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Rogan's Recollections

(And an Occasional Historical Observation)

A Future Five-Star General and President Learns How to Campaign--And to March

An anonymous boy is suited up for an 1890s tpolitical torchlight parade


A couple of years before he died, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower published an informal memoir filled with stories of his early life: At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967). As a longtime collector of political campaign memorabilia, I found the passage below of interest.


Writing about his boyhood in Abilene, Kansas, in the 1890s, the future five-star general, World War II hero, and Commander-In Chief shared his first encounter with both marching in formation and a political campaign:


"Somewhere back in that golden time, I had my first experience in a political campaign. I know that some people have always thought that I was not much interested in politics but my debut took place in the fall of 1896, after my entry into grade school. Everybody in school had a button. [Ohio Governor and Republican presidential nominee William] McKinley buttons, bright yellow, predominated because there were few Democrats in the region. Such [Nebraska Congressman and 1896 Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings] Bryan buttons featured the candidate and the figures 16-1.





"Excitement in the town grew rapidly. Many people were concerned about what they called The Gold Standard. Of course this meant nothing to me; I had neither gold nor much concern about it. But it seemed to mean a lot to my elders. Though most of them were of the same party, discussions were both continuous and heated. One evening we learned that a big torchlight parade was to take place.


"Because I was only six, my mother was loath for me to go town to see the parade. Assured by [older Eisenhower brothers] Arthur, now a lordly ten, and Ed, a self-assured eight, that they would take care of me, we started off in the dusk. We were not satisfied to take a place in the middle of the town where the parade would pass. We insisted on going up Buckeye Avenue and into the north end, where it was to start.


"The torches were intriguing. They seemed to be nothing but a rod, and a can of liquid at the end with a wick sticking out. As these were lighted, they threw a smoky flame into the evening air. One was to be carried by each person in the parade, then mustering in a column of fours facing the town. As each torch-lighting took place, it soon became clear that there were more torches than bearers.


"Spying a group of boys standing wide-eyed on the edge of the formation, the parade managers commanded us to come over. We offered no resistance. Each of us was handed a torch and mine was exactly my own height. We were told to shoulder torches, somewhat like shouldering arms. Off we went.


"The town band of a dozen pieces at the head of the procession was supposed to keep us all looking soldierly and marching in cadence. But my short legs presented a problem and the group at the end of the parade was more like a cavorting crowd of lambs. There was a certain amount of disrespectful laughter but we got through the parade in our fashion, with no singed hair and without undoing McKinley. The torches were gathered for return to wherever they had been rented. But my parents missed not only my first appearance in parade formation but my first successful venture into politics. They were among those who were not impressed by the importance of the affair. At least they hadn't taken the trouble to walk the three or four blocks to the parade. It was just as well. There was a tiresome speech underway when my brothers and I took off for home. We wanted to get there before it was too late, for we needed no speeches upon our arrival. Safely concluded, that was one of my few brushes with political life until I found myself drawn into another campaign, half a century later."


Dwight D. Eisenhower, At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967), 74-75.


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A Note on Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL)

I read in today's newspaper that Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL) is expected to announce today that he will retire from Congress after 30 years of service there. Aside from his congressional duties, Bobby is the ordained minister of Chicago's Beloved Community Christian Church of God in Christ. He wants to devote this new season in his life to his church and his ministry.


Bobby and I became acquainted during our service together in the House . It was hard for me to conceive that this soft-spoken, kindly, church pastor was, in the late 1960s, the co-founder of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. He served as the Panthers' defense minister, and in that capacity he urged blacks to take "offensive violence" against the "power structure." (Growing up in San Francisco during this time, I remember the Oakland Black Panthers for their resistance to power—multiple shootouts with police.)


In 2000, Bobby and I talked occasionally about our respective tough reelection campaigns that year. I faced a Democrat challenger in California flogging me for my role in the Clinton impeachment; back in Chicago, Bobby faced a Democrat primary challenger—a legislator decrying Bobby as a relic of the past who was "unable to build bridges" with white officials and "get things done." Bobby and I exchanged reports on occasion about our respective races back home.


Ultimately, I lost my reelection that year, but Bobby prevailed over his upstart primary challenger—


—A young and ambitious Illinois state senator named Barack Obama.


Congratulations on your pending retirement, Bobby, and may God continue to bless you in your ministry. 


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Congressman George Gekas (R-PA), 1930-2021

Signed Photograph of the Thirteen House Managers in the Impeachment Trial of President Bill Clinton, 1999 (Collection of James Rogan)

Remembering my friend and colleague, former Congressman George Gekas (R-PA), who died last week at age 91.


George represented his district from 1983 to 2003. George was one of our 13 House Managers (prosecutors) in the impeachment trial of President Clinton. In that capacity I came to know him well. We worked closely together and I respected him greatly. He was a selfless leader who loved his country and his constituents.


After the Democrat-controlled legislature redistricted him into a Republican-minority district, he lost his reelection in 2002. George felt devastated by the rejection. He didn't show up at his office to pack his things; he failed to return after the election to cast votes in the lame duck congressional session, and he wouldn't return phone calls. When I learned of his severe depression, I called him daily for weeks. Finally, I got him on the line. He told me he felt ashamed to have been turned out of office after 20 years of faithful service, and because of that he didn't want to face anybody at the Capitol. . His voice cracked with emotion as he explained his sorrow. I knew I had to try and cheer him up.


 "Listen, George," I told him, "you won ten consecutive elections because your district knew and loved you. You had a connection to your voters, and it's because they knew you that they wanted you to be their voice in Washington. The only way the Democrats could beat you was to push you into a district where people didn't know you. If that were not the case, you'd be back in Washington for another term. Now take my case: I was my constituents' deputy county prosecutor, municipal court judge, state legislator, and congressman for almost seventeen years. When my heavily Dem district voted me out of office two years ago, it's because they knew me--and they were mad at me for impeaching Clinton. They booted me from office for doing what they disliked. The Democrats didn't need to redistrict me to beat me--but that was the only way they could beat you. They had to move you to an area where people didn't know you. That's a big difference."


George brightened. "You know," he told me, "you're right! I hadn't thought about it that way. Thanks so much, Jim--I feel so much better now!"


"You're welcome, George," I told him. "I'm glad I was able to help. I just have one question for you."


"What's that?" he asked.


I replied: "How come all of the sudden I feel like shit?"


Rest in peace, old friend.


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Senator Bob Dole (1923-2021)

1996 GOP Presidential Nominee Bob Dole with Assembly Majority Leader (and congressional candidate) James Rogan, Glendale CA campaign rally, October 17, 1996

This coming May will be the 50th anniversary of the day I cut classes in high school, took the bus into downtown San Francisco, and snuck into the St. Francis Hotel to hear Kansas Senator Bob Dole, the then-Republican National Committee Chairman, give a speech in support of President Nixon's reelection effort. When he concluded, I hung around for him to leave so that I could shake his hand and get his autograph.



A very blurry snapshot of Senator Bob Dole at left; me (age 14), and

California Lt. Governor Ed Reinecke (right), May 13, 1972

Little did I imagine on that long-ago day that a quarter-century later, as the 1996 Republican presidential nominee, he would fly to California and campaign for me when I was my district's GOP congressional nominee.


Bob failed in his bid to unseat Bill Clinton by almost nine points. That same year he lost my county (Los Angeles County) by a whopping 20 points. Meanwhile, I won election to Congress that same day by squeaking out 50.1 percent of the vote in my Democrat-heavy district. After I moved to Washington, I saw Bob occasionally, and he did several events for me when I ran in each of my later reelection efforts. Whenever I needed any help from him, politically or advice-wise, he always was there.


I asked him in later years why he came to California repeatedly so late in the 1996 race to do rallies like the one he did for me when he knew he couldn't win California. He replied that if he couldn't win there, at least he could try and help the down-ticket candidates. Most nominees running behind would have blown off the loser states—and us. When it came to California in 1996, Bob Dole took one for the team. Because he did, I went to Congress. I'm forever grateful to him.


From that time until his death today at age 98, Bob had been a friend. He was a patriot who loved him country and who sacrificed immeasurably in her service. Even his political enemies came to love him, and the affection was reciprocated.


Rest in peace, thou good and faithful servant.



Senator Bob Dole with a very rookie Congressman James Rogan, February 1997.


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President Abraham Lincoln on "Judicial Supremacy"

"I do not forget the position assumed by some that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court, nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case upon the parties to a suit as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the Government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes." -- Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.

Mayor (later Governor) James Rolph (1869-1934) and the Belgian Order of the Crown

As a boy growing up in San Francisco in the 1950s and 1960s, my grandmother and great-aunt regaled me with the story of how their father (my great-grandfather) was a San Francisco trolley car driver who rode with then-Mayor James Rolph (later California governor) on the inaugural public trolley car ride through the newly-constructed Twin Peaks Tunnel in 1918—and how the happily-celebrating Mayor Rolph was clearly inebriated when he took over the motorman's controls for this festive trip.


This weekend I was reading former President Herbert Hoover's memoirs, and this story of the future president's encounter with Mayor Rolph amused me greatly.


In October 1919, the King and Queen of the Belgians paid a visit to America as guests of the United States government. At the request of the State Department, Hoover (at the time famous for organizing relief for millions of starving Europeans before and during World War I) escorted the King and Queen on their California tour. In his 1952 memoir, Hoover related this story about his visit with the royals to San Francisco:


"Mayor Rolph of San Francisco had called upon me to reveal a personal difficulty [over the royal visit]. He was up for reelection in a few days, and he worried over the effect that consorting with Kings and Queens might have on the South of Market Street vote. I offered to take over the chairmanship of the reception in San Francisco and let him play as large or as small a part as he thought advisable. This was arranged by getting the Governor to appoint me official host. I worked up the program and presided.


"We decided to have a parade escorting the King and Queen up Market Street from the Ferry Building to the City Hall, where the Mayor could make a short address of welcome…. With the help of Army and Navy contingents and their bands, we made a good showing in the parade and, in time, arrived at the City Hall with plaudits from the great crowds. I duly presented the King to the Mayor, who stood on a little platform under the dome of the City Hall. Mr. Rolph at once noticed that all the galleries around the dome were crowded—an opportunity that no good politician would overlook. After a few words of welcome he delivered a few minutes of well-chosen remarks upon our municipal issues and the virtues of the common man. A good time was had by all…. From the City Hall we went to the Palace Hotel, where we had engaged rooms for the King's use prior to a public luncheon in his honor…. I had no sooner returned to the King's rooms than the Mayor descended upon me with the Order of the Crown, second class—glittering star, red ribbon, and all—in his hand, and a troubled look. The King had just put it on him. And the very next day, he was coming up for reelection. He felt certain that if he faced over a thousand people and reporters at a luncheon with this display of feudalism on his breast, he would lose thousands of votes. It was an emergency that called for quick action. I suggested to His Honor that certain European cities had been decorated for valor; Verdun, for example, had received the Croix de Guerre. Why should he not speak at the luncheon, refer to this precedent, and go on to grow eloquent over the great honor conferred on the City of San Francisco? The Mayor thought this a stroke of genius. When he rose to speak, he held up the Order for all to see and in most eloquent terms accepted it on behalf of the city of which he had the honor to be chief magistrate. I sat next to the King, who turned to me and said, sotto voce, and in the colloquialism of his youthful period as an American railroad man: 'What in blank is he talking about?'


"'Pay no attention to the Mayor,' I replied. 'He has his troubles. I'll explain later on.' Which I did. The King was so interested that he asked me to telegraph him the results of the election. I was happy to inform him next night that the Mayor had been retained in office by an unusually handsome majority.


"I had forgotten this episode when later I was called on to serve as a pallbearer at Mr. Rolph's funeral—he died Governor of California."


When looking into Rolph's casket, Hoover saw that pinned to the breast of the late governor's body for his journey into eternity was the Belgian Order of the Crown. -- Herbert Hoover, The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover 1920-1933: The Cabinet and the Presidency (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1952), 7- 9.

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Herbert Hoover and Civility in Politics

(Original Signed Photograph of President Hoover from the Collection of James Rogan)

The 1928 presidential campaign was no different than any other campaign where slurs and mud are flung from both sides. That race pitted Republican Herbert Hoover against Alfred E. Smith. The minions of both campaigns fired baseless charges back and forth as happens in politics. Accusations against Smith (the first Catholic major party nominee) included his supposed secret plan to build a tunnel from Washington to the Vatican so he could take his orders from the Pope; against Hoover was heard the false claim that he was secretly a British citizen planning on taking his orders from King George V.


Despite all this, how refreshing it is to read what Hoover later said about the man he defeated for the presidency:


"Governor Alfred E Smith, the Democratic candidate, was a natural born gentleman. Both of us had come up from the grass roots or the pavements, and from boyhood had learned the elements of sportsmanship. During the campaign he said no word and engaged in no action that did not comport with the highest levels. I paid a natural tribute to him when speaking in New York during the campaign, and he did so to me when speaking in California. In after years, when I was often associated with him in public matters, we mutually agreed that we had one deep satisfaction from the battle. No word had been spoken or misrepresentation made by either of us which prevented sincere friendship the day after the election." -- The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover 1920-1933: The Cabinet and the Presidency (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1952), 198.

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Ulysses Grant on Slavery

Near the end of his life, former President Ulysses S. Grant made a prescient prediction regarding slavery. In his 1885 memoir (published posthumously), he wrote, "The justice of the [Union] cause which in the end prevailed, will, I doubt not, come to be acknowledged by every citizen of the land, in time. For the present, and so long as there are living witnesses of the [Civil War], there will be people who will not be consoled for the loss of a cause which they believed to be holy. As time passes, people, even of the South, will begin to wonder how it was possible that their ancestors ever fought for or justified institutions which acknowledged the right of property in man." -- Ulysses S. Grant, Memoirs and Selected Letters (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1990), 115-116.

Campaign Finance in the Good Old Days

Senator James E. Watson (R-IN)


Last week I posted a quotation I found buried in William Jennings Bryan's published memoir of his campaign as the 1896 Democratic presidential nominee.


This week I read former U.S. Senator James E. Watson's memoir, published in 1936, of his 40 years in Congress. As it turns out, Watson knew Bryan and met him a few times.


Below is an amusing recollection of Bryan that Watson shared publicly 85 years ago. It made me wonder if, in this era of presidential nominees and their political campaigns now raising and spending upwards of a billion dollars for a White House run, maybe we should go back to basics and let them adopt Bryan's manner of raising campaign funds for a presidential run!


Watson (then a U.S. congressman from Indiana) wrote that during Bryan's 1896 campaign as the Democratic presidential nominee, Bryan "charged so much for every speech he made and collected the money on the ground before uttering a word. At Connersville in my [congressional] district, he was paid $200, and at Shelbyville, $225. He caused much difficulty at Rushville, my home town. My law partner was John D. Magee, a member of the Democratic State Central Committee from that district, and from him I learned the real inwardness of the situation.


"When the train carrying Bryan reached Rushville and stopped, he failed to appear, and the great crowd which had assembled kept yelling and shouting for him. It was some considerable time before he descended and went to the temporary stand fixed up for his meeting about 200 feet from the railroad. I afterward learned that his regular price was $150 if he spoke from the rear platform of the railway car, and $200 if he was taken to a platform somewhere else. The Democratic Committee had provided $150 on this occasion, and Bryan refused absolutely to go out to the stand unless the other $50 were paid beforehand. After much wrangling and disputation Magee gave his personal check for the extra $50, and Bryan consented to make the shift. So much of his time had been taken up in quibbling [over the $50 balance] that he made a very short speech, much to the disappointment of all who had swarmed out to hear him, and to the deep chagrin of all the Democrats in the crowd.


"My partner told me all this within an hour after the meeting, and he was very irate over the episode.


"Permit me to remark here, in justice to Colonel Bryan, that he always claimed that the Democrats had been able to collect no money for their campaign, that all the wealthy were arrayed against them, and that the only way cash could be raised was in this manner: that is, by his charging for his speeches."--Watson, James, "As I Knew Them" (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1936), 180–181.

By the way, it was Watson who was credited with first uttering an oft-used comment. When Wendell Willkie won the 1940 Republican presidential nomination, Watson refused to endorse the former Democrat (Willkie had supported Franklin D. Roosevelt previously before Willkie changed parties and challenged Roosevelt for a third term that year). When asked why he refused to endorse his own party's presidential nominee, Watson reportedly replied, "I may welcome a whore into my church, but I don't want him to lead the choir on his first visit there."

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William Jennings Bryan and Civility in Politics

William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), the 1896, 1900, and 1908 Democratic Party's Presidential Nominee


In reading William Jennings Bryan's published account of his campaign as the 1896 Democratic presidential nominee , I am struck by how far afield we have come from what passed at popular sentiment in those days gone by.


In one of his first campaign rally speeches after winning the nomination, Bryan said, "We differ in opinion and we differ in party politics, but we meet today recognizing these differences and yet each charitable toward the other. We were all imbued with the same spirit; we all possess the same ambition; we are all endeavoring to carry out the same great purpose. We all want a government of the people, by the people and for the people. However we may differ as to the means of securing that kind of government, we can differ as honest citizens – apart in judgment but together in purpose. I thank the Republicans who have assembled here; I thank the Populists; and I thank the Prohibitionists as well as the Democrats, because while we dispute about the questions which rise to the surface from time to time and agitate the people, we all agree in those great fundamental principles which underlie our form of government. We believe that all men are created equal – not that they are equal in talents or in virtue or in merit, but that wherever the government comes into contact with the citizen, all must stand equal before the law. We agree in the belief that the government should be no respecter of persons – that its strength must be used for the protection of the fortunes of the great and the possessions of the poor, and that it must stand as an impartial arbiter between citizens. We agree in the belief that there are certain inalienable rights – rights which government did not give, rights which government should not take away. We agree in the belief that governments are instituted among men to secure and to preserve these rights, and that they derive their just powers from the consent of the [governed]. We know no divine right of kings; the people are the sovereign source of all power." -- William J. Bryan, "The First Battle: A Story of the Campaign of 1896" (Chicago: W.B. Conkey Company, 1896), 234.

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Why They Fought and Died Then--And Why They Still Do

General William T. Sherman (1820-1891)

Sixteen years after the end of America's Civil War, General William T. Sherman was greeted by a group of fellow Union Army soldiers during his visit to Mansfield, Ohio. In a brief and impromptu speech to them, he reminded us of the sacrifice made by every citizen who wears the uniform of the United States Armed Forces--and he reminded us of each generation's continuing obligation if we are to preserve our Republic:


"We fought, not for ourselves alone, but for those who are to come after us. The dear old flag we carried through the storm of many battles, ready to die, if need be, that it might still wave over the government of our fathers… Teach your children to honor the flag, to respect the laws, and love and understand our institutions, and our glorious country will be safe with them." General William T. Sherman, July 20, 1881, As quoted in John Sherman, "John Sherman's Recollections of Forty Years in the House, Senate and Cabinet "(Chicago: Werner Company, Popular Edition, 1896), 649–650.

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General Colin Powell (1937-2021)

General Colin Powell and Congressman James Rogan, Washington, D.C. 1997

When Colin Powell died yesterday at 84, he left behind a remarkable legacy as an Army general, war veteran, National Security Advisor, U.S. Secretary of State, best-selling author, and role model to millions. Although our political views did not always mesh, I worked with General Powell on a couple of projects during my time in Washington. I always found him to be bright, insightful, creative, very down to earth, and utterly charming to my family when he invited them to his office for a visit. Despite our policy differences, when I ran my final race for Congress in 2000, he sent my campaign a personal check for $1,000—the maximum amount allowed under the law. I appreciated his friendship and support, I appreciated his lifelong service to our country, and I mourn his passing. Requiem in pace.

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Some Things Never Change

1924 Robert M. La Follette Campaign Poster

When I attended law school in the late 1970s-early 1980s, I stumbled across a 1913 copy of former congressman, Wisconsin governor, U.S. senator, and 1924 Progressive Party presidential nominee Robert M. La Follette's autobiography. I read it 40 years ago; I am rereading it now.

