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A couple of days after Lee Williams called I was packed and ready to drive back to Washington in a gift. Since my new job required me to get to Capitol Hill every day, Mother and Daddy gave me their old car, a three-year-old white convertible Buick LeSabre with a white and red leather interior. Daddy got a new car every three years or so and turned the old one in to be sold on the used-car lot. This time I replaced the used-car lot and I was ecstatic. It was a beautiful car. Though it got only seven or eight miles to the gallon, gas was cheap, dropping under thirty cents per gallon when there was a gas war on..cheap prom dresses.
On my first Monday back in Washington, as instructed, I presented myself in Senator Fulbrights office, the first office on the left in what was then called the New Senate Office Building, now the Dirksen Building. Like the Old Senate Office Building across the street, it is a grand marble edifice, but much brighter. I had a good talk with Lee, then was taken upstairs to the fourth floor, where the Foreign Relations Committee had its offices and hearing room. The committee also had a much grander space in the Capitol building, where the chief of staff, Carl Marcy, and a few of the senior staff worked. There was also a beautiful conference room where the committee could meet privately..cheap wedding dresses.
When I arrived at the committee office, I met Buddy Kendrick, the documents clerk, who would be my supervisor, fellow storyteller, and provider of homespun advice over the next two years; Buddys full-time assistant, Bertie Bowman, a kind, bighearted African-American who moonlighted as a cabdriver and also drove Senator Fulbright on occasion; and my two student counterparts, Phil Dozier from Arkansas and Charlie Parks, a law student from Anniston, Alabama..cheap prom dresses.
I was told I would be taking memos and other materials back and forth between the Capitol and Senator Fulbrights office, including confidential material for which I would have to receive proper government clearance. Beyond that, I would do whatever was required, from reading newspapers and clipping important articles for the staff and interested senators to answering requests for speeches and other materials, to adding names to the committees mailing list. Keep in mind that this was before computers and e-mail, even before modern copying machines, though while I was there we did graduate from copies made on carbon paper while typing or writing to rudimentary Xerox copies. Most of the newspaper articles I clipped were never copied; they were simply put into a big folder every day with a routing sheet that had the names of the committee staff from the chairman on down. Each person would receive and review them, check off his or her name on the sheet, and pass them along. The main mailing lists were kept in the basement. Each name and address was typed onto a small metal plate, then the plates were stored in alphabetical order in file cabinets. When we sent a mailing out, the plates were put into a machine that inked them and stamped the imprints on envelopes as they passed through..Giuseppe Zanotti replica.
I enjoyed going to the basement to type new names and addresses on plates and put them in file drawers. Since I was always exhausted, I often took a nap down there, sometimes just leaning against the file cabinets. And I really loved reading the newspapers and clipping articles for the staff to read. For nearly two years, every day, I read the New York Times, the Washington Post, the now defunct Washington Star, the Wall Street Journal, the Baltimore Sun, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the last because it was thought the committee should see at least one good heartland newspaper. When McGeorge Bundy was President Kennedys national security advisor, he remarked that any citizen who read six good newspapers a day would know as much as he did. I dont know about that, but after I did what he recommended for sixteen months, I did know enough to survive my Rhodes scholarship interview. And if Trivial Pursuit had been around back then, I might have been national champion..Replica Christian Louboutin UK.
We also handled requests for documents. The committee produced a lot of them: reports on foreign trips, expert testimony in hearings, and full hearing transcripts. The deeper we got into Vietnam, the more Senator Fulbright and his allies tried to use the hearing process to educate Americans about the complexities of life and politics in North and South Vietnam, the rest of Southeast Asia, and China..Replica Christian Louboutin UK.
The document room was our regular workplace. In the first year I worked my half day in the afternoon from one to five. Because the committee hearings and other business often ran beyond that, I often stayed after five oclock and never begrudged it. I liked the people I worked with, and I liked what Senator Fulbright was doing with the committee..www.ideafutura.co.uk.
