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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hatfield's liaison to Jesus

Oregon political icon Mark Hatfield, 88, has been in an East Coast hospital for several weeks. While people of goodwill hope and pray for his recovery, you can be sure that media all over Oregon have the obituary all prepared except for the first paragraph.

I owe a lot to Hatfield. In a roundabout way, he is responsible for my being in Portland. I told him that once as we stood on a chow line together at the Macadam Avenue Subway shop. Like many others, I also looked up to him during the Vietnam era as a courageous force for peace in the Republican ranks.

But there are sides to Hatfield that I never liked. He was not shy about accepting gifts. He and his wife got into a highly embarrassing ethical tangle in the early 1980s that you won't hear much about these days. And he was also a bit of a Bible-thumper, holding prayer breakfasts for well connected Christians at the Pioneer Courthouse and flaunting his religious beliefs for political effect. As much as he has aspired to sainthood, and as much as his fans are willing to bestow it upon him, I never quite bought it.

A couple of months ago, The New Yorker ran a fascinating article about a Hatfield pal from his Salem days whose tying together of church and state holds great influence in Washington, D.C. to this day. It's an interesting angle on the Hatfield legend that we all will be hearing so much about when the inevitable eventually occurs.

Comments (18)

I remember lobbying hard for the Hatfield-McGovern Amendment to end the war in Vietnam as a peace activist at Bayonne High. I will always feel gratitude to Mark Hatfield for that.

The Honorable Sen. Hatfield has done for for this state than anyone - well respected throughout the senate, by presidents from both parties, and the entire state. In addition, we is a wonderful person. I had the pleasure of working with him on the first Portland streetcar. They just don't make them like that anymore.

Back in my banquet days, I waited on Senator Mark Hatfield many times, and I always felt he was a true statesman. Several times, I even talked a little Middle East politics with him and once, I knew some breaking election news from the region that he hadn't heard yet. It was not the outcome he had been hoping for and when I told him, he grimaced in pain for a few seconds. I saw right then that he really cared.
This was a member of the Greatest Generation who participated in the landings at Okinawa and Iwo Jima, shuttling wounded soldiers back to the ships under heavy fire. He also saw Hiroshima a month after the bomb.
As the last of these people fade away, it feels like the kids are driving the station wagon now, and we're heading right off a cliff. Compared to that generation, our current group looks pretty sad, always rushing to a microphone to talk about what great Americans they are.
To me, it feels like the world's been turned over to a bunch of brats and the last of the adults are leaving the building.

Governor Hatfield was a hero in my grammar school and Wayne Morse, if not a hero, was a for real Oregonian.

I was a muddled kid during the war (18 the last year of the lottery) and so didn't comprehend his political stance there.

Later I read of his Marine service on Okinawa. Impressed me.

My mother, a hard case Party of Lincoln daughter (Clatskanie Great-Grandfather invalided out of the 9th Michigan to Oregon in 1863)gossiped that he was closeted gay. Then again, she was a confused woman who voted for Kennedy.

Never heard about his projected sainthood. Do reckon though, that he dates from a time of adult governance.

Vive la McCall!

Hatfield was a staunch opponent of the Vietnam war. Stan Freberg created a couple of PSAs about the McGovern-Hatfield amendment to the end the war.



For his opposition to the Vietnam War Hatfield will always be a national hero.
However, his inability to realize the foolishness of allowing the destruction of old growth national forests by the cut-it-all-down timber industry, he'll be something far less than a national hero.

The Jeff Sharlet book The Family details the group cited in the article (the group was founded by another Northwesterner, Abraham Vereide). While the group seems to cut across a large swath of the political spectrum, its core tenet seems to be that those brought into the group are there because Jesus executes his power through them. That power seems more exemplified in the groups deems it should be exercised rather than any mainstream Christian interpretation.

Larry -

Hatfield IIRC, served in the Navy, not the Marines, and first arrived in the war zone in the Pacific after the Japanese surrender.

I don't think hhe saw combat on Okinawa.

And IMHO, he was one of the most dolar grabbing, venal folks in the Senate, eclipsed perhaps only by Lyndon Johnson.

"Saint Mark" indeed.

fat lot I know

I don't have any problem with Hatfield's religion, which he never pushed politically except as a source of his opposition to war (which I much appreciated).

I do have a problem with all the ways he "helped" Oregon by earmarking huge amounts of federal funds to various transit projects (without Hatfield there would be no light rail), museums, and so forth. Willamette Week once claimed that this proved he "loved Oregon," but all I could see was that this proved he loved getting reelected.

