The Presidency: 1968; The Issues and Their Impact
Boston University radio presents the presidency 1968 a series of four programs taken from lectures by the noted political scientist Max Lerner. The Presidency 1968 was originally presented at Garland junior college Boston and was made possible through a grant from the Sperry and Hutchinson foundation. In the second program Dr. Lerner discusses the topic the issues and their impact. Now here is Dr. Max Lerner on the presidency 1968. It is a great pleasure to have a chance to go on with my analysis of the campaign that I started last time since I was last with you the situation of the campaign has changed very considerably.
Situation that we had last time was one that looked like a runaway victory for Mr. Nixon and Mr. Agnew with. Mr. Humphrey and Mr. Muskie having little chance of ever overtaking the man with Mr. Wallace and general the May moving ahead very fast on what seemed to be a tide of opinion. I think that is changed now. There has been a turn of the tide. Mr. Wallace's seeming irreversibly forward movement has been contained and some of the recent polls indicate that he has instead of moving forward he's actually moving backward. A gap between Mr. Nixon and Mr. fray has been narrowed.
Someone is good in opinion polls as Harris says in his most recent poll showing the difference between them is something like 5 points and given. A street corner of race five point difference can amount to not very much more than the possible margin of error. Things are starting to run for you but Humphrey let me put it differently. I have never believed very deeply in the voter looking at the opinion polls in order to understand how he feels and where he stands. I think this whole idea of seeing yourself in the mirror image the mirror image of the polls is not a very desirable idea. It leads to a kind of conformity. You watch how others are behaving and then
you know in some way how you want to behave. But if there have to be these opinion polls these straw polls at least let the mirror image not be too distorted an image. And it was too distorted an image when we last met. There has been some correction from that former distorted image and the one that we get now I think is much closer to the reality of how the American people feel. Mr. Humphrey senses it. Senator Muskie senses it they're getting larger audiences warmer audiences and more young people that turn out for them in these meetings. I want to talk a little bit about what it may be that has changed this tide and what may
still happen in the remaining two weeks remaining time before the election. And what kinds of issues shaping up as the decisive one is not necessarily the ones that are most talked about but the decisive ones. For me the decisive issue is the one that Walter Lippmann posed in the articles that he wrote when he announced where he stood in the campaign. Way to put it was who can run the country. And I accept that is the formulation. I do not accept his answer to it. As you know his answer to it was that this is going to be a great repression. It is already begun and it is bound to increase and
repression due to the social angers that have been aroused about which I talked last time when I was with you. Social angers which in turn are recoil against some of the extremist things that have been happening from the viewpoint of a large mass of the American people extremists things Mr. Lippman seems to feel that these social angers are bound to lead to a great repression an effort to crackdown crackdown not only demonstrations crackdown not only on what collective manifestations of protest but crackdown even on dissent dissent without demonstration dissent without violence. And Mr. look his argument seems to be that if there is going to be this great repression then it would be better if the Republicans under Mr. Nixon
were to run the country and be responsible for managing that replay. It's an interesting viewpoint interesting partly mainly because I hate to say this about a colleague whom I respect so much as I do Mr. Lippman but interesting because it involves a kind of. Surrender on his part to the inevitability of the Great Depression. I do not surrender to that inevitability. I've never felt that there was a wave of the future that we simply had to retreat under. I didn't feel it in the shadow of those dark days of the Nazi shadow when we were told that Hitlerism was the wave of the future and I never believed it when we were told that communism was the wave of the future. And I do not believe that repression is the wave of the future in America. I think
obviously that we are witnessing today a very genuine recoil against the violence that has been manifested particularly on television screens. Obviously we're witnessing that. But the question is not so much whether we surrender to the inevitability of it but whether we can try to get at the sources of that repression and by getting at the sources whether we can prevent its coming or minimize it. And there's another assumption that I find rather difficult to accept and that is that the Republican regime is more likely to be able to manage a repression than a democratic one. And what assumption perhaps on the assumption that the Republicans are what more closely align aid as kin to those who would be likely to be running their repression.
But if that is the assumption then surely it is a curious thing to be coming out for a presidential and vice presidential Cabinet who are that closely aligned. I have a rather different approach and that is that we try to think in terms of those who can genuinely run the country repression or not. Given the forces that are likely to split the country given the problems that have to be met given the decisions that have to be taken it is here that I find a much greater What should I say as a deeper or a more satisfying way of resolving the question who can run the country. Then the curious way in which my colleague Mr. Lippman seems to have resolved it I do take his formulation of the problem who can run the country.
