WHAT HAPPENED TO SEALE PRESS CENSORSHIP cl’ittle Was It Justified? Walter Rogers, the highly conservative Democratic congressman from District 18 in the Panhandle, is a gentlemanly politician, somewhat of the old school. Until about three weeks before Tuesday’s election, his campaign was more like a baccalaureate or a Kiwanis progress report than a serious fight for political survival. His advisors, however, began warning him that Amarillo Mayor Jack Seale, a John Birch member, was not to be perfunctorily dismissed. As it turned out, Seale’s campaign hit its peak too early, but from start to finish it was in the nature of a crusade, a revival, a search for some older America in one of the newest and breeziest areas in the entire nation. As mayor, Seale had refused to accept federal money for a sewerage system. To offset national United Nations Day, he proclaimed United States Day in Amarillo. A few of his more professional advisors had urged him, early in the general election campaign, to resign from the Birch Society, but he apparently considered such a retreat a sign of weakness, and he remained an avowed and loyal member. Finally persuaded to confront Seale directly with the Birch issue, Democrat Rogers declared that his opponent was being “dictated” by Robert Welch and reminded voters in the 18th that the Society had been repudiated by every major political figure in the United States. Full page ads described Rogers as a “sensible conservative.” So conservative is Rogers, the Seale forces hired a public relations firm to examine his 2,000 or so votes during his 12 years in Congress. They found only eight on which they might do battle. When Rogers finally responded to the issues \(raising of the debt limit, “enslavement” of the farmers, Rogers came out fighting, the air went out of the Seale people,” a local Despite the Democratic sweep in the statewide races, this general election firmly indicated that Texas Democrats would do well to become accustomed to Texas Republicans. The GOP acquired a new congressional seat ; ran close races against Democratic incumbents in two other districts; sent seven representatives to the Texas House; elected judges in Kerr, Midland, Harrison, and Ector Counties; and made a significant if not a major stride toward a functioning two-party Texas. Unlike past political seasons, they ran all the way from city hall to the governor’s mansion, and they inspired the largest turnout by far in any general election in the state’s history. Though still a minority party at the state level, the Texas GOP has graduated to the status of a vocal and energetic opposition. This well-defined alternative patently has its advantages: racism is dead in statewide campaigning, graft and corruption will never again be quite so monstrous, and the moderate wing of the state Democratic Party will begin taking a considerably closer look at 2There seems to be quite a lot of evidence that alien commuters from Mexico depress wages in Texas border towns. The latest information is contained in County and City Data Book, published by the Bureau of Census, in which our good city of Laredo is designated as “the poorest city in the United States.” Median income annually for Laredo is a whopping $2,935before taxes. editor told the Observer. “The pressures they had exerted were simply too great.” Except for the top echelons of the rigorously conservative Farm Bureau, the average farmer in the district supported Rogers. Liberal Democrats H. NI. Baggarly of the Tulia Herald is a perfect examplewanted to deal the Birchers a decisive setback at the polls. More important perhaps, the “power structure” in Amarillo, the bankers and the oilmen, reasoned that Rogers had been a good and true friend in Washington. Some of their number said they did not even know Seale was a Bircher until after he had been elected mayor of the city. They found Seale’s devout extremism altogether too risky. Seale’s support was vocal and wellorganized. It was an extravagantly financed campaign. His principal backing emanated from the professional middle class in the cities doctors, dentists, a few lawyers, white-collar salaried people, large numbers of rather severely distressed middle-class ladies. Seale’s effort strikes one as a classic case of farright activity, so vocal and so active that many tended to overrate its real strength. Seale managed to frighten away substantial numbers of “respectable” Republicans, who split the ticket and voted for Rogers. When the counting is completed, Rogers will emerge with a majority of close to 60 percent in the 28-county constituency. The extent of Republican defections is there in the figures. While Goldwater Republican Jack Cox was carrying cities like Amarillo and Lubbock and holding a lead in the district as a whole, the John Birch Republican was losing by some 10,000 votes. “Maybe they’ll be a little quieter now,” one Amarillo man said this week. “Or at least a little more humble.” W.M. the inequities and shortcomings of our basic social services. At the same time, however, Texas Republicans have serious lessons to learn. Their shrill extremism on pressing national and global issues will never gain them majority status in a society deeply suffused with the American political tradition. Their dogmatic right-wing reading of recent history sets them on the far fringes of the national Republican Party. They deeply need a more rational and sensible political mentality. Their obvious reluctance to confront significant issues and problems in state government, stressing instead so many of the national hysterias of the American far-right, will never help them in future bids for state office. The two brightest results in the congressional races, as we saw them, were liberal Democrat Homer Thornberry’s sound thrashing of preacherpolitician Jim Dobbs in the Austin District, and conservative Democrat Walter Rogers’ easy victory over Bircher Jack Seale in District 18. It is one thing to encourage a two-party trend; it is another to send totalitarian reactionaries to Washington. Liberal Democrats in the future should continue to weigh candidates of both parties carefully. The slow but steady exodus of