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Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.: The WASP's WASP

President John F. Kennedy & Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (1961)
President John F. Kennedy & Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (1961)
White House

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. served as a United States Senator from Massachusetts, the Ambasasor to the United Nations, and the United States Ambassador to South Vietnam during a long and varied political career that included a run for the office of Vice President of the United States as the running mate of Richard Nixon, the nemesis of John F. Kennedy, the man who won Lodge's Senate seat.

The second Massachusetts senator to be named Henry Cabot Lodge was born one day after Independence Day 1902 into one of the most prestigious families in America, a High WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) patrician papoose with the proverbial silver spoon clenched in his mouth. His grandfather, the first Henry Cabot Lodge, was a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts from 1887 to 1893, when he was elevated by the General Court (Legislature) to serve as one of Massachusetts' federal senators. (U.S. Senators first became elected by popular suffrage in 1912).

The first Henry Cabot Lodge served in the Senate from 1893 to 1924.

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.'s great-great-great grandfather also was a federal Senator from Massachusetts: George Cabot served as a Pro-Administration Federalist from March 4, 1791 to June 9, 1796, when he resigned. Finally, Cabot Lodge, Jr.'s great-great grandfather John Davis was a two-term Governor of Massachusetts (1834-1835, 1841-1843), as a Whig. (His younger brother John Lodge, after giving up the vagabond life of an actor, was a U.S. Congressman from Connecticut from 1947-1950, the Governor of Connecticut from 1951-55, and served as the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, Spain and Switzerland, as well as a delegate to the United Nations.)

Whiggery gave way to the Republican Party of former Whig Congressman Abraham Lincoln, and both Henry Cabot Lodges served in the U.S. Senate as Republicans, the Party of the WASP elite and Eastern Establishment. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1936 and reelected in 1942. He served in the U.S. Senate until 1944, when he resigned to go on active duty with the U.S. Army during World War II, becoming the first senator to do so since the 1861-65 War of the Rebellion (now know as the U.S. Civil War but contemporaneously derided as "Mr. Lincoln's War").

President Roosevelt had demanded that Senators and Congressmen serving in the military during World War II resign their seats or their commissions. Lodge decided to resign his Senate seat and retain his Army commission.

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. served with distinction, and obtained the rank of lieutenant colonel before being demobilized. After returning to civilian life, he was elected to Massachusetts' other seat in the U.S. Senate in 1946. He served until January 1953, having been beaten in his bid for a fourth term by Congressman John F. Kennedy in the November 1952 elections, which nationwide, had proven a bonanza for Republican candidates holding on to the coat-tails of GOP Presidential nominee Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Defeated by JFK: Part I

Ike racked up a landslide victory over Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson. The Democrats lost their control of the Senate to the Republicans, despite the defeat of Lodge and three other incumbent Republican Senators. The victory over lodge was relished by the Irish-American John F. Kennedy, whose father Joseph P. Kennedy had been shunned by the Boston Establishment that the first Henry Cabot Lodge and his grandson, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. epitomized.

Initially, Lodge had led Kennedy in the polls, but the Kennedy family managed a masterful campaign that chipped away at his lead until finally, they were in a dead heat. The Republican Party urged Senator Joseph McCarthy, a fellow Irish American, to go to Massachusetts and campaign for Lodge. Joe McCarthy, who headed the anti-communist witchhunt and backlash against the New Deal and Fair Deal of Democratic Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman, was the biggest star in the Republican Party and had a broad appeal among Irish Catholics, including those in Massachusetts.

Joe McCarthy refused to campaign for Lodge, however. JFK's father, old Joe Kennedy, had contributed $5,000 to his Senate campaign (approximately $40,000 in 2009 dollars). He also felt a kinship with the Kennedys, who were associated with the conservative wing of the Democratic Party at the time. (McCarthy, like Lodge, was up for reelection in '52. Unlike the Massachusetts Senator, he won his election.)

Many observers felt that if McCarthy had campaigned for Henry Cabot Lodge in Massachusetts, it would have tipped the scales as it would have siphoned off support from the Irish-American community for JFK. He did not, and John F. Kennedy was on his way to the U.S. Senate and, ultimately, the White House. (The two would encounter each other at the polls eight years later.)

Defeated by JFK: Part II

Incoming Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Henry Lodge, Jr. Ambassador to the United Nations, where he served until 1960, resigning to serve as Richard Nixon's running mate in the 1960 Presidential sweepstakes. Lodge was picked by Nixon to balance a ticket headed by a Californian with a scion of the Establishment East. Nixon also was associated with the reactionary elements of the Republican Party, having made his name -- as had Joe McCarthy -- as a Red-baiting witch-hunter, while Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. was associated with the more moderate and progressive elements of the GOP.

The Nixon-Lodge ticket were matched by a ticket headed by John F. Kennedy and his running mate, Lyndon Johnson of Texas, the Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate. Once again, as in the 1952 Senate contest in Massachusetts, it was a tight race, but once again, JFK prevailed.

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.'s political career essentially was over after the GOP defeat of November 1960. His career as a statesman was to continue.

Ambassador Lodge

President John F. Kennedy appointed Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. to the difficult job of Ambassador to South Vietnam in 1963. In the Cold War period, foreign policy generally was a bi-partisan affair. Lodge was serving as Ambassador when ARVN (the Army of Vietnam) assassinated South Vietnamese President Dinh Diem Ngo on November 2, 1963 in a coup d'etat. Many believe that the coup was sanctioned by JFK and that Lodge played a significant role in making it happen.

In early 1964, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. surprised the Republican Party when, as a write-in candidate, he won the GOP primary in the neighboring state of New Hampshire. He defeated future Republican nominee Barry Goldwater, widely viewed as a reactionary who represented the anti-civil rights, anti-Big Government conservatives of the Sun Belt states.

The Goldwater faction were deeply resentful of the moderate Eastern Establishment represented by Lodge and Nelson Rockefeller, the other declared candidate Lodge defeated in the New Hampshire primary, an Establishment that eventually be would be repudiated by Ronald Reagan's 1980 Presidential victory and the realignment of the Republican Party towards the once-solidly Democratic South.

Lodge had not sanctioned the write-in campaign, nor was he interested in running for President. His candidacy faded, and the Republican Presidential nomination became a contest between Goldwater and Rockefeller, with Goldwater ultimately prevailing. In November 1964, Barry Goldwater suffered one of the most humilating defeats in the history of U.S. Presidential elections, when incumbent Lyndon Johnson won a then-record landslide victory in the polls.

President Johnson re-appointed Lodge as ambassador to South Vietnam in 1965, and subsequently Lodge served L.B.J. as Ambassador-at-Large from 1967-68 and as Ambassador to West Germany from 1968-69. After his old running mate Richard Nixon was finally elected president, Lodge was appointed in 1969 to serve as head of the American negotiating team at the Paris peace talks. Later, he served Nixon and President Gerald Ford as Special Envoy to the Vatican from 1970 to 1977. (The U.S. didn't have full diplomatic relations with the Holy See until the Reagan Administration, so Lodge essentially was the American ambassador to the Vatican.)

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. died on February 27, 1985 and was buried at the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.