Nixon's Old Men

Brass Tacks

IN SIX DAYS, Richard M. Nixon will end his 16-year quest for the Presidency. But indications so far are that he has changed only slightly, if at all, in those 16 years.

Little that the President-elect or his Cabinet appointees have done since the Nixon Cabinet show on TV has helped dispel the consternation those Cabinet choices caused. The Cabinet's first press conferences, held in Washington last month under the strict management of Nixon's press aide Herbert Klein, were the first real public indication of the mettle of Nixon's men.

Almost without exception, the press sessions centered around problems of money. For Nixon's men are businessmen--highly successful and generally self-made. Construction men, oil tycoons, and bankers dominate the Cabinet; and how to manage their great wealth while they are in office was a main theme of the appointee's appearances. John A. Volpe, destined to be Secretary of Transportation, plans to sell all his stock in his construction company--to his brother. Winton Blount, the new Postmaster General, made his money in construction too--largely from federal contracts. He will place his stock in a trust while he is in office.

The possibility of conflict of interest is not the most shocking aspect of the new Cabinet; Walter Hickel may indeed turn into a latter-day Albert Fall, but it seems unlikely. What is shocking about these men is the apparent uniformity in the way they think. They all think Business: how to get the biggest job done in the least amount of time at the least possible cost.

Businessmen in government are not necessarily bad. Robert S. McNamara's management talent was the best possible way to reorganize the Defense Department and eliminate its waste. But for programs like the War on Poverty, experimental programs which may not show immediate results in the first or even the second year, builders are needed, not cutters To replace a man of vision like Robert Weaver as Secretary of HEW with George Romney could mean the end of long-range programs like the Summer Youth Employment plan.


For Cambridge, some of Nixon's changes will have clear and quick results. When Volpe replaces Alan S. Boyd at the Department of Transportation, the new Inner Belt will inevitably be built through a section of Cambridge where it is both unwelcome and harmful. It is still hard to say whether the proposed route should be changed, but Boyd was at least willing to listen to local complaints and suggestions. Nothing in Volpe's performance as governor or his what-makes-Sammy-run desire for ac-complishment suggests he will be as accommodating. "In his haste to get the job done," one high official in the DOT said of Volpe, "I'm afraid he might run over some rights of the public."

IN THE sub-Cabinet appointments he has made since the TV show, Nixon has only reinforced his Cabinet's image. Henry Cabot Lodge seems to be Nixon's idea of the man to appoint when he needs a "diplomatic expert" and has no one else handy to fill the post. His choice of Lodge as his running mate in 1960 had the same reasoning behind it. Robert W. Packard is another of Nixon's Big Businessmen; an electronics tycoon, he must dispose of $300 million in stock before he takes the Assistant Secretary of Defense job.

The new President's press set-up also reflects the Old Nixon. The idea that a central press man will control all executive press matters mirrors the old Christian Herter operation under Eisenhower. Klein's performance at the first Cabinet press conferences confirmed the worst fears. Time and again Klein interrupted to censor questions and prevented the appointees from making any statements about their plans or policies. Nixon spent most of his campaign trying to avoid any definite stands on issues, and he has continued that policy through the period when he waits for power. Prospects look bleak for the "Open Presidency" he promised during the campaign.

The whole administration reeks of the Nixon of the fifties. Old, self-made businessmen will run the domestic affairs, old hard-line diplomats will run the foreign policy, and a slicked-up press operation will carry the old Christian Herter ideology of secrecy one step further. Nixon promised in his campaign to remember the forgotten American. Few people suspected then that he meant the forgotten millionaire businessman Americans.