Chapter One On Name-Dropping Books, like those who write them, have an unplanned life of their own. The very act of writing has a controlling role. When I started this book, I intended to describe the political personality -- the personal and public traits that, as I saw them, allowed the great leaders of our century to influence or dominate the political scene. There are still elements of this intention in the pages that follow. But it faded as a central purpose. Instead, as the work proceeded, there was more interest for the author, as I trust there will be for the reader, in how the great political figures appeared to their contemporaries, of whom I was one. What did I recall of personal encounters or public association with Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor, the Kennedys, Nehru and others? Such recollections took over, but with them came a certain risk. Reminiscence and anecdote, as they tell of one's meetings with the great or the prominent, are an established form of self-enhancement. They make known that one was there. This is not my purpose; my aim is to inform and perhaps, on occasion, to entertain. The risk, nonetheless, exists that critics who are less than tolerant may suggest that I am indulging in name-dropping. Hence the title of the book and that of this chapter; nothing so disarms a prosecutor as a prior confession of guilt. Not all that follows concerns the political figures of my time. I frequently digress to write of my own experience and of responsibilities accorded me. This tells something of those of whom I speak. Not exceptionally in writing of this kind, it may well tell more of the author. Here also is an occasional event or personal encounter of which I have told before. For this I do not apologize. All education and all worthwhile writing is, in some measure, a recapture of the already known. Much of this book--most, in fact--is centered on now-distant times; an important part dates to the first half of the century that is now drawing to a close. It was with the events of this period and the people that I was involved. I now read of, and from time to time encounter, the influential men and women of the present day. It is for others to tell of them; this I do not, in all cases, regret. There will be question less as to those who have been selected for recollection and celebration here than as to those omitted or discussed only briefly. The reason is not far to seek; it is whether or not I was there and have something to add. On one or two occasions I met Dwight D. Eisenhower; he was and remains one of the underestimated Presidents of our time. A Republican, he accepted the great social legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the twenty-year New Deal era and made it an integral part of American life. F.D.R. initiated, Truman continued, Eisenhower confirmed. He also left the deathless and death-defying warning as to the military-industrial complex. But when I have said this of Ike, I have very little else to say. As to another major figure, one exactly of my generation, there is a similar problem. Ronald Reagan and I were fellow founders of Americans for Democratic Action, once and still a dominant liberal voice in the land. Ronnie, as he was known, left us when his screen career diminished and he began giving well-paid lectures on, as it was then denoted, the free enterprise system. His regression, we always said, was not from any commitment to newly acquired belief; it was only for the money. On his later career there was nothing of which I had firsthand knowledge. This, I do slightly regret, for Ronald Reagan was the first wholly uninhibited Keynesian President -- eager public spending to provide economic stimulation and employment, all financed by large public borrowing, with the resulting budget deficit. However, there was a dark side, to which Keynes would have reacted adversely: the spending was for extensively unneeded armaments. With Jimmy Carter, whom I first met in Georgia and saw on later occasions, I had only a distant association. It was his special tragedy that, while Ronald Reagan succeeded with the economic policies his party had so long opposed, Jimmy Carter was taken to defeat by those conservatives had long urged. His highly reputable economists, in pursuit of economic virtue, accepted that a President seeking re-election could survive inflation attacked only by its traditional and painful remedies: high interest rates, economic stagnation, unemployment. It was a triumph of rigorous economic orthodoxy; ignored only was Jimmy Carter's all-but-certain fate. One of my closest and certainly one of my most admired friends in politics over many years has been George McGovern, presidential candidate in 1972 against Richard Nixon. I had a small role in his selection as a candidate and a not insignificant one in his defeat. At the Democratic Convention that year, as a leader of the Massachusetts delegation, I vetoed his first choice for Vice President, Kevin White, the Mayor of Boston. I did not think I could win state support for his nomination because, among other things, White had endorsed McGovern's opponent in the primary. There would be an unseemly row on the floor. McGovern went on to Tom Eagleton, who, it soon became known, had once had some modest, wholly curable psychiatric problems. Unwisely, George dropped him from the ticket and then was involved in an embarrassing search for a substitute. In consequence, his campaign had a very bad start. He should have ignored my advice. I haven't told here of George McGovern perhaps because, again, I have little to add, perhaps more because I prefer to write about those with whom my association was less disastrous. Also passed over with McGovern, but for a very different reason, is Richard Nixon. In 1942, in the tense months after Pearl Harbor, he served in the Office of Price Administration as an attorney on rubber-tire rationing, of which I was then in charge. He drafted my letters, but I did not, as I recall, ever meet him. I became fully aware of his existence and character only with his crusade against Communism and Alger Hiss. Later when his enemies' list became known, my name was present, adorned, according to my recollection, with two checkmarks. In one of his taped and reluctantly released conversations in the White House, he dignified me as the leading enemy of good public process in our time. But, to repeat, I never met him, so Richard Nixon is not here. I once contemplated, a chapter in this book on Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle. Not in recent times, not perhaps ever, have two politicians accepted greater risks with greater ultimate success. How grim and dim the prospect in 1940; how enormous our debt to their intransigent stand. During my wartime years in Washington, Churchill was especially a presence; one thought of him, more even perhaps than of F.D.R., as the guiding military force of the war. I did meet both Churchill and de Gaulle but only after the war was over and for no deeply operative purpose. To have made anything of these encounters would, indeed, have been namedropping. A more serious matter is the very few women--only Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy--present in these accounts. That, very simply, is because, for most of the period here covered, women were not visible in the political world. The concern here is with high office; this was the virtually exclusive domain, the preserve, of men. Among presidential wives some did step forward. In her husband's presidency Nancy Reagan was an evident force; with her, not surprisingly, I had no personal acquaintance. John F. Kennedy, in a conversation of which I have told on other occasions, once raised with me the question of women in politics. He advanced what I thought the deeply retrograde thesis that women were naturally lacking in political talent. He asked me to name some outstandingly successful women politicians. I responded with Eleanor Roosevelt. He agreed and asked for another. I was troubled for the moment and, in some desperation, proposed Elizabeth I. Kennedy laughed scornfully and said, "Now you have only one left, Maggie Smith." Margaret Chase Smith, pioneer woman senator from Maine, was not--here we differed--a favorite of his. Were Kennedy now alive, he would not be making the point; women are still underrepresented in politics, but the change in the last thirty-five years strongly affirms their political aptitude. Alas, it came too late for this volume. And there is yet to be a woman President. I turn now to Franklin Roosevelt, the first and in many ways the greatest of those I encountered over a lifetime. And the one, more than incidentally, who accorded me the most responsibility. It was no slight matter to have control over all the prices of all things sold in the United States. And briefly over consumer rationing as well. My role in the Office of Price Administration was my principal association with F.D.R., but I also observed his leadership in the New Deal and, more generally, in the war, and of this I will tell as well. Copyright © 1999 John Kenneth Galbraith. All rights reserved.