M y senior year was a strange combination of interesting college life and cataclysmic personal and political events. As I look back on it, it seems weird that anyone could be absorbed in so many big and little things at the same time, but people inevitably search for the pleasures and deal with the pain of normal life under difficult, even bizarre circumstances..www.ideafutura.co.uk.
I took two particularly interesting courses, an international law seminar and a European history colloquium. Dr. William OBrien taught the international law course, and he permitted me to do a paper on the subject of selective conscientious objection to the draft, examining other nations conscription systems as well as Americas, and exploring the legal and philosophical roots of the conscientious-objection allowances. I argued that conscientious objection should not be confined to those with a religious opposition to all wars, because the exception was grounded not in theological doctrine but in personal moral opposition to military service. Therefore, though judging individual cases would be difficult, the government should allow selective conscientious objection if its assertion was determined to be genuine. The end of the draft in the 1970s made the point moot..www.ideafutura.co.uk.
The European history colloquium was essentially a survey of European intellectual history. The professor was Hisham Sharabi, a brilliant, erudite Lebanese who was passionately committed to the Palestinian cause. There were, as I recall, fourteen students in a course that ran fourteen weeks each semester and met for two hours once a week. We read all the books, but each week a student would lead off the discussion with a ten-minute presentation about the book of the week. You could do what you wanted with the ten minutessummarize the book, talk about its central idea, or discuss an aspect of particular interestbut you had to do it in these ten minutes. Sharabi believed that if you couldnt, you didnt understand the book, and he strictly enforced the limit. He did make one exception, for a philosophy major, the first person I ever heard use the word ontologicalfor all I knew, it was a medical specialty. He ran on well past the ten-minute limit, and when he finally ran out of gas, Sharabi stared at him with his big, expressive eyes and said, If I had a gun, I would shoot you. Ouch. I made my presentation on Joseph Schumpeters Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. Im not sure how good it was, but I used simple words and, believe it or not, finished in just over nine minutes..cartier love bracelet replica.
I spent much of the fall of 1967 preparing for Novembers Conference on the Atlantic Community (CONTAC). As chairman of CONTACs nine seminars, my job was to place the delegates, assign paper topics, and recruit experts for a total of eighty-one sessions. Georgetown brought students from Europe, Canada, and the United States together in a series of seminars and lectures to examine issues facing the community. I had participated in the conference two years earlier, where the most impressive student I met was a West Point cadet from Arkansas who was first in his class and a Rhodes scholar, Wes Clark. Our relations with some European countries were strained by European opposition to the Vietnam War, but the importance of NATO to European security in the Cold War made a serious rupture out of the question. The conference was a great success, thanks largely to the quality of the students..bvlgari rings replica.
Later in the fall, Daddy had gotten sick again. The cancer had spread, and it was clear that further treatment wouldnt help. He was in the hospital for a while, but he wanted to come home to die. He told Mother he didnt want me to miss too much school, so they didnt call me right away. One day he said, Its time. Mother sent for me and I flew home. I knew it was coming, and I just hoped he would still know me when I got there, so that I could tell him I loved him..Christian Louboutin Replica.
By the time I arrived, Daddy had gone to bed for good, getting up only to go to the bathroom, and then only with help. He had lost a lot of weight and was weak. Every time he tried to get up, his knees buckled repeatedly; he was like a puppet whose strings were being pulled by jerking hands. He seemed to like it when Roger and I helped him. I guess taking him back and forth to the toilet was the last thing I ever did for him. He took it all in good humor, laughing and saying, wasnt it a hell of a mess and wasnt it good that it would be over soon. When he became so weak and unstrung he couldnt walk even with help, he had to give up the bathroom and use a bedpan, which he hated doing in front of the nursesfriends of Mothers who had come to help..hermes bracelet replica.
Though he was fast losing control of his body, his mind and voice were clear for about three days after I got home, and we had some good talks. He said we would be all right when he was gone and he was sure I would win a Rhodes scholarship when the interviews came in about a month. After a week, he was seldom more than half conscious, though he had surges of mental activity almost to the end. Twice he woke to tell Mother and me he was still there. Twice when he should have been too far gone or too drugged to think or speak (the cancer was way down in his chest cavity now, and there was no point in letting him suffer on aspirin, which is all he would take until then), he amazed us all by asking me if I was sure I could take all this time away from school, and if not, it wasnt really necessary for me to stay, since there wasnt much left to happen and we had had our last good talks. When he couldnt speak at all anymore, he would still wake and focus on someone and make sounds so that we could understand simple things like when he wanted to be turned over in the bed. I could only wonder at what else was passing through his mind..cartier love bracelet replica.
After his final attempt to communicate, he lasted one and a half horrible days. It was awful, hearing the hard, sharp thrusts of his breathing and seeing his body bloat into disfigurement that did not look like anything Id ever seen. Somewhere near the end, Mother came in and saw him, burst into tears, and told him she loved him. After all he had put her through, I hoped she meant it, more for her sake than for his..cartier love bracelet replica.
Daddys last days brought a classic country deathwatch into our house. Family and friends streamed in and out to offer their sympathy. Most of them brought food so we wouldnt have to cook, and so we could feed the other visitors. Since I hardly slept, and ate with everyone who came by, I gained ten pounds in the two weeks I was home. But it was comforting to have all that food and all those friends when there was nothing to do but wait for death to make its final claim..Cartier Love Bracelet Replica.
It was raining on the day of the funeral. Often when I was a boy, Daddy would stare out the window into a storm and say, Dont bury me in the rain. It was one of those old sayings without which you cant make conversation in the South, and I never paid all that much attention when he said it. Somehow, though, it registered with me that it was important to him, that he had some deep dread about being put to rest in the rain. Now that was going to happen, after all he had done through his long illness to deserve better..cartier love bracelet replica.
We worried about the rain on the drive to the chapel and all through the funeral, as the preacher droned on, saying nice things about him that werent true, that he would have scorned and laughed at had he heard them. Unlike me, Daddy never thought much of funerals in general and would not have liked his own very much, except for the hymns, which he had picked. When the funeral was over, we almost ran outside to see if it was still raining. It was, and on the slow drive to the cemetery we couldnt grieve for worrying about the weather..cartier love bracelet replica.
