Maggie and Scoop Partnership Meant The Best For Washington State

Here, the two "towers of power" raised cheers during the 1964 Democratic state convention. Photo Credit: Seattle Times.

Here, the two “towers of power” raised cheers during the 1964 Democratic state convention. Photo Credit: Seattle Times.

Historic Tidbit: One day, as Scoop Jackson was campaigning for President, the floor caved in. Jackson quipped that he was “standing on one of the planks of the Republican platform.”

By Scott Crass

In the Senate, many states have had colleagues that have served together for decades. In fact, in a chamber where 75 is considered young, it’s almost assured. But perhaps the most wondrous pair, and the couple that delivered the best of good government, were two Washingtonians. From the other Washington that is.

“Maggie and Scoop” (Warren Magnuson and Henry Jackson) were Senate colleagues for 28 years, longer than all but five delegation mates. Their longevity was such that their service in Congress overlapped with all five, though one pair, Iowa’s
Grassley and Harkin, were in the House during Magnuson’s Senate days. Others included Thurmond/Hollings of South Carolina (36 years), Eastland/Stennis of Mississippi(32 years) and McClellan/Fulbright of Arkansas, who clocked in at 30.

A Seattle Times article, “The Twin Towers of Power,” said the duo’s “names seem inseparable, as familiar and comfortable together as other famous pairs of the 1960′s, like Huntley and Brinkley, or even Batman and Robin.” “But their durability exceeded both. Combined, they had nearly 87 years in Congress. But to paraphrase the poem, “What about the Dash,” it’s not the dates that matter, it’s what they did with it. And for “Maggie and Scoop,” friend and foe alike (the latter of which there were few) could come up with a single word: indelible.

Nationally, the National Institute of Health, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Federal Lands for Parks and Recreation Act, and other laws that today are simple household terms, were all acts that either Magnuson, Jackson, or in some cases both (the National Health Services Corps) were not just Founding Fathers of, but the dominant creators. Regionally, their footprints on dams, facilities, and land has had a lasting effect on the economy.

Both pushed The National Health Services Corps, which allowed military doctors to fulfill a requirement in poor or rural areas. And when Hanford was threatened with cutbacks many times, the delegation’s heft not only left it untouched, but usually increased production.

Magnuson and Jackson’s partnership was so productive in part because of their friendship. Their similarities were many, but often, they complimented each other, even on personal qualities. Scoop would often ask Dr. Art Bergen, a prominent doctor and advisor, if he could “get Maggie to lose some weight? Magnuson would always say “when Scoop asks me to do something, I do it.” Both were bachelors until the 1960′s (though Magnuson had been married 30 years earlier), and as such, were prominent on the social circuit. Maggie was a man about town who embraced the nightlife. Jackson would often be seen out as well but, as a non-smoker and seldom drinker, would “hold a cup of wine at parties to not feel awkward. Maggie bemoaned the headlines, Scoop ran for President twice. And while Maggie was notorious for fluffing up names and phrases (he once called LBJ’s advisor Joe Califano “Joe Cauliflower”). Jackson, though not a compelling speaker, presented a statesmanlike stature.

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Photo from Historylink.org

There roots and practices were similar. Both were Scandinavian and poor. Both were retail politicians. Neither were publicity seekers, both loathe to wear their many accomplishments on their sleeves. Each had been their respective county prosecutors in the mid-30′s (Jackson Snohomish County, Magnuson in King). They were longtime powerhouses. Maggie chaired the Commerce Committee and later, Appropriations, while Jackson held the gavel at Interior, with a high ranking post on Armed Services. It was on those panels that the duo made their marks and their legacies – for themselves and for Washington. And for a still relatively young state, it was transformative, the likes of which no other state will see any time soon.

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University of Washington Special Collections

Warren Magnuson (1905-1989)

For those who consider LBJ the best-known wheeler&dealer, Magnuson must be considered a respectable second. And he liked it that way. It was he who spoke of “show horses and workhorses. Workhorses usually return,” he added. “The show horses run into trouble.” The AP upon his death noted that Magnuson “built a reputation as a potent yet genial wheeler-dealer who preferred to remain little-known, except by the voters back home who called him ”Maggie.’”

But shunning the limelight himself didn’t mean Magnuson wasn’t content to surround himself with public figures. While today, such antagonism exists between Presidents and appropriators that strong relationsips might be unheard of today. But Magnuson thrived on it. Known to set aside poker nights, he’d often play with both FDR and Truman. Kennedy came to Seattle for Magnuson’s 25th anniversary in office, and LBJ hosted a wedding reception at the White House.

Magnuson’s early tenure was tied to FDR. He won a House seat on his coattails in 1936 and made it to the Senate as he was winning his 4th term. But from then on, his record was his own. And it was a big one.

Washington’s Secretary of State Legacy History Makers Project lists a number of Magnuson’s accomplishment. The Commerce portion reads like a what’s what of consumer protection laws, and the appropriations encompass most of what modern day Washington is known for.

