One of my clearest memories of the Nebraska primary is getting off the elevator on the wrong floor in the Omaha Hilton and hearing a sudden burst of song from a room down one of the hallways … 20 to 30 young voices in ragged harmony, kicking out the jams as they swung into the final, hair-raising chorus of “The Hound and the Whore.”
I had heard it before, in other hallways of other hotels along the campaign trail—but never this late at night, and never at this level of howling intensity:
O the Hound chased the whore across the mountains
Boom! Boom! Boom!
O the Hound chased the Whore into the sea….
Boom! Boom! Boom!
A very frightening song under any circumstances—but especially frightening if you happen to be a politician running for very high stakes and you know the people singing that song are not on your side. I have never been in that situation, myself, but I imagine it is something like camping out in the North Woods and suddenly coming awake in your tent around midnight to the horrible snarling and screaming sounds of a Werewolf killing your guard dog somewhere out in the trees beyond the campfire.
I was thinking about this as I stood in the hallway outside the elevator and heard all those people singing “The Hound and the Whore” … in a room down the hall that led into a wing of the hotel that I knew had been blocked off for The Candidate’s national staff. But there is nothing in my notes to indicate which one of the candidates was quartered in that wing—or even which floor I was on when I first heard the song. All I remember for sure is that it was one floor either above or below mine, on the 11th. But the difference is crucial—because McGovern’s people were mainly down on the 10th, and the smaller Humphrey contingent was above me on the 12th.
It was a Monday night, as I recall, just a few hours before the polls opened on Tuesday morning—and at that point the race seemed so even that both camps were publicly predicting a victory and privately expecting defeat. So even in retrospect there is no way to be certain which staff was doing the singing.
And my own head was so scrambled at that hour that I can’t be sure of anything except that we had just come back from a pre-dawn breakfast at the Omaha Toddle House with Jack Nicholson, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Warren Beatty and Gary Hart, McGovern’s national campaign manager who had just picked up a check for roughly $40,000 gross from another one of Beatty’s fundraising spectacles.
This one had been over in Lincoln, the state capital town about 60 miles west of Omaha, where a friendly crowd of some 7500 had packed the local civic center for a concert by Andy Williams and Henry Mancini … which apparently did the trick, because 24 hours later Lincoln delivered 2-1 for McGovern and put him over the hump in Nebraska.
I understand these things, and as a certified member of the national press corps I am keenly aware of my responsibility to keep calm and endure two hours of Andy Williams from time to time—especially since I went over to Lincoln on the press bus and couldn’t leave until the concert was over, anyway—but I’m beginning to wonder just how much longer I can stand it: This endless nightmare of getting up at the crack of dawn to go out and watch the candidate shake hands with workers coming in for the day shift at the Bilbo Bear & Sprocket factory, then following him across town for another press-the-flesh gig at the local Slaughterhouse … then back on the bus and follow the candidate’s car through traffic for 45 minutes to watch him eat lunch and chat casually with the folks at a basement cafeteria table in some high-rise Home for the Aged.
Both Humphrey and McGovern have been doing this kind of thing about 18 hours a day for the past six months—and one of them will keep doing it 18 hours a day for five more months until November. According to the political pros, there is no other way to get elected: Go out and meet the voters on their own turf, shake their hands, look them straight in the eye and introduce yourself … there is no other way.
The only one of the candidates this year who has consistently ignored and broken every rule in the Traditional Politicians book is George Wallace. He doesn’t do plant gates and coffee klatches. Wallace is a performer, not a mingler. He campaigns like a rock star, working always on the theory that one really big crowd is better than 40 small ones.
* * *
But to hell with these theories. This is about the 13th lead I’ve written for this goddamn mess, and they are getting progressively worse … which hardly matters now, because we are down to the deadline again and it will not be be long before the Mojo wire starts beeping and the phones start ringing and those thugs out in San Francisco will be screaming for Copy. Words! Wisdom! Gibberish!
Anything! The presses roll at noon—three hours from now, and the paper is ready to go except for five blank pages in the middle. The “center-spread,” a massive feature story. The cover is already printed, and according to the Story List that is lying out there on the floor about ten feet away from this typewriter, the center-spread feature for this issue will be A Definitive Profile of George McGovern and Everything He Stands For—written by me.
Looking at it fills me with guilt. This room reeks of failure, once again. Every two weeks they send me a story list that says I am lashing together some kind of definitive work on a major subject … which is true, but these projects are not developing quite as fast as we thought they would. There are still signs of life in a few of them, but not many. Out of 26 projects—a year’s work—I have abandoned all hope for 24, and the other two are hanging by a thread.
There is no time to explain, now, why this is not a profile of George McGovern. That story blew up on us in Omaha, on the morning of the primary, when George and most of his troupe suddenly decided that Nixon’s decision to force a showdown with Hanoi made it imperative for the Senator to fly back to Washington at once.
Nobody could say exactly why, but we all assumed he had something special in mind—some emergency move to get control of Nixon. No time for long mind-probing interviews. Humphrey was leaving too, and there were two or three cynics in the press corps who suggested that this left McGovern no choice. If Humphrey thought the War-Scare was important enough to make him rush back to the Capitol instead of hanging around. Omaha on election day, then McGovern should be there too—or Hubert might say his Distinguished Opponent cared more about winning the Nebraska Primary than avoiding World War Three.
As it turned out, neither Humphrey nor McGovern did anything dramatic when they got back to Washington—or at least nothing public—and a week or so later the New York Times announced that the mines in Haiphong harbor had been set to de-activate themselves on the day before Nixon’s trip to Moscow for the summit meeting.
Maybe I missed something. Perhaps the whole crisis was solved in one of those top-secret confrontations between the Senate and the White House that we will not be able to read about until the records are opened 75 years from now.
But there is no point in haggling any longer with this. The time has come to get full bore into heavy Gonzo Journalism, and this time we have no choice but to push it all the way out to the limit. The phone is ringing again and I can hear Crouse downstairs trying to put them off:
“What the hell are you guys worried about. He’s up there cranking out a page every three minutes … What? … No, it won’t make much sense, but I guarantee you we’ll have plenty of words. If all else fails we’ll start sending press releases and shit like that … Sure, why worry? We’ll start sending almost immediately.”
Only a lunatic would do this kind of work: 23 primaries in five months; stone drunk from dawn till dusk and huge speed-blisters all over my head. Where is the meaning? That light at the end of the tunnel?
Crouse is yelling again. They want more copy. He has sent them all of his stuff on the Wallace shooting, and now they want mine. Those halfwit sons of bitches should subscribe to a wire service; get one of those big AP tickers that spits out 50 words a minute, 24 hours a day … a whole grab-bag of weird news; just rip it off the top and print whatever comes up. Just the other day the AP wire had a story about a man from Arkansas who entered some kind of contest and won a two-week vacation—all expenses paid—wherever he wanted to go. Any place in the world: Mongolia, Easter Island, the Turkish Riviera … but his choice was Salt Lake City, and that’s where he went. Is this man a registered voter? Has he come to grips with the issues? Has he bathed in the blood of the lamb?
