Friday, March 30, 2007

Flashback: The Meeting With Javits…Setting an Agenda…Hiring a Staff…Across-the-Board Set-Aside Approved by Nixon…and The Chill turns into a Deep Freeze.

[More than 50 years of politics, a memoir for my kids and grandchildren].

Getting in to see Jack Javits was easy, me using the Quaker Oats identification more than my relatively lowly Commerce post. And convincing him was easy. Jack Javits, regarded as the quintessential liberal Senator, albeit Republican, was viewed with high importance by the Nixon people because of his role as ranking Republican on Senate Foreign Relations. As such he had an enormous influence in support of Nixon’s plan to steadily reduce U. S. involvement in Vietnam paired with the tricky rationale for at the same time expanding the fighting beyond the borders of Vietnam—into Laos and Cambodia—to show a steady resolve not to be pushed out of Southeast Asia. Javits did not support the Laos and Cambodia excursions but was a good soldier. Hence the Nixon people were heavily indebted to him.

At the same time, Javits was a strong proponent of the Environmental Quality Policy act which was being pushed in 1969—a Nixon policy initiatve—which set up the EPA. Also he was a powerful figure on the Senate Select Committee on Small Business which heard our proposals. The conversation went along these lines:

Javits: Let me say that after dealing with some of those guys in the White House—Ehrlichman, especially—I’m gratified that somebody in the administration wants to do something about building a minority, particularly black, middle class. It may not come forth with political benefits in our lifetime but (a) it’s the right thing to do and (b) it will bringing dividends in giving hope to minorities along with increasing their option of considering us as a viable second party. Congratulaions.

Me: Thanks but the White House doesn’t know I’m here so the less they know the better. My hope is, Senator, that you will advocate this thing [set-aside] with Ehrlichman without telling him that I have visited here. When he brings up the issue that it is of quotas—which he did with me--you can tell them that right now there is a quota for black businesses getting government contracts—and that quota is next to zero.

Javits: I don’t deal with Ehrlichman; I decided that during the campaign. I deal with the president. And I can tell him straightforwardly that this is the way to go. He’ll say [imitating Nixon almost to a T] “Jack, neither the blacks nor the Democrats will do a damn thing for us even if I do this thing. Take a look at Everett [Dirksen]. He brings in the whole civil rights bill, gets southern conservative support for it, it passes and he damn near gets licked in Illinois due to the black community.’ I’ll play him in reverse English. I’ll say, `Dick, your enemies are betting that you’re too petty and small a man to approve this because blacks haven’t done a damn thing politially for you.’ That’s a kind of goad that will spur his contrarian urge. He’ll say, `well if that’s what those sonuvabitches think I’ll show `em.’ My experience has been that on occasion this is the strategy that works.

Me: Well, thank you, Senator. Just so my name or office doesn’t get dragged into the discussion. Not that Nixon knows me but Ehrlichman does. And I imagine Ehrlichman will be in the room.

Javits: Maybe, but you won’t be mentioned, don’t worry.

The next thing I heard was, several weeks later, when Dave Koch came in my office, practiced a wide-arc golf swing and said, “Congratulations, sir. We faceless civil servants have just discovered that the president is preparing to sign an executive order setting aside a portion of all federal purchasing contracts to firms run by minorities that qualify—this to run for a period of nine years.”

Now how do you know that, David?

“Correspondence Control is very efficient—transmitting letters to and fro. It seems Senator Javits made a powerful impression on the president, pulling his weight as a supporter of foreign policy initiatives. And it seems that Mr. Ehrlichman and Mr. Haldeman didn’t want to push it but at the last minute Mr. Kissinger of all people weighed in and said that he feels Senator Javits’ support on the Vietnam question is so crucial that the administration should give him what he wants. This is a memo from Ehrlichman to Stans which went out to here today—and is due to arrive here tomorrow morning.”

If so, Commerce’s Correspondence Control hasn’t seen the memo yet, right?

“Right, sir.”

Then how does our Correspondence Control know that the White House Correspondence Control is processing the memo?

“A junior assistant in our Correspondence Control—another faceless professional—has a sister over in--.”

I see.


With the first item on the agenda approved (even though we were not to know for several weeks), I turned to other items on our agenda.

First was hiring a staff. I had some ideas who should occupy the key positions. There should be a private sector director in charge of mobilizing businesses to get involved in voluntarism on the side of minority enterprise and I had in mind Walter Sorg of Glencoe, Illinois, the scion of a wealthy financial publishing house in New York and Chicago. There should be a public sector director in charge of designating which of the 116 federal programs we could target—and I had decided on Gary Baden, a Democrat, a Commerce veteran who had gone to work for John Lindsay in New York and was very unhappy. The head of our Community Outreach department which would build relationships between us and the minority communities should be given to James Sexton, a black civil rights lawyer and ally of Venable. Under him, I wanted to put a bright young Chicago attorney who was pressing to come to Washington, Bill Geimer.

I had plans for Geimer whom I knew when he was structuring the ill-fated Community Self-Determination Act that didn’t pass Congress but I felt—and still do—was indispensable to promoting a thriving black economy. A final thing-to-do before I was to get fired would be to turn over a formal strategy paper on minority enterprise to the secretary and directly to the president. My view was that a public-private for-profit corporation—no government funds—should be created and that the office I was holding should be abolished, making sure that for the first time in modern history a federal office in the bureaucracy would be dissolved to be replaced by the public-private.

Geimer was the only one I knew who could legally design such a corporate structure. A gifted conservative with a sophisticated social conscience as well as a superb writer—all tied together with marvelous legal acumen—he was the understated star of the office’s economic development unit. He went on to several roles in the federal government—an assistant in the White House who helped put on an exemplary White House Conference on Youth at a time when many youth of the time were spaced out, long-haired and tipping over buses on the streets of Washington…a top aide to Don Rumsfeld when he managed the difficult price control agency…a private lawyer who helped us at Quaker structure an innovative self-regulation unit for advertising…a lawyer who helped us at Quaker design legislation that was introduced in Congress to ward off a hostile takeover…and ultimately the founder of the Jamestown Foundation which was a key private sector resource during the Cold War and which is now performing a great mission informing Americans on the war on terror. Unfortunately, like David Koch, Bill Geimer died at an early age. It was a great misfortune that something came between us in the post-Commerce years that interrupted our friendship which he disdained to join with me to repair—for which I grieve in retrospect.

There also was opposition among blacks to have a strong Hispanic unit created—and I was determined to create one by hiring Arthur Ortiz, an Hispanic who had just left Quaker Oats to head that unit. Another man I wanted to hire was a Chippewa Indian who knew the problems of the Indian community and in particular the reservations (I had had some experience with unutterable Indian poverty at reservations in Minnesota) and who was the ideal man for that. I wanted a good statistician, an expert on economics and wanted Barbara Flower of the Conference Board in New York to join us to head up that operation. I needed a computer specialist (even in those early days computers were necessary) and I wanted to move a guy from another division of Commerce to take over that role, Bill Rock.

I needed a banker to work under Sorg in the Private Sector—and that would be Bill Kneisle of the First National Bank of Chicago, an active civil righter with an extraordinarily good sense of banking and a South Dakota white lawyer with an infectious personality and marvelous dedication, Richard Hopewell. For Community Relations I even hired an ex-priest who was indubitably the least religious man I ever met. In all the categories there were a roughly even number of minorities and minorities—which, believe it, got me into disfavor with the secretary’s people. A very senior official under the secretary said this to me: “we think the point ought to be white people hired to help minorities—not so many minorities as you have hired. How can they help minorities?” Believe it or not this was put into memo form with only slight wording change—which, when David Koch read it via Correspondence Control, caused him to come into my office, close the door firmly and burst out in laughter: Welcome to the Commerce Department that I have always known!”

I then knew I was a dead duck. I could only shake my head.

But I continued to staff-up. I needed a liaison between our office and the Hill—and that would be a Democrat, Terrence Scanlon, the nephew of Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, who had begun, actually as a Senate page, worked in the JFK White House and was in close touch with his uncle (he later became a Republican, was named chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission by Ronald Reagan and heads the conservative Capitol Research Foundation in Washington). For other contacts, including a fairly wide swath of Republicans and Democrats, I’d do the rest. For Communications, I’d do it. Also each Monday morning at 8 a.m. I’d like a staff meeting of all the professionals with guest speakers from the private sector—including Louis Kelso, author of the “Two Factor Theory.” I would want to get business economists coming in her gratis to be on hand for bull-sessions.

We needed a presidential advisory commission on minority business composed of major CEOs from around the country as well as minority businesses—not unlike the Chicago United task force that mobilized the city’s resources in the early 1960s. I wanted Bob Stuart on the Commission and Javits had suggested a Rockefeller, maybe David, to head it up. (That was vetoed quick; Nelson Rockefeller and Nixon were still at odds).

Then with the staff lineup falling in place, I sketched out the various things I thought the office should accomplish. Stan had an idea of setting up Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Corporations to provide capital formation to qualifying minority businesses. It was a good idea. The SBA Investment Act of 1958 had authorized SBA to license and support Small Business Investment Companies to finance small business which had difficulties raising capital. An SBIC was capitalized by private investors at a minimum of $150,000. The granting of a license to run an SBIC required the investors agreed on certain restrictions on their investment activities in return for which the SBA would agree to lend twice the capitalization to the SBIC by purchasing SBIC debentures.

SBICs were largely vehicles to create white small business. Stans had the idea of a MESBIC which did not require the Nixon administration to spend any political capital getting authorization from Congress; it was also cheap. I came up with the idea that MESBICs should be sold to the blue-chip companies whose CEOs would be on our national advisory commission. There was some unease about that because the CEOs were delicate creatures in Stans’ view, because, of course, he had in mind that he would have to work with them raising money in 1972 for the reelection. But, aw, I said: this is 1969—a full three years away. He said o.k. grudgingly.

Then we came to grips with his native reluctance to ask Nixon to do anything for us. Naming the advisory committee, I thought, would be a good opportunity for the President to call the CEOs on the phone and invite them to serve—underscoring the importance he placed on the mission. But as I talked with Stans, it was clear that the Chill was still continuing. The president was definitely cool on using his influence in any way to help minority business—and, for that matter, Stans himself was not enthusiastic about doing it. So we did it by letter.

I asked the Oracle (David Koch) why the Chill.

“Umm. Let me find out.”

A few days later when I came back from lunch he was in my office practicing golf swings with an imaginary club.

“The secretary still thinks he has a shot at Treasury because David Kennedy is a disappointment and he doesn’t want to rile up the waters because of this program which could screw up his chances of getting it. Ehrlichman is decidedly against it because of the friction in could cause in the South. Haldeman is very cold. Moynihan sees it as a possible attention-getter from his welfare reform and he’s been scotching it. Finch loves it but he’s at HEW and being gunned down behind his back in the White House and doesn’t know it. You’re going to have to improvise without the president and largely without the secretary. You’re lucky.”


“All those good recommendations about you in your file—everybody from the former Republican governor of Minnesota to private citizen Hubert Humphrey—say you do better when unsupervised. The president and secretary are going to leave your program alone, baby!”

What happened to the faceless professional who called me sir all the time?

“You corrupted me with your ad hoc ways.”


