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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children.

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Irish Elk
Thursday, September 16, 2004  

Campaigning for Scoop Jackson, Boston, 1976

Otto Clemson Hiss' call for ingredients for a new libation called the Tweed Avalanche sets the stage for a tribute to a favorite icon hereabouts, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who comes to mind at the mention of tweed and (to borrow from Russell Baker) the "convivial imbibing of spirit and grape."

As it happens, an exhibit, New York's Moynihan, is on display through Sept. 26 at the Museum of the City of New York. A Globe reviewer compares Moynihan to Lord Macaulay.

* * *

From a 1986 profile of Moynihan for the Washington Post Style section by David Remnick:

"Saddle up, children!" he yells tinnily, and the entourage shuffles over to meet him. There is something antique, something mythological about Moynihan. The theater he has become -- the herky-jerky Anglo-speech, the bow tie slightly askew, the tweedy caps and professorial rambles -- they all make him seem vaguely not there, a figure not of the present but of an unreal history, an American Edmund Burke taking dominion on the Hill...

Sander Vanocur, now a correspondent for ABC News in Washington, met Moynihan when they were both young and living in London:

"Pat seemed to me the richest man in the world in those days. And one of the happiest. He was so absorbed in the place. He would talk for hours about the doors in Regency architecture, knew everything about it. One day he got me to jump over a fence with him on High Street, Kensington, and sneak into the Holland House where the Whig aristocracy used to meet. He made the place come alive.

"Pat was loved by the English. He was an American -- so out front and full of life."

Moynihan came back to the United States an Anglophile. He is partial to Cockney pub songs such as "The Lambeth Walk," odd British evening slippers, English soaps, colognes, cheeses, mustards and ales. He used to stuff his handkerchief up his jacket sleeve in the British mode, but that mannerism has disappeared.

"When Dad was ambassador to India I was interested in the Hindu era, Mom was interested in the Mogul era and Dad was interested in the Raj," says Maura Moynihan.

A photo of Moynihan reviewing an honor guard of Indian Gurkha soldiers 13 years ago shows the new ambassador wearing a bowler on his pate and a carnation in his lapel. He looks as though he were meeting Mountbatten in Raj heaven.

"But I like Irish things, too," he adds quickly. On his office wall is a landscape by Jack Yeats. "It's a beauty, isn't it?"

Seven years ago in The Nation, Fred Powledge wrote a "journalist's apologia" for a favorable piece he wrote on Moynihan in a 1967 issue of Life magazine.

"I should have caught on when . . . I saw him unlimber an Abercrombie & Fitch fly-fishing outfit, complete with rod, reel, little hat and dry martini, to pursue trout in a mud puddle," Powledge wrote. "He was, I realized then, a cartoon, not the real stuff."

Moynihan, for all his theater, is nothing at all like a cartoon. The Anglophile reviewing Gurkhas, the department-store fisherman, the stammering academic pol, these are cartoons. And funny ones, too. But in an era of techno-politicians, legislators without flair or intellectual adventure, he is unique on Capitol Hill.

* * *

George Will on Moynihan: Along the way he wrote more books than some of his colleagues read and became something that, like Atlantis, is rumored to have once existed but has not recently been seen -- the Democratic Party's mind.

* * *

From Adam Clymer's NYT obit, included in a collection of tributes to the late senator:

In 1950 he went to the London School of Economics on a Fulbright Scholarship, and he lived well on it, the G.I. bill and later a job at an Air Force base. He started wearing a bowler hat. He had a tailor and a bootmaker and traveled widely, including a visit to Moynihan cousins in County Kerry, Ireland.

Work on his dissertation did not consume him. In ''Pat,'' his 1979 biography, Doug Schoen described a 1952 visit by two former Middlebury colleagues: ''Impressed at first with his elaborate file cabinet full of index cards, they found that most of the cards were recipes for drinks rather than notes on the International Labor Organization.''

* * *

Time's Hugh Sidey:

Pat Moynihan is up there in my pantheon of great characters, along with Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, two of the four Presidents for whom he worked. I encountered him inside the mournful White House the night of John Kennedy's assassination. He stood mute, tears coursing down his cheeks. Then he filched a picture of J.F.K. and joyfully told the world of his loving larceny. He held that picture to his heart the rest of his life.

Once in Nixon's White House I listened to Moynihan expound on Schumpeterian economics while the snout of an opened champagne bottle peeked out of a desk drawer. "Pat's great," Nixon once told me, "as long as you get to him before noon." For my dime, he was great after noon or any other time, following the Churchillian example of being able for a few crucial years to get more out of alcohol than it got out of him. I once ran into him at the palatial Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., working on one of his many books. He was dressed in grungy Nikes, rumpled chinos and a fashionable Turnbull & Asser shirt. The complete Moynihan: casual elegance, mindfully engaged in explaining the difficult world beyond.

* * *

Ben Wattenberg's son, Daniel, a teenage volunteer on Moynihan's first Senate campaign in 1976:

[T]he morning after he won the primary, Moynihan called my home, here in D.C.'s Maryland suburbs, but I was at school. He asked my mother to tell me that the first person he called was Cardinal Cook, and the second was me.

I always thought that was one of the kindest things anyone outside of family had done for me. Then, just days ago, an old friend to whom I told the story pointed out that Moynihan had surely known that I would be in school at the time he called and that it had been his
intention to reach my mother. Because he wanted to make her proud of me. Now I think it was the kindest thing anyone outside of family has done for me.

* * *

WFB on Moynihan * And an archive of NYT articles.

* * *

Images: At the writing desk of his Delaware County farmhouse where he penned 18 books * With Scoop Jackson in Boston in '76


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