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Goodell: A Freshman Senator Bucking the Party Line

By Deborah B. Johnson

Last March, students at Cornell pressed Sen. Charles E. Goodell (R-N.Y.) to make a clear statement on Vietnam. He replied that, although he deplored the killing, he did not want to say anything that would interfere with Nixon's bargaining position in the Paris peace talks. But, he added, if nothing had changed in six months, he would support rapid withdrawal from Vietnam.

It sounded like the usual political problem Republican senators were dishing out last spring, and no one paid much attention to it. Six months later, on September 25, Goodell introduced Bill S. 3000, calling for the complete withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam by December 1, 1970.

WHEN I started working as an intern for Senator Charles E. Goodell in June, I was less than enthusiastic. All I knew was that he had been appointed by Governor Rockefeller to finish the last year and a half of Bobby Kennedy's Senate term. He was from some strange corner of New York State, and the upstate Republican regulars hadn't complained when he was appointed. I was vaguely disappointed that he wasn't Javits, who seemed more exciting.

By the end of the summer, Goodell had won me over; I was one of his more enthusiastic supporters among the interns. He had shown himself as a man of high principle, and he had spoken out against the war.

HE IS up for election next November, but must face an uphill primary fight in April, Goodell has managed to alienate almost all of the Republican Party machinery in New York State during one year as Senator. He supported Lindsay for re-election before the Mayor lost the primary, and has campaigned for him since then. Before he got to the point of criticizing the President on the war, he launched an attack on Minority Leader Everett Dirksen. He voted against the ABM. (He once approved a statement his staff wrote condemning the ABM by phone from the President's Air Force One.)

Goodell, along with Vance Hartke (Ind.), Charles Mathias (Md.), Charles Percy (Ill.), and Mark Hatfield (Ore.), is one of the young Republican Senators following a more liberal line than the rest of their party. They have criticized the President repeatedly and followed their own consciences, rather than the dictates of the Minority Leader when voting.

Goodell's most formidable primary opposition at the moment is New York Senator Edward Speno of Long Island. Speno is a party regular who will run against Goodell in April. He is a party-oriented Republican who will gain the support of the more conservative upstate Republicans.

Rockefeller's backing could help Goodell immensely, but the Governor does not seem eager to help. Rockefeller has promised the Senator his support privately, but has not yet issued a public statement. Lieutenant Governor Malcolm Wilson, the man who convinced Rockefeller not to support Lindsay against Marchi, could step in again and make Goodell's fight considerably harder than it is already.

IN MANY respects, Charlie Goodell is a classic campaigner. He is a not very-tall man with a slightly off-balance face and a large nose. He has the politician's firm handshake and a warm smile which only cools after you have seen him flash the identical smile at reporters, the President, starving Biafran babies, and housewives in Queens. One of his aides recently complained that he has adopted the Rockefeller's style of laughing: a big bellylaugh with his tongue hanging out.

But when it comes to the political strategy behind the handshakes, Goodell is amazingly naive for a man who served in the House of Representatives for ten years before his appointment to the Senate. Part of this naivete is his incredible integrity and propensity to speak his mind even if his audience is not especially receptive to the subject.

To be elected next year, he will have to win back the support of many people he has alienated. Even if he does win the primary, and assuming that there is not a third-party candidate, Goodell will have to get some of the big-city vote away from his opponent, who will probably be former Kennedy aide Theodore Sorenson.

In political terms, Goodell should not have supported Lindsay, opposed the ABM, or introduced S. 3000. All these will send more Republicans into Speno's ranks and encourage Goodell's already vociferous critics who call him an "instant liberal."

Goodell prefers to call it "instant recognition," saying that no one paid any attention to his actions while he was in the House. He was a liberal Republican in the House, but has evolved into a liberal leader in the past year.

ONE OF THE reasons for this change is his staff. He has a small staff of about 30 people-not enough for a Senator from a state as large and complex as New York, but his quota as a freshman.

Goodell is 43, but the average age of his staff is about 24. It is a young and relatively inexperienced staff, most of their background in McCarthy and Rockefeller presidential campaigns. One of the few veterans on the staff is the press secretary, who worked with Bobby Kennedy on his campaign.

His staff members have quietly done constructive work in the city of Washington and in "casework"-helping his constituents solve their own problems with the government, mostly in draft and welfare cases. Along with Sen. Alan Cranston's (D-Calif.) office, they managed to reduce the 15-year sentences of the 27 men condemned in the Presidio Mutiny case.

They, and the 29 interns Goodell had in his office over the summer, have shown the Senator how the younger generation in this country is thinking and feeling. Before he decided to speak out on the war, his staff members and interns argued long hours with him trying to convince him to say something. Many of the staff members have said that it was the efforts of the interns that finally convinced Goodell he had to do something. And, as he often does, he committed himself entirely to a cause he believes in, introducing the Vietnam Disengagement Bill.

GOODELL believes in himself as an educator as well as a legislator. He often says of his speeches in New York State, "I tell people what they don't want to hear." He tells upstate farmers that some of the things students are demonstrating about are important issues; and he tells the students that the farmers' complaints about taxes are equally legitimate.

On October 14 and 15, the Senator will cover almost all of New York, speaking at Queens College, Syracuse University, and the University of Rochester today and Cornell, Fordham, and NYU tomorrow.

SENATOR GOODELL is a man of integrity and principle. He is an intelligent man who could become a forceful liberal leader in the Congress.

But even though his bill to end the war is innovative and admirable, it will lose. And were it to pass both Houses of Congress, we all know Nixon would veto it. The bill is meant to be a forceful gesture, rather than a concrete action-but that fact is the basic problem with the whole system Goodell is working in. The best a man with good intentions can do is make a forceful gesture. If he is lucky, an important bill he has introduced may pass. But then the President must approve it, and a presidential appointed must enforce it. And there are always other projects, like ABM or Operation Intercept, that take finances from the worthiest of projects.

So we continue to send some good men to the bureaucracy on the Potomac, only to see them swallowed up by it. But we still hope that maybe one day we'll send enough to make things change.

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