[More than 50 years of politics written for my kids and grandchildren].
The idea is, Speaker ONeill explained to subcommittee chairman James Scheuer (D-N.Y,)
whose name I had wrong in the last piece, calling him mistakenly Johna multi-millionaire Lefty ex-real estate developer and lawyer--not to pass the damned thing but to have hearings on the basic unfairness of a system where the Canadian government can veto any corporate takeover of one of their companies and we cannotthe object being that along the line you suggest that the committee will invite Brascanyou got that name, dont you?to testify which could result in that company cashing in the chips and dropping the tender offer. Got it?
Yeah, said Scheur, you know we cant subpoena them. We cant subpoena an out-of country--.
I know that. We are focusing the press treatment to Ottawa and Toronto and Montreal so they get the full flavor of it. Heres a list of those who will testify in favor of the bill you so generously authored.
Scheuer perused the list. The bill I so generouslyholy mackerel! Gene McCarthy is for my bill! He was an early hero of mine! I started in this business volunteering for him. Whos thisand he mentioned a Nader raider.
Hes a Nader guy.
And the U. S. Chamber is testifying against it! Not surprising.
Theyre free market, I volunteered.
But the NAM is on your side.
I gave you a list of labor guys wholl testify, ONeill told Scheuer. Be sure you contact them.
Scheuer said, Where are the blacks?
Reverend Ed Riddick, assistant director of Operation PUSH, will be here, I said.
PUSH? Whats that? asked Scheuer.
Thats Jesse Jacksons outfit, said ONeill with a grimace. Roeser, how did you get them?
Heres an interesting note, said Scheuer. Then to me: I thought you said you were close to Jack Kemp.
I am. We have two Fisher-Price plants in his district.
He called up and wanted to testify to oppose the bill! Doesnt he know its yours?
He doesnt. But hed do this anyhow to show his independence: a real hot dog.
Dont go near him, said ONeill. Hes a hot dog.
He really believes this stuff, said Scheuer, a terminal-case cynic to whom nothing was on the level.
Right, I said. (True believer: Theres no better description of Kemp). The first thing hell do if he finds out is to call our CEO who knows whats going on but wants deniability but who is also a good Republican and wed probably be asked to pull the plug on the legislation. .
Hed do it, said Scheuer. Either that or call Bob Novak whos his good buddy. Steer clear of him. Geez, Tip, if word got out were doing this for Quaker Oats--.
Id be fired, I supplied.
You? Id be defeated! said Scheuer.
Yeah but as a multi-millionaire you have something to fall back on. To Scheuer: Maybe youd hire me for your Bronx real estate operation.
Scheuer: No chance. Youre not Jewish.
ONeill: Look at him; kinky hair, beak nose, the name Roeser. He could pass.
Scheuer: Not in my Bronx neighborhood.
Well, growled ONeill, getting worried, lets get this damn hearing over with so we can all get back to work.
So the surreptitiously unlabeled Quaker Oats Protection bill called the U. S. Investment Protection bill was introduced and referred to committee and thenceforward to Scheuers subcommittee. I had hired John Adams & Associates, a Washington, D. C. p. r. outfit headed by a crisp Brit who had been Walter Cronkites chief writer on the CBS Evening News. He had an easy job; just focus on the Canadian press; do TV clips and radio actualities just for Canada. Every so often chairman Scheuer would mention a lot of foreign companies that were trying to take over U. S. companies. Adams TV crew waited anxiously until
as once every while
Scheuer would also mention Brascan in his litany. The films were processed swiftly in 1980-style technology and flashed to Canadian stations.
Not long into the hearings, we saw the clips from Toronto and Montreal and other Canadian points prominently mentioning the hearings and underscoring Brascan as possibly being an invitee to testify. And not long after that, Brascan tossed in the cards and moved awaythe stock they dumped causing our price to decline
but who cared? The covert anti-takeover was a success
a weird collection of allies: two liberal Democrats, ONeill and Scheuer (of the Bronx, a multi-termed House member, a polio victim who walked with a cane which he twirled with a flourish, who always cherished the thought that he could be the first Jewish mayor of New York), Bill Colby, former head of the CIA, Eugene McCarthy, PUSH, Ralph Naders assistant and strongly opposed by the U. S. Chamber.