In writing about his three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1885-1891), he penned these words:


"It seems to me now, as I look back upon those [House of Representatives] years, that most of the lawmakers and indeed most of the public, looked upon Congress and the government as a means of getting some sort of advantage for themselves or for their hometowns or home states. River and harbor improvements without merit, public buildings without limit, raids upon the public lands and forests, subsidies and tariffs, very largely occupied the attention of Congressman. Lobbyists for all manner of private interests... crowded the corridors of the capitol and the Washington hotels and not only argued for favorable legislation, but demanded it.... It was easier to grow rich by gifts from the government than by efficient service and honest effort." Robert M. La Follette, A Personal Narrative of Political Experiences (6th edition 1913), pp. 86, 88.

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Senator Adlai E. Stevenson III (1930-2021)

Senators Robert A. Taft, Jr. (R-OH) and Adlai E. Stevenson III (D-IL), 1971 (Photograph by James Rogan)

Nearly fifty years ago (January 13, 1972), I cut school with my brother Pat. We took the bus into downtown San Francisco because I wanted to attend a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing at the Federal Courthouse. I had read that a couple of US Senators would be holding the hearings, and I wanted to see them in person, take their picture, and maybe get a chance to ask their advice on how to enter politics. They were the sons of two legendary 20th Century political leaders: Senator Robert A. Taft, Jr., who was the son of the late Senator (and three-time GOP presidential candidate) Robert A. Taft; and Senator Adlai E. Stevenson III, son of Governor Adlai E. Stevenson, the 1952 and 1956 Democratic presidential nominee. I took this Kodak Instamatic snapshot of Taft and Stevenson during the hearing; they both signed it for me later. Taft died at age 76 on December 7, 1993. Stevenson died two days ago at age 90. Requiescat in Pace.

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Congressman Jerry Lewis (1934-2021)

Remembering my old friend, former Congressman Jerry Lewis, the longest serving Californian to serve in the House of Representatives (34 years), who died on July 15th at the age of 86. At one time the third-ranking Republican in the House, Jerry served as the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. My former constituents who have benefitted from the NASA Science Center at Glendale Community College can thank Jerry for steering the money to the college.

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Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins (1930-2021)

Astronaut Michael Collins and Congressman James Rogan, July 19, 1999

Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, who (along with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) flew into history with mankind's first Moon landing in July 1969, died today of cancer at age 90.


I had the incredible honor of knowing all three Apollo 11 astronauts and also attending with them the private ceremony on the 30th anniversary of their Moon landing. Here is a brief excerpt from my newest book, "Shaking Hands with History: My Encounters with the Famous, the Infamous, and the Once-Famous but Now Forgotten" that tells of my meeting Collins for the first time. It was at the funeral service for Apollo 12 astronaut Pete Conrad at Arlington National Cemetery, which coincidentally was the day before Apollo 11's 30th Moon landing anniversary. After the chapel and graveside service, we were at a private reception for guests following the burial:


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The Conrad family hosted a reception for invited guests at nearby Spates Hall, located a few hundred feet from the chapel. All three of the Apollo 11 crew members attended: Armstrong and Collins stood alone in quiet, private conversation, while Aldrin and his wife moved through the buffet line.


It was there that I met Collins. "Congressman Rogan, I know you by reputation quite well," he said as he walked over and shook my hand, leaving me flattered that he knew me. I told him I could prove I was a longtime admirer: on my first trip to Washington as a teenager I wandered back and forth throughout the public floors of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum. "I knew you were the museum director at the time," I explained, "so I was hoping to get a glimpse of you in person!"


Collins laughed. "You should have just knocked on my office door!" Then, with a sigh, he added, "That was a long time ago. Now I spend most of my time down in Florida where I live."


As the reception wound down, it was time for me to return to the Capitol. I was leaving when Aldrin grabbed my elbow. "See you at the breakfast tomorrow morning?" he asked. I told him that I would not miss that event for anything. Tomorrow's "breakfast" was a private NASA reception at the Air and Space Museum commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. Originally only crew members Aldrin and Collins planned to attend. Now, with Armstrong in town for the funeral and staying overnight, all three Apollo 11 members would reunite on the historic anniversary. And, thanks to NASA's congressional liaison office, I had one of the hottest breakfast tickets in town.


For a space and history buff, it promised to be the photo op of a lifetime.

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G. Gordon Liddy (1930-2021)

Congressman James Rogan and G. Gordon Liddy, 1997

G. Gordon Liddy, the unrepentant Watergate burglar who oversaw the burglary operation that brought down Richard Nixon's presidency, died yesterday at age 90.


In my newest book, "Shaking Hands with History," I have a chapter reflecting on the many players I met who were involved in the Watergate scandal, and the stories that they shared with me about their roles. Below is an excerpt of this chapter (now updated) that tells of my encounter with the "G-Man," G. Gordon Liddy:


* * *


I was a freshman congressman in 1997 when a Washington producer for a radio talk show called and invited me for an in-studio interview with the host, G. Gordon Liddy, the former head of the Nixon White House's so-called "Plumbers Unit"—a group of political operatives tasked with investigating enemies and plugging press leaks. Would I be willing to appear?


Hell, yes.


I arrived at the WJFK studio a few minutes before my segment began. While waiting in the control room I watched Liddy at the microphone excoriating liberals, squishy Republicans, and any number of my colleagues he deemed cowardly for voting for various government expansions. During a commercial break, the producer escorted me into the broadcast booth and introduced me to Liddy. He welcomed me, asked an assistant to get me coffee, and then he directed me to put on the pair of nearby headphones. The director threw him the cue and we went live on the air.


We did a couple of segments covering various current issues, none of which I remember now. When my interview ended, I took off my headphones as he broke for news and a round of commercials. While off the air he thanked me for coming, and as we said goodbye I told him, "I know that there are a lot of G-Man fans [Liddy's radio nickname], but I think these make me the original." Then I handed him two old letters that he wrote to me from his prison cell when I was a teenager in the 1970s. As he read them, his face registered shock.


"I sent these to you?"


Yes, I told him. I felt his sentence unfair and I wrote and told him so. I also offered to send him magazines or cigarettes if he needed them. Liddy had written me those two letters from prison thanking me for my kindnesses to a prisoner.


Putting down the letters, he exclaimed, "I just can't believe this," and then he asked me to put back on the headphones. He held me over for another few segments while he read the letters to his audience, and then he had me recount the circumstances of our correspondence. He seemed genuinely moved by the letters, and his gratitude overflowed.


When our interview ended finally, the show broke for a final commercial. He embraced me, shook my hand enthusiastically, and told me, "You always have a home at this station. I'm here for you—no matter what."


"Gordon, given the mysterious legends that surround you, I am very glad to have you for me instead of against me."


Still gripping my hand, he leaned in close and locked his dark, intense eyes on mine. "You can count on it, my friend. I'm here for you for anything."


A few weeks after our interview, he sent me two signed photos taken of us. My favorite was the one on which he wrote, "When Jim Rogan speaks the G-Man listens!" I called and thanked him for his thoughtfulness. During our conversation, I got in a Watergate question that I had wanted to ask during our interview, but the opportunity never arose: with the burglary in progress, how did he learn that the jig was up?


"When McCord and the Cubans [the other four burglars] went in, I was in a nearby hotel monitoring the operation," he told me. "I stayed in communication with both the burglars inside the DNC offices and with the lookouts watching for police from across the street.


"At one point my lookout asked me if any of our Cubans were dressed like hippies. I told him no. 'Well,' he said, 'there are guys in the building dressed like hippies and they're carrying guns. They're moving upstairs to the offices.' That's when I knew that undercover police had arrived and that we had been compromised. I tried to radio the Cubans to tell them to abort the operation and get the hell out of there, but they had turned down their radios and couldn't hear my warnings. After a few tense minutes, I heard the voice of one of the Cubans over my radio. He whispered, 'They got us.'


"When Baldwin [Alfred C. Baldwin III, a lookout] radioed to me that police were converging around the building, I took as much of our electronics gear out of my command post that I could carry. The next day I went to my office at the Committee to Reelect the President and shredded everything, including a stack of consecutively serial-numbered $100 bills."


I asked how much it worried him that an accomplice might implicate him in the crime once the police arrested the burglars and foiled the operation. He replied, "Late that night, when I finally got home, my wife was in bed asleep. She awakened and asked me what kind of day I had. I told her, 'Not so good,' and that I might be going to jail." When I asked how she reacted to the stunning news, he laughed and said, "You know, I really don't remember. After I told her that, I climbed into bed, and I went right to sleep."


* * * * *


Aside from his two decades as a syndicated radio talk show host, G. Gordon Liddy's post-prison career included best-selling author, popular lecture circuit habitué, television and motion picture actor, and founder of a counter-surveillance firm. I appeared on his radio show a couple of times more, with the last time in 2012. During that final interview, he sounded old and tired, and his edginess was gone. Retiring soon afterward, he died of natural causes at age 90 on March 30, 2021.

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Larry King (1933-2021)

CNN's Larry King Live with Congressman James Rogan, 2000

During my Washington years I appeared several times on the Larry King Live show on CNN. What I always appreciated about his interviewing style is that he asked a question, and then he listened while you answered. He didn't jump in, talk over you, or try to make himself part of the story. I suspect that accounts for why he had a successful 50-year career in broadcasting. He died on January 23 at age 87.

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Hank Aaron (1934-2021)

Congressman James Rogan and Hank Aaron, 1999

I was saddened to see that one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Hank Aaron, died just a few days shy of his 87th birthday. I met Hammerin' Hank a couple of times; this photo was taken of us at the US Capitol in 1999. Back then a few of my congressional colleagues and I held a private reception for him to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the day he broke Babe Ruth's home run record.


The stories surrounding these encounters (and many, many other subjects) are in my newest book released last month, "Shaking Hands With History."

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Secretary of State George Shultz (1921-2021)

Former Secretary of State George Shultz and California State Assembly Majority Leader James Rogan, 1996

George Shultz served his country in World War II as a Marine Corps artillery captain. He went on to serve America in three cabinet positions: Secretary of Labor and Secretary of the Treasury under Richard Nixon, and later as Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State. The Associated Press reported that, "as Secretary of State in the 1980s he shaped U.S. foreign policy in the closing phase of the Cold War when a dangerous nuclear-armed stalemate gave way to peaceful — if not quite cordial — relations between the superpowers." He died yesterday at age 100. It was a privilege knowing this titan of politics, government, business, and economics, and I remain grateful that he joined Speaker Newt Gingrich in campaigning for me in my district during my 1996 congressional campaign.

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Los Angeles Dodgers' Manager Tommy Lasorda (1927-2021)

Former California Governor George Deukmejian giving a haircut to former L.A. Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda

I'm saddened to learn of the death last night of Los Angeles Dodgers legend Tommy LaSorda at age 93. Tommy was close friends with another California icon, former Governor George Deukmejian (1928-2018), the governor who first appointed me to the bench over 30 years ago. In fact, both men used to go together for their haircuts at their favorite barber's.


A few years ago, the governor decided to surprise me with a gift. He had Tommy pose for this picture of the governor giving the ballplayer a haircut. He and Tommy signed it for me, and then the governor presented it to me.

Today seems an appropriate day to publish the photograph for the first time.


Requiescat in pace to both of these great gentlemen.

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General Chuck Yeager (1923-2020)

General Chuck Yeager visiting me during my tenure as Majority Leader of the California State Assembly, 1996

In memory of one of the world's greatest pilots and one of America's great heroes, General Chuck Yeager, who died today at age 97.

A combat pilot becomes an air "ace" after five confirmed enemy kills. During aerial combat with German planes in World War II, Yeager accomplished that feat in a single day. After the war, in 1947, he entered aviation's pantheon when he became the first test pilot in history to break the speed of sound. 

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Here Comes the Judge

Thirty years ago today—My first tour of duty as a state court judge thanks to one of California's greatest governors, George Deukmejian, who appointed me to the Municipal Court of California, Glendale Judicial District, on this date in 1990.


The Way They Used to Make 'Em

During this presidential election season I thought my fellow Californians might enjoy seeing the newest addition to my political memorabilia collection. This is from California's gubernatorial election of 1918--102 years ago. It depicts two governors (one current and one future). William D. Stephens served during World War I (as indicated on the card) from 1917 to 1923. C.C. Young later served as governor from 1927 to 1931. They just don't make campaign items with such great graphics as they did in this lost era.

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Congressman Sam Johnson (1930-2020)

Remembering today the courage and sacrifice of my friend and former House colleague, Sam Johnson (R-TX), who died last week at age 89. A former POW who spent almost 7 years in the "Hanoi Hilton," Sam's crippled fingers bore daily witness to the brutal physical torture he underwent while serving his country. He was a true gentleman and a great statesman, and I will always remember his support and kindnesses shown me.


This photograph was taken in Pasadena, CA during the waning days of my 2000 reelection campaign, when Sam came to my district (along with several other colleagues) to campaign for me.


From left: Sam, Congressman Duke Cunningham (the first "ace" fighter pilot in the Vietnam War whose military career was the inspiration for Tom Cruise's movie "Top Gun"--Duke later went to prison for bribery), me, Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona, and Congressman (now Arkansas Governor) Asa Hutchinson.

Congressman John Conyers (1929-2019)

My former colleague on the House Judiciary Committee during the Clinton impeachment, John Conyers (D-MI)--the founder of the Congressional Black Caucus--died this morning at age 90. After serving almost 53 years in Congress (1965-2017), he resigned two years ago under unhappy circumstances relating to previous sexual harassment allegations.


Despite our vast political differences, I had a wonderful relationship with John, which I related in my 2011 book, "Catching Our Flag: Behind the Scenes of a Presidential Impeachment." It showed how my boyhood hobby of collecting political memorabilia created a friendship between us. The story is excerpted below:


In the world of veteran congressmen, they just didn't come much grumpier than John Conyers.


Republicans disliked the cranky senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and the feelings appeared to be mutual. First elected to the House in 1964, the 69-year-old Michigan liberal knew that the only thing now standing between him and the chairman's gavel was a switch of six Republican House seats to the Democratic column. John waited a long time for this chairmanship, so it wasn't surprising that he brushed off Republican gatecrashers responsible for displacing him.


None of that mattered to me. As a teenager, I sat spellbound watching the 1973-1974 televised Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings against President Nixon. Now, 24 years later, John remained the last Watergate member still serving on the committee. As a lifelong political junkie, I longed to hear him share his first-hand account of that historic period. Yet whenever I tried talking to him, he offered me little more than a discontented grunt.


I formulated a plan to crack through his unresponsiveness. Having collected old political campaign memorabilia since the age of ten, I knew from experience that most politicians never save their own campaign items, and years later they regret it. While serving in my state legislature, I created a wealth of bipartisan goodwill giving colleagues items from my collection. Determined to find an icebreaker with John, I rummaged through my collection for a relation-building opportunity.


The next time I saw John sitting alone on the House floor, I invited myself to join him. Before he could run me off, I asked if he remembered doing a campaign rally with Senator Edward Kennedy in Michigan almost 30 years earlier. He said he had thought about it just the other day: "This was back when everyone believed Ted Kennedy would be the next president," John said. "It was the biggest rally I ever had in my district!" I asked John if he remembered seeing yellow campaign badges there with the legend, "The People's Choice in 1972: Edward Kennedy for President - John Conyers for Vice President."


"I remember those badges!" John said excitedly. "In fact, I wanted my staff to save me one, but they never did."


Before John could ask his next obvious question ("How do you know about that badge?"), I reached into my pocket. "I saved one for you, John." Pressing the badge into his hand, I smiled and walked away.


My childhood passion forged a new friendship.


John's later kindness toward me caused more than a few raised eyebrows at my maiden appearance as a member of the House Judiciary Committee [after the Monica Lewinsky story broke and the nation geared up for a possible presidential impeachment--partisan tensions were already at the breaking point by this time]. On March 3, 1998, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), another new committee member, and I attended our first hearing. As the senior Republican, Chairman Hyde drew the duty of making the welcome speech for Lindsey and me. After Henry finished and then called up the first bill, John Conyers interrupted unexpectedly: "Mr. Chairman, will you yield to me?"


Everyone looked around nervously. "Here it comes," remarked a congressman seated behind me. Republicans hunkered down for another Conyers partisan tirade. Instead, jaws dropped as John made a lovely speech embracing my membership on Judiciary. As he extolled my virtues, Republican members began eyeing me suspiciously. Even Henry looked baffled. To make things worse, after John finished praising me, he gazed icily at Lindsey and remarked, "Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time."


Rest in peace, John. 

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Apollo 11--Fifty Years Ago Today

Today marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, becoming the first men to set foot on the Moon.


As an 11-year old boy, I watched them take those historic first steps on an old black-and-white Magnavox TV with my great aunt, Della Glover, who was born before the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk. To watch space history made with someone whose life predated manned flight added to the thrill and appreciation of the moment.

Little did I dream that on the 30th anniversary of those historic steps, July 20, 1999, I would spend the day with Neil and Buzz, along with their command module pilot Mike Collins, at a private reception for them at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, and later at NASA's DC headquarters.


The small Apollo 11 flag on the NASA certificate was flown in space on the Space Shuttle Columbia on the 25th anniversary of the Moon landing. July 20, 1994. The director of NASA presented the flag to me five years earlier. On the 30th anniversary, I had both Neil and Buzz autograph and date it for me. It remains one of my treasured mementos.


God bless our Apollo 11 crew, and God bless America--the nation that conquered the Moon.

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Remembering Senator Birch Bayh (1929-2019)

One of the U.S. Senate's most prominent liberals of the 1960s and 1970s, Birch Bayh (D-IN, 1963-1981) died today of pneumonia at age 91.


Twice a candidate for president (1972 and 1976), he authored two constitutional amendments: the Twenty-Fifth (presidential succession) and the Twenty-Sixth (giving 18-year olds the vote), which gave him the distinction of being the only non-Founding Father to have authored two constitutional amendments.


News of Birch's death leaves me deeply saddened. It might seem odd that a conservative former GOP congressman would mourn (in the eyes of most other conservatives) a liberal bogeyman, but I do.

In 2001, a couple of months after I left Congress and became a partner in the Maryland-based law firm of Venable LLP, I was asked to help form a government relations practice. As I sifted through resumes, one came across my desk that caught my eye—former Senator Birch Bayh, who was by then out of office for two decades, in his mid-70s, and desirous of leaving his current law firm and joining us.


We set up a "meet-and-greet" breakfast for him, which was very pleasant but somewhat formal. It was a chance for a few of my partners to get a feel for whether we wanted to pursue further discussions with the former lawmaker, and for him to size up our firm. All went well that morning, but when breakfast was over, he approached me and asked if we might meet privately before he left. I invited him to my office down the hall.


We sat alone and he said to me, "Congressman, may I be candid with you? I know you are a hard-core conservative, and you know that I am a hard-core liberal. I'm also an old man, so I am asking you to do me a personal favor. If you plan to veto my joining the firm because of our political disagreements, would you be kind enough to tell me right now? At my age I really don't want to go through a series of interviews with the other practice groups if it is all going to be for nothing. I won't take it personally, and in fact, I would respect your position if that is what you feel you need to do."


"Senator," I replied, "I don't know why, but for some reason I had a feeling that might be a concern for you. Maybe this will answer your question." I opened my desk drawer, retrieved a manila envelope, and handed it to him. He opened it and pulled out a dark Kodak snapshot (dark because the flashbulb failed) from August 1971 – – 30 years earlier. It was a photograph taken of him signing an autograph for me when I was in junior high school. Also in the envelope was a letter he had written me 30 years earlier thanking me for my interest in his upcoming presidential campaign, and sending me an autographed photograph.


"Birch," I smiled, "I'm your original fan! Does that answer your question?"


Birch stood up, came around my desk, and threw a bear hug around me. From that moment, we were the best of friends. We hired Birch, he became my law partner, and I was thrilled when he asked to have the office directly next to mine.


In time, the firm wanted to separate our offices, because whenever he and I didn't feel like billing hours (which was often), we would wander into each others' offices and talk about politics—especially the politics of the tumultuous 1960s. Almost always Birch did the talking and I was his eager listener and student.


Far too many times I wandered into Birch's office, plopped down on his couch, and threw out questions such as, "Hey Birch, when you were first running for the Senate in 1962 and John F. Kennedy came out to campaign for you in Indiana, and then he cut short his appearance because he said he had a cold and flew back to Washington, did you have any inkling that he was really heading back because he had gotten word that the Soviets had put missiles in Cuba at the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis?" Then I would sit back for the next couple of hours and listen to Birch regale me with stories, all of which I loved and absorbed.


