Iowa Public Television

 

Jules Witcover

posted on January 8, 2004

FROM THE STUDIOS OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS "THE CANDIDATES WITH DAVID YEPSEN." TONIGHT DAVID YEPSEN'S GUEST IS AUTHOR AND POLITICAL WRITER JULES WITCOVER OF "THE BALTIMORE SUN." HERE IS "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN.

Yepsen: GOOD EVENING. WE CONTINUE OUR TRAVEL DOWN THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL OF 2004, BUT TONIGHT WE TAKE A STEP IN A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT DIRECTION. RATHER THAN PURSUE POLITICAL CONVERSATION WITH ONE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES, WE PURSUE POLITICAL CONVERSATION WITH ONE OF THOSE WHO COVERS THEM. MY FRIEND JULES WITCOVER OF "THE BALTIMORE SUN" HAS BEEN IN THE NEWSPAPER BUSINESS AS A REPORTER AND POLITICAL COLUMNIST FOR 54 YEARS. FOR DECADES HE'S DEALT WITH EVERY MAJOR NEWS FIGURE ON THE AMERICAN POLITICAL SCENE. HE'S KNOWN THEM ALL. WITCOVER HAS COVERED THE LAST 12 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS AND HAS BEEN ON THE GROUND TO COVER THE IOWA CAUCUSES SINCE 1976, THE YEAR OF JIMMY CARTER. HE IS THE AUTHOR OF A NEW BOOK... "PARTY OF THE PEOPLE: A HISTORY OF THE DEMOCRATS." JULES, WELCOME TO IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION.

Witcover: THANK YOU, DAVID.

Yepsen: THANKS FOR JOINING ME TONIGHT. WELL, LET'S START WITH WHAT YOU AND I DO AS A LIVING, WHICH IS TO HANDICAP POLITICS. HOW DOES THIS CURRENT CAMPAIGN FEEL TO YOU AS YOU TRAVEL AROUND THE COUNTRY AND LOOK AT THIS DEMOCRATIC RACE?

Witcover: I THINK THE STORY LINE OF ONE CANDIDATE OVER ALL THE OTHERS AND THE OTHERS TRYING TO EVEN THE FIELD WITH HIM IS UNUSUAL THAT IT HAPPENED THIS EARLY. IN THE PAST IF THERE'S BEEN A STOP EFFORT AGAINST ONE CANDIDATE, IT'S USUALLY TAKEN PLACE FARTHER DOWN THE ROAD. BUT BECAUSE OF DEAN'S PHENOMENAL ADVANTAGES IN MONEY AND IN GRASS-ROOTS SUPPORTERS, AS FAR AS WE CAN DETERMINE, HE'S REGARDED BY THE OTHER CANDIDATES AS LIKELY TO RUN AWAY WITH THE NOMINATION BEFORE THEY HAVE A CHANCE REALLY TO MAKE A CASE FOR THEMSELVES. AND SO THAT'S WHY YOU SAW, IN THE DEBATE HERE ON SUNDAY NIGHT, A CONTINUATION OF THE EFFORTS TO TRY TO FIND A VULNERABILITY IN HOWARD DEAN.

Yepsen: HOW DOES THE RACE LOOK IN NEW HAMPSHIRE AND SOUTH CAROLINA? I MEAN PEOPLE HERE OBVIOUSLY HAVE SOME SENSE OF HOW IT IS. IS IT ANY DIFFERENT IN THOSE TWO STATES?

Witcover: OH, IT'S QUITE DIFFERENT CERTAINLY IN NEW HAMPSHIRE BECAUSE THE EARLY REGIONAL FAVORITE, JOHN KERRY, HAS SLIPPED BADLY, AND DEAN IS NOW LEADING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE BY ABOUT TWO TO ONE IN MOST OF THE POLLS, WITHOUT MUCH SENSE THAT IT'S GOING TO CHANGE. SOUTH CAROLINA, I HAVEN'T BEEN DOWN THERE, BUT FROM WHAT I'VE BEEN ABLE TO GLEAN BY TALKING TO SOME PEOPLE DOWN THERE, IT'S MORE UP FOR GRABS, BUT ALSO THAT DEAN HAS, BECAUSE OF HIS RESOURCES, BEEN ABLE TO GAIN A FOODHOLD THERE AS WELL.

Yepsen: IF DEAN WINS IOWA AND THEN WINS NEW HAMPSHIRE, DOES HE BECOME INEVITABLE?

