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Greenberg%20-%20Chapter%2010-2 - Science, Money, and...

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Unformatted text preview: Science, Money, and Politics Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion DANIEL S. GREENBERG The University of Chicago Press Chicago and London / 148 / Chapterg politics to protect and advance their interests. Science, however, deliber. ater rejected that choice, with one narrowly focused, long-ago exception that was inspired by unusual political circumstances. Exceptions can be illu_ minating; therefore, we will look at science's sole large-scale postwar depar- ture from ballot-box political aloofness. ' Detour into Politics Science can be the basis of an objective criticism of political power because it claims no power itself. Politics can afford the independence of science because science does not attempt to dictate its purposes. —Don K. Price, The Scientific Estate TH E ON LY large—scale involvement of scientists in na- tional politics took place in the presidential campaign of 1964, under the banner of Scientists and Engineers forJohnson-Humphrey. When the scien- tists successfully completed their political work in that campaign, many of them feared they had damaged the sanctity of science. Never again in significant numbers did science return to ballot-box politics. The genesis and motivating force of the 1964 mobilization/sot scientists was revealed at the time in the open acknowledgment that the organization should realistically be titled Scientists and Engineers Against Goldwater. Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee, was a self- proclaimed hard-liner at a perilous period in. Cold War relations with the Soviets. In his postcandidate years, Goldwater acquired the persona of a benign, likable curmudgeon, basking in the respect that America usually bestows on the runner-ups for its highest office. But Goldwater’s presiden- tial run evoked serious fears. In his memorable acceptance speech for the nomination, he belligerently proclaimed that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of liberty is no virtue." He wisecracked about lobbing a missile into the men's room at the Kremlin, thus reinforcing his trigger-happy reputation. Goldwater’s truculence, nuclear bravado, and well-publicized status as a major general in the air force reserve alarmed many Americans, especially the influential anus—control wing of the scientific community. Consisting mainly of veterans of the World War II weapons laboratories, these scien- tists were linked to Washington by a network of full- and part-time advisory /149/ / 150 / Chapterio positions interwoven with personal and professional associations. Their po. litical concerns rose as the 1964 election approached. In prior presidential campaigns, small numbers of scientists and other academics had joined with various professionals in letterhead listings for one or another candi- date—showcase activities, distant from the political battlefront. Scientists were sometimes included in so-called brain trusts that produced position papers and analyses for the candidates—again, politically low-impact activ- ities. In the 1960 election, Kennedy versus Nixon, the Democrats fielded a National Committee of Arts, Letters and Sciences, including a contingent of Nobel and Pulitzer prize recipients. On the Republican side, support of the learned classes was symbolized by Scholars for Nixon-Lodge. The Ken- nedy brain trust in the 1960 campaign included Jerome B. Wiesner, an MIT professor who had developed close ties to Kennedy. However, for Wiesner and many other scientists, the Goldwater candidacy was too frightening to be met with a superficial response. MOBILIZATION FOR POLITICS Many scientists wanted to do more than cast their votes against Gold- water. In the summer of 1964, following Goldwater’s nomination, a spark was touched to these sentiments by Donald MacArthur, an ambitious thirty-three-year-old engineer working for a high-tech defense company. Born in Detroit but raised andeducated in Scotland, MacArthur received a Ph.D. in chemistry at Edinburgh University. MacArthur returned to the United States at age twenty-six, taught for a year at the University of Con- necticut, and then became head of the chemistry and life sciences division of Melpar, Inc., a Westinghouse defense subsidiary on the outskirts of Washington, DC Since the anti-Goldwater spirit was already flourishing within the scientific community in the summer of 1964, there is no way of knowing whether the events that ensued would have occurred without MacArthur‘s involvement. Clearly, the tinder was present and might have been kindled in some other fashion. But ignition was needed and MacAr- thur supplied it. The charming young fellow with the Scottish brogue was inexperienced in the political arts, but he was personally well-situated for skipping the freshman level. Great encouragement for political involve— ment was provided by his wife, the former Diana Taylor, a niece