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Leonard Garment
Leonard Garment
Crazy Rhythm
ISBN: 0812928873
Crazy Rhythm
Mr. Garment talked about his book, Crazy Rhythm: My Journey from Brooklyn, Jazz, and Wall Street to Nixon's White House, Watergate and Beyond, published by Times Books. He reminisced about his 30-year friendship with Richard Nixon. His book is a memoir of his unusual life, from his early years as saxophonist for Billie Holiday to his later career as the only liberal and Jew in President Nixon's inner circle.
Crazy Rhythm
Program Air Date: April 20, 1997

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Len Garment, author of "Crazy Rhythm," would you tell the story, and embellish a little bit if you want to, when you and Richard Nixon went to Elmer Bobst's home one night?
LAMB: Is it Bobst? Is that it?
Mr. GARMENT: Elmer--well, he's gone. He's left behind the Elmer Bobst--Elmer Holmes Bobst Library at NYU, which is one of the great...
LAMB: Who is he, by the way?
Mr. GARMENT: ...great structures--he was the--he was the chairman of Warner-Lambert pharmaceutical company. He was the chairman of l--a lot of other things before that. But he was a great big, heavyset man who built that company up, and he had the--an agreeable manner. He could--he managed to say, `Hello,' and make it sound like the opening of a speech to the board of directors; had a very formal manner.
LAMB: Where did he live?
Mr. GARMENT: Elmer Bobst lived in New Jersey--Warner-Lambertville--and he had Richard Nixon and myself come down to visit him for dinner and to stay over at his place.
LAMB: What year?
Mr. GARMENT: Oh, year 1965. We were preparing an argument for the United States Supreme Court in Time against Hale--or, Hale against Time. And Nixon had a date to speak at a--a facility that was financed by Investors Diversified Services. It was a housing facility, apparently. And he was going to talk politics there or talk about some public issue. So we had dinner with Elmer and his wife and--a very pleasant dinner. And then the driver took us down to this development, and we were going to stay there for the night and then Nixon was going to speak in the morning, and then we would drive back to Bobst's home in Palm Beach. And this was about 25 or 30 miles away.

We got there, and Richard Nixon had a--had a nose for political manipulation, either--well, you know, by himself as a politician or by others trying to manipulate him--that was second to none in the world. And he looked around; he realized that the next day, he was going to walk out of this house where he spent the night and where I spent the night, and on the porch would be photographers from the Realty Corporation; that he was going to become a prop in a--in a merchandising promotion.

So when--`Let's get back in the car. We'll go back, and we'll come here in the morning.' And we got back in the car and we drove back to the Bobst estate. By now it was-- --oh, I don't know--it was after mid--around midnight, later than midnight, and everything was closed; relatively high wall--stone wall around the place.
LAMB: The gate around it, or you couldn't get in?
Mr. GARMENT: They-- locked gate, no way of pressing buttons or--and he wouldn't do that anyway because the folks were sleeping. The lights were out. So he said, `Come on, Garment. Let's--over the wall we go.' And it you know, we got over the wall. We go through all of the--all of the...
LAMB: You climbed over the wall.
Mr. GARMENT: Right. O--we just climbed over the wall. I mean, it was one of the first walls he climbed on his way back to presidency with me--as we would say in Brooklyn, schlepping along.

In any event, we got--and there were--we weren't going to go into the house. There was the--he knew that there was a little guest house right by the swimming pool and there were two camp-size beds there and so we got the--we got into bed--you know, into our little camp beds and we be...
LAMB: Same room.
Mr. GARMENT: It's bizarre. Right. Yeah, same room.
LAMB: 1965, he had...
Mr. GARMENT: Right. Right. And so he...
LAMB: You were both in the same law firm.
Mr. GARMENT: Right. And he--as I later found out in much more somber and de--in important detail, he had a great trouble sleeping. I mean, he was he was an insomniac. And the way he generally went to sleep was to talk or maybe he'd have a drink or something or sleeping pill, like most of us do in times of tension and--or illness. In any event, he did--he did quite a bit of talking, sort of free association. And I was in the other bed, and it was like being at camp and having a friend telling about his life and problems. And he--and he did a lot of talking to me that night.
LAMB: What'd he talk about?
Mr. GARMENT: Oh, all right. I'll give you just a shorthand version of it. It's --I write about it at--at some greater length, at least to the extent of more or less reliable memory would permit. And he talked some--he talked about his life, talked about his mother and father. I mean, those were prime themes in his life. And what was interesting was that, you know, we had been partners now for a year and a half and we worked a lot on this case and we were talking about politics and, of course, he was--from the day he reached the law firm--first time I sat down with him-- you might want to get to that after a while--the first time I sat down with him, I had a long head-to-head talk--an hour and a half--an hour, an hour and a half, two hours--it was clear to me that he was running for the presidency somehow if it were humanly possible. And if it were not humanly possible, I think he felt that he wouldn't live very long. He had to get back into his famous, quote, "arena."

So he talked about his ambitions and he talked about his mother and her love of peace and the--and the trouble with the father and brothers and all of that that everybody knows so well. And he made very clear, you know, that he was going to--that if he couldn't--he would do anything to enhance his energy and his ability to maintain a footing in public life with a view to doing the things he felt he was destined to do by sort of his mother's image in his life, in the world of foreign affairs and in bringing about a greater stability and more hope for peace in the world. He wa-- he wasn't kidding around that night. There was no point to it. And, you know, gradually tailed off; became more personal about his hopes and aspirations and he fell asleep and I fell asleep.
LAMB: Did the Bobst ever see him there at the house? Did they ever know he'd...
Mr. GARMENT: Oh, you know, he left early in the morning. It was--you know, it is--I think part of this was through the editing process, I'm not quite sure --which is where, but I woke. He was gone. Car came back; he had told the chauffeur to come back at a certain time--8:00 in the morning, whatever it was. And whenever it was, I woke up and he was gone. I got up and Elmer Bobst knew by then. I guess he had seen Bobst before he left. And he was gone and Elmer Bobst came and we had breakfast. And then we sat by the pool and we talked for the whole morning until he came back.