Witcover: I WOULDN'T SAY INEVITABLE. HE CERTAINLY WOULD BE IN A SOLID POSITION AND WOULD HAVE THE OTHER CANDIDATES BACK ON THEIR HEELS. BUT I THINK BECAUSE HE'S GOING INTO A -- HE'LL BE GOING INTO A NEW REGION OF THE COUNTRY WHERE PERHAPS HIS STYLE AND HIS ROOTS WILL NOT BE SO EFFECTIVE AS THEY APPEAR TO BE HERE AND IN NEW HAMPSHIRE THAT THERE IS A POSSIBILITY THAT MAYBE HE COULD BE COOLED OFF A BIT DOWN IN SOUTH CAROLINA, AS WELL AS IN THE OTHER STATES THAT ARE HOLDING PRIMARIES AND CAUCUSES ON THAT SAME DAY, INCLUDING PLACES LIKE NEW MEXICO AND ARIZONA.

Yepsen: HOW DOES -- IS BUSH BEATABLE, IN YOUR MIND? I MEAN AS YOU LOOK AT THIS THING, A LOT OF TALK ABOUT BUSH AND HOW STRONG AND THE ECONOMY IS GETTING BETTER. IS HE BEATABLE IN THIS RACE, OR IS HE INEVITABLE?

Witcover: NO, I THINK HE'S BEATABLE BUT ONLY IF SOMEHOW THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE, WHOEVER THAT MAY BE, AND ASSUMING FOR THE PURPOSE OF DISCUSSION THAT IT WOULD BE DEAN, UNLESS DEAN CAN DRIVE HOME THE MAIN FOCUS OF HIS POPULARITY IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, WHICH IS -- NOT JUST HIS ANGER AGAINST BUSH AS A PERSON BUT HIS ARGUMENT THAT THE WHOLE WAR WAS A MISADVENTURE SOLD TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE BY FALSEHOOD OR MISREPRESENTATION. UNLESS THAT CASE CAN BE MADE MORE STRONGLY THAN IT'S BEEN MADE SO FAR, IT WOULD BE VERY HARD TO BEAT THE PRESIDENT. I THINK THAT MAY BE THE ONLY ISSUE ON WHICH -- ON WHICH HE COULD BE DEFEATED. I THINK AS MORE AND MORE CASUALTIES MOUNT IN IRAQ AND THE CHAOS CONTINUES IN IRAQ, THAT IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE, PARTICULARLY IF IT'S DEAN, TO POSSIBLY BEAT THE PRESIDENT. ABSENT THAT, I DON'T SEE MUCH CHANCE OF THAT HAPPENING.

Yepsen: I WANT TO -- SORT OF A BIG QUESTION HERE. I'LL GO BACK IN HISTORY BOTH LOOKING AT THE DEMOCRATIC RACE AND THE -- AND THE REPUBLICAN RACE. IS THIS RACE, THE DEMOCRATIC RACE, DOES IT FEEL MORE LIKE 1972 OR 1976? IS IT GEORGE MCGOVERN OR IS IT JIMMY CARTER? AND THEN THE SECOND PART OF THAT IS, YOU KNOW, IS THE GENERAL ELECTION RACE GOING TO BE MORE LIKE '84 OR '92. LET'S START WITH THE DEMOCRATIC RACE.

Witcover: WELL, I THINK IT'S KIND OF A MIX OF THOSE TWO IN A SENSE THAT IT'S VERY MUCH LIKE '72 BECAUSE, ONE, THE FRONT-RUNNER IS SEEN NOW AS POSSIBLY AND PROBABLY NOT ELECTABLE, THE SAME AS WAS THE RAP AGAINST GEORGE MCGOVERN. BUT ALSO IT'S A PRIMARY CAUCUS PERIOD THAT'S DRIVEN BY A WAR ISSUE, AND SO IN THAT SENSE, IT'S VERY MUCH LIKE '72. IN TERMS OF DEAN'S STEALTH CAMPAIGN THROUGH 19 -- THOUGH 2003, IT'S A LOT LIKE JIMMY CARTER COMING INTO THIS STATE IN 1975 AND GOING OUT TO LEMARS TO SPEAK AT A DINNER FOR A RETIRING RECORDER OR SOMETHING, FOR WHICH HE RECEIVED IN PAYMENT A FREE PIZZA AND A CAR WASH.

Yepsen: YOU AND I HAVE LEARNED TO PAY ATTENTION TO UNEMPLOYED FORMER GOVERNORS IN SMALL STATES. JULES, TALK ABOUT -- IN YOUR BOOK, YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHOICE BETWEEN -- THE DEMOCRATS ALWAYS HAVE BETWEEN THEIR LIBERAL ROOTS AND PLAYING TO THAT AND YET THEN TRYING TO APPEAL TO A BROADER CONSTITUENCY. DON'T WE SEE THAT SAME FAULT LINE IN THIS CAMPAIGN TOO?