It was easy to fit the job into my daily schedule, partly because in junior year only five courses were required instead of six, partly because some classes started as early as 7 a.m. Three of my requirementsU.S. History and Diplomacy, Modern Foreign Governments, and Theory and Practice of Communismcomplemented my new work. Scheduling was also easier because I didnt run again for president of the class..www.ideafutura.co.uk.
Every day, I looked forward to the end of classes and the drive to Capitol Hill. It was easier to find parking then. And it was a fascinating time to be there. The vast majority that had carried Lyndon Johnson to his landslide victory in 1964 was beginning to unravel. In a few months the Democrats would see their majorities in the House and Senate diminish in the 1966 midterm elections, as the country moved to the right in reaction to riots, social unrest, and the rise of inflation, and President Johnson escalated both domestic spending and our involvement in Vietnam. He claimed our country could afford both guns and butter, but the people were beginning to doubt it. In his first two and a half years as President, Johnson had enjoyed the most stunning legislative successes since FDR: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, sweeping anti-poverty legislation, and Medicare and Medicaid, which at last guaranteed medical care for the poor and elderly..www.ideafutura.co.uk.
Now, more and more, the attention of the President, the Congress, and the country was turning to Vietnam. As the death toll mounted with no victory in sight, rising opposition to the war took many forms, from protests on campuses to sermons from pulpits, from arguments in coffee shops to speeches on the floor of Congress. When I went to work for the Foreign Relations Committee, I didnt know enough about Vietnam to have a strong opinion, but I was so supportive of President Johnson that I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Still, it was clear that events were conspiring to undermine the magic moment of progress ushered in by his landslide election..cartier love bracelet replica.
The country was dividing over more than Vietnam. The Watts riots in Los Angeles in 1965 and the rise of militant black activists pushed their sympathizers to the left and their opponents to the right. The Voting Rights Act, of which LBJ was particularly and justifiably proud, had a similar effect, especially as it began to be enforced. Johnson was an uncommonly shrewd politician. He said when he signed the voting rights legislation that he had just killed the Democratic Party in the South for a generation. In fact, the so-called Solid South of the Democrats had been far from solid for a long time. The conservative Democrats had been falling away since 1948, when they recoiled at Hubert Humphreys barn-burning civil rights speech at the Democratic convention and Strom Thurmond bolted the party to run for President as a Dixiecrat. In 1960, Johnson helped Kennedy hold enough southern states to win, but Kennedys commitment to enforcing court-ordered integration of southern public schools and universities drove more conservative whites into the Republican fold. In 1964, while losing in a landslide, Goldwater carried five southern states...
However, in 1966 a lot of the white segregationists were still southern Democrats, people like Orval Faubus and Jim Johnson and Governor George Wallace of Alabama. And the Senate was full of them, grand characters like Richard Russell of Georgia and John Stennis of Mississippi and some others who had no grandeur at all, just power. But President Johnson was right about the impact of the Voting Rights Act and the other civil rights efforts. By 1968, Richard Nixon and George Wallace, running for President as an independent, would both outpoll Humphrey in the South, and since then, the only Democrats to win the White House were two southerners, Jimmy Carter and I. We won enough southern states to get in, with huge black support and a few more white voters than a non-southerner could have gotten. The Reagan years solidified the hold of the Republican Party on white conservative southerners, and the Republicans made them feel welcome...
President Reagan even went so far as to make a campaign speech defending states rights and, by implication, resistance to federal meddling in civil rights, in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney, two whites and one black, were martyred to the cause in 1964. I always liked President Reagan personally and wished he hadnt done that. In the 2002 midterm elections, even with Colin Powell, Condi Rice, and other minorities holding prominent positions in the Bush administration, Republicans were still winning elections on race, with white backlashes in Georgia and South Carolina over Democratic governors removing the Confederate flag from the Georgia State flag and from the South Carolina Capitol building. Just two years earlier, George W. Bush had campaigned at the notoriously right-wing Bob Jones University in South Carolina, where he declined to take a stand on the flag issue, saying it was a matter for the state to decide. When a Texas school insisted on hoisting the Confederate flag every morning, Governor Bush said it was not a state but a local issue. And they called me slick! President Johnson foresaw all this in 1965, but he did the right thing anyway, and Im grateful he did...