And Bobst was an extraordinarily interesting man. I mean, he was deeply interested in China; he was deeply interested in the--in Richard Nixon's political career. He was the pater familias of the Nixon family and the Nixon children, Julie and Patricia. And a very wise man and knew a lot about Asia. He traveled all over the world. Hoffman-La Roche was the company that he had founded and--and developed in Europe before Warner-Lambert. And he--I think he was a minister's son. But in any event, the--it--the two things that he talked about most energetically, seriously, was his hope that--that Richard Nixon, when--not if, but when--elected president--he was another one of the mystical fatalists that were around Mr. Fatalist himself, Richard Nixon--that when he was elected that he would end the war in Vietnam immediately. He said, `You know, it just--it-- a hopeless engagement. It's going to--it's just destroying the best that we have in the country. It's going to get worse.' He was a man that knew how to read the bottom line.

And the other thing that he was also s--equally, profoundly knowledgeable and concerned about was China. He said that, `That I know that Richard will--that Dick intends to deal with in his own way.' And, of course, Nixon wrote about that before he became president, `Be open to China.'
LAMB: Let me jump from 1965 to the present. What's the poker game?
Mr. GARMENT: From '95 to the present, the --what is the poker game? Oh, the poker game. I thought you were being...
LAMB: Your poker game.
Mr. GARMENT: ...mote--metaphorical. I mean...
LAMB: No, I...
Mr. GARMENT: ...what is the--what's the White House? What's the poker game? Well, they're--they're--they're playing high-stakes poker, but that's another story--or, dancing a--a--a complicated poker. But I shouldn't be, as I wrote in a piece in The New York Times this morning, it would be easy for me to make comments about the current political agonies of the Clinton administration, but that--but that would, indeed, be wrong.

The poker game is a game--is a-- I'm going to be very brief about this because I don't want the Supreme Court to recuse itself from all and every case I might ultimately have before them, although there's not much likelihood of that. For about 10 years, a few of us have gathered and witnessed our friendships, and our friendships have deepened and our lives move along, once a month playing a a very low-stakes poker game, essentially penny-ante poker, adjusted for inflation. And they include men who are--have been--they're all sort of close friends in a way, although we don't necessarily share the same matrix of ideas and views on politics. And that includes the chief justice--the present chief justice, who I knew when we were both in the government--he in the Justice Department and I in the White House--and--Justice Scalia.

Bob Bork was a member of this group, but he had--some kind of a special--he had a problem with poker in that he--his mind, I think, was distracted by more lofty jurisprudential thoughts, so he had--he always carried a--a little crypt sheet that his clerks at the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia gave him which sort of indicated in primitive form that three of a kind was better than two of a kind. And after a while, I think on motion properly made to the chief justice, he was permitted to leave the game because it was just--it was--that was--that was really wrong. I--although every poker game likes to have a mark, he was--we all--all admired and loved him, but--so he was out.

We had then Ja--David Sentelle is a member of the game, Martin Finestein of the Washington Opera Company and two or three other people. We have sort of an A list and a B list based upon pure chronology; that is, who entered the game first. Dick Moore was in the game--Pastor Moore; he passed on. And so we see each other sort of ripening with age, and our poker game--Irving Kristol is a member of the group--and they're all--they all sort of play to play to type. I mean, they--and it's interesting to see. I mean, they--the chief justice really runs the game. We don't talk anything about the law. We talk--there's no--very--next to no talk about politics.
LAMB: Is Bob Bennett still in the group?
Mr. GARMENT: Bob Bennett is in the group, but he has recused himself from the game for the period beginning with his representation of the president because, you know--who knows what--how--however remote, if there's a possibility of some kind of a conflict of representation and participation, we get out of the game. I got out of the game for about seven or eight months when I was preparing for an argument in the Supreme course--Court in the sovereign immunities case.
LAMB: Let me jump to another group. What were you and Pat Moy...
Mr. GARMENT: These are good questions. I mean, they're wonderful. They really--I love them--out of left field, right field, center field, I trust.
LAMB: You and Pat Moynihan...
LAMB: ...and William Kristol and...
Mr. GARMENT: Bill Kristol Jr.
LAMB: Yeah, and...
Mr. GARMENT: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...and your now-wife Suzanne...
Mr. GARMENT: Right.
LAMB: ...Weaver at the time.
Mr. GARMENT: Right.
LAMB: What was that all about? How did William Kristol and Len Garment and...
Mr. GARMENT: Pat Moynihan and...
LAMB: Yeah, all--and there were others.
Mr. GARMENT: There was the Moynihan campaign.
LAMB: Wasn't there a Chester Finn in that group?
Mr. GARMENT: Checker Finn. I know Tim Russert was in that group; Dick Eaton was in that group. This was a group that was clustered together, drawn by a magnet of common interest and friendships and, you know, the--two and a half degrees of separation to...
LAMB: What campaign?
Mr. GARMENT: Moynihan campaigned for the Senate.
LAMB: What year?
Mr. GARMENT: 1976. That's was-- that was immediately after-- it was six months after he left the United Nations post. There were a lot of tensions and conflict; got a lot done. I was-- then--I was with him as the --the US representative to the Human Rights Commission, and I worked with Pat as the counselor to the delegation--to the UN mission. So my area was third committee, human rights, the general working with Pat, being close with him, eating with him, supping and so forth and having a lot of fun and learning a lot from him. I mean, he's been--he was sort of a lifetime--almost a lifetime mature mentor to me, starting in roughly 19--1967.

