[Congressional Record Volume 141, Number 40 (Friday, March 3, 1995)]
[Pages S3477-S3480]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


 Mr. SIMON. Mr. President, it has been only 2 months since the 
retirement of our former colleague, Senator 
[[Page S3478]] Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio, but already it is clearly 
apparent that his unique role remains unfilled in this body.
  None of the phrases coined to describe Howard Metzenbaum--``The 
People's Watchdog,'' The Tiger From Ohio--quite does justice to the 
real service he performed for the public and for the Republic in his 
duties here.
  Someone of his stature, courage, and sheer persistence comes to the 
fore all too infrequently in public life today.
  I commend to my colleagues, and to all others who care about this 
institution, an article written in the closing days of Howard 
Metzenbaum's Senate service that adds some historic perspective to his 
distinguished career. I ask that the article be printed in the Record.
  The article follows:

            [From the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dec. 4, 1994]

                              Howard's End

                            (By Thom Diemer)

       Metzenbaum was true to form through his last days in the 
     Senate. His leaving was like a fingernail scratching a 
       He always had a chip on his shoulder.
       His pursed-lipped scowl could intimidate a trash-talking 
     bureaucrat or unnerve an imperious Republican. He knew he had 
     the edge, he confided to aides, once his adversary got angry.
       Howard Metzenbaum was true to form through his last days in 
     the United States Senate. He went out with neither a bang nor 
     a whimper. His leaving was more like a fingernail scratching 
     a chalkboard.
       Some of his colleagues squirmed as Metzenbaum battled for 
     one last lost cause. But most shrugged or grinned, saying in 
     so many words, ``That's Howard.''
       In a special lame-duck Senate session on Thursday, 
     Metzenbaum railed against the General Agreement on Tariffs 
     and Trade, saying it was weighted down with ``deals for big 
     business'' and would ``shortchange American workers.'' He was 
     one of only 13 Democrats voting against the trade pact.
       His determination, fearlessness and unrelenting 
     partisanship brought him acclaim and notoriety during 19 
     remarkable years as Ohio's junior senator.
       ``I think people know I vote in accordance with the 
     dictates of my conscience, not with the political winds,'' he 
     said in an interview last month. ``There are people who hate 
     me with a passion, but when I do meet them, I laugh and kid 
     them, and I tell them I absolutely defend their right to be 
       His character was shaped by a work ethic cultivated during 
     the Depression, a commitment to government activism 
     personified by the New Deal, close ties with the American 
     labor movement and an ethical grounding in Reform Judaism.
       ``I always worked,'' he said.
       A lean upbringing in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood 
     fueled his resentment for a system that he saw as stacked 
     against the little guy. Brushes with anti-Semitism opened his 
     heart to the plights of other minorities and persecuted 
                        popularity defied logic

       Metzenbaum's national stature grew as he gained power and 
     influence in the Senate, yet there was no mellowing. He could 
     be vitriolic, blustery and reckless even with retirement 
     looming at the age of 77.
       He never shed his partisan image.
       Political analysts puzzled for decades over the secret to 
     his electoral success: How did an acerbic, left-wing 
     ideologue, out of step philosophically with many of his 
     constituents in a Republican-leaning state, become one of the 
     most dominant public figures in Ohio history?
       ``There is no question that in my political career I have 
     taken strong stands. No question some people were very 
     unhappy with those stands,'' he said at his last Senate news 
     conference. ``But fortunately, enough people decided they 
     were positions of conscience or conviction and they respected 
     me for it. Therefore, a number of them voted for me and I was 
     able to remain in office.''
       He was a curmudgeon, the last angry liberal.
       In 1988, his final campaign, he vanquished Cleveland Mayor 
     George V. Voinovich by 588,000 votes. Results strongly 
     suggested more than 1 million Ohioans split their tickets, 
     voting for both Metzenbaum and Republican President George 
       ``He has been able to convert his liberalism into a 
     populism that not only benefits people on the bottom rungs of 
     the ladder, but also the middle class,'' Ohio State 
     University political scientist Herb Asher once said. ``That's 
     why he has been so successful in Ohio: Howard Metzenbaum is a 
     fighter, and a fighter for us--the middle class.''
       Ohio Senate President Stanley J. Aronoff, who helped the 
     late Robert Taft Jr. of Cincinnati defeat Metzenbaum in 
     Metzenbaum's first Senate bid 24 years ago, said ``voters 
     have a propensity to like him or dislike him--very little in-
       ``The interesting thing with Metzenbaum is that, as time 
     went on, he was able to become comfortable even in 
     conservative Cincinnati,'' Aronoff added. ``In some respects, 
     even though his philosophy would be leftish, he came to be 
     regarded as conservative.''

