Bush’s unsuccessful attempt in 1964 to unseat Texas Democratic Senator Ralph Yarborough is a matter of fundamental interest to anyone seeking to probe the wellsprings of Bush’s actual political thinking. In a society which knows nothing of its own recent history, the events of a quarter century ago might be classed as remote and irrelevant. But as we review the profile of the Bush Senate campaign of 1964, what we see coming alive is the characteristic mentality that rules the Oval Office today. The main traits are all there: the overriding obession with the race issue, exemplified in Bush’s bitter rejection of the civil rights bill before the Congress during those months; the genocidal bluster in foreign affairs, with proposals for nuclear bombardment of Vietnam, an invasion of Cuba, and a rejection of negotiations for the return of the Panama Canal; the autonomic reflex for union-busting expressed in the rhetoric of “right to work”; the paean to free enterprise at the expense of farmers and the disadvantaged, with all of this packaged in a slick, demagogic television and advertising effort.
During this Senate race, Bush assumed the coloration of a Goldwater Republican. It remains highly significant that Bush began his public political career in the ideological guise of a southern Republican, specifically in Texas. The Republican Party in Texas had been in total eclipse since the time of Reconstruction, with the state GOPers complaining that they were living in a one-party state. During the 1950’s, the personal popularity of Eisenhower and the increasing visibility of ultra-left Wall Street investment bankers in the circle of Adlai Stevenson’s backers began to offer the Texas Republicans some openings. In 1952 and 1956, Texas Democratic Governor Allan Shivers supported Eisenhower, who carried Texas with a substantial majority both times. In 1960, Texas had given its electoral votes to Kennedy, although the margin of Democratic victory was so thin as to constitute an embarrassment to Kennedy’s running mate, Texas Senator and Democratic Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson. But Nixon had carried the city of Houston and Harris County, which turned out to be the largest metropolitan area to go for the Nixon-Lodge ticket that year. In 1960, Texas Republicans scored their greatest success in a century by elected John Tower to the US Senate on a platform that was a harbinger of the Goldwater movement. Tower was once asked if there was a single domestic legislative program of John F. Kennedy that he could support, and his answer was that he could not think of a single one. This is the same Tower who would join with Edmund Muskie and Brent Scowcroft in early 1987 to concoct the absurd whitewash of the Iran- contra affair that would exonerate Bush and attribute the central responsibility to White House chief of Staff Don Regan, forcing his ouster. This was the same Tower whose nomination by Bush to the post of Secretary of Defense would be derailed by accusation of alcoholism and womanizing, followed by Tower’s death in a mysterious airplane crash in early 1991.
The Texas Democratic Party was divided in those days into two wings which fought each other in the Democratic primaries, which were often tantmount to election. One of these wings was called liberal and was identified above all with Bush’s opponent, Senator Ralph Yarborough. The “liberal” here is largely a misnomer; more accurate would be populist, but populist ennobled by the revival of the classic nineteenth century American system that occurred in Texas during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s World War II mobilization, when dirigist recovery policies pulled the Texas economy out of a stagnation that had its roots in the failure of post-1865 econstruction. The strong suits of these populist Democrats were education and infrastructure– a good first approximation of the actual business of government.
The other wing was called conservative, and was grouped around figures like Allan Shivers and LBJ’s protege John Connally, with whom Bush has had a history of alternating stretches of conflict and moments of rapprochement. LBJ himself was close to the Shivers-Connally group. The typical figure here is Connally, the governor who was wounded in Dealey Plaza in Dallas the day that Kennedy was killed, and who later went on the join the Nixon Administration as the Secretary of the Treasury who approved the abolition of the post-1944 Bretton Woods gold reserve standard in Camp David on August 15, 1971. Connally subsequently played out the logic of becoming not just a Republican, but indeed a Republican presidential candidate, and of clashing with George Bush once or twice in the snows of New Hampshire in 1979-80.
The Texas Democratic Party also contained an array of personalities of national importance whose positive traits are part of what has been lost in the descent into today’s crisis: call them populists, call them the post-New Deal or the post-Fair Deal, but do not mistake the fact that they were better for the country than their successors. These were politicians like the legendary Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, Congressman Wright Patman of the House Banking Committee, who was a source of continuing populist irritation to the New York banking community, and Tom Clark, who was Attorney General under Truman and who later went on to the US Supreme Court, and whose son, Ramsay Clark, has been distinguished by his denunciation of the war crimes of the Bush regime in the Gulf war of 1991. A later generation of this same circle was represented by former Speaker of the House Jim Wright, who was hounded from office during the first year of George Bush’s Presidential tenure, and by Congressman Henry Gonzalez. Gonzalez stands out as one of the very few of the old Texas populist Democrats left in elected office today. Gonzalez has put new luster on the time-honored maverick tradition by offering a bill of impeachment for Ronald Reagan in the wake of the Iran-contra revelations of 1986, more recently by submitting a bill for the impeachment of George Bush for his illegal conduct of Operation Desert Shield, and by raising his voice as first in the Congress for the cause of humanity against genocide with a call for the lifting of the economic sanctions against Iraq to prevent the needless slaughter of hundreds of thousands of children after the bombing campaign had ended. And even today there are still others of this tradition left in positions of key influence: for example, Congressman Jack Brooks of the ninth district of Texas, the salty chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who dared to subpoena Attorney General Richard Thornburgh to appear before his committee with a ducis tecum of the documents of the Department of Justice theft of computer software in the Inslaw case.
One of the continuing projects of George Bush’s life has been the extirpation of precisely this populist and sometimes dirigist group of Democrats, and their replacement with “free enterprise” Republican ideologues, or financier Democrats of the Lloyd Bentsen variety.
The Texas and Oklahoma populist Democrats must be distinguished from their colleagues of the Old South of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. But for the Eastern Liberal Establishment, it has proven more convenient to lump them all together under the purveyed image of the racist, bourbon-swilling southern Congressional committee chairman conspiring in cigar-clouded rooms to defy the popular will as expressed by the television networks. All southern Democrats of the old school tended to have crippling weaknesses on the race issue and on the question of union-busting. But on the other side of the ledger, many southern Democrats had an excellent grasp of infrastructure in the broadest sense: internal improvements like highways, canals, water projects, rural electrification, quality accessible public education, health services, electric power generation.
The nascent southern Republicans of the fifties and sixties, by contrast, were generally as bad or worse than the Democrats on race and labor relations, and were at the same such fanatics of Adam Smith’s “free market” mystification that all government committment to maintaining infrastructure, health care, and education went by the boards. The only positive point left for some of these emerging southern Republicans, such as those who folllowed Barry Goldwater in 1964, was a patriotic rejection of the machinations of the Eastern Liberal Establishment as embodied most graphically in the figure of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Bush was indeed a Goldwater man in those days, as we will see. But since Bush was himself an organ of that same hated Eastern Liberal Establishment, he stood utterly bereft of redeeming grace.
The enterprise in which we now find Bush engaged, the creation of a Republican Party in the southern states during the 1960’s, (including the so-called post-1961 “two-party Texas”) has proven to be an historical catastrophe. In order to create a Republican Party in the south, it was first necessary to smash the old FDR New Deal constitutent coalition of labor, the cities, farmers, blacks, and the Solid South. As Bush complains in his campaign autobiography:
“The state was solidly Democratic, and the allegiance of Texans to the ‘party of our fathers’ became even stronger during the lean years of the Depression. The Democratic campaign line in the 1930’s was that the ‘Hoover Republicans’ were responsible for unemployment and farm foreclosures; Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democratic Party were said to be the only friends the people had.” [fn 1]
But as far as George Bush was concerned, all this was of no consequence: “Philosophically, I was a Republican….” [fn 2] After Bush had declared his candidacy for Yarborough’s seat, the veteran political writers at the state capital in Austin shook their heads: Bush had “two crosses to bear – running as a Republican and not a native Texan.” [fn 3]
The method that the southern Republicans devised to breach this solid front was the one theorized years later by Lee Atwater, the manager of Bush’s 1988 Presidential campaign. This was the technique of the “wedge issues,” so called precisely because they were chosen to split up the old New Deal coalition using the chisels of ideology. The wedge issues are also known as the “hot-button social issues,” and the most explosive among them has always tended to be race. The Republicans could win in the south by portraying the Democratic Party has pro-black. Atwater had learned to be a cunning and vicious practitioner of the “wedge issue” method in the school of Strom Thurmond of South Carolina after the latter had switched over to the Republicans in the sixties. Racial invective, anti-union demagogy, jingoistic chauvinism, the smearing of opponents for their alleged fealty to “special interests”– none of this began in the Baker-Atwater effort of 1968. These were the stock in trade of the southern strategy, and these were all Leitmotivs of Bush’s 1964 effort against Yarborough.
From the vantage point of the police state conditions of the early 1990’s, we can discern a further implication of the southern Republican project of which Bush was in several moments of the 1960’s a leading operative. As the southern GOP emerged out of the play of gang and counter-gang between McGovernite left liberal investment bankers and Nixon-Reagan right liberal investment bankers (and Bush has been both), it made possible that Southern Strategy which elected Nixon in 1968 and which has given the Republicans a virtual lock on the electoral college ever since. The Watergate-Carter anomaly of 1976 confirms rather than alters this overall picture.
The Southern Strategy that Bush turns out to have been serving in the sixties was not called to the attention of the public until somewhat after the 1964 election in which Goldwater had garnered electoral votes exclusively in the south. As William Rusher wrote in the National Review: “The Democrats had for years begun each race with an assured batch of delegates from the South.” “The Republican Party strategy,” argued Rusher, needs refiguring, given a chance to break into this bloc once denied them….” His conclusion was that “”Republicans can put themselves in the position of having the Southern bloc as a starting handicap; after that, they can compete for the rest of the country, needing only that 50 per cent minus (say) 111 [of the electoral college votes].” Doing all this, Rusher contended, would allow Republican Presidential candidates to ignore the ” traditional centers of urban liberalism,” especially in the northeast. [fn 4] These ideas were further refined in Richard Nixon’s brain trust, presided over by Wall Street bond lawyer John Mitchell at 445 Park Avenue, and received their definitive elaboration from Kevin Phillips, who in those years advanced the thesis that the “whole secret of politics” is in “knowing who hates who,” which is of course another way of speaking of wedge issues.