For those who have utilized the NIH, Magnuson is your Senator. If you or a family member have had to utilize the world-renowned cancer institute in Seattle, Magnuson made that happen. If you fly on Northwest Airlines, Magnuson helped make Seattle prominent. For the Safe Drinking Water Act, Fair Credit Advertising Act, Door to Door Sales Act, country of orgin labeling, food ingredient labeling, think Magnuson. For those who see or heed anti-smoking labels, Magnuson. Laws making sleep ware flame resistant, regulation of automobile safety, manufactures warranty enforcements, and safety standards for children’s toys. Those are just some laws Magnuson is credited with steering to passage.

His commitment to resources was also high. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act” (Stevens being another legendary Northwest Appropriator, Ted Stevens), governs fisheries. JFK joked Magnuson “sends messages to the rostrum, and when he is asked, ‘What is it?’ he replies, ‘It’s nothing important.’ And Grand Coulee Dam is built.” Development of the Columbia River Dams were part of Magnuson’s legacy, and a Magnuson biography says that in his first ten yeas of the Senate, 8 dams on the river were subsidized. Ditto with the development of the Hanford Facility. He used his influence to save the B-52 but, as one who was near told it,”Maggie never blew his horn.”

In terms of dollars, Magnuson was able to lure two World Fairs to Washington State, put in money for the tourist friendly Pike’s Peak, hatcheries, and in his last year in office, pushed through $1.2 billion in emergency disaster relief following the eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s. The Lower Snake (River) Conservation Program is his, as is the Puget Sound Nalal Shipyard.

In some cases, Magnuson gave Washingtonians more than they wanted. Federal funds for various Seattle transit projects were rejected by Seattle voters.

Beyond that, his advocacy for protecting Puget Sound was so strong that Governor Dixie Lee Ray, a fellow Democrat but one whose lifelong advocacy was for atomic energy, called Magnuson a “dictator” and once told an aide that he wasn’t “Jesus Christ.” Magnuson had slipped a prohibition on drilling in the sound on an Appropriations measure.

By Magnuson’s last term, he had secured the Appropriations gavel. Walter Mondale said he divided the loot “50-50. Half went to Washington State and half went to everyone else.” He was only half joking. It was said that one of every six dollars went to Washington State. That was not unlike the legacy of more nationally known chairs who succeeded him, Robert Byrd and Ted Stevens. Yet he also described himself as a taxpayers friend.

All of this activity would seem to get under someone’s skin, but Mike Mansfield said Magnuson didn’t “have an enemy on either side of the aisle,” a fact reflected by the fact that colleagues elected him President Pro-Tem in 1978. For years, that also seemed to be the case at home. His campaigns were effortless and he was usually assured of getting in the mid 60′s. But by 1980, things had changed. Diabetes gave Magnuson a slower gait and his hearing wasn’t great. His refusal to debate was more fodder for Republicans. But in perhaps the most cleaver ad all time, he said “so I don’t walk as fast as I used to. The meeting can’t start until I get there anyway.”

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Photo from Senators.org

In almost any other year, it may’ve been enough. But 1980 was Reagan’s year, and it helped Attorney General Slade Gorton unseat Magnuson 54-46%. One half of the Maggie-Scoop legacy was gone. Magnuson died in 1989.

But the other half was alive and continued to thrive and the love affair between Scoop Jackson and Evergreen State voters never diminished.

Henry “Scoop” Jackson (1912-1983)

Jackson may’ve been the original “New Democrat” before Bill Clinton made it cool. He advocated a muscular defense that previous Democratic Presidents had championed. His first campaign slogan for Congress, “Vote for a Man Who Has the Courage of his Convictions” may have governed his entire career.

Jackson’s election to the House at 28 made him it’s youngest member (upon his death, only he, Claude Pepper of Florida and Mississippi’s Jamie Whitten were in the chamber when FDR gave his Pearl Harbor speech). His first Senate win in 1952 actually countered a nationwide Republican sweep, but his opponent was a low-thought of incumbent who brought Joseph McCarthy to Seattle to stump for him. But he’d never have to rely on his opponents weaknesses again. His six re-elections were routinely won by more than 2/3 of the vote, and in 1970, it exceeded 80%.

For Jackson, being a hawk was nothing new. He advocated for major increases on atomic weaponry at the start of the “Cold War, concerned about a “Communist menace” but also with an eye on jobs at Hanford. He was critical of the Eisenhower administration for not spending more on defense. After Sputnik, he accused them of underestimating the Russians. Jackson was suspicious to the end of the Soviet Union. He would back the SALT Treaty only with modifications, but refused to support the second. He endorsed Nixon’s China policy. Like Magnuson, Jackson sponsored landmark legislation too. Jackson-Vanick prohibited “Most Favored Nation” status to nations that discriminate.

