Recently, we suffered the loss of two very fine American politicians: Hugh Carey, a former U.S. congressman and governor of New York, and former U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon.
First, Gov. Carey. He was elected in 1975, and, like our current President Barrack Obama, inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression. Carey’s predecessors in both the state and New York City — both Republicans — had so mismanaged the New York economy that New York went bankrupt. Gov. Carey, an unabashed liberal, righted the economic ship, and interestingly, did it through careful, strategic borrowing. That’s right: borrowing. He crafted a plan for New York City to secure loans from the state, loans that were guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury.
Then Republican President Gerald Ford opposed the loan guarantees but a Democratic Congress backed those guarantees and New York averted disaster. And, by the way, New York City paid back all those loans and, as we know, continued on as one of the world’s greatest cities.
Hugh Carey was 92 when he passed away at his home in New York.
America’s other recent loss was former Oregon governor and senator, Mark Hatfield, clearly the most liberal and least partisan of Republican senators. The longest serving U.S. Senator in Oregon history (30 years), Mark and I were friends and worked together, he a Republican and I a Democrat. Our mutual interests included reforming Pentagon spending and the confusing laws and regulations of the U.S. Forest Service.
He and I left Congress in the same year, 1979. When he left the Senate he said, “Today, unlike the past, politics and campaigning have become a year-around experience.” He and I had conversations about our other reasons for leaving the Congress. We agreed that too many of our colleagues and our constituents had become mean in their partisanship. We also left unfinished work behind but Sen. Hatfield said to me, “Don’t worry about that, Pat. Whenever one leaves, there will be unfinished work to do.”
Mark Hatfield had been Oregon’s Secretary of State, legislator, governor, and senator. He was of enormous importance to his home state in building its physical infrastructure, public highways, utility systems and government buildings.
Sen. Hatfield was 89 when he passed away.
Both Hugh Carey and Mark Hatfield gave full evidence that elected officials can do great things that make a real difference in the lives of individual Americans.
(Pat Williams served nine terms as a U.S. Representative from Montana. After his retirement, he returned to Montana and is teaching at t
he University of Montana.)