The result of the successful application of the Southern Strategy in 1968 and in the following years has been a a period of more than two decades of one-party Republican control over the Executive Branch, of which George Bush personally has been the leading beneficiary, first through his multiple appointments, then through the vice-presidency, and now through the possession of the White House itself. This has had the decisive structural consequence of making possible the kind of continuous, entrenched bureaucratic power that we see in the Bush regime and its leading functionaries. As we will see, such administrators of the corporate state as James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, for whom the exercise of executive power has long since become a way of life, appear to themsleves and to others as immune to the popular reckoning. The democratic republic requires the moment of catharsis, of throwing the bums out, if the arrogance of the powerful is ever to be chastened. If there is no prospect for the White House changing hands, this amounts to a one- party state. The southern Republican Party, including two-party Texas, has provided the Republican lock on the White House which has proven a mighty stimulus to those tendencies towards authoritarian and even totalitarian rule which have culminated in the Administrative Fascism of the current Bush regime.
Bush’s opponent in that Goldwater year of 1964 was Senator Ralph Webster Yarborough. Yarborough had been born in Chandler, Texas in 1903 as the seventh of eleven children. He attended public schools in Chandler and Tyler, worked on a farm, and went on to attend Sam Houston State Teachers College and, for one year, the US Military Academy at West Point. He was a member of the 36th division of the Texas National Guard, in which he advanced from private to sergeant. After World War I he worked a passage to Europe on board a freighter, and found a job in Germany working in the offices of the American Chamber of Commerce in Berlin. He also pursued studies in Stendahl, Germany. He returned to the United States to earn a law degree at the University of Texas in 1927, and worked as a lawyer in El Paso. At one point he found a job as a harvest hand in the Oklahoma dust bowl of the late 1920’s, and also served a stint as a roughneck in the oil fields. Yarborough entered public service as an Assistant Attorney General of Texas from 1931 to 1934. After that, he was a founding director of the Lower Colorado River Authority, a major water project in central Texas, and was then elected as a district judge in Austin.
Yarborough served in the US Army ground forces during World War II, and was a member of the only division which took part in the postwar occupation of Germany as well as in MacArthur’s administration of Japan. When he left the military in 1946 he had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. It clear from an overview of Yarborough’s career that his victories and defeats were essentially his own, that for him there was no Prescott Bush to secure lines of credit or to procure important posts by telephone calls to bigwigs in freemasonic networks.
Yarborough had challenged Allan Shivers in the governor’s contest of 1952, and had gone down to defeat. Successive bids for the state house in Austin by Yarborough were turned back in 1954 and 1956. Then, when Senator (and former governor) Price Daniel resigned his seat, Yarborough was finally victorious in a special election. He had then been re-elected to the Senate for a full term in 1958.
Yarborough was distinguished first of all for his voting record on civil rights. Just months after he had entered the Senate, he was one of only five southern senators (including LBJ) to vote for the watershed Civil Rights Act of 1957. In 1960, Yarborough was one of four southern senators- again including LBJ- who cast votes in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1960. Yarborough would be the lone senator from the eleven states formerly composing the Confederate States of America to vote for the 1964 civil rights bill, the most sweeping since Reconstruction. This is the bill which, as we will see, provided Bush with the ammunition for one of the principal themes of his 1964 election attacks. Later, Yarborough would be one of only three southern senators supporting the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and one of four supporting the 1968 open housing bill. [fn 5]
After Yarborough had left the Senate, his bitter enemies at the Dallas Morning News felt obliged to concede that “his name is probably attached to more legislation than that of any other senator in Texas history.” Yarborough had become the chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare. Here his lodestar was infrastructure, infrastructure in the form of education and infrastructure in the form of physical improvements.
In education, Yarborough was either the author or a leading supporter of virtually every important piece of legislation to become law between 1958 and 1971, including some nine major bills. As a freshman senator, Yarborough was the co-author of the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which was the basis for federal aid to education, particularly to higher education.
Under the provisions of NDEA, a quarter of a million students were at any given time enabled to pursue undergraduate training with low-cost loans and other benefits. For graduate students, there were three-year fellowships that paid tuition and fees plus grants for living expenses in the amount of $2200, $2400, and $2600 over the three years–an ample sum in those days. Yarborough also sponsored bills for medical education, college classroom construction, vocational education, aid to the mentally retarded, and library facilities. Yarborough’s Bilingual Education Bill provided special federal funding for schools with large numbers of students from non-English speaking backgrounds. Some of these points were outlined by Yarborough during a campaign speech of September 18, 1964, with the title “Higher Education as it relates to our national purpose.”
As chairman of the veterans’ subcommittee, Yarborough authored the Cold War GI Bill of Rights, which sought to extend the benefits accorded veterans of World War II and Korea, and which was to apply to servicemen on duty between January, 1955 and July 1, 1965. For these veterans Yarborough proposed readjustment assistance, educational and vocational training, and loan assistance to allow veterans to purchase homes and farms at a maximum interest rate of 5.25% per annum. This bill was finally passed after years of dogged effort by Yarborough against the opposition of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. Yarborough was instrumental in obtaining a five year extension of the Hill-Burton act, which provided 4,000 additional beds in Veterans Administration Hospitals. In physical improvements, Yarborough supported appropriations for coastal navigation. He fought for $29 million for the Rural Electrification Administration for counties in the Corpus Christi area alone. In eleven counties in that part of Texas, Yarborough had helped obtain federal grants for $4.5 million and loans of $.64 million under the Kennedy Administration accelerated public works projects program to provide clean water and sewers for towns and cities that could not otherwise afford them. Concerning his committment to this type of infrastructure, Yarborough commented to a dinner in Corpus Christi: “These are the projects, along with the ship channels, dams and reservoirs, water research programs, hurricane and flood control programs that bring delegations of city officials, members of county court, members of river and watershed authorities, co-op delegations, into my office literally by the thousands year after year for aid, which is always given, never refused.” Yarborough went on: “While our efforts and achievements are largely unpublicized…there is satisfaction beyond acclaim when a small town without a water system is enabled to provide its people for the first time with water and sewerage…when the course of a river is shored up a little to save a farmer’s crops, when a freeway opens up new avenues of commerce.” [fn 6] In the area of oil policy, always vital in Texas, Yarborough strained to give the industry everything it could reasonably expect, and more. Despite this, he was implacably hated by many business circles. In short, Ralph Yarborough had a real committment to racial and economic justice, and was, all in all, among the best that the post-New Deal Democratic Party had to offer. Certainly there were weaknesses: one of the principal ones was to veer in the direction of environmentalism. Here Yarborough was the prime mover behind the Endangered Species Act.
Bush moved to Houston in 1959, bringing the corporate headquarters of Zapata Offshore with him. Houston was by far the biggest city in Texas, a center of the corporate bureaucracies of firms doing business in the oil patch. There was also the Baker and Botts law firm, which would function in effect as part of the Bush family network, since Baker and Botts were the lawyers who had been handling the affiars of the Harriman railroad interests in the southwest. One prominent lawyer in Houston at the time was James Baker III, a scion of the family enshrined in the Baker and Botts name, but himself a partner in another firm because of the so-called anti- nepotism rule that prevented the children of Baker and Botts partners from joining the firm themselves. Soon Bush would be hob-nobbing with Baker and other representatives of the Houston oligarchy, of the Hobby and Cullen families, at the Petroleum Club and at garden parties in the hot, humid, subtropical summers. George, Barbara and their children moved into a new home on Briar Drive.
Less than an hour’s drive by car south of Houston lies Galveston, a port on the Gulf of Mexico. Houston itself is connected to the Gulf by a ship channel which has permitted the city to became a large port in its own right. Beyond Galveston there was the Gulf, and beyond the Gulf the Greater Antilles with Cuba set in the middle of the archipelago, and beyond Cuba Guatemala, Nicaragua, Granada, targets of filibusterers old and new.
Before long, Bush became active in the Harris County Republican Party, which was in the process of becoming one of the GOP strongpoints in the statewide apparatus then being assembled by Peter O’Donnell, the Republican state chairman, and his associate Thad Hutcheson. By now George Bush was a millionaire in his own right, and given his impeccable Wall Street connections it was not surprising to find him on the Harris County GOP finance committee, a function that he had undertaken in Midland for the Eisenhower-Nixon tickets in 1952 and 1956. He was also a member of the candidates committee.
In 1962 the Democrats were preparing to nominate John Connally for governor, and the Texas GOP under O’Donnell was able to mount a more formidable bid than previously for the state house in Austin. The Republican candidate was Jack Cox, a party activist with a right-wing profile. Bush agreed to serve as the Harris County co-chairman of the Jack Cox for Governor finance committee. In the gubernatorial election of 1962, Cox received 710,000 votes, a surprisingly large result. Connally won the governorship, and it was in that capacity that he was present in the Kennedy motorcade in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
During these years, a significant influence was exercised in the Texas GOP by the John Birch Society, which had grown up during the 1950’s through the leadership and financing of Robert Welch. Water for the Birch mill was abundantly provided by the liberal Republicanism of the Eisenhower administration, with counted Prescott Bush, Nelson Rockefeller, Gordon Gray, and Robert Keith Gray among its most infleuntial figures. In reaction against this Wall Street liberalism, the Birchers offered an ideology of impotent negative protest based on self-righteous chauvinism in foreign affairs and the mystifications of the free market at home. But they were highly suspicious of the financier cliques of lower Manhattan, and to that extent they had George Bush’s number.
Bush is still complaining about the indignities he suffered at the hands of these Birchers, with whom he was straining to have as much as possible in common. But he met with repeated frustration, because his Eastern Liberal Establishment pedigree was always there. In his campaign autobiography, Bush laments that many Texans thought that Redbook Magazine, published by his father-in-law Marvin Pierce of the McCall Coporation, was an official publication of the Communist Party.
Bush recounts a campaign trip with his aide Roy Goodearle to the Texas panhandle, during which he was working a crowd at one of his typical free food, free beer “political barbecues.” Bush gave one of his palm cards to a man who conceded that he had heard of Bush, but quickly added that he could never support him. Bush thought this was because he was running as a Republican. “But,” [Bush] then realized, “my being a Republican wasn’t the thing bothering the guy. It was something worse than that.” Bush’s interlocutor was upset over the fact that Zapata Offshore had eastern investors. When Bush whined that all oil companies had eastern investors, for such was the nature of the business, his tormentor pointed out that one of Bush’s main campaign contributors, a prominent Houston attorney, was not just a “sonofabitch,” but also a member of the New York Council on Foreign Relations.
