Tip O'Neill

Tip O'Neill

Infobox Officeholder
name =Tip O'Neill

imagesize =176px

caption =
order =55th
office =Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
term_start =January 4, 1977
term_end =January 3, 1987
president =Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Ronald Reagan
predecessor =Carl Albert
successor =Jim Wright
order2 =18th Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives
term_start2 =January 3, 1973
term_end2 =January 3, 1977
deputy2 =John J. McFall
predecessor2 =Hale Boggs
successor2 =Jim Wright
order3 =17th Majority Whip of the United States House of Representatives
term_start3 =January 3, 1971
term_end3 =January 3, 1973
leader3 =Hale Boggs
predecessor3 =Hale Boggs
successor3 =John J. McFall
order4 =Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 11th district
term_start4 =January 3, 1953
term_end4 =January 3, 1963
predecessor4 =John F. Kennedy
successor4 =James A. Burke
order5 =Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 8th district
term_start5 =January 3, 1963
term_end5 =January 3, 1987
predecessor5 =Torbert Macdonald
successor5 =Joseph P. Kennedy
birth_date =December 9, 1912
birth_place =Cambridge, Massachusetts
death_date =January 5, 1994 (age 81)
death_place =Boston, Massachusetts
nationality =
party =Democratic
spouse =Millie O'Neill
relations =
children =
residence =
alma_mater =Boston College
occupation =
profession =
net worth =
religion =

website =
footnotes =

Thomas Phillip "Tip" O'Neill, Jr. (December 9, 1912–January 5, 1994) was an American politician. O'Neill was an outspoken Democrat and influential member of the U.S. Congress, serving in the House of Representatives for 34 years and representing two congressional districts of Massachusetts. He was the Speaker of the House from 1977 until his retirement in 1987, making him the second longest-serving Speaker in U.S. history after Sam Rayburn and the longest-serving Speaker without a break. He was also the last power broker of the FDR New Deal wing of the Democratic Party.

Early life and political career

O'Neill was born to Thomas Phillip O'Neill, Sr., and Rose Ann (Tolan) O'Neill near Barry's Corner in the Irish middle-class area of North Cambridge, Massachusetts. During his childhood, O'Neill received the nickname "Tip" after the baseball player James "Tip" O'Neill. [Hodgson, G. (1994, January 7). Obituary: Thomas P. O'neill. "The Independent (London)", pp. 14.] Educated in Roman Catholic schools, O'Neill first became active in politics at 15, campaigning for Al Smith in his 1928 presidential campaign against Republican Herbert Hoover. Four years later, he helped get out the vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt. As a senior at Boston College, O'Neill lost his first campaign, which was for the Cambridge City Council, by only 150 votes.

After graduating in 1936, O'Neill was elected as a Democrat to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. In 1949, he became the first Democratic Speaker of the State House in Massachusetts history. He remained in that post until 1952, when he ran for the United States House of Representatives from his home district.

Congressman O'Neill

Quick rise in the House leadership

O'Neill was elected to the congressional seat being vacated by Senator-elect John F. Kennedy in 1952. During his second term in the House, O'Neill was selected to the House Rules Committee where he proved a crucial soldier for the Democratic leadership, particularly House Majority Leader, fellow Boston congressman and later Speaker John W. McCormack. After a long and painful evolution of his ideas about the Vietnam War, in 1967 O'Neill broke with President Lyndon B. Johnson about the war. In a meeting at the White House, O'Neill told the President: "In my heart and in my conscience I believe your policy is wrong." During the Vietnam era, many notable politicians that were opposed to the war were voted out of office because some viewed their stances as anti-American and labeled them as being soft on national defense. While O'Neill lost the support of some of his older home district political base, he benefited from the new support of students and faculty members at the many colleges and universities within his district. In the House of Representatives itself, O'Neill became more popular in part due to his position on the war, particularly after leading an effort to reform unrecorded "teller" voting on amendments in the House. O'Neill won the trust and support of younger House members who shared his anti-war views, and they became important friends who contributed to O'Neill's rise through the ranks in the House.