Then, as we turned off the street into the narrow way of the cemetery, inching toward the freshly dug grave, Roger was the first to notice that the rain had stopped, and he almost shouted to us. We were unbelievably, irrationally overjoyed and relieved. But we kept the story to ourselves, allowing ourselves only small, knowing smiles, like the one we had seen so often on Daddys face since he had come to terms with himself. On his last long journey to the end that awaits us all, he found a forgiving God. He was not buried in the rain...
A month after the funeral, I came home again for the Rhodes scholarship interviewId been interested since high school. Every year thirty-two American Rhodes scholars are chosen for two years of study at Oxford, paid for by the trust established in 1903 by Cecil Rhodess will. Rhodes, who made a fortune in South Africas diamond mines, provided for scholarships for young men from all the present and former British colonies who had demonstrated outstanding intellectual, athletic, and leadership qualities. He wanted to send people to Oxford who were interested and accomplished in more than academics, because he thought they would be more likely to esteem the performance of public duties over purely private pursuits. Over the years, selection committees had come to discount a lack of athletic prowess if a candidate had excelled in some other nonacademic field. In a few more years, the trust would be amended to allow women to compete. A student could apply in either the state where he lived or the one where he went to college. Every December, each state nominated two candidates, who then went to one of eight regional competitions in which scholars were chosen for the coming academic year. The selection process required the candidate to provide between five and eight letters of recommendation, write an essay on why he wanted to go to Oxford, and submit to interviews at the state and regional levels by panels composed of former Rhodes scholars, with a chairman who wasnt one. I asked Father Sebes, Dr. Giles, Dr. Davids, and my sophomore English professor, Mary Bond, to write letters, along with Dr. Bennett and Frank Holt from back home, and Seth Tillman, Senator Fulbrights speechwriter, who taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and had become a friend and mentor to me. At Lee Williamss suggestion, I also asked Senator Fulbright. I hadnt wanted to bother the senator because of his preoccupation with and deepening gloom over the war, but Lee said he wanted to do it, and he gave me a generous letter...
The Rhodes committee asked the recommenders to note my weaknesses along with my strengths. The Georgetown people said, charitably, that I wasnt much of an athlete. Seth said that, while I was highly qualified for the scholarship, he is not particularly competent in the routine work which he does for the Committee; this work is below his intellectual capacity and he often seems to have other things on his mind. That was news to me; I thought I was doing a good job at the committee, but as he said, I had other things on my mind. Maybe thats why I had a hard time concentrating on my essay. Finally, I gave up trying to write it at home and checked in to a hotel on Capitol Hill about a block from the New Senate Office Building, to have complete quiet. It was harder than I thought it would be to explain my short life and why it made sense for them to send me to Oxford...
I began by saying that I had come to Washington to prepare for the life of a practicing politician; I asked the committee to send me to Oxford to study in depth those subjects which I have only begun to investigate, in the hope that I could mold an intellect that can stand the pressures of political life. I thought at the time that the essay was a pretty good effort. Now it seems a bit strained and overdone, as if I were trying to find the kind of voice in which a cultivated Rhodes scholar should speak. Maybe it was just the earnestness of youth and living in a time when so many things were overdone.
Applying in Arkansas was a big advantage. Because of the size of our state and its college population, there were fewer competitors; I probably wouldnt have made it to the regional level if Id been from New York, California, or some other big state, competing against students from Ivy League schools that had well-honed systems to recruit and train their best students for the Rhodes competition. Of the thirty-two scholars elected in 1968, Yale and Harvard produced six each, Dartmouth three, Princeton and the Naval Academy two. The winners are more spread out today, as they should be in a country with hundreds of fine undergraduate schools, but the elite schools and the service academies still do very well.
The Arkansas committee was run by Bill Nash, a tall, spare man who was an active Mason and senior partner of the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, the oldest west of the Mississippi, with its roots dating back to 1820. Mr. Nash was an old-fashioned, high-minded man who walked several miles to work every day, rain or shine. The committee included another Rose Law Firm partner, Gaston Williamson, who also served as the Arkansas member of the regional committee. Gaston was big, burly, and brilliant, with a deep, strong voice and a commanding manner. He had opposed what Faubus did at Central High and had done what he could to beat back the forces of reaction. He was extremely helpful to and supportive of me during the whole selection process and a source of wise advice later, when I became attorney general and governor. After Hillary went to work at Rose in 1977, he befriended and counseled her too. Gaston adored Hillary. He supported me politically and liked me well enough, but I think he always thought I wasnt quite good enough for her.
The chairman of the committee was Dean McGee of Oklahoma, head of the Kerr-McGee Oil Company and a powerful figure in Oklahoma business and political life. The member who impressed me most was Barney Monaghan, the chairman of Vulcan, a steel company in Birmingham, Alabama. He looked more like a college professor than a southern businessman, impeccably dressed in a three-piece suit.
The hardest question I got was about trade. I was asked whether I was for free trade, protectionism, or something in between. When I said I was profree trade, especially for advanced economies, my questioner shot back, Then how do you justify Senator Fulbrights efforts to protect Arkansas chickens? It was a good trick question, designed to make me feel I had to choose, on the spur of the moment, between being inconsistent on trade or disloyal to Fulbright. I confessed I didnt know anything about the chicken issue, but I didnt have to agree with the senator on everything to be proud to work for him. Gaston Williamson broke in and bailed me out, explaining that the issue wasnt as simple as the question implied; in fact, Fulbright had been trying to open foreign markets to our chickens. It had never occurred to me that I could blow the interview because I didnt know enough about chickens. It never happened again. When I was governor and President, people were amazed at how much I knew about how chickens are raised, processed, and marketed at home and abroad.
At the end of all twelve interviews, and a little time for deliberation, we were brought back into a reception room. The committee had selected one guy from New Orleans, two from Mississippi, and me. After we talked briefly to the press, I called Mother, who had been waiting anxiously by the phone, and asked her how she thought Id look in English tweeds. Lord, I was happyhappy for Mother after all shed lived through to get me to that day, happy that Daddys last prediction came true, happy for the honor and the promise of the next two years. For a while the world just stopped. There was no Vietnam, no racial turmoil, no trouble at home, no anxieties about myself or my future. I had a few more hours in New Orleans, and I enjoyed the city they call the Big Easy like a native son.
