duty members of the Boston Police Department, who ran naked through the motel, "smashing chairs and tables, soiling rugs, discharging fire extinguishers, exploding firecrackers, setting off a burglar alarm, disconnecting a security camera, slashing automobile tires and throwing pictures into the motel courtyard", causing an estimated $1,027.75 in damage, including liquor stolen from a locked cabinet and unpaid breakfast bills.

    May 25th - Twenty years after it was first recorded, “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets returns to the Billboard Top 40, thanks largely to its use in George Lucas’ film American Graffiti.

    June 5th - Patti Smith’s release of her cover of “Hey Joe” arguably marks the first Punk single in music history.

    October 5th - AC/DC play their first official show with new lead singer Bon Scott.

    November 2nd - The Beatles conclude their North American tour with a sold-out performance at Shea Stadium, ending their set by playing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” together with Elton John and Freddie Mercury, of Queen. As they prepare to vacate the stage, John Lennon calls out New York Governor Jim Buckley (R) and tells the assembled fans to “Vote the bastard out!” Buckley would go on to narrowly lose his reelection bid to Congressman Hugh Carey (D).

    December 31st - Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks join Fleetwood Mac. The third annual edition of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve airs, moving from NBC to ABC. Performances include Herbie Hancock, The Beach Boys, Chicago Transit Authority, Olivia Newton-John, and the Doobie Brothers. Elvis and Ann Margret Presley’s second child, another daughter named Anna Regina, after Ann’s mother is born.

    1974 in Film - The Year’s Biggest

    Blazing Saddles - Satirical western. Directed by Mel Brooks and starring Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder, the film was written by Brooks, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, Norman Steinberg, and Al Uger, and was based on Bergman’s story and draft. Satirizing the racism obscured by myth-making Hollywood accounts of the American West, the film’s hero is a black sheriff in an all-white town. Though critical reactions to Blazing Saddles at the time of its release were mixed, it has since come to be regarded as a comedy classic and was the highest grossing film of the year. Another Brooks/Wilder project, Young Frankenstein would be among the top 10 grossing films of 1974 as well.

    The Godfather, Part II - Crime Drama, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, adapted from a screenplay co-written by Mario Puzo, and starring Robert De Niro, who reprises his role as Don Michael Corleone and Al Pacino, who plays a younger version of Michael’s father, Vito, during flashback sequences. The sequel to one of the most highly acclaimed films of all time, Part II features parallel dramas: one picks up the 1958 story of Michael Corleone, the new Don of the family, protecting the business in the aftermath of an attempt made on his life, and another set near the turn of the century, which shows Vito Corleone’s childhood and founding the criminal family. Some have even deemed the sequel the superior to the original, though Part II did not perform quite as well at the box-office upon initial release.

    Chinatown - Neo-noir thriller. Directed by Roman Polanski and starring Jack Nicholson and Jane Fonda. Inspired by the California water wars, Chinatown would often be referred to be by film buffs as “Polanski’s revenge” for his wife, Sharon Tate’s infidelity scandal with Senator Ted Kennedy. Polanski and Tate would divorce in September of this year, followed in short order by Kennedy and his wife, Joan. The Senator and Tate would thereafter marry each other the following year. The film, Polanski’s most successful yet, would be nominated for 11 Oscars, eventually winning 2: Best Director for Polanski and Best Original Screenplay.

    The Longest Yard - Sports comedy. Directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Elvis Presley. The film follows a former NFL player (Presley) recruiting a group of fellow prisoners and playing football against their antagonistic, overly cruel guards. It features many real-life football players, including Green Bay Packers legend Ray Nitschke. Showing Presley’s comedy chops as well as his developing acting talent, The Longest Yard, and Walking Tall established Presley as one of Hollywood’s preeminent “tough guys” in cinema.

    News in Television and Film, Throughout the Year

    January 6th - CKGN-TV begins broadcasting in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

    January 31st - CBS airs a multi-Emmy-winning adaptation of Ernest J. Gaines' novel The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, which follows the 110-year life of a former slave from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. Nichelle Nichols portrays the title role, winning much acclaim for her performance.

    March 13th - The Execution of Private Slovik airs on NBC. A made-for-television film, it told the story of Pvt. Eddie Slovik, the only American soldier to be executed for desertion since the Civil War.

    March 18th - President of Desilu Productions, Lucille Ball and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry officially announce that pre-production on Star Trek: Phase II has begun in earnest. Details will begin to emerge that Roddenberry hopes to have the show up and running for the fall of 1976, to honor the 10th anniversary of the original show.

    April 5th - The Dean Martin Show spins off to a ten year run of The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast.

    April 6th - “Waterloo” by ABBA of Sweden wins the Eurovision song competition, launching the band’s international superstardom.

    Throughout the Summer - Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor on Doctor Who becomes beloved by the fan base for his portrayal of the Doctor as a whimsical, yet sometimes brooding individual whose enormous personal warmth is at times tempered by his capacity for righteous anger. Baker would play the role longer than any other actor to date.

    September 10th - The controversial TV movie Born Innocent, starring Linda Blair, airs on NBC. The film, which involved a fourteen-year-old being sent to what the television preview deemed a women's prison (when in reality it was a reform school), drew heavy criticism due to an all-female rape scene, the first ever seen on American television. The scene was deleted in subsequent re-airings after a group of girls assaulted an eight-year-old with a pop bottle, influenced by the scene in the film.

    October 6th - Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the world’s most popular sketch comedy show airs its final episode in the UK. A week later, reruns begin to be shown in syndication across the United States.

    October 13th - Beloved American television variety show host Ed Sullivan passes away at age 73.

    1974 in Sport

    Super Bowl VIII - Miami Dolphins win 35 - 7 over the Minnesota Vikings.


    January 16th - Yankees Legends Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle are inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Mantle becomes only the seventh player to make it on his first try. His 536 career home runs with the Yankees were third all time behind Willie Mays and the immortal Babe Ruth, and he played in more games overall than any other pinstriper, including “The Iron Horse”, Lou Gehrig.

    April - On opening day, Frank Robinson becomes Major League Baseball’s first African-American Manager. “The Greatest Living Ballplayer”, Joe DiMaggio moves from the the Los Angeles Dodgers to become the batting coach for his old team, the New York Yankees. His wife, Marilyn Monroe, and their adopted child, A. Percival Monroe move with him to the Big Apple.

    The World Series - The Oakland Athletics, led by Outfielder Reggie Jackson, defeat Roberto Clemente’s Los Angeles Dodgers, 4 games to 1.

    NBA Finals

    The Boston Celtics win out over the Milwaukee Bucks 4 games to 3.​

    Hockey - The Stanley Cup

    The Boston Bruins win 4 games to 2 over the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Time Magazine’s Person of the Year - King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, acknowledged in the wake of the Oil Crisis of 1973 - 1974, caused by the Saudis withdrawing their oil from the world market in protest of western support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

    Other Headlines, Through the Year

    On September 20th the sixty-seven members of the Native American Kootenai tribe, headed by Amy Trice, declares war on the United States government as a final effort to gain attention to the tribe's loss of land and subsequent troubles. The war was peaceful and mainly involved charging tolls to pass through tribal lands near Bonners Ferry, Idaho along US Highway 95. They also distributed information to those passing through detailing the problems of the tribe. The war gained a lot of publicity for the Kootenai tribe and the US government gave the Kootenai 12.5 acres of land to end the war.

    A nationwide 55 mph speed limit is imposed across the United States in order to conserve gasoline.

    The Sears Tower in Chicago is finished - becoming the world’s largest building.

    The Global Recession deepens, as inflation hits record highs as well.

    The Global Population reaches 4 Billion people.

    U.S. Ally India, under PM Indira Gandhi, successfully tests its first Nuclear Weapon.

    Work begins on the 800 Mile Long Alaska Oil Pipeline.

    Isabel Peron of Argentina becomes the World’s First Female President.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: The Iberian Peninsula Tastes Freedom Once More
    Chapter 92
  • Chapter 92: Fight the Power - Freedom Comes to Iberia

    Above: Portuguese soldiers participating in the bloodless overthrow of the Estado Novo Regime in Lisbon on April 25th, 1974 (left); The funeral of Spanish Dictator Francisco Franco (right).

    As 1974 dawned over the Iberian Peninsula, the sheer weight of nearly a half century of totalitarian rule weighed heavily on the people of Portugal. After a coup-d'etat back in May of 1926, the country was placed under the role of an authoritarian government founded on integralism and social Catholicism to repress the masses. In 1933, the regime was reshuffled, made more fascistic and nationalistic in nature and named “the new state” or “Estado Novo”. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was Prime Minister of the nation for decades until his eventual death in 1968, and by ‘74, the new PM in his stead, Marcello Caetano, was having difficulty managing the affairs of the nation. Due to its fierce anti-communist stance, the Estado Novo regime was initially tolerated by its fellow NATO members, including the United States of America. Elections were rarely contested, and when they were, the Opposition prefered to use the election period to protest, then withdraw the names of their candidates so as not to lend legitimacy to the regime’s hand picked and predetermined winners. As a result of these tactics, Portugal was not popular in the international community and the regime’s relationship with its supposed allies began to change with the election of American President John F. Kennedy in 1960. A staunch champion of liberal democracy throughout the world, JFK considered the Estado Novo regime to be “among the authoritarian world’s most repugnant practitioners ” and he began to distance the United States from Portugal diplomatically. The Kennedy State Department threatened to encourage independence movements in Portuguese colonies if the Estado Novo regime aided Rhodesian insurgents during the United Kingdom’s war there in 1967, and as he prepared to leave office in the first month of ‘69, Kennedy called on the people of Portugal to demand greater freedoms and their own self-determination.

    Protests and civil unrest grew in Portugal throughout the late 60’s and early 70’s in the wake of Kennedy’s call to arms. Rather than fleeing the country to avoid conscription, possible imprisonment, and even torture, left-wing activists and student protesters instead rallied around JFK’s sentiment and began to develop an underground movement to actively oppose the regime at every turn. Portuguese Academia, which had for decades preached unwavering loyalty to and support of the Portuguese colonial empire, found itself increasingly challenged and delegitimized. This was only the beginning of the regime’s problems, however. The clunky, bloated corporatist economics employed by the regime, as well as the decades long colonial wars putting down nationalist insurgents in the colonies had begun to severely dry out government coffers in Lisbon. As the world economy took a turn for the worse in the early 70’s, foreign aid from the west was virtually nonexistent, and the calls for change, reform, and freedom grew louder and louder.

    In February of 1974, Prime Minister Caetano decided to remove General Antonio de Spinola from the Presidency, as punishment for Spinola’s growing discontent over the promotion of military officers and the direction of Portuguese colonial policy. Following this controversial and unpopular act, several prominent and high-ranking military officers who were opposed to the Portuguese Colonial War formed the MFA, a clandestine revolutionary brotherhood, to overthrow Caetano’s government in a military coup. Headed by several figures, but especially Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, the movement was aided by other officers who supported the former President Spinola or wanted democratic civil and military reforms. The coup had two secret signals for initiation triggers. The first was the 10:55 pm airing of Paulo de Carvalho's "E Depois do Adeus", Portugal’s 1974 Eurovision Contest entry, on Emissores Associados de Lisbon. This alerted the rebel captains and soldiers to begin the coup. The second signal came on April 25th, 1974 at 12:20 am, when Rádio Renascença broadcast "Grândola, Vila Morena", a song by Zeca Afonso, a popular political folk singer who was banned from Portuguese radio at the time by the Estado Novo regime. At the time of the signals, the MFA ordered their allies in the military to seize points of strategic importance, and effectively neuter the regime’s ability to fight back. It was a massive, total success.

    Six hours later, the Caetano government relented. Despite repeated radio appeals from the "captains of April" (the MFA) advising the population to stay in their homes for their own safety, thousands of Portuguese citizens took to the streets – mingling with, and celebrating with, the military insurgents. A central gathering point was the Lisbon flower market, then richly stocked with carnations, which happened to be in season at the time. Some of the insurgents put carnations in the soldiers’ gun barrels, an image broadcast on television worldwide and would thereafter give the largely bloodless revolution its distinctive name. The entire event was watched closely by the neighboring Spanish State, who were beginning to plan the succession of dictator Francisco Franco, who was in critically failing health. In order to prevent another junta or authoritarian regime from taking power, the new government led by the MFA called for general elections to be held by April of 1975. Some of the officers who were given newly minted positions of power were reluctant to potentially be voted out and so called for a “transition period” before full democracy could be instituted. The threat of a popular communist-backed uprising occurring if moderate, democratic reforms were not instituted however, was enough to get these officers to change their tune and endorse the elections. Portugal’s first free election in decades was finally held on April 25th, 1975, to write a new constitution to replace the Estado Novo one of 1933. A second election was held that November, and the country’s first constitutional government, a centre-left coalition headed by Socialist Mario Soares was swept into office in a landslide. Soares’ new government spent the remainder of 1975 establishing order and trust in the new public institutions, as well as passing a series of laws guaranteeing freedom of speech, assembly, and the press. Freedom was ringing once more in Lisbon, and the people rejoiced.

    By most working definitions, a ghost is a being whose spirit has lingered on this Earth long after it should have. Its physical companions are gone, dead, buried beneath the rubble of history, and yet they persist, they hang over the rest of the living like a phantom, unable to rest and depart for where they belong. According to these definitions, Generalissimo Francisco Franco and his regime in Spain definitely fit the bill of being ghosts. They were spectres of a bygone era, when strong-men and dictators freely dominated much of continental Europe - when the free world and the communist one stood united against a dark, authoritarian common enemy. Though Franco did not aim to create a purely ideologically fascist state as Hitler and Mussolini did before him, he did turn Spain into a right-wing nightmare, with his bizarre trappings of monarchism and religious conservatism being both malleable and situational, key justifications for his iron fisted rule. For nearly four decades, Franco was synonymous with Spain’s government. He was the country’s head of state, its Prime Minister, commander in chief of the armed forces, and the cult of personality that justified, explained, and surrounded almost forty years of unjust rule. The Cold War world had almost moved on too fast for Spain to keep up. While most nations were concerned with an increasingly hostile struggle between capitalism and communism, Spain was clinging to a mostly abandoned “third way” that was ever more untenable. Foreign trade was practically nonexistent, as most countries significantly distanced themselves from Franco’s brutalistic regime. Spain hadn’t even been invited to join the United Nations until 1955. And despite Franco’s continued staunch opposition to communism, even the western bloc had largely ignored him, with the U.S., UK and their allies holding little for the dictator but contempt. Here was the man who had allowed the travesty at Guernica. Here was the man behind countless massacres on leftists, the man who had been opposed by the heroic freedom fighters and volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln brigade and internationale battalions, he was a bona fide political monster. And yet, he was just, at the end of the day, a mortal man. And as the adage goes, all men must die. Franco knew his time was nearing by 1975, and he began to make arrangements for his succession.

    The Generalissimo decided a decade before to name a monarch to succeed his legacy. However, simmering tensions between the Carlists and Alfonsists from forty years before persisted, much to Franco’s chagrin. In a bid to avoid a repeat of the Carlist Wars, Franco offered the throne to the Archduke Otto von Habsburg. In doing so, Franco believed that he could eliminate the question of the Bourbon succession entirely since the Habsburg Family had ruled Spain in its Golden Age, and had a claim to the Spanish throne from before the War of the Spanish Succession. A wrench was thrown into his plans however, when Archduke Otto declined, citing his belief that he would be a “German ruling Spain” and would be unable to shake his Austrian heritage. Thereafter, in 1969 Franco nominated Prince Juan Carlos de Borbon, who had been educated by him in Spain, to be his heir apparent, granting him the new title “Crown Prince of Spain”. This nomination came as a shock to the Carlist pretender to the throne, as well as to Prince Juan Carlos’ own father, Don Juan, the Count of Barcelona, who had a superior claim to the throne, but Franco feared would be too liberal. The dictator then began to prepare the young prince for leadership, and by 1973, Franco had surrendered the position of Prime Minister, continuing to serve only as head of state and commander in chief of the military. Throughout Franco’s final years, tensions and conflict between disparate factions of the government started to consume Spanish public life, as the various political groups jockeyed for power and position to influence the nation’s future after Franco’s inevitable demise. The Assassination of Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco on December 20th, 1973, and the Carnation Revolution in neighboring Portugal in April, 1974 both finally gave an edge to the liberalizing faction. In July of 1974, the Generalissimo fell ill from his various health problems, leading Prince Juan Carlos to take the reins as acting head of state. Though he would go through illnesses of varying severity over the next several years, Franco would never again take power from Juan Carlos. The dictator made his final public appearance on October 1st, 1975, giving a weak, shrill-voiced speech from the balcony of the Royal Palace in Madrid. By the end of the month, he fell into a coma, and his family made the decision to take him off of life support. Franco officially died on November 20th, the same date as the death of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the Falange. The Generalissimo was 82 years old. Franco’s body would be interred in the Valle de los Caídos, a colossal memorial built by thousands of political prisoners through forced labor to honor the casualties of the Nationalist side of the Spanish Civil War. His funeral was attended by Prince Rainier III of Monaco, but no other world leaders, due to his poor reputation abroad. U.S. President George Bush, when asked about his passing by reporters during a press conference, called Franco’s passing “a blessing for the people of Spain and believers in freedom all over the world.” Immediately following Franco’s death, the Monarchy was restored in accordance with his will, and the Prince was crowned King Juan Carlos I of Spain.

    The King’s accession was met with little to no opposition in the houses of parliament, though some particularly right wing politicians were disappointed, then outraged when they learned that the Monarch was insistent on charging ahead with his democratization policies. First, Juan Carlos removed Prime Minister Carlos Arias Navarro, a devout Francoist nationalist, from power and replaced him with known liberal reformer Adolfo Suarez, who would thereafter go on to win the first constitutionally sanctioned democratic elections since the 1930’s in Spain and become the new Constitutional Monarchy’s first democratically elected leader. Suarez’s premiership brought sweeping changes to Spanish political life, allowing for freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and even the legalization of the socialist and communist parties, something which would have been thought impossible in even the very recent past. Juan Carlos’ father, the Don Juan of Barcelona further helped to secure his son’s legitimacy and national stability when he officially renounced any claim to the Spanish throne and recognized his son as the one true head of the Spanish royal family. The Spanish people loved their King and he became renowned the world over for his restraint, humility, and for stepping aside from the chance at absolute power and choosing instead to hand that power back over to the people of his country. Though virtually unknown at the time of his appointment by the King, the young, handsome, charismatic Prime Minister Juarez would, with the help of the King, make Spain a free, democratic nation, ripe for economic development and rapprochement with the rest of the world once more. Juarez carefully navigated Spain’s partisan politics by governing decidedly as a centrist and would eventually be raised to nobility for his efforts.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: Vice President Reagan, the CIA, Left-Wing Terror, and Aid for New York City
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    Chapter 93
  • Chapter 93: If I Needed You - The Reagan Commission, ERA, Weather Underground, and New York City’s Woes

    Above: Vice President Ronald Reagan answers reporters’ questions about his investigation into illicit domestic operations by the CIA, called the Reagan Commission.​

    “Dutch” Reagan’s time in Washington had exposed him to a myriad of bad behavior in government, and he didn’t like it any more two years into his time as Vice President than he did the moment he first swore the oath of office. “The Sheriff of Sacramento” had long built an image for himself as America’s cowboy crusader for simplicity, honesty, and necessity in government. For this reason, the corruption and shadowy behaviors being exposed throughout the early to mid 1970’s by journalists and congressional hearings seemed the perfect issue for the Vice President to tackle, especially as he and President Bush strove to forge a constructive partnership without stepping too harshly on the toes of House Speaker Gerald Ford (R - MI) and other, more moderate congressional Republicans. To that end, when President Bush announced on January 4th, 1975 the creation of the President’s Commission on CIA Activities within the United States, to investigate the domestic activities of the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies, the VP was placed at its head. The Committee was initially founded in response to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post and the New York Times’ damning discoveries about illegal counter espionage and sabotage operations happening at home. The American people were outraged by what they read and turned to Washington demanding answers. When the CIA was first founded, it was not given jurisdiction, so to speak, to operate on American soil. Its spying operations were exclusively meant to gather and protect information from abroad. American citizens should never fear being targeted by their own intelligence community. For Reagan, such flagrant abuses of unchecked power fit snugly into his growing narrative of the federal government’s overuse and abuse of authority. For the Gipper, his role on the Committee brought him joy and fulfillment. After years of moderating his stances, compromising on the issues and the numbers, and consensus building to strengthen the GOP as a whole, Reagan could finally come out swinging hard against some blatant, objective evil. He would be given the chance once again to play the white hat hero in the eyes of the American people, and for “Rawhide” Reagan, that was a dream come true. It was what he had gotten into politics to do in the first place. Newspapers framed the charismatic VP as a “proud defender of individual liberty” as he grilled former CIA agents and department heads in closed door hearings on Capitol Hill. The secrets Reagan uncovered disturbed him greatly, particularly those pertaining to the mysterious project MK-ULTRA.