In the summer of 1966, and even more after the elections that fall, all the foreign and domestic conflicts were apparent in the deliberations of the U.S. Senate. When I went to work there, the Senate was full of big personalities and high drama. I tried to absorb it all. The president pro tempore, Carl Hayden of Arizona, had been in Congress since his state entered the Union in 1912 and in the Senate for forty years. He was bald, gaunt, almost skeletal. Senator Fulbrights brilliant speechwriter Seth Tillman once cracked that Carl Hayden was the only ninety-year-old man in the world who looks twice his age. The Senate majority leader, Mike Mansfield of Montana, had enlisted to fight in World War I at fifteen, then had become a college professor with a specialty in Asian affairs. He held the post of majority leader for sixteen years, until 1977, when President Carter appointed him ambassador to Japan. Mansfield was a fitness fanatic who walked five miles a day well into his nineties. He was also a genuine liberal and, behind his taciturn faade, something of a wit. He had been born in 1903, two years before Senator Fulbright, and lived to be ninety-eight. Shortly after I became President, Mansfield had lunch with Fulbright. When he asked Fulbright his age and Fulbright said he was eighty-seven, Mansfield replied, Oh, to be eighty-seven again...
The Republican leader, Everett Dirksen of Illinois, had been essential to passing some of the Presidents legislation, providing enough liberal Republican votes to overcome the opposition of segregationist southern Democrats. Dirksen had an amazing face, with a large mouth and lots of wrinkles, and an even more amazing voice. Deep and full, it boomed out one pithy phrase after another. Once he hit Democratic spending habits with this ditty: A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon youre talking about real money. When Dirksen talked it was like hearing the voice of God or a pompous snake-oil salesman, depending on your perspective.
The Senate looked a lot different then from how it looks today. In January 1967, after the Democrats had lost four seats in the midterm elections, they still had a margin of sixty-four to thirty-sixa far more lopsided group than what we usually find today. But the differences then were deep, too, and the lines were not only drawn on party affiliation. A few things have not changed: Robert Byrd of West Virginia still serves in the Senate. In 1966, he was already the authoritative voice on the rules and history of the body.
Eight states of the Old South still had two Democratic senators each, down from ten before the 1966 elections, but most of them were conservative segregationists. Today, only Arkansas, Florida, and Louisiana are represented by two Democrats. Oklahoma had two Democrats, California two Republicans. Today its the reverse. In the inter-mountain West, now solidly Republican, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming each had one progressive Democratic senator. Indiana, a conservative state, had two liberal Democratic senators, one of whom, Birch Bayh, is the father of current Senator Evan Bayh, a gifted leader who might be President someday, but whos not as liberal as his dad was. Minnesota was represented by the brilliant but diffident intellectual Gene McCarthy and future vice president Walter Mondale, who succeeded Hubert Humphrey when he became President Johnsons vice president. Johnson picked Humphrey over Connecticut senator Tom Dodd, one of the chief prosecutors of Nazis at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. Dodds son, Chris, now represents Connecticut in the Senate. Al Gores father was in his last term and was a hero to young southerners like me because he and his Tennessee colleague, Estes Kefauver, were the only two southern senators who refused to sign the so-called Southern Manifesto in 1956, which called for resistance to court-ordered school integration. The fiery populist Ralph Yarborough represented Texas, though the rightward future of the state was emerging with the election in 1961 of a Republican senator, John Tower, and a young Republican congressman from Houston, George Herbert Walker Bush. One of the most interesting senators was Oregons Wayne Morse, who started out as a Republican, then became an independent, and was by 1966 a Democrat. Morse, who was long-winded but smart and tough, and Democrat Ernest Gruening of Alaska were the only two senators to oppose the Tonkin Gulf resolution in 1964, which LBJ claimed gave him authority to wage the war in Vietnam. The only woman in the Senate was a Republican who smoked a pipe, Margaret Chase Smith of Maine. By 2004, there were fourteen women senators, nine Democrats and five Republicans. Back then there were also a number of influential liberal Republicans, alas, a virtually extinct group today, including Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, the Senates only African-American; Mark Hatfield of Oregon; Jacob Javits of New York; and George Aiken of Vermont, a crusty old New Englander who thought our Vietnam policy was nuts and tersely suggested we should simply declare victory and get out.
