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And it was very instrumental in any actual escalation. Very initial escalation of that war under Mr Eisenhower very initial one. This man who has I'm sure had a. Conviction about intervention in the war. The real miracle of how he has managed in the intervening years and ends in during this campaign year how he's managed to keep from giving his ex Lyssa position on the war at the beginning. He wasn't pushed enough because he had the primaries pretty much to himself. Then after that he was supposed to come out and then came the most awful event of the Paris Peace Conference and at that point Mr. Nixon moved in very fast and he said that as long as the Paris Peace Conference was going on he wasn't going to interfere with it by stating his position on the war. And this gave him of course a new island of security on it. But I
think we have a right to know all of us whether we support Mr. Nixon or Mr. Humphrey or Mr. Wallace. I think we all have a right to know from all the candidates how they propose to end the war. I say this to all of them but I find Mr Nixon's relative freedom from the obligation thus far the most remarkable of all. I mean if you're going to end the war you've got to face certain problems. Alexis de Tocqueville once said that with a revolution as with a novel the difficult problem was not how to begin it but how to end it. You know it's easier to start a war than it is to end it. It's easier to start a war and to escalate it as Lyndon Johnson has found out than it is to end it. How do you end the war before you can end the war you have to say how you feel about specific problems for example how do you feel about
the problem of whether the Vietcong will or will not be at the peace table. How do you feel about the problem of whether there will not be a coalition government and how we we stand on the question of a coalition government is out. Yet no. Those are the two crucial problems but how do you feel about the what the pacing of the withdrawal of troops how do you feel for that matter about the initial phase of the suspension of bombing. Silence. Oh Mr. Nixon going to regain prestige for America that we have lost so badly. How will we humbly approach the whole white black split in our society. How will we approach the whole generational split in our society. In his last statement he attacked the students and attacked them very bitterly. I must say that is a good response to the way a large majority of Americans feel today. They're fed up with student revolts.
But if you're going to do something about governing the country when you're elected president in uniting the country and attack on students now is not exactly the solution to your problems later. The problem is not to sharpen the gap between the generations the problem is to bridge the gap between the generation and the same applies to what to the way we talk about law and order. Let us take a sit. When people talk of law and order they're talking of violence by Negroes to a very great extent. They don't say heat. But this is what underlies a good deal of their talk. And when you talk of repressing and using force you're talking in those terms. And if you're talking in those terms while it may win you a vote during a campaign what are you going to do about the role of conciliation between the races when you're in the presidency. This is one of the difficulties in every campaign that a candidate must try to
get as many votes as he can but he must also remember that he will have to govern and unite can conciliate a society. This is a very tragic society that we're in now. I want to say that before I come to the discussion of Mr. Humphrey and Mr. Wilders because I should be saying not the same things about them but parallel things that apply to them or not to Mr. Nixon. But they have to do with the same tragic quality of our society. People say to me as they have said repeatedly Isn't this a sick society they say isn't this a sick society. I say look we have sick people in our society. We have sick groups in our society. We have sick ideas in our society but it isn't a sick society. Yes we have sick people the mental the incidence of mental diseases are
very great but probably no greater than in most other industrialized highly industrialized and urbanized societies. We have sick groups yes groups that want have been suffering for a long time. They enjoy being insulted the dispossessed some of their leadership some of their leadership is talking in extravagant terms and in destructive terms. Sure we have sick groups we have sick ideas in our society. Whoever it was that really pulled the trigger I think we know with Dr. King. I say whoever it was because the trial hasn't taken place. Whoever it was to pull the trigger with Robert Kennedy again I think we know but the trial hasn't taken place. But there was the gun and the gun by the way should be made much less available much much less available in our society than it is. I wish we had candor there too.
But as the gun and the trigger on the gun then there's the finger that pulls the trigger on the gun. But behind the finger that pulls the trigger and there is the idea in the mind of the guy just the thing. And in both cases it was a sick idea deeply sick idea. And there are sick ideas in our society. Let me repeat it. There are sick individuals and sick groups and sick ideas but it is not a sick society. And when I say it is not a sick society I mean that along with all these this incidence of unhealth There are also deep resource of health and decency and hopefulness and determination to do something. And that innocence that I spoke of that sense that things are still possible. There has been by the way since the beginning.