There were more elements to the program, many worked out between Abe Venable and me. I required the newly hired office to work as a task force (there were about 25 professionals) to draw up plans for private sector involvement including franchising…promoting minority ownership by asking established franchisers to commit a minimum of 25 franchises to minorities in a two-year period in return for SBA assistance…automobile dealerships...with only seven out of 28,000 in the hands of minorities, how do we go about convincing the big automobile companies to set a goal of 25 each for a total of 100 dealerships for minorities for, let us say, an unspecified time span?...

Service station dealerships…increasing the number…business opportunities retailing…getting trade associations and retail groups to launch businesses in their trade, modeled after a successful once by the Menswear Retailers Association…turn-key…we’d need specific economic advise on this to work with large corporations to “spin” off a subsidiary to minorities once the subsidiary was started (I was dubious this would ever work; and it didn’t).

Voluntary contract preference…getting businesses to patronage minority firms through advertising via the Ad Council (I was enthusiastic here)…

Abe and I tussled over other aspects of the program like Business Opportunity Centers where offshoot agencies of our office would be set up across the country to provide sources of information on business opportunities for minority people…which I thought was just the old federal government’s yen to expand to branch offices. I also ditched Abe’s two choice ideas the Foundation for Equity Capital, a charitable foundation that would receive contributions form individuals and institutions to invest in minority enterprise (which I couldn’t reconcile with its non-profit status) and a Credit Guarantee program which was nothing more than a federal grant to the black National Bankers Association which I thought would be money ill-spent.

But the more I thought about it the more I thought we ought to put our maximum resources on selling the idea of a profit-making public-private corporation. I tried the idea on Javits who had a sharp businessman’s acumen and he loved it. Because Geimer was not being used effectively where he was lodged in my new agency, I promoted him out from under, made him my special assistant, sat him down and asked him to immediately draw up a corporation based largely on the Community Self-Determination program which would be my coup de grace as I left—either under my own power or kicked out the door by the secretary.

“Huh?” he said. “You are so defeatist as to be planning your swan song after you just arrived?”

Before I could answer, Dave Koch who was practicing imaginary golf swings in my office said, “exactly.”

Midway through the year, my new agency started to exhibit internecine jealousies…blacks didn’t like the Hispanics…whites wanted to work more with Hispanics than blacks…Hispanics felt they were being pushed aside by blacks…blacks felt white women were rising to the fore more quickly than black men. The only happy one seemed to be the Indian, a super-minority of one who flowed freely between the offices, some of which were black-dominated, some white-dominated, some-women dominated. So I decided to throw one hell of a party and get everybody drunk, `fessing up to their faults. How to do it on federal money?

I didn’t do it on federal money. I arranged through Bob Thurston, my old boss at Quaker to have Quaker rent a private dining room at the Madison hotel, with a bar and bartender, the menu of choice steaks and prime rib. Pat Racey, my old assistant, attended as a kind of chaperone. On a Friday night after everyone was stressed out after fought like animals about meaningless things like jurisdictions and turf, we loaded them into a bus and took them to the posh Madison Hotel where in a private room I told them how much they all meant to me…and invited them to rehash their grievances as we drank the night away—but I would not let them out to go home until they made what in my church is called “a firm purpose of amendment”—i.e. promising to share grievances early and get along from that evening forward.

This they did after a five-hour bacchanalia which began with anger and denunciation and wound up with remorse, tears and lachrymose speeches, which crested when an American Indian lawyer I had just hired made the politically horrendous announcement that as an Indian who had consumed firewater he was going to scalp the entire party. A black stood up and gathered the few women in the group and shouted in memory of the old two-reel cowboy movies, “stop! You know what they do to white women!” Whereupon white women yelled “yippeeee!” and black and Hispanic women shouted irreverently, “we are discriminated against!” while the Indian ran around the table whooping and twirling his napkin in frenzied ritual. Pat Racey, an abstemious Puritan, was scandalized to the bone, looked like a minister who stumbled in to a bawdy house (he told me repeatedly until my 1991 retirement from Quaker that Gary Baden blew his nose into the restaurant’s linen napkin; I responded that if that’s all he could object to, I was not worried).

The party was a superb catharsis and ended any discontent for the balance of my tenure, during my final weeks of unmitigated tension where Stans tried to build a grassroots mutiny in my office; everyone was coolly unreceptive to such inducements for mutiny coming from him—our only betrayer being the ex-priest …but when he went over the side it was too late to matter. But that it was the ex-priest rather figures, doesn’t it?

My remarks at the bacchanalia dealt with the number of car dealerships in minorities’ hands: 7 out of 28,000…and I said that we would immediately launch an effort where, it would be hoped, the president or the secretary would call the CEOs of the then big automobile companies—Henry Ford II, CEO of Ford; James Roche, chairman of GM; Roy Chapin, CEO of American Motors; and Lynn Townsend, CEO of Chrysler—and invite them to meet with us to volunteer to make available twenty-five dealership opportunities to qualified minorities whom we, in liaison with the Urban League, would find and the League would train. That was my hope. But even then we were all pariahs. The president had turned down the temperature from a chill to a deep freeze on minority enterprise and the secretary of commerce, lock-step, was obeying him.

But we did meet with all the Big Four as result of telephone calls made from the White House. How we got that to happen—next time.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Personal Aside: Greg Baise and Mike Noonan to Tussle Over Blago’s Tax Plan Next Sunday.


Illinois Manufacturers Association president Greg Baise will bring some heavy artillery to bear in assaulting Governor Rod Blagojevich’s budget and tax plans on Sunday—with a counter from the indomitable Democratic strategist Mike Noonan on WLS-AM (890) at 8 p.m. All ten phone lines were burning brightly last Sunday when John Filan, chief operating officer of state government and Ron Gidwitz, entrepreneur, education expert and a former Republican candidate for governor in 2006 held sway.

BIG BOSS LADY COMING TO OBAMA’S RESCUE. Wife Michelle Has Better Touch with all-Important Democratic Base.

To Rekindle Dreams of White Kansas “ Girl Named Stanley.”

By Thomas F. Roeser

[Another column for The Wanderer, the nation’s oldest Catholic weekly].

CHICAGO—In 1969 Johnny Cash recorded the song “A Boy Named Sue” which detailed a tough hombre’s search for his father who named him Sue. The song goes, One night in Gatlinburg in mid-July and I just hit town and my throat was dry/ I thought I’d stop and have myself a brew/ At an old saloon on a street of mud/ there at a table dealing stud/ Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me Sue!

Well I knew that snake was my own sweet dad/ from a worn-out picture that my mother’d had/ And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye/He was big and bent and gray and old/ And I looked at him and my blood ran cold/ And I said: “MY NAME IS SUE! HOW DO YOU DO? Now you gonna die!”

They struggled mightily, gouging and kicking each other. Finally the old man was looking down the muzzle of his son’s .45—and he said “Now you just fought one hell of a fight/ And I know you hate me and you got the right/ To kill me now and I wouldn’t blame you if you do/ But ya ought to thank me before I die/ For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye/ Cause I’m the [deleted four words] that named you `Sue.’

I got all choked up and I threw down my gun/ And I called him my pa and he called me his son/ And I came away with a different point of view.

But concludes Cash, “I think about him every time I try and win/ And if I ever have a son, I think I’m gonna name him Bill or George! Anything but Sue!”

Similar bitterness caused the mother of Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., a white Kansan, to detest the name her father hung on her--Stanley. That’s right: Stanley. Her father wanted a boy; she was to be their only child so he insisted on giving her the name Stanley. Some women don’t mind having men’s names—the popular Chicago Sun-Times female columnist Michael Sneed being one of them.

But Stanley Ann Dunham hated the name Stanley (who can blame her?). She told a girlfriend, “I know, it’s a boy’s name…and no, I don’t like it. I mean, would you like to be called Stanley? But my dad wanted a boy and he got me. And the name `Stanley’ made him feel better, I guess.”

She warred with her father on many issues—`60s politics, feminism and economics as she snowballed into a predictable radical, first agnostic, then atheist. She rolled her eyes whenever her salesman father extolled Kansan virtues, his Baptist religion and his wife’s Methodism. Then Madelyn and Stanley Dunham moved to Honolulu, taking Stanley Ann with them. He ran a furniture store but Madelyn landed the better job of the two—an executive at the Bank of Hawaii. Maybe to please their lefty daughter they both became Unitarians.

Then Stanley Ann Dunham went to the University of Hawaii at Manoa and met fascinating and ambitious Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a Muslim from Kenya, who was enrolled as a foreign student. They married against the wishes of Obama’s black parents and Stanley Ann’s white ones. Obama, a doctoral student, went to Harvard, stopped writing to his wife and drifted away when his son was only two. Obama, Sr.’s dream was to become a prominent civil servant in Kenya. He got his Ph.D, went back to Kenya, was disappointed in not rising significantly and died in an automobile accident, never writing to or seeing his ex-wife or infant son again. Once when old friends saw him, he was bitter and drinking heavily. He never asked about either Ann or his son. The continuing mystery is why Obama, Jr. dreamed—and dreams—of his father who abandoned him.

Stanley Ann Dunham then married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian foreign student, a Muslim like Obama, Sr., with whom she had one daughter. Maya Soetoro-Ng. The family moved to Jakarta in 1967 where young Barack attended local schools, including a Muslim one, also a Catholic one, from age 6 to 10. Lolo Soetoro turned out to be a boozer and womanizer. When they split, young Barack was sent back to Honolulu to live with his grandparents. With them footing the bill, he attended the exclusive Punahou school, a private, coeducational prep school from fifth grade to his graduation in 1979. Ann Dunham died of cancer in 1995, shortly after Dreams was published. What she thought of it—especially since its title is trained on her ex-husband from whom she never heard anything once he left--is unknown.

For this information, we are at last—at long-long last—indebted to people who investigated, probed and wrestled the details beyond what is contained in the two rhapsodic autobiographies written by Obama. Or most news analyses despite the fact that today he is one of the three major U. S. Democratic candidates for the presidency of the United States. Who did this investigatory work? Not the New York Times nor ABC, CBS, NBC or CNN or Fox. They are reporters who work for the Chicago Tribune who went to Kansas, Honolulu and Jakarta following the footsteps of Obama, his mother and her two husbands.

It’s stunning, really, that routine bio collection should have taken so long. Why did it? Because mainstream media’s view of political correctness jealously guards any black liberal Democratic presidential candidate from possible political embarrassment. (Alan Keyes doesn’t count. He may be black but he’s not liberal but conservative, not Democratic but Republican.)

Still, up to now, the dearth of information on Obama has been weird because, since 2002 he’s been this state’s top political black and since 2004 the nation’s main African American draw. Tons of stories have been written, hours of TV time logged—but his bio has not stirred anyone to go beyond his books or office p. r.. It was sufficient to worship Obama as Destiny’s Tot. Who wrote the book Dreams from My Father. The only African-American in the U. S. Senate. The first major black office-holder to run for president in history. Only the fifth African-American Senator in U. S. history. With grace, patrician bearing and gentle irony not vastly different from that of John Kennedy—thin as a rail, boyish, diffidently shy.

