|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (February 2017)|
|Daniel Patrick Moynihan|
|Chair of the Senate Finance Committee|
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 1995
|Preceded by||Lloyd Bentsen|
|Succeeded by||Bob Packwood|
|Chair of the Senate Environment Committee|
September 8, 1992 – January 3, 1993
|Preceded by||Quentin Burdick|
|Succeeded by||Max Baucus|
|United States Senator
from New York
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 2001
|Preceded by||James Buckley|
|Succeeded by||Hillary Clinton|
|12th United States Ambassador to the United Nations|
June 30, 1975 – February 2, 1976
|Preceded by||John Scali|
|Succeeded by||Bill Scranton|
|10th United States Ambassador to India|
February 28, 1973 – January 7, 1975
|Preceded by||Kenneth Keating|
|Succeeded by||Bill Saxbe|
|Counselor to the President|
November 5, 1969 – December 31, 1970
|Preceded by||Arthur Burns|
|Succeeded by||Donald Rumsfeld|
|White House Urban Affairs Advisor|
January 23, 1969 – November 4, 1969
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||John Ehrlichman (Domestic Affairs)|
March 16, 1927|
Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||March 26, 2003
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Education||City University of New York, City College
Tufts University (BS, BA, MA, PhD)
London School of Economics
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1944–1947|
Daniel Patrick "Pat" Moynihan (March 16, 1927 – March 26, 2003) was an American politician and sociologist. A member of the Democratic Party, he was first elected to the United States Senate for New York in 1976, and was re-elected three times (in 1982, 1988, and 1994). He declined to run for re-election in 2000. Prior to his years in the Senate, Moynihan was the United States' Ambassador to the United Nations and to India, and was a member of four successive presidential administrations, beginning with the administration of John F. Kennedy, and continuing through that of Gerald Ford. He is currently the longest serving Senator from the State of New York; if Chuck Schumer completes his current term, he will tie Moynihan for the record.
Moynihan was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of Margaret Ann (née Phipps), a homemaker, and John Henry Moynihan, a reporter for a daily newspaper in Tulsa. He moved at the age of six with his family to New York City. Brought up in a poor neighborhood, he shined shoes, attended various public, private, and parochial schools, and ultimately graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in East Harlem. He was a parishioner of St. Raphael's Church, Hell's Kitchen, and also cast his first vote in that church. He and his brother, Michael Willard Moynihan, spent most of their childhood summers at their grandfather's farm in Bluffton, Indiana. Moynihan briefly worked as a longshoreman before entering the City College of New York (CCNY), which at that time provided free higher education to city residents.
Following a year at CCNY, Moynihan joined the United States Navy in 1944. He was assigned to the V-12 Navy College Training Program at Middlebury College from 1944 to 1945 and then enrolled as a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps student at Tufts University, where he received an undergraduate degree in naval science in 1946. He completed active service as gunnery officer of the USS Quirinus at the rank of lieutenant (junior grade) in 1947. Moynihan then returned to Tufts, where he completed a second undergraduate degree in sociology cum laude in 1948 and earned an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1949.
After failing the Foreign Service Officer exam, he continued his doctoral studies at the Fletcher School as a Fulbright fellow at the London School of Economics from 1950 to 1953. During this period, Moynihan struggled with writer's block and began to fashion himself as a "dandy," cultivating "a taste for Savile Row suits, rococo conversational riffs and Churchillian oratory" even as he maintained that "nothing and no one at LSE ever disposed me to be anything but a New York Democrat who had some friends who worked on the docks and drank beer after work."
He ultimately received his Ph.D in history (with a dissertation on the relationship between the United States and the International Labour Organization) from Tufts in 1961 while serving as an assistant professor of political science and director of a government research project centered around Averell Harriman's papers at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
Moynihan's political career started in the 1950s when he served as a member of New York Governor Averell Harriman's staff in a variety of positions (including speechwriter and acting secretary to the governor), a stint which ended following Harriman's loss to Nelson Rockefeller in the 1958 general election. He returned to academia, serving as a lecturer for brief periods at Russell Sage College (1957–1958) and the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations (1959) before taking a tenure-track position at Syracuse University (1960–1961). During this period, Moynihan was a delegate to the 1960 Democratic National Convention as part of John F. Kennedy's delegate pool.