When I got home, after a visit to Daddys grave, we plunged into the holiday season. There was a nice write-up in the paper, even a laudatory editorial. I spoke to a local civic club, spent good time with my friends, and enjoyed a raft of congratulatory letters and phone calls. Christmas was nice but bittersweet; for the first time since my brother was born, there were only three of us.
After I returned to Georgetown there was one more piece of sad news. On January 17, my grandmother died. A few years earlier, after she had had a second stroke, she asked to go home to Hope to live in the nursing home downtown in what was the old Julia Chester Hospital. She requested and got the same room Mother was in when I was born. Her death, like Daddys, must have set loose contradictory feelings in Mother. Mammaw had been hard on her. Perhaps because she was jealous that Papaw loved his only child so much, too often she made her daughter the target of her outbursts of rage. Her tantrums lessened after Papaw died, when she was hired as a nurse to a nice lady who took her on trips to Wisconsin and Arizona and fed some of her hunger to go beyond the circumstances of her confined, predictable life. And she had been wonderful to me in my first four years, when she taught me to read and count, clean my plate, and wash my hands. After we moved to Hot Springs, whenever I made straight As in school she sent me five dollars. When I turned twenty-one, she still wanted to know if her baby had his handkerchief. I wish she could have understood herself better and cared for herself and her family more. But she did love me, and she did her best to get me off to a good start in life.
I thought I had made a pretty good start, but nothing could have prepared me for what was about to happen. Nineteen sixty-eight was one of the most tumultuous and heartbreaking years in American history. Lyndon Johnson started the year expecting to hold his course in Vietnam, continue his Great Society assault on unemployment, poverty, and hunger, and pursue reelection. But his country was moving away from him. Though I was sympathetic to the zeitgeist, I didnt embrace the lifestyle or the radical rhetoric. My hair was short, I didnt even drink, and some of the music was too loud and harsh for my taste. I didnt hate LBJ; I just wanted to end the war, and I was afraid the culture clashes would undermine, not advance, the cause. In reaction to the youth protests and countercultural lifestyles, Republicans and many working-class Democrats moved to the right, flocking to hear conservatives like the resurgent Richard Nixon and the new governor of California, Ronald Reagan, a former FDR Democrat.
The Democrats were moving away from Johnson, too. On the right, Governor George Wallace announced that he would run for President as an independent. On the left, young activists like Allard Lowenstein were urging anti-war Democrats to challenge President Johnson in the Democratic primaries. Their first choice was Senator Robert Kennedy, who had been pressing for a negotiated settlement in Vietnam. He declined, fearing that if he ran, given his well-known dislike of the President, he would appear to be pursuing a vendetta rather than a principled crusade. Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, who was up for reelection in his conservative state, also declined. Senator Gene McCarthy of Minnesota did not. As the partys heir apparent to Adlai Stevensons legacy of intellectual liberalism, McCarthy could be maddening, even disingenuous, in his efforts to appear almost saintly in his lack of ambition. But he had the guts to take on Johnson, and as the year dawned, he was the only horse the anti-warriors had to ride. In January, he announced that he would run in the first primary contest in New Hampshire.
In February, two events in Vietnam further hardened opposition to the war. The first was the impromptu execution of a person suspected of being a Vietcong by the chief of the South Vietnamese National Police, General Loan. Loan shot the man in the head in broad daylight on the street in Saigon. The killing was captured on film by the great photographer Eddie Adams, whose picture caused more Americans to question whether our allies were any better than our enemies, who were also undeniably ruthless.
The second, and far more significant, event was the Tet offensive, so named because it took place during the Vietnamese holiday of Tet, which marked their new year. North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces launched a series of coordinated attacks on American positions all over South Vietnam, including strongholds like Saigon, where even the American embassy was under fire. The attacks were rebuffed and the North Vietnamese and Vietcong sustained heavy casualties, leading President Johnson and our military leaders to claim victory, but in fact, Tet was a huge psychological and political defeat for America, because Americans saw with their own eyes, in our first television war, that our forces were vulnerable even in places they controlled. More and more Americans began to question whether we could win a war the South Vietnamese couldnt win for themselves, and whether it was worth sending even more soldiers into Vietnam when the answer to the first question seemed to be no.
On the home front, the Senate majority leader, Mike Mansfield, called for a bombing halt. President Johnsons secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, and his close advisor Clark Clifford, along with former secretary of state Dean Acheson, told the President it was time to review his policy of continuing escalation to achieve a military victory. Dean Rusk continued to support the policy, and the military had asked for 200,000 more troops to pursue it. Racial incidents, some of them violent, continued across the country. Richard Nixon and George Wallace formally declared their candidacies for President. In New Hampshire, McCarthys campaign was gathering steam, with hundreds of anti-war students pouring into the state to knock on doors for him. Those who didnt want to cut their hair and shave worked in the back room of his campaign headquarters stuffing envelopes. Meanwhile, Bobby Kennedy continued to fret about whether he should get in the race too.
On March 12, McCarthy got 42 percent of the vote in New Hampshire to 49 percent for LBJ. Though Johnson was a write-in candidate who never came to New Hampshire to campaign, it was a big psychological victory for McCarthy and the anti-war movement. Four days later, Kennedy entered the race, announcing in the same Senate caucus room where his brother John had begun his campaign in 1960. He sought to defuse charges that he was driven by ruthless personal ambition by saying that McCarthys campaign had already exposed the deep divisions within the Democratic Party, and he wanted to give the country a new direction. Of course, now he had a new ruthlessness problem: he was raining on McCarthys parade, after McCarthy had challenged the President when Kennedy wouldnt.
