with Howard Phillips, Constitution Party Nominee
With the Establishment
DEMOCRACY IN ACTION interviewed Constitution Party presidential nominee Howard Phillips in May 2000 at the National Press Club after a press conference on the progress of his ballot access efforts. The interview focused on Phillips' formative experiences, from his days growing up in Boston to the point where he broke with conventional establishment politics and resigned from the Nixon administration in 1973. From the interview, two facets of Phillips' character are evident. Over the years, he has eschewed many private sector opportunities and a potential for personal wealth in order to pursue his avocation for politics, and his political philosophy has remained consistently conservative.
|Phillips | News|
I was born on Chiswick Road in Ward 21 of Brighton in Boston. I grew up in Ward 22, Precinct 9 on [Raden] Road a couple of blocks from there. When my wife and I were married we first lived on [Machet] Street in Oak Square, also Ward 22, Brighton. So that is my home.
Boston is a city of 22 wards. Brighton is adjacent to Newton and Brookline and to the Back Bay; it's one of the outlying wards. And I'm of Jewish heritage. When I was growing up, the portion of Brighton in which we lived was predominately Jewish. There are other parts of Brighton that were predominately Irish-American, Italian-American -- but it was really a melting pot, all kinds of people there.
One of the interesting things about Brighton is -- and people laugh when I tell them, but it's the truth -- it was a cowboy town. It was the eastern terminus of the trains, of the railroads that brought beef on the hoof from the west to be slaughtered in Brighton at the abattoir at the bottom of Market Street. And there's a graveyard where many cowboys are buried. There's a hotel right in Brighton center which is known as the cowboy hotel. And when I was in kindergarten and the first grade there were days when school was cancelled because some of the cattle had escaped from the abattoir and were running through the streets. And for the safety of the children we had to stay home on those days.
My mom was a homemaker; she was at home. My dad was an insurance agent. We lived modestly in an apartment house at 145 Chestnut Hill Avenue in Brighton. My grandparents were immigrants to the United States. In fact my mother -- whose mother died when she was two -- was kept back in the first grade because she was not able to speak English; she could only speak Yiddish. Her only brother -- whose birth contributed in part to the death of her mothe -- Israel Goldberg died in the Bataan death march in World War II.
My grandparents were wonderful people. My granddad Sam Goldberg,
who came over in the early part of the century, was a strong patriarch
with a tremendous sense of humor. I got along with him extremely
well. His first job was as a taxi driver, and he drove Henry Cabot
Lodge in Beverly. They lived in Beverly, Massachusetts, and Henry
Cabot Lodge Sr., who fought the League of Nations, was one of his customers.
He then went into the fuel oil business, had a gas station, etcetera.
On my dad's side, they lived in Lynn, Massachusetts -- Aron Philllips.
And he was in the furniture business, store burned down, had an apartment
building, did various odd job things. And my dad sold life insurance.
EARLY POLITICAL MEMORIES AND AN INTEREST IN FOREIGN POLICY
I have many memories from a young age. Specifically, politically, I guess, I remember sitting in the kitchen of the home of some of my relatives during the 1948 campaign -- I must have been 7 years old -- I was born in '41 -- and they were chatting back and forth about Truman or Dewey, and they all decided to go with Truman as it turned out. They just thought Dewey was too stiff. That was the main reason that I recall. I remember VJ Day, I remember VE Day when I was 4 years old; I remember my mother's grief when she learned in a letter from President Roosevelt that her brother had died. I remember also at about that same time, must have been 1949, one of the candidates for mayor of Boston walked by the yard in the apartment building where I lived and said, "Hey kid you want a doughnut? I'm running for mayor." So I got a doughnut.
I always had a strong sense of justice -- you know some things are right, some things are wrong, some things are fair, some things are unfair. And I was very attracted to Nixon. I guess partly because of my grandparents, I had a tremendous sense of patriotic love and feeling; I mean my grandfather would always tell me what a great country this was, and that made a very strong impression on me. I remember watching the Army-McCarthy hearings and having mixed feelings. On the one hand I hated communism; on the other hand there were some other things that troubled me. I was very high on Douglas MacArthur -- I watched his farewell address on television, but Nixon was the one who really attracted me and I read everything he ever wrote. I started omnivorously devouring newspapers when I was about 11.