During our time together Birch was a fountain of political history, and I relished his first-person accounts of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Hubert Humphrey, Everett Dirksen--the yarns were endless, and so was my delight.


Christine and I moved home to California 15 years ago. I stayed in touch with Birch for many years, but as he grew older the contacts became less frequent. When he died this week, all of my memories of that warm, friendly, and lovable Hoosier flooded back. Regardless of party, America lost a gifted and tenacious legislator, and a patriot who loved his country deeply.


And I lost a pal. Requiescat in pace.



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Clinton Impeachment Trial: 20 Years Later

Twenty years ago this evening, February 8, 1999, I delivered my closing argument before the United States Senate on live worldwide television in the impeachment trial of President Clinton.


For reasons explained on pages 390-398 of my book, "Catching Our Flag: Behind the Scenes of a Presidential Impeachment," the closing argument I prepared - - and the closing argument I gave at the very last minute -- ended up differently. In later weeks and months my congressional staff began teasing me about "The Lost Closing Argument" that I intended to give (later I lamented my brash act of jettisoning it) to deliver a mostly extemporized version.


To salve my continuing regrets, in 1999 my campaign committee surprised me by printing up a large supply of 8-page glossy brochures of the "lost" closing argument.


This weekend I found a stack of them in my garage. They are vintage and original items from my last congressional race and distributed to fans and supporters between 1999 and 2000.


I will be happy to send a free original of one of these brochures (signed or unsigned) to anyone who might like it--so long as you send me a self-addressed return envelope with sufficient postage (two stamps without cardboard). They are about 5x7 in size, so you will need to send an envelope large enough to accommodate the brochure. Mail to my webmaster at P.O. Box 33, Yorba Linda CA 92885, and it will reach me.



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President George H.W. Bush (1924-2018)

Of the millions of dollars I raised in my final campaign for reelection to Congress back in 2000, this was the one check I never could bring myself to cash--and after he stuffed it into my pocket I told him so. Then he insisted on writing me a second check that I would cash (I told him if he did, it would just end up framed on the wall along with this one).


In memory of a great patriot who became a cherished friend to my entire family.

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The Palomino Club, North Hollywood CA

Earlier this week, and for one night only, the world famous Palomino Club--along with the Grand Ole' Opry it was America's premiere country western venue--reopened for a museum fundraiser in its original North Hollywood location. The Palomino closed its doors almost a quarter century ago.


For me it was a trip back in time. I bartended there 1979-1982 while a law student at UCLA. It brought back a flood of memories stepping inside that cavernous old hall one last time.


To commemorate the occasion I wore my original Palomino Club jersey. The last time I wore it I was 25, and it was the last night I bartended there. Today I'm 61--and it still fits!


Thanks to the Valley Relics Museum for making this wonderful memory for the hundreds who joined me this week.



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Senator John McCain (1936-2018)

During my service in Congress, I had my differences with John McCain (as did every other Republican), who died yesterday at age 81. Still, I never forgot that he helped in my reelection--even when we did a joint press conference and I criticized his signature McCain-Feingold campaign finance proposal while he stood at my elbow (that explains the grimace on his face in this photograph).


He was an American original and a true war hero. Requiem in pacem.

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The 1968 Presidential Campaign 50 years Ago Today: Senator Robert Kennedy Dies

From the Collection of James Rogan

"So my thanks to all of you – and now it's on to Chicago, and let's win there." – Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, 12:15 a.m., June 5, 1968


The most tragic part of the story is that he was not supposed to go that way. The pantry was a last-second decision. His staff had earlier prompted him to turn to his right when he finished his victory speech, exit through the ballroom crowd, do a quick press conference next door, and then leave for a private party at a nearby discothèque to celebrate his presidential primary victory.

On countless occasions over the last 50 years I have seen the film of that speech. Now, whenever it airs, I no longer watch the jubilant candidate. My eyes always drift to the right corner of the footage. It is where I know there are two unobtrusive swinging doors behind the curtain and off to the side of the stage.


"And now it's on to Chicago. …" Bobby flashed a thumbs-up and V-for-victory sign, brushed aside a lock of hair, and then moved to his right to exit the stage as prearranged. That was the plan.


And then it happens:


"This way, Senator …"


Eyeing the thick crowd through which the candidate's entourage must navigate to attend the press conference, a well-meaning aide called to his boss, "This way, Senator …" RFK stopped, pivoted and backtracked toward the voice calling to his left. Kennedy's staff had a standby plan if the throng was too dense: Exit behind the stage backdrop curtain, pass through the two swinging doors, and cut through the kitchen pantry.


Every time I see that footage and hear the aide call to him, I find myself pleading silently: Press on through the crowd – don't go into the pantry.


But he always does.


Shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, Robert Kennedy stood before 1,500 cheering supporters in the Embassy Room at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. There he declared victory over Sen. Eugene McCarthy in a hard-fought California primary battle for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination. A few minutes later, Kennedy closed his speech with these words: "So my thanks to all of you – and now it's on to Chicago, and let's win there." Kennedy exited the stage, went through the swinging doors and walked halfway across the short pantry. As he stopped to shake hands with a teenage busboy, a young drifter stepped from behind a serving table, raised his pistol and fired. His first shot struck Kennedy behind the right ear and crashed through his brain.


Ironically, one of Kennedy's surgeons from that night said years later that if the fatal shot had struck just a centimeter off, Kennedy would have recovered and resumed his campaign. Because it did not, 50 years ago today Robert Kennedy died at age 42, leaving behind a pregnant widow and 10 young children.


He left behind something else. Because millions of voters that year – those who loved and hated him – were denied the final judgment of their ballots, his death left a gaping hole in political history.

I was finishing the fifth grade in June 1968. As a 10-year-old boy, I had already developed what would remain a lifelong fascination for American history and politics, and I followed that year's presidential campaign the way other boys my age followed baseball statistics.


As I related in a previous column, our teacher that year, Miss Firpo, encouraged those interests. In the weeks leading up to the end of the 1968 primary season, she had us studying the campaigns of the White House contenders. Living in California brought added excitement to the race: our state's June 4 presidential primary was touted as the one that might well decide the Democratic contest (there was no meaningful GOP primary in California that year). Miss Firpo let us decorate the classroom with campaign posters and bumper stickers for our favorite candidates.


On the morning of the primary, we boys were betting our best baseball cards on who would win. That evening I stayed up late watching the lead between Kennedy and his California opponent, Sen. Eugene McCarthy, seesaw back and forth. As midnight neared, and as I struggled to stay awake, McCarthy appeared before his supporters, conceded his narrow defeat and vowed to continue his campaign for the presidential nomination all the way to Chicago's Democratic National Convention that August. I kept the TV on a while longer and watched as the coverage now cut across town, where camera crews broadcast live images of the excited crowd at the Ambassador Hotel awaiting RFK's victory speech.


Shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, a beaming Kennedy and his wife stepped before their cheering supporters. After making a brief speech of thanks, he made a plea for party unity, and then he closed with his "on to Chicago" pledge.


As Bobby and his entourage made their way off the stage, I turned off the TV, climbed into bed and fell fast asleep.


The next morning, as I got ready for school, my classmate Mike Dittman called and asked if I had heard about Kennedy. Yes, I told him, I knew Kennedy had won. When Mike broke the news of what had happened moments after I turned off the television, I couldn't believe it. I turned on a new household novelty – our first-ever color television – and watched the news broadcasts replay unendingly the footage of the fallen candidate, his head resting in a spreading pool of maroon blood.


I had never seen anything so graphic or so tragic.


In class that morning, as Kennedy's life ebbed away, yesterday's friendly Kennedy vs. McCarthy schoolyard rivalry gave way to confusion and profound sadness. Miss Firpo tried to comfort her students seated in a room still decorated with a dozen Kennedy posters. I remember looking at Bobby's picture gazing down on us from those posters as she spoke, his black-and-white image frozen with a half-smile. Yesterday that image suggested confidence. Now it bore the haunting aura of death.

Today, on what is the 50th anniversary of Robert Kennedy's assassination, I still reflect on what his neurosurgeon said: The shot that killed him was a fluke. Had it been just a fraction to the right, it is likely he would have survived. Since reading of that sad irony decades ago I have often wondered – what if someone in that crowded pantry had shouted a warning and Bobby flinched – even slightly? What if something – anything – had deviated that bullet's fatal trajectory? What if millions of voters didn't lose their hopes in a pool of blood on a concrete pantry floor? What if he had survived his wound?


What if Bobby had gone on to Chicago?


That is the premise of my new book, which was released yesterday: "On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968." In it I make a historian's best effort to answer that "what if?" question – based on facts, not on romanticism or wishful thinking. It is, technically, a work of historical fiction – but it is far more heavy on the history as opposed to the fiction.


Childhood Camelot sentimentalities notwithstanding, the ensuing years have long ago disabused me of the notion that Bobby Kennedy was a saint. In fact, as one who (30 years after his death) went on to serve as a conservative Republican in Congress – and as one of the prosecutors who helped lead the impeachment of President Clinton – RFK was hardly a political role model for me. Had I served with him back then, I would have opposed him politically – and there is a decent chance I would have disliked him personally for his legendary traits of expediency and ruthlessness.


Still, in that frenetic 85 day presidential campaign of 1968, Bobby Kennedy did more than capture a fifth-grade boy's attention: He helped ignite a lifelong passion for public service. In the end, that is the lasting legacy of any great political leader – the ability to motivate both his own and the next generation.


That was RFK's gift to many of the idealistic youths of yesteryear who remain of my now-graying generation. I hope that, in my new book, I have repaid the gift in one small way: For better or for worse, he will finish his journey.


Through the marriage of the author's pen and the readers' imagination, half a century later, Robert Francis Kennedy will go on to Chicago.

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The 1968 Presidential Campaign 50 Years Ago Today: Senator Robert Kennedy is Shot and Mortally Wounded

Dinner program autographed by Senator Robert F. Kennedy, May 10, 1968 (James Rogan Collection)

(Excerpted from James Rogan's 2018 book, On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968)  


I was finishing the fifth grade in the spring of 1968. Although only a 10-year-old boy, no political pundit awaited the start of that presidential campaign year more eagerly than I. Since Ronald Reagan's election to our state's governorship, I had developed an unquenchable fascination for American history and politics, and 1968 would be my first national election to follow with great passion.


My elementary school teacher, Miss Firpo, encouraged these interests. In the weeks leading up to the end of the primary season, our class studied the campaigns of the major White House contenders. On the Democratic side were Vice President Hubert Humphrey (who entered the race after President Johnson dropped out – too late to file for any primaries), and the two "peace" candidates, Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy, both of whom ran in opposition to the Johnson administration's Vietnam War escalation. On the Republican side, the presidential nomination looked like it was former Vice President (and GOP front-runner) Richard Nixon's to lose. The Nixon campaign chugged through the primaries and swept almost every one, but along the way they kept a wary eye on Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Reagan – both of whom stood in the wings looking to exploit any Nixon slippage before the Republican convention.

Living in California brought added excitement to the race: Our state's June 4 primary was touted as the one that might well decide the Democratic presidential contest. Humphrey wasn't on the ballot, but for Kennedy and McCarthy, California might well prove "make or break." After losing the Oregon primary to McCarthy a week earlier, Kennedy said he would drop out of the race if he suffered a back-to-back defeat in California.


Miss Firpo urged us to visit the campaign headquarters of our favorite candidates and bring back posters and stickers to decorate the classroom. I rooted for McCarthy only because Cheryl Briones, the freckle-faced girl on whom I had a secret crush, was for him. We were in the minority; most of the kids at Fairmont Elementary School in Pacifica were going "All the Way with RFK," and an overabundance of Bobby Kennedy posters dominated our classroom walls.


On primary day, we boys were betting our best baseball cards on who would win. That morning, and as a joke, my classmate Mike Dittman (an ardent RFK fan) pinned to my coat a blue Kennedy badge. I yanked off the contraband button and stuffed it into my pocket before Cheryl saw it and thought me a traitor to the cause.


That evening I stayed up late watching the lead between Kennedy and McCarthy seesaw back and forth. In between election returns I channel-surfed to the baseball game and watched snippets of Dodgers superstar Don Drysdale make history by pitching his sixth straight shutout, which broke the record held since 1904.


As midnight neared, and as I struggled to stay awake, McCarthy appeared in the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton hotel, conceded his narrow defeat and vowed to continue his campaign for the presidential nomination all the way to Chicago's Democratic National Convention that August. Feeling deflated at Cheryl's and my loss, I kept the TV on a while longer. The election coverage now cut across town, where camera crews broadcast live the excited crowd at the Ambassador Hotel awaiting RFK's victory speech.


And so, 50 years ago today, shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, a beaming Kennedy and his wife stepped before 1,500 cheering supporters in the Embassy Room of Los Angeles' Ambassador. After making a brief speech of thanks – and tossing in congratulations to local hero Drysdale, Bobby made a plea for party unity, and then he closed with these final words:


"My thanks to all of you, and now it's on to Chicago, and let's win there."

Bobby smiled and waved, gave a V-for-victory salute, and then made his way off the stage.


Deflated by my first taste of political defeat, I turned off the portable black-and-white TV my mother let me keep in my room for this special night, climbed into bed and fell fast asleep. I had never before stayed up past midnight on a school night, and I nodded off knowing that I would have deep regrets about going to bed so late when the morning came.


But in that moment, I had no conception of how overwhelming tomorrow's regrets would be, or that the pain of the morning would remain – half a century later.

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The 1968 Presidential Campaign 50 Years Ago Today: Senator Eugene McCarthy Upsets Senator Robert Kennedy in the Oregon Presidential Primary

Photograph autographed for James Rogan by Senator Eugene McCarthy, 1969

(Excerpted from James Rogan's 2018 book, On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968)



It was supposed to be easy.


By late 1967, with the Vietnam War raging for over three years, antiwar activists sought to recruit an intraparty challenger to the incumbent president they blamed for the conflict, Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, in his expected 1968 re-election bid. Their favored candidate to take on Johnson for renomination, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (brother of the slain president and the man who selected Johnson as his vice president in 1960) repeatedly refused to run, telling advisers LBJ was unbeatable. After burning through a list of second-string potential challengers – all of whom turned down their entreaties – the activists found only one taker – Eugene McCarthy, a virtually unknown U.S. Senate backbencher who preferred writing poetry to the glad-handing world of politics.


McCarthy's candidacy drew a yawn from the political establishment. Demonstrating his nonconformist reputation at his announcement press conference, when a reporter asked why he wanted to be president, McCarthy corrected him: "I didn't say I wanted to be president. I'm willing to be president." Taken aback by that answer, another reporter asked what kind of president he would make. McCarthy replied, "Oh, I'd be adequate." During the lead-up to his first primary confrontation with LBJ, McCarthy's most favorable poll showed the president clobbering him 3-to-1 (one poll showed LBJ drubbing him 10-to-1).


Still, there was attraction to McCarthy's unconventional style. During his six week seemingly impossible New Hampshire primary race, college students across America drawn to his antiwar message and his aura of integrity hitchhiked or rode buses to the Granite State to volunteer. On primary day, McCarthy rocked the establishment by coming within 200 votes of outpolling Johnson statewide.


During the preceding weeks, Robert Kennedy and his team never viewed McCarthy as a serious contender. They believed, along with most others, that McCarthy could never provide Johnson any meaningful opposition. Besides, according to Kennedy senior campaign aide Richard Goodwin, they all knew that if Kennedy later changed his mind and entered the race, McCarthy would step aside for him. After the New Hampshire shock, and with LBJ stripped of his invincibility cloak, Kennedy reversed course and jumped into the race for the Democratic nomination. McCarthy, who challenged Goliath when nobody else would, refused to yield. His supporters viewed Kennedy's earlier and repeated refusals to run against Johnson as cowardly, and his sudden entry following their man's stunner as an opportunistic and selfish act guaranteeing to split the peace vote.



A second political shock came two weeks after New Hampshire. Facing more humiliation from a likely outright win over him by McCarthy in the upcoming Wisconsin primary, Johnson announced he would not seek re-election. This set the stage for Vice President Hubert Humphrey's entry into the race a month later as the administration's Vietnam defender. Since Humphrey declared too late to file for any primary, Kennedy and McCarthy scrambled for votes in those handful of states selecting delegates in the 1968 primaries.

According to historian Theodore H. White, Kennedy's strategy was to blitz McCarthy in the primaries but avoid attacking him personally. This created a conundrum: Privately, Kennedy detested McCarthy and felt him unfit to be president, but he feared attacking McCarthy would alienate the thousands of young people who already rallied to his cause. Kennedy needed those "McCarthy kids" in his corner once he dispatched "Clean Gene." Kennedy hoped that by rolling over McCarthy comfortably in every primary, he could win enough delegates to make the argument at Chicago's Democratic National Convention in August that he, not McCarthy or Humphrey, was the more electable nominee.


Over the next two months Kennedy and McCarthy battled their way across the primary map. They faced off first in Indiana on May 7, where Kennedy beat McCarthy, but he did so with an unimpressive 42 percent in a three-man race – and that was after McCarthy pulled out of the state completely. The same thing happened in Nebraska a week later: Kennedy poured in huge amounts of time and money, McCarthy spent one day campaigning there, and Kennedy barely cleared 50 percent. The Kennedy team tried to put a game face on their modest Nebraska margin – aide Pierre Salinger spun their 51.5 percent majority as proof that McCarthy's candidacy was not "credible." But inside their campaign bubble Kennedy forces knew the opportunity for a knockout was diminishing. It was the next primary, Oregon, where Kennedy needed to flatten McCarthy to end his effort.


And so, 50 years ago today, May 28, 1968, Oregon Democrats voted. When the dust settled, it was McCarthy who walloped Kennedy by 6 points, thereby derailing Kennedy's blitz strategy. The surprising loss also unnerved Kennedy's pride – Oregon made RFK the first Kennedy ever to lose an election, which galled the competitive candidate greatly.


With his two unimpressive victories, and then a sobering defeat in Oregon, a chastened Kennedy privately told his staff that if he lost the next big primary the following week he would drop out of the race. All eyes thus turned to California, where the warfare between Kennedy and McCarthy grew increasingly hostile right up to that fateful election night, June 4, 1968.


What was the ultimate impact of this make-or-break California primary on both the 1968 presidential campaign and on history? I will offer a reflection on that topic one week from today – on the 50th anniversary of that epic race.

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Speaker Newt Gingrich On My New Book "On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968"

My new book has struck a chord with the historian-DNA embedded deeply within my friend and former House colleague, Speaker Newt Gingrich. He posted this article to the FoxNews.com website this last weekend: 



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The 1968 Presidential Campaign 50 Years Ago Today: Governor Nelson Rockefeller--"Rocky Redux"

Photograph signed for James Rogan by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, 1971

(Excerpted from James Rogan's 2018 book, On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968)

On April 23, 1968, three weeks after declaring – again – that he would not run for the presidency, the New York governor entered the White House quietly through a side door for a private dinner with the occupant – Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, who himself announced recently that he would not seek re-election that year.


During dinner, LBJ revealed that his first choice for the presidency was not a member of his own party – it was his Republican guest. Johnson regarded the governor as a sensible moderate and, far more importantly, the one man who could beat either of LBJ's bitter foes should they win their respective party's nominations: Democrat Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Republican former Vice President Richard Nixon. LBJ urged his guest to reconsider his decision and, to sweeten the pot, promised that if he ran, LBJ would support him privately and not campaign against him publicly.


Not many presidential contenders could consider such a course change only three months before the nominating convention convened, but then, not many political leaders were like Nelson A. Rockefeller, the three-term governor of New York, grandson of John D. Rockefeller, heir to the greatest wealth accumulation in history and the leader of the GOP's liberal wing. Over many months prior to his clandestine White House dinner, the middle-aged, sturdily built governor met repeatedly with the Republican Party's liberal and moderate major domos over whether, in 1968, he should make a third try for the GOP presidential nomination. At each of these meetings, the leaders pleaded with him to challenge the more conservative Nixon, but at the end of every session, his answer remained the same: no.