I saw all this unfold from a peculiar perspective. My housemate Tommy Caplan was working in Kennedys office, so I knew what was going on there. And I had begun dating a classmate who was volunteering at McCarthys national headquarters in Washington. Ann Markusen was a brilliant economics student, captain of the Georgetown womens sailing team, a passionate anti-war liberal, and a Minnesota native. She admired McCarthy and, like many young people who worked for him, hated Kennedy for trying to take the nomination away from him. We had some ferocious arguments, because I was glad Kennedy was in. I had watched him perform as attorney general and senator and thought he cared more about domestic issues than McCarthy, and I was convinced he would be a much more effective President. McCarthy was a fascinating man, tall, gray-haired, and handsome, an Irish Catholic intellectual with a fine mind and a biting wit. But I had watched him on the Foreign Relations Committee, and he was too detached for my taste. Until he entered the New Hampshire primary, he seemed curiously passive about what was going on, content to vote the right way and say the right things.
By contrast, just before Bobby Kennedy announced for President, he was working hard to pass a resolution sponsored by Fulbright to give the Senate a say before LBJ could put 200,000 more troops in Vietnam. He had also been to Appalachia to expose the depth of rural poverty in America, and had made an amazing trip to South Africa, where he challenged young people to fight apartheid. McCarthy, though I liked him, gave me the impression hed rather be home reading St. Thomas Aquinas than going into a tar-paper shack to see how poor people lived or flying halfway around the world to speak against racism. Every time I tried to make these arguments to Ann, she gave me hell, saying if Bobby Kennedy had been more principled and less political he would have done what McCarthy did. The underlying message, of course, was that I also was too political. I was really crazy about her then and hated to be on her bad side, but I wanted to win and I wanted to elect a good man who would also be a good President.
My interest grew more personal on March 20, four days after Kennedy announced for President, when President Johnson ended all draft deferments for graduate students, except for those in medical school, putting my future at Oxford in doubt. Johnsons decision triggered another shot of Vietnam guilt: like Johnson, I didnt believe graduate students should have draft deferments, but I didnt believe in our Vietnam policy either.
On Sunday night, March 31, President Johnson was scheduled to address the nation about Vietnam. There was speculation about whether he would escalate the war or cool it a little in the hope of starting negotiations, but nobody really saw what was coming. I was driving on Massachusetts Avenue, listening to the speech on my car radio. After speaking for some time, Johnson said he had decided to sharply restrict the bombing of North Vietnam, in the hope of finding a resolution to the conflict. Then, as I was passing by the Cosmos Club, just northwest of Dupont Circle, the President dropped his own bombshell: With American sons in the fields far away, and our worlds hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe I should devote another hour or another day of my time to any personal partisan causes. . . . Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President. I pulled over to the curb in disbelief, feeling sad for Johnson, who had done so much for America at home, but happy for my country and for the prospect of a new beginning.
The feeling didnt last long. Four days later, on the night of April 4, Martin Luther King Jr. was killed on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where he had gone to support striking sanitation workers. In the last couple of years of his life, he had broadened his civil rights agenda to include an assault on urban poverty and outspoken opposition to the war. It was politically necessary to fend off the challenge to his leadership from younger, more militant blacks, but it was clear to all of us who watched him that Dr. King meant it when he said he could not advance civil rights for blacks without also opposing poverty and the war in Vietnam.
The night before he was killed, Dr. King gave an eerily prophetic sermon to a packed house at Mason Temple Church. In an obvious reference to the many threats on his life, he said, Like anybody I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But Im not concerned about that now. I just want to do Gods will. And Hes allowed me to go up to the mountain. And Ive looked over, and Ive seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So Im happy tonight. Im not worried about anything. Im not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord! The next evening, at 6 p.m., he was shot dead by James Earl Ray, a chronically disaffected, convicted armed robber who had escaped from prison about a year earlier.
Martin Luther King Jr.s death shook the nation as no other event had since President Kennedys assassination. Campaigning in Indiana that night, Robert Kennedy tried to calm the fears of America with perhaps the greatest speech of his life. He asked blacks not to be filled with hatred of whites and reminded them that his brother, too, had been killed by a white man. He quoted the great lines of Aeschylus about pain bringing wisdom, against our will, through the awful grace of God. He told the crowd before him and the country listening to him that we would get through this time because the vast majority of blacks and whites want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land. He ended with these words: Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.
Dr. Kings death provoked more than prayer; some feared, and others hoped, it marked the death of nonviolence, too. Stokely Carmichael said that white America had declared war on black America and there was no alternative to retribution. Rioting broke out in New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, and more than one hundred other cities and towns. More than forty people were killed and hundreds were injured. The violence was especially bad in Washington, predominantly directed against black businesses all along Fourteenth and H streets. President Johnson called out the National Guard to restore order, but the atmosphere remained tense.
Georgetown was at a safe distance from the violence, but we had a taste of it when a few hundred National Guardsmen camped out in McDonough Gym, where our basketball team played its games. Many black families were burned out of their homes and took refuge in local churches. I signed up with the Red Cross to help deliver food, blankets, and other supplies to them. My 1963 white Buick convertible, with Arkansas plates and the Red Cross logo plastered on the doors, cut a strange figure in the mostly empty streets, which were marked by still-smoking buildings and storefronts with broken glass from looting. I made the drive once at night, then again on Sunday morning, when I took Carolyn Yeldell, who had flown in for the weekend, with me. In the daylight it felt safe, so we got out and walked around a little, looking at the riots wreckage. It was the only time Ive ever felt insecure in a black neighborhood. And I thought, not for the first or last time, that it was sad and ironic that the primary victims of black rage were blacks themselves.
Dr. Kings death left a void in a nation desperately in need of his allegiance to nonviolence and his belief in the promise of America, and now in danger of losing both. Congress responded by passing President Johnsons bill to ban racial discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. Robert Kennedy tried to fill the void, too. He won the Indiana primary on May 7, preaching racial reconciliation while appealing to more conservative voters by talking tough on crime and the need to move people from welfare to work. Some liberals attacked his law and order message, but it was politically necessary. And he believed in it, just as he believed in ending all draft deferments.
In Indiana, Bobby Kennedy became the first New Democrat, before Jimmy Carter, before the Democratic Leadership Council, which I helped to start in 1985, and before my campaign in 1992. He believed in civil rights for all and special privileges for none, in giving poor people a hand up rather than a handout: work was better than welfare. He understood in a visceral way that progressive politics requires the advocacy of both new policies and fundamental values, both far-reaching change and social stability. If he had become President, Americas journey through the rest of the twentieth century would have been very different.