Witcover: WELL, WE SEE SOME OF IT. BUT IN TERMS OF THE STRENGTHS OF THE CANDIDATES, IT'S NOT REALLY A DIRECT RELATIONSHIP. BY THAT I MEAN THE CLEAR REPRESENTATIVE OF THE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL NOW, WHICH IS THE CENTRIST BODY OF THE PARTY, ITS CLEAR REPRESENTATIVE IS JOE LIEBERMAN, WHO WAS DOING SO POORLY HERE IN IOWA THAT HE DECIDED TO PACK UP AND GO TO NEW HAMPSHIRE. BUT THERE IS ALSO ON THE OTHER -- THERE IS THE -- THE LIBERAL STRAIN OF THE PARTY REMAINS. AND ALTHOUGH HOWARD DEAN IS PAINTED BY THE REPUBLICANS AS JUST ANOTHER OLD-FASHIONED LIBERAL, HIS POSITIONS ON A NUMBER OF ISSUES HAVE BEEN QUITE CENTRIST. SO YOU DON'T SEE, YOU KNOW, THE CLEAR DICHOTOMY BETWEEN LEFT AND -- RIGHT OR LEFT AND CENTER THAT YOU MAY HAVE SEEN IN THE PAST.

Yepsen: YOU WRITE IN THE BOOK ABOUT HOW THE DEMOCRATIC -- ONE CONSTANT IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS THAT IT'S ALWAYS TRIED TO BE THE PARTY OF THE LITTLE GUY. DO YOU SEE THAT CHANGING THESE DAYS WITH THE ARRIVAL OF INTEREST GROUPS LIKE THE TRIAL LAWYERS AND THEIR INFLUENCE? IS THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY STILL GOING TO BE THE PARTY OF THE LITTLE GUY IN AMERICAN POLITICS?

Witcover: WELL, CERTAINLY THAT'S THE FACE THAT THE OLD DEMOCRATS WANT TO HAVE ON THE PARTY. SOME OF THEM ADHERE TO PURSUING THE INTEREST OF THE LITTLE GUY MORE DILIGENTLY AND PERHAPS MORE EFFECTIVELY THAN OTHERS. YOU MAY RECALL THAT A YEAR AFTER THE 2000 ELECTION, JOE LIEBERMAN WAS QUITE CRITICAL OF AL GORE, SAYING ON A COUPLE OF OCCASIONS THAT GORE'S USE OF THE SLOGAN WE'RE FOR THE POWERFUL -- "WE'RE FOR THE PEOPLE, THEY'RE FOR THE POWERFUL," WHICH IS A CLEAR THROWBACK TO THE OLD LIBERAL NEW DEAL APPROACH IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, LIEBERMAN SAID THAT HAD COST HIS TICKET -- THE GORE/LIEBERMAN TICKET THE ELECTION. SO I MEAN, YOU DON'T -- YOU DON'T SEE THE CLEAR DEFENSE OF THE OLD "WE'RE FOR THE LITTLE GUY" RUNNING THROUGHOUT THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY ANYMORE.

Yepsen: WELL, LET'S DO A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON HERE. ONE OF THE REASONS I WANTED YOU TO BE WITH US IS NOT ONLY BECAUSE THE BOOK IS NEW AND I THINK IT'S A VERY GOOD BOOK BUT ALSO BECAUSE THIS IS A DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS FIGHT. THERE IS A COMPANION BOOK TO YOURS. LEWIS GOULD HAS WRITTEN A BOOK, "THE GRAND OLD PARTY, A HISTORY OF THE REPUBLICANS." BUT WE'RE FOCUSED ON THE DEMOCRATS HERE IN IOWA RIGHT NOW, JULES, AS YOU KNOW. HOW DID THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY COME ABOUT?