* * *
So much for all that. The noise-level downstairs tells me Crouse will not be able to put them off much longer. So now we will start getting serious: First in Columbus, Ohio, and then in Omaha—but mainly in Columbus, if only because this thing began as a fairly straight and serious account of the Ohio Primary.
Then we decided to combine it with the ill-fated “McGovern Profile.” So we arranged to meet George in Nebraska. I flew out from Washington and Wenner flew in from the Coast—just in time to shake hands with the candidate on his way to the airport.
No—I want to be fair about it: there was a certain amount of talk, and on the evidence (see endorsement on page 41) it seems to have worked out. But not in terms of “The Profile.” We still had five blank pages. So I came back to Washington and grappled with it for a few days, Crouse came down from Boston to help beat the thing into shape … but nothing worked; no spine, no hope, to hell with it. We decided to bury the bugger and pretend none of that stuff ever happened. Tim flew back to Boston and I went off to New York in a half-crazed condition to explain myself and my wisdom at the Columbia School of Journalism.
Later that day George Wallace was shot at a rally in Maryland about 12 minutes away from my house. It was the biggest political story of the year, and those five goddamn pages were still blank. Crouse flew back immediately from Boston and I straggled back from New York, but by the time we got there it was all over.
What follows, then, is one of the most desperate last-minute hamburger jobs in the history of journalism—including the first known experiment with large-scale Gonzo Journalism—which we accomplished, in this case, by tearing my Ohio Primary notebook apart and sending about 50 pages of scribbled shorthand notes straight to the typesetter.
But we have no choice. The fat is in the fire. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Ed Muskie said that.
Treachery in the Neil House, Panic in the Omaha Hilton
My next job—after getting my brother elected President of the United States—will be the political destruction of Hubert Humphrey.
—Robert Kennedy; after the West Virginia primary in 1960
Strange, how a thing like that can stick in the memory. I may have a word or two wrong, but the balls of that quote are intact … and now, 12 years later on a rainy grey dawn in Omaha, Nebraska, it comes back to me with a vengeful clarity that makes me wonder once again if my head is entirely healthy.
That was back in Bobby’s “ruthless” period … which is a pretty good word for the way I’m feeling right now after watching the CBS Morning News and seeing that Hubert just won the West Virginia primary. He beat George Wallace, Two to One … and now he’s moving on to California, for the nut-cutting ceremony on June 6th.
Which is very convenient for me, because I plan to be in California myself around that time: Going out to do a road test on the new Vincent Black Shadow … and maybe follow Hubert for a while, track him around the state like a golem and record his last act for posterity.
emember me, Hubert? I’m the one who got smacked in the stomach by a billy club at the corner of Michigan and Balboa on that evil Wednesday night four years ago in Chicago … while you looked down from your suite on the 25th floor of the Hilton, and wept with a snout full of tear gas drifting up from Grant Park.
I have never been one to hold a grudge any longer than absolutely necessary, Hubert, and I get the feeling that we’re about to write this one off. Big Ed was first … then you … and after that. The Other One.
Nothing personal. But it’s time to balance the books. The Raven is calling your name, Hubert; he says you still owe some dues—payable, in full, on June 6th. In the coin of the realm; no credit this time, no extensions.
* * *
My head is not quite straight this morning. These brutal Tuesday nights are ruining my health. Last week at this time I was pacing around my room on the seventh floor of the Neil House Motor Hotel in Columbus, Ohio, pausing now and then to stare out the window at the early morning buses just starting to move down on High Street … listening to the Grateful Dead, sipping Wild Turkey and trying not to identify with a wino slumped in the doorway of Mister Angelo’s Wig Salon down there behind the stoplight and beyond the cool green lawn of the state Capitol Building.
Moments earlier I had left Pat Caddell, McGovern’s voter/analysis wizard, muttering to himself in the hallway outside the Situation Room—where he and Frank Mankiewicz and about six others had been grappling all night with botched returns from places like Toledo and Youngstown and Cincinnati.
“Goddamnit,” he was saying. “I still can’t believe it happened! They stole it from us!” He shook his head and kicked a tin spitoon next to the elevator. “We won this goddamn election! We had a lock on the nomination tonight, we had it nailed down—but the bastards stole it from us!”
Which was more or less true. If McGovern had been able to win Ohio with his last-minute, half-organized blitz it would have snapped the psychic spine of the Humphrey campaign … because Hubert had been formidably strong in Ohio, squatting tall in the pocket behind his now-familiar screen of Organized Labor and Old Blacks.
By dawn on Wednesday it was still “too close to call,” officially—but sometime around five Harold Himmelman, the national overseer for Ohio, had picked up one of the phones in the situation room and been jolted half out of his chair by the long-awaited tallies from midtown Cleveland. McGovern had already won three of the four Congressional Districts in Cuyahoga County (metropolitan Cleveland), and all he needed to carry the state, now—along with the 38 additional convention delegates reserved for the statewide winner—was a half-respectable showing in the 21st, the heartland of the black vote, a crowded urban fiefdom bossed by Congressman Louis Stokes.
Ten seconds after he picked up the phone Himmelman was screaming: “What? Jesus Christ! No! That can’t be right!” (pause …) Then: “Awww, shit! That’s impossible!”
He turned to Mankiewicz: “It’s all over. Listen to this …” He turned back to the phone: “Give that to me again … okay, yeah, I’m ready.” He waited until Mankiewicz got a pencil, then began feeding the figures: “A hundred and nine to one! A hundred and twenty seven to three! … Jesus …”
Mankiewicz flinched, then wrote down the numbers. Cadell slumped back in his chair and shook both fists at the ceiling. Himmelman kept croaking out the figures: a fantastic beating, unbelievable—the 21st was a total wipeout. “Well …” he said finally. “Thanks for calling, anyway. What? No … but we’ll damn well do something. Yeah, I realize that …” (pause) “Goddamnit I know it’s not your fault! Sure! We’re gonna put some people in jail … yeah, this is too obvious …” (starts to hang up, then pauses again) “Say, how many more votes do they have to count up there?”
“As many as they need,” Mankiewicz muttered.
Himmelman glanced at him, grimaced, then hung up. “What does that project to,” Frank asked Caddell. “About 30,000 to six?”
The wizard shugged. “Who cares? We got raped. We’ll never make that up—not even with Akron.”
At that point the ancient black bell captain entered, bringing a pot of coffee and a small tin box that he said contained the two Alka-Seltzers I’d asked for—but when I opened the box it was full of dirty vaseline.
“What the fuck is this?” I said, showing it to him. He took the box back and examined it carefully for a long time. “Well … damn-nation,” he said finally. “Where did this stuff come from?”
“Probably Nashville,” I said. “That’s White Rose Petroleum Jelly, sure as hell.” He nodded slowly.
