Miles to Go

Moynihan, Daniel Patrick

BOOKS IN REVIEW - "Miles to Go" The Tory From New York Miles to Go: A Personal History of Social Policy Daniel PatrickMoynihan Harvard University Press 245 pages / $22.95 REVIEWED BY David Frum Don't get...

...Then, iii the host recent welfare debate, he took oil the astonishing role of unbliishing defender of the status quo...
...But the people of New York did not elect Mloynihan to be their chief political diagnostician...
...Moynihan's turnabout on welfare reform is one of the most alliaziiig ill recent politics...
...Biomedical research and the like were roaring ahead...
...Instead, it is a collection of the intellectual senator's most interesting recent writings and speeches, elegantly knitted together with personal observations, anecdotes, and quips...
...He recalls this anecdote from his work in the Nixon White House to shut down the "French connection," the flow of heroin from Turkey to the United States through Marseilles: I found myself in a helicopter flying up to Camp David to report on this seeming success...
...Lyndon Johnson's Great Society did not dazzle him, and neither did the Clintons' Glorious Health Care Revolution...
...instead, he lapsed into a'lonism of the most extreme sort: an adamant insistence that the welfare probleiii cannot be solved or palliated, and can onh-be aggravated...
...American cities are crumbling as their middle classes seek to move as far away as possible from the violence and disorder for which the underclass is responsible...
...No wonder, then, that Moynihan went AWOL when the Clintons tried to conscript him for the Great Battle For Affordable Health Insurance For Every American That Can Never Be Taken Away...
...At its worst, Toryism sinks into a cynical defense of political evils, because (it believes) the alternative can only be worse...
...Iovnihan's role in the we1fare debate was a disappointment: perhaps even a greater disappointlrlentto him than it was to his admirers...
...75 The American Spectator November 19 9 6...
...Ell wood's book on why welfare reform had failed this time...
...it may be it has only reinforced it...
...I n fairness, Moynihan comes by his Toryism honestly...
...Shultz, sometime professor of economics at the University of Chicago, looked up with an air of genuine interest...
...And yet it's also a disturbing book, for it reminds us how vast a gap has opened up between Moynihan the thinker and Moynihan the politician, between the man's words and his actions...
...The essays in this delightful book, which includes the brilliant "Defining Deviancy Down," are lucid and wise...
...With characteristic 'Tory wit, he prophesied that this new round of welfare reform would fail as well...
...Movnihan sensibly asked what the hurry was: "1 =our-fifths and more of the population had health care insurance...
...The great strength of political conservatives at this time (and for a generation) is that they are open to the thought that matters are complex...
...I'he language of protest...
...Yet even as this book was going to press, Moynihan the politician was passionately resisting welfare reform-not just Gingrich welfare reform, but any welfare reform...
...Moynihan was an officer in the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, the War on Crime, the War on Cancer, and the Moral Equivalent of the War on Energy-a series of debacles beside which the military history of Italy begins to look impressive...
...Millions of Americans are being drawn into destructive ways of Iife...
...Even so, I related our triumph...
...state and local budgets are sagging under the weight of aiding the ever more helpless poor with ever-greater spending-not just cash welfare, but disability benefits, special education, job training, housing programs, Medicaid, drug treatment, prisons, child services, and on and on...
...In a memorable speech not included here, the senator rocked liberal New York by suggestiIig tllal welfare was bringing about a "speciation" of poor blacks, meaning that they had departed so far front American uonns as to have almost nothing in common with the rest of the society...
...It is quite possible to live with uncertainty, with the possibility, even the likelihood that one is wrong...
...I'hev elected him to draft solu tions, even imperfect solutions, to Ilieir problems...
...Yet all this was presented in a rhetoric of crisis, deprivation, suffering...
...At its best, Toryism teaches us the limits of public policy-and that's the Tory ism of Moynihan the thinker...
...The two important previous attempts to overhaul the welfare system-Nixon's guaranteed annual income, Reagan's tentative 1988 workfare plan---abjectly failed...
...Like the old Tories, he is not easily impressed by projects of social reform...
...suggesting, I think, that the anticipated autobiography, should it ever appear, will prove evasive and disappointing...
...The gap has widened so far that not even the nimble Moynihan can straddle it for very much longer...
