Anthony J. Moffett. It has that WASPish ring - rather as if it should be Anthony J. Moffett, the third. But Toby Moffett, the young congressman from Connecticut, is the son of a Lebanese immigrant. Mafouz was the name. When asked if his father changed the family name, he counters, "Are you kidding? Ellis Island [changed it]!"
For Moffett, it was a nose-pressed-to-the-candy-store-window childhood. His father was a caretaker on an estate owned by a "very wealthy German family. I grew up on that estate. The old lady used to have me over and we'd sit in this huge mansion, in this glass-enclosed porch, and the parrot would talk and the goldfish would swim in the pool. And this was indoors ."
Moffett, shirt-sleeved, leaps to his feet in his Hill office, brushes imaginary lapels in a perfect, pompous gesture. "And on Sundays, the old man used to walk, all dressed up, around his hundreds of acres. He had a huge family and they'd all walk with him. I was invited to come with them. I was a pet. But I knew there was a difference. My father wasn't invited."
Being Arab in mostly white Suffield, Conn., was a problem. "I was a fighter. On the bus, kids used to say 'nigger, nigger,' because I was dark. I used to get in tremendous fights."
Moffett - shaped by that peculiar childhood on the fringe of both worlds, the haves and the have nots - is a fighter still. He was one of Nader's Raiders for whom compromise was anathema, then came to the Hill in that Phenomenal, Class of '74 hot shot reformers quickly dubbed the Watergate babies.
Moffett, who will be 35 in August, races through life with kinetic impatience. Unannounced but already running hard for retiring Sen. Abraham Ribicoff's seat, Moffett grabs invaluable headlines and prime-time TV exposure while battling big oil and the White House on energy. Moffett - the youngest subcommittee chairman, elected this year to chair the important Subcommittee on Environment, Energy and Natural Resources - has become the House leader in the fight to keep controls on gas and oil prices.
When Moffett started his Hill career by helping other reformers to topple the geriatric seniority system, he was quickly labeled brash and arrogant and more interested in getting his name in print than in passing legislation. But as the years go by, colleagues increasingly call him principled, smart, respected. They like to say that the Hot Shot Kid has "matured."
In part, the gas crisis has created a credibility Moffett didn't have before. The urgency is real now when he talks of a "distillate war" between farmers, truckers and home heating oil consumers - and a trucker gets shot in a strike over diesel fuel.
As gas lines spread across the country and turnpikes become lonely ghost lanes on Sundays, as "odd and even" and OPEC and decontrol become household words, as constituents face the specter of dollar-a-gallon heating oil this winter, consumers bury congressmen in protest mail. Violence erupted between truckers, motorists, residents and police in a Philadelphia suburb this weekend, and there were reports of snipers on the highways as the independent truckers' strike touched frantic fears in people demanding answers and solutions to the gas and oil crisis.
Suddenly Moffett's bill for a sticker plan to conserve gas by eliminating driving one day a week no longer sounds so off-the-wall.
Recently, Moffett helped deliver a stinging slap to Carter in a House action against decontrol. Later, at the now-famous White House "whip his ass" reception for members of Congress, Carter proferred Moffett strawberries from the buffet and trailed Moffett to his table. "I said, 'Look, Mr. President, there's nothing I'd like better than for you to go to my region next year in good political shape, but unless there's a dramatic change, I don't see how it can be done. You're facing a revolution up there on energy.'"
And Moffett is set to ride the whirlwind. He gets called "the enemy" by independent oil producers, but he is tapping consumer anger as he gives answers they want to hear. His mail piles three feet high after he appears on "Face the Nation" protesting Carter's plan to decontrol domestic oil prices. And suddenly Moffett found it easier recently to amass the over-whelming support of the House Democratic Caucus for his resolution opposing the decontrol plan.
The resolution has no legislative force, but Moffett fireworks will be heard again next month as he seeks to attach an amendment extending controls to a Department of Energy authorization bill when it comes to the floor.