                         consistency applauded

       John C. Green, director of the University of Akron's 
     Raymond C. Bliss Institute for Applied Politics, explained it 
     this way: Metzenbaum, he said, had a ``tremendous knack for 
     being right about issues people care about''--job security, 
     pensions, workplace safety, cable television rates and a raft 
     of consumer issues.
       Conversely, his battles on Capitol Hill against the Central 
     Intelligence Agency, multi-national corporations--or in favor 
     of gays in the military--were of little consequence to 
     average, working Ohioans.
       ``Talking to people we hear over and over again, `I don't 
     like Metzenbaum, I don't agree with him, but I always know 
     where he stands and I admire him for that,' Green said. 
     ``Although he was perhaps more liberal on many issues than 
     Ohioans were, Sen. Metzenbaum has been remarkably 
       A Republican critic, media consultant Roger J. Stone, was 
     less generous.
       ``Two words,'' he said when asked to explain Metzenbaum's 
     electoral success, ``luck and money.''
       Metzenbaum's fund-raising prowess was unmatched by any 
     other Ohio politician. He raised a record $8 million to 
     battle Voinovich, taking from union members, Hollywood stars, 
     the arts community and liberal-oriented interest groups. He 
     was never shy about asking.

                          mentor and tormentor

       For years, Metzenbaum was said to be hated by Republicans, 
     unloved by his staff and disrespected by reporters, many of 
     whom saw him as a shameless publicity-monger. There was some 
     truth to all those observations, but Washington loves 
     success. Metzenbaum converted many of his critics because he 
     was effective at what he did.
       Joel Johnson, his administrative assistant for most of his 
     last term, said he had been both a ``mentor and a tormentor'' 
     to his staff.
       He was fiendish about punctuality, demanded that work be 
     nearly perfect, and read the riot act in unsparing, colorful 
     language when an aide let him down.
       ``We were all pretty tough,'' said Barry Direnfeld, a 
     Cleveland native who started as a mailroom clerk for 
     Metzenbaum in 1974 and later became his legislative director. 
     ``It was a hyper place.''
       At a Capitol Hill retirement party for the old tiger during 
     the final week of the Senate session, dozens of former 
     staffers nodded as Johnson's voice cracked as he said how 
     proud he was to work for Metzenbaum, a tough boss who 
     inspired loyalty.
       There were no tears from the Republicans or the reporters. 
     But they came to his party--from crusty Strom Thurmond, the 
     one-time Dixiecrat and only senator older than Metzenbaum, to 
     Doug Lowenstein, the journalist Metzenbaum credits for 
     hanging the nickname ``Headline Howie'' on him. Lowenstein 
     eventually worked as a legislative assistant for Metzenbaum.
       His decision not to seek a fourth term opened the door for 
     a Republican, Mike DeWine, who defeated Metzenbaum's son-in-
     law, Joel Hyatt, in the campaign for the open Senate seat in 
     November. But Metzenbaum battled to the wire, a whirl of 
     activity as the clock ran out on the 103rd Congress.