By far the most famous first-term senator was Robert Kennedy of New York, who joined his brother Ted in 1965, after defeating Senator Kenneth Keating for the seat Hillary now holds. Bobby Kennedy was fascinating. He radiated raw energy. Hes the only man I ever saw who could walk stoop-shouldered, with his head down, and still look like a coiled spring about to release into the air. He wasnt a great speaker by conventional standards, but he spoke with such intensity and passion it could be mesmerizing. And if he didnt get everyones attention with his name, countenance, and speech, he had Brumus, a large, shaggy Newfoundland, the biggest dog I ever saw. Brumus often came to work with Senator Kennedy. When Bobby walked from his office in the New Senate Building to the Capitol to vote, Brumus would walk by his side, bounding up the Capitol steps to the revolving door on the rotunda level, then sitting patiently outside until his master returned for the walk back. Anyone who could command the respect of that dog had mine too.
John McClellan, Arkansas senior senator, was not merely an ardent conservative. He was also tough as nails, vindictive when crossed, a prodigious worker, and adept at obtaining power and using it, whether to bring federal money home to Arkansas or to pursue people he saw as evildoers. McClellan led a life of ambition and anguish, the difficulties of which bred in him an iron will and deep resentments. The son of a lawyer and farmer, at age seventeen he became the youngest person ever to practice law in Arkansas, when he passed an oral examination with honors after reading law books he had checked out of the traveling library of the Cumberland Law School. After he served in World War I, he returned home to find that his wife had become involved with another man and he divorced her, a rare occurrence in Arkansas that long ago. His second wife died of spinal meningitis in 1935, when he was in the House of Representatives. Two years later, he married his third wife, Norma, who was with him for forty years until he died. But his sorrows were far from over. Between 1943 and 1958 he lost all three of his sons: the first to spinal meningitis, the next in a car accident, the last in a small-plane crash.
McClellan lived an eventful but difficult life, the sorrows of which he drowned in enough whiskey to float the Capitol down the Potomac River. After a few years, he decided drunkenness was inconsistent with both his values and his self-image and he gave up liquor completely, sealing the only crack in his armor with his iron will.
By the time I got to Washington, he was chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, a position he used to get our state a great deal of money for things like the Arkansas River Navigation System. He served another twelve years, a total of six terms, dying in 1977 after announcing he would not seek a seventh. When I worked on the Hill, McClellan seemed a remote, almost forbidding figure, which is how he wanted to be perceived by most people. After I became attorney general in 1977, I spent quite a bit of time with him. I was touched by his kindness and his interest in my career, and wished he had been able to show the side of him I saw to more people and to reflect it more in his public work.
Fulbright was as different from McClellan as daylight from dark. His childhood had been more carefree and secure, his education more extensive, his mind less dogmatic. He was born in 1905 in Fayetteville, a beautiful Ozark Mountain town in north Arkansas where the University of Arkansas is located. His mother, Roberta, was the outspoken progressive editor of the local paper, the Northwest Arkansas Times. Fulbright went to the hometown university, where he was a star student and quarterback of the Arkansas Razorbacks. When he was twenty, he went to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. When he returned two years later, he was a committed internationalist. After law school and a brief stint in Washington as a government lawyer, he came home to teach at the university with his wife, Betty, a delightful, elegant woman who turned out to be a better retail politician than he was and who kept his morose side in check through more than fifty years of marriage, until she died in 1985. Ill never forget one night in 1967 or 68. I was walking alone in Georgetown when I saw Senator and Mrs. Fulbright leaving one of the fashionable homes after a dinner party. When they reached the street, apparently with no one around to see, he took her in his arms and danced a few steps. Standing in the shadows, I saw what a light she was in his life. At thirty-four, Fulbright was named president of the University of Arkansas, the youngest president of a major university in America. He and Betty seemed headed for a long and happy life in the idyllic Ozarks. But after a couple of years, his apparently effortless rise to prominence was abruptly interrupted when the new governor, Homer Adkins, fired him because of his mothers sharply critical editorials.