of Lady Bird Johnson. Diana Taylor MacArthur worked in Washington for the Peace Corps, and she and her husband were regulars at family gatherings and 50- cial events in the White House of Uncle Lyndon and Aunt Lady Bird John— Detour into Politics / 151 1, son, As the 1964 election approached, Diana recalled to me, she and Donald pondered how they might contribute something special to Johnson’s elec— tion campaign. “I suggested to Donald that he try to do something with the scientists. And we went from there.”1 Through family and social connections, Donald MacArthur possessed access to the president, senior administration officials, and the political pro- fessionals organizing Johnson’s election campaign. MacArthur moved con- fidently in networking his way through official Washington. He also knew a few key scientists and how to gain access to others, including Jerome Wiesner, who had served as Kennedy’s science adviser and, after Kennedy’s death, briefly as Johnson’s before returning to MIT. Diana MacArthur re- called that she and her politically energized husband concluded that, for their purpose, Jerry Wiesner, a prototype political scientist, held the key to the American scientific community. Wiesner expressed enthusiasm for a political mobilization of scientists, and doors to the senior suites of the sci- entific community smoothly opened. One week after Goldwater‘s nomina- tion, MacArthur enlisted a close colleague at Melpar, Rodney Nichols, a Ph.D. physicist who tested nose cone materials forchgfissiles. MacArthur and Nichols met with Harold Brown, the Pentagon’s director of research and engineering, to discuss the potential for organizing a scientists’ campaign against Goldwater. Brown was supportive and optimistic. The prospect was raised with Donald Homig, the Princeton University chemist who had suc- ceeded Wiesner as Johnson’s science adviser. Homig reported inquiries from scientists and engineers who wanted to join the campaign. Among them were two nationally prominent scientists with Republican affiliations, both alarmed by the Goldwater candidacy: George B. Kistiakowsky, who had served as Eisenhower's science adviser, and Detlev Bronk, the ultimate establishment insider. Bronk was president of the Rockefeller Institute (later called Rockefeller University), former president of the National Academy of Sciences, former president of Johns Hopkins University, and longtime chair of the National Science Board. I r 1. Donald MacArthur died of a heart attack at the airport in Austin, Texas, in 1988, while ramming to Washington from a family Thanksgiving weekend at the LB} ranch. I am Indebted to Diana MacArthur for sharing her recollections of the 1964 scientists’ cam- paign (interview with author, June 21, 1999) and providing me access to correspon- dence and campaign literature. Mrs. MacArthur succeeded her late husband as chief executive officer and president of the Dynamac Corp., an environmental services and research firm; during the Clinton administration, she served on the President's Com— mittee of Advisors for Science and Technology. The account here builds on my re- porting of the 1964 scientists‘ campaign, "Venture into Politics: Scientists and Engi— neers in the Election Campaign," parts 1 and 2, Science, December 11 and 18, 1964. / 152 l - Chapterm THE WHITE HOUSE SCIENCE SET The cast of science advisers serving the White House was an inbred group, brought into government service, full-time or as advisers commuting from academe, without regard to Republican or Democratic party affilia- tions or the lack thereof. They were naturally drawn from the broad ide010g_ ical center, thus excluding peaceniks from the left, such as Leo Szilard, and hard-liners from the right, such as Edward Teller. Otherwise, the senior mandarins of science easily fit into the White House advisory system under Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson without concern, On their part or the politicians’, for matching their party affiliations with that of the presidents they served. During Kistiakowsky's service as Republican Eisenhower’s sci- ence adviser, Democrat Wiesner served on the President’s Science Advisory Committee, the federal government‘s highest body of scientific counselors, PSAC assembled at least monthly in Washington to commune with Kistia. kowsky and occasionally with the president. Also serving on PSAC during Eisenhower’s presidency was Princeton chemistry professor Donald Homig. After Kennedy’s election in 1960, Wiesner moved from MIT to the position ' of full-time science adviser to the Democratic president, while Kistiakow- sky, returning to his professorship in chemistry at Harvard, served part-time as a member of PSAC. When Wiesner returned to MIT, early in the Johnson administration, Hornig came down from Princeton as his successor. Presidents had reached across party lines on prior occasions, though usually to broaden their politiCal base in difficult circumstances, as FDR did in appointing a venerable Republican, Henry Stimson, secretary of war in World War