Eugene McCarthy told a roaring Fenway Park audience Thursday night that the nation has a chance this year to become “an America of confidence, an America which trusts its own judgment.”
McCarthy’s own confidence led him to predict that he will indeed win the Democratic nomination in Chicago.
It was the senator’s clearest victory forecast to date.
“I think that we shall succeed in Chicago,” he told the clapping, screaming, jubilant crowd. “We will ... we will - all the way.”
The crowd was probably the biggest ever in Fenway Park - close to 40,000.
Every seat was filled, and hundreds sat in the aisles.
Thousands more (at least 5,000) - many with tickets - were left standing in the street unable to get in. A dozen hung from the billboard in left field.
McCarthy staged the rally gambling that he could fill Fenway, and the gamble paid off with interest.
He entered the park from beneath the center field bleachers accompanied by a dozen Secret Service men and Boston policemen - two on horseback.
He was cheered wildly as he walked smiling to the speakers platform at second base.
He said the crowd “reflects the confidence of the people to bring about changes when change is necessary.”
The United States, he said, is not fulfilling its potential to build a million new houses a year, to assure an adequate income for all and to give everyone a decent education.
The condition of black people in this country, he said, “is beyond any kind of defense or any kind of excuse.”
To realize the nation’s potential, McCarthy said, “those in office should be prepared to show the same kind of courage and moral commitment the people have shown.”
McCarthy drew laughter and applause from the crowd when he said: “Almost everything the Church tried to give up at the Vatican Council has been picked up by the Defense Department.”
He mentioned the doctrines of “infallibility,” “suppression of heresy” and “holy wars” as ones now being followed by administration.
McCarthy said a debate the week before the convention, as suggestion by Humphrey, would be fruitless, because public response to it could not reach delegates in time to influence their votes.
McCarthy concluded his press conference in the afternoon with new optimism:
“I would rather be in my position now than in the position of the Vice President.”
The senator’s optimism certainly was not clouded by the tumultuous reception he received at Fenway.
It was the wildest night there since the Red Sox won the pennant.
In fact, there was only one mildly sour note in the whole day. It came at the press conference when McCarthy was asked several questions which began: “Senator, if you do not win the nomination...”
McCarthy snapped back: “Why do I have to answer contingency questions, these questions with so many conditions?”
At the rally, McCarthy followed a group of celebrities including Leonard Bernstein, Alan Arkin, Pete Seeger and Erich Fromm.
McCarthy reviewed the purposes of his campaign, which he said are to raise issues, to rest the political system and to test democracy itself.
“We have had reasonable success,” he said in discussing issues, but the last two aims have not yet been achieved.
The enthusiastic rally followed a day in which McCarthy touched all political bases - meeting with delegates and major campaign contributors, talking with newsmen, welcoming members of the black organizations from throughout New England and conversing warming with his public.
12 give $5,000
In the course of these events, he made about $150,000 from rally tickets, cocktail party tickets (at $100) and a dinner party for $5000 contributors.
McCarthy’s remarks on the debate with Humphrey were discussed later by Richard Goodwin, the former assistant to President Kennedy now working for McCarthy.
Goodwin said he met Wednesday with Humphrey’s representatives to discuss a debate this weekend as suggested by the networks.
He said Humphrey “rejected these suggestions” in a move “designed to frustrate the operation of the popular will.”
Goodwin said McCarthy is “ready to debate anytime - tonight, tomorrow or this weekend - as long as it is soon enough for the people to use the debate as a guide in choosing the nominee of the Democratic party.”
McCarthy returned to the Somerset Hotel after the rally and was to leave Boston at 8 a.m. today.