Vice President Hubert Humphrey; At Issue
They every time there's a National Security Council meeting of course I'm invited as the vice president the president seems to that he sees to it that I'm fully informed that he has top people here Secretary of State your secretary of defense is director of central intelligence. Through his secretary to the National Security Council his special system on foreign affairs. The president has directed each of these fine public officials to see to it that his vice president is fully informed. I must say that he's gone out of his way to do this even more than one should have any right to expect but I relationships are sometimes a more like man to man and friend a friend we discuss many things to discuss personalities and issues and programs and international crises. The politics of the country. Even a good news story once in a while and I missed a week or so a few bad with facts. But I think it's fair to say that the relationships are not maybe quite good
as formal as that one would be led to believe by reading the text books. Remember your president and your vice president have known each other for 20 years almost 20 years and actually we've known each other for 17 years. This is a good friendship and we have been many places together and have done many things together. And while now the president of course has the tremendous responsibility of president. And once a man becomes president he is no longer a private person. Nevertheless he is a human being is a man with is his friends and his thoughts and his feelings and his emotions and a vice president is the same kind of a man so that we do have a chance to discuss everything with the worker we including how the baseball team was coming and some of the some of the little things in life everything is not grim. Matter of fact a good deal of time we just have an opportunity to discuss some of the
developments in the nation's capital and what is happening in terms of the cultural development of our country the economic development of our country. Who is coming to the White House and what kind of people are they. These every see every conceivable subject. It's generally thought in Washington that President Johnson his whole administration is following a policy of the idea of consensus politics. Do you think this is true and if so how would you define that. What sort of approach to political conversely is that. Well President Johnson truly lives by his favorite passage from scripture from the book of Isaiah. Come let us reason together. This isn't just a phrase with President President Johnson he really practices it and he brings people together he is a man that believes in trying to get a maximum amount. Of agreement which lends itself of course to support. He does
not believe in the class struggle. He does not believe that you want to pit capital against labor or city against farm or north against south or race against race. I've listened to him and over the years this isn't something new. He has always been one that tried to bind up the wound tried to unite rather than to divide that tried to bring together rather than split asunder. And when he talks about the politics of consensus or as the president has said that he seeks a consensus. He doesn't mean that that he insists that everybody agrees at once on a particular issue. He doesn't ask for unanimity but he asked for a degree of unity in which there are differences to be sure but that those differences are worked out. Fought out in a sense compromised out until you get a wide enough base of acceptance and understanding and support to make a public policy publicly acceptable. Now it's
one thing to pass a law and it's another thing to get people to observe it. It's one thing for a president to sit in the White House and to say this is what I believe and this is what America should do. And it's another thing to have the American people follow that leadership and President Johnson not only not only is willing to to take the risk of leadership of saying this is what we ought to do but before he makes that statement he carefully surveys the the social and economic landscape of terrain. He sees what can be done to bring forces together so that his leadership will be more than a statement of public policy but it in fact it will become the fulfillment of public policy. I guess that it's fair to say that consensus in a democracy like ours in a system of government where there is where there is a division of responsibility and power in a nation in which there are 50
separate states or commonwealth in one nation and one United States that consensus in a country that has different races creeds and religions and different degrees of social and economic development. If what you mean by consensus is getting a broad enough base amongst all of these many forces in fact ors so that you have roots in each area and roots deep enough and strong enough so that the policy which you announce which is passed by the Congress or which is laid down by the president isn't blown off the landscape with the first little wind of turbulence. But if they are it can stick and this takes takes time and it takes a tremendous amount of effort. I watched the president work at this old world long period of time and I don't know if I've explained it as well as I should but many people would have you believe that consensus means that you tolerate no difference. And isn't it all right. Consensus means that you have a big
