Skip to main content
Tags: minow | obama | white house | stevenson
CORRESPONDENT

Obama Friend Newton Minow, a 'Good Guy' to Reporters

Obama Friend Newton Minow, a 'Good Guy' to Reporters
(President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Federal Communications Committee Chairman Newt Minow on November 22, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

John Gizzi By Sunday, 07 May 2023 07:18 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Learning of the death Sunday of Chicago “super-lawyer” Newton Minow immediately brought back memories of an assignment in April 2016 in which he was of immeasurable help: to learn whether his friend and onetime law partner Barack Obama would move back to the Windy City when his presidency ended the following year.

To my delight, the secretary to Minow — universally famed for dubbing television a “vast wasteland” while chairman of the Federal Communications Committee — scheduled a prompt interview. I had 10 minutes with the senior counsel at the Sidley Austin firm.

He ended up giving me 25. He was 91 at the time.

"I understand he'll stay in Washington for the foreseeable future," said Minow, a close political operative for the 1952 and ‘56 Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson, "but after that, I sure hope he moves back here. A lot of us Chicagoans want him back."

(A day later, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed to Newsmax that Minow was right, and that beyond Obama's immediate plans to stay in Washington, Earnest told us, "I don’t know that any permanent decisions have been made." When we asked ‘Is Chicago on the list?’ Earnest replied “I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. I think the president’s affection for his hometown is well known.")

But having Minow on the line, I couldn’t resist asking him about Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, for whom he served as law clerk in 1951-52. Was it true that while sitting on the Supreme Court, I asked, Vinson was considering a run for the Democratic nomination for president in 1952.

“Certainly, a lot of people talked about him running — including President Truman, who had not made up his mind about running again,” said Minow, “In fact, I finally went in to see the chief and told him if he would run, I would quit my clerkship to work on his campaign. But I had to know soon because I had an offer to work as counsel to the governor of Illinois, who I thought was going places. The chief said by all means, take the job with the governor, he was not running.”

The governor, Adlai Stevenson, was widely admired by Democrats who sensed in his eloquence, urbanity, and committed liberalism another Franklin D. Roosevelt. But Stevenson was a reluctant dragon — he would not enter any primaries and insisted he was not a candidate. Minow and others who were “madly for Adlai” worked on convincing national convention delegates to nominate the governor and, in the last true draft of a candidate, they did so on the third ballot.

I could resist asking Minow about rumors spread by Stevenson’s enemies — notably syndicated columnist Walter Winchell — that the only divorced-and-never-remarried presidential nominee was a closeted gay man.

“Oh, gosh, is that way off!” he replied with a laugh, “Adlai was quite the opposite of that, I would say.”

(The two-time Democratic nominee for president was close to Hollywood husband-and-wife royalty Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, and was rumored to have had an affair with Bacall. He also had a years-long romance with socialite Marietta Tree, whose husband Ron Tree was a political backer of Stevenson, and she was with him in London in 1965 when the then-UN ambassador died of a heart attack. Washington Post owner Katherine Graham also recalled a romance with Stevenson in her memoirs).

Returning to the present, Minow recalled how he brought the young Barack Obama into his law firm as a summer associate in 1988 at the urging of daughter Martha, who had taught Obama at Harvard Law School and was later its dean. Did Obama seriously consider Martha for the Supreme Court, I asked.

“That’s what he told me,” Minow said, “And he also said she came close to getting the seat [which went to present Justice Elena Kagan).”

When I posed the question about where Obama would live in his post presidency and mentioned Minow, the late CBS-TV correspondent Bill Plante later said he was surprised to hear Minow’s name.

“I got to him when I was reporting in Chicago,” Plante told me, “He was always a good guy.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
 

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


John-Gizzi
Learning of the death Sunday of Chicago "super-lawyer" Newton Minow immediately brought back memories of an assignment in April 2016 in which he was of immeasurable help: to learn whether his friend and onetime law partner Barack Obama...
minow, obama, white house, stevenson
708
2023-18-07
Sunday, 07 May 2023 07:18 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Sign up for Newsmax’s Daily Newsletter

Receive breaking news and original analysis - sent right to your inbox.

(Optional for Local News)
Privacy: We never share your email address.
Join the Newsmax Community
Read and Post Comments
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
 
TOP

Interest-Based Advertising | Do not sell or share my personal information

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Download the NewsmaxTV App
Get the NewsmaxTV App for iOS Get the NewsmaxTV App for Android Scan QR code to get the NewsmaxTV App
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved