|All Sources > Manitou Messenger (DA-MM) > The Manitou Messenger (1916-2014) > 1969 > No. 20, Vol. 82|
Author: Neil Klotz
"It is the Saigon government that prevents the self-determination of the Vietnamese people. There would be no war if we were to withdraw." Frank Mankiewicz, formerly Robert Kennedy's press aid and now syndicated Washington columnist, had this and other things to say about the war and Mr. Nixon when he spoke in Boe Chapel Thursday night.
"President Nixon is probably the first president in our history who isn't really from anywhere," Mankiewicz commented. The President doesn't like or trust Washington, but he is a real politician. He knows local politics from having traveled so widely in the U. S. He also knows that what happens in Washington is not the most important thing to the rest of the country. When Nixon looks at the 1968 election he sees that the 43% who voted for Humphrey will always vote Democratic; he sees that if he is to build his own 43% share into a majority he must look not to Humphrey's 43% but to Wallace's 13%. And, according to Mankiewicz, Nixon feels that the Vietnam question is a good place to win some Wallace people—thus his November 3 speech.
The problem with Nixon's "major foreign policy speech" on Vietnam was not so much its content but its buildup. After all the publicity and' speculation which came out of the White House, the speech was, as Mankiewicz put it, like sending in a dollar for a three-color steel engraving of George Washington and getting back a five cent stamp. "That was not only a speech Lyndon Johnson could have given," quipped Mankiewics, "but, I have a feeling, one he did give."
Clearly, from his speech, Nixon plans to ease out of Vietnam. The generals have told him to just hang on a while longer, reduce the troops slowly, and hope that Saigon will become self-supporting. The problem, Mankiewicz noted, is that "the generals have been the most consistently wrong people about Vietnam in the last five years."
Mankiewicz feels that the fallacy of Vietnam is based on the importance of a South Vietnamese government elected "under circumstances in which Adam Clayton Powell could have been elected governor of South Carolina. We are asked to believe," he asserts, "that a government that cannot command the loyalty of its own people, which has to put its own dissenters in jail, which closes down 30 of its newspapers in the last 15 months—the only reason one uses the 15-month period is that 15 months ago they announced freedom of the press— that that government carries with it the hopes and aspirations of our civilization, of our standard, of our country. It is so wrong an interpretation it would be absurd were it not for the tragedy involved."
But Maniewicz thinks that Nixon has the support of a tentative majority, if only because he has no "five year record of deception" behind him. The attacks of the Vice President and others on protestors are clearly meant to isolate Nixon's opposition.
After the speech, Mr. Mankiewicz answered questions from the audience. On the domino theory, Mankiewicz remarked, "the interesting thing is that the really big, important countries in Asia don't want us there in Vietnam. If we withdrew I think you would see governments more representative of the people than you have now. The way to get self-determination in Asia is to leave it to the Asians."
On the Moratorium, Mankiewicz affirmed that "there is no question it is having a tremendous effect." He attributed the firing of General Hershey and the halt on search and destroy missions in Vietnam to the October Moratorium. But he believes that aside from protest in the streets, there should be positive political action. He felt that in 1970 "there ought to be serious, thoughtful peace candidates running everywhere to mark the difference and the issue."
On a volunteer army, Mankiewicz believes that although "it would be very pleasant in Vietnam—no one would have to go who didn't want to," it would be bad for a democratic country. With professional volunteers there would be less hesitancy to get involved in other conflicts than if draftees, "who all have parents and relatives and friends who vote and who all want out," were being committed to the conflict. "I ilke the idea of an army in which everybody resents the fact that he's a part of it," he said.