But when he finished the UN, a lot of people were after him. He was back at Harvard teaching, and there was a lot of pressure--not pressure, but the--everybody always wants a horse to ride, and he was a wonderful horse. And he really--you know, there were all these stories that he--that at the UN, he created a lot of that--that--the Moynihan manner was suited to a plan that he had somehow tucked away to run for the Senate. Well, it's not--just not true. I mean, I...
LAMB: Who had appointed him to be the UN ambassador?
Mr. GARMENT: He was appointed by Gerry Ford. And Henry Kissinger very much wanted him--he--we--Henry Kissinger, you know, one of the wisest and shrewdest men of many parts, complexity cubed, wanted somebody who would really--would speak up for a change at the UN, and he would talk back to the Russians, would talk back to the-- would talk back to the anti-American bloc, the majority that dominated the UN and was extremely hostile to the United States, United States interests and so on. And Moynihan was the obvious pick. He had been offered the post by Richard Nixon and he declined. I think he went in--back into public life as ambassador to India and then returned to Harvard and then, ultimately, with the resignation of President Nixon, this came about.
LAMB: How does--but how--here this move to today--he's a--would you call him a liberal Democrat?
Mr. GARMENT: Pat Moynihan?
LAMB: Yeah.
Mr. GARMENT: He--well, I--you know, he's a Moynihan Democrat. He's very independent.
LAMB: He's not conservative.
Mr. GARMENT: In some things, he is. No, he's not--he's--well...
LAMB: But he's a Democrat.
Mr. GARMENT: No, he's a great...
LAMB: He's a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.
Mr. GARMENT: Look, I would say--you know, Pat is a conservative in the best sense of that term. I don't mean the modern ideological jargon. He's a cons--he's a preserver. And he's a liberal, again, in the sort of 18th and 19th century sense of the term; that is, somebody who believes in individual rights, in human rights, in the importance of rationality mixed with a sense of international kinship.
LAMB: The point I was trying to get at is, here's William Kristol running a magazine today that's very conservative and very Republican, or--maybe not--maybe not Republican because...
Mr. GARMENT: Well, they are--I think they--I think The Weekly Standard is evolving into a--well, I wouldn't say a centrist point of view, because it is ideological, but it represents a modern conservative viewpoint that is not altogether predictable, that is founded on more--eclectic set of values that are, we might say, more to the right of center than to the left of center. But it--you know, we can't--if something's good, I think it resists that kind of categorization.
LAMB: But your now-wife Suzanne...
Mr. GARMENT: She was Pat's principal speechwriter...
LAMB: Went to The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. GARMENT: ...and assistant at the--well, at the UN. She had been a teaching associate of his at Harvard and then she went on, was an assistant professor of government toward organization of theory, White House, the presidency, at Yale and then came to the UN to work with Pat. And, you know, she's--she's 4'11 1/2". One of these days, I'll give her a break and get her up to the major leagues of five feet. And- 20 feet tall in terms of intelligence and character. And Suzie, on the right, next to--I think that's Richard Nixon, and far left, as usual, me--moi. In any event, that was a photograph that was taken--I think it was at Vice President Bush's-- house when he was then-Vice President Bush at a party that he gave--an engagement party for Richard Moore when he--shortly before he remarried. It was a nice evening. And, as I say, that Richard Nixon in 1987, if I recall correctly thereabouts, was beginning to look presidential again.

And Suzie was the speechwriter and Bill Kristol was one of her staff assistants in the campaign. She was the chief honcho on ideas and writing and speeches. And over there, we have a--a very interesting moment. I'm laughing my head off and Pat is s--is doing the right thing, which is smiling; a little bit--not diffidently. Right before that, there was a meeting in the White

House with Henry Kissinger--but first, with President Ford and Moynihan, who had then resigned. They made him come down to Washington to meet with the president. They didn't want him to resign from the UN. And he--and then Henry Kissinger joined the meeting. And then, after that, we walked out and the whole question was: Well, who won in this contest between the president--between Secretary Kissinger and Pat Moynihan? It really wasn't that kind of a fight, but that's the way the press chose to view it.

