Who said it?
The poor aren't any different from the rich—they just don't have as much money.
A throwaway one-liner from Bob Hope, perhaps?
Why all these teenage pregnancies? The reason is they are asserting their budding maturity in a society that doesn't let them mature.
Ann Landers, surely.
Too much government money is spent trying to do too much for people who don't really care to help themselves. Vintage Ronald Reagan.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This spectrum of observations—from life's inequity to youthful sex to the laziness of welfare families—and others just as outrageously simplistic have been uttered in and about the United States Senate by one peppery, opinionated septuagenarian.
The staid upper house doesn't quite know what to make of the 72-year-old Republican freshman senator from California named Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa. By traditional Senate standards, Hayakawa's impact since he upset incumbent Democrat John Tunney in 1976 has been minimal. He has introduced few bills. He is impatient with the horse-trading, dealing and compromise that lubricate the Senate legislative process. As a result he sometimes seems to fog out at critical moments. Recently he dashed to the Senate floor to vote, discovered he was expected to speak for a bill he had co-sponsored—and had difficulty remembering what the bill was about. (It provided aid to victims of wife-beating, child abuse, etc.)
This is not to say that Hayakawa—a respected scholar who wrote a best-selling book on semantics—is a failure as a senator. He quite simply is busy inventing the kind of senator he wants to be, and getting away with it. Hayakawa increasingly sees himself as a moral philosopher on questions of government and social structure. What better platform to expound professorial views than the U.S. Senate with its unique access to the media?
He has a fine instinct for improvisation, as well as a canny intuition for timing and publicity. Last spring, for example, Hayakawa took the courageous step for a California Republican of supporting the President's Panama Canal treaties (despite his earlier, whimsical campaign slogan: "We should keep it—we stole it fair and square"). His vote was expected to be crucial to the necessary two-thirds majority to pass the treaties.
At the 11th hour, possibly inspired by the attention being paid to fellow first-term Sen. Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, an antitreaties holdout, Hayakawa made public a letter to President Carter threatening to switch his vote. The stated reason: He didn't like Carter's foreign policy in general because of its "timid acquiescence in the face of determined Communist aggression."
It was a blatant grandstand play—the letter was released at a press conference before Carter publicly acknowledged it. Hayakawa finally voted with the Administration, but not before Carter agreed to a series of meetings with him, and not before Hayakawa received wide publicity for his little end run.
It is this sense of the moment that catapulted Hayakawa to international fame 10 years ago. Newly elevated to the presidency of riot-besieged San Francisco State College, the diminutive (5'6", 150-pound) academic clambered to the top of a radical-held sound truck, ordered the dissidents to "get the hell out of here," and yanked the wires from their loudspeakers. Photographs of that incident, with Hayakawa wearing an incongruous tam-o'-shanter, were flashed to the world. He was enshrined forever as a man who dared stand up to the anarchy that seemed to be engulfing the nation.
The image still holds—a little guy standing up for his beliefs. It gives Hayakawa license to play the Mr. Smith Goes to Washington role to the hilt. There he is, the people's representative, a bit flustered perhaps, even a bit of a clown, but gutsy—and ready at the drop of a beret to scold about too much government or too little personal initiative. He can be infuriating, even a little silly (justifying his vote against expanding California's redwood lands: "The redwood is a crop, just like cabbages"). Yet Hayakawa gets more mail, 10,000 letters a week, than almost any senator except Ted Kennedy. It's a matter of style, and Hayakawa understands style.
"I always seem to have some little area, whether it is wearing a tam-o'-shanter, riding a motorcycle or carrying a walking stick, that says to myself and others, 'I am an individual,' " he explains. He is sitting in his Senate office, which is cluttered with pieces from his large collection of African art. "There's a sort of self-esteem and narcissistic pleasure you enjoy when you're a firstborn, as I am. They make such a fuss over you that you sort of assume being the center of attraction is the natural state of affairs."
Staying in that center seems second nature to the Canadian-born Hayakawa. He makes the disco circuit in Washington on occasion, boogying with attractive partners (he is visibly appreciative of feminine charm). He takes tap-dancing lessons from an old-time black hoofer called Mr. Rhythm, who operates a storefront studio in one of the capital's funkier neighborhoods. At parties the senator likes to demonstrate what his agile feet have learned, or pull out a pocket harmonica and blow a tune, or take to the piano with riffs he learned from jazz greats as a young man in Chicago. "Some people say a U.S. senator shouldn't be tap dancing, it's indecent," he admits. "But I think of living as a long process of self-exploration."
