Chapter 11 (1968 In America) by Charles Kaiser

This Wheel's on Fire

   --Billboard in Chicago, August 19681

"Dare to struggle, dare to win."
   -Tom Hayden, quoting Mao Tse-tung2

"In 1968 the name Chicago won a significance far beyond date and place. It became the title of an episode, like Waterloo, or Versailles, or Munich."
   --Theodore H. White3

"...there are circumstances in which no one wins, in which everyone loses..."
   --From the Walker report on the Democratic National Convention, presented to the President's Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence4

EUGENE McCarthy's behavior during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago crippled the movement for peace; Blair Clark, Jeremy Larner, and a great many others would never forgive him for what he failed to do there.5 The last chance to get the Democrats formally to repudiate Lyndon Johnson's war disappeared as McCarthy's will to lead dwindled away. Largely because of McCarthy's personal idiosyncrasies, the people who had worked so hard and so long to get him elected were left with nothing at the end of August but a feeling of bitter, empty failure.

That Chicago tragedy may have been avoidable; the other one was inevitable. To the left of McCarthy's kids was another group of Americans whose actions were unrelated to the Minnesotan's persistent acedia. These men and women sought a violent confrontation in Chicago as a means of proving that America had become a "police state." Goaded by Mayor Richard Daley's notorious shoot-to-kill order, the Chicago police force was more than willing to play the exaggerated role the radicals had selected for them. The behavior of the police was so egregious that by the end of the convention week, respected Democratic senator from Connecticut was comparing Daley's henchmen with Nazis--and the radicals in the streets had attracted the sympathy of most of the liberals who had struggled to make the system more responsive.6

There was nothing very welcoming about Chicago in August. An electrical workers' strike, a telephone installers'strike, a bus strike, and a taxicab strike had practically paralyzed the city even before the convention began. The convention hall was ringed with barbed wire that could be electrified at the flick of a switch. Outside, the city's entire police force of twelve thousand was put on twelve-hour shifts, and they were bolstered by six thousand Illinois National Guardsmen, as well as six thousand regular troops, who were equipped with rifles, flamethrowers, and bazookas.7 Chicago became the setting for the first great battle between American counterculture and American reaction; less than two years later, the killing of four students at Kent State University would bring this war to its peak.8

Mayor Daley's refusal to grant permits for anyone to camp out in his city's parks was a crucial first step toward ensuring a violent confrontation. Late Sunday evening, the day before the convention began, the pattern for the week was established when the police decided to clear Lincoln Park. As they had at Columbia, the protesters taunted the police with chants of "Pigs!" and "Oink, oink, shithead," to which the cops responded with shouts of "Kill the Commies !" before wading into the crowds with their billy clubs. When a Newsweek reporter flashed his credentials on an adjacent street, a policeman shouted at him, "Newsweek fuckers!" and clubbed him on his head and then over the rest of his body. Order wasn't restored in the streets until 2 A.M. By then, ten newsmen had been beaten.9

Nine months earlier, Abbie Hoffman had started with a playful notion. Hoffman was one of the first hippie (and then Yippie) impresarios, a media handler who used his sense of theater and satire to attract generous coverage from the press. He had turned thirty-two in 1968, a fact that some people thought actually made him a child of the fifties. The first discussion of what to do in Chicago during the convention had begun in his apartment on the Lower East Side on New Year's Eve, the day before 1968 began. There with Hoffman were his wife, Anita, fellow future Yippie Jerry Rubin, and Paul Krassner, editor of the Realist. 10 Hoffman recalled the initial planning session this way, in an interview with investigators for the official commission that reported on the Chicago uprising:

There we were, all stoned, rolling around the floor. . .yippie! ...And so, YIPPIE was born, the Youth International Party. What about if we create a myth, program it into the media, you know . . . when that myth goes in, it's always connected to Chicago August 25th. . . come and do your thing, excitement, bullshit, everything, anything ... commitment, engagement, Democrats, pigs, the whole thing. All you do is change the H in Hippie to a Y for Yippie, and you got it. 11

