Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

February 16, 2014

Jack Lessenberry: Ex-Congressman Bill Broomfield

For many years, much of Detroit’s northern suburbs were represented in Congress by Bill Broomfield, a gentle, self-effacing man who rose to become ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

He was unswervingly Republican, especially on domestic issues, voting against, for example, virtually every piece of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society legislation.

But the thought of snubbing or being rude to any president of any party would have absolutely appalled him. Now nearly 92 and in fragile health, he served during the administrations of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and George H.W. Bush, and told me once, “I can honestly say I liked working with all the presidents.”

Had he still been in Congress, he would have shown up without a second thought last week, when President Obama came to Michigan State University to sign the long-stalled farm bill.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee was given credit by both parties for her diligent bipartisan effort to break a two-year impasse on the bill, which sets a framework for U.S. farm policy for a decade.

When it was finally passed, the bill, in fact, got more support from House Republicans than Democrats. Nevertheless, not a single one of the two dozen Republicans invited to the signing showed up.

Not Gov. Rick Snyder, not Michigan’s nine GOP members of Congress; not the Speaker of the House nor the chair of the House Agriculture Committee. When Air Force One landed in Lansing, Mayor Virg Bernero was the only official there to greet the President.

Shunning the president may have been both rude and stupid. Michigan twice gave President Obama — who can never run again — lopsided victories. Polls show that the overwhelming majority of voters are tired of partisan gridlock and nastiness.

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