Throughout the procedure, Geimer, a lawyer with Nelson & Harding kept pressuring me for more money. I had no idea why. No, I said, we had an agreement for a flat fee.
Well, what about a success fee?
But the nagging got persistent. Clayton Yeutter, the lead partner of Nelson & Harding, was on leave as the U. S. trade representative under Reagan and the other partners were pressuring Geimer to hike the fee. My gut feeling was that since Geimer had spent so much time on one special projectthe luring away of Arkady Shevshenko in 1978
the highest Soviet defector who left his post as under-secretary of the UN and who was virtually Geimers special project as a covert special agent for the CIA where he virtually baby-sat the alcoholic Shevshenko through a second wife and the job of writing his book Breaking with Moscow
he was in trouble with his civilian bosses.
We finally had it out at breakfast at the Madison.
I said: Bill, we negotiated a fee with Nelson & Harding and my immediate boss signed off on it. I dont deny the possibility of a success fee but frankly Im getting sick of being pressured by you after the contract was signed for more money. Im rather sick of it! The project hasnt been completed yet and all I hear from you is more money. Its unprofessional; dont you think?
Well, I have to watch out for myself. Ever since weve known each other I have understood that if I dont, you certainly wont.
I slammed down my coffee cup with such a clatter that others in the coffee shop turned their heads. This is what I told him:
Let me set you straight, my little panty-waist friend. I was canned by Maurice Stans. Before I left I got you a job in the White House as an assistant to Steve Hess
a top Nixon staffer
at a higher pay grade than I was earning! So dont give me that whining that I abandoned you. I brought you out here with you were a patent attorney in Chicago
gave you a significant raise and placed you in the White House earning more than I did when I was canned
and earning more than I did when I went to the Peace Corps. From there you went to Donny Rumsfeld as an assistant so youve done all right. Rumsfeld doesnt return my calls but he does yours. So stop that lachrymose feeling sorry for yourself. All kinds of other people on the OMBE staff had to find work on their ownnot you. So dont put on that crying towel face to me. It doesnt wash.
Well, if you hadnt got yourself fired wed have had a chance to turn the thing around and get blacks into the Republican party.
To which I responded: Yeah, I went out and got myself fired while I had three kids and another on the way. What a terrible thing to do to you, Willie Geimer. How could I? How inconsiderate of me! As far as blacks getting in the Republican party, I invented the doctrine of set-aides in construction, didnt I? Do you see them flocking in, Geimer? Grow up. Theres a cultural as well as an economic reason why blacks in great numbers havent joined the Republican party. You know as well as I that Stans made a U turn on the program and embraced the Southern Strategy. He embraced it because he owes a huge debt to Strom Thurmond who blocked Reagan from getting the nomination and has called his due bill: no effective minority enterprise program. Frankly, I think youd like to put me on a guilt trip. Well theres no guilt trip because theres no need for one, brother. Now Ill pay for this breakfast and see you at the Capitol.
The next thing I knew my immediate boss
one with whom I had very little rapport
a lawyer, corporation secretary and on the board of directors
called me up and told me that he had received a private, confidential letterhandwrittenby a Mr. Geimer who said that he had delivered the entirety of a legislative package without the slightest assistance from me and that he was underpaid. Then Geimer did me a terrible injustice. He said I didnt have any understanding of the legislation and that I was unprepared for this venture
that he was carrying the whole load including making the political contactsa series of calumnies topped by backstabbing if there ever was a masterpiece. That did it with Geimer for me.
Hes crazy, I said and told him the legislation had been my idea and he was hired and paid well to come up with the specifics.
To my surprise, my boss, was unusually reasonable. Understanding treachery corporate-wise, he could smell an example when he saw it.
Thats all, he said. Listen, Ive been in the practice of law for over 20 years and I never heard of someone in a law firm we retained sending a covert note to--. Drop him. Get rid of him.
Out of old times, I never did drop him. I simply didnt talk to Geimer again. The backstabbing was the worst that ever happened to me. Also, it was
He went on to become a star of Shevshenkos book on his defection although I must say the book reported that when Shevshenko got lonely the CIA found a prostitute in the yellow pages to keep him company
who found her I dont know. He left Nelson & Harding and found The Jamestown Foundation which was devoted to support systems for communist defectors
and which now is the leading private intelligence source for anti-terrorism.