In the spring, Mrs. Hoffman elaborated on their plans for Chicago to a reporter for the New York Times. She was quoted in an article about an early-morning occupation of Grand Central Station by "3,000 chanting youths" who had painted the words "Peace Now" on the four-sided clock in the center of the terminal-just before the celebration was broken up by club-swinging policemen. In August, Mrs. Hoffman explained, there would be "a demonstration of an alternative way of life, a six-day living experience in a park in Chicago, with free food, tents, theater, underground newspapers and lots of rock bands and folk singers."12 The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 had been one of the Yippie organizers' inspirations.13

In March, the Yippies presented their first request to camp out in Grant Park during the Chicago convention, displaying the sense of humor that quickly became their trademark. A white girl in Indian costume, who called herself Helen Running Water, delivered the permit application to the deputy mayor, David Stahl. It came inside a page from Playboy displaying the Playmate of the Month. On the Playmate's photo were scrawled the words, "To Dick, with love-the Yippies."14

Yippie proposals for the summer (all of which got heavy publicity) included a plan to contaminate the Chicago water supply with a massive dose of LSD, a protest to be led by ten thousand nude bodies floating in Lake Michigan, a squad of Yippie women to seduce delegates (and spike their drinks with acid), and a separate group of "hyper-potent" hippie men to seduce delegates' wives--and daughters. The possibility of a mass hallucination induced by a contaminated water supply aroused the most curiosity, although one researcher had told the CIA in the early fifties that such a strategy was impractical because chlorine would neutralize the drug's usual effects. (The agency reacted to this opinion with a federally financed effort to develop a chlorine-resistant form of LSD.) 15

On the more serious side of the radical political divide, David Dellinger, who had been one of the principal organizers of the 1967 demonstration at the Pentagon, was now working with Rennie Davis and Tom Hayden to try to bring a more substantial protest to Chicago during the convention. Hayden and Davis were both products of SDS; Hayden was also the author of the Port Huron Statement and a veteran of the recent protests at Columbia, where he had been arrested after participating in the occupation of Mathematics Hall. 16 For several weeks, Al Lowenstein considered a separate effort to attract a hundred thousand "Clean for Gene" kids to the convention site, but he abandoned the idea in the face of relentless hostility from Daley and opposition from McCarthy, who feared anarchy. 17

In one respect, America in 1968 was more like the "police state" radicals had alleged than most people suspected. That year most radical organizations--including David Dellinger's--were thoroughly penetrated by several different government agencies. In 1968 the CIA engaged in domestic surveillance, which is explicitly prohibited by its charter. When CIA director Richard Helms forwarded the results of this work to the White House, he was careful to mention (in writing) that such memorandums could not be Widely disseminated since "the Agency should not be reporting at all on domestic affairs of this sort." 18

Even Mayor Daley had his own national spying operation. In 1968 he used the Chicago Department of Investigation--an agency he had established to supply him with intelligence information--to infiltrate antiwar organizations all over America. His agents boasted of having penetrated dissident groups in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles, as well as the New York branch of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. Daley's agency also used double agents to plant false information with the protesters.19 Robert Pierson was a Chicago policeman who infiltrated the radicals, served as one of their bodyguards, and stayed close to their leaders. In one piece of news footage he is even heard to shout "Pig!" in front of his own police headquarters. 20

The FBI was also deeply involved in the preparations for the convention. Demonstrators expecting to find shelter in the homes of sympathizers got stuck out on the street after the FBI issued a phony list of available rooms under a peace group's letterhead.21At the request of Humphrey's executive assistant, William Connell, the bureau also agreed to supply the vice-president with a special squad of agents in Chicago, similar to the one Lyndon Johnson had used to keep tabs on his enemies at the convention in Atlantic City four years earlier. 22