And as we walked out, I said, `Pat, just laugh your head off, because they--all those cameras are there,' and I laughed my head off and he sort of managed a kind of `a cat is eating the smaller cat' smile. And all of the headline-- every --newspaper in the country, maybe with a few exceptions, ran that photograph on the front page and said, `Moynihan wins.'
LAMB: Back to...
Mr. GARMENT: It tells you something about, you know, media, photographs, captions and politics.
LAMB: But out of that group, your wife then now--went on to work for The Wall Street Journal as a...
Mr. GARMENT: She became--she was an editorial writer after that for the New York Wall Street Journal and then, 1980, we were married. My first wife had died four or five--four years before that. And then we decided to come to Washington. The kids had grown up, were off in college--Sarah and Paul. And when we came to Washington, she had a couple of offers with--in Washington. She decided--she's a very loyal person. It's a very important value to Suzie and to me. And so she stayed-- Bob Bartley had invited her to become --associate editor for the editorial page. So she became sort of the voice of the editorial page in Washington and she wrote a byline column for seven years called Capital Chronicle.
LAMB: How would you define her politics?
Mr. GARMENT: Well, not very far from, you know, Bill Kristol, Irving Kristol but maybe even a little bit more eclectic. She writes now for the Los Angeles Times. She's off somewhere in this great city of Washington. Sometimes people spell that G-R-A-T-E. And she's doing a piece on the current political whatchamacallits for the--for the Los Angeles Times.
LAMB: Now here's another episode in your life, this picture. Who's in it?
Mr. GARMENT: Which one are you pointing to?
LAMB: The one at the bottom, right here.
Mr. GARMENT: Bottom left. That's--again, I seem to be perpetually on the left, and two good friends separate me for the--from the gentleman ap--appropriately on the right, Alan Greenspan, the both of us playing the saxophone. I was the jazz tenor saxophonist with this band then rehearsing at Nola's Studios in New York before we went into the club, where the band played for quite a few years. Alan Greenspan was a very strong section man. He played the tenor saxophone, the flute, the clarinet and, I think, the bass clarinet. And we were both kind of leaving music gradually and beginning to study for different careers.
LAMB: And what year was that?
Mr. GARMENT: That would have been around 1944, '45.
LAMB: Are you still friends today?
Mr. GARMENT: Yes. I spoke to him yesterday. There's a--there's a book party--Random House is generous enough, kind enough, to be throwing in New York, and I spoke to Alan to see whether he could abandon his Federal Reserve sufficiently to come up there and be with us and play with us, and apparently his schedule makes it a little bit tough. And we talked about it and I said, `Well, it might be viewed as both infra dig and excessively exuberant and might destroy the world economy.' So he's writing a letter--at least, that's provisionally what--the way we'll approach it. And I'll read the letter and he--you know, his parting advice to me in our phone conversation yesterday was, `Just keep the Garment riffs to a minimum, because you really might cause serious trouble to America's economy.
LAMB: Another snapshot--Jim Fallows.
Mr. GARMENT: Next-door neighbor. Now--well, I'm telling the story the wrong way. I mean, we--so forget what I said. Jim Fallows--wonderful man.
LAMB: Present editor of US News & World Report.
Mr. GARMENT: Right. Before that, editor of Atlantic Monthly. Fine writer; Jimmy Carter's principal speechwriter; also was on the contributing board of editors of Washington Monthly--the Washington Monthly in 1974, in the year of the great White House calamity in which I was peripherally involved; wrote a small tag and scandal piece about a house in Virginia that they suggested was rented to me at bargain-basement rates by Michael Stray, who'd been a longtime friend, client of mine--very elegant man, as a matter of fact; very news--publisher of The New Republic. He was this and he was that. And I write about him in the book. I write about this incident in the book, as a matter of fact.

And the--the story didn't make--I mean, it really was a minor league sandlot scandal story and there wasn't any merit to it, but it was--it might--it was of a reasonable thing for somebody to raise. And Charlie Peters' magazine, you know, does a lot of very useful adventurous things; occasionally, they catch a real innocent, like myself. But we move--ultimately, we wound up living on a street called Dexter Street and we found ourselves living next door to Jimmy Fallows. And I was...
LAMB: Here in town now.
Mr. GARMENT: In town, right. And we would visit with them--good friends--and Debbie and Suzie and Jim and myself. And when I was working on this book and, you know, going and leafing through all the souvenirs and dance cards from ancient times, reconstructing memory, I found the Washington Monthly piece and then I looked curiously down to the end of the piece to see who wrote it: Jim Fallows. That's Washington.
LAMB: And he remembered that when you brought it up?
Mr. GARMENT: Yeah, sure. Did he--did he remember it now?
LAMB: Yeah.
Mr. GARMENT: Of course, he did. And we both were--you know, we sort of laughed ourselves--not silly, because it's just--it's human and the kind of thing that happens and it's good--we know each other and know each other very well, and it's a happy relationship.
LAMB: Another story; the phone booth and Charlie Wick and Jimmy Carter.
Mr. GARMENT: Well, that's a long story, and let me I'll go to that point. I think Charlie...
LAMB: We can go to the tapes if you wanted to start.
Mr. GARMENT: No, I don't want to get into that. I really don't. Just to abbreviate it, because I'll wind up spending too much time speaking about this, but Charles Wick was the director of the United States Information Agency, and a very good, fine...
LAMB: During the Nixon administration.
Mr. GARMENT: No, no, during the Reagan administration.
LAMB: During the Reagan administration.
Mr. GARMENT: He was also very close friend of presidents and he is--his wife is a very good friend of Mrs. Reagan, and they were altogether--they were very delightful people--ultimately came to be very good friends of ours. And there, again, was one of those episodes where a lot--journalistically justified, objectively more than--more freight than the--than the rails could support, involving Charlie that was ultimately ended and--to say he came--went on to develop a reputation as one of the best in the history of the USIA, because he was very adventurous and very--the very qualities that provided the raw material for this little story and this little adventure were the qualities that made him a terrific USIA director; that is, he was persistent, he was almost to the point of obsessiveness in getting things done; he was very imaginative.
LAMB: Started where on that?
Mr. GARMENT: He was a musician--wrote arrangements for Jimmy Dorsey's band, Tommy Dorsey's band. So, you know, we got along very well. And the aftermath of this whole incident, which involved some materials that he, very--quite appropriately, I thought, and innocently, I thought, and legally, as, ultimately, everyone concluded--at my advice called all the people who were conceivably involved to say that he was sorry that this happened at all.
LAMB: But he taped people. I mean...
Mr. GARMENT: He did--he made--these were telephone tapes and--for memory purposes.
LAMB: Whenever he talked to somebody on the telephone, he'd tape...
Mr. GARMENT: Right. He had less mem--I have very terrible short-term memory. I'm pretty good with long-term memory, and--unless I really work on something as a trial lawyer and knock it into my head. And he would-- make you know, sort of, in most cases, consensual tapes and some--sometimes people were taping me calling a Roto-Rooter salesman and so forth and making a record of things for--you know, for tax purposes.

So, ultimately, that was all, at least to our satisfaction, over and done with, forgotten. But I insisted--my insistence--maybe it was excessive--that he call the people that were involved and say that he that he regretted it. In any event, one of the calls --one of the tapes was a very complimentary tape of conversation he had with Jimmy--with President Carter. I think it was after President Carter left office--some time after that. And he--it was--he complimented President Carter on a speech he had made and the work he had done in connection with nuclear arms and working towards peace and so on and so forth. It was just--it couldn't have been more--a more laudatory conversation.