II. In bringing scientists into the high councils of government, the presidential indifference to their politics and party affiliations reflected the belief that science and scientists were above politics. FDR appointed Vannevar Bush to head research during the war because Bush was a fa- mously capable administrator and researcher with excellent connections throughout the scientific enterprise—not because he was an anti—New Deal censervative. Scientists might consider themselves Republicans or Demo- crats, but, as politicians saw it, science was their true party affiliation-wand scientists saw it that way, too. The Goldwater candidacy inspired a change. The misgivings came later. The science establishment, as it then existed, was overwhelmingly in the antinoldwater camp, and, departing from tradition, many of its mem- bers were restless to get into the campaign. Confident that they could enlist the prestige of science in behalf of the Johnson election campaign, Donald MacArthur and his colleague Rodney Nichols rented office space in down- oetourinto Politics I. 153 I town Washington, a short walk from the White House, laying out $2,250 of their own money for a second floor suite at 1106 Connecticut Ave, with occupancy commencing August 1, 1964, and terminating on election day, November 3. On August 13, they issued a press release announcing the cre- ation of Scientists and Engineers for Johnson-Humphrey, with a grab-bag starrup committee of forty-two luminaries from science, engineering, and medicine-among them Wiesner, Kistiakowsky, Buckminster Fuller, Kelly Johnson (designer of the U-2 spy plane), and two celebrities of cardiology, Paul Dudley White and Michael E. DeBakey. The debut announcement stated that the committee “hopes to stimulate the involvement in active politics of scientists and engineers across the country.” It endorsed a broad band of liberal Democratic goals, including arms control, support of science and technology, educational opportunity for all, strict enforcement of the Civil Rights Act-"and "rejection of extremism under any guise." With that step taken, political amateurs Donald MacArthur and Rodney Nichols, joined by Diana MacArthur (on leave from the Peace Corps), proceeded to orchestrate two communities that are customarily distant from each other in Washington: science and politics. Equipped with an organizational name and an address, they obtained $12,000 for grassroots efforts from the cam- paign’s central office, Citizens forJohnson-Humphrey. The national coordi- nator for that group was a Washington insider and close adviser of Lyndon Johnson, James H. Rowe Jr., a social acquaintance of Donald and Diana MacArthur. But even as they waded into electioneering and summoned col— leagues nationwide to join them, the organizers of Scientists and Engineers for Johnson-Humphrey narrowed the focus of their campaign. They were guided by the advice of a professional campaign strategist, David Garth, whose services were enlisted by Donald MacArthur upon the recommenda- tion of the Democratic campaign professionals. ‘ TARGET: GOLDWATER Despite the package of Democratic Party issues listed in the kickoff an- nouncement, the guidelines for the campaign specified that the prime topic was to be Johnson versus Goldwater. Goldwater was to be depicted, by the leading figures of science and medicine, as unsuitable for the nuclear-age Presidency, unthinkable for managing the dangerous standoff between the Unlted States and the Soviet Union. Scientists who created the bomb would P9 the prime witnesses against him. The bomb was the central issue: other Issues were allowed but must be secondary. The organization was to serve 35 a nonpartisan haven for Republicans opposed to Goldwater as Well as for / 154 / Chapter 10 traditional Democrats and the politically unaffiliated. They were united in opposition to Goldwater’s nuclear stance; on social and economic issues, differences existed—but why bring them up? Along with the defeat of Gold- water, more money for science was a common goal of the diverse member- ship. But the topic of science support looked too self-serving and received only minor attention during the campaign. Scientists and Engineers for Johnson-Humphrey arose as an “anti” campaign inspired by the nuclear rattlings of a particular candidate, and far less so by affection for Lyndon Johnson. It was a political freak, from its birth to its method of finance and its commitment to disband on election day.» In a widely distributed booklet, The Alternative Is Frightening, the new organization described itself as dissociated from the political system: "Since we are fully bipartisan and selfisupporting [original italics], membership im- plies no permanent political affiliation." Apart from the small startup fund provided by the national campaign organization, Scientists and Engineers for Johnson-Humphrey was to be self-financing and thus independent of the Democratic party organization. However, through Donald and Diana MacArthur, these election campaigners held privileged