Monday, August 8, 2011

A Giant Passes

Today it was announced that former Senator Mark Hatfield died. He spent 46 years in elective office. First as a member of the Oregon House of Representatives, two term governor and a five term senator. 

During his tenure in the U.S. Senate he served as chairman of the Appropriations Committee.  Perhaps most importantly, in a highly charged partisan environment, Senator Hatfield continuously and successfully reached across the aisle to sponsor legislation.

Unlike most elected members of Congress, he was not a lawyer. He was in fact a teacher. He earned a master’s degree in political science and taught classes at Willamette University before he began his elective career.  After he retired from the U.S. Senate, he returned to teaching in Oregon. 

He keynoted the 1964 Republican National Convention which nominated the late Senator Barry Goldwater. He was considered to be a very good speaker.

He was principled and served with great honor (more on this later). He was a devout Christian and a strong anti-war advocate. He introduced several bills to stop the Vietnam Wars. He showed great compassion for the poor. 

It is not well known that he was among the first U.S. soldiers to enter Hiroshima, Japan after the end of World War II and after the atomic bomb was dropped. This made a tremendous impression on him and definitely led to his anti-war stance.

Senator Hatfield was a prolific author. His books were always topical and interesting.   He wrote passionately about his faith.  I read several of his books, including Not Quite So Simple, Conflict and Conscience, and Against the Grain: Reflections of a Rebel Republican.  Each one was a joy to read and an education.

Allow me to offer an example of his steadfast principles.  In 1995 after the GOP took control of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House (for the first time in 40 years) the balanced budget amendment came up for a vote. It passed the House. In the Senate Senator Hatfield spoke eloquently against the balanced budget amendment.  It failed to pass the Senate by one vote, mainly his. Every GOP senator voted for it.  After the vote Senator Hatfield offered to resign from the Senate, thus if the vote was retaken it would pass. Senate Majority Leader Dole said no. If you consider the pressure Senator Hatfield must have felt and that he still voted no is testament to his standing by his principles.  If you add the fact if he offered to resign so the balance budget amendment could be again voted on and the next time pass, it tells me that he recognized the will of the people.

We miss elected officials like Senator Hatfield. 

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