But it was on the list of calls to make and I said, you know, `You've got to just deal with the problem of not having'--and--told him what was going on at that instant. And we were in a club in New York when he placed that call and he was away from the dinner table. The-- a couple friends of ours were having dinner with him. So finally, I went around to the phones to see what was happening. I saw his hands-- I could just see Charlie's-- head right above the ledge or the frame--window frame. And President Carter had asked him to get down and the two of them to pray together at some length, and I didn't want to interrupt that. I let him finish.
LAMB: But the...
Mr. GARMENT: Politics. I mean, it's--it goes from the-- I think it frequently goes from the ridiculous to the more ridiculous, rather than to the sublime, but, in fact, it does go from the sublime to the tragic and--so that's the whole range and that's why people are drawn to this game. That's why they get into trouble; that's why they have an interesting life, if they stay intact.
LAMB: But the--Bill Safire had written a column about all this.
Mr. GARMENT: That's right, a very-- Bill--if you get into Bill's cross hairs...
LAMB: Because he'd taped Bill.
Mr. GARMENT: That's right. No. No, I don't think he--no, I don't think he taped Bill.
LAMB: He didn't?
Mr. GARMENT: He may have. I don't know. There was-- it was something that was indiscriminate. It had no investigative purpose. It was not-- I think to--to exemplify how--the nature of it, this kind of procedure, which is very common among, I think, journalists and others who have to make a record of something, and they'll say, `Well'--you know, they don't always say, `I'm making a tape for my own purposes, just for the record purposes.'

In the District of Columbia, that kind of what's called non-consensual taping is punishable by FCC regulation in the district--most places, not even anything. In the district, they suspend your telephone privileges. Now that may be considered a benefit rather than a burden by a number of us.
LAMB: You write that three people who were well-known not to be Republicans or conservatives or Nixon supporters recommended to you, I guess, that Richard Nixon be pardoned by Gerry Ford, and they were John Osborne, who used to write the White House Watch for The New Republic, Eric Severeid and Abe Fortas. What--explain that whole situation.
Mr. GARMENT: Well, it fits in with what I just said about the very --fascinating diversity of the public men, the private men, the ones that are real soldiers of character that you can count them.
LAMB: Let me just start asking you--did you recommend to Gerry Ford that he pardon Richard Nixon?
LAMB: You're working for him at the time?
Mr. GARMENT: I was working for Gerry Ford and it was--I mean, I wrote-- a memorandum after talking to the three gentlemen--I'll come to that in just a moment--to the--to the president--or, actually, I think I wrote it to. No, it was to the president or to Phil Buchen and--delivered it to Phil Buchen and it was for the president, anyway.
LAMB: Gerry Ford's counsel, Phil Buchen.
Mr. GARMENT: Right. I gave it to Phil Buchen and then to Al Haig. And an hour after it was delivered, Al Haig called me, White House--well, we were both in the White House then, and said, `It's all--it's done.' Now I don't know what roots it had, whether--before that or then, but that's--I'm telling you exactly what I--what my ears heard and what my mind recalls and, `You know, Al, that's terrific.' I said, `Well, that's'--he said, `Don't leave your office to do any'-- he was first--President Ford's first press conference was scheduled for that afternoon.

And I had submitted, along with a suggested opening statement for the president covering this that was drafted by Ray Price, who was the president's principal speech--President Nixon's principal speechwriter, and with a view to giving some--giving Gerry Ford and his colleagues a sense of how it would sound. And, of course, it sounded very good, kind of logic of law --is not the law is not logic, but experience. The essence of the law is experience, doing not just the letter of the law but what represents the common sense of the people and what should be done.

And I felt that you couldn't--an awful idea--the idea that was being pressed, as I knew by the--by a number of independent counsels, special prosecutor Jaworski's associates, which was, at that time--Jaworski, the successor to Archibald Cox, which--which was, at that time, to in--indict President Nixon and try him. I mean, like a national freak show, you know, for--just calamitous for the world, for the country and for-- and my own feelings, it was a good chance it would final--it would end in a personal calamity for Richard Nixon because he was just not about to be presented as a human geek biting off the heads of chickens --for the entertainment of people who hated him.

So, in any event, to try it out that--the day of--or day before all this happened, I had--was having lunch with John Osborne, I--matter of fact, I dedicate the book to John Osborne and to my wife, Suzanne, and I wr--John's you may have--remember him--I'm sure you do, Brian, he's a very, very fine--when I say scrupulous, I mean, he's--he was the definition of scrupulous, definition of fine writing--I mean, to the extent that I could manage--to some--in--if I wereimitating anybody-- in my post-White House writing, it would be John Osborne. But I couldn't come close to that.

And the high, great honor that I had in my--I think, in my political life was to have--Trudy Osborne asked me to deliver the eulogy as the only eulogist for John. We were that close and I admired and trusted him. And I asked him what he thought about that, and he said, `Let--sh--he should be pardoned. This would be a horrible thing for the country.'

Boom, next one, Eric Severeid, another man of whom I have the highest regard and who was always very, you know, open, direct with me and he said, `You know, by all means,' in that wonderful voice and that wonderful mind and character. God. Man, we miss those people.

And then finally I went to somebody who sort of combined wisdom and--general wisdom and political intelligence and we have-- natural devotion to the country, and that was Abe Fortas. We went over to his house, lovely place, he poured me a drink, said, `What's on your mind?' And I told him what was on my mind. He said, `By all means,' he said, `this is Ecclesiastes--Ecclesiastes' time. This is not the time for that kind of catastrophic flogging of the country and--through the vehicle of Richard Nixon. It's a time for--to get it behind us and go on.'

