IT was a galoshes kind of day: snow underfoot, gray overhead. Yet he was out early, peddling his political wares - liberal and Democratic. ``Hello, I'm Paul Simon. I'm running for president....'' He shook hands, then exchanged names and niceties with the sidewalk set, including a middle-aged woman who was just a face amid many.
Six hours, a couple of speeches, and several hundred people later, in a different part of town, he ran into that same woman. He started his spiel again, ``Hello, I'm Paul ...,'' then he stopped and said, ``Oh, I remember you. I saw you this morning. You're Mrs. ...,'' and he remembered her name.
``It was pretty impressive,'' says John Jackson, recalling that day when he was part of the campaign parade in Illinois. ``I certainly didn't remember her,'' adds Dr. Jackson, who is dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. ``But that's the kind of personal attention Paul gives. He's interested in people.''
You might say Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois is a ``people person.'' People seem to activate his inner compass, giving him direction.
In college during the '40s, he stood up for blacks and civil rights when that crusade wasn't exactly No. 1 on the nation's agenda. In the '50s, while a legislator in the Illinois House, he arrived - uninvited and unannounced - at prisons, mines, and mental institutions with an eye to improving people's conditions.
And as a United States congressman and senator, his legislative thrust shows a people orientation - jobs, education, missing children, spouses separated by the Iron Curtain, help for the handicapped, and long-term health care for the elderly.
Now, as a presidential contender, Mr. Simon is out among the people selling the old-time Democratic religion. And if elected, he promises to keep in touch. ``I'd have town meetings somewhere in the nation at least once a month. I'd have a press conference at least every two weeks,'' the senator said during an interview. His voice had the rumble of rocks tumbling downhill.
He's offering a liberalism patented in the past but packaged in '80s bottles. His jobs-for-the-jobless program hails back to FDR's Works Progress Administration; his advocacy of pay-as-you-go government echoes the Truman line; there's some Stevenson intellectualism, too, and a handful of Humphrey idealism.
But are people buying what he's selling? In a market-oriented society with a deficit that's out of sight, do they see his liberalism as the best bargain on Campaign Street?
If so, they aren't buying uncritically. A big question hovers: Can he fund his federal jobs program and still balance the budget in three years, as he's promised?
When Simon hopped into the presidential marathon, his name was hardly a known term. Yet the senator stumped out of political shadows and shook hands all the way to solid billings in the Iowa polls. His man-of-conscience image helps in a campaign that's peeking into closets.
Simon's Washington career goes back to '74, when he went to the House of Representatives from a district in southern Illinois. He won a Senate seat a decade later.
During those years, though, he's never forged his way to a committee chairmanship, only subcommittee leaderships. He's kept a low profile as a doer on the domestic side of legislation. So another question resounds from stumps and in debates: Has his domestic experience built enough background and backbone for presidential foreign affairs?
SUPPORTERS say his strength has been shaped by his sturdy upbringing in a religious household, his journalistic crusades against organized crime, his stand against corruption in state government, and his quiet, steady steps to lift people from their plights.
But Simon must still persuade fellow Democrats that he can persuade the nation's voters.
Whether labeled progressive or outdated, Simon's views have long been in black and white.
For more than 40 years, he's been building a paper highway with his writings, an oeuvre that bares his character, delineates his beliefs. He's written stories and editorials for the Troy Tribune, the weekly newspaper he owned in southern Illinois; weekly columns for four decades; and 11 books on a range of topics.
Simon's views stem back to his growing-up years in the depression, when he picked cherries for pennies in Oregon orchards and sold Saturday Evening Posts, netting 1 cents an issue. His parents, Ruth and the late Rev. Martin Simon, were Lutheran missionaries who served in China, returning to the US shortly before Simon's birth in 1928. They settled in Eugene, Ore.
Their household wasn't a preachy one, but right was right, and wrong was wrong.
Through the years, Simon has made a career out of being ``honest'' and ``genuine.'' But now he's being pushed to answer questions about his toughness, his ability to translate beliefs into action.