                           baseball obsession

       He made a pest of himself trying to convince the Senate it 
     should jump into the baseball strike, stripping the owners of 
     their antitrust immunity so the players union could take them 
     to court.
       His contempt for the millionaire owners, passion for anti-
     monopoly laws and instinct for media attention drove him, 
     even while friends like Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa implored him 
     to drop the issue. He seemed oblivious to the fact that the 
     ballplayers he supported were a far cry from the blue collar 
     trade unionists he stood up for as a labor lawyer in the 
     1950s and 1960s.
       On Sept. 30, Metzenbaum ignored his pals' pleas and 
     struggled in vain to get his antitrust amendment attached to 
     another bill, But that wasn't the only item on the agenda. 
     The same day, he fired off a letter to President Clinton, 
     urging him to fire CIA Director James Woolsey for his 
     handling of the Aldrich Ames spy case.
       On Oct. 8, the Senate's last day of regular business, he 
     had ``holds'' on a half-dozen bills and was threatening to 
     block a dozen more. Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat, 
     said his office had forms to keep track of bills that were 
     stalled: ``a box for Republican holds, one for Democrats, and 
     one for Sen. Metzenbaum.''

                           he did it his way

       Howard Morton Metzenbaum was born on Chesterfield Ave. on 
     Cleveland's East Side on June 4, 1917.
       His father, Charles Metzenbaum, was a wholesale jobber who 
     sold bankrupt stocks during the Great Depression. ``They were 
     struggling to eke out an existence,'' he says of his father 
     and mother, Anna. ``They were wonderful parents. I found no 
     fault with them at all.''
       No fault. That's about it. He is devoted to Shirley 
     Metzenbaum, his wife of 48 years, but he doesn't talk much 
     about the family he grew up with. When he does, it is with a 
     certain detachment.
       An older brother, Irwin, once ran unsuccessfully for the 
     Ohio Senate and lives in obscurity in Cleveland. A cousin, 
     Jimmy, served in the Ohio legislature, immediately preceding 
     Metzenbaum, who was elected to the Ohio House in 1942. Years 
     later an uncle, 
     [[Page S3479]] Myron Metzenbaum, developed the ``Metzenbaum 
     scissors,'' a surgical tool common in operating rooms.
       ``I cannot explain why I am the way I am,'' said a man not 
     given to introspection. ``I cannot think of any individual 
     who molded me.''
       No teacher, no mentor, no guru. He did it on his own.
       Metzenbaum hurried through Glenville High School, running 
     track for the Tarblooders and once racing against the great 
     Jesse Owens, then at East Tech, who left him in the dust.
       And he worked.
       In high school, he sold magazines and hauled groceries in a 
     wagon to housewives at 10 cents a delivery.
       He owned a car before he was old enough to drive. An older 
     boy operated an unlicensed livery service for him, ferrying 
     patrons to a race track. The business was short-lived. He 
     woke up one morning, and the car, a 1926 Essex,
      was gone. His dad had sold it to make a mortgage payment on 
     their home.
       Worse still, he and Alva ``Ted'' Bonda, a lifelong friend 
     and business partner, tried to sell class rings at Glenville, 
     but their entire inventory was stolen from a school locker. 
     ``The person we bought them from bothered us for years,'' 
     Bonda said, laughing at the debacle. ``I think that's why 
     Howard became a lawyer.''
       At Ohio State University, he ran a bike rental business and 
     played trombone for 50 cents an hour in a youth orchestra. 
     During law school, he began drafting legislation for state 
       He scalped tickets and sold mums outside Buckeye football 
     games and hit the road from time to time with a carload of 
     consumer items. Driving through towns like Findley and 
     Fremont, Metzenbaum and partners sold shopkeepers razor 
     blades, toiletries, pencils, and--yes, the old rumor is 
       ``The police would hassle you, because condoms at that 
     point were sort of something dirty or smutty,'' he recalled.

