Transportation Secretary Neil Goldschmidt, who describes himself as being a member of the "political wing" of the Carter Cabinet, said yesterday that Chicago Major (and newbron Kennedy backer) Jane Byrne is a politician not to be trusted.
"I wouldn't operate on that lady's word," Goldschmidt said at a breakfast meeting with reporters, "and that's something the people of Chicago go will have to understand."
The people of Chicago received $196 million in Department of Transportation transit grants on Oct. 2, just six days before Mayor Byrne indicated to Rosalynn Carter that she would support President Carter in his bid for reelection. That was just 20 days before she said that, actually, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D.-Mass.) would receive her endorsement.
"I have been given an opportunity to get a great education," said Goldschmidt, who was mayor of Portland until last August. "Chicago plays by a unique set of rules. I'm capable of palying by them too."
He made clear, however, that he was not angry with the people of Chicago, just its mayor. "The people will get what they need," Goldschmidt said.
"I've got a lot of pink slips stacked up on my desk -- telephone calls," he said. "Hers would not be the first one I would answer." Later, he said, "There's no reason to treat the major of Chicago as if she were a major national figure, because she's not. There are a lot of people out there."
A Byrne spokesman said the Chicago mayor would have no response to Goldschmidt's comments.
One of the Democratic congressmen from Chicago, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, said in a telephone interview yesterday that in a recent meeting he had with Goldschmidt "I found him very pleasant. I like him. I'm sure that if there's any need for a discussion on the way we're being treated in Chicago, he'll hear from me. He expects that."
Rostenkowski is important to Goldschmidt (and the Carter Administration) for at least two reasons. For one, he attempted to head off an early endorsement of Kennedy by the Cook County (Chicago) Democratic Party. For another, he is an important member of the House Ways and Means Committee, where the "windfall profits" tax legislation resides. That legislation includes a major mass transit program that Goldschmidt wants badly.
Goldschmidt said he was not directed by the White House to deliver a message about Major Byrne, but that he had told the White House those were his feelings and he might express them some day. He introduced the mayor's name into the conversation when he was asked what political role Cabinet officers might be talking in the campaign.