The Army was represented in Chicago by at least one film unit from the 113th Military Intelligence Group. (This was the operation inadvertently captured on film by the cinematographer for Medium Cool, the feature film shot on the streets of the city during the riots.) Each night at ten o'clock the product of the unit's work was put on an American Airlines flight to Washington, so that the joint chiefs of staff could begin their daily briefing with their own private movie of the events in Chicago. Ten years later, Army sources estimated to CBS News that an astonishing one in six demonstrators in Chicago that week was actually some kind of government agent. 23

THE recent violence at home had already ensured a discomfiting background for the Democrats' convention; then, the week before the party gathered, a new cataclysm abroad produced another terrible depression. Eugene McCarthy's reaction to this event was perhaps his single most self-destructive statement: It did more to undermine his credibility than every-thing else he did in the period after Bobby Kennedy was killed.

The last dream for a revolution with a happy ending in 1968 died on August 20, when Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia. The Soviets had decided that the winds of change within one of their satellites posed too great a threat to the rest of their empire; the invasion ended the Czechs' hopes for freedom less than nine months after their birth in the Prague spring. Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin came to the White House to inform the United States of his government's decision. A few hours later President Johnson called a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the invasion. The president concluded there was nothing the United States could do in response--other than to cancel the upcoming summit meeting with the Soviets, which the White House had been planning to announce the very next day. 24

The invasion was a singularly depressing event. America had fallen in love with the Czechoslovak experiment. In a forlorn act of protest, the Czechoslovak ambassador in Washington read a defiant statement from his country's national assembly. The Soviets' action provoked denunciations by spokesmen for all parts of the political spectrum--all but one. Jeremy Larner met with McCarthy early on the morning of August 21, after preparing a statement for him about the crisis. It began, "This is a tragic day for freedom," and went on to point out that the invasion was "only the latest in a series of great power interventions that had gone on since the end of World War II." It also said that America's position in Vietnam had made it easier for the Soviets to crush a reform movement within one of its neighboring countries. But once again, McCarthy insisted on flaunting his immunity to passion. 'After all, Jeremy," he said, "it's not as if Hitler were marching in."

"I think it is," Larner replied, "in some ways." McCarthy promised to use the proffered statement; then he changed his mind. A half-hour later, Larner and Ken Reich of the Los Angeles Times both received McCarthy's revised version from a secretary. No enemy could have arranged for any-thing more destructive to McCarthy's campaign than what the candidate had done by himself.

The new statement declared, "I do not see this as a major world crisis. It is likely to have more serious consequences for the Communist party in Russia than in Czechoslovakia. I saw no need for a midnight meeting of the United States National Security Council." When Larner pleaded with Reich not to report these words, the Los Angeles Times reporter agreed to give him an hour to try to get McCarthy to retract them. But neither Larner nor Dick Goodwin could get through to the candidate in time to fix it. It was a final straw for Larner, and for thousands of other McCarthy men and women: "If people expected Gene to give the standard angry reaction, they didn't understand what real style was," the campaign aide wrote. "At that moment, I did not want Gene to be president. . . He was making absolutely clear what he had shown us in other ways from the beginning: that his style of presenting himself was more important than his campaign for President and all it stood for." Eventually, McCarthy was prevailed upon to issue a different statement-- "Of course, I condemn this cruel and violent action. It should not really be necessary to say this"--but nothing could obliterate the impact of his previous remarks.25

McCarthy had got so little support from fellow legislators and former Kennedy supporters that South Dakota senator George McGovern entered the race for the presidency on August 10, to give these disaffected liberals someone to rally around. Also in August, Ralph Yarborough, a much admired Texas liberal, became the only United States senator formally to endorse Eugene McCarthy for president. As usual, McCarthy had done nothing to encourage this gesture. "I had the feeling that I had to cram my support down McCarthy's throat," said Yarborough. "He wanted to be away from any senators or politicians; he thought they were [so] commonplace, they weren't worthy of him."

