The Presidency: 1968; The Issues and Their Impact
The Marshall Plan aid nature wait and so on. Again we don't know about Mr Nixon we know very little by the way about Mr. Wallace's views on this although he gave the Press Club a general view of his foreign policy which was rather mild because the real question about Mr Wallis given the intensity of his what I call his primitive primitive ist feeling on internal affairs and given the choice he made for a vice presidential candidate with that candidate's views about nuclear weapons the question is whether in the test of action Mr Wallace of use would be those that he gave to the press club. I would doubt it very much. I move beyond the Vietnam War and Asia I move to the whole nuclear problem. One of the things that I haven't seen discussed nearly enough is that this is a world of dangerous
lethal overkill weapons and we have them in abundance and the Russians have them and the Chinese are getting them. The French are getting them in this kind of situation a man who is at the helm. A crisis leader at the head of this vast power mass of America. He has to walk very very warily in foreign policy decisions. He has to know the good. Yes to get as many opinions as possible. But when it comes to making the choices these choices have to be made very warily. It's just been a memoir published of enormous importance by Robert Kennedy a memoir that he wrote before he was killed about the experiences that he and his brother had in the Cuban Missile Crisis of
1962. Gober 1962 just about six years ago. Some of you do not. Some of these young students perhaps but the rest of us I think recall very vividly the kind of intensity that we all felt during that crisis what we know the debt that we know will posthumously too. Robert Kennedy a very great get used to tell us in this article that he has written which will be a book very soon to tell us from the inside how this crisis really went how the kind of problems that his brother and his advisors had to meet and the kind of positions that were being urged on them the choices that they had to make in these positions. Robert Kennedy himself was the head of X-Com the
executive committee under the president. You know what he's talking about. He knew what he was talking about. And you still do some very interesting things for example he has told us that the Joint Chiefs of Staff including General Curtis Lemay who was at that time chief of the Air Staff urged an attack on Cuba a frontal attack on Cuba as a way of resolving the problem. If that attack had been made I don't know whether you or I would be here as we are now because one of the things we need to understand these are not being discussed unfortunately in the campaign. But one of the things we need to understand is that both for the Soviet Union and for America there are certain what we call crucial national interests that they will fight over rather than give up one of those interests. President Kennedy made very clear was that we did not want missiles in Cuba.
But the other one that the Russians felt very deeply about was they did not want the Castro regime to be overthrown. And just as we were willing to fight over missiles in Cuba they were willing to fight if they thought we were going to overthrow the Castro regime. If the president had followed the advice of the Joint Chiefs the Chiefs the only one that was against it was Maxwell Taylor. If he'd follow the advice of the joint chiefs there would have been a nuclear confrontation. As Robert Kennedy says you would never be able to tell whether they were wrong or right because we would have been around to tell and that kind of a of a situation. He didn't follow that advice nor did he follow the advice of those who said let the thing go after all it's there. As he put it if I let it go they'd be a perfectly good basis for impeaching me.
