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Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail in '72

Page 3 of 6

HST: No, to the extent that it damaged him... Pat Caddell has very convincing figures on that. Their polling from July, September to November shows that the Eagleton Affair had hurt McGovern so badly that the fact is the figures went off the board. It was totally impossible to recover from that... the damage was so great particularly among the younger voters where McGovern's potential strength lay.

Ed: Why were there so many defections over Eagleton among McGovern's younger supporters?

HST: They were the people who would be more inclined to be sympathetic – because they were more sophisticated – to a person who had been treated for nervous tension, even if he had gone to the extent of having electro-shock treatments. They were not the kind of people who would say, "Oh, that nut – get rid of him." They were also the same kind of people who had earlier seen McGovern as an anti-politician... or the "white knight," as some people called him... The honest man... Not the kind of person who would say one thing and do another. And at that point with Eagleton, as he said, he was behind him 1000%. Then he turned around and asked him to get off the ticket.

Ed: It was at that point McGovern said "1000%"?

HST: One of the weird unanswered questions is whether McGovern actually said1000% to anyone but Eagleton.

Ed: Well, who reported that McGovern said, "I was behind you 1000%"?

HST: Eagleton reported it.

Ed: Eagleton reported it, but McGovern never denied it...

HST: Just as soon as the Eagleton story broke Mankiewicz had said "Let's get rid of this guy."

Ed: Frank said that? "Let's get rid of this guy"? Right away?

HST: Yeah: In the Haynes Johnson story Mankiewicz said that he was speaking both for himself and Gary Hart when he went to McGovern right after they found out about the information on Eagleton, the initial information, the stuff that was published. He said, "I remember that night I called him 'George,' which I vowed I would not do during the campaign. I indicated I was speaking for Gary and myself." Mankiewicz told McGovern, "Let's get rid of this guy."

Ed: That was the first time he had called Senator McGovern George? That seems unusual.

HST: Yeah, that puzzled me all throughout the campaign, because I remember when I first met McGovern over at Tom Braden's house back in December... He came over for dinner, and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to call him George... like I called Tom Braden, columnist from the Washington Post, "Tom," and... people would call Robert Kennedy "Bobby." One of the... sort of... consistent indicators of the tone of the McGovern campaign and McGovern's personality was the fact that nobody in the campaign, including Mankiewicz, who was the closest person to him in the campaign, ever called him anything but "The Senator" or addressed him as "Senator," which struck me as very peculiar. At first I called him George, but then I began to feel weird, because I was the only person who called him that, except my wife... but I never heard anyone else call him "George."

Ed: We seem to be getting off the track. We were discussing the difference between "perception" and "reality" in the handling of the Eagleton Affair. The public perceived Eagleton to be the good guy...

HST: Excuse me, but I think I see a mescaline dealer down there in the street.

Ed: No... pull the curtains, pull the curtains.

HST: I should call my attorney.

Ed: Maybe we should get your personal physician back here. You're acting very tense, very nervous... we can't even think about mescaline dealers right now. We're on a crisis schedule... Do you want to say anything further about the way McGovern handled the Eagleton problem?

HST: I think he handled it very badly. There were two people in the campaign... in the sort of top echelon, who made the strongest possible case with George for unloading Eagleton.

Ed: Who argued for dumping Eagleton?

HST: Well... Eleanor McGovern was the first one. But that's not what I mean here, because she wanted to dump him in Miami, about two minutes after she heard he'd been selected to be on the ticket. She was the only person in Miami who was openly, out-front opposed to Eagleton right from the start – except me, of course, but people like Hart and Mankiewicz never took my opinions very seriously anyway... and in Miami I wasn't down on Eagleton because I knew any foul secrets about him; neither did Eleanor... But when I was talking to Stearns and Bill Dougherty [McGovern adviser, William Dougherty, Lieutenant Governor of South Dakota] on the beach that Saturday afternoon after the convention, I told him Eagleton looked like the first big mistake they'd made, up to then – because he seemed out of place in that campaign; he was a hack, just another one of these cheap hustlers – and Dougherty said it was kind of funny to hear me saying almost exactly the same things Eleanor had been saying about Eagleton...

Ed: Bill Dougherty said that? In Miami?

HST: Yeah, but I didn't print it. Stearns and I were out on the beach drinking beer when Bill saw us... He just came over and sat down, without realizing I had my tape recorder going, so I figured it wasn't fair to use some of the brutally frank things he said that day... I edited them out of the tape transcription.

Ed: So the public's perception of McGovern was distorted – but you think that McGovern essentially was at the root of that distortion.

HST: I think his indecisiveness was at the root of that distortion. At every crisis in the campaign McGovern appeared to be – was perceived to be – and, in fact, was indecisive... for unnatural periods of time.

Ed: Unnatural periods of time?

HST: Well, unsettling periods of time. The selection of a replacement for Eagleton was one of the most heinous botches in the history of politics. Here he was calling Humphrey and Muskie and offering it to them publicly – and then being turned down ... He had also offered it to Humphrey at the convention... I didn't realize that until later.

Ed: One last question about this trip from Long Beach to Sioux Falls: Why was this second plane called the Zoo Plane and how widespread was the use of dangerous narcotics in the campaign and on this particular trip?

HST: Well, let's first deal with the fact that "drugs" are not necessarily narcotics. We want to get that clear in our minds. The narcotic is one type of drug and...

Ed: Excuse me, I...

HST: Coffee is a drug... yes, there were drugs being used... booze is a drug... many drugs.... They're all around us these days.

Ed: I understand you're an expert...

HST: Well... I've been studying drugs for years.

Ed: A student of pharmacology.

HST: I make a point of knowing what I'm putting into myself. Yes.... The Zoo Plane: I'm not sure who named it that, but the name derived from the nature of the behavior of the people on it... It was very much like a human zoo, and I recall particularly that last flight from Long Beach to Sioux Falls... I remember Tim Crouse's description of how the older and straighter press people must have felt when they saw five or six freaks reeling around in the cockpit on takeoff and landing, passing joints around. As Tim said, you can imagine how these guys felt. They had heard all these terrible things, they'd read stories about how people in dark corners gathered to pass drugs around, and they always thought that it happened in urine-soaked doorways around Times Square. But all of a sudden here we were covering a presidential campaign and there were joints being passed up and down the aisle: weird people in the cockpit... drug addicts... lunatics... crowding into the cockpit just to get high and wired on the lights. The cockpit had millions of lights all around it: green lights... red lights... all kinds of blinking things – a wonderful place to be. That surge of power in a jet... you don't get any real sense of it back in the passenger seats, but the feeling... up in front is like riding God's own motorcycle. You can feel that incredible... at takeoff... that incredible surge of power behind you... in the 727 the engines are way back in the back and you feel like you're just being lifted off the ground by some kind of hellish force. And the climb angle is something like 40 or 50 degrees... and then all these green lights blinking and these dials going and things buzzing and humming... and looking down seeing the lights here and there... and cities passing and mountain ranges... a wonderful way to go. I think I'm going to have to get a flying license very soon, and maybe one of those Lear jets. Jesus – the possibilities! It beats motorcycles all to hell.

Ed: It's the third dimension. Motorcycles are only two dimensional.

HST: Yeah, right. I think I'd like to get up there at night, all alone – with a head full of mescaline, just roll around in the sky like a big Condor...

* * *

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