The Elephant Show
(TIME, June 22, 1936) -- At the far end of Cleveland's cavernous Public Hall, in the last dark row beneath the overhanging balcony, a lonely Cincinnatian last week called to those seated in front of him: "If it wasn't for you folks. I'd be afraid way out here in the country." Heads turned. A voice came back: "I understand they hunt deer up here between Rows J and K." The answer was cut short by a hammering sound, hollow and staccato, like a hatchet assaulting an orange crate: The 21st Republican National Convention was gaveled to order.
Scene: Cleveland. No deer but any tame elephant would have felt at home that day in Cleveland's auditorium. The audience chattering, the band playing, the smell of fresh pine lumber, were mindful of a circus. Over the delegates, like a cumulus cloud, hung a battery of loud-speakers shrouded in gauze. The voice of a man amplified to unearthliness rumbled through the hall. Chairman Henry Prather Fletcher, a midget in white, stood in a blaze of golden light from batteries of lights above his head. Everywhere cigaret smoke curled through the blue beams of eight great floodlights glaring down from the murk upon the G. O. P.'s quadrennial passion play of politics.
Of the 15,000 seats in the hall, two-thirds were filled. By order of Chairman Fletcher the assembly stood, sang a verse of America. The Rev. Dr. Albert Joseph McCartney (Presbyterian) offered the first of a series of Convention prayers which included Methodist, Jewish and Roman Catholic -- all of them indicating clearly that in 1936 God, if not victory, will be found on the side of the Republicans.
Nothing further of importance took place before the reading of the platform and nominating speeches three nights later, except the firing off of three big oratorical guns.
First Gun. Smiling hugely with arms upraised, Senator Frederick Steiwer of Oregon stepped to the rostrum for the Keynote speech. His mouth opened and he discharged, like a blunderbus, in all directions. Once in mid-speech the amplifiers went dead. His booming voice became a faint squeak. His oration went on with gestures, without words. His high point came when he quoted President Roosevelt's 1933 message to Congress: "For three long years the Federal Government has been on the road to bankruptcy. . . . Thus we shall have piled up an accumulated deficit of $5,000,000,000."
Thundered Keynoter Steiwer:
"Instead of an accumulated deficit of $5,000,000,000 in four years, we have (now) a deficit of approximately $11,000,000,000 in three years -- but they were three very long years . . . .
"I ask this question: For how long a period has the Federal deficit exceeded that which the President denounced? For three long years! For how long a period has the Federal spending been kept above the $7,000,000,000 line? For three long years! For how long a period has the Chief Executive called upon the Congress to pass a new tax bill increasing the tax burden upon a helpless nation?"
"FOR THREE LONG YEARS!" chorused the convention with him.
"For how long a time have we lived under the evil trinity of increased deficit, increased debt and increased taxes?"
"FOR THREE LONG YEARS!"
To Senator Steiwer went a passing mark for his cannonade but talk of nominating him for Vice President was heard no more. A memorial to him remained, however, in the song sung to the tune of Three Blind Mice with new verses contributed daily by eager Republican poets. Examples: Three long years! . . . Full of grief and tears, . . . Roosevelt gave us to understand If we would lend a helping hand He'd lead us all to the promise land For three long years! . . . when we got to the promised land We found it nothing but shifting sand, And he left us stripped like Sally Rand For three long years! Second Gun was Permanent Chairman Bertrand Snell, white- haired and white-suited. With the polished self-complacency of old-school oratory he recited the now ironic promises of the Democratic platform of 1932. He spoke under noon-day heat to delegates who had had an infected ear lanced. But applause overpowered him after such salvos as "Already the New Deal has cost us the progress and prosperity of a generation!" Better than a passing mark went to Chairman Snell from the Convention. The second cannonade was more effective than the first. The third cannonade was the best of all.
