Category Archives: History

Gerald Heaney Retires

Gerald Heaney was interviewed by MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill for Voices of Minnesota. Heaney has an laudatory past but he’s also a key figure in the story I’m writing about the destruction of Don Boyd.

When I first moved to Duluth 33 years ago Republicans in particulary spoke of him in hushed tones. He was their nemesis and they regarded him as the power behind the area’s political scene. Its not surprising that he figures into the Boyd scandal when his old friend Senator Hubert Humphrey was in a position to be badly embarrassed.

Blog Metamorphosis

As of today loyal readers, whoever you are, this blog has undergone a change from caterpillar to butterfly or, depending on your point-of-view, vice versa. For the past four months I’ve posted things that interested me but which were heavily drawn from other sources. I will not give up on this entirely but as the last week has demonstrated getting wrapped up a consuming project really distracts a blogger from scanning the internet for newsy items, insightful opinion and my favorite – hoots. I’ve started a mad four-month dash to the November election and I won’t have time to vacuum the news. I’ll still be blogging but lincolndemocrat will turn into more of a campaign diary than a political blog.

As long ago as 1976 when I was a 26-year-old kid running for the state legislature I imagined myself writing a regular column about what I saw daily as a legislator. Although I kept running for office I didn’t finally get elected to anything until 1995 almost twenty years later. By then I realized that no newspaper would print one elected official’s daily observations. But then a wonderful invention became available – the World Wide Web with a whole assortment of new communication tools. Long before blogs people began experimenting with public diaries. When I finally got a dial-up connection and discovered this I was halfway through my school board experience. I realized immediately how I could make that ambition from my youth possible and I began my “school board diary.” I was a faithful diarist for a year but, for a variety of reasons, I quit. Short lived political diaries of one sort or another succeeded the first but they too winked out.

Apparently, I’ve been drifting slowly to a new ambition to replace politics – writing. I’m still drawn to politics but more so as a writer than a practitioner. I want people to have the chance to see the political world from the inside. I’ve gotten 200 pages into Caro’s fabulous 1,000-page book about LBJ’s Senate years. What I wouldn’t give to write something like that. Well, its too late for that. Caro has already devoted thirty years to the LBJ story and he still has one book left to go. Anything I do will be much more modest – like my school board diary.

An elected bodies are more mysterious to people than what happens to their children during junior high. That’s because everyone has been in junior high and can imagine what their children are experiencing. Elected bodies, which seem to pull decisions out of thin air after a series of posturing speech”…well that really is mysterious. Fortunately or unfortunately the speeches are usually so anesthetizing that people stop watching and rely on the next day’s headlines to sort out what happened.

Well, this is just a long-winded way of saying that I’m going to devote the lion’s share of this blog to my Congressional campaign. I’ve been planning to run since before I wrote a snarky column about Jim Oberstar last November. To my surprise that column led me to Don Boyd and Don Boyd led me to a historical research project that I can’t really do justice to as a candidate for public office. In fact, because the project seems to involve the fellow I’m trying to unseat my motives must be questioned. But I can’t help myself. I think I’ve stumbled onto a story about how Minnesota’s politics of the late 1960’s and 1970’s was riddled with corrupt practices. This is history which should be investigated by a writer who is not contaminated with political ambition. For the next few weeks the story has to be put on hold. I have ten days to get 1,000 signatures on a petition to put me on the ballot. I also need to start alerting voters to a very interesting 3-way race for Congress. I intend to win if it is at all possible.

As time permits I will continue writing more about Don Boyd’s ruination at the hands of a political machine whose brightest leaders aspired to great nobility. In Watergate’s dark aftermath this machine successfully covered their own misbehavior when threatened with exposure. They did this by sacrificing an innocent scapegoat to federal prison. This at least is what I am beginning to believe took place. Its a story that should be told by someone else but for now I’m the only story teller that Don Boyd has.

Thirty years ago he was smeared so badly that no one, not his friends and probably not even his family, could imagine that he was completely innocent. It is hard to believe but that is what I’m coming to believe. If this is true then I’m deeply offended by this miscarriage of justice. In an odd way this story is a terrible distraction from my Congressional campaign but at the same time its given me a tremendous motivation. Nothing animates me so as a hunt for the truth.

Master of the Senate

One thing I like about air travel is that it gives me a good excuse to read. Today, on the way home from DC, I got three more chapters of Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate read. I’ve only got through 130 pages but already i can see why it got the Pulitizer just like the first book in Caro’s series.

I’d highly recommend the very short introduction to anyone who doesn’t know what Jim Crow America was all about. The first three chapters are a wonderful history of the United State’s Senate. Its far better than anything I’ve ever read about the Congress to explain how it works in theory and in practice. I may not get a good chance to continue reading it again until I jet off to our family’s California reunion a month from now.

Hard to believe that such a crude man as Lyndon Johnson would be the person who through force of will and ambition would be the principal architect in helping the nation finally live up to its original ideals.

