Tag Archives: collegiality

Friendships honored along with a political icon

They buried a political icon today. I hope they did not bury the spirit of bipartisan friendships that this iconic figure embodied.

Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democratic member of Congress, died the other day of myriad medical complications. He served as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and became a leader in the debate over whether to impeach Donald J. Trump.

Cummings was a champion in the first degree. He fought for civil rights and also fought for civil political discourse.

As I listened to the tributes that poured in from across the political spectrum, I was struck by how much attention was paid to the honors paid by Republicans who served with Chairman Cummings. Given the nastiness that has poisoned the atmosphere in Washington over the course of time, it is instructive that so many Republicans would hail their personal affection and professional respect for this fierce Democratic politician.

One of them is Mark Meadows, a North Carolina GOP leader in the U.S. House Freedom Caucus. He is a fierce conservative. Yet he and Cummings were proud of their friendship. Meadows spoke of his love for his colleague while Cummings was lying in state on Capitol Hill — the first African-American politician to be accorded that honor. Former U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina wrote a moving op-ed for the Washington Post that spoke of the Republican’s affection and respect for Cummings.

Indeed, the ranks of strange political bedfellows is long. Former U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a conservative Utah Republican, and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a liberal Massachusetts Democrat, were famous for their friendship. Yes, there are many such relationships. Yet they flourish outside of the public eye.

When a politician of Cummings’ stature passes from the scene, it enables the nation to witness how these supposedly unlikely friendships have flourished even in the climate that can destroy them.

Elijah Cummings’ death saddens me. I am heartened, though, to see these exhibitions of love and respect that are coming from those with whom this good man had many fierce political battles.

It gives me a glimmer of hope that collegiality and political comity isn’t dead.

Longing for a return of this kind of collegiality

I believe I have shared this video already, but I want you to look at it again.

It speaks to a “kinder, gentler” time in Washington, D.C. A president of one political party welcomed back his immediate predecessor, a president of another party.

They unveiled official White House portraits of President Bush and first lady Laura Bush. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama spoke of the “seamless transition” from one administration to another. They spoke of warmth and hospitality, of cooperation and collegiality.

That kind of mood is missing these days. I want it to return. Perhaps one day it will.

Enjoy this video. It tells me that political opponents need not be enemies. That love of country transcends the partisan divide.

Honest. It does.

Pals still reach across the aisle on Capitol Hill

dole and inouye

Collegiality isn’t dead in Washington, D.C., after all.

I’m not reporting anything new here; I’m merely passing on an interesting Texas Tribune piece about how some Texas members of Congress — who are generally conservative to ultra-conservative — have become friends with some New York liberal members of Congress.

It does my heart good to read of this kind of thing.

Bipartisanship lives in the halls of Congress, reports Abby Livingston in an article published by the Tribune.

She notes how East Texas U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, one of the House of Representatives’ conservative firebrand, routinely saves a seat next to him for the State of the Union speech for Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat. Gohmert is adamantly opposed to further gun regulation; Maloney, however, is just as adamantly in favor of it.

According to the Tribune: “It’s not hard to be friends with people who are honest, and she sees many important issues, to me, very differently,” Gohmert said. “But I know she wants what’s best for the country, but we just have different beliefs as to what that is.”

You want another example? U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has become good friends with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Cruz is a Republican (of course!) and Gillibrand is a Democrat; Cruz is ultraconservative; Gillibrand is ultraliberal.

As the Tribune reported: “I have always been impressed with people who stand up for principle when it matters and when there’s a price to be paid,” Cruz said of Gillibrand in a June interview.

Partisanship often has morphed into personal attacks for a number of years in the halls of Congress. Perhaps it showed itself most dramatically when then-GOP Vice President Dick Cheney told Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy to “go f*** yourself” during a heated exchange on the floor of the Senate.

That’s the bipartisan spirit, Mr. Vice President.

It wasn’t always this way, of course. Members of both parties shared common bonds that quite often transcended partisan differences. Not many years ago, that commonality was forged by World War II, with combat veterans joining together to pursue public service careers while sitting across the aisle from each other.

Two examples come to mind.

U.S. Sens. Bob Dole, a Kansas Republican, and Daniel Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat, both suffered grievous injuries fighting the Nazis in World War II. They were both injured in separate battles in Italy near the end of the war in Europe. They were evacuated and spent time in the same rehab hospital in the United States.

They became fast friends and bridge partners. They took that friendship with them to the Senate. Tom Brokaw’s acclaimed book “The Greatest Generation” tells of this friendship that went far beyond the many political differences the two men had.

Sens. George McGovern, a South Dakota Democrat, and Barry Goldwater, an Arizona Republican, both were World War II aviators. McGovern was as liberal as they come; Goldwater was equally conservative. They, too, became close friends while serving in the Senate. Both men survived the harrowing crucible of aerial combat while fighting to save the world from tyranny.

Their political differences were vast, but so was their friendship.

Many of us have lamented the bad blood that flows between Democrats and Republicans in Congress. I’ve been one of those who’s complained about it.

As the Texas Tribune reports, though, collegiality still can be found … if you know where to look.