    Later colloquially called “the mind control project”, MK-ULTRA was the code name given to a program of experiments on human subjects that were designed and undertaken by the CIA and were, in almost all cases, highly illegal. These experiments were intended, originally, to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations in order to weaken the individual and force confessions through the use of mind control. The project was organized through the Office of Scientific Intelligence of the CIA and coordinated with the U.S. Army Biological Warfare Laboratories. Officially sanctioned during the Dulles-Eisenhower years in 1953, the project was reduced in scope as a result of increased Kennedy era oversight in 1964, further curtailed by JFK once again in 1967, and finally halted shortly after George Romney took office in 1969, at least officially. Rumors, speculation, and conspiracies abound that the program survived its ‘69 shutdown in some form, and Vice President Reagan was gravely concerned that this could be the case as he began digging through the files along with Senator Frank Church (D - ID) and the rest of the Committee. According to internal CIA reports, American and Canadian citizens were used as unwitting test subjects, given LSD and other chemicals, subjected to hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse (including the sexual abuse of several children being used as subjects), and other forms of torture, all in the name of learning the nuts and bolts, ins and outs of the human mind. These experiments were conducted across more than 80 complicit institutions, including colleges and universities, prisons, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies. Individuals within these organizations were paid tremendous bonuses by the CIA to keep quiet about their activities, and many lied to journalists and investigators in order to help keep their operations a secret. It was “deep state” overreach at its most blatant and traumatizing.

    As if MK ULTRA alone wasn’t a repulsive enough discovery for the Reagan Commission to make, further digging into formerly private CIA memoranda from the end of Allen Dulles’ tenure at the head of the Agency revealed references to another ominous proposed project in conjunction with the military and Department of Defense: Operation Northwoods. Proposed and nearly implemented around the end of 1961 after the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Operation Northwoods was essentially a complicated series of plans to have CIA operatives perform false flag operations on American soil against American citizens and military targets, then blame it on Cuba in order for the U.S. to have justification for a formal invasion of Cuba, with the eventual objective being the removal of Fidel Castro’s regime from power. Some of these horrific ideas included the possible assassination of Cuban immigrants to the U.S., sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking commercial airliners, blowing up a U.S. Naval Vessel, and orchestrating violent terror attacks on major U.S. cities. President John F. Kennedy, absolutely livid and dismayed by the very idea of the proposals, rejected them immediately and ordered then Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to shut down the project indefinitely. He also fired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Lyman Lemnitzer and replaced him with the more understanding, compassionate commander General Maxwell D. Taylor, whom he correctly believed would never again allow such proposals to reach the Resolute Desk. Since 1962, none of the operations laid out in Northwoods were ever put into action, though they still served as a terrifying reminder of what could have been in the midst of Cold War hysteria. Vice President Reagan, upon reading about this Orwellian nightmare, decided that enough was enough and that it was time to bring the leviathan Central Intelligence Agency to heel. Reagan and Senator Church ultimately allowed MK ULTRA and Northwoods (or as much as declassified about it, which admittedly, wasn’t much) to be publicized by bombshell articles in The Washington Post, New York Times, and Boston Globe. They also recommended for the creation of a permanent Senate Committee on Intelligence to provide oversight and transparency to a greater degree for the federal government. They also called for amendments to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, originally signed by President Kennedy back in 1966. This was fiercely opposed by Donald Rumsfeld (R - IL), ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, as well as White House Chief of Staff Dick Cheney, who believed that such changes would critically weaken the CIA’s intelligence gathering capabilities. Almost all of the Commission's’ recommendations, including the permanent committee would wind up being accepted however, with Senator Church becoming the first Chairman of it upon its creation. After a nearly six month investigation, Vice President Reagan announced that he believed the Commission had achieved its goals and gave a press conference from CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia alongside newly confirmed CIA Director Robert E. Cushman, Jr.

    In his speech before the news cameras, Reagan laid out the values he hoped the “new” CIA would stand for: “It is not enough, of course, to simply collect information. Thoughtful analysis and well-reasoned judgement are vital to sound decision making here in Langley. The goal of our intelligence analysts can be nothing short of the truth, even when that truth is unpleasant and unpopular. We must make decisions based on our beliefs and our moral convictions, not just what is expedient or easy. I have asked for honest work, and objective analysis, and the President and I shall expect nothing less. Whether you work in in Langley or a faraway nation, whether your tasks are in analysis or operations, it is upon your intellect and integrity, your wit and intuition that the fate of freedom rests for millions of your countrymen and for many millions more all around the globe. You are the trip-wire across which the forces of repression and tyranny must stumble in their quest for global domination. You are called upon today to act like it. You, the men and women of the CIA, are the eyes and ears of the free world. We are rightly regarded a candid and open people who pride ourselves on our free society. Even if your work requires secrecy, you must not take advantage of the trust placed in you by the hearts and minds of the American people. In this country, no one is above the law, period.”

    Reagan came out of the whole experience looking like a strong advocate for the good of the nation and for civil liberties, and the administration managed to win back some trust from the public as well. Though President Bush was happy to finally be on the receiving end of some positive press coverage, he was also nervous somewhat that his popular, charismatic VP would overshadow him in the weeks and months to come. He turned to White House Chief of Staff Dick Cheney and asked him to “find an issue” that Bush could own and really push on the hill, take the lead on himself. Cheney came up with two: the fledgling Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a popular, bipartisan effort to standardize special education across the nation; and the metric conversion act, which Cheney believed that the President could spin as an effort to strengthen America’s trade position with the rest of the world. The fact that the Vice President was vehemently opposed to the metric system made the initiative a subtle snub as well, which only added to Cheney’s belief that it was the right place for Bush to put his political capital. Both IDEA and the Metric Conversion Act would pass Congress and be signed into law by the end of the year, marking big steps of progress in Special Ed and announcing that the U.S. would begin its transition to the metric system, hopefully completing the switch by 1982.

    Above: Newsweek wrote a very positive review of the Vice President’s performance as leader of the Commission, and even went so far as to write that Reagan: “has developed into a capable, respectable leader of the Republican Party as a whole during his time in Washington… no longer merely a paleoconservative, right-wing bomb thrower and provocateur, Reagan is now showing himself to be a possible future Commander-in-Chief in the making.”

    The Vice President responded to President Bush’s legislative sweep with his typical smile, but also refused to be sidelined again. Now that he was influencing real policy, Reagan insisted on continuing that trend. He and President Bush were able to come to agreement about promoting freedom and democracy in Latin America, essentially, the United States’ backyard, though in the past, they had butted heads over Bush’s support for friendship with Chile’s Allende government. To help develop a more worldly perspective for his number two, Bush dispatched the Vice President to complete a “goodwill” tour of South and Central America, shaking hands with foreign heads of state, and hopefully gaining an “appreciation for the intricacies of democracy in action abroad.” The trip went better than even the President could have anticipated. Reagan’s sunny optimism and charisma endeared him to every country he stopped at along the way, and several leaders, especially Salvador Allende of Chile, President Carlos Madrazo of Mexico, and President Carlos Andres Perez of Venezuela impressed upon Reagan the idea that leaders of differing ideological backgrounds can come together in the name of supporting individual liberty and free government. Though the Vice President would never agree with the Social Democrats and socialists he encountered along the voyage, he grew to appreciate their perspective, obviously very different from his own, and couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps it was best to let democracy take its course at it would when determining a country’s economic system. So long as they believed in democratic values like freedom of speech, the press, and religion, Reagan came to believe that they could be friends and allies of the United States and the rest of the free world. Madrazo especially, the beloved, fierce liberal reformer of the U.S.’s southern neighbor, convinced Reagan to reevaluate his “anti-leftist” stance and teach him to prefer democracies, true democracies to either right wing dictatorships, or authoritarian communism.

    Also making news in 1975 was, after long last, the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment by enough of the states for it to be officially adopted as the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. When the State Legislature of Nevada voted to ratify by a single Aye on February 17th, 1975, massive celebrations broke out in major cities and even small towns across the country. Betty Friedan, Marilyn Monroe, and other Women’s Rights Activists rejoiced hat after years of push-back and delay, women would finally receive equal treatment and protection under the law, guaranteed by the Supreme Law of the Land. Of course, this would not be the end of Second Wave Feminism, activists in the movement still had a long way to go toward achieving true equality between the sexes, but as U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm (D - NY) said at a pro-ERA rally held in Manhattan the day it was ratified: “It’s about damn time!” Chisholm, an early advocate for the ERA in the Democratic Party, and one of the most prominent progressive politicians in the country, also used the opportunity of the ratification parties to announce, after much speculation on the part of major media outlets, that she would once again seek her party’s nomination for President in 1976. The announcement galvanized the left in America, as Robert F. Kennedy’s implicit exclusion from the Democratic Primary races meant that the liberal vote was largely unchained to any one candidate. The “unbought, unbossed” Chisholm had shocked the establishment with her strong performances in the New York and New Jersey primaries back in 1972, and inspired millions of progressive Americans to take part in a campaign they could really believe in. The iconoclastic New York Congressman Gore Vidal (D) called Chisholm’s first campaign “an inspiration” and offered his immediate and unequivocal endorsement to her the second time around as well. Congresswoman Phyllis Schlafly (R - IL) and other opponents of the ERA meanwhile vowed to “fight this monster” on an issue by issue basis, and refused to submit to a world “where women could be drafted or not granted the special protection they need by the law”. Chisholm shot back that “Women don’t need to be protected. We need to lead.” Over the next several decades, the number of women who voluntarily joined the military skyrocketed, and the first female soldiers would see combat in limited interventions by the end of the 1980’s.

    Chisholm and Senator Kennedy, who was up for reelection in 1976, were not the only New York politicians in national headlines. U.S. economic “stagflation” in the Mid 70’s hit New York City particularly hard, amplified by a burgeoning movement of middle class New Yorkers to the suburbs, robbing the City of desperately needed tax revenue. As the situation worsened under Mayor John Lindsay (R) in the late 60’s and early 70’s, Fiercely conservative Governor Jim Buckley (R) made his position on helping the city with state funds or loan relief clear: the city was SOL. Buckley denounced “big city liberalism” for ruining the Big Apple and said that only through bankruptcy could the city learn to live within its means once more and turn a new leaf, regardless of the suffering or consequences this might entail. As one can imagine, this made Buckley a loathed individual by nearly everyone in the city by the end of his term in Albany. Buckley had earned the respect of many upstaters with his “tough talk” with the city, but even most New Yorkers outside of Manhattan knew that the Big Apple was the economic heart of the state. When the city suffered, the state suffered, and many began to push back and demand he help them set their house in order. Buckley’s opponent for reelection in 1974 was Democrat Hugh Carey, a tough Irish-American Congressman from Brooklyn, a decorated veteran of the Second World War (with several medals to prove it), and a man with a deep abiding love for the city he called home. Carey denounced Buckley’s “abominable rhetoric” and insisted that the race for Governor was “about helping as many people as possible” not about “spouting vitriol from some ivory tower built by his [Governor Buckley’s younger brother Bill’s] hubris”. It was a tight race, but thanks to near unanimous support from New York City, Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse, Congressman Carey was narrowly elected over Governor Buckley. As soon as he took office in January, 1975, Governor Carey and newly elected Mayor of New York, Abraham Beame (D) took stock of the situation and developed a new course of action.

    Under Mayor Beame and his predecessor, the city had run out of money to pay for normal operating expenses, was unable to borrow more, and faced the prospect of defaulting on its obligations and declaring bankruptcy. The city admitted an operating deficit of at least $600 million, though the actual total city debt was more than $11 billion all told. Because the city had failed to show signs of progress toward financing and paying back this debt, it was also unable to borrow additional money from credit markets. There were numerous reasons for the onset of the crisis. These included overly optimistic forecasts of tax revenue, general underfunding of pensions, the city’s use of capital expenditures for operating costs, and overall poor budgetary and accounting practices. The city’s government was also reluctant to confront municipal labor unions, a charge which Governor Carey admitted on the campaign trail that “Governor Buckley was correct needed changing”. Shortly after Carey took office, Beame assumed pressure from Albany would ease, so he laid off on Buckley-era plans for austerity. An announced "hiring freeze" which was supposed to help cut costs was followed by an increase in city payrolls of more than 13,000 people in one quarter. Further, an announced layoff of eight thousand workers resulted in only 436 employees actually leaving the city payroll. Furious, Governor Carey began to apply his own pressure on the Mayor to “get serious” about the crisis that he had helped to propagate. To do this, Carey turned to the State Legislature and created a drastic solution: the Emergency Financial Control Board (EFCB). A state controlled organization, EFCB had a seven-member board at its head, with only two of those seats being given to representatives of the city. Carey loved New York, but he knew that sometimes, tough love was necessary. The EFCB took full control of the city’s budget and began implementing major reforms. An actual wage freeze for city employees was instituted, as was a major layoff which cut thousands of employees off of city payrolls. Subway fares, bus fares, and other city services were raised for the first time in decades, and tuition would finally be charged at the City University of New York. The Legislature also helped the City by allowing the EFCB to be funded by State taxes, something Governor Buckley had refused to do in his own austerity plans. Buckley’s proposal would have had city sales tax go to the State until such time as any sort of Board was no longer necessary, and would have expected the city to reach a balanced budget within three years. Governor Carey’s plan was somewhat more forgiving. At the urging of his Lieutenant Governor, the vehemently liberal Mario Cuomo, Carey gave the City five years to get its books in order, and allowed for New York to keep its own sales taxes. Despite all of this however, the city was in such bad shape, that the value of its municipal bonds, which it was using to try and pay back its debt, continued to decline and decline. Bankruptcy still seemed inevitable unless painful cuts or help from outside the city presented themselves. Thankfully for New York, its senior Senator, Robert F. Kennedy (D) stepped up to the plate.

    Never one to stand by and watch injustice and suffering occur right in front of him, Kennedy took to the streets of the city, walked its poorest districts and hardest hit burroughs, and got to know the individuals who were feeling the pain of this crisis the most. When the ECFB recommended closing hospitals and library branches in order to help close the deficit, Kennedy was furious. “Where are the poorest among us to receive medical care, or have access to knowledge and a decent education?” Kennedy demanded. “Are we to rob the least fortunate to help pay for the mistakes of the wealthy and powerful?” Appearing alongside labor activists and the common people of New York, Kennedy delivered an impassioned speech in front of city hall, in which he called on Mayor Beame to resign and for “our friends all over the country and serving in Washington to alleviate the needless suffering of the millions of Americans in this, our nation’s greatest city.” He appealed directly to President Bush, who was already under pressure from conservative forces to limit spending to decrease the federal deficit, and had previously told The Associated Press that he would not ‘give the city a bailout’ to ‘reward it for its fiscal irresponsibility’. To the President, Kennedy pleaded: “It is not the people of New York who asked to live in a city undergoing a financial crisis. Many who have the means to leave it behind have already done so in a bid to escape. It is not the people of New York who created and continue this crisis. A failure of leadership should not mean the failure of a city, especially one with so long and proud a history as this one. I humbly beseech you, Mr. President, to recall the kinder, gentler nation you wanted to create in your inaugural address, and help us to make that dream a reality by giving this great city the financial support and confidence it needs to find renewed leadership and a way out of the dark place it now finds itself in. We New Yorkers are known for our toughness, our tenacity, our grit. But we are also known for our heart and for our spirit. We will endure this crisis, but we call on those with the power and responsibility to help to do so.” Canadian-American singer-songwriter Neil Young joined with Senator Kennedy in calling the President out on his failure to help New York City in its time of need by writing, recording, and releasing the song “Rockin’ In the Free World” - a bitterly cynical, sarcastic takedown of the Bush Administration, in which Young denounces Bush as a “phony friend” who promises “a thousand points of light for the homeless man” and a “kinder, gentler machine gun hand.” The song skyrocketed to number one on the billboard singles chart and together with Kennedy’s popularity and clout, finally pressured the President, who did hope to be reelected the following year after all, to provide some aid to the beleaguered City. In November of 1975, Bush signed into law the New York City Seasonal Financing Act of 1975, a Congressional bill that extended $2.3 Billion worth of federal loans to the city for three years. In exchange, Congress ordered the city to increase charges for city services, to continuing to reduce or at least freeze the wages of city employees, and to let go “any and all unnecessary workers”. To put icing on the cake of Senator Kennedy’s success, Mayor Beame resigned in disgrace shortly after Kennedy’s speech at City Hall, succeeded by his Deputy Mayor, Harrison J. Goldin, who promised not to seek a term of his own in 1977. Kennedy, who badly needed a victory to reaffirm his status as “the champion of the common man” after the investigation into his early conduct as Attorney General and his brother’s affair with and subsequent marriage to Sharon Tate, got that win in his heroic stand for the city he loved. Though his Senate seat was definitely still “under threat” in the year to come, Bobby Kennedy, it seemed, was beginning to rediscover his voice and return to his crusading roots. He proved that he was still the nation’s leading liberal voice for hope.

    These combined efforts, along with modest decreases in entitlement spending, and strongly held ground against municipal unions in refusing pay increases started to turn the tide for the Big Apple. Thanks to Kennedy and Carey’s efforts, federal aid, and the diligent work of the ECFB, the city eliminated its short term debt by 1977 and that same year, elected Herman Badillo, a relative fiscal conservative, to be the city’s first Puerto Rican Mayor. Badillo and Governor Carey developed a strong working relationship and by 1985, ECFB was formally disbanded and New York City announced that it was running a surplus for the first time in decades. Badillo’s term as Mayor would also be characterized by large scale urban renewal and beautification projects, and the passage of tax incentives and other initiatives to bring middle class, largely white Americans back into New York to grow the city’s tax base and promote continued diversity, as well as fight against developing economic de facto segregation in the city’s public schools. “America’s City” still had a long way to go toward solving its issues, but through tough decisions and strong leadership, New York led the nation to believe that there was a chance of emerging at the end of the Seesaw Seventies in a better, stronger place than it began them. This was, of course, not the end of the trouble the 70’s brought however.

    Meanwhile, across the country, in San Francisco, California, a disaffected, confused, tortured young woman named Sara Jane Moore struggled to find a way out of her own personal crisis. Born February 15th 1930 to Ruth and Olaf Kahn, a pair of German immigrants in Charleston, West Virginia, Moore had previously been a nursing student, Women’s Army Corps recruit, and an accountant, as well as a five time divorcee with four children by 1975. In the late 60’s, she made her way to San Francisco to be a part of the burgeoning hippie culture, wherein, she hoped to find inner peace and meaning that she could not in her conservative home and Christian background. She tried to find religion, practicing Judaism, then Buddhism, and several others before giving up on that notion. Prayer’s answers came a little slower and more incomplete than she would have liked. Like so many wayward children of the sixties, she eventually turned to extreme politics as an avenue to search for meaning in her twisted world. After attending a rally in support of the Communist Party USA, Moore went to a bar in downtown San Francisco where she met a young far-left revolutionary named Terry Robbins. After sharing a few beers and discussing politics and Moore’s growing sense of disillusionment, Robbins revealed that he was a part of the Weather Underground, a once fierce but now dying terrorist organization that sought to violently overthrow the American government and end U.S. Imperialism. Robbins shared that he was nearly killed in an attempted bombing in Greenwich Village, New York City back in 1970, and had moved out west to escape the authorities for a while. Not wanting his time on the West Coast to be a waste however, he was looking to recruit new members and plan attacks in this part of the country as well. To Moore, a naive, scared woman with nowhere else to turn, the fast talking, violently confident Robbins was a possible answer. She agreed to start attending clandestine meetings with the group and listening to them discuss the evils and hypocrisies of Governor Jim Roosevelt and his “fake friend, imperialist cronies” down in Washington. It was also around this time that she decided that she wanted to do something meaningful to advance the group’s agenda. She had no idea what it would be yet, but she knew she would make it count for all the years of wandering and failure she had endured.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: The Race for the Democratic Nomination Begins
    Chapter 94
  • Chapter 94: Born to Run - The Democrats Line Up for ‘76

    Above: Hoping to capitalize on his recently widened national profile, Senator Eugene McCarthy (D - MN) became the second major Democratic candidate to enter the Presidential race, doing so on February 14th, only days after Rep. Shirley Chisholm (R - NY).