In Sunday school during my teens I first learned about Mark Hatfield. His driver, a state trooper and a fellow Christian, wrote a piece for a Sunday School paper. As a result of that article about the trooper, Hatfield and the Christian faith I saw Hatfield as a marvelous, God filled man. Much later, after coming to Oregon for college, I learned of the more human side of Hatfield. Over time I lost all trust in him. Then I read Jeff Sharlet's "The Family." It is chilling in it's description of Christian deviousness and--I'll say it'--corruption.

So when I see Hatfield's name on so many monuments I just gag. Despite the chicanery of Hatfield et al I still profess to be a Christian.

Nonny Mouse,
You were probably sitting at a computer when you made your comment. How hard would it be to google "Mark Hatfield Okinawa" before stating that he hadn't arrived in the war zone 'til after the Japanese surrender?
I don't get it.

In the usual ration I have both a personal view and a societal view of Senator Hatfield.

I 'wrote to my Congressman (Senator)' once upon a time, about an important federal (mal)practice which concerned me. The Senator called me at home to 'get back to me' (and no, Bill, we don't get the respect of a reply from elected Congresspersons any more -- they've changed ... maybe we should just bag the whole 'Congress in Washington, D.C.' thing, which has become so detached from our daily doings that we could do just as well being 'represented' by elected Martians).
So my wife answered the phone when Hatfield called. He greeted her by name, identified himself, added a pleasantry and asked to speak to me. I was watching her answer the 'mystery' call, (before caller ID). The blood drained from her face, her mouth gaped half-open speechless and, I swear, her knees buckled. She sagged on the counter as she handed me the phone and gasped, "it's for you."

At least I got fifteen minutes ear-time with him. I pounded and expounded on my point; he shined me on, that he couldn't wouldn't shouldn't 'do' something about it; I thanked him for recognizing me, good-bye. And went to get smelling salts and revive the Mrs. -- the Senator was a charmer.

Unfortunately, (without going into details), if he had done what I claimed he coulda and shoulda, the effect woulda prevented some serious personal (bodily) injury he suffered later being victim of. (I told him to terminate a violence-prone staffer, he didn't, later the staffer punched him ... no, but something like that.)

When I was in grammar school, Hatfield held some State office, (maybe Governor), where he signed some Certificates of Award I happened to receive. It was long ago but I remember staring at his signature on my Certificate while wondering who he was and whether he had read my paper.

As for his legend lasting in our society, seems to me Jack has it exactly as "flaunting his religious beliefs for political effect."

Which is just the fraud-ridden phenomenon discussed and decried in the sociological essay at the link I presented here, earlier.

Saying, in paraphrase, 'first, we eradicate all the religionists' religiosity; second, we select lawyers we'll elect to re-legislate federal tax code without exemptions for property taxes on houses of worship.' Tax the Bible-thumping lobby now that it's voting in Congress, enacting morality law; (these 35 years since Roe v. Wade). No representation without taxation.

His was the only (I believe) Republican vote against Gulf War 1. His impassioned speech was remarkable to hear.
And, btw, Packwood was supposedly closeted. His ridiculous antics were meant to be a screen for his other activities.

I heard that Marko and his driver would stop by the side of the road to pray together. I always thought that was not necessary.

Interviewing Senator Hatfield several times, I was always a tad bothered that he very seldom made direct eye contact. And, by the way, my brother served with Hatfield aboard the USS Whiteside in WW II.

While we didn't agree on much politically, I appreciated the way he handled opposition.

I first met Sen. Hatfield when he published his book, "Not Quite So Simple" in 1968. As a poor college student I stood in his book signing line just to talk with him. When he realized that I wasn't about to buy his book, he graciously autographed and gave me one for free. It was probably a smart way to silence a dissenter, but it worked and I appreciated the gesture. I still have the book, too.

Yes, Hatfield brought dollars to Oregon. At that time, many of us were grateful for that as we were a small state without the political capital to make things happen. Washington state had Scoop Jackson and Warren Magnuson, and it was very helpful to Oregon when Hatfield headed up Appropriations. it's a different time, now, but I'm glad we had Mark Hatfield representing us.

As for his beliefs, why all the doubting that it was genuine?

Hatfield had one of the best staffs assembled in Washington and his responsiveness to his constituents was very impressive. Gerry Frank was a huge part of making that work.

Jack, how was Hatfield partially responsible for you being in Oregon?

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