I went to a magnificent school, Boston Latin School, which was a public school. I had great teachers. Very tough school; a lot of discipline. I wanted to get in. I was the victim of anti-Semitism -- I had a principal who ran the school which I attended who didn't like Jews, and didn't want me to get into Boston Latin School. I wanted to get into Boston Latin School and Harvard from the time I could think. And he wouldn't even send my transcript over. So on the first day of school, I thought I was starting in Latin School and they didn't have my record. I had to fight, go back and insist that that S.O.B. give me the transcript, and I had to personally deliver it so that they would admit me to the 7th grade.
I had teachers who really imbued in me understanding, knowledge, love of history, etcetera. I had one teacher who taught me to learn history by going to the microfilm room at the Boston Public Library and reading the old newspapers. I became interested in foreign policy…I guess I was about 14; I must have been in the 10th grade, 9th grade. I became active in the World Affairs Council in Boston. They thought I was very amusing because they disagreed with me on everything and they liked to argue with me. And they let me be an usher at something they had once a month called "Diplomats Off the Record" so I could stand at the door and all the fat cats would come in and listen to the ambassadors.... The director of the World Affairs Council was a wonderful guy named Dr. John S. Gibson. He was dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts. He loved me; he adopted me. He had a weekly television show. He had me on the show every week as a student commentator on public policy from the time I was 14 or 15. And I just had a passion for foreign policy, very interested in foreign policy. I ran the model U.N. Day in Latin School. I ran the Citizenship Day. I won the Harvard Model U.N. prize when I was a senior in Latin School. I was head of the International Relations Club at Harvard. I just did a lot of things in the foreign policy realm.
…Graduated from Latin School in '58; Harvard in '62. But I really
majored in extracurricular activities at Harvard. I was president
of the Student Council, ran the International Relations Club. When
I was a freshman I was one of the four class officers. I was state
chairman of the College Republicans; I was national vice chairman of the
young Republicans; I was a founding member of Young Americans for Freedom,
on the original board. I led the national campaign against the U.S.
National Student Association, debated people like Tom Hayden, fought with
Barney Frank -- he was at Harvard when I was there.
AIDE TO A CONGRESSMAN
Laurence Curtis. Laurence Curtis was a remarkable man. Laurence died at the age of 96 within the last decade. He was editor of the Harvard Law Review; he was a law clerk to Oliver Wendell Holmes; he was a varsity football player at Harvard; he attended the Versailles Peace Conference; he was State Treasurer of Massachusetts; he was on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Judiciary Committee. He knew a lot of history. When he ran for the U.S. Senate in '62 he lost the Republican nomination to George Lodge who subsequently lost to Teddy [Kennedy]. When he ran that year I was his principal aide-de-camp. I ran three counties for him -- Essex, Bristol and Suffolk -- we won two of them -- and I was his driver. I visited all of the 356 cities and towns in Massachusetts at his side. And sitting next to him I learned a lot of history. I mean he gave me first-hand accounts of what happened at the World War I peace talks and just the whole history of American politics and everything else. I think it was his great uncle Benjamin Curtis who was on the Supreme Court in the nineteenth century. A very, very interesting man, who didn’t marry until he was in his 50's. Very austere. A shy man, very shy man, but a man of great integrity.
He had been in Congress for ten years. Newton/Brookline,
Boston. He lived at 243 Dudley Road, Brookline, Massachusetts.
I stayed there frequently and I drove him. He was a very, I wouldn't
say tightwad, he was very, I wouldn't even say penurious; I would say he
was a conservator of his funds, and he never drove a car that was less
than 10 or 15 years old. Oh, the other thing that was interesting
about his was that he lost his leg as a naval aviator in World War I, and
one of my main jobs was to carry around his extra legs. He had three
spares in the trunk.
