The times were difficult, to be sure. Vietnam protests had forced President Johnson from the 1968 Presidential race; Nixon committed to an orderly withdrawal in the campaign, which he followed for most of his first year in office. Packard and Laird’s efforts went into downsizing the military to support increased domestic policies. And then, the My Lai massacre in February 1970 prompted Nixon to bomb Cambodia.[i] The Kent State tragedy happened within weeks, plunging the nation into paroxysms of guilt, anger, and rage. Packard, preparing to give a speech in Palo Alto, was targeted – a Daddy Warbucks as it were, as seen by the Stanford student body at Packard’s revered institution. The sponsoring group moved the speech to San Francisco – safer for him, they said. Beyond irritation, he lashed out in the speech, pronouncing Jane Fonda a traitor to the country, betraying his enormous sense of frustration.[ii]
Reports out of Washington were not sanguine. The press was vicious, the politics more so. Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin led the Democratic Party effort to block Packard’s nomination, something that Packard would never forget.[iii] Nor could he ignore the impact on Lucile, who said to Dave: “each morning when I turned on the radio, they’d be saying something terrible about you, and that spoiled breakfast. Then at noon when I’d listen again, it’d be worse, and that spoiled lunch. Then you’d get home, and tell me what an awful day you’d had, and that spoiled dinner. So when was I supposed to eat?” It was an effective diet – she lost sixteen pounds in twelve weeks. And then she stopped listening to the radio.[iv] Asked later about his biggest accomplishment in Washington, Packard wryly quipped, “I gave up smoking”.[v]
[i] This was long before Proxmire introduced the infamous Golden Fleece Awards.
[ii] Packard, The HP Way, pp. 184-185
[iii] John Doyle oral interview by Ray Price, March 23, 2005, p. 15
[iv] DeBenedetti, Charles, An American Ordeal: The Anti-War Movement of the Vietnam Era, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY, 1990.
[v] Documents from the Palo Alto Times and the San Francisco Chronicle