Nearby, Spiro T. Agnew says none of the...


July 13, 1991|By THEO LIPPMAN, JR.

IN A LETTER nearby, Spiro T. Agnew says none of the charges against him except tax evasion was ever proved and that people don't seem to care if there is a bust of him in the Senate or not, nor a portrait in the State House.

As to the first point, I imagine one of the prosecutors who handled his case and is still around -- George Beall, Tim Baker -- will respond in more detail and with greater authority than I could, so I'll skip it.

As to the other points, I'd like to say I care. I hope the Senate architect, whose responsibility it is, will promptly commission a sculptor to do an Agnew bust for the Senate. Reuben Kramer, whose subjects include Gerald Johnson and Thurgood Marshall, would be ideal, if he's not too liberal to accept the commission.

I'm for an Agnew bust simply because it is un-American to pretend scoundrels and other embarrassments never existed. There's an air of the Soviet Union, or "1984", to this sort of history of omission, to "memory holes." (For the record, I put Agnew in the "embarrassments" category, not the "scoundrel.")

Agnew was vice president, and his bust ought to be accorded the same respect that all other vice presidents' busts get. The latter is true without regard to the kind of vice president he was. There is no such thing as a good vice president or a bad vice president, anyway.

As for the gubernatorial portrait, I think it ought to be dusted off and hung up somewhere in the State House. Same reason. And, let's face it, he was not that bad a governor. Who did more harm to the people of Maryland, Ted Agnew or the gentleman who consigned the Agnew portrait to the dust bin of history? Clue: Does the phrase "savings and loan" ring a bell?

I recently received a letter from Cynthia Rosenwald. She wrote speeches for Agnew. If you have a long memory, you will recall that Agnew's speech writers were always described in the national press as being headed by "a Baltimore County housewife." That was her.

"Agnew is not a bust," she began in her reaction to the Senate flap, muscling in on my awful puns turf. She went on to argue that Agnew, as guv, got the state's regressive income tax replaced with a relatively progressive one, fought to get the counties to aid the city, was pro civil rights, pushed the state toward constitutional reform and set up a cabinet system in the executive branch.

She also says the infamous bribes or kickbacks for state contracts that Agnew never admitted taking, only not paying taxes on, may have been illegal but they also brought in a better class of engineers and architects, who had been locked out of the state spoils system before Agnew.

Rosenwald believes in relative sin. She notes that there is a statue of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, of Dred Scott notoriety, on the State House lawn. She asserts, obviously correctly, that "finding human beings have no more legal rights than cattle is a lot worse than accepting cash and an occasional turkey."

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