Bush explains, with the whine in his larynx in overdrive: “The lesson was that in the minds of some voters the Council on Foreign Relations was nothing more than a One World tool of the Communist-Wall Street internationalist conspiracy, and to make matters worse, the Houston lawyer had also worked for President Eisenhower– a known tool of the Communists, in the eyes of some John Birch members.” Further elucidation is then added in a footnote: “A decade and a half later, running for President, I ran into some of the same political types on the campaign trail. By then, they’d uncovered an international conspiracy even more sinister than the Council on Foreign Relations– the Trilateral Commission, a group that President Reagan received at the White House in 1981.” This,which included the exposure of Bush’s membership not just in David Rockefeller’s Trilateral, but also in Skull and Bones, about which Bush always refuses to comment. When Ronald Reagan and other candidates took up this issue, Bush ended up loosing the New Hampshire primary and with it his best hope of capturing the Presidency in 1980. Bush, in short, has been aware since the early sixties that serious attention to his oligarchical pedigree causes him to lose elections. His response has been to seek to declare these very relevant matters off limits, and to order dirty tricks and covert operations against those who persist in making this an issue. [fn 7]
Part of the influence of the Birch Society in those days was due to the support and financing afforded by the Hunt dynasty of Dallas. In particular, the fabulously wealthy oilman H.L. Hunt, one of the richest men in the world, was an avid sponsor of rightwing propaganda which he put out under the name of LIFE LINE. On at least one occasion Hunt called Bush to Dallas for a meeting during one of the latter’s Texas political campaigns. “There’s something I’d like to give you,” Hunt told Bush. Bush appeared with remarkable alacrity, and Hunt engaged him in a long conversation about many things, but mentioned neither politics nor money. Finally, as Bush was getting ready to leave, Hunt handed him a thick brown envelope. Bush eagerly opened the envelope in the firm expectation that it would contain a large sum in cash. What he found instead was a thick wad of LIFE LINE literature for his ideological reformation. [fn 8]
It was in this context that George Bush, mediocre oilman, fortified by his Wall Street and Skull and Bones connections, but with almost no visible qualifications, and scarcely known in Texas outside of Odessa, Midland, and Houston, decided that he had attained senatorial caliber. In the Roman Empire, membership in the Senate was an hereditary attribute of patrician family rank. Prescott Bush had left the Senate in early January of 1963. Before the year was out, George Bush would make his claim. As Senator Yarborough later commented, it would turn out to be an act of termerity.
During the spring of 1963 Bush set about assembling an institutional base for his campaign. The chosen vehicle would be the Republican chairmanship of Harris County, the area around Houston, a bulwark of the Texas GOP. Bush had been participating in the Harris County organization since 1960.
One Sunday morning Bush invited some county Republican activists to his home on Briar Drive. Present were Roy Goodearle, a young independent oil man who, before Barbara Bush appropriated it, was given the nickname of “the Silver Fox” in the Washington scene. Also present were Jack Steel, Tom and Nancy Thawley, and some others.
Goodearle, presumably acting as the lawyer for the Bush faction, addressed the meeting on the dangers posed by the sectarians of the John Birch Society to the prospects of the GOP in Houston and elsewhere. Over lunch prepared by Barbara Bush, Goodearle outlined the tactical situation in the Harris County organization: a Birchite faction under the leadership of state senator Walter Mengdon, although still a minority, was emerging as a powerful inner-party opposition against the liberals and moderates. In the last vote for GOP county leader, the Birch candidate had been narrowly defeated. Now, after three years in office, the more moderate county chairman, James A. Bertron, would announce on February 8, 1963 that he could no longer serve as chairman of the Harris County Republican Executive Committee. His resignation, he would state, was “necessitated by neglect of my personal business due to my political activities.” [fn 9] This was doubtless very convenient in the light of what Bush had been planning.
Bertron was quitting to move to Florida. In 1961, Bertron had been attending a Republican fundraising gathering in Washington DC, when he was accosted by none other than Senator Prescott Bush. Bush took Bertron aside and demanded: “Jimmy, when are you going to get George involved?” “Senator, I’m trying,” Betron replied, evidently with some vexation. “We’re all trying.” [fn 10] In 1961 or at any other time it is doubtful that George Bush could have found his way to the men’s room without the help of a paid informant sent by Senator Prescott Bush.
Goodearle went on to tell the assembled Republicans that unless a “strong candidate” now entered the race, a Bircher was likely to win the post of county chairman. But in order to defeat the well-organized and zealous Birchers, said Goodearle, an anti-Bircher would have to undertake a grueling campaign, touring the county and making speeches to the Republican faithful every night for several weeks. Then, under the urging of Goodearle, the assembled group turned to Bush: could he be prevailed on to put his hat in the ring? Bush, by his own account, needed no time to think it over, and accepted on the spot.
With that, George and Barbara were on the road in their first campaign in what Bush later called “another apprenticeship.” While Barbara busied herself with needlepoint in order to stay awake through a speech she had heard repeatedly, George churned out a pitch on the virtues of the two-party system and the advantages of having a Republican alternative to the entrenched Houston establishment. In effect, his platform was the Southern Strategy avant la lettre. Local observers soon noticed that Barbara Bush was able to gain acceptance as a campaign comrade for Republican volunteers, in addition ot being esteemed as the wealthy candidate’s wife.
When the vote for county chairman came, the candidate opposing Bush, Russell Prior, pulled out of the race for reasons that have not been satisfactorily explained, thus permitting Bush to be elected unanimously by the executive committee. Henceforth, winning unopposed has been Bush’s taste in elections: this is how he was returned to the House for his second term in 1968, and Bush propagandists flirted with a similar approach to the 1992 presidential contest.
At the time of his election, 38-year old George was not exactly a household word, not even in Houston. In announcing his victory, the Houston Chronicle printed the picture of a totally different person, captioned as “George Bush,” the man who wanted to “hone the party to a fine edge for the important job ahead in 1964”–that is to say, for the Goldwater for President campaign. [fn 11] As chairman, Bush was free to appoint the officers of the county GOP. Some of these choices are not without relevance for the future course of world history. For the post of party counsel, Bush appointed William B. Cassin of Baker and Botts, Shepherd and Coates law firm. For his assistant county chairmen, Bush tapped Anthony Farris, Gene Crossman, Roy Goodearle, and for executive director, William R. Simmons. Not to be overloooked is the choice of Anthony J.P. “Tough Tony” Farris. He had been a Marine gunner aboard dive bombers and torpedo bombers during the war, and had later graduated from the University of Houston Law School, subsequently setting up a general law practice in the Sterling Building in downtown Houston. The “P” stood for Perez, and Farris was a wheelhorse in the Mexican-American community with the “Amigos for Bush” in a number of campaigns. Farris was an unsuccessful Congressional candidate, but was later rewarded by the Nixon administration with the post of United States Attorney in Houston. Then Farris was elected to the Harris County bench in 1980. When George Bush’s former business partner and constant crony, J. Hugh Liedtke of Pennzoil, sued Texaco for damages in the celebrated Getty Oil case of 1985, it was Judge Tough Tony Farris who presided over most of the trial and made the key rulings on the way to the granting of the biggest damage award in history, an unbelievable $ 11,120,976,110.83, all for the benefit of Bush’s good friend J. Hugh Liedtke. [fn 12]
On March 21, Bush told the Houston Chronicle that the Harris County GOP is “conservative,” and not “extremist:” “The Republican party in the past — and sometimes with justification– has been connected in the mind of the public with extremism,” said Bush. “We’re not, or at least most of us are not, extremists. We’re just responsible people.” Bush pledged that his message would be the same all over the county, and that he would “say the same things in River Oaks as in the East End, or in Pasadena.”
At the same time that he was inveighing against extremism, Bush was dragooning his party apparatus to mount the Houston Draft Goldwater drive The goal of this effort was to procure 100,000 signatures for Goldwater, with each signer also plunking down a dollar to fill the GOP coffers. “An excellent way for those who support Goldwater-like me- to make it known,” opined Chairman George. Bush fostered a partisan –one might say vindictive– mood at the county GOP headquarters: the Houston Chronicle of June 6, 1963 reports that GOP activists were amusing themselves by tossing darts at a balloons suspended in front of a photograph of President Johnson. Bush told the Chronicle: “I saw the incident and it did not offend me. It was just a gag.”
But Bush’s pro-Goldwater efforts were not universally appreciated. In early July Craig Peper, the current chairman of the party finance committee, stood up in a party gathering and attacked the leaders of the Draft Goldwater movement, including Bush as “right wing extremists.” Bush had not been purging any Birchers, but he was not willing to permit such attacks from his left. Bush accordingly purged Peper, demanding his resignation after a pro-Goldwater meeting at which Bush had boasted that he was “100% for the draft Goldwater move.”
A few weeks after ousting Peper, Bush contributed one of his first public political statements as an op ed in the Houston Chronicle of 28 July 1963. Concerning he recent organizational problems, he whined that the county organization was “afflicted with some dry-martini critics who talk and don’t work.” Then, in conformity with his family doctrine and his own dominant obsession, Bush turned to the issue of race. As a conservative, he had to lament that fact that “Negroes” “think that conservatism means segregation.” Nothing could be further from the truth. This was rather the result of slanderous propaganda which Republican public relations men had not sufficiently refuted: “First, they attempt to present us as racists. The Republican party of Harris County is not a racist party. We have not presented our story to the Negroes in the county. Our failure to attract the Negro voter has not been because of a racist philosophy; rather, it has been a product of our not having had the organization to tackle all parts of the country.” What then was the GOP line on the race question? “We believe in the basic premiss that the individual Negro surrenders the very dignity and freedom he is struggling for when he accept money for his vote or when he goes along with the block vote dictates of some Democratic boss who couldn’t care less about the quality of the candidates he is pushing.” So the GOP would try to separate the black voter from the Democrats. Bush conceded: “We have a tough row to hoe here.”
After these pronouncements on race, Bush then want on to the trade union front. Yarborough’s labor backing was exceedingly strong, and Bush lost no time in assailing the state AFL-CIO and its Committee on Political Education (COPE) for gearing up to help Yarborough in his race. For Bush this meant that the AFL-CIO was not supporting the “two -party system.” “A strong pitch is being made to dun the [union] membership to help elect Yarborough”– he charged — “long before Yarborough’s opponent is even known.”
Bush also spoke out during this period on foreign affairs, He demanded that President Kennedy “muster the courage” to undertake a new attack on Cuba. [fn 13]
Before announcing his bid for the senate, Bush decided to take out what would appear in retrospect to be a very important insurance policy for his future political career. On April 22, Bush, with the support of Republican state chairman Peter O’Donnell, filed a suit in federal court calling for the reapportionment of the Congressional districts in the Houston area. The suit argued that the urban voters of Harris County were being partially disenfranchised by a system that favored rural voters and demanded as a remedy that a new Congressional district be drawn in the area. “This is not a partisan matter,” commented the civic-minded Bush. “This is something of concern to all Harris County citizens.” Bush would later win this suit, and that would lead to a court-ordered redistricting which would create the Seventh Congressional District, primarily out of those precincts which Bush had managed to carry in the 1964 Senate race. Was this the invisible hand of Skull and Bones? This would also mean that there would be no entrenched incumbent, no incumbent of any kind, in that Seventh District when Bush got around to making his bid there in 1966. But for now, this was all still in the future.
