Nation: THE MEN WHO WILL RUN THE U.S.

Defense

On Capitol Hill Melvin Laird has long borne the aura of power, carefully contained but ready for instant application. His close-cropped skull and impassive features give him the forbidding countenance of a Japanese war lord. His steely mind and stinging tongue deepen the impression of a political samurai. Though he is in fact one of the nation's wiliest politicians, in private life he is a puckish, convivial figure.

Laird still lives in his Marshfield, Wis., birthplace, and the rockbed Republican Seventh District there gave him 64% of the vote in November. In...

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