    Senator Eugene McCarthy was a lot of things to a lot of different people: a bigot, for his staunchly anti-immigration views; a peacenik, for his support for unilateral nuclear disarmament; a libertarian, for his supposedly firm commitment to the defense of civil liberties and attacks on the Internal Revenue Service; and a poet for his occasional dalliances with the written word. More so than any of these things however, McCarthy was a caustic, nasty man with a brutish personality and a restless, moody demeanor to boot. Fellow Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey (D) described Gene McCarthy as “one of the most unpleasant men I’ve ever known in politics, and I’ve known Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms!” In 1969, McCarthy left his wife Abigail of 24 years and their children to take up an “on again-off again” affair with CBS News correspondent Marya McLaughlin, leaving his five children to Abigail, and campaigning all the while against abortion, contraception, and “the decline of family values in this country”. The hypocrisy was glaring enough to bother those “in the know” about McCarthy personally, but to millions of young people tired of being spoken down to by their parents’ political party, the GOP, the nationalist liberal with a tough-talking personality seemed like he might be the Democrats’ ticket back to the White House. His campaign announcement was a spectacle and a half, to say the least. Declaring from the Senate floor that he “aimed to send that faux-Texan back to the oil fields whence he came”, McCarthy used his speech to immediately jump up on his soapbox to decry the administration’s foreign policy and neglect of its supposedly “warm and fuzzy” domestic agenda.

    In an extremely poorly-calculated move, McCarthy made nuclear disarmament, a controversial issue if ever there was one, a core component of his campaign’s central message. “With tensions on the rise once again with the Soviet Union,” the Senator explained. “We cannot afford to blow up the only world we’ve got. That is why I am calling on Moscow and Washington, and every capital around the world from London to Beijing to swear off these weapons of mass destruction, and vow to bring about their disarmament immediately.” Pundits, fellow politicians, and the public mocked McCarthy all the way to the bank. He came out looking like an impractical, starry eyed idealist at best and a downright naive fool at worst. Nonetheless, he was the hero of many an anti-war intellectual and college student, who believed his very upfront, vocal position to be very brave in a sea of arms dealers and war profiteers. McCarthy pitched himself as a “different” kind of liberal. Never again would entitlement spending be paid for on the national credit card, he swore. He wanted to ratify a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to slash military spending and use the savings to pay down the national debt. He campaigned as the anti-Kennedy, a clear attack on what he described as “the New Frontier excess” of the previous decade, and alienating a great number of potential supporters, who would now undoubtedly look elsewhere for a horse to back.

    It wouldn’t take much looking to find possible contenders. Down in Dixie, the southern, conservative, and populist wings of the Democratic Party would be treated to more than their fair share of possible nominees. Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas, the great founder and preserver of this wing of the party, the titan of socially conservative, New Frontier populism, first Vice President of Jack Kennedy, and the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in 1972, had finally met his end from a massive heart attack while working in his Senate office on February 28th, 1975. His last words, according to an aide, were “Lady Bird is going to fucking kill me for this”, referring to his heart attack. He was 66 years old. Johnson’s passing was mourned far and wide, throughout the party and beyond. His allies were numerous and his stature gigantic. Even Senator Robert F. Kennedy, his great political nemesis and rival, the de facto leader of the party’s northern, progressive wing, was forced to admit “we’ve lost a champion today” when he and his wife, Ethel, heard the news. Johnson’s funeral, on March 3rd, would be attended by his old boss, the former President Kennedy, nearly every Senator, Representative, and dignitary in Washington, and most of the national press corps as well. Even as the race for the Democratic nod in ‘72 was getting under way, the prodigious shadow of LBJ was bound to hang over all of the candidates. These were indeed massive shoes to fill.

    In light of Johnson’s passing, it was perhaps fitting that the first Southern Democrat to announce their candidacy was fellow moderate Lloyd Bentsen (D - TX), Governor of the Lone Star State and a longtime LBJ protege. Unlike many of his fellow southerners, who would dive into the race without much longtime preparation before the fact, the two-term Texas Governor had been planning a Presidential run since before his own reelection the prior November. Throughout 1974, Bentsen had embarked on a nationwide tour of speaking events and “political water testing”. He visited 30 states and raised over $350,000 from a single fundraiser in his home state alone. By the time of his official announcement on February 17th, Bentsen had raised more than $1,250,000, the most of any prospective candidate, and won the endorsement of the soon to be deceased LBJ. In terms of establishment appeal, the tall, handsome, Texan, who’d flown combat missions as a Colonel in World War II, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross four times for his bravery in battle, and built a reputation during his time in the U.S. House as a protege to the legendary Speaker Sam Rayburn and as a mean card player with the perfect poker face seemed to be pretty high up there. His candidacy was, in the words of commentator and writer Hunter S. Thompson “as formidable as it was depressing.” The Governor, who was 53 at the time, certainly had a lot of things going for him, but he had weaknesses as well. An uninspiring record in the House and a largely forgettable time served in the Governor’s Mansion left an overall impression that he was a “party man” rather than a potential leader of his fellow men. He gave off the appearance of a Johnsonite-stooge, someone who hoped to luck his way into the nomination (or at least the VP slot) without putting in too much effort, just because his centrism and moderate-to-conservative, blue collar appeal made him look, on the surface, like LBJ come again. Bentsen did not initially have a strong national organization, and his conservative outlook was bound to make him unpopular with organized labor, whose help he needed to counter his lack of national prominence in the Northern, industrial cities. The Texan knew he needed to rebrand himself, and win powerful allies if he was to secure the position of “front-runner” in the soon-to-be crowded field he so desperately craved. He did receive a major boon in the form of an endorsement from Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson of Washington, a largely conservative hawk who after failed bids of his own in ‘68 and ‘72 decided that he’d be better off sitting out ‘76 and hoping for a VP nod or perhaps a cabinet position. He figured he’d make a strong Secretary of State, Defense, or the Interior, for instance. The Texas Governor was also aided by another endorsement from an unexpected source, a new political magazine.

    The 1976 Democratic primaries saw the true beginning of a “culture war” in the political realm. The Doe v. Bolton decision had enraged Catholic and Evangelical Democrats, who felt like the Kennedy/Liberal wing of the Party had neglected their anti-abortion views for too long. Through the publication of a new Magazine, American Values (founded by Evangelist preacher Rev. Billy Graham, policy man Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Pro life Activist and New York Congressional Candidate, Ellen McCormack, and Congressman Bob Casey of Pennsylvania) an effective voice for this movement was born, with its inaugural issue stating that its mission was to “bring America closer to a place where our God-given rights to Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness are protected to the fullest extent, whether it be in the Womb, in the Factory, or on the Front lines”. It also became an informal training ground for Pro-Life Democratic Candidates, with many a contributor going on to run for office in the future. The magazine countered the growing calls for Social Democracy within the Democratic Party and instead promoted “Christian Democracy” - an ideology typical in European political parties, which espoused social and cultural conservatism but center-left economic policies, “for the benefit of the common man, his values, and to celebrate Christian teachings.” This populist bent played perfectly with Bentsen’s campaign, and he appeared on the magazine’s inaugural cover story in July of 1975.

    Above: Governor Lloyd Bentsen (D - TX), Democratic candidate for President giving a newspaperman a sit down interview, at a roadside diner in Dallas, shortly after his announcement.

    Unfortunately for Bentsen, the field exploded with competition in the immediate aftermath of his mentor’s passing, beginning first with the populist Congressman Wilbur Mills of Arkansas, who as ranking Democrat and former Chairman of the immensely important House Ways and Means Committee had long been known colloquially as “the most powerful man in Washington”. Founding his campaign on what he saw as the need for an automatic Cost of Living Adjustment to Social Security, and running on his record of helping to secure the funding for Medicare, Medicaid, and the rest of President Kennedy’s New Frontier, as well as his renowned fiscal restraint, Mills declared that his run was “the cure for all of our country’s fiscal ills”. Mills also made farmers’ issues a key plank of his positions as well, hoping to corner the vote in early voting rural states like Iowa and New Hampshire. After the ‘72 convention fights, the Democratic National Committee had adopted open primaries for most of the states in the nation, which meant candidates would need to build momentum early. Unlike Bentsen, who hoped to capture moderate to conservative voters throughout the country from his stalwart base of support in the Solid South, Mills actively hoped to bring in disaffected Northern liberals as well, who could not bring themselves to back the much loathed Gene McCarthy but insisted on the defense of New Frontier programs and their expansion in the wake of Bush-era austerity and tax cuts. Mills actively courted the support of former Senator George McGovern (D - SD), whose narrow defeat in his ‘74 reelection bid had killed McGovern’s own hopes for a serious run at the White House in ‘76, and who was widely seen as a hero to farmers across the nation. For the time being, McGovern remained distant, but did realize that he could possibly hope for a cabinet post in a future Democratic administration. For the time being, he satisfied himself with a return to academia.

    Congressman Wilbur Mills (D - AR) enters the race, March 3rd, 1975​

    As if Bentsen and Mills’ candidacies weren’t enough for the Southern wing of the party to consider, they were soon joined by several more competitors as well. There had been much talk of recently elected Senators Dale Bumpers (D - AR) and Jimmy Carter (D - GA) getting into the race for President, but their jump to the Upper Chamber of Congress seemed to be enough of a climb for both of them for the time being, as they both disavowed any attempts to draft them and promised not to seek the Presidency in ‘76, pledges they would both uphold. Likewise, fellow “New South” Governor Reubin Askew of Florida, despite his reputation as the incorruptible “Reubin the Good” and penchants for compromise, leadership, and bridge-building, had made an election promise to the people of the Sunshine State to serve a full second term if reelected. He didn’t earn that spotless reputation by going back on his word to his constituents. Despite Bumpers, Carter, and Askew sitting ‘76 out, Bentsen and Mills would still fight over the title of “choice of the South” with two more sons of Dixie: Senator J. Terry Sanford (D - NC) and Governor George C. Wallace (D - AL). Sanford had been JFK’s second and more popular Vice President with New Frontier Democrats. Socially and economically liberal, with a history of service as a decorated veteran of the Second World War, then an FBI Agent, then Governor and Senator from his State (not to mention an eagle scout), Sanford was in many ways the quintessential “all American” candidate, and his campaign announcement in early March, 1975, reflected that. Speaking from his home state’s capital in Raleigh, Sanford gave his announcement from a massive wooden bandstand, with the smell of barbeque and beer in the afternoon air, and called on “a renewed commitment to the ideals of the party of Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Kennedy.” Though not a charismatic speaker, Sanford was eloquent and chose his words carefully and deliberately. He used his speech to address what he saw as “the elephant in the room: we have to keep moving forward”. It wasn’t enough, Sanford argued, to preserve and protect Jack Kennedy’s legacy, it had to be carried forward into the future. Sanford called for aggressive desegregation of public schools throughout the South and beyond by busing or “forced integration”, a controversial stance, but one that won him respect with liberals throughout the country. He made better race relations a major theme of his campaign, and worked extensively with Civil Rights leaders to advocate for continued economic aid to African American communities across the nation.

    Senator Terry Sanford (D - NC) enters the race on March 10th, 1975​

    George Corey Wallace’s campaign was dominated by two messages from its very inception: “I no longer support segregation” and “I am a loyal Democrat, down to the bone.” Both of these were a hard sell with the voters, however. Wallace’s insistence on “moderating” his racial views to catch up with Johnson’s New Southern machine and the rest of the country was inconsistent with his continued opposition to desegregation through busing, and the memory of his run with the abominable American Conservative Party in 1968, which likely cost Hubert Humphrey the White House, left a terrible taste in most Democrats’ mouth as the primary campaigning got under way. He hoped nevertheless to corner the same market as Congressman Mills’ campaign. By appealing to blue collar workers and social conservatives, though no longer out and out racists, Wallace believed he had a viable path to the nomination. A letter from Wallace to LBJ from four years prior however, in which the Alabama Governor vowed never to run for President again, quickly resurfaced and was leaked to the national press who took the ball and ran with it. Though Wallace would remain in the campaign after the letter scandal broke over the summer, he would never poll above the single digits anywhere outside of his home state. He dropped out in September, and began to consider running for a Senate seat instead. With Wallace out, it was time for the Northerners and Westerners to dive in as well. By the end of March, half a dozen more candidates announced their own bids. Senator Edmund Muskie, the narrowly defeated runner up from ‘72 seemed a worthy contender, though his campaign was plagued by rumors of infighting and poor organization from its inception. It seemed like his moment had passed, and if he couldn’t beat LBJ in ‘72, he would struggle even more with several liberal competitors in ‘76. Besides, Muskie’s cold, intellectual effect did not play well to crowds of prospective voters, especially on radio and television. He came off as distant, aloof, and erudite, not the sort of man you’d naturally elect to grab a beer with, let alone make leader of the free world. Senator John Glenn (D - OH) the moderate senior Senator from Ohio, former Gemini Astronaut, and Vice Presidential nominee last time around emerged as the early front-runner and was also a seemingly “safe” pick. He had the support of many big party bosses in Cleveland, Detroit, and other industrial cities with his pledges to “support American labor and American businesses” - running a populist streak into his normally bland, middle of the road policy proposals, and his excellent name recognition and reputation for non-partisan, “common sense solutions” gave him a big boost in the early polls. Once again though, Glenn suffered from a lack of enthusiasm among his supporters and generally struggled to break through as a superstar in his own right. What the liberal wing of the party desperately wanted was to fall in love. They wanted a “feel good” candidate with charisma, style, and flair they could rally behind. They wanted someone who could really fill the massive hole left by RFK’s inability to run.

    Above: Senator Edmund Muskie (D - ME) and Senator John Glenn (D - OH) each entered the race in mid-March, 1975, a period referred to by Hunter S. Thompson as “the real March Madness”.

    Though no one candidate could fully satiate liberal Democrats’ desire to be wooed by their eventual nominee, as no one could live up to RFK and his elder brother in the eyes of many, there was one individual whose campaign announcement did manage to stir, energize, and fire up the progressive Democratic base in a manner that few others did. Congressman Morris K. Udall (D - AZ) better known as “Mo”, was a tall (6’5”), Lincoln-esque figure renowned in the political world for his self-deprecating wit and easygoing manner. Udall once said that his physical stature and lanky frame kept him from ever having a date throughout high school, and thus he developed his self-deprecating sense of humor “to survive”. Beloved by his usually conservative constituents despite his very liberal, independent views for his irreverent and casual style (especially his western clothes and cowboy boots, which he often wore to work) and his impeccable personal integrity and ethics, Udall was once summed up by political junkie James Perry as “funny, smart, down-to-earth, honest, sassy, and patient”. Udall was born on June 15th, 1922 in St. Johns, Arizona to Louisa and Levi Udall, a writer keenly interested in Indian life and culture, and a lawyer who served as Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court from 1946 to 1960. One of six children, Mo and his elder brother, Stewart, would often remember their father’s dinnertime sermons about the importance of responsible people entering public service. Both Stewart and Mo would take these lessons as a call to arms. At the age of six, Mo lost his right eye during an accident involving one of his closest friends and a pocket knife. The two boys were attempting to cut some string when Mo’s eye was accidentally cut, causing intense pain. Adequate medical attention was not immediately forthcoming, due to the family’s lack of money at the time, causing Udall to ultimately lose the eye. For the rest of his life, Udall would wear a glass eye; the loss would influence Udall’s life, personality, and inspire him to pursue the creation of a National Health Care system to help care for the sick and wounded everywhere. Udall would also note that life in his small, rural town was “harsh and primitive, at times.” “People where I come from didn’t own horses.” Udall claimed. “We had horses and plows.”

    While in High School, despite the lack of a right eye, Udall became a star athlete in basketball, and football, where he was the quarterback of an undefeated varsity team. He also played in the school marching band, wrote political editorials for his school newspaper, and took leading roles in school plays. Later, he would attend the University of Arizona, where he was again a star basketball player and co-captain of his team, not to mention President of Student Government. After graduation he played one season of professional basketball with the NBA team the Denver Nuggets during the 1948-49 season and earned his law degree from the University of Denver law school in 1949. Raised Mormon, Udall’s personal views on religion would develop and change over time. He was driven away from his original faith, largely over the church’s teachings at the time on black people being “cursed”. He eventually discovered his own personal faith through philosophy and history studies in college, but believed “strongly” in the separation of church and state. During World War II, Udall attempted to enlist in the United States Army, and nearly succeeded. During the necessary eye exams, Udall would simply cover his glass eye whenever he was told to alternate. The young Arizonan was medically cleared and would likely have gotten away with the deception, if it weren’t for another potential enlistee complaining that he had failed on account of flat feet, “but Mo Udall had passed with just one eye!” The examiners tested Udall again under additional scrutiny, and he was rejected. A year later, medical standards changed and Udall was able to serve in the Military in non-combat roles for the remainder of the War. Udall enlisted in the Army Air Corps and commanded an all-black squadron for two years, another experience which Udall said “shaped his life forever”. Udall’s service alongside black troops inspired in him a lifelong dedication to Civil Rights causes, and made him both aware and open-minded to the struggles of the black community. After the war, Udall finished his military service and retired with the rank of Captain.

    Mo practiced law alongside his brother Stewart in Tucson, creating their own firm, Udall & Udall in 1949. Mo was also elected Pima County chief deputy attorney and county attorney, taught Labor law at the University of Arizona law school in the mid-50’s, and and in 1961 became vice president of the State Bar Association. Udall always dreamed of a career in politics, but his hopes were delayed by his first wife, Patricia, who demanded that he remain in a career closer to home. Thus, when an opportunity arose to run for the House seat for the U.S. Second District in 1954, Mo deferred to his older brother, who ran for and won the position. Stewart would serve in that capacity until 1961, when he was appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture by President John F. Kennedy. Mo won a special election to finish his brother’s term, and was then narrowly elected to a term in his own right in 1962. Handily reelected in every race since, Udall’s seat was considered far and away one of the safest in the country, despite its intensely conservative, Goldwater-ite voter base. During his twelve years in the house thus far, Udall had become known as “the Conscience of the House”, and a leading expert on labor relations, conservation and environmental protection, making access to quality health care universal to all Americans, regardless of income level or wealth, and of a peaceful, value-based foreign policy which upheld American ideals of freedom and goodness, as outlined in the Kennedy Doctrine. Udall announced his candidacy for President in front of his childhood home in St. Johns, and made it clear from the beginning that he intended to be the liberal candidate to beat in the race. More progressive than virtually anyone else in the race, Udall hoped to rally the Kennedys and their supporters to his cause with his charm and personality, something that other leading liberals McCarthy and Muskie sorely lacked. Due to his labor expertise, Udall quickly earned the backing of Senator Hubert Humphrey (D - MN); the Congressman hoped this was only the first of many endorsements still to come. Privately, former President John F. Kennedy told Jackie that he was pulling for Udall. “We ought to keep an eye on Stewart’s brother.” He said with a wise grin. “There’s something really special about him.”

    Above: U.S. Representative Morris K. “Mo” Udall (D - AZ), 52 years old, enters the race on March 26th, 1975.​

    April 1st, 1975 - Gallup Poll of Likely Democratic Primary Voters (Nationwide)

    Who would you most prefer to be the Democratic Nominee for President?

