"Sui Generis"— in a class by himself — was the only way one could accurately characterize Robert Juliano.
Juliano (who died Tuesday at age 80) was inarguably one of the top lobbyists for organized labor in Washington, D.C. With friendships among Members of Congress in both parties going back to the 1960’s, he sculpted, shaped, and shepherded to passage legislation that would help the restaurant workers he represented for decades.
"When [the late] Beau Biden was getting ready to run for attorney general in Delaware, the restaurant guys there asked him if he knew Juliano," he told Newsmax a few months before his death, "And Beau said ‘You mean Uncle Bobby?'"
A close friend of Beau’s father since he came to the Senate in 1973, Juliano had indeed watched Beau grow up as he and the elder Biden strategized on politics and legislation.
"We simply wouldn’t be here in the White House without your support," the man Juliano always called “Joey” wrote him on his 80th birthday earlier this year. "Miss you pal!" went the PS, written in his own hand on White House stationery.
But this friend of the powerful was also someone who always had time for just about anyone. Fellow residents of his West End Place condominium inevitably stopped him in the lobby and sought his advice on personal and professional matters. He readily offered it, always requesting they quit calling him "Mr. Juliano."
"Just Cool Bobby J will do," he frequently remonstrated.
When a Haitian immigrant named Luc announced he was leaving the front desk at West End Place to look for another job, “Cool Bobby J” would have none of it. He needed Luc as his "chief of staff"—overseeing his paperwork (Juliano never learned to use a computer and unions sent him per diem secretaries to take his dictation), laundry, and his fabulous wine collection.
The Juliano condo resembled a wine cellar worthy of the Rothschilds. Bobby had become an authority on wine and freely bestowed bottles on friends.
"We must have 20 bottles of wine from Bobby," recalled prize-winning reporter Gail Chaddock of the Christian Science Monitor, who frequently used the labor lobbyist as a source and invited him to her home for dinner.
"I couldn't bear to toss anything he valued so much," she added, "Bobby knew he was bestowing his largesse on a teetotaler. Remarkably forgiving, that man. An original."
And he never forgot who he was--a genuine "street kid" from Chicago who worked as an elevator operator on the Windy City’s West Side. It was there that he mixed with union members and labor leaders.
Politics and Washington beckoned the young Juliano. Through Alderman and Democratic ward committeeman Vito Marzullo, he got an audience with Chicago’s all-powerful Mayor Richard J. Daley.
"The mayor—Richard J.—got on the phone to [then-House Majority Leader] Tip O’Neill and said he had a young man he felt was going places and that Tip should help him get situated in Washington," Juliano recalled to Newsmax, "Then he hung up, and told me 'Go to Washington. Everything’s going to be fine. You’re in your mother’s arms.'"
He was. With recommendations from Daley and O’Neill, Juliano became legislative representative for the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union.
"And from there," recalled House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rosa DeLauro, D.-CT, "Bobby worked on nearly every major piece of labor legislation over the last four decades."
Juliano was especially proud of helping then-House Democratic Conference Chairman Phil Burton, CA, guide to enactment the landmark Black Lung Benefits Act of 1972 that ensured coal miners of the same health care plan as federal employees.
A proud Chicago Democrat and "union guy," Juliano nevertheless reached across the aisle and worked closely with Republicans. He also admired Democrats who did the same.
Carol Laxalt, widow of close Ronald Reagan friend and Nevada’s Republican Sen. Paul Laxalt, told us "Bobby and Paul were miles apart on most things but they got along well because they knew there had to be compromise if you were getting anything passed in the Senate. And when the restaurant workers’ union in Las Vegas was considering endorsing Paul’s Democratic opponent [in 1980], Bobby saw that it didn’t happen. He reminded them how good Paul had been to the restaurant workers when he was governor."
And, she added with a laugh, "Bobby would tell people he knew Paul was very smart because he married an Italian-American."
In his twilight months, as Juliano regaled Newsmax with reminiscences about consequential leaders in Congress he knew, we asked about the storied race for majority leader among House Democrats in 1976—when Phil Burton, a committed left-wing "San Francisco Democrat" with a peerless knowledge of the legislative process could lose by one vote to Texan Jim Wright, who had opposed civil rights legislation and supported the Vietnam War and the oil depletion allowance.
"It really had nothing to do with philosophy or issues," Juliano told us, "Phil was brilliant, but he had insulted my friend [Illinois Rep.] Danny Rostenkowski. And he insulted a lot of others, especially when he got into the Stolichnaya vodka. Look, it doesn’t matter how much you know as much as it does how well you treat others. That’s half the battle."
John Gizzi is Newsmax's chief political columnist and White House correspondent. He is “the man who knows everyone in Washington” as well as many who hold elected positions and party leadership roles throughout America. He has appeared on countless radio and TV shows in America and Europe. He is the recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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