“Yesss … meebee so …”
“No maybe about it,” I said. “I know that stuff. WLAC … around 1958 … Jesus Christ, man! That grease is 14 years old! What are you keeping it for?”
He shrugged and dropped the tin box in the pocket of his white waiter’s smock. “Damn if I know,” he said. “I thought it was Alka-Seltzer.”
I signed the tab for the coffee, then helped him load about a dozen stale glasses on his tray … but he seemed very agitated and I thought it was because of his blunder: Of course, the poor old bugger was feeling guilty about the dollar I’d given him for the seltzer.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “You’ll find some. Bring it up with the next pot of coffee.”
He shook his head and gestured at the big round wooden table where Mankiewicz, Himmelman and Caddell were brooding over the tally sheets.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
He was jabbing his finger at the half gallon of Early Times, but I was slow to understand … so he picked up one of the coffee cups he’d just brought us, and gestured again at the bottle.
“Ah ha!” I said. “Of course.” He held the cup with both hands while I filled it to the brim with fresh whiskey … feeling grossly out of synch with my surroundings: Here I was in the nerve-center of a presidential campaign that even such far-out latent papists as Evans & Novak considered alarmingly radical, and at the peak of the crisis I was taking time out to piece off some befuddled old Darkie with a cup full of bourbon … then I opened the door for him as he shuffled out into the hallway with his stash, still holding it with both hands and mumbling his thanks.
A very weird scene, I thought as I closed the door. A flashback to Gone With the Wind … and as I went back to pour myself a cup of coffee I had another flash: And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
I was tempted to lay it on Frank, just to see how he’d handle it. The McGovern campaign has been hagridden from the start with unsettling literary references: Mankiewicz apparently sees the whole thing through the eyes of a latter day Gertrude Stein; Gary Hart, the national manager, is hung up on Tolstoy … and Chris Lydon, the resident New York Times correspondent, has an ugly habit of relating mundane things like a bomb scare on the press bus or a low turnout in the Polak wards to pithy lines from Virgil. On the morning of election day in Nebraska I was talking to Lydon in the lobby of the Omaha Hilton when he suddently wrapped off the conversation with: “You know, Virgil wanted to burn The Aeneid.”
I stared at him, trying to remember if Virgil was maybe one of McGovern’s advance men for Scott’s Bluff that I hadn’t met yet, or … “You pointy-head bastard,” I said. “Wait till Wallace gets in. He’ll kick your ass all over the street with Virgil.”
* * *
Meanwhile … back in Columbus, Ohio, it is 5:05 AM on a cool Wednesday morning and Frank Mankiewicz is calling the Secretary of State, getting him out of bed to protest what he gently but repeatedly refers to as “these fantastic irregularities” in the vote counting procedure. McGovern’s slim lead has suddenly fallen apart; the phones are ringing constantly, and every call brings a new horror story.
In Cincinnati the vote-counters have decided to knock off and rest for 12 hours, a flagrant violation of Sec. 350529 of the State Election Code, which says the counting must go on, without interruption, until all the votes are tallied. In Toledo McGovern is clinging to a precarious 11-vote lead—but in Toledo and everywhere else the polling places are manned by local (Democratic) party hacks not friendly to McGovern, and any delay in the counting will give them time to … ah …
Mankiewicz studiously avoids using words like “fraud” or “cheat” or “steal.” Earlier that day Pierre Salinger had gone on the air to accuse the Humphrey forces of “vote fraud,” but the charge was impossible to substantiate at the time and Humphrey was able to broadcast an embarrassing counterattack while the polls were still open. In Cleveland, in fact, 127 polling places had remained open until midnight—on the basis of an emergency directive from the state Supreme Court.
* * *
At this point we were forced to switch the narrative into the straight Gonzo mode. The rest of the Ohio section comes straight out of the notebook, for good or ill.
12:00 — Cronkite comes on—barely able to talk—and says Humphrey has won Indiana 46 to 41 percent over Wallace (Cadell had Wallace at 29 percent) but only 17 percent of the Ohio vote is counted as of now, so far showing Hump. with the same 41 to 36 percent lead he had at 9:45.
Wandering around the hotel with Dick Tuck—into Humphrey Hq: “Mr. Banjo …” Returns: H: 58,000 to M: 53,000.
Midnight NBC-Columbus (polls just closed in Cleveland) ABC has delegates 55-22 in HH Hq just before McGovern speaks. NBC has 41-39, 91,244 to 86,825. Five thousand difference & the polls just closed in Cleveland. Muskie 24,000.
Mankiewicz’s speech in the ballroom was careful downer—standing next to Beatty. (“What does this mean, Hunter?” weird hustler’s smile.)
“It means McGovern will come into Miami with less than enough to win and it means pure hell on the floor.”
Meanwhile, CBS has some kind of wild west cowboy drama …
Jimmy Stewart, Brig. Gen. USAF rolling in the dust under cow hoofs.
Old woman shooting at the feet of a cowhand tempted to jump in with a six-shooter.
She fires the 30-30 and warns to “let ’em fight.”
“Where you come from, stranger?”
“I come from Laramie and you better get used to me being here.”
“I own this town, stranger.” (Like Daley-Meany to McGovern—”I own this town, stranger.” But maybe not. 41-39% at midnight and the polls just closed in Cleveland.
12:25 — Call Mank on phone in Situation Room No. 528: “Yeah, we’ll be up for four to five more hours.”
12:35 CBS — 91,000 to 86,000—same 5000 split.
12:33— Hump. says he has a “great victory in Indiana.— Mr. Wallace has made this a sort of second Alabama.” And adds, “I doubt that anyone is going to come to that convention with enough votes to win on the first ballot.” So the bloodbath looms. Heavy duty in Miami.
12:36 — McGov. tense on CBS interview: Shumaker: “Do you regret this decision to come into Ohio?” McG: “Not at all.”
2:36 — Mank on phone to Washington says “Hell, let’s scrub it.” (NBC invitation — McGov. appear on Today Show at dawn.)
Yancy Martin: “Sheeitt! McGovern says scrub it to The Today Show. Man, we’re gettin’ big.”
Mank: “Shit, we used to have to fight to get on Uncle Bob — or The Flintstones.”
2:38 — (Mank) “It looks like we’re winning in Districts 23, 20 & 22 — Scammon says he thinks we’ll come out of Cuyahoga County with a plurality of 60,000.” (Mank) — “He [Scoop Jackson] went out like he came in — with a lot of class, huh?”
2:52 — bad news from 21.
(Himm.) “Come on, don’t play games — how much are we gonna lose by?”
(Himm.) “Shit. We’re dead if that happens! Dead! Goddamn it!”
Bitterness about Stokes brothers in Ohio — “When we win this thing they’re gonna have to crawl, goddamn it.”
3:03 — The down feeling again. Cadell shrugs: “I don’t know, I just feel pessimistic.”