access to the White House. Five weeks before election day, President Johnson met with a group of prominent scientists, engineers, and physicians invited to the White House by Donald MacArthur. MacArthur’s telegraphed invitation stated that the group "will express to the President our conviction that the contin- uance of enlightened policies of this and previous administrations is essen— tial for future welfare of nation." In a rare departure from the nuclear em- phasis, the invitation added, "Means for strengthening national programs in science, technology, and health will be discussed." News of the Washington mobilization quickly spread throughout the . country, stimulating cash contributions and the establishment of local Chapters of Scientists and Engineers for Johnson-Humphrey. In a hectic, exhilarating campaign that reached into all but two 'or three states, the orga- nization enrolled more than 50,000 scientist and engineer members, raised some $500,000, and wrote and ran more than 100 newspaper advertise- ments and 3,000 spot radio announcements. With its members aroused by their common aversion to the Goldwater candidacy, academic decorum took a campaign holiday. In a letter to colleagues and former students, twenty—five faculty members of the Harvard Chemistry Department de- nounced Goldwater and his running mate, Congressman William Miller, of New York, as unfit for the presidency. Describing themselves as "conser- vative through liberal, Republican, independent and Democratic,” the Har- vard chemists declared: "We are convinced that our country would be pre- I Detourinto Politics ' l 155 I sented with the clear prospect of disaster in the domain of foreign relations, and grave setbacks in economic, social, technological and political progress at home, under an administration led by these men.” In a Widely broadcast radio roundtable, a team of prominent figures in science and medicine gravely expressed their fears of the Republican can- didate. Somberly introducing his colleagues, moderator Herbert York, a nuclear—weapons designer, said, "During the Eisenhower administration, 'I was director of Defense Research and Engineering. Here with me are men from science, engineering and medicine." York’s manner suggested the per- formance of an unpleasant but necessary task. Pointing out that the broadcast participants included Republicans and Democrats, York observed that “we scientists and engineers are supposed to represent the so-called. non-political community in America. Usually, professors, scientists, physicians, engineers do not take very active roles in political campaigns. . . . But this time, we're involved in grass-roots political activity, because this time it’s different. ” York declared nuclear responsibil- ity as the theme of the discussion, noting that "we've helped develop the power that could destroy mankind. We have worked to build this power to insure our national security, and national security in every sense is our deepest concern." . The radio show, hurriedly assembled, seemed to go off the track when . the first speaker introduced by York, America's beloved children's doctor, Benjamin Spock, addressed his own concem of the moment, government support of education. "PresidentJohnson has backed education to the hilt, ” Spock declared, asserting that Goldwater “voted against aid to elementary education, aid to vocational education, aid to college education, aid to med- ical and dental students.”2 The radio roundtable quickly returned to the nuclear issue with the introduction of George Kistiakowsky, of Harvard, a key scientific leader in building the bomb during World War II. With a Russian accent and precise command of English, Kistiakowsky was an imposing radio performer. "George," said moderator York, “you and I worked very hard and faithfully for President Eisenhower during his administration. Can you tell us why so many Republicans are involved in behalf of President Johnson in this campaign?” 2. With Spock's pronouncement, according to popular newspaper columnist Inez Robb, "all hope oozed away from the Republican candidate. . . . Millions of American moth- ers and grandmothers in the United States would as soon question Dr. Spock as they would holy writ." Quoted in Thebdore H. White, The Making of the President 1964 (Atheneum, 1965), p. 352.. / 156 / Chapter‘io Kistiakowsky responded that Goldwater’s nuclear positions "would produce a great discontinuity, a critical break in policies successfully prose- cuted by Presidents of both parties during the last 30 years. . . . he is outside the mainstream of responsible American thinking and is clearly unqualified ' to be trusted with the great poems of the Presidency." The pounding of Goldwater by the creators of the bomb and the man- agers of national security went on. Cataloging major increases in U.S. mili— tary capabilities, Admiral W.F. Raborn, introduced as the mastermind of the Polaris submarine missile system, said Goldwater’s proposalsfor a further military buildup "don’t make sense.” Pointing out that "I