NER Washington forum; Comedian Mort Sahl
Presence very gracious and I saw the president all of those time is limited. I said How do you do which he did not answer he doesn't answer you just kind of maternal question how do you do sir. I didn't say anything. So I looked at him and he looked at me and I was kind of embarrassing you know because that's my big moment. So I kept looking him suffer you to bring the conversations on me. So I use my warm wit. I look at the newspaper on the desk and it says Eisenhower wants Reagan to run something I don't know anything about Lyndon Johnson but he is a Democrat. That's my basic premise. So in an attempt to ingratiate myself the president I said Mr. President how do you explain Eisenhower sudden interest in politics. I've been acquainted with four presidents. That's the marvelous thing about America that a guy like me who is a professional outsider you know fire from the hip on any incumbent
that's enough. He doesn't have to do anything wrong. Just the fact that he's been elected is another voice you just heard was that of comedian Mort Saul. Our guest this week on the NE our Washington forum a weekly program concerned with the significant issues before us as a nation. This week a comedian's view of official Washington view expressed to a packed gathering of politicians and reporters assembled at the famed National Press Club. This program was produced for national educational radio through the facilities of W.A. MUFON American University Radio in Washington D.C. and with the cooperation of the National Press Club. I'm an E.R. public affairs director Bill Greenwood. Political satire has existed in one form or another since government first organized not always expressed in the same method. It is nonetheless an important method to subtly point out if not attack various governmental undertakings.
It was the stand up comic method that won international fame for Mort Saul fame that can be attributed to such jibes as the as heard in the nation's capital. I'm very pleased to be filling in for General Westmoreland here tonight. We couldn't be here to address you he's busy addressing the legislature in the Parchin islands General Westmoreland has been very active here and the president with customary originality has enlisted the aid of a four star general in his diplomatic service. To give you an idea of the relations the administration with the public. General Westmoreland made a speech the South Carolina legislature which was about civil rights. Ironically enough most of us were heading their way when they hear about the war how it was proceeding and they made a give a tribute to
the Negro soldiers pointing out. And I concur if they are every bit as bad as Americans in the field. For now as you can see since you're all working which looks like I diverge in every tactic it's a splendid time for President Johnson to hold a press conference with the press of course is in the back and money chest thing and they're in the back covering this. And then this will be officially leaked this luncheon by the vice inside columns everybody in Washington is Inside I find as a visitor and I predict that this will be reported by various columnists I think it will even be analyzed by Eric Sevareid unique future indefinite tense. This is not the way he talks of one nation. That's the way he talks usually
And I predict that they don't analyze anything on any say and I am. W TTG of course trying to compete with managed to stretch it for an hour and analysis and I am Smith and John with us and. I predict that that Evans and Novak will say that while most people were laughing at the bias of this young comedian. Meanwhile George Romney was having a secret meeting with Richard Nixon. I'm whether renouncing Rockefeller would splinter the ticket will be a lot of that. Let's see what else Drew Pearson will claim that this was a testimonial dinner for Senator Dodd. And I certainly am playing time when I walk down the aisle. But I am not this one anyway so
I predict that I will be everybody is a insider a lot a lot of the insight columnist and I imagine even though Walter Lippmann and I will get into the act and well let's probably point out that this is the first beachhead on the mainland of Asia. Joseph craft will read that try to absorb it. You know I've been here write two weeks here in the city working in Georgetown where a lot of your children are lying again storefronts. I am. Oh and what happened to these kids. That's the question. WHERE DID WE GO WRONG where we failed. But it's all feel like you know like why did they turn up their minds relax and float
downstream. When I when I came here one of the common questions that was asked me as you know this is in effect a company town. You know it's like going to Montana where Anaconda copper prevails and Except that they still are and the closest we come to that is that the Lawrence O'Brian and wants to sell the post office which the charges leveled by the Democrats recently with Senator Goldwater all retired by the way Friday from the active reserve a contradiction in terms in my opinion. Now he can speak freely that he's out of uniform against. You can speak freely except to the Republican women you have to measure your remarks there so at any rate we are now are faced with we have certain problems. The problem here is that the post office was offered for sale as a private corporation by
Lawrence R. Bryant. You notice there were no competitive bids made by anyone including AT&T. She's busy merging with the American Broadcasting Company if at all possible this being an era of merger. So I want to make a couple of points here. Being a Californian as I'm registered out there to vote a lot of you here can vote. That's a big thing here is Home Rule. People talk about that a lot. And in fact too much in my opinion he was saying if only we could vote only we could vote. And of course the irony of not America but I think existence of the human race is that by the time you're allowed to vote there won't be anyone to vote for. That period is emerging rapidly. And I can tell you that I voted several times and it's nothing I hope you'll accept that. I don't feel overly represented or overly guarded and under lab at any rate the hallmark of our era