A resolution was a harmless way for the caucus to grandstand for constituents - "to say, 'Look, I was against high prices,'" comments White House congressional liaison William Cable.Getting an extension passed is another matter, he says. As the scarcity of oil seems more real and since the House Ways and Means Committee strengthened the windfall profits tax last week, Cable argues the focus has shifted from price to supply - "It has turned from how to make it cheap, to how to get it, period." (The decontrol argument is that oil companies will find more oil when they can ask higher prices.)
Many colleagues also see Moffett's chances as slim but he says don't count him out. He slams a hand down in impatience. "The Ways and Means windfall tax - that is just an illusion of protection. Russell Long will demolish that. Decontrol is a dilettante position. They totally ignore the anticonsumer part; totally ignore the fact we're pushing people down the economic ladder - the elderly, clinging with a remnant of their dignity, the working-class families.
"We're paying oil companies huge amounts of money and getting very little for it and offering them still more and saying to them" - Moffett lowers his voice, mimicking an adult cajoling a child - "'When will it be enough so you'll produce this fuel? When will be enough so you'll refine this fuel?" But they're business people with voracious appetites.You'll never get them to say, 'Enough, we're full.'"
Moffett, a once-proud rebel, said some months ago, "I don't want to be somebody who says, 'I'm going to go along and the leadership can count on me.' See, I don't want anyone to count on me." But now, the ambivalence is there; he has agreed to compromises that "sort of turned my stomach. Politicians like to be liked more than anybody. So there is this pressure that works on you to be a good team member."
He became enough of a team member to be elected the youngest sub-committee chairman, and today, Moffett says, "I intentionally tried to get to know members, particularly those with whom I might not agree, and have a friendly relationship."
The mellowing edge is there when he adds that he can be committed to "very marginal successes. Not happy with them. But if you're going to operate in this arena without going crazy, there has to be an understanding that your victories come in inches and your defeats in miles."
He gets praise from some, including decontrol opponents, but other colleagues feel, as one says, that Moffett could be more effective if he worked more with the "broad consensus network that exists up here. Capturing headlines does not quite make it through a bill."
Another Democrat explodes: "Had it not been for the success of the oil thing in caucus, his record would be disastrously bad. His idea is to have a press conference first and consult with colleagues second. Oil decontrol was just a natural at this time. Bella in her day could have pushed that and it would have carried."
"Sure I can see where people think Toby's arrogant," says one of his closest friends, Rep. Fortney (Pete) Stark (D-Calif.).
"He's got a very short attention span. If you're not talking about what interests him at the moment, he'll ignore you. I like his scrappiness. He has a real sense of indignation, which is what you need if you're going to be a reformer."
There is no such thing as Moffett in repose these days. He races into his office from a vote on the floor, washes his face, grabs the phone and tells his 10-year-old daughter, Julia, he will send a cab to Bethesda for her to come to the Hill, so they can go to dinner with friends and "spend some time together."
He rubs his hand through his dark hair, yanks up his socks, fields questions, pushes an interrupting question into a corner of his mind, rattles on at full speed about the excesses of big oil, then before you can remind him of the interrupting question, is back to it himself: "Now. The dependence on OPEC - first of all we have to bury the myth that energy independence is right around the corner. No matter what we do we're going to be 40 to 50 percent dependent on OPEC oil in 1985 . . . But we can decrease our dependence. We've only touched the surface of conservation. . . "
Moffett is handsome (even though one eye is cast slightly it does not detract) and athletic (basketball, baseball, jogging). He is given to discourses on the evils of politics and how it ruins one's private life - even as he pushes himself more and more into politics. "That's all just for the pap market," scoffs one colleague. "We are big people who come here with our eyes wide open. "No one has a gun to Toby's head or anyone else's to stay here."
Moffett once said. "We're all a bunch of actors up here and I think I'm one of the best. I guess I secretly always wanted to be Al Pacino." He was not hesitant about telling others that a White House guard once thought he was Sylvester Stallone.
A slight sigh is released as he talks about the women, past tense, in his life. He and his wife were divorced before he was elected to Congress. Moffett started in public service young, attracting national attention at the age of 25 when he angrily resigned from a Nixon administration post created to work with students and youths. It was 1970 and Moffett quit after Nixon labeled student demonstrators "bums." He next worked for then-Sen. Walter F. Mondale before becoming Nader's first director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group until he ran for the House in 1974.