Moynihan was special (1961–1962) and executive (1962–1963) assistant to Labor Secretaries Arthur J. Goldberg and W. Willard Wirtz before serving as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy, Planning and Research from 1963 to 1965 under Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. In this capacity, he did not have operational responsibilities, allowing him to devote all of his time to trying to formulate national policy for what would become the War on Poverty. He had a small staff including Paul Barton, Ellen Broderick, and Ralph Nader.
They took inspiration from the book Slavery written by Stanley Elkins. Elkins essentially contended that slavery had made black Americans dependent on the dominant society, and that that dependence still existed a century later. This supported the concept that government must go beyond simply ensuring that members of minority groups have the same rights as the majority but must also "act affirmatively" in order to counter the problem.
Moynihan's research of Labor Department data demonstrated that even as fewer people were unemployed, more people were joining the welfare rolls. These recipients were families with children but only one parent (almost invariably the mother). The laws at that time permitted such families to receive welfare payments in certain parts of the United States.
Moynihan issued his research under the title The Negro Family: The Case For National Action, now commonly known as The Moynihan Report. Moynihan's report fueled a debate over the proper course for government to take with regard to the economic underclass, especially blacks. Critics on the left attacked it as "blaming the victim", a slogan coined by psychologist William Ryan. Some suggested that Moynihan was propagating the views of racists because much of the press coverage of the report focused on the discussion of children being born out of wedlock. Despite Moynihan's warnings, the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program included rules for payments only if no "Man [was] in the house." Critics said that the nation was paying poor women to throw their husbands out of the house. Moynihan went on to formulate Richard Nixon's idea of a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) and conducted significant discussions concerning a Basic Income Guarantee with Russell B. Long and Louis O. Kelso.
After the 1994 Republican sweep of Congress, Moynihan agreed that correction was needed for a welfare system that possibly encouraged women to raise their children without fathers: "The Republicans are saying we have a helluva problem, and we do."
By the 1964 presidential election, Moynihan was recognized as a political ally of Robert F. Kennedy. For this reason he was not favored by then-President Johnson, and he left the Johnson Administration in 1965. He ran for office in the Democratic Party primary for the presidency of the New York City Council, a position now known as the New York City Public Advocate. However, he was defeated by Queens District Attorney Frank D. O'Connor.
During this transitional period, Moynihan maintained an academic affiliation as a fellow at Wesleyan University's Center for Advanced Studies from 1964 to 1967. In 1966, he was appointed to the faculties of Harvard University's Graduate School of Education and Graduate School of Public Administration as a full professor of education and urban politics. After commencing a second extended leave because of his public service in 1973, his line was transferred to the University's Department of Government, where he remained until 1977. From 1966 to 1969, he also held a secondary administrative appointment as director of the Harvard–MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies. With turmoil and riots in the United States, Moynihan, "a national board member of ADA incensed at the radicalism of the current anti-war and Black Power movements", decided to "call for a formal alliance between liberals and conservatives," and wrote that the next administration would have to be able to unite the nation again.
Connecting with President-elect Richard Nixon in 1968, Moynihan joined the Executive Office of the President in January 1969 as Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and executive secretary of the Council of Urban Affairs (later the Urban Affairs Council), a forerunner of the Domestic Policy Council intended to be a domestic analog to the United States National Security Council. As one of the few people in Nixon's inner circle who had done academic research related to social policies, he was very influential in the early months of the administration. However, his disdain for "traditional budget-conscious positions" (including his proposed Family Assistance Plan, a "negative income tax or guaranteed minimum income" for families that met work requirements or demonstrated that they were seeking work which ultimately stalled in the Senate despite prefiguring the later Supplemental Security Income program) led to frequent clashes (however rooted in an unwavering mutual respect) with Nixon's principal domestic policy advisor, conservative economist and Cabinet-rank Counselor to the President Arthur F. Burns.
Although Moynihan was promoted to Counselor to the President for Urban Affairs with Cabinet rank shortly after Burns was nominated by Nixon to serve as Chair of the Federal Reserve in October 1969, it was concurrently announced that Moynihan would be returning to Harvard (a stipulation of his leave from the University) at the end of 1970. Accordingly, operational oversight of the Urban Affairs Council was given to Moynihan's nominal successor as Domestic Policy Assistant, former White House Counsel John Ehrlichman, a decision instigated by White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman (a close friend of Ehrlichman since college and his patron in the administration) that ultimately repositioned Moynihan in a more peripheral context as the administration's "resident thinker" on domestic affairs for the duration of his service.
