Tag Archives: election

[Sep. 6, 1962] Unfunny Papers (The Second Coming and San Diego Politics)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Victoria Lucas

Erudition enshrined

Well, here’s something I hadn’t run into before.  I don’t spend much time in bookstores or newsstands because I can’t afford to go wild in them as I’d like.  Better to step away than to spend a mortgage-payment worth of money for a few books and/or magazines.

However, I couldn’t resist this one.  Drawn by a bookish magnet into a little cubbyhole crowded with books from floor to ceiling and overseen by a disheveled person near the front door with a cat on his desk, I stumbled onto a literary magazine I hadn’t seen before, apparently created while I was busy with school in 1961.  The Second Coming (not of Christ, of American intellectualism) is now on its third issue, or at least it was in June. 

On the June cover is an image of an American flag with hinges and on the first page is a photograph of MY typewriter, a Smith-Corona electric.  After another ad it flaunts its authors and artists, among whom are the following:  Herbert Blau, one of the founders and directors of The Actor’s Workshop of San Francisco, whose work I saw when I was at Stanford, film critic Pauline Kael, writer James O’Connor, fiction writer Isaac Bachevis Singer’s (in translation), and Susan Sontag, who teaches “in the Department of Religion at Columbia University.”  It is a literary magazine in the tradition of the Paris Review and the Evergreen Review.

Glancing at back issues (reading copies only under the watchful eye of the man with the cat), I saw that Issue Number 2 in 1961 was the most exciting so far, with prose, not poetry, from Allen Ginsberg, poetry not prose from Frank O’Hara, and works by Kenneth Koch and Gunther Schuller.  That issue also sported drawings (not paintings) by Robert Rauschenberg, and a critique of reproductions of art by Jasper Johns, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Rothko.  At the very back are (sigh!) advertisements for The Modern Jazz Quartet and WBAI FM Radio in New York.  (I learned to like Pacifica Foundation radio while at Stanford and heard programs from WBAI.)  The issue also reproduced letters from Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins, Jacques Barzun, and (my favorite literary lion) John Simon, congratulating the editor on the first issue of the journal.

The one I went out the door with, though, having paid my mite and feeling dizzy from the intellectual heights (and perhaps the dust), was the March 1962 issue, with a cultural piece by Roland Barthes, fiction by William S. Burroughs, and articles on “The Eichmann Trial and the rule of law” and “Bankrupt Myth of a Free Economy.” 

I love little magazines, especially clever little magazines.  Perhaps someday, I shall have to try more of the ones the Traveller is always reviewing…

From doing the papers to being in the papers

Just a word about an upcoming San Diego, California election.  As part of the continuing reorganization and creation of California’s electoral districts, a 37th Congressional District has been formed.  Keep your eye on Democratic candidate Lionel Van Deerlin, who lost his last attempt at getting into the House of Representatives in 1958.  It’s rare to see a Democrat win in this area, which is heavily populated by members of and retirees from the military, as well as other retirees.
 
Van Deerlin does have the advantage of being a newsman.  He knows the angles; he knows the reporters; and he knows the politicians.  Whether this will give him enough of a boost to win will be interesting to watch.  


 
A native of Oceanside (just north of San Diego), Van Deerlin received his Bachelor’s in journalism from USC (University of Southern California) in 1937, and when in the Army in World War II he became a writer for Stars and Stripes.  He was city editor for the San Diego Daily Journal from 1946 to 1950, and was KFSD-TV news director until last year.  
 
He married Mary Jo Smith in 1940, and Mrs. Van Deerlin and their children were pictured in publicity shots for earlier campaigns and articles about his career in journalism, looking all very American family.
 
A friend in San Diego is keeping me posted, so more about this later!

[The district of the Traveller and family (the 35th) is also new, though we should be so lucky to have a Democrat as a contender.  Instead, the Republican, James B. Utt, is a shoo-in.  His politics are somewhere to the right of Ghengis Khan, so he fits in perfectly with North County’s sentiments.  Oh well.  As a grown-up, I shall not make derogatory comments about his thoroughly appropriate name…]




[August 10, 1961] A Fair Deal for the Fairer Sex (Women, politics, and The Andy Griffith Show)


by Gideon Marcus

A woman on the City Council?  Say it ain’t so!

It’s not news that there just aren’t a lot of women in politics these days.  Universal suffrage is now 40 years old, but women comprise just 18 out of 437 members of the House of Representatives and 2 of 100 Senators – about 4% and 2%, respectively.  For most of us, that’s not an alarming statistic.  That’s just the way it’s always been.  But for some of us (including this columnist), equal representation can’t come soon enough.  After all, when women make up half the population but only 4% of the government, that’s a crisis of almost Revolutionary proportions.

I’m not the only one taking a stand, but sometimes support for the cause comes from the unlikeliest of places.

I watch a lot of television, maybe too much.  There’s plenty of dross in this “vast wasteland” behind the screen of the idiot box, but there’s also gold.  To wit: The Twilight Zone, Route 66, and, surprisingly, The Andy Griffith Show.

