Charming little piece That’s a charming little piece Laurence Jolidon did on Bob Eckhardt in the November 28 issue \(“Last Day of the the piece an understandable sentimentality; all Texans are Irishmen in the sense that they love a good political wake permits your readers to avoid considering some of the realities of the situation. Jolidon says “there were some who said Eckhardt never did learn to like the necessary chores of incumbency, the stroking and chin-chucking that are part of most politicians’ lot back home. The brilliant, scholarly and eloquent Eckhardt, it was said, “would rather argue with a colleague in Congress than shake the hand of a constituent.” Since Jolidon does not disagree with that appraisal, and since Jolidon is a man of opinion, I presume he agrees with it. And he is quite right to do so. But by implying that “most politicians” do indeed “learn to like” that sort of thing, I think he is dead wrong. Congress may be full of thieves, connivers and scoundrels, but most members of Congress are not dumb. They don’t like to spend their time making simpleminded smalltalk with people they don’t know. So they hire staffs who are competent to do much of the “stroking and chinchucking” for them; they hire staffs who, when they are confronted with a public relations situation that the staffs can’t handle, hound their congressmen into getting out and doing the dreary but absolutely essential contact work themselves. I think Eckhardt had one of the most incompetent staffs on Capitol Hill. They did not keep in touch with the people and organizations in his district who were vital to his survival; worse, they didn’t force him to keep in touch with these people. I can say from personal knowledge that, amazingly enough, Eckhardt’s ‘ties with a group that he had built his whole career on labor had been allowed to deteriorate so badly that labor couldn’t, or at least didn’t, put together much of a strike force to man the phones and knock on doors when the going got tough in this campaign. Let me give you an example of the way his staff let him down: I was sitting in his office last summer getting poop about the situation in the Eighth District and this staff person informed me that Eckhardt hadn’t got the support of the union at Exxon in 1978. Eckhardt, who was listening in on the conversation, said, “They didn’t? I didn’t know that.” Needless to say, the reason he didn’t know was that he hadn’t been told. I’m sure Eckhardt didn’t especially enjoy getting out and shaking hands and keeping the ties bound, but I’m sure he didn’t especially dislike that routine either. Eckhardt, in fact, would just as soon explain a piece of legislation to a casual passerby as he would to the president of Exxon. He does like people, he respects the intelligence of the masses, and he is not aloof in any way. But he is a bit lazy and he is extremely set in his ways, stubborn, and to get him off his ass and out doing the kind of fence-mending he should have done would have taken the kind of effort and concern and intelligence that his staff simply did not, in my opinion, possess. They certainly did not have what it took to pinch-hit for him in these duties. It goes without saying that one of the most efficient ways to keep in touch with the public is through the press. Eckhardt’s staff was extraordinarily incompetent in dealing with the press. Eckhardt was chairman of one of the most news-bountiful subcommittees in Congress the special investigating subcommittee of the Commerce Committee. From that seat, any pro-consumer congressman can make the paper every day. Eckhardt’s predecessor, Rep. Moss of California, was a genius at it. He was also surrounded by a very sharp bunch of workers who got in there and dug out stuff like crazy and they shoveled it to the newspapers. Eckhardt was no genius at dealing with the press, believe me; and his staff was hopeless. He did some first-rate investigations that got hardly any notice. Let me give you one more personal experience to show the mentality of the people who surrounded Eckhardt. A few months ago I was approached by somebody on his staff and told that big oil money was about to wash them away, and could I do a piece about it for a na tional journal? I didn’t want to take on the job because I was running way late on a book and this would throw me at least a month later. The kind of money I could get for the piece wouldn’t make it worth my time, under the circumstances, and besides I knew it would be damned hard to stay objective when writing about somebody I had known for as long as I have known Eckhardt. But as a favor I took it on, and I persuaded the editors at the New York Times Magazine that Eckhardt was a story that surpassed regionalism. After two drafts I still had 8,000 words. By that time the piece had become downright torture and I wanted to throw it out the window, but by that time Eckhardt’s campaign was falling apart and a piece in the national press seemed all the more important so I kept at it, and the editors at The Times kept at it, and together we slashed 2,000 words. And the piece was printed. Eckhardt was very grateful. \(I should add that Eckhardt himself has great relasomebody very close to Eckhardt, not on his staff but an advisor, phoned and complained about a one-letter typographical error in the piece. That’s the kind of people who were “helping” Eckhardt. Man oh man, he was bound to lose. But let’s not be too sad, folks. Thanks to the U.S. taxpayer, Eckhardt will retire on a pension of about $24,000 for his 13 years in Congress \(his World War II milisomething for his time in the Texas legislature. So I would say we’ve been very generous in tossing bones for the “lion,” as you call him, to munch on in his sunset cage. Bob Sherrill Baltimore Right On To be “A Journal of Free Voices” you certainly are trying to destroy the freedom of the free enterprise system and the constitution of the U.S.A. with your pro communist newspaper. I sincerely hope you get the message from the voters that we are tired of the government controlling our lives; tired of destroying patritism to our great land of freedom; and tired of secular humanism being substituded for the belief in God that our forefathers prayed to as they wrote our constitution. May God Bless American again and may the pro socialists and pro communists move to Russia. Mrs. Joe Hersey Texline THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21 Dialogue/
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