And perhaps this is the first time in the history of presidential campaigns at least in my memory when this has been the foremost question. And why is it the foremost question because as I tried to say the last time I talked to you this is for the first time in our history at least since the Civil War in the aftermath of the Civil War. This is for the first time in our history so deeply split a civilization and so tragically split to civilization. And because of the deep and tragic splits the question of who can hold the country together who can run it in that sense becomes a crucial one. I talked in my last talk about some of the candidates and the personalities. Obviously these are overlapping themes one cannot talk simply about issues and their impact without again
saying something about personalities and I would like to say a word about Richard Nixon. I think there is a reason why the tide is beginning to turn. These things don't happen just of their own accord. And I think Mr. Nixon is one of the reasons for the turning of the tide. I find in him a curious detachment from what we most of us would regard as the necessity that a candidate is under to discuss the issues and to do beat his opponents and to confront head on the arguments that may be made against him. Surely one would think that this is a basic imperative for men who are claiming the suffrage of the country that they would be willing to show the citizenry laid bare before the citizenry
where they stand. Not on the issues that they choose to talk about but on the questions that are presented to them by their opponents. Mr Nixon has consistently refused to do this. First he said he wouldn't get bait in a three cornered debate with Mr Wallace and now he says that he will not even meet Mr. Humphrey in just a two man debate. One can of course understand given Mr. Nixon's bitter experience in 1960 as the result of a debate with John Kennedy One can perhaps understand why he feels somewhat close. But this is no longer a question of giving the opposite candidate a chance to get known to the country. That's what happened in 1960 when Mr. Kennedy still a young senator still relatively unknown. We still didn't know to what
extent he had the knowledge and experience for guiding the destinies of the country and when Mr. Nixon met him in debate when we saw the kind of responses that Mr. Kennedy made we knew that he did have the knowledge and we knew that there was considerable maturity there and capacity for growth. It was not just Mr. Nixon's television image that was responsible for his getting the shorter end of the stick in those debates. It was the fact that the other candidate did show up well and good did get well and Mr. Nixon did pay a price for those debate. But you know today that isn't true of Mr. Humphrey he's not an unknown. He's very well known he's been around for 20 years since he was elected to the Senate. He's been under public exposure. He's been the focus of all the bright lights the white like the beach on the throne.
He's been there Mr. Nixon has not been there for some time. He's not been there since 1968. He ran for governor in California in 1962 but not on national issues. In 1964 he was not a candidate. He has not been a candidate since he has been in a succession of primaries but not in a single one of those primaries. Was there any kind of formidable opposition or anything like a debate. It is he who is the unknown quantity. I think Mr Nixon should understand this. We know relatively little about him as compared with what we know about Mr. Freeh. Any debate would be a very interesting way of clarifying where he stands but obviously he doesn't intend to NY because he feels that he's still pretty much ahead he just doesn't want to take a chance
losing his lead. And while I can understand this may I add that I don't admire it. I don't admire it because it would undoubtedly take courage to to have the confrontation but you would expect courage in a president of the United States. And it would undoubtedly take skill in confronting the issues to confront them well with Mr. Humphrey but you won't get that kind of skill in confronting issues from a president of the United States. There's a kind of come dissension not unmixed with contempt for the voters for us. I speak very plainly on this. I have not been aroused up to this point relieved by Mr. Nixon I was aroused by Mr Wallace and General Curtis Lemay. I was very much a roused by domestic
primitivism of Mr. Wallace and by the foreign policy primitivism of general maybe very much aroused and I think I express that sense I was not aroused by Mr. Nixon until now. I must say I'm speaking only as an individual but I think I express what many feel I don't like being taken for granted by any of the presidential candidates. I don't like what I call a cunt descension mixed with contempt for the vulgar by candidate who feels that he can move into power without having to confront his opponent and laid bare where he really stands. I don't like the feeling that a candidate or candidate feels that the voter can be had. And I would suggest that the best way to ensure a candidate who feels a voter can be had is to show that he cannot be
had. And I think that some voters have been feeling this way I think that's part of the story. You know listen I miss my guess it will be increasingly part of the story in the remaining day. If you look at the question of who can run the country I mean one answer to that is whoever it is that is willing to face a decision is when they come. Who has the courage and the judgment to face those decisions but to face decisions with courage and judgment is not very different from facing issues today with courage and judgment. So then my answer to that question unlike Mr. Lippman says is that someone who is showing wonderful skills at evasion
and a public relations and so on is not necessarily the one who can run the country. There's a second quality I think that is necessary and someone who can run the country and that is trust. I have seen this discussed enough heat there between the candidates or by commentators on the candidates. I am told by many people that they don't like either Mr Nixon or Mr Humphrey. I'm talking of the two major candidates obviously this applies to the third one as well. But you know as to the problem of whether you like a man while very interesting aesthetically isn't the crucial problem when it comes to running the country a much more crucial problem. And whether you trust him. Whether you trust his judgment whether you trust his maturity whether you trust his coverage.