The book, which he wrote himself in 1995, displays near poetic literary skill and has been riding high on the New York Times best-seller list since the keynote. Now rivaled in sales by his sequel which has become the watchword for his 2008 presidential campaign. The Audacity of Hope. But just as remarkable: while other presidential candidates have had to submit to pertinent biographical questions from the predominantly liberal mass-media, the same ground-rules were not applied to Obama.

The same media demands to know: how many wives Mitt Romney’s Mormon great-grandfather had...why Rudy Giuliani tried to sneak a mistress who became wife number 3 into Gracie Mansion while wife number 2 still lived there…how Newt Gingrich married trice and what new salacious details did he confess to an evangelical radio host…why the returning John McCain scrubbed wife number 1, disabled in a car wreck, for wife number 2, a rich trophy number from an Arizona multi-millionaire family…how Hillary Clinton’s relationships with husband Bill are faring—even how she will keep an eye on him from the White House while he roves the world…how John Edwards’ wife’s breast cancer will affect his candidacy.

But no market for pesky biographical questions of Obama.

Indeed, to even ask for details has come to be regarded as bad form here by an adulatory, not reportorial, media. Calling him by his given middle name, Hussein, has been adjudged as latent racism. Not to mention asking questions about his mother and father. Particularly his mother. Why? Basically, in polite society it is not kosher to probe the background of a `60s radical, anti-American atheist and near-revolutionary with ties to a Democratic poster-candidate. The ground-rules are set and firm: We must not offend a liberal black presidential candidate with a Leftist in his family—especially if he is black. Verboten.

As a politically incorrect local writer and radio broadcaster, I noticed how the media granted Obama immunity from personal questions, so for months I have prodded away at Obama’s bio but was called by some a near-racist for doing so. When I asked why he hadn’t written about his mother rather than his father, some of my colleagues murmured tough things about my impertinence. Then I asked if it were true that Obama spent early formative years in a Muslim school in Indonesia where he had been listed as a Muslim. This provoked an outcry from the media and a flurry of answers from reporters and commentators--rather than answers from the candidate himself or his handlers.

So when the pressure on whether or not he was ever a Muslim didn’t abate, CNN-Atlanta sent a national TV crew, no-less, to the Indonesian school he attended. They interviewed the headmaster. He wasn’t there 20 years ago when Obama attended the school. But they took his word for studies pursued twenty years earlier, issued a flat denial in behalf of the candidate along with an innuendo of rebuke for the question even having been asked.

Until now, a stonewall was protected the candidate and his handlers. The adulatory press answered for him, saying that reporters with questions should do the investigations themselves and not badger the campaign with questions—a stunning proposition: this while Romney, McCain, Giuliani, Edwards, Clinton, Newt Gingrich—and even minor candidates of both parties—were required to submit details in response to press questions.

An adversarial press vis-à-vis Republicans, forcing Giuliani’s third wife to admit she was herself married three times, something she admitted after interrogation last week. Only after steadily asking for as many biographical details as are available for other presidential candidates when reporters asked where Obama’s Kansas-born white mother was, we learned that she had died twelve years ago. Case closed. Some adulators implied her death was a private matter--nobody’s business; others defended the close-to-the-vest information policy, asserting, “we knew all the time she was dead.” The point was: Few knew or asked more than what the campaign office chose to release.

. Then last week, the Tribune came forth with a great many biographical details of Obama and his family. Late but welcome anyhow. No serious transgressions were divulged--but the facts have been held in abeyance too long. Still, there are interesting sidelights. We learned that while the senior Stanley Dunham is dead, his wife Madelyn is alive at 84 but that there is an embargo on her being interviewed. Although she was a bright and successful bank executive during Obama’s Punahou days, her receptivity is a closed book. We know that in the words of his half-sister “those were robust years full of energy and cacophony and she loved all of it.” Why is she kept away from the media? Well, we’re not privileged to know that—yet. Perhaps never. Is she incapacitated or unwilling to be interviewed? We don’t know that, either. Big media shush: It is not good form to ask.

But there’s a lot we do know about Barack Obama. And some of what we have learned contradict the lovingly cherished current knowledge the candidate has circulated in his two autobiographies. In Dreams, Obama records a youth that is beset with racism, recalls having heated conversations about racism in Hawaii where he spent with another black student whom he gives the fictional name of “Ray.” The description is vivid—as vivid as Lincoln’s log cabin days or Bill Clinton’s young days in Hope, Arkansas. Really? Was the imagery contrived with a political hook concealed?

Racism in Hawaii: a state which has no minorities because blood-lines have been so long intermingled? Still, racism in Hawaii and the nation is a major focus for Obama—one dominant theme of his candidacy. He characterizes “Ray” as embittered.

But now it turns out that the real “Ray,” Keith Kakugawa, a convicted drug felon, half black and half Japanese, has said in an interview with the Tribune that he always considered himself of mixed race like so many in Hawaii since intermixture of races is its heritage. Kakugawa says he was not—and is not--an angry young black man. Why would he pretend if he didn’t really believe it? Why would Obama pretend unless he was trying to hammer and hammer an age-old political point?

In fact, in his interview with the Tribune Kakugawa scoffed at the idea that he and Obama rubbed their scabs raw concerning racism in their many long conversations. “It wasn’t a race thing,” he said. “Not even close. Barry’s [Obama’s nickname as a boy] biggest struggles then were missing his parents. His biggest struggles were his feelings of abandonment. The idea that his biggest struggle was race is [bull].”

But the book’s aura about Obama, the young, attractive, bright Harvard lawyer, his forefinger struck deep in his cheek in intellectual musing, has become the presidential campaign’s favorite image. Take a look at the photographs of Obama in the media: pondering. Pondering. Pondering. What is he pondering? Ah, how to rectify our horrid race relations. How to win justice for our unjust contemporary world. Despite the fact that in our “unjust contemporary world,” he has come out gangbusters--extraordinarily well. What else is he contemplating? His diverse background that makes him best equipped of all the candidates to speak for rich and poor, black and white, mainstream and backwater, activists and those alienated by the political system. Dreams attempts to back it up. But wait--.

At least one vivid episode from Dreams was fictionalized. Either that or cannot be corroborated. Either invented outright by the author or a fading bogus memory of a long-lost magazine he is at loss to identify. Fortifying his heavy theme of racism in America, Obama recalls that Life magazine stunned him with an article he pored over at the age of nine. An article and two accompanying photographs showed a black man so ashamed of his race that he physically and mentally maimed himself by trying to lighten his skin. But the article doesn’t exist in Life back copies. Obama has said perhaps it was Ebony. The article doesn’t exist in its back copies either. No one can find any magazine that carried this story. His answer—smooth, practiced—is contained in a new introduction he has written for Dreams: The perils of writing an autobiography includes “the temptation to color events in ways favorable to the writer…[and] selective lapses of memory. I can’t say that I’ve avoided all, or any, of these hazards successfully.”

There’s more. In his autobiographical books, we see Obama making friends easily and becoming facile in the Indonesian language. But to a person, his friends and ex-teachers told the Tribune he had great difficulty with the new language. A woman named Israela Pareira Darmawan, his first grade teacher, said she worked mightily to help him learn the Indonesian language but it was a great struggle. He went for a time to a Catholic school the religion made no dent on him.

When his mother moved again, it was to a lush, expensive neighborhood three miles away, was enrolled at a predominantly Muslim school (where he was registered as a Muslim probably because his natural father had been one). But whether he was ever a Muslim or indoctrinated as one is still not answered. Were this to be the fact, his presidential candidacy as a fallen-away Muslim would be horrendously complicated. But, hey, the book gives excitingly crafted political hope. In contrast to his mother’s rejection of religion, he—the future president—has picked up an embrace of religion as “a vessel for my beliefs.” Huzza!

Back in Hawaii, the young Barack was sent to Punahou (the tuition presumably paid by his grandparents), the exclusive prep school in Hawaii, where he informs us conversations frequently dealt with race and civil rights. But were they? His ex-classmates deny this saying in Hawaii race was and is not that much a factor. He recounts going to parties at Schofield Barracks and other military bases with his buddies just to mingle with black servicemen so great was his need to reach out to his roots. But no one the Tribune interviewed recalls him being there.

Then his mother, seized with wanderlust, moved back to Indonesia but he stayed with his grandparents in Hawaii. Mother was evidently out of the picture. His grandparents loved him very much. His high school yearbook has him thanking his grandparents—“Tut and Gramps”—but not mentioning his mother. No Dreams of his Mother. Recently he rectified that in an interview, calling his mother “the dominant figure in my formative years…The values she taught me continue to be my touchstone when it comes to how I go about the world of politics.”

This is all we know for present of the real Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. But it’s more than we have known; and assuredly more will come. The most significant news for future Obama politics came this week when his wife, Michelle Robinson Obama, the tall, beauteous, Ebony magazine-like model former Winston-Strawn blue-chip law firm attorney, a highly paid vice president of the University of Chicago hospitals, determined to join him almost full-time in the campaign.

That is more important than anything else for to those close to them here, she is the strong one in the family. For all the missing pieces in his biography, Barack Hussein Obama is still significantly behind Hillary Clinton for the nomination—Clinton 35%, Obama 23.4%, Edwards 12.2%. To get the nomination, he must activate the Left, try to pick up the Edwards chunk if he leaves the fray because of his wife’s illness—and Edwards’ group is Left. Michelle Obama, who often leans forward intently in her TV interviews, is no shrinking violet, is far more polarizing than her husband.

Just as he and Hillary Clinton both stumbled over whether homosexual acts are immoral to placate the center, Michele would have remembered the Democratic Left which is the party base.

She seizes the reins of a campaign which isn’t exactly setting the prairies afire as it once did. The Left needs a candidate who fights racism, inequality, racism, poverty. It can thrill to the sympathetic refrains of the Kansas Girl Named Stanley, the white, idealist who wanted to change the world. That image of a liberal do-gooder is bound to ring all the bells in the Democratic base’s hearts. The Girl Named Stanley must be remembered more vividly than the old song about The Boy Named Sue. That’s why the presidential candidate suddenly remembered to bestow a memory kiss to his mother whom he neglected to credit in his yearbook in favor of Tut and Gramps. If Michelle had her way, there’d be yet another book, Dreams from My Mother to cause the oldsters in the left to wipe a tear away remembering Peter, Paul and Mary.

For the Left, Michelle Robinson Obama will be the Obama campaign’s big Kahuna, ancient Hawaiian for “expert, teacher, adviser, doer.” In essence--“big boss lady.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Personal Asides: What Happened to Walter Hamilton?...Terry’s Trivia Answered…One Sentence Judgments.


What Happened?

I’ve had some queries about “Flashback” as to whether I went to Walter Hamilton’s farewell party and what happened to him. I learned to master the Commerce game, extending pseudo courtesies while manipulating revenge—but I couldn’t bring myself to attend the farewell party and wipe faux tears of farewell. At the time, my stomach wasn’t strong enough for that. Had I stayed long enough, I’m sure I could have as David Koch managed through his career. Walter Hamilton, ironically, died not too long…a matter of a few years…after David Koch—both of them relatively young, Hamilton only 52. Hamilton lost his Schedule C but had become a permanent civil service employee…lower pay but practically unable to be fired…thanks to some kind soul in the Nixon administration.

Terry’s Trivia.