THE BEST CHAIRMAN OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF BOSTON
… [I] served two years as the best chairman of the Republican Party in Boston that the party had ever seen. Really, I was a great chairman, and I elected people in districts where they had never been elected before. We ran candidates where they had never been run before. Ray Bliss and Ab Herman named me the outstanding big city Republican chairman in the country and I was. I was heavy into minority recruitment. I went to black churches every Sunday. I had nine vice presidents; three or four of them were black. We made tremendous strides in the black community. Even though I was always very conservative and even though there were disagreements, I had some very close friendships in the black community in Boston.
While I was Republican chairman I was under attack from a gangster element led by a guy named George Romanis. I had the largest block of delegates at the Republican state convention. Romanis was the biggest slumlord in Boston; he had been in prison for armed robbery with intent to kill, etcetera. And he did not like the fact that I was Republican chairman in control of the delegates. Did everything he could to get me not to run, to get me to resign, etcetera. My people were physically threatened, my phone rang at 3 in the morning every morning. My wife and I were married in ’64. Life was sheer hell thanks to this man. I had a vote of confidence every Wednesday night because he was buying off people on my executive committee, people getting fired from their jobs, people getting patronage appointments depending on whether they were with me or against me. And it was always economically costly to be with me.
Very tough. Very tough. I praise God for a loyal wife who put up with hell. Anyway I finally beat the mean S.O.B. and he died of a heart attack in the Kenmore Square subway station, but he had depleted me economically. I was broke; I was well below the poverty line. I made my living selling insurance. My first job was as a night watchman for Burns Detective Agency guarding some of the oil depots in East Boston and the pits of the new buildings in downtown Boston. I worked from midnight to 8 so I could do my political stuff during the day. And then after I was elected, to earn a living I sold life insurance, but the political travail was such that I had to spend almost every day defending my honor.
And as a result, I earned very little money, less
than $5,000 a year. I couldn’t afford to buy a newspaper. And
I finally beat the guy, but he waged a war of attrition against me and
I was so broke I was on the verge of getting out of politics. I was
offered some very nice jobs, but I decided to stay in.
TO THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE
One of my good friends at the time was F. Bradford Morse, who died a few years ago. He was undersecretary general of the U.N. for development. He was congressman from Lowell and Lawrence, the district which subsequently was represented by Paul Tsongas. Brad was very close to me. And he arranged for me to be assistant to Ray Bliss. But the top job was taken by the time I went down there and so I was put in charge of a program called Opportunities Unlimited to bring young people and minorities into the party. And that was a great job. I ran programs in 47 states for student leaders on college campuses. And in the course of two years there I had every Republican state chairman, every governor, every one of the younger members of the House on the Republican side, all the Senators speaking at one or more of these 47 conferences around the country. And I got to drive with them in the car; I got to know them all. If I'd become a lobbyist I would have been golden.
The other thing that I did for Bliss was serve as a staff aide for the Republican Coordinating Committee. He created the Republican Coordinating Committee to heal the wounds of the party after Goldwater in '64 and he brought together all the living Republican presidential nominees, congressional leaders, governors, etcetera. Tremendous opportunity for me to develop personal relationships with everyone from Thomas Dewey to Everett Dirksen. Great experience. That was great. My time with the RNC was fabulous.
And I also was his eyes and ears. I ran campaign seminars around
the country, and I wrote long reports for him on what was happening and
the internal politics of the party in the states that I visited.
He came to rely on me on that. Ray Bliss was a great man, one of
the finest men I've ever met. Extraordinary devotion to his task;
extraordinary integrity. I loved working for him. I was proud
to be associated with him. You know we learn a lot from having the
right mentors and bosses. I grew up as a kid with really no mentors;
I did everything by trail and error—made a lot of mistakes. And having
him as a mentor was something I greatly appreciated.