know both the good Senator and President Johnson personally,” the admiral counseled that Goldwater is “just not smart enough to be the President of the United States”——to which York appended, “I’m afraid I feel the same way." Nobel laureate Harold Urey, also a scientific alumnus of the Manhattan Project, said he perceived Goldwater as "a blustery, threatening man, who talks of- ten without thinking, shoots from the hip, as they say. This frightens me [and] I fear it might frighten the USSR. And if they become frightened, I think their reaction would be to build up an aggressive group in the USSR, ‘ which is exactly what we don’t want. We would like to get along with these people.” Turning to Jerome Wiesner, whom he introduced as having "worked very closely with Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, ” York asked, "What are your observations of the way President Johnson understands and takes into account the role of science and engineering and technology in the modern world?” Recalling Johnson’s assumption of the presidency “in those sad days last fall” when Kennedy was assassinated, Wiesner extolled r’his clear, almost intuitive understanding of the great problems of Security and peace, and of the opportunity science has created to build a better soci~ ety here at home." Goldwater, Wiesner said, opposed arms control "and he’s even said that he expects that there will be a nuclear war." The broad- cast participants continued their denunciations of Goldwater. "I’ve heard some say that Goldwater is bold, " Kistiakowsky stated, “but to me, his views are simply rash and primitive." Noting that Goldwater opposed the nuclear test-ban treaty, Kistiakowsky added, “My former boss, President Eisen- hower, supported the treaty . . . as a first and limited but very important step toward reducing the possibility of nuclear war. The choice which Senator Goldwater advocated was hollow and destructive." ln clear, direct language ‘ without innuendo or subtlety, the makers of the bomb, joined by a leading military man and America’s revered pediatrician, savaged Goldwater be- ' yond political repair. Detour into Politics 6??“ I 157 / The Goldwater campaign initially followed the brain-trust model, an- nouncing the appointment of a Goldwater task force on space, science, and the atom. But outwitted and outgunned by the scientists’ surprisingly ag- gressive campaign for Johnson, it responded with a copycat organization, Scientists and Engineers for Goldwater, a feeble effort that made no mark on the campaign. Denounced by the superstars of science and medicine, Goldwater was indelibly tarred as an irresponsible nuclear cowboy. “My candidate had been branded a bomb-dropper,” said Denison Kitchel, Gold- water’s campaign chief and long-time‘confidante, "and I couldn’t figure out how to lick it. And the advertising people, people-who could sell anything, toothpaste or soap or automobiles—when it came to a political question like this, they couldn’t offer anything either.” Scientists thus contributed to the avalanche that buried Goldwater and kept Johnson in theWhite House, by more than 61 percent of the popular vote. ' RETURN or AN ANCIENT Issue In their public pronouncements, the rival party organizations in the 1964 presidential campaign were indistinguishable in support of govern.- ment support of basic research as essential to national security and well- being. But they split along an old fault line in American politics: the issue of the proper role of government in promoting industrial technology and innovation, a division dating back to Alexander Hamilton's advocacy of ‘ government support for industrial development and Thomas Jefferson‘s agrarian preferences. As noted previously, with his focus on basic research, Vannevar Bush, in Science, The Endless Frontier, discreetly skirted the politi- cally volatile issue of direct: government assistance for industrial research by merely nodding to "research clinics" for business firms as “certainly wor- thy of further study” (see chapter 3). Starting in 1961, the Kennedy administration, in a characteristically interventionist gambit, sought to create a civilian industrial technology program, aimed at pumping research funds into nonmilitary industry. Wiesner and other scientists high in the administration, and later in the 1964 presidential campaign, were the principal architects of Kennedy’s industrial-technology plan. Congressional Republicans, joined by conser- vative Democrats, rejected it as unneeded, wasteful, and inappropriate for government. Now the 1964 Democratic campaign, in a statement drafted 3. lbld. / 158 / Chapter 10 with the assistance of Scientists and Engineers for Johnson—Humphrey, en- dorsed the program, calling for the establishment of university—based "in- dustrial clinics” to "serve the plurality of industrial needs in different re. gions of the United States." Scientists and Engineers for Goldwater-Miller countered that "government should confine its major research activities to projects which private industry cannot be reasonably