Joe Conason’s Journal

Daniel Patrick Moynihan did something few politicians are capable of doing: He thought for himself.

Topics:

Honoring Moynihan
Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s exceptional career confounds any swift or simple summary. His influence crossed the spectrum from left to right and back again, because his nature was to do something that too few politicians are capable of doing: He thought for himself and expressed his own views, in speech and in print, with elegance and conviction. Although he was a fierce defender of Israel and an implacable enemy of tyrants like Saddam Hussein, I suspect he may have doubted the wisdom of the current war, both as an affront to international law and institutions and a dubiously utopian project.

His intellectual gifts didn’t always protect Moynihan from error, to say the least. Having done so much to preserve Social Security, a program he revered as the symbol of activist government, he lent his prestige in recent years to privatization efforts that he ought to have rejected. Moynihan could draw the wrong conclusions from the right instincts, as I learned when I covered him during his first two Senate terms.

Back then his pet project was a federal highway-cum-real-estate-development known as Westway, which would have filled hundreds of acres of the Hudson River with landfill. He persisted in advocating this scheme, despite the potentially grave cost in dollars and environmental damage, because of his enduring, now unfashionable belief in the value of great public works. Yet that same faith and determination may restore to New York what we lost when the vandals tore down Penn Station, when someday his plan to transform the old Farley post office building into a magnificent railway terminal is realized. On that day, the monument to his vision should be dedicated in his name.

Despite his service to Republican presidents, his revulsion at the New Left and his long sojourn among the neoconservatives, Moynihan remained in essence a liberal Democrat. At a time when many of his closest friends and associates turned toward the far right, enjoying the emoluments of corporate conservatism, he refused to join them. Instead, he became one of the most trenchant critics of Reaganite economics and the excesses of the secretive, undemocratic national security apparatus. For all that, he deserves to be recalled with admiration and gratitude.



He was also a man of immense personal charm and character. My favorite memory of him was when he showed up at a birthday party for Murray Kempton in Newsday’s Manhattan offices, where he presented the late columnist with an American flag that had flown over the Capitol. It was a wonderful gesture in honor of a lifelong dissenter, whose patriotism the senator understood to be as deep and true as his own regardless of their disagreements. Like other New Yorkers, I send condolences to his bereaved family and friends.
[9:36 a.m. PST, March 27, 2003]

For your regular Joe, bookmark this link. To send an e-mail, click here.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>