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The Wicked Wine of Democracy

a memoir of a political junkie, 1948-1995

Joseph Miller

Publication Year: 2012

A frank account by a political operative and practicing lobbyist who the Washington Post labeled “the Democrat's answer to Madison Avenue.” He left Seattle journalism career in the early 1950s to work on the campaigns of Warren G. Magnuson, Henry “Scoop” Jackson, Frank Church, William Proxmire, and, finally, John F. Kennedy.

Published by: University of Washington Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vi-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Joseph Spencer Miller—or, better, just plain Joe—preceded me at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Northwest outpost of W. R. Hearst, by a dozen years and damned near as many titles. I worked politics. Joe handled music, drama, literature (book reviews), labor, sports, and politics. ...

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pp. xiii-xviii

I told him I was writing my memoirs, loosely quoting george Bernard Shaw to the effect that an “old man’s only reason for existence is to justify all the time that he has spent on this earth.” He sniffed, not sneeringly or disdainfully, but a definite sniff. “It shouldn’t take you long,” he said. ...

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pp. xix-xx

Most of the material in this volume comes from memory. All my remembrances would have been discarded had it not been for an angel editor I met by chance: Marianne Keddington-Lang, then editor of Oregon Historical Society publications. She volunteered to edit my outpourings ...

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1. A Political Junkie

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pp. 3-12

I was born to be a political junkie. A political junkie is distinguished by one universal characteristic—a fascination-absorption compulsion-passion for politics that sometimes defies rationality. There were periods in my life when my entire being was consumed by politics, ...

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2. Something Special — Dick Neuberger

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pp. 13-32

The early morning mist, smelling like day-old fish, was rising from the saltwater flats of the Port of Tacoma when I pulled my 1949 Buick sedan into the Poodle Dog’s parking lot. It was six A.M., September 6, 1954, and I was en route from Seattle to Portland where I was going to spend the next two months ...

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3. Maggie and the Tiger

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pp. 33-47

Jerry Hoeck did me one of those unwitting favors that ended up determining the course of what was to become my lifetime career in Washington, D.C. He took me to lunch at Seattle’s Washington Athletic Club in February 1956 and talked me out of managing Earl Coe’s campaign for governor. ...

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4. Frosty

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pp. 48-59

Coming up on the 1956 elections, I had a score to settle with someone over something that had been simmering in my psyche for some time. Curiously, the object of my animus would have only vaguely recognized my face and certainly not my name. My bête noire was Herman Welker, Idaho’s junior senator. ...

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5. Prox

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pp. 60-72

Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy had died a few days before, on May 2, 1957, and I was being ushered into Lyndon Johnson’s baronial office in the Senate wing of the Capitol by a curvy brunette with a smiling face. It was to be my first meeting with The Maximum Leader of the Senate Democrats. ...

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6. Winning Big

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pp. 73-87

Bill Proxmire’s surprise victory in Wisconsin brought me onto the Washington political stage with a fanfare. Before that, not one line of type had been printed about my campaign efforts. That was by design. A provincialism in American politics had made the outside “expert” a sinister figure who manipulated local candidates ...

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7. Revenge in Kentucky

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pp. 88-96

Earle Chester Clements did not spend much time savoring the great Senate election triumph of 1958. He had a big score to settle back home in Kentucky. The Bluegrass state’s Democratic gubernatorial primary was on May 30, 1959, and there was no time to waste. Clements had been defeated for re-election to the Senate ...

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8. Hawaiian Odysseys

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pp. 97-106

Around the Senate, I had acquired a largely undeserved reputation as an expert on matters Hawaiian and Alaskan. It had come about because my home-state senator, Henry M. (Scoop) Jackson of Washington, was chairman of the territories subcommittee of the Interior Committee. ...

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9. A State That Time Forgot

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pp. 107-120

Lyndon B. Johnson called me to his office to give me an assignment. “Go to North Dakota,” he said. “We can pick up a seat there.” If so, it would almost be a first. North Dakota once had elected a Democrat to the Senate, but he had died two months after assuming office. ...