Answers to the last two Terry’s Trivia questions: the musical arrangement described, the subject of a young orchestra leader’s first hit recording in 1937 was “Marie” for Tommy Dorsey. Correspondents Jeff Terklow and Denis Quinn were first with the right answers…and the president who was a very good bowler was Richard M. Nixon with the winners Lovie’s Leather and Jesse Taylor. Congratulations.

One Sentence Judgments.

Minnesota, the state where I lived for a long time, provided the launching pad for Hubert Humphrey’s civil rights initiatives notwithstanding the fact that blacks were scarce there when he lived; now this naivete has carried over to a guilt-ridden “tolerance” for Muslims (Minneapolis represented by one who insisted on being sworn in on a Koran) but has finally righted itself as 92% of Minnesotans blame Muslim cab-drivers for intolerance: refusing to drive passengers who carry alcohol with them for “cooperating in sin.”


It is heartening to see that Katie Couric, one of the more mindless network liberals, has caused CBS-TV to sink in its ratings under “World News with Charles Gibson” on ABC and “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” proving that hype alone is insufficient to gain ratings.


With all the bad news the Republicans have had nationally, presaging an almost sure loss of the presidency next year unless the party recognizes the value in avoiding internecine battles and instead concentrate in behalf of a front-runner, it’s an index of ineptitude that the GOP can’t capitalize on these facts: the very day deficit hawk Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) called for repealing the Bush tax cuts, the market fell 200 points, news came out that the wealthiest Americans continue to carry a record share of the tax load (the top 10% pay 2/3rds), the budget deficit continues to fall, federal spending slowed to a 2% growth rate while revenues climbed by 9.3% and statisticians say the deficit will continue to decline to 1.6% of GDP this year if economic growth continues…proving that a party that cannot capitalize on these good news points is woefully incompetent.


The recurring rumor in Washington is that President Bush will not lift a finger to pardon Scooter Libby which underscores at least one thing that the liberal media appear to have right: the apparent supposition that the White House is seemingly ready to throw an honorable man to the wolves to protect Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.


One is constrained to ask if the designation of U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald as “mediocre” is due to the influence Illinois Republican and Democratic “Combine”…Jim Thompson, Richard M. Daley and Dennis Hastert types…exert on the White House.


News that White House Press Secretary Tony Snow’s cancer has expanded to his liver is awful news—not just for him but for the country just as his talents have given rise to recognition that he has the kind of sunny optimism not seen since Ronald Reagan.


In “Reader’s Comments,” Dr. Dennis Martin aka the sepulchral voice of a finger-wagging Old Testament prophet has just lamented that I have endorsed Rudy Giuliani where, were he to re-read the piece, he would see that I have not…my point being that mobilizing primary wars on several different fronts involving ideal 100% social conservatives provides a waste of money and increases the odds of defeat next year, a year where Republicans will dip to the nadir of Herbert Hoover—the solution being to make a sober judgment on how to capitalize on the narrow chance that the GOP might just pull this thing out: but then after Obama or Hillary get in, perhaps the professor and all of us will re-learn from future college seminars how wasted financial resources, expended in the hope to elect the perfect president, spurred ultimate defeat leading to a generation of liberal administrations.

Flashback: Meetings with Javits and Dirksen: Scatology on One Hand, Creativity on the Other.

[Memoirs from more than 50 years of politics for my kids and grandchildren]

Shortly after I was sworn in as an assistant to the secretary of commerce for minority enterprise, I decided to test the political waters to see how receptive the administration and the Republicans in Congress would be to the idea of a temporary (10-year) federal set-aside of government contracts for qualifying minority business. The idea of set-asides was not new, having been adopted by the Eisenhower administration in 1953 with passage of the act setting up the Small Business Administration as an independent unit of the federal government.

The Act carried with it the provision that a portion of federal contracts would be set aside for qualifying small business—but “small business” generally meant white business. Under LBJ the SBA provision was expanded to include minority business but I had the idea that a portion of the entire federal government’s procurement should be set aside for qualifying minority business. The fact that this continues and has been applied to states and cities is a vestige of that plan, blame for which (due to scandals involving cynical recruitment of minority figurehead “presidents” with white owners) —as well as such credit that may be deserved—should be applied to me. In retrospect I think my service generated ample contracts for black business but I cannot escape the thought that in the short-range I idealistically junked free-market prescriptions for an excursion into statism. Therefore, when I lecture against statism, I do as a repentant sinner. Yet in liberal terms, it is an injustice to me to even imply—as one journalist has—that because of my criticism of Barack Obama I might be perceived as a racist.

The first figure in the Nixon administration to move toward special rights for blacks to counterbalance generations of discrimination was Arthur Fletcher, a good friend of mine, a black assistant secretary of labor, a socially conservative and magnificently eloquent man who, had he been a Democrat rather than Republican, surely would have reached the highest sector of that party. A former professional football player with a dynamism of genuine energy that was on par most black leaders I have met with the single exception of Martin Luther King, Jr. (whom I spent a short time with on Chicago’s South Side during his stay here), Fletcher invented the term “affirmative action” to meet the goals of increasing minority employment in companies with federal contracts. It was not called “quotas” but, of course, it was. It was called then and still is what Fletcher wished it to be called—affirmative action. Fletcher initiated the “Philadelphia Plan” with a goal to increase black and minority employment on federally contracted projects from a lowly 4% in 1969 to 26% in 1973. Other cities would have other goals.

My plan was to take section 8(a) of the Small Business act and apply it to the entire purview of the federal government’s contracting of businesses to encourage retention of minority business whenever they qualified and wherever possible by means of a presidential executive order. Today, having seen the folly of government-induced anti-discrimination programs, I would not have advocated it—indeed if I had it to do over again, I would not have taken that job at Commerce. But then, imbued with what I earlier described as a case of idealistic liberal intellectual infection (with little respect for the free market values to which I have returned wholeheartedly), I was determined to try—based on the original vision of the Nixon letter to Stans and the original Stans agreement to hire me…all the while knowing that the Great Chill was unexpressed but on in the administration because of how it could imperil the Southern strategy.

When I visited Everett Dirksen, the powerful minority leader of the Senate (getting in to see him based on our earlier familiarity through my Quaker employment) he was quite ill, jovial, still smoking cigarettes and blowing smoke through his cavernous and hairy nostrils—but scatological. He said the idea in the Congress—among Democrats as well as Republicans—would be “as popular as an infestation of crabs in a whore-house.” His point was that Republicans would despise it because of what it would do to the Southern strategy and Democrats would also hotly oppose because they saw minority—particularly black—votes as theirs and resented any Republican attempt to “cash in” on that special interest. As if that were not enough, he was opposed to Art Fletcher’s Philadelphia Plan as well and had volunteered to the Nixon White House that he would fight its implementation (although since it too would be by executive order there would not be much he could do about it).

The visit with Sen. Jacob Koppel Javits (R-N.Y.) was far different. Of any Senator I met—including the young Hubert Humphrey—Jack Javits was the most exciting, companionable and outright fun to be with notwithstanding a kind of wise-guy New York city street-sense but which was entirely more fun-loving than the abrasive meanness of one of his successors, Chuck Schumer. When I met with him, Javits was 65, a peppery, smallish fellow with a bald but tan pate married to (second wife) a socialite, heavy into the arts and the arts crowd, who disdained Washington for New York. He was Brooklyn-born, a rara avis, a Jewish Republican swimming freely and unmolested in an ocean of Jewish Democrats.

He came up from the streets, worked his way through law school and began as a working wonder, delivering whole precincts for Republicans by working under the shadow of Fiorello LaGuardia, the progressive-Republican, half Italian, mother Jewish, mayor. When his time came he went to Congress in the 1950s, aided by the Eisenhower aura. Then he was elected state attorney general, using the office in a pioneer-sense of consumer protection. With a U. S. Senate vacancy opened, he parlayed strong support from the Rockefellers to defeat none other than former mayor Robert F. Wager, a phenomenal triumph.

Javits was the Rockefellers’ man in Washington but by no means was he subservient to that dynasty. Nor was he isolated from the Republican caucus because of his liberalism which was 90 degrees more leftward—approaching, vying with and even, on occasion, exceeding the liberalism of Hubert Humphrey-- than the Republican center. He got along well with everybody in the Senate including the most conservative of Republicans, slapping old Strom Thurmond on the back so heartily the old man’s dentures almost fell out, saying, “hey, Strom—still chasing Little Eva across the ice flows with those dogs? What’s happening on the slave plantations today?” He’d stroll the Senate floor and when a farm bill was under debate, drop down in a seat next to cone-pone Ag chairman Herman Talmadge and pretend drawl with his New York accent: “well, Herman, how do we farmers vote?”

Chuck Percy, not nearly so liberal as Javits, was posing and sanctimonious, viewing himself as destiny’s tot and so was not beloved by both sides as was Javits. As ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations committee and one of the canniest operators on either side of the aisle, he was very important for the Nixon administration to bank on as a defender of its policies on Vietnam—and he held on as a hawk until it became deadly precarious for him to do so. In 1969, Nixon and Henry Kissinger counted on Javits for support of their foreign policy and to be a bridge to other northern liberals.

What is utterly the most resourceful piece of politicking ever conducted in modern presidential campaign history has to do with Jack Javits. In 1968, the Conservative party of New York, a deadly rival of the Nelson Rockefeller-controlled New York GOP, wanted Nixon to run on its line alone and avoid the Republican ticket. The Conservatives were looked on as the successor party to the Republicans anyhow and Nixon was sorely tempted. Rockefeller was no friend of his and all Nixon’s allies in New York were cozy with the Conservatives.

The Conservatives put together a brilliant slate of candidates and they sorely wanted Nixon as presidential nominee to run exclusively with them in November—avoiding the Republican line and punishing Rockefeller. Nixon had almost definitely agreed to do so. After all, Rockefeller ran an abortive campaign against Nixon for the 1968 nomination but Nixon got nominated by the GOP at Miami Beach and now was the time for pay-back, which Nixon deliciously relished. It’s a tribute to Jack Javits’ effectiveness that he was (a) for Rockefeller for president before Miami Beach and (b) still retained a friendship with Nixon—on the basis of what Javits might be able to do for him in northern urban, and particularly Jewish, areas.

Nelson Rockefeller called Javits on the phone and asked if he would please go to see nominee Nixon whose headquarters was then at the Plaza hotel and beg him to run on both Republican and Conservative lines in New York. Well, Javits never begged anybody but he agreed to go to see Nixon who was feeling his oats at the Plaza, triumphantly ridiculing Rockefeller privately whenever he could, ensconced with John Mitchell his campaign manager. As Andrew Glass, Javits’ top political aide (and former reporter for the old New York Herald-Tribune) told me the story, this is what happened.

Javits invited Glass to go with him to see Nixon at the Plaza. Once inside the presidential suite, Nixon greeted them in tow with Mitchell, the pipe-smoking, laconic campaign manager. All sat down. Then Javits made the case based on hard-nosed realistic politics as to why Nixon should also run on the Republican party line and why he should forget his old animosity with Rockefeller. All during Javits’ presentation, Glass noticed that Nixon was not paying attention. He was either looking out the window at the park, or examining his nails, or looking about the room. John Mitchell was involved and asked Javits a number of realistic questions to which Javits responded. But Nixon was a silent auditor of the conversation. Glass was fascinated. Javits didn’t seem to notice that Nixon was day-dreaming, lost in thought.

