No, today’s not an individual profile day…at least not necessarily. I am revisiting an old curiosity that I have found useful and maybe you will too if you give it a look.
Pierre Andre Rinfret (1924-2006) is not a particularly known figure in politics as he was primarily an economist, although he ran for elective office once. He was an economic forecaster for Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter and ran for Governor of New York as a Republican in 1990 in a disastrous run that included sabotage from supposed friends as well as some unforced errors on his part. Rinfret offers a rather unique take on history, especially given that he talks about a lot of the people he knew in high places, and a lot of his accounts don’t paint a pretty picture of them. He can best be described as “center right” in his views, with some emphasis on “center” as although he is pro-market he has a very negative view of the workings of Wall Street and credit. Rinfret is not out to please anyone in particular, but he tells it as he sees it and he did this throughout his career. This is perhaps why he was a successful economist but a failed politician.
He writes with his greatest disdain about communists and socialists and their friends in the journalistic profession but also has a lot of ammo he uses on figures of the right, including some rather famous names in conservative and libertarian circles. Some of his favorite individual targets are his fellow economists, including Alan Greenspan and Milton Friedman. The former for him is a mediocre economist who as chairman of the Fed was in way over his head, and the latter is a phony who has simple answers for everything and makes stuff up to justify his arguments. Arthur Burns he thought of as one of the best business cycle analysts but also a bit of an asshole once he had some political pull. Also curious are some of the people he views favorably which would not be among people’s top guesses, including President Richard Nixon and Vice President Dan Quayle. Some of what Rinfret writes is rather prescient and some of it is very much with us today, especially what he wrote about China and his views on the media strike me as more true than when he was alive. Even back in the 1990s, he was writing about how bad and radical the New York Times was and his views of journalists are by and large negative, which is understandable given the constant bad press he received in his 1990 run.
For how hard millennials say they have it, Rinfret grew up during the Great Depression, and by his account his family never asked for any assistance even though there was assistance available. Are millennials having to grab free ketchup packets in restaurants and pour them into water for free tomato juice? Well that’s what Rinfret did just to get some more food. Then he had to fight in World War II, where he saw everything you could see from mankind. His recollections of powerful individuals are fascinating…few are very positive and many are negative. Rinfret provides the following disclaimer with his accounts:
“These are the backgrounds of prominent people I have known. The backgrounds may be incomplete or they may be wrong. I am working from memory and the backgrounds I give you are from my personal (not book) knowledge. This is their backgrounds as I knew them. I have not checked out the details and the backgrounds are incomplete but they do jell with my knowledge of them and my experiences with them.”
Bill Archer – Republican Congressman from Texas, 1971-2001, Chairman of Ways and Means Committee
A personal friend who he finds to be a man a tremendous integrity, expert on the tax code. States that he never sought power and never asked him for campaign contributions.
Dan Quayle – Vice President, 1989-93.
Rinfret considered him a good man without a mean streak and that the left was out to get him like they were Richard Nixon.
Martin Anderson – Economist for the Reagan Administration
Probably the only economist he praises all around.
John B. Connally – Texas Governor, Secretary of the Treasury, presidential candidate.
In Rinfret’s opinion, Connally was the most ideal candidate for president in 1980.
Orrin Hatch – Republican Senator from Utah, 1977-2019.
A good personal friend of his, he didn’t write a whole account on him.
Hubert Humphrey – Democratic Vice President and Senator
A genuinely good man who although a radical, Rinfret always enjoyed his encounters and debates with him.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan – Democratic Senator, New York, 1977-2001.
A man of honesty and integrity.
Eugene Tighe – General
Finds him a man of honesty and integrity.
Richard Nixon – President, 1969-74.
Considered him a maligned figure who was actually a decent president. Rinfret had been an early supporter of him and Nixon appreciated his honesty and forthrightness.
Ronald Reagan – President, 1981-89.
Although Rinfret had an argument with him about tax cuts and deficits, he came to appreciate his presidency for Reaganomics’ secret and true goal: the end of the USSR. Rinfret credits Reagan for being the only president to actually take the offensive on them rather than playing strictly defense. Even the Vietnam War was a defensive conflict as it was trying to hold off the spread of communism to South Vietnam.
