AFTERWORD A Man for All Parties BY JAMES MCCARTY YEAGER Washington, D.C. OUT IN AMERICA \(which, as we all know, is an entirely different place George Bush’s naming Robert S. Strauss to be U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union was curiously upbeat. The New York Times, long reputed to be the voice of civilization, approvingly quoted former Democratic Chairman John White calling Strauss “The Ulti ALAN POGUE mate Capitalist.” On National Public Radio, which was founded to supplement the establishment media, Daniel Schorr opined that Strauss had now departed the Democrats more subtly than had another Texan, John Connally. In what can only be classed as a misplaced trust, taking Strauss at his own notinconsiderable self-estimation, Schorr said he thought the loss of Strauss boded ill for the Democratic party. Strauss was a bit more pusillanimous in his leavetaking than was his old mentor Connally, whose Watergate-era switch to the Republican Party was labeled by former Democratic Senator Ralph Yarborough as “the only recorded case of the rat climbing aboard the James McCarty Yeager grew up in Houston. He now edits Minority Business Report in Bethesda, MD, a federal procurement newsletter for small. disadvantaged businesses. sinking ship.” So far, Strauss still pretends to be a Democrat. But keep in mind that ambassadorships are normally awarded for long and meritorious service to the party holding the Presidency. Paeans to bipartisanship or testimonials to the 100-percent Texicanism of Bush, Secretary of State James Baker, and Strauss in the establishment media notwithstanding, the Strauss appointment broke no new ground in the field of patronage. What are the stalwart services to the Republicans that have been rendered by nominal Democrat Strauss? Let’s just count the Presidential elections he’s helped to throw. In 1968, he led forces against Bobby Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, and Hubert Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam policy. He blasted the left from the podium, saying that he and John Connally had done more for civil rights than anyone else. In. 1972, 1980, 1984 and 1988, you can make a convincing argument for saying that Strauss earned his ambassadorship the oldfashioned way: he bought it. Not with direct financial contributions to the Republicans, mind you, but with tepid and lackluster public remarks about the Democratic ticket, coupled with behind-the-scenes back-stabbings of suitably Byzantine complexity to furnish the reputation of a deal-maker. Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill records in his memoirs that he, Strauss, and the late Neanderthal Democrat flew back from the 1972 Democratic convention together. By O’Neill’s account of the flight, all three of them had already conceded Nixon’s reelection the day after the Democratic convention. This defeatism was freely indulged by O’Neill, Strauss and Jackson at a time when what was to become the Watergate scandal had just begun to break in the news. Former Democratic Senator Thomas Eagleton of Missouri was then still the vice-presidential nominee. He had no cloud on his horizon save a few disgruntled McGovern primary-purists who doubted that St. George’s pick of such a labor hack for VP would do much to reconcile the antiwar/pro-reform vs. business/bluecollar schism in the party. Although O’Neill credited Strauss with raising millions for the Democratic congressional ticket in 1972, O’Neill naturally failed to note that the effective abandonment of the national ticket by party leaders such as himself and Strauss could not augur well for the future. Perhaps not coincidentally, the two men represented an alliance of conflicting strains of accomodationist liberalism. O’Neill held his seat on sufferance frOm the Kennedys, while Strauss was Connally’s heir as Southern business kingpin in the Democratic party. Between the two of them, O’Neill and Strauss presided over the disintegration of the Democratic Party, which has foundered on the inability of officeholders and campaign contributors alike to respect the judgment of the people as delivered in Presidential primaries in any year save 1976, when ALAN POGUE the nominee was an economic Tory. Strauss, with that very 1972 fundraising effort, began to institutionalize the split between the congressional and presidential wings of the party which has subsequently proven so fatal to Democratic hopes for national leadership. Bush and Baker may not understand, much less recognize, the services Strauss has rendered to the Republican Party. But in some blind, instinctual way they have groped their way toward a suitable reward for him. Of course, what Strauss is said to really want is to be Secretary of State, a promotion which could only occur should Quayle be dumped in favor of Baker. The word that recurred in all the news stories about the appointment was “friendship,” as if Strauss’s personal relationships with Republican leaders were both extraordinary and commendable. Yet Bush and Baker reputedly calculated that if all goes well with 22 JUNE 28, 1991
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