On May 10, peace talks between the United States and North Vietnam began in Paris, bringing hope to Americans who were eager for the war to end, and relief to Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who had entered the race in late April and who needed some change in our fortunes to have any chance to win the nomination or the election. Meanwhile, social turmoil continued unabated. Columbia University in New York was shut down by protesters for the rest of the academic year. Two Catholic priests, brothers Daniel and Philip Berrigan, were arrested for stealing and burning draft records. And in Washington, barely a month after the riots, civil rights activists went on with Martin Luther King Jr.s plans for a Poor Peoples Campaign, setting up a tent encampment on the Mall, called Resurrection City, to highlight the problems of poverty. It rained like crazy, turning the Mall to mud and making living conditions miserable. One day in June, Ann Markusen and I went down to see it and show support. Boards had been laid down between the tents so that you could walk without sinking into the mud, but after a couple of hours of wandering around and talking to people, we were covered in it anyway. It was a good metaphor for the confusion of the time.
May ended with the race for the Democratic nomination in doubt. Humphrey began gaining delegates from party regulars in states without primary elections, and McCarthy defeated Kennedy in the Oregon primary. Kennedys hopes for the nomination were riding on the California primary on June 4. My last week in college was spent in high anticipation of the outcome, four days before our graduation.
On Tuesday night, Robert Kennedy won California, thanks to a big showing among minority voters in Los Angeles County. Tommy Caplan and I were thrilled. We stayed up until Kennedy gave his victory speech, then went to bed; it was nearly three in the morning in Washington. A few hours later I was awakened by Tommy, who was shaking me and shouting, Bobbys been shot! Bobbys been shot! A few minutes after we had turned off the television and gone to bed, Senator Kennedy was walking through the kitchen at the Ambassador Hotel when a young Arab, Sirhan Sirhan, who was angry at Kennedy because of his support for Israel, rained a hail of bullets down on him and those surrounding him. Five others were wounded; they all recovered. Bobby Kennedy was operated on for a severe wound to the head. He died a day later, only forty-two, on June 6, Mothers forty-fifth birthday, two months and two days after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.
On June 8, Caplan went to New York for the funeral at St. Patricks Cathedral. Senator Kennedys admirers, both the famous and the anonymous, had streamed past his casket all day and all night before the service. President Johnson, Vice President Humphrey, and Senator McCarthy were there. So was Senator Fulbright. Ted Kennedy gave a magnificent eulogy for his brother, closing with words of power and grace I will never forget: My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life. He should be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him, and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world.
That is what I wanted, too, but it seemed further away than ever. We went through those last few college days in a numb fog. Tommy took the funeral train from New York to Washington, barely making it back for graduation. All the other graduation events had been canceled, but the commencement ceremony itself was set to go on as planned. Even that didnt work out, providing the first levity in days. Just as the commencement speaker, hometown mayor Walter Washington, got up to speak, a tremendous storm cloud came out. He spoke for about thirty seconds, congratulating us, wishing us well, and saying that if we didnt get inside right then, wed all drown. Then the rain came and we hightailed it. Our class was ready to vote for Mayor Washington for President. That night, Tommy Caplans parents took Tommy, Mother, Roger, me, and a few others out to dinner at an Italian restaurant. Tommy carried the conversation, at one point saying that understanding some subject or other required a mature intellect. My eleven-year-old brother looked up and said, Tom, am I a mature intellect? It was good to end a roller-coaster day and a heartbreaking ten weeks with a laugh.
After a few days to pack up and say last good-byes, I drove back to Arkansas with my roommate Jim Moore to work on Senator Fulbrights reelection campaign. He seemed vulnerable on two counts: first, his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War in a conservative, pro-military state already upset with all the upheaval in America; and second, his refusal to adapt to the demands of modern congressional politics, which required senators and congressmen to come home on most weekends to see their constituents. Fulbright had gone to Congress in the 1940s, when expectations were very different. Back then members of Congress were expected to come home during vacations and the long summer recess, to answer their mail and phone calls, and to see their constituents when they came to Washington. On the weekends when Congress was in session, they were free to stay in town, relax, and reflect, like most other working Americans. When they did go back home on long breaks, they were expected to keep office hours in the home office and to take a few trips out to the heartland to see the folks. Intensive interaction with voters was reserved for campaigns.
By the late sixties, the availability of easy air travel and extensive local news coverage were rapidly changing the rules for survival. More and more, senators and congressmen were coming home on most weekends, traveling to more places when they got there, and making pronouncements for the local media whenever they could.
Fulbrights campaign encountered no little resistance from people who disagreed with him on the war or thought he was out of touch, or both. He thought the idea of flying home every weekend was nuts and once said to me, in reference to his colleagues who did it, When do they ever get time to read and think? Sadly, the pressures on members of Congress to travel constantly have grown only more intense. The rising costs of television, radio, and other advertising and the insatiable appetite for news coverage put many senators and congressmen on a plane every weekend and often out many weeknights for fund-raisers in the Washington area. When I was President, I often remarked to Hillary and my staff that I thought one reason congressional debate had grown so harshly negative was that too many members of Congress were in a constant state of exhaustion.
In the summer of 68, exhaustion wasnt Fulbrights problem, though he was weary from fighting over Vietnam. What he needed was not rest, but a way to reconnect with voters who felt alienated from him. Luckily, he was blessed with weak opponents. His main adversary in the primary was none other than Justice Jim Johnson, who was back to his old routine, traveling to county seats with a country band, bashing Fulbright as soft on communism. Johnsons wife, Virginia, was attempting to emulate George Wallaces wife, Lurleen, who had succeeded her husband as governor. The Republican Senate candidate was an unknown small-business man from east Arkansas, Charles Bernard, who said Fulbright was too liberal for our state.
Lee Williams had come down to run the campaign, with a lot of help from the young but seasoned politician who ran Senator Fulbrights Little Rock office, Jim McDougal (the Whitewater one), an old-fashioned populist who told great stories in colorful language and worked his heart out for Fulbright, whom he revered.