In 1942, with nothing better to do, Fulbright filed for the open congressional seat in northwest Arkansas. He won, and in his only term in the House of Representatives, he sponsored the Fulbright Resolution, which presaged the United Nations in its call for American participation in an international organization to preserve peace after the end of World War II. In 1944, Fulbright ran for the U.S. Senate and for a chance to get even. His main opponent was his nemesis, Governor Adkins. Adkins had a flair for making enemies, a hazardous trait in politics. Besides getting Fulbright fired, he had made the mistake of opposing John McClellan just two years earlier, going so far as to have the tax returns of McClellans major supporters audited. As I said, McClellan never forgot or forgave a slight. He worked hard to help Fulbright defeat Adkins, and Fulbright did it. They both got even.
Despite the thirty years they served together in the Senate, Fulbright and McClellan were never particularly close. Neither was prone to personal relationships with other politicians. They did work together to advance Arkansas economic interests, and voted with the southern bloc against civil rights; beyond that, they didnt have much in common.
McClellan was a pro-military, anti-Communist conservative who wanted to spend tax dollars only on defense, public works, and law enforcement. He was bright but not subtle. He saw things as black or white. He spoke in blunt terms, and if he ever had any doubts about anything, he never revealed them for fear of looking weak. He thought politics was about money and power.
Fulbright was more liberal than McClellan. He was a good Democrat who liked and supported President Johnson until they fell out over the Dominican Republic and Vietnam. He favored progressive taxation, social programs to reduce poverty and inequality, federal aid to education, and more generous American contributions to international institutions charged with alleviating poverty in poor countries. In 1946, he sponsored legislation creating the Fulbright program for international education exchange, which has funded the education of hundreds of thousands of Fulbright scholars from the United States and sixty other countries. He thought politics was about the power of ideas.
On civil rights, Fulbright never spent much time defending his voting record on the merits. He simply said he had to vote with the majority of his constituents on issues like civil rights, areas about which they knew as much as he did, which is just a euphemistic way of saying he didnt want to get beat. He signed the Southern Manifesto after he watered it down a little, and didnt vote for a civil rights bill until 1970, during the Nixon administration, when he also took a leading role in defeating President Nixons anticivil rights nominee to the Supreme Court, G. Harrold Carswell.
Despite his civil rights stance, Fulbright was far from gutless. He hated sanctimonious demagogues parading as patriots. When Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin was terrorizing innocent people with his blanket accusations of Communist ties, he intimidated most politicians into silence, even those who loathed him. Fulbright cast the only vote in the Senate against giving McCarthys special investigative subcommittee more money. He also co-sponsored the resolution censuring McCarthy, which the Senate finally passed after Joseph Welch exposed him to the whole country for the fraud he was. McCarthy came along too soonhe would have been right at home in the crowd that took over the Congress in 1995. But back in the early fifties, a period so vulnerable to anti-Communist hysteria, McCarthy was the nine hundredpound gorilla. Fulbright took him on before his other colleagues would.
Fulbright didnt shy away from controversy in foreign affairs, either, an area in which, unlike civil rights, he knew more than his constituents did or could know. He decided just to do what he thought was right and hope he could sell it to the voters. He favored multilateral cooperation over unilateral action; dialogue with, not isolation from, the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact nations; more generous foreign assistance and fewer military interventions; and the winning of converts to American values and interests by the force of our example and ideas, not the force of arms.