House Majority Whip and Majority Leader

In 1971, O'Neill was appointed Majority Whip in the House, the number three position for the Democratic Party in the House. In 1973, he was elected House Majority Leader, following the death of Congressman Hale Boggs (D-LA) in a plane crash in Alaska. As Majority Leader, O'Neill was the most prominent Democrat in the House to call for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon because of the Watergate scandal.

peaker of the House

O'Neill replaces Carl Albert

As a result of the Tongsun Park influence peddling scandal, House Speaker Carl Albert retired from Congress and O'Neill was elected Speaker in 1977, the same year Carter became President.

O'Neill's work with President Jimmy Carter

With substantial majorities in both houses of Congress and control of the White House, O'Neill hoped that the Democrats would be able to implement badly needed legislation, including universal health care and jobs programs. The Democrats, however, lacked party discipline and while the Carter administration and O'Neill began strong with passage of ethics and energy packages in 1977, there were major stumbles. Troubles began with Carter's threats to veto a water projects bill, a pet project of many members of Congress. O'Neill and other powerful Democrats were also irked by Carter's appointments of a number of his fellow Georgians, whom O'Neill considered arrogant and parochial, to federal offices and White House staff. In addition, O'Neill was put-off by Carter's frugal behavior in cutting executive staff and reducing the scale of White House entertaining. Carter, who is a Southern Baptist, even ended the practice of serving alcohol at the White House. As Carter's term began in early 1977, Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill were invited to the White House for a breakfast with the new President, where Carter served them sugar cookies and coffee. O'Neill, a man of expansive appetite, expected the until then traditional eggs and sausage. He looked across the table at Carter and said, "Mr. President... you know, we won the election." Carter was a reform minded executive who often clashed with O'Neill on legislation. The Speaker wanted to reward loyal Democrats with pork barrel projects at a time when Carter wanted to reduce government spending. A continuing weak economy and the Iran hostage crisis, made prospects bleak for Carter and the Democrats in the 1980 congressional and presidential election.

Republicans target O'Neill in 1980

Republicans made O'Neill a target of their 1980 campaign, portraying him as a washed-up old politician with liberal ideas. The National Republican Congressional Committee produced a television commercial that had an actor who resembled O'Neill laughing off warnings that his vehicle was low on fuel, until the vehicle finally ground to a halt. The announcer then proclaimed, "The Democrats have run out of gas." Although the Republicans made significant gains in the House in 1980, coinciding with the election of Republican Ronald Reagan, similar efforts to target O'Neill in the 1982 elections backfired and the Democrats remained firmly in control of the House for more than a decade.

O'Neill at odds with President Ronald Reagan

O'Neill was a leading opponent of the Reagan administration's domestic and defense policies. Following the 1980 election, with the U.S. Senate in Republican hands, O'Neill became the leader of the congressional opposition. O'Neill called Reagan the most ignorant man who had ever occupied the White House.Fact|date=July 2007 O'Neill also said that Reagan was "Herbert Hoover with a smile" and "a cheerleader for selfishness" and "an amiable dunce." He also said that Reagan's policies meant that his presidency was "one big Christmas party for the rich." Privately, O'Neill and Reagan were always on cordial terms, or as Reagan himself put it in his memoirs, they were friends "after 5PM." [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/29/washington/29rivals.html?th&emc=th 2008 May Test Clinton's Bond With McCain - New York Times ] ] Reagan once compared O'Neill to the then-popular arcade game Pac-Man in a speech, saying that he was "a round thing that gobbles up money".