To Yarborough, the Minnesotan's statement on Czechoslovakia was one of three "colossal" blunders committed by McCarthy. The second one had occurred five days earlier. McCarthy had issued a list of potential appointees to his cabinet, ranging from Coretta Scott King for ambassador to the United Nations to William Clay Ford (Henry Ford's brother and a former Goldwater supporter) for secretary of commerce. The cabinet announcement was a brainstorm that came from Richard Goodwin, one of the very few Kennedy men who had rejoined the McCarthy fold after Bobby's death. Yarborough was appalled. "He named about six millionaires and about six Republicans--not a politician in the bunch. And the politicians were going to run the convention." McCarthy had slapped "nine-tenths of all the delegates in the face by telling all of them, 'You are unworthy to be in the cabinet. "Then, on Tuesday, August 27, the day before the balloting, McCarthy conceded that Humphrey had the nomination locked up-producing banner headlines in all of Wednesday's newspapers.

Together, these three acts extinguished whatever lingering chance McCarthy might have had to become president. "I thought, 'My God, I'm poison,' Yarborough recalled. "He was smart as a devil until I endorsed him. Now the man's gone crazy. Says I'll fill the cabinet with millionaires and Republicans, I'll condone the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, and I'll admit I'm beat before I start. If there's any way a politician could liquidate himself faster, that was self-immolation. He set the torch to those political hopes with those three things. I've wondered why on earth he did it."26

It is impossible to prove the contention of Blair Clark, Maurice Rosenblatt, and many others that McCarthy threw away a serious chance to become president. So many delegates were controlled by the party bosses that Humphrey's nomination may indeed have been inevitable. But McCarthy's failure to mount an effective campaign between June and August did have one undeniable effect: The impotence of McCarthy's effort meant that all the pressure on Humphrey was coming from the right--from the South and from his president. And that made it impossible for Humphrey to find the courage to come out against the war. "It left Humphrey at the mercy of Lyndon Johnson--who was at his most merciless in his drive to dominate on the issue of his war," Clark wrote. 27

The main disagreement between Johnson's men and the antiwar faction centered on whether a halt in the bombing should be absolutely unilateral or depend on some type of reciprocal action from the North Vietnamese. But by this time, the symbolism had become far more important than the details. Lyndon Johnson desperately wanted his party to validate his conduct of that war, and to that end his men left enough Southern delegates uncommitted to keep Humphrey nervous about his fate even after he had arrived in Chicago.

Adding to the vice-president's uneasiness was a new rumor flooding the convention: Teddy Kennedy might be available for a draft. Daley fueled this idea with an announcement on the Sunday before the convention began that his delegation would remain uncommitted for another forty-eight hours. The day before, Daley had telephoned Teddy Kennedy in Hyannis Port and asked him to announce his availability for a draft. Perhaps Daley really wanted Teddy to be the presidential nominee, or perhaps this was merely a ploy to bring the Massachusetts man out of his lair--so that he could be forced to accept the vice-presidential nomination on a Humphrey-Kennedy ticket. Whatever Daley's real motivation, Kennedy refused to say publicly that he might be available. However, Kennedy's brother-in-law Steve Smith had gone to Chicago to test the waters. 28

According to Teddy White, "Only if an authentic, unquestionably spontaneous, self-obvious draft developed from the convention floor, calling on him, coming to him, would he accept the nomination as his duty; but he would not in anyway, by indirection or by intermediary, incubate the draft himself."29 Perhaps that was true, though many thought Smith was contributing significantly to the incubation process. By the time Aretha Franklin opened the convention on Monday evening by belting out "The Star-Spangled Banner," rumors of a Kennedy candidacy for president were proliferating. The idea had a peculiar logic to it: Only a candidate with his magic surname could unite both the regulars who had rallied to his brother John's cause after his nomination in 1960 and the new insurgents who were desperate for any major party candidate who might carry the antiwar banner into the fall election. Goodwin started asking McCarthy whether he might throw his support to Teddy. Amazingly, McCarthy seemed amenable. The Minnesotan suggested that Steve Smith come to visit him.