                          leftward tilt begins

       War broke out in Europe. Metzenbaum, despite his allegiance 
     to Franklin D. Roosevelt, initially questioned U.S. 
     involvement. He was embarking on a dangerous flirtation with 
     the far left--associations that would haunt him throughout 
     his career.
       Metzenbaum said he conducted himself in a way that no one 
     ever thought or suggested he was a communist--``Well, I won't 
     say nobody.''
       Some did regard him as a fellow traveler. He had been a 
     member of the National Lawyers Guild and a co-founder of the 
     Ohio School of Social Sciences--organizations regarded as 
     communist fronts by red-hunters of the 1940s and 1950s.
       Metzenbaum was red-baited in the 1970 campaign against 
     Taft, and again in 1987 when an old rival sprang to his 
     defense. A briefing paper urged GOP candidates to use his 
     past connections to brand Metzenbaum a ``communist 
     sympathizer.'' Sen. John Glenn, Ohio Democrat, a bitter foe 
     of Metzenbaum in the Democratic primaries of 1970 and 1974, 
     was among the first to denounce the paper, material prepared 
     by the National Republican Senate Campaign Committee.
       The material was scrapped, but the irony couldn't be 
     missed: Metzenbaum, for all his left-wing leanings, is a 
     capitalist of the first order.
       He started out as a tax consultant when he found the 
     prestigious law firms were not hiring ``nice young Jewish 
     lawyers,'' as he put it in a 1988 Plain Dealer Sunday 
     Magazine article.
       He jumped into politics in 1942, right after law school, 
     serving first in the Ohio House, then in the Ohio Senate 
     where he sponsored a groundbreaking fair-employment act.
       He remained in Columbus until 1950, leaving after he lost a 
     bid to become majority leader. He suspects anti-Semitism was 
     to blame; he can still tick off
      the names of the five state senators who turned against him.

                           business blossoms

       After the war, he and Bonda and a third partner, Sidney 
     Moss, got interested in the rental car business, but soon 
     realized there was more money to be made in airport parking 
     lots. At the time, airports were still on the order of 
     tourist attractions. Most travelers used trains or buses.
       ``There was no organized parking at airports,'' Bonda said, 
     ``it was just free parking.''
       Not for long. APCOA--Airport Parking Co. of America--made 
     them millions of dollars, branching out with well-lighted, 
     guarded lots at dozens of airports. The partners sold APCOA 
     to ITT in 1966 for an estimated $6 million.
       It was the first of many profitable ventures for Metzenbaum 
     and Bonda, including the suburban Sun Newspapers, and part-
     ownership in the Cleveland Indians. Some enterprises used 
     union labor; others kept unions out.
       Metzenbaum married, reared four daughters and kept his 
     finger in politics and the labor movement. He served as 
     counsel to the Ohio AFL-CIO.
       He marched in Selma with Martin Luther King Jr. and Viola 
       In 1958, he managed the campaign of the cantankerous 
     Stephen M. Young to a stunning upset victory over Sen. John 
     Bricker, a diehard Republican conservative. Six years later, 
     he helped Young win again, this time over Robert Taft Jr.

                         going for the big time

       By 1970, Metzenbaum, his fortune made, his family secure, 
     decided to re-enter politics. All he had to do was defeat a 
     national hero--astronaunt John Glenn, who was also seeking 
     the Democratic Senate nomination.
       That race was recalled at his farewell bash in October as a 
     number of old friends wore buttons from that campaign, 
     proclaiming, ``I'm a Metz fan.''
       Little known outside the Cleveland area, he ran a brilliant 
     campaign against the overconfident Glenn. He used television 
     advertising extensively--a pioneering effort by Ohio 
     standards--and emphasized bread-and-butter issues.
       Organized labor closed ranks behind him. The young consumer 
     movement embraced him. He even capitalized on the success of 
     the miracle New York Mets, using the ``Metz fan'' slogan.
       He upset Glenn but lost to Taft in the general election. 
     Four years later when William Saxbe gave up Ohio's other 
     Senate seat to become attorney general, Gov. John J. 
     Gilligan, at the urging of union leaders, named Metzenbaum to 
     the open seat.
       Glenn was furious and immediately challenged Metzenbaum in 
     the bar-knuckled 1974 Senate Democratic primary--the Civil 
     War of Ohio politics.
       It was a low point for Metzenbaum, one of many in his 
     mercurial career.
       When Metzenbaum suggested that ``Col. Glenn,'' a Marine 
     career officer, had never held a real job, Glenn unloaded on 
       ``Go with me and tell a Gold Star mother her son didn't 
     hold a job. Go with me to Arlington National Cemetery. . . 
     .'' He lectured his opponent, who, because of substandard 
     eyesight, had never served in the military.
       Glenn won. Metzenbaum had to wait until 1976, when he 
     finally unseated Taft in what was almost certainly his last 
     chance to win a big one.
       But the feud with Glenn lasted for years. The two men 
     hardly spoke during Metzenbaum's first term. Glenn refused to 
     expressly endorse him for re-election in 1982.
       They reconciled at mid-decade, and worked well together 
     when Democrats recaptured the Senate majority in 1986.
       ``I've been waiting 20 years to say this,'' Glenn said at 
     Metzenbaum's goodbye party, ``come January of 1995, I'll be 
     the only one of us who has a job.''

