Came by for lunch. "How will you deal with the...

BILL BROCK

February 17, 1994|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

BILL BROCK came by for lunch. "How will you deal with the carpetbagger issue?" the former Tennessee member of Congress was asked.

He shrugged and said that he could only point out that he has resided in Maryland on and off since 1966, is married to a Baltimorean -- and even went to Navy boot camp at Bainbridge.

Brock is more your reverse carpetbagger. Northerners who went South after the the Civil War to seek their fortunes with nothing but what they could carry in a carpetbag gave the word its meaning. Many were unscrupulous, and the term became one of opprobrium.

Eventually it came to mean just a politician who comes to a new state to seek political fortune. Since Brock waited nearly 30 years to do that here, he is not, technically speaking, even a reverse carpetbagger.

Lots of people end up in states not of their birth or rearing and enter politics. In fact, 34 members of the present Senate were born in a state other than the one they represent. One is a classic carpetbagger. John D. Rockefeller IV forsook his New York roots just to seek political fortune in West Virginia.

Alan Otten of the Wall Street Journal once described what may have been the campaign in which the carpetbagger issue was buried. Young Rockefeller, a Democrat, ran for secretary of state in West Virginia in 1968. Opponents called him a carpetbagger. He responded by telling crowds this story:

He had called his uncle Nelson, the Republican governor of New York, to tell him Sen. Robert Kennedy of New York was to campaign for him. "There was a long pause at my uncle's end of the line. Finally he said, 'Well, you know he is a carpetbagger.' "And then there was a long pause at my end of the line."

Crowds laughed. He won.

Discussing other liabilities, Brock said some of his old votes could come back to haunt him. He's a Rockefeller Republican, tTC but he started out as a Goldwater Republican. Well, time marches on. Barry Goldwater is a Rockefeller Republican today, and Nelson Rockefeller is dead.

Brock served in the House 1963-1971 and in the Senate 1971-1977. Like many politicians, his fate has been greatly affected by others. Ted Agnew's blistering attacks on Sen. Albert Gore I helped get him elected to the Senate in 1970. Jimmy Carter's coattails helped do him in in 1976.

Out of office thereafter, as party chairman, U.S. trade representative and secretary of labor, Brock moved left. Here's a bit of trivia, reverse carpetbaggerwise. Brock was selected Ronald Reagan's labor secretary from a very short list that included Federal Trade Commission Chairman James C. Miller III. Miller came up from Georgia and settled in Virginia and is now running for the Senate seat there.

Here's an ironic twist on carpetbaggism. Brock turned down an appeal to run for the Senate again in Tennessee -- on the grounds that he had been in Maryland too long.

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