    Senator John Glenn (D - OH) - 22%

    Governor Lloyd Bentsen (D - TX) - 16%

    Senator Ed Muskie (D - ME) - 14%

    Representative Mo Udall (D - AZ) - 12%

    Senator Eugene McCarthy (D - MN) - 12%

    Senator Terry Sanford (D - NC) - 8%

    Representative Wilbur Mills (D - AR) - 7%

    Representative Shirley Chisholm (D - NY) - 2%

    Other/Undecided - 7%

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: Southeast Asia and the People’s Republic of China
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    Chapter 95
  • Chapter 95: That’s the Way of the World - South Vietnamese Elections and Chairman Zhou’s Succession

    Above: President Nguyen Khanh of South Vietnam, a stabilizing, if sometimes controversial leader for the burgeoning Southeast Asian democracy (left). A crowded street in the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon (right).

    Since becoming his country’s first democratically elected President in 1967, President Nguyen Khanh gained a mostly positive reputation with his people and abroad as he oversaw eight years of development, change, and reform. Under his young, watchful gaze, South Vietnam had transitioned from little more than a western bloc puppet state aimed at preventing the spread of communism to the rest of Southeast Asia, into a respectable, independent nation, with potent military and economic power to boast of. Saigon, the nation’s capital, had become a bustling commercial hub of nearly 3 million people, attracting foreign business and investment from America, Europe, Australia, and all over the globe. These investments, combined with generous American aid from the implementation of the Kennedy Doctrine and largely continued under Presidents Romney and Bush, provided Khanh’s government with funds to construct massive public works and infrastructure projects, including bringing electricity to the nation’s countryside and rural poor. A modest, but effective social safety net was put in place, along with free, compulsory public education through secondary school, and subsidies which would form the basis of a more affordable form of public healthcare. Though there were still occasional tensions between the country’s various ethnic and religious groups, these were mostly curtailed as well, with President Kennedy having insisted that continued American aid was contingent upon Khanh’s government officially banning all forms of public discrimination. With this achieved, the country’s large Roman Catholic minority would no longer be able to oppress or provide inferior treatment to its Buddhist majority. Boasting a sizable military capable of defending against communist guerrillas in Cambodia or across the DMZ with the North, South Vietnam had reached a point of no longer relying on the United States for its defense. The quality of life for the Vietnamese people had, thanks to Kennedy and Khanh’s efforts, been improved dramatically. But there were still problems which needed addressing.

    Though the country had successfully held free, fair parliamentary elections every two years since the 1967 Constitution was ratified, and President Khanh was successfully reelected in 1971, there were still lingering suspicions of corruption and fraud which plagued his administration. This largely stemmed from Khanh’s preference for filling his cabinet of ministers with former fellow officers from the ARVN, rather than qualified civilians of equal or better merit and skill. Furthermore, a growing generation of young Vietnamese were growing restless after eight years of Khanh’s leadership in the capital. Democracy was a welcome change of pace for them from the revolving door of military juntas and dictators who had led the country since its founding, but Khanh was a former leader of one of those juntas, and his right-wing, conservative social tendencies often ran counter to the beliefs and desires of a growing number of more liberal young voters. For these young people, many of them the first in their families to have access to college educations and thorough schooling in political philosophy, a democratic republic was only as strong as its ability to weather a changing of the guard. For as long as Khanh and his party, the People’s Action Party, remained in power, there was no way of knowing for sure if the country’s new democratic traditions would be respected or trampled again by a strongman who did not want to relinquish his grip on power. With President Khanh’s term coming to an end in September of 1975, a Presidential election, which loomed on June 24th, would be the ultimate litmus test in these young people's’ eyes. Would President Khanh follow the example of George Washington in the United States, and step aside to let his country move on and practice its democratic faith? Or, would he run for a third term, and continue to dictate which direction his country would follow into the future? Beginning in late January, “Dump Khanh” rallies erupted on the campus of the recently founded Saigon University, with the protesters calling for new candidates from all the major political parties, and for liberal reforms like equal pay for women, stronger workers protection laws, and rapprochement with the North. Despite his instincts, the President allowed the protests to take place, winning the respect of leaders across the free world, and confirming that the right to freely assemble would be honored by his administration. The elephant, however, remained in the room: would President Khanh seek a third term as President?

    After much deliberation, the relatively young chief executive decided that, after years of careful, thoughtful governance, he deserved a third term in office and made his announcement official in March. All across the country, the “Dump Khanh” rallies intensified, and were simultaneously opposed by a growing counter movement to support Khanh’s continued leadership, much to the President’s delight. Opposing the liberals, social democrats, and college students who wanted Khanh gone and Vietnam reunited, large swaths of the country’s armed forces, as well as more conservative and hardline anti-communist voters (mostly comprised of older generations) remembered the early days of fighting fifteen years before against Ho Chi Minh and his vietcong, and did not yet think the country was ready for reunification. Khanh easily secured the renomination of his party, and though he spoke in platitudes against the “political polarization” of the electorate, he also continued to encourage it with his increasingly right-wing rhetoric throughout the campaign.

    Opposition to the President coalesced primarily around Tran Van Huong, a former Prime Minister of the country and mayor of the capital city of Saigon before that. Earlier in his long and storied career, Huong had established his democratic bona fides by being one of several politicians to sign the Caravelle Manifesto critical of the government of Ngo Dinh Diem. Though jailed for his outspoken criticism, Huong was later freed from prison, and returned to Saigon to be elected the first Prime Minister of South Vietnam’s new government after the ratification of the 1967 constitution. Huong served in that capacity until 1971, when his “Renaissance Party”, a centre-left coalition of liberals and social democrats, was narrowly voted out of power by a reelected Khanh and his Nationalists. Nevertheless persistent, Huong remained as leader of his party in opposition until just before the filing deadline for Presidential candidates, when he dramatically stood aside and announced his candidacy for the Presidency. More than twenty years his opponent’s senior, Huong naturally faced opposition to his candidacy on the basis that he was too old for the often stressful, difficult job. Supporters of the President and other pundits opined that Huong should stand aside and “allow a younger generation to guide the country forward”, meaning President Khanh. Huong thoughtfully countered that the country’s youth made up the majority of his support, and that they were trying to lead, through him, but the Khanh Administration simply wasn’t listening to them. Though the President maintained the upper hand in several of the “fundamentals” of the campaign - fundraising, incumbency, a largely apathetic electorate, and so on, Huong was able to fight back thanks to a highly effective and committed base of young activists, who sought to get out the vote, especially in Saigon, where Huong was fondly remembered and beloved from his time as Mayor. The most pressing issue in the campaign, besides serving as a referendum on the country’s ability to function with a peaceful transition of power, was whether or not to allow a reunification referendum to take place between North and South Vietnam.

    Both the ARVN and the Vietcong had largely lost their appetite for separation by 1975, and part of the Kennedy-Khrushchev era agreement which had brought the War in Vietnam to an end in 1967 was a provision which would allow the two countries to reunite “at such a time as a direct vote would prove that a majority of the citizens of each country would favor the arrangement.” Public opinion polls conducted by the free press throughout the South clearly demonstrated that a majority of the people were ready to bring Vietnam together again. Overtures and private diplomatic cables received from Hanoi brought good news for reunification as well. Chairman Giap believed that if the South could guarantee that the Communist Party would be free to compete in the first round of elections post-reunification, then he could convince the Politburo, now fearful of a pro-U.S. China on its northern border, to come to terms and support reunification. This, Prime Minister Huong believed (as JFK and numerous others had before him) was a compromise amenable to all parties involved. Huong little doubted the ability for democratic parties like his own to defeat the Communists in a free and fair election, it would merely be democracy at work. President Khanh was less convinced. Fearful that the Communists could paint the democratic parties as “not nationalist enough” in character, the President railed against the referendum, and declared that “no reunification can occur until the North learns the error of the path of Totalitarian collectivism!” This opinion would cost the President severely in the polls. The people of South Vietnam were hopeful, and in the mood for a dose of optimism which Huong captured and Khanh could not muster. When they went to the polls on June 24th, they rewarded the former Prime Minister with a narrow victory.

    President-Elect Tran Van Huong of South Vietnam

    The results shocked the nation. Despite Khanh’s overwhelming advantage as the incumbent in a burgeoning democracy, and despite the enduring influence of the military and powerful corporations all being stacked against his opponent, the opposition managed to carry the momentum of the race, and cultivate it into the roots of a new political movement, aimed at social justice, increased freedoms, an end to corruption in Saigon, and hopes for a reunited Vietnam. President George Bush, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and numerous other heads of state were quick to send Huong their congratulations, and though there was some talk amongst Khanh’s loyalists in the military of getting involved to prevent Khanh from stepping down from power, the former General decided it was time to hang up his hat. He had been defeated, fair and square, and Khanh had learned from his time working with President Kennedy that old Abraham Lincoln quote about ballots being the rightful successors to bullets. His time had come and gone, and the people of his country had made their will known at the ballot box. It was time to honor their wishes. Tran Van Huong became the second President of the Second Republic of South Vietnam in September, and made pursuing a reunification referendum his top priority from his first day in office. With the assent of his government, and that of the North in Hanoi as well, an act of Parliament providing for dual referendums was passed in December, and a date for the public vote set for June of 1976. Across the nation, the people celebrated, and capitalists and communists were learning to work together in the realm of democratic government. Directly to the north, another Socialist leader was striving to implement reforms and make the most of a not-very-good situation.

    Above: Zhou Enlai, Chairman of the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China​

    Chairman Zhou took to his office with a generosity of spirit sorely needed in his country in the aftermath of nearly a decade of his predecessors’ “perpetual revolution”. He was just, open-handed, and kind whenever he could be, and his gestures toward stabilization and a “return to normalcy”, such as emphasizing the beauty, value, and importance of traditional Chinese culture, made tremendous strides toward healing the wounds which had nearly bled the People’s Republic dry. At the same time, however, Zhou knew that he could not afford to sit on his hands. He was no longer a young man, and while China would remain safe, sane, and on the right track under his leadership, he harbored no illusions of what horrors could be unleashed should the wrong person happen to succeed him. He believed strongly that his tenure as Chairman, however long it would wind up being, needed absolutely to be a time not just for restoration, but for reform, change, and progress as well. The Chairman recalled an ancient Chinese proverb he had been taught as a boy, when an Emperor still ruled from Beijing: “a crisis is an opportunity which rides on the dangerous wind.” While his advisers called for more platitudes and gestures of reconciliation, Zhou instead decided to seize this rare moment to push back against the excesses of the Politburo, and demand a China more in line with his own unique vision for communism. In this process, he was vastly helped by the mountain of political capital he was able to accrue through his own reputation and immense popularity with the Chinese people. In his old age, Zhou, to the people of China, came to represent moderation, stability, and justice in Chinese politics and culture. He was renowned as a skilled negotiator, a master of policy implementation, a devoted revolutionary, and perhaps most of all, a pragmatic statesman with a brilliant attention to detail and nuance. His tireless work ethic, personal magnetism, charisma and charm, and his poise in public reminded many children of the Revolution of their own fathers, at once startlingly conservative in their traditional Chinese upbringing, but also simultaneously radical in their belief in Marxist ideals. The Chairman was arguably the last Mandarin politician in the Confucian tradition, and he strove to bridge the gap between his own generation and the next, which knew not the conditions which allowed for Mao’s rise, only the stark divide between Mao’s promises and the harsh, grim realities of his many failures. Zhou saw limitless potential for China in the remainder of the 20th Century and in the promise of the new Millennium which lay beyond it, but it first needed to sort out its own house and put itself in a position to benefit the most from the shifting currents of history.

    This process began in earnest in the spring of 1975. Following the visits to Beijing of Presidents John F. Kennedy and George Bush, and normalization of relations with the United States and the rest of the Western world, the People’s Republic replaced Taiwan as the country representing China as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a major foreign policy boon for Zhou, as it strengthened his country’s position against its chief rival, the Soviet Union while also increasing its credibility and prestige. Next, the Chairman turned his attentions inward and began to undo the damage wrought by Mao’s paranoia, and Lin Baio’s radical, out-of-control purging. To begin, a policy of reasonable Tòumíngdù or “openness” would be encouraged across the nation. Gone forever were the days, Zhou promised, of the Red Guards hunting down and silencing any dissent or disagreement with government practice. Though the press would continue to be controlled by the Party, articles and reports which criticized the state or called for reform would be allowed to be printed, and censorship would be as limited as possible while still maintaining “order and harmony in the political sphere”. Further, the mass-scale collectivization policies which had proved to be abysmal failures under Mao and Baio were also curtailed, with new committees founded and organized for the express purpose of replacing them with “more rational, effective” means of achieving “true communism”. Generally speaking, Chairman Zhou was a true Marxist in thought, but he abhorred the radical, impractical extremes to which Mao and Biao had been willing to go to try and achieve a socialist utopia. A just society, Zhou had been taught in his Confucian tradition, was predicated on harmony and peace, not endless violence and killing to enforce tyrannical law. At that point, how were the Red Guards any better than the Imperial soldiers the Revolution of 1949 had overcome? True communism was, to Zhou, the achievement of harmony and order between all segments of society, workers and laborers from all walks of life. The policies set about in Beijing throughout the second half of the 1970’s therefore followed this school of thought.

    The Chairman also set about preparing his country for his eventual passing and succession, as the peaceful transition of power in particular seemed especially difficult for his comrades to grasp in the preceding decade or so. Unwilling to allow the Chairmanship and the Premiership, the two most powerful positions in government, to be held by the same person, Zhou stepped down as Premier and passed the position to one of several younger proteges, Hu Yaobang, who favored not just political liberalization, but gradual economic decentralization as well. The choice was controversial with some remaining hardliners on the Politburo, but when the Chairman made it clear that his decision in the matter was final, their voices were quieted beneath the overwhelming weight of Zhou’s popularity, which he effectively wielded as an astute political weapon. Zhou was not sure that Hu would meet his every expectation as a potential successor, and also believed in establishing a precedent of separating power to an extent amidst the high command of the Communist Party, thus he did not name Hu Yaobang his Vice Chairman, and instead offered that position to another protege, Zhao Ziyang.

    Though it would take several years for China to recover from the Great Leap Forward and the purges of the Cultural Revolution, Zhou’s governance had already gone a long way to restoring Chinese unity, sovereignty, and national character. The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis came to an end nearly twenty years after it began, as U.S. recognition of the PRC made the issue a mute point for the moment geopolitically. Though longtime President of the Republic of China on Taiwan, Chiang Kai-Shek vigorously protested President Bush’s decision to recognize the PRC, there was little that he could do, and when Chiang passed away in 1975, his island nation was busy enjoying a minor economic boom, bringing rapid industrialization, higher wages, better standards of living, and the potential for an increasingly open and democratic political sphere. There was even talk of reuniting at last with the Communists on the mainland, though the KMT did everything they could to strangle such discussions early in their infancy. Both Chinas still had a long way to go toward making their countries modern, free, and the true superpowers which their leaders wanted them to be, but the steps taken by Chairman Zhou and his allies in the middle of the 1970’s would go a long way toward bringing the PRC up to speed with much of the rest of the world.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: The American Tolkien and the King of Horror
    Chapter 96
  • Chapter 96: Some Kind of Wonderful - The Early Careers of George R.R. Martin and Stephen King

    Before he helped to redefine the novel and speculative fiction and inspired the highest rated and most awarded program in modern television history, George Raymond Richard Martin was born on September 20th, 1948, in Bayonne, New Jersey; the son of Raymond Collins Martin, a dockworker, and his wife, Margaret. George would grow up with two younger sisters, Darleen and Janet, to whom he was quite close, given a lifelong propensity for feeling like something of a social outsider. Martin’s mother was of half-Irish ancestry, and between she and his father, Martin could also claim French, English, German, and Welsh heritage. The Martins moved around frequently throughout George’s childhood, though they always remained “trapped” (in George’s words) in Bayonne, where his father worked. At first they lived in a house belonging to George’s great-grandmother. Then, in 1953, they moved into a federal housing project near the Bayonne Docks. Throughout his childhood, George’s life primarily consisted of “first street to fifth street” - the tiny neighborhood between his home and his primary school. This limited experience made him want to travel and see other sights, feel other sensations, but because of his family’s meager financial means, the way way he could do this was through the development of an active, wondrous imagination. George honed his creativity by becoming a voracious reader. When he wasn’t reading comic books, sci fi novels, and the “pulp” works of Robert Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, Martin started trying his hand at writing stories of his own. He began to sell these short stories, mostly gruesome horror tales, to his neighbors and friends, complete with a dramatic reading for a penny or two. It was his first experience as a “paid” author, but certainly not his last. Martin also famously wrote stories about a fantastical kingdom, populated by the pet turtles he kept in a terrarium in his room. The turtles died frequently in their toy castle, so George’s imagination decided that they were murdering and betraying each other in complex, machiavellian political plots to rule their small kingdom. Martin would later credit these stories with perhaps being the first inspiration for his most famous work, which would come about decades into his already by then prolific career…

    Though Martin would credit Lovecraft, Shakespeare, and of course, J.R.R. Tolkien with inspiring his own fiction, Martin would later posit that perhaps the most profound literary influence on him as a child was Stan Lee, chief editor and writer for Marvel Comics throughout the 1960’s. During this, the Second Heroic Age of Comic Books, George was a massive fan, becoming a member of the fledgling comics fandom, and winning an award for the best comics “fan fiction” with his 1965 short story, “Powerman v The Green Goblin”. Martin was also the very first person to register for an early comic book convention, held in New York City, in 1964. This lifelong interest in writing and storytelling brought Martin to decide to study literature and creative writing as an undergraduate. Though he briefly considered attending Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Illinois, a generous financial aid package and the promises of a strong creative writing program brought him instead to Ithaca College in Upstate New York. There, the young Martin was to meet one of the great literary figures in the history of television, the man who would become his first great mentor and serial professor during his time at Ithaca. That man was Rod Serling, screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator, World War II hero, and most famously, the creator and chief writer for The Twilight Zone, one of the most enduringly popular and celebrated programs in television history.

    Near the end of The Twilight Zone’s fifth and final season, Serling had grown weary from years of non-stop writing, producing, and teaching week long seminars, and decided that he needed a change in lifestyle. He first took a one year job teaching English at Antioch College, in Ohio, and decided he enjoyed the Academic profession, but would prefer to live closer to his childhood home of Binghamton, New York. He would teach classes during the days and evenings during the week, then spend his weekends writing a screenplay which would eventually become Seven Days in May, a political thriller about the President of the United States being removed from power in a military coup for pursuing an arms reduction treaty with the Soviet Union. The film was a modest success commercially but was critically acclaimed and won high praise from President John F. Kennedy himself, who had Serling to the White House for a private screening of the film, followed by a dinner with Serling and his wife. Kennedy said that he enjoyed the film so much because not only of its moving rhetoric and themes, but also because of what he saw as its “realism”, explaining to Serling in private that JFK had, in fact, feared a military coup during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Serling and the President remained on again, off again pen pals for years afterward. Serling developed and maintained a prolific career by exploring themes other writers shied away from because they were “too political” or “too socially aware”. In an era when talking about societal issues came with a certain stigma in the entertainment business, Serling tackled the problems head on, even if he sometimes had to make allegories for them through sci-fi and other speculative fiction. His anti-war activism and firm believe in racial and gender equality lined up perfectly with the young Martin’s views, and when Martin first took a creative writing class with Serling as a freshman, both became convinced that they had made contact with one of the great artistic minds of each of their respective generations. Martin adored Serling’s socially conscious writing, particularly on war, as Martin would go on to be a conscientious objector, refusing to fight in the War in Cambodia on philosophical grounds. (Martin would instead perform two years of alternate service work as a VISTA volunteer from 1972 - 1974.) Serling, for his part, cherished Martin’s capacity for capturing what William Faulkner called “the human heart in conflict with itself” and encouraged him to write more cerebral, character driven pieces in addition to his already gripping, action filled plots.