Witcover: WELL, YOU KNOW, IT'S THE OLDEST EXISTING -- STILL EXISTING POLITICAL PARTY IN THE WORLD, BUT IT WAS NOT THE FIRST AMERICAN PARTY. THE FIRST AMERICAN PARTY WAS THE FEDERALIST PARTY, HEADED BY ALEXANDER HAMILTON. FOR VARIOUS REASONS, THOMAS JEFFERSON WAS STRONGLY OPPOSED TO THE DIRECTION OF THE FEDERAL -- FEDERALIST PARTY, WHICH WAS A STRONG FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND MORE ORIENTED TOWARD TRADE, COMMERCE, AND BUSINESS. AND THERE WAS SUCH A THING AS THE ANTIFEDERALISTS, BUT THEY WERE NOT A PARTY AND JEFFERSON WAS NOT A PART OF THEM. HE SHARED SOME VIEWS WITH THEM, BUT WHAT HE DECIDED AFTER A COUPLE OF TERMS OF GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS, NEVER CLAIMED TO BE A FEDERALIST BUT REALLY WAS A FEDERALIST, THAT THERE NEEDED TO BE A FORCE OPPOSING THE FEDERALIST PARTY. INTERESTINGLY THEN IN THE CONSTITUTION, THERE WAS NEVER ANY REFERENCE TO PARTIES OR CONVENTIONS OR ANY OTHER APPARATUS THAT WE NOW ASSOCIATE WITH THE CRAZINESS THAT YOU AND I BOTH LIVE OFF. BUT THERE WAS -- THERE WAS A REASON FOR NOT HAVING ANY POLITICAL PARTIES. THE NEW COUNTRY WAS PRETTY WELL UNIFIED BY ONE THING, AND THAT WAS ITS OPPOSITION TO THE BRITISH. THEY DIDN'T WANT TO HAVE FACTIONALISM IN THE COUNTRY. THEY THOUGHT IT WAS -- GEORGE WASHINGTON WARNED AGAINST PARTIES. OTHERS WARNED AGAINST PARTIES. BUT IT CAME TO BE REALIZED BY ALMOST ALL THE POLITICAL PEOPLE IN TIME THAT IF YOU WANTED TO GET ANYTHING DONE IN CONGRESS OR IN THE COUNTRY, YOU HAD TO -- YOU HAD TO JOIN FORCES WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE, AND SO IT EVOLVED OUT OF THAT. JEFFERSON FIRST TALKED ABOUT A PARTY, THAT CAME TO BE THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, IN A LETTER TO WASHINGTON WHEN WASHINGTON WAS PRESIDENT. AND INTERESTINGLY, HE CALLED IT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. AND SO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY WAS KNOWN AS THE REPUBLICAN PARTY FOR QUITE A FEW YEARS. THEN IT KIND OF EVOLVED TO BE CALLED THE DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN PARTY AND THEN FINALLY THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY.

Yepsen: HOW DID THE CIVIL WAR AFFECT THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY?

Witcover: WELL, IT ALMOST DESTROYED THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY BECAUSE IT WAS A CLEAR SPLIT BETWEEN NORTHERN DEMOCRATS AND SOUTHERN DEMOCRATS ON THE ISSUE OF SLAVERY. AND ALSO, THERE WAS A LOT OF CONCERN IN THE NORTH THAT SLAVERY GAVE THE SOUTH AN ECONOMIC ADVANTAGE. AND SO THE CIVIL WAR WAS REALLY FOUGHT BOTH OVER THE ISSUE OF SLAVERY AND THE RIGHT OF CESSION. THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY SPLIT DOWN THE MIDDLE OVER THOSE QUESTIONS TO THE POINT THAT DURING THE CIVIL WAR LINCOLN RENAMED THE REPUBLICAN PARTY -- HE WAS ONLY RUNNING ON HIS SECOND CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY -- RENAMED THE PARTY THE NATIONAL UNION PARTY, AND INVITED IN ALL THOSE DEMOCRATS, MOSTLY FROM THE NORTH, WHO SHARED THE VIEW THAT THE WAR HAD TO BE PURSUED AS IT WAS. AND SO THAT LEFT ANOTHER GROUP OF DEMOCRATS, SOME IN THE SOUTH, ALTHOUGH MANY OF THE SOUTHERNERS HAD SECEDED AND JOINED THE CONFEDERACY. OTHER DEMOCRATS, WHO WERE NOT IN FAVOR OF THE WAR OR HOW IT WAS FOUGHT OR WHAT THE GOALS WERE BECAME KNOWN AS THE PEACE DEMOCRATS. AND SO DURING THE CIVIL WAR, THEY EXISTED SIDE BY SIDE, WAR AND PEACE DEMOCRATS. AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, THERE WERE THOSE WHO WANTED TO TRY TO KEEP THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY GOING, BUT IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT TO DO BECAUSE REPUBLICANS, AS ANY APPOSITION PARTY WOULD DO AND ANY PARTY DOES TODAY, SEEKS WEAKNESSES, CALLED THE NEW DEMOCRATS THE PARTY OF TREASON BECAUSE THEY HAD FOUGHT -- HAD FOUGHT AGAINST THE UNION AND SO ON. AND SO PUTTING TOGETHER A DEMOCRATIC PARTY BACK TOGETHER AGAIN AFTER THE CIVIL WAR WAS OVER WAS A HORRENDOUS TASK AND WAS NOT VERY SUCCESSFUL FOR MANY YEARS. AND FROM THE END OF THE CIVIL WAR UNTIL THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, THERE WAS ONLY ONE -- THERE WAS ONLY ONE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT, AND THAT WAS GROVER CLEVELAND ELECTED IN TWO SEPARATE TERMS.

Yepsen: I REMEMBER LAMAR ALEXANDER, WHEN HE WAS CAMPAIGNING OUT HERE FOR THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION, WOULD TELL THE STORY ABOUT HIS GREAT-GRANDFATHER IN TENNESSEE SAYING THAT -- WHETHER HE WAS A REPUBLICAN OR A DEMOCRAT, HE SAID, "I VOTE THE WAY I SHOT." [ LAUGHTER ] HE WAS A REPUBLICAN. WELL, FAST FORWARD, JULES, TO WORLD WAR I AND WOODROW WILSON. WILSON REALLY TOOK THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY FROM SORT OF AN ISOLATIONIST THING AND MADE IT A MUCH MORE INTERNATIONALIST PARTY; DIDN'T HE?

Witcover: WELL, HE DID BUT HE DID IT VERY RELUCTANTLY. HE BENT OVER BACKWARDS TO KEEP THE COUNTRY OUT OF WORLD WAR I. AS YOU KNOW, HE RAN FOR REELECTION ON THE SLOGAN HE KEPT US OUT OF WAR. HE ALSO -- THERE WAS A CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF SABOTAGE GOING ON IN THE UNITED STATES BY GERMAN AGENTS, WHICH IS THE SUBJECT OF ANOTHER BOOK I'VE WRITTEN. SO HE KIND OF LOOKED AWAY FROM THOSE THINGS RATHER THAN TO -- THOSE ACTS OF SABOTAGE AND SO ON, RATHER THAN BE DRAWN INTO THE WAR. BUT FINALLY HE WAS DRAWN INTO THE WAR, AND THEY TURNED HIS ATTENTIONS TO HOW TO BE SURE THAT IT WOULDN'T HAPPEN AGAIN. SO HE BECAME A VERY IMPORTANT FORCE IN THE VERSAI TREATY AND THE AFTERMATH OF WORLD WAR I. AND THEN HE CAME BACK -- AS YOU KNOW, HE CAME BACK TO THIS COUNTRY AND WASN'T ABLE TO SELL THE AMERICAN INVOLVEMENT IN THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS.

Yepsen: IS THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY TODAY MOVING BACK TOWARD A MORE PROTECTIONIST STANCE? I HATE TO -- I HESITATE TO USE THE WORD "ISOLATIONIST" BECAUSE I DON'T THINK IT'S THAT SEVERE. BUT ALL THIS CRITICISM ON TRADE AND SO FORTH, IS THE PARTY PULLING IN ITS HORN SOME FROM SOME OF THAT EARLIER INTERNATIONALISM THAT WE SAW?

Witcover: WELL, I THINK THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS THAT'S PLAYING OUT NOW IN THIS CAMPAIGN AND IN THE IOWA CAUCUSES. YOU SAW IN THE DEBATE THE OTHER NIGHT QUITE A BIT OF DISCUSSION ABOUT NAFTA, ABOUT WHICH CANDIDATE SUPPORTED IT AND DIDN'T SUPPORT IT AND WHETHER IT SHOULD BE MAINTAINED OR EVEN EXPANDED.

Yepsen: ISN'T THAT REALLY A BIGGER ISSUE POLITICALLY THAN IRAQ? I MEAN WE ALL TALK ABOUT IRAQ, BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE AND THE ISSUES THAT ARE GOING TO SETTLE THIS ELECTION THIS YEAR, IT JUST SEEMS TO ME LIKE -- AN ISSUE LIKE TRADE IN OHIO AND PENNSYLVANIA AND MICHIGAN IS ARGUABLY GOING TO BE MORE IMPORTANT TO THE OUTCOME OF THE RACE THAN THIS IRAQ BUSINESS.

Witcover: WELL, IT PROBABLY WILL BE IF WE EXTRICATE OURSELVES FROM THE MESS THAT'S GOING ON IN IRAQ. AND OF COURSE, THE TRADE ISSUE IS A COMPLICATED ISSUE. IT'S HARD FOR THE CANDIDATES WHO, EVEN THOUGH THEY EXPLOITED IT, TO CONVEY THE SIGNIFICANCE OF IT AND TO LAY OUT THE DIFFERENCES. SO I THINK -- I MEAN NOT ONLY TRADE BUT OTHER ISSUES LIKE MEDICARE AND HEALTH CARE ARE SO COMPLEX THAT IT'S AWFULLY HARD FOR THE CANDIDATES TO SEPARATE THEMSELVES ON THEM, AND IT'S HARD TO GET THE VOTERS TO REALLY CONCENTRATE ON THESE ISSUES AND TO DELVE INTO THE DETAILS.