Don't let anybody tell you that that hasn't been true in America are isn't true still. You know the interesting thing about America is not that people have murdered each other in America it is there for so many generations they have lived together without killing each other and one episode we had where they killed each other with the civil war and that was not an irrepressible cunts like it was a repressive conflict. If there had been other choices made and so on. I see history as possibility. But that was the one episode that cuts like a scar across our national historical existence. My family came from Russia I came from Russia they brought parents brought their little brood over many years ago 60 years ago. I have known a good deal about the way in which ethnic groups have managed to live together in America Christian and Jew Catholic and Protestant white and black
intermedia mazing thing about America has been not that they have killed each other but that they have not killed each other up until now up until now. But the very fact that this has been historically true means that there are still enough resources of wealth in our society to be able to deal with the sickness of man and groups and ideas. If we know how to tap those Source know it is us. Tragic society it is a split society. He displayed on the question the warrior displayed on the question of the races and he displayed on the question of the generation. These are the three deep splits I think we have a right to expect from our presidential candidates that they should address themselves creatively to each of these splits. The war and the races and the generations and not only just say where they stand
but how they propose to end the war and how they propose to heal the tensions and hatreds between the races and how they propose to do something about restoring communication and trust between the generations. And there isn't much being said about any of those three in any creative way. And this is what's depressing about the campaign. Before I get to Mr. Humphrey Let me perhaps lay the scene by saying that one of Mr. Humphries difficulties of course is that he has become the special target of the generational gap hand Harriet's from Lyndon Johnson on that. The interesting thing is the groups far to the left of Mr. Humphrey and therefore I suppose much farther to the left of Mr. Nixon Hughes not Mr. Nixon is their target to Mr. Hunt. And even Mr. Wallace says they're talking in the street. Maybe it's because they feel because you object most want to people you disagree with in your
own family it's partly that. Well I think there's another reason for it I've discussed this with some of them show very clearly they are getting ready if Mr. Humphrey gets beaten badly enough they say they can then take over the Democratic Party. I if that's true if that is the motivation it seems to me to be a motivation that is more concerned with immediate hatred than it is with the long range welfare creativeness of the country. But whatever the reasons may be whether it's because he inherits Mr. Johnson's mental or because he's been vice president or because he has expressed himself hawkish way on the war or maybe because he just doesn't have the kind of personality that appeals to the young people. He's too much of a square for them I don't know. Then isn't Mr. Nixon and his and Mr Wallace Have you ever seen three candidates who are also completely squares as these. If you're talking about squares in some curious way Mr. Humphrey is the target prime target.
This is serious because the big the big issue the big argument let's say about Mr. Humphrey for me is not his stand on the war. I'm convinced that his stand on the war is far more what far more toward the dovish than Mr. Nixon's and certainly than Mr. Wallace. And I'm also convinced Mr. Humphrey has had the kind of experience for 20 years as a senator and as vice president dealing with these problems constantly the kind of experience that would enable him to face the problems of of America's foreign policy in nuclear global situation. I think he has already been begun to be explicit on this and I think he will be more so. No that isn't the big argument against him. The big argument against him. I can best explain by going back to a story that I'd like to tell you I had a friend call her Carol asking who was
one of the intellectual leaders of the British Labor Party. I remember her saying once when the leaders of the people asked their followers to die for a dream. Those followers have a right to know in whose behalf the dream is being read when every great civilization there is a dream somewhere. What should we call to dream a vision of possibility a vision of social possibility. The question is in whose behalf is the dream being dream. What's been happening is an erosion of belief. In the green movement being grim for an erosion of belief on the part of two groups the underprivileged in the ghettos particularly among the blacks and among the white poor and a privileged on college campuses. There's been an erosion of belief in both areas particularly on the college campuses.
