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I read today that Mark Hatfield had passed away at the age of 89.

In a previous blog about what would have been the 99th birthday of Ronald Reagan, I wrote the the following about my single personal encounter with Mark Hatfield.

There have been times during my career where I have had the opportunity to spend time with Senators, Congressmen and Governors. It is pretty common for most politicians to be aloof, detached and even condescending. Others have a rather phony sincerity that, at least for me, is pretty easy to detect. I’ve always suspected that this is because they are not comfortable with who they are.

In my personal experience there was one exception; Mark Hatfield.

At the time I met the Senator, he was the chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. He was one of the 5 most powerful people in the U.S. Government and this was reflected in the office he occupied in Washington.

Several of us had arrived for a meeting and were waiting in the his conference room with a staff member. Senator Hatfield entered the room before his remaining staff arrived; very unusual in its own right. He apparently noticed that I had been looking over some documents hanging on the wall at the time he entered the room. After formal introductions were finished he took me over to tell me more about items on display all the while asking about my family and upbringing.

I had been intrigued by the bust of Herbert Hoover and the documents with his signature on them. My history wasn’t great but I did know that Hoover was often blamed as the President that led the country into the Great Depression of the 1930′s.

The Senator explained that he admired President Hoovers agenda known as the Children’s Charter. The Charter focused on providing protections for all children, regardless of race or gender. After what was maybe all of 90 seconds we returned to the conference table. Like Reagan, it was a sincere everyman’s moment. Almost 25 years later I find myself wishing we had more leaders like Mark Hatfield and Ronald Reagan. We would be a better nation for it.

Hatfield’s political views didn’t fit in any standard platform and were frustrating to many. Christianity Today in 1982 wrote of him,

What makes Sen. Mark Hatfield so different? Newsmen and radio commentators find it difficult to place him in a neat pigeonhole. As the New York Times puts it: “Mr. Hatfield does not fit the mold.” He is a Republican, but is known as a liberal in politics. He is against nuclear war, but he is not a pacifist. He supports all sorts of programs to aid the poor, but he is a diehard fiscal conservative. He is a friend of Billy Graham, and he cosponsors a resolution with Sen. Edward Kennedy. He has never been a “wheel” of the Senate’s power structure, but he has become chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. He antagonizes his Oregon constituency by voting flatly against a measure 90 percent of them badly want, and they turn right around and reelect him to office. He is a devout evangelical and an active member of Georgetown Baptist Church, but no fundamentalist or evangelical organization has him in its pocket.

What makes that kind of man? We believe this interview will reveal his secret: it is his deep commitment to Jesus Christ and a conscience structured and refined by Holy Scripture as his own final rule of faith and practice.

You can read the full interview here.

I first came across the fact that Senator Hatfield was a christian when reading his forward to a book written by Charles Swindoll called “Killing Giants, Pulling Thorns.”

… As every reader of Christian devotional literature knows, suffering cannot be explained away.. nor can fear, bitterness, lust jealousy, and other “giants” that stand against the work of the Holy Spirit in us. But the painful reminders of our humanity can be surrounded by a framework for understanding and resources for growth and faithfulness. Charles Swindoll’s Killing Giants, Pulling Thorns helps to fill that need for me and many of my friends…”

It’s hard to imagine any of today’s politicians writing such a forward to a christian book.

Hatfield had a couple of scandals in which he denied wrongdoing. One of these received a reprimand from the Senate ethics committee.

After retiring from the Senate, rather then joining one of the many firms that would have allowed him to enrich himself as a lobbyist, Hatfield returned to teaching, joining the faculty of George Fox College.  He served as the Herbert Hoover Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Politics at the school.

You might also like The Essence of Ronald Reagan

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