Hubert Humphrey - The Vice Presidency (1965-1969)

The Vice Presidency (1965-1969)

Humphrey took office on January 20, 1965. He was an early skeptic of the-then growing conflict in Vietnam. Following a successful Vietcong hit and run attack on the US installations at Pleiku on February 7, 1965 (where 7 Americans were killed and 109 wounded), Humphrey returned from Georgia to Washington D.C., to attempt to prevent further escalation.He told President Johnson that bombing North Vietnam was not a solution to the problems in South Vietnam, but bombing would require the injection of US troops to protect the airbases. Presciently, he noted that a military solution in Vietnam would take years, well beyond the next election cycle. President Johnson punished him with coldness and a restriction from the inner circle for a number of months, until he decided to "get back on the team."


As Vice President, Humphrey was controversial for his complete and vocal loyalty to Johnson and the policies of the Johnson Administration, even as many of Humphrey's liberal admirers opposed Johnson with increasing fervor with respect to Johnson's policies during the war in Vietnam. Many of Humphrey's liberal friends and allies over the years abandoned him because of his refusal to publicly criticize Johnson's Vietnam War policies. Humphrey's critics later learned that Johnson had threatened Humphrey – Johnson told Humphrey that if he publicly opposed his Administration's Vietnam War policy, he would destroy Humphrey's chances to become President by opposing his nomination at the next Democratic Convention. However, Humphrey's critics were vocal and persistent: even his nickname, the Happy Warrior, was used against him. The nickname referred not to his military hawkishness but rather to his crusading for social welfare and civil rights programs.

While he was Vice President, Hubert Humphrey was the subject of a satirical song by songwriter/musician Tom Lehrer entitled "Whatever Became of Hubert?" The song addressed how some liberals and progressives felt let down by Humphrey, who had become a much more mute figure as Vice President than he had been as a senator. The song goes "Whatever became of Hubert? Has anyone heard a thing? Once he shone on his own, now he sits home alone and waits for the phone to ring. Once a fiery liberal spirit, ah, but now when he speaks he must clear it. ..."

During these years Humphrey was a repeated and favorite guest of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. He also struck up a friendship with Frank Sinatra that would endure Sinatra's early 1970s conversion to the Republican party and was perhaps most on notice in the fall of 1977 when Sinatra was the star attraction and host of a tribute to a then-ailing Humphrey. He also appeared on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast in 1973.

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