- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 26 (UPI) — Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose path to the U.S. Senate led him from near-poverty at childhood to academic heights at Harvard and key roles on the stage of world diplomacy, died Wednesday at the age of 76.

Moynihan died of complications due to an emergency appendectomy, Washington Hospital Center told United Press International. Moynihan, who had turned 76 on March 16, had his family at his side at the time of his death, hospital spokesman LeRoy Tillman said.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., made the announcement of Moynihan's passing on the floor of the U.S. Senate. While the two Democrats had been on rocky terms during the Clinton administration — he characterized her healthcare plan as a disaster to New York's teaching hospitals — it was his endorsement at his New York home in Oneonta that gave Hillary Clinton's campaign legitimacy.

Moynihan, a Democrat who had been a four-term senator from New York, was most noted for his work on Social Security, taxes and transportation.

From shining shoes in Times Square, tending bar, and working the docks along the Hudson River, Moynihan moved into an academic career that opened the way for eventual posts as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and ambassador to India.

His 1976 election to the Senate from New York was followed by a short-lived, Moynihan-for-president boomlet, but after that he concentrated on his work in the Senate.

Perhaps one of his most durable legacies was preservation. His report on turning Pennsylvania Avenue into a "grand boulevard" originated while he served in the Kennedy administration.

In 2000, Congress named a plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue in Moynihan's honor and New York City named the new Foley Square courthouse after him as well.

The old U.S. Post Office building in New York City will also be named after him when the restoration is completed and it is converted into a new Penn Station.

As chairman of the Finance Committee and the Committee on Environment and Public Works, Moynihan was able to bring the funds for transportation, preservation and restoration projects.

In 1991, he pushed through a bill that offered more money for modernizing public transportation, however, he was also responsible for pushing through such little-known projects as the $3 billion West Valley Demonstration Project that solidified radioactive waste in western New York.

To originally win his seat, Moynihan defeated four popular New York Democrats for the nomination, then beat Republican Sen. James L. Buckley. In 1976, New York faced high unemployment as steel mills and other manufacturing plants shut down or moved south.

He campaigned on the platform of getting more of the tax money that New York sent to Washington back to the Empire State.

For 16 years, he published an annual report on the flow of tax dollars to Washington and the flow of tax dollars back to the states. While he drew attention to the issue — in 2000, New Yorkers sent $18 million more in tax monies in federal taxes than it got back — he never was that successful in changing the structure that favored states in the South and West.

Moynihan was born in Tulsa, Okla., the son of a newspaperman who walked out on the family when Moynihan was 6. The family moved to New York where Moynihan came to know both the slums of Manhattan and then the affluence of Westchester after his mother remarried.

"I grew up in Hell's Kitchen," Moynihan once said. "My father was a drunk. I know what life is like."

He attended public and parochial schools in Manhattan and entered City College of New York in 1943. The next year he joined the Navy, serving until 1947 when he returned to school.

Moynihan was a Fulbright Fellow at the London School of Economics from 1950 to 1951 and received his doctorate from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1961.

From 1966 to 1976 he held posts at Harvard, serving as professor of government from 1972 to 1976. His participation in the real world of governmental affairs began in 1955 when he served as assistant secretary to the governor of New York.

He moved to Washington in 1961 and eventually held posts in the Cabinet or subcabinet of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford.

Moynihan's diplomatic career began with his service as U.S. representative to the U.N. General Assembly in 1971. He served as ambassador to India from 1973-75, before returning home to be named by Ford as U.N. ambassador.

While serving in the Nixon administration, Moynihan became the center of controversy with the release of a memo in which he discussed a policy of "benign neglect" toward America's poor blacks.

Moynihan angrily denied advocating such a policy and said he was really proposing a softening of the rhetoric on racial issues while continuing black progress. Moynihan was known as Nixon's "liberal in residence."

He told an interviewer, "I bring the president the point of view of a liberal Democrat. I'm a Kennedy Democrat. Please, for God's sake, call me a Kennedy Democrat."

While at the United Nations, Moynihan bristled at the machinations of the Soviet Union and the posturing of Third World nations.

"We are not intimidated, we are not afraid," he told the Soviets. "We will not 'take care' and we do not give a damn."

During his U.N. tenure came a resolution equating Zionism with racism. His arguments against the resolution gave him wide support among the large New York Jewish population, a big factor in his Senate victory.

Moynihan's oratory was perhaps his greatest strength, and he was a regular on Sunday morning news talk shows, although his fervor occasionally led him astray.

During debate on the Panama Canal treaties, Moynihan impatiently labeled one senator's proposal "So inane, so devoid of intellectual competence or even rhetorical merit, as literally to silence the supporters of these treaties."

But his later concern about sensibilities caused him to excise the remarks from the Congressional Record.

He once introduced a resolution urging restoration of the plastic sheeting that had hidden the new multibillion-dollar Hart Senate Office Building, describing it as "a building whose banality is exceeded only by its expense."

"The Senate is not like a great sociology department where anyone's success is everyone else's failure." There was room, he felt, for lots of successes.

He was also an author, writing or editing numerous books.

He is survived by his wife of 47 years, the former Elizabeth Brenan. They had three children, Timothy, Maura Russell and John, and two grandchildren, Michael and Zora.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide