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Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the President's counsel on urban affairs, has refused the post of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and will resume instead his tenure as professor of Education and Urban Politics at Harvard. He insisted yesterday in Cambridge, "There was never really any plan to do anything else."
The White House disclosed Friday that Moynihan wrote the President expressing his desire to return to Harvard. The letter said in part, "Although I return to Harvard, I shall continue to be at your service for anything you might want that I might be able to provide."
Moynihan apparently changed his mind about the U. N. post after several major newspapers confirmed a press "leak" that he was replacing Charles Yost as chief delegate to the United Nations. According to close friends in Cambridge, though, personal reasons were more important than political or institutional pressures.
During the last two years Moynihan has kept one foot in Cambridge and the other in Washington, commuting by plane almost every weekend to his home on Frncis Avenue across from the Divinity School.
Harvard allows a leave of absence for only two years, but Moynihan made it clear that this deadline was not a major factor in his decision to return. "Two years was about what I expected," he said, mentioning that he had turned down offers to teach elsewhere at higher salaries. "My children are happy here in Cambridge, and my friends are here."
Preparing to catch an evening flight to Washington, Moynihan sat in the back of a Yellow Cab and speculated about the next academic semester. "I've not given a lot of thought about what I will do, but I hope to pick up where I left off, teaching at the School of Education. I'd like to start a seminar which will go into the implications of the Coleman Report [on equal educational opportunity]." Moynihan was running a similar faculty-graduate seminar before he left, and co-edited with Professor Frederick Mosteller a volume of seminar papers which will be released under the title On Equality of Educational Opportunity. Moynihan said he doubted his future teaching efforts would include any autobiographical material from his Nixon days.
In yesterday's interview, Moynihan emphasized the technical rather than the political nature of his role as Nixon's chief urbanologist. "What distinguishes one administration from another is not so much shifts in abstract policy positions as improvements in social science analysis," he said. He described his job as one of pointing out "the hidden policies of government, the policies not perceived as policies, and forcing the government to con-centrate on the second-, third-, and fourth-order effects of these policies."
Moynihan cited the problem of black emigration from the ghettos. In his opinion, the Federal government need only keep from acting in such a way as to prevent the normal dispersal of the population outwards. But many agencies have thwarted the natural movement, "such as the FHA, by requiring neighborhoods to use Federal funds to create homogeneous populations."
"Nixon," he added, "has benefited from analysis which has paid attention to these things." It was not so much the president in 1948 or 1968 but the state of social science in those years which really mattered, he said.
Intuitive ideas about complex social systems are likely to be wrong, Moynihan asserted. He referred to his own faith in the family-assistance plan as a "possible example."
Wrapping up his third tour of duty in government as an academic-on-leave, Moynihan seemed pleased with the commitments made by the Nixon Administration to welfare reform, population control, and revenue sharing ("a real change in the nature of federalism"). On balance, the government is doing about as well as it did during the Kennedy-Johnson era," he said. "The performance of government is by-and-large more consistent than that of the American press. The press runs in cycles- at one moment, it is celebratory, and then it is depressed; at one moment the President can do no wrong, and at the next he can do no right."
Moynihan has seen the fake extra of the Yale Daily News, widely distributed in Harvard dorms, which proclaimed him the new President of Harvard. "I thought it extremely well-done." He added playfully: "I was thinking of sending a copy to Henry Kissinger."
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