On Tuesday afternoon, Smith arrived at McCarthy's suite at the Conrad Hilton. Only Smith, Goodwin, and McCarthy were present. According to Goodwin (version McCarthy endorses), the Minnesotan said, "I can't make it. Teddy and I have the same views, and I'm willing to ask all my delegates to vote for him 30 McCarthy wanted to have his name placed in nomination--but then he would withdraw it, clearing the way for Kennedy. Then McCarthy added, "While I'm doing this for Teddy, 1 never could have done it for Bobby." Time magazine reported there were tears of gratitude in Steve Smith's eyes. But Smith told Kennedy friend Peter Maas, "Somebody mistook it for all the spit in them."31

This was as close as the Kennedy draft came to getting off the ground. It collapsed after David Schoumacher of CBS went on the air at 8:30 Tuesday evening, reporting that Smith had visited McCarthy to ask him to support Kennedy--something Smith had never done. Suspecting a leak from the McCarthy camp, Smith was furious. The next morning Kennedy telephoned Humphrey and told him he was definitely out of the race for good.

McCarthy's true motivation may have been a great deal less magnanimous than it appeared. According to one account, he told a friend, "I wanted Teddy to take it and then be beaten. It would have broken the chain." 32 Asked about this eighteen years later, McCarthy replied, "I think I might have said, 'Well if he wins, it's fine, if he loses, why, you're going to have to run him sometime, and that this would be a test.' I think I said something like that." If that had happened, McCarthy explained, "he'd never run now," adding, "It's still going on twenty years later."33

THE level of violence kept escalating all across Chicago-inside and outside the amphitheater. Indoors, Dan Rather was punched and wrestled to the ground by a security agent on the convention floor. Outdoors, comedian Dick Gregory told an "antibirthday" party for Johnson (he was turning sixty that week) that he had "just heard that Premier Kosygin has sent a telegram to Mayor Daley asking for two thousand Chicago cops to report for duties in Prague immediately."34Playwright Arthur Miller, who, along with Paul Newman, had become a McCarthy delegate from Connecticut, was stared at "with open, almost comical ferocity" by an Illinois delegate. "Once I tried to give him a smile of greeting, a recognition of his interest, " Miller wrote. "He gave nothing, like a watchdog trained to move only on signal." Miller thought the meeting in the amphitheater was the "closest thing to a session of the All-Union Soviet that ever took place outside of Russia."35

It got worse on Wednesday--a great deal worse. Abbie Hoffman was arrested shortly after 8 A.M. for having the word "FUCK" printed on his forehead. That kept the Yippie leader off the streets for the next thirteen hours. 36 At them convention hall, the debate on the peace plank reached the floor. McCarthy's aides pleaded with him to do something, anything, to show that he was still leading the battle, to prove that he still cared about the outcome of some earthly event. "We wanted him to express what we believed in and what we would have to fight for no matter who was nominated," said Larner. "It was so frustrating because he talked about it as if it were a purely literary event." 37 Steve Mitchell, who had been Adlai Stevenson's campaign manager and was one of the few real professionals working for McCarthy, implored the candidate to break with tradition and make a passionate speech to the convention. Tom Finney agreed: Something must be done! Mitchell telephoned McCarthy three times, begging him to come. But the Minnesotan could not be moved. This time there was a new excuse for his obstinacy: "I've always been running against Johnson," he said. So if Johnson-ensconced in Texas for the week--happened to appear that afternoon, so would Gene. Johnson never left his ranch, and McCarthy remained in his room, using an orange to play mock baseball with his brother, Austin. Later in the afternoon, as the violence began heating up again in the park across from the hotel, he looked out the window. "The worst thing about what's happening," he said, "is that it leaves those kids nowhere to go." The irony of this observation never seemed to occur to him.38

EIGHTY percent of the voters who had participated in the primaries during the spring had voted for the antiwar policies of McCarthy and Kennedy. Many men made a last-ditch effort to persuade Humphrey to endorse the peace plank to make himself electable in the fall. Walter Mondale, who occupied Humphrey's former Senate seat from Minnesota and was cochairman of the vice-president's campaign, argued endlessly with old Humphrey hands like Bill Connell and Max Kampelman, who never understood that it was essential for their candidate to break with the president. Another man who urged the vice-president to act boldly was Newton Minow, who had been chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under Jack Kennedy (and had become famous for calling TV "a vast wasteland"). In a memo written three weeks before the convention, Minow argued that Humphrey had to join forces with the Kennedy and McCarthy people to get a peace plank passed. "The platform thus becomes the bridge on which HHH makes the transition from LBJ to the McCarthy-Kennedy supporters." But Humphrey remained trapped by the president 39 On Monday, August 26, the vice-president called Johnson at his ranch to make a final plea. "He told me that the plank did not meet with the policies of this government," Humphrey remembered. "I said, 'Mr. President, this is what I feel we ought to be doing for the future.' He made it clear that we were not discussing these things. He said, 'I can't go for this, and I don't think that the platform committee is going to go for it either.' I said, 'But, Mr. President, this has been cleared with Rusk and Rostow.' He said, 'Well, it hasn't been cleared with me.' "40 Humphrey never spoke up, and on Wednesday afternoon, the peace plank was defeated, 1567 3/4 to 1041 1/2. Members of the New York and California delegations slipped on black armbands, and folk singer Theodore Bikel, a New York delegate, led them in the singing of "We Shall Overcome." Others stood in the aisles, yelling, "Stop the war!" A priest knelt in the middle of the New York delegation to offer a prayer for peace. When he was done, people murmured "Shalom" and 'Amen."41 The last hope to unite the party in 1968, and for many years to come, was over.

On Wednesday afternoon nearly ten thousand people had gathered for an antiwar rally in Grant Park. By now, the ranks of the radicals were swelled by the increasingly bitter supporters of Eugene McCarthy. When a young demonstrator wearing an Army helmet started shinnying up a flagpole to remove the American flag, the police charged. While this teenager was being dragged off, a group of young men--including at least one undercover police officer--surrounded the flagpole and removed the flag. They replaced it with a red T-shirt, and a general melee followed. Demonstrators threw asbestos, floor tiles, balloons filled with paint and urine, bricks, eggs, and "all types of stones," according to the Walker report, compiled for the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence. The police responded with clubs, Mace, and tear gas. A police official testified later that "profanity and spitting did not have the same effect on the police that incidents involving the flag did." He felt that "abuse or misuse of the flag deeply affected the police." One demonstrator heard an officer yell, "Hey, there's a nigger over there we can get." According to the official report, the police "are said to have veered off and grabbed a middle-aged Negro man, whom they beat." The crowd chanted, "The whole world is watching."42

Grant Park was across the street from the Conrad Hilton, where Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy both had their headquarters. As the nominating speeches began at the convention hall, some seven thousand demonstrators gathered in front of the Hilton. Hundreds of people--ranging from innocent bystanders to hardened militants--were clubbed and beaten. *43A reporter noticed a policeman smiling happily: "They're really getting scared now," the officer said.44 Massive amounts of tear gas were released, and some of it even reached the nose of the vice-president in suite 2525A of the Hilton.45