Henry Kissinger – Secretary of State
Rinfret thought of him as a good and brilliant man. Appreciated that he went to bat for him when he ran for governor of New York.
Pat Buchanan – Speechwriter for Richard Nixon, presidential candidate.
Found him to be “emotional and subjective” who just believes in positions rather than gives evidence for them.
Chuck Colson – Communications Director for Nixon
Rinfret found him to be 100% ruthless…would do anything to win. Found him personally decent in spite of this, so perhaps only slightly negative.
Jimmy Carter – President, 1977-81.
Recounts a story of how he was sabotaged by someone on his own staff, who made him think the press was harder on him than it was. From other writings, Rinfret views his presidency as weak.
George Shultz – Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State
Rinfret found him vicious, mean-spirited, pompous, and a political hack.
Martin Luther King Jr. – Civil rights leader.
Rinfret’s one encounter with him was overhearing him strategizing with his associates on how to bring the most attention to himself.
Otto Eckstein – Economist
Headed Data Resources, Inc. which attempted to predict a recession through computer models but never did.
Gerald Ford – President, 1974-77.
Rinfret thought him a wimp and didn’t think too highly of him on intelligence to say the least.
Lee Iacocca – President of Ford Motor Company
Iacocca was foulmouthed and a scummy, lying businessman according to Rinfret.
George Bush – President, 1989-93.
Gave Rinfret a lukewarm endorsement for governor, and lukewarm endorsements are worse than not endorsing at all. Thought of him as a “wimp” as was the common accusation at the time as he wouldn’t admit the Cold War was over, as Reagan did in 1989. Thought him ruled by his personal animosities.
Arthur Burns – Chairman of the Federal Reserve
Arrogant, often rude, looked down on any economist not in academia. Was the best business cycle analyst.
Herbert Stein – Economist
Rinfret finds Stein, father of Ben Stein, to be petty and mean, also lied about not being aware of Rinfret’s contributions to Nixon’s economic team.
Maurice Stans – Finance Director for Nixon Campaign
Rinfret relates a story in which a group of businessmen deliver checks for $100,000 in contributions with the expectation they would be appointed ambassador, with Stans telling them he could make no promises except that they would have a friend in the White House. Stans confided to Rinfret that none of them had a chance at an ambassadorship after they left.
Alexander Haig – Commander in Chief of NATO, Secretary of State under Reagan.
Not a strong man, get along, go along, never took a strong stance on anything. Always ducked out whenever there was trouble.
Paul McCracken – Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors.
Terrible bore, only worse speaker according to him was Alan Greenspan, a go along get along type. Nixon said “MEDGO” about Paul McCracken whenever he spoke, meaning “My Eyes Doth Glaze Over”. Also mean spirited and vicious as he lied that he was unaware of any of Rinfret’s contributions to Nixon’s economic team.
Alice Rivlin – Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve
Ripped into Rinfret at a debate, and when he returned the favor she burst into tears.
Allen Dulles – CIA Director.
Consistently overestimated the strength of the Soviet Union and did so deliberately to get more money for the CIA.
Herbert London – Conservative candidate for Governor of New York.
Vindictive and destructive, helped destroy his bid for governor. His downfall was when he lost the state Comptroller race in 1994.
Alan Greenspan – Chairman of the Federal Reserve
Rinfret denounces him on no uncertain terms, found him to be a political hack, unimaginative, boring, and a mediocre economist. Blames him for the stock market crash in 1987 on his high increases in the interest rate.
Roy Goodman – New York State Senator
Recruited Rinfret to run for governor and sabotaged him when it became clear that Rinfret would not defer to his authority. When asked by the press where he got Rinfret’s name, he responded, “I found it on my Rolodex”. Rinfret and Goodman had known each other and spoken with each other for ten years, with the former contributing to his campaigns!
Jack Kemp – Congressman, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Very negative opinion of him given Kemp was a loud critic of his campaign and blasted him at every opportunity. Thought very little of Kemp’s intellect as well.
Lyndon Baines Johnson – President, 1963-69.