RUNNING DICK SCHWEIKER'S SENATE CAMPAIGN
XXXX[Drinan served 1971-1981; did he run in 1968???] In 1968 I wanted to run for Congress against Father Drinan in that Newton district. I think I could have beaten him. But I had no money and I was earning $12,000 a year at the Republican National Committee. And I had a wife and by that time I had two children; our third was on the way. Bliss had said he was going to promote me, give me a big increase…but for various reasons that never happened and it turned out I just couldn't put the money together to run for Congress. I couldn't figure out how I would support my family and run for Congress, that was the key.
Got a call from Dick Schweiker; this was in February or March of '68. Schweiker lost his campaign manager right in the middle of his campaign for the U.S. Senate against Joe Clark, [and] desperately needed a campaign manager. I was recommended by Ab Herman, who was the old pro over at the Republican National Committee, who said, Phillips is the best campaign manager in the country. By the way, I had been offered all kinds of jobs -- John Lindsey asked me to manage his campaign for mayor. John Danforth, when he was Attorney General of Missouri, asked me to run his campaign for the U.S. Senate, etcetera. I was a very good campaign manager. Schweiker came to me and he said I know we have some differences on the issues, but I'm, closer to you than you think and blah, blah, blah. And he said if I win you can have one of three things. You can be congressman when George Goodling, father of Bill, gives up his seat…I'll make sure you are the nominee for Congress and it's a Republican seat, or you can be my chief of staff in the Senate if I win, or if Nixon wins you can be my number one patronage choice.
Because I had ruled out the Drinan race and I was going nowhere at the
national committee, or at least nowhere as quickly as I wanted to, I reflected
on it, thought about it and decided to do it. So we moved to Pennsylvania
for a year, visited all 67 counties, learned a lot. I ran a great
campaign for him. I reported to Drew Lewis, who was the campaign
chairman; I was the manager. As campaign chairman, Drew, who grew
up in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania with Dick…was Dick's best friend at the
time, although they ruptured before everything was over. And Drew
was very supportive of me, very helpful. But during the course of
the campaign it was clear that Dick and I just had the most profound disagreements
on policy. And I said, Dick, I don't want to be a congressman from
Pennsylvania; Massachusetts is my home state and I feel a tie to Massachusetts.
Two, I can't be your chief of staff because I disagree with you on so many
things. So help me with Nixon. By the way he was the only Republican
to oust an incumbent Democrat this year. It was a great campaign.
It was a classic. And we did it without a lot of money. It
was a great organization, beautifully synchronized, a work of art.
Dick did try to get me a job with Nixon but his first vote in the Senate
was against Nixon, on the Sentinel-ABM, and his endorsement was a mark
of shame. He didn't help me at all; it was a disaster.
AIMING FOR THE NIXON ADMINISTRATION
When the campaign was over I had a number of job offers, including vice president for public affairs of Sears Roebuck, which if I had been monetarily inclined would have been very attractive, but I said no, I want to be in public policy hands on. So I turned that down. I was offered national field director or some such thing for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which was a nice job, but I wanted to be in government because of my personal political aspirations. I wanted to have some government credentials. And I had targeted this job, director of the President's Council on Youth Opportunity, which seemed to be right up my alley, since I had worked on youth programs and policy. It was an entity created for Hubert Humphrey by LBJ to give away money to the mayors of the big cities. Agnew inherited it.
Believe it or not I'm the guy who made Agnew Nixon's running mate… It was down to Agnew and Volpe. And Volpe was a political ally of George Romanis. I had been very close to Nixon. I was named Nixon's number one volunteer in 1960; I did a cross-country survey for Nixon when I was at Harvard in 1959; I interviewed people in 17 states around the country. I was very close to all the Nixon people; they knew me and they loved me, and that's one of the reasons they overlooked my Schweiker connection [laughs]. So I blackballed Volpe for a lot of good reasons. So it went to Agnew because Nixon decided to go with the Northeastern ethnic. Agnew didn't know that and I didn't do it to curry favor with Agnew; I had no idea that I'd every need his favor.