What you tend to forget is that two weeks ago McGov. couldn’t have pulled 20 percent in Ohio.
Recall quote from Sunday night: “If we’d only had one more week.”
H. Humphrey in ’68 — “one more month — even two weeks.”
But you don’t get any overtimes in this game — “there ain’t no instant replay in the football game of life.” —Mitch Greenhill
Cadell — “Watching the map is sort of like watching the clock.” (snarling)
3:05 — definite funk is setting in now/not going to win. But hope forever springs, etc….
Phones slamming — “The goddamn 21st district is what’s killing us. We’ll probably carry the other three….
(Himm.) “Wagner says it’s an 8 to 1 loss in the 21st. Jesus Christ!”
Yancy Martin answers all phones with eerie: “Good Morning.”
3:34 — Door opens and John Chancellor wanders in.
(Mank) — “Hi, Jack — what do you hear?”
(Cn) “Well we ended up saying you won … so I hope you do.”
(Mank) “You want a drink, Jack?”
“Yeah … But the point is not whether you won, but how close you came.”
3:51 — It come down to the 21st.
Cadell says: “Yes, if I had to generalize, I’d say it comes down to the 21st.”
3:53—phone rings—”But still no news from the 21st….
Weird, even this presidential election comes down to some student and/or housewife poll watcher.
(Himm.) yelling at girl: “Goddamn it, I want you to call me on every precinct!”
3:59 — Delegate count is 55-37, McGovern.
Mank/on phone to lawyers: “What I think is that Stokes is sitting there and waiting to be told how many they need.”
4:11 — The whole state now hinges on the outcome in the 21st Congressional District.
Returns from only three precincts out of more than 400 in the 21st District.
Mank at 4:15 — “Well, I’m at the point where I’m ready to start getting judges out of bed.”
4:36 — Phone rings. Himm answers. 21st starts in: “What! What was that?” (Himm shouting) Then aside to Mank and Cadell, “Black middle class — 109 to 1! Jesus Christ!”
4:48 — The hammer falls. Incredible ratios from Black precincts in mid Cleveland.
Mank on phone to “Jim.” (Turns to Cadell — “Who is this?”)
Cadell — “Jim” (shrugs).
Mank — “Jim — what do they want?” (answer from phone, “They want you to consult with your lawyer and get his agreement to stop counting until 6 PM.”)
Mank — “Well, tell ’em you just talked to your lawyer and he says there’s no way he can acquiesce in a violation of the law. And your lawyer’s name is Frank Mankiewicz — member of the bar in California and the Supreme Court of the United States!” (“I simply can’t go along with the breaking of the law.”)
5:16 — Mank on phone to Secretary of State Brown — “Mr. Brown, we’re profoundly disturbed about this situation in the 21st. We can’t get a single result out of there. The polls have been closed for 12 hours. I can’t help but think they’re lying in the weeds up there.”
Weird conversation with Brown, a gentle old man who’s been jerked out of bed at 5:15. Mank talking very fast, cool and vaguely menacing. Brown obviously baffled — end of a bad day. It began when Governor John Gilligan said he (Brown) should resign for reasons of gross incompetence.
5:26—Mank on phone 20 minutes to “Socko” Weither, Democratic Party boss in Cincinnati—Mank screaming.
5:26 — Weither’s voice screching into room/shatters quiet tension of the room.
Mank — “OK Mr. Weithe, all I want from you is a clear affirmation that you’re going to ignore the law.” (Mank pauses) “Wait a minute, I don’t want any more abuse, I just want to know if you’re going to obey that law!”
5:31 — Mank on phone to lawyer: “Jesus, I think we gotta go in there and get those ballots!” All phones ringing now, the swing shift has shot the gap — now the others are waking up.
Mank — “They’re gonna stop the count in Cincinnati in a half hour — and wait 12 hours before starting again/ Yeah, we’re ahead down there, but not by much … we can’t afford to give ’em time to get their counts documented.”
5:43 (Mank on phone to “Mary”)—”It now appears quite clear that we’ll lead the state — without the 21st.”
Mankiewicz has been on the phone now since 11 PM with only a few breaks.
Socko to Mank: “This is your boss’s fault — he should have known — you start electing delegates and you get this kind of thing.”
Bad toke on reform.
Night ends, 6:49.
Meet in the coffee shop at 7:30, press conference at 10:00. Waiting for the elevator — 6:05 AM in Columbus, Ohio, pacing back and forth on the damp red carpet in the 2nd floor hall … Pat Cadell is jerking a bundle of legal sized paper around in his hands and mumbling: “I knew this campaign was too goddamn honest! It was bound to get us in trouble… Now I understand why the North Vietnamese wouldn’t agree to election in the south.”
Cadell is 21 years old. He has never had his face washed in the dirty realities of American politics. For almost a year now, he has been George McGovern’s official numbers wizard. Cadell and his (Cambridge Research Associates) have been working the streets and suburban neighborhoods in New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Mass. for McGovern, then coming back to Hq. on election nite and calling the results almost down to percentage point.
But tonight was different. The polls closed — officially — at 6:30, but the situation in Cleveland had been out of control since early morning … And by midnight the outlook was ominous. McGovern’s eleventh-hour challenge in Ohio was almost over the hump; he was running over the Hump. and leading in delegates, but for some reason there were no results from the black districts in mid-town Cleveland.
7:00 — Today Show: McGee says J. Edgar died last night and Hump. won a narrow victory over Wallace in Indiana — but his slim lead over George McGovern in Ohio is by no means certain.
NBC newsman Bill Monroe: “McGov. will wind up with the biggest psychological boost in the Ohio primary —but his pulling power among blue collar workers still remains uncertain.”
Wallace from Houston: We are the balance of power in Miami — we’ve already turned the party in a different direction.”
CBS Morning News:
Jackson comes on, saying he’s dropped out — hoping for a polarization between Wallace and McGovern. (Recall Mank. quote—”class, huh?”) “I’m not gonna take sides in this campaign.” — Then attacks McGov. again on amnesty, etc.
CBS (Hart election roundup) — No hint of the all-night phone madness and treachery reports in Situation Room — Even reading and watching all the news, there is no way to know the truth—except to be there.
Hump. on CBS says, “If you put H. Hump and Ed Muskie and Scoop Jackson together — we’re pretty much on the same wave length — and we’ve got the numbers.”
McGovern on CBS takes a very gentle line on the “very peculiar things that happened out there in Cleveland.” No hint of Mank screaming on the phone at “Socko.”
McGee on Today Show (second hour)—”There is still no result in that big Ohio primary — Senator Humphrey is still maintaining his slim lead over Sen. George McGovern.”
Suddenly, Kleindienst and Eastland and Thomas Corchoran are on the screen, praising J. Edgar Hoover — Jesus, these are the pigs who run the country. Nixon/ southerners/Big Business.
10:10 Wednesday morning press conf.—grim faces at head table:
Hart — “We’re making no allegations of illegality or fraud — at this point.”