Rinfret found Johnson to be a repulsive human being who was lied to by his staff about the Vietnam War because he wouldn’t accept the truth when told to him. As he writes about him, “Most of the advisors around President Johnson told him what he wanted to hear and he could not stand the truth anyway. He would not, refused, to listen to anyone who pleaded the case for getting out of Vietnam.
I sat in on occasion with some of the advisors and I was always amazed to discover that he was lied to and mislead by his advisors. If you told him that we could not win the war without a total dedication to war (as we did) he would call you names!
Too bad because he did a great many wonderful things including the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
A pitiful man who meant well but forgot that he was not God and that democracy does not support those who go full tilt against the wishes of the American people.”
John F. Kennedy
Rinfret worked in the Kennedy Administration and he found that a book exposing the Kennedy Administration rang true for him. Among them were that Kennedy’s brother, RFK, basically ran the administration and was appointed to prevent investigations into how Kennedy won the election.
H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman – Nixon’s Aides
Nixon’s hatchet men, Rinfret remembers them as vile and incredibly arrogant despite their general lack of knowledge. Viewed them as ultra-conservative. They were mad that they were unable to control Rinfret’s access to President Nixon.
John Dean – Attorney in Nixon Administration, whistleblower.
Gave Rinfret the creeps…had an instinctively bad reaction to him to the point he couldn’t shake his hand.
Mario Cuomo – Democratic Governor of New York
The man Rinfret attempted to defeat in the 1990 gubernatorial race. Regarded him as nothing more than a political hack.
Milton Friedman – Economist
Rinfret thinks of Friedman as a phony who lies in debates to make his arguments. He recounts a story in which Friedman did well in a debate against him because he cited some facts that Rinfret was unfamiliar with, and upon investigation he found that Friedman had pulled them out of thin air. In a subsequent debate he mopped the floor with him as he had the facts.
Robert Vesco – Criminal financier
By Rinfret’s account, he threatened the board he served on, Investors Overseas Service, Ltd. with criminal indictments as part of his plot to take over the company.
You will also find some astonishing and fascinating insights on Rinfret’s page, including:
“All Presidential campaigns are nothing but a mountain of lies and more lies. The Americans always elect the most efficient and proficient liar.”
“Each and every Presidential hopeful that did get elected in my 80 years played the exact same game and strategy; postulate fear and get elected as the savior incarnate!”
“No Presidential staff gets enough sleep, enough rest, enough time off, enough exercise, enough perspective, enough objective discussion, enough vacation, enough freedom, enough sleep or enough proper food.
Incest is a major problem. After awhile they almost only talk to themselves and they become completely out of touch with the country and its changing moods.
Key players in power for too long run out of new ideas. Their thinking and their willingness to think becomes stale, stagnant and stereotyped.
Old problems get old solutions and the more the old solutions are rejected the more heels are dug in. Fatigue, extreme fatigue, is the Achilles heel of every administration.”
On How George Romney Rendered Himself Unelectable:
Rinfret on Liars:
“The most difficult to understand is the perpetual liar. One of my brothers, who was as brilliant as they come and was a genius according to the IQ tests, was a perpetual liar. I used to tell him that all the time. He lied about unimportant things just as much as he lied about important things. You could not believe anything at all of what he said. If he said that he called you x times in a day (after you had not talked to him in months) you knew he never made a single call at all. He lied about everything and nothing he ever said was credible unless you had been a direct witness to what he was talking about. He lied about the littlest details and the huge ones as well. He lied about everything and nothing at all was ever believable. I got to the point in life where talking to him was, for me, an adventure because it got to be fun to figure out the next set of lies and stories he would make up!”
“The most dangerous liar (they are, of course, all dangerous) is the one that lies only about major or important facts. This is the kind of person that lies about his education, his studies, his degrees, his background, his family, his prior jobs, his war (or military) experiences, facts of all kinds, if he is in an argument and whatever suits him at the moment.”
“The political liar is legend. Political liars do not care one iota, one bit, one scintilla about the truth or the actual facts. They argue strictly on the basis of their emotions and their concept of what is “right” and what is “justice.” We have all met them. They are the worst kind and it is hopeless to argue or debate them because they “know” and they lie and make up facts to suit whatever argument. The worst are of course, the media who lie and cheat to the ultimate and they have zero conscience and less responsibility. All they care about is winning no matter how they win. It is NOT how the game is played which to them is idealistic nonsense. All they care about is WINNING, no matter how, including lying and cheating to the extreme. Lying and cheating are pretty much the same thing, aren’t they?”