On September 10, 1963 Bush announced his campaign for the US Senate. He was fully endorsed by the state Republican organization and its chairman, Peter O’Donnell, who according to some accounts had encouraged Bush to run. By December 5 Bush had further announced that he was planning to step down as Harris County chairman and devote himself to full-time state-wide campaigning starting early in 1964. At this point, Bush’s foremost strategic concern appears to have been money–big money. On October 19, the Houston Chronicle carried his comment that ousting Yarborough would require nearly $2 million “if you want to do it right.” Much of this would go to the Brown and Snyder advertising agency in Houston for television and billboards. In 1963, this was a considerable sum, but Bush’s crony C. Fred Chambers, also an oilman, was committed to raising it. During these years Chambers appears to have been one of Bush’s closest friends, and he received the ultimate apotheosis of having one of the Bush family dogs named in his honor. [fn 14]
It is impossible to establish in retrospect how much Bush spent in this campaign. State campaign finance filings do exist, but they are fragmentary and grossly underestimate the money that was actually committed.
In terms of the tradeoffs of the campaign, Bush and his handlers were confronted with the following configuration: there were three competitors for the Republican senatorial nomination. The most formidable competition came from Jack Cox, the Houston oilman who had run for governor against Connally in 1962, and whose statewide recognition was much higher than Bush’s. Cox would position himself to the right of Bush and who would receive the endorsement of General Edwin Walker, who had been forced to resign his infantry command in Germany because of his radical speeches to the troops. A former Democrat, Cox was reported to have financial backing from the Hunts of Dallas. Cox campaigned against medicare, federal aid to education, the war on poverty, and the loss of US sovereignty to the UN.
Competing with Cox was Dr. Milton Davis, a thoracic surgeon from Dallas who was expected to be the weakest candidate but whose positions were perhaps the most distinctive: Morris was for “no treaties with Russia,” the repeal of the federal income tax, and the “selling off of excess government industrial property such as TVA and REA”–what the Reagan-Bush administrations would later call privatization.
Competing with Bush for the less militant conservatives was Dallas lawyer Robert Morris, who recommended depriving the US Supreme Court of appellate jurisdiction in school prayer cases. [fn 15] In order to avoid a humiliating second-round runoff in the primary, Bush would need to score an absolute majority the first time around. To do that he would have to first compete with Cox on a right-wing terrain, and then move to the center after the primary in order to take votes from Yarborough there.
But there was also primary competition on the Democratic side for Yarborough. This was Gordon McLendon, the owner of a radio network, the Liberty Broadcasting System, that was loaded with debt. Liberty Broadcasting’s top creditor was Houston banker Roy Cullen, a Bush crony. Roy Cullen’s name appears, for example, along with such died-in -the wool Bushmen as W.S. Farrish III, James A. Baker III, C. Fred Chambers, Robert Mosbacher, William C. Liedtke, Jr., Joseph R. Neuhaus, and William B. Cassin in a Bush campaign ad in the Houston Chronicle of late April, 1964. When McLendon finally went bankrupt, it was found that he owed Roy Cullen more than a million dollars. So perhaps it is not surprising that McLendon’s campaign functioned as an auxiliary to Bush’s own efforts. McLendon specialized in smearing Yarborough with the Billie Sol Estes issue, and it was to this that McLendon devoted most of his speaking time and media budget.
Billie Sol Estes in those days was notorious for his conviction for defrauding the US government of large sums of money in a scam involving the storage of chemicals that turned out not to exist. Billie Sol was part of the LBJ political milieu. As the Estes scandal developed, a report emerged that he had given Yarborough a payment of $50,000 on Nov. 6, 1960. But later, after a thorough investigation, the Department of Justice had issued a statement declaring that the charges involving Yarborough were “without any foundation in fact and unsupported by credible testimony.” “The case is closed,” said the Justice Department. But this did not stop Bush from using the issue to the hilt: “I don’t intend to mud-sling with [Yarborough] about such matters as the Billie Sol Estes case since Yarborough’s connections with Estes are a simple matter of record which any one can check,” said Bush. “[Yarborough is] going to have to prove to the Texas voters that his connections with Billie Sol Estes were as casual as he claims they were.” [fn 16] In a release issued on April 24, Bush “said he welcomes the assistance of Gordon McLendon, Yarborough’s primary opponent, in trying to force the incumbent Senator to answer.” Bush added that he planned to “hammer at Yarborough every step of the way” “until I get some sort of answer.”
The other accusation that was used against Yarborough during the campaign was advanced most notably in an article published in the September, 1964 issue of Reader’s Digest. The story was that Yarborough had facilitated backing and subsidies through the Texas Area Reconstruction Administration for an industrial development project in Crockett, Texas, only to have the project fail owing to the inability of the company involved to build the factory that was planned. The accusation was that Audio Electronics, the prospective factory builders, had received a state loan of $383,000 to build the plant, while townspeople had raised some $60,000 to buy the plant site, before the entire deal fell through.
The Reader’s Digest told disapprovingly of Yarborough addressing a group of 35 Crockett residents on a telephone squawk box in March, 1963, telling them that he was authorized by the White House to announce “that you are going to gain a fine new industry-one that will provide new jobs for 180 people, add new strength to your area.”
The Reader’s Digest article left the distinct impression that the $60,000 invested by local residents had been lost. “Because people believed that their Senator’s ‘White House announcment’ of the ARA loan to Audio guaranteed the firm’s soundness, several Texans invested in it and lost all. One man dropped $40,000. A retired Air Force officer plowed in $7000.” It turned out in reality that those who had invested in the real estate for the plant site had lost nothing, but had rather been made an offer for their land that represented a profit of one third on the original investment, and thus stood to gain substantially.
Bush campaign headquarters immediately got into the act with a statement that “it is a shame” that Texans had to pick up the Reader’s Digest and find their senator “holding the hand of scandal.” “The citizens of the area raised $60,000 in cash, invested it in the company, and lost it because the project was a fraud and never started.” Yarborough shot back with a statement of his own, pointing out that Bush’s claims were “basely false,” and adding that the “reckless, irresponsible false charges by my opponent further demonstrate his untruthfulness and unfitness for the office of US Senator.” Most telling was Yarborough’s charge on how the Reader’s Digest got interested in Crockett, Texas, in the first place: “The fact that my opponent’s multi-millionaire father’s Wall Street investment banking connections enable the planting of false and libellous articles about me in national magazine like the Reader’s Digest will not enable the Connecticut candidate to buy a Texas seat in the US Senate.” That was on target, that hurt. Bush whined in response that it was Yarborough’s statement which was “false, libellous, and hogwash,” and challenging the senator to prove it or retract it. [fn 17]
Beyond these attempts to smear Yarborough, it is once again characteristic that the principal issue around which Bush built his campaign was racism, expressed this time as opposition to the civil rights bill that was before the Congress during 1964. Bush did this certainly in order to conform to his pro-Goldwater ideological profile, and in order to garner votes (especially in the Republican primary) using racist and states’ rights backlash, but most of all in order to express the deepest tenets of the philosophical world-outlook of himself and his oligarchical family.
Very early in the campaign Bush issued a statement saying: “I am opposed to the Civil Rights bill now before the Senate.” Not content with that, Bush proceeded immediately to tap the wellsprings of nullification and interposition: “Texas has a comparably good record in civil rights,” he argued, “and I’m opposed to the Federal Government intervening further into State affairs and individual rights.” At this point Bush claimed that his quarrel was not with the entire bill, but rather with two specific provisions, which he claimed had not been a part of the original draft, but which he hinted had been added to placate violent black extremists. According to his statement of March 17, “Bush pointed out that the original Kennedy Civil Rights bill in 1962 did not contain provisions either for a public accomodations section or a Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) section.” “Then, after the hot, turbulent summer of 1962, when it became apparent that in order to get the Civil Rights leaders’ support and votes in the 1964 election something more must be done, these two bad sections were added to the bill,” according to Bush. “I suggest that these two provisions of the bill– which I most heatedly oppose — were politically motivated and are cynical in their approach to a most serious problem.” But soon abandoned this hair-splitting approach, and on March 25 he told the Jaycees of Tyler “I oppose the entire bill.” Bush explained later that beyond the public accomodations section and the Fair Employment Practices Committee, he found that “the most dangerous portions of the bill are those which make the Department of Justice the most powerful police force in the Nation and the Attorney General the Nation’s most powerful police chief.”
When Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts delivered his maiden speech to the Senate in April of 1964, he included a passage referring to the late John F. Kennedy, saying that the dead President had believed that “we should not hate, but love one another.” Bush lashed out at Kennedy for what he called “unfair criticism of those who oppose the Civil Rights bill.” In Bush’s interpretation, “Kennedy’s dramatic, almost tearful plea for passage of the bill presented all those who disagree with it as hate mongers.” “The inference is clear,” Bush said. “In other words, Ted Kennedy was saying that any one who opposes the present Civil Rights bill does so because there is hate in his heart. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is not a question of hate or love, but of Constitutionality.” Bush “and other responsible conservatives” simply think that the bill is politically inspired. “This bill,” Bush said, would make further inroads into the rights of individuals and the States, and even provide for the ultimate destruction of our trial by jury system. We simply feel that this type of class legislation, based on further federal control and intervention, is bad for the nation.” “Bush said the Civil Rights problem is bascally a local problem, best left to the States to handle.” Here surely was a respectable-sounding racism for the era of Selma and Bull Connor.
Bush was provided with new rhetorical ammunition when Alabama Governor George Wallace ventured into the presidential primaries of that year and demonstrated unexpected vote-getting power in certain northern states, using a pitch that included overtly racist appeals. In the wake of one such result in Wisconsin, Bush campaign issued a release quoting the candidate as being “sure that a majority of Americans are opposed to the Civil Rights bill now being debated in the Senate.” “Bush called attention to the surprising 25% of the Wisconsin primary vote received by Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama,” said the release. In Bush’s view, “you can be sure this big vote was not cast for Wallace himself, but was used as a means of showing public opposition to the Civil Rights Bill.” “If a flamboyant Governor Wallace can get that kind of a vote in a northern state such as Wisconsin, it indicates to me that there must be general concern from many responsible people over the Civil Rights bill all over the nation,” Bush said in Houston. “If I were a member of the Senate today, I would vote against this bill in its entirety.”