Whether you trust him to move forward into a future a future that is fraught with Thankful possibility while the whole of our society and in fact for mankind whether you trust him to move into the future with courage and maturity and judgment and to make the necessary choices whether you trust his philosophy of change. Whether you trust the relation that he bears to the whole historic process in American political history I don't take an aesthetic approach to either Mr. Humphrey or Mr. Nixon or Mr. Wallace for that matter. But I do ask myself where the trust lies. Mr. Humphrey has a kind of what to smiling too enthusiastic manner that irritates many people
but the enthusiasm and the smile and so on are I suppose part of the basic historic up to me ism of American civilization. May I say having spent some years studying what we call the national character of the Americas there is a basic optimism in the American national character. And while I think Mr. Humphrey over expresses it I wish that he could contain his geniality and his enthusiasm as well as is the length of his talks and so on he does express that basic optimism and he does express the humanist tradition liberal humanist tradition that I think has been the most creative tradition in American politics. And it is that liberal humanist tradition that I would like to see in our leadership as we face an unknown and
dangerous and troublesome future. If I could talk of the three parties and their leaders in terms of facing the future that way I've suggested how I think Mr. Humphrey is facing it. I think I'm fairly clear in my mind about how Mr Wallace and general may face it. They they face St. Louis toward the past toward the what shall we say half way to the paleolithic pass St. Louis. They want to look into the future backward. I want to say for Mr. Nixon he does not want to walk into the future backward facing the past. He wants to edges way sideways into the future sideways by straddling every crucial issue.
And I hope I can be very plain and candid again when I say that while I infinitely preferred their site way motion to trying to walk into the future by facing the past St. Louis I do not accept the sideway motion as necessarily great leadership. I suppose that many Americans will take it on faith that Mr. Nixon GA's have the knowledge and maturity the judgment the courage to face all these difficult problems. You know while face is very important I like to have a basis for my faith. And unless I mistake the American political mind I think most Americans want a basis for their faith. I don't think this basis has been given to us. There's
another problem on the issue of that question of who can face the future. It has to do with the question of what are the groups that are likely to be most troublesome and creating a dangerous future for America to face. What are they going to kick them off one day. The power clusters. The communists. Whether the Soviet power cluster or the Chinese power cluster the power clusters or each of them seeking in the case of the Chinese clearly seeking to expand and feeling that the more they can throw the world into chaos the more they will be able to benefit from it. The Soviet power cluster has grown very fearful of its own position in Eastern Europe and
has moved to consolidate that position by repressive means. That's one of the factors that has to be met in the future. The second factor that has to be met has to do with the internal confrontation of conflicting groups inside of our own society. Racial confrontations religious confrontations generational confrontations in the streets on university campuses and the school houses all you have to do is to read what's been happening in New York in recent days in recent weeks to know the nature of those confrontations. And finally of course. What may be well will be troublesome for the future has to do with the question of whether we
can as we move into the future develop a common language for a common dialogue with something approaching a common value structure whether we can develop a segment of a society that will keep our society cohesive. That's the question. And here obviously the factors that have to be reckoned with are the factors that are breaking up this this dialogue not only the ones that I mentioned race and so on but the factors of the invasion the old values but new values. This is my long range view of what is going to be troubling America and what is going to be presenting the issues which will have to be faced by someone who wants to unite the country and run the country. And in
what remains of my time I want to discuss each of them briefly necessarily because each of them will open up all kinds of questions. Let us start with the question of the world of power systems very troublesome and dangerous world of power systems. And I start there with the Vietnam War in which we are still stuck in a messy war in which we are still stuck. One of the things that has happened since we last met has been that for the first time in a very long time there are some indications that this war may get unstuck some indication is that the Paris talks may get activated. We hope very much that this is more than wishful. On the part of
leadership on the part of the people themselves that there's some basis for it. But whatever happens to this current initiative and I myself have not given up hope that it may come to something whatever happens to this current initiative. You have to ask about the candidates. Which one given what we know about the posture of the other power clusters which one is most likely to get the war over with and get the post-war period organized in some effective way. The difficulty if I may say so we're dealing with Mr. Nixon here is that we still do not know where he stands on this crucial issue. Now maybe he will vouchsafe some kind of revelation about it before. Election Day. It would be interesting if he did.
We do know about Mr. Humphrey who was given a major speech. Setting forth his views on some crucial things. We know several things there. We know. That even while he was vice president if we can take the word of Mr. George Ball and Mr. Goldberg and Bill Moyers all of whom. Were very much on the inside of the Johnson administration very privy to what was happening inside and who were themselves pretty dovish we know that Mr. Humphreys views were not as they have been depicted by many of his young opponents inflexible. We know that he has been moving toward a flexible position on negotiations and on the peace. We know that a flexible position is crucial if the next president is going to be able to get this war over with us and he's the only one of the three major candidates about whom we can have some
assurance that he has moved toward flexibility. Unless as I say there is something about Nixon that we haven't been told and we just don't know. And beyond that the piece itself there is the question of what of nailing down the peace in Southeast Asia and in Asia as a whole so that other episodes of this sort will not recur. That means helping to rebuild America. Not acting as a policeman no but helping to rebuild the war torn ravage areas in Southeast Asia and beyond those areas helping to rebuild the economic fabric to build the political fabric of the whole area. We do know again about Mr. Humphrey who was taken with PETA duly taken positions on this that he wants to commit not only a
- The Presidency: 1968
- The Issues and Their Impact
- Producing Organization
- WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
Producer: Boston University
Producing Organization: WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-Sp.3-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “The Presidency: 1968; The Issues and Their Impact,” 1968-10-25, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 18, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-901zhp56.
- MLA: “The Presidency: 1968; The Issues and Their Impact.” 1968-10-25. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 18, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-901zhp56>.
- APA: The Presidency: 1968; The Issues and Their Impact. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-901zhp56