McGoverning

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Yes, Jan 2, 2018.

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  1. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    They were good friends, occasionally still with some ideological distance despite their anti-Vietnam liberalism in common, but I would say at the very least Hatfield was McG's closest Republican friend in the Senate during this period. You're right on the other fronts with folks like Bobby and Harold Hughes and such; Hatfield stands out as a case where McGovern really did cross the aisle in a close relationship, and they had a mutual buddy in Ted Kennedy, with whom the very anti-nuclear weapons Hatfield worked on disarmament issues for years. But the closest period of their friendship was this point in time, end of the Sixties to about the mid-Seventies. The bill was on the one hand an instrument in deepening the relationship, and a flowering of a relationship that had started already.
    Oh I'm the McGovern-knower now? I thought I was the Britain-knower, at my advanced age it all gets confusing :p
     
  2. King of the Uzbeks Charles Curtis is my Baby Daddy

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    I like this.
     
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  3. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    That's very kind, I really appreciate it.
     
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  4. Apollo 20 Well-Known Member

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    Very good. Following this with interest.
     
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  5. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    Thanks! Very kind of you to say. It's a real pleasure to write for a kind community of interested people. One of the true virtues of this place.
     
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  6. Electric Monk Does Your Believing For You

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    Absolutely engrossing, with one heck of a clever POD & effects. HST’s book is, like many, one of my favourite political books ever written and I love the related style you’re hitting.

    My only disappointment is the lack of Teddy White’s description of Gary Hart—and what the response was :).
     
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  7. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    Cheers -- you're very kind. I appreciate it. And you have a fair point about Teddy and Gary, I should find a way at least to rhyme if not replicate....
     
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  8. Llamastrangler Well-Known Member

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    I won’t pretend I’m as familiar with the finer details of Washington under Nixon as are many here, but this is a fascinating timeline and the prose is magnificent. I’m hooked.
     
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  9. Hulkster'01 alternatehistory.com's number 1 Hulkamaniac

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  10. Temeraire Well-Known Member

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    He specifically mentioned that it was an alternate cover made by Time, just in case McGovern somehow won.
     
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  11. Hulkster'01 alternatehistory.com's number 1 Hulkamaniac

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    Sorry, didn’t see it
     
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  12. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    Newsweek, but in substance you're totally right. Standard newsprint CYA processes rendered some awesome AH back when, just think of "Dewey Defeats Truman"....
    No worries. Thanks for being interested in the TL!
     
  13. Unknown Member

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    Just waiting for more, of course...
     
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  14. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    Fair dos. Real life has been a pain on that score the last three weeks, but the clouds are lifting.
     
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  15. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    Guess what's back? OK you don't actually have to guess.
     
  16. King of the Uzbeks Charles Curtis is my Baby Daddy

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    No.
     
  17. Threadmarks: McGoverning: Chapter 2

    Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

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    Turning Up the Heat


    “But we never expected to have much impact anyway,” [Bernstein] said matter-of-factly.
    “Why? Well, we watched the McGovern campaign fall apart, we knew how the press had
    been undercut, and we realized one crucial fact about the White House: they know our
    business and we don’t know their business.”


    - Timothy Crouse, The Boys on the Bus



    Miami was as hot, and as bothered, as everyone imagined in advance. The activist contingent of McGovern delegates, including many first-time convention attendees, ranged itself against the old guard of union officers, urban ward bosses, and elected officials from state and local levels. McGovern’s campaign team were at their best at the start, when they relied on the same ground-level coordination that had won caucus after caucus to stem procedural challenges against various delegations. In this they were aided by McGovern’s civil compromise with Ed Muskie over the Illinois delegates. The effect was to winnow down challenges from second-tier candidates or their proxies onto the central issue of California. Patricia Roberts Harris, the distinguished (and African American) rules chairwoman of the convention, heard the Humphrey campaign’s formal challenge, and batted it down. No rules would change after the vote even if California had grandfathered its primary mechanisms improperly.

    McGovernites soared on the adrenaline rush of their last great parliamentary victory, backed by quiet promises to Frank Mankiewicz from the Muskie and Chisholm delegations that they would side with McGovern against any credentials challenges from George Wallace’s operatives. At the same time the Humphrey campaign, in many ways the unheralded success story of the primaries, sank at the single killing blow. Stewards of Humphrey delegations drifted, or swore revenge in platform committees. Humphrey himself, idol of party liberals for two decades and the previous nominee, faded into the background of the whole affair in the melancholy quiet of a man who had raced his family curse — bladder cancer — for the sake of his dream a last time at great cost to himself and, perhaps, to his party.

    The Democratic right, however, had no intention to fade. The platform fights were long, and wary, and on occasion ugly. It began with the first reply to the California delegate challenge, a hasty alliance of convenience between the campaigns of Scoop Jackson and George Wallace worked out on a provisional basis. That netted Jackson a vote from Humphrey castoffs, disaffected Muskie supporters, the Wallace bloc, and Jackson’s own delegates totaling nine hundred thirty-three delegats for the nomination, a clear second to McGovern’s first-ballot majority. This thrust the hawkish Northwesterner into the national spotlight. In the exuberance of the moment one of Jackson’s staffers, a prescient Ivy Leaguer named Wolfowitz, drafted a memo for the senator. The note laid out a more deliberate coalition: Jackson’s support from Vietnam hawks, AFL-CIO officials up to and including the bald, scowling eminence of George Meany, and vigorous backers of a well defended Israel all on one hand, with Wallace’s Southern conservatives on the other.

    The memo was provisional but thorough, intended mostly to provoke thought. But one of the iron laws of conventions is that they leak like sieves; the several versions of what young Wolfowitz had gotten up to touched off a panic in McGovern’s headquarters. At least three separate and entirely hasty reactions tripped over each other in response. These included a revival of Gary Hart’s proposed offer of a spot on the ticket to Jackson. Another proposal involved what amounted to a loyalty-oath quiz for non-McGovern delegates, scotched by Westwood and Gene Pokorny but not before word got out. It was not a proud moment. The committee sessions, which lasted long into the early hours of the morning in many cases, were hard enough as it was. Now in some cases sessions shut down as “Anybody But McGovern” delegates filibustered, or otherwise stalled parliamentary procedures to prevent final votes on the planks and embarrass the nominee.