In 1969, on Nixon's initiative, NATO tried to establish a third civil column, establishing a hub of research and initiatives in the civil area, dealing as well with environmental topics. Moynihan named acid rain and the Greenhouse effect as suitable international challenges to be dealt by NATO. NATO was chosen, since the organization had suitable expertise in the field, as well as experience with international research coordination. The German government was skeptical and saw the initiative as an attempt by the US to regain international terrain after the lost Vietnam War. The topics gained momentum in civil conferences and institutions.
In 1970, Moynihan wrote a memo to President Nixon saying, "The time may have come when the issue of race could benefit from a period of 'benign neglect'. The subject has been too much talked about. The forum has been too much taken over to hysterics, paranoids, and boodlers on all sides. We need a period in which Negro progress continues and racial rhetoric fades." Moynihan regretted that critics misinterpreted his memo as advocating that the government should neglect minorities.
Following the reorganization of the White House domestic staff, Moynihan was offered the position of United States Ambassador to the United Nations (then held by career diplomat Charles Woodruff Yost) on November 17, 1969; after initially accepting, he decided to remain in Washington when the Family Assistance Plan stalled in the Senate Finance Committee. On November 24, 1970, he refused a second offer from Nixon due to potential familial strain and ongoing financial problems; depression stemming from the repudiation of the Family Assistance Plan by liberal Democrats; and the inability to effect change due to static policy directives in a tertiary role behind Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger and United States Secretary of State William P. Rogers. Instead, he commuted from Harvard as a part-time member of the United States delegation during the ambassadorship of George H.W. Bush.
In 1973, Moynihan (who was circumspect toward the administration's "tilt" to Pakistan) accepted Nixon's offer to serve as United States Ambassador to India, where he would remain until 1975. The relationship between the two countries was at a low point following the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Ambassador Moynihan was alarmed that two great democracies were cast as antagonists, and set out to fix things. He proposed that part of the burdensome debt be written off, part used to pay for US embassy expenses in India, and the remaining converted into Indian rupees to fund an Indo-US cultural and educational exchange program that lasted for a quarter century. On February 18, 1974, he presented to the Government of India a check for 16,640,000,000 rupees, then equivalent to $2,046,700,000, which was the greatest amount paid by a single check in the history of banking. The "Rupee Deal" is logged in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world's largest check, written by Ambassador Moynihan to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
In June 1975, Moynihan accepted his third offer to serve as United States Ambassador to the United Nations, a position (including a rotation as President of the United Nations Security Council) that he would hold until February 1976. As ambassador under Gerald Ford, Moynihan took a hardline anti-communist stance, in line with the agenda of the White House at the time. He was also a strong supporter of Israel, condemning UN Resolution 3379, which declared Zionism to be a form of racism. In response, Permanent PLO Observer to the UN Zehdi Terzi threatened his life. But the American public responded enthusiastically to his moral outrage over the resolution; his condemnation of the "Zionism is Racism" resolution brought him celebrity status and helped him win a US Senate seat a year later. In his book, Moynihan's Moment, Gil Troy posits that Moynihan's 1975 UN speech opposing the resolution was the key moment of his political career.
Perhaps the most controversial action of Moynihan's career was his response, as Ambassador to the UN, to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. Gerald Ford considered Indonesia, then under a military dictatorship, a key ally against Communism, which was influential in East Timor. Moynihan ensured that the UN Security Council took no action against the larger nation's annexation of a small country. The Indonesian invasion caused the deaths of 100,000–200,000 Timorese through violence, illness, and hunger. In his memoir, Moynihan wrote:
The United States wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.
Moynihan's thinking began to change during his tenure at the UN. In his 1993 book on nationalism, Pandaemonium, he wrote that as time progressed, he began to view the Soviet Union in less ideological terms. He regarded it less as an expansionist, imperialist Marxist state, and more as a weak realist state in decline. He believed it was most motivated by self-preservation. This view would influence his thinking in subsequent years, when he became an outspoken proponent of the then-unpopular view that the Soviet Union was a failed state headed for implosion.