How badly did HHH want to be President?

As I write this book its been important to put the times in context. Governor Rudy Perpich was a generation past Humphrey and not particularly in awe of him. I’d always assumed the opposite. A lot of people didn’t take Humphrey seriously at the time. His nickname, “the Happy Warrior” is both fond and dismissive. Certainly he didn’t have LBJ’s famous streak of cruelty. But as this article points out HHH would do what he had to hold his place in line for the Presidency:

“Historians later wrote that Johnson told Hubert Humphrey to “crush the rebellion” and get the MFDP off the front pages, or Humphrey could give up on the idea of ever becoming vice-president. Humphrey instructed fellow Minnesotan and future Vice President Walter Mondale to “suppress the MFDP by any means necessary” and this was accomplished through secret meetings, and false statements, and by using information on the MFDP’s strategy gathered from FBI informants.

Johnson, Humphrey, and Mondale finally offered MFDP to seat two at-large delegates to be selected by Johnson (to ensure Humphrey that Hamer would not be selected). MFDP delegates refused the compromise. Humphrey reportedly pleaded with Hamer (whom he reportedly found “distasteful” because she was poor and uneducated) to accept the compromise so he could become vice president and push civil rights.

Mississippian Rev. Ed King, also a delegate, years later told how Hamer expressed no sympathy for Humphrey’s dilemma:

‘Senator Humphrey. I know lots of people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs for trying to register to vote. I had to leave the plantation where I worked in Sunflower County. Now if you lose this job of vice president because you do what is right, because you help the MFDP, everything will be all right. God will take care of you. But if you take it this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you talk about.'”

Perhaps, as Fannie Lou Hamer predicted, it was just this kind of pusillanimousness that cost HHH the Presidency. He also stuck with LBJ on Vietnam like glue and lost his race with Nixon in 1968. In the process he lost the loyalty of Minnesota Democrats like Rudy Perpich. Further, his better than decade-long ambition for the presidency may also explain much about the events which I’ll be writing about.

The Lying Machine

I just caught the last half of a speech NYTime’s reporter David Halberstram gave at the Kennedy Center a few months ago. It was an excellent history about the military men in Vietnam who were not allowed to tell the truth. Halberstram called it the “lying machine” and it came into existance because domestic politics wouldn’t permit the truth to be told. That’s just what I thought when I was twenty year old and it sounds very familiar today.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the speech was his explanation of how the Red Scare got its legs. He said it  began when the unpopular Truman beat Dewey in 1949 because Dewey had run a civilized campaign. After their the long suffering since the blow out of 1932 Republicans were desperate for some red meat. The 1949 fall of China, the Alger Hiss trials and Stalin’s capture of our Atom Bomb technology were the sparks and they served Republicans very well. As a result both political parties had to out hawk each other to avoid getting trounced. That meant calling the various post-colonial revolutions in the third world a paart of a monolithic communist threat.

Maybe I shouldn’t take monolithic Islam quite so seriously. Most people don’t really like cutting off heads even if they really don’t want you to station your soldiers in their country.

I could almost see becoming a historian

Other than my mile swim I devoted my entire day to reading though old books and newspaper clippings. Seeing them all together through the lens of Don Boyd is almost enough to turn me into a cynic.

I read through a little of Governor Elmer L. Anderson’s autobiography. Elmer was a venerable old Republican and by today’s standards a liberal. He wrote about his smearing by Hubert Humphrey in the phony I35 scandal. It cost him relection to the Governor’s office by about 90 votes in 1966. He saw HHH as a weak man who was too intent on becoming President for his own good. It reminded me of a short column I ran accross a few years ago that quoted Fannie Lou Hamer to the same affect.

Rereading an old Minnesota political history by G. Theodore Mitau, who took Humphrey’s place at Macalester College, I rediscovered a scandal that was first bubbling over when I first moved to Minnesota. Because it threatened my father’s pension plan and involved the Minnesota State Insurance Commissioner I remember it well. My Dad used to investigate insurance companies for the Kansas State Insurance Commissioner and he ended up with a very low opinion of Minnesota’s insurance regulation. Jack Abramoff doesn’t have anything on yesterday’s DFL.

What’s Sauce for the Goose

Regarding my post on Rush Limbaugh a friend emailed me this comment:

Harry…part of your presentation…causes me to think of a possible parallel presentation that would include a picture of Teddy Kennedy, the corpse of Mary Jo Kopechne, the bridge at Chappaquiddick, and a bottle of booze; with the captions, This is your DFL brain, and This is your DFL brain on drugs.  One of my dad’s sayings was that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  However, I prefer total abstention from inappropriate comment, so that there would be no motivation for retaliation in kind.”