    Two forces took the situation in hand. One was Jean Westwood. Given the opportunity to audition for her planned role as the first woman chair of the Democratic National Committee, Westwood sat down with then-chair Lawrence “Larry” O’Brien, Kennedy factotum and well connected lobbyist, to set up a force of floor bosses qualified to work with state delegation heads. They would move business through general votes and scotch attempts to unhinge or sabotage parliamentary work. It took time to find the people, and the runners who would connect them with senior convention bosses like O’Brien. But by late on the second night the process was in place.

    The other force was the arrival of Ed Muskie, along with a trio of senior aides, in the McGovern camp on the second day. Hunter Thompson worried about “chasing the speedball of panic in the McGovern suite with the distilled flop-sweat of second raters,” but in practical terms that was the opposite of what happened. Meanwhile in the committee rooms McGovern backers from the women’s rights movement had already tamped down the debate on an abortion plank. Besides McGovern’s personal religious reservations, even famous “women’s libbers” who backed McGovern like Gloria Steinhem and Shirley MacLaine had no wish to scare off the vital Catholic vote.

    By the same token, discussions between Mankiewicz, Westwood, Muskie, and his aides led to a compromise plank on what McGovern liked to refer to as “root and branch defense reform.” Instead of the earlier McGovern plan for roughly a one-third cut in defense spending and a post-Vietnam drawdown, the convention substituted a promise to deliver on the book-length proposals drawn up the year before by the Members of Congress For Peace Through Law committee, a bipartisan cluster of liberals in both houses of Congress. This meant a percentage drop to roughly half of what McGovern, John Holum, and many young idealists who backed the candidate wanted. It was at least tied to a dependent clause that promised, “to seek further efficiencies and rationalizations wherever possible.”

    The talking shop in the nominee’s suite also spent three blistering hours in which they hashed out compromise language on busing and integration. It was heated — afterwards Mankiewicz smiled at questions about it, saying only that “we got the chance to find out who in the room had a temper, to which the answer was practically everybody” — but in the end it was Muskie himself who offered the lawyerly and elliptical language that the Democratic Party would “respect and obey the laws made by courts and legislatures regarding integration.” Delegates could read into that what they would.


    Despite such fudges or circles walked around subjects, the McGovern majority worked a great deal of influence over the final platform. The redistributive economic language, the suggestion of the government as an employer of last resort, the strong words on tax reform, retrenchment on defense that didn’t reach what John Holum had cooked up and McGovern had endorsed but still promised a real change, pledges on health care reform, the now-famous “right to be different” that seemed for a moment to enshrine the McGovern movement as a quite different demographic animal from the New Deal coalition that had powered the Democratic vote since the Depression — all that went into ink.

    McGovern’s opponents ranged against it, while Scoop Jackson spoke monotonously on stage, George Wallace dropped tantalizing press leaks like candy, and George Meany, master of the AFL-CIO and disappointed sponsor of Hubert Humphrey’s stop-McGovern campaign, scowled far up in the rafters. What seemed like their last moment for action lay directly ahead. That was the nomination of McGovern’s running mate. After two weeks of leaks and intimations, McGovern announced it that morning, in Phil Hart’s beaming company, at one of the cozy pressers in which Frank Mankiewicz specialized. The nominating process lay open that evening with all kinds of potential mischief. McGovern’s people could see that ahead and, while Gary Hart hoped to ride it out with a simple majority, the team of people around the candidates thought otherwise.

    Both candidates’ wives —powerful women with an eye for what went on — Jean Westwood on the precipice of chairing the DNC, Gene Pokorny ever ready, and even late convert Larry O’Brien who now wanted to avoid bedlam on his watch, all stepped in. Runners went out into the delegations, and sometimes more than runners. Jean Briggs Hart met in person with Shirley Chisholm, Rick Stearns with Terry Sanford, Bill Clinton met again with Jimmy Carter bearing the promise of consideration for a cabinet post if McGovern somehow won, while Ed Muskie steered his own remaining delegates and sat down in a quiet corner with Scoop Jackson to suggest, with stern politesse, that Jackson should value and bank his noble defeat for another go in four years if McGovern lost.

    It was McGovern himself who arranged a late lunch with Hubert Humphrey. McGovern still bore a grudge over California, and Humphrey did too for his own reasons; the meet was not altogether smooth despite Midwestern politeness. McGovern tacked into detail about the corruption revelations that poured out daily about CREEP. “Hubert,” said McGovern in front of aides in attendance, “look, I know Meany won’t endorse this ticket. He’s made that much clear. But that doesn’t mean we have to give up on labor. Phil [Hart] has the credibility with the UAW, with the electrical and transport workers and others, and with black voters, that we need. He makes sense for the party, not just for my campaign. All we can do to get him through on a straight vote only does the party good.” In the end, begrudgingly, Humphrey bought it.

    So it was, despite some early mischief and a concerted effort by Wallace supporters to put forward Sen. James Allen of Alabama, pressure from the major masters of delegations closed the vote to new nominees in just over an hour and the convention selected Phil Hart with nearly two-thirds of the vote. Soon after that the senator took the stage. Never a charismatic speaker, Phil Hart nevertheless brought focus and humility to the role. Mankiewicz would say later that they had in Phil Hart “a perfect translator,” a man who could get the McGovern campaign’s ideals across to cautious, Catholic Democrats across the Midwest and Northeast.

    After Hart, and just after 10:00 Eastern time, George McGovern took the stage. With his almost reedy Midwestern tenor and earnest pauses, he nevertheless delivered what he and other observers later called a career-changing speech. In particular McGovern tied together the fundamental themes of his campaign in clear, graceful language with the repeated metaphor of closed rooms and shady deals undertaken by the Nixon administration and his call, as though raised from the dust of McGovern’s own Progressive past, to “come home, America!” Political analysts and rhetoricians simply called it the Come Home America Speech thereafter. Regardless of the drag on the campaign over questions of ideas and ideals, for several crucial hours that night the “McGovern moment” put its best foot forward.

    That was for the best, because what followed was less pleasant. First, as expected, George Meany issued a stony non-endorsement of the Democratic ticket and indeed set plans to meet with Dick Nixon on Vietnam and price controls just after the convention. Fair enough, said both Phil and Jean Hart to the McGovern staff. We’ll concentrate on those actors in union politics who want more, not less to do with a potential Democratic administration. Even the silence of figures like Jackson and Humphrey simply meant tempers were still frayed after California and Miami. The real surprise came from a man who seemed to have been banished by fate from the trail, yet who rose up in flight and flame from the ashes of his primary campaign: George Wallace.

    Through the convention Wallace had gone around his campaign chair, former NASCAR president and yellow-dog Southern Democrat Bill France, Sr., to send two trusted aides back and forth with Scoop Jackson’s legislative deputy Richard Perle about a united front on the platform and a potential third-party run. That door seemed closed just days before. It had been, really, since a secret meeting with the President the previous November, in which Nixon leaned on Wallace to run as a Democrat, in a campaign to sabotage and divide the party, then drop out or face the chance that the IRS would come after Wallace’s brother Gerald and perhaps the governor himself for tax evasion. Now, with the CRP in disarray and McGovern mustering only in the mid-forties even with a convention “bounce,” Wallace saw the chance to break free of Nixon’s iron bonds and chase his true strategic goal: to throw the election into the House of Representatives where “his” states could be vital to a majority. Revenge was the best kind of living well.

    Wallace let the McGovernites have their night with the candidates’ speeches, then fed the pool reporters a steady diet of enticing fragments from the wee hours to the following morning. At that time Wallace, in a shining silver wheelchair and a bright blue three-piece suit, explained in the ebb and flow of rhetorical detail he liked exactly where things stood. He had come to this convention in good faith and seen in action exactly the things that convinced him any attempt to bring the Democratic Party around to his way of thinking was misguided. Hell, he said, they’d nominated for Vice President a man who had asked Wallace point-blank if Wallace thought Heaven itself was segregated. The only real option, then, was to take a stand, apart.

    As he announced what he meant to do and his aides began the business of bum-rushing the planned American Independent Party convention in August with pro-Wallace delegates, Wallace paused in response to a question about the Democratic convention’s diversity. As he rolled the answer around in his mind he found just the sound bite he sought. “George McGovern says he’s opened the doors of the Democratic Party, that now all manner of folks can come into it. He’s real proud of that,” said Wallace, as he strained in his wheeled cage to reach the force and power he used to show on the stump. “I am here, today, to say that Senator McGovern has indeed opened the doors of the Democratic Party. And thirty million Democrats are going to walk right out!” He never needed to add the phrase, To follow me. The gauntlet was already thrown.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    What made fraud suits such a bitch, or so John Dean observed to the President of the United States as the tape recorders squirreled into the cabinetry of the Oval Office whirred away, was the vagueness. “Intention to deceive” was broad enough to take in everything Segretti, Dwight Chapin, and the rest of the dirty-tricks gang had got up to. Sure there was the question of actual damages, and Dean had certainly advised the lawyers on the job to go at George Mitchell hard on that point, but it really was like shutting the barn door after the stampede. That question would come at trial — or, worse, in a settlement hearing — and in the meanwhile discovery was just killing the CRP. It wasn’t that they played by the rules, either. Certainly there were files either that had gone missing or had never been properly kept, much less the stuff Herb Kalmbach, President Nixon’s personal lawyer, destroyed back in the spring in violation of the old Federal Corrupt Practices Act. But there was enough. Enough to feed the process, enough to establish rough outlines of accounting trails and, as July wore on into August, a picture of who in this rough-edged community of saboteurs and black-bag men had trucked with what funding lines. In time that rendered a picture of the half-million dollars stashed in a separate fund line under the CRP corporate aegis.

    It was Herb Kalmbach’s work, when you traced it to its roots. He was Nixon’s personal counsel, and a dozen corporations’ too on grounds that he was Nixon’s personal counsel. This made the logic quite straightforward that he was the perfect bagman. Egil Krogh had helped out a bit, at the start, when they just wanted to salt money away for a series of advance polls in ‘71. But after that the hundreds of thousands that had come in — again mostly milk money, those dairy combines had a reputation around town — were shifted to the left in the CRP’s books, out of sight and into a complex network of accounts designed to provide whatever the shadow side of the incorporated committee needed. Herb Kalmbach, more and more, looked like the key. Certainly the personal lawyers of Segretti, Chapin, and the other named co-defendants in Loeb v. Segretti, thought so and were only too happy to pile on. And when you considered again, in that light, that Kalmbach was the President’s personal lawyer, life got more interesting.

    By August, as Washington lulled in the end of summer recess, that had got very interesting indeed. The players on the stage of Congress read the papers too, and had contacts with the litigators in Loeb v. Segretti, no surprise in a town where the person who answered your phone often sported a high-end law degree. With Kalmbach drawn into the picture, it raised questions about the very integrity of the CRP, questions the Nixon White House had no desire to answer and indeed had done everything they could to set up John Dean and Bob Haldeman to stonewall all discussions that wandered in the direction of West Wing connections to the campaign. But that was not enough. The Kalmbach link rang bells, and played into a complex web of political agendas whose twists and turns rivaled the facts turned up by George Mitchell’s team of associate counsels and investigators.

    It’s the same puzzle, said Phil Hart to Mike Mansfield, the flinty Montanan Senate Majority Leader. Dozens of pieces of evidence, separate investigations that seem when you follow them along for a while to corroborate and… to fit with one another. They’re all pieces of the same puzzle. There’s no way for us to avoid the fact that this is political, he went on. To that Mansfield said, Exactly. The problem was exactly that. For now, in those swampy weeks of early August, Mansfield listened to the concerns senators raised to him, Phil Hart more than most. Hart had been on the special committee that looked into the “ITT Affair” back in the spring. Then it looked like the same cast of shady characters thrown into the spotlight by Brookingsgate and Loeb v. Segretti had been involved in a possible effort by telecommunications giant ITT to buy the executive branch’s compliance for a corporate merger that made antitrust lawyers wince with four hundred grand nudged quietly towards the CRP. Now someone had blown a hole in the Brookings Institution, as Ted Kennedy did not hesitate to say in the heat of his Irishness during a separate audience with Mansfield, and all the players and their funny money kept fitting into the same frame.

    Mansfield stayed adamant. The civil action had plenty of press, because it turned out that lawyer who’d worked for Ed Muskie knew what he was about. Let that go on, said Mansfield. If we do something on our own Nixon will just hound us across the television dial about liberal witch hunts and go up five points in the polls. We’ll keep our powder dry, Mansfield said. Keep it dry and wait for something to shift.


    The shift, had he seen it coming before the day Senator James Eastland marched into his office like an oncoming storm, would have surprised him. It started quite on its own in July, as George Wallace staged his now famous press conference at the close of the Democrats’ convention, shed a few advisers who were far more committed than the governor to sticking with the party, and rolled in to the convention of the Wallace outfit had founded, with a wave of popular support both hasty and brilliant in its execution. Wallace knew how to boss a floor and, even though his presidential runs had at times snared themselves in his own ego, he could muster a crowd with the simple mention of his name like no one else in American politics. Not only did Wallace give the reporters who wanted to see just what would happen if Wallace stayed on the trail a show, by his presence he raised the AIP’s profile and when he sat down with the presumptive AIP nominee who the governor had just cut off at the knees, Wallace smiled and offered the man a deal.

    John G. Schmitz, the combative, reactionary Republican congressman from the depths of Orange County in California who had been quietly blackballed in the John Birch Society for his volatility was, on Wallace’s reflection, just what the ticket needed in a side man. The AIP couldn’t afford to lose the foot soldiers of the hard right, Wallace understood that. They were dedicated fundraisers and organizers, and they would eat into the fringe of Richard Nixon’s base. They also shared at least one set of motivations with the disaffected white populists Wallace sought after as the main body of his voters: a deep, gut feeling that the American system was broken, that the two big parties were corrupt and controlled, in the kind of logical contradiction that emotion-driven humanity enjoys, by exclusive moneyed interests and by young ideologues who didn’t grasp ordinary people’s struggles. Wallace had called a truce on “segregation forever”; besides, there were plenty of other ways to draw a color line aside from the law. One was to talk about who the real Americans were, how they had been betrayed, how the country needed to fix itself from the bottom up, how the laborers and the shopkeepers and the diligent first-generation suburbanites needed someone who understood what it was to struggle, who knew how to fight and how to keep fighting until the other man went down. Wallace had taught Dick Nixon that language, the governor reminded any campaign staffer who’d listen, with a carnivorous smile as he reflected on the irony. Now he was just taking it back.


    It certainly had some juice to it. Wallace came out swinging and simply did not stop. Against Nixon’s masterful manipulation of the news cycle Wallace just kept on talking, and as ever put on a show wherever he went. The physical toll was high and Wallace simply did not care. Or rather he did, but cared that people should watch him struggle, that they should see that he was as in his boxing days, the relentless little man who could get beat up but never go down, not until he landed the last blow. Hunter Thompson’s observation while Wallace had lain in a hospital bed, paralyzed below the waist and wasting into his spark-gapped bones, seemed to hold true. Among true fans of the governor there was almost a holiness to Wallace now, for of all the famous men felled by gunfire in the last ten years Wallace had taken his bullet and lived. Now, as Thompson himself put it on a side trip to watch the show in Bakersfield County, California as McGovern campaigned in Los Angeles, Wallace “had done it again…. That face, transcendent, seemed to levitate above his broken body, the white fire of that dark soul lit up the whole hall as he called down brimstone on Wall Street and CREEP, wreathed in the steel of his chair, one part cage for one of nature’s pure predators, one part throne.”

    So it was Wallace carried on, more than any politician in the country weighing in against the President on the very issues where Nixon’s advance men shut down questions with threats to cut off sources, or started fights among rival news organizations. There was good cause: out there in the darkness Nixon waited, because it was a question of timing, not anything else, when the IRS investigation of Gerald Wallace’s finances would begin. Early in August George Wallace hit on the right words which, once he’d said them, took on a life of their own on the evening news. In front of a crowd in Decatur, Georgia Wallace did as he often would and tossed aside the script for his stump speech when inspiration struck.


    “Now friends… friends, I’ve been a lawyer. I have prosecuted the guilty. I know what questions you ask a man when you get him up there on the witness stand and you’re trying to get at the truth. And there are just two questions here. And the whole country wants the answers! WHAT did Richard Nixon know… and WHEN did he KNOW IT!?!”

    James Eastland asked himself the same. He thought more besides; the tall, bespectacled, unrepentant segregationist from Mississippi was likely the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, also the chair of its mighty Judiciary Committee and a master of Senate rules, written and unwritten. There was never just one piece in motion when Eastland played the game. In this case there were several. Eastland had, whatever his other motives, a genuine concern that abuses of power on the part of the presidency had spiraled over the last decade and now threatened both the dignity and the substantive power of Congress, the body that made Eastland one of the most important men in the federal government. He knew, too, that as George Wallace spat populist fire at the White House Nixon would counter with evidence of corruption elsewhere, to which Eastland, a favorite legislator of every oil conglomerate with a rig in the Gulf of Mexico, was not himself immune. And Eastland had a dog in the fight. Wallace’s third-party run was the governor’s business. But if Wallace could actually force a contingent election in the Congress it would restore the power that reactionary Southern Democrats like Eastland himself had lost steadily in the national party since Harry Truman integrated the Armed Forces. There was no reason not to get to the bottom of this mess, and Eastland had resolved to tell Mansfield how.

    Collateral questions, Eastland said. The whole thing raised some very large collateral questions. An Attorney General of the United States, John Mitchell, who now ran the CRP, sat at the top of three developments that had triggered Congressional, civil, and criminal investigations. One was that whole ITT mess. Another was the campaign slush funds, where Mitchell had at least in name hired and delegated authority to key people involved in wrongdoing. The third was the matter of where Chuck Colson had gotten the damn fool idea to bomb Brookings, and what kind of climate of decision making made that possible. Then there was a second Attorney General, Richard Kleindienst, the man who had the job now. As Mitchell’s deputy he had been involved in processing high-level legal issues like the ITT merger. And since the Brookingsgate fiasco, Eastland said, stabbing a finger towards the cool Mansfield whose eyes narrowed, no one in the executive branch had exactly tripped over themselves to corroborate whether these were loose cannons, only insisted that was so. If Colson had pissed on my hearthrug, Eastland said saltily, I’d want that cleaned up the same day so people knew it wasn’t me. After a while delay started to look like deception.

    They came to an agreement, the worldly and quietly liberal boyhood runaway and former China Marine, and the devoutly fundamentalist plantation owner. There would be a select committee to look at breaches of campaign finance and conduct laws across the board, and at who may have gotten their fingers dirty. Seven men: could agree on the chair, for starters. North Carolina senator Sam Ervin, a distinguished lawyer and constitutional scholar and decorated First World War veteran, had credibility with Eastland’s faction as “segregation’s defense attorney” in the 1950s, and more recently with Democratic liberals as Ervin aggressively investigated illegal surveillance of US citizens by the CIA and the military. Ervin wanted to go home and retire at the end of his term, which made him immune to charges of political point-scoring and his feelings towards the McGovern/Hart ticket were ambiguous at best. He’d do.