Nevertheless, Moynihan's tenure at the UN marked the beginnings of a more bellicose, neoconservative American foreign policy that turned away from Kissinger's unabashedly covert, détente-driven realpolitik. In particular, the condemnation strained his relationship with Kissinger (by now Secretary of State), who furtively accused him of conflating "foreign policy" with a "synagogue." Although it was never substantiated, Moynihan initially believed that Kissinger directed Ivor Richard, Baron Richard (then British Ambassador to the United Nations) to publicly denounce his actions as "Wyatt Earp" diplomacy. Demoralized, Moynihan resigned from what he would subsequently characterize as an "abbreviated posting" in February 1976. In Pandaemonium, Moynihan expounded upon this decision, maintaining that he was "something of an embarrassment to my own government, and fairly soon left before I was fired."
In 1976, Moynihan was elected to the U.S. Senate from the State of New York, defeating U.S. Representative Bella Abzug, Ramsey Clark, Paul O'Dwyer and Abraham Hirschfeld in the Democratic primary, and Conservative Party incumbent James L. Buckley in the general election. Shortly after election, Moynihan analyzed the State of New York's budget to determine whether it was paying out more in federal taxes than it received in spending. Finding that it was, he produced a yearly report known as the Fisc (from the French). Moynihan's strong support for Israel while UN Ambassador inspired support for him among the state's large Jewish population.
Moynihan's strong advocacy for New York's interests in the Senate, buttressed by the Fisc reports and recalling his strong advocacy for US positions in the UN, did at least on one occasion allow his advocacy to escalate into a physical attack. Senator Kit Bond, nearing retirement in 2010, recalled with some embarrassment in a conversation on civility in political discourse that Moynihan had once "slugged [Bond] on the Senate floor after Bond denounced an earmark Moynihan had slipped into a highway appropriations bill. Some months later Moynihan apologized, and the two occasionally would relax in Moynihan’s office after a long day to discuss their shared interest in urban renewal over a glass of port."
Moynihan continued to be interested in foreign policy as a Senator, sitting on the Select Committee on Intelligence. His strongly anti-Soviet views became far more moderate, as he emerged as a critic of the Ronald Reagan Administration's hawkish Cold War policies, such as support for the Contras in Nicaragua. Moynihan argued there was no active Soviet-backed conspiracy in Latin America, or anywhere. He suggested the U.S.S.R. was suffering from massive internal problems, such as rising ethnic nationalism and a collapsing economy. In a December 21, 1986, editorial in the New York Times, Moynihan predicted the replacement on the world stage of Communist expansion with ethnic conflicts. He criticized the Reagan Administration's "consuming obsession with the expansion of Communism – which is not in fact going on." In a September 8, 1990, letter to Erwin Griswold, Moynihan wrote: "I have one purpose left in life; or at least in the Senate. It is to try to sort out what would be involved in reconstituting the American government in the aftermath of the cold war. Huge changes took place, some of which we hardly notice.” In 1981 he and fellow Irish-American politicians Senator Ted Kennedy and Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill co-founded the Friends of Ireland, an bi-partisan organization of Senators and Representatives who opposed the ongoing sectarian violence and aimed to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
Moynihan introduced Section 1706 of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which cost certain professionals (like computer programmers, engineers, draftspersons, and designers) who depended on intermediary agencies (consulting firms) a self-employed tax status option, but other professionals (like accountants and lawyers) continued to enjoy Section 530 exemptions from payroll taxes. This change in the tax code was expected to offset the tax revenue losses of other legislation that Moynihan proposed to change the law of foreign taxes of Americans working abroad. Joseph Stack, who flew his airplane into a building housing IRS offices on February 18, 2010, posted a suicide note that, among many factors, mentioned the Section 1706 change to the Internal Revenue Code.
As a key Environment and Public Works Committee member, Moynihan gave vital support and guidance to William K. Reilly, who served under President George H.W. Bush as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
In the mid-1990s, Moynihan was one of the Democrats to support the ban on the procedure known as partial-birth abortion. He said of the procedure: "I think this is just too close to infanticide. A child has been born and it has exited the uterus. What on Earth is this procedure?" Earlier in his career in the Senate, Moynihan had expressed his annoyance with the adamantly pro-choice interest groups petitioning him and others on the issue. He challenged them saying, "you women are ruining the Democratic Party with your insistence on abortion."