Because he would not be following the duty of a president the head of a power system like the American which is that you do not allow a president like that to be set which will whittle away your position in all successive nuclear crises and make it difficult and impossible to meet them what then did you do. He chose carefully among the various courses of action he chose to blockade. But the interesting thing is that while the Russians gave in to the blockade and allowed us a victory on the question of the removal of the missiles we in turn did not insist on overthrowing the Castro regime because the Russians would have fought on that. I give this is a case history and I've taken some time over it. It just happens that this record has this memoir has now been published. I give it as a case history because we have forgotten amidst two ways
in which to scan the real issues of this campaign have been obscured by the miasmic mist of the whole law and order issue. We have forgotten what the real dangers are. Sure law and order violence can kill its thousands. But nuclear violence can kill its cannons. If you're going to have a leader of a nation he must not only think in terms of social order at home which is imperative. He must also think of a frame of law and order globally. The development of some kind of restraint between the nuclear powers may I say and I'm not saying it in a partisan way but simply for the record. President Kennedy's Test Ban Treaty was shepherded through the Senate by Hubert Humphrey. It was he who saw it through the Senate and the nonproliferation
agreement was to a very considerable extent supervised by who but Humphrey can very deeply about the nuclear danger and about cutting it down. And by getting a meeting of minds so that there will not be the deaths of tens of millions. I think I've said before let me say it again. Obviously I would have wished that someone like Robert Kennedy could have lived and could have been the nominee of the Democratic Party and could today be running. I would give him my whole hearted support with complete enthusiasm complete enthusiasm and I even would like his wife his political style in a static terms in aesthetic terms I would even like that obviously in this memoir by the way shows the kind of maturity of judgment that Robert Kennedy got from these experiences to be to go through that kind of
experience that kind of nuclear experience to go through and see the things that you must do in the choices that you have and how you make your choice responsibly and maturely. That's quite a thing. I wish I I felt about a rather cavalier silent Republican candidate that he has that capacity. I do know as I say given the record of Mr. Humphrey that he has thought deeply about this and taken positions. The same thing is involved in the problems of Europe. George Ball who was one of the architects of the whole American policy of trying to get real cooperation between us and the European Common Market trying to move Europe from economic integration to political integration. George Ball who I think has one of the best
minds in foreign policy with respect to European affairs of anyone. Mr. BALL is today very close and I'm free counsels. I think one of the reasons is that he knows that Mr. Humphrey has met and discussed with all kinds of issues and discussed all kinds of issues with every important West European leader. Our problems are not only going to be up about Asia they're also going to be about Europe. They're going to be about what De Gaulle's Friendster going to be about to misgive. Today of West Germany they're going to be about the they sense of malaise that is developing over the new Russian threat. They're going to be about the misgivings about NATO and how you rebuild nikto. All of these issues are there. And again you need experience in these issues and maturity and judgment to meet them.
And if I may move from the world frame to the American frame I think I may have said last time if I haven't let me say it now we've had a whole succession of difficult decisions in American history and struggles and conflicts but they have been mainly in the past in the arena of class relationships of conflict between corporate power and the workers a conflict over collective bargaining conflict over wages and all the rest of that. Your arena of conflict has now changed and has become the arena of racial confrontation s new confrontation generational confrontation. Who can run the country given this kind of confrontation.
Someone who has tried to think himself into. A frame of mind of the groups that are involved. I wish I saw some evidence. That either Mr Nixon or Mr Wallace certainly not Mr Wallace but that Mr Nixon had really made a creative imaginative effort to think himself into the frame of mind of the negro poor in the ghettos. I don't find that evidence is an adjective that is being used about Mr Humphrey I don't use it because it is being overused the adjective compassionate. But there's a point about its being used when we say compassionate I prefer something else. What I prefer is to say to make the imaginative effort to put yourself in the place of those who have not had an equal chance at life chances. It's
terribly easy amidst the intensities of our fears and angers today to forget the many millions of Americans have not had equal chance at life chances. If you're going to be able to run the country you have to have their trust. There's very little evidence that Mr Nixon has the trust of these poor and particularly the black poor. To the extent of their going to vote I think their vote will undoubtedly go their way very sweepingly from this time for many of them I think may not vote. But to have that trust is important and what the test means is not that they feel he has the right answers and solutions but that they feel that he's at least making an effort. This creative imaginative effort that I speak of and the same thing is involved with young people. I know that Mr. Humphrey has been plagued by a
good deal of what heckling on the part of many young people but increasingly as the campaign has gone on heckling has diminished in the number of young people who come not to heckle but to cheer and acclaim has been increasing. Let me hear bare witness of my own. I think I can say about American youth on college campuses that there are some who are not activist and not even concerned. But I would say they are a minority. The majority are deeply concerned. But I would say that only a tiny minority of that majority has the fanatical feeling which expresses itself in the heckling of Mr Humphrey. I don't discount the importance of this very articulate group.