    After finishing Serling’s class with an easy and happily earned A, Martin would cultivate a treasured friendship with his professor, taking just about every class Serling offered at Ithaca College, and making an effort to meet with him during office hours so that they could share writing that they had been working on with each other, and offer feedback, critiques, and advice. Some of Martin’s suggestions would eventually make it into Serling’s The Man, a 1972 film about racial equality, in which an African American Senator, played by James Earl Jones, ascends to the Presidency of the United States via succession, which was an especially pertinent topic the year it was released, due to the assassination of President Romney in the real world. The film would be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, though it would ultimately lose out to The Godfather. In return, Serling gave Martin pointers on “The Hero”, a short story of Martin’s which became his first commercially published work when it was bought by Galaxy magazine and published in its February 1971 issue. Martin would also credit Serling for helping him brainstorm the idea which would ultimately become “With Morning Comes Mistfall”, Martin’s first story to be nominated for Science Fiction’s coveted Hugo Award in 1973. Martin graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Ithaca in 1970, and would go on to complete his Masters in that field the following year. Because his VISTA volunteer work brought him away from Ithaca, Martin was forced to say goodbye to his aging friend, Rod. The two remained close however, and Martin would continue to correspond with Serling by letter until the latter’s passing from a smoking-related heart attack in May of 1975. By this time, Martin had gotten a job teaching as a creative writing professor himself at the State University of New York at Geneseo to help supplement his modest, but steady income as an author, and made the journey to Sage Chapel at Cornell University for Serling’s funeral without a second thought on the matter. While saying goodbye to his friend and mentor, Martin had another encounter with a second television icon who would also help pave his way into a future in lucrative speculative fiction.

    Gene Roddenberry, the screenwriter and television producer most famous for being the creator of Star Trek, was a longtime fan, acquaintance, and admirer of Rod Serling, and though it was a considerable effort to venture out to western New York from his home in Los Angeles, Roddenberry knew it was a trip he felt that he had to make. The trip would wind up proving quite professionally fruitful, as well as personally fulfilling. By mid 1975, Roddenberry was knee deep in production headaches over the forthcoming, much-anticipated program Star Trek: Phase II. As if disagreements with the network heads over everything from casting, to plot points of the planned pilot episode, to the specific amounts laid out in the budget weren’t enough, Roddenberry was also suffering tremendously from a lack of writing staff for his new show. The Star Trek creator did have dozens of applicants for positions on the team, but many of their writing samples he dismissed as “cliche”, “overwrought”, and “tacky”. What he really wanted for his franchise’s second coming was to push the envelope even further than the original had. He wanted a staff that understood and wrote to real social issues and understood character conflict in a meaningful way, needless to say, he was much impressed with the fiction of a young George R.R. Martin, especially Martin’s first novel, Dying of the Light, which was released in the Spring of 1975. Though only modestly successful, the novel nonetheless earned Martin a tidy sum of royalties and brought him to the attention of Gene Roddenberry, who remembered his name from some of his own earlier letters with Rod Serling. After Serling’s funeral, Roddenberry asked the young English Professor and writer if he could take him to a nearby cafe for coffee or anything. Martin agreed, and as they sipped from their cups, Roddenberry complimented Martin on what he believed to be his “complex storylines, fascinating characters, great dialogue, and perfect pacing” as demonstrated in his fiction. Martin was deeply grateful for the praise, especially coming from the creator of one of his favorite television shows. He was even more blown away by what Roddenberry had to say next.

    “George, I want you to come work with me on Star Trek: Phase II in Los Angeles.” The older man’s voice was like that of a much younger artist, filled with passion, vigor, and excitement. “I think you’d be perfect to help develop my vision for the program.”

    “My goodness, Gene. I’m at a loss for words.” He paused, flabbergasted, and tried to think, but found that he could not. “I don’t know what to say!”

    Roddenberry beamed. “Then say yes, damn it! I need writers like you.”

    Martin asked for a day to consider it, and talk it over with Tish Rabe, his fiance and fellow Ithaca alum, who herself was trying to make it in the publishing business as a children’s author. Though he enjoyed teaching, Martin could tell that his true passion came in writing short stories and novels, and he believed that moving to LA and getting his foot in the door in television could be one way for his future work to have an easier time being published. If he could also make a name as a screenwriter, as his mentor Rod Serling did, than all the better for it as well. Tish agreed, and her approval settled it for him. George called Roddenberry at his hotel the next day and gave him his answer. “Gene, I’m in.”


    The aptly named “King of Horror”, Stephen King also had a slow, difficult start to what would ultimately become a prolific career in fiction writing. King sold his first professional short story, “The Glass Floor” to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967, but his earnings from it were next to nothing. After graduating from the University of Maine, King earned a certificate to teach High School English, but initially encountered difficulty in finding a placement. He was so broke in the first few years after college that he didn’t have enough cash to pay off a $250 petty larceny fine after being arrested for driving over a traffic cone. Thankfully, he received a last minute paycheck for his story, “The Float” and was able to pay the fine, avoiding jail time. Finally, in 1971, King found a job as an English teacher at Hampden Academy in Hampden, Maine. During his time there, he would continue to write and publish short stories, work on ideas for novels, and volunteer for Maine Senator Edmund Muskie’s campaign for the Democratic Nomination for President in 1972. The following year, Carrie became King’s first novel to be published, though it was the fourth one that he had written.

    Composed on a portable typewriter belonging to his wife, Tabitha, Carrie began its life as a short story King was writing for Cavalier magazine, but after a discouraging spell of writer’s block, King attempted to discard his idea by tossing its first three pages in a garbage can. His wife refused to let him do so, however, and encouraged him to finish the idea, promising to help him write from the feminine perspective. King reluctantly agreed and wound up finishing the story by expanding it into an epistolary novel. He and Tabitha were in such dire financial straits that when Carrie was picked up by Doubleday Books to be published, the phone line in their trailer had been disconnected, and it would be weeks before King would even know his novel had been accepted. He eventually found out via a printed telegram sent to his home by his agent. The agency gave King a forward advance of $2,500, which he used to buy a new Ford Pinto and restore he and Tabitha’s phone to working order. On May 17th, 1973, New American Library bought the paperback rights for $400,000, which King split evenly with Doubleday Publishing in accordance with their contract. Still, $200,000 was nothing to sneeze at. He and Tabitha’s life would finally be more secure. Carrie would launch Stephen King’s career and become a significant novel in the horror genre in its own right. King would follow up Carrie with 1975’s Second Coming, a novel which wonders what it might look like if Count Dracula settled in a sleepy town in rural Maine; 1977’s The Shining (which was inspired by he and his family’s new home in Boulder, Colorado); 1978’s The Stand; and the beginning of a new series of novels which would serve as a sort of fusion between Tolkien’s Middle Earth and the American Wild West as depicted in the films of Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone. The Dark Tower series, as it came to be known, would become a fan favorite among King devotee’s, and its hero, Roland Deschain, would eventually receive a fitting small screen treatment in one of the most acclaimed HBO series of all time, The Gunslinger in 2009 (in which he is played by Irish Actor Iain Glen).

    Over the course of its decades-long publishing history, The Dark Tower would become, arguably, King’s masterpiece, a poignant, imaginative epic which the New York Times would call “an imposing example of true storytelling at its finest.” Unfortunately, success also came at something of a cost for King. As the 1970’s wore on, he developed what would ultimately become a horrific drinking problem, which would only get worse following his mother’s passing of uterine cancer in 1974. King would later recall that his problem got so bad that he delivered his mother’s eulogy totally drunk. Though he would eventually overcome his demons and get sober for good, alcohol and drug addiction dominated King’s life throughout the rest of the 1970’s.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: SDUSA for Udall, the First Family
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    Scientology Footnote
  • In the sections where he’s old John could certainly play himself, although they’ll need to find a different actor for him when he’s younger and knowing John that search might be difficult :p

    Honestly, he’s a natural fit for the Hollywood scene ITTL. It’ll be interesting to see if his career as an actor ever takes off in its own right, but even if it doesn’t he’ll be mingling with that social group.

    Speaking of Hollywood...are there any butterflies concerning Scientology ITTL?
    You raise an interesting question, @cmakk1012! :D Allow me to give an all too brief answer...

    As per OTL, the FDA began an investigation into the Church of Scientology concerning claims the Church made in regard to their "E-Meters". Per Wikipedia: "On January 4th, 1963, FDA agents raided offices of the Church of Scientology, seizing hundreds of E-meters as illegal medical devices and tons of literature that they accused of making false medical claims. The original suit by the FDA to condemn the literature and E-meters did not succeed, but the Court ordered the Church to label every meter with a disclaimer that it is purely religious artifact,to post a $20,000 bond of compliance, and to pay the FDA's legal expenses."

    Also like IOTL, L. Ron Hubbard's defeats in Court led to an increasingly precipitous descent into isolation, despair, and mental illness. ITTL, he would be arrested in 1974 in his apartment in Queens, New York, having been indicted for ties to instances of obstructing justice, burglary of government offices, and theft of documents and government property. Hubbard would fight these charges with every available legal avenue, but would ultimately be defeated in court, resulting in several hefty fines and spending the remainder of his life in prison. Though David Miscavige would rise to take up Hubbard's mantle as leader of the Church, its influence was dramatically reduced as a result of its very public defeats in the legal system. By the turn of the 21st Century, Scientology had largely imploded under its own weight, leaving it with less than 10,000 members around the globe.

    Chapter 97
  • Chapter 97: Someone Saved My Life Tonight - SDUSA for Udall, The President, and Hillary Bush

    Congressman Ron Dellums of the California 8th (D) sat in his home office, impatiently tapping his foot as he waited for the phone call he knew should be coming at any minute now. He was temporarily home in Oakland to celebrate his son, Erik’s eleventh birthday with friends and family, and really wanted to get back to that, instead of quietly isolating himself from Roscoe and the kids. On his desk, a picture of them beamed up at him, full of love and admiration and support, next to another picture, of he and his beloved uncle and political role model, labor organizer C.L. Dellums. The Congressman smiled faintly, then drummed his fingers on the mahogany table top, a lavish gift he’d received from Dr. King to celebrate his most recent reelection. Over the last several years, Dellums, King, Freedom House election monitor and Democratic congressional candidate for the Pennsylvania 6th Congressional District, Bayard Rustin, and several other acclaimed Civil Rights leaders with left-wing beliefs banded together to form Social Democrats, USA, a political activist group which sought to build labor unions and civil rights groups into a coalition which would transform the Democratic Party into a party for social democracy in the United States. The organization especially championed Rustin’s emphasis on economic equality as the most important issue facing African-Americans after the successful passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968. Rustin, who sat in Dellums’ office with him in Oakland and idly stirred at his mug of Earl Grey tea, had managed to rally together Norman Hill, Tom Kahn, (both of the AFL-CIO), acclaimed labor leader Walter Reuther, and Sandra Feldman and Rachelle Horowitz of the American Federation of Teachers into his new organization, of which Rustin served as National Chairman. They were not planning on stopping anytime soon. The 1976 Election presented a strong opportunity for the Social Democrats to make an impact on the Democratic Party, and they planned on accomplishing as much as they could, hoping to even influence the party’s platform or, better yet, help choose the eventual nominee. Rustin was also quick to encourage the black community, traditionally a strongly Democratic demographic since the days of the New Deal, to reject identity politics, which he believed was a distraction from the larger goals of economic and sociopolitical equality. Dellums considered Rustin to be one of his closest allies and friends, and hoped that he was right about reaching out to Congressman Morris K. Udall (D - AZ), on whose call they now waited.

    For months, SDUSA had debated amongst themselves between endorsing the tall, Lincoln-esque Arizona environmentalist or the "new left" New York Congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm. While Chisholm’s candidacy was seen across the country as a major step forward for women and the black community, Udall, a tried and true progressive, endorsed a suite of economic policies which seemed to benefit the working class more concretely than Chisholm’s platform did. With his calls to reign in and break up big business (especially banks), raise the minimum wage, provide for universal health care and full employment, Mo Udall’s candidacy was easily the most progressive in the field, and just the sort of thing the SDUSA needed to bring their beliefs to a larger audience. With both Senators Kennedy tentatively floating similar policy proposals in their own reelection bids in New York and Massachusetts, Congressman Udall’s campaign would also be a strong opportunity to literally bring the movement “coast to coast”. Dellums had misgivings about Udall’s ability to win. Gallup had him polling in third or fourth place nationwide, and though his brother, Stewart, had served as Secretary of Agriculture under President Kennedy, Udall suffered from poor name recognition nationwide, especially when compared to some of his opponents. Nonetheless, Dellums waited with Rustin and stirred only when the telephone finally rang. It wasn’t an aide or even campaign manager Tim Kraft. It was the Congressman himself. Rustin answered and did most of the talking. He nodded every few seconds, and lit a cigarette and pressed the phone into his shoulder for a moment to share something with Dellums.

    “He wants to accept our endorsement, and do a joint press appearance with us in Washington.” He said, matter-of-factly. He raised an eyebrow, a silent “that alright with you?”

    Dellums nodded his assent. A date was set, and a time. Rustin laughed heartily from his belly at something the Congressman had said, thanked him for the call, then told him that someone from SDUSA would call his campaign and arrange the details in the morning. Over the phone, and from several feet away, Dellums could hear something rolling back into the sensible present from the mythic past of dreams: he heard Udall’s infectious, good natured laugh, hard and hearty and light as a newly breaking sun. Despite all of the cynicism Washington had boiled into him during his five years in the House as head of the fledgling Congressional Black Caucus, Dellums could recall all the times Udall had stood as “the liberal conscience of the House” and fought tooth and nail for the environment, workers, civil rights, and other progressive causes. Mo Udall was not just a man for words. He could be counted on for action as well. Dellums stood and gestured toward his office door. “You mind if I go back to the party for a while? Erik wants to open his presents.”

    Rustin grinned, an unspoken “of course not, go have fun.”

    Dellums knew that Rustin would win his first election to the House come next November, and he couldn’t help but feel that if Rustin weren’t gay, he would likely be the first black President of the United States. He had a natural leadership about him, an irrepressible energy and zeal about his activism which was magnified by an easy charisma into one of the great personalities of the African-American community. He and Dellums did not agree on every topic or policy. Rustin’s staunchly anti-communist foreign policy and support for “containment” ran counter to Dellums’ pacifist tendencies, for instance, but both men preached the gospel of non-violence in protest, and could agree that a strong, egalitarian America was a possible positive force for good in the world. Dellums could think of few living men he admired as much as he did the party’s National Chairman. Rustin and the SDUSA officially endorsed Udall’s campaign on July 18th, 1975, and Dellums appeared to speak with his fellow Congressman as promised at a much popularized campaign stop in Washington, just before Udall would be off to Iowa, to preach his egalitarian, New Frontier message to the rural, agricultural, and often poor communities of the Hawkeye State. Widely regarded as the first major stump speech of his campaign for President, Congressman Udall’s folksy good-nature, sharp wit, and ability to reason and really connect with people made his speech pay dividends for the Arizonan’s campaign.

    Above: National Flag for Social Democracy USA​

    That afternoon, a simultaneous rally for Udall and the SDUSA was held in Boston, where Senator Ted Kennedy (D - MA) and dark-horse Democratic Nominee in the upcoming Mayoral Election of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders, spoke vigorously in favor of bringing “social democracy and its messages to the forefront of our embattled political system.” Their rallies attracted mass media attention, fostered thousands of new followers, and gave Udall’s campaign some much needed consciousness with the public. This momentum would only be built upon when Congressman Udall faced off with and trounced Senator Eugene McCarthy (D - MN) in an impromptu debate in front of reporters and college students when both candidates happened to be speaking at UC Berkeley on the same day. By the end of the year, Udall was stealing away supporters from McCarthy, Muskie, and other liberal candidates, and was gaining steam in Iowa. Thanks in large part to his candidacy, social democracy was on the rise in the Democratic Primaries.

    This was no mere coincidence. Congressman Udall was more than simply honest, or witty, he had a tremendous heart, and strongly believed in reform and a more hopeful, positive political sphere for moving the country forward. “I am not running for President in order to throw around mud,” he joked at one campaign stop. “I’m running so I can help clean it up.” When asked by reporters if he would embrace the label of “most liberal Democrat in the race”, Udall responded, “I believe that ‘liberal’ is becoming a sort of modern buzz word. I don’t mind answering to it, but by my standards I think it’s more accurate to call me a ‘progressive’ in the tradition of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy.” The Congressman, like Abraham Lincoln a century before him, seemed to have an anecdote or humorous story for every occasion, and took great joy in laughing heartily with his supporters as he told them. He shared what he called “a politician’s prayer” at a campaign stop in Manchester, New Hampshire: “O Lord, give us the wisdom to speak gracious and tender words... for tomorrow we may have to eat them.” He poked fun at himself and his fellow Democratic competitors at a lunch counter in Des Moines: “With such a bumper crop of presidential candidates surfacing, I have concluded that a plague of presidentialitis is sweeping the nation. I must remind myself and all the other worthy contenders that once this dreaded disease - whose symptoms include delusions of grandeur and an urge to make repeated visits to Iowa - gets into a man’s bloodstream, it can only be cured by embalming fluid.” His audiences ate it up. They loved his authenticity, his honesty, and his goodness. Best of all to many on the left, Udall was one of the proudest and most unabashed environmentalists in the nation. A perennial champion against massive oil, mining, and logging companies, Udall was the leading proponent behind the Alaska Lands Act, a proposed bill which if made into law would preserve over 100 million acres of pristine Alaskan wilderness as a new suite of National Parks and Federal preserves. He encountered bitter resistance in Congress, especially from the Alaskan delegation, who wanted to open up their state for “economic development”, but Udall heroically continued to fight for protection of the lands, which he called “the Crown Jewels” of the North American continent. His bill was currently languishing, but he vowed to make environmentalism a top priority if elected President, including - “continuing President Kennedy’s pursuit of a future of alternative means of energy, which are renewable and more friendly to the environment.” Udall’s fights in the House, which had cost him a future leadership position or even Speakership due to their outspoken nature, made him all the more heroic to liberals and progressives across the country. Here was someone who put their money where their mouth was, a humorist hero in the mold of the great Will Rogers. Here was a man they could rally behind for President.


    The last handful of years had been perhaps the most productive and eventful in the life of young Hillary Rodham Bush. After marrying her war hero sweetheart in 1971, she became part of the First Family less than a year later with her father-in-law’s succession to the Presidency after the assassination of President Romney. The constant media attention and pseudo-celebrity status this afforded was a marked change of pace from her previously quiet life in the Middle Class suburbs outside of Chicago, but Hillary was nothing if not adaptable. She would make it work for her. As a “Youth Ambassador” to young Republicans across the nation, she wrote widely syndicated editorials which appeared in major magazines and newspapers, especially The Boston Globe and Washington Post. In her articles, Hillary called for an end to the ceaseless lurch to the right the Buckley-ites were demanding, and countered that the future of the Republican Party lay in the opposite direction, toward what she called neo-liberalism. Socially liberal, but fiscally conservative, this new ideology seemed the logical next step in the Dewey-Eisenhower-Rockefeller tradition of moderate centrism in the GOP. It was later said by First Lady Barbara Bush to leave a “lasting impression” on Hillary’s father-in-law when she brought it up to him at a family outing in Kennebunkport, Maine over the summer of 1975 and may have played a role in influencing his policy plans going into the 1976 Election. Hillary made sure to advance herself personally as well. She graduated from Yale Law School with a Juris Doctor degree in 1972. Shortly thereafter, Hillary gave birth to twins, Prescott Albert and Robin Chelsea Bush; they were the President’s first grandchildren. Absolutely thrilled to be starting a family of her own, but not wanting to be solely defined by her positions as wife and mother, Hillary informed her husband that she would not be a stay at home mother. As soon as she was able to stand again after her successful pregnancy, she was back on her feet and immediately looking for work. “Dubya”, as deeply devoted to her as ever, made no protests, and insisted they hire a nanny to look after their children while he took up a position as an Executive at Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Maryland. Hillary meanwhile got a job on the staff of Illinois’s senior U.S. Senator, Charles H. Percy arguably the leading neo-liberal/Rockefeller Republican in the nation. Senator Percy was also considered one of the GOP’s leading minds on business and foreign relations, and had been flouted as a possible Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate in every cycle since 1968, making his office the first one Hillary applied to when looking for a political staffing position. The Senator interviewed her personally, and hired her on the spot, though he refused to let the move be seen as a political one. He wasn’t doing President Bush a favor by giving his daughter-in-law a job; the Senator was simply hiring a very qualified, effective young woman to help him develop his legislative portfolio and work on a more long-term project: reelection in 1978, then becoming the GOP’s Presidential nominee in 1980.