is that those of us who are opposed to government as people say to me off the stage are you kidding they really hate the government. Of course I do. I've always hated the government. I hate all governments and the trouble is that the government has gotten bigger. The only thing is I had an ally in the beginning I had a lot of wealthy men who used to publish newspapers prior to television journalism. And they would oppose big government. The trouble is the people who opposed the government began to go into government. One of the men began to go into Gaza. The government and industry lost them. You look in Fortune magazine it looks sparse these days and that section in the beginning where people are taking over companies and merging it all. So those of you who read Fortune which has an editorial this month titled The business of business is America which is a play on words of course. Fortune never could get those quotes on a president straight. But that's because you know they send a second string reporter over there. It's not considered urgent as an
assignment. Get over there and cover fortune Wilson. So now back to our point the question of course has been a big switch too because these so-called reactionary newspapers have been joined by the liberal newspapers who have now become their reactionary newspapers. Not that we need it anymore I feel. But they're in charge of defending the status quo that's what they have to do. And as a reporter at The New York Times which is supposed to be our best paid for news and you know fact our best paper is actually the Wall Street Journal its best paper America and certainly the most honest as an editorial actually. Well they call them news stories but. They print everything you know like it's and you know they weren't from the mountain. It says the war is too expensive which I say is a reasonably accurate. Report on New York Times said to me I want to tell you liberal something. He said You liberals was
employed all my life and made me feel less lonely he says. And that's a catchall you know liberal. He said I want to prove something you liberals are and want to get this straight. He said No publisher calls me up in the middle of the night the tyrant tells me what to write. So I reacted thoughtfully and I said you know that's good I'd seen that motion pictures and all and he said on the other hand I've been here long enough so that I can then pretty much I know what's needed up there. So. That's what up for now most of the people here in Washington who talk to me socially have asked me about Governor Ronald Reagan who won your hearts back here. I understand he stole the show back here used to read think he just moved in and everybody loved him and everything is good public relations man now everything but that isn't the way they put it to me I've done various television shows here in an effort to promote my engagement and in Georgetown. And they'll say to
me what Georgetown are for to earlier recall I want to keep these reference points going. That's where the children were against the storefronts and were indulging in the smoking of bananas which so far is not against the law. I understand the narcotics people are trying to work something out and finding a lobby of the United Fruit Company. Probably located in Langley and. Code name Guatemala right. Just passing by the way I noticed that in the Washington lore it's OK to kick over in fact people are almost savage you bought it by this 10 year any lack of turnover although if you've been to university in major administration you know that the average rate of turnover to help the organization is 18 percent. The FBI doesn't have that high rate of
turnover. They have a great stability I think is the best way to put it. But everybody kids the FBI I think unmercifully I'd like to defend them here. I don't care what anybody thinks and I think my courageous stand and defend them. I'm going to choose to say that the people tapping my phone is not the FBI. And you have a choice they can blame it on Iraq or Kennedy at the FBI. And it depends what week you're in if the polls come out you know and blame it on Robert Kennedy. If the polls don't come out come out the wrong way then you blame it. And you know about the polls and the Harris poll only Gallup poll that you're followed here by the president. If no one else follows them is almost like. So the I don't think you but the CIA is never going about no one ever kids about that. And that I would not kid about the CIA after all I think it's a dirty war and you gotta fight dirty. That's my opinion. And after all you hire a man to keep a secret happy if I'm for keeping a secret. Richard Helms doesn't talk much why should he. And that's his job. I think you'd be betraying the charge of
the trust if he keeps a secret. Some people feel he keeps it from the Warren Commission but I don't go along with those people. Now I would like to continue on this tack. While I was here. People would say to me as I made my rounds for morning things they say how do you explain Ronald Reagan. They really sneer at me. That's exactly the reading. How do you explain Ronald Reagan. First Senator George Murphy and then Ronald Reagan. Well we have more coming for you from the Pacific coast. Next year we're going to have a senatorial primary going to this election doesn't mean much but it's a ritual we go through for the free world and I think it looks good to the under-developed uncommitted nations with a poor defense posture. I'm not worried about the slave world it's those nations in between such as the Dominican Republic Brentano's has a book in the window I noticed on the way over here which is by our former ambassador there who has been promoted for his good work down there we stop communism by
forming a third party and giving people a right of choice. Third party's constituency is largely paratroopers and Marines but they have since I come back. Anyway back to our point. This particular how do you x. We have a senatorial primary on the Democratic side. We're going to choice of Mayor Sam you already know me a whiner here. I was a foreign policy expert. So went to Saigon without going through watts which is quite a trick if you can. And he's awake he's what he's waiting for the urban renewal to bail him out he doesn't feel it's his area although he's opposed to big government and on the other hand you Robert on The Man From UNCLE on television will contest that seat on the Democratic side on the Republican side you have the incumbent Thomas Kiko who is a very popular plus. Max Rafferty is superintendent of education