When it became apparent that Nixon hadn’t contributed anything to the conversation, Javits turned to him and said, “Well, Dick, how about it?”

Nixon thought and then said, “Jack, your good friend Arthur Krim, the movie producer, just had a major fund-raiser at his home in Beverly Hills for Hubert and had every Jewish film producer and financier in Hollywood at his place. Jack, how do I get Jewish money for this campaign?”

The question was so blunt—a question that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic—but so typically unvarnished Nixon that even John Mitchell jumped back in surprise. But Javits didn’t turn a hair. His response was traditional: Jews have always been Democrats for many years and that he, Javits, had made some inroads with him. As he went on, though, Javits knew what Nixon was saying in essence: get me Jewish money and I’ll agree to run on the Republican line in New York as well.

Javits wound up his answer by asking, “how can I help you with that, Dick?”

Nixon said, “Well, I just wonder why the hell I never get any Jewish money, that’s all”—and he outlined all the things he did in a foreign policy vein that were consonant with the goals of the American Jewish Committee and other groups. It was obvious that he was hanging a contingency on the statement so Javits responded, “let me see what I can do with Arthur Krim and his friends.”

Andy Glass now started to bolt upright. Arthur Krim, formerly of Chicago, was about as anti-Nixon as it was possible to get, had been a huge fund-raiser for John F. Kennedy when he ran against Nixon. There could be no chance that even Javits at his most persuasive best could get Arthur Krim to kick in to Nixon.

But Nixon’s eyes glistened with appreciation. “Jack,” he said, “it’s important to me. Get back to me on that will you…” and a pregnant pause, “…and I’ll see what can be done about this matter you mention.”

As they went down in the elevator at the Plaza, Glass said to Javits, “well, Senator, it’s a foregone conclusion that you can’t get Arthur Krim to kick in to Dick Nixon.”

Javits said: “M’boy, I’m going to give you a lesson in how it’s done. I’m going to call Krim when I get back to the office and you’re going to be with me when I get the dough and when I get his friends to give to Nixon as well.”

Glass said, “this I want to see.”

Back at the office when the call went through to Krim, Javits put on the speaker phone so Glass could hear and said, “Arthur—I understand you raised quite a bundle at your place for Hubert.”

Krim said, “That’s right, Jack. As you know, Hubert and I have been the closest of personal friends through the years just as we are friends, Jack. If you were to come out here to raise money for yourself and your campaign, I would do the same thing for you Jack. And, in fact, you will remember the last time you were up for reelection, that’s exactly what I did.”

Javits: “I remember, Arthur and was—and am—very grateful. Now I’m going to come out there and I wonder if you would host me at your home.”

Krim: “Absolutely! Absolutely! You just give me the date!”

Javits: “Tell you what, Arthur. I’ll have my associate here, Mr. Glass, call with the date and Mr. Glass will be accompanying me. It’ll be later this month. As soon as I can make it, that is.”

Krim: “Whenever you say, Jack. As you know, you and I are brothers; we don’t let the fact that you’re a Republican bother me or my friends.”

Javits: “One thing more, Arthur.”

Krim: “Yes, Jack.”

Javits: “I want you to invite all the people you had for Hubert Humphrey.”

Krim: “A deal! A deal! They all love you, Jack!”

Javits: “…because—and only you know that and must not tell anyone-- I am going to give a pitch for Dick Nixon.”

Long-long pause.

Krim: “Jack—Jack. The people who were at my house—and you know a lot of them—hate Nixon like poison. Some of them have been blacklisted through his friend Joe McCarthy. It won’t work to have them. Let me invite some Republicans--.”

Javits: “No. No. No. Arthur, I’m not obligating you to do anything more than invite them. Again—and I insist you keep this confidence: I don’t want you to tell them I’m coming in for Nixon. I’ll make the pitch, not you. I just want the same people. Tell them I’ll be there and do this as a favor for me.”

Krim: “Jack. For you they will move heaven and earth. For you I will move heaven and earth. Believe me. But not for that [and he used a scatological term for Nixon pertaining to genitalia]. For you the moon! The world! Not for--.”

Javits: “Arthur [and here he recalled a tax provision that he had shepherded that was a great boon to the film industry]. So I’m calling in the favor with you now. Again—don’t tell them I’m coming for Nixon. Just tell them I’m the guest of honor and I’ll make the pitch. Agreed?”

Krim: “Jack—agreed. They all remember the tax provision and are eternally grateful. And they love you beyond the tax provision! Anything for you, my friend. But I don’t want you to be embarrassed when no money eventuates!”

Javits: “Let me worry about that. You just host the event. I’ll do the rest.”

He hung up and sent Glass to the scheduler to see when they could both go to Los Angeles.

As they flew out to L. A., Javits let Glass hang and didn’t tell him what he had in mind. They walked into Krim’s magnificent Beverly Hills palace and the cream of the film producing community was there—all Jews, the same people who had given to Humphrey: people who were Jews married to Jews; lawyers, financiers, screen producers, directors—all Jews. There were non-observant Jews, liberal Jews, radical Jews, some orthodox Jews, a number of Rabbis, including a stunning Jewish screen starlet betrothed to a Jewish financier who returned her adulatory gaze with warm regard—a gorgeous, raven-haired woman who had packed a rifle in the Israeli army. All expected Javits would make the pitch for himself. All had a wondrous dinner, champagne, exquisite dessert and met in the huge front room loaded with precious antiques.

Krim gave Javits a brilliant introduction and when he finished, they all jumped to their feet in applause.

Javits walked ponderously over to the grand piano, turned, leaned on it with one elbow and said, “My friends—you who have been with me throughout my career and have stood with me. I am here to ask that you donate to Richard Nixon!”

There was a loud shriek as if a wild, furry defecating animal had penetrated the room. Some stood up and shook fists, shaking their heads “no” vigorously. The Israeli actress demanded of her lover that he take her home. When this died down, Javits said:

“I am going to show you something.” He handed his valise to Glass and ordered Glass to distribute copies of a document to each guest. It was the latest Gallup poll accompanied by the latest Harris poll. He reviewed it with them. The poll showed that Nixon was—at that juncture—significantly ahead of Humphrey. There was crestfallen silence.

“Now I am going to tell you something that will not surprise you,” said Javits. They all leaned forward to hear.

“Dick Nixon is a mean-mean-mean, hate-filled sonuvabitch who has only survived this long by rubbing his scabs and vowing to get even with his enemies. He knows that you had this meeting not long ago, knows who attended and knows that I am here with you today. As one who knows him well since the days of Alger Hiss, I can tell you something that will not surprise you. His anger is something to behold. Now get this straight: he is going to be elected—do you get me? He is going to be elected! He has a burning, deeply passionate memory and I cannot promise you that he will not be vindictive. This hate, this anger reminiscent of Richard III will carry through to this industry…and to another cause that I will bring up today. The cause of Israel. You and I have worked too hard for this industry and for Israel and all the things we favor to be so short-sighted as to jeopardize…Let me bring up the tax measure I authored, for example--.”

Silence while they meditated.

As they did, Javits toyed with a folio on the piano and muttered ih perfect cadence the line from Richard III: “Now is the winter of our discontent.”

The Israeli actress who was going home, sat down and looked soulfully at her lover.


At length Krim stood up. “Jack, we get the idea. What do we do?”

“I want all of you who contributed to Hubert to give to Nixon. Decide now since I am here on a very short timetable.”

As Javits and Glass flew back the next morning, he carried in his valise a fat envelopes of checks plus a bevy of full commitments—actual checks and on-the-barrel-head pledges redeemable and signed by the participants.

Nixon agreed to run on the Republican line as well as the Conservative party line.

This is the man I met with next and asked to help me get Nixon to buy the minority set-aside idea.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Personal Asides: The Blagojevich Tax Hike…The Bad News for Republicans Doesn’t Seem to Fire Up Urgency.


Tax Hike.

For those who believe that the era of substantive discussions have passed us by, I can merely cite Sunday’s “Political Shootout” between Ron Gidwitz and John Filan as an example of courteous, well-informed, deep-rooted discussion that presented both sides of the Governor’s tax hike issue. Someone asked me if the two participants came loaded down with statistics. The answer is no—both men were superbly equipped to discuss the state’s fiscal problems by drawing down figures from their memories. The fact that all ten phone lines were buzzing shows that content-filled discussions are not just for so-called public radio but can be provided by commercial talk-radio as well.

Earlier last week I was chided by a number of correspondents to this web-site for not taking a position on the Governor’s tax program. Reason: I really wanted to wait until these two admirably schooled experts spent the hour debating the issue. Because you know me as a conservative who doubts the efficacy of government in many areas, you will not be surprised to know that I am opposed to the program…which requires the expenditure of a record $60.1 billion requiring the biggest tax hike and borrowing spree in state history…to phase out the corporate income tax and replace it with a Gross Receipts Tax on business for a net revenue gain of $6 billion…in addition to a $1 billion payroll taxes, constituting together the largest tax increase in state history. With the huge amount of borrowing that has had to be done to meet prior obligations, I think the governor risks driving us all into penury with a mountain of expenses and debt—all to achieve a humanitarian’s political image after which passage he will be gone: either to other worlds to conquer or to take a comfortable berth in the private sector.

The governor’s plan is based on the need for more money to fund services. This is wrong. With respect to education, the choice sacred cow, the blatant cry of more money for education is illusory and based on the outstretched palms and shouts for more largesse from the public teachers’ unions. The fact that the Democrats are owned by many special interests which gobble up money is clear that they cannot be counted upon to solve any state fiscal problem. Reason: they don’t see the world as it really is. The problem centers on their mistaken view of wealth which impacts on everything—taxes, education, health care. The world as it really is is contained in this analogy from Paul Zane Pilzer’s book Unlimited Wealth. It pertains to education as well as private wealth. First, imagine an island with a population of ten people. Each of the individuals, in order to survive, must go fishing each day and each catch two fish. Thus the island has a gross domestic product of 20 fish per day.

Suppose two of the island’s inhabitants decide to risk starvation and instead of being predictable workers i.e. bureaucrats, take time from fishing to (a) invent a boat and (b) a net. The island now has the potential to improve its living standards. The two inhabitants do this and are then able to catch twenty fish a day or ten each. What has happened is that there is an incredible jump in fishing productivity with two people now producing what it took all ten people to catch before. Now what is the reaction to the other inhabitants? Two options. The inhabitants can (1) ignore the productivity gains and continue to live on the two fish each person can catch. If this happens, the two inventive producers can take time off from work, enjoy leisure and live the good life. Or, the inhabitants can (2) produce different goods (raise fruits, vegetables and grains and delve into services: boat fixing and fish cleaning).

They can then trade these goods and services for the excess fish the two entrepreneurs catch. If they choose (2) the GDP of the island will rise and wealth will increase; each of the island’s inhabitants will now have a daily income of two fish in addition to whatever else the island learns how to produce. With a high output, the inhabitants will be able to store and save, enabling themselves to weather bad times and allowing other inhabitants to invent new goods and services. This is how wealth is created. But the government mentality can not be found here. The government mentality will concentrate on the two fish each person can catch. If suddenly the island is invaded by liberals and the mass-media, a cry will go up that there should be some subsidy to assist those fishermen who can only catch two fish a day. The media would immediately focus on the victimization of people relying on a fish diet.