Anyway I targeted this job. All of the people on Agnew's staff said Phillips is the man for the job. They wanted me. Then I had a meeting with Agnew and it was a blown interview. If anything could go wrong it went wrong in that interview. This was his first meeting with me and he was still outraged about the Baltimore riots… Agnew started talking about the Community Action Program, which he called CAP. I was in a phase; I thought he was talking about the Civilian Air Patrol [laughs]. So I totally blew the interview. I wasn't nearly as angry as he wanted me to be, because I didn't know what he was talking about. I didn't know why I should be angry at the Civilian Air Patrol [laughs].
So anyway he said, anybody but Phillips. His staff said no, no,
you misjudged him. So they put me in as deputy director and then
after a few months I earned his confidence and I was promoted to head of
GETTING AN EDUCATION AT THE PRESIDENT'S COUNCIL ON YOUTH OPPORTUNITY
I got an education. First of all, the staff of the Council was discretionary and it consisted entirely of high level Democrats whom Agnew was afraid to fire. I initially reported to a guy who had been administrative assistant to the Democratic governor of Minnesota and had been on the staff of Walter Mondale. You had Carol Ward there, whose husband was head of the ADA; we had Mildred Wherf, whose husband was head of AFSCME, Jerry Wherf; we had, I forget his first name Hein -- his wife was Muriel Humphrey's speechwriter. I mean it was where Hubert Humphrey parked all of his people. And Agnew was afraid to fire them. So I got to meet a lot of interesting liberals and they got to meet me. I made many friends there even though we disagreed. So that was part of it.
The other thing was I got to sit in on cabinet meetings whenever policies relating to this agency were discussed. And I got to see -- just as Jimmy Carter when he was chairman of the Democratic campaign committee in '74 went around the country and saw that he was as good as the other people running for president -- I looked around the Cabinet and I said what a bunch of losers; you know these people aren't that smart, they aren't that knowledgeable -- not all of them, but some of them, and that was sort of a confidence builder. I said, well I guess my opinion is worth something against theirs in the areas where I have knowledge and expertise.
The other thing I did was travel around the country and meet with mayors and youth directors in the 50 largest cities, and I met all kinds of people. I was introduced to the Hispanic community in San Diego and elsewhere and I got to learn a lot about the political situations in those cities. But I'd say the most compelling thing I learned was that people of whom you have never heard, whose principle claim to fame was that they worked for Hubert Humphrey, had solitary discretion, at least until I got there, to put $100 million in this city, $50 million there, $5 million -- depending on whether or not they were sleeping with the local youth coordinator or whether they liked him for some other reason, or her.
The other thing was that, aside from the program
itself, I got to meet people who ran the youth programs in all of the departments.
And every department had one -- State, Defense, all of them. And
so I got to see the internal workings of those departments. And again
I got to see how invisible people, who had worked in some campaign and
were frozen into a high level of civil service, were making arbitrary decisions
that no one ever checked about where to put the people's money. And
I said boy this is not accountability. This system is out of control.
So that was an education.
RUNNING FOR CONGRESS
I was there -- I started in April of '69 or March of '69… End of May of '70 Chuck Colson called, and I had known Chuck because he had worked in the Curtis campaign with me; he was from Massachusetts; he was AA to Levin Saltonstall, senator from Massachusetts… Saltonstall had the most brilliant staff of any man who’s ever served in the U.S. Senate, year after year after year… Anyway I knew Colson very well, extremely well.
Michael Harrington had just defeated Bill Saltonstall in a special election for Congress on the North Shore of Massachusetts [6th District, Essex County] to replace Bill Bates, who had died of cancer. Saltonstall had outspent Harrington; Harrington had won anyway. They wanted to take the seat back; it was a personal cause for Colson, who also wanted to make sure that Harrington would be tied down and would not travel around the country electing other Democrats. So he said, Howard, I know you've never lived in the district, you probably can't win, but you'd be doing me a big favor if you went up there and did it. And I said, well I’ve always wanted to be a congressman from Massachusetts; maybe God will intervene and help me, but I have zero money. Colson said, well I guarantee you'll have a job when it's over. I said, okay.