An extremely haggard crew; red eyes, hovering on stupor.
“By mid-afternoon massive numbers of people in Youngstown — including the judge up there — were not able to obtain ballots.”
Mank. compares yesterday’s election in Ohio to the 1969 election of Velasia Ibarra in Ecuador—next to Saigon, perhaps the second most flagrantly crooked election in the history of the democratic process—he needed a team of OAS observers in Guayaquil etc. In some precincts here, voters were not given the paper ballots unless they asked for them …
Mank — “We have achieved what we set out to do in Ohio — we stood Senator Humphrey at least dead even and probably beat him, as far as the working man’s vote is concerned.
“This is Humphrey’s peak — from now on there isn’t much he can win.”
A Puff-Adder in Omaha
Another Wednesday morning, another hotel room, another grim bout with the CBS Morning News … and another post-mortem press conference scheduled for 10:00 AM. Three hours from now. Call room service and demand two whole grapefruits, along with a pot of coffee and four glasses of V-8 juice.
These goddam Wednesday mornings are ruining my health. Last night I came out of a mild Ibogaine coma just about the time the polls closed at eight. No booze on election day—at least not until the polls close; but they always seem to leave at least one loophole for serious juicers. In Columbus it was the bar at the airport, and in Omaha we had to rent a car and drive across the Missouri River to Council Bluffs, which is also across the state line into Iowa. Every year, on election day, the West End bars in Council Bluffs are jammed with boozers from Omaha.
Which is fine, for normal people, but when you drink all day with a head full of Ibogaine and then have to spend the next ten hours analyzing election returns … there will usually be problems.
Last week — at the Neil House Motor Hotel in Columbus, Ohio — some lunatic tried to break into my room at six in the morning. But fortunately I had a strong chain on the door. In every reputable hotel there is a sign above the knob that warns: “For Our Guests’ Protection — Please Use Door Chain at all Times, Before Retiring.”
I always use it. During four long months on the campaign trail I have had quite a few bad experiences with people trying to get into my room at strange hours—and in almost every case they object to the music. One out of three will also object to the typewriter, but that hasn’t been the case here in Omaha …
McGovern and Friend
George McGovern (D-SD), shown here campaigning in Nebraska where he has spent 23 hours a day for the past six days denying charges by local Humphrey operatives that he favors the legalization of Marijuana, pauses between denials to shake hands for photographers with his “old friend” Hunter S. Thompson, the notorious National Correspondent for Rolling Stone who was recently identified by NEWSWEEK magazine as a vicious drunkard and known abuser of hard drugs.
A thing like that would have finished him here in Nebraska. No more of that “Hi, sheriff” bullshit; I am now the resident Puff Adder … and the problem is very real. In Ohio, which McGovern eventually lost by a slim 19,000 vote margin, his handlers figure perhaps 10,000 of those were directly attributable to his public association with Warren Beatty, who once told a reporter somewhere that he favored legalizing grass. This was picked up by the worthless asshole Sen. Henry Jackson (D. Wash.) and turned into a major issue.
So it fairly boggles the mind to think what Humphrey’s people might do with a photo of McGovern shaking hands with a person who once ran for Sheriff on Aspen on the Freak Power ticket, with a platform embracing the use and frequent enjoyment of Mescaline by the Sheriff and all his Deputies at any hour of the day or night that seemed Right.
No, this would never do. Nor for George McGovern — at least not in May of ’72, and probably never. He has spent the past week traveling around Nebraska and pausing at every opportunity to explain that he is flatly opposed to the legalization of marijuana. He is also opposed to putting people in prison for mere possession, which he thinks should be re-classified as a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
And even this went down hard in Nebraska. He came into this state with a comfortable lead, and just barely escaped with a six percentage-point (41 percent to 35 percent) win over Hubert Humphrey—who did everything possible, short of making the accusations on his own, to identify McGovern as a Trojan Horse full of dope dealers and abortionists.
* * *
Jackson had raised the same issues in Ohio, but George ignored them—which cost him the state and 38 delegates, according to his staff thinkers—so when Hubert laid it on him again, in Nebraska, McGovern decided to “meet them head on.” For almost a week, every speech he made led off with an angry denial that he favored either legalized grass or Abortion On Demand … and in the dawn hours of Saturday morning, three days before the election, he called his media wizard Charley Guggenheim back from a vacation in the Caribbean to make a Special Film designed — for statewide exposure on Sunday night — to make goddam sure that The Folks understood that George McGovern was just a regular guy, like them, who would no more tolerate marijuana than would send his wife to an abortionist.
And it worked. I watched it in McGovern’s Omaha Hilton “press suite” with a handful of reporters and Dick Dougherty, a former L.A. Times reporter who writes many of George’s major speech/statements, but who is usually kept out of the public eye because of his extremely seedy and unsettling appearance. On Sunday night, however, Dougherty came out of wherever he usually stays to watch The Man on the TV set in the press room. We found him hunkered there with a plastic glass of Old Overholt and a pack of Home Run cigarettes, staring at the tube and saying over and over again: “Jesus, that’s fantastic! Christ, look at that camera angle! God damn, this is really a hell of a film, eh?”
I agreed. It was a first-class campaign film: The lighting was fantastic, the sound was as sharp and clear as diamonds bouncing on a magnesium tabletop, the characters and the dialogue made Turgenev seem like a punk. McGovern sat in the round and masterfully de-fused every ugly charge that had ever been leveled at him. He spoke like a combination of Socrates, Clarence Darrow and God. It was a flat-out masterpiece, both as a film and a performance—and when it ended I joined in the general chorus of praise.
“Beautiful,” somebody muttered.
“Damn fine stuff,” said somebody else.
Dougherty was grinning heavily. “How about that?” he said.
“Wonderful,” I replied. “No doubt about it. My only objection, is that I disagree with almost everything he said.”
He stood up quickly and backed off a few steps. “Jesus Christ,” he snapped. “You’re really a goddam nit-picker, aren’t you?”
Nightmare in Fat City?
McGovern told a Flint (Mich.) press conference that while “Wallace is entitled to be treated with respect at the convention (in Miami), I don’t propose to make any deals with him …”
Humphrey (in Michigan) attacked Wallace more personally than McGovern, but when a question about wooing Wallace delegates was thrown at him, Humphrey said, “I will seek support wherever I can get it, if I can convince them to be for me.”
—Washington Post, May 14, ’72
Quotes like this are hard to come by — especially in presidential elections, where most candidates are smart enough to know better than to call a press conference and then announce — on the record — an overweening eagerness to peddle his ass to the highest bidder.
Only Hubert Humphrey would do a thing like that … and we can only assume that now, in his lust for the White House — after suffering for 24 years with a case of Political Blueballs only slightly less severe than Richard Nixon’s — that the Hube has finally cracked; and he did it in public.