was never censored a book. I feel it only fair to say that regardless of the so-called right wing orientation he's burned a few in his time however. General Curtis Lemay who all this time said he was a political and I looked around and lo and behold found that he could become a Republican in a 60th year refund of that bit. And General Curtis Lemay and the fourth figure is Chuck Connors an actor who is making all the noises you want to Saigon and talk to the GISS and fact that the following conversation with him he said to me I talked to the G.I. she said I know you served in Korea. So yes I did honorably and he said I I know you served there he said that the people that you saw there didn't know what they were fighting for. He said You guys didn't know what you were fighting for which I think is a stain on my service record. It can be removed because I know a guy in headquarters. He said you don't know what you're fighting for each of the guys in Viet Nam have a perfect orientation. Listen to
this conversation it's a true story. I said to him what you guys did you talk to and he said General Westmoreland. So Saigon is literally a festival in the summer as people like Danny Kaye over there etc.. So back to the point. So that's going to be the senatorial primary. But of course some of the question how do I explain that Ronald Reagan Well I could be testy and say I don't have to explain him but I'm going to explain it. Ronald Reagan ran against the incumbent Governor Pat Brown. We're going to indulge in a little He's star Aleck and attention here Pat Brown. Three issues that they ran that they argued the students in Berkeley you're right about the anarchy there. I think no lesser work with sum this up. Violence at the anarchy and he ran it and the negro issue there the riots and the other one was a
Vietnam. Although California he did not declare war on Vietnam and he is not in power as I understand it from George Christian to make an agreement that stated I will not honor any agreement Ronald Reagan makes with the men even to get him to sit down. So back to the point. They had three issues which they argued about and that the three issues they argued in this sense. Reagan is an arch conservative you see that microcosm of our conflict in America trying to choose and Brown was an arch liberal if you can call a liberal arch. But for our purposes here today we will on the issue of negroes Reagan said there will be no demonstrations on the street people must be safe they must go back to the ghetto and practice the word patience. Governor governor being a liberal differed with that view and merely pointed out the National Guard when the negroes marched and awarded a ribbon at the end of the campaign for those who protected the appliance stores colors.
Television sets are among. The second the second point was Vietnam. Reagan was in just you know in favor of Vietnam whereas Brown being a liberal was in favor of Vietnam and promised defense contract that the state through the through the year 1971 for those of you worried about your tenure covering the war. Let's see the third issue of course the last issue was Berkeley and the arch conservative Ronald Reagan said I'm going to discipline those kids in no uncertain terms whereas Brown of course being a conservative liberal was diametrically opposed and merely imprisoned the students during a and and people proceeded to the to the polls confident in the fact that one man was reality and the other was conjecture. In other words can you gamble. Here's one fellow promising you fascism whereas the other one is delivering it right. I am well now.
We say these things to the press and we know the press has an open mind. We say these things to anybody else yes. I have said them to the president. I have now been acquainted with four presidents that's the marvelous thing about America that a guy like me who is a professional outsider you know fire from the hip on any incumbent that's enough. He doesn't have to do anything wrong. Just the fact that he's been elected is enough for me. That's right. Does he have a sense of you know you know you probably think I don't have a sense of honor. I guess I have a sense of honor usually. I declare a moratorium on attacks until he's sworn in and we wait until his hand drops the chief justice and then I move in. So and I attack. So I have now known three presidents. No no four presidents three of whom President Eisenhower claimed he didn't know me. It slipped his mind. But that's OK. That's all right. President Johnson is a little different he doesn't try to discipline you so much as he offered you work
as you do now. During the visit here to the city. This is my favorite stuff. I want you to know that and I mean it. I also was up on the hill to watch Russell Long alone rehearsing yesterday. And I also was over at the White House. They've been very kind to me this great president's very gracious and I saw the president although time is limited. I said How do you do which he did not answer he doesn't answer he just kind of maternal. I said I do sir. I didn't say anything. So I looked at him and he looked at me and I was kind of embarrassing you know because that's my big moment. So I kept looking him suffer you to bring the conversations on me. So I use my warm wit. I look at the newspaper on the desk and it says Eisenhower wants Reagan to run something I don't know anything about Lyndon Johnson but he is a Democrat. That's my basic premise. So in an attempt to ingratiate
myself the president I said Mr. President how do you explain Eisenhower sudden interest in politics was. She just looks at me and say anything good looking. So then he gets up out of the chair and he says Come in here like that. So I followed me took me over in a corner and this is what I heard mostly from you gentlemen the papers about his congressional technique to take you in a corner. I thought you know although it's his office which is furious. And it's horrible. So there are no corners you know walking around the office. So we get over in the corner we're standing next to that globe which is the trouble spots of the world marked them block a block away from the doorway and we're standing there
