Monday, August 08, 2011

Adieu, Senator Hatfield

Oregon lost one of her favorite sons yesterday.  Former Governor and Senator Mark O. Hatfield passed at the age of 89.

Senator Hatfield was a lifelong Republican and a native Oregonian, hailing from Dallas.  He was a veteran of World War II, where he saw combat at Iwo Jima.  No doubt as a result of the horrors he witnessed at that battle, Senator Hatfield remained a pacifist throughout his political career.

Hatfield served two terms as Governor of Oregon (1958-1966) then was elected to the US Senate in 1966 where he remained for 30 years.  He was a strong opponent of the Vietnam War, which he called the “sin that scarred the national soul.”  In 1991, the senator bucked his own party and president (Bush the Elder) by voting against military action in the first Gulf War.

In 1995, when the Republican Party was pushing for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution (part of Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America"), Senator Hatfield faced down enormous pressure from his own party and cast his vote against the amendment which fell one vote short of passage.  When then-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole tried to persuade Hatfield to reconsider, Oregon's senator offered to resign rather than compromise his values.

Although I never voted for him, I did admire Senator Hatfield for his courage and his deep personal convictions.  It is hard to imagine that a man like Senator Hatfield, a liberal Republican, a pacifist, could succeed in today's GOP.   

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