With the possible exception of Nixon, Hubert Humphrey is the purest and most disgusting example of a Political Animal in American politics today. He has been going at it hammer and tongs about 25 hours a day since the end of World War II — just like Richard Nixon, who launched his own career as a Red-baiting California congressman about the same time Hubert began making headlines as the Red-baiting Mayor of Minneapolis. They are both career anti-Communists: Nixon’s gig was financed from the start by Big Business, and Humphrey’s by Big Labor … and what both of them stand for today is the de facto triumph of a One Party System in American politics.
George Meany, the aging ruler of the AFL-CIO, was one of the first to announce his whole-hearted support of Nixon’s decision to lay mines around Haiphong Harbor and celebrate the memory of Guernica with a fresh round of saturation bombing in North Vietnam.
Humphrey disagreed, of course — along with Mayor Daley — but in fact neither one of them had any choice. The war in Vietnam will be a key issue in November, and Senator Henry Jackson of Washington has alreadly demonstrated — with a series of humiliating defeats in the primaries — what fate awaits any Democrat who tries to agree with Nixon on The War.
But Humphrey seems not quite convinced. On the morning before the Wisconsin primary he appeared on The Today Show, along with all the other candidates, and when faced with a question involving renewed escalation of the bombing in Vietnam he lined up with Jackson and Wallace — in clear opposition to McGovern and Lindsay, who both said we should get the hell out of Vietnam at once. Big Ed, as usual, couldn’t make up his mind.
Since then — after watching Jackson suck wind all over the Midwest — Hubert has apparently decided to stick with Dick Daley on Vietnam. But he has not explained, yet, how he plans to square his late-blooming dovishness with Boss Meany — who could croak Humphrey’s last chance for the nomination with a single phone call.
Meany’s hired hacks and goon squads are just about all Hubert can count on these days, and even his Labor friends are having their problems. Tony Boyle, for instance, is headed for prison on more felony counts than I have space to list here. Boyle, former president of the United Mineworkers Union, was recently cracked out of office by the Justice Dept. for gross and flagrant “mis-use” of the union treasury — which involved, among other things, illegal contributions to Humphrey’s presidential campaign in 1968. In addition to all this, Boyle now faces a Conspiracy-Murder rap in connection with the contract-killing of Joseph Yablonski, who made the mistake of challenging him for the union presidency in December, 1969, and paid for it a few months later when hired thugs appeared one night in his bedroom and gunned him down, along with his wife and daughter.
Hubert Humphrey’s opinion of Tony Boyle was best expressed when they appeared together at the United Mineworkers Convention in Denver in 1968, and Humphrey referred to Boyle as “My friend, this great American.”
For whatever it’s worth, the UMW is one of the most powerful political realities in West Virginia, where Humphrey recently won his fourth primary in a row.
* * *
Which gets back to Humphrey’s startling admission at that press conference in Michigan, which was nothing less than a half-shrouded bargaining overture to George Wallace, who has already gone out of his way to tell the national press corps that “My daughter has a big picture of Hubert Humphrey tacked up on the wall above her bed.”
This was very much like Teddy Kennedy telling the press that his wife, his children and indeed the whole Kennedy blood-clan have decided to vote for McGovern. There is not much doubt, now, that Kennedy is preparing to get seriously and publicly behind McGovern. I haven’t talked to him about it. I can’t even get through to his goddamn press secretary. The only way to talk to Kennedy these days is to spend a lot of time on the Washington cocktail circuit, which is not my beat — but the society columnists and Gentlemen Journalists who do most of their work in that area are now convinced that Kennedy is ready to crank his weight behind McGovern any time the Senator asks for it.
The only reporter in Washington who appears to believe that Teddy is marshalling his forces for a last-minute blitz is Kandy Stroud of Women’s Wear Daily. She says he is sneaking around the country on weekends, lashing together a very ominous coalition. She broke the story in WWD on April 25th, the same day George McGovern swept all 102 delegates in the Massachusetts primary.
“Quietly,” she wrote, “as if it were being pulled by cats, the Kennedy bandwagon has begun rolling.
“For a couple of days last week, while everyone else was preoccupied with moon shots, primaries and pandas, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) slipped out of town and went to Little Rock, Ark., Columbia, S.C., and Indianapolis, Ind.
“He spoke to the people and his appearances generated the old Kennedy magic. The hands reached out for him, stretching and grasping, seeking just to touch him, and some of them started calling him President Kennedy.
“And while the excitement began to swell, Kennedy quietly solidified relationships with some of the country’s most powerful politicians — Rep. Wilbur Mills (D-Ark.), Sen. Ernest ‘Fritz’ Hollings (D-S.C.) and Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.). Even though he continues to insist he is not a candidate, it is clear to many observers that a campaign of sorts is under way.”
And it may be true. It is hard to imagine anybody flying around the country to visit with people like that unless he had some kind of very powerful ulterior motive in mind. The WWD article went on to describe Mills as “A conservative who has voted against every major civil rights bill and has never voiced opposition to the war in South-east Asia …” And also: “According to one high-ranking Democratic finance committeeman, it was Rose Kennedy [Teddy’s mother] who donated ‘most, if not all’ of the funds for Mills’ New Hampshire primary campaign.”
Mills got badly stomped in New Hampshire, running neck and neck for the booby prize with Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty and Edward T. Coll, the anti-rat candidate … but he refused to comment on the rumor that Rose Kennedy had financed his N.H. campaign, and it remained for his brother, Roger, to salvage the story by explaining that “He [Kennedy] is the only Democrat Wallace could support.”
That is probably a remark worth remembering. The Democratic convention in Miami begins on July 10th, and the only major political event between now and then is the California primary on June 6th. If Humphrey loses in California — and he will, I think — his only hope for the nomination will be to make a deal with Wallace, who will come to Miami with something like 350 delegates, and he’ll be looking around for somebody to bargain with.
The logical bargainee, as it were, is Hubert Humphrey, who has been running a sort of left-handed, stupid-coy flirtation with Wallace ever since the Florida primary, where he did everything possible to co-opt Wallace’s position on busing without actually agreeing with it. Humphrey even went so far as to agree, momentarily, with Nixon on busing — blurting out “Oh, thank goodness!” when he heard of Nixon’s proposal for a “moratorium,” which amounted to a presidential edict to suspend all busing until the White House could figure out some way to circumvent the US Supreme Court.
When somebody called Hubert’s attention to this aspect of the problem and reminded him that he had always been known as a staunch foe of racial segregation, he quickly changed his mind and rushed up to Wisconsin to nail down the black vote by denouncing Wallace as a racist demagogue, and Nixon as a cynical opportunist for saying almost exactly the same things about busing that Humphrey himself had been saying in Florida.
There is no way to grasp what a shallow, contemptible and hopelessly dishonest old hack Hubert Humphrey really is until you’ve followed him around for a while on the campaign trail. The double-standard realities of campaign journalism, however, make it difficult for even the best of the “straight/objective” reporters to write what they actually think and feel about a candidate.
