Late August 2008
“I nominate Woodbine College President Lorraine Forster as our party’s nominee for Vice President.” U.S. Rep. Constance Stowe gestured to nearly three-thousand Independent Party activists. “She and Richard Parker Templeton won’t lie to you. They won’t deceive the American people.”
The applause was deafening inside Kansas City’s Memorial Exhibition Hall. “And now, hear this. She wants our men and women in Iraq to come home in 2009.” The crowd roared as it stood up, waving American flags. Iraq and Afghan war veterans sitting in a semicircle behind Stowe whistled and clapped their hands. “We ... want ... Forster,” they shouted.
“LET’S HEAR IT LOUD AND CLEAR NOW.” Stowe spoke as loud as she could into a bank of microphones. “FORSTER ... FORSTER ... SHE’S THE ONE FOR US.”
After two ballots, Forster won the nomination.
Templeton, a former Republican, had called Forster at home in Wisconsin. The well-dressed Southerner became a founding member of the American Independent Party in 2004, less than a month after his only son, Marine Corps Major Lance Templeton, a Naval Academy graduate, was killed in Iraq’s Al-Anbar Province. On the day he announced he was switching parties, Templeton said: “The invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation of that country were built on deceit and chicanery of the worst order. I deplore the current administration’s murder of thousands of
innocent Iraqis. Will hundreds, if not thousands, of U.S. soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors die in vain?”
Templeton telephoned Forster less than twenty minutes after he’d secured the party’s presidential nomination. “You helped put the Independent Party on the map in Wisconsin and across the nation, Mrs. Forster. And, frankly, Congresswoman Stowe speaks of you as if you were another Eleanor Roosevelt. You can lead people, and you got class, Mrs. Forster. I like that.”
Lorraine Forster, a 58-year-old widow, was surprised by the call from Senator Templeton. She’d turned off her television set after watching his late-night acceptance speech. “Why are you calling me?” she asked in a groggy, tired voice.
“Well, Mrs. Forster, it’s plain and simple. This new party wants to place your name in nomination for Vice President. Congresswoman Stowe says you got a very good chance of takin’ it on the first ballot.”
“Senator, your Southern charm and pleasant words are certainly not going to sway me to jump into that political fray. But Senator, I truly hope you beat the political odds and become President in November,” Forster was mildly astonished by how calm she was in addressing a U.S. Senator and a presidential candidate she’d never met.
“I’ve been watching the TV coverage, Senator, and I listened to your acceptance speech. I agree with you wholeheartedly, but I don’t have the energy, nor the stamina and passion to run for political office. I’ve never run for anything in my life.”
“But Mrs. Forster, you’d be a great balance to the ticket. Voters will love you in the Midwest.”
“Senator Templeton, please,” said Forster, “voters in the Midwest and the South, where you’re from, want a white man, not a black man and certainly not a woman to become a proverbial heartbeat away from the presidency.”
“You wanna help me end this stupid waste of a war in Iraq? You’ve been protesting against the war since Morris was re-elected, hell, since the damn thing started. You were arrested once. I need your help. We can win this thing. And I believe I can take votes away from the Republicans in the South, from Texas to Virginia. They’re fed up with Morris and glad he’s leaving town come January. You’re a scholar, Mrs. Forster. You’ve written books on diplomacy and history and won awards for them. I need your diplomatic skills. We can’t let the Democrats take over. They have no plan for our troops who are dying like flies over there.”
“Excuse me, Senator. I cry everyday about the loss of life in Iraq, but please, please choose someone else.”
“Hold a minute Mrs. Forster, Ms. Stowe wants to talk to you.” Forster felt like hanging up. “Wait, Senator, wait,” Forster said quickly. Templeton came back on the line.
“Yes, Mrs. Forster.”
“Why is she doing this?” Forster was exasperated. “I can’t believe that woman. I won’t do this. I’m not going to become some public spectacle. I’m not some outspoken champion of women’s rights looking for all kinds of adulation.”
“Lorraine, listen to me now.” It was Constance Stowe. “I can’t have you telling our next President no, no and no again.”
Forster thought of getting on her knees to plead her case. “Constance, I’m staying at Woodbine.” Then she purposely enunciated each word. “Do ... you ... understand?”
