Elephants Outnumbered:

The House Republicans in 1975

 

www.ExactingEditor.com/Seventy-Five.html

 

by FrankGregorsky@aol.com

 

 

Covering 40 years of House GOP history, this book will be a guide for anyone intending to work in Congress as a Republican, or who might be there today and is wondering whether to stay.

 

This draft chapter introduces the book’s themes, along with an array of characters, and puts Gerald Ford (1913-2007) -- the most experienced U.S. Congressman ever to become President -- in a more positive context. When it comes to reliability, budget expertise, and intellectual honesty about economic tradeoffs, Ford is the only U.S. President from the 1970s worthy of respect and emulation.

 

But don’t expect a lot of text about other Presidents -- no, not even Ronald Reagan. Grassroots GOPers put way too much energy into looking for some fantasy father figure to play the Philosopher-King and save the country via speeches and executive orders. Instead, this manuscript will illuminate a sprawling congressional party managing -- as opposed to “resolving” -- policy and personal differences. Legislative and marketing leaps, by the House GOP, occur more often than we realize -- in spite of an opposition party allergic to basic economics and caring little for national security; and in spite of the factions and generations within the Republican “tribe” talking past each other.

 

My legislative stories won't be “lean and clean.” Even when 80% of the party agrees on the goal, and has a like-minded President, and the collaboration is good, the route never replicates the map. Those who forget, or never got to learn, about legislative roller-coasters are doomed to re-ride them -- even if it’s true that no two are quite the same. And the rose-colored accounts favored by older GOPers -- about Nixon being sound on foreign policy; or Reaganomics being implemented as designed -- are challenged in this book.

 

The organization is roughly chronological. Often it’s possible to cover an entire mini-era using one issue plus two personalities that were never joined in the public media. For example, 1999 to 2003: George Nethercutt from eastern Washington state is aiming to help U.S. farmers sell crops for cash -- no aid, no credits -- to Castro's Cuba. GOP Whip Tom DeLay fends off passage of the bill; and then, after 2000, backed by Karl Rove, weakens the law via restrictive Treasury regulations. Nethercutt gets far more support from Democrats than from his own GOP colleagues, but DeLay and Rove are so heavy-handed they cause Nethercutt to quit the House. Every element of "struggle" is here, along with some innovation. A “left versus right” dichotomy is inadequate for this drama, and you'll see most of the action occurring within the Republican zone, in the space of half a decade.

 

Lessons for the GOP today are somewhat subtle, and you will find no policy agendas for 2012 or 2014. I carried out policy work on Capitol Hill from 1980 to ’94, but it’s too sterile for me now. Instead the identification is with individual practitioners in the trenches. With their testimony, I aim to “retell” domestic policy and political history from the early ‘70s to today, and do it from the point of view of one of the political parties as constituted in one of the houses of Congress.

Thanks for your interest in GOP congressional history. All rights reserved, and informed feedback welcome. More than feedback, in fact: If you were a principal in, or a well-placed observer of, any of the political situations below, and can contribute on-the-record recollections or have vintage documents, I’d love to know about ‘em or be given copies. A later version of this chapter will accompany two others in the packet with which I aim to enlist a publisher.

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(1) A Yankee in King Caucus’s Court

 

He had the closest call among the small band of victors: Twenty-six years old, and the defeater of a four-term Congressman whose only weakness was a likeability deficit. The margin: 432 votes. But this "close call" felt more like a miracle than a near-wreck, because no other Republican would have wasted his or her time on what looked to be the longest of long shots.

 

He grew up in Rockland, a small city of 8,500 on the coast of Maine. In the second grade, "Some of my friends came into class wearing campaign buttons, and I wanted to join the fun. Each of the parties had a small campaign office downtown. So three or four of us walked into the Democratic headquarters, and were immediately booted out. And then, when we went into the Republican headquarters, we were given cider and donuts and invited to come back the next day to meet the Governor."

 

Who says northeastern Republicans are standoffish? (Every campaign office manager out there would do well to see second-graders as political start-ups.)

 

The candidate’s father, Albert O. Emery, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Trained as an accountant, by the mid-‘70s he was the business manager for Knox County General Hospital. The candidate’s mother, Georgia Farnham Emery, was a registered nurse. Both were World War Two veterans; dad, a Staff Sergeant assigned to a logistics unit, never left the States; mom, an Army lieutenant, served as a nurse stationed in Australia and New Guinea throughout most of the war.

 

David Farnham Emery, their only child, and the candidate in 1974, was born on September 1, 1948, in the midst of the Truman-Dewey campaign. He had other concerns that fall, but by the sixth grade was keeping track of politicians. He admired home-stater Margaret Chase Smith, at that point the only female to ever win a U.S. Senate seat in her own right.

 

Maine had been one of only two states to stick with Republican Alf Landon in the 1936 Roosevelt landslide. In fact, not until Lyndon Johnson's national sweep would the state favor any Democrat for President. But Maine really started moving away from its century of Republican voting in 1954, when Ed Muskie became Governor -- a Democrat! And he compounded the problem for Republicans by becoming U.S. Senator in 1958, after which he was re-elected three times.

 

"Ed was, by personality, the quintessential Yankee," recollects Emery. "I think that's one of the reasons he was able to break through the rock-solid hold that the Republicans had on Maine in the 1950s. He was regarded as someone who worked hard and could be trusted to do what he thought was right. He was also one of the first to develop environmental policy as a political cause. Politically speaking, he was the single most important reason the Democratic Party grew into its current preeminent position in Maine -- Ed Muskie gave them a credible face."

 

In 1968, Senator Muskie was picked by Hubert Humphrey to run for Vice-President. The Democratic Party thereby wrote off the south as well as the so-called border states (Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee). With Muskie of Maine, and Humphrey hailing from Minnesota, '68 was the first time since 1940 that the Democratic national ticket drew only from the northern climates.

 

It also became one of the rare times when the #2 man secured his state. Though losing by a hair nationally, Humphrey-Muskie beat Nixon-Agnew by a whopping 12 points in Maine, even as the Democrat ticket lost neighboring (and more liberal) Vermont by nine points.

 

Of course, Maine only had four electoral votes. But that's not the point. Every state is a lab, and innovative politicians are at work stirring up the elements within. Dave Emery would be Maine's innovator in the 1974 GOP meltdown.

 

"I've always been a science and engineering guy," says Emery. He'd get old TVs and radios and take 'em apart. He also assembled test equipment. "So I looked at engineering schools that were within my family's means. I went to a small and very highly regarded engineering school -- Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Worcester, Massachusetts -- and earned a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering."

 

Emery wasn’t reading Atlas Shrugged or taking part in the first Earth Day. Rather, he was learning how things work -- mechanical gear, and assemblies of people too. In 1970, at the age of 22, he was picked to represent Rockland in the Maine House of Representatives -- the second youngest member in his freshman term there, just as he'd be the second youngest member of the federal House in 1975.

 

Winning that first election was a result of working hard for local candidates and hanging around the radio station managed by the incumbent. "So, when Representative Paul Huber decided to run for the State Senate, and the vacancy coincided with my graduation, I decided to give it a try. I don’t suppose my parents were too thrilled that I wasn’t going into a good-paying job where I would be using my education, but they were both supportive."

 

Legislative pay was very low -- $2,500 for the two years "plus some paltry expense reimbursements" -- although with the annual sessions lasting not even half the year, there was time for other work. "I worked as a part-time engineer and did a number of electronics projects. I also worked part-time for a local funeral director. After two terms in the legislature, it was clear that this situation would not do for the long term. So I made the decision to run for higher office.”

 

What does it take to become qualified to serve in the U.S. House? It takes whatever you give it, as long as you keep learning, and relentlessly adjust the formula. “It's a decision you can only make at the age of 25 when you have no wife, no bills, no longstanding obligations, and -- well, who knows what might happen? At least I would never be able to think, 'You didn't dare to try it.'"

 

Maine’s first congressional district was represented by Peter Kyros, described as abrasive by the Almanac of American Politics that explains why he lost. Says Emery: "Peter Kyros was a very bright individual. He had a law degree, and was also a graduate of MIT, as I recall. His problem was that he could be a little arrogant. I'm trying to be tactful here, since this is for a book, but he got himself into situations where his personal deportment cost him much political support."

 

And in 1974, given double-digit inflation and interest rates plus the Watergate travails, incumbency itself was a rapidly depreciating asset. Running for a fifth term in Congress, "Peter suffered from the comparison and from the contrast with this new, wet-behind-the-ears, fresh-looking kid from Rockland who was saying the right things and seemed earnest. That helped me immeasurably."

 

In January 1975, as the second youngest person to be sworn in to federal House at the start of the 94th Congress (Tom Downey of New York is the youngest), Emery is the newest member of a state delegation where Senator Muskie is the veteran.

 

Those first-district congressional results undergo a recount, which shrinks Emery's percentage from 50.2% to 50.1, making his victory the closest call among the Republican freshmen. There are 75 new Members on the Democratic side, the biggest infusion since the Eisenhower Era. They have ridden the tide, while the sparse group of new Republicans are guys (and two gals) who missed the tsunami.