Another reason I liked Fulbright was that he was interested in things besides politics. He thought the purpose of politics was to enable people to develop all their faculties and enjoy their fleeting lives. The idea that power was an end in itself, rather than a means to provide the security and opportunity necessary for the pursuit of happiness, seemed to him stupid and self-defeating. Fulbright liked to spend time with his family and friends, took a couple of vacations a year to rest and recharge his batteries, and read widely. He liked to go duck hunting, and he loved golf, shooting his age when he was seventy-eight. He was an engaging conversationalist with an unusual, elegant accent. When he was relaxed, he was eloquent and persuasive. When he got impatient or angry, he exaggerated his speech patterns in a tone of voice that made him seem arrogant and dismissive.
Fulbright had supported the Tonkin Gulf resolution in August 1964, giving President Johnson the authority to respond to apparent attacks on American vessels there, but by the summer of 1966, he had decided our policy in Vietnam was misguided, doomed to fail, and part of a larger pattern of errors that, if not changed, would bring disastrous consequences for America and the world. In 1966, he published his views on Vietnam and his general critique of American foreign policy in his most famous book, The Arrogance of Power. A few months after I joined the committee staff, he autographed a copy for me.
Fulbrights essential argument was that great nations get into trouble and can go into long-term decline when they are arrogant in the use of their power, trying to do things they shouldnt do in places they shouldnt be. He was suspicious of any foreign policy rooted in missionary zeal, which he felt would cause us to drift into commitments which though generous and benevolent in content, are so far reaching as to exceed even Americas great capacities. He also thought that when we brought our power to bear in the service of an abstract concept, like anti-communism, without understanding local history, culture, and politics, we could do more harm than good. Thats what happened with our unilateral intervention in the Dominican Republics civil war in 1965, where, out of fear that leftist President Juan Bosch would install a Cuban-style Communist government, the United States supported those who had been allied with General Rafael Trujillos repressive, reactionary, often murderous thirty-year military dictatorship, which ended with Trujillos assassination in 1961.
Fulbright thought we were making the same mistake in Vietnam, on a much larger scale. The Johnson administration and its allies saw the Vietcong as instruments of Chinese expansionism in Southeast Asia, which had to be stopped before all the Asian dominoes fell to communism. That led the United States to support the anti-Communist, but hardly democratic, South Vietnamese government. As South Vietnam proved unable to defeat the Vietcong alone, our support was expanded to include military advisors, and finally to a massive military presence to defend what Fulbright saw as a weak, dictatorial government which does not command the loyalty of the South Vietnamese people. Fulbright thought Ho Chi Minh, who had been an admirer of Franklin Roosevelt for his opposition to colonialism, was primarily interested in making Vietnam independent of all foreign powers. He believed that Ho, far from being a Chinese puppet, shared the historic Vietnamese antipathy for, and suspicion of, its larger neighbor to the north. Therefore, he did not believe we had a national interest sufficient to justify the giving and taking of so many lives. Still, he did not favor unilateral withdrawal. Instead, he supported an attempt to neutralize Southeast Asia, with American withdrawal conditioned on agreement by all parties to self-determination for South Vietnam and a referendum on reunification with North Vietnam. Unfortunately, by 1968, when peace talks opened in Paris, such a rational resolution was no longer possible.
As nearly as I could tell, everyone who worked on the committee staff felt the way Fulbright did about Vietnam. They also felt, increasingly, that the political and military leaders of the Johnson administration consistently overstated the progress of our military efforts. And they set out systematically to make the case for a change in policy to the administration, the Congress, and the country. As I write this, it seems reasonable and straightforward. But Fulbright, his committee colleagues, and the staff were in fact walking a high political tightrope across dangerous rocks. War hawks in both parties accused the committee, and Fulbright in particular, of giving aid and comfort to our enemies, dividing our country, and weakening our will to fight on to victory. Still, Fulbright persevered. Though he endured harsh criticism, the hearings helped to galvanize anti-war sentiment, especially among young people, more and more of whom were participating in anti-war rallies and teach-ins.