...Doubts about the Clintons fill the book with some of its most scathing passages, notably these words from a June 1994 letter to Laura Tyson, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers: In the last six months I have been repeatedly impressed by the number of members of the Clinton administration who have assured me with great vigor that something or other is known in an area of social policy which, to the best of my understanding, is not known at all...
...Everyone agrees that something must be done, but nobody quite knows what that something should he...
...There is a welfare crisis...
...Tlie senator did no small service to the state by helping to scupper the Clinton plan...
...According to Ellwood, Movrrihan wished him well-and told him he was looking forward, in two or three years, to reading 44 Senator Moynihan's turnabout on welfare reform is one of the most amazing in recent politics...
...Moynihan the thinker has tried for thirty years to warn of the crisis in black urban America...
...If this is so, the current revival of liberalism will be brief and inconse quential...
...He looked up...
...His speech attacking the Republican welfare reform plan is gathered iii these pages, and it Us a great speech-one of the greatest to be delivered on the Senate floor in perhaps decades...
...the politician cast one of...
...Happih, this book reveals the senator in other moods...
...Who would dare to Fel11) a n i e I Patrick Movuihan, whose forebodings have ahnostahsays been justified in the past, that this tulle his, arnings of catastrophes to conic are wrong...
...My cabinet colleague looked up once more, restated his perfunctory "Good," and once more returned to his paperwork...
...Crestfallen, I pondered, then said, "I suppose you think that so long as there is demand, there will continue to be a supply...
...But the dark side of his Toryism showed itself in his equal unwillingness willingness to work with the Clinton administration and the new Republican congressional majority to reform welfare...
...But his role ill starting the welfare debate reiiuains one of the largest contri butions ails one man has made to the improvcnicni olAmerican public life...
...Arid Moynihan...
...nobody has taught us that more insistently than Moynihan himself...
...No matter what Movoihan the politician does, Moyiiihaii the thinker comntanCls our attention...
...I had hoped twelve years in the wilderness might have changed this...
...The thinker cast a skeptical eye on the mushrooming of entitlement spending...
...BOOKS I N R E V I E W The Tory From New York Miles to Go: A Personal History of Social Policy Daniel PatrickMoynihan Harvard University Press 245 pages / $22.95 REVIEWED BY David Frum Don't get your hopes up: despite its subtitle, this is not Daniel Patrick Moynihan's autobiography...
...The only other passenger was George P. Shultz, who was busy with official-look ing papers...
...Liberals have got into a reflective pattern of denying this...
...but Moynihan the politician, when given the opportunity in 1983 to salvage Social Security, could devise no better reform than a big hike in payroll taxes...
...Though called a neoconservative by critics to his left, and an old-fashioned liberal by those to his right, it would be more accurate to call Moynihan a Tory...
...This seems to me perilous...
...the anecdotes sparkle-and, incidentally, betray Moynihan's exceedingly low opinion of the Clintons and their administration...
...Ideological certainty easily degenerates into an insistence upon ignorance...
...And with his immense prestige on this issue-a prestige that may even be greater with Republicans than in his own party -he could have been the principal drafter had he so chosen...
...Clinton's crusade flunked every test of Tory good sense: a small group of politi 74 November 19 9 6 The American Spectator cians in a hurry had designed a vast, comprehensive plan to demolish and reconstruct one-seventh of the American economy in the absence of any real demand by American society and anv semblance of consent from those directly affected...
...No really," said I, "this is a big event...
...You know," he said, "there's hope for you yet...
...the fourteen senatorial votes against the Defense of Marriage Act...
...hven'one who reads it will find this fiseinatiilgyoluiue an indispensable addition to their education in American govemnlcnt, propounded with chaml and wit by the subject's greatest lin ing master...
...Has anybody ever witnessed so many public-policy disasters from such a good seat...
...DAVID FRUM is the author o f Dead Right (Basic Books) and What's Right (Basic Books...
...But beware of certainty where none exists...
...That, sad to say, is often the Toryism of Moynihan the politician...
...he repeats that caution again here...
...The thinker has stressed the crucial importance of family stability to national welfare...
...David Ellwood, the Kennedy School professor who was Clinton's first adviser on welfare, stopped by Moynihan's office to pay his respects on his arrival in Washington...
...Good," said he, and returned to his tables and charts...

Vol. 29 • November 1996 • No. 11


 
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