So that's what led to writing the memorandum and giving it to--assuming--presuming that it went to the president from Phil Buchen in some form or other. And I'm happy that he was pardoned.
LAMB: If three men like that who were not supporters of Richard Nixon publicly, or whatever, would recommend that, why was there such an outcry then once the pardon came?
Mr. GARMENT: Well--good--a lot of it was, of course--there's some people who can make a-- the noise of one the equivalent of a crowd of thousands. I mean, there were people that truly hated--wanted Nixon to be savaged. They hated him, go--goes all the way back--deep, deep fault--ideological fault, in a sense, a geological fault in American politics at a time of Alger Hiss and Richard Nixon's campaigning and the--and the hatreds that were formed and then were either institutionalized or internalized by media, by individuals in great hatred of Richard Nixon and anybody who would do anything of this sort.

And, unknowingly, as Ford did the right, proper, generous, patriotic, presidential thing, didn't--he didn't have a clue the kind of explosion that would set off in media, generated a lot by the young prosecutors that--and investigators for the House committee and others who just felt--well, we're not going to condemn them. They--a lot of them felt very righteously--I think in the case of many, very self-righteously and very ambitiously. I mean, they were--that was the-- big show, I mean, the final act, the grand plunge in--in a barrel off the--in Niagara Falls and suddenly was pre-empted and ended by Gerry Ford.
LAMB: There are two little Nixon phrases that pop up in two different places in the book I want to ask you about. One--and it--you don't have to go into great detail if you don't want to, but one of them was: `Never rush into a public place.' Explain that one.
Mr. GARMENT: Well, that was when we were...
LAMB: That was Richard Nixon saying that.
Mr. GARMENT: ...going--we were going to United States Supreme Court and I'm Mr. Anxious and he Mr. Anxious but Mr. Disciplined and with a sense of his own status and rank and who he was and going into...
LAMB: This was-- at--when he wasn't president, though?
Mr. GARMENT: This was when he wasn't president, when we were law partners and he was going in for his first argument--first, last argument before the Supreme Court--I mean, he did it magnificently, truly.
LAMB: In--in the '60s?
Mr. GARMENT: '60s. And there was in--that was in 1966. Argued it twice--the case was reargued--was argued in the spring, was argued again in the fall. And it's really--I mean, to me, it--it is one of the most interesting stories in the history and to how this book came about because I was writing that. I wanted to write that because of a memorandum he wrote me under most extraordinary circumstances. And you've got to buy the book, ladies and gentlemen, in order to read the story-- or borrow it.
LAMB: Wrote the memorandum after the case was over?
Mr. GARMENT: He wrote the memorandum the night we got back from Washington after a 14-hour day and -I mean, I went to my home and he went to his apartment. I was in Brooklyn Heights, moved up in the world. He was out on Fifth Avenue. And apparently, he just--he dictated--there was no reason to believe the case was going to be reargued. I mean, it was--it was the end of it.
LAMB: He'd already tried to--he'd already presented the case?
Mr. GARMENT: The--done. Finished. Presented the argument. And the court--you know, there they were. He dictated this memorandum--I suppose it was between midnight, 1:00, when he woke up; he didn't have anybody to call on the phone to help put him to sleep. The next morning-- I went home-- you know, and belted down a couple of bourbons and had a little bit of something to eat and went to sleep. I was just absolutely exhausted.

And I got to the office about 10:00, 10:30 the next morning, and there on my desk was a--I think, four or five single--single-space typewritten document, memorandum to me from Richard Nixon, `The things I should have done that I didn't do right in the argument today.' And he had dictated this kind of impeccable memorandum before he went to sleep, whenever he went to sleep, and when he came in in the morning at 7:30, he gave it to Rose Mary Woods and she typed it up and it was on my desk.

I really--I knew that there were no little dancing gremlins preparing memoranda, and the memoranda is kind of a--startling for its active, kind of, legal prophesy about the--Roe against Wade and Griswold and what have you. You've got to read it. You've got to read--you've got to read it to believe it.
LAMB: But go back just to the phrase, `Never...'
Mr. GARMENT: If somebody asked me--they say, `Did--did you like Nixon?' I say, `Of course, I liked him. I admired him.' They'd say, `Well, what was there about you--him that you liked?' I said, `Well, the first and foremost thing I liked about him was that he had a spacious, immense intelligence.' And a lot of his troubles came from the fact that he couldn't contain himself. When he'd sit down to a meeting with a political novice or some--or political pro, and the fellow would say one thing, the amateur or the pro, one sentence, and he knew what the next 45 minutes was going to be and he did--he agonized over it. That's--I mean, he wa--that's why he--that's why he preferred using the telephone, because he could close his eyes, he could take his shoes off, he could put the phone down on the desk and...
LAMB: But the--go back to that phrase, `Never rush into a public place.' D--di...
Mr. GARMENT: Well, we were going into the Supreme Court and I was--you know, I was anxious to get him in there. We weren't the first case scheduled for argument that morning. And we were out in the lawyers room and he was going over his notes--you know, yellow pads, he was reading them right up until the very last split second. And everybody was in the courtroom and the--the justices were about to enter, and it was sort of a question of decorum that all of the counsel be present, particularly he should be present, when the court came in.

And I was--so I was sort of bustling him, `Come on. Come on, Dick, let's get in there. They're about to sweep through--you're not going to be there and come in and they'll say you're showboating.' And we walked in--so we were walking along, I was really very--you know, with age, I've gotten less anxious, but he said, `Len,' whispered to me sort of out of the side of his mouth, `Never rush into a public place.' Good lesson. I still rush into public places.
LAMB: The second one I want to ask you about is: `Politicians love small food.'
Mr. GARMENT: Right. That was a party that we--Grace, my first wife, and I gave for Richard Nixon. It was to the judges and lawyers in Brooklyn, in downtown Brooklyn and what have you all of them Democrats, naturally. It was a--and--you know, we invited a lot of people--won--wondered whether anybody would come or they--well, everybody that was invited came, and they brought their friends and children and the neighbors wer--it was really kind of a madhouse. And it was one of the first things that confirmed the kind of wishful intuition that I had that he--you know, had a real shot for the presidency again, down the road, because it was packed.