    From there it was a matter of filling the ranks in such a way as to avoid impression of a liberal stampede, which suited Eastland fine given his desire to give conservative Democrats the greatest leverage they could grab on to. For obvious reasons Phil Hart was off the list as he campaigned through New England and the Midwest, but as Mansfield pointed out the hearings would be public, and nobody said Hart staffers couldn’t sit in the gallery and take notes. The Nixon people had spent the summer with their heads down, watching the civil suit against Segretti’s crew take form and trying to wait out criminal proceedings on the “Brookingsgate Boys.” Now they would face a wall of senators and the lawyers who worked for them, all eager, or so Eastland told the lobby press with untypical levity, to help the President get this whole business out in the open and put it behind him.


    In the meanwhile the world turned and, in particular, the Nixon campaign soldiered on, even thrived at times. The Supreme Court ruled the death penalty temporarily unconstitutional until new laws — less punitive and racist — were drafted at federal and especially state levels. The British Army launched a sweeping campaign to cordon and retake “no-go” territory in Northern Ireland, to staunch the drift of rampant terrorism towards outright civil war. A beautiful meteor shot across North America’s daylight sky. The King of Morocco miraculously survived his private jet being shot out of the air by coup plotters and returned like an Islamic saint from the wreckage to his people, to roll heads and reassert control. In a burst of bright pastels and good feeling the Munich Olympics sought to offset and replace memories of the Nazi-run Berlin games thirty-six years before. The Games did this very well until a squad of Palestinian fedayeen slipped through nonexistent security into the dormitory where Israeli athletes lived, who were first seized and then massacred in tragedy of blood and shrapnel and gunfire that shook the world. In the meanwhile, Richard Nixon rallied his ad men, poured funds into his pollsters’ pockets, and considered how he could do two nearly contradictory things: cut the Democratic ticket off among middle opinion, and bring down George Wallace.

    Nixon began at the top. In the first week of August, with a meeting that the press were told had to do with event planning for the upcoming Republican National Convention, the future of Ted Agnew was weighed and measured. Nixon had gone from impulsive embrace through disappointment to outright disgust with his Vice President, and Nixon called a clutch of his closest associates together to consider what they could do to replace the hard right’s favorite bulldog in the White House. The other attendees knew Nixon’s own agenda; he wanted a grand bargain, a move to outflank McGovern and Wallace both all at once and also indulge his own infatuation, by appointing outgoing Treasury Secretary John Connally as the replacement. On his registration papers Connally was still a Democrat, and Haldeman in particular worked slowly and deliberately to wean Nixon, known to his inner circle for these fits of determination, off the idea. Certainly it made sense at a strategic level but, as Haldeman said to both John Dean and former Attorney General John Mitchell afterwards, “going to China once was enough.”

    As Haldeman, helped by Mitchell, wore Nixon down into profanity and muttering, they turned to other options. On paper Ed Gurney of Florida and Bob Dole of Kansas were both excellent choices to shore up the party’s right while Nixon moved to the middle. But the administration needed both men in the Senate, and both had Democratic governors back home who would choose their first replacements. Dean suggested Bill Brock of Tennessee, but Nixon dismissed the freshman senator as “a goddamn cigar-store Indian.” They talked it to death, Dean reflected later, but other than a reach to Ron Reagan, whom Nixon alternately admired and loathed (and who presented Electoral College issues since Nixon had moved his home away from Pennsylvania Avenue back to California from New York), it seemed there was nowhere to go but to Agnew, to stand pat.

    So it was that Miami, again home to a political convention weeks after the Democrats blew through, became a monument to standing pat. In a feat that press-plane wags called worthy of Nixon’s Soviet opposite number, Leonid Brezhnev, the Republican National Convention became a monument to Richard Nixon’s achievements that seemed to build a whole other world out of brick and mortar with Madison Avenue’s work-gnarled hands. Only the soaring economic growth charts, a year’s worth of relative quiet after the waves of protest and bloodshed that followed the Cambodia invasion faded, Nixon’s truly historic opening to China, and the stolid dignity of his quest for world peace — told with a ruthlessly precise mawkishness in relation to the life of a young girl who was the daughter of a Nixon campaign contributor — mattered. No blazing buildings and drug-addled henchmen, no bugged offices, no rolled wads of thousands in milk money that bought slander and cheap tricks, no government officials looking the other way or worse. Strength at home, wisdom abroad, and a program of common sense every right-thinking American could agree on: those were the plain, clear words the convention used.

    Ted Agnew did his job and riled up the problem cases to roars of applause about beating back crime and moral turpitude, about the weak knees of the Democrats and that unhinged hillbilly Wallace. Nixon was all Solomon, sobriety and wisdom, willing to take bold steps for peace especially, but never a step too far, never to create weakness or disturb order. The President always could read a crowd, and now he read the country as one and guessed, not without reason, that the fact of disorder and corruption scared a lot of people much more than the details that his own administration had caused it. So he would set the tone now that to stay the course, ride this out rather than do anything hasty, would serve the country best. Hang on. If there was one thing Dick Nixon knew how to do, it was that.


    Then came the advertising. In a stroke of authentic wisdom Nixon talked about the McGovern ticket by not talking about them. Nixon would dismiss the Democrats with silence. He could read polls; unless something happened, McGovern just didn’t have the numbers and would not come to have them. The problem was how Wallace ate into the Nixon vote, both from the pure right-hand side and through his disruption of the “Southern Strategy” to draw in conservative Democrats and independents worried about issues of race and crime and disorder. So Wallace got the treatment first. It varied by region and demographics. In the Midwest, Nixon played out of the AFL-CIO’s songbook from 1968 with repeated charges and mailings that Wallace was one of the most anti-union governors in America. In the South, Nixon flyers were strewn across the manicured new suburbs of cities like Atlanta and Memphis that drove home Wallace’s support for the welfare state and its profligacy. Maybe, that implied, he’d conveniently changed his mind about other things as well, like how to maintain the informal barriers those white suburbanites had redrawn in their flight to the St. Augustine grass beyond the fearful blackness of the cities.

    And when it came down to it, Nixon and his front men said that it just wasn’t a good time to talk about Wallace — there were things worth bringing up, but the governor had been through so much it would be uncouth to mention what it was they weren’t mentioning. This drew out the reporters: what was that, was the obvious question for this bait. The press would have to direct such questions elsewhere, came the answer. This was a matter for the right agencies — the right authorities — and it was improper to make everything the Nixon camp had just implied into a petty political question. And all the while the mighty beasts of the newsroom plains, the Johnny Apples and Jack Andersons, slugged back their drinks and talked about how much they couldn’t talk about that in their columns, and about who they thought was driving this model of campaigning, while Hunter Thompson’s young Rolling Stone minder Timothy Crouch shook his head and took notes like Micah and Hosea and Amos of old.