Then when the two inhabitants want to take time off to invent a boat and net, liberals would proclaim that they are interfering with the commonweal and are selfishly interested only in benefiting for themselves and not the community of fishermen. This same analogy can be used for education. We want more state funds for an education that is ineptly run by too many time-servers in the grip of a reactionary union. The illiteracy rates, poor reading rates tell the story. But the media—the engine of advocacy spawned by liberal academe—seemingly can not learn. None so blind are those who will not see.

The governor’s budget is based the island’s inhabitants producing two fish a day and worrying about penalizing those who have the incentive to seek new ways and new sources of wealth. The budget is fastened on securing more government-sponsored health and educational opportunities without examining any other options. Liberals ask: If not the gross-receipts tax what tax? The answer is to examine the huge waste that has gone into the system so far…to recommend cut-backs and abolition of useless departments…to urge new ways to improve health care and education…to improvise vouchers for education and for health care and to cut—not raise--taxes. Above all, while it is difficult in view of the class-warfare media, there is no need to worry that some of those “aren’t paying their share.” This is not the rule of the smaller pie; it should be the rule of the greater incentives.

What this lesson tells us is that liberalism is in fact a short-sighted ideology that is floated by vacant-minded advocacy alone from academe and the mindless media and not by reason. What the governor should be proposing is cutting back the enormously wasteful expenditures endemic in all government and then proposing a tax cut and alternative private solutions such as vouchers. Not to become imbued with political vision-making and posturing while at the helm of a state which is nearing bankruptcy. The editorial pages understand the folly but so rooted in conventional wisdom are they that they cannot budge except by improvising fine-tuning. The liberal mind-set reigns when the liberal mind-set has produced the chaos we are in.

No Sense of GOP Urgency.

Increasingly the political news brings bad news for Republicans but I don’t really think the Republicans recognize it. They are mulling over who is the right presidential candidate as if conservatism were here in its hey-day and the Democrats were stuck with Mike Dukakis. “Let’s see, we would like the managerial qualities of Romney but he has had a period of heresy to our ideology.” “We would like the military heroism of McCain but he has practiced heresy on tax cuts and campaign financing.” “We would like the independence and popularity of Giuliani but he has been married three times and while he has said he would name a Scalia or Roberts or Alito to the Court, we don’t like his stand on guns even though he has said New York city’s needs are not the nation’s. Gee, can we trust him? Also he’s pro-abort and that bothers us.” Good night! Vote for Ron Paul and be done with it and see what that gets you.

First, what in the name of God are Republicans thinking about? Do they recognize the terribly bad news that is swamping the GOP or not? President Bush’s disapproval record is at an all-time low, a cloud that has to depress the future for any GOP presidential candidate. I remember Hoover and Landon and a generation that rolled by as young people grew old and old people died without any respite from the New Deal. The RCP average today has Bush at 33.7% approval with a whopping 59.7% disapproval. That is the worst I’ve seen a Republican president since the era of Herbert Hoover. There’s a deluge coming, people! Get with it!

Second, while they’re nitpicking over the candidates…this one has freckles, this one is too old, this one is a Mormon, this one lost his temper with me…the Democrats are coming perilously close to winning and starting a cycle of Democratic presidencies that may last a generation. What in the name of God are Republicans thinking about in nitpicking as they have been doing?

Third, one Republican candidate—and only one—is ahead of all the Democrats: Giuliani. But, no, he’s no good on embryonic stem-cells; he has had three wives. Listen to me: can you feature Obama dealing with terrorists…or Putin… or anybody else? Can you feature Hillary and who she would appoint to the courts? There is such a thing as survival in this political manual, is there not? Hey, this guy Brownback is great—great on embryonic stem cells, only been married once. But he’s not even a blip on the radar screen, people! Fred Thompson was lazy in the Senate so we can scrub him. Get with the program! If you want to win, you should swallow hard and make do with someone who at the very least has promised to name strict-constructionist judges to the Court and to stand up to the terrorists. Really, at the age of 78 I have never seen the Republican so-called “conservative leaders” so all-powerfully stupid as they are now. The game should be to be pragmatic now—and keep the White House. Strange that I have to remind you. I sometimes think you’ve taken leave of your senses.

I haven’t decided on Giuliani officially yet—but I’ll tell you this. I would prefer any one of ours to the so-called “best” of theirs. Even one of ours who isn’t perfect, has freckles and is imperfect. Wake up and smell the coffee, conservatives! I really think you prefer to be cast out in the dessert for forty years rather than win. Well if that’s what you wish, pick up your walking staff and head out there but don’t come crying back at the village gate when President Barack Obama sits composing a poem to the swaying of the romantic media while the buildings are blowing up. Give me a break.

And don’t any of you write and say I should have applied this logic to the governorship and supported Topinka. That’s an entirely different proposition so don’t be duplicitous with me. She would have foreclosed any possibility of change for the Republican party of Illinois. She was running for governor not president. I just say that to spare any of you from wasting your time on that irreconcilable rationale such as one of you writes by the name of Louis. Or don’t tell me that since we’re in the Iraq War we should go the paleo route and retreat to Fortress America ala Pat Buchanan. We’ve had one President Buchanan who like his namesake vowed to do nothing and allowed events to crest in a Civil War. All we need is isolationism internationally and protectionism at home to spark a real depression.

In summary: for heaven’s sake, conservatives, grow up…grow up…and be pragmatic for once in your lives, will you—and resolve to win!

Flashback: Setting the Course While Understanding the Ship’s Captain Could Eventually be Dumped.

[Fifty years of political memories shared with my kids and grandchildren].

Talk about mixed emotions. There were at least five within me, brimming to overflowing. First was the enthusiastic anticipation still surviving from the original meeting with Stans and reading the Nixon letter which charted a four-year program to provide special treatment for black business which would renew historic support for the Republican party from blacks who had historically been part of the GOP base from abolition of slavery on to the 1930s—a reformulation that could, if successful, change the political dynamics of the country. Second: the let-down coming from word from David Koch and others that the White House was already yielding major ground to fomenters of the Southern strategy (a rumor I was determined to verify).

Third the determination to do what I could to re-charge the batteries of the administration away from the Southern strategy (although how a lone public manager could accomplish this I didn’t know). Fourth was the regret on leaving Quaker, particularly since the program I was to head could be short-changed coupled with the foreboding that I had acted too peremptorily. Fifth since leaving Quaker had to be a resignation with no formal way of taking a leave of absence, a natural wonderment of what would happen if and when I were sacked with a wife and three kids, with another waiting to be born, if I had to hit the street at age 41 or 42 with the onus of a firing by a president of the United States in my resume. Why before the swearing-in did I buy what David Koch, a seeming stranger, had said about my tenure lasting all of seven or so months? After all, Koch had only met me once: why did he estimate I would be out in that short a time? Why did I trust Koch, anyhow? Maybe he’s another Walter Hamilton. Maybe…

Before I went back to Chicago to formally sign out, I had coffee with Koch, the “faceless professional” whose loyalty I assumed was bona-fide. But was it? How was it that he predicted my death warrant when I could easily “sell out” and hang around as an alter-ego to Stans. So I asked him this:

Suppose I do what you say the Secretary and the White House will want me to do, David, and just fool around with a program that goes nowhere—why couldn’t I hang around for a year or so and quit on my own the way hundreds of business types do with federal service? Why are you so dead set sure I’ll be booted?

“Because of Correspondence Control, sir.”

That same Correspondence Control?

“The same. They have a whole file of personal observations about you. You’re sort of an independent free-spirit, sir. A bit of a rebel, too. Not too organized but, strangely in a free-spirit way, you are determined to get things done…and they kind of get done although sometimes in an unorthodox way, they seem to agree. The people who recommended you said you were just the kind of guy to head up the program because you didn’t want to be a professional bureaucrat—and that although your political philosophy was conservative you had a streak of nonconformity, you would take this job as a challenge and give it the maximum to push it through.”

They checked me out that far, did they?

“Yes sir. These people who evaluated you include two U. S. Senators from Illinois whom they checked with and a few congressmen including the chairman of the House Republican conference [John B. Anderson] as well as a host of people from Minnesota including the former Republican governor. He, the former governor, put us in touch with, incredibly, former Vice President Hubert Humphrey who was contacted at the Encyclopedia Britannica [which he was heading up] and Senator McCarthy of Minnesota. All had the same impression as did a lot of Republicans in Illinois. Free spirit and bit of a rebel. Pretty clear that they didn’t imagine you would just be a time-server here. Of course if they’re wrong and you obey all the orders you get around here, you’ll hang on for a long time. That’s just the attitudinal study that has come out about you.”

I see.

“The funny thing about is that the Secretary had a whole list of people eager to come on board who were time-servers, willing to make no waves. Lawyers, businessmen, former CEOs, minorities, economists, professors, MBAs. He vetoed them when he thought the White House was willing to forge full-steam ahead. He undoubtedly regrets that now. So you’ve got a whole lot of people who have endorsed you from the flattering standpoint that you were the guy to get things done. Interesting, isn’t it?”

No. Rather scary, actually. If I perform as expected I’ll get canned ultimately. If I don’t, a whole lot of people who evidently have their faith in me will be kind of disappointed.

“Yes. But here’s an interesting sidelight. There’s always a chance that the White House and the secretary will come back to their first concept—in which case you’re in like Flynn.”

David, I was thinking that, once I get sworn in, of making the rounds and seeing for myself. Making the rounds not just of the White House but the Congress.

“Very good idea, sir. And if you find a lot of unexpected support in the Congress—among Republicans there, particularly—they could put some heat on the White House to regenerate the engines so to speak. But--.”

But what?

“Remember I’m a faceless professional—but my view of Republicans, sir, is that many of those in the Congress are a bunch of unimaginative people, not willing to change an administration of their own party right off. Where would the congressional constituency come from with Republicans? You tell me.”

You start with Chuck Percy who’s not ace high with the White House anyhow since he endorsed Rockefeller for president last year. I imagine I could get some middling support from Dirksen…

“You better get that in writing sir, because he is a very sick man.”

Then Jack Javits.

“Yes. And while he’s very liberal, he has a following in the White House because of his support of the president last year. He’s stronger than you think. Matter of fact, since he’s carrying a lot of duties for the White House in the Senate and has great touch with Democrats, he could be your best ally.”

I would think Bob Dole.

“That’s a good one. He’s the national chairman but favorable to minorities.”

Well, I’ll go around. I would think Margaret Chase Smith who’s on Senate appropriations.

“Good. Not as good as Javits but you got the idea, sir.”

I left saying to myself: I’ll bank everything on Koch’s loyalty. On that I was 100% right—as he proved time and time again as when the heat was on he stood with us and didn’t cave. Of all the people I ever worked with in government…on the Hill…in state government…in the federal government…I have never met his match for perspicacity, courage, plain old fashioned guts and the willingness to take risks which he didn’t have to do as a “faceless professional” to see that our office survived. His early death knocked me for a loop.