Third Gun. Herbert Hoover, still the Party's titular leader and now, after his public renunciation of Presidential ambitions, more popular than at any time since 1928, was welcomed at the Cleveland station by a cheering mob. He was kept in a political goldfish bowl until the hour of his speech. To prevent jealousy, forestall rumors of intrigue, no candidate or candidate's henchman was allowed to see him alone. In his rooms at the Hotel Cleveland he stood all day publicly beaming, greeting and pumping hands, Senator Vandenberg saw the ex-President in the presence of 200 guests. Ex-Senator Moses, Knox leader, had to stand in line to shake the Hoover hand.
When Mr. Hoover stood on the Convention platform to make his farewell address, the demonstration was genuine and joyous. He beamed and waved. After 15 minutes yelling, shrieking, hooting, he was allowed to begin. With left hand in pocket and chubby right fist bouncing on the rostrum in time with his denunciation, he culminated his six-month attack on the New Deal with a masterly peroration. Excerpts:
"The American people should thank Almighty God for the Constitution and the Supreme Court.
"Fundamental American liberties are at stake. Is the Republican Party ready for the issue? Are you willing to cast your all upon the issue?"
"Yes!" roared the crowd.
"Will you, for expediency's sake, also offer will-o'-the- wisps which beguile the people?"
"No!" roared the crowd.
"Or have you determined to enter in a holy crusade for freedom which shall determine the future and the perpetuity of a nation of free men?"
"Yea!" roared the crowd in ecstasy.
As he marched from the platform, a happy man, the Convention went wild again. The demonstration could not be stopped for half an hour, even when Speaker Snell tried to introduce a little old lady, surprisingly pert for her 77 years, the widow of President Benjamin Harrison.
Grand Illumination. For 48 hours the outward affairs of the GOP have marched to a crescendo of booming speeches. Its inward affairs have also marched, slowly, unspectacularly. There is no longer any doubt of Landon's nomination, on the first ballot. But until it happens, few have any notion of the crowing fireworks, dramatic as the "Last Days of Pompeii," which are to climax the Republican fireworks on this third evening.
Delegates settle in their seats to hear the reading of the platform, long delayed in committee. It is not exciting. Herman M. Langworthy, Kansas City, Mo, attorney, reads it. Applause comes where applause is due, but with no thunder except for budget balancing. The platform lasts nearly half an hour. Two minutes later it has been approved with a shout and Chairman Snell announces: "Next in order is the nomination of the candidate for President of the United States. The clerk will call the roll of states."
"Alabama!" intones the clerk.
"Alabama passes," comes the answer from the floor.
"Arizona yields to Kansas."
Uproar. A band strikes up. For the first time Oh! Susanna, which has been dinned in Cleveland's ears for days, is heard on the floor of the Convention.
Music and confusion go on for the five minutes it takes John Hamilton to reach the rostrum. A sunflower beams on his lapel, a bandage on his chin. His great moment has come. He reads a telegram: "If nominated, I unqualifiedly accept the word and spirit of (the platform) . . . as a matter of private honor and public good faith . . . . However, with that candor which you and the country are entitled to expect of me, I feel compelled before you proceed with the consideration of my name to submit my interpretation of certain planks . . . ." It is Alf Landon's brave codicil to the platform and the Convention roars approval. Then Hamilton speaks:
" . . . He who carries the standard of Americanism in the weeks that are to follow must have a clear conception of the problems of those who labor, gained not from a detached theoretical viewpoint but because he has labored: that he must have a realization of the needs of those in distress, not from the information of others received in surroundings of luxury, but from personal contact with those who have been in want; that he shall know the problems of those who cultivate the soil, not through what he has learned from others who ponder these questions in academic halls, but by having lived among them and having heard the story from their own lips. He must know something of the difficulties and intricacies of American business life,not from economists who have never known the necessity of meeting a payroll but from his own experience in business. He needs must realize that the disbursement of public funds is a public trust and not a political revelry, and he is the more apt to have that realization if his own property has not been bestowed upon him but has been gained through his own efforts. . . ."
