Suzanne Fields

NEW YORK - New York and Washington have always indulged a love-hate relationship, frequently descending to one-upmanship.

Washington is a company town and politics is the industry. Washingtonians regard New Yorkers as na? about politics, statecraft and even foreign affairs, and they usually are.

New Yorkers regard politicians as cultural rubes, living in a swamp of bloviators without style or taste, ?n or ?at. They're not always wrong.

If the Washingtonian looks up at the skyscrapers and complains about the lack of sunlight, the New Yorker looks down at the Capitol and the White House and gripes about the lack of light and clarity. Unlike London, Rome and Paris, where men and women apply their talents to both creating law and nurturing culture, we separate those functions, often with a condescending sneer.

Occasionally a Renaissance man comes along, uniting the cities in one forceful personality. The Museum of the City of New York now honors such a man.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who died in March 2003 at the age of 76, was a gentleman, scholar, teacher, author of 18 books, a United States senator and an ambassador for his country, approximately in that order of importance. His mind was compared to a lending library, a public intellectual and policymaker who fused passion with practicality and understood better than most the importance of bridging the gap between politics and culture. Though a loyal Democrat, he was a politician whose partisanship transcended ideology.

"The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society," he said a quarter of a century ago. "The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture to save it from itself." He was a modern Diogenes who not only looked for the truth of human experience, but when he found it wanting tried to do something about it.

When he observed in 1965 that a huge percentage of black families were unstable because there were few fathers heading them, and young black men had no models for 'manliness," he was denounced as a racist by certain prominent blacks and politicians eager to pander to them. Several decades later both pols and black leaders recognized that the moral issue and the economic issue are actually one.

When he was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the U.N. adopted a resolution declaring that 'Zionism is racism," he called it for what it was, an "obscenity," and predicted that historians would one day recognize how "a great evil has been loosed upon the world."


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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