    George Wallace was not, however, the only one with problems that could turn petty and political in a heartbeat. Political arithmetic and personal grievance meant that, while the Senate convened its committee and plodded through the same fact pattern that drove George Mitchell’s litigated muckracking, the Washington Post had a source of their own. This did not mean quite what it seemed to on its face. The Post’s best younger crime-beat man, Carl Bernstein, had bird-dogged his way through DC Metro and FBI resources on the actual events of “Brookingsgate” and where the investigations led, or didn’t. It convinced him that there were gaps, absences, walls thrown up to stop short lines of inquiry that got past a barrel of bad apples with CREEP and asked questions about the people who had stood up that organization, the administration itself. But in the lull of late summer, it turned out Berstein knew a guy. Or rather, the guy knew Bernstein’s guy.

    It was thus. Bernstein had a colleague at the Post, a reserved, mildly Republican, ex-Navy officer named Woodward. Among his other contacts around town Woodward had cause to know Mark Felt, the face of the permanent FBI beneath Nixon’s crony Pat Gray, and so one of the most powerful g-men anywhere near the criminal investigation. Felt wanted a conduit, a way to funnel details and suspicions that concerned him out into the press. So young Woodward became the asset, used with an amusing amount of tradecraft in Felt’s view — if Woodward knew how closely the part of town around his apartment was watched it would spook him, Felt figured — so that the reporter could act as interlocutor between Felt and Berstein. So it was that the Post could read the FBI’s mail, or rather the weekly progress reports on Brookingsgate evidence-gathering and connections between the felons and key leadership with the CRP.

    Bernstein in particular came away from this with exactly the conclusions Felt hoped the reporter would reach. First, that the odds a plan for concerted criminal acts to sabotage Democratic candidates and ensure Nixon’s reelection involved the most powerful people around the Presidency. Maybe the man himself. Second, that this had so far barely scratched Nixon’s chances of reelection. The White House knew exactly how reporters worked, their craving for access, their herd instinct around leads or sources, their need for counter-examples to provide “balance,” their habit of reporting method rather than intent. But, Bernstein said to himself and to Woodward over lashings of coffee, we don’t know how it works in there. On their side. We’ve got nobody in the room, no way to know them like they know us. Until that happens, Bernstein held, none of this changes. Woodward then, with typical earnestness, simply asked Felt at a car-park message drop early in September. How does this change? Woodward said. Felt smiled like the blade of a dagger. “Wait and see.”


    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    It began, like all the breakthroughs in this sordid business seemed to begin, with a meeting. The timing at least was chance. But the men moved in the same circles so when George Mitchell and Rufus Edmisten, the farmer-faced legal counsel to Sam Ervin, found themselves drinks in hand at the same toney D.C. watering hole, they had at the very least to make pleasant conversation. Both men knew the rules of their profession; Mitchell in particular was kind but cagey. But Edmisten, who could small-talk for his country if called on, did not intend to waste this chance. Like a good Southerner he took the moment where the two men might make their goodbyes and pushed on through with a smile. Put yourself in my shoes a minute, Edmisten went on. Say you come work for the committee, carry whoever's water you want to carry, what is it that you do then? Nothing to do with Loeb v. Segretti, just how do you size this thing up?

    Mitchell paused what seemed an age. Edmisten said later it was like watching a Swiss watch with glasses, acres of tiny, finely tuned gears all worked together. He sipped briefly on his drink, then spoke. Alexander Butterfield and Rose Mary Woods, Mitchell said. Edmisten inclined his eyebrows. Mitchell went on. Everyone wants to go at Haldeman, Mitchell elaborated. Haldeman knows everything there is to know, whatever that is, so the White House will fight tooth and nail to withhold his testimony and I don't doubt Hadleman's willingness to fall on his sword. If you want to really know what's gone on, you look at Butterfield and Woods. There you've got Haldeman's trusted deputy who keeps it all in order, and you have Nixon's personal secretary who sees and hears damn near everything. That, said Mitchell, is what I would do. Edmisten nodded, the two men made their goodbyes, and the garrulous Tar Heel turned to leave.

    As Edmisten walked to the door, Mitchell spoke up one last time. Butterfield first, Mitchell said. Make sure you don't just ask him what he knows. You ask him how he knows it. This is discovery; you find out where they keep the secrets. Edmisten smiled like he had a deer in his sights and nodded slightly. Butterfield it was, then.

    Alexander Butterfield was a straight guy in a crooked kingdom. In his youth, at UCLA, he made fast friendships with "the Berlin Wall" -- Haldeman and Erlichman. This proved a mixed blessing. For years Butterfield lived and served apart from that funhouse-mirror world of politics. He was an Air Force officer, a good one, who flew combat missions in Korea and Vietnam and rose steadily through efficiency, probity, and dedicated service. The problem was, he had topped out it seemed around '68 or so. A two-year assignment as project manager for the integration of F-111s into the Royal Australian Air Force might have sounded to someone else like a cushy yet fascinating job in a scenic location. To Butterfield it sounded like the kind of thing that would keep him from making general. And when he couldn't get himself back to the sound of the guns again he started to look outside the service. Fate spied the moment and found a way to reconnect him with Bob Haldeman, through whom one thing led to another and by early 1969 Butterfield found himself in a checked sportcoat instead of dress blues, at work in the Nixon White House as Haldeman's deputy chief of staff.

    It took all of Butterfield's discipline and dedication to hold that unruly mess around the Oval Office together, and all his personal forbearance to deal with the fierce, neurotic President who Butterfield found at its heart. Butterfield spent almost four years torn between loyalty and duty on one hand, and disdain that could tip into disgust with the administration's personal and political failings. He hated Kissinger's ego trips, the organized-crime feel of political scheming in the Oval Office, all the shady money, the clearly dirty tricks, even Nixon's fugue states and the President's coldness to the First Lady -- sometimes the happily-married Butterfield just wanted to grab Nixon and shake him.

    Yet that was not the done thing. What you did was your job, and in early 1971 part of that job had been the installation and concealment of a tape recording system in the Oval Office. The President wanted every conversation he had in that room recorded -- for posterity, insurance, or both wasn't clear. Nixon wanted it, he got it. Just like he got too many other things; in this very moment, as the Senate select committee spooled up, Butterfield sat disgusted through meetings with Nixon and Dean and Erlichman and other cronies as they plotted to put a Secret Service mole on the security detail intended for Ted Kennedy, someone who could gather blackmail material to tar the Democratic presidential ticket by association. Abusive, that was the word Butterfield found in his head later when he went looking. An abusive system. An abusive administration. Abusive and it kept too many secrets, like that tape system. Butterfield wondered when that would come up.