Moynihan broke with orthodox liberal positions of his party on numerous occasions. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in the 1990s, he strongly opposed President Bill Clinton's proposal to expand health care coverage to all Americans. Seeking to focus the debate over health insurance on the financing of health care, Moynihan garnered controversy by stating that "there is no health care crisis in this country."
He voted against the death penalty; the flag desecration amendment; the balanced budget amendment, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act; the Defense of Marriage Act; the Communications Decency Act; and the North American Free Trade Agreement. He was critical of proposals to replace the progressive income tax with a flat tax. Moynihan surprised many in 1991 when he voted against authorization of the Gulf War. Despite his earlier writings on the negative effects of the welfare state, he surprised many people again by voting against welfare reform in 1996. He was sharply critical of the bill and certain Democrats who crossed party lines to support it.
Moynihan was a popular public speaker with a distinctly patrician style. He had some peculiar mannerisms of speech, in the form of slight stuttering and drawn-out vowels for emphasis. Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg compared his speaking style to that of William F. Buckley, Jr.
In the post-Cold War era, the 103rd Congress enacted legislation directing an inquiry into the uses of government secrecy. Moynihan chaired the Commission, which studied and made recommendations on the "culture of secrecy" that pervaded the United States government and its intelligence community for 80 years, beginning with the Espionage Act of 1917, and made recommendations on the statutory regulation of classified information.
The Commission's findings and recommendations were presented to the President in 1997. As part of the effort, Moynihan secured release from the Federal Bureau of Investigation of its classified Venona file. This file documents the FBI's joint counterintelligence investigation, with the United States Signals Intelligence Service, into Soviet espionage within the United States. Much of the information had been collected and classified as secret information for over 50 years.
After release of the information, Moynihan authored Secrecy: The American Experience where he discussed the impact government secrecy has had on the domestic politics of America for the past half century, and how myths and suspicion created an unnecessary partisan chasm.
In addition to his career as a politician and a diplomat, Moynihan worked as a sociologist. He was Director of the Joint Center for Urban Studies at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as a Fellow on the faculty in the Center for Advanced Studies at Wesleyan University from 1964 to 1967. In magazines such as Commentary and The Public Interest, he published articles on urban ethnic politics and on the problems of the poor in cities of the Northeast.
Moynihan coined the term "professionalization of reform," by which the government bureaucracy thinks up problems for government to solve rather than simply responding to problems identified elsewhere.
Soon after his 1971 return to Harvard, having served two years in the Nixon White House as Counselor to the President, Moynihan became a professor in the Department of Government. In 1983 he was awarded the Hubert H. Humphrey Award given by the American Political Science Association "in recognition of notable public service by a political scientist." He wrote 19 books, leading his personal friend, columnist and former professor George F. Will, to remark that Dr. Moynihan "wrote more books than most senators have read." After retiring from the Senate, he joined the public administration faculty of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.
Moynihan's scholarly accomplishments led Michael Barone, writing in The Almanac of American Politics to describe the senator as "the nation's best thinker among politicians since Lincoln and its best politician among thinkers since Jefferson." Moynihan's 1993 article, "Defining Deviancy Down", was notably controversial.
In 2003, Moynihan died at the age of 76 after complications (infection) suffered from an emergency appendectomy about a month earlier. He was survived by his wife of 39 years, Elizabeth Brennan Moynihan, three grown children: Timothy Patrick Moynihan, Maura Russell Moynihan, and John McCloskey Moynihan; and two grandchildren, Michael Patrick and Zora Olea.
Moynihan was honored posthumously:
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Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the nation's best thinker among politicians since Lincoln and its best politician among thinkers since Jefferson, now approaches the end of a long career in public office.
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|New office||White House Urban Affairs Advisor
as White House Domestic Affairs Advisor
|Counselor to the President
Served alongside: Bryce Harlow
|United States Ambassador to India
|United States Ambassador to the United Nations
|Party political offices|
|Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from New York
1976, 1982, 1988, 1994
|United States Senate|
|U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New York
Served alongside: Jack Javits, Al D'Amato, Chuck Schumer
|Chair of the Senate Environment Committee
|Chair of the Senate Finance Committee