Last night’s introduction to the first annual NEC Herbert Stein Memorial Lecture.
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What did he know? He knew, above all, loyalty. I knew him from 55 years. I never saw him even look at another woman besides my mother. He never wavered in his loyalty to my sister and me. He and my mother brought us up to have absolutely zero competition between us. The result is that my sister and I have never had a serious argument. Rare, I would say.
After the White House, he taught at UVA and was a senior fellow at the AEI. For part of that time, I was writing a series of articles for Barron’s and a book about the Milken/Drexel junk bond fraud. I saw it — and the people at Barron’s magazine saw it — as a massive scam. However, Mr. Milken had his friends, especially at the AEI. On one occasion, an official of the AEI brought in Mr. Milken to talk to the most distinguished economists at the AEI — whom the younger people at the AEI jokingly referred to as “The Wild Bunch.”
My father declined to even meet Milken and when Milken’s friend at AEI asked him why he would not even listen to Milken, my father said, “Because I have read what my son wrote. I believe my son. It makes complete sense, and that’s all I need to hear.”
My father was loyal to Mr. Nixon until the end of Mr. Nixon’s life. He saw Mr. Nixon’s flaws, but loved him for his kindness to my family, for his devotion to peace, and for his salvation of Israel. If you go to YouTube and watch the RN farewell to the White House staff in August of 1974, you will see many staffers looking sad, including me. But the couple you see in genuine agony are my mother and father.
I vividly recall my father telling critics of RN who asked him to renounce Mr. Nixon, that “I will never turn my back on a peacemaker.” To my father, that same sense of proportion applied: whatever wrongs Mr. Nixon had done — and there were plenty — they were small compared with the bringing of a generation of peace to a dangerous world.
My father was fiercely devoted to the United States of America. He and my sister used to tear off the tin foil from packs of Camels for the war effort in 1944 and 1945. He was proud to serve in the Navy. He would not hear any severe criticism of the U.S. Again, he believed that whatever wrongs had happened here — and there were plenty — they paled beside what the USA had done right.
At a Stein family reunion about 20 years ago, he spoke of the various accomplishments of the Steins. All of them, he said, were nothing compared with the decision of his grandparents to come to America.
A final few short notes, since I, as a tiny bit of an economist myself, know that when a speaker starts a speech, the main thing the audience wants is for him to finish. Time is money.
My father was a superb calculator of economics. On his deathbed in 1999, with tubes and wires running into him as if he were a switchboard, I asked about why it made sense for the Clinton treasury to buy back in high interest rate long term bonds. After all, I said, they will have to pay the net present value of all that interest anyway. My father had in a tracheal tube and could not speak. But he wrote down, “Perhaps Treasury has a different view of future interest rates from the sellers.” I have that page and it has blood and genius on it.
But my father was above all a warm and loving man. Two very brief examples.
He told me shortly before his death that the happiest day of his life was when, old and unwell himself, he spent a day helping a blind woman who was new to D.C. to find her way to GW and back home on a bus. He had never met her before and never saw her again.
And perhaps this, that sums up everything I want to say about my Pop. In 1974, when I was writing some speech for Mr. Nixon and needed some statistics, I went into his office and said to him, “Could you help me find these if you don’t have anything more important to do?”
He looked at me levelly and said, “What do you think I have to do that is more important than helping my son?” He is justly famous for his axiom that, “if a thing cannot go on forever, it will stop.” But the essence of Herbert Stein was the next sentence, “And if we only do the things we can do forever, we won’t do very much.” He did plenty.
I miss him keenly every minute of every day and I thank you humbly for honoring him tonight.
It was raining and cold when Alex and I got back to the Watergate. Our apartment 603 there still smells of Pop’s pipe tobacco and Mom’s perfume. I guess I have figured out that I will not stop missing them until I am with them. I know I would not feel so scared if Pop were alive.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?