Working for peace in Northern Ireland

One of O'Neill's greatest accomplishments as Speaker involved Northern Ireland. He worked with fellow Irish-American politicians New York Governor Hugh Carey, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-New York to craft a peace accord between the warring factions. Beginning with the "St. Patrick's Day declaration" in 1977 denouncing violence in Northern Ireland and culminating with the Irish aid package upon the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, the "Four Horsemen" as they were called convinced both Carter and Reagan to press the British government on the subject.Fact|date=April 2007

After Congress

After retiring from Congress in 1987, O'Neill's autobiography, "Man of the House" was published. Co-written with author William Novak, it was well reviewed and became a best-seller, though some of people mentioned in his book denied O'Neill's stories and assertions. The book also helped turn the former Speaker into a national icon, and O'Neill starred in a number of commercials, including ones for Quality International Budget Hotels, Trump Shuttle, Commodore Computers, and one with Bob Uecker for Miller Lite. He confided to friends, however, that he missed the excitement of politics. [Farrell, 679-682]

O'Neill's emergence as a cultural figure was not restricted to commercials. Four years before his retirement he had a cameo role in the February 17th, 1983 episode of "Cheers" entitled "No Contest," which featured him ducking into the bar to escape a woman who pestered him on the street about his political ideals. The show, which was ranked 60th in the Nielsen Ratings at that time jumped 20 places the following week. O'Neill also made a brief appearance in the 1993 film "Dave" (as himself) assessing the work of the fictional American President in the movie. He also did narration for a segment of the Ken Burns series "Baseball" in which O'Neill, a lifelong Red Sox fan, read the "Boston Globe" from the day the Red Sox won the 1918 World Series.

Later on in retirement, O'Neill, who suffered from colon cancer, made public service advertisements about cancer in which he joined athletes and movie stars in talking candidly about having the disease.

Death and legacy

O'Neill died on January 5, 1994, survived by his wife, Millie, and their children. At his passing, President Bill Clinton said: "Tip O'Neill was the nation's most prominent, powerful and loyal champion of working people... He loved politics and government because he saw that politics and government could make a difference in people's lives. And he loved people most of all."

The Speaker's oldest son and namesake, Thomas P. O'Neill III, a former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, works in public relations in Boston. Another son, Christopher, is a Washington lawyer, the third son, Michael, is deceased. One daughter, Susan, has her own business in Washington, the other, Rosemary, is a political officer for the US State Department.

Milldred O'Neill died on October 6, 2003. In addition to their children, they are survived by eight grandchildren.

The Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel, built through downtown Boston as part of the Big Dig to carry Interstate 93 under Boston, is named after him. Other structures named after him include a federal office building in Boston, a golf course in Cambridge, and the main library at his alma mater, Boston College.

On June 22, 2008, the play "According to Tip" debuted in Watertown, Mass., produced by the New Repertory Theatre. The one-man biographical play, written by longtime Boston sportswriter Dick Flavin, features O'Neill telling stories of his life, from his childhood to after his retirement in politics. Tony-Award winner Ken Howard played the title role in the premiere production. [cite web|url=http://www.newrep.org/0708tip.php|title="According to Tip"|accessdate=2008-07-18|publisher=New Repertory Theatre]


*The phrase "All Politics Is Local" is attributed to Tip O'Neill.
*Book: All Politics Is Local: And Other Rules of the Game (Paperback) by Tip O'Neill, Gary Hymel — ISBN 1-55850-470-2


Further reading

*cite book |first=John A.|last=Farrell|title=Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century| publisher=Little, Brown & Co|location=Boston|year=2001|id=ISBN 0-316-26049-5
*cite book|first=Thomas P.|last=O'Neill|coauthors=with William Novak|title=Man of the House: The Life and Political Memoirs of Speaker Tip O'Neill|year=1987|id=ISBN 0-394-56505-3
* [http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1209.html Thomas P. O'Neill Jr., a Democratic Power in the House for Decades, Dies at 81] obituary

External links

* [http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=-220179351334434009&hl=en in his 1987 autobiography, "Man of the House" (page 211), and 18:50 into this video documentary, "Beyond 'JFK' The Question of Conspiracy," O'Neill speaks about the two Kennedy friends/presidential aides/close witnesses to the assassination of President Kennedy stating that shots were fired from the grassy knoll]
* [http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1209.html Obituary, NY Times, January 7, 1994 "Thomas P. O'Neill Jr., a Democratic Power in the House for Decades, Dies at 81"]

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