Yepsen: JULES, YOU ARE IN IOWA AND SO I'D BE REMISS IF I DIDN'T GET YOU TO TELL US THE STORY ABOUT HOW FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT DUMPED HENRY WALLACE OUT OF THE VICE PRESIDENCY IN 1944, A DECISION THAT HAD ENORMOUS CONSEQUENCES FOR THE DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY.

Witcover: YES. WELL, HENRY WALLACE WAS ALWAYS REGARDED BY MANY PEOPLE IN WASHINGTON AS KIND OF A SCREWBALL. HE HAD VERY KIND OF MYSTICAL IDEAS AND ASSOCIATIONS THAT MADE REGULAR OLD-TIME POLITICIANS VERY NERVOUS ABOUT HIM. THEN, OF COURSE, IT WAS HIS INTEREST IN DEALING WITH THE SOVIET UNION AND COMMUNISM, NOT TO RECOGNIZE -- NOT TO SEE IT AS THE KIND OF THREAT THAT OTHER PEOPLE DID. AND SO THE PEOPLE AROUND ROOSEVELT MADE A CONSIDERATE EFFORT TO GET HIM OFF THE TICKET. AS FAR AS I WAS ABLE TO DETERMINE IN WRITING ABOUT THAT ASPECT OF HISTORY, ROOSEVELT REALLY WASN'T THAT DOWN ON WALLACE. IN FACT, IT WAS SAID LATER THAT IF WALLACE COULD HAVE DEMONSTRATED THE KIND OF STRENGTH THAT HE CLAIMED HE HAD, HE MIGHT HAVE -- HE MIGHT HAVE ESCAPED. BUT THERE WAS A REAL JOB DONE ON WALLACE BY NUMEROUS BIG CITY DEMOCRATIC BOSSES AND OTHERS AROUND ROOSEVELT THAT ROOSEVELT BASICALLY CAVED IN ON IT.

Yepsen: ROOSEVELT HAD SIGNALED TO WALLACE THAT HE WANTED TO KEEP HIM AROUND BUT THEN WAS DOING THIS BACK-CHANNEL THING WITH POLITICAL BOSSES TO GET RID OF HIM.

Witcover: AND HE SIGNALING TO OTHER PEOPLE ALSO THAT HE WANTED THEM. AND HARRY TRUMAN, WHO WAS FINALLY FATEFULLY CHOSEN TO REPLACE WALLACE, HAD ALREADY PROMISED TO MAKE THE NOMINATION SPEECH OF ANOTHER DEMOCRAT WHO THOUGHT THAT ROOSEVELT HAD ANOINTED HIM.

Yepsen: LET'S MOVE AHEAD A FEW YEARS, JULES, TO VIETNAM. THROUGH FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, HARRY TRUMAN, JOHN KENNEDY, LYNDON JOHNSON, THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY WAS ALWAYS A PARTY KNOWN FOR ITS STRONG ON NATIONAL DEFENSE. THEN CAME VIETNAM. THE PARTY REALLY FRACTURED ON THAT. THE IOWA CAUCUSES THEMSELVES ARE A DIRECT DESCENDANT OF THAT TURMOIL IN THE '68 CHICAGO DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION. THEY OPENED THE PARTY UP AND THESE CAUCUSES ARE THE RESULT OF THAT. WHAT'S -- WHAT, IN YOUR MIND, IS THE EFFECT OF VIETNAM ON THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY?

Witcover: WELL, IT'S BEEN A TERRIFIC HANGOVER. THE PARTY HAS BEEN VERY CONCERNED ABOUT ITS IMAGE ON BOTH ENDS, THAT IT'S AFRAID TO ENGAGE IN FOREIGN POLICY BECAUSE OF THE BAD TASTE OF VIETNAM, BUT ALSO NOW, WITH THIS LATEST DEVELOPMENT IN IRAQ, TAKING ON AN IMAGE OF BEING MUCH MORE AGGRESSIVE. I THINK A NUMBER OF THE DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES SUPPORTED PRESIDENT BUSH'S WAR RESOLUTION. I FIND THAT THE DEPTH OF OPPOSITION TO THE WAR WITHIN DEMOCRATIC ACTIVISTS, THE LIBERAL ACTIVISTS WHO TAKE PERHAPS A MORE PROMINENT ROLE IN PRIMARIES AND CAUCUSES, THEY WERE VERY, VERY HARSH ON THIS WAR. AND SO ONCE AGAIN IT BECOMES A CENTERPIECE OF DEMOCRATIC POSITION IN THE RUNUP TO THE GENERAL ELECTION.