enough majority so that the majority can withstand it. The attack. And the gnawing away at the at the at the foundations of that majority a majority or a minority support of a policy generally Len's up ends up with the policy being either repudiated or ineffective. A slim majority support for policy may tide you through. If you can broaden that base of support so that it isn't just a Democratic policy or it isn't just a capital or a Labor policy or a foreign policy but that you broaden the base so that you tie in other groups so that it has so that the policy has greater acceptance and greater understanding greater understanding then you have consensus. What do you think that is that. Practical legislative matter in dealing with the Congress. Is it possible to proceed to some of the very controversial measures the president has
proposed to proceed on this basis or will there come a time in your opinion where it will have to be just a desperate struggle for a given vote. Will the president proceed in that way or will he wait in those cases. No I don't think you should expect that on every issue that you can have as broad a base or a broad consensus as you would like. But you ought to seek it. You ought not to go out of your way to destroy the possibilities of consensus and you can do that sometimes inadvertently. Therefore what we timing is we say in politics is very important why do we say that. Because what we're really doing is trying to bring to a head or to a climax a boat or an issue or a policy when there is public acceptance. Now you don't just follow the public you leave the public. You educate even as you legislate. Take for example the president's program in the field of education. Federal aid to education. And he's come up with some
novel adaptations here some some new some new ideas on how we can really bring better educational opportunity to the underprivileged in particular how we can help cities and localities as well as states how we can help the the higher education as well as the Elementary and Secondary Education. You didn't just announce this policy. You've been working at this for a long long time and groups all over America were set up to work on it he tied in the ideas of many groups so that when the presidential message on education went to the Congress it wasn't just the view of President Johnson. Even though he was the one that took the lead it represented the view of thousands of people many different organizations that never before had been able to agree who brought them together he has an uncanny ability at this. This is really the skillful. It's it's even it's a it's almost a scientific
or ingenious way of doing it. I've often said that some people can practice the piano for 50 years and never become a true great musician. And it's like in politics you can you can be in public life for 50 years and you're well you do well you do fairly well you do credibly creditably well but you're not a master at it. The Master the true greatness of a man in politics is within him. It's his own neck his own capacity his own ability it's his own patch. It's the difference between being a painter and an artist. It's a difference between being able to play the piano and being a concert pianist. And I think that that President Johnson is an artist when it comes to do the molding of public opinion and the designing of public policy. And I really believe that there that there's never been anybody in in my lifetime at least that ever had this capacity. I don't like to make comparisons but a man like President Truman was a courageous leader.
Tremendous career a man I greatly admired. But it's fair to say that while he was able to make these very difficult decisions particularly the field of foreign policy for which the whole world owes him a debt that in Safire's been able to gain that consensus. To support those policies. He had less success. Now President Johnson is also having to make great decisions at home and abroad and many are yet to come. And in this decision making process I believe you will also find that he has the consensus making capacity to bring more and more people to to support this. Now this is an often very glamorous. It really is and it requires a painstaking effort meticulous detail a constant attention to just little things. In fact if you make too much of a splash about it too much of a dramatic performance out of it will fail because part of the success of gaining a
consensus is to do it quietly and don't do it by breaking up do it unobtrusively and not necessarily seem to be doing and not necessarily seem to be doing it. That is correct. I say Well with all these great great gifts as you describe them. President Johnson is attempting to build what he referred to as the great society it's become almost a slogan of his administration. I wonder if you could give us your views of what he means by the Great Society is this a philosophical concept as it would seem to have been in his inaugural address. Or is it a legislative program as it might have seemed in his State of the Union message. What is your view of his of his intentions and meaning. Well surely the Great Society has some legislative connotations because there are programs being presented by the president to the Congress that relate to his understanding and his vision of the meaning of the Great Society. Sometimes you can
describe what you mean by a term or a concept by pointing out what it is not as well as what it is what you intend as well as what you didn't intend. Great society is a philosophical description of the kind of life that we would like our nation to have the quality of our civilization not just the quantity. For example we can talk about the growth of our gross national product. The the efforts that are being made to reduce unemployment. All of this is important very very important. And it it is a contribution to the meaning and to the achievement of the goal of the Great Society. But more importantly I think what we mean by the great society is what do we do with the wealth for what purpose is this economic growth or what purpose are these. For what purpose do we seek a higher per capita income.