Bush was described in the Texas press as attempting a melange of “Goldwater’s policies, Kennedy’s style.” [fn 18] This coverage reveals traits of the narcissistic macho in the 40-year old plutocrat: “he is the sort of fellow the ladies turn their heads to see at the country club charity ball.” Abundant campaign financing allowed Bush “to attract extra people to rallies with free barbecue, free drinks, and musical entertainers.” These were billed by the Bush campaign as a return to the “old fashioned political rally,” and featured such musical groups as the Black Mountain Boys and the Bluebonnet Belles. At Garcia’s Restaurant in Austin Bush encountered a group of two dozen or so sporty young Republican women holding Bush campaign placards. “Oh girls!” crooned the candidate. “You all look great.! You look terrific. All dolled up.” The women “were ga-ga about him in return,” wrote political reporter Ronnie Dugger in the Texas Observer, adding that Bush’s “campaign to become this state’s second Republican senator gets a lot of energy and sparkle from the young Republican matrons who are enthusiastic about him personally and have plenty of money for baby sitters and nothing much to do with their time.” But in exhortations for militaristic adventurism abroad, the substance was indeed pure Goldwater.
As could be expected from the man who had so recently challenged John F. Kennedy to “muster the courage” to attack Cuba, any of Bush’s most vehement pronouncements concerned Castro and Havana, and were doubtless much appreciated by the survivors of Brigade 2506 and the Miami Cubans. Bush started off with what passed for a moderate position in Texas Goldwater circles: “I advocate recognition of a Cuban government in exile and would encourage this government every way to reclaim its country. This means financial and military assistance.” “I think we should not be found wanting in courage to help them liberate their country,”said Bush. Candidate Morris had a similar position, but both Cox and Davis called for an immediate restoration of the naval blockade of Cuba. Bush therefore went them one up, and endorsed a new invasion of Cuba. A Bush for Senate campaign brochure depicted a number of newspaper articles about the cnadidate. The headline of one of these, from an unidentified newspaper, reads as follows: “CUBA INVASION URGED BY GOP CANDIDATE.” The subtitle reads: “George Bush, Houston oilman, campaigning for the Republican nomination to the US Senate called for a new government-in- exile invasion of Cuba, no negotiation of the Panama Canal treaty, and a freedom package in Austin.” Other campaign flyers state that “Cuba…under Castro is a menace to our national security. I advocate recognition of a Cuban government in exile and support of this government to reclaim its country. We must reaffirm the Monroe Doctrine.” Another campaign handout characterizes Cuba as “an unredeemed diplomatic disaster abetted by a lack of a firm Cuban policy.”
What Bush was proposing would have amounted to a vast and well-funded program for arming and financing anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Miami, and putting the United States government at the service of their adventures– presumably far in excess of the substantial programs that were already being funded. Beneficiaries would have included Theodore Shackley, who was by now the station chief at CIA Miami station, Felix Rodriguez, Chi Chi Quintero, and the rest of the boys from the Enterprise.
Bush attacked Senator J. William Fulbright, Democrat of Arkansas, for the latter’s call in a speech for a more conciliatory policy towards Cuba, ending the US economic boycott. “I view the speech with great suspicion,” said Bush. “I feel this is a trial balloon on the part of the State Department to see whether the American people will buy another step in a disastrous, soft foreign policy.” Bush called on Secretary of State Dean Rusk, a leading hawk, to hold firm against the policy shift that Fulbright was proposing. “Fulbright says Cuba is a ‘distasteful nuisance’, but I believe that Castro’s Communist regime 90 miles from our shores is an intolerable nuisance. I am in favor only of total liberation of Cuba,” proclaimed Bush, “and I believe this can only be achieved by recognition of a Cuban government in exile, backed up to the fullest by the United States and the Organization of American States.”
In the middle of April a Republican policy forum held in Miami heard a report from a Cuban exile leader that the Soviets had position missles on the ocean floor off Cuba, with the missles pointed at the United States, and that this had been confirmed by diplomatic sources in Havana. This would appear in retrospect to have been a planted story. For Bush it was obvious grist for his campaign mill. Bush, speaking in Amarillo, called the report “the most alarming news in this hemisphere in two years.” He called for efforts to “drive the Communists out of Cuba.”
But, in keeping with the times, Bush’s most genocidal campaign statements were made in regard to Vietnam. Here Bush managed to identify himself with the war, with its escalation, and with the use of nuclear weapons.
Senator Goldwater had recently raised the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons as the most effective defoliants to strip away the triple canopy jungle of Vietnam. In a response to this, an Associated Press story quoted Bush as saying that he was in favor of anything that could be done safely toward finishing the fighting in Southeast Asia. “Bush said he favors a limited extension of the war in Viet Nam, including restricted use of nuclear weapons if ‘militarily prudent,'” according to the AP release. [fn 19] A Bush campaign release of June 1 has him saying he favors a “cautious, judicious, and militarily sound extension of the war in Vietnam.” This was all before the Gulf of Tonkin incident and well before US ground troops were committed to Vietnam.
Bush had several other notes to sound concerning the looming war in Southeast Asia. In May he attacked the State Deparment for “dawdling” in Vietnam, a policy which he said had “cost the lives of so many young Americans.” He further charged that the US troops in Vietnam were being issued “shoddy war material.” Responding to a prediction from Defense Secretary McNamara that the war might last 10 years, Bush retorted: “This would not be the case if we had developed a winning policy from the start of this dangerous brush fire.” Also in May, Bush responded to a Pathet Lao offensive in Laos as follows: “This should be a warning to us in Vietnam. Whenever the Communist world–either Russian or Chinese– sign a treaty, or any other agreement, with a nation of the free world, that treaty isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
Bush pugnaciously took issue with those who wanted to disengage from the Vietnam quagmire before the bulk of the war’s human losses had occurred. He made this part of his “Freedom Package,” which was a kind of manifesto for a worldwide US imperialist and colonialist offensive –a precursor of the new world order ante litteram. A March 30 campaign release proclaims the “Freedom Package” in these terms: “‘I do not want to continue to live in a world where there is no hope for a real and lasting peace,’ Bush said. He decried ‘withdrawal symptoms’ propounded by UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson and Senators William Fulbright and Mike Mansfield. ‘Adlai has proposed we [inter]nationalize the Panama Canal,’ Bush pointed out, ‘Fulbright asks us to accommodate Red Cuba and renegotiate our Panama treaty, and Mansfield suggests we withdraw from the Viet Nam struggle. This is the kind of retreatism we have grown accustomed to among our supposed world leaders and it is just what the Kremlin ordered.'”
Nor did Bush’s obsession with Panama and the Panama Canal begin with Noriega. In his campaign literature Bush printed his basic position that the “Panama canal…is ours by right of treaty and historical circumstance. The Canal is critical to our domestic security and US sovereignty over the Canal must be maintained.” What is meant by the right of historical circumstance? “I am opposed to further negotiation in Panama,” Bush stated repeatedly in his campaign speeches and releases.
If Bush saw a Saddam Hussein, a dark-skinned, Moslem non-aligned third world nationalist in the world of 1964, then that foreign leader was President Sukarno of Indonesia. Sukarno, along with Nehru, Nasser, Nkruma, Tito, and Bourguiba was one of the central figures of the non- aligned movement of the developing nations that had emerged from the Bandung Conference of 29 Afro-Asian states in 1955. During 1964 Sukarno was attempting to prevent the creation of Malaysia out of the British Confederation of Malaya. Part of Sukarno’s blocking manuever was the deployment of pro-Indonesian guerillas into the Malaccan peninsula above Singapore, and into certain areas of northern Borneo, including Sarawak and Sabah. From there, these guerillas were causing problems for Bush’s business partner in the oil trade, the Sultan of Brunei. Bush targetted Indonesia and Sukarno personally for a series of violent and abusive attacks.
In April, Sukarno told the US Ambassador Howard P. Jones that “there is one country threatening to stop its foreign aid to Indonesia. That country thinks it can scare Indonesia. I say go to hell with your aid.” Bush, from Big Spring, commented in an April 23 statement: “It’s easy for President Sukarno of Indonesia to tell us to ‘got to hell’ with our foreign aid– now that he has already received $894 million worth.” Bush explained that he had been in Borneo during 1963, during the time that the Malysian Federation was coming into existence “in favor of the Free World.” “That,” said Bush, “was the mistake the Malaysian Federation made; coming into the world of nations in favor of America and the free world. The very next day Sukarno, whom we’ve tried to buy with $894 million in aid, turned on Malaysia and announced he would destroy the new Federation.” Bush’s release notes that “Bush, who was President of Zapata Off-Shore, said one of the firm’s drilling rigs was at that time, and is today, working off the coast of Borneo.” Was this a conflict of interest?
With accents that provide an eerie presentiment of the 1990-1991 Gulf crisis, Bush went on: “Today the borders of the Malaysian Federation are lined with Indonesian troops, bearing Russian-made arms, purchased with American dollars. The Indonesians are still poised to crush Malaysia. And what have we done? We gently slapped Sukarno on the wrist, then loaned him another $20 million, which he used to buy a couple of jet aircraft, one of which he uses to fly his foul assignations around the far east. What we should have done, and still should do, is tell Sukarno: ‘You violate the sanctity of the Malysian border and you have to deal with the force of the entire free world!'”
Shortly thereafter, Texas GOP Senator John Tower sponsored a cutoff of US aid to Sukarno, which passed, although Yarborough voted to maintain the aid. Bush made this the occasion for a new onslaught. In a contorted argument, Bush pointed out that Yarborough’s vote for aid to Indonesia had come one day after Sukarno had extended “the friendly hand of recognition to the communist government of North Viet Nam. This country, Sukarno’s friend, is waging a war in which scarcely a day before Yarborough’s vote, communist bullets slammed through the body of a young helicopter pilot from Texas. Yarborough voted to give US aid to a country that is friends with a mob that is killing young Americans and Texans…He votes to aid the friends of a mob that is killing Texas boys.” Yarborough rejected this “wild criticism,” and said that the charges illustrated Bush’s lack of comprehension of the “delicate balance of power in foreign affairs, and his lack of knowledge of the state of affairs in Southeast Asia.” Yarborough’s point was that the important thing was to prevent any war between Indonesia and Malaysia, and that this task must override any desire to humiliate Sukarno.
Bush’s remarks in this campaign mesh perfectly with the US buildup for the 1965 military coup d’etat in Indonesia, in which more than 200,000 persons were killed, primarily during the course of anti- communist massacres carried out by the army with the encouragement of US advisors.