I didn’t expect much when I started watching this strange little slice-of-life program set somewhere in the southern Appalachians.  It’s a broad comedy on the face of it, with Sheriff Andy Griffith’s drawl and wide smile and Deputy Barney Fife’s pretentious bumbling, but after a few episodes, it became clear that the comedic elements are a sugar coating for deep thoughtfulness.

The other night, I happened to catch a summer rerun from early in the series, back when Griffth’s stuttering yokelish portrayal was at its least subtle.  It opens on a picnic where Elinor Walker, the town’s new pharmacist (and Andy’s recently acquired sweetheart) articulates her disappointment that there are no women running for city council.  Andy slights her concern, noting that the position is called “Councilman,” and it’d be silly if a woman held that title.

Ellie, no timid soul, is emboldened rather than discouraged by Griffith’s disparagement.  In short order, she acquires the 100 petition signatures needed to put her on the ballot, the first provided by none other than Griffith’s own Deputy Fife (speaking of unlikely support)!  The affronted men of Mayberry, North Carolina attempt to stop Ellie’s candidacy through supra-political means, refusing the women access to charge accounts at local businesses.  This tactic backfires when the women stop cooking, washing, ironing, and mending (and presumably work a little Lysistrata action in there, too).

The episode’s climax begins with a rally downtown.  The women (and a few supporting men) wave signs and shout “We want Ellie!”  Most of the men jeer.  Upset at the strife her running has caused, Ellie visits the Griffith home and tells him, “You won,” and that she will withdraw her candidacy because, “It’s just not worth it…when I decided to run I had no intention of starting a Civil War in Mayberry.”

Young Opie Griffith, steeped in his father’s latest comments, cheers, “We won, we beat them females!  We kept them in their place.  Us menfolks don’t want women running our town, do we, Pa?”

It’s a powerful moment that sharply drives home the effect of Andy’s ill-considered words.  Ashamed at the example he’s set, instead of accepting Ellie’s surrender, he heads to the rally in support.  Addressing the assembly, he notes significantly: “We men are against a woman running for council.”  The men cheer and applaud, but the sheriff continues, “The woman in this case being Ellie Walker.  Now we’re against her because she’s a woman.  But, now, when you try to think of any other reason, you kind of draw a blank.”

This proves the shot that deflates the balloon, the men acknowledging the point.  Ellie wins the election – how could she not with all the women and many of the men backing her? 

Now, if you’re from one of the more progressive parts of the nation that happens to have women in government, you might think the whole problem silly and overblown, the events of the episode a caricature.  But think about the 96% of the country without female representation.  Remember that, in Alabama, women aren’t even allowed to serve on a jury!  It’s not the situation in The Andy Griffith Show that’s implausible — it’s the happy ending.

So let’s applaud Andy Griffith for showcasing the bias against women in government, and then let’s keep working to overcome it, so that one day, some little girl who saw Ellie Walker win a seat on the Mayberry City Council might be inspired to run for Representative or Senator or, dare I say, even President of the United States. 

It’s an outcome worth the long fight, even if it takes half a century.

[Nov. 8, 1960] Across the Finish Line (the 1960 Presidential Election results)

At long last, the contest is over.  Not since the 1876 clash between Hayes and Tilden for this nation’s highest office have the results been this close; it was not until this morning that anyone could really be sure who would be taking possession of the Oval Office in January 1961.

In fact, as I took in a late lunch yesterday, the big IBM computer at CBS had already predicted a Nixon win with overwhelming confidence.  This was an artifact of the flow of voting in this country: the day belongs to the Republican voter–it is only when the Democratic voter clocks out of his urban, blue-collar job that the tide begins to shift. 

By dinnertime, CBS’ big brain had switched opinions based on the torrent of Kennedy votes streaming in from the Northeastern seaboard and the big Eastern cities.  New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago all threw the balance of their support for the Democratic candidate.  Just as the tide was cresting, President Eisenhower took to the airwaves exhorting me and my fellow West-Coasters not to give up the fight (the message was lost on me, of course; I’d voted that morning). 

Because the contest was not yet over.  The Senator from Massachusetts had acquired a hefty lead, but it was slowly eroded as the night went on.  When the polls closed in California, it became clear fairly quickly that the Union’s second largest state was still undecided.  The Los Angelinos had not followed the example of the other big cities, their ardor for Kennedy moderated by their fondness for native son Nixon.  By midnight Pacific Time, when I decided to turn in (I still had work the next day, after all), the fate of the presidency rested on four states: Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, and California.

It was all over when I turned on the news at around 8.  Kennedy had won Minnesota.  California and Illinois canceled each other out.  Michigan had gone Democratic at around 3 AM, putting a seal on the event.  When all was said and done, the national margin was only about 100,000 votes, barely .1% of the electorate.  At first blush, this result flies in the face of the wild enthusiasm that greeted Kennedy wherever he toured.  But elections in this country are not dictated by the mob, and Nixon’s supporters were bound to be more “conservative” in their exuberance.