 

The GOP Class of '74 <<>> U.S. HOUSE

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Richard T. Schulze, PA -- 60%

George Hansen, IO -- 56%

Larry Pressler, SD -- 55%

Henson Moore, LA -- 54.1% (January 7, 1975, special election)

Gary Myers, PA -- 53.8%

Henry Hyde, IL -- 53.4%

Millicent Fenwick, NJ -- 53.3%

Tom Hagedorn, MN -- 53.1%

Robert Kasten, WI -- 52.9%

Jim Jeffords, VT -- 52.9%

Richard Kelly, FL -- 52.7%

Bill Goodling, PA -- 51.4%

Bill Gradison, OH -- 50.9%

Charles Grassley, IA -- 50.8%

Virginia Smith, NE -- 50.2%

David Emery, ME -- 50.2% (reduces by the recount to 50.1%)

Tom Kindness, OH -- 42.4% (three-way race, four-point victory margin)

 

 

(2) Tuesday, November 5, 1974

 

House Republicans are entering the toughest four-year stretch since the middle of the 1930s. As the party of a recently resigned U.S. President -- his name was Richard Nixon -- Republicans would pay the price for his economic opportunism, value-free foreign policy, and a set of personal insecurities that bred Constitutional crisis.

 

On Election Day '74, only nine Republicans in the U.S. House held onto their seats with 70% or more of the vote, as against 141 Democrats who registered the same level of strength -- that's one hundred and forty-one -- in a parliamentary body of 435. And 59 of those big winners -- including eight in the state of Texas alone -- did not even have a Republican opponent. As for Senate results, the Democratic majority in the “upper chamber” expanded from 14 to 23.

 

And Governors? Unbelievable. Thirty-six states came out of 1974 with Democratic chief-executives. Only 13 -- Alaska, Washington, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Virginia, and the Carolinas had a Republican Governor. (The odd one -- Maine -- elected an Independent. And if that man, one James B. Longley, hadn’t been roiling the two major parties, Dave Emery admits he would not have squeaked in.)

 

All of the big states -- California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania -- would have Democratic Governors by January.

 

The freakish electoral outcomes include some tantalizing might-have-beens. A 31-year-old college professor named Newt Gingrich comes within two points of knocking off veteran Democrat John Flynt in Georgia. An even younger Bill Clinton comes within four points of defeating four-term GOP Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt in Arkansas (who would stay in the House until ‘92, retiring at a time of his own choosing).

 

Both Clinton and Gingrich will go on to help the GOP mightily. Though working for the other side, Clinton, two decades down the road, like Jimmy Carter before him, will be vital to helping Republicans pick up House and Senate seats. It’s also fun to think that -- if the ’74 economy had been a little less warped, or if Ford had waited until November to pardon his predecessor, or if he hadn’t asked a Democratic Congress to raise income taxes -- Newt Gingrich the relentless innovator would have entered the House four years sooner than he did.

 

Bottom line? It’s quite a bottom: In the past half-century, the worst election night for Republicans in the federal House of Representatives was not 2006 or 2008. Nor was it the 44-state landslide of President Lyndon Johnson over Senator Barry Goldwater in ’64. Rather, it was November 5, 1974.

 

Glib commentators blame it on the Watergate scandal, climaxing in President Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon -- a pardon delivered one month after Ford took over as Nixon’s successor, and not quite two months before the voters could react. On TV at 10:40 a.m. on the Sunday after Labor Day, Ford “granted a full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed, or may have committed, or taken part in, during the period from July 20, 1969, through August 9, 1974."

 

Yes, he actually said July! But it’s an understandable slip, as July 20, 1969, is when two U.S. astronauts landed on the Moon. The White House put out the correction within minutes.

 

CBS’s Dan Rather added: "Mr. Ford also has granted Nixon complete ownership of secretly made White House tape recordings for Nixon to do with as he pleases after a period of five years." This part of the decision would not stand, and hooray for its undoing. But the pardoning power of the American President is fully constitutional and absolute. And “Watergate plus the Nixon Pardon” destroyed the Republicans for years -- or so goes the conventional wisdom.

 

But this book contends that most of 1974’s electoral losses would have taken place anyway, thanks to a Nixon Administration having caused so much damage -- to the economy, foreign policy, and GOP ideals -- that a piper had to be paid, in triplicate, with dividends.

 

On the night of November 5th, Robert Strauss -- one of the great Democratic Party chairmen -- was correct to tell a skeptical ABC reporter: “I don’t think Watergate has been the issue in this campaign. I think the issues have been traditional bread-and-butter issues for the Democratic Party; that’s what our candidates have been talking about, and that’s the reason they're doing well. That’s what we’ve told ‘em we ought to talk about. Every poll we’ve taken shows that. We didn’t change -- we haven’t changed our campaign strategy in 12 months. And we’re right on target...”

 

No objective student of history can survey the state of Republicanism by the mid-1970s and put most of the blame on Democrats. Which is one reason this book does not celebrate or even defend all Republican leaders. Some GOP Presidents -- my prime examples are Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon -- were ghastly; and others -- George H. W. Bush -- were little more than water-treaders.

 

Sometimes we nominate and elect a President with the capacity to be good if not great, but sustained effectiveness can happen only when his partisans in Congress demand they be treated as an equal part of the navigation team, certainly when it comes to domestic policy. Other times -- let’s face it -- Republicans end up selecting, and electing, and later dissecting, a President who really doesn’t deserve the job.

 

But the House GOP is always there, whether its members are merely a third of the House, or have solid to narrow majorities as they did from 1995 through 2006. It’s a permanent organism and an evolving collective, not an appendage of the White House. Much harder to cover, but vastly more interesting, or at least it is to me.

 

And this book contends that House Republicans as a group need to be an autonomous (which isn’t the same thing as “independent”) force in the creation and explication of U.S. domestic policy. They need the collaboration and teamwork of a “farm club,” rather than go along with the rank and file’s desperate quadrennial search for a father figure to nominate. A party that bets the ranch on a Top Dog and Philosopher-King is going to blow up every 20 to 25 years; and sometimes, when the wrong Republican does become President, loyalty should give way to tough bargaining behind the scenes. Because House Republicans did not do that during 1971-73, they faced wreckage in November ’74.

 

Well, wait -- two exceptions. The opportunistic Nixon drew two challengers for presidential renomination. Both knew it was utterly hopeless, yet they stood up for their version of Republican principles. One was California’s Pete McCloskey (who was way too dovish and Common Cause-minded for this writer’s taste) and the other was John Ashbrook of Ohio.

 

Elected in 1962, Ashbrook lived and served until ‘82. On May 9, 1983 President Ronald Reagan personally dedicated the John M. Ashbrook Center at Ashland University. The Center’s website recalls how Ashbrook faulted “the Nixon Administration for squandering an opportunity to build a conservative coalition to govern the country.” "The result of such leadership,” Ashbrook said, “could well have been a period of conservative and Republican ascendancy to match the Democratic era that followed upon the victory of Franklin Roosevelt. Instead, the net result of this administration may be to frustrate for years to come the emergence of the conservative majority." His campaign used the slogan "No Left Turn" years before Maggie Thatcher would make it famous.

 

Combined, McCloskey and Ashbrook -- not Senators, let it be noted, but two members of the House GOP -- took 30% in the ’72 New Hampshire Primary (unfortunately for conservatives, two-thirds of this protest vote went to the liberal McCloskey). Their very public dissents showed that rank-and-file GOPers retained some unease about Nixon and his endless political expedience, months before anyone ever heard of Watergate, and even though the economy was booming.

 

As Lexington Institute founder and CEO Mac Carey likes to tell everyone, “What politics revolves around in this country is the job approval of the President, and it goes way beyond the time I was on the Hill. When a President’s job approval is above 50%, he’s in good shape. When it’s below 50%, he’s in bad shape.  And you can almost trace everything that happens -- from primary challenges; to legislation passing; to re-elections; to losing control of the Congress -- to where that job-approval number of the President is.” President Nixon’s approval in January of 1973 was 68%. By late April, with inflation breaking out, it was 40%. By the spring of ’74 it was below 30%.

 

It was easy, and to some extent fun, for the media to cover the cascading Watergate scandal. As a college student, I made audiotapes of the nightly news and found the 18-month saga riveting, especially the Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings of July 1974, from which I fashioned an all-Republican web excerpt -- www.ExactingEditor.com/Judiciary-Seven.mp3.

 

But, during the campaigns of ’74, typical voters were more worried about the cost of living, mortgage rates hitting 10%, and gas nearly tripling in price. All of this economic pain came about because Richard Nixon and a Democrat-controlled Congress had outbid each other on fiscal and regulatory issues. Who could do the most damage while claiming the greatest amount of short-term credit?

 

(3) The Economic and Partisan Costs of Picking a Bad President

 

One still encounters sixtysomething GOPers who maintain Richard Nixon was "smart.” No one ever calls him principled, and the man’s so-called smarts were a function of cleverness and a seeming desire to shock and startle while making himself look indispensable.

 

“Nixon was a gambler,” wrote James Goldsborough 20 years after Watergate: “His Navy poker winnings staked his political career... It was in foreign policy that Nixon was boldest: Secret negotiations with Moscow and Beijing, bombing Vietnam, secret bombing and an invasion of Cambodia. He astounded the world by cutting the dollar free and imposing wage and price controls... But if gamblers always won, we’d all be at the track.”

 

Nixon's first memoir, written way back in 1962, was Six Crises -- and he persisted in looking for tightropes that, if his luck held, would not become a hangman’s noose.

 

Even before that, in The Making of the President 1960, campaign chronicler Theodore H. White had fingered Nixon as someone the GOP should have shied away from. Republicans might be right to say that 85% of psychotherapists are Democrats; but that doesn’t mean the 15% who are Republicans should be quiet during the presidential nomination process. As a person, Dick Nixon in 1960 displayed critical weaknesses that compelled him to overcompensate:

 

“I had observed him by this time” -- White means mid-October of ’60 -- for many months, and he had persisted as a puzzle to my mind and understanding from my first glimpse and sound of him. Now I decided that rather than being the hard, cruel, vengeful man as constantly described in the liberal press, Nixon was above all a friend-seeker, almost pathetic in his eagerness to be liked. He wanted to identify with people and have a connection with them. And this effort to communicate, to evoke warmth and sympathy, was his greatest problem...”