Hubert Humphrey, for one, would go crazy with rage and attempt to strangle his press secretary if he ever saw in print what most reporters say about him during midnight conversations around bar-room tables in all those Hiltons and Sheratons where the candidates make their headquarters when they swoop into places like Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.
And some of these reporters are stepping out of the closet and beginning to describe Humphrey in print as the bag of PR gimmicks that he is. The other day one of the Washington Post regulars nailed him: “Humphrey has used the campaign slogans of John Kennedy (‘let’s get this country moving again’) and of Wallace (‘stand up for America’) and some of his literature proclaims that 1972 is ‘the year of the people,’ a title used by Eugene McCarthy for a book about his 1968 campaign.”
Monday Afternoon in New York
Enroute from Columbia to La Guardia airport I stopped off in the midtown Rolling Stone office to borrow some money for cab-fare and heard that Wallace had just been shot. But the first report was a ten-second radio bulletin, and when I tried to call Washington every news-media phone in the city was busy — and by the time the details began coming through on the radio it was 4:30 in Manhattan, the start of the evening Rush Hour. No way to make the airport for at least another hour. Tim Crouse called from Boston, 250 miles north, saying he had a straight shot to Logan airport up there and would probably make it to Washington before I got out of Manhattan.
Which he did, spending most of Monday night and half of Tuesday in the eye of the media-chaos around Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland — where Wallace had been taken by ambulance for five hours of surgery. While Wallace was under the knife and in the recovery room, Crouse waited with about two hundred reporters to glean tid-bits from announcements by surgeons, police chiefs and Wallace staffers. The next night, when Wallace had been pronounced out of danger, Crouse changed into a suit and tie and went to the election night gathering of Maryland Wallace workers at the North Holiday Inn in Baltimore. Wallace was winning big that night in the Maryland primary. Crouse’s reports from both places follow:
Memo From Holy Cross
Silver Springs, Md.—In the late night hours after the Wallace shooting, the Press had only one man to interview: Dr. Joseph Schanno, the pale vascular surgeon with bombed-out eyes who had been picking bullets out of George Wallace. The Press, sweltering in the cinderblock gym of the Silver Spring Boys Club, waiting for the doctor, was crazy with hunger for copy.
“Is he a viable candidate?” a reporter kept shouting at Schanno from the middle of the sweating, shoving mass that surrounded the table where he sat.
“He’s a very viable person,” said Schanno.
Schanno was the first person to speak the unspeakable, but a lot of us had already entertained the horrifying possibility that this country might be in for another wheelchair Democrat. The doctor was blithely predicting that Wallace might be going home inside of a week, which meant that he might be on the loose again within the month. When he resumes campaigning, he’s going to have a lot going for him: increased coverage, or as one reporter was saying last night: “Jesus, this is the biggest break George ever got.”
If Wallace loses the use of the lower half of his body it will make him, in one fell swoop: a) less of a monster; and b) more of a superman, the only assassin’s target of the last ten years who has been blessed enough and strong enough to survive.
Wallace’s handlers were holed up downstairs in the “pastoral services” sector of the hospital, a corridor decorated with plaster madonnas and crucifixes. George Mangum, the tall, boisterous Baptist preacher who warms up the crowds at Wallace rallies (“And now, ’cause we’re in Milwaukee, the boys are gonna do their best to play a polka for ya”), was roaming around looking pale and murderous. A skinny woman, straight from a Walker Evans picture, was quietly weeping. A young lean and blond man, was uncontrollably sobbing. He was some sort of assistant press officer, wearing a fire-engine red campaign blazer with the Wallace ’72 crest on his breast pocket.
He was being hugged and consoled by … I had to look twice, but it was a Negro, a huge Pullman porter type, balding with a little grey goatee, and dressed in an elegant blue pinstripe with Wallace For President buttons pinned to each lapel. He was consoling the boy in a beautiful, deep, rolling Paul Robeson bass voice.
I waited a decent interval and then approached him to find out what the hell he was doing on the Wallace campaign. He turned out to be none other than Norman E. Jones, the Chairman of the National Black Citizens for Wallace, Inc., and by conventional Press estimable, the biggest jiveass in all of Campaign ’72, a man who can run bullshit circles around even Hubert Humphrey.
“Mr. Wallace is the only hope of the little man,” Norman said in a voice so resonant that it set the crucifix trembling. I asked him how many blacks he had signed up for Wallace.
“You want numbers,” he replied accusingly. “I have no numbers. As fast as I’m traveling now, I just can’t keep up with the thousands of letters coming in every day. The greater majority wish to remain anonymous, for fear of economic and social reprisal.”
This is the man who was challenged by the Wall Street Journal to come up with the name and address of a single Black Citizen for Wallace, and who couldn’t do it. He bills himself as a former journalist and public relations man. Now he unwrapped a fat cigar, lit it, and glowered through the smoke. “How’s McGovern’s Indians getting along?” he challenged me. “How’s Humphrey’s Indians?”
“What Indians?” I said.
“Why all them Indians that live up in the Dakotas and are starving. There ain’t no black that would live up there in Dakota.” With that he walked away in a huff. Which was too bad, because I wanted to ask him about the reaction of the Wallace crowd at the Laurel Shopping center. When the five shots spit out, a large part of the crowd had immediately turned its attention to four young blacks who had been heckling from the rear. One of them sported an Afro and a dashiki. The crowd rounded on them ready to beat them to shit. They started shouting, “No, no, no, no, it wasn’t us, we didn’t shoot him!” But the Prince George’s County police stepped in between them and the crowd split unscathed. The Wallace crowd was ready for a reflexive lynching.
There were some Wallace supporters, though, who talked like men of peace, and it was easy to feel sympathetic with them. A short, gray haired county chairman for Wallace in Florida softly asked me why the media had it in for Wallace. I answered that, first of all, it was because Wallace was for segregation.
“You’re thinking of the old George Wallace, the man in the schoolhouse door,” he said. “He’s for integration now, ’cause it’s the law of the land, ain’t it? He just wants those Northern cities to integrate too.” There is no one harder to argue with than a Wallacite who happens to be a Southern gentleman. They’ll make you feel hypocritical every time, without one nasty word.
* * *
The next afternoon I called up Frank Mankiewicz to find out how the shooting would affect the McGovern campaign. The smart money had McGovern getting beaten in both Maryland and Michigan, but there had been other bets. Sam Davis, the bureau chief of the Providence Journal, who has one of the most sensitive political guts in the National Press Building, had felt, for no particular reason, that McGovern had been building a victory in Maryland before the assassination attempt. But that depended largely on one of McGovern’s last minute get-out-the-vote blitzes, which was called off in the wake of the shooting.
“I thought we might have won Michigan,” said Mankiewicz. “Our polls there showed us within the range of statistical error. It was within two or three points, so it could have gone either way. But the shooting screws this afternoon’s results. I don’t think that it hurts McGovern more than anyone else, except that McGovern has traditionally been the second choice of a lot of Wallace voters, and we probably won’t get the benefit of that.”
