Author’s program note. This is the story of how a lifetime’s respect and admiration was destroyed in minutes by a man of power and influence who was thoroughly obtuse when it came to the crucial business of human existence, the business Dale Carnegie called “how to win friends and influence people” (1936).
Here is where this most patrician of Americans, who made the supposedly majestic Kennedys look like crofters, the man who most resembled Shakespeare’s most disdainful aristocrat, Coriolanus, stumbled and fell, polished off by his own condescension and arrogance… and the coup de grace of just one withering phrase, that outside the Somerset Club (and perhaps even there) he never met a man he ever liked.
I suspect Ambassador Lodge (as we must with both accuracy and respect call him) did not know incorrigible wag (and my near Cambridge neighbor) Tom Lehrer, whose day job was mathematics professor at MIT; happily crooning the evenings away composing peppy music and lyrics guaranteed to affront anyone with manifold pomposities. Young people loved him for he expressed, and cleverly too, their own exasperation with all the tyrants who held them in restless thrall, especially respectable parents and gym teachers.
Lehrer wrote about the important things of life, like poisoning those obnoxious pigeons in the park… and learning the Vatican Rag (1965). Since Lodge was Richard Nixon’s special envoy to the Holy See (1970-1977), when I held a lunch party for him at Harvard in 1974, it seemed to me most appropriate to link His Excellency to Lehrer’s immortal lyrics. After all, now Lodge is buried in Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Cemetery, a comfortable walk to Lehrer’s residence, a place of irreverence and pratfalls, where one could sing with gusto (and impunity) daring words like these:
“So get down on your knees/ Fiddle with your rosaries Bow your head with great respect/ And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!
Most assuredly, His Excellency and his ilk would not have approved. And so we pampered poindexters, distressingly bright, oozing adolescent hubris and reeking of Clearasil embraced it and all Lehrer’s offensive repertoire with profound avidity and glee.
A true knight.
You need to know something about Massachusetts, thought to be the most liberal state in the Union, one ecstatic and grateful to be graced by a multitude of fecund Kennedys. That family perpetrated the greatest hoax in the history of the Great Republic, namely that they were the princes of Camelot.
Nothing could be more false, a fact which has irritated the Great Families of the Commonwealth, wafted here on the God-directed Mayflower, since the first Kennedy made his unwelcome and bumptious appearance. Such families would like it known (but will not of course say so themselves) that Camelot is theirs and that should any Kennedys be allowed in it would only be by the tradesman’s entrance.
Behind their delicate fans, white gloves and gold lorgnettes they’ll confide (but only sotto voce) that Jack Kennedy’s father was a bootlegger and Nazi sympathizer, with a porcine appetite for floozies of every kind and a papal title grandiloquent enough to cover a legion of sins. The matriarchs are right as rain.
Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy was by no stretch of the imagination a “gentleman”; resembling nothing so much as an unsavory and robust smell often emanating at even the most genteel events. One wrinkled one’s nose, fluttered a handkerchief drenched in lavender, saying nothing.
Whilst the air clears, the subject of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (1902-1985) emerges. And there is, not to put too fine a point on the matter, consternation, which clearly discomfits each and every lady who would rather tell you this doggerel, admittedly not quite up to dear Lord Tennyson’s high lyric standard:
“And this is good old Boston/The home of the bean and the cod/ Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots/ And the Cabots talk only to God.”
The aristocrats’ paladin.
Every now and again the reigning dynasty produces a man who has every virtue all aristocrats pride — the fine chiseled looks it takes16 quarterings to produce; a noble carriage, sufficient intellect (but not too much intellectuals being so erratic)… with the ability to secure his class and all who inhabit it for generations yet to come. The young Henry VIII was such a paragon… as was young Louis XIV… and, in his time, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., man of auspicious augury.
As such young Lodge became the eighth of his family to grace the Senate (1936)… becoming in 1944 the only member of either party to resign to fight the good fight. It was good politics; supreme patriotism. Needless to say every knowledgeable source in Bean Town expected a historic victory in 1952 for their bona fide hero. He was, after all, a dream candidate. There was only the small matter of puny John Fitzgerald Kennedy, to deal with. It was Hyperion to the Satyr.
It is at such moments, even if one would like to believe otherwise, that portentous words like “fate” and “kismet” arise to confound. It went like this:
The White House starved Republicans wanted victory, and would sell their soul to get it. The most popular man in the nation — Dwight David Eisenhower — was the bait, advanced by Satan or not no GOP solon cared. And so Lodge dogged “Ike” until he caved in and somehow convinced himself he was of the GOP persuasion and ready to run.
Senator Lodge then became his duenna, forgetting in the process his own crucial re-election. Lodge, in true Brahmin fashion, thought all the “good people” would give him victory (on a sterling silver plate by Paul Storr) without the tiresome necessity of asking for it. It was not the last time he made this little miscalculation which is why, many years later, I was lunching with a useful diplomat, and not a venerated president.
However, you see, Jack Kennedy walloped the ancient Republican establishment, people who had been figures of probity and veritas long before all the Bay State worthies had even emerged. And so, by loyalty to President Eisenhower (who needed no assistance with the voters who loved and admired him), Lodge let the Kennedy genie out of the bottle, thereby helping the man he should have crushed into the Oval Office. It was a gigantic favor Kennedy somehow neglected to repay.
