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Nixon Records Paint Rinfret as Controversial, Self-Promoting

June 25, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The GOP economist running against New York Gov. Mario Cuomo was a political ally of President Nixon, but White House aides were wary of his economic views, in one case calling them ″almost pathological,″ Nixon-era records show.

Pierre Rinfret, 66, was virtually a political unknown when Republicans tapped him last month to take on Cuomo. But he was an outspoken economic adviser during the Nixon years.

Nixon himself had mixed reactions to Rinfret’s economic advice, according to documents in the Nixon Presidential Materials Project at the National Archives.

Between 1969 and Nixon’s resignation in 1974, Rinfret frequently sent economic advice to the president. In the early years Nixon wrote back, often rebutting Rinfret’s assertions, but later Rinfret’s views appeared to get less attention.

Last week, after Rinfret claimed he had been offered three Cabinet posts by the Nixon administration, Nixon issued a terse statement saying only that he had hoped Rinfret ″would join my administration as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers or later as a member of the Cabinet.″

In June 1969, Nixon wrote in the margin of a paper mentioning Rinfret that ″I have great regard for Rinfret personally.″

But one month later, Paul W. McCracken, Nixon’s chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, sent Nixon a memo saying he had ″reservations about inviting Pierre Rinfret down for any kind of consultative discussions.″

McCracken said Rinfret’s July 3, 1969, economic newsletter was ″almost pathological, devoid of anything which could be considered competent economic analysis.″

The newsletter had accused the Nixon administration of ″fostering, creating, condoning, aiding, abetting and developing the current mood of economic and financial terror.″

But Nixon continued to meet and correspond with Rinfret, and later named him chief economic spokesman for his 1972 re-election campaign against George McGovern.

Rinfret’s appointment was announced under conditions he dictated, according to a July 1972 memo from White House aide Patrick E. O’Donnell.

″Mr. Rinfret drives a hard bargain,″ O’Donnell wrote in a memo to Charles Colson, special counsel to the president. ″He insists on a formal announcement from the White House.″

The White House then arranged a meeting at which Rinfret would be photographed with the president ″to provide the credentials he needs and wants,″ Colson wrote Nixon.

Nixon and his White House staff apparently were satisfied with Rinfret’s work.

″Rinfret is probably our best economic spokesman because he uses phrases people understand and ... our speech writers should take a course from him,″ staff secretary Bruce Kehrli wrote to counsel John Ehrlichman in October 1972.

Indeed, Rinfret demonstrated to his political masters that he was not above subverting his economic beliefs in the name of political expediency.

According to an October 1972 memo to Colson from aide Steve Karalekas, Rinfret was worried about ″a political answer″ he had given The New York Times to head off criticism from McGovern.

Rinfret expressed concern his answer would upset the administration’s economic team, ″but he did it for our political benefit, not from the standpoint of pure economics,″ Karalekas wrote.

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