I’m still processing this victory in my thoughts and feelings.  A year ago, the Vice President seemed a shoe-in.  All he had to do was ride the coattails of Eisenhower prosperity.  Senator Kennedy was too untested, too highfalutin to be a winner.  And yet, after the TV debates, no one could argue that Jack Kennedy wasn’t ready for the Big Leagues.  Nixon’s tone became more bitter and defensive.  It was hard to imagine this angry man carrying on the tradition of his gentle, moderate predecessor.  Despite this, both men fought with tenacity to the very end, and the outcome was never certain until it was upon us.

And so the 1960 election ends with the country divided sharply, not just demographically, but physically.  Nixon swept the West and Appalachia.  Kennedy won the Northeast and South.  Yet, it is a testament to how far we’ve come since the election just a century ago that the losing half of the populace will not riot or secede.  In two months, they will give their respect and reverence (though perhaps with a modicum of grumbling) to the new President. 

The burgeoning Space Race, decolonization, Communist expansionism, and desegregation are going to be the volatile issues of the 1960s.  Let’s all hope that President Kennedy, whether he’s in the White House for four or eight years, will be up to tackling them.

[Oct. 22, 1960] Frice said and done.  (The fourth Kennedy/Nixon debate)

Contrary to the Bard’s assertion, one can have too much of a good thing; I’m not sure that the fourth Nixon/Kennedy debate entertained anyone, except perhaps the Trumanesque moderator, ABC’s Quincy Howe. 

That is because the candidates had exhausted themselves of platitudes and nitpicky facts, leaving naught but tired repetitions of previous debate points.  Here’s a brief summary of what was addressed at last night’s all-foreign policy debate.

Both candidates fairly squandered their opening statements.  Communism as the main enemy of the United States was the theme of Nixon’s preamble.  He repeated his assertion that 600 million souls had fallen behind the Iron Curtain during Truman’s administration while virtually none had during the Eisenhower administration.  Kennedy preempted the speech he’d planned to give to respond to Nixon’s charge, and he dredged up the same points he’d made in the last debates: that Eisenhower let Cuba fall to Communism, and that a neglected Africa is on its way, too.

The debate did have a few interesting highlights, however.  Nixon was asked if he was only taking such a strong stance on the defense of Quemoy and Matsu (two insignificant islands off the coast of Red China currently claimed by Formosa) just because his opponent has not.  The Vice President said that the accusation was totally false…and then said he’d drop the whole matter if Kennedy changed his position.  Kennedy declined.

On the topic of Cuba, Nixon endorsed a queerly dovish policy: embargo Cuba, and the people will eventually topple Castro, he said.  Kennedy strongly disagreed, and he urged active American support of anti-Castro Cubans, domestic and exiled. 

On the issue of national prestige, Nixon assured his audience that American is doing just fine, and that any blows to our country’s image are Kennedy’s fault for being so unbalanced in his attacks.  With regard to the space race, Nixon may be right–we’ve had, as he said, 28 successful space shots to the Soviet’s 8.  We just never achieve the spectacular first.  I guess, ‘Being #2, we try harder.’  But when the Vice President talked about our high prestige in Latin America, well, color me unconvinced.  The rocks and eggs which pelted Nixon when he visited Peru and Venezuela in 1958 weren’t flowers. 

Kennedy countered simply, “I look up and see the Soviet flag on the moon.”  He may be referring to Luna 2, or he may be predicting that the Communists will get there first.  Either event points up a Soviet superiority in boosters (i.e. missiles), at least for the moment.

When asked which region of the world would receive stronger focus in his administration, the Senator suggested Eastern Europe.  This surprised me given his calls for greater ties with Africa and Latin America, but perhaps he meant ‘in addition’ to those regions he’d already mentioned.  Specifically, Kennedy singled out Poland as a possible candidate for pulling from the Soviet grasp.  Truth to tell, I did not know that Poland was vulnerable to such endeavors given that they share a border with the Soviet Union.  I was impressed by the Senator’s articulation on this point.

I was not, however, impressed with Nixon’s “me too” reply or his subsequent closing statement.  Just appearing sincere is now too much of an effort for the Vice President, and he’s given it up.  I think he couldn’t wait for this whole debate fiasco to be over.

And fiasco it has been.  Going into the debates, Senator Kennedy was struggling with an image of immaturity.  Vice President Nixon was considered the better speaker, the more experienced candidate.  Now we’ve seen four contests between the two, and Kennedy has come out the winner in at least three (in my opinion).  More importantly, Nixon began and ended the series with weak performances, whereas Kennedy has only looked more and more presidential. 

I don’t believe that these debates are the lynchpin to the election, but they have made it much more of a horse race.  What was the Vice President’s election to lose is now anyone’s game.

Next up: the second season of The Twilight Zone

[Oct. 14, 1960] Side by Side (the third Presidential debate)

Submitted for your consideration, a logistical nightmare.

Imagine you are a television producer hosting the first ever series of TV Presidential debates.  Both candidates of the two parties that matter have agreed to spar on a weekly schedule, and each event promises to be a ratings bonanza.  Your first two shows live up to expectations, and you lick your chops in heady anticipation of number three.

And then you learn that your special guests are busy campaigning on opposite sides of the country that day. 

What do you do?  The show obviously must go on!  Thank goodness for Bill Bradshaw of Cincinnati’s WKRC and his stunning invention, “Split Screen.”  You may have seen examples of this technique in recent episodes of Howdy Doody; two completely different images are stitched together, live, so that they can be seen at the same time by the viewer.

As a result, even though last night Jack Kennedy was in Los Angeles, and Dick Nixon was in New York, through the miracle of Split Screen, the two were closer to each other than ever before.  The third debate was quite a spectacle.

Interestingly, though the presentation was wildly different from the previous debate, the format was identical.  Neither candidate was allowed an opening or closing statement.  Rather, they were once again grilled by a panel of professional grillers, two from the networks, and two from print media.

Here’s what the candidates had to say:

If the Formosan islands of Quemoy and Matsu made a guest appearance in the last debate, they were full-fledged co-stars in this one.  In the last debate, these two pieces of real estate just a few miles off the coast of Red China, ownership disputed by Chiang Kai Shek and Mao Tse Tung, were dismissed as indefensible by Senator Kennedy and declared the frontline for Democracy by Vice President Nixon. 

The third debate opened up as if the second had never stopped with a question of Senator Kennedy: “You’ve called the Vice President ‘Trigger Happy’ over Quemoy and Matsu; are you willing to stand up for West Berlin?”

Without blinking an eye, Kennedy asserted that, as President, he would stand by all of our allies whose sovereignty we had guaranteed by treaty, particularly West Berlin.  Nixon, flustered, assured his audience again and again that Republicans are not “Trigger Happy,” and that it was the Democrats who had led us into war the last three times.

At this point I fished around my junk drawer for some twine to wrap around my face, my jaw having fallen quite open.  It was an awfully silly move to suggest that American involvement in the two World Wars and Korea were somehow bellicose acts, and to imply that a Republican would have sat idly by and watched 1) the Kaiser smash the Allies, 2) Hitler enslave Europe while Japan enslaved Asia, and 3) Communism triumph over the entire Korean peninsula. 

In response to the next question, the Vice President refused to detail the level of response to which he would commit over Quemoy and Matsu.  He had difficulty articulating why his desire to defend the islands was so much greater than President Eisenhower’s. 

The Senator noted that Quemoy and Matsu did not fall under the ambit of the 1955 Treaty under which America guaranteed the defense of Formosa.  Nixon countered that Kennedy had been one of the few Senators to oppose an amendment to that treaty which expressed a resolution to defend the islands, nevertheless. 

But then the Vice President suggested that the loss to Mao of two small spits of earth would be tantamount to Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.  Kennedy lunged in with a cutting jab (I paraphrase): “I can’t see why the Vice President is so concerned over Quemoy and Matsu, five miles from Red China, when he showed so little concern over the Communist takeover of Cuba, 90 miles from Florida.”

When the Vice President later defended the Eisenhower administration’s record on stopping the spread of Communism, specifically in Indochina, Senator Kennedy once again singed his opponent noting that Communism hadn’t been stopped in Tibet, Budapest, Laos, Guinea, Ghana, or Cuba. 

In the last debate, Kennedy stated that America should not attempt another summit with the Soviet Union until the nation was militarily stronger so as to have a better position from which to negotiate.  When asked in this debate to articulate his point further, the Senator stated that our airlift capacity needed to be immediately improved so that we could more quickly come to the aid of beleaguered allies.  He also urged rapid deployment of the Minuteman and Polaris nuclear missile systems.  Kennedy encouraged a stronger push toward disarmament discussions and an end to above-ground nuclear testing. 

Nixon’s response was characteristically (for this debate) weak, echoing Kennedy’s points but mostly saying that Eisenhower hadn’t been sitting on his thumbs when it came to defense and pushing for disarmament.

Domestic issues were the subject of about half of the debate.  Kennedy proposed granting the executive office more methods to resolve labor disputes.  The Vice President wanted to keep a largely hands-off approach.  The Senator discussed reviewing and potentially reducing depletion allowances, tax credits offered to energy companies.  Nixon asserted that these credits were vital to the nation’s economy. 

Speaking of the economy, the Vice President wants to accelerate its growth was to lower taxes, reduce racial discrimination, and stimulate higher education.  Kennedy noted that the Republicans had blocked every attempt to pass legislation that would do those things. 

On the issue of reducing the trade imbalance, which is depleting our nation’s gold reserves, Nixon said he would balance the budget, increase exports, and encourage other countries to support the poor countries in Latin America and Africa.  Kennedy said “ditto” (though he took much longer to do so) and added that he would try to get other nations to eliminate tariffs on American goods.  Neither candidate was particularly strong in this segment.

A nice moment came when Kennedy was asked what he thought of the Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard’s declaration that he was voting for Nixon.  The Senator graciously defended the Vice President, insisting that in no way should Nixon be identified with the racist group.  The Vice President took the opportunity to declaim racial discrimination, repeating his first debate point that it is not only wrong and economically debilitating, but makes us look bad in front of the Russians.

Speaking of first debate echoes, Kennedy again maintained that his budget was balanced despite the emphasis on new programs.  Nixon called Kennedy’s plan a “mirror game,” and that it must unbalance the budget.  He went on to criticize the Senator’s suggestion that the national debt might be reduced through inflation.  That’s not quite what Kennedy had said, however (Kennedy noted that he did not recognize his proposals when paraphrased by Nixon).  Rather, the Senator had proposed interest rates be lowered to reduce the interest burden on the debt. 

The debate wrapped up with a question on how one might measure the prestige of the United States, which Kennedy insists is on the decline.  The Senator proposed four methods: 1) counting the number of countries trying Communist rather than Democratic governments, 2) gauging the success a superpower has in outer space, 3) Gallup polling, 4) and tabulating support for U.S. initiatives in the United Nations. 

Nixon’s response was that it was defeatism and the giving up Quemoy and Matsu that would lead to a loss of national prestige.  Otherwise, we’re doing just fine.

And there the contest ended.  I don’t know about you, but it was definitely the Senator’s night.  Kennedy came off feisty and detailed; Nixon was stuttering and vague.  I imagine that, if you are fine with the policies of the current administration and think Nixon will continue with more of the same, you’ll be happy to cast your ballot for the Vice President.  But if presentation sways you at all, I suspect you drifted just a little bit to the Left last night.

Up next: fiction reviews!

[Sep. 28, 1960] Face to Face (the first Presidential debates)

What an immediate world we live in.  Think about life six hundred years ago, before the printing press, when news and knowledge were communicated as fast as a person could talk, as fast as a horse could trot.  Think about life two hundred years ago, before the telegraph knit our nation together with messages traveling at the speed of light.  Think about the profound effects movies, radio, and television have had on society.  With each advancement, the globe has shrunk.  One can now hear broadcasts in virtually any language from the comfort of one’s home.  One can get news as it happens from the other side of the planet. 

And, for the first time, the American people can, through our representatives in the media, have a direct conversation with our presidential candidates.  For yesterday, thanks to the marvel of modern television, Senator Kennedy and Vice President Nixon were able to discuss matters of national urgency in the first-ever televised presidential debate, on September 26.

I can’t stress enough how exciting the experience was for me, as I imagine it was for you.  For the first time, the candidates felt like people.  Their platforms were clearly articulated.  By the end of the event, I had a much clearer idea of what my choices would be come November.

It was an interesting contest, and I think both candidates acquitted themselves well.  Kennedy began the event rather stiffly, but by the midpoint, he had hit a fiery, engaging stride.  Nixon affected a rather deferential mien, which surprised me.  As a result, he came off as a gentleman, but a bit complacent.  He also seemed, at times, to struggle for words.  Not often, but it suggested a touch of exhaustion.  I shouldn’t be surprised, given the man’s campaigning schedule.

As for the substance of their remarks, during this hour-long debate specifically on domestic matters, I took four pages of hastily scrawled notes.  I’ll try to digest them into something short and cogent.

The candidates were given eight minutes for opening speeches.  Kennedy led off, linking freedom with economic prosperity.  So long as the world remains half slave and half free (paraphrasing a famous Republican, how the times have changed), the way for freedom to endure is for economic progress to be made.  He touted the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as a model for future, government-led success.  He acknowledged the moderate prosperity of the post-War era, but charged that we must do better, that we can do better.  Interestingly, this is the only time that either of them addressed the strong racial inequality in our country.  Nixon was conspicuously silent on the issue–perhaps he hopes to wrest the South from Democratic control.

Nixon, unlike Kennedy, used the full span of time allotted for the opening speech.  For the first half, he was strikingly defensive.  America was not standing still, he said, a tone of desperation creeping into his voice, and a sheen of sweat on his chin.  The Vice President fared better as he shifted to propounding his own agenda.  He maintained that the Republicans know the secret to progress, and that the Eisenhower era was far more successful than the Truman era.  He ended his comments with a dig against Kennedy: “I know what it means to be poor.”  This is true, but so long as the Republican party is the party of big business, I don’t think it matters.

Then a panel of four reporters presented a series of questions to the candidates.  Three of the ten dealt with whether or not Kennedy and Nixon were qualified to be President.  In Kennedy’s case, the issue was age, to which Kennedy replied that he and Nixon had both been in governmental service since 1947.  The Senator also noted that Lincoln (again!) had the shortest of political resumes and yet was one of our greatest Presidents.  For Nixon, the issue was eight years of ineffectiveness.  Had he done anything memorable as Vice President?  Nixon said he had; Kennedy disputed Nixon’s claimed accomplishments.  It was pretty damning that Eisenhower, himself, said he needed a week to recall a major Nixon accomplishment–and he turned up empty a week later.

Things got more interesting, for me, when substantive policy issues were addressed.  Regarding ongoing farm subsidies, Kennedy insisted that they were necessary given the volatile nature of the agriculture business, the relative weakness of the farmer in his market, and the importance of the food production sector.  Nixon agreed that subsidies must continue while the wartime surpluses remain, but that the farmer must ultimately be weaned off the government teat.

In response to a question regarding the national debt, Kennedy asserted that the debt could not be reduced before 1963, but that his expanded programs would be paid for by the growing economy they would guarantee.  Nixon noted that the government would have to front payment for the programs before it came back as taxes, and he insisted that Kennedy’s programs were too “extreme.”  The only way to pay for them would be to raise taxes or go into inflation-causing debt, both of which would hurt the American people.