Rocky (a nickname so universally identified with him that he used it when signing autographs) did not suffer from timidity – he wanted to be president. After considering a challenge to Nixon for the 1960 nomination, he made a vigorous play for it four years later promoting his brand of Republicanism – free enterprise and massive government spending. Theodore H. White noted that of all the big-spending governors, "Nelson Rockefeller was the biggest spender of them all –in his decade [as governor] spending in the state budget had almost quadrupled. … Rockefeller's dreams dazzled large scale planners – but the costs shocked ordinary Republicans."


If Rocky's freewheeling spending shocked ordinary Republicans, it positively enraged the party's conservative base, who registered their disapproval by supporting Barry Goldwater over him for the 1964 presidential nomination. Goldwater was the anti-Rockefeller, opposing virtually every federal income redistribution program from compulsory government-controlled Social Security to Medicare to welfare. During their primary campaign, Rocky attacked Goldwater as a tightfisted, trigger-happy, anti-civil rights kook. Conservatives returned fire, slamming Rocky for both his obscene big-government profligacy and his moral deficiencies (citing his recent divorce and remarriage to his mistress). After a bitterly divisive fight ended with Goldwater's nomination, Rocky refused to endorse him. When Rocky addressed the convention, conservative delegates booed him for 16 uninterrupted minutes. On Election Day, with Lyndon Johnson's utter destruction of Goldwater and many down-ticket Republicans, conservatives blamed Rocky for the catastrophic losses.


Now, four years after the Goldwater challenge, Rocky understood (even if his supporters did not) that the aftertaste of 1964 likely dashed his national prospects, at least for now. However, by 1968, many rank-and-file Republicans started giving him a second look. Following the Goldwater debacle, this time around Republicans wanted a winner, and they had nagging concerns that Richard Nixon was a perpetual loser after his back-to-back defeats for president in 1960 and for California governor in 1962. With polls showing Rocky beating every Democrat in head-to-head matchups, and with Nixon often lagging behind them, forgiving his previous heresy remained a possibility worth considering.

Even with LBJ's tempting pledge ringing in his ears, Rocky knew he had to overcome other hurdles to pull off a successful 11th-hour run. He was too late to enter any primaries, but that limitation was not fatal. In 1968, the primary states picked only a small percentage of the delegates needed to win the nomination – and, in many of those states, the GOP governors controlled their delegations as "favorite son" candidates. The selection of most convention delegates would occur in caucuses, state conventions and smoke-filled rooms – the places where politicians understood the meaning of winners and losers. If Rocky entered now, he would need to convince the delegates of two things: 1) he could beat any Democratic Party nominee, and 2) Nixon could not. True, every poll showed that most delegates preferred Nixon over Rocky, but they qualified this preference: They wanted Nixon only if he could win in November.


With the temptation proving too great, Rocky threw the dice. And so, 50 years ago today, on April 30, 1968, Nelson Rockefeller declared his candidacy for president of the United States.


Rocky's 1968 blitz followed a three-prong underdog strategy: First, barnstorm to as many states as possible between now and the convention to meet delegates and urge them to "stay loose" – keep an open mind. The second prong involved influencing public opinion directly with an unrelenting media and direct mail saturation campaign to drive up and maintain his favorable poll numbers. The third prong was trickier: entice California Gov. Ronald Reagan (already holding more than 80 delegate votes automatically as California's favorite son) into the race to challenge Nixon's right flank, especially among Southern delegations that loved Reagan and where Nixon's support was soft. If Rocky could bring 400 delegates to Miami, and Reagan added a couple hundred more Southern delegates to his California pledges, their combined forces would block Nixon's first ballot nomination and resurrect his fatal "loser" image. Once the pledged delegates cast Nixon adrift, that would leave the final nomination showdown between these two powerhouse governors.


Lest anyone not take Rocky's candidacy seriously, the day after announcing his entry, and without appearing on the ballot, he beat both Nixon and the favorite son governor in the Massachusetts Republican presidential primary, and he did it with write-in votes (since he declared too late to appear on the ballot). Rocky pocketed every one of the 34 delegates the Bay State would send to the Republican National Convention.


In Miami three months later, and despite the combined Rockefeller-Reagan effort to block Nixon, the former vice president held his Southern flank and won the 1968 Republican presidential nomination. Nelson Rockefeller went on to win re-election to a fourth term as New York governor in 1970; after Nixon's 1974 resignation, President Gerald Ford selected him as his vice president. Declining to seek the 1976 GOP vice presidential nomination for a full term, Rocky retired from public life in 1977 and returned to his philanthropic and business interests. He died of a heart attack at age 70 on Jan. 26, 1979.


Nelson Rockefeller's memory remains a Republican Party presence. Forty years after his death, GOP activists still identify themselves by – or hurl as an epithet – the defining phrase:


"A Rockefeller Republican."

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The 1968 Presidential Campaign 50 Years Ago Today: Hubert Humphrey--The Happy Warrior

(Excerpted from James Rogan's 2018 book, On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968


On March 31, 1968, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey spent the evening in Mexico City trying to focus on the dinner given in his honor at the home of the ambassador to the United States, but through it all he kept one eye on the clock. Twelve hours earlier he was packing for this trip when a sudden commotion outside his Washington apartment caught his attention. He looked out the window and saw a motorcade parked outside. Walking toward the building entrance was the tall, lumbering figure of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Humphrey rushed to open the door; Johnson blew in, greeted Mrs. Humphrey and then asked to meet privately in the bedroom with his vice president.


When they were alone, Johnson told Humphrey that he would deliver a nationally televised speech on the Vietnam War that evening. Johnson then handed Humphrey two sheets of paper with alternative speech endings. Humphrey reviewed the first, which contained two brief paragraphs with Johnson's formal announcement that he would seek re-election in 1968 – an announcement Humphrey (and the rest of America) anticipated. The second possible ending, which declared that Johnson would forgo re-election, left Humphrey speechless. As Humphrey handed back the papers to the president, Johnson said that he had not decided which ending to use, and that Humphrey would have to listen to his speech that night to learn the answer. After swearing Humphrey to secrecy, Johnson returned to the White House; a few minutes later the Humphreys departed on their diplomatic mission.


Later that afternoon, on the flight to Mexico, Humphrey reflected on Johnson's threat to withdraw from re-election. He dismissed it summarily as yet another example of LBJ's famous theatrical streak. With Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's recently announced challenge to Johnson's renomination, anybody who knew the president knew with certainty that he would never surrender the presidency to a man he hated.


In Mexico that night after dinner, Humphrey and the other guests gathered in the ambassador's library to hear Johnson's speech. Pandemonium broke out when, in the last minute of a 40-minute address, and after telling listeners that he wanted to devote all of his efforts to ending the war, Johnson stated firmly, "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president." Within seconds of this bombshell announcement, scores of reporters seeking comment overloaded the embassy's switchboard, while in the outside lobby the press pool covering the trip pounded on the library door and shouted questions to the official party on the other side: Was Hubert Humphrey now a candidate for president?


Hubert Horatio Humphrey. By 1968 he was perhaps one of the most recognizable political figures in America. As mayor of Minneapolis, Humphrey first won election to the U.S. Senate in 1948 – the same year he caused a walkout of Southern delegates to the Democratic National Convention when he rammed a civil rights plank into the national party platform. As one of the leading liberals in Congress throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he sponsored landmark legislation such as Medicare, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Peace Corps and nuclear disarmament. When President Kennedy signed the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, he gave Humphrey (the man JFK defeated for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination) the pen as a souvenir and told him, "Hubert, this is your treaty. It had better work." Chosen by Johnson as his 1964 running mate, Humphrey remained a loyal vice president, but by 1968 he felt deeply conflicted between private concerns over Johnson's Vietnam policies and personal loyalty to his mentor.


Now, in Mexico, and despite the warning Humphrey received at his apartment meeting that morning, Johnson's announcement caught him off guard. He delayed making any decision about a second presidential candidacy that night – and for almost a month thereafter. With most primary filing deadlines having expired already, Humphrey understood that the election calendar would force him to bypass that route and seek delegates in the states where selection was governed not by primary voters, but by party elders in caucuses and state conventions. In 1968, only a small percentage of national convention delegates were chosen through the primaries, so a potential late start did not concern him terribly.


During this interval, the public's attention diverted to the Democratic primary states where the two "peace" candidates, Kennedy and Sen. Eugene McCarthy (both of whom entered the race earlier to challenge Johnson for renomination), slugged it out. Humphrey ceded the spotlight to them, gambling that Kennedy had far less organizational support than most imagined, and that the gadfly McCarthy had even less.


It was 50 years ago today, April 27, 1968, that Hubert Humphrey formally entered the presidential race. His announcement received only passing notice, but the media's indifference mattered little. Kennedy and McCarthy might have held the hearts of the party's antiwar wing and the college students, but (with Johnson's grudging acquiescence) Humphrey had the establishment. While Kennedy and McCarthy ramped up their mutual attacks on each other in their quest for the small pockets of primary delegates, a few days after Humphrey's entry, his private poll showed that without contesting a single primary he already had 900 of the 1,312 delegates he needed to win the nomination. By June 5 of that year, the night Kennedy won the California primary and then was cut down by an assassin, Humphrey had enough votes to lock up the nomination.


After losing the presidency to Richard Nixon that November in one of the closest elections in U.S. history, Humphrey left politics briefly after his vice presidential term ended in January 1969. When Eugene McCarthy declined to seek re-election to the Senate the next year, Humphrey jumped into the race to succeed him and won the seat.


Returning to Washington and itching for a rematch against Nixon, Humphrey ran for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination, but lost out to Sen. George McGovern. (Stories of my many boyhood meetings with HHH, and with scores of other notables, are in my third book, "And Then I Met … Stories of Growing Up, Meeting Famous People, and Annoying the Hell Out of Them," available at the WND Superstore).


Re-elected to the Senate in 1976, doctors diagnosed Humphrey late that year with terminal cancer. He fought the disease bravely while maintaining his Senate duties until death claimed him at age 66 on Jan. 13, 1978.


A passion for justice, an unfailing love of country and an infectious optimism earned Humphrey the sobriquet for which he was known in life, and which still conjures his memory 50 years after his greatest quest: The Happy Warrior.


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The 1968 Presidential Campaign 50 Years Ago Today: President Lyndon Johnson Detonates a Political Grenade

[Excerpted from James Rogan's new book, On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968]



During the Vietnam War, President Lyndon B. Johnson authorized approximately 35,000 bombing raids on enemy targets in Southeast Asia. Fifty years ago tonight, March 31, 1968, he dropped a political bomb on America.


First elected to the Congress in 1937, Johnson later served in the Senate as majority leader, vice president under John F. Kennedy and succeeded to the presidency upon Kennedy's assassination in 1963. The following year, LBJ won a landslide election by beating conservative Republican Barry Goldwater in a 44-state rout. Soon thereafter, Johnson ordered U.S. combat forces into Vietnam in an effort to halt the spread of Soviet and Red Chinese-backed communist aggression.


By late 1967 the Vietnam War had raged for over three years and grew increasingly unpopular. With no end in sight, antiwar activists sought to recruit an intraparty challenger to Johnson's anticipated 1968 re-election. Working off old "end the war" mailing lists, they launched a "Dump Johnson" drive. The likelihood of success was so remote that the proposition seemed absurd to all but a handful of like-minded objectors.


Allard Lowenstein, the founder of the fledgling movement, visited every antiwar Democratic senator – including Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, whom he lobbied repeatedly to run. Lowenstein's pleas with all (but one) were in vain, and each gave the same reason Kennedy gave in refusing to take on the president of his own party: Johnson was unbeatable in 1968. Only Sen. Eugene McCarthy, a quirky congressional backbencher who preferred writing poetry to the grubby political world, agreed to challenge LBJ for the Democratic presidential nomination. With no major funding, no organizational base, almost zero name identification, and with Johnson holding a monopoly on party establishment support, McCarthy filed for the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary. Party elders and the press treated his quest as a national joke.


During his six week New Hampshire campaign, McCarthy's message began resonating with college students across America, many of whom faced impending military induction notices because of Johnson's continued war escalation. First dozens, and then hundreds, and finally thousands of them rode buses or hitchhiked east. Arriving at McCarthy headquarters, they cut their long hair, put on conservative clothes and then blanketed every New Hampshire neighborhood on his behalf.

For his part, Johnson ignored McCarthy. Once Johnson's main potential competitor for the nomination – Kennedy – announced he would not run, Johnson did not bother filing for the New Hampshire primary ballot. After McCarthy jumped into the race at the last minute, Johnson decided that filing would give his challenger credibility, so he again passed. Instead, he allowed the state's leading Democrat, Gov. John King, to initiate a formal write-in campaign for Johnson to energize the party's base and to coax back some of the press attention now focused almost exclusively on the contested Republican primary between Richard Nixon and George Romney.


From the man who led the effort to oust Bill Clinton from office, Rep. James Rogan's "Catching Our Flag: Behind the Scenes of a Presidential Impeachment"


When New Hampshire voted on March 12, 1968, the nonconformist senator expected to draw no more than 10 or 15 percent came within 200 votes of out-polling Johnson statewide, sending shockwaves across the political establishment. With LBJ now showing unexpected vulnerability, and after McCarthy did the heavy lifting, Robert Kennedy jumped into the race against Johnson a few days later.


With Johnson next facing McCarthy in a head-to-head matchup in the April 2 Wisconsin primary, the White House dispatched Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Cabinet members, various administration officials and members of Congress to the Badger State. Local party officials coordinated their efforts through the Democratic National Committee to crush the McCarthy insurgency.


A few days before the primary, Johnson met with his campaign manager, Postmaster General Lawrence F. O'Brien, whom he had sent to Wisconsin to assess their operation. O'Brien stunned LBJ with the news: Their polls showed that McCarthy would beat the president by as high as 60 percent. It was hopeless.


With his earlier embarrassing New Hampshire showing, a likely humiliation coming in Wisconsin and a new Gallup poll showing he had cratered to a 35 percent approval rating, Johnson knew that his once-iron grip on the nomination might slip quickly if party leaders concluded that he was beatable. After sharing O'Brien's field report with a longtime aide, Johnson lamented, "If a president has to spend 10 million dollars to get the renomination of his party, then it's time for [he] and his party and everybody else to go some other way. I don't want to go that way. … I can't get peace in Vietnam and be president, too."


Johnson reserved network airtime for an address to the nation on Vietnam for the evening of March 31, 1968, which was two days before the Wisconsin primary. Speaking from the Oval Office, LBJ announced a partial bombing halt over North Vietnam and indicated the U.S. was prepared to engage in peace talks. Then, in the last minute of a 40-minute speech, and after telling listeners that he wanted to devote all his efforts to ending the war, he pulled the pin on his grenade: "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president."


Unexpectedly, Johnson went from victim to victor. His approval rating shot up an unprecedented 13 points – from 36 percent to 49 percent – in one night. After the speech, millions of anti-LBJ partisans jettisoned nearly four years of anger and now hailed him as a statesman. This newfound popularity made him regret privately removing himself from the campaign. For a time he even toyed with the idea of having his supporters start a "Draft Johnson" movement at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, but in the end he let the cup pass.


LBJ's exit from the campaign threw open the race to succeed him. Ahead that year awaited divisive primaries, riots, assassinations, a bloody nominating convention and a hard-fought three-way race to the November finish line.


Yet all of that turmoil remained down the road 50 years ago tonight – the night President Lyndon Johnson, one of the fiercest political competitors of the 20th century, laid down his sword.


Johnson left the White House in January 1969 and retired to his Texas ranch. In later years he oversaw the building of his presidential library, wrote his memoirs, raised his cattle and spent time with his grandchildren. He died of a heart attack at age 64 on Jan. 22, 1973.



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The 1968 Presidential Campaign 50 Years Ago Today: Robert Kennedy Declared His Presidential Candidacy

Four days before his assassination, Senator Robert F. Kennedy signed this program after addressing the members of the San Francisco Commonwealth Club during his ill-fated presidential campaign, May 31, 1968 (James Rogan Collection)

[Excerpted from James Rogan's new book, On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968]



Robert Kennedy: The man, the myth, the truth

Each generation produces a handful of universally known political figures who arouse deep-seated love or blinding disdain, and with almost no middle ground between either passion. In my grandparents' day, it was Franklin D. Roosevelt: People loved him or hated him, but very few had no opinion of him. One might argue today that the names Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton provoke the same polarized feelings. During my boyhood, there wasn't one or two such leaders – there were eight, and they all squared off against each other in the 1968 presidential campaign. Those to whom public indifference failed to attach back then were Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Wallace, Nelson Rockefeller, Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy and the charismatic young candidate whose murder that year shielded him from the continued harsh spotlight of contemporary scrutiny and into the realm of martyrdom and legend.


That final metamorphosis began 50 years ago today, March 16, 1968, when Sen. Robert F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States.


RFK for president – you had to be there to understand the excitement he ignited. As a San Francisco boy growing up in the 1960s in a blue-collar, part-Irish and all-Roman Catholic family, John and Robert Kennedy were heroes to our generation of immigrant and denominational descendants. We admired them in life and mourned them in death – deeply. I was too young to remember Jack Kennedy's 1960 race, but I was all over Bobby Kennedy's 1968 drive for the White House. Although only in the fifth grade, I followed it with the same enthusiasm other boys my age reserved for that day's baseball standings. His landmark campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination against Sen. Eugene McCarthy infused me with such an intense interest in history and government that it led to my own eventual path into law and politics.


The excitement of Kennedy's battle, and then the horrible violence that ended it instantly the very night he beat McCarthy in their hard-fought California primary, left a profound impact on me that never waned. Decades later, during my service as a Republican congressman, I still held Kennedy in awe – a sentiment no other conservative House colleague apparently shared. In 1998, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, D-Mass., and I co-sponsored a bill to name the U.S. Department of Justice building after his late father. Republicans killed the bill in committee. Thirty years after RFK's death, his memory still aroused so much GOP disdain that they would not have named the DOJ outhouse after him. When I tried raising the issue with Speaker Newt Gingrich directly, he cut me off. "That bill is dead – dead," he snapped irritably. Later, when my friend Lyn Nofziger, Ronald Reagan's longtime spokesman and adviser, visited my Capitol Hill office, I saw him staring at a large autographed photo of Bobby Kennedy hanging on my wall. Turning to me and looking both confused and disgusted, he asked, "What the hell is that thing doing here?"


This leads to my next point: Fascination does not cause blindness.


Like two other supermen with whom he shared the crowded stage in 1968, Robert Kennedy shares a common fate with Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon: over the ensuing decades all three have been the subject of countless biographies teeming with pseudo-psychological interpretations of what made them tick. Here the comparison ends. With LBJ and Nixon, the pop-culture consensus is that their power-grasping temperaments sprang from sinister motives and deep-seated personal inferiorities. Bobby's biographers usually promote loftier interpretations. For example, Arthur Schlesinger softened for history Bobby's hard-edged, knee-to-the-groin political style, writing, "Because he wanted to get things done, because he was often impatient and combative, because he felt simply and cared deeply, he made his share of mistakes, and enemies. He was a romantic and an idealist. …"


Romance and idealism aside, many of RFK's ardent supporters never knew, or chose to ignore, that Bobby started his political career in the 1950s as one of the lead investigators for Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose last name became – fairly or unfairly – a synonym for reckless and career-destroying witch hunts. After leaving McCarthy's staff, Bobby became chief counsel to the Senate committee investigating labor union racketeering. He dragged in over 1,500 witnesses before the committee in a vendetta to "get" those he perceived as enemies, especially Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa – an obsession that carried over into his tenure as President John F. Kennedy's attorney general. During Bobby's stint at the Justice Department, he supported covert foreign assassinations and coups. He ordered wiretaps on enemies and friends alike, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he knew cavorted with communists. Incidentally, these wiretaps disclosed King's many marital infidelities, which FBI agents later used to harass and threaten King. Revisionist histories notwithstanding, Attorney General Robert Kennedy did not champion the cause of Southern civil rights marchers – he viewed them as irritants creating escalating nuisances to his brother's 1964 re-election prospects. Right up to the end of his life, in private conversations, sometimes he used ethnic vulgarities when talking about blacks and Jews.



Just as those of us who venerate Thomas Jefferson – the man who gave voice to freedom's greatest proclamation – must live uncomfortably with the fact that he owned slaves, one would think that the venerators of Robert Kennedy would live uncomfortably with his stark and often disturbing record.