But during the campaign I had no income, zero income. And by that time I had three kids. I have six now; the other three were born afterward. And Colson raised me five grand from Clement Stone. He was the biggest donor to the Republican Party under Nixon. He ran a huge insurance empire and was famous for something called positive mental attitude. W. Clement Stone. He wrote various books; very big. Anyway he sent me five grand. I raised a total of $29,000; Harrington had about $369,000. So I was totally outspent. But we debated 14 times. I killed him in debates. And with very little money I ran a very good campaign, and I hit him every day on his voting record. I worked backward from election day -- a hundred issues. Hammered him; hammered him. If I had had any money I would have beaten him. As it turned out I still got 41 percent of the vote.
I ran a very good campaign and I worked very hard. They would pick me up before six in the morning and they would drop me off after one the next morning. And I shook hundreds of hands every day. I made all kinds of speeches and stops. I mean I worked that thing hard. I really ran an all-out campaign. I don't think there was a candidate in the country who worked harder than I did, and I had great people helping me. I had no real national help except for the five grand.
When it was over I was totally impoverished. I had earned not
a penny during the campaign. My wife and children lived with my parents
in Brighton. I lived in the basement of my Aunt's house in the district;
that's how I established residence. The only problem was my Aunt
is a socialist who was working -- she's my Aunt; I love her but she's a
socialist -- she was working for Mike Harrington, my opponent. She
had Kennedy signs, Harrington signs in the house in which I was living.
Fortunately her husband […was] a pretty conservative guy. He made
her be nice to me. But it was tough.
LANDING AT THE OFFICE OF ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
…People were very pleased with what I'd done. My finance chairman was a guy named Kurtz Hansen (phon.) who ran a company called Photon, and Kurtz was best friends with a guy named Girard Bleicken. Gerry Bleicken had played poker with Nixon in the Navy; he was a big Nixon supporter…
This may be hard to believe but it is true. The campaign was over and Kurtz Hansen called and said, Mr. Bleicken wants to se you… And on the spot he said, Howard, I've heard a lot about you and I would like you to succeed me as chairman of the John Hancock Life Insurance Company. It's one of the great ironies of history because my father had walked a debit for John Hancock Life Insurance Company… He said start now, you'll be my special assistant, you'll learn the ropes; next year I'll make you president; I retire in two or three years. And on the spot, without reflection, I said, Mr. Bleicken, I am honored, but frankly I'm not interested. I'm interested in politics. I want to get back in the Nixon administration. What a fool I was, because if I had some money I could pay for this d----- campaign. [laughs]. But anyway I turned that down. I was offered state chairman of the Republican Party of Massachusetts by Frank Sargent; I was sent over to see David Abshire, who went on to be CSIS [Center for Strategic and International Studies] president; he was something at the Defense Department, and I was offered assistant secretary of defense for legislation. I was 29 years old. So these were great honors… [Phillips mentioned a number of other job prospects, including another possible bid for a seat Congress].
…On the last weekend of the campaign Wally Schirra the astronaut was supposed to campaign… This was the first time the press was able to pick up that I really had a campaign… For whatever reason, Schirra called and said, I've got a bad cold; I can’t come. I spent the rest of the day trying to get another astronaut. I spoke to Frank Gorman… Finally, I called my old buddy Dick Cheney, with whom I had worked when I was at the RNC, among other things. And I said, Dick I am really in trouble. I've got this big event tonight. The press is travelling with me; first time they've covered me… I don't have a speaker. This was at 6:00 and the event was at 8:00. And he said, I can help you. He called [Donald] Rumsfeld to whom he was assistant. At that point Rumsfeld was director of OEO and Cheney was his assistant. Rumsfeld was on his way to a meeting at the White House. Cheney got him to head to the airport. He landed an hour later in Boston. They arranged with Governor Sargent to get a huge police escort with sirens, and Rumsfeld and I rode in the car. And he said, Howard, you're probably not going to win this, but win or lose you owe me one. And if you don't win, I'd like you to come work for me at OEO. And I said, well Don I don't really think that's what I want to do [laughs], but I'll certainly come over and talk to you.