expected to under- take." Thirty years later, virtually the same ideological dialogue, conducted along the same party lines, resumed between President Bill Clinton and resurgent Republicans led by Newt Gingrich. CHEERS, AND MISGIVINGS Scientists and Engineers forJohnson-Humphrey won rave notices from Democratic campaign professionals. After the election, the organization’s impact was summed up by David Garth, the political professional who counseled the scientists’ campaign: "By the time we were through, any guy in Pittsburgh in a T—shirt with a can of beer in his hand knew that the smart- est people in this country considered Goldwater unfit." The adulation was seconded by the campaign-chronicling Theodore H. White. Scientists and Engineers for Johnson-Humphrey "operated so effectively,” he reported, " as to lead many of the slide~rule thinkers to wonder whether they might not permanently enter politics and change them—a problem to be considered in future campaigns!” However, it was evident that the scientists' unprece- dented political rcimp left serious misgivings in some of them. Even among scientists alarmed by Goldwater's nuclear rhetoric, science’s- turn to overt partisan politics was troublesome and unacceptable, despite the campaign’s repeated avowals of political purity. The concern was reflected in a little- noticed effort during the 1964 campaign by scientists seeking to reconcile organized electoral participation with nonpartisanship. They formed a po- litically neutral organization, the Scientists Committee for Information. Chaired by Edward l... Tatum, a Nobel laureate at the Rockefeller Institute, the committee offered itself as a resource for providing "impartial and accu- rate information" on scientific issues arising during the campaign. In the clamor of the Johnson-Goldwater campaign, the offer of untainted infor- mation attracted little attention. After its political debut in 1964, science demobilized and never again returned to national politics on a significant scale. Here and there, politi- 4. lbid. Detourinto Politics 7 l 159 / cal efforts sprouted, in behalf of one of the rare congressional candidates with professional scientific credentials, or for a politically threatened legis- lator who had been especially supportive of‘science. After the Johnson- Goldwatercontest, science’s reversion to its apolitical tradition in national elections can be attributed, in part, to the absence of a serious candidate with the fearsome qualities of Barry Goldwater. But another factor was at work, too: misgivings among scientists about the propriety of science en- gaging in partisan politics. Was it right to entangle science, an enterprise dedicated to truth-seeking, in the messy business of politics? And would partisan political involvement undermine the sciences’ ability to maintain independence while prospering on government funds? Skeptics might say that, given the Cold War financial underpinnings of major stretches of American science, both concerns were based in idealistic misperceptions, or self-delusion, about the true relationship between sci- ence and politics. The concerns, nonetheless, were strongly felt and were in fact based on accurate perceptions of changes in the growth patterns in government support of science during the 19605. The nonmilitary sector, in which science was jealously managed by civilian scientists, was growing rapidly, both in dollars and as a proportion of the natiOn’s research activi- ties. In 1960, when federal support for research and development stood at $7.5 billion, the Defense Department received $5.7 billion, 76 percent of the total. By 1968, when federal support of R8rD had approximately dou- bled, to $15.9 billion, the Pentagon’s share had also grown, to $7.7 billion; but in percentage terms, it had declined sharply, to 48 percent of the total. Nearly quadrupling during those years were the budgets of the federal gov- ernment's two major civilian financiers of academic science: the National Science Foundation, whose funding rose from $75 million to $284 million, and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (home of the Na- tional Institutes of Health), whose budget rose from $320 million to $1.2 billion.5 The rapid growth of the officially civilian NASA, in Cold War com- petition with the Soviets, helped produce the near balance in government spending on civilian and military research in 1968. Apart from space, civil- ian research still trailed the military by far, but the trends were favorable for increased funding. And, except for the singular political extravaganza of 1964, spending had increased without science demonstrating political strength, either on big national issues or the narrow, but heartfelt, issue of money for research. Washington was increasingly attentive to the needs of 5. Indicators 1976 (NSF 77-1), p. 227. x 160 / Chapterlo science, even before science established or reinforced its capital—cityout- posts to campaign for more. ThOugh inspired by the alarming nature of the Goldwater candidacy, the venture