Two "returns" were predominant in the news last week. Secretary McNamara flew back from his fourth visit to South Vietnam and Henry Cabot Lodge won a surprising victory in New Hampshire Taken together these returns should prompt a third, the resignation of Ambassador Lodge, and his exit from Saigon.
Whether Lodge admits it or not, he is a serious candidate for the Republican nomination; if he were not, he would call off his son George and end the feverish non-campaigning of volunteers. As chief coordinator of United States diplomatic, military, economic, and intelligence activities in South Vietnam, Lodge the ambassador can easily come into conflict with Lodge the blushing non-candidate. A difficult decision like the advisability of sending guerillas into North Vietnam is made more confusing for Lodge by his candidacy. In weighing short term success versus long range goals, his deliberations cannot help being influenced by an awareness that his greatest political asset is immediate success against the Communists.
Besides causing difficulties for Ambassador Lodge, his candidacy is a source of uneasiness for the Vietnamese. Reports from Saigon indicate that the regime of General Khanh is uncertain whether it will be negotiating with Lodge or another ambassador. Such unsureness can only hinder the stability and effectiveness of the new, reform government. Moreover, regardless of how he fares in Oregon, Lodge will almost certainly return for the California primary on the basis of his showing in New Hampshire. Any ambassadorial shift should occur now; this is the time for a new man in Saigon to develop a stable relationship with the new government.
Lodge has served with distinction in the Far East, but he is not indispensable. He should either put an end to all talk of his candidacy with a flat denial from his son or else return home. The new game of non-candidacy is permissible for a Republican governor in Pennsylvania or a Republican lawyer in New York, but not for an ambassador of the United States, in South Vietnam.