Edmund Muskie Explained

Edmund Sixtus "Ed" Muskie
Order:58th United States Secretary of State
Term Start:May 8, 1980
Term End:January 20, 1981
Deputy:Warren Christopher
President:Jimmy Carter
Predecessor:Cyrus Vance
Successor:Alexander Haig
Order2:United States Senator from Maine
Term Start2:January 3, 1959
Term End2:May 7, 1980
Served Alongside: Margaret Chase Smith, William Hathaway, William Cohen
Predecessor2:Frederick Payne
Successor2:George J. Mitchell
Order3:64th Governor of Maine
Term Start3:January 5, 1955
Term End3:January 2, 1959
Predecessor3:Burton M. Cross
Successor3:Robert Haskell
Order4:Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on the Budget
Term Start4:January 3, 1975
Term End4:May 8, 1980
Predecessor4:None
Successor4:Fritz Hollings
Birth Date:March 28, 1914
Birth Place:Rumford, Maine
Death Place:Washington, D.C.
Party:Democratic
Spouse:Jane Muskie
Alma Mater:Bates College
Cornell University
Profession:Lawyer
Religion:Roman Catholic
Branch:United States Navy
Rank:Lieutenant
Battles:World War II

Edmund Sixtus "Ed" Muskie (March 28, 1914 - March 26, 1996) was an American Democratic politician from Maine. He served as Governor of Maine, as U.S. Senator, and as U.S. Secretary of State. He was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1968, and was a candidate and vice presidential nominee for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination.

Muskie held the highest office (Secretary of State) a Polish-American has held in the United States and the only Polish-American nominated by a major party for Vice President.

Early life

Muskie was born in Rumford, Maine as Edmund Marciszewski. His father, Stephen Marciszewski, was a tailor who immigrated from Poland, and later changed the family name to "Muskie" because of the difficulty Americans had pronouncing his name (mar-chih-SHEF-ski). His mother, Josephine Muskie, was born in Buffalo, New York to Polish immigrants. His parents, Roman Catholics, had seven children, of whom six survived.

Muskie attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, where he majored in history and government. While at Bates, Muskie was a successful member of the debating team, participated in several sports, and was elected to student government. He also worked during the school year as a waiter, and during the summers at a hotel in Kennebunk, Maine to supplement the scholarship that allowed him to attend the college. He graduated from Bates in 1936, and from Cornell University Law School in 1939.

During World War II, Muskie served in the United States Navy, rising to Lieutenant. After the war, he opened a private law practice in Waterville, Maine and married Jane Gray.

Career in Maine

After the war, he was instrumental in building up the United States Democratic Party in Maine. Maine had traditionally been a strongly Republican state, notable for being one of the only two states that Alf Landon carried against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 (the other was Vermont). Muskie ran in the 1947 election to become mayor of Waterville, Maine, but was unsuccessful.[1]

He served in the Maine House of Representatives before being elected Governor in 1954.

National career

In 1958, Governor Muskie defeated incumbent Republican Senator Frederick G. Payne by 60% of the vote to 39%. Senator Muskie was reelected in 1964, 1970 and 1976 by solid margins over 60%.

Muskie became one of the first environmentalists to enter the U.S. Senate, and was a leading campaigner for new and stronger measures to curb pollution and provide a cleaner environment.

In 1968, Muskie was nominated for Vice President on the Democratic ticket with sitting Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The Humphrey-Muskie campaign lost the election to Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew winning 42.72% of the vote, 13 states and 191 electoral votes to Nixon-Agnew's 43.42%, 32 states and 301 electoral votes. Third party candidates George Wallace and Curtis LeMay had taken 13.53%, won five states in the Deep South and carried their 46 votes in the electoral college. Because of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Spiro Agnew's apparent weakness as a candidate relative to Muskie, Humphrey was heard to remark that voters' uncertainties about whom to choose between the top two Presidential candidates should be resolved by their attitudes toward the Vice-Presidential candidates. [2]

Continuing his career in the Senate, Muskie served as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget through the Ninety-third to the Ninety-sixth Congresses in 1973–80.