of scientists into electoral politics remained troubling even among the organizers of Scientists and Engineers for Johnson-Humphrey In an interview with me in 1965, Jerome Wiesner said, “I certainly opposel very much, the continuation of the organization in any form." Wiesner, who had returned to MIT after serving briefly in the Johnson White Home, added, "I think it would be wrong to set up an organization to be a lobby for scientists and engineers. You have a competition with all the other orga. nizations, including the AAAS [American Association for the Advancement of Science] and various other organizations. Secondly, it couldn’t be a very effective organization, just by its very composition." Referring to the Johnson-Humphrey organization, Wiesner emphasized, "It was bipartisan, deliberately bipartisan." As the 1968 presidential campaign approached, doubts about the wis. dom of science again going political were restated by Philip Handler, a prominent figure in science and government affairs who chaired the Duke . University School of Medicine Department of Biochemistry. In 1964, while serving as vice chair of the National Science Board and as a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee, Handler headed the North Caro- lina chapter of Scientists and Engineers for Johnson-Humphrey. Like many other scientists in the 1964 campaign, Handler bridged science and politics. Four years later, he was appointed chair of the National Science Board and was elected president of the National Academy of Sciencesgln 1968, as the Democratic party split over the Vietnam War, Handler expressed support for the mainline candidacy of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who faced the insurgent candidacy of Senator Eugene McCarthy in primary elections for the Democratic presidential nomination. In the spring of 1968, Handler was inclined toward another go for scientists in politics. As he later ac- knowledged, in describing his initial response to an approach by a member of Humphrey's staff, "I happily agreed to his invitation to be among a small group of scientists, physicians, and engineers who would organize to sup- port Mr. Humphrey." A few weeks later, however, Handler reversed course, taking himself out of politics and urging the scientific community to follow his example. Explaining his turnabout in a letter to the Humphrey staff, Handlfl warned that "the organization of partisan groups of scientists supporting individual candidates for high political office threatens to generate serious rifts in the scientific community, ’dividing the house' as it were, Whereas Detour into Politics . / 161 I the iSSues that separate them are entirely external to science itself and in- deed to the application of scientificsolutions to the problems of our na~ flan," Handler added that if scientists organized and joined in partisan poli- tics, "it is inevitable that national attitudes and federal support for science must also come to involve political considerations. Appointments of scien- tists to administrative posts in science-using agencies and appropriations for federal support of science will surely be influenced by the political activi- ties at those concerned.” He noted, too, that, as chair of the board presiding over the National Science Foundation, "it would be particularly inappropri- ate for me to be associated with the formation of Scientists, Engineers, and Physicians for any candidate. The National Science Foundation," he as— serted, "is essentially non-political. It would be a disservice to the Nation for me to jeopardize, in any way, the future of this agency by personally engaging in partisan politics on the national scene."6 Both camps of the 1968 presidential campaign—"Humphrey versus Nixon—recruited and advertised lists of supportive scientists and associated professionals. However, these efforts, along the old showcase style, never came close to the scale and vigor of the anti-Goldwater campaign-"though not for lack of interest on the part of Donald MacArthur, the organizer of the scientists’ 1964 political debut. ANOTHER TRY AT POLITICS Following Johnson's landslide election in 1964, MacArthur was ap- pointed to. a senior research post at the Pentagon. As deputy director of research and engineering, he still kept watch on political sentiments in the scientific cormnunity. The topic was of increasing concern to Uncle Lyndon as opposition to the Vietnam War grew on university campuses. In the fall of 1967, Johnson, or possibly an aide, asked MacArthur to' assess a report in Scienm that Johnson’s 1964 scientific supporters had turned against him because of the Vietnam War. MacArthur responded with a candidly pessi- mistic memo to the president, dated-November 1, 1967, four months prior :pJohnson’s unexpected announcement that he would not run for reelec- on. The Science article, MacArthur advised the president, "is a fair represen- 6. Science, July 12., 1968. 