For what purpose do we seek to make America strong. What we do not seek America to make America strong for purposes of aggression but actually to safeguard freedom. We do not want America's wealth just for the purposes of luxury but rather for the enrichment of life. Yes the beautification of our country and the betterment of our education the improvement of our cultural standards and cultural institutions so that they the wealth and the economic wealth of an economic system is in a sense partially used to bring about the spiritual wealth of a social structure. And I would say that what we are seeking to do when the Great Society is to make it possible for mankind to be constantly emancipated from these fears and these prejudices is theirs eases in these heartaches and his grief to bring people to
a better realisation of the purpose of life itself which is the purpose of service and of building in the creating its atonement. I think what we mean by great society is is not just building a new building but making it beautiful. It's the difference between building a block house and a cathedral. It's the business difference between having a jukebox. Which gives you music and a beautiful orchestra which gives you a sort of a replay of the soul. That's a long term objective. The Great Society will not be realized in a hurry anymore than peace can be achieved in a decade. I said some time ago we're speaking of this piece was like a mighty Cathedral. It required a master architect. But the labor of many generations and it may not come in our lifetime. Just as most of the great cathedrals of Europe were never constructed within the lifetime of the
architect or the initial builder. The important thing is do you wish to keep adding something to the structure and in the process of adding to it. Do you glorify it or do you in a sense corrupt it. And what we're seeking to do as we build this this is a richer society in terms of material things more of the rooms and better buildings and bigger bank accounts. But we also should be seeking to do is to not only have more houses but a greater degree of happiness within the community and not only the greater bank accounts but seen to it that the social values of our society the quality of justice. Of Opportunity is protected and is in advance just as we seek to advance markets and economics. I this is a philosophical subject when I say they can take an awful lot of time. Well in the.
The pursuit of all the assignments that you've been given and of the more intangible tasks that you've been describing about the great society in the whole scope of the activities that are yours now. I wonder if you could bring it down to a rather specific description for what a typical day in the vice president's life might be. If using a date you want would give us an idea of the specific range of things you cover in your you know you use so activate my mind before I get to that I just want to say this that I can't think of any more exciting period in human history to be alive than right now. And actually I think what our government is doing and what's happening in our country is very challenging and exciting and tremendous a number of new things going on not only in science and technology but here is an America today that really says it can it can whip poverty. Maybe nobody ever nobody ever dared talk about that before. We're in a time where we can
honestly say that we can even banish hunger. We're really almost at the point where we can say we can conquer disease. And there are just so many things happening. That instead of us becoming more materialistic we're becoming more idealistic. And you have young people by the thousands that are just anxious to get into the battle to to build a better and a more just in a more equitable society they want to abomination and eradicate racial and religious prejudice. We've been living with racial and religious prejudice for thousands of years and now we have people that have dedicated their life to the it to its abolition and its destruction. I think this is a glorious period in which to live. Well now that I just want to add that on to my reactions about the times and the challenges of the times by Dave you asked me what kind of a data I have starts early and ends late. And every hour of the day to me with few exceptions is the one that I like and I enjoy and above all that keeps me feeling fit
and optimistic. And at least young of heart young the spirit I said Selim weary. There are times that I am fatigued and out of sheer physical fatigue but not spiritually or mentally or philosophically. I start out early in the morning about 7:30. I try to get to my office as close to 9:00 or right around 9:00 9:15. I could come in earlier but actually I'm pretty I can do many telephone calls from my home and it's a little quieter there and not quite as quite as active as downtown. I read all the way downtown in the car working my papers come to my office I have a full day every day is scheduled in fact to Mr. Wake or we schedule weeks ahead of time. Sometimes meetings and speeches and I can get a college commencement exercises I have the month of June in July already scheduled almost entirely with the exception of new lunches and a few breakfasts. Frequently we have to change that
schedule because something develops people have to be understanding of that. I generally work until 7:30. Seven o'clock sometimes much later than there's generally a dinner in the evening or a gathering that I attend I attend a meeting that may speak at a meeting or may go to a dinner for one of the foreign dignitaries it's here or may have to travel. I generally put in the good old minimum of 16 hours 14 to 16 hours a day. Once in a while I have been to easier maybe get an 8 10 or 12 hour day but I'm not complaining. Frankly I like that I enjoy that type of that type of life and have no complaints. The day will also include meetings in the Congress it will include meetings with the president did will include the media and possibly with some Cabinet Office or some foreign visitor. Signing mail dictating mail I've learned how to use every single minute of the day every minute.