This erosion of belief has shown itself not only in the campaign which forced Mr. Johnson out of the presidency and which played its role in that tragic connect Chicago outside of the hotel but also an erosion of belief which is today's targeted on human home. You know you get Humphrey would like to. The image that he would like us to believe about him is the image of what the scrapping underdog. We identify with underdogs by the way. We tend to identify with underdogs provided they hope some have some hope of becoming top dog someday. There not too much underdogs he wants to be the scrapping underdog one that shows fight like Harry Truman in 1948. But when none of us believed all through the campaign of nine hundred forty eight. I don't see many people in
this audience to remember that campaign. Maybe some do but we all believed all through that campaign or 1948 to Truman had no chance. Yet the interesting thing of course was that he put up a scrappy fight. He defended his administration. He attacked a what he called a do nothing know nothing Republican Congress majority that had been sent cannon 1046 and he was able to win this trumpery would like us to have that image of him but it doesn't really come across. Consider that you get to vilify the image of the target the victim the man with someone not carrying someone on his shoulders that he can't get rid of. Talking of Lyndon Johnson on his shoulders man having to carry someone on his shoulders unable really to run with someone on his shoulders but unable to break because of the cost to break
would perhaps be even greater than whatever he could pick up as a result of that break. But the deepest problem of Mr Humphrey since I've spoken to Mr. Nixon's problems the strong forgiveness problem is not Nixon's it isn't that he evades explicitness. It isn't that he hasn't had the training and the knowledge the compassion the sympathy the empathy and so on to deal with the problems of a split society and tragic Well he's had that experience and those qualities know his problem is that he has not been able to make himself credible as a figure of command. He's not been able to get across to the nation that he has the capacity for command. He is able really to ride the whirlwind and command the stone. He and the kind of decisiveness which everyone feels is necessary in
a leader. You say that the whole feeling that a people like the American people has at the present time is a feeling of being good grit and stormy sea and if you're drift down stormy seas Not only do you want someone who has sailed a good deal someone that knows the sea and so on but you also want someone who looks like a captain talks that way shows command pumpers problem of course is that as long as he is in Lyndon Johnson's shadow it is very difficult for him to emerge with the image of command. Someone asked me the other day someone who supports Mr Humphrey and very strongly. Works with them. Said to me Look if if you were called in nine not going to be. But if you were called in by Mr. Humphries came and said What can we do and what would you say. I said I suppose I would
first of all say it looks very bad. Let's get straight on that. But having said that I would then go on to say I think you ought to show that you are your own man and in order to do that it isn't enough to say so. I think you want to break with the policies and Vietnam of the Johnson administration. It will lose you a lot of votes but they're going to go to Wallace anyway probably it will get you a lot of other votes and particularly that of the young people. They may not come all over to your side and support you strongly but there will be a number of them who are now marginal who will support you. And there may be an ending of this erosion of belief. I think he should do that I would say And secondly I think you should come up for a rethinking of the whole tax structure of the country that so many people are deeply deeply concerned about. Do you think in terms of
how taxes can be cared to big or at least hold their galloping away can be ended. And third I think you ought to talk very explicitly and strongly about the necessity for a frame of war with which the conciliation of the races and the generations can take place. But not simply took Law and Order I think you should be very explicit as I think you have been to an extent about the need to regain a confidence in our police and the need to subsidise police forces all through the country. You need to train them better. You need to send college kids by the way. I think college kids ought to go into the police department and learn a little about what it's like there. May I say I think policeman ought to go on the university campuses and enroll in the classes and learn a little about what it's like there. This would be the most fruitful single exchange that I know you're going to talk about a
cultural exchange and if people were to say to you then how are you going to get the money for all this for decreasing taxes and for these huge subsidies for police and fraud are you going to get the money the answer is by ending the war and using the money that is now going into instruments of death for purposes of life. Now Mr. Humphrey has not. And if I were to say this to him he probably wouldn't do it. And I think the reason probably wouldn't do it is that it's impossible for him to do actually because he is badly caught. But you see being still innocent and still believing in possibility. I think it's conceivable that he could show that he was his own man in this sense. And once he began to show that he was really his own man out of Mr. Johnson's shadow I would say that the margin of votes which is only about eight points not between himself and Nixon all you need is a change of four points that margin would evaporate.