There is applause after every sentence where Hamilton gives the delegates a chance. This is the stuff they love: tarring Roosevelt with the same brush that gilds Landon. The microphones at last are working perfectly. The audience at last has the subject they want and by far the best speech they have heard. Hamilton speaks six minutes. With his speech still far from finished, he breaks precedent, mentions his candidate by name:
"I give you the name of a Republican Governor of a Republican State -- Alfred Mossman Landon of Kansas."
The band explodes with Oh! Susanna, State banners appear everywhere. Fifty "Win With Landon" signs begin moving. An insane horn from the floor plays Three Long Years. Hamilton paces the platform. After 20 minutes he begs to go on, but it is half an hour before he can. Gulping water at frequent intervals he finishes an effective speech. Again the band strikes up. Confusion again reigns for ten minutes. Then the roll call is resumed: "Arkansas!" "Arkansas passes." "California!" "California passes." "Colorado!" "Colorado passes." When Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire have passed, no one can mistake any longer what is happening. Not only is Landon going to be nominated on the first ballot, but no other candidate is even going to be named. In Topeka, Alf Landon listens to the amazing show in his study. Here in Cleveland his 19-year-old daughter Peggy Anne and his father, John Manuel Landon, 79, are electrified.
Chairman Snell announces that seconding speeches will be limited to three minutes: 1) Gaspar Bacon of Massachusetts grows very flowery and is laughed at; 2) Governor Frank D. Fitzgerald of Michigan gives far more glory to Senator Vandenberg for withdrawing than to Alf Landon whom he seconds; 3) Mrs. Corinne Roosevelt also of Connecticut (cousin of Mrs. F. D. Roosevelt and one of her bridesmaids 31 years ago) gets a hand as she shrills that under the New Deal the milk of human kindness now flows only to registered Democrats; 4) Perry Wilbon Howard, Negro boss of the unsavory Republican machine in Mississippi, bellows in a fine deep voice, gets a laugh when he speaks of "the boodget," a bigger laugh when he says that under the New Deal not only white men fear for their lives, but also black men "and even the little peegs"; 5) Henry Depping, a 30-year-old red-head from Missouri, gets rid of a machine-gun-like harangue in favor of youth and Landon.
To the crowd, impatient for a ballot, Chairman Snell announces that the "regular" seconding speeches are over and introduces Senator Vandenberg of Michigan. Delegates who have been able to see Senator Vandenberg seated shoulder to shoulder with his boyhood friend Frank Knox, and Iowa's candidate, Senator Kickinson, only a few seats away, guess the unprecedented event that is coming: the runners-up for the nomination are going to endorse the victor even before he is named. That is just what happens-all the rivals bow out except Senator Borah. He entrained for Washington two hours ago.
At last the roll call begins.
"Alabama, 13 votes for Landon."
The landslide is finally on. Idaho and Illinois get applause for backing Kansas' favorite son. North Dakota, "A typical Prairie State," casts eight votes for Landon. Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas also vote as "Prairie States," in defiance to Democratic Boss Farley's ill-judged crack at Kansas last month. "Pennsylvania, the birthplace of Alf Landon" casts her 75 votes. Washington votes as "a typical Republican State." Forty-five states in succession cast every vote for Landon.
The 46th, West Virginia, casts "15 votes for Landon, one for Borah." The delegates seem stunned. They thought the vote would be by acclamation, but Borah Manager Carl Bachmann, a delegate from West Virginia, is irreconcilable. The 47th state, Wisconsin, renews the buzz by voting "six for Landon, 18 for Borah." Wisconsin's Progressive-tinged Republicans are also set on their gesture. After "Puerto Rico, the enchanted Isle casts tow votes for Landon," Wisconsin's chairman moves to make the vote unanimous. He is out of order. The tabulators report 19 for Borah. 984 for Landon. Then Wisconsin's motion is permitted. A great American flag is lowered on the stage, a shower of red, white & blue balloons floats down through the beams of the floodlights. The Stars & Stripes Forever, blares the band. Chairman Snell hammers out adjournment. John Hamilton and the new managers of the Republican Party leave to spend the night conferring on the Vice Presidential nominee. But already the show is over. Already the radio announcers are calling:
"Take it away, Topeka!"