They do not trust Mr Humphrey but then they don't trust anyone. They don't trust Mr Humphrey they don't trust Mr Nixon they don't trust Mr Wallace. They don't trust Mr Johnson. They did trust Senator McCarthy and some of them trusted Mr Kennedy. But today there isn't anyone they really trust. The question is who can win their trust. The ones who don't trust anyone there. I've used the comparison before like the one tenth of an iceberg that's on top the one tent underneath a rather different attitude and I think they are looking for someone to whom they can give some kind of commitment. Yet the question remains if you're going to try to run the country it has to be someone who at least gets has a chance of getting a very considerable commitment to most of them. And I do not see Mr. Nixon getting it. Not at all.
In order to get it you got to carry on a dialogue with them. That requires courage and it requires trusting them. Mr. Nixon doesn't even carry on a dialogue with Mr. Humphrey. He hasn't got the courage. Carry on that dialogue he does not carry on a dialogue with the voters. That's what I meant awhile ago when I said that there is a condescension not unmixed with contempt for the vote. And if he's going to show that kind of characteristic in the campaign how can we assume that he's going to overnight achieve the miracle of building the dialogue with the young generation all with the blacks in the poverty areas of the ghetto. You take the whole question of of innovation Mr Humphrey perhaps has overemphasised what he has done in the Senate. And yet if you look back at that record it's an impressive record but what is most impressive about it
is it's innovativeness. The Peace Corps Medicare the food plan all kinds of things. It's you know. Robert Kennedy had a flair for innovation in the Senate in the short term there may I say sour Really Eugene McCarthy did not. He had other qualities. But the quality of innovation in the Senate was not one of them. But again. If you're going to talk about leadership surely it has to do with creativeness creativeness in the whole area of social programs and surely the record of innovation creative innovation is a is a very relevant record. Welcome finally to the question of the youngun value structure.
I had a somewhat amusing time. While ago maybe some of you may have read something I've written on it. I got interested in seeing how the six candidates for the presidency by the way you know there are six candidates for the presidency you know that. Because each of the parties has a presidential and vice presidential candidate and each of them may become president. I had a rather amusing time going through them to see how they responded to heckling. Because the question of how you respond to heckling is a rather interesting clue to your whole attitude toward dialogue. I came up with some interesting results for example General Limaye who's had a little heckling. He says they're coming this way. What a nice clean clear simple way of disposing the whole problem. A compass may I say I've never believed in the devil theory of history although some of them are communists.
Some of them by the way who scorn communism because it's square and conservative they're far to the left communism. Some of them. But this doesn't apply to the large group that applies to a very tiny minority very tiny minority and you cannot account for the things that happen in the group as a whole on the kind of the con for it by this tiny minority but generally a maid in his kind of earnest squareness earnest simplistic squareness resolves the problem that way. How about Mr Wallace his running mate. I'm sorry it's the other way around. Still I'm a general I'm a Mr. Wallace's running mate. How about General Mr Wallace. She always has a different response. Those of you who watched his show of his meetings know how very skillful it is.
He's not square He's very skillful he sometimes gets very amusing. He turns these heckling episodes into something that goes to his advantage by rousing the audience by the very hecklers themselves he says. You see this is what I mean about the anarchists or give them a chance to express themselves this will be. Last chance they get. You know when we get into power they won't have it again and so on. And indeed this very skillful way in a kind of water a kind of bully boy toughness. He's able to do pretty well. How about Mr. Nixon. Well Mr. Nixon hasn't had very much heckling because there hasn't been very much to heckle. What are you going are you going to heckle an ethereal presence. Very difficult. Mr. Humphrey has been heckled although as I say decreasingly in his way is to
argue back and tell them his experiences in 18 1948 when he might lead to civil rights movement. It's time for you again. The arguing back tight Mr. Agnew Oh Mr. Agnew really impressed me. Mr. Agnew will take a heckler as that heckler speaks or maybe walks out of the audience. Mr. Agnew will say look somewhere somebody failed that young man. This is the child study expert at the Parent Teachers Association commenting on the delinquent use or shall we say the male Dr. Joyce Brothers equipped with an easy capsule analysis and a psychiatric kit. You know it's very hard to meet that. It's better to be really to be attacked than to be pitied
in the way in which these young people keep pitied. And Mr. Muskie I like Mr. Muskies way you heckle him and Mr. Muskie says Come on up to the platform come up here. I want to hear what you've got to say. We're going to listen to you because it's terribly important to know what you have to say. And when you get through with it we want you to listen to me. I must say these responses to the younger are very indicative very crucial and I feel about those Mr. Humphrey and Mr. Muskie. They want to dialogue you very much want to dialogue they've been helpless so far because of the difficulties of the dialogue. They want it. I feel very very deeply by the way that we are not going to be able to hold the country together and no one will be able to run the country unless a dialogue is established a series of dialogues
between white and black between Jew and Christian between teachers and parents between old and young between the generations. Now let me say the last thing I don't think you can get this kind of dialogue unless there is trust. Trust to me is the key word trust between the races religions generations trust. This is the cement of our society. The cement of our society has broken because trust has broke. The crisis of America is a crisis of trust. And this is why I have emphasized as I have emphasized this whole question of the extent to which even a sickness can evoke trust no it cannot well public relations skills can evoke trust no they cannot.