In the time I was there, the committee held hearings on such subjects as attitudes of Americans toward foreign policy, China-U.S. relations, possible conflicts between U.S. domestic goals and foreign policy, the impact of the dispute between China and the Soviet Union on the Vietnam conflict, and the psychological aspects of international relations. Distinguished critics of our policy appeared, people like Harrison Salisbury of the New York Times; George Kennan, former ambassador to the USSR and author of the idea of containment of the Soviet Union; Edwin Reischauer, former ambassador to Japan; distinguished historian Henry Steele Commager; retired General James Gavin; and professor Crane Brinton, an expert on revolutionary movements. Of course, the administration sent up its witnesses, too. One of the most effective was Undersecretary of State Nick Katzenbach, who had a leg up with me at least, because of his civil rights work in President Kennedys Justice Department. Fulbright also met privately with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, usually for early-morning coffee in Fulbrights office.
I found the dynamics between Rusk and Fulbright fascinating. Fulbright himself had been on Kennedys short list for secretary of state. Most people thought he was eliminated because of his anticivil rights record, especially his signing of the Southern Manifesto. Rusk was also a southerner, from Georgia, but he was sympathetic to civil rights and had not faced the political pressure Fulbright had, since he was not in Congress but a member of the foreign policy establishment. Rusk saw the Vietnam conflict in simple, stark terms: It was the battleground of freedom and communism in Asia. If we lost Vietnam, communism would sweep through Southeast Asia with devastating consequences.
I always thought the dramatically different ways Fulbright and Rusk viewed Vietnam were due in part to the very different times when they were young Rhodes scholars in England. When Fulbright went to Oxford in 1925, the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I was being implemented. It imposed harsh financial and political burdens on Germany, and redrew the map of Europe and the Middle East after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. The humiliation of Germany by the victorious European powers, and the postwar isolationism and protectionism of the United States, reflected in the Senates rejection of the League of Nations and the passage of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, led to an ultra-nationalist backlash in Germany, the rise of Hitler, and then World War II. Fulbright was loath to make that mistake again. He rarely saw conflicts in black and white, tried to avoid demonizing adversaries, and always looked for negotiated solutions first, preferably in a multilateral context.
By contrast, Rusk was at Oxford in the early thirties, when the Nazis came to power. Later, he followed the hopeless attempts of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain to negotiate with Hitler, an approach given one of historys most stinging rebukes: appeasement. Rusk equated Communist totalitarianism with Nazi totalitarianism, and despised it as much. The movement of the Soviet Union to control and communize Central and Eastern Europe after World War II convinced him communism was a disease that infected nations with a hostility to personal freedom and an unquenchable aggressiveness. And he was determined not to be an appeaser. Thus, he and Fulbright came to Vietnam from different sides of an unbridgeable intellectual and emotional divide, formed decades before Vietnam appeared on Americas radar screen.
The psychological divide was reinforced on the pro-war side by the natural tendency in wartime to demonize ones adversary and by the determination Johnson, Rusk, and others had not to lose Vietnam, thus doing lasting damage to Americas prestige, and to their own. I saw the same compulsion at work in peacetime when I was President, in my ideological battles with the Republican Congress and their allies. When there is no understanding, respect, or trust, any compromise, much less an admission of error, is seen as weakness and disloyalty, a sure recipe for defeat.
To the Vietnam hawks of the late sixties, Fulbright was the poster boy of gullible navet. Navet is a problem all well-meaning people have to guard against. But hardheadedness has its own perils. In politics, when you find yourself in a hole, the first rule is to quit digging; if youre blind to the possibility of error or determined not to admit it, you just look for a bigger shovel. The more difficulties we had in Vietnam, the more protests mounted at home, the more troops we sent in. We topped out at more than 540,000 in 1969, before reality finally forced us to change course.
