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COMMENTS on the bust of Spiro Agnew,...


COMMENTS on the bust of Spiro Agnew, from Albert Eisele of the Capitol Hill newspaper, The Hill:

"That was a fine likeness of Spiro Agnew they unveiled in the Capitol the other day. It would have been even better if they'd carved some dollar signs into the thing. After all, the white marble sculpture of the disgraced former vice president cost the taxpayers some $50,000, about half as much as was alleged to be in those cash-stuffed paper bags he accepted while serving as Baltimore County executive, governor of Maryland and vice president . . .

"It was quite a scene. Some 300 friends and die-hard supporters were on hand to honor the 76-year-old former veep. They included such luminaries as Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee that gave the go-ahead for the Agnew bust, as well as Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon and Sen. Pat Moynihan of New York.

"It should be noted that all vice presidents, even those who have dishonored the office as Agnew did, are entitled to a bust in the Capitol, thanks to an 1896 resolution. But even Agnew conceded that the ceremony had 'less to do with Spiro Agnew than with the office I had conferred on me.' The defensive tone of the event was captured by veteran GOP lobbyist Tom Korologos, an Agnew loyalist and now a strategist for Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign. " 'Aaron Burr's in there,' Korologos observed. 'Why not Vice President Agnew?'

"Well, why not? There's a nice symmetry there. After all, Burr lost his Senate seat because of claims of financial impropriety, and his political scheming caused Thomas Jefferson to dump him as vice president, something Richard Nixon should have done in 1972.

"Agnew's resurrection prompted me to dig through my old files . . . where I located my notes from an interview with Agnew just after he delivered his first speech as the Republican vice presidential nominee in July 1968. . . .

"The heart of the speech, my notes show, foretold Agnew's confrontational and divisive style: 'We need to return to our principles, to unashamed patriotism,' he declared. And, 'Much of the poverty and hunger in this country is exaggerated.' And, 'I'm tired of apologizing for the prosperity and power of the U.S.'

"Afterward, he invited . . . reporters for a drink in his suite. I remember being favorably impressed by the still little-known man we met. He was articulate, forceful and, despite his genuine surprise at being picked as Nixon's running mate, supremely confident. But I remember especially a comment he made about the importance of a politician's credibility, which I recorded in my notes. . .

" 'One of my biggest assets is that I try to be credible,' said the man who would bring shame and disgrace to himself and the vice presidency five years later. 'I want to be believed. It's the most priceless quality a politician can have.' "

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