There’s been much reflection on the passing of President George H. W. Bush. There’s little question Bush Senior was an old school gentleman adept not only at electoral politics but equipped with the personal skills enabling government to actually work.
By Dick Spotswood | The Marin IJ
Those once were and hopefully in some future day will again be essential political qualities. Those qualities include the willingness to compromise for higher ends and wisdom to work across party lines in a spirit of civility and national unity.
President Bush’s death is a timely reminder that Marin once had a Republican politician who exhibited those sterling qualities. The late Peter Behr remains today the lodestar of excellence in North Bay government. In the 1970’s and 1980’s Behr was a Mill Valley council member and mayor, Marin 3rd District county supervisor and a state senator representing the North Bay/North Coast.
During his tenure, Behr was the leading environmentalist in the Senate. Shepherding the Wild Rivers Bill through the legislative process was the senator’s crowning achievement.
It’s easy today to forget that the earliest Marin “conservationists” were heavily Republican. Until the early 1980’s, what we today call environmentalist had bipartisan support. Yes, even then some in the GOP regarded the green movement as interfering with private business development. Likewise, a good many Democrats scoffed at the environment as an upper middle class preoccupation that sacrificed good union timber and mining jobs.
There is now a kerfuffle in Novato about which council member should serve as the city’s next mayor. The issue is civility or the lack thereof. That was never a concern with Peter Behr. Like all “ladies and gentlemen,” he had an impeccable sense of timing and respect for others even when he disagreed with them.
Reflecting on Behr and Bush isn’t just about the good old days before Newt Gingrich introduced total warfare into Congress, or “Borking” (after Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s rough-and-tumble rejection) became a common Washington verb.
It’s about the reality that good people make good politics. Elect women and men in the mold of Behr and Bush and we can get our cities, states and the nation back on an even keel and out of its current destructive passion for division and tribalism. That applies to candidates regardless of their ideology or party. Having those talents needs to be a key factor for all of us when it comes to voting decisions not just for president but for city council members, school board trustees and our representatives in Sacramento and Washington.