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Smokey Joe Califano
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Whether or not Joseph Califano knows how to run HEW, he does know how to be a cabinet secretary: Kee...
Nicholas Von Hoffman
July 9, 1979
, pp. 14-17 -
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Uncorrected Raw Text
JOE e!- & ++ The
By NICHOLAS VON HOFFMAN
HE FIRST NEWS THAT SMOXEY JOE
Califano made when he took over at HEW was that
he had hired himself a "personal assistant" whose
only job was to cook for the new cabinet member;
the second big news out of the Smoke's office was that he'd
hired an ex-Secret Service agent enjoying a $31,200-a-year
pension to be another special assistant at forty-seven grand
per year; his only discernible duty was to protect the
Smoke's valuable and influential body from angry rate-
payers. Apparently another special assistant was taken on
shortly thereafter whose job was to cook up not food but
flattering stories and legends about the secretary.
Next thing we know, all mention of private chefs is
dropped and we get a new picture, not of arrogant super-
Guinea, as he might have been called back in those parts
of his native Brooklyn where spades are still called spades;
but of il poveretto, the dynamic, concerned cabinet member
who is so busy serving his millions of disadvantaged, dis-
abled, and distressed constituents that he has no time for
lunch but eats at his desk, sparingly: a tuna-fish sandwich.
There soon were other stories about how the Smoke al-
ways traveled coach, but those brought whiynies and
snorts of disbelief from the Smoke's enemies, who seem to
cluster on the White House staff. They elicited from the
august secretary the explanation that, " I think I travel
NICHOLAS VOM HOFFMAN is a contributing editor of INQUIRY.
His latest book, Make-Believe Presidents: Illusions of Power from
McKinley to Carter, was Published lastyear by Pantheon.
more frequently in tourist than anyone else in the cabinet.
I'm not going to name cabinet officers, but I've gotten on
planes on more than one occasion where they've been sit-
ting in first class and I'm in tourist."
Perhaps one of the reasons he isn't going to name any
cabinet officers is because he can't. President Carter's
cabinet is a bunch of same-faced people named Brown.
Only Smokey the Secretary stands out in that circle of
muffled mumblers, only he knows how to attract attention,
to get on the front page and stay on it. Thus the anti-
cigarette struggle is begun. The details vary: I t was at
Christmas or it was at Easter that a Califano child begged
Papa to give up his three or five packs a day; and what
with tennis and jogging and Perrier and physical fitness
just beginning to trickle down from Georgetown to the less
healthy masses, Joe joined the I-Quit generation, grew
a pair of pink lungs, and took off after cigarette smoking.
For an HEW secretary to have gone after the cigarette
industry fifteen years ago would have been a mildly cour-
ageous use of the pulpit of high office to warn the nation
of a serious public health problem; to do so now, when
SmokEnders and Schick are making money by putting
anticigarette ads on television, is mock heroics, the safe
sort of controversy that can make you National Easter Seal
chairman. But a man committed to stamping out lung
cancer in our time must be up to something.
Mostly what Joe is up to is moving his self-confident,
energetic little self ahead in the world of money, power, and
celebrity. There are different versions of this remarkable
J U L r 9 6 2 3 , 1 9 7 9
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