Instead, RFK's post-assassination biographers overwhelmingly offer a more forgiving explanation – his brother's 1963 assassination changed Bobby Kennedy. Dallas supposedly transfigured him from vicious street-fighter into Greek tragedian: deeper, sensitive, selfless. Bobby helped in this rehabilitation by peppering his post-JFK era speeches and interviews with quotations from Camus, Emerson and Aeschylus. He dined with poets, strikers and migrant workers. He walked the ghettos. Those perpetuating the RFK myth excuse his calculated back flips on Vietnam. This renovated RFK meets us in history books as one who "grew" in his opposition when he saw an unjust war and its aftermath, and upon whom fate forced leadership, which he accepted for duty, not ambition.


The truth: Robert Kennedy, both before and after his brother's death, was a calculating politician who fought dirty, played for keeps and (when politically expedient) took various sides of an issue to please specific and often conflicting interest groups. Strip Bobby Kennedy of the sentimental hogwash that bathes his memory and we find that he and his brother had the same cunning ambitions and methods as their non-idealized counterparts. We forgive the Kennedys, but not the graceless LBJ or the sweat-beaded and shifty-eyed Nixon, because the Kennedys had a cultured, smooth veneer when cutting an opponent's throat.


Doubtless Dallas and its aftermath changed Robert Kennedy. All the evidence suggests that Bobby did become more soulful, patient, thoughtful and empathetic for the underclass, but his darker political side never wandered far. Of Bobby's 1968 opponents – Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, George Wallace, Ronald Reagan, Eugene McCarthy, George Romney – if any were alive today, they would tell you that RFK understood the family business perhaps better than any other member of his clan. When Bobby fought you on the political battlefield, he fought to win, and if that meant leaving your corpse rotting in the dust, tough luck.


Still, RFK represented more than a political contender. To millions he was their voice and, more importantly, their hope – a symbolic resurrection from that cruel Dallas motorcade five years earlier. One need not have been a Camelot sentimentalist to have shared the grief at his own violent death.


His frenetic 85-day campaign for the presidency proved all the more Shakespearean when his neurosurgeon later reported that if the fatal shot had struck just one centimeter to the right, Bobby would have recovered and resumed his campaign. Because it did not he died at age 42, leaving a pregnant widow, 10 young children and a gaping hole in American history.


Many of us old enough to remember that tragic night have defaulted repeatedly over the years to the question that still haunts: What if?


What if someone in that crowded pantry shouted a warning and Bobby flinched – even slightly? What if something – anything – had deviated that bullet's fatal trajectory? What if millions of voters didn't lose their hopes in a pool of blood on the pantry floor of a Los Angeles hotel? What if Bobby survived his wounds and finished his journey?


As we approach the 50 anniversary of RFK's death later this June, these thoughts remind us, ever so painfully, of the poet's lament: "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these – It might have been."


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The 1968 Presidential Campaign 50 Years Ago Today: Eugene McCarthy's New Hampshire Earthquake

1968 Eugene McCarthy for President campaign button (from the collection of James Rogan)

[Excerpted from James Rogan's new book, On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968]



Ralph Pill left a filthy mess when he vacated the old three-story red brick building that formerly housed his electrical supply company in Concord, New Hampshire. In early January 1968, two anti-Vietnam War activists rented it for $100 a month. They entered to find rats, rubbish piles, wooden boards covering floor holes, exposed plumbing pipes and bare lightbulbs hanging from ceiling cords. They began by sweeping up the trash. Six weeks later, with their purpose completed, they had helped topple a president of the United States, and also set in motion the founding of the Democratic Party's modern progressive movement.


And it all happened 50 years ago today.


On Nov. 30, 1967, an almost-unknown U.S. senator with no funding or organizational base, Eugene McCarthy, announced he would challenge incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson for the 1968 Democratic Party nomination. McCarthy chose New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary, as the place where he would make his opening stand against LBJ. The quirky senator who preferred writing poetry to the grubby world of politics seemed an unlikely giant killer. Johnson held a monopoly on New Hampshire Democratic Party endorsements, including the governor, the U.S. senator and every noteworthy official. Aside from some low-level peacenik officeholders, McCarthy at first had little more than a small coterie of volunteers backing his antiwar endeavor, but the challenger soon caught a couple of unexpected breaks.


The first opening came on Jan. 31, when communist North Vietnam violated an agreed-upon cease-fire with U.S.-backed South Vietnam on "Tet," the Vietnamese new year. Seventy thousand Northern communists and their Vietcong allies launched surprise attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and over 100 South Vietnamese cities. Although U.S. and South Vietnamese troops repelled the attackers with relative ease, it took over a month to drive back the enemy. Despite this victory, the three major U.S. networks highlighted the brutal fighting on their evening news broadcasts each night, which caused a major slide in continued public support for U.S. involvement in Vietnam.


Before Tet, a majority of Americans approved of Johnson's war policies. Two weeks after Tet, Gallup reported that 50 percent disapproved. When LBJ suggested that the Pentagon might draft an additional 200,000 young men to supplement the 500,000 U.S. troops already stationed in combat zones, draft-age college students responded. First a handful, and then dozens, and then hundreds, and finally thousands of them made their way to the Granite State. They cut their long hair, donned conservative clothing, and blanketed every New Hampshire precinct on McCarthy's behalf. The nationwide mobilization of students for liberal causes began with this 1968 McCarthy phenomenon – dubbed by the press back then as "The Children's Crusade."

McCarthy's second break came courtesy of New Hampshire Gov. John W. King, a staunch LBJ supporter.


From the man who led the effort to oust Bill Clinton from office, Rep. James Rogan's "Catching Our Flag: Behind the Scenes of a Presidential Impeachment"


Once Johnson's main potential competitor for the nomination, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, announced he would not challenge LBJ for re-election (Kennedy told friends privately that Johnson was unbeatable), Johnson did not bother filing for the New Hampshire primary ballot. After McCarthy jumped into the race at the last minute, Johnson decided that filing would give the challenger credibility, so he again passed.


With LBJ not participating, the state's leading Democrat, Gov. King, resented that press attention focused on the Republican primary between Richard Nixon and George Romney. To bring some excitement to the Democrats' ledger, he initiated a formal write-in campaign for Johnson. King ordered printed tens of thousands of pledge cards, and he distributed them to every government employee and registered Democrat in the state. The three-part, serially numbered perforated cards, captioned, "N.H. Democrats are 90,000 Strong," were designed for the voter to sign an LBJ write-in pledge with their personal identifying information included. The card indicated that state party officials would collect and record the pledges, and then forward the data to the Johnson White House.


The pledge cards angered and offended thousands of recipients. Because the cards bore a serial number, many thought these were the actual primary ballots – violating the secrecy of their choice. Voters also resented providing their names and addresses on pledge cards going to state and national party officials who could track and (presumably) punish those balking. King aggravated these suspicions when he told the press the reason for the pledge cards: "Now is the time for Democrats to stand up and be counted – or be counted out."

The McCarthy campaign pounced. They nailed up posters around the state with a picture of the pledge card and the slogan "Whatever Happened to the Secret Ballot?" McCarthy said LBJ was using the pledge cards on voters the same way he used branding irons on his Texas cattle. He urged voters to reject this intimidation tactic and to show their independent spirit, reminding them that they need not pledge anything to his campaign. By primary day, thousands of those pledge cards had been returned to McCarthy's Concord campaign office – with Johnson's name scratched out and McCarthy's name written in.


And so, 50 years ago today, March 12, 1968, New Hampshire voted. The nonconformist senator expected to draw no more than 10 or 15 percent came within 200 votes of outpolling Johnson statewide. This sent shockwaves across the political establishment. With LBJ showing unexpected vulnerability, Robert Kennedy jumped into the race a few days later. McCarthy's furious supporters viewed Kennedy's last-minute entry as ruthless opportunism that threatened to split the peace vote – after they had done the heavy lifting against Johnson. They dubbed him "Bobby Come Lately," and their bitterness toward him lasted throughout the remaining state contests.


In the weeks following New Hampshire came Johnson's eventual withdrawal from the race, the entry of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Kennedy's assassination, the bloody riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the fall campaign against Republican Richard Nixon and third-party candidate George Wallace. The long road that lay ahead all started in an abandoned, $100-a-month warehouse, which became Eugene McCarthy's campaign headquarters for the New Hampshire primary.


And so, if you ever stroll through downtown Concord, New Hampshire, pause for a moment at the old red brick building that still stands on the northeast corner of Main Street at 3 Pleasant Street Extension. It will probably be abandoned – just as it was 50 years ago when the McCarthy campaign assembled a political atom bomb within its walls. Be respectful as you walk by …


History was made there.

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Singer Vic Damone (1928-2018)

Comedian Bob Newhart, James Rogan, and singer Vic Damone, 1995

When a reporter once asked Frank Sinatra who was the best male vocalist of that day, the Chairman of the Board didn't hesitate when he answered: he said the singer with "the best pipes in the business" was Vic Damone.


Long ago, when I attended a charity event with Vic and another legend, comedian Bob Newhart, Vic proved Sinatra was on to something. He was an amazing and beloved entertainer whose career covered seven decades


When Vic died this weekend at the age of 89, we lost one of the few remaining stars from the golden age of the Great American Songbook.

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The 1968 Presidential Campaign 50 Years Ago Today: Former Alabama Governor George Wallace

Photograph signed by former Alabama Governor George Wallace for James Rogan, 1971


[Excerpted from James Rogan's new book, On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968]



"Hitler go home!"


The heckler in the audience screamed out the insult to the presidential candidate standing on the rally stage below. Cohorts who also came to disrupt the event cheered, and then they booed loudly at the candidate's reaction to it. Instead of appearing agitated, he smirked at the catcaller and replied, "Somebody needs to show that child where the little boys' room is!" That set the galleries afire – now the hostile mob screamed obscenities while the candidate's just-as-passionate supporters, albeit a substantial audience minority, tried to drown them out with cheers and chants of "USA! USA!"


Signaling to the troublemakers, the candidate roared into the microphones, "These young punks are the ones that decent people are sick and tired of. These little Nazis talk about free speech but won't allow it to others." More jeers and applause as he drove home his point: "You can't really blame these kids. This is what their professors are teaching them. So let me tell all you college professors something – you'd better get your protesting done right now, because when I become president, I'm going to ask my attorney general to indict every one of you who supports publicly a military victory over American troops fighting overseas. That's not dissent. That's not free speech. That's treason – and we're seeing the fruits of that treason at this college here today." (The quotations are adapted from actual speech remarks made by the candidate at various campaign rallies.)


If this sounds like a Donald Trump campaign rally, your guess is 50 years off. Long before President Trump began throwing rhetorical gasoline on the political fires burning around him, there was former Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, repeated violent police confrontations with peaceful black civil rights marchers in the South shocked white Americans, who responded to those outrages by supporting President Lyndon Johnson and his "Great Society." After winning his landslide 1964 election, Johnson and a Democratic Congress committed billions of dollars to welfare and social programs to help the poor and minorities work their way out of poverty. However, starting with the Watts riots of 1965, increasing militancy among newly rising black leaders gained heightened press coverage. Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown and Huey Newton (among others) became household names. They rejected Martin Luther King's calls for peaceful civil disobedience; some preached armed resistance and revolution.


Over the next three tense years, the evening news broadcasts showed riots, looting and arson in over 100 major cities. These haunting images from black neighborhoods ablaze left many whites believing that mobs of "ghetto radicals" wanted to burn down America. By 1968, an increasing number of these previously sympathetic white voters grew both scared and angry. Just as state-sanctioned abuses against earlier nonviolent civil rights marchers shocked them into demanding an end to segregation, this ongoing wave of violence stirred them once again, but in another direction. Polls showed that they responded to presidential candidates promising to restore law and order.


Many of them responded to George Wallace.


From the man who led the effort to oust Bill Clinton from office, Rep. James Rogan's "Catching Our Flag: Behind the Scenes of a Presidential Impeachment"


The short, wiry farm boy from Clio, Alabama, grew up so poor that the first home he shared with his new bride was a converted chicken coop. After working his way through college and law school, he entered the Army and saw combat in World War II. Upon returning home he became a prosecutor, a state legislator and a circuit court judge. During an unsuccessful run for governor in 1958, Wallace's comparatively moderate views earned him the endorsement of the NAACP, while the Ku Klux Klan supported his opponent.


Four years later, with federal court decisions ordering desegregation in the Deep South, Wallace ran again and challenged the U.S. Supreme Court's legal right to force its unelected will upon the states. Winning 96 percent of the vote (no Republican filed against him), he became the national symbol of Southern defiance by proclaiming in his 1963 inaugural address, "I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." Wallace went on to make his point defiantly: When Attorney General Robert Kennedy's Justice Department sought to integrate the University of Alabama with federal troops, Wallace stood in front of the college's door and confronted Kennedy's deputy as cameras recorded the temporary standoff.


Wanting to test his populist message outside the South, in 1964 Wallace entered three Democratic presidential primaries. Hammering away on states' rights, a strong national defense, and law and order to combat violent racial and campus protests, he showed surprising strength with primary voters in Indiana, Wisconsin and Maryland. Those states gave him 34 percent, 30 percent and 43 percent, respectively. With his ideas now resonating beyond Dixie, he set his sights on the 1968 presidential election.


And so, 50 years ago today, Feb. 8, 1968, George Wallace announced he would seek the White House as a third-party candidate leading his newly formed American Independent Party. Wallace's was the first third-party presidential campaign to qualify for the ballot in all 50 states. The specter of him on every state ballot terrified both the Republican and Democratic Party establishments. The GOP feared Wallace would siphon votes from conservative Southerners, while Democrats feared a hemorrhage of their union and blue-collar voters from every region.


By 1968 Wallace had long since jettisoned his earlier segregationist message and instead focused on the populist themes he had used in 1964, adding to them a call for a complete military victory for U.S. troops fighting in Vietnam. "When I'm president," he declared, "you good people will be able to walk any street in Washington, D.C., safely, even if I have to keep 30,000 troops standing on those streets two feet apart with two-foot-long bayonets. And I'll throw in jail every rioter and every treasonous college professor supporting our enemies in Vietnam. The day for these anarchists, revolutionaries and communists is coming to an end."

How did his message resonate with a national audience? In October 1967, polls showed him with 10 percent of the vote. By the summer of 1968 he hit 16 percent, and pollster George Gallup reported, "If the presidential election were being held today, the strong possibility exists that… George Wallace would deny either major party candidate the electoral votes needed to win." It grew worse for the establishment: By the end of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in late August, a new poll reported that a surging Wallace ran only 7 points behind Democratic presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey – with the gap closing.


George Wallace never reached the White House, but he denied it to Humphrey, a diehard liberal and a recent Vietnam peace convert. On Election Day, Wallace racked up 10 million popular votes and 46 electoral votes. He put five states in his American Independent Party's column, and the electoral map that he divided put Richard Nixon (a moderate-conservative and a Vietnam War hawk) in the White House.

The 1968 Presidential Campaign 50 Years Ago Today: Richard Nixon Enters the Race

Former President Richard Nixon with James Rogan, 1992

[Excerpted from James Rogan's new book, On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968]



People exiting their cars in the parking lot of the Manchester, New Hampshire, Holiday Inn that snowy night felt the biting cold as they hurried inside. That was true of the five unobtrusive men who entered the motel through a side door. Four of them were young – late 20s and early 30s. The fifth man, in his mid-50s, held the block of room reservations under the name given the desk clerk: Benjamin Chapman. After finding their rooms, the younger men went down to the bar for drinks while the older man remained upstairs to polish his speech for tomorrow's event.


In that speech, delivered 50 years ago today, Feb. 1, 1968, Richard Nixon (traveling incognito as "Benjamin Chapman" the night before) began his long climb out of dual electoral defeats by announcing his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. What his longtime aide Pat Buchanan later called "the greatest comeback" had begun.

First elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1946, Congressman Nixon gained national fame for doggedly exposing Alger Hiss as a Soviet agent. Hiss, a high-ranking State Department official in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, later went to prison. The liberal establishment who defended Hiss never forgave Nixon for bringing down one of their favorites, despite Soviet archival evidence proving decades later that Hiss was a traitor. Capitalizing on this notoriety, Nixon won election to the U.S. Senate in 1950. Two years later, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower tapped him (at age 39) as his running mate. After serving eight years as Ike's vice president, he won the 1960 Republican presidential nomination and squared off against John F. Kennedy, who claimed victory that November in one of America's closest White House races. Evidence of massive voter fraud in Illinois and Texas left the legitimacy of Kennedy's win in doubt – then and now. In a remarkably unselfish display of sacrifice for the sake of national unity, and one for which the media and historians almost never give him credit, Nixon refused to contest the results. Two years later Nixon ran unsuccessfully for California governor. In a concession speech legendary for its bitter tone, Nixon announced that he was through with politics.


Leaving California for New York, Nixon practiced law, wrote articles, gave speeches and eased back into political life. In 1964, when many Republican leaders avoided campaigning with GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, Nixon stumped the country for the ticket, covering 36 states and making more than 150 appearances. Two years later, during the 1966 midterm elections, he became the party's most peripatetic campaigner, traveling 127,000 miles, visiting 40 states and delivering over 400 speeches for GOP candidates and causes. Republicans won stunning gains that November, picking up 47 House seats, three U.S. Senate seats, eight governorships and 557 state legislative seats. Around the country, countless winning and losing candidates credited Nixon for helping them in 1964 and 1966, and from this large pool would come delegates to the 1968 Republican National Convention.


As the next presidential election year approached, Nixon's popularity soared within the party establishment and with its rank-and-file members. However, these same leaders also worried about Nixon making another White House run. He had not won an election in his own right since 1950, and after suffering defeat in two back-to-back major races, they feared he couldn't go the distance in 1968. For his part, Nixon understood that a successful return to the arena required that he shed this "loser" image.


These days, when presidential candidates mobilize their White House efforts four or more years in advance, it seems almost inconceivable that a leading presidential candidate would take a six-month moratorium from all political activity in the year leading up to the campaign. It is equally unimaginable that the same aspirant would wait until six weeks before the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary before declaring his candidacy. In a doubly risky move, Nixon did both.


With this self-imposed moratorium, Nixon ceded the national stage intentionally to the then-front-runner for the nomination, Michigan Gov. George Romney. A moderate Republican, Romney enjoyed the backing of New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and was a proven vote-getter with minority and blue-collar Democrats. Running as a Republican in one of the nation's most heavily Democratic states, Romney won three terms as governor and rolled up increasing majorities each time. Romney showed such broad support that President Kennedy confided to a friend shortly before his assassination that the only Republican he didn't want to face in his anticipated 1964 re-election race was Romney.


By giving Romney the stage, Nixon wagered that Romney would prove himself unready for the Oval Office. The gamble paid off. When Romney's campaign imploded after a string of candidate gaffes, Nixon claimed victory in New Hampshire, beginning his long climb out of the slump.


During the next six months, from his candidacy announcement to the Republican National Convention in August, Nixon ran the gauntlet of the other major contenders for the nomination. After dispatching Romney, he took on Rockefeller, the formidable two-term Republican governor of New York. Later still, on the eve of the convention, a new conservative rock star, California Gov. Ronald Reagan, threw his hat into the ring. During the convention, with neither Rockefeller nor Reagan securing enough votes to win outright, the former vice president faced a fourth challenge: a combined Rockefeller-Reagan "Stop Nixon" effort that sought to peel off enough moderate and conservative Nixon delegates to block his first-ballot victory. If that happened it would revive the "loser" mantra and precipitate a rush of Nixon delegates to either camp, leaving Rockefeller and Reagan as the last two men standing to battle for the nomination and, ultimately, for control of the Republican Party.


All these hurdles loomed as Nixon stepped before the microphones at the Holiday Inn that day. Beyond New Hampshire lay more primaries, the convention and a general election faceoff against the Democratic presidential nominee and a populist third-party candidate. Ahead of victory awaited the Vietnam War, a faltering economy, campus riots and urban unrest, Supreme Court vacancies, major diplomatic coups, a stunning re-election victory in 1972 and an even more stunning collapse of his presidency from the Watergate scandal. Further still, beyond the ashes of defeat and humiliation, lay regeneration, reformation and, in the end, the earned mantle of elder statesman.