Looking down from his room two floors below Humphrey, McCarthy thought the police formations were "reminiscent of the formations of Hannibal's last battle"; then he compared the scene to "a surrealistic dance--the ballet of purgatory."46 George McGovern told a New York Times reporter he had seen "nothing like it since the films of Nazi Germany." inside the amphitheater, Connecticut senator Abraham Ribicoff was on the podium to nominate the South Dakotan for president. "With George McGovern as President," said Ribicoff, "we would not have to have such Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago." The television cameras zoomed in on the Chicago mayor. Though he could not be heard, millions of lip-reading Americans were certain Richard Daley had just said, "Fuck you," to the United States senator standing only twenty feet in front of him. Ribicoff scowled back. "How hard it is to accept the truth," he said, "how hard." Twenty years later, people were still coming up to Ribicoff at airports to praise him for his courage. However, there had also been a practical consideration behind the senator's attack. Ribicoff was up for reelection in 1968, and the McCarthy forces had never been enthusiastic about him. On Wednesday evening, Anne Wexier, a leader of the McCarthy movement in Connecticut, declared, "I'm going to get everyone to work their guts out for Abe for what he said tonight." Ribicoff was reelected by a large margin in the fall.47

Humphrey's nomination became official when he got Pennsylvania's 103 3/4 votes at 11:47 PM. At the end of the balloting, the vice-president had 1,761 3/4 votes, in contrast with 601 for McCarthy, 146 1/2 for McGovern, and 100 for other candidates. When the face of his wife, Muriel, appeared on the television in his Hilton suite, Humphrey jumped up to kiss her electronic image. A film crew for a new program called 60 Minutes, which would begin its first season in the fall, was there to capture the moment. Reporter Marie Ridder asked McCarthy if he was bitter. "No use being bitter about Hubert," he said. "He is too dumb to understand bitterness. 48 Back inside the amphitheater, CBS correspondent Mike Wallace had just been hit on the jaw--right after a New Yorker named Alex Rosenberg became a hero to his fellow delegates when he was arrested for refusing to show his credentials to a security man on the convention floor. By the end of the week a total of sixty-five newsmen had been beaten, arrested, or both.49 Candles borrowed from a Chicago synagogue were distributed by Lowenstein and Goodwin to McCarthy delegates for a "funeral march." Five hundred participated in the candlelight vigil on Michigan Avenue 50

Several Humphrey advisors, including Larry O'Brien, who had come over to his campaign after Bobby Kennedy was killed, suggested that he announce his resignation as vice-president when he accepted the nomination. Then he could fly to Massachusetts to ask Teddy Kennedy to join him as his running mate. Humphrey considered the idea for a half-hour, then abandoned it. He also considered running with Nelson Rockefeller, until an intermediary told the vice-president that the New York governor did not think he could run as a Democrat.51

The next night, the Democrats repeated a four-year-old tradition. In 1964, on the fourth day of their convention in Atlantic City, Bobby Kennedy had received a twenty-two-minute ovation when he arrived at the podium to introduce a movie memorializing his brother Jack. Then, most of the delegates had wept. Now, on the fourth day of their meeting in 1968, Edward Kennedy's voice was relayed by telephone from Hyannis Port so that he could introduce a similar filmed tribute to Bobby. "Even dead, and on film, he was better and more moving than anything which had happened in their convention," Norman Mailer wrote. "People were crying. An ovation began. Delegates came to their feet, and applauded an empty screen--it was as if the center of American life was now passing the age where it could still look forward; now people looked back into memory, into the past of the nation--was that possible?"

