Passings

By Aptheker, Herbert | The Nation, April 21, 2003 | Go to article overview

Passings


Aptheker, Herbert, The Nation


In its tribute to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who died on March 26, The Economist mentions that his office washroom displayed a framed cover of the September 22, 1979, issue of The Nation, "Moynihan: The Conscience of a Neoconservative." Pat Moynihan thus had the rare distinction among politicians of inspiring an entire issue of The Nation, comprising critical analyses of his politics and policies (though there was praise as well). In the intervening years we could probably have assembled enough material for another Moynihan issue, but after being elected senator from New York in 1976, Moynihan became a less reliable neoconservative and a more conventional Democratic politician. Dapper and donnish, bibulous and charming, Moynihan was obviously ambitious, else he would have remained a comfortably tenured Harvard professor rather than building an eclectic government resume that included assistant labor secretary in the Kennedy Administration, ambassadorships to India and the United Nations, as well as senator. In the 1960s he adopted the neoconservative views of Irving Kristol and other apostate liberals, his credentials burnished by his 1965 report, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action. As the black academic St. Clair Drake wrote in these pages in 1975, "Moynihan's scholarship has been subordinated to advocacy, and he employs data to justify programs of action, not to test hypotheses," which may explain the inflamed reception The Negro Family received. It was particularly resented by African-Americans, and it was the subject of a scholarly dissection by Herbert Gutman in our Moynihan issue. …

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