 

As party leader, an introvert’s reserve led to a centralization of power that wasted talent and -- yes -- presaged the paranoia of “plumbers” and Watergate:

 

The discontent of the television staff was reflected at every echelon of Republican campaign organization… The Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington waited on its leader -- and waited. “You could have,” said one of its most important directors, “taken the key to the Republican National Committee, locked the door, thrown the key into the Potomac, shipped all 175 employees off to the Virgin Islands and saved money -- for all that he ever listened to us.” One member of the planning board said, “Ah, we used to meet for strategy sessions at the University Club -- and we were like 10 guys in a house of mirrors entrancing each other. We satisfied each other with how smart we were -- but nobody could get through to Dick.”

 

Remember, that’s from a book that came out in the middle of 1961, as Theodore H. White created the literary genre we recall him for. Look to pages 301-317 to see how much of the GOP future was previewed. For now, one more passage: “By the end of the campaign, disaffection from the candidate had become general. Nixon’s top-level planners and volunteers were men of high talent, many of them absentees on leave from impressively important jobs in American enterprise; yet they could receive no hearing from their political chief, and their efforts to reach him degenerated into both the bizarre and the humiliating as they tried to penetrate through his inner court to his attention.”

 

Republicans my age and older saw Teddy White’s 1960 account as too much of a love poem to Jack Kennedy, which is a dead-on complaint. But my complaint about the GOP nominators of the 1960s is that they overlooked valuable insights by author White about the essential Dick Nixon. They probably overlooked a lot of evidence that came before their own eyes, too. Nixon was more calculating than smart, and not at all wise; he had no philosophical grounding; and he took certain risks to prove things -- big things -- primarily to himself.

 

Always respectful of aspirants who have been around the track, Republicans nominated Richard Nixon in 1968 as the devil they knew best, passing by George Romney (a future candidate’s dad), Nelson Rockefeller (a future Vice-President), and Ronald Reagan (a future President).

 

With the possible exception of making Red China an ally of convenience for the next two decades, the Nixon legacy is distraction, delusion, and ruination. His Administration pursued reckless economic and regulatory policies. “Nixon was the Great Regulator. It was he who built the modern regulatory apparatus,” wrote Jonathan Rauch in The New Republic for May 16, 1994:

 

A partial list includes, in 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act; in 1970, the Poison Prevention Packaging Act, the Clean Air Amendments, the Occupational Safety and Health Act; in 1972, the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Noise Pollution and Control Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act; in 1973, the Vocational Rehabilitation Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act; in 1974, the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act. Nixon opened the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Under Nixon the number of pages in the Federal Register (which publishes regulations) went from under 20,000 per year to three times that amount, where it has stayed ever since.

 

Longer-term, the Nixon-Kissinger foreign policy was so flawed it had to be junked -- not by his successor Gerald Ford, but by Ronald Reagan, starting in January 1981. Reagan abolished the last of Nixon’s energy-price controls and signaled that negotiations with the Soviet Union could, if necessary, wait for years until the U.S. defense posture became much stronger. One of the most durable relics of the Nixon Era -- the anti-ABM Treaty signed with Soviet party boss Leonid Brezhnev -- would be junked by George W. Bush in 2002.

 

The best thing a partisan can say about November 5, 1974, is that the GOP was freed by wrathful voters of much of its dead wood. A phrase that institutional revolutionaries find themselves uttering is “our cause will advance one funeral at a time.” Republicans witnessed many electoral funerals in the wake of Nixon’s departure. In fact, both congressional parties were being given the chance to reinvent themselves -- which naturally would alter the whole Congress.

 

(4) Myers, Fenwick and Pressler -- not a law firm

 

During his freshman term, Congressman Dave Emery experienced “kind of a Republican malaise. We were trying to figure out how to survive, as a party, and most of the focus was on individuals surviving in their districts as opposed to marching forward with a unified agenda. You know, from the ashes the phoenix rises -- but not necessarily right away. I can remember being beaten back, time after time after time after time, on votes that we thought were pretty important. All the oil and gas issues. Spending. Various labor bills that they tried to jam through, like the common-situs picketing bill… [W]e could meet in a phone booth -- we were down to 145 Members and pretty well devastated.”

Some of the GOP newcomers had close elections only because a national wave of protest and disgust poured risk into safe Republican areas. But let’s look at a few who were at least as distinctive as Emery. They are: Gary Myers (25th district, Pennsylvania), Millicent Fenwick (5th district, New Jersey), and Larry Pressler (most of South Dakota).

 

In the suburbs of Pittsburgh, in a district part of which would be presented by Melissa Hart a quarter-century later, Gary Arthur Myers defeated incumbent Democrat Frank M. Clark by 7 1/2 percent. In this blue-collar area, not only had Myers run in ’72, winning 44%, but his core credentials were impeccable. An Ohio native graduating from the University of Cincinnati, he “pursued a professional career in mechanical and industrial engineering as a steel-mill foreman.”

 

Myers earned two pages in Congressional Careers, a solid 1991 book by Nebraska academic John R. Hibbing. Hibbing described “the 25th district (the hilly steel-mill country north of Pittsburgh)” as “economically liberal and socially conservative…”

 

Myers did not always vote the way the unions would have liked, but his moderate Republican voting record was a reasonable match with the residents of the district, alongside of whom he had worked for many years. Indications are that Myers could have made this a safe seat by doing all the things Representatives know they need to do these days… In 1976 Myers refused to accept Political Action Committee money, spurned big fund-raisers, spent less than $40,000, and still expanded his vote share to 57%.

 

And then? Myers “shocked many when he was not a candidate for reelection in 1978 and declared he wished to work again as a steel foreman” -- that’s from the wikipedia.org entry. I tried the Web for a phone number for Myers, who turns 75 in August, but not even Melissa Hart ever crossed paths with him.

 

“When I visited with him several years ago,” Hibbing says in his 1991 book, “he was obviously proud of the fact that he had been able to convince his bosses to facilitate my interview by adding an extra half-hour to his lunch break. He met me in the cafeteria area, wearing a hard hat and steel-toed shoes and clutching his lunch pail… No bluster about how the people of the district loved him or what an important person he had been back in Washington... He is, by a wide margin, the most extraordinary member of Congress I have met.”

 

If that’s true, why didn’t Gary Myers give John Hibbing any good quotes as to why he gave up a hard-won congressional seat? Another interesting question is: Whatever became of his 18 or 20 staff members?

 

Our next Class of ’74 House GOPer is light-years more quotable: Millicent Fenwick, who’ll go on to serve four House terms and, also like Dave Emery, lose a Senate race in 1982.

 

Fenwick’s father was Ambassador to Spain for President Calvin Coolidge. She and husband Hugh Fenwick raised two children, and divorced in 1945. According to the Women in Congress website, “She modeled briefly for Harper’s Bazaar and then took a job as associate editor on the staff of Condé Nast’s Vogue magazine. From 1938 to ‘52, Fenwick worked on several Nast publications.” 

 

In the mid-1950s she “inherited a fortune when her father passed away” and was during 1958-64 “a member of the Bernardsville borough council and served on the New Jersey committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 1958 to 1972. Her first campaign for state office was in 1970 when she won a seat in the New Jersey assembly at the age of 59.”

 

In November 1974, she won the north central New Jersey district held by Peter Frelinghuysen, which, in somewhat different form, is represented by Rodney Frelinghuysen today. In winning the GOP nomination, she had defeated -- by under 1% -- a future Governor, Tom Kean.

 

Fenwick smoked a pipe, was 64 at the swearing-in, and soon gave rise to the character of Lacey Davenport in the Doonesbury comic strip. For those who admired Fenwick as a most unusual GOPer -- outspoken and gracious at the same time -- see the 2003 biography, authored by Amy Schapiro, which is thorough albeit hampered by the author’s not having worked on Capitol Hill.

 

At this point I must leave the draft-chapter mode and use placeholder language, though it will resonate with other nonfiction writers. The biographical quotes above come from wikipedia. But Schapiro’s book, which does bring alive a host of congressional topics and scenes from the latter 1970s, also has a very restrictive statement after its L of C info: “No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher.” (Hmmph -- I wonder whether, by reproducing the above, the stipulation has been violated.) No part can be “reproduced or utilized”?!? Teddy White’s book has nothing like that, and neither does John Hibbing’s. Nonfiction authors are not incipient criminals, and the laborious “permission request” modes of some publishers work against comprehensive history-crafting. In any case, let’s return to the language of a draft chapter, and I’ll figure out what to ask from Ms. Schapiro and her university press publisher later on -- FG 1/22/2012

 

Dave Emery shares a vignette from the Republican Cloakroom. “Sam Steiger of Arizona used to wear these marvelous snakeskin cowboy boots -- they were really works of art and probably very expensive. So he was sitting there with his legs crossed, eating a sandwich or whatever, and Millicent came in and said: ‘Ohhh Sam, what handsome boots. Whatever are they made of?’ And without a blink, Sam looked at her and said: ‘Endangered species, Millicent.’ Almost everyone around collapsed with laughter and Millicent looked horrified. She was a delightful woman -- but you couldn’t think of two people more dissimilar than Sam Steiger and Millicent Fenwick!”

 

As will be appreciated, the secret of managing and maintaining a majority party in a legislative setting is “resolving” that you won’t be able to resolve many differences. Not on policy, and definitely not when it comes to personality.