Planks & Implications
The Republican platform was written between the deep sea and Senator Borah. The deep sea was Lake Erie and Senator Borah was the man who, as he left the Republican convention last week, announced: "I never had any illusion that I would become the Presidential nominee of this convention. But there were some important and timely questions which I felt should come before the country . . . and I reached the conclusion that this could be most likely attained if I became a candidate."
Between Senator Borah and the deep sea was William Allen White, the Landon representative on the Resolutions Committee. The Landonites wished to placate Mr. Borah, lest he somehow upset their well-laid nomination plans. Well did they know how to proceed. Since Senator Borah, for all his noble traits of character, would never willingly become a member of the Twelve Apostles or of any group larger than one, he could be won to Landon only by giving him some unique privilege. That privilege was to speak with ultimate authority on those planks which most appealed to him.
Accordingly, Senator Borah was allowed to write the anti- League of Nations and anti-monopoly planks (although the two sharpest paragraphs of his monopoly plank were cut out in the final version). Two other planks he was allowed to veto: any reference to the gold standard in the money plank and any suggestion of a constitutional amendment to authorize State control of minimum wages. William Allen White had also to make concessions to various non-Landon members of the platform Committee. Thus with Editor White functioning as a diplomat rather than as a liberal, Landon views on the platform were largely left for presentation by such allies as Charles P. Taft (liberal younger brother of Ohio's favorite son, regular Robert A. Taft). The standpoint of Landon-liberalism was probably pressed less forcibly upon the platform committee than many another set of views.
Result was that Alf Landon's telegram became necessary as an appendix to the platform. To the platform's declaration that sweatshops and child labor can be abolished, that minimum wages and the like for women and children can be established by State law "within the Constitution as it now stands," he added. "But if that opinion should prove to be erroneous . . . I shall favor a constitutional amendment . . . ." To the declaration for a "sound currency" he added "convertible into gold . . .(but not) unless it can be done without penalizing our domestic economy." To the declaration for extension of civil service, he added a special dart aimed at Postmaster Farley, weakest joint in Franklin Roosevelt's armor: "There should be included within the merit system every position in the administrative service below the rank of assistant secretaries of major departments and agencies, and . . . this inclusion should cover the entire Post Office Department."
Aside from the Landon codicil, the Republican platform thus remained a hodgepodge of old and new lumber. On Relief the platform had a definite proposal for administration by the States with partial Federal aid; on Unemployment, a proposal to aid industry by abolishing New Deal interference; on Social Security, a demand for a sounder, more workable law; on Labor, some old saws and reference to State rather than Federal regulation; on Agriculture, no less than 13 heterogeneous remedies ranging from retirement of marginal land, through some kind of soil conservation program to industrial use of farm products and domestic allotment; on Tariff, a fine old-fashioned, reactionary plank; on Monopoly, some of Mr. Borah's words but no reference to anti-trust laws as the essential alternative to planned economy; on Government Finance, sound fiscal advice offered with a ring of conviction. Linked to all this were some approving words on national defense, isolation, the Amerindian, the Afro-American, collection of War debts, women in Government employ, etc., etc.
Had the Republicans assembled in Cleveland had no more consecutive and consistent ideas, no clearer issue than was expressed in their platform, they could not have stirred even themselves to enthusiasm. Obvious was the fact that they felt themselves in no such predicament. Time & again throughout the convention's sudden bursts of applause, feeling cheers pointed out the great unwritten plank on which they were eager to campaign:
That the New Del was a menace to American institutions. That it planned the destruction of individual opportunity in the name of social opportunity. That the planned economy which the New Deal envisioned, the bureaucracy it created, would inevitably lead to some sort of dictatorship. That the return of the Republican Party was necessary not so much to undo what the New Deal has done -- for the Supreme Court has disposed of 90% of that -- but to prevent what may yet be done in the spirit of the New Deal.