The fuse igniting that incredible journey was lit in a motel room 50 years ago today. On its anniversary, we remember Richard Nixon, a man wholly gifted, wholly flawed, wholly undaunted – wholly American.


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The 1968 Presidential Campaign 50 Years Ago Today: Tet--The Domino for Freedom Falls

1968 protest badge (from the collection of James Rogan)

[Excerpted from James Rogan's new book, On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968]



On Jan. 31, 1968 – 50 years ago today – in a jungle country 9,000 miles from Washington, a horde of communist soldiers and sympathetic guerrilla fighters launched a massive attack against a nascent democratic republic across their southern border. The democratic forces and their allies repelled the invaders easily and crushed the assault. However, that raid became the first falling domino that led to the destruction of an American presidency, the murder of a leading presidential candidate, over a decade of politicians degrading the U.S. military and a permanent reconfiguration of America.


Modern historians refer to that failed attack as the "Tet Offensive," and they often cite its aftermath as America's only lost war – Vietnam. We will return to that latter claim momentarily.


The vast majority of Americans living today were not yet born when the Vietnam War ended, yet thanks to what they have been taught in school, most believe it was a "bad" war – but they don't know why. Explain to them that the U.S. went into Vietnam to blunt Soviet and Red Chinese communist domination of Southeast Asia, and they blink in confusion. The Soviet Union? That totalitarian empire crumbled when they were in diapers. "Red" China? Is that like today's "red state-blue state" political distinction? Don't bother trying to explain the "Domino Theory" to a generation that never played Dominoes – or any other game not accessible on a video screen. To the "bad war" crowd, Vietnam was just bad – period – and everyone knows it. What's your next question?


Summarizing the origins and legacy of the Vietnam War in a few paragraphs is an exercise in farce, but for those opinionated latecomers, a brief explanation of why America fought there might help lift the fog.


After a century of occupation by various countries, in the post-World War II years a peace agreement divided Vietnam into two states – the communist North and the democratic South. Later, the North attacked the South to force a reunification under Stalinist domination. The Soviet Union and Red China (so called in those days to distinguish it from the non-communist Republic of China, which relocated to Taiwan during China's civil war in 1949) supported their fellow communists in the North. Since South Vietnam was ill-equipped to defend itself against this troika, the U.S. faced two choices: let them fall to the communists and risk the spread of totalitarianism in the region, or step in and help.


We chose to help.


President Eisenhower sent advisers; President Kennedy sent military personnel disguised as more advisers. Formal combat operations began in 1964 under President Lyndon B. Johnson after communist guerillas reportedly fired on two U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin. Congress approved a resolution authorizing the president to respond militarily to such aggression, but over the next four years, Johnson treated the Gulf of Tonkin resolution as a de facto declaration of war. From 1965 until the end of his presidency in January 1969, Johnson ordered his generals to attack, but not obliterate, the North and their Vietcong guerrilla allies. Johnson's policy was not to defeat the communists, but rather to coerce them into signing a peace treaty. Johnson feared an all-out attack on the North might bring Red China into the war directly and precipitate a nuclear  confrontation.


From the man who led the effort to oust Bill Clinton from office, Rep. James Rogan's "Catching Our Flag: Behind the Scenes of a Presidential Impeachment"


LBJ's vice president, Hubert Humphrey, later recalled the night in 1966 when Johnson told neutralist Burmese President Ne Win that he was doing everything he could for peace, and then he asked Ne Win why that goal eluded him. Ne Win replied, "What you are doing wrong is asking for peace. The North Vietnamese view that as a sign of weakness." Johnson insisted that, as president, he must do everything possible for peace. Ne Win told LBJ, "The North Vietnamese do not hear your peace overtures as an honest, legitimate desire for peace, but as weakness. You must make them believe there will be no peace until they are defeated. When they understand you are going to destroy them, then there will be peace."


Johnson shook his head glumly. "I can't do that," he replied, thus dooming any prospect for military success during his tenure.


Despite its increasing cost in American lives and tax dollars, throughout most of his presidency Johnson's Vietnam policies enjoyed bipartisan congressional and public support. In 1966, when Sen. Morse offered an amendment to repeal the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, the Democrat-controlled Senate defeated his proposal 92-5. Even as late as 1967, with Johnson escalating militarily, antiwar congressional forces mustered a meager five votes in the Senate to end American involvement. In 1968, one from their ranks, Sen. Eugene McCarthy, challenged Johnson for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, promising to end all U.S. military action in Vietnam if elected. When the unknown senator announced his candidacy, Johnson enjoyed a 50 percent favorable rating in the polls, McCarthy's name identification registered a blip, and Americans overwhelmingly favored the administration's Vietnam policies. Most political analysts expected Johnson to coast to an easy re-election victory in 1968.


Then came the Tet Offensive.

In late January 1968, North and South Vietnam agreed to a cease-fire so both sides could celebrate "Tet," the Vietnamese new year. On Jan. 31, the day of the agreed truce, Northern communist troops and Vietcong guerrillas launched a massive sneak attack on over 100 South Vietnamese cities. They succeeded in blasting their way into the U.S. Embassy compound in Saigon. Although the Tet assault took U.S. and South Vietnamese forces by surprise, they repelled it in a few weeks with relative ease and inflicted heavy enemy casualties on the North.


Before Tet, Johnson and his generals had been assuring Americans for a year that we were on the verge of victory and peace in Vietnam, and most believed the claim. Once the Tet assault began, and for the several weeks that it lasted, the U.S. network news broadcasts aired nightly footage of heavy enemy fire on U.S. and South Vietnamese forces. Americans watching this on television were shocked that our "defeated" enemy could launch such widespread attacks – even hitting our embassy. These images produced a rapid public backlash against the war. Although U.S. and South Vietnamese troops defeated the communists militarily, the reds inflicted a psychological wound on the American voter. Public opinion shifted, and many people adopted what a small minority of antiwar activists had been preaching for years: LBJ and the Pentagon were lying about our military prospects in Southeast Asia.


Next, LBJ magnified this simmering public displeasure by suggesting he might need to call up 200,000 more U.S. troops for Vietnam – on top of the 500,000 already there. Once high school seniors and college students learned that a quarter million new induction notices might issue, they hitchhiked or took Greyhound buses by the thousands to New Hampshire to help McCarthy battle Johnson in that state's presidential primary.


Six weeks after Tet, on the day of the first-in-the-nation primary, McCarthy came within 200 votes of outpolling Johnson in perhaps the most pro-Vietnam War state in America. LBJ's now-exposed vulnerability proved too irresistible: Sen. Robert Kennedy, who had refused repeatedly to challenge Johnson for the nomination, jumped into the race and offered himself as an alternative peace candidate to McCarthy.


With fresh polls showing another likely humiliation in the upcoming Wisconsin primary only two weeks later, Johnson stunned America and announced he would not seek re-election. The man who wanted to be remembered for his Great Society social programs and public works spending frenzy saw his presidency run aground on the shoals of Vietnam.


Vice President Humphrey joined McCarthy and Kennedy in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. Two months after LBJ withdrew, and while campaigning in California, Kennedy was assassinated. Humphrey beat McCarthy for the nomination at the Chicago Democratic Convention, and then he went on to lose the November election narrowly to Richard Nixon.


Over the next four years, President Nixon succeeded in turning over more of the responsibility for the war to South Vietnam. He began a steady drawdown of American forces overseas while maintaining strategic and aggressive U.S. bombing campaigns against the communists. Nixon's "Vietnamization" policies finally brought the North to heel, and the communists signed a peace treaty with the United States and South Vietnam in early 1973. Soon after Nixon brought peace, however, his presidency began unraveling from Watergate. With Nixon's and America's attention diverted by this domestic specter, and showing as much fidelity to their 1973 peace treaty as they showed to their 1968 Tet cease-fire, the North Vietnamese quietly rebuilt their military during this interlude and prepared for another invasion.


In 1974 Nixon resigned and Vice President Gerald Ford succeeded him. During the Ford administration the Democrat-controlled Congress set in motion an end to South Vietnamese military aid. By 1975, with no further likelihood of U.S. retaliation facing them, the heavily fortified and re-armed communists once again overran their neighbor. The Democratic Republic of South Vietnam collapsed and the communists took control of the nation.

Are the historians correct when they cite Vietnam as America's first defeat in war?




America didn't lose the Vietnam War. America ended the war with South Vietnam relatively secure from communist aggression, and then withdrew from the battlefield after Nixon brought peace. When communist aggression again arose, and the South looked to her ally to honor their prior commitment of help, the overwhelming post-Watergate Democratic congressional majority followed through on a campaign promise to end U.S. involvement there.


In Vietnam, America did suffer a defeat, but it was not a defeat inflicted by superior military might. It was the psychological defeat of our will to win. But for an indecisive president who squandered countless opportunities for victory in the name of limited warfare, and then later a war-weary Congress with the political muscle to overrun an unelected president, it might have been otherwise.


The seed of that defeat was sown 50 years ago today, and on this black anniversary of the Tet Offensive we remember the 58,200 Americans who died in the jungles of Vietnam, the 300,000 Americans wounded there, the 1,600 Americans still missing in action, and the nearly 2 million South Vietnamese casualties killed or wounded in the battle for a worthy cause – living free.

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Twenty Years Ago Today: The Clinton Scandal That Led to a Presidential Impeachment, and Why the Monica Lewinsky Saga Mattered

[Excerpted from James Rogan's book, Catching Our Flag: Behind the Scenes of a Presidential Impeachment]

Twenty years ago today, Jan. 21, 1998, I was a freshman congressman sitting at my kitchen table pouring a cup of coffee and preparing to leave for the airport. An article on the front page of the Washington Post caught my eye: "Clinton Accused of Urging Aide to Lie." It wasn't until I got to the bottom of the lead paragraph that I learned the supposed lie involved a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky with whom the president might have had an affair.

I shrugged off the revelation. During Clinton's presidential campaign, cabaret singer Gennifer Flowers disclosed her 12-year affair with him. After he denied it vehemently, she produced audiotapes of their phone conversations confirming the relationship. In later years other women came forward with claims against him ranging from adulterous liaisons to sexual assault. These stories were a small part of the Clinton scandal mosaic that disrupted his administration almost from his first day in office: Whitewater, cattle futures and the unending "gates" – Chinagate, Travelgate, Filegate, Pardongate, Troopergate, Donorgate, Hubbellgate and so forth.


"No big deal," I thought when I read of this new allegation. If America didn't care about Clinton's private life before they twice elected him president, why would one more girlfriend matter? Thinking this story rated no special notice, I finished my coffee and headed out the door without bothering to read the article.


I was wrong. Over the next year, as the layers peeled back slowly from this newest indignity, it did rate – and its significance changed more than a presidency. It changed our culture.

Why did Clinton's affair with an intern mutate into a constitutional confrontation?


Early in Clinton's presidency, several of his former state trooper bodyguards revealed that he used them to procure women when he was Arkansas' governor. After a trooper outed Paula Jones as one of these women, she filed a lawsuit against Clinton. Jones, a low-level Arkansas state clerk, was at Little Rock's Excelsior Hotel during one of Gov. Clinton's appearances there. A member of his security detail approached and told her that the governor wanted to see her privately. The bodyguard escorted her to Clinton's hotel suite, where she claimed that Clinton touched her and tried to kiss her, and then he propositioned her while exposing himself. When Jones rebuffed his advances he reminded her that her employer was his buddy, and then he added, "You're smart. Let's keep this between ourselves." In May 1994, when Jones went public and filed her lawsuit, and as Clinton issued a stern denial, his political operatives hit the airwaves and depicted her as lying trailer park trash.


A year after Jones filed her claim, Clinton's White House chief of staff hired 21-year-old Monica Lewinsky as an intern. Five months later, after Clinton espied her, they began a two-year sexual relationship. During this time Lewinsky transferred to the Pentagon where a coworker, Linda Tripp, befriended her. As the two women grew closer, Lewinsky shared with Tripp the intimate details of her continuing extracurricular romps with Clinton.


Meanwhile, on the Jones front, Clinton fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep the case from proceeding. When the Court ruled against Clinton, he knew that his sexual behavior would be subjected to heightened scrutiny, so he dumped Lewinsky. Lewinsky bemoaned to Tripp that Clinton had jilted her, and she continued sharing details of her relationship with the president, unaware that Tripp was now taping their conversations.


While preparing for trial, Jones' lawyers learned about Lewinsky through Tripp. This improved Jones' chances substantially: Before this discovery, their case revolved around the uncorroborated word of a nobody against that of the president of the United States. The Lewinsky factor gave Jones evidentiary corroboration of Clinton chumming for sexual favors with female subordinate employees. Jones' lawyers subpoenaed Lewinsky as well as all gifts exchanged between her and Clinton.


Undermining a court order to turn over those gifts, Clinton directed his White House secretary, Betty Currie, to go to Lewinsky's home and collect them. Currie drove to her home, fetched the gifts and then hid them under her own bed. Currie then called Vernon Jordan, a well-connected lawyer and Clinton intimate, and relayed that Clinton wanted him to find Lewinsky an out-of-town job. Jordan landed the inexperienced intern a well-paying position in New York with a corporation upon whose board of directors he sat.


Lewinsky discussed her upcoming testimony in the Jones case at least twice with Clinton. He coached her to lie when answering questions under oath. With Clinton's direct guidance, on Jan. 5, 1998, Lewinsky testified in the Jones case and declared under penalty of perjury that she never had a sexual relationship with him.


One week later Linda Tripp turned over to law enforcement the tapes she made of her conversations with Lewinsky, which revealed not only detailed accounts of the affair, but also how both Clinton and Vernon Jordan told her to lie under oath about it. On Jan. 16, Clinton's own attorney general ordered investigators assigned under the direction of former federal Judge Kenneth W. Starr to determine if Clinton used Lewinsky to suborn perjury and obstruct justice in the Jones lawsuit. Judge Starr's investigators intercepted and questioned Lewinsky, and then gave her immunity from perjury prosecution in exchange for her cooperation.


Clinton remained unaware that his Lewinsky scheme was now undone, so he went ahead with his plan to lie about their relationship during his own deposition testimony in the Jones case. Clinton understood that losing to Jones exposed him to more than personal and political humiliation – he might have to pay her millions of dollars in damages and legal fees out of his own pocket. Still, a financial hit was not his biggest risk. Public denials, if later proven untrue, might cost him popular support. If he lied under oath during his deposition testimony, he faced impeachment, felony criminal charges and potential imprisonment. Nobody had to explain this to the Yale-trained lawyer, constitutional law professor, former state attorney general and governor, and as president the only federal official charged by the U.S. Constitution to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."


The table stakes for Clinton were high, but with Lewinsky's under-oath denial already on record, with Vernon Jordan having shuffled her out of town safely, and unaware that Linda Tripp had turned over the damning tapes, Clinton assumed he held the winning hand.


On Jan. 17, 1998, after taking an oath to tell the truth, Clinton pushed in all of his chips and called the dealer when he testified in the Jones case:


Q. Did you have an extramarital sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky?


A. No.


Q. If she told someone that she had a sexual affair with you beginning in November of 1995, would that be a lie?


A. It's certainly not the truth. It would not be the truth.


Q. I think I used the term "sexual affair." And so the record is completely clear, have you ever had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky?


A. I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. I've never had an affair with her. …


Q. At any time were you and Monica Lewinsky alone together in the Oval Office?


A. I don't recall. … It seems to me she brought things to me once or twice on the weekends. In that case, whatever time she would be there, [she'd] drop it off, exchange a few words and go.


Q. So your testimony is that it was possible that you were alone with her, but you have no specific recollection of that ever happening?


A. Yes, that is correct. It's possible that while she was working there, she brought something to me and that at the time she was the only person there. That's possible. …


Q. Have you ever met with Monica Lewinsky in the White House between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.?


A. I certainly don't think so. Now, let me just say, when she was working there, there may have been a time when we were all working late. On any given night, when the Congress is in session, there are always several people around until late in the night, but I don't have any memory of that. I just can't say that there could have been a time when that occurred. I don't remember it.


Q. Certainly if it happened, nothing remarkable would have occurred?


A. No, nothing remarkable. I don't remember it. …


Clinton's cluelessness about his now-compromised Lewinsky perjury strategy was short-lived. On Jan. 19, after Newsweek magazine spiked their investigative reporter Michael Isikoff's story about the Clinton-Lewinsky relationship (Tripp had tipped off Isikoff previously), internet news maverick Matt Drudge broke it first. His scoop received almost no mainstream media attention for two days. Then, on Jan. 21, the story exploded across America's front pages.


The White House revved into uber-damage control mode. Clinton gave multiple interviews over the next few days in which he denied flatly any sexual relationship with Lewinsky. First lady Hillary Clinton rushed before television cameras and branded the Lewinsky story a lie concocted by a "vast right-wing conspiracy." In a now-iconic video clip, the president wagged his finger at America and intoned solemnly, "I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time – never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people."


While the president and first lady worked the media, their political hatchet men planted stories with friendly reporters that Lewinsky had a White House reputation as an imbalanced stalker who kept throwing herself at the beleaguered president. As New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd later wrote, "Even some veteran Clinton henchmen felt a little nauseated about the debate inside the White House on a slander strategy for Lewinsky: Should they paint her as a friendly fantasist or a malicious stalker?" Incidentally, the ability to shred Lewinsky as a nut-job ended abruptly once Clinton learned that investigators possessed her blue dress stained by his telltale DNA.


Clinton's operation of lies and press manipulation worked: Americans believed their president. His poll numbers at first held steady, and then increased to a whopping 67 percent approval rating, allowing much-relieved congressional Democrats to defend him not just through the yearlong scandal and his later impeachment trial, but through the remainder of his term of office – and for years thereafter.

Did the Lewinsky story matter?


Was it, as congressional Democrats and the mainstream media sang in unison back then, "just about sex," and "a private indiscretion" that shouldn't count because, after all, "everybody lies about sex"? Or did it have a greater meaning?


It had a greater meaning. It wasn't about sex – it was about the rule of law.


By late 1998, Judge Starr's meticulous investigation proved beyond a doubt that Clinton committed serial acts of perjury, subornation of perjury and obstruction of justice to crush Paula Jones and her federal civil rights action against him – and most people yawned as they ignored the evidence. Clinton completed his term of office with a high approval rating he still enjoys today. Those people also didn't care (or care to know) that he avoided a post-presidency felony indictment for his criminal behavior by signing a plea bargain with prosecutors on his last day in office. In exchange for admitting that he lied under oath in the Jones case, surrendering his United States Supreme Court and Arkansas Supreme Court law licenses to avoid disbarment, paying the Arkansas court a $25,000 fine and agreeing to a five-year suspension of his state court law license, federal prosecutors agreed not to indict him. Earlier, Clinton also paid Paula Jones $850,000 to settle her lawsuit – without conceding her allegations.


Today, 20 years after sipping coffee while skimming that Washington Post article, I still wonder why people back then didn't care, but this confusion is not directed to my former congressional colleagues. Their behavior was predicated on indulging the polls, protecting Clinton's presidency and warding off collateral political damage caused by impeachment's overwhelming unpopularity.


No, my question isn't to them. It is to the 67 percent of you who, 20 years ago, tolerated, enabled and rewarded this repeated assault on the Constitution and the rule of law:


Why didn't you care?


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Remembering Hubert Humphrey on the 40th Anniversary of His Death

I snapped this photo of former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey as he stepped from his car at KGO Studio, May 16, 1971. He autographed it for me later that year. 

In 1968, Vice President Hubert Humphrey lost the presidency to Richard Nixon in one of the closest elections in American history. Regardless of party, he was one of the most accomplished legislators and political leaders of the twentieth century. And, having met him too many times to count when I was a kid, he was one of the nicest men I have ever encountered.


He died 40 years ago today, January 13, 1978.


In my book, And Then I Met...Stories of Growing Up, Meeting Famous People, and Annoying the Hell Out of Them, I recounted my first meeting with "The Happy Warrior." This is an excerpt from that book:


* * *


In 1960s and 1970s San Francisco, newsman Jim Dunbar's AM Show on station KGO was a staple of local morning television. From 6:30 to 8:30 a.m., Dunbar hosted a live call-in program with newsmakers. While watching the station one Saturday in 1971, I heard an announcement that Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D-MN) one of the most recognizable political titans of that generation, would appear with Dunbar the following Monday morning. I called my classmates and fellow political junkies Dan Swanson and Roger Mahan. Together we concocted a plan to cut eighth grade classes and try to meet Humphrey when he arrived at the studio.