I watched all this unfold with amazement and fascination. I read everything I could, including the material stamped confidential and secret that I had to deliver from time to time, which showed clearly that our country was being misled about our progress, or lack of it, in the war. And I saw the body count mount, one at a time. Every day Fulbright got a list of the boys from Arkansas who had been killed in Vietnam. I got in the habit of dropping by his office to check the list, and one day I saw the name of my friend and classmate Tommy Young. Just a few days before he was to return home, his jeep ran over a mine. I was so sad. Tommy Young was a big, smart, ungainly, sensitive guy who I thought would grow up to have a good life. Seeing his name on the list, along with others I was sure had more to give and get in life, triggered the first pangs of guilt I felt about being a student and only touching the deaths in Vietnam from a distance. I briefly flirted with the idea of dropping out of school and enlisting in the militaryafter all, I was a democrat in philosophy as well as party; I didnt feel entitled to escape even a war I had come to oppose. I talked to Lee Williams about it. He said that Id be crazy to quit school, that I should keep doing my part to end the war, that I wouldnt prove anything by being one more soldier, perhaps one more casualty. Rationally, I could understand that and I went on about my business, but I never felt quite right about it. After all, I was the child of a World War II veteran. I respected the military, even if I thought many of those in charge were clueless, with more guts than brains. So began my personal bout with guilt, one that was fought by many thousands of us who loved our country but hated the war.
Those long-distant days are not easy to re-create for those who didnt live through them. For those who did, little needs to be said. The war took its toll at home, too, even on its most self-confident opponents. Fulbright liked and admired President Johnson. He enjoyed being part of a team he thought was moving America forward, even on civil rights, where he couldnt help. He always wore his game face to work, but he hated being a reviled, isolated outsider. Once, coming to work early in the morning, I saw him walking alone down the corridor toward his office, lost in sadness and frustration, actually bumping into the wall a time or two as he trudged to his damnable duty.
Although the Foreign Relations Committee had to concern itself with other things, Vietnam overshadowed everything else for the committee members and for me. In my first two years at Georgetown, I saved virtually all my class notes, papers, and exams. From my third year, about all I have are two not at all impressive Money and Banking papers. In the second semester I even withdrew from the only course I ever dropped at Georgetown, Theory and Practice of Communism. I had a good reason, though it had nothing to do with Vietnam.
In the spring of 1967, Daddys cancer had returned, and he went to the Duke Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, for several weeks of treatment. Every weekend I would drive the 266 miles from Georgetown to see him, leaving Friday afternoon, returning late Sunday night. I couldnt do it and make the communism course, so I bagged it. It was one of the most exhausting but important times of my young life. I would get into Durham late Friday night, then go get Daddy and spend Saturday with him. Wed spend Sunday morning and early afternoon together, then Id head back to school and work.
On Easter Sunday, March 26, 1967, we went to church in the Duke Chapel, a grand Gothic church. Daddy had never been much of a churchgoer, but he really seemed to enjoy this service. Maybe he found some peace in the message that Jesus had died for his sins, too. Maybe he finally believed it when we sang the words to that wonderful old hymn Sing with All the Sons of Glory: Sing with all the sons of glory, sing the resurrection song! Death and sorrow, Earths dark story, to the former days belong. All around the clouds are breaking, soon the storms of time shall cease; In Gods likeness man, awaking, knows the everlasting peace. After church, we drove over to Chapel Hill, home of the University of North Carolina. The place was in full bloom, awash in the dogwoods and redbuds. Most southern springtimes are beautiful; this one was spectacular and remains my most vivid Easter memory.
On those weekends, Daddy talked to me in a way he never had before. Mostly it was small talk, about my life and his, Mother and Roger, family and friends. Some of it was deeper, as he reflected on the life he knew he would be leaving soon enough. But even with the small stuff, he spoke with an openness, a depth, a lack of defensiveness Id never heard before. On those long, languid weekends, we came to terms with each other, and he accepted the fact that I loved and forgave him. If he could only have faced life with the same courage and sense of honor with which he faced death, he would have been quite a guy.