Russell Baker thought the convention was "momentarily united in emotion for the first time all week." After the ovation had gone on for five minutes, convention chairman Carl Albert called for order. The delegations from New York and California responded by singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." The choruses went on for ten minutes, then for fifteen, then for twenty. Three-quarters of the gallery had joined in. Signs appeared around the hall, hand-scrawled efforts reading, BOBBY BE WITH US, and a large one saying, BOBBY, WE MISS YOU. By now the Texas and Illinois delegations had sat down, to indicate the demonstration should end; but the sounds of "Glory, glory, hallelujah" would not be suppressed. Finally, Daley had had enough. He passed the word to his henchmen--who occupied the other fourth of the gallery--that they should begin chanting, "We love Daley!" Then he sent Ralph Metcalfe to the podium to request a minute of silence for Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby's moment was over. Russell Baker remembered that Bobby had once said, "Mayor Daley is the ball game." Tonight, Baker wrote, "Mayor Daley was pitching for Hubert Humphrey."52

Earlier Thursday, Humphrey had announced one of the very few wise decisions he would make in 1968. He selected Edmund Muskie, a craggy-faced senator from Maine, as his running mate. Muskie projected just the sort of calm self-confidence Humphrey needed on the ticket in a period of so much upheaval; the vice-presidential nominee would be a significant asset in the months ahead. But that evening Humphrey gave a pedestrian acceptance speech. Against the advice of his aides, it included this passage: "Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light."53

At 12:10A.M. on Friday, the convention was finally adjourned. Back on the fifteenth floor of the Hilton, the McCarthy kids continued to drink and talk and play bridge into the early hours of the morning. Then there was one more outbreak of violence. The police said that they were being bombarded with objects from the hotel; a McCarthy staffer in the lobby heard four policemen discussing a report that the missiles were coming from the fifteenth floor. "Okay," said one of them, "give the order to drag them all in and give them a beating. Teach them a lesson." Using passkeys provided by the management, the police started pulling campaign workers out of their beds at 5 AM. and beating them at random. While they were being gathered together by the police in the lobby downstairs, Goodwin was able to rouse McCarthy, who came down with his detachment of Secret Service men to confront the police. "Who's in charge?" the senator demanded. No one answered. "Just as I thought," said McCarthy. "No one is in charge." Then he told his kids to go back upstairs, four or five at a time in the elevator, "and finally they were all gone."54

GERRY Studds was the high school teacher who had played such a large role at the beginning of the year, when he helped Blair Clark convince McCarthy that he should enter the New Hampshire primary. Nothing had ever equaled the combination of surprise and joy they had all achieved together on that blustery Tuesday in March, that faraway moment when McCarthy had strode into the Wayfarer Hotel to incredulous cheers of "Chi-ca-go! Chi-ca-go!" It was then that McCarthy had predicted, "If we come to Chicago with this strength, there will be no violence, and no demonstrations, but a great victory celebration." Five months later, the campaign that had spent between $8 million and $23 million stumbled to a halt, dead on arrival at the Windy City. * But the spirit of New Hampshire lived on in the hearts of thousands who still cherished the dream that was born there. Studds came to Chicago in August as a McCarthy delegate from the Granite State. He remembered the week this way:

"I will never forget wandering in the park across the street from the Hilton each night after the convention adjourned. I and several other delegates from New Hampshire would wander with the kids . . . and that was one of the most moving experiences that I ever had. The kids would come up, they would see delegate credentials, and they would see McCarthy buttons--and they would see 'New Hampshire' hanging on your lapel. And they would thrust out a hand, frequently a hand covered with Vaseline or grease as a protection against Mace, and apologize for begriming you but say, 'We just had to speak to you,' and say--what sounds, I guess, in retrospect, trite things-like 'Thank you' and 'Speak for us.' But at the time, an emotion-charged time, there was nothing trite about it. It was a very moving thing."55

*43 Earlier estimates that one hundred thousand demonstrators or more might descend upon the city were large exaggerations. The Walker report on the disturbances estimated the largest crowd of the week at ten thousand people, with no more than five thousand from out of town. [New York Times, 12/2/68.]

* The lower estimate is McCarthy's, the higher is Blair Clark's. [Author's interviews with Eugene McCarthy, 3/27/86, and Blair Clark, 3/19/86.]

Notes and the Introduction to "1968 in America" will be added by September 1st.
Reprinted with permission from the Author.
Copyright 1988-1996 Charles Kaiser.

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