I don’t disagree. Nothing infuriated Republicans more during the Chappaquiddik Bridge incident than the absolute unwillingness of Massachusetts Democrats to abandon Teddy Kennedy after his craven act of cowardice. That kind of blind support reminds me of the similar support of “Dittoheads” for Limbaugh and. What’s more, Limbaugh didn’t cause anyone’s death.  Part of the price Kennedy has paid for Chappaquiddick is never being permitted to carry on the Kennedy legacy beyond the Senate. Ironically, he has been a serious Senator since that scandal perhaps to atone for fecklessly throwing away his reputation and Mary Jo’s life. The Democrats have also paid a price. Whenever they wanted to point to Republicans as being anti-women Republicans had only to point to Kennedy and Mary Jo to demonstrate their hypocrisy. Ditto for Clinton and his intern. 

 

 

Bush vs Roosevelt

Newsweek had a great comparison between these two blueblood presidents.

I was a little put off to see that Newsweek’s columnist Jonathon Alter was able to use their space to promote his new book about FDR but the two pages were a good read. Alter’s book maintains what I was told back in highschool forty years ago: that Roosevelt saved both democracy and capitalism.

The article compares how the flexible Roosevelt confronted his crisis and the inflexible Bush confronted his. I appreciated Alter’s insights on how Bush’s kicking alcohol and FDR’s recovering from polio made them very different men.

I’ll have to put his book on the growing list of Presidential bio’s circling my runway.

Did the Founding Fathers lie to Tripoli?

A reader took strenuous issue with my post suggesting that the Founding Fathers did not regard the United States as a “Christian Nation.” Pointing to the many Christian references on our public buildings and tributes to God offered up by our Presidents over the years he challenges this idea as though it were a heresy. His eloquence gives Patrick Henry a run for his money:

“Shall we tear down our public buildings? Shall we melt down the Liberty Bell? Shall we deny our heritage, forsake our history, and profane our honored dead who believed in America’s ideals and followed our founding patriots into the cry “Give me liberty or give me death”, who have delivered to us this nation cemented together in the common belief of the unalienable rights of men granted by the Creator and bought those rights with their blood? I say no. We shall not forget, nor shall we abandon those lofty ideals and that firm reliance on God that has raised us to the wonderful nation that we are.”

This is part of my reply:

“This treaty language written and approved by those very founders is excellent and almost irrefutable evidence that they did not see the United States as a specificially Christian nation. Isn’t that what we would want the people of Iraq to know so that they wouldn’t confuse our intervention with the motivations of the Crusaders?

There is no reason to punish America for reflecting its undeniable Christian heritage by tearing down its public buildings for having God’s name engraved on their walls or smelting the Liberty Bell because it sports a quotation from Leviticus.”

Here were hanged

I got an email yesterday from a student at my old alma mater, Mankato State, which was rechristened Minnesota Univeristy, Mankato. I get such emails once a month or so because someone has stumbled onto my website. Jay stumbled onto my site while researching the now hidden monument to the mass hanging of 36 Sioux Indians in Mankato during the Civil War. It was the greatest mass execution in US History and was quite an attraction for the vengeful and the curious after the “Sioux Uprising.”

The monument, (which looks more like a tombstone) was spashed with red paint representing blood in the early 1970’s at the beginning of the American Indian Movement.

Erected at at time when docile indians were tucked away quietly on their reservations the monument became an embarassment for Mankato in our more enlightened generation. At some point after I left town it was buried by the City of Mankato and has remained hidden like Hitler’s ashes. 

I had written a column called “Here were hanged” a few years ago in response to a letter-to-the-editor complaining that Duluth shouldn’t build a monument to the shameful lynching that took place here in 1921.

Historical forecasting

In my continuing search for a pundit glossary I ran across an interesting article on ranking Presidents in the Opinion Journal. Written just before last year’s election it found that a survey of historians equally balanced between Democrats and Republicans put George W Bush squarely in the middle of the Presidential pack. Of course, it was a little premature. There is no historical distance yet for an objective judgement.

I think Bush’s ranking will decline steadily over time. The year since the election has done nothing to enhance his prospects for a generous appraisal.

Keeping History Straight

I think it was yesterday that I got Howie Hanson’s email blog and was surprised to see Senator Yvonne Prettner Solon accused of voting against the DECC expansion because she had voted for the DFL bonding bill which did not include it. I was going to comment on it here and suggest that she really had to vote for bill and then fight to have the DECC added later. Apparently someone else, Perhaps, Yvonne, pointed this out to Howie. When I went back to check the blog archive all reference to Prettner-Solon’s vote had vanished.

One convenient thing about blogs is that they can be instantly changed. I make changes all the time when I discover some darned typo or realize that my facts are wrong. Unless someone comes in and copies my mistakes to a cache file somewhere I can remove my mistakes at will. Its a little like airbrushing out a pimple.

I still recall the famous pictures of Stalin’s cronies in the before and after the purge photos.

Here’s one with and without Uncle Joe’s 
good natured little executioner, Yezhov.