A Wisconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
May 18, 2010
By Bill Kraus
The state lost two political stalwarts this month. Paul Hassett died. Dave Obey retired.
Some people may think that they had nothing in common. Paul was a lifelong Republican. Dave a Democrat. That is how they differed. Despite the fact that they were adversaries; they were not enemies. They respected the trade and its participants.
The quintessential Paul Hassett story is about his 1960 encounter with Jack and Jackie Kennedy. The Hassett family's recollections of that day in the winter of that election year differ in some details, but all agree that Paul, who was the Dunn County chair of the Republican Party stepped in to help Jack campaign in this Hubert Humphrey-friendly territory when he made a campaign stop in Menominee. Kennedy was snubbed by the area Democrats, and Paul volunteered to show him around the area and to introduce him to the movers and shakers there. Neither of them cared that there was a Nixon bumper sticker on Paul’s car, which was their main means of transportation.
Would Dave Obey have done the same for a forlorn Republican in his hometown? I don’t discount the possibility.
Obey's memoir of 40 years in Congress includes his choice for the best president he served under during that time: Gerald Ford.
There is, or was, something I call the Arena Effect operating in politics most of the time these two standard bearers were active. The comparison is to athletic competitors. At the end of fiercely contested battles on the field, the combatants, who had in the most physical games been trying to take each other’s heads off, come together in the middle of the field in a show of mutual respect for the game itself and all of the participants.
They do not disdain the spectators who support them, but their real admiration is for their peers who have gone through what they have gone through to get into the arena and have paid the price of competing at a high level in a demanding contest.
The fact that Dave Obey was, is, and always will be much more irascible than Paul ever was is irrelevant to my main point. They had different personalities, different styles, we all do. The important things about them both is they were honest with their friends and foes and they both knew that the other was taking a different route, perhaps, but was trying to do what he believed to be the right thing for the country and its inhabitants. They wanted their ideas to prevail but they were not afraid to talk to each other.
They represented the best in politics.
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