Democratic conservatives into the Republican camp augurs well, over the next ten or fifteen years, for a more liberal and responsible Texas Democratic Party. Independent liberals, like organized labor, will serve their own cause more faithfully by seeing themselves as something of an independent force in Texas politics, throwing their support to those candidates of either party who stand strongest for civilized values and social reform, in Texas and everywhere. AUSTIN A debate appeared recently in the nation’s press concerning Defense Department spokesman Arthur Sylvester’s public admittal that the Kennedy administration had manipulated the news and lied to the press \(and the Cuban crisis. Sylvester justified the news blackouts and distortions on the grounds that in a crisis, “the single voice of the commander in chief” must be maintained. Government control of the news, he said, can be a part of cold war weaponry in a tight situation such as the one from MANY NEWSPAPERS, accustomed to the continual shrivelling away of freedom of the press in the U.S., accepted Sylvester’s excuse with equanimity. Other papers reacted with indignation, which was more often than not hypocritical, in that most American dailies submit cheerfully to a more outrageous censorship than that of the government namely, their advertisers. All in all, however, the arguments proposed against government censorship in the recent crisisand the possibility of continued censorshipwere more convincing than those offered to support it. The best defense of Sylvester’s position was offered by James Reston of the New York Times. Reston listed at least five cases of deceit by the administration during the crisis. But he then said this: “The reflex action of the press is to howl like a scalded dog every time it catches the government tinkering with the truth, but it can scarcely apply normal procedures to the actions of the first American government ever engaged in facing up to the possibility of a nuclear war. And it is palpable nonsense to talk about these distortions as being ‘unprecedented.’ ” Whether or not the President’s distortions were unprecedented is, of course, utterly beside the point. Mass murder, rape, bad TV programs and shoddy reasoning are all pretty well precedented, but that doesn’t justify them. The heart of Reston’s argument and of Sylvester’sis that by duping the American public, the administration was able to master the situation and come out on top. Significantly, no administration spokesman to my knowledge has been at all specific as to how a distorted picture of the news was able to get the Russian missiles out of Cuba. I can conceive of instances where such distortion might be of an internal political advantage, or where it might gear the AUSTIN The Independent American, that most distraught journal published in New Orleans, has sent out postcards to its various readers which say : “The Conservative Protest Conference and ‘Blockade Cuba Rally’ scheduled for Nov. 15, 16, and 17 at the Morrison Hotel in Chicago has been cancelled. The present confusion and uncertainty regarding the Cuban crisis make it impossible for us to plan or hold a ‘Blockade Cuba Rally’ at this time. “Watch the pages of The Independ Published by Texas Observer Co., Ltd. Entered as second-class matter, April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. NOVEMBER 9, 1962 Willie Morris Editor and General Manager Chandler Davidson, Associate Editor Sarah Payne, Office Manager Ronnie Dugger, Contributing Editor American public to the idea of accepting a nuclear war, but I can’t readily see that Mr. Kennedy’s manipulation of the news really affected the international situation very much. THE FACT IS, to my way of thinking, not that the manipulation of news in the Cuban situation was unprecedented or of tremendous import in itself, but that if it was merely a symptom of a larger attitude held by the Kennedy administration and by the one which preceded Mr. Kennedy: that the American public, although it will surely be decimated by at least half in the event of a nuclear war, is not really entitled to be given a thorough picture of the continual tight wire performances known as brinksmanship. Many responsible reporters, particularly in Washington and New York, have long decried the government’s silence or vagueness on the most important issues of our timeranging from the probable effects of an allout nuclear war to the dangerous political tendencies of certain of our allied leaders \(c.f. De Gaulle and in supporting regimes such as Formosa’s or Spain’s. The President has, in the last two years, showed a remarkable contempt for certain journalists \(and consequently, for their ly supporting his avowed aims. And it is a shame that America’s newspapers wait until this particular incident to raise hell about it. I N EFFECT, Mr. Sylvester is arguing that propaganda is sometimes more important in a democracy than is the truth. To that, let it be said that perhaps this is rightthat in extremely rare situations security interests supercede a free press. But the recent distortions were not a rarity, and it has yet to be proved that security interests were served by them. Let it also be said that, as Winston Churchill so remarkably proved during World War II, truth even in a grave military crisisis often the best and most convincing propaganda there is. C.D. ent American for an announcement of a Conservative Protest Conference in 1963.” Best to Dobie J. Frank Dobie, one of the greatest men this state has ever produced, remains in the hospital following a serious automobile accident last week. We wish him a speedy recovery. Telegrams and letters may be addressed to him % Brackenridge Hospital, Austin. Published once a week from Austin, Texas. Delivered postage prepaid $5.10 per annum. Advertising rates available on request. Extra copies 15c each. Quantity prices available on order. EDITORIAL and BUSINESS OFFICE: 504 West 24th St., Austin, Texas. Phone GReenwood 7-0746. HOUSTON OFFICE: Mrs. R. D. Randolph, 2181 Welch, Houston 19, Texas. e lection ZeJJorto First Thing Next Year THE TEXAS OBSERVER -5: FUTURA
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