Corollary to this major plank was the proposition: That Republicans and their candidates had the desire, the ability, the background to restore sound government finance. That the big Republican aim was to restore the Government to its role of policeman, kick it out of the role of boss. That when this was done, reckless spending would automatically end, individual initiative would be restored, industry would bound ahead, thus solving the prime problem of Re-employment.
Besides these unarticulated planks, the written platform and the Landon codicil made two other substantial assertions: 1) That direct means must be taken to equalize the now 15-year-old inability of farmers to earn as good a living as city men. 2) That minimum wages and maximum hours for women and children should be legally established, not as a part of an economic plan, but as a matter of public decency.
When the seconding speeches for Nominee Landon turned into a parade of his withdrawing opponents, everyone realized that now the sprint for the Vice-Presidency was under way. First to the platform, Senator Arthur Vandenberg seemed to have the race hands down. It was well known that the Landonites wanted him, and the authoritative ring of his first-person-singular announced his availability with twice the hint and confidence of Frank Knox's self-effacing remarks about this being no time for personal ambition. Iowa's bluff Senator Dickinson, Maryland's fat Governor Nice, New Hampshire's unfortunately named Governor Bridges and all the other favorite sons were clearly out of the running.
But not everyone knew Senator Vandenberg's stipulation to the Landonites. He, who had had his doubts even about wanting the Presidential nomination before 1940, would be the tail to their 1936 kite only if the Convention drafted him by acclamation. John Hamilton thought that could be done and long after everyone else went to bed that night he and his lieutenants were buzzing around lining up the necessary acclaim. By about 2:30 a. m. they thought they had things fixed. By that time Senator Vandenberg had cut off his telephone. No one thought to go bang on his door with the glad tidings. They could wait until morning. Meantime, weary Mr. Vandenberg had sent a message to John Hamilton and Chairman Snell: "If my name is placed before the Convention, please ask that it be withdrawn. This is conclusive."
Earlier birds than the tired Landonites next day were Attorney General Thomas Cheney of New Hampshire and James Irwin, stanch pluggers for Colonel William Franklin Knox. Right after breakfast they set out to see what last-minute hope there might be for their man. Their reward was a 75-to 1 vote for Knox at the Pennsylvania delegation's morning caucus. That made the Vandenberg acclamation impossible. The rest was easy. At the Convention, Governor Bridges nominated Colonel Knox, Chairman Snell read the Vandenberg message, and the acclaim fixed for the latter went to the former.
Thus it was that, in the first case by good management, in the second by accident, the two strongest candidates were unanimously placed on the Republican ticket, a political believe- it-or-not. There were those who still thought that eloquent Mr. Vandenberg would have made a better first mate for colorless Mr. Landon. Fact remained that, excepting the Landonites, no one had worked so hard, nor got up so much steam and sympathy, as Colonel Knox & friends. The impetus of their bloc could now be merged intact with the Landon movement.
The news reached Colonel Knox and his wife as they stopped at noon in grimy Michigan City, Ind. for lunch.
The Colonel sent his secretary to telephone Cleveland, see if Senator Vandenberg was named yet. Back rushed the secretary into the dining room. "It looks like everything is going your way, Colonel!"
Perplexed at first, the Colonel flung down his napkin, rushed to the telephone, then to the radio, heard New Jersey's Senator Edge nominated, then the roll call all for himself. "It was unanimous, think of that!" he cried as he retired to an upstairs room to see the Press, telephone some more and try, unsuccessfully, to eat his lunch.
Motoring on to Chicago with all speed, Publisher Knox received the Press again in his Chicago Daily News office. Duly reviewed in the write-ups were his Spanish-American War and A.E.F. records, his newspaper career in New Hampshire, and the fact that, like Governor Landon, he had been a Bull Mooser in 1912. Candidate Knox fell into an unhappy but understandable inversion of this last point when he telegraphed his running- mate: " . . . Conditions call for a display of the same great qualities which endeared us both to Theodore Roosevelt."