Perhaps the subtlest issue of the debate was teachers’ salaries.  Both came out in favor of it.  But Nixon has a record of voting against it.  The Vice President says he worries that involvement of the federal government will reduce the freedom the teachers have to instruct as they wish.  Kennedy dismissed this argument noting that the bill he supported in February of this year had no such strings attached–the federal government would simply give money to the states, which would then spend it as they saw fit.  Nixon noted, however, that this would incentivize the states to simply diminish their contribution to education in an amount equal to what the federal government provided.  Interesting points.

The highest drama ensued when Kennedy was asked if he would be more effective as a President in getting bills passed than as a Senator.  Kennedy noted that he had no trouble getting his proposals passed in his legislative chamber; it was the obstinate Republicans in the House and in the White House that blocked them.  With him as President, his policies would be effected.  Nixon, rather unconvincingly, said it was not Eisenhower’s veto that blocked Kennedy, but the will of the people that veto represented. 

The spirited debate continued into the next question, regarding Nixon’s ability to lead.  The Vice President rather bashfully averred that whomever the people voted for would be an effective President–but the people wouldn’t support someone who espoused extreme measures.

Kennedy countered forcefully that a $1.25 minimum wage was not extreme, that medical insurance for those over 65 was not extreme, and that federal support of education was not extreme.  And should he be elected, he implied, those measures will pass. 

The last question addressed the issue of domestic Communism.  Both candidates expressed their concern over the problem, but it was pretty clear that neither of them were too worried about it.  Kennedy noted that the primary threat was external Communism.  Nixon urged that we must be “fair” to our people when combating domestic Communism, lest we become too like our repressive enemies.  Given Nixon’s strong role in the anti-Communist movement a decade ago, this note rang a bit false.

At this point, the candidates were given three minutes to sum up.  Nixon stressed that the Soviet Union may be growing faster than the United States, but that’s just because they are so much further behind.  In 1960, as in 1940, the Soviet Union has just 44% of America’s Gross National Product.  And while he and Kennedy agreed on general goals, their means were different.  I couldn’t quite parse out what Nixon’s means would be–only what they would not be (i.e. increased federal spending).

Kennedy ended on the offensive.  He said he did not want America to sit idly while the Soviet Union closed the economic gap.  The Senator said that, if we are happy with the nation as it is, by all means, we should vote for Nixon.  But if we’re the least bit dissatisfied (and who is ever completely satisfied?), we must vote Democratic.  Because America is “ready to move,” and Kennedy can get us moving.

The debate had a paradoxical effect upon me as a voter.  I was (and am) predisposed to poll Democratic, and seeing Kennedy perform only reinforced that tendency.  On the other hand, I feel I have a better handle on the Vice President, and I like him more than I did before the event.  Thus, while Kennedy may have “won” the debate, I think both candidates came out winners in terms of presenting themselves as competent, likeable executive possibilities.

More important, perhaps, is the way this debate has presented in a clear-cut fashion, the issues facing the American people.  We all have a lot to think about now.  And stimulating the cerebral juices is a laudable achievement for a device commonly known as the “idiot box.”

[August 27, 1960] Coming up in September!

Every month, I get a heads up from my connections in the publishing, movie, and aerospace industries to let me know what books, films, and space launches will occur in the near future.  August is coming to a close, which means its time for a sneak preview of coming attractions for the month of September.  This way, all of you can follow along and share your thoughts. 

(Note that publications that I don’t plan to review will be in a smaller font.  You are, of course, welcome to try them and let me know if I should take a gander.)

In the world of magazines:

September 1960 Galaxy

September 1960 Fantasy and Science Fiction

September 1960 Analog

September 1960 Fantastic

September 1960 Amazing

In the world of books:

The Status Civilization, by Robert Sheckley

Venus Plus X, by Theodore Sturgeon

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Ben Barzman

Skynappers, by John Brunner ; Vulcan’s Hammer, by Philip K. Dick (ACE Double)

Guardians of Time, a collection of Time Patrol stories by Poul Anderson

Deathworld, by Harry Harrison (already covered by the Journey here)

In the world of movies:

Little Shop of Horrors ; The Last Woman on Earth (a Double Feature!)

In the world of space launches:

Pioneer Moon (Atlas Able)

In the meantime, we also have the leadership of the Free World at stake.  Immediately after the Democratic Convention, national polls showed Kennedy leading Nixon at 52-48.  Now that the Senator has been stuck in a quagmire of a Congressional Session for the last month, and Nixon was just greeted as the Second Coming in Atlanta, the polls show a different story.  Nixon is now the favorite at 53-47.

The Race doesn’t really start until after Labor Day, however.  I’m looking forward to the first televised debates come Fall.

[July 29, 1960] Changing Landscapes (Japan, the Republican Convention, and the Journey Forecast)

The results of the Republican National Convention, held in Chicago this year, are in.  They should hardly come as a surprise to anyone: Vice President Richard M. Nixon is the Republican candidate for President of the United States.

