Edmund Muskie

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The Honorable
Edmund Muskie
Edmund Muskie.jpg
58th United States Secretary of State
In office
May 8, 1980 – January 20, 1981
President Jimmy Carter
Deputy Warren Christopher
Preceded by Cyrus Vance
Succeeded by Alexander Haig
United States Senator
from Maine
In office
January 3, 1959 – May 7, 1980
Preceded by Frederick Payne
Succeeded by George J. Mitchell
64th Governor of Maine
In office
January 5, 1955 – January 2, 1959
Preceded by Burton M. Cross
Succeeded by Robert N. Haskell
Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on the Budget
In office
January 3, 1975 – May 8, 1980
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Fritz Hollings
Personal details
Born Edmund Sixtus Muskie
(1914-03-28)March 28, 1914
Rumford, Maine, United States
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Washington, D.C., United States
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery Arlington, Virginia
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jane Gray Muskie (1927-2004)
Children 5
Alma mater Bates College (B.A.)
Cornell Law School (LL.B.)
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholicism[citation needed]
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1942–1945
Rank Lieutenant
Battles/wars World War II

Edmund Sixtus "Ed" Muskie (March 28, 1914 – March 26, 1996) was an American politician from Rumford, Maine. He served as Governor of Maine from 1955 to 1959, as a member of the United States Senate from 1959 to 1980, and as Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter from 1980 to 1981. Muskie was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in the 1968 presidential election, and was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972.

Muskie held the highest office (Secretary of State) by a Polish American in U.S. history, and also is the only Polish American ever nominated by a major party for Vice President.


Early life

Muskie was born in Rumford, Maine. His father, Stephen Marciszewski (mar-chih-SHEF-ski) immigrated to the United States in 1903 from Poland and changed his name to Muskie. His mother, Josephine (née Czarnecki), was born in Buffalo, New York, to Polish immigrants. His parents, Roman Catholics, had seven children, of whom six survived.

Muskie attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, where he majored in history and government. While at Bates, Muskie was a successful member of the debating team, participated in several sports, and was elected to student government. He also worked during the school year as a waiter, and during the summers at a hotel in Kennebunk, Maine, to supplement the scholarship that allowed him to attend the college. He graduated from Bates in 1936, and from Cornell Law School in 1939.

During World War II, Muskie served in the United States Navy, rising to the rank of lieutenant. After the war, he opened a private law practice in Waterville, Maine, and married Jane Gray.[1]

Career in Maine

After the war, he was instrumental in building up the Democratic Party in Maine. Maine had traditionally been a strongly Republican state, notable for being, with Vermont, one of the only two states that Alf Landon carried against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.

Muskie ran in the 1947 election to become mayor of Waterville, Maine, but was unsuccessful.[2] He served in the Maine House of Representatives before being elected governor in 1954.

National career

In the Senate election in 1958, Muskie won 60 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Republican Senator Frederick G. Payne, who received 39 percent of the vote. Muskie was reelected in 1964, 1970 and 1976, each time with over 60 percent of the vote. Muskie was one of the first environmentalists to enter the Senate, and was a leading campaigner for new and stronger measures to curb pollution and provide a cleaner environment.

In 1968, Muskie was nominated for Vice President on the Democratic ticket with sitting Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The Humphrey-Muskie campaign lost the election to Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. Humphrey and Muskie received 42.72 percent of the popular vote and carried 13 states and 191 electoral votes; Nixon and Agnew won 43.42 percent of the popular vote and carried 32 states and 301 electoral votes, while the third party ticket of George Wallace and Curtis LeMay, running as candidates of the American Independent Party, took 13.53 percent of the popular vote and took five states in the Deep South and their 46 votes in the electoral college. Because of Agnew's apparent weakness as a candidate relative to Muskie, Humphrey was heard to remark that voters' uncertainties about whom to choose between the two major presidential candidates should be resolved by their attitudes toward the Vice-Presidential candidates.[3]

Continuing his career in the Senate, Muskie served as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee through the Ninety-third to the Ninety-sixth Congresses in 1973–80.

In 1970, the Maine senator was chosen to articulate the Democratic party's message to congressional voters before the midterm elections. Muskie's national stature was raised as a major candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. In 1973, he gave the Democratic response to Nixon's State of the Union address.[4]

Muskie was known by aides for having a hot temper.[5]

Presidential candidate

Before the 1972 election, Muskie was viewed as a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. In August 1971 Harris polling amid a growing economic crisis, Muskie came out on top of incumbent Nixon if the election had been held that day.[6] The nation was at war in Vietnam and President Richard Nixon's war policies (and foreign policy, more generally) promised to be a major issue in the campaign.[3]