Along the way, his wife had enough. Moffett recalls, "She said, 'I want the problems of the world to be solved, but I don't want to be married to the person who solves them.'
"Now, I am very much aware of what politics does to a relationship." Moffett once said, "I'm power-oriented but I am attracted to women who are less power-oriented." The other day he continued in that vein, talking matter-of-factly of broken romances while an aide sat in on the interview. "I had a very serious relationship, probably as serious as my marriage. She felt dwarfed, No. 1, by my personality. I'm just a strong sort of character. I have a real problem with attention span . . . with relaxing. Most people around here do. This place is crazy.
"Yeah, it's first the person who picks politics, but then the negative qualities are exacerbated by the process - the interruptions, the bells ringing, the school groups, lobbyists, weekends with constituents back home, everything. Incredible interruptions. And fatigue. People walk around here very tired. The pressure makes you tired. I once said we ought to have a full-time shrink here. There are a lot of very lonely people here."
Moffett and a band of 15 like-minded progressive colleagues have formed a group to discuss issues and plot strategy once a week. Many of them are also his closest social friends.
"The most difficult thing personally about this job is you don't feel you're broadening yourself as a person. Some of us will have dinner tonight. I'm just starting to recognize the extent to which our conversations are limiting. We don't have much else to talk about. Issues, very much issues, and politics. It's not about art, it's not about the theater. It really is bothering me. I feel we're a bunch of narrow people getting narrower as we stay here."
A second later Moffett is racing off on how he is "very frustrated about our ability to come to grips with the energy problem. It just follows me around.It drives me crazy ."
Some of Moffett's crowd are going to find themselves torn in the future. He and Rep. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) have many mutual friends - and Dodd is also planning to run for the Connecticut Senate seat.
The election is 17 months down the road and Dodd and Moffett have made a pact of sorts not to talk about each other for now. Dodd says they are close friends. Moffett already bristles slightly, and makes a distinction. "We're friendly," he says. Polls have them neck-and-neck, with Moffett improving his standing much more than Dodd since Moffett's almost daily presence in the national news following his oil price control fight. On the Hill, Dodd - son of the late senator Thomas Dodd - is said to be more a member of the club than Moffett. But Moffett's outspokenness on oil (and other consumer interests) is an unquestionably popular stance among the grass-roots network supporting him back home.
Moffett's consumer protection instincts remain uppermost, but the switch from Nader's Raider to congressman has been frustrating, he admits. In a sprawling district that spreads across the top of the state, there are countless competing interests. His constituents come from rich suburbs as well as mill towns and old-line Republican Yankee farm towns.
Already, Moffett says, he has faced opposition from Jewish leaders in Connecticut. "They're saying they don't want another Abourezk in the Senate. It's really unfair. I was the first one in my state to come out against the sale of F15's to the Saudis. But you've got to be a thousand percent with some people. I told Begin to his face that I don't think the bombing of Lebanon is accomplishing a damn thing except killing innocent people and creating more terrorists. You wouldn't believe the feedback. It is very frustrating. I have tried to be fair."
An edge of the cocky fighter appears. "Look, it I run, which I think I am, I'm going to run against a good congressman whose name has been before the public for 50 years. Mine has been for only five years and he has been campaigning for three years and I haven't - and the latest poll says we're even. I think that says something about my chances."
It's a shame, in a way, sighs Moffett.
Here he was, just starting to achieve an effective private as well as public life. "I was just starting to achieve it before Ribicoff quit. To feel that I didn't have to run to every picnic and clam bake, that I didn't have to go home to the constituents every free minute; that if I got a good night's sleep instead, I wasn't going to be punished for that. And, lo and behold, Ribicoff quits!"
Leaving Moffett, naturally, with no other choice but to run. CAPTION: Picture 1, Toby Moffett, by Ellsworth Davis - The Washington Post; Picture 2, Toby Moffett, by Ellsworth Davis - The Washington Post