Yepsen: CAN AN AMERICAN POLITICAL PARTY WIN NATIONAL ELECTIONS IF IT'S PERCEIVED AS BEING WEAK ON DEFENSE?

Witcover: PROBABLY NOT BUT IT'S A QUESTION OF HOW YOU COUCH THEIR OPPOSITION TO PRESIDENT BUSH'S POSITION ON THE WAR. THAT'S A KEY ISSUE FOR JOHN KERRY, WHO'S TRIED TO USE HIS OWN SIGNIFICANT BACKGROUND, BOTH AS A DECORATED VIETNAM VETERAN AND AS SOMEBODY IN CONGRESS WHO HAS BEEN A STRONG VOICE FOR STRONG NATIONAL DEFENSE. THE PROBLEM TO HOW TO GET SOME LEVERAGE ON THAT ISSUE WHEN THE PARTY ITSELF IS -- LARGE PORTIONS OF THE PARTY ARE AGAINST THE WAR IN IRAQ AND KERRY HIMSELF, AS WELL AS SOME OF THE OTHER CANDIDATES, HAVE COME ACROSS AS HAVING MIXED VIEWS.

Yepsen: YOU USED THE WORD HANGOVER. HOW LONG DOES THIS HANGOVER LAST FOR DEMOCRATS? I MEAN BILL CLINTON WAS SORT OF ABLE TO FINESSE IT BECAUSE OF THE ECONOMIC ISSUES THAT BROUGHT HIM TO THE PRESIDENCY AND THEN, BECAUSE OF THE ECONOMIC BOOM THAT OCCURRED DURING HIS PRESIDENCY, IT SORT OF WAS OFF TO THE SIDE. BUT, BOY, IT'S BACK NOW. HOW LONG DOES THIS LAST FOR DEMOCRATS?

Witcover: WELL, I THINK THAT ONE OF THE ASPECTS OF THE DEMOCRATIC POSITION ON VIETNAM IS IT PLAYS INTO THE WHOLE ISSUE OF PATRIOTISM. WHO IS PATRIOTIC? THE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO PURSUE AMERICAN NATIONAL INTERESTS WITH MUSCLE OR THOSE WHO WANT TO -- WANT TO TRY TO AVOID THE USE OF FORCE? IT PLAYED OUT VERY CLEARLY IN THE WHOLE RUNUP TO THE IRAQ WAR AND THE DISCUSSIONS ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT PRESIDENT BUSH SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE PATIENT IN WORKING THROUGH THE UNITED NATIONS. BUT I THINK IT'S TRUE THAT DEMOCRATS ALWAYS FACE THE PROBLEM THAT REPUBLICANS WILL TRY TO PAINT THEM AS BEING WEAK ON NATIONAL DEFENSE. WE SAW IN THE LAST CONGRESSIONAL ELECTION THAT REPUBLICANS VERY EFFECTIVELY USED DEMOCRATIC OPPOSITION TO THE WAY THE NEW DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WAS BEING CREATED AND HOW IT WAS GOING TO BE RUN AS AN INDICATION THAT THE DEMOCRATS LACK PATRIOTISM.

Yepsen: IN YOUR BOOK YOU DISCUSS THE HUMPHREY/NIXON RACE OF 1968, WHICH WAS REALLY ONE OF THE MORE INTERESTING RACES I'VE EVER CERTAINLY READ ABOUT. YOU COVERED IT, WROTE A BOOK ABOUT 1968. TELL ME THE STORY -- TELL US THE STORY ABOUT HOW LYNDON JOHNSON GAVE HUMPHREY INFORMATION THAT NIXON WAS MEDDLING IN THE PEACE NEGOTIATIONS IN PARIS AND HUMPHREY WOULDN'T USE IT.