 

(5) Five Hundred Firm Handshakes, Each Day

 

In 1970, voters of South Dakota's first congressional district chose Frank Denholm to represent them in the U.S. House. The seat had been held by George McGovern during 1957-60, but is otherwise solidly Republican since the late '30s. Born in 1923, Denholm had graduated from South Dakota State University, worked as a farmer and auctioneer, and spent five years working for the FBI. From 1962 on, he was a lawyer and lecturer. So, a solid midwestern Democrat.

 

Prior to the Depression, the Dakotas had been hotbeds of radical and Populist support, reported Neal Peirce in a 1973 survey of the Great Plains. "During the Depression, several of the socialistic-type programs enacted during the Norbeck years actually failed or at least put a serious strain on the state economy." (Peter Norbeck was a self-described "T.R. Republican" elected Governor in 1916 and Senator in 1920.) "The result was a conservative reaction against new government programs...giving South Dakota...one of the most Republican and most conservative governments in the nation."

 

Yet Denholm, seeking a second term, carried every county in the first district in 1972. A Market Opinion Research Corp. (MORC) poll the following year showed him at 64% approval, 5% disapproval. "Not surprisingly, Denholm was unopposed in the 1974 Democratic primary," reported Alan L. Clem, who tracked his state's politics for decades as a professor of political science at the U. of South Dakota. I reached him by phone in 2011 and now rely on Chapter 6 of his book recounting seven of the 1974 House campaigns. From Sheila Harris, Rights and Permissions Editor, on 7/13/2011: “This credit line must appear on the first page of text selection and with each individual figure or photo: From CLEM/ASSOCIATES. MAKING OF CONGRESSMEN, 1E. © 1976 Wadsworth, a part of Cengage Learning Inc. Reproduced by permission -- www.cengage.com/permissions.”

 

Yet, as Watergate dragged down the GOP, and high grain prices boosted many midwestern incumbents, Democrat Denholm was knocked off by a Rhodes Scholar and former Army Lieutenant who quit his State Department post only seven weeks before the primary and then defeated two well-regarded GOP aspirants.

 

Larry Pressler is another of that tiny band of House GOP freshmen in '74. Talking with Clem the following year, Pressler "characterized his campaign as being essentially run by two people -- himself and his mother from the family farm near Humboldt... The organization and the ideas resided in the candidate’s head. On a typical campaigning day...two or three hours were spent traveling. The bulk of each day was devoted to shaking hands with constituents on a one-to-one basis."

 

“I tried to shake 500 hard hands a day," Pressler told Clem, "where you really take their hand and look at them and talk to them a little bit. I succeeded in doing that seven days a week." Pressler took to heart California Congressman John Rousselot’s dictum, enunciated at the Republican congressional candidates’ school in June, that almost any incumbent could be defeated if the challenger consistently shook at least 300 hands per day. Pressler estimated that he accomplished this goal on about 80 days. “You would not believe the physical and mental effort this requires,” he told Clem.

 

He pledged to accept no honorariums and no special-interest money. The money he did raise was from small donors. He had no ties to the state's GOP establishment, while endorsing Nelson Rockefeller for vice-president hurt him with the conservative grassroots. Speaking of which: On April 20 -- not seven weeks before the GOP primary -- Pressler came out for the impeachment of President Nixon because it was "the only way this [Watergate] matter could be resolved."

 

In a July 21st guest column, he term-limited himself to eight years and pledged to return 10% of his House salary. Further, “I ask that readers clip out this column and save it. If I get into Congress, I want you to remind me of the promises I make below."

 

The incumbent Democrat saw the level of risk rising, but like Pressler he operated with not much organization. Clem wrote that Denholm, "by all accounts a serious and conscientious congressman, as well as a personable and at least modestly eloquent politician, was not adept at organizing and coordinating the work of others. He did not expect much in this line from his staff and he did not build a staff from which any more could be expected. Denholm seemed to regard his staff's function as being essentially clerical."

 

Pressler's upset victory restored a district to GOP hands that might have been Democratic well into the 1980s. In 1978, he ran for the Senate and defeated Don Barnett 67 to 33%. In 1979, barely old enough to serve if elected, he declared himself a candidate for President -- one of his rare PR blunders, and it ended rapidly. In 1980, Pressler’s straight-arrow reputation was restored in spades when he was the only member of what became the ABSCAM group to refuse a bribe offered by undercover FBI agents. (Why “ABSCAM”? The media built the name out of the fake company set up by the FBI -- “Abdul Enterprises, Inc.”)

 

In November 1984, Pressler won a second Senate term by crushing George V. Cunningham 74 to 26%. "He has not yet overcome his reputation as a dilettante," reported the Almanac of American Politics for 1988. "He is one of those politicians who came of age in the early 1970s who seems to have an instinct for capitalizing on the latest turn in public opinion. He has a reputation as a liberal Republican; actually, his record shows adroit shifts at politically useful times."

 

Not until the mid-1990s would Pressler be dominant as a legislator -- and one account says it cost him his job. A key Senator in crafting and passing the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Pressler was beaten by Tim Johnson, who contended "that instead of promoting the economy of his home state... Pressler was promoting out-of-state business and high-tech industries and was in turn supported by them. Pressler was the only incumbent Republican Senator to lose reelection that year" (this text is from wikipedi.org). Pressler then took the hallowed former-legislator path of becoming a lobbyist.

 

Especially given his defection to Obama-Biden in 2008, his endeavors after the Senate are of no interest for this book. Rather, let’s stay with the '74 Pressler upset -- 55 to 45% over Democrat Denholm -- for it confirms a timeless truth about House races. A surge of shoe leather, eye contact, small donations, bracing (but never nasty) candor, and endless listening -- can put you into Congress. Five hundred firm handshakes a day?? Meditate on that for a while.

 

Certain divisive issues do need a resolution and, no matter what it is, half the electorate will be miffed if not mad. In South Dakota that year, it was the Oahe Dam irrigation project; to move water some 150 miles, "ditches would have to be over 50 feet deep in some places." Alan Clem quotes the upstart challenger juggling industrial expansion and ecological preservation: "Now, I’m all for business development, but I just can‘t in an intellectually honest fashion go out and promise South Dakota that we’re going to have massive industrial development here, because I don’t think we want that. We don’t want to transport the ghetto problems to South Dakota and we just don’t have enough of a supply of natural gas or water here. I am for developing certain light industries on a selective basis that fit in with our environmental situation..."

 

The Dakotas have enough natural gas today, but the point is: When you don't have an answer, tell the voters they'll have to wait. When you do have an answer, be plain as to what it is, and explain your stance -- endlessly, creatively, resolutely -- if your answer is not popular. When you have only a tentative answer, say that you're open to new evidence or a better path to reach the same end goal.

 

One other lesson from the Pressler Saga: When something smells fishy, walk away from it. The Washington Post for February 4, 1980, reported: "Thanks to the FBI's undercover 'sting' operation, there now exists incontrovertible evidence that one Senator would not be bought."

 

(6) An Improbable President’s Early Actions

 

The House Democrats, as a body, call themselves a Caucus. The House Republicans gave up “Caucus” a hundred years ago when dictatorial GOP Speaker Joe Cannon was overthrown by a coalition of regular Democrats and progressive Republicans. The overthrow became possible because the voters moved away from pro-business conservatism in the November 1910 elections.

 

From that point on, House GOPers were a “Conference,” and from January 1965 to November 1973, Michigan Congressman “Jerry” Ford was their leader. He had been elected by Grand Rapids voters in November 1948, one of many World War Two veterans with no desire to go back to the pre-Pearl Harbor naivety and isolationism that used to characterize midwestern Republicanism.

 

Ford hoped to be Speaker someday. Instead he got to be President -- only the second time that a House GOP Leader made that switch. The other one was James A. Garfield, who might have become a great President had he not been shot in July 1881 and suffered for 88 days before expiring. (A 2011 book by Candice Millard is giving Garfield his rightful place in history. See this review in the Cleveland Plain Dealer by Prof. Alan Cate.)

 

And Ford ended up in the Oval Office because a Democrat -- Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana -- decided during the ‘60s that vice-presidential vacancies were too risky. From September 1901 to March of 1905, the country had no vice-president (because Teddy Roosevelt moved up to take the slain William McKinley’s place). From April 1945 to January 1949, we had no vice-president, as Harry Truman finished out what would have been Franklin Roosevelt’s fourth term. Bayh’s leadership enabled the 25th amendment to be added to the Constitution, allowing Congress to investigate and ratify a new vice-president, whenever the existing holder of that job had stepped up to the Presidency.

 

 
The congressional parties also step up to the plate when they are off the House Floor. BILL FRENZEL, borrowing a (Minnesota) Twins uniform, is ready to battle the Democratic team, circa 1972. As for Jerry Ford, Frenzel says: ”He was a fine Leader. He worked 20 hours a day, he did everything he could, he had to support a man of very bad character -- Richard Nixon -- and he did it the best way he could without giving away his own personal integrity. He was just a solid-gold person; I loved him.”
On October 12, 1973, President Nixon named Gerald Ford to take the place of Vice-President Spiro Agnew. Agnew had resigned on the 10th, after a lot of bravado and abuse of the GOP rank-and-file. He knew federal prosecutors had the goods on him for accepting bribes, but got out with a plea of nolo contendere -- “no contest” -- on a single charge of tax evasion.

 

October of ’73 was an amazing month, a time of shocks. A gang of Arab states attacked Israel on Yom Kippur, the 6th. Nine days later, the Arab oil-exporting states began the so-called embargo. In fact, their oil would find its way to American gas pumps via middlemen, but the Middle East uproar had the effect of raising spot prices violently and throwing Europe into recession a full year before economic slump would affect the United States. The congressional campaigns of ’74 had to be conducted against a backdrop of costly energy, soaring interest rates, an economy losing steam slowly, and Watergate coverage almost daily.