Writing this story five decades later, I am mindful that with each passing year Hubert Humphrey's name registers with fewer people. That was not true when I was young. A Washington heavyweight for decades, the former pharmacist and Minneapolis mayor first won election to the U.S. Senate in 1948. He ran unsuccessfully against John F. Kennedy for the 1960 Democrat presidential nomination, but four years later President Lyndon Johnson tapped him as his running mate. As the 1968 Democrat presidential nominee, Humphrey lost the White House to Richard Nixon by a whisker. After recapturing his old Senate seat two years later, and with the 1972 presidential campaign around the corner, he itched for a rematch with the Republican president.


Humphrey was more than a politician to me. He was an early inspiration. As a fifth grade boy during his 1968 presidential run, I read a Life magazine profile on him. It told of his experience as a young Midwestern pharmacist making his first visit to 1930s Washington and the newfound passion for politics he found there. One night, after an exhilarating tour of the monuments, he rushed off an excited letter to his fiancée back home. After pleading with her not to laugh at him, he wrote that if he applied himself then maybe he could return one day as a congressman. She didn't laugh, they married, and along the way he helped shape almost every landmark law of his era. That magazine profile on HHH showed me that if an ordinary Midwestern druggist could accomplish such great things through politics, then maybe one day I could do the same. Once I connected those dots, I set my compass.



• • •


Well before daybreak that Monday morning, Dan, Roger, and I caught the trolley to downtown San Francisco. To get to KGO, we walked many long blocks down dark streets while passing hobos sleeping in doorways and winos urinating in the gutter. It was a spooky journey for three boys, but we arrived safely. A friendly studio doorman told us that if we waited by the front entrance we would encounter the senator coming into the building.


Whenever I saw television coverage of famous political leaders making public appearances, they always had Secret Service, police motorcycle escorts, and photographers wedged between them and their throngs of fans. Expecting this setting for Humphrey's arrival, I assumed that every distant siren signaled their approaching motorcade. I watched for him while I studied people riding in every passing car. Thankfully, I was ready when a plain sedan double-parked in front of the studio and dropped off its passenger. I raised my camera and snapped a picture of Humphrey as he stepped unescorted from the car.


He bounded toward us with a broad smile and a friendly greeting. While signing autographs, he showed a genuine and unhurried interest in each us. He asked our names and he wanted to know where we came from. When Dan told him that we lived and went to school in nearby Daly City, Humphrey chuckled, "Daly City—that sounds like Chicago!" [A reference to Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.]


When he heard that we liked politics, he beamed with enthusiasm. While the KGO doorman tried to hurry him along, he stood on the sidewalk and spoke of his love of public service. He encouraged us to work hard in school, and he expressed the hope that we would one day join him in Washington. He wished us luck, waved goodbye, and then he headed inside the studio.


Here was my first political hero in the flesh—a man who almost became president—now encouraging me to keep up my interest in government. He left me so tongue-tied that I could only mumble thanks. I don't think I had a bigger thrill as a boy. Half a century later, the memory of that excitement remains undiminished.


• • •


Back at our junior high school Advanced Government class, our chutzpah in meeting Humphrey became the stuff of classroom legend. It so impressed our teacher Mr. Lasley that he ran interference with the principal to help clear our unexcused truancy.


• • •


Over the next few years, Dan, Roger, and I became regular fixtures outside KGO. Whenever newsman Jim Dunbar scheduled an interview with any national political figure, we rode the predawn trolley into town, ran the gauntlet of street derelicts, and waited outside to get autographs, take pictures, and seek advice on politics. Thanks to the studio staff, we met many notables making their way through San Francisco in the early to mid-1970s. We became so familiar to Dunbar and his crew that they sometimes let us watch his interviews from inside the control booth.


Each visit there proved memorable, and making these connections with famous leaders at an early age taught me an important lesson beyond autograph collecting. In sizing up so many of them personally, I developed the confidence that someday—someday—I could do this, too.



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The 1968 Presidential Campaign 50 Years Ago Today: Eugene McCarthy--Midwife of the Modern Progressive Movement--Announces His Presidential Candidacy

1968 Eugene McCarthy for President campaign button (Collection of James Rogan)

[Excerpted from James Rogan's book, On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968]


A United States Senate backbencher with a reputation for quirkiness and a fervent opposition to an ongoing war sought the presidency. With no major funding, no organizational base, and almost zero name identification, he challenged the presumptive Democratic nominee who held a virtual monopoly on establishment support. Party elders and the press treated his quest as a national joke. After a long campaign, as expected, he fell short of winning the nomination. The establishment candidate who beat him went on to lose the White House to an unlikely Republican that year. However, from the ashes of the backbencher's defeat was born the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.


Surprise: This is not a column about Bernie Sanders. It is about the real father of the modern progressives, Sen. Eugene McCarthy, and he launched this movement 50 years ago today, on Nov. 30, 1967.


Eugene McCarthy was Central Casting's version of how a senator or president looked. He stood over 6 feet, with silver hair swept back, and he carried himself with a regal bearing. Well-versed in classic literature and with urbane manners, he read and wrote poetry, but any highbrow comparison ended there. He grew up a farm boy in Watkins, Minnesota (population 760), playing baseball and ice hockey. After high school and college, he worked at a variety of jobs, joined a monastery briefly and later returned to his alma mater as an economics and sociology professor.


McCarthy's political entry was fortuitous. Because nobody else wanted the job, he accepted the local Democratic Party county chairmanship. In 1948 he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, which was the same year his fellow Minnesotan, Minneapolis Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey, won election to the U.S. Senate.


In Congress, McCarthy proved himself the ultimate anti-politician. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. observed that McCarthy admired poets but he showed contempt for his colleagues. Others noted that he felt it beneath him to engage in the ritualistic glad-handing, fundraising and support-seeking of retail politics.


McCarthy joined Humphrey in the Senate in 1958, but the chamber's slow pace and stodgy formalities bored him. He mocked the Senate publicly, calling it, "The last primitive society left on earth," and he compared its traditions to a savage New Guinea settlement: "Both societies are obsessed with seniority, taboos, and precedent. In that regard, the Senate is like a leper colony." He tweaked senior colleagues publicly, and they reciprocated his disdain. Despite a decade of seniority, he never gained (nor wanted) admittance to the Senate's insider club. Among those who found McCarthy's shtick less than sincere was Humphrey, who later described him as "handsome, witty, teacher, poet, Irish mystic, and a clever politician – cleverer for denying it. … Gene is more vain and arrogant than his admirers want to admit[.]"

By late 1967, with bloodshed in Vietnam raging for over three years, antiwar activist Allard Lowenstein concluded that collecting signatures on "end the war" petitions at various colleges was a meaningless protest. Instead he sought to recruit an intraparty challenger to the war's root cause, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in his expected 1968 re-election bid. Lowenstein calculated that a nationwide movement might mobilize around a "peace" candidate. With no money, and working off old antiwar mailing lists, he launched his "Dump Johnson" drive. The likelihood of success was so remote that the proposition seemed absurd to all but a handful of like-minded objectors.


Lowenstein lobbied Sen. Robert F. Kennedy repeatedly to take on the incumbent president of his own Democratic Party. Each time RFK rebuffed him summarily, insisting that nobody could stop Johnson. Kennedy not only refused to run, but he said that if an antiwar challenger surfaced, he would probably endorse Johnson. In desperation Lowenstein went down his short list of antiwar Democratic senators and asked each to run. They laughed off the proposition for the same reason RFK gave: Johnson was unbeatable. Sen. George McGovern also refused to run, but as an afterthought he suggested that Lowenstein go and talk to McCarthy.


Soon thereafter, McGovern ran into McCarthy and apologized for siccing Lowenstein on him with such a wacky idea. McCarthy brushed off the apology, saying that he had talked to Lowenstein and, to McGovern's astonishment, he added casually, "I think I may do it."

In retrospect, McCarthy's cavalier decision to run for president fit his persona. If the road to New Hampshire – the first 1968 primary state – appeared a discouragingly lonely one for an insurgent outsider, who better to trod it than the political world's biggest loner?


It was at a press conference half a century ago today, and to the collective yawn of the political establishment, that McCarthy announced that he would challenge Johnson in the primaries for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination. Even in this solemn ritual he proved iconoclastic. At the end of his opening remarks, when a reporter asked why he wanted to be president, McCarthy corrected him: "I didn't say I wanted to be president. I'm willing to be president." Taken aback by that answer, another reporter asked what kind of president he thought he would make. McCarthy replied, "Oh, I'd be adequate."


McCarthy's campaign style drove his staff mad. He entered the race at the end of November, but he didn't bother showing up to campaign in New Hampshire until two months later – only six weeks before the crucial March 12 vote. When he finally sauntered up there, he campaigned with such indifference that reporters dismissed his effort as a joke. He canceled events arbitrarily and at the last minute. Once a huge audience gathered in an auditorium for his heavily promoted speech. On the way there McCarthy blithely told his driver to take him back to the hotel. He just didn't feel like talking politics that evening; he felt like writing poetry instead. On another occasion an aide arrived early one morning to pick up the candidate for a packed schedule. McCarthy was gone, having left instructions to cancel all of that day's events. Why? McCarthy had discovered that there was a nearby monastery, so he decided to blow off the campaign to go there and meditate all day. Then there was the time his staff set up a private meet-and-greet with local bigwigs; McCarthy arrived to find over a hundred prominent people anxious to see him. He entered the room, shook a few hands, and then he turned to an aide and said, "OK, I'm bored now." With that, he blew past everyone in the ballroom, walked over to the bar and ordered a drink, and he remained there until the room emptied. The day a wealthy donor arrived at McCarthy's campaign office to deliver a personal check for $10,000 – a monumental sum in 1968 – the candidate refused to walk down the hall to thank him. He explained to his flabbergasted manager that since the donor was giving money to a cause, and not to McCarthy personally, the donor shouldn't expect any thanks.


And so it went.

Still, there was something about McCarthy's aloofness and contempt for the political rulebook that created its own bizarre appeal. As one former colleague remembered, when Gene was "on," nobody was more articulate and elegant. And when it came to expressing his opposition to the Vietnam War, he was at his articulate and elegant best.


As those six weeks rolled by, McCarthy's message began resonating with college students across America, many of whom faced impending military induction notices because of Johnson's continued war escalation. First dozens, and then hundreds, and finally thousands of them rode buses or hitchhiked east. When they arrived at his headquarters they cut their long hair, put on conservative clothes, and blanketed every New Hampshire neighborhood on his behalf. The now-common nationwide mobilization of students on college campuses for liberal causes began with the McCarthy phenomenon – dubbed by the press back then as "The Children's Crusade."


When New Hampshire voted, the nonconformist senator came within 200 votes of outpolling Johnson statewide, which sent shockwaves across the political establishment. A few days later Robert Kennedy reversed course and jumped into the race against LBJ. His last-minute entry infuriated McCarthy's supporters who viewed RFK's earlier refusal to run as cowardly, and his sudden entry as an opportunistic and selfish act guaranteeing to split the peace vote.


Two weeks later, and facing more humiliation with an outright defeat by McCarthy in the upcoming Wisconsin primary, Johnson stunned the nation and announced he would not seek re-election. With LBJ bowing out, McCarthy's erstwhile friend Hubert Humphrey (now LBJ's vice president) entered the race, but he was too late to file for the remaining primary contests. Thus, the battle across the primary map was fought between the two peace candidates – McCarthy and Kennedy – and the warfare between them grew increasingly bitter right up to Kennedy's assassination the night of the California primary in early June.


With the almost unanimous support of the party establishment, Humphrey beat McCarthy for the nomination. Following the Democratic National Convention, McCarthy shattered both tradition and expectations by refusing to endorse Humphrey until (literally) the closing hours of the fall campaign. Humphrey lost the election to Richard Nixon and blamed his agonizingly narrow defeat on McCarthy. Humphrey believed that an early endorsement would have motivated McCarthy's tens of thousands of disillusioned young followers to turn out for the Democratic ticket. For his part, McCarthy found it hard, as a matter of intellectual integrity, to ask his legions of draft–age antiwar supporters to go out and work for the man who had been Johnson's foremost Vietnam War cheerleader for the last four years.

The 1968 primary season was McCarthy's political high-water mark. He left the Senate after declining to seek re-election in 1970. In later years, he ran for the presidency four more times: in 1972, 1976, 1988 and 1992. Unlike 1968, his later national efforts went largely (and increasingly) unnoticed. Still the rebel, in 1980 he endorsed Republican challenger Ronald Reagan over incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter, explaining that Carter was too incompetent to remain as president. When he sought to reclaim his Minnesota Senate seat in a 1982 comeback, he received a mere 24 percent of the Democratic primary vote.


McCarthy retired to his home in the Virginia countryside, wrote books, gave public poetry readings, and spoke out for his various causes until declining health sidelined him. He died of complications from Parkinson's disease at age 89 on Dec. 10, 2005.


Today, few people below the Medicare eligibility age remember Gene McCarthy. But half a century ago, in his campaign against Lyndon Johnson, he lit a powder keg that changed the dynamic of American politics, and along the way he midwifed a modern movement that dominates his Democratic Party's activist base today.


And so, on this half-century anniversary of his presidential candidacy, we remember an American original.

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The 1968 Presidential Campaign 50 Years Ago Today: Governor George Romney--The Man JFK Feared--Enters the Race

Photograph signed by Governor George Romney for James Rogan, 1969

[Excerpted from James Rogan's book, On to Chicago: Rediscovering Robert F. Kennedy and the Lost Campaign of 1968]


Shortly before leaving for his fateful Dallas visit, President John F. Kennedy surveyed the field of potential Republican candidates who might challenge him for re-election in 1964. JFK dismissed any concerns over GOP powerhouses like former Vice President Richard Nixon, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater. A single potential competitor, in JFK's estimation, threatened his 1964 prospects. "The one fellow I don't want to run against," he confided to a close friend, "is George Romney."


Kennedy had cause for his unease. Romney was the living embodiment of the Horatio Alger spirit: a devout former missionary from a poor family who never finished college and, as a young man, worked as a stenographer before landing an entry-level job in the automobile industry. Later moving into management, Romney worked his way up the corporate ladder to become chairman of the Board of American Motors. In 1962, as a political novice, he won the first of three terms as Michigan governor, and he was the only Republican candidate that year to win in the heavily Democratic state.


Lyndon Johnson became president following Kennedy's assassination, and Romney declined to seek the White House in 1964. That left liberal Rockefeller and conservative Goldwater to fight a nasty primary battle for the GOP nomination (after losing his 1962 California governor race, Nixon sat out a 1964 run). Johnson crushed eventual nominee Goldwater in a 44 state landslide.


By early 1967, after three years of Johnson blowing through billions of dollars on his "Great Society" welfare and social programs, as well as America suffering tens of thousands of casualties in LBJ's floundering Vietnam War escalation, the GOP saw their opportunity to retake the White House in 1968. However, the two best-known Republicans most often mentioned as likely contenders had significant electability problems. In 1964 an embittered Rockefeller infuriated GOP conservatives when he refused to endorse Goldwater against Johnson in the general election, and their ire still raged. Republican regulars liked and respected Nixon for his party loyalty and strong anti-communist credentials, but he had not won an election in his own right since 1950, and after two successive defeats, the "loser" image dogged him. The Republicans were in no mood for another fumbled White House run – they wanted a winner against Johnson.


Enter George Romney.


Romney's increasingly impressive 1964 and 1966 re-election victories in a solidly blue state made him the early favorite for the GOP presidential nomination. Rockefeller endorsed him, and Romney's strong support among independents, ethnics and blue-collar voters gave him a broad crossover appeal. Beyond that, Romney held an irresistible hand: polls showed him as the only potential Republican challenger beating Lyndon Johnson.

And so, 50 years ago today, on Nov. 18, 1967, George Romney announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States.


As it turned out, early assessments of Romney's electoral prowess, and Kennedy's previous anxiety about him, proved premature. In one of the most hapless campaigns on record, the Romney for President juggernaut set a record for implosion.


What happened?


Throughout most of 1967, with Rockefeller not running and Nixon taking a half-year moratorium from all politics, Romney held the national stage – and the media's bullseye – alone. Despite his experience in the business world and his Michigan successes, he was unprepared in dealing with the heightened scrutiny that attended his front-runner status. When his interviews demonstrated that he had not mastered the various issues with which a potential president must be conversant, the national press corps portrayed him as an empty suit. Reporters delighted in magnifying each gaffe he made on the campaign trail. However, no media exaggeration was necessary when it came to reporting on Romney's self-inflicted fatal wound.


In an interview with a local reporter, when asked why he had moderated his position on Vietnam and had become more skeptical of America's role in the war, Romney declared that during his last visit there he had received "the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get when you go over to Vietnam. Not only by the generals, but also by the diplomatic corps over there, and they do a very thorough job."

"I was brainwashed …"


With the Soviet Union and Red China expanding their international communist threat to America's security, nobody wanted a weak-minded president susceptible to brainwashing, or so the argument went. In a rare act of clemency, the press gave Romney a chance to walk back his comment by asking if he had been misquoted or misunderstood. Instead of grabbing the life preserver, he doubled-down stubbornly and insisted, "Yes, I was brainwashed. We're all brainwashed. The [Johnson] administration simply does not tell us the truth about Vietnam. ... I'm glad I used that word. It woke up the country. Nobody was paying any attention when I only used words like 'snow job.'"


The fallout came quickly. Editorial cartoonists depicted a befuddled or glassy-eyed Romney with soapsuds covering his noggin. Newspapers that had been his strongest supporters now called on him to drop out of the race. The most devastating comment came from Democratic presidential aspirant Eugene McCarthy, who, when asked about Romney's ill-advised statement, suggested that the intellectually challenged Romney didn't need a full brainwashing when "a light rinse" would have done the job.

Romney descended rapidly from serious contender to object of ridicule, and the daggers in his back proved bipartisan. Despite Rockefeller's continued public expressions of support (and Rocky's repeated private insistence that Romney not drop out of the race as the beleaguered candidate now begged to do), Rocky undercut his man repeatedly. Rocky told the press several times that he would be pleased to accept the GOP nomination if the convention drafted him, and he made gratuitously hurtful public comments on Romney's travails. When a reporter asked Rocky to explain Romney's string of bloopers, he replied with a laugh, "I don't know – go ask a psychiatrist."


Humiliated, Romney euthanized his own campaign three days before the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary. His last-minute withdrawal infuriated Nixon privately, who had hoped to beat back his loser image by shredding Romney in New Hampshire and in the later primaries in which they were competing. When told on the eve of their first showdown that Romney had quit, Nixon grumbled that Romney's exit had cheated him out of his earned triumph. "That's just like a businessman," Nixon fumed to an aide. "No guts."


After winning the White House in 1968, President Nixon named Romney to his Cabinet as secretary of housing and urban development, where he served for four years before retiring to private life, charitable work and church activities. Stricken by a heart attack while doing his morning treadmill exercise, he died at age 88 on July 26, 1995. His son, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, partially avenged his father's 1968 loss by winning the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.


Although his White House candidacy proved short-lived, George Romney's entry into the presidential sweepstakes fired off the starting gun for the historic and fateful 1968 campaign. He helped set the stage for Richard Nixon's unlikely and dramatic comeback in a race that may have been our nation's most divisive, bitter and bloody – and one that clearly changed permanently the arc of American history and politics.



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Remembering Adam West (1928-2017)

Photo signed for James Rogan by Adam West and Burt Ward

On the evening of January 12, 1966, every kid in my third grade class waited anxiously to tune in on prime time television to the ABC Network. On that night, "Batman" premiered, starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Originally, the show aired two nights a week; the first episode always ended in a cliffhanger. The morning after the initial story aired, much schoolyard recess time was expended recapping the excitement of last night's adventure, while also speculating about how the Dynamic Duo might escape what appeared to be certain doom.


Fifty years later, I still love the show--as do my daughters, and as will future generations. The great morality and responsibility that Batman and Robin taught--obey the law, be a good citizen, listen to your parents, do your homework--is sadly missing from much of the trash that passes for youthful television entertainment today.