As for Wallace’s future effect on the primaries, Mankiewicz said, “Wallace is at his high-water mark right now. He had nowhere to go but home after today anyway. Even if the shooting had never taken place his campaign is over, he has no more delegates to get anywhere. He isn’t going to win any in Oregon or California or New York.
“He’s got his 300 or 350 delegates and they’re indigestible. He just has to go on with the convention around him. Most of his delegates aren’t going to break for anybody — that’s why I say they’re indigestible.”
I asked him if he feared for McGovern in California. “I shouldn’t allow my peculiarities to prevail,” he said, “but I’m very nervous on the West Coast. It’s the random violence capitol of the world. But there’s no way of knowing. They hit Bobby the first time he didn’t go through a crowd. I always felt very safe in the crowds.
Last night, Senator Ribicoff had told a McGovern fundraising dinner in California that the Wallace incident would help McGovern because it increased people’s feeling that they “needed a quiet man.”
Hog Call at the Holiday Inn
The election night party took place in an oven of a meeting room in the basement of a Holiday Inn—long and low-ceilinged, more like a bunker than a ballroom. Wallace parties inevitably take place in Holiday Inns, usually without such election night standard paraphernalia as blackboards and TV sets, but almost always with a hillbilly band. No band tonight. The room was too crowded with TV crews, color TV cameras, a blackboard, and TV sets, over which was coming news of the Wallace landslide. At every fresh set of returns, war whoops.
“Ya wanna hear an Alabama hog call?” asked Zeke Calhoun, who looked like a Kentucky colonel and was a friend of the Wallace family. An Alabama hog call pierced through the acoustic tiles.
Zeke Calhoun, like most of the men in the room, had on a cheap red silk tie with Wallace painted on it vertically in white letters. Zeke said he owned a country store that doubled as a Wallace headquarters at Mitchell Springs, Ala.—”just across from Ft. Benning.”
“Everytime a soldier is shippin’ out for Vietnam or goin’ home,” Zeke said in his smoked Virginia accent, “I load ’em down with Wallace stickers, and they’re glad to take ’em. I was heart-sick yesterday after hearin’ the news. My wife was afraid I’d have another heart attack. Today I couldn’t be still ’til I made a plane up here. The Chief was in trouble and I had to be near him.”
Off in a corner three old Wallace workers were having a reunion — a middle-aged rake with a pencil moustache who was “in construction”; a man in glasses and a styrofoam Wallace “straw” hat who was an automobile dealer; and a burly gas station attendant. “Boys, we been together since May 1, 1964 — that’s when George Wallace came to the Lord Baltimore Hotel,” said the man in construction. “Madeleine Murray’s son climbed up a fence and tried to take our flag away from us, remember?”
“And remember, that Commie from New York wrapped himself in a flag and gave you a hard time?” the auto dealer reminisced.
“We might get our country back,” said the construction man, stirred. “I feel like I lost it. I feel like I been lost in it all this time.”
“I’ve been lost too,” said the gas station operator. “I’ve been trying to find somebody I can understand to vote for. This is one of the happiest days of my life.”
“One thing puzzling the Press is why there weren’t more Wallace stickers on cars,” the auto dealer told me. “It’s fear. Fear of retaliation from blacks. Of getting bricks thrown at your car.”
“You didn’t have any problems down in that black section did you?” asked the construction man.
“A few. Just a few,” said the auto dealer. “I think it’s just a small group of black revolutionaries cause the trouble,” the construction man said.
Everyone in the room was drunk on victory and quite sure George Wallace was going to win the nomination. Every so often they would cheerfully scoff at a TV commentator who attributed the Wallace victory to a “sympathy vote.”
“A sympathy vote? Definitely not. We never had any doubts he was gonna run away with it in Maryland.”
“I don’t want a sympathy vote for George. I want people to vote for him out of outrage.”
Charles Snyder, the National Campaign Manager, was making a statement to the cameras. Snyder, short, neatly groomed, the kind of man who reads Playboy. In real life, a general contractor. Which provokes smirks from every political reporter who has ever witnessed that special and beautiful relationship a contractor and a politician can have when highways and public works are involved. “Probably the biggest bagman in the state of Alabama,” pronounced a reporter, with absolutely no evidence.
The Governor, said Snyder, had been informed of his two victories. “They got a big smile out of him and a nod of his head.”
“I predict regretfully that you in California will see one of the dirtiest campaigns in the history of this state — and you have had some of the dirtiest.”
—Sen. Abraham Ribicoff, speaking in San Francisco
No hope for this section. Crouse is caving in downstairs; they have him on two phones at once and even from up here I can hear the conversation turning ugly … so there is not much time for anything except maybe a flash roundup on the outlook for California and beyond.
George Wallace himself will not be a factor in the California primary. His handlers are talking about a last-minute write-in campaign, but he has no delegates — and the California ballot doesn’t list candidates; only delegates pledged to candidates. So a write-in vote for Wallace won’t even be counted.
Wallace is not even likely, now, to have any real bargaining at the Convention. Even before he was shot — and before he won Michigan and Maryland — his only hope for real leverage in Miami depended on Humphrey coming into the convention with enough delegates of his own (something like 700-800) to bargain with Wallace from strength. But as things stand now, Humphrey and Wallace between them will not have 1000 delegates on the first ballot — and McGovern is a pretty good bet, today, to go down to Miami with almost 1300.
Humphrey’s last chance for leverage now is to win California, and although the polls still show him ahead I doubt if even Hubert believes it. Even before his weak showings in Michigan and Maryland, one of Humphrey’s main strategists — Kenny O’Donnell — was quietly leaking word to the press that Hubert didn’t really need California, to get the nomination.
This is an interesting notion — particularly after Humphrey himself had de-emphasized the importance of winning the New York primary a few days earlier. He understood, even then, that there was no point even thinking about New York unless he could win in California.
And that’s not going to happen unless something very drastic happens between now and June 6th. Hubert’s only hope in California was a savage, all-out attack on McGovern — a desperate smear campaign focused on Grass, Amnesty, Abortion and even Busing. And to do that he would have to consciously distort McGovern’s positions on those issues … which is something he would find very hard to do, because Humphrey and McGovern have been close personal friends for many years.
I have said a lot of foul things about Hubert, all deserved, but I think I’d be genuinely surprised to see him crank up a vicious and groundless attack on an old friend. His California managers have already said they will try to do it, with or without his approval — but Hubert knows he could never carry that off. In Ohio he got away with letting Jackson do his dirty work, and in Nebraska he let his supporters smear McGovern in a Catholic newspaper, The True Voice…. but Hubert himself never got down in the ditch; he stayed on what he likes to call “the high road.”
But he won’t have that option in California. His only hope for winning out there is go flat out on the Low Road. Maybe he will, but I doubt it. The odds are too long. McGovern would probably win, anyway — leaving Humphrey to rot in the history books for generations to come.