Monday, August 8, 2011

Death of a statesman

Oregon lost one of its greatest public servants Sunday in Mark O. Hatfield, age 89.

He was two-time governor, U.S. Senator from 1967 to 1997 and served in the state legislature and also as Oregon secretary of state. He gave the keynote address at the 1964 GOP convention.

A devout Christian and pacifist, he was referred to in the lead of the story in the Seattle P.I. as "One of the the Pacific Northwest's political giants of the 20th Century."

And yet, our local daily newspaper, which is staunchly Republican, treated Hatfield's passing as it would any individual you have never of, by placing the obit on page B-5.

My, how times have changed.

Hatfield was a throwback Republican in the sense he displayed common sense and a willingness to compromise. The kind that dominated Oregon politics for a century.

Although he opposed abortion, the issue did not define him as it does Republicans these days. He was more passionate in his opposition to the death penalty, which is definitely not the position of most GOPers these days. Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry, who held a "Christian" rally this past weekend, boasts that he's executed more prisoners than George W. Bush.

In the early 1950s, Hatfield helped pass the public-accommodations law in Oregon that sought to end discrimination against minorities. He remarked, "I knew justice had been served."

He was anti-war before it became a movement, a stance influenced by being one of the first Americans in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped in 1945.

In the mid-1960's, he was the lone governor to oppose Johnson's escalation of the Vietnam War.

He joined forces with George McGovern to craft an end to the debacle in Vietnam in 1970. As we know, that legislation was defeated. Eventually, so was the U.S.

He worked with Ted Kennedy in 1982 to put a freeze on nuclear testing.

If Hatfield and his contemporaries had been in Congress this summer, the debt-ceiling "crisis" would not have happened. We would've made the necessary cuts and raised the necessary revenue to avoid a downgrade in our credit rating.

Sadly, most Republicans in Oregon probably hold Hatfield in disdain. They much prefer someone like Michelle Bachmann, whose crazy look appears on the cover of Newsweek, revealing the current face of the GOP.

Hatfield was a gentleman and a scholar. Because there are few such men or women of character left in the Oregon GOP, only one has been elected to statewide office in recent decades.

Oregon is a "blue" state now. Thank God.

No comments:

Post a Comment