 

On August 9, 1974 -- thanks to Birch Bayh’s constitutional amendment, followed by Spiro Agnew’s resignation, followed by Richard Nixon’s resignation -- Gerald Ford became President. The Republican Party had never chosen him for either of the top jobs. On the upside, he walked into the Presidency having made no campaign promises; glibness from the campaign trail would not lead to contortions or ego trips when it came to confronting policy choices.

 

On September 8, 1974, the new President pardoned Richard Nixon. That ended the honeymoon; his approval rating dropped from the low 70s to the high 40s, probably the most dramatic one-day drop in “approval” in polling history.

 

On October 8, 1974, after a televised “economic summit” that had AFL-CIO president George Meany and Fortune 500 CEOs being cordial with each other, President Ford went back to Congress to propose an economic program -- even though most of the members were itching to end the session and hit the campaign trail. Inflation was still the problem -- or so most thought. In fact the economy kept decelerating: Over the next six months, joblessness would soar from 6% to over 9%. Ford was asking the American people and his former Capitol Hill colleagues to “Whip Inflation Now” -- starting with the infamous WIN buttons -- just as the job market was about to collapse.

 

Even worse, he called for higher income taxes -- and took the opportunity to be self-righteous in a way that seemed oblivious to how many House and Senate Republicans were already hanging by a political thread: “I am aware that any proposal for new taxes just four weeks before a national election is, to put it mildly, considered politically unwise. But I say in sincerity that [pause] I will not play politics with America’s future.”

 

What Ford proposed was an income-tax surcharge, reaching into the middle brackets; he called it “the acid test of our joint determination to whip inflation in America.” This is one of the dumbest -- in the sense of atrociously timed -- moves ever made by a Republican White House. Worse things have happened, of course, unwittingly or half-consciously. But here was a planned self-detonation, made to a House and Senate that couldn’t do anything with the proposal for months -- except ignore it, or more likely condemn it, during the ongoing campaign.

 

CBS’s Bob Schieffer described the proposal as a “5% income-tax surcharge for corporations and for families earning more than $15,000 a year.” It was to last for one year and affect “only 28% of the personal income-taxpayers in this country,” Ford said the next day. If Ford had not set up the Economic Summit six weeks before the election, he would not have had to make this speech to show he took the Summiteers seriously.

 

But no speech justified a broad-based hike in income taxes, and in fact October 1974 would be the last time a Republican President endorsed such a move. (The tax hikes President George H. W. Bush would swallow exactly 16 years later were much smaller, nor did they start as his idea.)

 

In full green-eyeshade mode, Ford said at his press conference the day after making the proposals to Congress: “I don’t think taking away from a family who’s earning $20,000 the sum of 42 dollars a year is going to have any serious adverse impact on the purchasing power of that family.” (If that were the case, then how could it have the positive impact of restraining demand and reducing inflation, the supposed reason for proposing it?)

 

The rest of Ford’s speech, except for wanting to deregulate natural-gas prices, was a hodge-podge. The tax proposal overwhelmed minor goodies such as raising the investment tax credit and $3 billion in additional subsidies for home-buyers.

 

And yet -- even jittery Republicans believed at the time, “Jerry Ford means well and, whatever he did to hurt us, he will try to offset it.” As Congress left town, the new President also took to the campaign road. Some Democrat had defined his party's objective as a “veto-proof Congress,” and Ford ran with that term as a kind of negative goal -- “here’s what you can help us avoid” -- to pitch to swing voters. He went further, saying that a Democratic landslide would create a “legislative dictatorship.”

 

Right as NBC’s election-night coverage opened, John Chancellor told viewers that Ford had “visited 20 states in this campaign, in a rare demonstration of a President in an off-year campaigning for congressional and gubernatorial candidates. It was reminiscent of Eisenhower in 1958. Eisenhower in that year tried to help Republicans, and didn’t, and it’s something that Presidents don’t often do. But President Ford, out of a deep sense of party loyalty -- and a feeling that he would be blamed if he didn’t do that traveling -- did that traveling.”

 

David Brinkley, whose pairing with Chancellor kept TV viewers at ease throughout the 1970s, chimed in: “As you recall, they were angry at Mr. Nixon because, in ‘72, he amassed a tremendous amount of money, and kept it all, ran his own race, and did little or nothing to help any other Republican. So Mr. Ford’s relations with Congress are at stake, as well as other factors.”

 

By mid-1975, Ford would surprise the doubters of both parties by his ability to deal with Congress. He knew where all the bodies were buried, plus retained a stubborn rectitude when it came to budget and regulatory choices. This would give Ford a grounding that both his predecessor and his successor showed little sign of having or of trying to develop.

 

During September and October of ’74, however, Gerald Ford’s political leadership of the GOP -- serving up pardons and tax increases, even as joblessness was preparing to explode -- could not be bailed out by the enjoyment this good-natured extrovert found on the campaign trail. As we have seen, on November 5, Republican strength in the House was driven from 192 to 144.

 

The editors of National Review -- then as now -- mix perceptive reporting and conservative principle. They tried to rewind the tape to the prior election: “The usual Watergate-cum-inflation explanations may be superficial: Psephologist Richard Scammon notes that the shape of the 1974 Republican debacle was discernible at least 18 months ago, or well before Watergate had serious impact. Others may see the roots of 1974 in the failure of the Republican Party to score any significant gains in 1972, even as Richard Nixon was achieving a spectacular 49-state landslide.” Nixon had defeated George McGovern by 23 percentage points, yet net Republican gains in the house were a mere 12, while the party lost Senate seats.

 

A good rule in politics is to not show contempt for an opponent. Accordingly, the editors of National Review acknowledged how bad things looked for both the GOP and conservatism generally:

 

The 1974 electoral results demonstrate that the Democrats, for the time being at least, have been able to adapt much more successfully than the Republicans to the post-Vietnam era. Without defining themselves very clearly on the issues, they have come forward with an attractive assortment of new personalities, including some figures of potential national stature, such as Ella Grasso in Connecticut, Hugh Carey in New York, and perhaps Edmund Brown Jr. in California and John Glenn in Ohio. These have now joined already established national presences like Henry Jackson and Lloyd Bentsen.

 

Two noteworthy Republican survivors that year: Robert Dole won a second term as Senator from Kansas -- by just 13,000 votes out of the 800,000 cast. And, for Senator from Nevada, Paul Laxalt defeated his future colleague Harry Reid. Each took 47%, the difference between them a mere 376 votes. (Independent Jack Doyle drew 6%.) Laxalt will turn out to be the only Senator to back Ronald Reagan’s drive to deny Gerald Ford the ’76 presidential nomination.

 

And Bob Dole -- who as a fellow congressman had been vital to enabling Ford to take over leadership of the House party in late 1964 -- ended up the President’s surprise pick to run for Vice-President in August of 1976.

 

Profiles of key players during the Ford Era

CARL ALBERT, Speaker of the House from January 1971 through 1976

 

JOHN ANDERSON, House GOP Conference chair from January 1969 to June 1979: “In 1978, a fundamentalist minister from Rockford, Donald Lyon, announced that he would challenge Anderson in the Republican primary for the 16th congressional district. Though Anderson was the third-ranking Republican in the House, he managed to win the primary by only a narrow margin.”

 

ARTHUR BURNS, Federal Reserve Chairman from February 1970 to March '78: “He has a reputation of having been overly influenced by political pressure in his monetary policy decisions during his time as Chairman, and for supporting the policy, widely accepted in political and economic circles at the time, that Fed action should try to maintain an unemployment rate of around 4%.”

 

BARBER CONABLE -- top GOPer on Ways & Means from 1977 through '84. Also see Window on Congress: A Congressional Biography of Barber B. Conable Jr., by James S. Fleming (Rochester, New York: University of Rochester Press, 2004) -- ISBN 1-58046-128-X

 

ROBERT DOLE (mostly in his role as GOP pinch-hitter through 1976)

 

WILLIAM E. "BILL" FRENZEL, 3rd district of Minnesota, 1971 through '90. Along with Bob Walker (16th district of Pennsylvania, 1977 through ’96), Frenzel contributed the most in terms of useable recollections for this manuscript -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Frenzel

 

GEORGE MEANY, for the final 25 years of his long life, was President of the AFL-CIO. Congressional Democrats had to pay attention to him, and some Republicans respected his no-BS appearances on the Sunday shows. Having refused to endorse George McGovern in 1972, Meany battled the Nixon and Ford Administrations two ways -- on foreign policy, from the right; on domestic issues, from the left. However antiquated his big-spending ways strike us now, the man was a patriot who never made excuses for Communist dictatorships and also took actions to undermine them.

 

JOHN J. RHODES, House GOP Leader from December 1973 through 1980

 

WILLIAM E. "BILL" SIMON, the 63rd Secretary of the U.S. Treasury

 

AL ULLMAN, Ways & Means Committee chair from 1975 through 1980

NOTE #1: The three Democrats -- Albert, Meany and Ullman -- are referenced here more as “background,” this being a story of congressional Republicans. But we shouldn’t forget their presence. House Republicans certainly couldn’t.

NOTE #2: One of the “fun” parts of producing a manuscript is accumulating printed, and in some cases audio-historical, sources that might or might not end up as footnotes. In generating the 15,000 words in this web document, I created or consulted dozens of backgrounder items. That collection is too bulky to tack onto this preview book chapter. But, for anyone who likes modern GOP history and the political events of the 1970s, see www.ExactingEditor.com/Nixon-Kissinger-Ford.pdf. Some of its items there look ahead to later chapters, but in any case it serves as the bibliography for what you see here.