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10. Outside on the Inside

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pp. 121-140

I returned to Washington on New Year’s Day 1959, my thirty-seventh birthday. Fidel Castro was marching on Havana from the Sierra Maestre, and television and radio bulletins reported his hourly progress. I kind of felt like Castro. I had been out in the provinces helping win great victories for the Democratic Party ...

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11. The Campaign and Aftermath

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pp. 141-155

Returning to Washington in late June, two weeks before the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, a pile of invitations awaited me. The convention may choose the next leader of the free world, but it also was going to be the grandest and gaudiest party of my experience. ...

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12. A Lobbyist Is a Lobbyist Is a Lobbyist

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pp. 156-166

Public relations consultant, government affairs counselor, legislative advocate, lawyer—call it what you will, the fact remains: a lobbyist is a lobbyist is a lobbyist. This play on Gertrude Stein’s celebrated aphorism weighed on my mind as Maurice Rosenblatt, Charley Brown, and I opened the doors of our new offices ...

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13. No Vestal Virgin in the Whorehouse

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pp. 167-180

If the preceding chapter implies that I was a vestal virgin dragged unwillingly into a cathouse of whores trying to seduce Congress, I have misrepresented myself. My blooding in that arena had come in the 1959 nationwide steel strike, the concurring battle in Congress over the Landrum- Griffin bill, ...

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14. The Spotted Owl and Other Varmints

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pp. 181-193

“The Japanese are outbidding us for raw materials right in our own backyard,” cried the excited young man from Oregon with the brush-cut hair. “They could cause an economic Pearl Harbor in our industry if something isn’t done.” He wasn’t talking about automobiles, television sets, or transistor radios. ...

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15. Mike’s “Fish Bowl”

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pp. 194-199

Jones explained that Oregon’s maverick senator, Wayne Lyman Morse, had infuriated Kirwan by using the Senate’s arcane rules to kill the Ohioan’s pet project, a $10 million “national aquarium” on the Potomac River. By Kirwan’s standards, Morse had betrayed his support for western issues, and revenge was the only recourse. ...

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16. Pirates of Pork

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pp. 200-214

“Kill H.R. 163.” Jesse Calhoon’s voice was southern soft but steely. The president of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) was giving me my first real assignment since I had become the little union’s lobbyist in the fall of 1967. Now it was July 1968, and—looking out at New York harbor from Calhoon’s nineteenth-floor office ...

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17. Strike! Strike! Strike!

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pp. 215-224

The 1981 nationwide strike of the air traffic controllers union still is cited as the domestic landmark of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. His outright firing of the 12,000 federal controllers who struck won him almost universal acclaim and established him as a decisive tough guy, not merely the charming former actor ...

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18. Battle of the “Black Hats”

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pp. 225-235

When Lloyd Duxbury and Ned Breathitt asked me to become the railroads’ lobbyist in the upcoming congressional battle over coal slurry pipelines, I had finally given up on the fiction that lobbying was merely an interregnum in a career that would be dedicated to improving the human condition. ...

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19. The Wicked Wine of the Democratic Process

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pp. 236-245

Is there anything new on money and lobbying, anything to be said that hasn’t already been said a thousand times over? Senator John McCain aired it all in his early run for the presidency in 2000. Washington is being run, he said, by an “Iron Triangle” of lobbyists, money, and legislators, with the filthy lucre the connecting link. ...

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20. Reflections

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pp. 246-250

It is virtually obligatory that more than a half-century involvement with politics and government has to produce some profundities about what’s wrong and, of course, a plan to fix it. Short of the impossible-to-do “get the money out of the game,” I have scant advice to offer. ...

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A Word about Sources

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pp. 251-254

I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest long before I arrived there, in 1936 at age fourteen, singing “Lilacs in the Rain.” My dad, Herbert R. Miller—born in Iowa but raised in Portland, Seattle, and Tacoma—had reversed Horace Greeley’s maxim, “Go West, Young Man, Go West!” ...


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pp. 255-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780295802664
E-ISBN-10: 0295802669
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295988016
Print-ISBN-10: 0295988010

Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Miller, Joseph S. (Joseph Spencer), 1922-.
  • Political consultants -- United States -- Biography.
  • Lobbyists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Political campaigns -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1945-1989.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1989-.
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