In 1970, the Maine senator was chosen to articulate the Democratic party's message to congressional voters before the midterm elections. Muskie's national stature was raised as a major candidate for the Democratic Presidential Nomination in 1972. In 1973, he gave the Democratic response to Nixon's State of the Union Address.[3]

Presidential candidate

See main article: U.S. presidential election, 1972. Before the 1972 election, Muskie was viewed as a frontrunner for the Democratic Presidential nomination. The nation was at war in Vietnam and President Richard Nixon's war policies (and foreign policy, more generally) promised to be a major issue in the campaign.[2]

The 1972 Iowa caucuses, however, significantly altered the race for the Presidential nomination. Left-wing dark horse candidate, South Dakota Senator George McGovern, made a strong showing in the caucuses, giving his campaign national attention. Although Muskie won the Iowa caucuses, McGovern's campaign left Iowa with momentum. Muskie himself had never participated in a primary election campaign, and it is possible that this led to the downfall of his campaign. Although Muskie went on to win the New Hampshire primary, the victory was only by a small margin, and his campaign faltered.[2]

The collapse of Muskie's momentum early in the 1972 campaign is also attributed to his response to campaign attacks. Prior to the New Hampshire primary, the so-called "Canuck Letter" was published in the Manchester Union-Leader. The letter claimed that Muskie had made disparaging remarks about French-Canadians—a remark likely to injure Muskie's support among the French-Canadian population in northern New England. Subsequently, the paper published an attack on the character of Muskie's wife Jane, reporting that she drank and used off-color language during the campaign. Muskie made an emotional defense of his wife in a speech outside the newspaper's offices during a snowstorm. Though Muskie later stated that what had appeared to the press as tears were actually melted snowflakes, the press reported that Muskie broke down and cried, shattering the candidate's image as calm and reasoned.[4]

Evidence later came to light during the Watergate scandal investigation that, during the 1972 presidential campaign, the Nixon campaign committee maintained a "dirty tricks" unit focused on discrediting Nixon's strongest challengers (see Ratfucking). Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigators revealed that the Canuck Letter was a forged document as part of the dirty-tricks campaign against Democrats orchestrated by the Nixon campaign.[5] In 1972, Hunter S. Thompson, in a classic example of Gonzo journalism, suggested in an article for Rolling Stone Magazine that Muskie was hooked on Ibogaine, an obscure drug. Dr. Thompson admitted that he had made it up and said that he was surprised when other News Agencies took the bait and reported it as fact in a TV interview shown in Alex Gibney's 2008 documentary .

Secretary of State

Muskie returned to serve in the Senate. In 1980, he was tapped by President Jimmy Carter to serve as Secretary of State, following the resignation of Cyrus Vance. Vance had opposed a secret rescue mission as a means of bringing the Iran Hostage Crisis to an end, and after that mission failed with the loss of eight U.S. servicemen, Vance resigned. There was a brief "Draft Muskie" movement in the summer of 1980, as it appeared the Democratic Convention may have deadlocked between President Carter and Edward Kennedy.[6]

Muskie attempted to bring the hostages home by diplomatic means, appealing to the United Nations and Iran. Muskie left public office following Carter's loss of the 1980 presidential election to Ronald Reagan, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Carter on January 16, 1981.

Retirement and death

Muskie retired to his home in Washington, D.C. in 1981. He continued to work as a lawyer for some years. In 1987, as an elder statesman, Muskie was appointed a member of the President's Special Review Board known as the "Tower Commission" to investigate President Ronald Reagan's administration's role in the Iran-Contra Scandal.

Muskie died in Washington, D.C., of congestive heart failure in 1996, two days shy of his 82nd birthday. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Muskie's papers[7] are kept at the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library[8] at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.

In pop culture

Muskie is mentioned in the science fiction series Sliders ("The Weaker Sex" - Season 1, Episode 7). Professor Maximillian Arturo (played by John Rhys-Davies) states that he has decided to "pull a Muskie" and throw the election by weeping during a difficult debate question.In the daily cartoon Doonesbury, Muskie was mentioned in the March 10, 1971 strip in which the characters B.D., Mark, and Mike Doonesbury are playing poker. B.D. confidently announces, "My poker has the steady, strong winning power of a Richard Nixon!" To which Mark replies, "That's nothing. My hand has all the steady challenging strength of an Ed Muskie." After a long pause, Mike dejectedly replies, "Harold Stassen."

Electoral history

See main article: Electoral history of Edmund Muskie.

See also

External links


Notes and References

  1. "Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection", Helen Ladd Library, Bates College, May 25 2006.
  2. Nixon, Richard. RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon.
  3. Book: Frum, David. David Frum

    . How We Got Here: The '70s. David Frum. 2000. Basic Books. New York, New York. 0465041957. 47.

  4. "Remembering Ed Muskie", Online NewsHour, PBS, March 26 1996.
  5. Theodore White, The Making of the President, 1972.
  6. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=44875 "The President's News Conference of August 4th, 1980"
  7. http://abacus.bates.edu/Library/aboutladd/departments/special/FindingAids/MuskieFA.shtml
  8. http://abacus.bates.edu/Library/aboutladd/departments/special/