“The social engineering liar is among the most dangerous because they want to change the social order according to their vision of what it should be. Most of these social engineers I have met over 5 decades know zilch about the way our country operates, know zilch about American industry, know zilch when it comes to American history and what made this country but boy, oh boy, do they know what they want to change! Even if they have to lie, to cheat they are going to get their way, one way or another!
They lie about anything and everything and the worst of all is that they are self righteous about their lying. When they can’t win a social argument with facts they resort to emotionalism (another form of lying). And when the emotionalism doesn’t work they lie to high heaven in whatever mode suits them; just as long as they win their argument!”
The most incredible of all is the Community Lie. This is where a mass of people agree silently and without any overt or noticeable agreement that they are going to lie en masse! This also comes under the title of “lying to oneself”.
We have all experienced community lies. The Germans community lies were and are too numerous to catalog but the best known is that no one but no one knew anything about the death camps!
When I was a student in France in 1949 to 1951 there was one community lie that I found hard to believe. Now you have to understand that I did combat in France and spoke to and observed the French during that combat experience and later from 1944 to 1945. The great community lie then and now in France is that only a few collaborated with the Germans! Baloney, the whole country collaborated with the Germans and they had no other choice. I am not sure that I would have done any different but they did collaborate! But the entire country denies, to this day, total collaboration.
On Communists and Their Intellectual Collaborators:
“These naive suckers in the United States turned against their very own country, sold it down the river to a dictatorship of the most horrible kind on the basis a bunch of words about which they had no verification and no knowledge.
Why? Who knows: lack of faith in America, no respect for democracy, outrage, visions of power, personal recognition and gain, superiority complex, stupidity, naiveté, anger, revenge, ignorance, day dreams, nightmares, delusions, insanity, sacrifice, etc. We will never know why or how they turned against their own country but they did! They would have sold us out to the Soviet Union and did indeed try to sell us out. May they burn in hell”.
“This country has enormous flaws. Every country in this mad world has more flaws than we do and I do mean every country in the world and there are no exceptions. We have had horrible days and horrible years. We have suffered and will always suffer. Mankind is mad and anybody who thinks that it is possible to create a Utopia with human beings involved knows nothing about the history of mankind.
Utopia is the delusion of madmen and the instrument of dictators. The last Utopia was in the bible as the Garden of Eden. It doesn’t exist in this world and will not exist in my lifetime. All we can ever do is to hope we improve the conditions under which we live.”
Author’s note: Amen!
His views of people in the media:
“The most important problem the United States faces is the dishonest, malevolent media.” – Expressed on January 4, 2006.
“Smart-assed know it all but as brilliant as they come. Extreme right winger. Simplistic solutions for complex problems. Pro-business and anti-government. Always nice and polite to me.” – On William F. Buckley Jr.
“As dumb as they come. Narcissistic. Egomaniac. Flaming radical and left winger. Managed to hide it for years but always favored left-wing radicalism. Retired wealthy to sailing his enormous yacht.” – On Walter Cronkite.
“A nasty secret life. Extreme right winger. Pro-business and Wall street. Dishonest and liar. Underhanded and deceptive, not to be trusted or believed. Intentionally misled and deceived me when I ran for governor.” – On Larry Kudlow.
“Radical left wing supporter, was an aide to Lyndon Baines Johnson. Always biased, anti-free enterprise, always pro-government control and domination. Always complaining about the inadequacies of the American system and country. Never but never willing to listen to anything pro the United States. Seeks to bring down the current political system of the United States. Always interviews his own kind.” – On Bill Moyers.
“Quite rude and arrogant. Generally impolite. Doing you a favor to let you on his wonderful show (ask him). Another know it all.” – On Larry King.
“The media at all levels and of all kinds has been usurped by those who basically detest this society and who want to change it materially. They carry the flag and the banner of revolution.
They lie to us, they mislead us, they exaggerate the flaws and they take us for gullible fools. They manipulate the news so that they can manipulate us.”