And afterwards when were sitting and having a little reminiscence with Jerry Lightner and Leo Glasser now--Professor Glasser then; Judge Glasser now--two of my closest friends. We're sitting upstairs and--and he said, `You know, this was--it was done just right because you'--we had those little meatballs on a toothpick and everything was small, and politicians love to have very small foods that--so that they can pick it up and swallow it and keep talking and shaking hands and carrying on. Don't ever give them a plate. And thi--so this was done just right.
LAMB: You have mentioned a couple times this woman right here and...
Mr. GARMENT: Grace, my--my first wife.
LAMB: ...and you write a lot about her...
Mr. GARMENT: I do, indeed.
LAMB: ...including the difficult end of her life. How long were you married?
Mr. GARMENT: We were married over-- twe--about 25 years.
LAMB: Where'd you meet her?
Mr. GARMENT: Met her through the other lady--if you'll hold that up--if the audience is still watching--very beautiful Gloria Helman who is the sister of Jerry Helman, a very close friend...
LAMB: Jerry's Helman's up here?
Mr. GARMENT: Up on the top. Right above him at--a trio of pictures. And Jerry, who is there kissing the--an Oscar which he received for the production of "Midnight Cowboy." That's Gloria who's friend of a friend, and then she worked with--had her friend at Benton & Bowles, I think it was, an advertising agency, and she introduced me to Grace, and in fairly short order, --we were a pair, and then we were married.
LAMB: You write about both Grace's and yours--your depression...
Mr. GARMENT: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...through your life. Ex--how bad was it and when did you have it?
Mr. GARMENT: Well, i--it was in--in Grace's case, it ultimately turned out--turned out to be a killer. In my case, for reasons of luck, differences, of opportunity--I mean, it's a little bit of that whole male-female business during those years. There were more opportunities for men for distraction for--or--I think that's been characteristic. I mean, male depression is a problem. Problem is a lot of men don't come to grips with it, but they're out there working. And this gut work of tending to-during that time before the--what we call, you know, feminism, took hold, was attitude; natural predilection of--of certain women to be depressed, made them very depressed.

Then there are--of course, there are all the--all of the formative things, childhood experiences; there are inherited, genetic delinquencies that enter into the life story. And the sad thing is the book--sad as well as tragic thing, as the book describes in some detail, was that--that Grace's death by her own hand came at a time when she was finally succeeding in what she wanted to do which was to write, but she needed a kind of--you know, it was the wrong chemical kind of help at that time to summon up the energy to do the huge amount of work that she had.

And, of course, I had been the case in which I had a past throughout life, which just was working my head off and dealing with my chronic ups and downs that way, and--you know, nothing unusual in this world. People confront it, go now, they can--you know, they've- the marvels of modern technology are nowhere so visible as they are in the treatment of depression through medication, plus talking to somebody and plus a lot of other things that are available. You know, I think Grace would not have died were it not for the fact that they didn't know what to do then.
LAMB: What year was it that...
Mr. GARMENT: 1976.
LAMB: And then she, one day, just walked out of the apartment for a bit?
Mr. GARMENT: She just--she packed--it was--it was an evening when she had been--she had been at Payne Whitney whi-had--since been--the Payne Whitney facility, I think, is gone.
LAMB: Hospital?
Mr. GARMENT: And--the hospital--very famous. And it's kind of a primordial sentiment on my part that they really--that in her case and a lot of other cases, it was--in my view, it was bungled through a mixture of kind of arrogance and indifference and ignorance. But that's still--that's another story. And she came home after a few months, and there had been all the preliminary visits and so on and so forth, and she came home, and in due course, she slipped back in. And I knew from a long walk and talk we had Christmas--Thanksgiving night that she sort of made clear that she was--she said that she was not going to back to any hospital. The--what--the sequence of possibilities after that were kind of closed away from my thought.

And then she began to--the bad weather and the same--you know, families always--is--one of the sad things-- it's sort of--it's the same. Home is the same. Good, bad, it doesn't change that much--Philip Larkin poem. And I could sense it was real trouble, and we scheduled an appointment. I arranged an appointment for family therapy; that is, to go to see a psychiatrist that we all--that we knew and a very able person. And we were supposed to be there--the date was for Friday, 4:30, the kids were there, I was there. She had--she said she had certain other things in the morning that--you know, to do in shopping and some other--and, of course, when were there, she didn't show up. And we--she didn't show up. She never showed up.

And we went home; there was no note. And she--for seven weeks--Pat Moynihan came and Dick Lehrman, a lot of friends came, manning the phones, police were notified up and down the Eastern seaboard. For seven weeks, we managed to--you know, I got to understand how missing-in-action families came to feel and come to feel, still; harbor hopes because they--they don't know. And we came to believe--we really believed, the two kids and myself, that she was off somewhere in--that she was going--she was breaking with all of her--the cycle of behavior that was--that was so hurtful to herself.

So she was an immensely creative person--that she was breaking with it, going off and doing it herself, working in a library, doing her writing, and we would hear from her. And we-- so she become-- she was not dead. She was not--we didn't know where she was, we didn't know that she was alive. The soap opera that she was working for then, "Edge of Night," they had--I mean, the quintessential soap opera moment when the whole cast broadcast during the soap opera, you know, `Grace, wherever you are, please come back.'