 

 

(7) Messrs. Rhodes, Michel and Anderson

 

In December of ’73, soon after Gerald Ford became Vice-President, the House Republicans picked John Rhodes to succeed him as House GOP Leader. There was no contest. Why not? Why didn’t someone give John Rhodes even pro-forma opposition?

 

According to Minnesota’s Bill Frenzel, then in his second term, the only other likely candidate for Leader was Barber Conable from Rochester, New York: “Rhodes was much senior [by six terms] to Conable, and considered more conservative; and, if they'd had a head-to-head, probably would've beaten him. But Conable immediately endorsed Rhodes, and alleged that he was quite happy being the ranking member on Ways & Means. I think it was the right choice for Conable, who probably would have received the same treatment Rhodes later got.” Frenzel is referring to aggressive freshmen elected in November of ’78, led by Ed Bethune of Arkansas, their Class President who put stiff pressure on Rhodes.

 

“Barber was in many ways a loner," says Frenzel. "Most Members of Congress are,” despite the need to appear gregarious. What does he mean by “loners”? “They don't have a circle of close friends. They are not ‘dependent’ on others -- they try to stay independent. Barber was one of those -- more independent, and certainly more cerebral, than most Members of Congress.”

 

New York's Norm Lent, in the House from 1971 to '92, says: "The thing I remember best -- and I’ve quoted him on it many times -- is that he thought it was unwise to exempt so many low-income people from paying income tax. Every year they extended or raised the limit for these earners who had to pay income tax; Barber thought everyone should have 'skin in the game.' People are learning this now..." Lent describes his relationship with Conable as "warm."

 

And Frenzel became best friends with Conable, who would serve until 1983, having made critical contributions to the 1978 and 1981 tax bills. “He was a brain.” So was (and is) Frenzel. Neither of them could stand dummies or stuffed shirts.

 

John Rhodes was the first westerner -- sent to D.C. by Arizonans in 1952 -- to lead what had been an overwhelmingly Great Lakes and midwestern congressional party. With few exceptions -- Joe Martin of Massachusetts, who led the Conference for an astonishing 20 years -- the congressional Republicans elevated peers from Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and especially Illinois.

 

The "Land of Lincoln" remained prime stomping ground for pachyderms. Everett McKinley Dirksen led the Senate party from 1959 to his death in September of ’69. Two House Republicans -- Robert McClory and Tom Railsback -- defended the party’s honor on the Judiciary Committee by not waiting for the “smoking gun” to send Richard Nixon to the Senate for trial. Henry Hyde, one of the ’74 freshmen, would go on to serve the nation well for three decades. John Erlenborn was the House party’s leader on education policy for over a decade. Ed Madigan, elected in ’72, later served as deputy whip and, in his ninth term, would come within two votes of stopping Newt Gingrich from becoming House GOP Whip. (In March of ’89, Madigan will get 85 to Gingrich’s 87.) And the man who’ll become Speaker after Gingrich is Denny Hastert of Illinois.

 

By January 1975, as the Ford people prepared his State of the Union message, with unemployment spiking and the WIN buttons relegated to various closets, two of the top three positions in the House GOP were held by Illinoisans. As the newly installed Whip, Bob Michel was #2 to John Rhodes, and John Anderson #3 as Conference Chairman.

 

Bob Michel came to the House long before he was sworn in a freshman in January of 1957. He had been a senior aide, starting in 1949, to U.S. Rep. Harold Velde of Illinois. Before that, during World War Two, he served in the Army. Born in 1923 -- the same year as Bob Dole and one year before George H. W. Bush -- Michel was a dues-payer and an insider. During his entire time on the Hill, he would see his role as serving Republican Presidents rather than making the House Republican Conference an autonomous power base or at least a place of policy innovation.

 

He lived in, and represented, Peoria (pop 127,000), the home of the Caterpillar tractor giant. In November of 1974, Bob Michel’s majority dropped to 55% against a Democrat, Stephen L. Nordvall, who spent just $10,776. Besides the weakening economy, Michel’s role during 1973-74 as head of the HRCCC had led to this relatively close call. (The HRCC -- an overly initialed entity called the House Republican Congressional Campaign Committee -- then became the NRCC, for National Republican Congressional Committee.)

 

 
In the Spring of 1974, this young man is an intern in Guy Vander Jagt's D.C. office. Not especially drawn to politics, he chooses a career in marketing and management. Eighteen years later, more or less on a lark, and not at all unhappy in the private sector, he defeats Vander Jagt for the GOP nomination -- and the new congressman for that Michigan district is PETE HOEKSTRA. "And when I got to D.C., there was no indication at all that Guy had poisoned the well. Guy and I never become quote-unquote 'friends,' but he was always very cordial [and] respectful, whether it was in Washington or back in the district."

In January of 1977, newspaperman Mike Johnson would become Michel’s press secretary. Because Bob Michel steadfastly refused to create an oral-history product, Johnson is this book’s chief spokesman for Michel’s collegial and White House-focused approach to his fellow House Republicans.

 

“For what he accomplished that November [of ‘74] -- which was a loss of 48 seats -- he was rewarded with the job of Minority Whip,” Johnson recollects with good-natured laughter: “They moved him outta there! Brought Guy Vander Jagt in. Bob was rewarded for taking on a job in the turbulent atmosphere of 1973-74 that most other members would never have volunteered for.”

 

Most, but not all. The Nixon Administration, in late ’72, before they were engulfed by Watergate, favored Ohio Congressman Clarence Brown for the HRCCC post. Michel defeated him. He was ambitious to rise, yet didn’t see media coverage as a useful method. Michel did not even have a press secretary before agreeing to hire Johnson, who had already been moving out of the journalistic world by serving as part of Ford’s White House operation in ’76. Johnson says it took him six months to justify the utility of his role to the publicity-averse Michel.

 

John Anderson, from Rockford, fewer than 100 miles north of Peoria, was the polar opposite. Anderson, Harvard Class of ’49, loved to orate on the House floor and show up on Meet the Press. If you asked him what time it was, you’d get an eloquent articulation of the very nature of time and his bill to reorient clock faces.

 

Mike Johnson puts it this way: “John Anderson was [pause] -- well, he could've been John McCain's father. They're very much alike. Anderson was independent, cantankerous, too intelligent for his own good -- and just un-leadable. He didn't belong in Leadership. He was more the Gingrich type of contributor, better off contributing from an independent platform. But jeessh, what a great mind. And, he was a gentleman -- civil and scholarly.”

 

John Rhodes and John Anderson -- during 1974, they were the men the broadcast network reporters turned to for GOP reaction to executive-branch scandals. Also prominent on the airwaves was Senate GOP Leader Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania.

 

(8) Refusing “to Carry the Nixon Albatross on His Back”

 

The microphones were wide-open on Sunday, September 8, with much of Washington surprised by Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon. The new President bent over backwards to convey a pragmatic reason for the decision. He and his staff were saying: No, it wasn’t done because Nixon’s health is precarious. They wanted it to be seen as, in effect, ruthless time-management: "I cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed. My conscience tells me that only I, as President, have the constitutional power to firmly shut and seal this book [and thereby ensure] domestic tranquility.”

 

Translation: Get Watergate, or at least Nixon‘s personal part of it, off the tube, and definitely off the new President’s desk.

 

House GOP Leader John Rhodes would never speak in public against his old colleague Jerry Ford: “Of course there will be a lot of second-guessing...but I think that doing it now, before there was any overt act on the part of the prosecutor or anybody else, was exactly right. In other words, now we get it behind us, and nobody has to worry about it.”

 

Nobody? Those who had already served time for any part of Watergate or the somewhat related ’72 campaign-financing scandals kept on worrying. In fact, some of those individuals, or counsel and family representing them, approached the White House for their own pardons. Because Ford’s first press secretary had just resigned, an assistant held a briefing and threw gas on the firestorm.

 

On Tuesday, September 10th, John Chancellor began the NBC Nightly News this way: "Good evening. President Ford is now studying the possibility of pardons for everyone convicted or accused of crimes relating to Watergate... The Nixon pardon set off a tide of criticism and today's announcement made it worse. The new study would involve 48 people -- 39 of those have been convicted or have pleaded guilty. Others, including John Mitchell, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, are scheduled to go on trial September 30th in the Watergate cover-up case..."

 

Tom Brokaw elaborated: “Acting press secretary Jack Hushen said that President Ford authorized him to announce that pardons for all Watergate defendants are under study. Hushen said that included those in jail, and those who have not yet come to trial -- all defendants. He also cautioned reporters not to try to predict the results of such a study.” The next day, Hugh Scott and John Rhodes went to the White House, and they came out to assure media and country that no further pardon shocks were in the works.

 

CBS’s senior commentator Eric Sevareid was clearer than any of Ford’s staff or former colleagues. The new President, he said, “refuses to carry the Nixon albatross on his back for the next many months. With this decision, his first truly tough one, Ford has ended his honeymoon with people and press. He has chosen to live in hot water a short period, rather than in muddy waters for a long period.”

 

On Sunday the 8th, John Anderson was the agonized moderate: “My concern is that we not lose sight of what Watergate was all about... Even though the penalty has been wiped out by this act of presidential pardon, the record has not been expunged. The lessons that have to be drawn from Watergate are still there. The abuses of power were very real [and] to that extent we have to be very careful not to let some of those [who] already have begun to sound the note that the President was hounded from office somehow be validated and vindicated and confirmed in that belief...because the new President has undertaken to exercise an act of mercy.” That last sentence would be two dozen words longer than the 59-word monster you see above had I transcribed all of it from a TV tape.

