After teaching for several years at Harvard, Moynihan returned to government as a special adviser to President Nixon. He later served as ambassador to India (1973-75) and to the United Nations (1975-76). He was first elected to the U.S. Senate from New York as a Democrat in 1976 and was reelected three times. Although Moynihan's policy declarations in the 1960s and early 70s were among the most significant formulations of what was called "neoliberalism" or "neoconservatism," in the Senate he was a consistent critic of the Reagan and Bush administrations, which enjoyed the support of many neoconservatives, and a strong supporter of Democratic presidents Carter and Clinton. He chaired the Senate finance committee from 1993 to 1995. He also had a lifelong interest in architecture and did much to retain, restore, and build important structures in New York City and Washington. Moynihan retired from the Senate in 2001; subsequently, he served on the faculty of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse Univ. His many books include Family and Nation (1986), Came the Revolution (1988), On the Law of Nations (1990), and Secrecy (1998).
See biographies by D. Schoen (1979) and G. Hodgson (2000).
Daniel Patrick “Pat” Moynihan (March 16, 1927 – March 26, 2003) was an American politician and sociologist. A member of the Democratic Party, he was first elected to the United States Senate for New York in 1976, and was re-elected three times (in 1982, 1988, and 1994). He declined to run for re-election in 2000. Prior to his years in the Senate, Moynihan was the United States' ambassador to the United Nations and to India, and was a member of four successive presidential administrations, beginning with the administration of John F. Kennedy, and continuing through Gerald Ford.
They took inspiration from the book Slavery written by Stanley Elkins. Elkins essentially contended that slavery had made black Americans dependent on the dominant society, and that that dependence still existed a century later, supporting a view that the government must go beyond simply ensuring that members of minority races have the same rights as everyone else, and offering minority members benefits that others did not get on the grounds that those benefits were necessary to counteract that lingering effects of past actions.
Moynihan found data at the Labor Department that showed that even as fewer people were unemployed, more people were joining the welfare rolls — these recipients were families with children, but only one parent (almost invariably the mother). The laws at that time permitted such families to receive welfare payments in certain parts of the United States.
Moynihan's report was seen by people on the left as "blaming the victim", a slogan coined by William Ryan. He was also seen as propagating the views of racists, because much of the press coverage of his reports focused on the discussion of children being born out of wedlock. Despite Moynihan's warnings, the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program had the "Man out of the house rule." Critics said that the nation was paying poor women to throw their husbands out of the house. Moynihan supported Richard Nixon's idea of a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI). Daniel Patrick Moynihan had significant discussions concerning a Basic Income Guarantee with Russell B. Long and Louis O. Kelso.
After the 1994 Republican sweep of Congress, Moynihan agreed that something had to be done about the welfare system possibly encouraging women to raise their children without fathers: "The Republicans are saying we have a helluva problem, and we do."
In 1970, he wrote a memo to President Nixon saying: "the issue of race could benefit from a period of 'benign neglect.' The subject has been too much talked about… We need a period in which Negro progress continues and racial rhetoric fades." He argued that Nixon's conservative tactics (meaning particularly the speeches of Vice-President Agnew) were playing into the hands of the radicals, but he regretted that he was misinterpreted as advocating that the government should neglect minorities.
As ambassador, Moynihan took a very hardline anti-communist stance, in line with the agenda of the White House at the time. He was also consistently a strong supporter of Israel.
Perhaps the most controversial action of Moynihan's career was his response, as Ambassador to the UN, to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. The Ford Administration considered Indonesia, then under a military dictatorship, a key ally against Communism. Moynihan ensured that the UN Security Council took no action against this annexation of a small country by a larger one, which would involve massacres that killed over 200,000 Timorese. As he put it in his memoirs:
"The United States wished things to turn out as they did, and worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success. Later, he admitted that he had defended a "shameless" Cold War policy toward East Timor.
The above passage ("no inconsiderable success") is cited by Noam Chomsky in A New Generation Draws the Line, as part of Chomsky's popular thesis that the United States was culpable in the Indonesian invasion, and subsequent massacres, an argument sustained by Moynihan's subsequent admission of moral failure.