So I mean, seven weeks later, perhaps hours before Grace would have been interred in Boston's Potter's Field, just through a fluke, somebody doing a check again, as a result of family insisting that the police really give it another real go, it just--the whole thing seemed crazy. They had this fur coat of this unknown woman and they--there was a label there. And they called the furrier that supplied these coats to the vendor, the store, and they were informed that rather typically, a good coat of that sort--mink coat, that the name and address would be inside the label dealing with theft and matters of--and they opened it up and there it was. And--but for that almost freakish reprieve from endless uncertainty, we would never have known whether she was dead or alive. So stay after the police.
LAMB: How long have you been away from the depression?
Mr. GARMENT: Well, you know, times have changed and we--I mean, you age out of most things, including life, ultimately. And you and I would say that I'm a candidate for--I mean, I'm prepared to run on the ticket of the --the sensible, prudent, wise use of anti-depressant medication because it worked for me.
LAMB: Leukemia.
Mr. GARMENT: I--yes, --I go--thought I was sort of--it was bye-bye time...
LAMB: When?
Mr. GARMENT: Oh, let's see. It's now 1997--1987, 1986, 1987. Diagnosed with not the worst form of leukemia, but one that--they sort of gave me a--kind of, `Oh, certainly, five years, maybe more, but, you know'--with--what with this and that chronic lymphocytic leukemia. And strangely enough-- I mean, I always worried much more about diseases I didn't have than--than I was worried or shocked by this diagnosis. Maybe it's the uncertainty of it or something else that's involved.

But through the wonders of going back for further checkups and pressing for a very careful review, it turned out that I have--I do have leukemia--had, and continue to have, leukemia, but it's of a rare sort that they came to--it's called hairy cell leukemia. And interferon, which was once thought to be the magic bullet for all kinds of cancers, it's turning out to be now used in connection with other anti-cancer drugs quite effectively in a larger range of diseases than hairy cell leukemia, but it was kind of a--it's--good Lord up there somehow has made provision for me because it's out of--a magic bullet for leukemia--for my form of leukemia an--which went into remission after a year of--you know, of chemotherapy and stayed for six, seven years and then when it--when it popped up again, it--I tucked it away with more interferon.
LAMB: This is a picture of your third child?
Mr. GARMENT: Third child. Right.
LAMB: How old is Annie?
Mr. GARMENT: Annie is 15 going on 22. She's absolutely fabulous. I don't know--I don't want to talk a lot about Annie. She's just too much and she might we watching this show and--when it's aired and she--no, she's very, very dear, wonderful gift, gift of God.
LAMB: Who's this?
Mr. GARMENT: My son, Paul. Another--he's one of the first--one of the first two and he looks a lot like-- his--looks a lot like Grace. And...
LAMB: And who's this?
Mr. GARMENT: ...a wonderful clarinetist. He was then playing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. And in the middle is my daughter, Sarah, as I say, and she's a poet and she's been fighting to overcome diabetes, and you can do it, even type I brittle, which is a tough one, in Brooklyn, in her home, on the steps--the photographer had a lot of flowers there which is kind of nice. And that's me, as I say, doing one of my favorite things, playing the clarinet occasionally, depending on the kindness of strangers to--to let me do it.
LAMB: Where does the title "Crazy Rhythm" come from?
Mr. GARMENT: Well, "Crazy Rhythm" is a song that was written in 1928 in a show "Here's How", written by Irving Caeser and two of the the musicia-- the music was written by two others whose name, for the moment, escapes me. And I apologize to the holders of the copyright. But originally the name--the working title--I knew it had to be something musical, was to connect--also to connect my life and uncertainties, so the original working title was `Dancing in the Dark.'

And Leon Wieseltier, who was a literary editor of The New Republic, and I were having lunch one day, and he said, `No, it has to be a jazz title.' And some months later, I looked up, and there it was, "Crazy Rhythm."
LAMB: Of all the things you've done in your life, what's been up there at the top? When did you have the best time?
Mr. GARMENT: Well, I did have the best time in the White House...
LAMB: How many years?
Mr. GARMENT: ...from beginning until end.
LAMB: How many years?
Mr. GARMENT: Well, the whole--I was there from--well, really--except for a few months at the--at the beginning of President Nixon's time in office--I mean, he asked me to come down to Washington and took--and put me in his office, that huge basketball-court office overlooking the White House, I mean, really overlooking it. So I saw all these fellows that I had recruited marching in and out and running the world and what have you, and I was up there just sort of looking at them.

Becoming-- or undertaking to become, at his instructions, the Republican Clark Clifford. Now I wasn't a Republican, wasn't then, am not now--a lot of Republican friends, but--just got a lot of friends. Always--you know, whatever it is. More independent than politically affiliated. And I knew the name Clark Clifford, but I didn't even know what he did. But I did know that people thought that's what I was going to be and so a lot of clients and others were calling me to go to the agencies with acronymic titles that are--I don't even know what they were or where they were. I did know that--and called Peter Flanning. I said, `Look, Peter, I'm either going to go into the White House and work there,' which is what I really wanted to do, `or I'm going back to New York and try lawsuits,' because the only other place I could possibly go would be to jail.
LAMB: So that was the best time? Six years in the White House?
Mr. GARMENT: Yeah. It was.
LAMB: 1969 to 19...
Mr. GARMENT: I mean, the good and the bad. The fun and--all new experiences. And we got some things done--domestic policy. People don't talk much about that, but--and John Erlichman gets a lot of credit in my book for-- and Richard Nixon, of course, because they both sort of freed me up to go over in the old executive office building and do my thing, which was to work in civil rights and work for reform of Indian policy and arts and humanities and what have you.
LAMB: Guess what? People are going to have to buy the book to hear the rest of it. This is what...
Mr. GARMENT: Hey, I'm glad we've come to that happy conclusion.
LAMB: Here's the cover, called "Crazy Rhythm." Our guest Len Garment. Thank you very much, Leonard.
Mr. GARMENT: Thanks very much, Brian.

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