When I travel by plane I take suitcases full of papers I read incessantly and make notes and I know I have a portable dictaphone as well as the one in every place that I go. So if you learn how to use your time you can get an awful lot done and besides that I have fun. I wouldn't tell you if you can't have a little fun at it you ought to quit. Well I'm sure that's true it does that much activity in itself. Keep your waistline down on yourself. Or do you find time to get into the gym with a pool once in a while I get into the jam I want to do it more often. Frankly yes I'm. Really Doing do not do as good a job and taking care of myself as I should that way when I get to feeling a little weary then I always go you see it's like when you go to the gym it's like when I get if I become too ill or something on that may go to the doctor. I am seldom ill. I may be I I I do feel that one can do a little better if he's physically fit. I try to be reasonably
careful. I quit smoking many years ago and I know that that's made me feel 100 percent better. I do not watch my diet as well as I should but doesn't see what I'm doing but that waistline business is. It hasn't been a serious problem with me but let me say there I've been there. There are signs of the times. OK Julie. Well we've been talking in what is known as the Indian Treaty Room of the Old State Department building and a little anecdote about the vice presidency you heard right in this room. President Eisenhower held his news conferences here and it was here that he made the famous reply to a question he was asked what had been a major contribution of Vice President Nixon administration and he said well if you give me a week I can think of one. Now. That leads me to ask you since we are in the surroundings what you think in the long run. Over the period of a term in office what can be your major contribution of all the many that you can make to
President Johnson. To give him a sense of. My feeling of friendship and of loyalty of comfort. I'd hate to have the president be worried about me that I may do something that would cause him embarrassment or that would injure his administration. And with human beings this is always a possibility. If I can be a friendly advice or if from time to time I can lift some little burden from him even though it may not amount to much. I think that would be a real contribution. I don't expect that you will find any Humphry program any great Humphry messages and a great Humphrey policies because there aren't any. I am the vice president of the United States Mr. Wicker. And that means that I will support the president. I will try to help make a contribution to President Johnson's program. I will try to have my friends become loyal
friends of President Johnson as I have said to my staff. There are no Humphrey people. There are no homefront policies there are no Humphrey programs. Whatever we have we should try to contribute if it's wanted to. The president and his administration you can't have two presidents at one time. You can't have two leaders of the executive branch at one time you ought to have one. I want to say very frankly I'm quite content with this because I'd rather have the privilege of one hour with the president alongside of him visiting with him sharing my thoughts with him than to have. Two years on the outside wondering whether I could ever get inside even to talk to him for just a few minutes. When you are vice president with a friendly relationship with your president you can make as much of a contribution to your country that way as you could in almost any position because any president would surely admit that he seeks the advice and counsel of many.
And if I can be at his side as I welcomed and wanted a friend and partner then any thoughts that I may have and any dreams that I may have and any ideas that I may have and any feeling about policy that I may have I can share with him and if I am persuasive if I have something we need to offer. These ideas and thoughts will find their way into public policy. They maybe won't have. One's name on them but it isn't necessary always to have your name on something. What is more important is when you read the book in history that something was done and it was accomplished. There's always plenty of room in the hallway of success for everyone. But how lonesome you are and failure. And I feel that if the administration can be successful if the president's
policies. Policies to which many people may have made a contribution if those policies can be effective then we're all better off. And there will be a good chapter of our history if those policies are a failure. Because you did something that caused trouble or because you didn't share and vice and cons. didn't you do your best. Then it's a sad chapter. So I guess to put it quite directly to you that I consider it a high honor and. Sobering responsibility and a rare privilege to be vice president the United States. Thank you Mr. Vice President it's been very pleasant talking with you. You heard a conversation with the vice president of the United States Hubert H Humphrey speaking with the vice president was Tom Wicker the chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times. This was the audio portion of a program from the television series at issue produced by the National Educational Television Network
- Vice President Hubert Humphrey
- At Issue
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