I had the chance to meet Adam and Burt a couple of times when I was in the state legislature and they visited my district for a fan show. Adam was very interested in my own experiences as a "crime-fighting" Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney, and also the cases I heard as a municipal court judge. At one such meeting, they signed this photo for me, which I still treasure.


Adam West died this week at age 88. May he rest in peace. Through their show, he and Burt are still teaching the next generation of young fans the rules of good citizenship and exemplary service.

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Fox News Documentary on the Clinton Impeachment

This morning a Fox News crew from DC and New York descended on my home. They arrived at 10 am; they were packing up at 4 pm. Mine was the first in a series of many interviews they are doing with survivors of the Clinton impeachment trial for a news retrospective set to air later in the year. They were well prepared and consummate professionals, and Christine and I enjoyed having them spend the day with us.


They were so nice that I won't care if (as I always anticipate when dealing with the press) I get shivved in the final product!


They did promise that the faded jeans and sneakers I was wearing during the two hour interview wouldn't show in the camera shot....

Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher Jim Bunning (1931-2017)

Magazine signed for JR by MLB Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher and U.S. Congressman Jim Bunning, 1997

Over 20 years ago, I served in the U.S. House of Representatives with Jim Bunning and Steve Largent (both Hall of Fame members—Jim was a member of the MLB Baseball Hall of Fame, and Steve was a member of the Football Hall of Fame). Jim later went on and represented Kentucky in the United States Senate. 


One day my wife Christine, our girls, and I were shopping at a mall in Northern Virginia. While they poked around in a clothing store, I wandered over to a sports memorabilia shop. There I saw in a glass case old baseball and football player cards for sale. On the top shelf of the display case, side-by-side, were cards for both Jim and Steve. I decided to buy them and have my colleagues autograph them for me.


The next day I saw Jim sitting alone in the House chamber. I sidled up to him and asked that he sign my baseball card. As he got out his pen, he asked where I found it. I told him that coincidentally I found one for both him and Largent side-by-side at a memorabilia store, and that I bought them both. Jim asked me how much they cost.


"I got a deal on them because I bought both."


"That's great. How much did you pay?"



"Well," I told him, "I asked the shopkeeper how much he wanted for the Largent card. He quoted a price of $10."


"So how much was mine?" Jim asked.


"That's the best part of the story!" I told him grinning. "The owner told me if I bought the Largent card, he'd throw in yours for free!"


I should have held back that answer, which came just as Jim's pen was about to make contact with the card. He looked up, replied to me in a way that I need not repeat here, flung the card onto my lap, and stormed away in a huff.


I had to wait a couple of years until Jim was in the Senate and I was involved in the Clinton impeachment (which redeemed me in his eyes) to get that card signed.


Jim died today at age 85 from complications after sufferiing a stroke. He was 85. 


Requiem en pace, old friend.

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John Kasich and a Very Cool Gavel

Yesterday at the Nixon Library I was reunited with my old congressional colleague, now Ohio Governor John Kasich, when I was invited to introduce him for his speech (and later book signing). It was the first time that John and I have seen each other since we both left Congress in 2001.


The gavel we are holding is from my collection. It was the gavel used by me to preside over the House of Representatives (as Speaker Pro Tem) on May 21, 1997 during debate and vote on the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. Speaker Newt Gingrich later signed and presented the gavel to me.


As chairman of the House Budget Committee in 1997, John was the author of that historic bill, which gave America's her first balanced federal budget in thirty years. I feared that I might have to pry it loose from John's hand to get it back! I would not have faulted him if he had thought--correctly--that the gavel rightfully should have belonged to him. 


Photos courtesy of Christine Rogan's iphone....

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It's a Wonderful Life--70 Years Later

Since I seem to be attracted to various enterprises for which I have no innate talent (e.g., writing best-selling books), I decided last year to try my chops at acting—something for which I have no training at all (unless one counts elective office). Anyway, last month I was honored to rejoin a troupe of great professional actors at the Pantages Theater of the Long Beach Veterans Hospital to recreate (on the seventieth anniversary of the original broadcast) the original 1947 Lux Radio Theater old time radio production of "It's a Wonderful Life." The theater, by the way, hosted many of the great old radio shows during the World War II era, such as Jack Benny and Bob Hope.


In this picture, I am looking at the director waiting for my cue to read my part of Nick the Bartender—the mean guy who tosses George Bailey and Clarence the Angel out onto the snow-covered sidewalk. Looking at me—and not needing any cue from anyone—is one of the great voice actors in America today, Bryan Hendrickson, who played the soon-to-be manhandled Clarence.


Starring in the Jimmy Stewart role of our production was the fantastic (and friend of many decades) Paul Petersen, who is best remembered for playing son Jeff Stone on the long-running iconic TV program, The Donna Reed Show. As a movie star, Paul played opposite such legends as Cary Grant and Sophia Loren. Now Paul plays opposite me, which proves the old Hollywood maxim—when you fall in this town, you fall hard! Also in the cast were fabulous actors from OTR's (old time radio's) heyday—Stuffy Singer, Ivan Cury, Tommy Cook, Gloria McMillan, and a host of other fine talents such as Camden Singer ("Mary"--our female lead--tremendous!), Bobb Lynes, Barbara Watkins, the mighty Gassman brothers (John Gassman and Larry Gassman), and an up-and-coming kid—Jeff Ferguson (aka Judge Jeff Ferguson, Superior Court of California). I brought Jeff along so that I wouldn't be the only actor who stank. In that regard, Jeff (who was good) let me down.


As they say in the biz, there are no small parts, only small actors. In my case, they might amend the phrase: there are no small parts, only lousy actors—no matter what size the part.

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In Memory of John Glenn

In memory of one of America's great space heroes, John Glenn, who died today at age 95.


When I first met him over forty years ago as a teenage fan, I never dreamed one day I would come to know him when we served together in Congress, and in later years.



 Newly-elected Senator John Glenn and me, 1975



John and Annie Glenn with Dana and Claire Rogan, along with their dad, 2003


This photo of us in tuxedos and at dinner shows me beginning to tell him that President Bush wanted me to collect the control stick from John's 1962 spacecraft Friendship 7 (John told me earlier he kept as a souvenir). I told him that the attorney general wanted it back, or else they'd swear out a warrant for him removing government property! I thought he was going to choke on his rubber chicken dinner before he realized I was just kidding him...


Rest in peace.

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Cribbing My Homework

As it turns out, in 1999 President-elect Trump wrote this book in anticipation of running for president in 2000. This was on pp. 200-201:


I just saw this for the first time after the recent election when someone sent it to me. Until then, I didn't know it existed.


The lesson for all of you: if you want to win the presidency, you need to crib from my homework…



In Memory of Arnold Palmer

In memory of one of the great sports legends of my youth, Arnold Palmer, who died today at age 87. Here we are almost twenty years ago when I first met him during my time in Washington, D.C. The golf ball he signed for me that day is still on display in a cabinet in my office.

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In Memory of Muhammad Ali

The Champ Sparring with the Congressman, 1997

Remembering a truly lovely man and great sports icon, Muhammad Ali, the three-time world heavyweight boxing champion, who died today at age 74.


When my daughters were little, they adored The Champ--and as you can see from these photos of them with him, the affection was reciprocated. 



With (from left) Claire, Christine (partially hidden) and Dana Rogan




With Dana Rogan




Rest in peace. 

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The World-Famous Palomino Club

Imagine a beat-up bar in North Hollywood, California, that looked like an old barn dumped in the middle of a crummy neighborhood. Now imagine that in the decades it was opened, it was considered the Mecca of Country-Western music, second only to the Grand Ole Opry. Imagine being a college kid working in a bar like that, where, among the people who played there over the years, were George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams SENIOR, Patsy Cline, Linda Ronstadt, Waylon Jennings, Marty Robbins, Johnny Paycheck, George Jones, Elton John, Fats Domino, Carl Perkins, and too many thousands more to mention.


Such a place once existed. Welcome to the world famous Palomino Club, closed forever about twenty-five years ago. Among my most fond memories were the years I bartended there while a law student at UCLA. I never saw a more wild and exciting place in my life.


On a Palomino Club fan page, someone posted this youtube documentary on that iconic showplace, now lost to the ages except in the memories of those of us who worked there, drank there, fought there, sang there, romanced there, broke up there, laughed and cried there, and had one hell of a time--all while listening to some of the greatest musical talent on the planet.


Here's to the Pal. I'm honored to have been a small part of its history.




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In Memory of Filthy McNasty

The Legendary Filthy McNasty

In the heyday of Hollywood's Sunset Strip, Filthy McNasty's was one of the premiere hangouts. Filthy and his brother Wolfgang hired me as a bartender at both their Sunset Strip and North Hollywood nightclubs almost forty years ago, and I worked there (and at another iconic landmark, the Palomino Club) during my UCLA Law School days. There were so many wild stories of my adventures at Filthy's and the Pal that they comprised my favorite chapters in my first book, "Rough Edges." After rocking Hollywood for a quarter-century, Filthy sold the Sunset Strip club in the early 1990s, and it reopened as the now also-famous Viper Room.


Filthy McNasty, died of cancer this month at age 73. RIP boss--those of us who were part of the history of Filthy's (on the Strip) and FM Station (in North Hollywood) will never forget those times.



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Reagan Library Book Signing

Many thanks to all my friends at the Reagan Library and Foundation, and the Reagan Library docents for all their hospitality during my book signing and speech there on May 11th. I look forward to a return visit soon.

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How Many People Can Say That President Harry S Truman Helped Them With Their Homework?

When I was in seventh grade in 1969, I spent untold hours at the Daly City Public Library, looking up the addresses of retired government leaders so I could write them for both autographs and advice on entering politics. Getting former president Harry Truman's address came in handy for one particular middle-school project, although not without causing some indigestion along the way.


That year my history teacher, Mr. Puhr, assigned us to write a biography of a historic person. This was my first long-term homework assignment: our paper had to be typed, researched, and at least seven pages long. In the pre-personal computer era, few twelve-year-olds were keyboard literate, so Mr. Puhr gave us three months to complete this monumental task. "But you'd better have it ready to turn in on the due date," he warned us ominously, "or there will be consequences."


For my subject, I picked the eighty-six-year old Truman, who was then two decades removed from his White House service. I approached my task in earnest, and instead of spending three months on the project, I finished it in three days. With so much time to spare, and having learned during my research that Truman once said his only obligation in retirement was to answer personally the letters he received from young people, I decided to mail my report to Truman and ask him to look it over. Long before readily available copy machines (and the invention of hard drives), I had no duplicate of my homework. It never dawned on me that Truman wouldn't return it.


Months passed; when the paper came due, I was empty-handed. Mr. Puhr rejected my explanation: he called me a liar in front of the class, accused me of never doing the report, and gave me an F. "Besides," he announced to everyone, "Truman's dead – I watched his funeral on television twenty years ago!"


More months went by, and I forgot about the incident. Then one afternoon, I returned home from school and found a large envelope postmarked from Independence, Missouri. Inside I found my report returned, an autographed picture of the great man, and this letter:


The next day in class, I walked up to Mr. Puhr's desk and placed on it silently my proof. His face reddened as he looked over the documents.


"Take your seat," he said sternly.


"Is that all you have to say to me, Mr. Puhr?" I asked in surprise. "I said, 'take your seat'."


After humiliating me earlier, Mr. Puhr now refused to acknowledge his mistake. I fumed over this injustice for the rest of class. When the recess bell rang, I exacted my own vindication: jumping from my desk, I rushed to the door and blocked the exit. Holding aloft my treasures, I called to my classmates, "Hey, if anybody wants to see the letter and autographed picture I got yesterday from the late President Harry Truman, I'll show it to you on the playground!"


Despite my protests, Mr. Puhr refused to accept my paper. I went to the principal, Mrs. Zenovich, and presented my case. Marching me back to class, Mrs. Zenovich confronted Mr. Puhr and ordered him to accept it.


Later, Mr. Puhr handed back my paper in front of the entire class and announced that he marked me down for "repeated punctuation errors" because I kept failing to put a period after Truman's middle initial "S." I told him the omission was intentional, because the S didn't get a period – S was his middle name. Mr. Puhr grabbed volume T of the Encyclopedia Britannica, turned to Truman's entry, and cackled aloud, "The encyclopedia lists him as Harry S-with-a-period Truman! What do you say to that, Mr. Rogan?"


"The encyclopedia's wrong."


Mr. Puhr chortled, "So! The encyclopedia is wrong and Mr. Rogan is right! My, aren't we lucky to have such a brilliant student in our midst!" Students laughed as Mr. Puhr mocked me for the rest of class. For days afterward, he called on me to "confirm" facts, like our first president was George Washington, or that Columbus discovered America in 1492 ("Or was it in 1493, Mr. Rogan?"). Growing tired of the abuse, I took matters into my own hands:


"Dear President Truman," my new letter began, "You won't believe this teacher of mine . . . ." I asked Truman to settle the issue.


Sadly, the school year ended without any reply, and again I forgot about it. Then one day, as my 1970 summer vacation ended, another letter from Missouri arrived.


Now, for the first time, I noticed Truman's engraved letterhead: sure enough, it bore the name "Harry S Truman" with no period after the middle initial.


On the first day of the new school year, I tracked down my former teacher. Mr. Puhr looked baffled when I entered his classroom, as if I had made another mistake. I walked to his desk and showed him the second Truman letter. Again he refused to re-grade my report, but changed his mind when I threatened him with more Mrs. Zenovich therapy.


As I walked away, Mr. Puhr called to me sharply: "Rogan," he said, "I'm very glad you won't be in my class this year."




Former president Harry S Truman died at age eighty-eight on December 26, 1972. In the early 1990s, American Heritage magazine first published my story about Harry Truman helping me with my homework. A few years later, I gave Reader's Digest permission to republish it in its April 1995 issue, which coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of Truman's presidency.


A couple of weeks later, while on a trip to Missouri, I toured Truman's house in Independence (now a national historic site). The guide led about twenty of us to the rear porch and said, "Here's where Mr. Truman sat each morning, answering his mail. In fact, in this month's Reader's Digest, there is a story of how he helped a young boy with his homework. This porch is where he would have read the boy's letter and wrote his reply."


When the tour ended, I mentioned to the guide that I was the author. He asked me to wait while he called his wife (who worked at the nearby Truman Presidential Library). A few minutes later, a couple of cars arrived with staff and docents from the library. They led me back to the porch and asked me to recount the entire story for them, and it pleased me greatly to do so.


Some years later, I attended a weekend legislative retreat with fellow members of Congress. The guest speaker was one of my generation's preeminent historians, David McCullough, who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography on Truman. When I asked McCullough to autograph my copy of his book, I mentioned with a grin that I was pleased to meet a fellow Truman "scholar." He asked me in seriousness what Truman work I penned; I laughed and told him about my little story of Truman helping me with my homework when I was a boy. McCullough's eyes brightened. "The 'homework' story in American Heritage!" he said. "Truman wrote you back about the S in his middle name! I not only read it – it helped me win a bet on that S issue!"


It seems that when Harry Truman took the time to help a young admirer long ago, both David McCullough and I came out winners.


(This story is a sample from my second book, "And Then I Met … Stories of Growing Up, Meeting Famous People, and Annoying the Hell Out of Them.)

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One of Abraham Lincoln's Last Autographs--150 Years Ago Today

This autograph in my political memorabilia collection is worth a look, especially today. Of all the memorabilia in my collection, one of my favorites is this clipped document signed by President Abraham Lincoln three days before his assassination on April 11, 1865. Today is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln signing this precious clip, which granted yet another pardon for a young Confederate soldier.


I took this photograph under fading daylight this evening, so sorry for the less-than-professional shots.


By the way, this autograph has more authentication "pedigrees" from world-renowned auction houses, experts, and national archivists than you possess for your AKC dog!

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A Dog's Noble Shame

My pound rescue dog Sparky just got in trouble: she growled at our cat Tootsie and chased her out of the kitchen. She knew she was in immediate trouble when I approached and grabbed her by the collar. I scolded her; she skulked away into the family room. After a few minutes, it was time to go make up. When I walked in the room I found her on the couch with her head propped on a pillow. When I walked over to pet her, she buried her head under the pillow and wouldn't come out despite my coaxing her repeatedly


I wish other wrongdoers shared a dog's noble sense of shame when caught in the act.

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Happy 90th Birthday President Jimmy Carter

With former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter,

Plains, Georgia, September 30, 2014

I was invited by the Carter Political Items Collectors to address their annual banquet this last weekend in Plains, Georgia. The guests of honor were former President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter, with whom I had dinner before my speech.


After I mildly roasted our 39th president during my banquet speech on Saturday night, he invited us to join him for the Sunday School class he taught the next morning at Maranatha Baptist Church. The smile on his face in the picture of the Carters with me (taken after the service) shows he got even! When I heard him open his class with, "Is Jim Rogan here this morning?" I knew it was going to go downhill for me! He then proceeded to explain to everyone that not only was I a famous congressman and judge, but that I was also a recognized Biblical scholar - - and then he invited me to come up and teach his 45 minute class on the Book of Hezekiah!


Touche, Mr. President! You gave as good as you got, and it was all in good fun on both sides. Regardless of party, I trust all my friends join me in wishing a very happy 90th birthday to President Carter today.

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"And Then I Met... Stories of Growing Up, Meeting Famous People, and Annoying the Hell Out of Them"

Here is the new 90-second video trailer for my new book, "And Then I Met... Stories of Growing Up, Meeting Famous People, and Annoying the Hell Out of Them."




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Twentieth Anniversary: California State Assembly

This photograph of California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown swearing me in as a new member of the legislature was taken 20 years ago today. It's hard to believe that two decades have passed since that momentous day in Christine's and my life.

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A Note on Former Vice President Hubert Humphrey--1968 Democratic Party Presidential Nominee

Forty-two years ago today, and when I was a young boy, former Vice President and 1968 Democratic presidential nominee Hubert H. Humphrey (1913-1978) gave me this brass "HHH" campaign pin.


The time and place: March 24, 1972, San Francisco Fairmont Hotel. I was 14 and snuck into a private reception the irrepressible and wonderfully kind HHH held for people designated to be his national convention delegates if he won the California Primary. After his brief speech, HHH circulated shaking hands, posing for pictures and (for my little brother Pat and me) signing multiple campaign brochures. Then some unexpected guests arrived:


While HHH worked the room, a group of pretty young stewardesses peeked inside the doorway and recognized him. Sheepishly, one of them asked a campaign aide if they could come in and shake hands with the candidate. Humphrey looked over and saw their group; not waiting for his aide to grant permission, HHH bolted to the door and escorted them personally into the reception.


After shaking hands and posing for photos with the women, Humphrey announced he had a gift for them. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a fistful of brass "HHH" pins that fastened to clothing with a removable butterfly clutch.


"These are our special campaign pins we give special friends," Humphrey told the flight attendants, "and I would like to give one to each of you!" The first giggling stewardess reached out her hand to receive the gift. Humphrey ignored her outstretched palm and said, "Here, let me pin it on you!" With the practiced speed of a teenage boy in the backseat of an old Buick, Humphrey slid his hand down and inside the young woman's blouse while he fastened the pin clasp. The startled stewardess blushed through saucer-sized eyes, but her giggling smile never wavered. Some onlookers chuckled while others exchanged nervous glances. HHH ignored both his whispering aide and the potential social breach as he moved down the line, pinning each attendant's top with intimate, unfettered gusto.


As Humphrey fastened the last pin, someone in the crowd called out, "Muriel [Mrs. Humphrey] will give you hell for this!" Humphrey ignored the crack and completed the task. As the last flushed attendant straightened her disheveled blouse, Humphrey looked over at Pat and me and gave us a wink. "Ahh," he exclaimed with a grin, "the joys of running for president!"


[Author's note: what got edited out of the story (for brevity) is what happened next: I walked up to him, shook his hand, and said, "You know, Senator, you were the envy of every guy in this room a minute ago." Then, with a grin, I leaned in and whispered, "And if you give me one of those HHH pins for my collection, I'll keep my mouth shut!" Humphrey looked down at me, smiled, and then reached into his pocket. The little brass pin in the photo is the one I still treasure from that long-ago night.]



Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey

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