 

He could get away with such elongated elocution on the Floor, too, and his Republican colleagues welcomed it -- as long as he wasn’t pushing his bill for taxpayer financing of House and Senate races. Freshman Dave Emery had no use for that Anderson proposal, but otherwise found Anderson a delightful mentor: “He was a rock; he was very strong [and] a very effective Conference chairman.” Emery went to him for “advice -- not necessarily on issues as on how to get things done and how to deal with this Member or that Member or the process generally.”

 

John Anderson’s precision thus extended to articulation, legislation and colleague evaluation. “I had no problem talking with him,” says Emery. "He was very didactic in the sense that he could tie the other side up in knots. He knew his facts, and I thought he was an excellent speaker. So he could preach [and in that sense] ‘wear thin’ on occasion. But there's a time and place for it, particularly when he would debate procedures of the House, particularly speaking against the closed rules that were used to shut out the minority.”

 

Like Bob Michel, John Anderson faced a less secure district in November 1974, winning with just 55%. A conservative Independent, W. John Schade Jr., won 16% of the vote and Democratic nominee Marshall Hungness got 29%. Anderson’s challengers -- one on the right, one on the left -- together spent only one-sixth of his $74,000 campaign budget.

 

Messrs. Rhodes and Anderson will be the face of the House GOP for the next four years: One midwestern moderate, one southwestern conservative. Rhodes tends to do well on Meet the Press and Face the Nation, proving to those east of the Mississippi that Arizonans are not mad bombers (Senator Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign had made them wonder). And he produces a book in 1976. That book is carried around by GOP House challengers that year as well as in ’78. It’s called The Futile System, from which this except:

 

I am about to leave the Floor when I notice a Republican Member striding earnestly towards me… “This may come as a shock, John, but I’ve decided to retire... We have to work twice as hard to be heard as those guys (he gestures towards the majority side) and I can’t see things changing. I’ve simply had enough”… Being in a congressional minority for a long period of time is depressing… During my 22 years in Congress, all but two of these years -- my freshman term -- have been spent in the minority. Twenty years of having to be against things. We have remained in Congress because the country needs a responsible minority as much as it needs a responsible and effective majority. It is our duty to do what we can to improve the legislative program put forth by the majority. When we are successful, we perform a useful service to the country. There is a second responsibility of the minority. It is to try to become the nucleus of a new majority. There is always the hope that our political fortunes will improve in time, and it is this hope which gives us our real motivation.

 

SOURCE -- www.asu.edu/lib/archives/rhodes/essay6.htm

 

A later generation will become clear that “hope is not a strategy.”

 

As 1975 opens, the watchword -- actually, it’s a phrase -- is Damage-Control. And John Anderson, as Dave Emery stresses, does much to help the congressional party articulate its way out of, or at least around, this dark period. From late 1968 to late 1978, he is elected chairman of the Conference six successive times. On December 4, 1978, he’ll beat back a challenge from Tom Kindness of Ohio, one of the ’74 freshmen, by a vote of 87 to 55.

 

But Anderson’s move to the left, supporting gun control and federal funding of abortions, leads to a primary challenge in ’78, the year when a new kind of conservatism is making itself felt nationwide. (That’s a later chapter.)

 

Bill Frenzel offers the long view of his colleague John Anderson: “He came to Washington [in 1961] as a very conservative guy, and apparently had some kind of epiphany during the civil-rights [debate]. He featured himself kind of an orator, and compared to me he certainly was... I think it's fair to say that most of the time, until he began running for President, John was a pretty centrist guy. One exception was election law -- he was always split from the party on taxpayer financing of elections. Most of us Republicans thought that was abhorrent because it penalized challengers, and we were the challengers.”

 

(9) Vociferous Meany, Penitent Burns, a Social Security Surprise

 

On January 3, 1975, Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller swears in, as a group, 435 members of the House of Representatives. Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one. In the Senate, the odds aren’t quite so terrible, just very bad.

 

Among the 75 freshman House Democrats are scores of future stars who don’t intend to wait long: Les AuCoin (OR), Jim Blanchard (MI), Bill Brodhead (MI), Don Bonker (WA), Chris Dodd (CT), Tom Downey (NY), Harold Ford (TN), Jim Florio (CT), Tom Harkin (IA), George Miller (CA), Jim Oberstar (MN), Marty Russo (IL), Stephen Solarz (NY), Paul Tsongas (MA), Tim Wirth (CO), and Henry Waxman (CA). Over 25% of the House Democratic Caucus is brand new, and the new members make their presence felt by deposing conservative committee chairmen.

 

For White House economic policy, the change that matters is Al Ullman of Oregon taking the gavel at Ways & Means. With the WIN program gone, it’s time to fight recession. This 180-degree reversal is made with a minimum of self-consciousness or window-dressing.

 

On January 13, Ford describes the State of the Union as “not good” -- setting a standard for relative bluntness -- and calls for a $16 billion tax cut. In early February, the Administration ups its wager on intellectual honesty. It bases its Fiscal 1976 budget projections on numbers Harry Ellis of the Christian Science Monitor calls “gloomy” -- unemployment averaging 8.2% for calendar 1975; inflation running at 11.3% -- in other words, hardly any cool-down from ’74 -- and real GDP dropping a stiff 3%. “In other words,” says Ellis, “about as bad a picture as you can muster.”

 

More Administrations ought to do what the Ford people are doing here: Confront the dark side, and use somewhat pessimistic projections for the planning. Ford’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year -- $349 billion -- carries red ink of $52 billion, twice as high as any of the Nixon or Johnson deficits. Rather than sugarcoat any of this, the President hands out alarming numbers and is prepared to be alarmed by them -- his message has complete conceptual unity.

 

To keep the deficit that “low,” Ford proposes a federal pay freeze and capping the next Social Security COLA at 5% rather than the 9% implied by the 1972 amendments. Really? A Social Security “cut,” as joblessness is spiking? Yes, he has touched the “third rail” -- before anyone calls it that! Today one wonders: Why did this never become an issue in the '76 campaign? (Not one Democratic presidential candidate tries to say “President Ford tried to take away your Social Security.”) Ford has put a COLA cap out there, on TV, before Congress, yet will never pay a price for it.

 

Press Secretary Ron Nessen, in 2011, looking back at how Ford governed: “[W]e didn’t take a poll over every potential presidential decision. We didn’t do focus groups. We’re talking about an earlier era here. The media advisors and strategists did not play such a role either.” But wasn’t Robert Teeter of Market Opinion Research “the President’s pollster”? Correct, says Nessen. He wasn’t operating out of the White House -- or was he? “He was around a lot, but I don’t know that he had an office there… Now maybe he went in and saw Ford personally, or went in and saw the political advisors. But I don’t recall all of us sitting around the table and Teeter telling us what would be popular and unpopular to do.”

 

Yet another irritant for the hugely Democratic legislature: Import fees on oil, which President Ford can impose by executive order. He starts off with one on February 1st -- $1 per barrel.

 

The majority party in Congress is also getting stressed from the other side of the spectrum. Old George Meany, a tough anti-Communist but in all other ways a big-government liberal, appears on Face the Nation as the Beltway budget battle lines are being drawn. He predicts 10% unemployment by July. He says “Nixon’s people” are still making economic policy. In fact, better people -- by conservative lights -- are making policy now. Even if they are the same individuals -- such as Arthur Burns, Fed chairman since 1970 -- the policies are better. Burns is part of a Ford economic team fed up with the recklessness and wishful thinking of the Nixon Era.

 

In 23 minutes of air time, Chairman Burns is trashed six times by the AFL-CIO president: “His attitude...is inhuman, he doesn’t understand people; all he understands is his economic theories, and they are completely out of date!” A labor activist during the 1930s, Meany has honest and palpable reference points: “What we’ve got is a situation where this country is going into a Depression -- we’re past the recession stage, we’re going into a Depression, and I say we’ve to take some measures like you take when you’re fighting a war.” He calls for a $100 billion deficit.

 

Yet Meany resists one questioner’s badgering about a “new WPA.” Why? “We want to turn the economy around; we don’t want a welfare economy. You’re talking about a dole? We’re not talking about a dole. If you could [instead] revive the construction industry -- and I think the thing that would revive it would be 6% mortgage money!” Moderator George Hermann interrupts: “Where are you gonna get 6% money?” Meany: “Uncle Sam.” Hermann: “You wanna subsidize the mortgage industry?” Meany: “Yes, to the [same] extent that we are subsidizing Soviet Russia.” And where is that help coming from? “Not from Chase National Bank, but from you, George, and me -- from the American taxpayer, ‘cause the Ex-Im [Export-Import] Bank is our bank...and Henry Kissinger wants to give [the USSR] unlimited 6% money, to build anything they want.”

 

George Meany was the last American labor leader conservatives could enjoy watching on a Sunday talk show -- his views on foreign policy were superb. When Nixon and Kissinger bailed out the Soviet dictatorship with technology transfers and low interest rates, Meany -- not any House Republican (apart from John Ashbrook) -- pointed out the idiocy of such steps. Meany is also troubled by the new type of congressional Democrat: Liberal when cutting off aid to South Vietnam or seeking to ban strip mining in the face of White House opposition, yet wary of coming across as an ally of Big Labor and $100 billion deficits.

(10) Ford, Simon, and Greenspan

 

Even on PBS, qualms about welfare-state trends emerge. Harry Ellis of the Christian Science Monitor, reporting on the Ford budget: “Americans are being asked, through this budget, to decide what kind of society they wish to live in...down the road. Because...cash-transfer programs -- that is, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and all the rest that involve a transfer of money from the government to individuals -- [are] growing at such a rate that, within 20 or 25 years, more than half the real income of each average working American will be going to pay for non-productive people -- retired, elderly, poor, unemployed, disadvantaged -- through the medium of government transfers.”

