Thomas P. O\'Neill


Tip was a man who was not bashful to call himself "a man of the house."
Thomas P. O\'Neill was a person whose greatest charm was that he seemed
"completely out-of-date as a politician." (Clift) He was a gruff, drinking,
card playing, backroom kind of guy. He had an image that political candidates
pay consultants to make over. He knew these qualities gave him his power
because they "made him real." (Sennot 17) His gigantic figure and weather
beaten face symbolizes a political force of five decades, from Roosevelt\'s new
deal to the Reagan retrenchment. He was the last democratic leader of the old
school and "the longest-serving speaker of the house (1977-1986) and easily the
most loved." (Clift)

Thomas P. O\'Neill (1912-1994) always knew why he was in Washington, and
what he stood for. He was a native of Boston and always prided himself on his
theory that "all politics is local." (O\'Neill 1) Tip was a friend of everyone.
When ordinary people wanted something of O\'Neill he gave it to them. When
anyone asked him a favor, he would do it. O\'Neill served fifty years in public
life and retired with only fifteen thousand dollars to his name. He devoted his
life and his money to the people of Boston.

Tip came of age in the Great Depression, arrived in congress from
Massachusetts in 1952 and "came to power amid the plenty of the \'60s and \'70s."
(Woodlief 4) He was a rampant liberal who "would usually vote yes on any bill
that helped people (he once voted to put money into an appropriations bill to
study knock knees)." (Gelzinas 6) When Reagan came into office in 1980 big
government began to feel the pinch and O\'Neill\'s big hearted liberalism was on
the way out. In 1980, O\'Neill was a target of a clever Republican ad campaign
that pictured him in a limo as a symbol of a bloated out of control congress.
The advertisement backfired and it sent O\'Neill into folk hero status. Tip even
"made an appearance on "Cheers" as an effect of the advertisement." (Time 18)
Tip said that he "only made one vote that he regretted." (O\'Neill 218)
It was a yes vote on the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that gave Lyndon Johnson
full control over all military intervention in Vietnam. He did this because it
was a time when Congress did what leadership asked, in fact there was not one
descending vote in the house on this issue (414-0). Right away he had
speculation that the White House might use this as a device to open up full
scale war in Vietnam. Tip had many questions about the war in Vietnam, but at
first stuck with the saying by Samuel Rayburn, "When it comes to foreign policy-
support the Pres."

His attitude changed. He felt if the U.S. was to fight they should
fight to win, and he did not think this was the case. Student kept badgering
him with questions of his support of the foreign policy of Dean Rusk, the
secretary of state. Finally a student got him with a question. A student at
Boston College, Tip\'s alma matter, said, "Sen. O\'Neill you have told the public
about your many briefings of the war by General Westmoreland, Robert McNamara,
the CIA, and even President Johnson but have you ever considered hearing the
briefings of the other side?" This hit Tip head on. He decided to get a good
look on the other side of the issue.

He began his investigation at his best negotiating table, the poker
table. At the Army and Navy Club in Washington. At the table were Generals and
other high ranking military officials. Three loosing games and a couple dozen
drinks later Tip started to ask questions. He found that all these pentagon
officials felt that we should not send troops to Vietnam unless we plan to win.
Johnson didn\'t want the soldiers to take the offensive.

They were not the only ones. Most CIA officials and members of the
defense department who openly supported Johnson\'s stance were "saying the
opposite after a few beers." (O\'Neill 233) Tip was invited to a private dinner
of CIA officials and there everyone he met was openly against the war because
they felt it was unwinnable, but the all pledged publicly with Johnson. These
CIA officers said all foreign officials were against the war as well as the
American public. They pleaded for Tip to come out into the open to oppose the
war. They told him to tell Speaker McCormack that the entire