Jim and Lee decided to reintroduce the senator to Arkansas as just plain Bill, a down-to-earth Arkansan in a red-checked sport shirt. All the campaigns printed materials and most of the TV ads showed him that way, though I dont think he liked it, and on most campaign days he still wore a suit. To hammer the down-home image into reality, the senator decided to make a grassroots campaign trip to small towns around the state, accompanied only by a driver and a black notebook filled with the names of his past supporters that had been compiled by Parker Westbrook, a staffer who seemed to know everyone in Arkansas who had the slightest interest in politics. Since Senator Fulbright campaigned only every six years, we just hoped all the folks listed in Parkers black notebook were still alive and kicking.
Lee Williams gave me the chance to drive the senator for a few days on a trip to southwest Arkansas, and I jumped at it. I was fascinated by Fulbright, grateful for the letter he had written for me to the Rhodes Scholarship Committee, and eager to learn more about what small-town Arkansans were thinking. They were a long way from urban violence and anti-war demonstrations, but a lot of them had kids in Vietnam.
One day Fulbright was being followed by a national television crew as we pulled in to a small town, parked, and went into a feed store where farmers bought grain for their animals. With cameras rolling, Fulbright shook hands with an old character in overalls and asked him for his vote. The man said he couldnt give it because Fulbright wouldnt stand up to the Commies and hed let them take over our country. Fulbright sat down on a pile of feed bags stacked on the floor and struck up a conversation. He told the man hed stand up to the Communists at home if he could find them. Well, theyre all over, the man replied. Then Fulbright commented, Really? Have you seen any around here? Ive been looking all over and I havent seen the first one. It was funny to watch Fulbright do his thing. The guy thought they were having a serious conversation. Im sure the TV audience got a kick out of it, but what I saw bothered me. The wall had gone up in that mans eyes. It didnt matter that he couldnt find a Commie to save his soul. He had turned Fulbright off, and no amount of talking could bring the wall in his mind down again. I just hoped there were enough other voters in that town and the hundreds like it who were still reachable.
Notwithstanding the feed-store incident, Fulbright was convinced that small-town voters were mostly wise, practical, and fair-minded. He thought they had more time to reflect on things and were not all that easy for his right-wing critics to stampede. After a couple of days of visiting places where all the white voters seemed to be for George Wallace, I wasnt so sure. Then we came to Center Point, and one of the more memorable encounters of my life in politics. Center Point was a little place of fewer than two hundred people. The black notebook said the man to see was Bo Reece, a longtime supporter who lived in the best house in town. In the days before television ads, there was a Bo Reece in most little Arkansas towns. A couple of weeks before the election, people would ask, Whos Bo for? His choice would be made known and would get about two-thirds of the vote, sometimes more.
When we got back in the car, Fulbright said, See, I told you, theres a lot of wisdom in these small towns. Bo sits on that porch and thinks things through. Bo Reece had a big impact on Fulbright. A few weeks later at a campaign rally in El Dorado, a south Arkansas oil town that was a hotbed of racism and pro-Wallace sentiment, Fulbright was asked what was the biggest problem facing America. Without hesitation he said, Poverty. I was proud of him and grateful to Bo Reece.
When we were driving from town to town on those hot country roads, I would try to get Fulbright to talk. The conversations left me with great memories but sharply curtailed my career as his driver. One day we got into it over the Warren Court. I strongly favored most of its decisions, especially in civil rights. Fulbright disagreed. He said, There is going to be a terrible backlash against this Supreme Court. You cant change society too much through the courts. Most of it has to come through the political system. Even if it takes longer, its more likely to stick. I still think America came out way ahead under the Warren Court, but theres no doubt weve had a powerful reaction to it for more than thirty years now.
Four or five days into our trip, I started up one of those political discussions with Fulbright as we were driving out of yet another small town to our next stop. After about five minutes Fulbright asked me where I was going. When I told him, he said, Then you better turn around. Youre headed in exactly the opposite direction. As I sheepishly made the U-turn, he said, Youre going to give Rhodes scholars a bad name. Youre acting like a damned egghead who doesnt know which way to drive.
I was embarrassed, of course, as I turned around and got the senator back on schedule. And I knew my days as a driver were over. But what the heck, I was just shy of my twenty-second birthday and had just had a few days of experiences and conversations that would last a lifetime. What Fulbright needed was a driver who could get him to the next place on time, and I was happy to go back to headquarters work, to the rallies and picnics and the long dinners listening to Lee Williams, Jim McDougal, and the other old hands tell Arkansas political stories.
Not long before the primary, Tom Campbell came for a visit on his way to Texas for his Marine Corps officer training. Jim Johnson was having one of his courthouse-steps, country-band rallies that night in Batesville, about an hour and a half north of Little Rock, so I decided to show Tom a side of Arkansas hed only heard about before. Johnson was in good form. After warming up the crowd, he held up a shoe and shouted, You see this shoe? It was made in Communist Romania [he pronounced it Rooo-main-yuh]! Bill Fulbright voted to let these Communist shoes come into America and take jobs away from good Arkansas people working in our shoe factories. We had a lot of those folks back then and Johnson promised them and all the rest of us that when he got to the Senate there would be no more Commie shoes invading America. I had no idea whether we in fact were importing shoes from Romania, whether Fulbright had voted for a failed attempt to open our border to them, or whether Johnson made the whole thing up, but it made a good tale. After the speech Johnson stood on the steps and shook hands with the crowd. I patiently waited my turn. When he shook my hand, I told him he made me ashamed to be from Arkansas. I think my earnestness amused him. He just smiled, invited me to write him about my feelings, and moved on to the next handshake.
On July 30, Fulbright defeated Jim Johnson and two lesser-known candidates. Justice Jims wife, Virginia, barely made it into the gubernatorial runoff, beating a young reformer named Ted Boswell by 409 votes out of more than 400,000 votes cast, despite the best efforts of the Fulbright folks to help him in the closing days of the campaign and in the six days following, when everybody was hustling to keep from getting counted out or to get some extra votes in the unreported precincts. Mrs. Johnson lost the runoff by 63 to 37 percent to Marion Crank, a state legislator from Foreman in southwest Arkansas, who had the courthouse crowd and the Faubus machine behind him. Arkansas had finally had enough of the Johnsons. We were not yet in the New South of the seventies, but we did have sense enough not to go backward.