Jackson’s impact on domestic affairs was not limited. His Interior sub-committee chairmanship gave him a major role in shepherding Alaska and Hawaii to statehood. He was an ardent advocate Indian reservations. His sponsorship of the National Environmental Policy Act led to the creation of the EPA, which Nixon established by Executive Order.

But it was Jackson’s support of Washington based Boeing’s super-sonic transport, which ultimately failed, that would earn him the moniker, “the Senator from Boeing,” a nick-name actually given to him by local Democrats who organized a challenge to him in the 1958 Senate primary over his advocacy of a military buildup. Jackson had been a supporter of keeping the company in Seattle since his House days, when it had previously come under attack. Boeing meant jobs and Jackson was a staunch defender.

While Magnuson was a consummate deal-maker among his colleagues, Jackson had a gift for weaving together elusive solutions that would ultimately make for sound public policy. The Federal Lands for Parks and Recreation Act and the ABM (anti-ballistic missile system) would seem to have nothing in common, but one is actually a by-product of the other. The Parks legislation actually resulted from dismay by Seattle residents over Jackson’s proposal to house an ABM facility at an area of Fort Lawton, a military base in the Puget Sound Many residents opposed it and wanted to see the site used for a park. Jackson convinced officials to move ABM (by then faltering within his Senate colleagues) to a lightly populated area, and make the left-over military space part of a park. For the nation, the icing on the cake was that the Act would make funds available for many cities to o the same.

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Jackson with, among others, future Speaker Tom Foley (University of Washington special collections)

His efforts were similar on Hanford. He backed a Columbia Valley Authority which would mirror the TVA. He backed a dual-purpose nuclear reactor at Hanford and passed the Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Act of 1980.

Jackson was on JFK’s short-list for VP in 1960, with Bobby Kennedy even telling the Washington State delegation that he was his own first choice, but that balance issues might ultimately force JFK to go elsewhere. Remarkably, Richard Nixon reportedly asked him to be Secretary of Defense. Jackson sought the White House twice, in 1972 and ’76, and one of his failings on the Presidential front was Vietnam, where he was to the right of every major Democratic candidate.

In a column about Jackson years later, Bergen compared campaigning for him “in Madison, Wisconsin in in 1972″ to “campaigning for Benjamin Netanyahu in present day Cairo.” Jackson was dependably pro-Civil Rights (though anti-busing) and pro-labor, even opposing Boeing’s quest to become a “Right to Work”company. He boasted of enormous support from the Jewish community for his support of Israel and Soviet Jewery, and of Native-Americans. But Bergen also noted impediments.

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Jackson during ’72 campaign (Photo from historylink.org)

In ’72, his campaign collapsed following Florida, an early primary state. He had expectations that ’76 would be different.

Jackson had a superb campaign organization and led the pack in both money raised and personal contributions. He excelled at one-on-one campaigning. But that was no longer practical. Bergen called “adjusting his words to fit a sound bite was an alien concept,” also noting his failure “to claim credit for measures he was largely responsible for.” And his decision to skip Iowa and New Hampshire was a mistake Jackson was far from the last to make. Post-Watergate, voters were looking for a fresh face, and while Jackson did win Massachusetts in New York, Carter finished him off in Pennsylvania. The experience he would’ve provided would’ve been stellar.

Jackson returned to the Senate and was literally active until the last moment. In September 1983, having just won a seventh 6 year term, he was giving a press conference following the Soviet shooting down of a plane that killed 250. An hour later, an aortic aneurism killed him.

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Ebey button

For all his power, Jackson’s biggest give to Evergreeners was just being a regular guy. Dr. Abe Bergman describes his “shock” when during a routine visit to the other Washington, they received a note at their hotel saying Jackson wanted to meet them for lunch in the Senate dining room. He later learned that Jackson was a constituent guy. That’s what he did. Bergman, who later became an advisor,says Jackson”did not meet every voter in Washington State, but he sure made the attempt.” On a personal level, he notes concern that Jackson often displayed for staff members and their families.

And while the Democratic Party of today may not be in sync with Jackson’s philosophy, a prominent, albeit vanishing breed, are proud to call themselves “Scoop Jackson Democrats.” Three decades after Jackson’s death, it’s a term that still endures.

bilde Jackson in 1980 (Photo from Herald.net)

The Legacy
Maggie and Scoop are no longer with us but arguably, two like-minded individuals have moved into their seats. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have represented the “Evergreen State” together for more than a decade (like Magnuson and Jackson, they came to the chamber eight years apart, and with each being 42 upon taking office, only a few years older than both Maggie and Scoop, they have the prospect of serving just as long. Murray is likely the next Chairman of Appropriations (though Barbara Mikulski at 80 is not likely to leave any time soon), while Cantwell, like Jackson, concentrates more on Resources issues. Whatever the case, both have great role-models. And the state will be forever grateful.

Author: SCOTT CRASS