“Sit down, Lorraine, because I know you’re pacing around and around and don’t have enough sense to just hang up,” said Stowe. “You’ve always enjoyed verbal battles, and now you’re in another one. But this one you ain’t gonna win.”
Then Forster said what had been on the tip of her tongue ever since Stowe got on the line: “God, I wish Daniel were here. He’d know what to do.”
“Well, Lorraine, Daniel’s not with us. I’m sorry he had cancer. Ya got me now. And I’m gonna tell ya what to do.”
“Why are you pushing me into this?”
“Lorraine, ya got a legacy to follow. Because of what your father did when he was in office, well, ya have an obligation ... no, ya have a God-given responsibility of followin’ in his footsteps. That man would have a few choice words for ya to chew on if he were still alive.”
“Don’t you dare bring up my father,” said Forster. “He spent his life in politics, and he went to his grave early because of it. I’m not him. I don’t have –– ”
“Yes ya do, Lorraine,” Stowe said, cutting off Forster’s last words. “Ya got what it takes. You’re the perfect example for any young woman to follow. Your whole life ya fought hard, whether ya realize it or not, to get ahead in a white man’s world. Ya gave me hope, Lorraine, even when I was your smart-mouthed student at Woodbine. Ya stuck with me. Ya prodded me along when ya didn’t have to. I’m where I am today, Lorraine ... because of YOU.”
“Hold on, Constance, please.” Forster dropped the phone on a couch seat. She walked around the living room thinking of her father, Jacob, who was twice elected mayor of Milwaukee during the 1960s. He was a Democrat in name only but a socialist in his mind and in his heart. He’d spoken many times against the war in Vietnam. He’d led peace marches in Milwaukee and Madison, the state capital. He’d helped plan protest marches in Chicago and Washington, D.C. She was with her father every step of the way, marching right along with him. She had been arrested in Chicago along with her father and hundreds of others and spent two days in the Cook County Jail.
Jake Singer died in 1971 of pancreatic cancer at age 54. The year before he’d lost his bid for a third term as mayor. The political battles had taken a personal toll as well. Singer’s wife, Margaret, left him in the late ’60s and moved to Miami Beach, where she died in 1993.
Forster picked up the phone off the couch. “Constance, you still there?”
Forster was on the first flight out of Milwaukee early the next morning. The commuter plane stopped briefly in Chicago, where she transferred to a direct flight to Kansas City. On board the jetliner she quickly jotted down notes for a speech, which she didn’t expect to deliver because she didn’t expect to win the nomination.
Reporters and TV news crews began their vigil outside Forster’s home the day after the American Independent Party convention ended. Forster’s home phone and cellphone rang, seemingly all hours of the day and night.
One of the first calls to the party’s national headquarters in Milwaukee came from Hollywood movie mogul David Edelstein, who promised millions in campaign funding. He was able to pull $10 million from several wealthy Democrats and a few disaffected Republicans. He also wired the Templeton/Forster campaign an additional $12 million from his personal fortune. Internet guru Michael Chaplin raised another $26 million on his company’s website. Stowe, with the help of gays and lesbians across the country, raised nearly $9 million in private donations, mostly from women who contributed because of Forster.
Democratic and Republican Party officials locked out the Templeton/Forster campaign from federal financing. They also blocked Templeton from joining their parties’ presidential candidates in three nationally televised debates and Forster from the lone vice-presidential debate.
Instead, Forster and Templeton traveled the country in a three-bus caravan from Labor Day to Election Day. Hired campaign staff, volunteers and the two candidates worked in the buses and stayed overnight at inexpensive motels. The candidates promised they would visit all 50 states, and they did – only to get off the buses and fly to Alaska and Hawaii, economy class, with a limited number of staff for brief one-day stops in Anchorage and Honolulu.
The presidential election was a three-way race between the Templeton/Forster ticket and heavily financed Democratic and Republican candidates, who together had spent almost $345 million.
About 115 million Americans went to the polls on Election Day. Templeton/Forster won with 39 percent of the vote, garnering 275 electoral votes. Their campaign managed to spend slightly less than $95 million.