In August, as I was winding down my involvement in the Fulbright campaign and getting ready to go to Oxford, I spent several summer nights at the home of Mothers friends Bill and Marge Mitchell on Lake Hamilton, where I was always welcome. That summer I met some interesting people at Marge and Bills. Like Mother, they loved the races and over the years got to know a lot of the horse people, including two brothers from Illinois, W. Hal and Donkey Bishop, who owned and trained horses. W. Hal Bishop was more successful, but Donkey was one of the most memorable characters Ive ever met. He was a frequent visitor in Marge and Bills home. One night we were out at the lake talking about my generations experiences with drugs and women, and Donkey mentioned that he used to drink a lot and had been married ten times. I was amazed. Dont look at me like that, he said. When I was your age, it wasnt like it is now. If you wanted to have sex, it wasnt even enough to say you loved em. You had to marry em! I laughed and asked if he remembered all their names. All but two, he replied. His shortest marriage? One night. I woke up in a motel with a horrible hangover and a strange woman. I said, Who in the hell are you? She said, Im your wife, you SOB! I got up, put my pants on, and got out of there. In the 1950s, Donkey met a woman who was different from all the rest. He told her the whole truth about his life and said if shed marry him, he would never drink or carouse again. She took the unbelievable chance, and he kept his word for twenty-five years, until he died.
Marge Mitchell also introduced me to two young people who had just started teaching in Hot Springs, Danny Thomason and Jan Biggers. Danny came from Hampton, seat of Arkansas smallest county, and he had a world of good country stories to prove it. When I was governor, we sang tenor side by side in the Immanuel Baptist Church choir every Sunday. His brother and sister-in-law, Harry and Linda, became two of Hillarys and my closest friends and played a big role in the 92 presidential campaign and our White House years.
Jan Biggers was a tall, pretty, talkative girl from Tuckerman, in northeast Arkansas. I liked her, but she had segregationist views from her upbringing, which I deplored. When I left for Oxford, I gave her a cardboard box full of paperback books on civil rights and urged her to read them. A few months later, she ran off with another teacher, John Paschal, the president of the local NAACP. They wound up in New Hampshire, where he became a builder, she kept teaching, and they had three children. When I ran for President, I was happily surprised to find that Jan was the Democratic chair in one of New Hampshires ten counties.
Though I was preparing to go to Oxford, August was one of 1968s craziest months, and it was hard to look ahead. It began with the Republican convention in Miami Beach, where New York governor Nelson Rockefellers bid to defeat a resurgent Richard Nixon showed just how weak the moderate wing of the party had become, and where Governor Ronald Reagan of California first emerged as a potential President with his appeal to true conservatives. Nixon won on the first ballot, with 692 votes to 277 for Rockefeller and 182 for Reagan. Nixons message was simple: he was for law and order at home, and peace with honor in Vietnam. Though the real political turmoil lay ahead when the Democrats met in Chicago, the Republicans had their share of turbulence, aggravated by Nixons vice-presidential choice, Governor Spiro Agnew of Maryland, whose only national notoriety had come from his hard-line stance against civil disobedience. Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, the first black to play in the major leagues, resigned his post as an aide to Rockefeller because he could not back a Republican ticket he saw as racist. Martin Luther King Jr.s successor, the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, moved the Poor Peoples Campaign from Washington to Miami Beach in hopes of influencing the Republican convention in a progressive way. They were disappointed by the platform, the floor speeches, and Nixons appeals to the ultra-conservatives. After the Agnew nomination was announced, what had been a peaceful gathering against poverty turned into a riot. The National Guard was called out, and the by now predictable scenario unfolded: tear gas, beating, looting, fires. When it was over, three black men had been killed, a three-day curfew was imposed, and 250 people were arrested and later released to quiet charges of police brutality. But all the trouble only strengthened the law-and-order hand Nixon was playing to the so-called silent majority of Americans, who were appalled by what they saw as the breakdown of the fabric of American life.
The Miami strife was just a warm-up for what the Democrats faced when they met in Chicago later that month. At the beginning of the month, Al Lowenstein and others were still looking for an alternative to Humphrey. McCarthy was still hanging in there, with no real prospect of winning. On August 10, Senator George McGovern announced his own candidacy, clearly hoping to get the support of those who had been for Robert Kennedy. Meanwhile, Chicago was filling up with young people opposed to the war. A small number intended to make real trouble; the rest were there to stage various forms of peaceful protest, including the Yippies, who planned a countercultural Festival of Life with most of the celebrants high on marijuana, and the National Mobilization Committee, which had a more conventional protest in mind. But Mayor Richard Daley wasnt taking any chances: he put the entire police force on alert, asked the governor to send in the National Guard, and prepared for the worst.
On August 22, the convention claimed its first victim, a seventeen-year-old Native American shot by police who claimed he fired on them first near Lincoln Park, where the people gathered every day. Two days later, a thousand demonstrators refused to vacate the park at night as ordered. Hundreds of police waded into the crowd with nightsticks, as their targets threw rocks, shouted curses, or ran. It was all on television.
That was how I experienced Chicago. It was surreal. I had gone to Shreveport, Louisiana, with Jeff Dwire, the man my mother was involved with and was soon to marry. He was an unusual man: a World War II veteran of the Pacific theater who had permanently injured his abdominal muscles when he parachuted out of his damaged plane and landed on a coral reef; an accomplished carpenter; a slick Louisiana charmer; and the owner of the beauty salon where Mother got her hair done (he had worked his way through college as a hairdresser). He had also been a football player, a judo instructor, a home builder, a seller of oil-well equipment, and a securities salesman. He was married but separated from his wife, and he had three daughters. He had also served nine months in prison in 1962 for stock fraud. In 1956, he had raised $24,000 for a company that was going to make movies about colorful Oklahoma characters, including the gangster Pretty Boy Floyd. The U.S. attorney concluded the company spent the money as soon as it came in and never had any intention to make the movies. Jeff claimed he left the operation as soon as he knew it was a scam, but it was too late. I respected him for telling me about all this soon after we met. Whatever had really happened, Mother was serious about him and wanted us to spend some time together, so I agreed to go to Louisiana with him for a few days while he pursued his involvement with a pre-fab housing company. Shreveport was a conservative city in northwest Louisiana, not far from the Arkansas border, with an ultraright wing newspaper that gave me a hard spin every morning on what I had seen on television the night before. The circumstances were bizarre, but I sat glued to the TV for hours, taking time out to go to a few places and eat with Jeff. I felt so isolated. I didnt identify with the kids raising hell or with Chicagos mayor and his rough tactics, or with the people who were supporting him, which included most of the folks I had grown up among. And I was heartsick that my party and its progressive causes were disintegrating before my eyes.
