We live an era when the president’s personal lawyer says that “truth isn’t truth” and when lies are excused as “alternative facts’”. The prescient Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003) in 1971, stated:
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
Moynihan was a one-of-a-kind flamboyant, Harvard educated, four-term Senator from New York, a United Nations ambassador and an adviser to Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon.
He frequently quotes the maxim: “It’s not ignorance that hurts so much as knowing all those things that ain’t so”. Which makes me wonder what he would have to say about the New Yorker who became our current president and his enablers who have made a fine art of lying.
Moynihan’s policy positions came from lots and lots of research, rather than by cherry-picking statistics to justify those policies. He was at the forefront of issues like automobile safety, climate change, and what to do about Russia. He championed equal rights and recognition for women, including his wife, whom he valued as an equal partner in a male dominated political scene.
Moynihan persuaded Nixon to support a radical family-assistance plan to provide welfare to dependent children, a plan was defeated in the Senate by one vote. He said:
People who are poor stand on their own feet. People who are dependent hang.
Late in life, Moynihan was called a neoconservative, but he was really a frustrated New Deal Democrat, saying
I’m of a generation which I don’t think will be reproduced for a while, which is deeply respectful of American government and owes so much to it.
He believed government had obligations, too, and he expressed fear about the consequences of cutting back welfare benefits in the guise of reform. Moynihan:
Here in Washington, the prevailing view is that we have these problems because we tried to do something about them, and if you just don’t try, the problem will go away. There is a certain truth in this. If you do not feed children for a certain period of time, they will go away.
Watch the documentary film Moynihan (2018), written and directed Joseph Dorman and Toby Perl Freilich, with narration by Jeffrey Wright.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!