The Happy Warrior
May 27, 2011 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Vice President and Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey is remembered by "Nixonland" author Rick Perlstein in today's New York Times as "America's Forgotten Liberal" on this, the 100th anniversary of Humphrey's birth. A significant political figure in his own right as a champion of civil rights, a front-runner in the 1960 Democratic primaries and the Democratic nominee for president in 1968, Humphrey's political and personal humiliations at the hands of Lyndon Johnson hindered him at what should have been the very pinnacle of his career and the success of the 30-year liberal majority in Washington. A four-part series at by writer Iric Nathanson (pt.1, pt.2, pt.3, pt.4) looks at his career. Humphrey died of cancer in 1978 while still serving in the Senate.
posted by briank (28 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

Humphrey's political and personal humiliations at the hands of Lyndon Johnson

This is what I think of whenever I see the words "Hubert Humphrey". The New Yorker published a great extract from Robert Caro's Master of the Senate, "The Orator of the Dawn" (sadly behind the paywall now, although several pages can be found on Google Books).
posted by KokuRyu at 11:07 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I watched his funeral as a kid. Always liked the Hugh.
thanks for posting this.
posted by clavdivs at 11:09 AM on May 27, 2011

Nixonland is outstanding.
posted by donovan at 11:12 AM on May 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

back then years ago, i voted for the ticket that Hubert Humphrey was on. that time he lost , kinda remember that. i did'nt weigh the platforms of the candidates, because i was still living at home, i voted just the way my mother demanded.
posted by taxpayer at 11:15 AM on May 27, 2011

Great Perlstein editorial, by the way. As far as Nixonland goes, it is indeed an outstanding book, but nothing comes close to Robert Caro.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:20 AM on May 27, 2011

From the comedy file from the LBJ audio collection:

Hubert Humphrey: That was a great press conference.

President Johnson: Well, I don't know.

Humphrey: Yes, it was.

President Johnson: I thought--might be--let them pay for it. [chuckles] It was free time, wasn't it?

Humphrey: Well, by golly, it was free time and boy, it was a blockbuster. Well, I just wanted to wish you well.

President Johnson: You think that--you don't like the way I talk about these ex-vice-presidents, do you, before [Richard] Nixon?

Humphrey: No, I don't mind if you talk about ex ones. [laughs]

President Johnson: [Chuckles.]
posted by clavdivs at 11:21 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Where is my Harry Turtledove novel where HHH becomes president instead of Nixon? I'm not entirely sure where this would have taken America, but surely he could work out something where Reagan gives up on politics and decides to take on the Soviets alone.
posted by Winnemac at 11:21 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wait -- Hubert Humphrey was born the same day as Vincent Price? The VINCENTENNIAL IS BEING SHARED?!?
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:28 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Unsung hero of American politics and a reminder of what Minnesota stood for before it became Michele Bachmann-Land. Alas, he will probably always be remembered, to the extent that he's remembered at all, for the things that it is easiest in this very different time to mock him for: his unrepentant liberalism, his loyalty to the party in power during the escalation in Vietnam and the mockery that that loyalty engendered among the left elite (Marty Peretz, Noam Chomsky, Benjamin Spock), the campus war protesters (cries of "Murderer!" and "War criminal!" when he visited Stanford), and Hunter S. Thompson ("treacherous brain-damaged old vulture"), his nice-guy submission to the bully LBJ. His code of behavior today seems a relic from a very distant time: "that as long as you treated other Senators as honest men, sincere in their convictions, that you could usually gain the tolerance, if not affection, of even those who disagreed strongly with you."
posted by blucevalo at 11:35 AM on May 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

In 1976 he joined Representative Augustus Hawkins, a Democrat from the Watts section of Los Angeles, to introduce a bill requiring the government, especially the Federal Reserve, to keep unemployment below 3 percent — and if that failed, to provide emergency government jobs to the unemployed.

A greater contrast could not be imagined between the above and what we have before us this very day: The House Republican Plan for Job Creators, a document so fetid that Humphrey wouldn't use it for toilet paper.
posted by blucevalo at 11:39 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Nixonland is outstanding.

posted by joe lisboa at 12:00 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

How revered was he in Minnesota? Just listen to this coverage of his death on WCCO, one of the midwest's most powerful radio stations.