I say that this news is unsurprising with good reason–namely, that Nixon essentially ran unopposed.  Oh, sure, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater was putatively in the race, and New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller has been front and center in the headlines over the past two months, but the former never had a chance, and the latter never formally threw his hat into the ring.  In fact, it appears that “Rocky’s” blistering rhetoric, put forth in print as a set of polemics, was intended to influence the Republican platform rather than propel him into the candidacy.  Well, Rockefeller can certainly boast this season–he got Nixon to come to his parlor on bended knee, and much of what Rockefeller espoused made its way into the platform and Nixon’s agenda.

In fact, given the rather moderate tone of the GOP platform, voters may have trouble choosing between the two parties’ men come November.  One thing I noted, comparing Nixon’s acceptance speech to Kennedy’s, I would give the inspirational and demagogic nod to the latter.  While Kennedy poetically described the New Frontier of the 1960s, challenging us all to become its pioneers to make the nation and the world a better place, the main thrust of Nixon’s message seems to be, “We’re better than the Communists.”  Well, no one doubts that, but as a wise person once said (this quote is attributed to Ernest Hemmingway, but it predates him), “There is no nobility in being superior to someone else; true nobility comes in being superior to one’s former self.” 

The only real mystery of the convention was Nixon’s choice for his running mate.  Interestingly, the Republican Vice Presidential candidate is Henry Cabot Lodge, the Massachusetts Senator whom Kennedy defeated in 1952 to begin his career in the upper division of Congress.  Now ambassador to the United Nations, and a strong advocate for that body’s peacekeeping capabilities, I believe he is a good selection for the No. 2 spot.  He will, however, not help Nixon sway the South from the Democratic grasp anymore than Nixon’s rather progressive stance on racial issues.  I expect this election to be a tight one, fought largely in the relatively liberal areas of the North East, the Great Lakes, and the West Coast.

For those who follow my travels, I am currently on the train to the industrial city of Nagoya, a few hours west of Tokyo.  Here are some pictures of the Shinjuku area of Japan’s capital, which is currently experiencing something of a revitalization in anticipation of the Olympics, time after next.  For anyone who was worried for our welfare, there were no signs of unrest, and we have been treated with courtesy, even warmth.  We had a great time in Kabukicho and Nihonbashi–in the latter, we supped at an excellent little jazz club where someone had set up a mobile projector and was showing old Felix the Cat cartoons.  The best part of travel is the serendipitous pleasures.

In other, Journey-related news, the month of July is over, and it’s time to see how the Big Three digests fared, quality-wise.  It’s a tough choice between Galaxy and F&SF this month. Both clock in at a little over three stars.  I think I’ll give the nod to the former, for being longer if nothing else.  My favorite story this month was probably Stecher’s An Elephant for the Prinkip, though none stood out prominently.  Only one female writer made an appearance this month: Rosel George Brown.

As for next month, I didn’t see any new books of interest, but I will be watching the films Dinosaurus and The Time Machine.  Also, expect coverage of a number of exciting, recently announced satellite launches, both military and civilian.  I’ve also just finished the final installment of Anderson’s The High Crusade, and it was excellent.  I’ll have a review for you next time around.

Stay tuned!

[July 15, 1960] Controlled Chaos (The 1960 Democratic Convention)

Democracy is strange, particularly as exercised by the Democratic Party.

Six months ago, it was anyone’s guess who might be picked to have the privilege of running for the Presidency of the United States under the Democratic Party banner against Vice President Richard Nixon.  Hopefuls included perennial candidate Adlai Stevenson, fiery liberal senator Hubert Humphrey, affable ex-Air Force chief Stuart Symington, and ruler of the Senate roost Lyndon Johnson.  Oh, and a young, good-looking senator with a Harvard accent and a hidden set of rosary beads named Jack Kennedy.

Each candidate had his planned path to the nomination.  Stevenson, Johnson, and Symington stayed out of the primary fracas, hoping to curry favor at the convention proper.  Kennedy and Humphrey, on the other hand, took their causes directly to the people.  There were actually very few primaries this season, but Kennedy won all the important ones.  After delivering Humphrey a surprise upset in Wisconsin, right next door to Humphrey’s native Minnesota, Kennedy went on to a victory in West Virginia, proving that a Catholic can win over the general public.  Humphrey took the loss graciously, bowed out of the race, and went on to stump for his former rival.

The convention was a horse of an entirely different color.  While many of us saw the external glitter of the event, the dancing girls, the cheers, the smoke, the banners, we were not privy to the last-minute back-dealing going on inside the dark corridors of the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel.  At first, it seemed Adlai Stevenson’s star was rising.  Thousands of supporters crammed the hotel (including my new friend Rachel, who went straight from Comic-Con to the Biltmore) and shouted endless chants of “Stevenson!  Stevenson!” 

But we don’t live in the Roman Empire, and a mob is insufficient to laurel a leader these days.  Rather, it takes supreme organizational skills and the kind of political connections Kennedy has cultivated over many years.  It was a tense wait as the states pledged their fealty in alphabetical order during the first vote on the 13th, but it was all over when the last on the list, Wyoming, pushed Kennedy over the required 760 delegate limit.  There would be no second ballot, no free-for-all on the convention floor.  The senator from Massachusetts was the clear winner.

Thus, the drama then turned to the speculative choice for Vice-President, that much maligned but occasionally crucial second banana role.  Favored candidates included Symington and Washington senator Henry Jackson.  And yet, the name announced yesterday morning was Lyndon Johnson.

On the face of it, this seems a rational choice.  After all, while the South may be a Democratic stronghold for decades to come, cool and erudite Kennedy seems hardly the fellow to rally their support.  Johnson, on the other hand, is a good ol’ boy from Texas, and a master of politics.  If Kennedy wants to change his address to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come November, picking Johnson is a canny decision.

On the other hand, I can’t imagine that the two will work together very well, being so different in nature and background.  Moreover, it’s hard to believe that Johnson would give up running the Senate for what is generally considered a lesser position.  This is one of those moments in history that won’t be clarified until many years have passed.

Tonight, Kennedy is scheduled to give his acceptance speech.  I’ve heard the man before, and there’s no doubt he will be riveting and poetic.  I’m sure we’ll all stay up late tonight to watch him on the television or hear him on the radio.

The Republican convention, starting on the 25th, will not be as outwardly dramatic.  It’s a foregone conclusion that Nixon will be nominated, no one else having thrown his hat into the ring.  But there will be turmoil behind the scenes.  Anyone following the news knows that New York governor Nelson Rockefeller has been doing his utmost to influence what gets written into this year’s Republican platform.  He may also be angling for the Vice Presidency.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Of course, I haven’t forgotten the primary function of this column–to keep you abreast of all the latest science fiction and fantasy in film and print.  Stay tuned for the dope on the August 1960 Galaxy!

[May 15, 1960] Soviets take the Lead! (Sputnik 4)

At long last, the Soviets have launched another Sputnik.

While Americans try to pierce the sky with almost fortnightly frequency (more on that shortly), the Russians seem content to proceed at a more leisurely pace, but to get more bang for their buck.  Their latest shot, which the press has dubbed Sputnik 4, but should really be called “Pre-Manned #1,” is something of a revolution.

We don’t know too much about the craft yet: only that it weighs an unprecedented 4 and a half tons, and that, like the Air Force’s Discoverer series, it has a reentry capsule.  But whereas Discoverer’s putative biological sample return mission is likely a cover for a film capsule recovery surveillance system, Sputnik 4 is actually carrying a mannequin astronaut.  Moreover, the craft is far too big for plain surveillance (I imagine, but perhaps the Soviets are not as good at miniaturization as we are; they don’t really have to be given how much more powerful their rockets are).

It’s definitely another milestone for the East in the Space Race.  Now let’s see if they get their dummy spaceman back…

Sadly, the American space program had a setback day-before-yesterday when a Delta rocket, the evolution of the workhorse Thor Able, failed to make it to orbit when its second-stage attitude thrusters didn’t fire.  At its tip was America’s next foray into satellite communications, Echo 1.  It’s just a big metal balloon, but it would have allowed all sorts of message bouncing experiments.  Now it’s a rusting hunk at the bottom of the Atlantic.  That’ll teach NASA not to launch on Friday the 13th!  Next launch is scheduled for the Summer.


Happier times for the Superpower chiefs

Meanwhile, the four-party (U.S., U.K., France, U.S.S.R.) Peace Summit begins tomorrow in Paris, despite the turbulence caused by the shooting down of an American spy plane over Russia on May 1.  Nikita’s threatened to torpedo the whole thing many times, but perhaps the gorgeous Spring weather of the French capital will calm him down.  Planned topics include the settling of the Berlin question and weapons disarmament–the same topics that have been on the table since 1948.

In Democratic Primary news, it looks like Humphrey is out, which essentially seals the nomination for Jack Kennedy, unless Johnson can arrange some sort of upset at the convention.  The clincher came with a disappointing defeat for the Minnesota senator in West Virginia, after which, Humphrey announced the withdrawal of his candidacy for President.  Despite Humphrey’s populist charm, Jack Kennedy simply had the better ground game and a more presidential demeanor.  I also understand Kennedy is pushing for a minimum wage hike to $1.25 per hour (it’s at $1.00 right now).  Good timing.

Finally, on a more personal note, I’m extending an invitation to jump on the bandwagon.  As you know, I review only the most current literary and film science fiction and fantasy material.  I started this column not just to make me rich and famous, but to discuss the material with fellow fans.  I distribute copies where I can, but that’s not always possible.  To that end, I’ll be letting you all know ahead of time what I plan to be reading the next month so you can read along with me.  You can also keep up on current publications by perusing the announcement tables

This month, the only new novel coming out is Judy Merril’s The Tomorrow People.  There are some anthologies also coming out, but, I don’t tend to review anthologies since I generally catch the stories in their first run.  I do occasionally cover reprints, as I did with Anderson’s Brain Wave.  Of course, I will be covering the June 1960 magazines for this month (I’ve already reviewed Galaxy and some of Amazing).

See you in two!