Any hope that the convention might produce a unified party was dashed by President Johnson. In his first statement since his brothers funeral, Senator Edward Kennedy called for a unilateral bombing halt and a mutual withdrawal of U.S. and North Vietnamese forces from South Vietnam. His proposal was the basis of a compromise platform plank agreed to by the Humphrey, Kennedy, and McCarthy leaders. When General Creighton Abrams, the U.S. commander in Vietnam, told LBJ a bombing halt would endanger Americas troops, the President demanded Humphrey abandon the Vietnam compromise plank in the platform, and Humphrey gave in. Later, in his autobiography, Humphrey said, I should have stood my ground. . . . I should not have yielded. But he did, and the dam broke.
The convention opened on August 26. The keynoter was Senator Dan Inouye of Hawaii, a brave Japanese-American veteran of World War II, to whom I awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2000, a belated recognition of the heroism that had cost him an arm, and very nearly his life, while his own people were being herded into detention camps back home. Inouye expressed sympathy for the protesters and their goals, but urged them not to abandon peaceful means. He spoke against violence and anarchy, but also condemned apathy and prejudice hiding behind the reach of law and order, a clear slap at Nixon and perhaps at the Chicago police tactics too. Inouye struck a good balance, but things were too far out of kilter to be righted by the power of his words.
More than Vietnam divided the convention. Some of the southern delegations were still resisting the party rule that the delegate-selection process be open to blacks. The credentials committee, including Arkansas congressman David Pryor, voted to accept the Mississippi challenge delegation led by civil rights activist Aaron Henry. The other southern delegations were seated, except for Georgias, which was split, with half the seats given to a challenge slate headed by young state representative Julian Bond, now chairman of the NAACP; and Alabamas, which had sixteen of its delegates disqualified because they wouldnt pledge to support the partys nominee, presumably because Alabamas Governor Wallace was running as an independent.
Despite these disputes, the main point of contention was the war. McCarthy seemed miserable, back to his old diffident self, resigned to defeat, detached from the kids who were getting harassed or beaten every night in Lincoln Park or Grant Park when they refused to leave. In a last-minute effort to find a candidate most Democrats thought was electable and acceptable, people from Al Lowenstein to Mayor Daley sounded out Ted Kennedy. When he gave a firm no, Humphreys nomination was secure. So was the Vietnam plank Johnson wanted. About 60 percent of the delegates voted for it.
The night the convention was to name its nominee, fifteen thousand people gathered in Grant Park to demonstrate against the war and Mayor Daleys tough tactics. After one of them started to lower the American flag, the police stormed into the crowd, beating and arresting people. When the demonstrators marched toward the Hilton, the police teargassed them and beat them again on Michigan Avenue. All the action was beamed into the convention hall by television. Both sides were inflamed. McCarthy finally addressed his supporters in Grant Park, telling them he would not abandon them and would not endorse Humphrey or Nixon. Senator Abe Ribicoff of Connecticut, in nominating McGovern, condemned the Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago. Daley leapt to his feet and, with the TV cameras on him, hurled an angry epithet at Ribicoff. When the speeches were over, the balloting began. Humphrey won handily, with the vote completed at about midnight. His choice for vice president, Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, breezed through shortly afterward. Meanwhile, the protests continued outside the convention hall, led by Tom Hayden and black comedian Dick Gregory. The only uplifting thing to happen inside the hall, besides Inouyes keynote, was the final-day film tribute to Robert Kennedy, which brought the delegates to a frenzy of emotion. Wisely, President Johnson had ordered that it not be shown until after Humphrey was nominated.
In a final indignity, after the convention, the police stormed into the Hilton to beat and arrest McCarthy volunteers who were having a farewell party. They claimed the young people, while drowning their sorrows, had thrown objects down on them from the McCarthy staffs fifteenth-floor room. The next day, Humphrey stood foursquare behind Daleys handling of the planned and premeditated violence and denied that the mayor had done anything wrong.
The Democrats limped out of Chicago divided and discouraged, the latest casualties in a culture war that went beyond differences over Vietnam. It would reshape and realign American politics for the rest of the century and beyond, and frustrate most efforts to focus the electorate on the issues that most affect their lives and livelihoods, as opposed to their psyches. The kids and their supporters saw the mayor and the cops as authoritarian, ignorant, violent bigots. The mayor and his largely blue-collar ethnic police force saw the kids as foul-mouthed, immoral, unpatriotic, soft, upper-class kids who were too spoiled to respect authority, too selfish to appreciate what it takes to hold a society together, too cowardly to serve in Vietnam.
As I watched all this in my little hotel room in Shreveport, I understood how both sides felt. I was against the war and the police brutality, but growing up in Arkansas had given me an appreciation for the struggles of ordinary people who do their duty every day, and a deep skepticism about self-righteous sanctimony on the right or the left. The fleeting fanaticism of the left had not yet played itself out, but it had already unleashed a radical reaction on the right, one that would prove more durable, more well financed, more institutionalized, more resourceful, more addicted to power, and far more skilled at getting and keeping it.
Much of my public life was spent trying to bridge the cultural and psychological divide that had widened into a chasm in Chicago. I won a lot of elections and I think I did a lot of good, but the more I tried to bring people together, the madder it made the fanatics on the right. Unlike the kids in Chicago, they didnt want America to come back together. They had an enemy, and they meant to keep it.