Democrat Edith Stallings, whose husband was Vice President from 1993-2001, received 33 percent. Robert Stallings had died in early August 2008, days before the Democratic Party convention, from a rare form of leukemia, which only had been diagnosed in late June. He had been the expected Democratic Party standard bearer, having won most of the party primaries and caucuses. After 11 inconclusive votes from party delegates at the convention, a call was made to nominate Edith Stallings. She won the nomination by acclamation. But delegates could not agree on how soon to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. The party platform stated: “American military forces in Iraq shall be withdrawn as soon as possible. At least a year will be necessary for Iraqi military and police forces to develop plans for providing adequate security throughout the country and deal with an ongoing civil war.”
Republican U.S. Senator Thomas Jackson Young of Colorado, a Vietnam War veteran named after Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, received 25 percent of the vote. Republicans regurgitated the previous Republican administration’s policy of continuing to arm Iraqi military and police forces. Young, touting his Vietnam War experience, believed that training those forces should remain in the hands of the U.S. military, which would continue providing operational security throughout Al Anbar Province in the west and in and around Baghdad and the southern city of Basrah. Republicans, with Young leading the debate, publicly opposed any withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq until an 11th-hour statement was issued on the Sunday before Election Day. Young proposed in a speech at Public Square in Cleveland, Ohio that “several thousand” U.S. Army and
Marine combat personnel could begin leaving Iraq as early as April 2009. However, he said that “core Marine battalions and Army brigades numbering about 25,000 troops must remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future to help Iraqi forces combat a deadly and violent civil war.”
Late November-December 2008
Templeton had prepared a list of candidates for each of his cabinet posts. He passed it along to leaders in both houses of Congress, which remained under control of the Democrats following the election. The Democrats balked at each choice. They complained there were too many academicians and left-wing theoreticians: an economics laureate for Treasury, a law school dean for Attorney General, an Ivy League provost at State, a retired general and anti-war activist at Defense, an international relations department chair at a large West Coast university for CIA director and a physician and universal health-care proponent at Health and Human Services. The Senate Majority Leader and House Speaker gathered at Templeton’s home in Charleston. They told him and Forster that none of the prospects would gain Senate confirmation.
“For the time being,” said Senate Majority Leader Allen Campbell of West Virginia, “we got us a list that’ll pass muster and git ya a real good cabinet right quick.”
“Looks like we’ll have us a good ol’ confirmation fight come January and on into February and beyond,” Templeton told Campbell. Later, the President-elect appealed to Forster: “This is where I need your diplomatic skills. Skills, the likes of which, Lorraine, those old farts in the Senate never’d seen before.”
January 20, 2009
Richard P. Templeton became the 44th President of the United States. He replaced two-term Republican Haskell Endicott Morris, a one-time governor of Florida and the son of Edward Haskell Morris, a former U.S. Senator from Rhode Island and CIA director. The elder Morris, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, was living in a Sarasota, Florida convalescent center.
Outgoing President Morris refused to greet President-elect Templeton at the traditional White House visit before the inauguration. Before Templeton’s inaugural address, Morris and his
wife hurriedly walked off the inaugural stage in front of the U.S. Capitol. They left the Capitol grounds on Marine One and flew to Andrews Air Force Base. The couple, along with their three sons, their wives and several grandchildren, traveled to their winter home in Tampa, Florida, on Air Force One.
When Morris left office, his popularity was at an all-time historical low for an outgoing President. At least three national polls reported his popularity rating at below 20 percent. Less than a year before most members of Congress, including some leading Republicans, had called for his impeachment.
Morris’ administration had bungled badly in Iraq. The U.S. military was taking on heavy casualties in a futile attempt to stem the civil war that erupted following the March 2003 invasion. The appointed president and the elected prime minister of Iraq had been assassinated in late 2007. Members of the Iraqi Parliament had been gunned down in the streets of Baghdad. Shiite strongman Abdul Mohammed Aziz, with military aid from Syria and Iran, filled the vacuum when his militia fighters briefly took over the Parliament building and presidential headquarters inside the so-called Green Zone.
The American military toll, to date, was nearly 4,500 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who had lost their lives. Some 33,000 had been wounded. The death toll for Iraqis counted in the hundreds of thousands.