Ted Van Dyke , '55
Heroes, Hacks & Fools: Memoirs from the Political Inside
By Ted Van Dyke, ’55
University of Washington Press, 2007
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As a senior adviser to such major players in the Democratic party as Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, Van Dyk had a ringside seat for some of the last century’s most memorable political battles. In this candid memoir, he recalls them in rich detail:
I received a call from the Democratic mayor of Terre Haute, Indiana. A man flashing a Senate investigator’s badge, he said, had appeared at the city records bureau and demanded to see a birth certificate listing George S. McGovern as the father of a child born out of wedlock. He had left with a copy of the certificate. What should he do, the mayor asked? I told him to do nothing unless asked about the matter. If asked, he should tell the truth about it.
[…] McGovern readily acknowledged that, as a teenage Army Air Force trainee during World War II, he had fathered a child in Terre Haute. His wife, Eleanor, did not know of it. Then, that evening, the headquarters switchboard operator told me he had received a call as follows: “We know about McGovern’s illegitimate child. The story will be in the St. Louis Globe Democrat tomorrow morning.”
There was nothing for McGovern to do but inform Eleanor of the matter and to prepare for the news story. He also called the mother of the child in Portland, Oregon, to inform her of the upcoming story. The mother, in turn, informed her daughter, who had not known she was McGovern’s daughter. The story, however, did not appear in the next morning’s Globe Democrat (which, coincidentally, had been the former workplace of Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan). I arranged for our St. Louis headquarters to post a staff member at the Globe Democrat at midnight daily to review the next morning’s edition and to let us know immediately if and when the story appeared. It never did. It was, however, effective psychological warfare. The McGoverns, over the final month of the campaign, began each day uncertain whether the disclosure would be made. Although it was not used in the campaign, after the election the Nixon White House found a way to use it anyway. White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, testifying in early 1973 before a congressional committee, made the matter public—saying that its nondisclosure during the campaign season provided proof that the Nixon campaign had been high-minded and ethical.