``There are all kinds of styles for getting things done,'' says Leon Panetta, a California Democrat who served on the House Budget Committee with Simon. ``Some members [of Congress] slam-dunk things. Others backslap ... buttonhole ... trade off.'' But those aren't Simon's specialties, he says.
``Paul knows the issues inside and out. Members respect that. Generally, I think it's the sway of his views that Paul relies on. And that doesn't always get you votes'' or get things done, Representative Panetta says. Sometimes you have ``to jump into the mud and bargain. That'll be difficult for Paul, but that's not saying he won't learn how to do it.''
SIMON contends he's got the guts to be president: ``I've always been able to make the tough decisions. I'm not a table pounder, a screamer, or a shouter, and if people who equate [those] with being tough, then they're not going to vote for me as their candidate. [But] I've been able to be tough.''
He supports this contention by flipping back to his newspaper days. In 1949 he left journalism studies at Dana College in Blair, Neb., to buy a weekly newspaper in Troy, Ill. With a $3,600 loan from the local Lions Club, he took over a broken-down press in a downtown cubbyhole. (Eventually, he built a profitable chain of 14 weeklies, which he sold in 1966.)
Right off, the 19-year-old editor shook up the local power brokers with his crusade against wide-open gambling and prostitution in Madison County.
``Nobody would say peep or do anything to upset the powers-that-be around there. Then Paul in his small-town paper dared to tell it the way he saw it,'' says Burnell Heinicke, former Springfield bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. After prompting from Simon, Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson sent state police to padlock various establishments, and Simon ended up testifying in St. Louis before Sen. Estes Kefauver's crime investigating committee.
But it took another brand of toughness when he sat in the Illinois Senate, Simon explains. Scuttlebutt around the state pointed to legislators on the take.
``We always talked about the corruption in the legislature, but nobody ever did anything about it,'' says Anthony Scariano, an appellate judge in Chicago who served in the legislature with Simon. ``Then Paul decided he was going to do this expos'e.''
Simon's story, names included, burned the pages of Harper's September 1964 issue. ``I thought that was going to be the end of my political career,'' says Simon, who was cold-shouldered by his colleagues and given a ``Benedict Arnold'' award at a senate dinner. But then a Chicago newspaper played the story big. ``It made my Harper's article look pale, and I was no longer the leper in the community,'' says Simon.
He points to his dad as the person who taught him to stand fast when waves are rocky. ``One of the things my father did really helped shape me. He stood up for the Japanese-Americans [when they were interned during World War II]. I was 13 at the time. I was embarrassed, and I wished my dad hadn't done it. But as I look back, it's one of the things I'm proudest of my father for.
``And then somewhere along the line, I decided that if you're going to do anything in life, you can't just do what's popular. You'd better do what's in the national interest,'' Paul Simon says.
Twelfth in a series. Tuesday: Gary Hart.
For Simon, jobs are Job 1
BOTH arrows and accolades are targeting Paul Simon's federal jobs plan - a cornerstone of his campaign.
He's spelled out the nitty-gritty of the proposal in his 1987 book, ``Let's Put America Back to Work,'' and also in a bill that's sitting in a Senate committee.
The program goes like this: People out of work for five weeks or more would be given jobs ranging from planting trees and repairing sidewalks to tutoring illiterate adults and insulating homes for needy elders. Training, retraining, literacy screening, and education would be part of the package. And the jobless applicants must have lived in the area for 30 days prior to employment.
Paying the bill. Now, the dollar signs. Based on Mr. Simon's Senate bill, the Congressional Budget Office estimates a first-year outlay of $3.5 billion for the jobs program; the second year, $7.1 billion. Each year's cost comes to less than 1 percent of the annual federal budget.
But who would pay for the program? Simon explains that getting people into jobs would save on the government's outlays for both welfare and unemployment compensation. The newly employed people would also become taxpayers, he points out. If these savings, coupled with the new revenue, do not offset the program's cost, additional funds could come from cutting Pentagon waste and trimming defense, according to Simon's campaign office.