Moynihan's thinking began to change during his tenure at the U.N. In his 1993 book on nationalism, Pandaemonium, he writes that as time progressed, he began to view the Soviet Union in less ideological terms, viewing it less as an expansionist, imperialist Marxist state, and more as a weak realist state in decline, not motivated by any strong ideology other than self-preservation. This view would influence his thinking in subsequent years, when he became an outspoken proponent of the then-unpopular view that the Soviet Union was a failed state headed for implosion.
Nevertheless, for the duration of his tenure as ambassador, Moynihan continued his hardline rhetoric, which he describes in Pandaemonium as extreme to the point where "I became something of an embarrassment to my own government, and fairly soon left before I was fired.''
While considered by many to be a liberal, Moynihan did break with the orthodox positions of his party on numerous occasions. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee he strongly opposed President Clinton's proposal to expand health care coverage to all Americans. Seeking to focus the debate on health insurance and the financing of health care costs, Moynihan garnered controversy by stating that "there is no health care crisis in this country."
Moynihan continued to be interested in foreign policy as a Senator, sitting on the Select Committee on Intelligence. His strongly anti-Soviet views became far more moderate, as he emerged as a critic of the Reagan Administration's hawkish Cold War policies, such as support for the Contras in Nicaragua. Moynihan argued that there was no active Soviet-backed conspiracy in Latin America, or anywhere, instead suggesting that the U.S.S.R. was suffering from massive internal problems, such as rising ethnic nationalism and a collapsing economy. In a December 21, 1986 editorial in the New York Times, Moynihan penned an editorial predicting the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, and blasting the Reagan administration's "consuming obsession with the expansion of Communism— which is not in fact going on."
In the mid-1990s, Moynihan was one of the Democrats to support the ban on the procedure known as partial-birth abortion. He said of the procedure: "I think this is just too close to infanticide. A child has been born and it has exited the uterus. What on Earth is this procedure?" Earlier in his career in the Senate, Moynihan had expressed his annoyance with the adamantly pro-choice interest groups petitioning him and others on the issue. He complained to them saying, "you women are ruining the Democratic Party with your insistence on abortion.
Moynihan was a political liberal. He voted against the death penalty, the flag desecration amendment, the balanced budget amendment, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, the Communications Decency Act, and the North American Free Trade Agreement. He was critical of proposals to replace the progressive income tax with a flat tax. Moynihan surprised many in 1991 when he voted against authorization of the Gulf War. Despite his earlier writings on the negative effects of the welfare state, he surprised many people again by voting against welfare reform in 1996. He was sharply critical of the bill and certain Democrats who crossed party lines to support it.
In the Post–Cold War Era, the 103rd Congress enacted legislation directing an inquiry into the uses of government secrecy. Moynihan chaired the Commission. The Committee studied and made recommendations on the "culture of secrecy" that pervaded the United States government and its intelligence community for 80 years, beginning with the Espionage Act of 1917, and made recommendations on the statutory regulation of classified information.
The Committee's findings and recommendations were presented to the President in 1997. As part of the effort, Moynihan secured release from the Federal Bureau of Investigation of its classified Venona file. This file documents the FBI's joint counterintelligence investigation, with the United States Signals Intelligence Service, into Soviet espionage within the United States. Much of the information had been collected and classified as secret information for over fifty years.
After release of the information, Moynihan authored Secrecy: The American Experience where he discussed the impact government secrecy has had on the domestic politics of America for the past half century, and how myths and suspicion created an unnecessary partisan chasm.
Moynihan coined the term "professionalization of reform" by which the government bureaucracy thinks up problems for government to solve rather than simply responding to problems identified elsewhere.
Soon after his 1971 return to Harvard, having served two years in the Nixon White House as Counselor to the President, he became a professor in the Department of Government. He was the 1983 recipient of the Hubert H. Humphrey Award given by the American Political Science Association "in recognition of notable public service by a political scientist." He authored 19 books, leading his personal friend, columnist and former professor George F. Will, to remark that Dr. Moynihan "wrote more books than most senators have read." He also joined Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs as a public administration faculty after retiring from the Senate.
His scholarly accomplishments led Michael Barone, writing in the Almanac of American Politics to describe Moynihan as "the nation's best thinker among politicians since Lincoln and its best politician among thinkers since Jefferson.