Eisenhower gave Lodge the Embassy to the United Nations; that was rich given the fact Lodge’s grandfather and namesake almost single handedly destroyed its precursor, The League of Nations. Lodge amused America by constant jeremiads to the world about the Red Menace and its shenanigans. As for the Communists, they probably never listened. Lodge bored them; and the Reds wanted the red meat Lodge, all Harvard and gentle manners was incapable of delivering.
The incantatory name.
One thing he was capable of giving was a name of historic panache and resonant integrity. Every president from Eisenhower on picked Lodge for diplomatic posts at the highest level; it was his historic name which always closed the deal; unsuccessful nominee for vice president on the 1960 Nixon ticket; Ambassador to the Republic of Vietnam 1963-1964; again appointed Ambassador to Vietnam 1967-1968; Ambassador to Germany 1968-1969; appointed by President Nixon to serve as head of the American delegation to the Vietnam peace negotiations in Paris, serving until December 1969. Then in 1970 he went to Rome for a last tour amongst the soft footed princes of the church. It was during this time we met.
Acrid smoke, wicked witch, the look that freezes.
It was a grim February day, but I was ecstatic. For on this red-letter day I was hosting at Dudley House two bona fide celebrities, Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz”, and Lodge. Miss Hamilton was peaches and cream, kisses and hugs. And then there was Lodge…
It didn’t help, of course, that the fire place began to smoke just minutes before he arrived, filling the lunch room with black, acrid smoke. As Margaret Hamilton and entourage were leaving, Lodge arrived, tall, literally looking down his aquiline nose. He looked every inch the aristocrat he was. Just for a moment ambassador and lady coincided in the door way. MasterJean Mayer, a notorious snob, came to greet Lodge’s arrival (though he had not done as much for the frilly Miss Hamilton).
Attempting to introduce his guests, he forgot her name and so improvised, “Mr. Ambassador, this is… the Wicked Witch of the West!” Lodge offered her a cold finger or two in greeting, but said nothing. Witches, don’t you know, were not in the Social Register. I invited Miss Hamilton to lunch with Lodge. She saw the lay of the land, and sensibly declined. It was an omen.
The lunch area was, by now, packed with undergrads, grad students, teaching fellows, and senior faculty. They all wanted to meet the man who was, while in Saigon, the Great Republic’s most powerful diplomat and emblem of the war every single person in that room not only opposed but bitterly. Lodge could have defused some of the tensions but he was unremittingly opaque, looking like he had just eaten something that disagreed.
To my gratitude and relief, however, the civility which the Academy must maintain held, though tenuously. The volley went like this: questions were asked, the probing questions which are the essence of Harvard; Lodge responded in monosyllables, no attempt to touch the questioner, must less the room beyond. I was angry… but at least the necessary civility did not collapse, as it might so easily have done. Then in my mind’s eye, I saw the headline in “The Boston Globe”: “Riot at Lodge Harvard appearance.” What would my father have said?
Lodge, however, stayed the course, 90 minutes from first to last. Then said, “Get me a taxi to North Station,” the word “boy” being implied. I was I thought beyond caring, but I wasn’t. I had provided him a pukka platform to win friends and influence people. As was so obvious now, that was never a factor in his (mis) calculations.
I walked him the few steps needed to reach Harvard Square. He had never said a personal word to me, his host, since arrival, not even at luncheon when I sat on his right at the head table, per protocol. I wanted to change that and so told him how, in 1960, my 8 year-old brother and I (13) organized the neighborhood kids in Downers Grove, Illinois, for Nixon-Lodge. It was that year’s “must have” state, and we proudly marched through the mud of inclement November with home-made posters to urge their election.
I expected in response what any politician, any genial senior statesman might give: a firm look in my eyes, a firm handshake and a comfortable, perhaps even, heartfelt platitude, “If only there’d been more like you, Jeffrey, and Kevin”; something to treasure for life. Lodge simply said, “Can you get that cab?” I did not exist and a precious moment of my boyhood was tainted, all respect and admiration gone for the man who had nothing but options and wasted them with careless unconcern, while members of my rambunctious generation died a world away, their precious blood wasted not just for naught but calumniated by their citizens who spat upon the living and promptly forgot the dead. By contrast, when at my mother’s urging I wrote Vice President Nixon just after the election, he returned a bumper crop of memorabilia, including a photo signed by all four Nixons which was published as part of a story in the “Chicago Tribune.” Similarly my mother’s hand-written “woman to woman” letter to Nixon’s mother Mrs. Hannah Nixon in Whittier, California received the most gracious response. The day we wrote our letters, sitting together at the kitchen table is one of my happiest memories.
And then, I was choleric with rage and indignation not least at a country which selects people for high offices, the very highest, for their honored surnames and impeccable pedigrees instead of for their ability to touch lives and build bridges, something Ambassador Lodge for all his fine breeding was incapable of doing.
Then I thought of all the thousands of men of my generation, the pulsating, wise cracking heart of the nation, all dead because of the likes of calculating men with magnificent resumes and social entree’ who mandated wars they did not fight and would survive comfortably whatever the outcome.
What they needed was a zealous advocate and friend, a true American hero who never lost sight of the soldier in the statistic. What they got instead was Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
And it wasn’t remotely good enough.
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today. Republished with author’s permission by Daniel Fischer http://SuccessClicks.com. Check out List Building Automation -> http://www.SuccessClicks.com/?rd=ye4EQCtk