                          The Metzenbaum style

       Metzenbaum's big mouth and perpetual wheeling and dealing 
     got him in trouble.
       In 1974, 22 Republican senators voted not to seat the 
     freshman Metzenbaum because of his dispute with the Internal 
     Revenue Service over a five-year-old tax liability. The 
     millionaire entrepreneur hadn't paid any federal income taxes 
     in 1969.
       ``That didn't bother me,'' he said. ``I stood there in back 
     and I said, `Incredible. Howard Metzenbaum's the subject of a 
     Senate debate. Isn't that great?'
       Metzenbaum was embarrassed by the revelation in 1983 that 
     he accepted a $250,000 ``finders fee'' for putting together a 
     seller and buyer for the elegant Hay-Adams Hotel, a block 
     from the White House. Insisting all the while he had done 
     nothing wrong, he eventually gave back the fee, with 
       He called his clumsy performance in the Anita Hill-Clarence 
     Thomas hearings in 1991 a ``low point'' in his political 
     career. Charges that one of his staffers had leaked Hill's 
     sexual harassment allegations to the media knocked him off 
       Foreign affairs were not his forte. He once called for the 
     assassination of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafy--and he 
     praised Iraq's Saddam Hussein as a potential peacemaker, 
     before the Persian Gulf war.
       A lifelong opponent of capital punishment, he disappointed 
     many of his closest supporters in 1987 when, with re-election 
     coming up the next year, he backed the death penalty for drug 
     kingpins in federal cases.
       ``In retrospect,'' he said recently, ``I am not positive 
     whether there was some rationalization about that decision or 
       He rarely had doubts about which course to take. He didn't 
     hesitate in opposing a popular constitutional amendment 
     banning desecration of the American flag, for instance.
       But he almost voted for the Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction 
     plan--wrestling free from a panicked aide trying to stop 
     him--and the advocacy of his close friend Sen. Paul Simon 
     sorely tempted him to back a balanced budget law.
       Pernnial roadblock
       Despite a productive third term, Metzenbaum will be most 
     remembered for what he stopped, rather than what he pushed 
     through the legislative maze. He was a master of the 
     filibuster and an upsetter of the pork barrel. He had a 
     Holmesian knack for finding the mischievous language hidden 
     in legislation.
       ``The first major decision that Howard made was a break 
     with a new president and filibuster on decontrol of natural 
     gas prices,'' Direnfeld said, recalling the senator's battle 
     with President Carter in 1977. He said Metzenbaum's attitude 
     was, ``I will do whatever it takes.''
       Metzenbaum lost and later had to admit deregulation didn't 
     cause the price explosion he feared.
       As he said in announcing his retirement last summer, ``I've 
     won my share of battles and fought my share of lost causes.''
       He was so proficient at weeding out waste, extravagance and 
     special interest projects that the Washington Post headlined 
     a 1982 news story: ``Thank God for Metzenbaum!''
       [[Page S3480]] He stopped the free transfer of a federal 
     railroad to Alaska, exposed a timber industry giveaway in the 
     same state and shut down a multi-billion tax break for the 
     oil industry--to name a few battles won.
       It was often said he saved taxpayers billions, yet he 
     frequently appeared on ``big spender'' lists put out by 
     conservative groups targeting lawmakers enamored of social 
     spending and redistribution-of-wealth tax policies.
       He frequently got knocked down. He failed to bar companies 
     from replacing strikers with permanent new hires; had little 
     success in his war against the insurance industry, often fell 
     short in bids to deny antitrust exemptions to various 
     concerns, including baseball.
       ``Howard Metzenbaum seemed to go out of his way to 
     antagonize business,'' said Jack Reimers, immediate past 
     president of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, recalling 
     Metzenbaum's Ohio Senate days. ``He was the opitome of the 
     anti-business politician--he thrived, savored and sought to 
     be viewed that way.''
       He infuriated colleagues too, making lasting enemies who 
     waited for chances to torpedo his bills. ``One man's pork is 
     another man's building project,'' noted one former House 
       Rep. David L. Hobson, a Springfield Republican respected on 
     both sides of the aisle, said the senator from his home state 
     never opened a line of
      communication with him.
       ``We don't have any contract with Metzenbaum--none,'' said 
     Hobson. ``You know what people say to me? `That's Howard.'