    Hillary was able to develop experience as a legislative warrior almost immediately after starting at her new job. Senator Percy had agreed to write and sponsor a bill which would expand benefits under the Assistance for Families Program (AFP) from their original 1968 levels to help working families who were struggling under the “Great Recession”. The House version was being championed by Wilbur Mills (D - AR), the titanic former chairman and ranking Democrat of the House Ways and Means Committee and a candidate for President struggling to get his name out among his more well known competitors. The bill had wide support amongst Mills’ own party, but Speaker Ford (R - MI) and Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott (R - PA) had both sworn off the expansions as “unnecessary spending increases which we can ill afford.” Mills was tempted to have a reliable liberal Democrat like one of the Kennedy brothers or the ailing Hubert Humphrey (D - MN) write the Senate version of the bill, but knew that it would require bipartisan backing in order to make it to the Resolute Desk. President Bush had avoided ruling out signing such an expansion, especially as his approval ratings continued to dip below 40% and Treasury Secretary Friedman’s harsh deflationary measures grew more and more unpopular by the day. Bush gave the impression that all he needed to sign them was an excuse, and Senator Percy hoped to rally liberal Republicans and Democrats alike to give the President the cover he needed. What’s more, such an achievement would demonstrate Percy’s credentials as someone who could work with Congress and get shit done for working families. Who better to help manage the project than the President’s own daughter-in-law? Hillary took to the task with zeal.

    The young staffer joined with several other members of Percy’s office and went to town trying to cajole moderate Republicans to change their tune on expanding AFP. House Speaker Ford had both endorsed and voted for the AFP when it was first passed under JFK seven years before, and the young Bush believed that he could be convinced to vote for it again. Hillary and her team also courted Silvio Conte, liberal Republican Senator from Massachusetts who had built a reputation as a bulwark against pork barrel spending, even going so far as to wear a Pig mask to work while a member of the House during the Kennedy years, but whose Catholic faith strongly informed his desire to help those in need. Conte signed on and even agreed to be a co-sponsor of the bill, as he also believed it could be an incentive for young couples to be well off enough to have children and start families of their own. Slowly but surely, the argument on the hill swung in the bill’s favor. Though the increase in government assistance incensed Bill Buckley, Vice President Reagan, and the aging Senator Goldwater and his son in the House, the AFP expansion narrowly passed both Chambers of Congress and was signed by President Bush into law on September 27th, 1975. Considered a major achievement for Senator Percy and the President alike, the bill also helped ease the suffering of millions of working families across the United States. In the depths of the worst economic downturn in more than thirty years, there was finally a bit of light shining through. As he formally announced his candidacy for a second full term as President at the end of the month, George Bush used the bill’s passage as evidence that his administration was demonstrably better for the American people’s economic well-being than anyone else had the potential to be. “I inherited tougher times than anyone could have anticipated.” The President said with a confident grin. “But thanks to our leadership, there is hope that things can and will get better. These are tough times, but Americans are always tougher. It’s time for those of us in government to take charge, and get to work.” Thus, a slogan for the ‘76 campaign was born.


    Several months before the President met with the leaders of Israel and Egypt to hammer out what would become the Walker’s Point Accords, his support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War had nearly cost him his life. During a campaign stop in Los Angeles, California on October 11th, 1975, the President was walking toward his limousine after an event at the Hollywood Bowl, co-headlined by California's Junior U.S. Senator Shirley Temple Black (R - CA), when a young Palestinian-American horse racing jockey named Sirhan Sirhan approached the Presidential motorcade, pulled a Smith & Wesson Model 27 revolver from his jacket, and opened fire at the President and his bodyguards. As horrified screams rang out from the crowd and the Secret Service split themselves between tackling Sirhan and securing the President’s person from the shots, all involved were relieved when they discovered that Bush had only been hit once, in his lower right leg, and was not severely injured. He even captured the hearts of the nation when he called on his Secret Service protection to “go easy on him [Sirhan]” as they carried the would-be assassin off to be arrested by the LAPD.

    It turned out that the President’s plea for mercy was perhaps, not entirely misplaced. Sirhan Sirhan’s life seemed, after the fact, to be an unending train of tragedy and misfortune. As a child growing up on the West Bank of the Jordan River, Sirhan was traumatized by the violence he witnessed in the Arab-Israeli conflict, particularly watching his older brother be run over by a military vehicle that was swerving to escape enemy machine gun fire. The boy and his family immigrated to the United States in 1956, when Sirhan was 12, but he never managed to assimilate or really find his place in his new home. Relatively short at 5’5” tall, and only weighing about 120 pounds, Sirhan managed to transition from work as a stable hand to a professional horse racing jockey. This, together with his membership in the occultist Rosicrucian order, gave Sirhan’s life a shred of meaning at last. Unfortunately, it was not meant to last. Sirhan refused to obtain American citizenship and when the Great Recession hit California in the mid 70’s, he was fired from the racetrack he loved so much. Like Arthur Bremer three years before him, Sirhan Sirhan was motivated to try and assassinate the President as a means of purging his lifetime’s worth of trauma and despair. Unlike Bremer, however, Sirhan added political ideology to his rationale, judging in his confession to the police that “If President Bush hadn’t solely supported the murderous Israeli regime throughout his time in office, then I would not have tried to kill him.” Sirhan would go on to be convicted of the attempted murder and be sentenced to fifteen years in prison, with the chance of parole. An attempt on their life would have been enough to shake up some people, but the President made it an opportunity to reflect on his time in office and life in general up to that point. Bush decided that he would not retire and allow Vice President Reagan to run in his stead in ‘76 as some in the party had recommended. He would not, could not walk away from “the game” until he had made some measurable difference in the world. The assassination attempt gave the President some breathing room in the polls, the impetus to seek peace in the Middle East, and the image of a resolute President Bush on the cover on Time walking to work in the West Wing on crutches became one of the defining images of the decade. Some social historians would even claim that it was the moment the “seesaw seventies” began to swing back in the positive direction once more, though this reading would need to discount several of the horrific events still to come before the decade was through. Sirhan’s shot at the President would, tragically, not be the last act of political violence the decade saw; nor would it be the last one made during the course of the 1976 Presidential Election.


    The final major domestic political happening of 1975, after the President surviving the attempt on his life, and Congressman Mo Udall rallying American Social Democrats to his cause, was the retirement of Associate Justice William O. Douglas from the Supreme Court, after nearly 37 years on the Bench. Douglas’ tenure was, and to date remains, the longest tenure of any Justice in the history of the Court. First appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the unusually young age of 40 back in 1939, Douglas would, over the course of his time on the Court, become the “most doctrinaire and committed civil libertarian ever to sit on the Supreme Court”, according to Time Magazine. An ardent liberal and staunch anti-segregationist, Douglas’ work had been critical to the Civil Rights movement’s progress, as well as myriad other liberal causes. Nicknamed “Wild Bill” by many in the capital because of the widely held perception that Douglas delivered “reckless” or “independent” decisions that turned the Court into some kind of cowboy, vigilante justice, Douglas made many enemies among the country’s more conservative politicians. Several attempts were made to impeach and remove him, most notably in 1970 when future House Speaker Gerald Ford, considered Douglas’ chief political nemesis, hoped to remove the Justice over his private lifestyle - namely, the hefty speaking and publishing fees he charged to supplement his income. Ford’s investigation into Douglas turned up no official wrongdoing, and the Congressional Investigation Committees, headed by prominent Democrats, threw the case out for lack of evidence. Though it pained Douglas to have to retire when he knew that President Bush was likely to appoint a much more conservative justice to take his place, time and age were rapidly catching up with Douglas, and every day he was increasingly forced to reckon with his own mortality. Early in 1975 while on vacation in Florida with his wife, Douglas suffered a massive, debilitating stroke, which nearly took his life. Loathe to walk away from what he considered the defining work of his life, the Justice was nonetheless eventually persuaded by Chief Justice Paul Freund to walk away and try to find some sort of peace with what time he had left. Douglas officially tendered his resignation to the Commander in Chief on November 12th, 1975, while the President’s leg was still recovering from the .357 bullet lodged in it by Sirhan Sirhan.

    While his body healed, the President tasked Deputy White House Chief of Staff Jim Baker, a fierce Bush loyalist and friend from his time in Texas, and Attorney General Ed Brooke, another champion of liberal Republicanism with creating and vetting a shortlist of candidates for Bush to nominate to Douglas’ place on the Court. Because the Senate would need to confirm the President’s nomination, Bush felt intense pressure from both Democrats, who held a slim majority and mostly wanted a liberal justice appointed to replace Douglas, and his fellow Republicans, who wanted a more conservative justice to “balance the court” after years of liberal domination. Knowing he would need to cajole both sides into supporting his eventual choice, the President decided to stick with something of a moderate, and shared this conviction with both Baker and Brooke as they started gathering candidates for their list. Almost immediately the two men faced conflict as the Vice President soon became privy to their search and threw himself into the mix as well. Reagan strongly recommended Robert Bork, U.S. Solicitor General since the beginning of President Romney’s administration, and a strict conservative who favored a strong executive branch and “rollback” of the Civil Rights decisions of the Warren and Freund Courts. Unsurprisingly, Bork was utterly unacceptable to both Brooke (the GOP's leading expert on Civil Rights, not to mention the first African American AG), and Baker, a noted moderate in an increasingly conservative party. The Attorney General and Deputy Chief of Staff instead favored John Paul Stevens, a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. A committed, unabashed Rockefeller Republican, Stevens generally favored much more liberal positions on abortion rights and federalism, which made his possible nomination anathema to Vice President Reagan and his allies. Reagan even privately vowed to go public with his disapproval of Stevens if the President went ahead with his nomination, promising to help Senator Jesse Helms (R - NC) filibuster his confirmation in the Senate. This would galvanize conservative opposition to him and likely lead to Stevens’ defeat, a disaster waiting to happen as Bush needed a victory to head into an election year looking strong and resilient. The President needed another option.

    A particularly viable one manifested itself in Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Carla Anderson Hills, who before her current position had served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney General for the Civil Division in the Justice Departments of both the Romney and Bush administrations. Well versed on a variety of judicial subjects and more moderate than either Stevens or Bork, Hills was also quite young at 41, so she would potentially have another long, successful judicial career ahead of her if she were to be confirmed. There was, of course, the added benefit of her being a woman. The President had, for years, been making the case that the GOP was still “the party of women”. Republicans had spearheaded ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, Bush claimed, and he rightfully believed that women would be a critical voting bloc for his party to win if they wanted to hold onto the House and White House in ‘76. Nominating the first female justice to the Supreme Court would go a long way toward putting some positive action behind his claims. Reagan and the Brooke/Baker alliance both preferred their own favorite candidates, and thus were mutually lukewarm on Hills when the President put the idea before them after he had met personally with Hills in early December to go over a HUD report. Brooke liked Hills’ experience in the Civil Division, and admitted that Hills had far exceeded expectations during her time as HUD Secretary. Her experience with being “grilled” by Senators during her confirmation process back in ‘73, and her remarkable ability to answer their charges and verbally win out over them showed that she would be able to vigorously defend herself against anything thrown her way during another round of possible confirmation hearings. Baker agreed with Brooke’s appraisal, and informed the President that if Hills could adequately answer any questions he may have for her about her judicial ideology, Baker and his boss, Chief of Staff Cheney, would back her nomination as well. The President scheduled a meeting with Hills the following week and was thrilled with the thoughtfulness, candor, and articulate nature of her responses to any and all questions he had. Hills’ name was carefully floated on the hill to Minority Leader Hugh Scott (R - PA), who agreed that she would be easier to get confirmed that either Stevens or Bork. The politics, the person, and situation were perfect and the President pulled the trigger. He announced from the Oval Office on December 17th, 1975, that he was nominating Carla Anderson Hills for the open seat on the Supreme Court, and that he hoped the Senate would confirm her forthwith after they reconvened from the Holiday break. The media ate the story up, and some speculated that conservatives would filibuster over disappointment about another moderate on the court. Bush wielded public sympathy from the assassination attempt to quiet those voices of discontent. Shortly after the Senate convened in January of the following year, Ms. Hills was confirmed (after a lengthy and tiring debate process) and became the first female Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, a landmark achievement for Second Wave Feminism, perhaps the greatest capstone to more than a decade of social change and progress for women. Justice Hills became a feminist icon virtually overnight.

    Carla Anderson Hills - First Female Justice on the Supreme Court

    (Moderate, Bush Appointee)

    The Freund Court - As of January, 1976

    Chief Justice Paul A. Freund - Kennedy Appointee, since 1968 (Liberal)

    Associate Justice Warren Burger - Romney Appointee, since 1972 (Conservative)

    Associate Justice Byron White - Kennedy Appointee, since 1962 (Moderate)

    Associate Justice Arthur Goldberg - Kennedy Appointee, since 1962 (Liberal)

    Associate Justice Carla Anderson Hills - Bush Appointee, since 1975 (Moderate)

    Associate Justice William Rehnquist - Romney Appointee, since 1972 (Conservative)

    Associate Justice Potter Stewart - Eisenhower Appointee, since 1958 (Moderate)

    Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall - Kennedy Appointee, since 1967 (Liberal)

    Associate Justice William Brennan - Eisenhower Appointee, since 1956 (Liberal)

    The makeup: 4 Liberals - 2 Conservatives - 3 Moderates

    Unfortunately for the President, however, Reagan’s silence on Hills’ appointment did not guarantee that the conservative powers that be among both parties in the Senate would likewise acquiesce as he had hoped. Though Justice Hills would eventually be confirmed, it was not as painless a process as Bush had banked on. Only days after word of Hills’ nomination hit the airwaves, Senator Helms was already lining up a platoon of flamethrowers to go after the nominee with everything they had. “How could you agree with the Court’s decision in Doe v. Bolton?” He would ask. “Don’t you believe that human life, in all its forms, is worth protecting?” Meanwhile, in the pages of American Values, in the House of Representatives, and even on the campaign trail for President, socially conservative Democrats like Governor Lloyd Bentsen (D - TX) and Congressman Bob Casey (D - PA) called on their fellow Democrats to “oppose this pro-abortion” justice. Christian Democrats and Social Conservatives believed that they had been underrepresented throughout the 60’s, and wanted the late 70’s to be their chance to be heard across the political spectrum.

    This backlash against the 27th Amendment and Doe v. Bolton culminated in one of the most controversial political power plays of the era. In October of 1975, only two months before President Bush would name Justice Hills to the Supreme Court, one of his oldest political adversaries returned to be a thorn in his side once again. While appearing on an episode of Firing Line with William F. Buckley, Congresswoman Phyllis Schlafly (R) of Illinois, the nation’s leading firebrand against all things women’s liberation and a self-proclaimed “anti-feminist” shocked the nation when she told Buckley that “I intend to contest President George Bush in the Republican Primaries. Like Vice President Reagan courageously did four years ago, I plan on standing up to an incumbent President who routinely ignores, defies, and mocks the beliefs of a substantial portion of his own party.” Though few in the Republican Party, let alone the country, expected Schlafly to go far, especially once she was soundly denounced by the party establishment and most significant members of the party (including Vice President Reagan himself), her campaign began to really gain steam in the lead up to Justice Hills’ nomination. Jesse Helms’ endorsement of Schlafly for the nomination, followed by his fierce opposition to Hills, produced enough of a media wave for Schlafly to get coverage, and a small, but dedicated contingent of Republicans to back her candidacy. While the President had been hoping to conduct a “Rose Garden strategy” through much of the early campaign and primaries, allowing the prestige of his office to carry him through, his unpopularity, combined with the still painful economic situation and Secretary Friedman’s austerity measures gave Schlafly enough ground to mount a campaign on. By the time of the Iowa caucus, the Congresswoman was polling at nearly 15% among Republicans nationally, and had won the endorsements of The National Review, Senator Strom Thurmond (R - SC), and Governor Evan Mecham (R - AZ). Summing up her campaign, and why she was running for President, Schlafly shared, “The United States is a giant island of freedom, achievement, wealth, and prosperity in a world hostile to our values. I believe that it ought to be defended properly. The last thing we need is for us to falter and fail because we got soft on those values from within.” President Bush felt like he was caught in a trap, or more aptly, a noose, pulling itself ever tighter around his political neck.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: Recent Events in the Middle East
    Chapter 98
  • Chapter 98: Why Can’t We Be Friends - The Middle East in 1975

    Above: Vice President Saddam Hussein of Iraq during a state visit to Paris to meet with recently elected President Mitterand of France in 1974.​

    Unlike many of the succession crises of Iraq’s all too frequently turbulent history, the coup of 1968 was, according to historians, “a relatively civil affair”. Beginning in the early morning hours of July 17th, 1968, military units and civilian supporters of the Ba’athist Party stormed the streets of Baghdad and seized several key government and military buildings, including the Ministry of Defence; the city’s power plant; radio stations; bridges; roads; and military bases. Telephone lines were cut at 3 AM and then-President Abdul Rahman Arif was even allowed out of the country into exile on the first available flight to London with his wife and son. His revolutionary successor, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr shortly thereafter went on the airwaves to inform the Iraqi people that a new government, with himself at the head would be formed immediately. The Baathists had taken control of Iraq without firing a single shot. So smooth was the coup that not a single life was lost. If only the future of the new Republic could claim to be as bloodless. This trend would not last, as al-Bakr sought to tighten his newly acquired grip on power and tasked his right hand man and protege, fellow revolutionary attack dog Saddam Hussein, with dispatching al-Bakr’s chief political rivals: Deputy Head of Iraqi Military Intelligence Abd ar-Razzaq an-Naif, and Head of the Republican Guard, Ibrahim Daud. Naif, whose military support had been essential in the coup’s success, demanded the post of Prime Minister in the new government upon its formation. Hussein countered with a simple offer: leave Iraq or face the murder of himself and his entire family. Naif complied, moving into exile with his family to Morocco, but Hussein did not live up to his end of the bargain. Naif would be assassinated, on Saddam’s orders, in 1973 while out with his wife. Sensing a similar fate could be awaiting he and his family, Daud preempted any offers from al-Bakr or Hussein, and fled to Saudi Arabia. Through careful political maneuvering, expertly executed espionage, and absolutely, savagely ruthless methods, the Baathists established an iron grip over Iraq.

    It did not take long for Saddam Hussein to make himself the center of this new government, either. President al-Bakr’s first order of business was to strengthen his own position within the party by taking advantage of the security and intelligence apparatuses developed by Saddam during the coup and its aftermath. Nasserist thought (which encouraged the formation of a pan-Arab state) was vigorously purged by al-Bakr’s government, though al-Bakr did extend an olive branch to the Iraqi Communist Party, eventually welcoming it into his ruling coalition in 1973. The President offered prominent communists positions in his government, and generally aligned Iraq with the Soviet Union in geo-political affairs, due to staunch American support for Israel under the Kennedy, Romney, and Bush administrations. This heavy reliance on Saddam only grew the younger man’s influence and by the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Saddam was Prime Minister, Vice President, and de facto leader of Iraq. The year prior, Hussein had used his authority to nationalize international oil interests in the country, which had previously made up a substantial part of nation’s economy. When the Yom Kippur War came and caused an international oil crisis, the revenues from Iraqi oil skyrocketed. Virtually overnight, Iraq became one of the wealthiest nations in the region and Saddam sensed a tremendous opportunity. By the end of the decade, Iraqi oil revenues would bankroll social services, welfare, and public programs unprecedented anywhere throughout the Middle East and developing world. Hussein established a national campaign to eradicate illiteracy, modeled on the work of President Salvador Allende in Chile. This would eventually involve the introduction of free, universal, compulsory education in the country, which extended up even to graduate and postgraduate levels of study. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis learned to read as a result of these programs, and many became the first in the history of their families to attend universities. The Baathist government also passed legislation providing for free universal hospitalization if ever required, subsidies to the country’s struggling farmers, and financial support to the families of active-duty soldiers and veterans, living and dead. The Iraqi system of public health set up and overseen by Hussein was perhaps the most modern and effective in the Middle East by 1978, and would win Hussein an award from UNESCO for his efforts, not to mention the immense affection and support of his people. Yet still, he was not satisfied.