I went back to Chicago and officially signed out and went to the farewell party having given the company about a month pre-notice. My assistant, a very good man, Patrick Racey, could, I thought, run the job by himself as Senior Vice President Bob Thurston, my immediate boss, was quite sophisticated about government relations. Racey was a young man I hired from the employee relations department who, believe it or not, was writing instructions for company manufacturing and hiring manuals which surprisingly was an excellent background for his becoming a government affairs manager.

He never had a day of experience in either government or politics (he was a loyal Daley regular Democrat to which was added more than a modest touch of social liberalism) but had a thorough knowledge of Quaker’s needs…far better than I had…and a memory that could rival any future computer… a memory for legislation, how it impacted various Quaker facilities and departments. He was sort of Luddite (not into the typewriter), writing longhand with a pencil stub, not using any mechanical means, then giving his longhand to a clerk for typing; he was nevertheless flooding grateful managers with clippings, analyses and Congressional Record reports pertaining to their businesses…and had a reputation with Bob Thurston and the chairman, Bob Stuart, for perceptive government relations astuteness.

In all my business or political experience I never knew anyone as phenomenal as Racey. We called him “the wonderful Racey machine.” Smoking vile cigars, sometimes chewing tobacco, sitting in an open coop puffing away or spatting away into a toxic wastebasket during the 1960s, while secretaries frowned and sprayed perfume around him to enliven the air, he would close his eyes and in response to a question be able to tick off the entire legislative history of a bill which would have even small relevance to Quaker.

You’d say: Pat, where is the Congress now on the Consumer Protection bill?

He’d strike a match to relight his cigar and say: “The bill was introduced at the start of the session in the House on January 14 by”—and list in order the Democratic sponsors—“and also by John Anderson who is swinging somewhat to the left, actually on consumer matters. It went to Government Operations in the House where it is expected to sail through easily. On the Senate side a companion was introduced on February 7 by Warren Magnuson the Commerce chairman which, of course, was written by Mike Pertschuk, but there will be a lot of--.”

Thanks a lot, Pat.

“Wait—I’m not through yet.” He wanted to finish the entire roundelay from bill introduction, step-by-step to where it was now.

That was only one instance of the Marvelous Racey Machine. He also knew with far more detail than most of the company’s tax people, the state of tax legislation, far more detail than most of the company’s personnel, the state of labor and pension legislation and regulations; he’d know federal regulations impacting on marketing far more than marketing managers (and even, I dare say, lots of company lawyers). In those days well before the advance of modern computer technology, had he been hit by a bus, it would have taken three full-time professionals to replace him—and even then they’d miss stuff that Pat never would. We had great respect for each other but were never close: we couldn’t be—someone as detailed and as meticulously detailed as he with the high ethical principles of a moralistic and contemplative monk with almost Nader-like scrupulosity and someone like me who enjoyed outrageous dickering and political maneuvering. But the fact is we needed each other in an association that went on for a quarter of a century.


We—Lillian and I—decided that she would stay back in Chicago with the kids—Tommy, Mary and Michael--since they were in school…and with her undergoing a somewhat difficult pregnancy (having had one miscarriage a year earlier). So I asked Mother to come to Washington with me to be on hand during my swearing-in. I decided that since the office had so much importance to blacks, Abe Venable my deputy and I would have a joint-swearing in. The accompanying photo shows Secretary Stans, me, Abe Venable, Mrs. Venable and Mother at the ceremony. Someone who saw the picture the other day says Mother looked like she was ready to give me a swat. That she certainly did during my younger days but this was her official, formal look.

Before the swearing-in, I had made a list of things I thought the office should do—a list I had shared with the secretary preceding the Great Chill where the White House ordained that much progress on minority enterprise should come to a halt to pacify the Southern strategy people in the Congress. The first issue was one which I must say I have now come to have serious misgivings over…an issue which Stans supported pre-Chill, but which I could only rationalize today by remembering that I had put a 9-year deadline on it. This was the federal set-aside program which would launch what came to be known as the “8 (a)” program of federal procurement wherein a portion of purchases would be allocated to qualifying minority firms. After the Chill, Stans said that by no means should it be pushed—but I wanted to verify the Chill in the White House toward the possibility anyhow. So after the swearing-in I went to see John Ehrlichman, the White House domestic advisor.

I remember Ehrlichman’s endorsement of the Chill included the coolness with which he received me. I followed up with some visits to other domestic White House officials; I received a charming but ambiguously stated view from the scholarly and ironic Daniel Patrick Moynihan who even then was concentrating on welfare reform and not interested in minority enterprise. So I went to see Sen. Javits. Normally getting in to see a Senator personally and avoiding his staff is a difficult thing for a distinctly minor league administration official—but here as frequently I hearkened back to my Quaker Oats experience and said that I had worked for…and would probably return to…a company that owned Fisher-Price located in Aurora, N. Y. which got me in. Lawmakers are very solicitous of those who have or had relationships with even moderately-sized employers in their states.

Jacob Javits was an anomaly as a liberal Republican—and I mean an exceedingly liberal Republican. The oracular and intellectual equal of Hubert Humphrey, Javits was unlike other liberals such as Chuck Percy, by not being estranged from the regular Republican party or Richard M. Nixon. Far from it, he spoke his mind which was generally, except on some business issues, 90 degrees to the left of party orthodoxy but varied this by cooperating in many ways with Nixon. On one significant occasion in 1968, he was challenged by candidate Nixon to raise what Nixon called “Jewish money.” No one would have made that request which he described so baldly but Nixon. Someone else would have faded away by being faced with that request—not Javits. The story comes from my friend Andrew Glass, a Jew, who was a journalist, then a key Javits aide and who is now a journalist again. And the story is worth retelling since it shows the brilliance of Jake—whom people called Jack—Javits.

The details of that story and of my later meeting with Javits next.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Personal Asides: Answers to Old Guy’s Trivia…Terry’s Latest…A Great Swing Artist’s First Big Hit Record.


Old Guy’s Trivia.

Unsurprising that the Old Guy’s Trivia contest was won by Frank Nofsinger with the title of the song, “You’ll Never Know.” Jesse Taylor came in second. Pat Hickey was thinking of “Tangerine” but he’s just a kid.

Terry’s Latest…

Here’s one that may be more difficult than you think…from the pen of Terry Przybylski, Honor code: no search engines.

Many presidents have been avid golfers—Eisenhower particularly—but who was the last president to be a skilled bowler?

First Hit.

I realize I haven’t written on contemporary politics in quite a long time but I’m fascinated today with swing trivia. We’ll get back to today’s politics in time.

Once again, no search engines. I’m not going to give you the name of the artist because that would give it away. Instead I’ll describe him and his first record hit—which happens to be my favorite as well. He was born in 1905 in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The song that became his first hit started out as a waltz written by Irving Berlin for the early sound movie The Awakening which had music but no dialogue. The artist changed the song by…and here’s the first clue…having the vocalist perform the song while the band chanted phrases behind him. The song starts out with a lightly swinging beat. The artist smoothly performs the main theme while the horn section punches out riffs behind. The vocalist was Jack Leonard—first hint-- who for his time was just slightly less popular than Sinatra was to become. Then—second hint--Bunny Berigan comes on with his solo and the song become something special. It was recorded January 29, 1937 and is a swing classic. The artist’s name is? The name of the song is?

Flashback: Huh? The Commerce Suite We Reserved was the Herbert Hoover Memorial Library? And Walter Hamilton’s Sad Political Demise.

[Fifty years of political memories for my kids and grandchildren].

When next I went to Washington, I inspected the suite of offices that Walter Hamilton had reserved in my name for the Office of Minority Business Enterprise. They were indeed spacious and well-appointed, with huge windows looking out onto the Mall with the Washington monument looming in the distance. The wood looked like teakwood, with a finely perfected workmanship identical to the John Adams rooms in the U. S. Department of State. Just as Walter Hamilton had said, the offices of the secretary were next door and the under-secretary down the hall. Bookcases were filled with classics of literature, some Chinese and engineering tomes. Just the place for the new agency dedicated to minority enterprise to be located—very prominent as visitors came in from the street.

I was walking around the suite that was to be my own office when I was interrupted by a man who introduced himself as my new budgetary and personnel aide, a liaison to the permanent bureaucracy and who became one of my closest friends. A youngish man of military bearing and correct civil service mien, he was not unlike “Radar” in M.A.S.H. except a great deal handsomer, with ruddy cheeks and an athletic bearing, often swinging an imaginary golf club. Each agency at Commerce was given a consummate bureaucrat to expedite its wishes and to deal with the permanent Commerce civil service hierarchy. This was a young man with an ironic sense of humor, David Koch (pronounced “Cook”).

“Uh, you are inspecting your office suite, sir?” he said.

Yes. I love it.

“So does Secretary Stans, sir.”

That has an ominous ring to it.

“The secretary loves it because this suite of offices is a memorial to Herbert Hoover whom you must know was the greatest commerce secretary.” He practiced tee’ing off, his arms swinging up with correct looseness.

A memorial to Hoover? That I didn’t know.

“I imagine not, sir. You couldn’t be expected to. These were Mr. Hoover’s offices. When he was elected president, his successors ordained that these be set aside as a kind of library. It has remained such ever since. Until last week when you reserved this for yourself. As anyone who has been associated with this 5th floor and policy for any time at all can tell you, these offices are top-shelf and are for the study and reflection of the secretary and the under-secretary. Anyone…or I may extend that to everyone…who ever worked a day in Commerce knows this. Including, if I may say so, sir, the man who reserved the suite in your name, Mr. Walter Hamilton.”

I see. Now since Mr. Venable worked in Commerce for a long time, he knew it as well?

“That is a difficult question that requires a variegated answer.” He lowered his head and looked from his imaginary club to the imaginary cup and tapped the make-believe ball gently.


“Mr. Venable has many strengths as all of us know at Commerce. But as a black man involved in pioneering minority enterprise which historically has been on a very low priority here, he worked in the bowels of this place in a very-very low level job. He was stuck away on the 10th floor. He never came by here. No, sir, I wouldn’t fault him. But he was filled in on this suite of offices by Mr.Hamilton. He has had up to now the highest regard for Mr. Hamilton. I expect that has changed, sir.”

I hope so. I had the original impression that Mr. Hamilton is a 14 carat phony.

“I wouldn’t say that, no sir.”


“A 16-carat. May I just say sir he is seeking to remain on board with the new Republican administration because of his new-found loyalty to Republican principles.”

Yes. And I am just about to challenge those principles.

“It would not be proper to get into a dispute with him sir. That is not the Commerce way. We operate with gentlemanliness and dignity if I may say so, sir.”

Let’s see if, even though I’m not sworn in, I can distinguish the Commerce way.

“Yes sir. Try me.”

I am thinking about leaving these quarters and take a cab to the White House where I will drop in on Personnel and visit with the man who is in charge of seeing that all Schedule Cs [politically filled positions] have the requisite loyalty to the administration.

“Very good sir. You are a fast learner of the Commerce way. You have the name of his personnel man, I expect.”

No, I will find out when I get there.

“Let me refresh you, sir. His name is Harry Flemming.”

Harry Flemming! I think I know him. He is the son of a former HEW secretary under Eisenhower is he not?