The 1972 Iowa caucuses, however, significantly altered the race for the presidential nomination. Senator George McGovern from South Dakota, initially a dark horse candidate, made a strong showing in the caucuses which gave his campaign national attention. Although Muskie won the Iowa caucuses, McGovern's campaign left Iowa with momentum. Muskie himself had never participated in a primary election campaign, and it is possible that this led to the downfall of his campaign. Although Muskie went on to win the New Hampshire primary, the victory was by only a small margin, and his campaign faltered.[3]

The collapse of Muskie's momentum early in the 1972 campaign is also attributed to his response to campaign attacks. Acclaimed author Hunter S. Thompson is credited for starting a rumor that Muskie was addicted to a drug called Ibogaine, which dealt a surprising amount of damage to Muskie's reputation. Prior to the New Hampshire primary, the so-called "Canuck letter" was published in the Manchester Union-Leader. The letter claimed that Muskie had made disparaging remarks about French-Canadians – a remark likely to injure Muskie's support among the French-American population in northern New England. Subsequently, the paper published an attack on the character of Muskie's wife Jane, reporting that she drank and used off-color language during the campaign. Muskie made an emotional defense of his wife in a speech outside the newspaper's offices during a snowstorm. Though Muskie later stated that what had appeared to the press as tears were actually melted snowflakes, the press reported that Muskie broke down and cried, shattering the candidate's image as calm and reasoned.[7]

Evidence later came to light during the Watergate scandal investigation that, during the 1972 presidential campaign, the Nixon campaign committee maintained a "dirty tricks" unit focused on discrediting Nixon's strongest challengers. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigators revealed that the Canuck Letter was a forged document as part of the dirty-tricks campaign against Democrats orchestrated by the Nixon campaign.[8]

Secretary of State

Muskie as Secretary of State

Muskie returned to serve in the Senate, where he served as the first chairman of the new Senate Budget Committee starting in 1974. In 1980, he was tapped by President Jimmy Carter to serve as Secretary of State, following the resignation of Cyrus Vance. Vance had opposed Operation Eagle Claw, a secret rescue mission intended to rescue American hostages held by Iran. After that mission failed with the loss of eight U.S. servicemen, Vance resigned.

There was a short-lived "draft Muskie" movement in the summer of 1980 that was seen as a favorable alternative to a deadlocked convention. One poll showed that Muskie would be a more popular alternative to Carter than Kennedy, implying that the attraction was not so much to Kennedy as to the fact that he was not Carter. Muskie was polling even with Ronald Reagan at the time, while Carter was seven points down.[9] The underground draft campaign failed but became a political legend.[10]

Muskie attempted to bring the hostages home by diplomatic means, appealing to the United Nations and Iran. Muskie left public office following Carter's loss of the 1980 presidential election to Ronald Reagan, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Carter on January 16, 1981.

Retirement and death

Memorial to Edmund Muskie in his birthplace, Rumford, Maine.

Muskie retired to his home in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1981. He continued to work as a lawyer for some years. In 1987, as an elder statesman, Muskie was appointed a member of the President's Special Review Board known as the "Tower Commission" to investigate President Ronald Reagan's administration's role in the Iran-Contra affair.

Muskie died in Washington, D.C., of congestive heart failure in 1996, two days shy of his 82nd birthday. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Muskie's papers[11] are kept at the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library[12] at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.

Electoral history

See also


  1. "[1]" Jane Muskie listed Edmund's favorite home-cooked recipe as Maine Baked Stuffed Lobster, to no one's surprise.
  2. "Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection", Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College, May 25, 2006.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Nixon, Richard. RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon.
  4. Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 47. ISBN 0-465-04195-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Apple, R.W. (March 27, 1996). "Edmund S. Muskie, 81, Dies; Maine Senator and a Power on the National Scene". New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 298. ISBN 0-465-04195-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Remembering Ed Muskie", Online NewsHour, PBS, March 26, 1996.
  8. Theodore White, The Making of the President, 1972.
  9. "Clinton Campaign Reminiscent of 1980 Race", The CBS News.
  10. "Steenland: Odd man out?", The Star Tribune.
  11. http://abacus.bates.edu/muskie-archives/EADFindingAids/MC105.html
  12. http://abacus.bates.edu/Library/aboutladd/departments/special/

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Burton M. Cross
Governor of Maine
Succeeded by
Robert N. Haskell
New title
Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee
Succeeded by
Fritz Hollings
Preceded by
Cyrus Vance
U.S. Secretary of State
Served under: Jimmy Carter

May 8, 1980 – January 18, 1981
Succeeded by
Alexander M. Haig
United States Senate
Preceded by
Frederick Payne
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Maine
Served alongside: Margaret Chase Smith, William Hathaway, William Cohen
Succeeded by
George Mitchell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Hubert Humphrey
Democratic vice presidential nominee
Succeeded by
Thomas Eagleton,
Sargent Shriver (1)
Notes and references
1. Thomas Eagleton was the original Vice Presidential nominee in 1972. He withdrew from the race and was replaced by Sargent Shriver.