Traverse City Record-Eagle

Op-Ed Columns

September 23, 2012

George Weeks: Hyped claim on campaign trail

Former nine-term U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Holland, the GOP challenger of two-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow, became one of the best members of Congress. He was strong on labor and security issues, and had a bipartisan bent as savvy chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

I use "best" to emphasize he is a credible Senate candidate and to underscore the contrast with his absolutely ridiculous, indeed pathetic, assertion that Stabenow, who served in the Michigan House and Senate and the U.S. House, is the "worst" U.S. senator and possibly the worst "in Michigan history."

Who's to say? Worst by what standard?

What about 1919-22 Sen. Truman Newberry, R-Grosse Pointe, who famously was challenged by Democrat Henry Ford, the car guy, and then faced criminal indictment while in office?

No-nonsense 1993-2010 Congressman Hoekstra in this case speaks nonsense.

As headlined in the Detroit Free Press on a Sept. 13 column by Brian Dickerson: "Pete Hoekstra's hyperbole is plain silly and embarrassing."

While fuss-budget columnists ridicule Hoekstra's hyperbole, he is undeterred and getting press notice.

In a Sept. 20 letter to the Free Press, he cited reasons to call her "worst," including "her 12-year record of reckless spending on the Senate Budget Committee," and assorted evils on Obamacare, taxes, and regulations. She's hardly alone among Democrats on these matters.

Periodically on WorstSenator.com, the Hoekstra campaign asks "everyone to vote for the top 5 reasons why Debbie Stabenow is the worst Senator!"

Quite a gimmick, silly as it is.

Who's best?

I would not presume to proclaim who ranks as Michigan's best U.S. Senator. But two of the very best--as recognized by the Senate itself--were Republican 1928-51 Sen. Arthur H. Vandenberg and Democrat 1959-76 Sen. Philip A. Hart.

As I wrote in a 2004 issue of the Michigan History Magazine, the Senate in its 2000 decision to put Vandenberg's portrait in what essentially is its Hall of Fame noted his conversion from isolationism to internationalism and his bipartisan efforts in support of creating the United Nations.

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan's longest-serving senator, said Vandenberg "made a difference in terms of tone, in terms of guts and courage and integrity."

In 1987, the Senate named one of its three office buildings after Hart, whose traits of civility, integrity and fair-mindedness earned him the reputation as "The Conscience of the Senate."

The inscription on the building proclaims Hart as "a man of incorruptible integrity and personal courage strengthened by inner grace and outer gentleness."

These days, more than ever in my decades of covering politics, gentleness and civility are rare commodities on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, including Lansing.

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