In economic policy, Bush’s starting point was always “unbridled free enterprise,” as he stressed in a statement on unemployment on March 16: “Only unbridled free enterprise can cure unemployment. But, I don’t believe the federal government has given the private sector of our economy a genuine opportunity to relieve this unemployment. For example, the [Johnson war on poverty program] contains a new version of the CCC, a Domestic Peace Corps, and various and sundry half-baked pies in the sky.” Bush’s printed campaign literature stated under the heading of “federal economy” that “the free enterprise system must be unfettered. A strong economy means jobs, opportunity, and prosperity. A controlled economy means loss of freedom and bureaucratic bungling.” On April 21 Bush told the voters: “We must begin a phase of re- emphasizing the private sector of our economy, instead of the public sector.”
By April 15, Bush had been informed that there were some 33 million Americans living in poverty, to which he replied: “I cannot see how draping a socialistic medi-care program around the sagging neck of our social security program will be a blow to poverty. And I can see only one answer to [the problem of poverty]: Let us turn our free enterprise system loose from government control.” Otherwise, Bush held it “the responsibility of the local government first to assume the burden of relieving poverty wherever its exists, and I know of many communities that are more than capable of working with this problem.”
Bush’s approach to farm policy was along similar lines, combining the rhetoric of Adam Smith with intransigent defense of the food cartels. his campaign brochure he opined that “Agriculture…must be restored to a free market economy, subject to the basic laws of supply and demand.” On April 9 in Waco, Bush assailed the Wheat-Cotton subsidy bill which had just received the approval of the House. “If I am elected to the Senate,” said Bush, I will judge each agricultural measure on the basis of whether it gets the Government further into, or out of, private business.” Bush added that farm subsidies are among “our most expensive federal programs.”
Another of Bush’s recurrent obsessions was his desire to break the labor movement. During the 1960’s, he expressed this in the context of campaigns to prevent the repeal of section 14 (b) of the Taft-Hartley law, which permitted the states to outlaw the closed shop and union shop, and thus to protect state laws guaranteeing the so- called open shop or “right to work,” a device which in practice prevented the organization of large sectors of the working population of these states into unions. Bush’s editorializing takes him back to the era when the Sherman Anti-trust Act was still being used against labor unions.
“I believe in the right-to-work laws,” said Bush to a group of prominent Austin businessmen at a luncheon in the Commodore Perry Hotel on March 5. “At every opportunity, I urge union members to resist payment of political assessments. If there’s only one in 100 who thinks for himself and votes for himself, then he should not be assessed by COPE.”
On March 19 Bush asserted that “labor’s blatant attack on right-to- work laws is open admission that labor does have a monopoly and will take any step to make this monopoly. Union demands are a direct cause of the inflationary spiral lowering the real income of workers and increasing the costs of production.” This is, from the point of scientific economics, an absurdity. But four days later Bush returned to the topic, attacking United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther, a figure whom Bush repeatedly sought ot identify with Yarborough, for demands which “will only cause the extinction of free enterprise in America. A perfect example of labor’s pricing a product out of existence is found in West Virginia. John L. Lewis’ excessive demands on the coal industry raised the price of coal, forced the consumer to use a substitute cheaper product, killed the coal industry and now West Virginia has an excessive rate of unemployment.”
On Labor Day, Bush spoke to a rally in the court house square of Quanah, and called for “protection of the rights of the individual laborer through the state rather than the federal government. The individual laboring man is being forgotten by the Walter Reuthers and Ralph Yarboroughs, and it’s up to the business community to protect our country’s valuable labor resources from exploitation by these left -wing labor leaders,” said Bush, who might just as well have suggested that the fox be allowed to guard the chicken coop.
East Texas was an area of unusually high racial tension, and Bush spent most of his time there attacking the civil rights bill. But the alliance between Yarborough and big labor was one of his favorite themes. The standard pitch went something like this, as before the Austin businessmen. Yarborough, he would start off saying “more nearly represents the state of Michigan than he does Texas.” This, as we will see, was partly an attempted, lame rebuttal of Yarborough’s charge that Bush was a northeastern carpetbagger. Bush would then continue: “One of the main reasons Yarborough represents Texas so badly is that he’s spending most of his time representing labor interests in Detroit. His voting record makes men like Walter Reuther and James Hoffa very happy. This man has voted for every special interest bill, for every big spending measure that’s come to his attention.”
During this period Camco, an oilfield equipment company of which Bush was a director, was embroiled in some bitter labor disputes. The regional office of the National Labor Relations Board sought a federal injunction against Camco in order to force the firm to re-hire four union organizers who had been illegally fired. Officials of the Machinists’ Union, which was trying to organize Camco, also accused Bush of being complicit in what they said was Camco’s illegal failure to carry out a 1962 NLRB order directing Camco to re-hire eleven workers fired because they had attended a union meeting. Bush answered that he was not going to be intimidated by labor. “As everybody knows, the union bosses are all-out for Sen. Ralph Yarborough, ” countered Bush, and he had been too busy with Zapata to pay attention to Camco anyway. [fn 20] According to Roy Evans, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Texas AFL-CIO, Bush was “a member of the dinosaur wing of the Republican Party.” Evans called Bush “the Houston throwback,” and maintained that Bush had “lost touch with anyone in Texas except the radicals of the right.”
Back in February, Yarborough had remarked in his typical populist vein that his legislative approach was to “put the jam on the lower shelf so the little man can get his hand in.” This scandalized Bush, who countered on February 27 that “it’s a cynical attitude and one that tends to set the so-called little man apart from the rest of his countrymen.” For Bush, the jam would always remain under lock and key, except for the chosen few of Wall Street. A few days later, on March 5, Bush elaborated that he was “opposed to special interest legislation because it tends to hyphenate Americans. I don’t think we can afford to have veteran-Americans, Negro-Americans, Latin-Americans and labor-Americans these days.” Here is Bush as political philosopher, maintaining that the power of the authoritarian state must confront its citizens in a wholly atomized form, not organized into interest groups capable of defending themselves.
Bush was especially irate about Yarborough’s Cold War GI Bill, which he branded the senator’s “pet project.” “Fortunately,” said Bush, “he has been unable to cram his Cold War GI Bill down Congress’ throat. It’s bad legislation and special interest legislation which will erode our American way of life. I have four sons, and I’d sure hate to think that any of them would measure their devotion and service to their country by what special benefits Uncle Sam could give them.” Neil Bush would certainly never do that! Anyway, the Cold War GI Bill was nothing but a “cynical effort to get votes,” Bush concluded.
There was a soft spot in Bush’s heart for at least a few special interests, however. He was a devoted supporter of the “time-proven” 27.5% oil depletion allowance, a tax writeoff which allowed the seven sisters oil cartel to escape a significant portion of what they otherwise would have paid in taxes. Public pressure to reduce this allowance was increasing, and the oil cartel was preparing to concede a minor adjustment in the hopes that this would neutralize attempts to get the depletion allowance abolished entirely. Bush also called for what he described as a “meaningful oil import program, one which would restrict imports at a level that will not be harmful to our domestic oil industry.” “I know what it is to earn a paycheck in the oil business,” he boasted. Bush also told Texas farmers that he wanted to limit the imports of foreign beef so as to protect their domestic markets.
Yarborough’s counterattack on this issue is of great relevance to understanding why Bush was so fanatically committed to wage war in the Gulf to restore the degenerate, slaveholding Emir of Kuwait. Yarborough pointed out that Bush’s company, Zapata Offshore, was drilling for oil in Kuwait, the Persian Gulf, Borneo, and Trinidad. “Every producing oil well drilled in foreign countries by American companies means more cheap foreign oil in American ports, fewer acres of Texas land under oil and gas lease, less income to Texas farmers and ranchers..,” Yarborough stated. “this issue is clear-cut in this campaign – a Democratic senator who is fighting for the life of the free enterprise system as exemplified by the independent oil and gas producers in Texas, and a Republican candidate who is the contractual driller for the international oil cartel.” In those days the oil cartel did not deal mildly with those who attacked it in public. One thinks again of the Italian oilman Enrico Mattei. For Bush, these cartel interests would always be sacrosanct. On April 1, Bush talked of the geopolitics of oil: “I was in London at the time of the Suez crisis and I quickly saw how the rest of the free world can become completely dependent on American oil. When the Canal was shut down, free nations all over the world immediately started crying for Texas oil.”
Later in the campaign, Yarborough visited the town of Gladewater in East Texas. There, standing in view of the oil derricks, Yarborough talked about Bush’s ownership of Pennzoil stock, and about Pennzoil’s quota of 1,690 barrels per day of imported oil, charging that Bush was undermining the Texas producers by importing cheap foreign oil.
Then, according to a newspaper account, “the senator spiced his charge with a reference to the ‘Sheik of Kuwait and his four wives and 100 concubines’ who, he said, are living in luxury off the oil from Bush- drilled wells in the Persian Gulf and sold at cut-rate prices in the United States. He said that imported oil sells for $1.25 a barrel while Texas oil, selling at $3, pays school, city, county, and federal taxes and keeps payrolls going. Yarborough began his day of campaigning at a breakfast with supporters in Longview. Later, in Gladewater, he said he had seen a “Bush for Senator” bumper sticker on a car in Longview. ‘Isn’t that a come-down for an East Texan to be a strap-hanger for a carpetbagger from Connecticut who is drilling oil for the Sheik of Kuwait to help keep that harem going?'” [fn 21]
Yarborough challenged Bush repeatedly to release more details about his overseas drilling and producing interests. He spoke of Bush’s “S.A. corporations drilling in the Persian Gulf in Asia.” He charged that Bush had “gone to Latin America to incorporate two of his companies to drill in the Far East, instead of incorporating them in the United States.” That in turn, thought Yarborough, “raises questions of tax avoidance.” “Tell them, George,” he jeered, “what your ‘S.A.’ companies, financed with American dollars, American capital, American resources, are doing about American income taxes.” Bush protested that “every single tax dollar due by any company that I own an interest in has been paid.” [fn 22]
The status of the Rural Electrification Administration was also a campaign issue. Goldwater had said in Denver, Colorado on May 3, 1963 that the time had come “to dissolve the Rural Electrification Administration.” Wishing to appear as an orthodox Goldwater clone in every respect, Bush had failed to distance himself from this demand. The REA was justly popular for its efforts to bring electric power to impoverished sectors of the countryside. Yarborough noted first of all that Bush “wouldn’t know a cotton boll from a corn shuck,” but he insisted on levelling “so un-Texan a blow at the farmers and ranchers of Texas. To sell the REA’s in Texas to the private power monopoly would be carrying out the demands of the big Eastern power structure and the wishes of the New York investment bankers who handle the private power monopoly financing. My opponent is in line to inherit his share of that New York investment banking structure,” Yarborough told a gathering of Texas REA officials.