                           champion of causes

       When he joined the Senate majority in 1987, Metzenbaum was 
     determined to show he could legislate constructively. He 
     compiled a solid if unspectacular record of accomplishment.
       The Ohioan passed legislation forcing companies to give 
     workers 60 days notice of a plant shutdown, ordering the food 
     industry to put nutrition labels on its products, and making 
     bankrupt companies honor their pension commitments.
       He was a burr under the saddle of the National Rifle 
     Association. He sponsored the Brady handgun waiting-period 
     law and co-sponsored the assault weapons ban. He led the 
     successful fights to ban armor-piercing bullets and guns that 
     cannot be identified by airport metal detectors.
       He wrote the key age discrimination law and was co-sponsor 
     of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. He was one of Israel's best 
     friends on Capitol Hill and a consistent voice for organized 
       Sen. Ernest Hollings, a South Carolina Democrat, angered by 
     Metzenbaum's interruptions during a debate, once referred to 
     him as ``the senator from B'nai B'rith.''
       He championed laws for the smallest of constituencies. He 
     provided incentives for drug manufacturers to develop 
     ``orphan drugs'' for treatment of rare diseases. Typical of 
     Metzenbaum, when he discovered some of the drug firms were 
     reaping big profits, he tried to trim back the incentives.
       He won breakthrough federal funding for Alzheimer's 
     research, watched out for migrant workers, and was always 
     protective of America's children. One of the last bills he 
     got enacted--and one of his proudest achievements--will make 
     it easier for couples to adopt a child from a different race.
       His dedication to the wellbeing of children, his adoration 
     of Shirley, his delight in his grandchildren--that was his 
     softer side.
       ``He is not the same man who came here 19 years ago. He had 
     a chip on his shoulder. He was demanding and impatient and 
     wanted to accomplish a lot,'' said Johnson. ``He changed. He 
     grew and matured.''

                           back to the future

       To this day, he thinks he could have defied the Republican 
     landslide and won re-election this year, had he chosen to run 
     again. But even in semi-retirement, as president of the 
     Consumer Federation of America, he will be in the face of the 
     business interests he fought for years.
       Take one last look at his Senate office in the Russell 
     Building on Capitol Hill. It is a revelation, nothing less 
     than a small gallery of contemporary art.
       Instead of the tiresome grip-and-grin photos with 
     presidents and other luminaries, the works of Red Grooms, 
     Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella--all Metzenbaum 
     intimates--are on display.
       He and Shirley nurtured the artistic communities in 
     Washington and Cleveland.
       His instincts for good art, a good deal, and good politics 
     seldom failed him.
       He was prescient in his maiden Senate speech. On April 10, 
     1974, he scolded his new colleagues for their leisurely 
     pace--for running an ``elephantine government that moves 
     clumsily to set policy by reacting to crisis.''
       ``The people pay a terrible price,'' he said. ``No wonder 
     the people are angry--they have a right to be.''