Out of the swarming lobbies of Cleveland's three big hotels, out of jammed restaurants and air-cooled cocktail bars, poured double-chinned politicians, deep-bosomed matrons wearing badges, pert blondes with white Dutch bonnets tilted upon their ringlets, marcelled brunettes with tipsy red cartwheel hats, broad- shouldered youngsters in panamas, pompous oldsters with sticks, all dressed or their brief appearance in the "national arena." The real work of the national arena was proceeding day & night not in the Convention Hall whither they were bound but in the hotels whence they departed.
In Cleveland's Statler Hotel, Senator Arthur Vandenberg, with his grey-streaked hair plastered like damp seaweed over his round dome, held court for politicians and newshawks. In the Hotel Cleveland's grand ballroom, Frank Knox's managers showed every consideration to anyone who strayed in upon their vast rose-colored carpet. Four floors above in a room at the end of a long corridor Senator Borah meditated and gave counsel to his acolytes, admitted one by one from the queue waiting without. But only a madhouse could have matched the Hotel Hollenden.
All day long men and women wearing sunflowers pushed their way through packed lobbies to visit the bevy of prairie state editors who were Alf Landon's managers: genial, secretive little Lacy Haynes, Kansas manager of the Kansas City Star; the Star's grave, scholarly Editor Henry Haskell; mild-faced Publisher Oscar Stauffer of the Arkansas City Daily Traveler; wise old Editor William Allen White of the Emporia Gazette; above all, huge- girthed, pink-faced Roy Roberts, managing editor of the Kansas City Star and oldtime Washington correspondent, who masterminded the enormously skillful publicity campaign which in a few months built up obscure Alf Landon as the likeliest GOPossibility. In the forefront of this group stood crinkly-haired John Daniel Miller Hamilton, 44-year-old Topeka lawyer, onetime Speaker of the Kansas Legislature, until last March assistant chairman of the Republican National Committee who, as manager of the Landon campaign,had more power than any GOP man old or young in Cleveland.
His power, however, was the power to lead, not to dictate. It lay in the fact that he was driving a vehicle which looked more like a bandwagon than any other in Cleveland. His job was to drive it invitingly through a crowd of Republicans whose greatest eagerness was for a quick lift toward success in November. Masterly was his success. Aided by tact, clean-cut looks nd animal vigor, he was a personal success with personal success with delegates and Press, blocked without offense the efforts of Old Guardsmen to Stop Landon. Instead of brushing oldsters aside, John Hamilton listened courteously to forlorn Old Guard bosses who had lost control of their delegations. Borah was humored on the platform, Herbert Hoover by a chance to speak. Hamilton himself, suffering not only from overwork but from a virulent attack of barber's itch which kept his chin in bandages, was a wreck, but he won a sweeping victory with a minimum of hurt feelings in the party, a maximum of harmony behind the candidate.
From the moment when he had delivered his effective nominating speech and staged the most dramatic nomination which Republicans have made in a generation, John Hamilton took over the machinery of the GOP. An immense job of reconstruction was before him. Next afternoon he began work at a snappy session of the new Republican National Committee. Gone from the committee were such old familiar faces as Walter Folder Brown of Ohio, David A. Reed of Pennsylvania, Mark L. Requa of California, Frank L. Smith of Illinois. In their places were Young Guardsmen. Without saying boo, the committee elected John Hamilton its chairman. Without ceremony he named an executive committee of 16 to meet this week in Topeka and begin overhauling the GOP. He made a speech of four sentences and the meeting was over: "There is no speech left in me, but we are entering here and now a hard an vigorous campaign. I ask only one thing. We are going to make lots of mistakes and many errors of judgment. All I ask is your indulgence in the hope for the election of a Republican President next fall, which I know we are going to do."
Political oldsters began to remark with surprise that they believed John D. M. Hamilton with his cleft chin might prove a worthy match for James A. Farley with his double chin. Within 48 hours the two were at each other's throats.