    The Iraqi Vice President’s early life was shrouded in tragedy and woe. His father and brother passed of cancer shortly before his birth. This drove his mother to such intense grief that she attempted to abort her pregnancy and commit suicide, both of which failed. When Saddam was finally born, his mother wanted nothing to do with him, leaving the boy to be raised by his uncle far from home. Several years later, Saddam was reunited with his mother after she remarried, bringing to Saddam three half-brothers and a very abusive step-father. This harsh treatment and growing feelings of alienation caused a 10 year old Saddam to flee back to his uncle, Khairallah Talfah in Baghdad. Talfah, the father of Saddam’s future wife, Sajida, and a devout Sunni Muslim, was also a veteran of the Anglo-Iraqi War of 1941, and inspired in Saddam an intense distrust of the Western, “imperialist” powers. Following his uncle’s influence, Saddam would attend a nationalist high school, then drop out of law school at the age of 20 to join the Ba’athist Party, of which his uncle was a fervent supporter. During this period of his life, Saddam supported himself by serving as a secondary school teacher and dreamed of one day fulfilling his uncle’s dreams of a fiercely nationalist, powerful Iraq. Now that he had risen quickly through the ranks of the Baathists and made himself indispensable to the new government, Saddam Hussein finally had his chance. He was not about to throw it away.

    After the introduction of his health and education initiatives, Vice President Hussein turned next to the seemingly insurmountable task of reforming his country’s bloated, inefficient economy and non-existent infrastructure. He began by attempts at diversification, knowing that eventually the oil crisis would end and if Iraq wanted to remain wealthy in its aftermath, it would do well to not rely solely on one industry for its prosperity. He implemented a national infrastructure and construction campaign which made tremendous progress in building roads, promoting mining, and developing other industries, which in turn helped the development and growth of the country’s domestic energy market. Electricity was finally brought to nearly every city in the country, along with much of the countryside. Before the 70’s, most Iraqis lived far from the nation’s cities; two thirds of them were agrarian peasants. As the country’s industries boomed and high paying jobs and education became more widely available with the oil boom, many moved to the burgeoning cities and attained a new sense of wealth and status. Iraq’s average quality of life improved dramatically, earning Saddam further praise from his citizens. Of course, it didn’t hurt that his secret police put dozens of Arab newspapermen, journalists, and artists on their payroll, and encouraged them fiercely to paint the Vice President in the best possible light, as a true man of the people. Saddam’s Cult of Personality began to form long before his formal rise to power following President al-Bakr’s death in September, 1975 (likely due to poisoning by an assassin sent by Saddam, although this is disputed). Development and modernization of Iraq reached such a frenzied pace during this period that workers were attracted in from other Arab States and even Yugoslavia to help complete the public works projects. What the flattering accounts, both domestic and foreign left out, were the insidious consequences of Saddam’s paranoid personality, and his dark dealings in foreign affairs.

    In 1972, Yuri Andropov and Vice President Hussein (representing President al-Bakr) signed a 15 year “treaty of friendship and cooperation” with the Soviet Union, upsetting the Cold War balance of power in the Middle East, from the U.S. perspective. In response to this decision in alignment, U.S. President George Bush authorized covert American financial and material support to Kurdish rebels, led by Mustafa Barzini in the Second Iraqi-Kurdish War. When the Kurds were eventually defeated, Saddam came to few them as the chief threat to his hold on power, and a tool for “American imperialism and interference” in his country. The dictator forcibly removed and relocated hundreds of thousands of Kurdish civilians, and began a long, horrific process of their systematic massacre and genocide by Hussein’s regime in the decades to come. Saddam’s entire political philosophy was predicated on absolute control of the state by him and himself alone. Divisions between demographics which had previously divided Iraqis, Sunni vs Shiite, Arab vs Kurd, and so on, only served to weaken the Iraqi State, and so, such divisions must be eased or erased, in Saddam’s mind. Saddam sought to paint himself as a modern day Nebuchadnezzar II or Hammurabi, and encouraged a new form of Iraqi national identity which traced itself back to ancient Mesopotamia and the Empires of Assyria and Babylon. His people were not just Arabs or Muslims, they were the inheritors of a proud, millenia-old heritage, one which deserved to be spread throughout the region. He fostered loyalty to his party among Iraq’s rural areas with a varying “carrot and stick” method of farming cooperatives, expanded agricultural development and investment, and violent crackdowns on any form of resistance or protest against his rule. Over time, many Iraqis became content to live with his brutalistic regime, if it meant that they could retain their economic benefits Saddam was providing. His tactics began to work, and the Vice President turned his eyes to the west and to expanding his domain. As President al-Bakr’s health faded and his already minor influence waned, Saddam appointed his brother-in-law, Adnan Khairallah Tulfah as Minister of Defence and began to draw up plans for a truly magnificent celebration to mark his formal rise to power once al-Bakr eventually kicked the bucket, what Saddam called: “A Presidential parade from Baghdad, right into the heart of Damascus.”

    For all intents and purposes, the Ba’athist movement’s true origins lay not in Iraq, but in its neighbor, Syria, the home of its arguable founder, Michel Aflaq, as well as its other influential thinkers, Zaki al-Arsuzi, and Salah al-Din al-Bitar. Since November 1970, the country had been led by Hafez al-Assad, a devout Ba’athist and former Syrian Minister of Defence who had been developing himself as a strongman dictator over his country as well, and viewed Saddam’s rise to power in Iraq with suspicion, even jealousy. He viewed Saddam as a rival, and following Syria and Egypt’s defeat by Israel in the Yom Kippur War, Assad grew increasingly paranoid that Hussein was “laughing in Baghdad” and plotting against him. As it turned out, Assad had reason to be wary. Though Hussein was nominally purging Nasserist pan-Arabists in Iraq, this was largely out of their belief in Egyptian leadership of the Arab world, a belief which Saddam could never abide by. But a semi-united Arab world with Iraq at its center? Now this was an outcome which would fulfill Saddam’s fantasies about his country’s future and his personal dreams of Empire. In order to achieve this dream, however, Saddam needed to show that he was serious about tending not just to the needs of his own people, but to those of the Arab World as a whole. This process began in 1974, when a meeting of the Arab League was held in Baghdad and Saddam used the meeting as an opportunity to convince the League to formally reproach Egypt and Syria for their failures in the Yom Kippur War, as well as to call for Presidents Sadat and Assad to step down, “so that true pan-Arab leaders could rise to take their place”. Saddam’s speech shocked the world, which had viewed Egyptian and Syrian leadership of the pan-Arab movement as a fact of life, but also drew many to him as a possible “radical” alternative to the prior leaders, who had “failed to make any progress against the zionists and imperialists”, in the words of one fanatical supporter. Though President Sadat managed to quell any unrest against him in his own country, President Assad had a harder time combatting both the pro-Iraqi Ba’athists, who began to call for a referendum to merge the Syrian and Iraqi nations into a federated United Arab Republic, with Saddam at its head, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, who detested the Ba’athists altogether, and called for the formation of a theocratic “Islamic Republic” based on Sharia Law. Both forces began protest movements against Assad’s government, which shortly thereafter turned violent. Protesters outside the Presidential Palace in Damascus were finally fired upon by government troops on July 29th, 1975, sparking the start of the Syrian Civil War and Saddam Hussein’s first major act of foreign aggression.

    The infirm Iraqi President al-Bakr immediately sought to issue a statement of neutrality in the War, calling for an end to the bloodshed, but his Vice President moved quickly to put his own plans into motion. Disguising one of his own infantry divisions in Syrian uniforms and launching a false-flag attack on Iraqi troops near the Syrian border, Hussein and his brother in law at the Defence Ministry managed to convince the Iraqi people that their nation had been attacked by angry and vengeful Syrian troops who were furious that there was a popular movement to install Saddam as leader of both countries brewing and fermenting civil war back home. Appearing on radio shows across the nation, Saddam promised “retaliation to the utmost degree” and issued his own statement, demanding an apology from Assad for the behavior of “his” soldiers. Assad refused to claim responsibility for the attack, and so Hussein authorized for Iraqi fighters to be scrambled and for the air force to be ready to attack Syrian targets at any moment. President al-Bakr urged restraint and a “stop to this madness”, completely unaware that Saddam had already made himself determined on a path of war with Syria. Al-Bakr died suddenly on September 3rd, leading to Hussein’s formal ascension to the Presidency and in his inaugural address, the now-President of Iraq called upon his countrymen to rally behind him and their Syrian brethren. The time had come to repay Assad for what his men had done, and bring their peoples together in the name of one Arab World at last. The crowd in Baghdad roared in approval and only a week later, the first Iraqi tank regiments rolled across the border into Syria to support the pro-UAR rebels in the countryside. Saddam’s troops were greeted largely as liberators, at least according to pro-Hussein newspapers, though in reality, Syrian resistance was spirited and Hussein faced intense blowback from other parts of the Arab World which felt his response to Syria making peace with Israel during the Yom Kippur War (invasion) was a step too far. Nevertheless, armed with Soviet supplied T-62 tanks and AK-47 assault rifles, Iraqi troops made rendevouz with the anti-Assad rebels and quickly took control of Syria’s infrastructure and, by the end of the year, all of the country north of the Euphrates River. The Syrian Civil War, also called by some the Iraq-Syria War would drag on for several years, destabilizing the Middle East, and ultimately lead one strongman to claim dominion over a Ba’athist, anti-western, federated United Arab Republic upon its completion in late 1978.


    In the United States, the Iraq-Syria War had the immediate effect of escalating uncertainty about the world’s geopolitical situation, but it also gave President Bush an idea about how to swing the Arab-Israeli conflict in a more hopeful direction. He called CIA Director Bob Cushman, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, and Secretary of State George Shultz into his office on November 19th, 1975, and laid out plans for an ambitious summit to bring newly sworn-in Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat together for peace talks. These would take place at the Bush Family Compound, also called the “Summer White House” where the President and his children had spent countless summers away from the stifling, arid Texas heat. In the coastal town of Kennebunkport, Maine, “Walker’s Point” as it was known, jutted out into the Atlantic Ocean and seemed like the perfect, relaxed atmosphere the experienced, diplomatic President knew he would need if he was going to get any work done toward settling this hornet’s nest down. Though most of the world (perhaps understandably) saw Israel and Egypt as perennial, mortal enemies, Bush saw that there was opportunity for compromise developing on both sides of the conflict in the wake of Iraq’s rise as a serious power to the North (which threatened Egyptian hegemony and power in the region), and Israel’s near defeat in the Yom Kippur War, which saw the resignation of Prime Minister Golda Meir and a surge in popularity for Rabin’s chief political opponent, the right-wing nationalist Menachem Begin. Hoping to strike the iron while it was glowing hot, Bush dispatched Scowcroft to Cairo and Shultz to Tel Aviv with express instructions to “get Sadat and Rabin to the table at Walker’s Point.” The President also instructed his advisers to “give away nothing”. The Commander in Chief wanted all possible chips on the table if and when the middle eastern leaders agreed to attend the talks. It turned out that Bush’s instincts about the situation had been right. Both Rabin and Sadat were tired of conflict, and Sadat was feeling spurned by the USSR, who had promised more in the way of direct support than they had delivered on for decades. With Andropov’s loyalties in the region seemingly shifting to that mad, radical Saddam Hussein in Iraq, perhaps Sadat and his people were better served seeking friendship with the United States and the West. Israel and Egypt agreed to attend the talks, though both remained skeptical that the Americans could help them reach a meaningful agreement. The President insisted on keeping the talks as low-key as possible until an agreement could be reached, despite the possible political gains he could have made by advertising them to the American public. International pressure from press coverage was the last thing these already embattled leaders would need in the work they were about to begin.

    Early exploratory meetings on the subject, performed throughout the end of 1975 and first months of 1976 by Secretary of State Shultz and others produced a plan to reinvigorate the peace process at the Walker’s Point talks. This basic plan was founded on the Geneva Peace Conference which had ended the Yom Kippur War and established three primary objectives for the upcoming negotiations: Arab recognition of the state of Israel’s right to exist in peace; Israel’s withdrawal from territories gained during the Six Day War through negotiating efforts with neighboring Arab nations to secure Israeli sovereignty; and securing a safe, undivided Jerusalem. Though these meetings had begun nearly a year before Saddam invaded Syria, the new war expedited the process, as Egypt sought to reclaim its position as “leader of the Arab World” and Israel could not long abide having to worry about Egypt to its South simultaneously with the possibility of an invigorated UAR under Saddam to its North. President Bush himself had already made phone calls or met in person in Washington with President Sadat, King Hussein of Jordan, Prime Minister Rabin of Israel, and President Assad of Syria on the subject and all were in agreement that peace had to be reached in some form so that the international focus could shift to containing the threat posed by Saddam’s empire building. King Hussein and President Assad would ultimately decline to participate in any peace talks, but their willingness to “tolerate” the results of an Israeli-Egyptian agreement, marked an early achievement in the peace process. President Bush was encouraged, and thus invited both Rabin and Sadat to join him at Walker’s Point to spend the Summer “working toward peace and tranquility between them.”

    The summit convened in Kennebunkport on May 1st, 1976, just as the year’s Presidential Elections were really heating up. Many in Bush’s staff, including White House Chief of Staff Dick Cheney had advised the President the year before to wait to hold the summit until after the election, as it would consume a great deal of the Commander in Chief’s time and energy, which Cheney believed would be better spent campaigning for reelection. He’d counseled the President to wait until his second full term, then he would have all the time in the world to try and broker peace. If he lost the election, there was no telling that the results of the talks would be implemented by his successor anyway. But Bush stubbornly refused, insisting that if he did not act swiftly, then the situation in the Middle East could shift and he would lose his opportunity to craft a meaningful peace. He would spend the summer of 1976 brokering with Sadat and Rabin, then campaign twice as hard in the autumn to make up for lost time. Cheney respected the Commander in Chief’s decision, but was disillusioned with his boss’s new attitude toward politics. Cheney felt that Bush had been neglecting the worsening Great Recession at home, leaving economic policy to Treasury Secretary Friedman so that he could tilt windmills and chase a Nobel Peace Prize in the Middle East. With their approval numbers sinking by the day, and more and more Americans turning to the Democrats for answers to their woes, Cheney feared that the Bush Administration may have been a sinking ship. When he received an offer from the Republican Party of his home state of Wyoming to seek the Congressional seat for the state’s at-large district in the House, a safe ride toward a congressional career, Cheney gave them his assent, and spoke to President Bush just before the new year to tenure his resignation as White House Chief of Staff. Bush was sad to see a talented political mind like Cheney go, but if he couldn’t get on board with the White House’s diplomatic, foreign policy focused direction, then perhaps it was for the best. They parted ways amicably and the President would campaign vigorously for his former Chief of Staff come Autumn. Cheney was replaced by his Deputy, a longtime Bush loyalist from Texas, Jim Baker.

    As Rabin, Sadat, Bush and their aides converged on the Bush Compound, The American President expressed “high hopes” in his diary and to Babs. These would be tested and strained almost immediately. Bush’s advisers began the talks by insisting on the establishment of an Egyptian-Israeli agreement which would lead to an eventual solution to the issue of Palestine, preferably a two state solution. Led by newly minted Chief of Staff Jim Baker, they favored short, loose, and overt connections between Egypt and Israel, which would, eventually, be made stronger by bringing Jordan and the other Arab nations into a larger settlement.The President felt however, that they would not be "pushing hard enough" and was interested in the establishment of a written "land for peace" agreement with Israel returning the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. Sadat and the Egyptian delegation were also demanding the return of Gaza, but Rabin and the Israelis refused to let the territory onto the table. Bush believed that his deal could serve as a compromise and keep the talks going. Several times throughout the tumultuous two weeks in Maine, both the Egyptian and Israeli leaders wanted to scrap negotiations altogether, only to be lured back into the process by personal appeals from the good natured Bush, whose religiosity played a role in his commitment to bringing peace to the Middle East. Biographers also believe that Bush’s guilt over his affair with Jennifer Fitzgerald, and his feelings of gratitude for having survived the attempt on his life the year before both played a role in his fiery passion for peacemaking, as he sought redemption and validation through his work.

    Considered an excellent, patient, and wise mediator who arbitrated concessions with confidence, President Bush made an indefatigable commitment to find formulas, definitions, and solutions to the many complex variables at play, regardless of the perceived or real political limitations on the situation. Despite high tensions and personal animosity between Rabin and Sadat, Bush was capable of soothing fears and anxieties, always with the goal of keeping the negotiations going. As long as everyone was talking, they weren’t shooting at each other. Bush gradually understood the importance historical events had upon determining personal ideology, but he would not allow it to constrain his political options, and he did not want them to limit the options of those with whom he was negotiating, either. George Herbert Walker Bush was above all else, a pragmatic statesman. Rabin and Sadat had such mutual animosity toward one another that they only seldom had direct contact. As a result, Bush had to conduct his own miniscule form of what former NSA Kissinger called “shuttle diplomacy” by holding solitary meetings with either Sadat or Rabin in one part of the family compound, then returning to the wing of the third party to relay what had been discussed with the first. Rabin and Sadat were "literally not on speaking terms," and "claustrophobia was setting in”, according to several White House aides. A particularly vexing situation arose on the tenth stalemated day of the talks. The issues of the withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the Sinai and the sovereignty status of Gaza created what seemed to be an impasse. This left Bush with a difficult choice. He could attempt to salvage the agreement by conceding the issue of Gaza to Rabin, while supporting Sadat's less controversial position on the removal of all settlements from the Sinai Peninsula. Alternatively, he could have refused to continue the talks, leaked the reasons for their failure to the press, and put the lion’s share of the blame on Rabin. The latter of these however, was not in the President’s nature. Bush chose to press on and for three more days, the leaders negotiated. During this time, Bush believed that a change in scenery from the Maine resort might prove helpful, and so brought both Rabin and Sadat to the Gettysburg National Military Park, to speak to them and use the American Civil War as a simile for their own situation. “Here, we Americans fought brother against brother for our own definitions of freedom.” The President explained. “In the end, we were reconciled and made the stronger for it.” Rabin and Sadat, it turned out, were both moved by Bush’s gesture. This, combined with Bush’s decision to not allow the media into Walker’s Point contributed to the talks’ ultimate success. Because Sadat and Rabin did not have the opportunity to relay what was happening behind closed doors to their people directly during the summit, walking away from the talks by either of them would have laid the blame for their failure solely on the dissenting leader’s shoulders. They would rather walk away with a victory than total defeat. The leaders agreed to accept the negotiated concessions demanded by either side, and spent the following four days hashing out the details of an Israeli retreat from the Sinai and Egypt renouncing any territorial claims on Gaza. It was a true watershed moment in American foreign affairs of the 20th Century and beyond.

    The resulting “Walker’s Point Accords” marked a turning point in the Middle East Peace Process as Egypt became the first Arab nation to recognize Israel as a legitimate state, and realigned itself more closely with the western camp in the Cold War. The Arab League, increasingly led by the power hungry Saddam Hussein, would ban Egypt as a member beginning in 1977, though the Arab World was beginning to split over its unilateral opposition to Israel, and the PLO began floating rumors to Washington and Tel Aviv that it would also be willing to enter talks to end the Palestinian conflict. The Accords were also a desperately needed show of strength, grit, and determination by the Bush Administration, which proved to the American people that it was ready, willing, and able to face any challenge the world might throw at it, no matter how large or seemingly insurmountable. As Rabin and Sadat shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for their efforts, President Bush saw a massive upturn in support, just in time for him to ride the wave all the way to the August Republican National Convention in Kansas City, where he and Vice President Reagan were handily renominated for a second full term on the first ballot. The Accords also secured George H.W. Bush’s historical legacy as one of America’s finest diplomatic leaders, a status he would cherish, and tout all across America on the campaign trail, as he sought to counter claims that his domestic policies proved him to be an “out of touch, indecisive” leader.

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: More Events in the Middle East
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    Chapter 99
  • Chapter 99: Ballroom Blitz - More Events in the Middle East

    Above: Ankara, the capital city of the Republic of Turkey, in 1975.