What economists say. But some observers are skeptical. Are the cost figures realistic? And how is Simon going to balance the budget while increasing spending for his jobs program?
Economist Robert Gordon says many unemployed people don't have the skills for available jobs. Others live too far from where jobs are. There are both a mismatch of skills and a mismatch of location.
The $3.5 billion and the $7 billion won't ``make a dent in something as fundamental as the mismatch. There's a bit of pie-in-the-sky here,'' says Dr. Gordon, a professor of economics at Northwestern University. ``But the billions wouldn't be wasted,'' he adds. ``It's just not going to solve the problem.''
Congress ``would have to trim from other budgets or raise taxes or somewhere get enough money to pay for it,'' adds David Wyss, senior vice-president of Data Resources Inc., an economic consulting firm in Lexington, Mass.
``But that doesn't mean it's not a good idea,'' Dr. Wyss says. ``You'd be getting something for what you're paying these [jobless] people - cleaner parks, streets, whatever.'' As it is now, ``welfare is just a free gift.''
In cities' inner cores, more than a mismatch exists. Some individuals have no marketable skills at all, and they've never worked. In a jobs program, these people would be introduced to the work ethic.
``Even though in the short run it [Simon's program] is going to cost money, in the long run you'd get these people into the work force; you'd get them used to working, then the private sector could pick up more of them, and that would get them off the government's back,'' Wyss says.
The deficit. Simon balks at the nearly $200 billion interest paid each year on the national debt, calling the deficit the nation's top economic issue. He supports a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. It's not a stand frequently associated with liberal Democrats. But Simon has his liberal reasons: He sees interest payments on the debt funneled more to the wealthy than to working people. Cutting the debt would cut the interest, freeing funds for initiatives in problem areas, such as unemployment.
National security. Simon's views on defense have remained consistent over the years. In a 1950 editorial he wrote, ``A sound economy will do more toward combatting communism than a nation covered with atomic bombs.''
Today, he advocates a lid on nuclear arms escalation and favors arms control talks with the Soviets, whereby all strategic programs are on the negotiating table. His goals include ending all nuclear testing. He opposes the MX missile, anti-satellite weapons, the B-1 bomber, and the Strategic Defense Initiative.
An alliance of `Young Turks' that became much more
THIRTY years ago, when women were still struggling against the apron image, Jeanne Hurley had already crashed the gates of a mostly man's world. She was a lawyer in the Illinois House of Representatives.
That's where her romance with Paul Simon started. Their legislative seats weren't far apart, and their stands on issues were even closer. Both were at the hub of an informal group of House progressives called the ``Young Turks.''
``Paul and I were very much on the same track,'' she says. And over the years that track has turned into many a campaign trail. Whenever her husband runs for office, she helps him out by stumping, too. She's a smooth campaigner, well able to turn a hotel-room interview into a casual kind of kaffeeklatsch.
She's always been Simon's sounding board for ideas and issues. ``I keep up on the players and I know the process,'' says Mrs. Simon, who grew up in Wilmette, Ill., a well-heeled Chicago suburb.
When their children were young, Mrs. Simon managed to keep a finger in the legal world, working on wills, liens, and taxes with one hand while baking rye bread and cinnamon rolls with the other. She has her own pet issues such as good-quality day care for working mothers and parental leaves. And the little town of Troy, Ill., has her to thank for starting a local library and the women's Democratic group.
Popcorn with Trivial Pursuit is the Simons' brand of evening relaxation - on their rare nights off. They give small parties, usually with a potpourri of guests who can chew on issues like medicare and Mexican immigration. ``No more than eight or 10 people,'' says Mrs. Simon, ``because I do the cooking.''
Besides their home in Makanda, Ill., they rent an apartment in Washington. They've been married nearly 28 years and have a son, Martin, 23, a photographer, and a daughter, Sheila, 26, a lawyer, who is married to Perry Knop, a farmer and lobbyist. All are campaigners. And so is Simon's mother, Ruth Simon of Collinsville, Ill.