'What, silent still? And silent all?
Ah no;-the voices of the dead
Sound like a distant torrent’s fall.'
- Lord Byron, Don Juan
The quick and the dead. Those are the ones the administration finds useful in promoting its policies. It was the quick who started off the storm of criticism.
Armstrong Williams, a conservative television commentator who admitted receiving $240,000 from the administration in return for which he touted the No Child Left Behind Act was the first of the recent batch. So much has been written about him that nothing more need be said in this space except to acknowledge his existence. No sooner had the brouhaha surrounding Mr. Williams begun to subside than it was disclosed that a syndicated columnist had apparently fallen heir to the same transgressions.
Maggie Gallagher, an expert on marriage in a scholarly rather than empirical sense and a syndicated columnist for Universal Press was hired as a consultant to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). According to reports in Media Matters for America, in 2002 HHS paid her $21,500 to write brochures and a magazine article to promote the Healthy Marriage Initiative. In 2002 and 2003 she was paid $20, 000 by HHS to write a report “Can Government Strengthen Marriage” for the National Fatherhood Initiative, a private nonprofit organization founded in 1994 to lead a society-wide movement to confront the problem of father absence. While on the payroll of the feds Nexis reports that she made appearances on CBS, CNN and MSNBC at least 7 times to promote the Healthy Marriage Initiative. Criticism of her was generated because she forgot to tell people that she was paid by the government and not appearing as an independent columnist.
In what was proving to be a time of bad news about journalistic payola it was disclosed that Michael McManus was another journalist on the administration dole who had forgotten to let people know that that was the case. Like Ms. Gallagher, Mr. McManus specializes in marriage (other people’s-not his own), has a weekly newspaper column and is a director of an organization with the catchy name of “Marriage Savers.” According to Eric Boehlert, a writer for Salon.com, Mr. McManus received $10,000 from the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the Healthy Marriage Initiative in conferences and training sessions and touted the program in his syndicated column. The administration is nothing, however, if not resourceful. The quick as shill, it has discovered, is not the only means for generating support.
Patrick Moynihan who has been dead almost two years, is now being employed by Mr. Bush to promote his policies. Mr. Moynihan is not being resurrected as a supporter and booster of the Healthy Marriage Initiative (although it is perfectly possible that he, having been married for 47 years, would approve it) but is instead being enlisted as a supporter of Mr. Bush’s proposed social security reform. He has been brought into the debate on whether or not privatization is a good idea.
Prior to his death but after his departure from the United States Senate, Mr. Moynihan served as co-chairman of the commission created by Mr. Bush to consider the establishing of personal social security accounts. In promoting his goals for social security Mr. Bush uses every opportunity to mention Mr. Moynihan’s work on the commission, suggesting that Mr. Moynihan supported the idea of privatization. Some of those familiar with the senator’s thinking disagree with the president’s use of Mr. Moynihan. There is reportedly an extant body of information about the workings of the commission that suggest Mr. Moynihan was not entirely pleased with the work of the commission and it is not clear to some of those those in the know, that if Mr. Moynihan were in the now, he would be supporting the idea of privatization.
There are others who say that Mr. Bush’s plan is exactly what Mr. Moynihan would support were he alive today. His family is not among them. Maura Moynihan, the senator’s daughter said: “It’s confusing to me and my mom why they are constantly invoking him without presenting his position on Social Security. I think it’s odd or strange or unsettling that the Democrat being invoked here is dead and not able to defend or explain his position, which we all know he would have done with eloquence and passion.” We’ll never know who’s right. All we can conclude is that the dead are unreliable allies and should be permitted to moulder without either side in a debate resurrecting their tongues for partisan purposes.
Christopher Brauchli's email address is Brauchli.email@example.com