    He had not long to wait. It took time to process paperwork, rally the committee on the points involved, issue the summons, calendar... it all percolated behind the slow wave of cross-examination that brought the committee up to speed with what Mitchell's team largely knew already from civil discovery. But in the grand scheme half of September was no time at all. Just time enough for Ervin, ever the lawyer, to establish ground rules for how this would be done. Two staff lawyers, Ervin said. Edmisten, as counsel for the committee chair and on behalf of the majority, and the counsel for the most liberal Republican on the committee, Connecticut's Lowell Weicker, Bill Shure -- H. William on his business cards -- who was there to secure the GOP an equal voice and a direct source of information when the two deposed Butterfield. Ervin wanted no problems Nixon's champion Ed Gurney or any other likely parties could use to claim the proceeding had been hijacked on party lines. If Rufus was right -- Rufus was ready to bet on Mitchell's hunch -- they would need all the political cover they could get if something popped out.

    Mostly it took nerve. Nerve to press ahead, composed, down each methodical line of questions, nerve to sit wedged into wood-backed chairs in a dim room in the long, gut-hollowed moment before something — whatever it was they would find — happened. It wore harder on Edmisten; he was a politician by nature as much as a lawyer, drawn to the electricity of moments. Bill Shure, on the other hand, though he was Lowell Weicker’s faithful lieutentant and bagman for statewide campaigns back in Connecticut, was an attorney to his fingertips. He could go all day.

    A couple of hours in it seemed as though they would, like the committee counsels and Butterfield, three years out of date in his narrow lapels and close-cropped hair, straight up and down in his seat, composed, went through the routine. Butterfield had already decided on his course of action. The building — everyone who mattered in the West Wing — knew he was first out of the gate, the first person beyond the CRP menagerie to be called. So he had arranged in his mind the kind of line he’d walked every day for most of four years now. He would not answer anything he didn’t have to based on the question, and he was a smart enough guy not to give a lawyer more than they asked for. But if they asked him straight, he would be straight with them. At the end of the day the person you had to live with was yourself.


    Notes? Who knows, Butterfield answered. I can’t speak to that in detail, he added. A system of creating or logging documents? Did Mrs. Woods transcribe meetings? If so which ones? Did Bob Haldeman keep a journal? Probably. What about Ehrlichman? John Dean? It went on.

    So much so, that when the moment came it was anticlimactic until the answer, like filling out a customs form to announce you’d invaded a country. Shure looked up from his notes, inclined his neck just a little forward because he liked the question, and asked, “Were any conversations recorded? Any conversations in the Oval Office?”


    Butterfield smiled, sheer reflex from our ancient past when that meant the tiger got the guy next to you, not you. “I was wondering if you’d ask that,” he said, composed. “Yes. There is tape.” Tape of what, Shure asked, as he scratched the side of his nose while a great ball of stress acid passed through his throat in silence. “Since I supervised installation of a taping system in the Oval Office, I’ve never received instructions that anything should not be taped.”

    Shure sat back a moment. “Jesus,” breathed Edmisten quietly, not an exclamation so much as an expression of awe at what had just happened. Shure scribbled a couple of notes very quickly on his pad and conferred with Edmisten. Then Edmisten stepped in to ask about the vital statistics: when was the tape machine installed, how did it work, did Butterfield know where and how tapes were stored after they were used up, had he received instructions to destroy anything. Once it was done, as Edmisten’s pen slipped and danced in the sweat of his own hands while he made notes, Shure thanked Butterfield politely. The Air Force man nodded a kind of salute and got up and walked out.

    The lawyers and two aides stepped into the hallway, where Edmisten grabbed furiously at a cigarette and nearly sucked it straight into his right lung. Shure was the model of Connecticut Yankee sangfroid. No one talks, he said. Edmisten nodded vigorously. We will take this together to the chairman and he will bring in the three minority members, Shure went on. And, Edmisten added, we make damn sure they know you asked. It has got to be clear a Republican lawyer asked this question and that your people — Edmisten was a Southerner, where party was still tribal — understand this was pursuant to reasonable investigation. Shure nodded calmly. What the hell had just happened they couldn’t be sure yet. But life was certain to get more interesting.


    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    So there were revelations, and parades of witnesses before the Senate select committee, and the finely tuned slanging matches between the Nixon and Wallace campaigns, and grand constitutional questions started to entwine with who said what to whom. As autumn slipped in past Labor Day, what carried on regardless was the Democratic Party’s presidential campaign. What had been over the summer exotic and good for sales in the news business seemed to dull with time and exposure. Larry O’Brien, despite his occasional moments in front of reporters to comment on the chance he might be deposed either in Loeb v. Segretti or the Senate investigation, plastered a bland normality, a meticulous plodder’s patience, on the front of the campaign. People who mattered, people who knew people who mattered even more and could be quoted off the record, people who wrote what all the people who wanted to matter hoped to write someday, like Johnny Apple and Jules Witcover, became less and less impressed by novelty with the McGovern ticket, and got themselves too busy with what dirt the reliably bitter Wallace campaign had thrown lately and why ten percent of American voters seemed to like it.

    This was exactly what the people in the back office with the Democratic ticket, the folks who truly ran things, wanted. It had been a crucial element of the original plan when Wallace was hale and seemed dangerous, though then his wings were still clipped by Nixon. Now Wallace was broken and twisted up in vengeful purpose and actually dangerous. So long as things held steady that seemed an answer to a prayer. Wait because there would be something. Something to change the story, to turn not the tide but something in the current, so just a little extra flowed their way that would be enough in the correct states. Pat Caddell kept his eye on the state internals, and together with Rick Stearns the guru of caucuses, on some of the first precinct level data available to the infant world of microcomputing. That itself was a sort of magic, a picture of where the campaign stood in the states that mattered, the bare path to 270 electoral votes, and what it would take for them to get there.

    With something. I don’t know what, Caddell answered, his surprising size (he tended to slump) reared up in defense of his beloved numbers whenever anyone, most often Gary Hart, made acid comments about where Caddell thought the “something” would come from. Something unexpected, something that would tap into the alienation with politics as usual that Caddell believed was the tectonic force beneath American politics, something that would shift that force and put the noble outsider, George McGovern, in the right place for voters who needed a sweeping change they could trust. The ignoble outsider, George Wallace, would get the right-hand side of those votes and between them Nixon would go down. But there would be a thing. Part of its value, “the shibboleth of the back office,” as Hunter Thompson put it, was that no one knew just what it would be. That meant, for once, Dick Nixon would not have half of Madison Avenue out in front of it, while a distracting medley number from Up With People thundered on as the ad men went to work.

    As the external tumults of the autumn carried on the campaign moved with consistency. Led officially by O’Brien the candidates worked the UAW angle as deeply as they could. Gene Pokorny, McGovern’s windswept kid from Nebraska and the organizing genius behind the primary win in Wisconsin, camped at every damn UAW jobsite from Kansas City to Akron, mobilizing shop stewards and the sons and daughters of workers to campaign. McGovern bought himself some ink in the papers by meeting with Miners For Democracy which, as Mankiewicz and Shields both predicted, lit George Meany’s remaining hair on fire. McGovern and Phil Hart shook hands until their palms nearly bled in Oregon timber towns, in Minneapolis, in Des Moines, in the Ohio steel-and-auto belt, in Philadelphia, in Boston, in Brooklyn. The message of integrity and reform remained the same. That worked well enough. As Wallace’s and even Nixon’s numbers cycled, a repeated majority of Americans said they didn’t like George McGovern’s ideas on national security and worried about higher taxes, but they trusted him personally. Stearns and Mankiewicz wanted to know who would bus black churches and union shops to the polls; Caddell said it was all about trust.

    For Democratic partisans in an autumn of scandal and mud slung, the speeches worked as well. One of Ed Muskie’s last acts in support of the nominee at the convention was to call Mark Shields into the Muskie’s hotel room and tell, not ask, the brisk campaigner that now he would be writing for Phil Hart through the fall. Shields had worked for William Proxmire as well as Muskie, enough to know that Midwesterners were a very different bunch of people than the urban New England Democrats who Shields knew best and from whom he came. Muskie replied with a touch of humor about the common factor between Muskie, Shields, and Hart: their Catholicism. “His middle name’s Aloysius,” said Muskie of Phil Hart. “You’ll get the hang of it, Mark.” Shields did. It got to a point where “the Fighting Irish,” as campaign staff called Bob Shrum and Shields for short, worked out of the same hymnal as they split up and churned out stump speeches.

    Things held steady: forty-one percent, forty-two in a carrying wind, constant enough that pollsters could believe the numbers and not wonder about margins of error. The Democrats’ ticket was the known quantity of the race, for good or ill. Independent pollsters looked at Michigan and Rhode Island and parts of Pennsylvania and said with wry grins that if McGovern somehow pulled this out it would be on Phil Hart’s coattails. No matter.

    Along the way they did what needed done to keep everyone on board. Fundraisers with Paul Newman, meetings with Mothers Against the War, chicken dinner with the Transport Workers’ Union who hated George Meany as only people who knew him well could, an afternoon beer with teamsters. At the end of the month, that schedule included a stop calculated as a move for party unity, for a mending of fences, and for the slower learners on the press plane a nice bauble of Senator McGovern as respectable party man. The planes touched down in San Antonio, McGovern did a rally with local Latino representatives and a steak dinner with the oil roughnecks’ union at the Menger Hotel, then drove out on the next dry, dust-choked morning all the way to Lyndon Johnson’s ranch.

    There they met, the man who had bestrode the Sixties as a colossus and his Diogenes, the warrior against poverty and master of war alongside the idealist who’d talked about a Senate that reeked of blood. But they were both old hands at this. They smiled, talked quietly with open expressions, Lyndon ran George through the basics of a cattle drive with those vast hands that gestured fit to fashion a landscape themselves while George parked his own hands and any tells they might give neatly in his lap and reminisced about wheat and corn back home, beneath a rehearsed smile his prominent chin like a shield against Johnson’s sheer presence. The flashbulbs clattered, a second, unsteady sun on a bright day. They had reversed roles as well, with McGovern buttoned up in a suit and a thick red tie, Johnson open-necked with his white hair fluttering back of his head as long as an Ivy League kid’s. Scribbling hacks imparted, or imputed, meaning to it all.

    When the photographers wrapped up, Johnson waved off the stringers like a sheikh, asked his butler for scotch for the both politicians, and got down to business. “Now George, you and I, we know each other. We know what’s between us,” said Johnson, as he squared himself up in his lawn chair, a retiree’s version of “the treatment” as everyone used to call the way he backed smaller and often lesser men into a corner and forced his views on them. McGovern sat pat, a prairie stone unmoved before a vast, Texan plow. “And I don’t suppose we are ever going to see eye to eye on this goddamn war. I can see that a little clearer now. The view’s better out here.

    “But all that’s coming out in Washington now — we can’t have that sonofabitch in the White House one second longer than we have to, and I expect that means you and I are stuck with each other. Now you just take a minute, and listen, and I’m going to tell you how this is going to be. I won’t tell you what to believe or anything like that. You can keep your principles. You can get those kids — hell, even I have the long hair these days — all to vote for you. You can get right with some labor folks even if that gets George Meany’s dick in a twist. Hell, especially if it does that.

    “So here it is. You are going to get our prisoners back, and you’re not gonna bend any goddamn knee to do it, not one, senator. And I…”

    Johnson paused a breath, a distance in time within which he hung a whole vision of the future. With a stare that never left McGovern, Johnson brushed aside a tea towel on one of the tables around them and picked up without a glance the object under it. That was a big manila envelope, one Walt Rostow, former National Security Adviser and Johnson confidante, had driven most of the day before from Austin and back to deliver. In it was the dagger that had hung by a thread over Richard Nixon’s head the whole length of Nixon's presidency. With this choice, Lyndon Johnson cut the string.

    “… I am going to hand you this goddamn election.”

    Maybe Pat Caddell’s thing had happened, after all.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
  18. Bulldoggus Socially Guelph, Fiscally Ghibelline

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Location:
    Boston and/or Nashville
    Pope Leo XIII?
     
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  19. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2013
    Location:
    The Shire, somewhere in Cascadia
    This is an outstanding answer. Entirely wrong, but somehow it doesn't suffer for that.
     
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  20. Usili Carry On Wayward Son

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2012
    Very very interesting update @Yes and it's probably going to take a while to break down fully.

    If you don't mind me asking, about how long are the chapters on average that you are doing in terms of word count? I'm just rather intrigued on it.
     
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