Following in Prescott Bush’s footsteps, George Bush was implacably hostile to government-sponsored infrastructure projects. Such projects are of course the essence of the American System of political economy as understood by Franklin, Hamilton, Lincoln, and FDR. One ongoing water project in Texas in 1964 was the Trinity River project. Early in the campaign, Bush said that he could not support this project because it was exacerbating a federal budegt defecit that was already too high. But this stance proved so unpopular in the Texas electorate that Bush later flip-flopped, saying that he had been sympathetic to the Trinity River project all along, and that maybe there was a way to get it done without adding to the defecit.
On other issues, Bush had the following positions:
On education: “Education is a responsibility of the States. Federal aid inevitably means eventual federal control. I favor retention of more tax money by the States so as to build the local and state education programs. We must meet the challenge of education BUT at the State and local levels.” Has the Education President advocated anything different?
On Food stamps: Bush called them a “New Frontier gimmick” with “interesting black market possibilities here.”
On school prayer Bush was duly sanctimonious: “I am concerned about the erosion of our moral fibre and religious heritage. I believe that prayers in the public schools on a voluntary basis are in keeping with the great traditions upon which this country was founded…Vicious attacks in the courts on prayers in the schools or in reference to God in our lives must be repudiated.”
On Red China: Beijing, said Bush in 1964 “must never be admitted to the UN. In the event this does occur, then I advocate withdrawal from the United Nations.” Bush was the man who later cast his vote for the admission of Red China to the world body in 1971.
On the UN: The United Nations “as presently constituted is gravely deficient and has been a failure in preserving peace. The United States has taken the responsibility for the freedom of the western world. This responsibility we must not relinquish to the General Assembly. All nations should pay their dues or lose their vote.”
Foreign Aid, Bush’s campaign brochure recommends, “should be reduced drastically except in those areas where technological and military assistance is necessary to the defense of the free world and is economically advantageous to the United States. We should use our foreign aid to strengthen our friends and extend freedom, not to placate our enemies.”
The Nuclear test Ban treaty, although negotiated by Averell Harriman himself, was rejected by Bush. According to campaign handouts, the treaty “as ratified by the Senate, will not work. I would be for a treaty with adequate, foolproof safeguards.” Bush added that he was taking this position “although anyone opposed [to the treaty] is accused of war- mongering. I’m the father of five children and just as concened as anyone else about the cleanliness of the air and the sanctity of the home, but this is a half-way measure and doesn’t do the job.”
As the Republican senatorial primary approached, Bush declared that he was confident that he could win an absolute majority and avoid a runoff. On April 30, he predicted that Hill Rise would win the Kentucky Derby without a runoff, and that he would also carry the day on the first round. There was no runoff in the Kentucky Derby, but Bush fell short of his goal. Bush did come in first with about 44% of the vote or 62,579 votes, while Jack Cox was second with 44,079, with Morris third and Davis fourth. The total number of votes cast was 142,961, so a second round was required.
Cox, who had attracted 710,000 votes in his 1962 race against Connally for the governorship, was at this point far better known around the state than Bush. Cox had the backing of Gen. Edwin Walker, who had made a bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1962 himself and gotten some 138,000 votes. Cox also had the backing of H.L. Hunt.
Morris had carried Dallas County, and he urged his supporters to vote against Bush. Morris told the Dallas Morning New of May 5 that Bush was “too liberal” and that Bush’s strength in the primary was due to “liberal” Republican support.
Between early May and the runoff election of June 6, Cox mounted a vigorous campaign of denunciation and exposure of Bush as a creature of the Eastern Liberal Establishment, Wall Street banking interests, and of Golwater’s principal antagonist for the GOP Presidential nomination, the hated Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York. According to a story filed by Stuart Long of the Long News Service in Austin on May 25 and preserved among the Yarborough papers in the Barker Texas History Center in Austin, Cox’s supporters circulated letters pointing to Prescott Bush’s role as a partner in Brown Brothers Harriman as the basis for the charge that George Bush was the tool of “Liberal Eastern Kingmakers.” According to Long, the letters also include references to the New York Council on Foreign Relations, which he described as a “black-tie dinner group.” [fn 23] The pro-Cox letters also asserted that Bush’s Zapata Offshore Company had a history of bidding on drilling contracts for Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of New Jersey.
One anti-Bush brochure preserved among the Yarborough papers at the Barker Center in Austin is entitled “Who’s Behind the Bush?” , published by the Coalition of Conservatives to Beat the Bushes, with one Harold Deyo of Dallas listed as chairman. The attack on Bush here centers on the Council on Foreign Relations, of which Bush was not at that time a public member. The brochure lists a number of Bush campaign contributors and then identifies these as members of the CFR. These include Dillon Anderson and J.C. Hutcheson III of Baker and Botts, Andrews and Shepherd, Leland Anderson of Anderson, Clayton and Company, Lawrence S. Reed of Texas Gulf Producing, Frank Michaux, W.A. Kirkland of the board of First City National Bank. The brochure then focuses on Prescott Bush, identified as a “partner with Averell Harriman in Brown Brothers, Harriman, and Company. Averell Harriman is listed as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Could it be that Prescott S. Bush, in concert with his Eastern CFR friends, is raising all those ‘Yankee Dollars’ that are flowing into George’s campaign? It is reliably reported that Mr. George Bush has contracted for extensive and expensive television time for the last week of the Runoff.” The brochure also targets Paul Kayser of Anderson, Clayton and Bush’s Harris County campaign chairman. Five officers of this company, named as W.L. Clayton, L. Fleming, Maurice McAshan, Leland Anderso, and Syndor Oden, are said to be members of the CFR.
On the CFR itself, the brochure quotes from Helen P. Lasell’s study entitled “Power Behind Government Today,” which found that the CFR “from its inception has had an important part in planning the whole diabolical scheme of creating a ONE WORLD FEDERATION of socialist states under the United Nations.” “These carefully worked out, detailed plans, in connection with the WORLD BANK and the use of billions of tax-exempt foundation dollars, were carried out secretively over a period of years. Their fruition could mean not only the absolute destruction of our form of government, national independence and sovereignty, but to a degree at least, that of every nation in the world.” The New World Order, we see, is really nothing new. The brochure further accuses one Mrs. M. S. Acherman, a leading Bush supporter in Houston, of having promoted a write-in campaign for liberal, Boston Brahmin former Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts in the Texas presidential primary. Lodge had won the 1964 New Hampshire primary, prompting Bush to announce that this was merely a regional phenomenon and that he was “still for Goldwater.”
As the runoff vote approached, Cox focused especially on the eastern financing that Bush was receiving. On May 25 in Abilene, Cox assailed Bush for having mounted “one of the greatest spending sprees ever seen in any political campaign.” Cox said that he could not hope to match this funding “because Jack Cox is not, nor will ever be, connected in any manner with the Eastern kingmakers who seek to control political candidates. Conservatives of Texas will serve notice on June 6 that just as surely as Rockefeller’s millions can’t buy presidential nomination, the millions at George Bush’s disposal can’t buy him a senate nomination.” Cox claimed that all of his contributions had come from inside Texas.
O’Donnells’s Texas Republican organization was overwhelmingly mobilized in favor of Bush. Bush had the endorsement of the state’s leading newspapers. When the runoff finally came, Bush was the winner with some 62% of the votes cast. Yarborough commented that Bush “smothered Jack Cox in greenbacks.”
Gordon McLendon, true to form, had used his own pre-primary television broadcast to rehash the Billie Sol Estes charges against Yarborough. Yarborough nevertheless defeated McLendon in the Democratic senatorial primary with almost 57% of the vote. Given the lopsided Texas Democratic advantage in registered voters, and given LBJ’s imposing lead over Goldwater at the top of the Democratic ticket, it might have appeared that Yarborough’s victory was now a foregone conclusion. That this was not so was due to the internal divisions within the Texas Democratic ranks.
First were the Democrats who came out openly for Bush. The vehicle for this defection was called Conservative Democrats for Bush, chaired by Ed Drake, the former leader of the state’s Democrats for Eisenhower in 1952. Drake was joined by former Governor Allan Shivers, who had also backed Ike and Dick in 1952 and 1956. Then there was the “East Texas Democrats for George Bush Committee,” chaired by E.B. Germany, the former state Democratic leader and in 1964 the chairman of the board of Lone Star Steel.
Then there were various forms of covert support for Bush. Millionaire Houston oilman Lloyd Bentsen, who had been in Congress back in the late 1940’s, had been in discussion as a possible senate candidate. Bush’s basic contention was that LBJ had interfered in Texas politics to tell Bentsen to stay out of the senate race, thus avoiding a more formidable primary challenge to Yarborough. On April 24 Bush stated that Bentsen was a “good conservative” who had been kept out of the race by “Yarborough’s bleeding heart act.” This and other indications point to a covert political entente between Bush and Bentsen which re-appeared during the 1988 presidential campaign.
Then there were the forces associated with Governor Big John Connally. Yarborough later confided that Connally had done everything in his power to wreck his campaign, subject only to certain restraints imposed by LBJ. Even these limitations did not amount to real support for Yarborough on the part of LBJ, but were rather attributable to LBJ’s desire to avoid the embarrassment of seeing his native state represented by two Republican senators during his own tenure in the White House. But Connally still sabotaged Yarborough as much as LBJ would let him get away with. [fn 24] Bush and Connally have had a complex relation, with points of convergence and many points of divergence. Back in 1956, a lobbyist working for Texas oilman Sid Richardson had threatened to “run [Bush’s] ass out of the offshore drilling business” unless Prescott Bush voted for gas deregulation in the Senate. [fn 25] Connally later became the trustee for some of Richardson’s interests. While visiting Dallas on March 19, Bush issued a statement saying that he agreed with Connally in his criticisms of attorney Melvin Belli, who had condemned the District Court in Dallas when his client, Jack Ruby, was given the death sentence for having slain Lee Harvey Oswald the previous November.
In public, LBJ was for Yarborough, although he could not wholly pass over the frictions between the two. Speaking at Stonewall after the Democratic national convention, LBJ had commented: “You have heard and you have read that Sen. Yarborough and I have had differences at times. I have read a good deal more about them than I was ever aware of. But I do want to say this, that I don’t think that Texas has had a senator during my lifetime whose record I am more familiar with than Sen. Yarborough’s. And I don’t think Texas has had a senator that voted for the people more than Sen. Yarborough has voted for them. And no member of the US Senate has stood up and fought for me or fought for the people more since I became President than Ralph Yarborough.” For his part, Bush years later quoted a Time Magazine analysis of the 1964 senate race which concluded that “if Lyndon would stay out of it, Republican Bush would have a chance. But Johnson is not about to stay out of it, which makes Bush the underdog.” [fn 26]
Yarborough for his part had referred to LBJ as a “power-mad Texas politician,” and had called on President Kennedy to keep LBJ out of Texas politics. Yarborough’s attacks on Connally were even more explicit and colorful: he accused Connally of acting like a “viceroy, and we got rid of those in Texas when Mexico took over from Spain.” According to Yarborough, “Texas had not had a progressive governor since Jimmy Alfred,” who had held office in 1935-39. Bush took pains to spell out that this was an attack on Democrats W. Lee O’Daniel, Coke Stevenson, Buford H. Jester, Allan Shivers, Price Daniel, and John Connally.