Also amusing, from 1964: a live radio interview (by phone) is interrupted by a network news bulletin announcing President Johnson is considering HHH for his running mate, and plans to phone him.
posted by evilcolonel at 12:02 PM on May 27, 2011

Let's see if I can linkify those:

Interview interrupted

Coverage of his death
posted by evilcolonel at 12:04 PM on May 27, 2011

I was amazed to find, when I googled this phrase, that the first several results are about "a dangerous section of Bull Hill Road, near LaFayette High School."

I feel so old.
posted by orthogonality at 12:06 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Did anyone look closely at this photo in part one of the MinnPost piece? Humphrey is standing next to "A Pledge for American Unity" which reads as follows:

"1) I will spread no rumor and no slander against any sect.

2) I will never try to indict a whole people by reason of the delinquency of any member.

3) I will daily deal with every man in business, in social and in political relations, only on the basis of his true individual worth.

4) In my daily conduct I will consecrate myself, hour by hour, to the achievement of the highest ideal of the dignity of mankind, human equality, human fellowship, and human brotherhood."

I really, really wish that was framed in every politician's office.
posted by castlebravo at 12:16 PM on May 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

"There is no way to grasp what a shallow, contemptible and hopelessly dishonest old hack Hubert Humphrey is until you've followed him around for a while."

Hunter S. Thompson
posted by Relay at 12:34 PM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Recently there's been talk of renaming prominent Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis to Lake Humphrey, seeing as how history has been a bit more kind to him than ol' proslavery John C. Calhoun.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 12:34 PM on May 27, 2011

His sister lived up the street from us when I was a kid, and I've always felt affection for him just on that basis.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:39 PM on May 27, 2011

Until I read this article in the Times earlier he was just Merkin Muffley to me. Now I've learned that he may have been the turning point where it all started going wrong.

Where do the lies of history end and allow the truth to begin?
posted by Chekhovian at 12:54 PM on May 27, 2011

I saw the Hump speak in Seattle during the 1968 campaign. Bill Dana was warming up the crowd and played "Dream the Impossible Dream" (the McCarthy campaign theme) on the piano. He introduced the song as "one of my favorites." He was heckled to tears by members of the crowd. Then the Tac Squad showed up to drag the hecklers and protesters out. The place was a shambles by the time the Hump showed his face.

He spent much of his speech defending the war and attacking the anti-war protesters as paid shills of the Republicans. Four years later, I agreed with everything Hunter Thompson wrote about him.

Hubert's problem was his spinelessness. Perlstein is correct the country took the wrongest of right turns under Nixon. But the Hump was not the man of the hour. He was more like the jellyfish of the hour.

The Democrats were in the process of completing their self-destruction as a national coalition party, something that started in 1964 when Goldwater showed the South they could get a better deal from the Republican party than they could from the Democrats. From there it has been all down hill.
posted by warbaby at 1:40 PM on May 27, 2011

I worked as a security guard at the ADL many, many years ago. On the very top floor of the building is (or was, I can't speak about now) an entire large room devoted to Hubert H. Humphrey. It looked very much like a shrine. There was a large bronze bust of HHH. And a bronze plaque as well. Searching for pictures of this large room I found this. But not much else.
posted by Splunge at 1:47 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whateeever became of Huuubert?
posted by Slackermagee at 2:08 PM on May 27, 2011

As an unabashed fan of Nixonland, I'm a little surprised that Perlstein wrote this, as he made a point of the same criticism of The Hube that HST had: Humphrey's about-face regarding California's winner-take-all assigning of delegates after he'd lost the primary there in '72. I think they even used the same quote from some talk show where HHH insisted that he was behind the winner-take-all rule, a few days before the primary. Regardless, I'm glad that Perlstein wrote this as a kind of balance.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:23 PM on May 27, 2011

Capt. Renault: "Wait -- Hubert Humphrey was born the same day as Vincent Price? The VINCENTENNIAL IS BEING SHARED?!?"

I did not know about the Vincentenial. And I should have. Thank you. This is worthy of a FPP all by itself.
posted by Splunge at 3:29 PM on May 27, 2011

There's a good one further down the main page, Splunge. Somehow, it escaped my notice all day.
posted by Capt. Renault at 3:41 PM on May 27, 2011

I suspect Perlstein might mean the US would be a much nicer place if it was the sort of country that would elect a president with the principles that HHH espoused when he wasn't red-baiting, toadying or otherwise acting like a contemptible assclown.

I agree with this point; the US would be a much nicer place if it was a different country and had not fallen into the the hands of a bunch of corrupt, petty, spiteful, senile and ruthless hacks like Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes or their rivals. Dream on, America.
posted by warbaby at 10:48 AM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

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