and he says to me he says why are these kids doing this. Which is of course refers to demonstrations. The president has an interesting way of talking. He answers himself. He says Why are these kids doing this at a time when men are dying overseas for them. No I believe it's their right to do it but I don't think this is the time to express that right. Yeah said the answer is that yes an appeal any of the nicest to meet. The. My fearless leader so I said I said well it's you know very hard for students to keep up with the foreign policy you know we've gone from north to be Korea doing a Cuban Missile Crisis on through Lent and we forgot Russia already and that we're now into China. So you just come here or first he said to me
I'm going to turn the universities I give you this is a news break. He's going to turn the universities and get six campus leaders everywhere to hold a seminar at leading universities. And he says to me what university did you go to write a perspiration are part of Hubert Humphrey who's afraid I'm going to say Berkeley. Why I'm smarter than that I said. The University of California. So the president says a wonderful school obviously referring to Davis where the agriculture majors are. So nine campuses thank God. So he says to me I want to thank you for coming by. He says it like you see you know he's the minority voice in the house. I don't care what anybody thinks so he says I want to thank you for coming by. Then Christian says Mr. President so you've got another appointment. If he says I got a long system and so we stay in the vernacular. So he stands up and he starts to leave the room you know and he starts to leave the room and he goes
out and he goes outside and goes into the thinktank and they told me don't leave the room till he does. So then I started to leave then he comes back and he says I just want to tell you one thing about criticism and you know he's you know what he's doing now he's hitting me about here like Chinese water torture he says before you criticize you remember I'm the only present you have only what are you going to say that I think about all the time. What am I going to write. I am. Then he goes out and the think tank then he comes back and he says to me Have you ever entertained in Vietnam. I said no. He says red tape is keeping our best people from going. She picks up the phone and calls a deal DNA got me a pass. So I was awestruck you know by the chain of command how fast
it is and I didn't say anything. I couldn't bring myself to thank him. So I am so relieved. Now I leave and I go outside and I look at the think tank and it's always on my left Mina sitting in that. So I turned to Christian I'm free And I said that's what they're Lippman isn't it. So the two of them turned to me and I said do you read him. So I knew something was up you know. So I said well you know I get the Los Angeles Times are all on one page. And sometimes when I'm going from drama to Buckley my eyes wonder you know. I think that's women doing Arafat's not security so our Christian system ie. Well if you really listen you must be familiar with the fact that he doesn't understand the war. So I said oh yes right. He says well the president gives him a briefing he says once every 10 days we send a car off to Cleveland
Park to make it easy for him to come up at his house bring him down or give him a briefing for about an hour an hour and a half something like that. You know however long it takes the CIA to go through his home in Cleveland I think I am. So I go outside now. You know we go through the past our time to careful not to awake Merriman Smith and I walk outside as the guy from NBC News standing there against the tree with a clipboard who's been told has no press conference that was being blown up and so he's lost he doesn't know what to do so he interviewed me. He says What did you do I said I saw the president. So once you do I said we had useful thoughts. You know what you're supposed to say which will lead to a better understanding. And it's amazing being there to see the power of what it does to you know I am. And then I went home and I packed and I went to Saigon four weeks later and I was over there and I don't want to get into the rest because it would seem like self aggrandizement. We entertain the troops so that was exciting as a great experience. And as I said I saw a mayor your new over there Bob Hope
Danny Kaye Eddie Fisher the rest. And. The plane was shot at. Which is of course the troops the impression that we're not advancing your home even though they're doing their best over there. But the plane was shot four times was later decorated by Marshal Mickey Mouse and the suit and I was decorated because my plane was shot at the first time over Portland oddly enough. Thank you very much. Ah. You've been listening to a comedian's view of official Washington featuring Mort Saul as he appeared recently at Washington's National Press Club. This program was produced for national educational radio through the facilities of W am you FM American University Radio in Washington D.C. and with the
cooperation of the National Press Club I'm Bill Greenwood inviting you to listen again next week for another edition of the NEA our Washington forum a weekly program concerned with the significant issues before us as a nation. This is the national educational radio network.
- NER Washington forum
- Comedian Mort Sahl
- Producing Organization
- WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
- National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Comedian and political satirist Mort Sahl.
- Series Description
- Discussion series featuring a prominent figure affecting federal government policy.
- Public Affairs
- Media type
Host: Greenwood, Bill
Producing Organization: WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Speaker: Sahl, Mort
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-24-27 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “NER Washington forum; Comedian Mort Sahl.” 1967-09-20. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 30, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-b56d644s>.
- APA: NER Washington forum; Comedian Mort Sahl. 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-b56d644s