But sometimes even a square and even not terribly attractive personality who nevertheless has shown that he cares deeply about a dialogue. Can you vote. That's pretty much it. I want only in ending to address myself to. This problem of vice presidents. I think it's terribly important. One of the things that you look for in someone who is going to head this vast power mass of America is the question of how good his judgment is. We haven't yet had a chance really to tell about these people some of them talk about whom they'll appoint to the cabinet and so on. This is the kind of come on very often. Many groups of voters but we have been able to see the kind of judgment that each of them
exercised in the most crucial decision that he has thus far made namely the choice of a vice president. That is the crucial judgment that has thus far been exercised and Mr. Wallace not only chose a man who has frightened a number of people but he chose a man who it seems doesn't really agree with him on either foreign or domestic policy particularly. May I say Mr. Wallace who everybody has been saying how clever he is he certainly didn't show much cleverness in this choice because he has been the beneficiary of this wave of fear that has been sweeping the country the fear of domestic violence. But now there is another current set into motion another fear the fear of some kind of nuclear disaster. And he is not the beneficiary of that very much the opposite. He didn't show very good judgment in that choice. Mr. Nixon
Mr. Nixon had a chance to choose some of the best talents in the Republican Party as his running mate. Mr. Rockefeller wouldn't go along no he wouldn't take second place but Senator Hatfield wanted to very badly. And Governor Romney wanted you very badly and Mayor Lindsay wanted to very badly. And a number of others Charles Percy Senator Percy wanted to and so on. Did he pick and use them. No he made first of all a commitment which was in a tape that was published by The Miami Herald during the convention a commitment to the southern delegation that they would have a and he had a veto over the vice presidential choice that eliminated a number of people and when his choice finally fell on someone it fell on Governor Agnew. And I want to be very temperate. I think Mr. Agnew Governor Agnew is a very decent man able man in many ways.
But the notion of his heading up this vast power mass of America with all of its tragic splits is a notion that seems to me to belong to the area of the absurd. Only a philosopher of the existential absurd could possibly face this notion. When Mr. Humphrey came to making a choice he finally chose a man about whom he said when it came to the final showdown I asked myself only a single question if I got elected and something happened to me whom could I trust really to run the country. This was Senator Muskie and as we've gotten to know him better we feel that that solo that sunk and that the judgment that was exercised in making that choice was a good judgment. But these other tests a number of my friends say they're not going to vote at all although I suspect that when the occasion really comes really
comes they probably will. They say they're not going to vote because they say in terms of their conscience none of these people is worth the vote. A single vote is a kind of choice of moral absolutes. Any of these candidates measure up to my moral absolute. The choice of the American people are being asked to make is neither a moral choice nor an aesthetic choice. It's a political choice in an imperfect world between real alternatives. And I've tried to indicate in these perhaps to long remarks when you strike the trial balance of those real alternatives. What the end result is that you get Boston University Radio has presented the second in a series of four programs on the presidency 1968 taken from lectures by Dr Max Lerner a professor of American civilization and world politics at Brandeis University. Dr Lerner's topic for this lecture was the issues and their impact
- 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.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-Sp.3-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- 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. December 5, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qn5zb98x>.
- 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-qn5zb98x