When the election was over, my wife and I spent a lot of time figuring out what to do next. And my dad had a little retreat in New Hampshire…a cabin. So we went there with the kids. Beautiful place. Some of my happiest moments were there. We went up there every Thanksgiving and sat in front of the fire. It was great….
I had been to OEO and I had been interviewed by everybody and I was offered all kinds of nice jobs. And one of the guys who offered me a job was Frank Carlucci, who was then assistant director of the agency for community action. And I was polite and I said, you know I probably won't want to do this, but I'm not going to say no until I know what I do. Anyway we were up in New Hampshire. December 21st Nixon had a news conference; we had the television on. He announced that Rumsfeld was leaving OEO and going to the White House and that Rumsfeld would be succeeded by Frank Carlucci as director. I said, aha, now I know what they meant. I'm going to be the White House man at OEO if I take that job. Carlucci's the director; I'll have Cheney's job.
My wife and I had agreed that we needed a job where I could work from 9 to 5, come home, have dinner with the kids, have some peace because I had been battling. We were married in 1964. And it was a struggle every single day of the week, whether it was fighting Romanis in Boston, working at the national committee and being on the road all the time, the Schweiker campaign, the congressional campaign. I needed a rest. I said, I'll take a look; I'll get a job 9 to 5 where I can learn something and I said, maybe this is it. And so I called Carlucci and I said, is the job still open. He said, it is if you can be here at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning for our staff meeting. I drove to Boston, got on a plane and did it.
And that was the most important experience of
my life; it changed my life. I really surrendered conventional ambition.
What I saw seemed to me to be so evil that it didn't matter what happened
to me personally… I was so outraged at what I saw that I just had
to fight it, and basically give up any hope of conventional political success.
"I WAS SO OUTRAGED AT WHAT I SAW"
I remember being in Gilroy, California -- this is before anybody knew who I was -- and a guy named Gary Weissman (phon.) was head of the migrant campaign. He had been active on the Gene McCarthy campaign in '68, was president of the student body at the University of Wisconsin. Nice guy, but very liberal. … I remember sitting on the floor of this big room…and there were 150 organizers for the migrant program, many of them products of SDS, Students for a Democratic Society. And there was a large black gentleman who was the trainer that day… And so help me God I will always remember this. He said, altogether now, "F--- America!" Stand up and say, "F--- America!" I mean this was the revolution and there was just so much of that. You know the guy who smuggled a gun in at San Quentin, Bingham, Steven Bingham, that led to the murders in that prison; he was a legal services operative. You have money going to Angela Davis and the prisoners' rights movement and the welfare rights movement and Atzlan and the Republic of New Africa. I remember one day two days before the 1972 election--
Phil Sanchez, was my predecessor as director; he was hired by Fred Malek to be director of OEO to use government money to buy Hispanic votes for the Nixon campaign in '72 and they used it as a campaign treasury -- totally corrupt. I was totally opposed to it. And they were giving it to all these left-wing Hispanics who wouldn’t support them anyway.
I remember one day, you may recall that in 1972 a group called the American Indian Movement headed by Dennis Banks and Russell Means, two avowed Marxists, occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This was cause celebre; big deal in the media. And somehow John Ehrlichman got the idea that Nixon was going to lose to McGovern unless they peacefully got the Indians out of there. So Ehrlichman decided he would bribe them. Why this never made the papers I don't know. But I was summoned to the office by Phil Sanchez, the then-director, very nice guy but out of his league, and Frank Carlucci was there representing John Ehrlichman, and Carlucci directed Sanchez to take $66,000 in cash out of the OEO safe to be paid to Dennis Banks and Russell Means personally to vacate the building. I was outraged. I was furious. I almost came to blows with Carlucci. I begged Sanchez not to do it, but he succumbed. I mean that kind of crap went on all the time. I was just totally disgusted. I could speak for two hours about other things that happened there.
I became director in January of '73 with a commitment that Nixon would veto the money at the end of the fiscal year June 30. Nixon changed his mind four days before the end, but I left at midnight on June 30 as I had indicated I would.
|Copyright 2000 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action|