    Throughout the history of civilization, Turkey’s geographical position as the gateway between Europe and Asia has made it a crucial center of culture, conflict, and trade. This would change little as the 20th Century progressed. In the context of the Great Twilight Struggle of the Cold War, Turkey became a valuable geopolitical player, becoming a member of NATO in 1952, and playing host to U.S. intermediate range nuclear missiles until they were disarmed and removed as part of President Kennedy’s deal to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962. As the result of frequent military coups and ubiquitous political instability in the early 1960’s, Turkey suffered a series of weak, fractured, and ineffectual governments, the first of which resulted from General Cemal Gursel’s coup in May of 1960. These coalitions were essentially a political ping pong match between their leading members for control: the Justice Party of Suleyman Demirel on the right; and the Republican People’s Party of Ismet Inonu and Bulent Ecevit on the left. During President Kennedy’s second term, as his attention turned increasingly abroad and to the enforcement of the Kennedy Doctrine, JFK’s eyes were, for a time, fixed on Turkey, and resulted in several state visits to the country by Secretary of State McNamara and even one by the President himself. Despite renewed American interest in the country, and growing annual tourism revenues from the booming worldwide economy, the people of Turkey remained restless and eventually, turned violent. As the 60’s wore on, an economic recession rocked the country, resulting in demonstrations from college students, labor unions, and other left wing groups, which were then countered by right-wing nationalist and islamic fundamentalist movements as well. Terror groups at both ends of the ideological spectrum carried out bombing attacks, robberies, kidnappings, and even political assassinations. An ultranationalist, neo-fascist paramilitary organization, known as the “Grey Wolves” (which was officially the youth wing of ex-Colonel Alparslan Turkes’ Nationalist Movement Party) began to patrol the streets of major cities and lash out at any and all they saw as “enemies of the Turkish people”. The result? Horrific violence, especially against ethnic and religious minorities or those who held left-wing beliefs. In the political realm, Prime Minister Demirel and his centre-right coalition were narrowly reelected in 1969, but immediately faced issues of their own when the various members of the coalition broke off to form their own, independent parties once more, leaving his Justice Party with only the slimmest of majorities. This ground the legislative process to a halt and meant that Demirel’s government was powerless to take any meaningful action to stem the tide of violence.

    By January of 1971, the country appeared to be in a state of utter chaos. Universities across the country closed, as their students, hoping to emulate Latin American urban guerrillas, robbed banks, kidnapped US servicemen, and attacked American targets. Additionally, the homes of professors and academics who spoke out against the government were bombed by the Grey Wolves and other neo-fascist militias. Industry too was at a standstill, as more work days were lost to strikes during the month of January, 1971 alone than during any prior year. Islamist movements became more aggressive as well, growing so bold as to openly renounce Kemalism, the founding ideology of the Republic (as laid out by Ataturk) through its political party, the National Order Party. This finally proved a step too far for the military, who revered Ataturk and his philosophy. With Demirel’s government seemingly paralyzed, and unable to address the social, economic, and political crises facing the nation, the military once again decided that it was time to act. On March 12th, 1971, the Chief of the General Staff, Memduh Tagmac, handed the Prime Minister an ultimatum: “step down from power and dissolve your government, or be destroyed”. After a three hour meeting with his cabinet, Demirel made the decision to comply. While the exact intentions behind the “soft coup” remain debated by scholars, even today, there were three broad motivations behind the issuing of the ultimatum. First, senior officials in the military believed that the Prime Minister had lost his grip on power and was proving ineffective at dealing with mounting public disorder and political terrorism; they wished to return order to Turkey. Second, many officers were unwilling to bear responsibility for the Demirel government's already brutal methods, such as the crack down on Istanbul workers' demonstrations the year before. more radical members of the armed forces believed that force alone could not stop popular unrest and especially Marxist and Islamic revolutionary movements. They contended that the social and economic reform mentality behind the prior 1960 coup still needed to be put into practice. Too much state control of the economy, they argued, had resulted in the ‘68 - ‘71 recession. Finally, a sizeable faction of the senior officers concluded that progress within a liberal democratic system was untenable, and that right-wing totalitarianism would result in a more egalitarian, independent and "modern" Turkey. Colonel Turkes sensed an opportunity, and began marching his Grey Wolves through the streets, showing off their uniforms and “discipline” as a show of order to a public terrified by the recent turn of events throughout the country. There were other officers meanwhile, who feared the right-wingers, and thus supported the soft coup if only to try and build a government more resistant to their influence.

    The country’s liberals hoped that as had occurred in 1960, a group of radical, reformist officers would take power, and finally implement the changes promised in the 1961 constitution. The ultimatum thus initially encouraged them. Tragically, it was not to be. The military high command, remembering what had happened in the last intervention, decided to preempt such a possibility by firing all junior officers who held left-wing or center-left beliefs in days leading up to the coup. As soon as the senior command established control over the government, they immediately gave the order for their forces to suppress any group viewed as leftist, fearing the specter of potential communists. Leaders of left-wing parties, teachers’ unions, and academia had their homes raided and were placed under surveillance. Such action by the military spurred on the Grey Wolves and their allies, resulting in an orgy of attacks, theft, rape, and killings which rocked Istanbul, Ankara, and other major cities in the weeks after the coup. Hoping to establish order quickly without executing direct rule via the junta, the high command needed to get the Grey Wolves under control, and thus turned to Colonel Turkes, their leader, for aid. Turkes, eager to attain power and implement a program to pursue his pan-Turkic, far-right ideology, agreed to help the junta form a “legitimate, civilian government”, if they placed him at its head as Prime Minister, and agreed to forestall open elections until at least 1973. The junta, desperate for a return to normalcy as a wave of left-wing terrorism erupted in the wake of the police raids, acquiesced. As soon as the move was announced and Turkes took the reigns of power, utter bedlam broke out across the country. Though the NHP’s rise to power was overwhelmingly favored by the Islamist militias, who had long campaigned for a turn from Kemalist secularism, moderates within the military, liberal reformers, and of course, the left-wing extremists, decried the decision and refused to accept Turkes’ government as legitimate. The country seemed poised on the brink of civil war until Turkes agreed to make concessions and accept liberal former finance minister Ferit Melen as his Deputy, a decision applauded throughout the military apparatus. Though many hoped this marked a change of course for Turkes, the PM had little intention of forestalling his desired program of terror. Within the month, left-wing publications (but not Islamic, or nationalist ones) were banned, unions and labour strikes were declared illegal and martial law was declared throughout the country. Soon not just leftists, but people with liberal or progressive political leanings were being abducted, tortured, and even killed. It was one of the most horrific rises to power the world had seen since that of Adolf Hitler. Despite his brutalistic, ruthless methods, over time, Turkes did manage to bring a measure of peace to Turkey. Fear, repression, and force were the law of the land, and the Turkish people cowered as a new constitution, written at the end of the year, all but formally codified Turkes’ claims to absolute power. He even took a new title for himself to supplant Prime Minister - “Basbug” - meaning “Leader”, and though parliament would continue to convene and vote on legislation, any political parties who disagreed with his NMP were banned and made illegal. Hundreds of thousands of Turkish refugees fled their homeland, seeking asylum in Europe, North Africa, and even North America. Many would eventually settle in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, though many more would be turned away to face whatever cruel fate awaited them upon returning to Turkey. The world was shocked, appalled, and horrified by what it saw.

    Above: A new flag for the “State of Turkey”, as established in the 1971 Constitution (left).​

    Though the American President at the time, George Romney, had wanted strongly to follow the Kennedy Doctrine and both denounce Turkey’s new government and distance the United States from the country, he ran into several difficulties in doing so. For starters, Romney, who had once declared that he would denounce “political extremism of both the left and the right”, failed to account for the treaty which established NATO to not have a provision for ousting member states who failed to live up to the organization’s interests and values. No one had ever tried to expel a country from the alliance before; there was no protocol in place for such an action. Furthermore, Secretary of State Richard Nixon and NSA Henry Kissinger did not believe it would be “wise” to distance the United States from Turkey at the present moment, especially as Yuri Andropov and the Soviet Union were looking to escalate the Cold War once again with renewed arms races and sabotage efforts. “Only as friends can we hope to convince them to change.” Nixon told the President in a tense phone call. “Not as enemies. We need them for containment.” Romney was forced to concede. His assassination in 1972 brought a new commander in chief to power, and President Bush had his own ideas about Turkey, and what America had the right to demand as a leader on the world stage. George Bush had nearly been killed innumerable times fighting as a pilot in the Pacific against fascism. He was damned if he was going to let these far right “brutes” make a mockery of the freedom and liberty that NATO stood for. Bush began his administration by strongly denouncing Turkes’ government. Further, when Turkey threatened invasion of the island-Republic of Cyprus once again in 1974, supposedly to protect the ethnically Turkish population there from “Greek abuses of the Republic”, Bush turned to the precedent set by President Kennedy in 1964, and told Turkes that if he attacked Cyprus and this led to war with the Soviet Union (who themselves were eager to curb Turkish expansion), the United States would not join in a war to protect Turkey. Prime Minister Robert Stanfield of Canada soon echoed Bush’s pledge, as did Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom, and Chancellor Willy Brandt of West Germany. With the world on the brink of a Mediterranean War, Turkes backed down, and called off the invasion of Cyprus. Turkes did not however, make any promises about free elections or liberalization, and shocked the world when he withdrew Turkey from NATO’s formal command structure the following year. Though Turkey relied heavily on the west for tourism and trade, Turkes seemed hell bent on constructing his ideal, nationalistic vision for the country. His enemies grew in number until in December of 1975, he was assassinated in Ankara by Telli Gokmen, a Turkish soldier whose liberal relatives had been killed in one of his many purges. In the aftermath of Turkes’ death, the military assumed control of the country once more, and this time, a group of junior officers, dedicated to reform and liberalization, took power and promised to lead the country down the path of “freedom and progress”. The following year, yet another constitution would be written, reestablishing the post of Prime Minister, restoring the Republic, Parliament and all of her political parties, and enshrining civil liberties in a bill of rights. A new government was formed, with the Justice Party once again at the head of a centre-right coalition and young reformer and devout Kemalist Husamettin Cindoruk as its first Prime Minister. After four years of bloodshed, turmoil, and terror under a fascist dictatorship, Turkey was finally returned to the path of semi-liberal democracy. Tragically, it had gained little from its experiment in authoritarian rule, save thousands of corpses and broken families. President Bush would call Turkes’ rule, “perhaps the greatest tragedy of the 1970’s.”


    Above: Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran since his coronation on September 16th, 1941. The Shah’s dream of what he referred to as “a Great Civilisation” in Iran led to a rapid industrial and military modernization, as well as social and economic reforms.

    Because of the prestige and power of Iran due to its immense oil wealth, the country’s King, or “Shah”, was arguably the most prominent and influential leader in the Middle East, and self-styled “protector of the Persian Gulf”. As the world advanced, hurtling toward the end of the twentieth century, the Shah saw an opportunity for Iran to escape the fate of so many other “conquered” nations, and become a leading power in its own right. It only made sense that he should want his country to stand above all others. A man obsessed with stature to the point that he wore elevator shoes to appear taller than he truly was, the Shah’s idol and favorite world leader was President Charles de Gaulle of France, whom at 6’5” cut a very stark figure in Pahlavi’s mind. The Shah was known in his own court and throughout the world as a very odd monarch, indeed; and not just for his obsession with height as being the primary measure of a man. Having first risen to power during World War II after an Anglo-Soviet invasion forced his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi to abdicate the throne, the new Shah was all too aware of how reliant his country was becoming on Western powers to dictate its future. The vast trove of resources, both natural and human in his country were used primarily to benefit the people of other nations, a condition he vowed to one day change through his leadership. The Shah wed his third and final wife, Farah Diba, a tall, beautiful woman (the Shah’s favorite kind) on December 20th, 1959 and shortly thereafter set about, in earnest, completing his life’s work - to build a stronger Iran to be inherited by his son and heir, the Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi.

    Beginning in 1963, the Shah launched the “White Revolution” - a suite of far-reaching reforms which earned him the praise and encouragement of liberals and westerners, but the condemnation and fury of conservatives and religious scholars. Modeled after a number of foreign efforts at national renewal, but especially the American New Deal and New Frontier, the White Revolution began with a spirited attempt at land reform, which included a sale of several state-owned factories to finance it; vastly increased infrastructure construction and modernization, including expansions to road, ail, and rail networks throughout the country; damming and irrigation projects; nationalization of forests and pastures for their protection; the formation of literacy and medical bureaus to ensure rural access to public services; and most fundamentally of all, the extension of voting rights to women. The Shah claimed that each of these changes were “modernization for its own sake” and “simply the right thing for my country”; historians agree however, that he also had his own personal, more political motives. The White Revolution, so-called because it was supposed to be “bloodless” in nature, served to legitimize the Pahlavi dynasty in the eyes of a public with lingering doubts about its right to rule them. As the Iranian Middle Class was growing in power and wealth, they demanded more political and economic freedom and agency. “To preempt a Red Revolution”, historian Ervand Abrahamian would write, “the Shah gave his people a White one.” The alterations made to Iranian society, particularly land reform, was done to strengthen the peasant class at the expense of the wealthy landowners, in the hopes that the newly empowered peasants would support the Shah against the Middle Class. This was met with mixed results, though it did manage to infuriate many wealthy nobles, who were now seeing their land stripped from them by the government.

    The reforms cost the Shah plenty in the way of political and financial capital, but they soon paid back massive dividends. Per capita income for Iranians skyrocketed, and increased oil revenues fueled an enormous increase in state funding for industry and scientific research. Tehran, Iran’s capital, became one of the most culturally attractive and popular cities for tourists in the world, and his newfound power gave the Shah more “pull” in his foreign dealings, especially with the United States and Soviet Union. Already inclined toward the United States due to their support for his regime in the past under President Eisenhower, the Shah had openly favored Vice President Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate in the 1960 election, even going so far as to personally donate to Nixon’s campaign. Of course, history went the other way, and as soon as the now President John F. Kennedy took the oath of office on January 20th, 1961, the Shah immediately went on the defensive. The Kennedy Administration did indeed prove a thorn in Pahlavi’s side, pressuring the Shah to appoint liberal, democratic/reformist cabinet members and Prime Ministers, and acquiesce to the demands of striking workers and teachers in his country when they demanded increased wages for their work. In 1962, when the Shah conducted a state visit to Washington, he was met by protesting Iranian-American students at several prestigious universities. Pahlavi, ever sensitive about his image and reception abroad, accused then Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the leading anti-Pahlavi voice in the Administration, with “personally organizing these rallies and protests”. President Kennedy reportedly laughed at the remark, and countered that “Bobby wishes he had that kind of sway over our nation’s youth.” But privately, JFK fumed. He felt that the Shah had counted on unconditional American support for him for too long. From now on, the Kennedy Doctrine insisted that the Shah’s promises of freedom for his people mean something. Pahlavi also strained Anglo-Iranian relations when he took offence at being invited to a dinner at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II which was being thrown in someone else’s honour. He replied coldly that he would attend dinner with her Majesty if and when she decided to throw a dinner in his honour. Though this insistence infuriated the British Government and people, the Queen eventually gave in and Pahlavi’s pressure was successful. Perhaps because of his distaste for President Kennedy and his brother, the Shah toyed with the idea of strengthening relations with the USSR and pursuing a more neutral foreign policy, but upon meeting the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, who stood at a diminutive 5’3” tall and left Pahlavi thoroughly unimpressed, the Shah quickly discontinued such plans, rushing back to America, with its 6’0” President.

    Politics weren’t the only sore spot in the relationship between the Shah and President Kennedy, especially after JFK survived the attempt on his life in 1963, but they did play a significant part. Shortly after being reelected over Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York (whose campaign Pahlavi once again donated to), Kennedy announced that his brother, Bobby, would leave the Justice Department to become Secretary of Defense with Bob McNamara shifting to State. This meant that Bobby would play an instrumental role in devising and carrying out American military strategy across the globe. With an ardently anti-Shah man in charge of the Pentagon, Pahlavi feared that American shipments of arms and military equipment would now come with more strings attached than ever before. He wasn’t wrong to harbor such anxieties. Bobby Kennedy put increasing pressure on the Shah to sprinkle more “democratic reforms” into his White Revolution. RFK wanted increased power for the then anemic Iranian parliament; he wanted the Shah to allow more than one political party, something he had always been reluctant to do in the past; and Bobby especially wanted Pahlavi to rein in the excesses of his ruling class and financial elites, who saw the most benefit from Iran’s oil wealth and claimed that it would “trickle down” to the working classes - the world’s first use of that term. The Shah tried to cultivate a close personal relationship with the President to bypass his “meddling kid brother”, but this too proved unsuccessful. The Shah would often call the President personally or invite him to screenings of his favorite films in his palace in Tehran, mostly light French comedies and Hollywood action flicks; the President would counter that he was happy to stay at home and screen Star Trek and James Bond films in the White House theater. Pahlavi tried to appeal to JFK’s Harvard playboy past, offering scores of “all too willing” women who would be waiting for Kennedy should he come to Tehran for visits. The President would certainly have once been tempted by such overtures, but after the death of Patrick and his own close call in Dallas, Kennedy’s devotion to Jackie was absolute. For his part, the Shah partook in his own debauchery regardless of the President’s answers. Pahlavi was a serial philanderer, rarely faithful to his Queen, Farah. The Shah’s right hand man, Asadollah Alam would regularly import tall, European women for “adventures” with Pahlavi, though Alam admitted in his diary that when this was not possible, he would bring “local product” to his Monarch as well. Pahlavi had a ferocious, insatiable sexual appetite, admitting to President Kennedy once while drunk that if he did not have sex several times per day, he would inevitably fall into a depression. Queen Farah would eventually find out about the Shah’s affairs in 1973, permanently damaging their relationship and the prestige of the Iranian Monarchy. Even then, Pahlavi was unrepentant. Rather than take responsibility for his actions, the Shah blamed the revelation on his Prime Minister, who “failed to sweep them under the rug”. Indeed, it was only a matter of time before the opulence of the Shah and his policies, even after 2,500 of uninterrupted Persian monarchy, ran afoul of the country’s Muslim clerics.

    The monarch’s most outspoken critic was easily Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, better known throughout the west as “the Ayatollah”. A senior religious scholar and advocate of Shi’a Islamic fundamentalism, Khomeini spoke out bitterly against the Shah and his White Revolution. He believed that the reforms were westernizing trends which stood at odds with his deeply conservative principles of traditionalism, and were regarded by Khomeini and his fellow scholars as “downright dangerous”. On June 3rd, 1963, Khomeini drew a line in the sand by giving a public speech in which he officially denounced the Shah and his policies of change, and called him a “tyrant, a wretched, miserable man”. He also vowed that if the Shah did not cease his policies of “radical liberalization”, then he would rue the day, and the Iranian people would soon rise up to overthrow him. Two days later, Khomeini would be detained by state police in his home at Qom, then transferred to Tehran and put under house arrest. After this occurred, three days of major riots broke out across the nation in protest, due to Khomeini’s popularity and the reverence with which the general public treated him. Khomeini would be held until August, when he was released, though it was only the first of several confrontations between the cleric and the government. The following year, on October 26th, 1964, he denounced both the United States and Iran over the so-called “capitulations” of the new “status-of-forces” law passed by the Iranian parliament. The new law allowed for American servicemen and women stationed in Iran to be tried for any crime they committed by their own military courts, rather than local civil authorities. Khomeini was arrested once more and this time jailed for half a year before being released on the orders of then Prime Minister Hassan Ali Mansur, who thereafter advised him to apologize for his prior statements and cease his opposition to the Shah’s government. When Khomeini refused, Mansur slapped Khomeini in the face in a fit of rage. It was a deadly error. Two months later, Prime Minister Mansur was assassinated on his way to Parliament by four members of the Fadayan e-Islam, a fundamentalist activist group with strong ties to Khomeini. This however, was the final straw. Khomeini was ordered by the Iranian government out of Iran, sent into exile in neighboring Iraq, where he would remain in the city of Najaf for eleven years, until 1975, when on October 17th, he was suddenly found dead in his home. Both the Iraqi government and SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police, claimed his cause of death to be a heart attack, but thousands of his conservative supporters in Iran were unconvinced, and began to openly accuse the Shah of ordering Khomeini’s assassination. Over the next handful of years, the Shah would paint himself into a very untenable political position, and prove his old nemesis John F. Kennedy correct:

    “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

    Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: Trials and Tribulations Before the End of the Year