Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mansfield and Herblock: Two American Giants

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mansfield and Herblock: Two American Giants

Article excerpt

The Mike Mansfield I knew back in the 1960s was the most frequent guest at Monitor breakfasts. He came again and again, eager to share his views on foreign affairs and legislation moving forward in Congress. He clearly liked reporters. And we liked him.

As Senate majority leader and influential member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Mansfield was a powerful force. But he was so modest and unassuming. He never forgot where he came from - how he started out as a copper miner in Montana.

At our breakfasts, Mansfield wasn't an easy guest. Mike - and he would insist on being called "Mike" - didn't have the usual politician's tendency to answer questions with a flood of words. Instead, this candid man would reply to question after question with simply a "yep" or a "nope." Once a reporter told me he had counted 30 of these cryptic answers at one of these morning sessions.

Mike simply wasn't an equivocator. He had a view, and he refused to cover it up with gibber-jabber. This was wonderfully refreshing to us journalists.

But, invariably, Mike with his terseness would have responded to so many questions that - well before our 9 a.m. scheduled closing - I'd have to be pushing my colleagues to come up with queries. I'd then have to prod with, "Don't tell me you have run out of questions." And I remember how Mike would throw back his head and laugh when I made this call for help.

I talked to Mike almost every week when President Johnson was increasing US involvement in the Vietnam War. I wouldn't even have to call for an appointment. I would arrive and wait outside his office, knowing he would sweep me in to see him as soon as he had a free moment. He had read the Monitor, he said, since his college days. And he remained an admiring reader - saying he had always profited by reading our foreign-affairs coverage.

Anyway, he told me "off the record" early in the Vietnam War of his reservations about escalating US involvement in the conflict. …

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