7- MacArthur’s response and other correspondence between him and the White House were in the trove of his personal papers that his widow Diana M ' , acArth made available to me for this book . “I. kmcny / 162 / Chapterm tation of the mood of the scientific community. In fact, based on many conversations over the last couple of months, the ‘defection’ may be some- what greater than the article implies, especially in the academic commu_ nity.” Vietnam was the source of disaffection, MacArthur told J ohnson, ob_ scuring approval of "what you have done On the domestic front f0I education, civil rights, war on poverty, health and transportation," MacAr_ thur then offered a shrewd dissection of the ideological composition of the "community"—distinguishing among scientists, engineers, and medical re. searchers: Scientists, particularly in the academic world, are the most critical. They have "defected" in large numbers and tend to focus on Vietnam related to issues such as domestic spending constraints. Engineers tend to be more conservative, and generally would tend to support the Administra- tion, even with increased escalation in Vietnam. They are not too con- cerned about the domestic and international implications of Vietnam policies. The medical research community is quite mixed; some, who are sensitive to foreign affairs matters, are quite critical; others are apathetic; many are happy with federal funding for health research and are not concerned with Vietnam at all. Because of Vietnam concerns, it would probably not be possible today [original italics] to form a scientific and engineering political coalition with as broad a base as we did in 1964. THE “THREE MOST INFLUENTIAL" SCIENTISTS Proceeding to political tactics, MacArthur urged Johnson to "enlist the support of the three most influential leaders in the scientific community”— Detlev Bronk, president of Rockefeller University; Wiesner, recently ap- pointed provost of MIT, and Kistiakowsky, of Harvard—why inviting them “to an informal meeting to discuss the Vietnam issue. They recognize you have a tough problem. Let them discuss their anxieties, their fears, and their ideas about Vietnam.” MacArthur also advised Johnson to commission lthiel de Sola Pool, professor of political science at MIT, to "conduct a pri- vate opinion poll of the scientific, engineering and medical community across the country" to obtain "a more precise reading, on a more compre— hensive scale, of those aspects of the administration’s policies that the sci- entists and engineers across the country dislike.” De Sola Pool, he assured the president, "is completely trustworthy and has worked very successfully for the Department of Defense in Vietnam, and is an expert in opinion polls.” Johnson did not act on MacArthur’s recommended meeting with detour into-Politics / 163 / the three pillars of American science, or on the suggested poll. It is even doubtful that MacArthur's memo reached; the beleaguered president. on January 15, 1968, MacArthur sent Johnson a follow-up memo, based, he wrote, on a conversation with Wiesner: "He has made it clear to me, and I gathered that he wished that I would inform you, that he is a continuing supporter of the Johnson administration” [original italics]. MacAr— thur wrote that Wiesner was "concerned that his name may be incorrectly associated" with scientists backing Senator Eugene McCarthy’s challenge to Johnson in the Democratic'presidential primary in Massachusetts. He again urgedJohnson to meet with Br‘onk, Wiesner and Kistiakowsky, stating "it should be possible for a' third party to arrange to have them request the meeting," and assuring Johnsdn that "these three men, in my opinion, would be discreet about such a meeting." A note by W. Marvin Watson, special assistant to the president, merely acknowledged receipt of MacArthur’s renewed urging for Johnson to reach out to the three scientific leaders. Three weeks later, in a letter to Watson, MacArthur again appealed for Johnson to meet "with the three 'statesmen’ of the scientific community if he wants to keep open the option of retaining their support this year." He noted that Wiesner had recently returned from Moscow, where he had discussed anus-control issues and Vietnam with sci- entists whom Aleksei Kosygin, the Soviet president, "calls upon for advice." Johnson, MacArthur suggested, "could ask Wiesner to talk to him on what he thought the attitude of the Russians was on these issues.” A few days later, Watson responded to MacArthur with a “Dear Don” note concerning the proposed meeting with Wiesner: "We appreciate very much your inter- est in suggesting this but it just isn’t feasibie to work out anything at this time." The political mobilization of science occurred in special circumstances and was disbanded as quickly as it arose. But it added to an accumulation of ill will that cost science dearly inthe presidency of Richard Nixon. The ‘ experience left an enduring impression on the politics of science, affecting how scientists deal with Washington in their quest for money and influ' encewand how Washington responds. . ...
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