Years later, when I was having an after-work drink in the M & M Club he walked over with Ron Gidwitz, a wealthy donor to Jamestown. I nodded, confirmed my acquaintanceship without a handshake and moved away. The second was when after I returned to Quaker from a lengthy hospitalization where I underwent brain surgery, I was thinking about the inevitability of joining the Hereafter. In a spiritual cramming for finals, I decided to call him up. This time he was the remote one.
Tom Roeser? he said. Tom Roeser? as if he was trying to recall a once hazy friendship. It was arched and falsetto. I said forget it and hung up. I decided that if I were to soon go to eternity, Id take my chances answering why I distrusted one who backstabbed me. Thus far I never had to explain it but Im ready when the time comes.
The Washington Post had a brief item, two paragraphs, that he had died of colon cancerabout four or five years ago. It was the final severance of a once firm friendship
although the formal one came much earlier
involving a brilliant lawyer who served his country
and mefor a time anyhow.
The Quaker legislation was last time I was in sustained relationship with Tip ONeill but I always thought he handsomely repaid the interest the company showed in him but forking over a hundred thousand dollars or so for a documentary. Ergo: we made out pretty well. Quaker survived well into the future until after I retired in 1991 when a callow CEO with a mixed record
acquiring Gatorade and brilliantly adding to our profits
and mishandling the acquisition of Snapple and losing respect of much of Wall Street
It all came home to me when I accompanied the new guy
pencil thin, a skier, workout buff, up from the middle class to big time CEO dough (unlike his predecessor, born to great wealth and who handled it unostentatiously) who insisted on his own private jet
to Washington, D. C. for his maiden trip to meet legislators who represented our plants. When Bob Stuart did this, everyone knew where the venerable chairman stood on issues
and welcomed him from Paul Simon on the left to Jesse Helms on the right.
As we flew on Oat One, our jet to D. C., I gave the successor a list of legislators whom we were to see. I appended a paragraph of ideological description to each. Our first visit was with Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), a bare-faced fraud who with apple-cheeks and a bow tie strutted in populist fashion
but who was thoroughly identified with the Left. I had so earmarked him for the successor.
To my astonishment, the successor tossed out lines that exhilarated Simon who told me later he was gratified that Quaker at last had a burnished liberal Democrat (at least in ideological tone) at the helm.
The second visit was to the then chairman of the Senate agriculture committee, Jesse Helms
an old guard conservative and a powerfully influential leader. To my stupefaction the successor then tossed out lines that enthralled the old arch-conservative with him almost leaping over the desk, proffering a hand and saying in rich southern tones: Boy, ah like how you think! He wouldnt had he heard the performance that edified Simon.
Since views expressed on the two visits were incompatible, I knew times had changed and there was a total relativistic pragmatist with no convictions in charge instead of a senior executive whose conscience governed his views.
Well, by acquiring Gatorade he became a corporate hero and added to its luster. Then by acquiring Snapple which he mismanaged
placing the blame on his marketing number two whose resignation he accepted
he saw the profits dwindle and the corporate reputation on Wall Street spiral. Thenpoof!he was gone with a fat severance. A soul-less outside mercenary succeeded him whose recourse was to collaborate with fellow vultures on the board who wanted to harvest on the corporate carcass for personal enrichment. And so it was sold to Pepsi. But far in the future. So Canada didnt buy a piece of the American flag; Americans with no loyalty to its history auctioned it off.
But Tip ONeill saved us for a time. A valuable stretch of time. He was not the lovable rascal people think: a large swath of meanness was lodged just under the surface. The canard that he drank with Reagan after 6 p.m. and got along because they were Irish. Not true in the slightest. Both were far different: Reagan, a kind of entrepreneur, made his millions as an actor and despised the IRS for taking so much of it; ONeill who never made that much money but always felt he was better than the Upper Class, truly rhapsodized about the working class and FDRs forgotten man and felt socking the rich with the IRS was elementary justice.
Both made out pretty well in historyone as the most successful president since Roosevelt, the other regarded as one of the countrys more effective Speakers. The CEO who headed Quaker for a time?
He recently told a mutual friend that in politics as everything else I am too ideological. I cherish that critique from a living kaleidoscope of ever-shifting convictions
who by agreeing with both Simon and Helms on the same issues fooled both
but not the one who saw his glaring contradictions.
In our company, he followed a statesman of the industry while he was
and will ever be a cipher.