 

“And that is something,” he tells those watching Washington Week in Review, “which everyone has to stop and think about.” Startling to realize, while listening to these vintage political broadcasts, is that the word “entitlements,” for the programs listed above by Harry Ellis, does not exist in 1975.

 

It’s also enlightening to go back 37 years and realize how so little changes in federal politics. Almost always, House Democrats want to spend and regulate more, just as their partisan rivals want to spend and regulate less. For that matter, we could go back 30 more years, to the GOP-led 80th Congress’s battles with Harry Truman during 1947-48. Three times Congress tried to reduce taxes, and it only happened on the third try, when they overcame Truman’s third veto.

 

Ford’s economic team needs to be introduced here. The charge made by the right -- Ford is an accomodationist, too close to Congress, can’t lay down markers, unwilling to fight in a sustained manner -- does not hold historical water, either on budget or energy issues.

 

First off, President Ford knows the Budget of the United States better than any chief-executive since Truman, and no one after Ford will come close to him in this regard.

 

Secondly, Ford is a classic conservative. Rising social issues like pro-life and stopping the Equal Rights Amendment are gibberish to him, and to other Republicans, who came of political age when the big fights were over budgets and foreign policy. But Ford loathes red ink -- and it galls him that record amounts are being spilled on his watch.

 

Thirdly, this accidental President has a shrewd economic policy team -- ready to fight, and to do it intelligently, not spasmodically or relying on symbolism.

 

It’s my view that, had Ford not embraced Henry Kissinger’s policy of detente with the USSR, along with handing the Vice-Presidency to a 66-year-old northeastern liberal -- Rockefeller, and Kissinger’s original patron -- this still-new President could have fended off Ronald Reagan’s ’76 primary challenge much earlier.

 

He is a conservative man; those pesky “social issues” will ripen in their own time, and what 1975 calls for is leadership, from the fiscally responsible right. Ford has the training and the principles, as well as the principals -- in Simon, Greenspan and Burns -- to perform this job well.

 

But I propose to tell the 1975 story of Ford and the House GOP using energy, rather than the budget per se. Why? Because ancient fiscal statistics just might make your eyes glaze over. In contrast, the energy positions staked out by each party during 1975 ring out with -- or at least rattle -- political readers today.

 

(11) Market Pricing as the Path to Conservation

 

Ford commenced an energy-policy fight with his January 15th State of the Union address. It’s a textbook case of playing a weak hand well -- at least, that’s the case one can make right up to December 19th, 1975, when Ford will sign a bad bill.

 

Energy is one of a dozen realms where the opportunistic Nixon left Ford to sail his ship on a sea of waste products. In 1970, when the Arab members of OPEC began pushing up oil prices faster than inflation -- led by Libya among the radical states, and Iran among our conservative middle-eastern allies -- Nixon and Kissinger saw Iran’s bulging coffers as a source of funds for American defense contractors. As the Vietnam War wound down and a Republican Administration okayed big reductions in defense spending, those companies needed new customers, and so the Nixon people could arm Iran without calling it foreign aid, because the money was coming from oil and gas consumers in the U.S.

 

When the oil companies asked the U.S. government to back them up -- and resist Arab price hikes -- the State Department cut them off at the knees. A wave of nationalization followed. Arabists at State were still trying to figure out how to undo the territorial gains made by Israel back in June 1967. Most Republicans in Congress trusted Nixon, Kissinger and the State Department on all of this right through ’72, which was a triple mistake.

 

A tremendous story, but…that text isn't ready

to be part of this draft as of January 2012

 

 

(12) Toward a Model of Partisan Renewal

 

Republicans in the House are a textbook story of political evolution, broken by waves of revolution. In ’74, they ended up the victims of a revolution, or at least a general public revulsion: They could not escape public retribution for Richard Nixon’s economic opportunism and ethical fluidity.

 

Nor would they gain back significant House seats in November of ’76. No, not even with President Ford’s astonishing campaign comeback: He comes this close to victory against a Democratic nominee that swing voters have started to have doubts about. These are the closest states -- “close” meaning 4% or less of a difference between the major-party candidates  -- on Tuesday, November 2, 1976:

 

 

Carter

Ford

Texas

52

48

New York

52

48

Pennsylvania

51

48

Missouri

51

48

Hawaii

51

49

Wisconsin

50

48

Mississippi

50

49

Ohio

49*

49


Oregon

48

48*

Maine

49

49*

New Jersey

49

50

Iowa

49

50

Oklahoma

49

50

California

49

50

Washington

47

50

South Dakota

49

51

New Mexico

49

51

Virginia

49

51

Illinois

48

51

 

 

Ron Nessen, Ford’s press secretary for all but five weeks of his Administration, listed three primary causes for Ford’s near-miss: “[1] Millions of voters in the South chose Jimmy Carter because of strong regional pride for their native son. Carter’s campaign advertisements in the South played upon this regional pride. [2] The economy, which had been recovering steadily from the recession, hit a plateau and even dipped a bit just before the election. [3] Ford was hurt by lingering hostility toward anyone connected with Nixon and by the unpopular pardon.”

In fact, Jimmy Carter's single term will restore the nation to a healthy two-party system. The process begins in his first year. Bob Livingston, a GOP Representative from 1977 through '98, points out: "I was the third in a string of four special elections all won by Republicans: Jack Cunningham, Arlan Stangeland, me and Bill Green. That gave us hope. Guy Vander Jagt had restructured the NRCC two years earlier [and they] had a candidate school headed up by Wilma Goldstein [that] did a good job of training candidates. They liked New Orleans, because they liked to come down and party -- sometimes they did more partying than campaigning [dissolving in laughter] -- but they were very helpful to me."

 

After Carter wins with 50.1% of the vote and 297 electoral votes, the wise if somewhat cynical Dick Scammon notes: “There’s nothing wrong with the Republicans that 10% inflation won’t cure.” In the Ford Era, some party officials could not strategize that far ahead. The Republican National Committee, led by Mary Louise Smith, produced lapel buttons and two TV shows to convey that REPUBLICANS ARE PEOPLE, TOO.

 

And so this chapter ends with House Republicans adrift in a world of their own. Generational change is underway, but ever so slowly. Later freshman classes -- especially 1978, '84 and '90 -- would be bold, making demands of the elected Leadership. January of 1975 seemed like neither the time nor the place. “Organizing the Class didn't seem important,” recollects Emery. “I can't recall our [group of 17 newcomers] doing anything that was substantially set apart from the rest of the Republican Conference.”

 

A longer cycle would have to play itself out. This is typical of American politics, and many of the “breaks” come from places and people that no one could have put into a coherent plan.


As for his own conduct? “It's important to listen to what people say and respect their institutional judgment,” Emery told me in 2010. “Contrast that with some of the Democratic freshmen who got elected in '74 -- I mean, they were full of ‘piss and vinegar.’ They brashly challenged committee chairmen and sought substantial changes in their party's procedures and rules, and then in public policy. That set up a them-against-us scenario with some of their older Members [that I viewed as] counterproductive. I figured right off that if I wanted my ideas [to] be taken seriously, I had to do a lot of listening and not a lot of shouting.”

 

Despite this chapter’s chronicle of the Ford-Simon-Greenspan drive for a rational oil and gas policy, the fact remains: Ford did sign a destructive Democratic bill at the end of 1975. Treasury Secretary Simon called it “the worst mistake of the Ford Presidency.” Challenger Ronald Reagan urged a veto. (Ironically, by artificially containing gas prices, the bill boosted the strong GDP performance of the election year's first half.)

 

In terms of policy, Emery recalls his first year in the House as “awful. It was one thing after another. We just lost and lost and lost and lost. We were politically decapitated.” In such situations, “a party can go one of two ways. It can fragment to where everyone is out for himself or herself and tries to find ‘deals’ that allow political survival; or you pull together and circle the wagons and figure out a way to make the best ‘common defense’ that you can.”

 

All right then, which way for the House Republican Conference mid-‘70s? Emery’s answer surprised me: “I think my first term was really neither one! Everyone on our side was kind of flailing around trying to figure out where do we go next? And is it going to be worse in two years? How will we get out of this hole?”

 

But what about that string of Ford vetoes? Didn’t Ford deliver the most since the champion of fiscal conservatism, New York Democrat and two-term President Grover Cleveland?

 

“Unfortunately,” says Bill Frenzel, “those vetoes were fun to talk about and they were a good morale-booster for those of us in the Congress, but here's what mostly happened: Democrats would pass an Appropriations bill with a zillion dollars in it; Ford would veto it, and we'd support the veto; and 10 days later they'd pass a bill with a zillion less $10 in it. So he saved a few bucks, but it wasn't a big deal.”

 

“How will we get out of this hole?” Jack Kemp is putting together one exciting answer. And Jimmy Carter can take care of the rest.

 

© 2012, Frank Gregorsky

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

If you liked this opening chapter, you might also enjoy…

 

Election-night appearances and televised political analysis from

November 5 and 6, 1974 -- www.ExactingEditor.com/Seventy-Four.pdf

 

Newt Gingrich, flourishing in the House from late 1980 into ‘84 -- www.ExactingEditor.com/RelentlessInnovator.pdf

 

An overall display of book-research artifacts and interviewees -- www.ExactingEditor.com/HouseRepublicans.html

 

Sources that are Books -- www.ExactingEditor.com/Categorical-Sources.pdf