Yarborough also criticized the right-wing oligarchs of the Dallas area for having transformed that city from a Democratic town to a “citadel of reaction.” For Yarborough, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram was “worse than Pravda.”
Yarborough’s strategy in the November election centered on identifying Bush with Goldwater in the minds of voters, since the Arizona Republican’s warlike rhetoric was now dragging him down to certain defeat. Yarborough’s first instict had been to run a substantive campaign, stressing issues and his own legislative accomplishments. Yarborough in 1988 told Bush biographer Fitzhugh Green: “When I started my campaign for re-election I was touting my record of six years in the senate. But my speech advisors said, all you have to do is quote Bush, who had already called himself 100 per cent for Goldwater and the Vietnam war. So that’s what I did, and it worked very well.” [fn 27]
Campaigning in Port Arthur on Oct. 30, a part of the state where his labor support loomed large, Yarborough repeatedly attacked Bush as “more extreme than Barry Goldwater.” According to Yarborough, even after Barry Goldwater had repudiated the support of the John Birch Society, Bush said that he “welcomed support of the Birch Society and embraced it.” “Let’s you elect a senator from Texas, and not the Connecticut investment bankers with their $2,500,000,” Yarborough urged the voters. [fn 28]
These attacks were highly effective, and Bush’s response was to mobilize his media budget for more screenings of his World War II “flight of the Avenger” television spot, while he prepared a last- minute television dirty trick. There was to be no debate between Bush and Yarborough, but this did not prevent Bush from staging a televised “empty chair” debate, which was aired on more than a dozen stations around the state on October 27. The Bush campaign staff scripted a debate in which Bush answered doctored quotes from audio tapes of Yarborough speaking, with the sentences often cut in half, taken out of context, and otherwise distorted. Yarborough responded by saying: “The sneaky trick my opponent is trying to pull on me tonight of pulling sentences of mine out of context with my recorded voice and playing my voice as a part of his broadcast is illegal under the law, and a discredit to anyone who aspires to be a US Senator. I intend to protest this illegal trick to the Federal Communications Commission.” Bush’s method was to “cut my statements in half, then let his Madison Avenue speech writers answer those single sentences.” “My opponent is an exponent of extremism, peddling smear and fear wherever he goes.” “His conduct looks more like John Birch Society conduct than United States Senate conduct,” Yarborough added. Bush also distorted the sound of Yarborough’s voice almost beyond recognition.
Yarborough protested to the FCC in Washington, alleging that Bush had violated section 315 of the Federal Communications Act as it then stood, because Yarborough’s remarks were pre-censored and used without his permission. Yarborough also accused Bush of violation of section 325 of the same act, since it appeared that parts of the “empty chair” broadcast were material that had been previously broadcast elsewhere, and which could not be re-used without permission. The FCC responded by saying that the tapes used had been made in halls where Yarborough was speaking.
All during the campaign, Yarborough had been talking about the dangers of electronic eavesdropping. He had pointed out that “anybody can be an eavesdropper, a wiretapper, a bugger, who has a few dollars for the cheaper devices on the market. Tiny recorders and microphones are now made to resemble lapel buttons or tie clasps…Recorders can also be found the size of a book or a cigarette pack. There is a briefcase available with a microphone built into the lock, and many avilable recorders may be carried in briefcases, while the wrist-watch microphone is no longer a product used by Dick Tracy– it can actually be bought for $37.50.” Yarborough charged during the primary campaign period that his Washington office had been wiretapped, and years later indicated that the CIA had been bugging all of Capitol Hill during those years. [fn 29]
Bush was also smarting under Yarborough’s repeated references to his New England birth and background. Bush claimed that he was no carpetbagger, but a Texan by choice, and compared himself in that regard to Sam Rayburn, Sam Houston, Austin, Colonel Bill Travis, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and other heroes of the Alamo. Bush was not hobbled by any false modesty. At least, Bush asserted lamely, he was not as big a carpetbagger as Bobby Kennedy, who could not even vote in New York state, where he was making a successful bid for election to the Senate. It “depends on whose bag is being carpeted,” Bush whined.
In the last days of the campaign, Allan Duckworth of the pro-Bush Dallas Morning News was trying to convince his readers that the race was heading for a “photo finish.” But in the end, Prescott’s networks, the millions of dollars, the recordings, and the endorsements of 36 newspapers were of no avail for Bush. Yarborough defeated Bush by a margin of 1,463,958 to 1,134,337. Within the context of the LBJ landslide victory over Goldwater, Bush had done somewhat better than his party’s standard bearer: LBJ beat Goldwater in Texas by 1,663,185 to 958,566. Yarborough, thanks in part to his vote in favor of the Civil Rights Act, won a strong majority of the black districts, and also ran well ahead among Latinos. Bush won the the usual Republican counties, including the pockets of GOP support in the Houston area.
Yarborough would continue for one more term in the Senate, vocally opposing the war in Vietnam. In the closing days of the campaign he had spoken of Bush and his retinue as harbingers of a “time and society when nobody speaks for the working man.” George Bush, defeated though he was, would now redouble his struggle to make such a world a reality. Yarborough, although victorious, appears in retrospect as the fading rearguard of an imperfect but better America that would disappear during the late sixties and seventies.
Return to the Table of Contents
1. George Bush and Victor Gold, Looking Forward (New York, 1987), p. 84.
2. Bush and Gold, p. 84.
3. John R. Knaggs, Two-Party Texas (Austin, 1985), p. 34.
4. For a summary of the southern strategy, see Garry Wills, Nixon Agonistes (Boston, 1970), pp. 262 ff.
5. For a profile of Yarborough’s voting record on this and other issues, see Chandler Davidson, Race and Class in Texas Politics ( Princeton, 1990), pp. 29 ff.
6. For Yarborough’s Senate achievements up to 1964, see Ronnie Dugger, “The Substance of the Senate Contest,” in The Texas Observer, Sept. 18, 1964.
7. Bush and Gold, Looking Forward, p. 77 ff.
8. See Harry Hurt III, Texas Rich (New York), p. 191.
9. On Bush’s drive to become Harris County chairman, it is instructive to compare his Looking Forward with the clippings from the Houston Chronicle of those days preserved on microfiche in the Texas Historical Society in Houston. Bush says that he decided to run for the post in the sping of 1962, but the Houston press clearly situates the campaign in the spring of 1963. Bush also claims to have been county chiarman for two years, whereas the Houston papers show that he served from February 20 1963 to around December 5 1963, less than one year.
10. Harry Hurt III, “George Bush, Plucky Lad,” Texas Monthly, June, 1983, p. 196.
11. Houston Chronicle, 21 February 1963.
12. For Anthony Farris in the Pennzoil vs. Texaco case, see below and also Thomas Petzinger, Jr., Oil and Honor (New York, 1987), passim.
13. Boston Globe, June 12, 1988, cited in Michael R. Beschloss, The Crisis Years, p. 581.
14. See Barbara Bush, C. Fred’s Story (New York, 1984), p.2. This is an example of Mrs. Bush’s singular habit of composing books in which she speaks through a canine persona, a feat she has repeated for the current family pet and public relations ploy, Millie. In her account of how C. Fred the dog got his name, George Bush is heard ruling out usual dog names with the comment: “Not at all. We Bushes have always named our children after people we loved.” So, writes C. Fred, “I am named after George Bush’s best friend, C. Fred Chambers of Houston, Texas. I have met him many times and he doesn’t really seem to appreciate the great honor that the Bushes bestowed upon him.”
15. See Ronnie Dugger, “The Four Republicans,” in The Texas Observer, April 17, 1964.
16. Quotations from Bush and Yarborough campaign material, except as otherwise indicated, are from Senator Yarborough’s papers on deposit in the Eugene C. Barker Texas History Center at the University of Texas in Austin.
17. See Ronnie Dugger, “The Substance of the Senate Contest,” in The Texas Observer, September 18, 1964.
18. See “The Historic Texas Senate Race,” in The Texas Observer, October 30, 1964.
19. Cited in Ronnie Dugger, “The Substance of the Senate Contest,” The Texas Observer, September 18, 1964.
21. Dallas News, October 24, 1964.
22. Dallas News, October 3, 1964.
23. An untitled report among the Yarborough papers in the Barker Texas History Center refers to “Senator Bush’s affiliation in a New York knife-and-fork-club type of organization called, ‘The Council on Foreign Relations.’ In a general smear–mainly via the “I happen to know’ letter chain of communication–the elder Bush was frequently attacked, and the younger Bushes were greatly relieved when Barry Goldwater volunteered words of affectionate praise for his former colleague during a $100-a-plate Dallas dinner.”
24. Just how far these efforts might have gone is a matter of speculation. Douglas Caddy in his book, The Hundred Million Dollar Payoff (New Rochelle), p. 300, reprints an internal memorandum of the machinists Non-Partisan Political League which expresses alarm about the election outlook for Yarborough, who is described as “the last stand-up Democratic liberal we have in the south.” The memo, from Jack O’Brien to A.J. Hayes, is dated October 27, 1964, and cites reports from various labor operatives to the effect that “the ‘fix is in’ to defeat Ralph Yarborough and to replace him with a Republican, Bush, the son of Prescott Bush of Connecticut. The only question at issue is whether this ‘fix’ is a product of Governor Connally alone or is the product of a joint effort between Connally and President Johnson.” According to the memo, “Walter Reuther called Lyndon Johnson to express his concern with the failure to invite Mrs. Yarborough to accompany” LBJ’s plane through Texas. Labor leaders were trying to help raise money for last-minute television broadcasts by Yarborough, and also to extract more vocal support for the senator from LBJ.
25. See Bush and Gold, Looking Forward, p. 82.
26. Bush and Gold, Looking Forward, p. 87.
27. Fitzhugh Green, George Bush: An Intimate Portrait (New York, 1989) , p. 85.
28. Dallas News, October 31, 1964
29. Ronnie Dugger, “Goldwater’s Policies, Kenndy’s Style” in Texas Observer, October 30, 1964.