Said Mr. Farley: "This is the weakest ticket ever nominated in the history of the party an it is doomed to overwhelming defeat. Their candidate was, until he was lifted to eminence by the familiar building-up process, perhaps one of the least known of the governors of the 48 states . . . ."
Retorted Mr. Hamilton: "Mr. Farley is, of course, both frightened and disappointed. He is clearly dissatisfied both with the Republican candidate for the Presidency and with the Republican platform. That was one of the purposes of the Cleveland Convention . . . ."
"This Happy Evening"
Waiting in Topeka for the Presidential nomination was just like waiting in your office for a field crew to bring in an oil well. Alf Landon, as an experienced oil-man and politician, felt pretty sure the nomination was there. He knew his field boss, John Hamilton, was a crackerjack and would make no mistakes. Whether it proved to be just an average political well or a magnificent gusher did not matter an awful lot. Main thing was to get into pay sand and bring it into actual production. Until that was done, Alf Landon knew it was unlucky as well as unwise to do much talking.
Without being rude to streams of visitors and newshawks, he stuck as closely as possible to the routine of the Governor of Kansas -- walking ten blocks to the State House after early breakfast every day, clearing up regular desk work, going to the dentist, making a solemn little speech to University of Kansas seniors (where the Chancellor slipped and introduced "the Governor of Indiana"), getting out to the Hunt Club for a ride on Si, his chestnut gelding. Capitol employes wanted to install a radio to listen to the Cleveland doings but Alf Landon told them: "We've got too much work to do."
John Hamilton's reports by telephone got better and better. Like and oil drill going down, the column of Landon delegates continued steadily up. To the 388 lined up by Monday were added most of New Yorks 90. Then 50 of Pennsylvania's 75. That clinched it -- unless the rig should go haywire before the actual balloting. Alf Landon permitted himself to josh Harry Woodring, his Democratic predecessor as Governor, now Assistant Secretary of War, who had bet against Landon's luck. "Well, Harry," he said, "I'll invite you to dinner at the White House to compensate you for it."
Thursday dragged itself out interminably. Alf Landon stayed home, now glued to the long-distance telephone, now out in the back yard playing with the tow youngest children, Nancy Jo, 3, and Jack, 2, for the cameramen. Grandmother Cobb took the children to her house for the night, came back to listen in her son-in-law's study while the platform was being read.
When the word of Alf Landon's dramatic platform telegram to the convention boomed out from three loudspeakers on the porch, the crowd that had gathered outside set up their first victory cheer. Then John Hamilton's smashing speech of nomination began, followed by the roaring demonstration.
Before the seconding speeches were over, Alf Landon snapped off his radio, went alone to a room off the study. Through a half-open window, people outside could see him pacing nervously back & forth, hands behind his back, head down.
When the nomination flash came, Topeka drowned out the radio. On the green State House dome, 32 floodlights flashed; whistles, bells and bombs went of and 15,000 Kansans marched on the Executive Mansion.
Alf Landon walked out on the porch, his arm around Mrs. Landon's waist. For five minutes the crowd would not let him talk. When they quieted down, Nominee Landon stepped into a circle of microphones and in high-pitched, quavering tones, began a stumbling, halting, repetitious little speech. "Your good wishes and goodwill touch Mrs. Landon and myself very deeply . . .." Once his voice broke completely. Once he raised a finger to brush away tears behind his rimless spectacles. Finally he got through: "We shall always cherish the memory of this happy evening together."
The crowd yelled for Mrs. Landon. Her husband pushed her up to the microphones. "I leave the talking to the Governor, but I wish you all . . ." she began, then she too choked up. "I can't talk!" cried she and rushed back to the support of Alf Landon's arm.
Next morning she had her first, and perhaps last press conference.
Would she take an active part in the campaign?
"Not if I have anything to say about it. It's not my place."
Did she intend to write about her daily life?
"Oh no!" replied the wife of the Republican candidate.
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