Now what is what may evaporated in your not so much Mr. Humphrey even Mr. Wallace and this is I see I've used up practically all my time. But let me just say a few things very briefly. I recently been reading the Life of George Wallace. I hope all of you will read like George Wallace. It's a good life that is appeared by a man called Marshall Frady. F. R. 80 y. Published by The New American library it's a brilliant biography. There have been other things that one can read about George Wallace. He's a phenomenon and we'd better know about him because he is the closest approach we have in the late 1960s to Joe McCarthy of the late 1940s and early 1950s. And I'd hate to say this if there is going to be some kind of American totalitarianism any way calculable future it is more likely to come by this method than by any other that I know. And I have to say it in candor in the state of Alabama today is not
exactly a state in which there is an atmosphere of freedom and of intellectual competition. There are some ways by the way in which he reminds me of another figure and that was he law. You know there was a wonderful quality about he loved the quality of the life force marvelous love of life and exuberance. And the thing about you along by the way was that he didn't want anyone to hate anyone. What he was banking on was that he would make every man a king was part of his life force part of his exuberance every man a king. This was primarily an economic platform share of the wealth movement. It was kind of crazy Schuller. Most of these fellows a kind of crazy and in many ways was kind of crazy but its craziness was not a hating craziness. When you deal when you deal with a phenomenon like the one we're dealing with you
know where Mr. Wallace ran for governor once and lost and said the reason I lost was that I didn't make the nigger question strong and next time I run it's going to be strong and no one is going to out nigger me in the campaign. No one is going up nigra me. When you have that can when he whines that he has made a success of that and then when he finds that he is in a situation in the nation as a home in which there is a deep fear by the whites. Oh domestic violence and a deep fear by I say by many people of the violence on campus is a fear of every form of demonstration of violence that we have had when he finds that he can use the same basic technique in getting votes nationally that he used in Alabama on that racial fear at that point you get a different kind of campaign from any of that we've
had in the presidential major presidential race. McCarthy didn't run for president. That was one point by the way when he had behind him something like 35 perhaps 30 40 percent of the support of the American people. He was trying very hard to build a kind of state within a state. And there was a totalitarian aspect to his thinking just as there was to healing a long stink. Mr Wallace is image one that he seems to have gotten across perhaps best the image of the rebel rebel against what d establishment the rebel against food to older parties but particularly he wants also to get across the image of the sheriff the Sheriff Hege who is going to protect Americans in domestic tranquility. The trouble with all this of course is we want protection in our domestic
tranquility but we don't want it from a man who when confronted by federal constitutional law has searched the power and rights of the state to indicate that it isn't the sheriff that's the vigilante and we don't want protection in terms of the waterway and evocation of hatreds between the races between the generations. Well Mr Wallace said anybody to lie down in front of my car. That would be the last car they laid down in front of. Well I can understand the kind of response on the part of many Americans because most of us have sadistic streak sickness and what a wonderful relief it is when somebody says something sadistic. You should get a sudden lifting yourself. You're able to you're able to purge yourself of your sadistic streak. But how about that for president. The last person that's going to lay down
in front of Mike Cole and the whole question of what you do with young people. The whole approach for example to college demonstrations terms or calling them what. Not just communists and so on but you know dirty on camp thing selling sanitation engineers approach to the problem national politics. Let me be very clear about it about all three of them. And I end on this note. There are problems we are split. This is an extraordinary year. This is an extraordinary campaign. We do not have the kind of leadership competing with each other that we should have. It should have been a different kind of leadership competing but we are where we know and since we are where we are and since there are these three splits which represent the tragedy of our country and since we've been through so much tragedy in the last few years let us try to minimize the hostilities and the tensions and the fears and the
hatreds. Let us see whether we may not be right here on this cup ox capable of some kind of reasoning when we cannot evoke some kind of creativeness and some kind of intelligence on the part of the whole American people. More and more like travel around the country people say to me Mr. Lerner up there in space do you think there's intelligent life up there in space. Do you think we'll ever be able to communicate with intelligent life in space. And I say that's a fascinating question but I have another question of the higher order priority. But is there intelligent life up there in space but is there intelligent life down here on Earth and that when we have the applicant eunuch out in space that we would be able to ever be able to communicate here under it between the clashes between the races between the generations. We will be able to have communication or will we be able to have trust. Boston University Radio has presented the first in a series of four programs on the presidency 1968 taken from lectures by Dr. Max
Lerner professor of American civilization and world politics at Brandeis University. Dr. Lerner's topic for this lecture was the candidate's style and character. The Presidency 1968 was originally presented at Garland junior college Boston. The lecture series is made possible by a grant from the SNH Foundation sponsored by the Sperry and Hutchinson company. The series is produced for Boston University Radio and the national educational radio network by Dan LeBlanc. This is the national educational radio network.
The Presidency: 1968
The Candidates: Style and Character
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WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Lectures on the 1968 U.S. Presidential campaign by political scientist Max Lerner of Brandeis U. Presented in late 1968 at Garland Junior College in Boston. This prog.: The Candidates: Style and Character
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Politics and Government
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Producer: Boston University
Producing Organization: WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-Sp.3-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:28:59
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Chicago: “The Presidency: 1968; The Candidates: Style and Character,” 1968-10-11, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 4, 2023,
MLA: “The Presidency: 1968; The Candidates: Style and Character.” 1968-10-11. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 4, 2023. <>.
APA: The Presidency: 1968; The Candidates: Style and Character. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from