The question among some Senate observers is whether there is substance behind all the pizzazz. Says one Democratic staffer, "He has not been a very effective senator. His record is spotty. Aside from occasional flashes of wit, one doesn't feel he's thinking and functioning the way he did 20 years ago."
Others disagree, among them Republican Minority Leader Howard Baker, who says, "There are three classes of senator—loners, convivial and consulted. Sam is one of the third. He's respected because of his academic background."
Hayakawa has his special interests—among them education, youth labor and Africa—and in these he spends long hours preparing and studying, often writing his own testimony and speeches. He also has pet peeves—welfare, unionism and affirmative action.
Although of Japanese descent, Hayakawa is impatient with special pleading among minorities today. His up-by-the-bootstraps attitude toward the poor, combined with a chamber of commerce enthusiasm for business, has opened him to charges of insensitivity, even racism. (He opposes a move for reparations to Japanese-Americans interned during World War II.)
"What people call me doesn't matter a damn," he says, adding, "Right now, if you're a well-behaved, well-spoken black with skills, the world is your oyster. You don't need affirmative action. If you're ignorant and lazy and can't do arithmetic and then sit around and complain that there are no opportunities, you're not seeing the world as it really is. One has to start at the bottom of the ladder. I made my first two bucks playing mandolin at a Polish wedding when I was 5 years old!"
Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa has had an eclectic life, to put it mildly. He was born the first of four children in Vancouver, B.C., where his Japanese parents had settled. Hayakawa's father, Ichiro, had grown up in Japan during a period of intense Westernization. His mother, Tora, who is still alive at age 94, is the daughter of a physician who was among the first to introduce Western techniques to Japanese medicine.
Thus the young Hayakawa grew up in a home environment that glorified Western learning. "My mother read highbrow magazines and my father read English literature," he recalls. "Mother was something of a lady and a snob. She passed on to me a sense of position and class."
At the same time, young Sam was "brought up going through the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, National Guard, taking great pride in being a Canadian," he has said. To help support his family he worked from age 12 at odd jobs such as drugstore delivery boy, stenographer and, later, taxi driver. He was graduated from high school and college in Winnipeg, Manitoba (where he picked up the tam-o'-shanter habit from Scottish residents). After taking a master's in literature at Mc-Gill University in Montreal, Hayakawa went to the University of Wisconsin for his Ph.D. A Wisconsin contemporary recalls that Hayakawa was "painstakingly creating a work of fiction in which he was the protagonist. Instead of a ricksha, he rode a motorcycle. He wore gray flannel slacks, button-down shirts, small-figured ties. He played softball regularly [and still does, on the Senate softball team, Sam's Tarns]. We were witnessing the self-made creation of an American."
At Wisconsin Hayakawa also met his wife-to-be, Margedant Peters, an undergraduate with whom he helped create the college literary magazine. The couple courted for six years, ignoring opposition to the mixed marriage from Margedant's family. A strong, independent woman, she now divides her time between their showcase home in Marin County, Calif. and the Hayakawas' Capitol Hill townhouse. She also edits a horticulture magazine and manages the family investments, whose value is nearly $1 million, according to Senate disclosure records. (Mrs. Hayakawa bristled at the disclosure requirement, saying, "It's nobody's damned business how much money I have.") Of the couple's three children, Alan, 32, is a reporter-editor on the Portland Oregonian; daughter Wynne, 27, is an artist in San Francisco; and Mark, 29, is retarded and lives at home.
The Hayakawas moved to Chicago in 1939, and for the next 15 years he taught at various Illinois colleges. He went to San Francisco State in the mid-'50s as professor of language arts.
There was considerable snickering when political dilettante Hayakawa headed for Washington with a reputation for dozing at meetings and tap dancing on a desk top while president of S.F. State. Now people aren't so sure. A sneaky feeling has arisen that this peculiar little old man, who commutes to work in a 1970 Plymouth and takes scuba-diving lessons, has his own scenario all worked out. Sensing a vacuum in knowledge about Africa in the Senate, Hayakawa wangled a 12-day excursion to Rhodesia, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and Kenya last June, paid for by the Republican leadership. Dismissing charges that it was a junket ("Dammit, I'm likely to be shot at by guerrillas every time I step out of Salisbury"), Hayakawa interviewed government and rebel leaders and returned full of information and prescriptions for policy changes.
Now, GOP leader Baker calls Hayakawa an African expert and says he has a good chance of getting one of the coveted and powerful slots on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next January.
Not bad for a beginner.
'What people call me doesn't matter a damn,' says the wily senator