Witcover: IT'S ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE STORIES THAT I'VE EVER COME ACROSS, AND I THINK IT'S NOT OVER YET. BUT AT THE END OF THE CAMPAIGN, YOU MAY RECALL THAT THERE WERE EFFORTS TO GET PEACE TALKS GOING IN PARIS BETWEEN THE NORTH AND SOUTH VIETNAMESE WITH THE UNITED STATES AS A PARTICIPANT. AND JOHNSON WAS WORKING VERY DILIGENTLY TO DO THAT, BOTH BECAUSE HE WANTED TO ACHIEVE IT BUT HE ALSO THOUGHT IT COULD SALVAGE HUMPHREY'S CAMPAIGN. THE LAST FEW DAYS JOHNSON LEARNED THAT AN AMERICAN OF CHINESE ORIGIN NAMED ANNA CHENNAULT, THE WIFE OF A WORLD WAR II AVIATION HERO, HAD BEEN IN CONTACT WITH THE SAIGON EMBASSY AND ALSO WAS VERY ACTIVE -- SHE WAS VERY ACTIVE IN THE NIXON CAMPAIGN. AND JOHNSON HAD REASON TO BELIEVE, THROUGH WIRETAPS AND OTHER SURVEILLANCE OF THIS WOMAN, THAT SHE HAD GONE TO THE LEADERS OF THE SOUTH VIETNAMESE GOVERNMENT AND TOLD THEM THAT IF THEY DIDN'T GO AHEAD WITH PEACE TALKS, THEY'D GET A BETTER DEAL FROM A PRESIDENT NIXON. THIS OBVIOUSLY WAS BAD STUFF TO BE DOING IN A CAMPAIGN, AND JOHNSON DIDN'T FEEL THAT HE COULD USE IT HIMSELF BUT HE TURNED ALL THIS MATERIAL OVER TO HUMPHREY, CONVINCED THAT IF HUMPHREY HAD RELEASED IT, HE WOULD HAVE --

Yepsen: WHY DIDN'T HUMPHREY USE IT?

Witcover: WELL, BECAUSE IT WAS A DIFFERENT TIME, FOR ONE THING. THERE WASN'T -- THERE WASN'T A SENSE THAT YOU SHOULD DO THAT SORT OF THING, USE GOVERNMENT -- MATERIAL WAS ALL SUPERSECRET AND TO HAVE -- TO USE THAT SORT OF THING, HUMPHREY WAS AFRAID IT WOULD BACKFIRE ON HIM. BUT MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN THAT TO ME IS THAT HUMPHREY SAID AT THE TIME HE DIDN'T THINK PEOPLE WOULD BELIEVE IT. TO ME IT WAS ALWAYS ASTONISHING THAT AFTER ALL THE TRICKS THAT NIXON HAD PULLED AS BOTH THE CANDIDATE AND THE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL REPUBLICAN PARTY HATCHET MAN THAT THIS WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN -- IT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN BELIEVED THAT NIXON WAS ABLE -- WAS CAPABLE OF DOING SUCH A THING.

Yepsen: JULES, WE'VE GOT JUST A MINUTE LEFT, AND I WANT TO ASK YOU TO TOUCH ON CIVIL RIGHTS AND WHAT THAT ISSUE HAS MEANT TO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY THAT SPLITS THE ELECTORAL CONSEQUENCES.

Witcover: WELL, IT'S BEEN CENTRAL TO THE -- WHATEVER SUCCESS THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAS HAD. YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAD WHATEVER BLACK VOTE EXISTED IN THE EARLIER YEARS FROM THE CIVIL WAR ON AND THAT IT -- BY EMBRACING CIVIL RIGHTS, THE PARTY REALLY PURGED ITSELF OF A TERRIBLE IMAGE AND BROUGHT TO THE PARTY ONE OF ITS MOST RELIABLE AND CONSISTENT CONSTITUENCIES.

Yepsen: JULES, LISTEN, I COULD TALK POLITICS WITH YOU ALL NIGHT. WE'RE OUT OF TIME. I APPRECIATE YOU SPENDING SOME TIME WITH US TODAY TALKING ABOUT HOW MUCH OF WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE CAUCUS PROCESS REALLY IS JUST A CONTINUATION OF THE HISTORY OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. I THANK YOU FOR --

Witcover: THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME, DAVID.

Yepsen: -- FOR BEING OUR GUEST TODAY. TONIGHT'S PROGRAM IS THE FOURTH IN A TEN-PART SERIES THIS WEEK AND NEXT, LEADING UP TO THE IOWA CAUCUSES OF 2004, WHICH COMES OUR WAY ON MONDAY, JANUARY 19. WE RETURN TOMORROW EVENING AT THIS SAME TIME, 6:30 P.M. I'M DAVID YEPSEN OF "THE DES MOINES REGISTER." THANKS FOR JOINING US HERE ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION.

CAPTIONS BY: MIDWEST CAPTIONING DES MOINES, IOWA.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION... GENERATIONS OF FAMILIES AND FRIENDS WHO FEEL PASSIONATE ABOUT THE PROGRAMS THEY WATCH ON IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. 


Tags: campaign 2004 Iowa presidential candidates