Today, July 12th, is Senator Hatfield’s 89th birthday.
In his daily email, Carl Cannon at RealClearPolitics.com wrote a nice piece on Sen. Hatfield to mark this occasion:
Good morning. It’s Tuesday, July 12, 2011, the birthday of Mark O. Hatfield, who turns 89 today. A two-term governor of Oregon, Hatfield was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1966, the same year Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California. The careers of the two western Republican icons intersected, but did not exactly parallel.
In 1964, the year Reagan launched his political profile with a national speech in support of GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, Mark Hatfield was the keynote speaker at the Republican convention in San Francisco. Hatfield used that venue to denounce both the war in Vietnam and political extremism. You might say he was at odds with his party: Goldwater was the candidate who had joked about lobbing a nuclear bomb into the men’s room at the Kremlin, and who also, in his acceptance speech at that 1964 convention, employed the word “extremism” approvingly.
It would not be the last time Hatfield went his own way, but in our era of severe political polarization, it’s important to remember that he didn’t fit the tribal template of party politics in his own time. An evangelical Christian, Hatfield opposed abortion — as well as war. His views of the latter were informed by his service in United States Navy during World War II where he participated in the landings at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Later, he was among the first wave of Navy officers to visit Hiroshima after it was destroyed by a U.S. atomic bomb.
Hatfield was no Tea Party guy, either. He was a proud dispenser of pork barrel projects back to his native state, and he saw no conflict between helping the timber industry while also working to set aside 2 million acres of wilderness in Oregon. Nor was Hatfield the kind of lawmaker who believed an opposition senator’s job was to assure the defeat of the sitting president of the other party. He thought it was to get things done. As he told Timothy Egan of the New York Times in 1994 after the Republicans came to power on Capitol Hill: “I’m prepared to work with the White House. I can’t afford to be a partisan guerrilla.”
And knowing he wasn’t an easy man to label, Hatfield just shrugged when accused of being too liberal. “Lincoln was a liberal,” he replied.