“It is never but never BLATANTLY said but the implication is clear:
- “THE SYSTEM DOESN’T WORK. THE SYSTEM IS FAILING. THE TIME HAS COME TO CHANGE THE SYSTEM.”
- THESE MEDIA ARE REVOLUTIONARIES OUT TO DISMANTLE THE AMERICAN POLITICAL SYSTEM.
MOST AMERICAN MEDIA ARE EVIL PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY ARE REVOLUTIONARIES WHO WOULD EXCHANGE OUR FREEDOM FOR A MESS OF POTAGE.”
“The free enterprise system had totally and completely failed. One of the reasons it failed was that major corporations and wall street were lying through their teeth about the performance of the private sector. Then, as now, major wall street firms were reporting fake earnings, were taking kick backs and were screwing investors for their own gain.” – On the Great Depression.
He doesn’t spare the Republican Party on the Great Depression:
“My memory of the political maneuvering of the two parties (Democrats and Republicans) is very simple: The Democrats were trying to solve the problems of America and the Republicans didn’t want to do a damn thing!
The attitude of the Republicans (both the Congress and the Party) and the businesses which survived the debacle of 1929 were identical. They didn’t say this but you could sure sense it! Their attitude towards you was written on their face and carried as a banner on their sleeves.
“IF YOU ARE UNEMPLOYED YOU ARE EITHER LAZY OR INCOMPETENT.”
If you were unemployed you were held in contempt! The attitude was almost
“YOU DESERVE IT.”
The Republican party and the Republican congressmen were against every effort to correct the deficiencies of the economy, efforts to stop the blood flow and against any effort to alleviate the economic pain and suffering.
Views on China: Prophetic
Rinfret published this on April 4, 2006, less than three months before his death:
“China is a military and economic threat.
At the moment the deficit with China on trade is about $225 billion.
The market price of their currency is manipulated by them and is artificially low.
Ultimately China may go to war against us.
There are two Chinese reasons for taking on the United States; their claim for Taiwan, their manpower.
Short of atomic weapons they could defeat us.
We, in our innate stupidity, are providing them with the money they will use to defeat us.
As Stalin said “When we hang the capitalists they will sell us the rope we use“.”
On Hillary Clinton (January 29, 2006):
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON IS NOT GOING TO BE THE CANDIDATE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN 2008.
SHE DOESN’T HAVE A CHANCE.
What he wrote on April 2, 2006:
The Federal deficit is just as horrible except we can afford it (now).
France continues to have riots. Germany has lost all leadership. The Brits are beginning to have both political and economic problems. The Japanese have made progress out of their recession-prone economy.
The Chinese are screwing the entire world.
George Bush was stupid when he joined the WTO.
That proves the idiots are in power (what else is new?).
Equity markets have entered the self-destruct arena.
We are now at our economic ceiling which is why the Fed keeps on raising interest rates (they are going higher).
The currency trading platforms on the Internet are rip offs! Much more later on!
About a year ago I wrote an article that there was no housing bubble and housing was not about to burst.
It is now a year later and the speculation has intensified. Housing has not burst but it sure is worrisome
I am therefore changing my position. The housing situation is dangerous. If you are in the housing game one way or another I suggest that you read the following. This is a super source for the housing situation; a zillion references and sites.
The world is sick, sick, and the worst is yet to come.”
I think everyone can say that not everyone agrees with him but at least everyone agrees with him on a few things. I’m sure, for instance, that left-wingers will love his takedowns of Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan and other figures of the right. I’m also sure that right-wingers will love his perspectives on communism and socialism. Rinfret liked neither party but had a preference for the GOP as he thought the Democrats had become the radical party by the time of his death…he sure thought so of Senators Kennedy and Kerry! I admit I don’t feel great about his depiction of the GOP in the 1930s as I would consider myself very anti-New Deal, and I think there may be things he misses out on there, but perhaps he is correct in that the GOP (at least the conservatives among them) had no other answers but to say no to what FDR proposed. After all, he had to live through the Great Depression and I didn’t, which, no, we haven’t experienced the equivalent of in our lifetimes despite the Great Recession and COVID now.