“Yes sir. Arthur Flemming. Harry Flemming, according to rumor—and as a civil servant I am not privy to the ways of politics but only civil service comings and goings…but according to rumor, Harry Flemming might be delighted to see you because he has a difficult assignment, to free-up more Schedule Cs for Republican appointment—and he has relatively few Schedule Cs due to the congress. Mr. Hamilton is a Schedule C under past Democratic appointment. Mr. Flemming would undoubtedly be gratified to free up any Schedule Cs you might suggest, sir.”

Very well. I’m leaving right now. You might tell Mr. Venable when he comes in that I want to see him.

“He came in this morning sir and is working at a make-shift office on the 10th floor way out of sight from you and everyone else, sir. He is aware that you are in the building, sir.”

He is? And I take it he is shying away because he also invited me to send a telegram to the secretary reserving this suite?

“Yes. He is let me say very disturbed when he found out from me that this suite has been traditionally held open in memory of Mr. Hoover. He has both been eager to see you and dreading it at the same time, sir.”

Someone who has to be outraged with me must be the secretary who has returned from Japan.

“Disturbed? No sir.”

Why not? He must have seen my stupid telegram reserving the Herbert Hoover library for my own office and that of my staff.

“As a matter of fact he has not, sir.” The smooth golf swing again.


“Commerce procedure mandates that before a swearing in of any policy personnel, all correspondence including telegrams and letters sent to the secretary from that person impacting on official duties goes to the administrator of the particular office—that to provide for certain legal safeguards in the writing of correspondence. It is section 459-b in our manual. It has been our policy since the era of C. R. Smith who was a very efficient secretary. You see—before C. R. Smith came here, occasionally—not often—a man named to a high post would be careless about his correspondence to the secretary until he was properly tutored about maintaining a distance between politics and Commerce, which never intersect in this building, sir.”

Really? Another golf swing.

“Yes. In Mr. Hodges time—he served under President Kennedy—a man was named n assistant secretary and before he was sworn in he wrote a letter to the secretary thanking him for the appointment and promising to continue raising money for the Democratic party in gratitude as per his earlier conversation with Secretary Hodges. The letter was leaked by unfriendly sources and caused a great deal of havoc on the Hill. Mr. Hodges was gravely embarrassed. So C. R. Smith, a wise gentleman who succeeded Mr. Hodges, ordered that all correspondence from prospective appointees to the secretary or under-secretary be sent to the appropriate civil service administrator to be vetted. Thus--.”

Thus my telegram never did reach Secretary Stans and Secretary Siciliano?

“No sir. It went to me and, let us say, aware that your wire came from a suggestion by Mr. Hamilton, I took care of it.”

When Mr. Hamilton asked me to send the wire he didn’t know the rules—that you would ultimately get it?

“No. Not in the slightest. He thought quite logically that the wire would go to both the secretary and under-secretary and get you torpedoed, sir. As per the rules it went to me. He does not know this because it is not my province to tell him. I work for you, sir.”

Does Mr. Venable know this?

“No, sir. I thought it best to let him sweat it out for a while because of his rather imprudent trust of Mr. Hamilton…until you talk to Mr. Venable. I thought that with all due respect you might want to enlighten Mr. Venable about Mr. Hamilton, sir. Possibly you might want to advise him not to trust Mr. Hamilton any more than you do, sir.” Once more a putt. Looking carefully, measuring in his mind the distance from club to cup.

I will. You don’t suppose--.

“Suppose that in the meantime Mr. Venable will go to Secretary Stans and apologize for your sending the wire and taking all the blame himself as well as giving it to Mr. Hamilton?”


“No, in a conversation with him I suggested that this would be imprudent, sir. But I would suggest you see him and disabuse him of any need to visit at all with the secretary or under-secretary.”

I shall. You may be interested to know that when he talked to me, Mr. Venable said that if I sent a wire to the secretary I would never, ever, regret it.

“Yes sir. If I may say so, sir--.”


“I don’t know how to say this in Commerce terminology, sir.”

Then say it in regular English.

“The betting at Commerce—among the bureaucrats—is that you’ll be out of here in about six months. That’s not how I see it but how they see it.”

How do you see it?

“Seven, maybe seven and a half months.”


“Sir, you are working against the grain. You were hired under false pretenses—that your program had the highest priority from both president and secretary. That’s the way it was when you were hired. Indeed when the secretary showed you the letter the president wrote, both the president and he were red hot about it. Not now. It all changed a few days ago.”

I’m amazed. You know about the letter.

“Yes sir. There’s such a thing as Correspondence Control again. Ask me about it sometime. Now, I don’t follow politics and have never done so because I am a civil service professional. But this president, sir, has recently come to understand that if he wishes to be reelected, he needs the South and the Southern members of Congress—especially Mr. Thurmond, of South Carolina, sir—are generally indebted to a white constituency. That constituency doesn’t cotton much, if I may use that term, sir, to a president elected with the great help of the white South giving undue federal resources to blacks. I regret to say blacks are very dubious that anything will come of this as well. So putting it frankly, sir, your allies in the White House including the president are fast fading. Your only allies will be the liberal Republicans in the House and Senate—of which there are not very many…such as Senator Javits of New York…and the Democrats. But the Democrats don’t want you to succeed either, sir because of partisan reasons. That’s why the betting is as it is.”

This has affected Secretary Stans?

“Sir, since I don’t follow politics and have never done so because I am a professional civil servant, I have no opinion on the matter but the rumor is that Mr. Ehrlichman who talked on the telephone with the secretary has expressed grave misgivings about a program that could disturb what he called `the moorings’…his words…of the 1968 election dynamics which would, he felt, have to be repeated in 1972. Mr. Stans’ attitude changed greatly since he sought to hire you. Then he saw Black Capitalism as a great boon. Now he sees it as a great upset to his wish to ultimately become treasury secretary when Mr. David Kennedy leaves. Mr. Stans is a prodigious worker but less so when his superiors become disinterested if you know what I mean. That’s the word—but what do I know?”

Did you overhear the telephone conversation between the secretary and Ehrlichman?

“Oh, no, my word no, sir. Highly unprofessional. That was of a political nature and out of my ken as a professional civil servant.”

But you know the usage of the word “moorings” by Mr. Ehrlichman.

“Yes sir.”

How do you know this?

“The text of the conversation was contained in a memo from the secretary to himself—for the record—and memos to various people. All memos written by the secretary go to Correspondence Control which I referred to earlier. It’s a unit run by faceless civil servant professionals like me for storage and referrals for action.”

And this word was contained in the memo. Along with--.

“Along with the view of the secretary that the entire operation has to be chilled, cooled. Minority enterprise is not what it was say last week, sir.”

I see.

“If I may express an opinion, I would hope you would give it the gun as we say, sir. It has the stuff to be a valuable program. As a faceless professional, I will see you get support and will back you up. You’ve made the decision now. You’ll be fired anyhow. As we say around here, sir, step on the gas, let them fire you for too much enthusiasm and go down fighting. A lot of clichés there. But--”

David—if I may call you that…

“Yes sir.”

You are a gem. Now, I need a loyal, very loyal, personal secretary. One from the Commerce bureaucracy, who knows it just as you do but who is loyal—to the program and to me.

“Yes sir. I have already identified one—the best if I may say so-- and she can be on hand for an interview in a minute’s notice.”

Someone who is clearly tuned in as you are. You have identified her?

“Yes sir. She is a veteran of Correspondence Control if you know what that means—one whose sister and cousin still work in correspondence control which is very important as you can see. She is a vigorous young black lady who knows this place as well as I do. She wants the program to succeed, sir.”

Excellent. You have her name. I’ve got to go to the White House now to see--.

“Mr. Harry Flemming. If you wish, I will arrange for a car and driver from the auto pool and can make an appointment for you in your capacity as an assistant secretary of Commerce.”

But I am not an assistant secretary. I will be an assistant to the secretary. Assistants to the secretary are a notch lower than assistant secretaries. And I am not yet an appointee, haven’t been sworn in. I can take a cab.

“Begging your pardon, sir. On your formal job title, my staff slurs its sentences on occasion so I should not be surprised if Mr. Flemming sees you as soon as possible in your capacity as a future assistant secretary of commerce. And in this town, appearances count everything, sir. You should arrive in a Commerce car with driver waiting for you to return. It’s entirely kosher as your appointment has been processed and awaiting only your swearing-in.”

David. I’ll need you to stick close for the next—what—six months?

“Oh I should say seven, sir. It will be a privilege to see how you get on, sir, if that is how to put it. I understand you and your wife are expecting a fourth child, sir. Congratulations. As an old married man, I would advise not letting your wife in on the expected brevity of your service, sir.”

We’ll see. And when I come back here I’ll see your applicant for my secretary.

“She will come in handy in keeping you informed of the details at Commerce, sir. She is not Schedule C but is a faceless professional civil servant like me.”

A faceless professional like you is what I want.

“Let us say she will also come in handy for planning the details for Mr. Hamilton’s forthcoming farewell party, sir, if your meeting with Harry Flemming works out. A number of us are looking forward to it. We professionals at Commerce always have farewell parties for people who leave when their political Schedule Cs have expired. That is the Commerce way. Like the poem by Tennyson about the brook sir: `Men may come and men may go but I go on forever.’”

A farewell loose-limbed swing.

On this one fact—and only one—David Koch…true wit…perspicacious civil servant…gifted with a highly sensitive political antennae…terrific golfer, excellent pitcher on our OMBE summer softball team…was incorrect. Like me, he was then a young man, in his 40s. Unlike Tennyson’s brook he did not go on forever. A few years after I left Commerce before he reached 50, he died of a brain hemorrhage. I saw him a few times after I returned to private business and went to his funeral.


At the White House, Harry Flemming was only too glad to look in his book and identify Walter Hamilton as the Democratic Schedule C.

“There is some thought that he may be valuable in the interim until you get your feet on the ground after your swearing in,” he said. “But you don’t think so?”

I don’t. Now there are others who may. But I am told you need Schedule Cs.

“I do and Ehrlichman has given me a flat order to get rid of the Democrat Schedule Cs. So I’ll just take it from here. If there’s a complaint back there, they’ll call me. And I’ll just answer with one word which will shut them up. Ehrlichman.”


After I got back to Commerce and remonstrated with Abe Venable on our faux choice of office space, we looked at more modest digs, approved them and I had to catch a plane back to Chicago. He and I both thanked God for David Koch and pledged never to turn our backs on the Commerce bureaucracy again.

As I got in the elevator going down, there was Walter Hamilton.

“Oh, Tom. By now you know that the effort I made—the strenuous effort—to get you good offices, didn’t work out. But at least we tried, didn’t we?”

Yes, especially you, Walter. You tried very hard. And I appreciate it.

“Thank you! You may get a bit of flak for that telegram from the secretary or Rocco, but believe me, around here they respect a man who knows what he wants—so just shrug it off.

Already have shrugged it off, Walter.

“I’ll tell you, I’ve learned something being around this long, serving three different secretaries of commerce in two political parties!”

Already, you’ve taught me a good deal, Walter.

When the elevator door opened on the ground floor, he shook my hand and said:

“Looking forward!.”

“So am I!”

As he charged away with his briefcase in hand, I reflected: Scary how soon I had adjusted to the Commerce style. Right off, I acted as duplicitously as any bureaucratic phony—and had mastered the vocabulary of a faceless professional.