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Foley: In the Spirit of `Maggie' and `Scoop'

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REP. TOM FOLEY's ascension to the House speakership will result in changes both of style and substance that will be good for the country. Most media profiles will focus on Mr. Foley's voting record and substantive orientation. Properly, they will feature the moderation, fairness, and thoroughness that have characterized his 24-year career in the House of Representatives. They also will feature his commitments to a strong national defense; open international trade and investment policies; responsible budget policy; economic growth; and social equity.

Yet it would also be well to examine the time and place he comes from. Foley, as I did, grew up in the state of Washington in the 1940s and 1950s. We met at the University of Washington during the early 1950s when he was a law student and I was a student editor. A few years later, we would find ourselves in Washington, D.C., he working for Henry Jackson, I for Hubert Humphrey.

I particularly recall his courtship of Heather Strachan, now his wife, during the 1964 Johnson-Goldwater campaign. Tom, running for Congress in a Republican district back home, would come to pick up Heather, working at the Democratic National Committee, on those evenings when he was off the campaign trail. The Johnson campaign was good for Foley: The landslide brought him a surprise victory and a House seat.

Washington state had a long tradition of progressive political activism. Today's hot-tub crowd had not yet discovered the area. On the western side of the state, the ``Wobblies'' and other radical unions in earlier years had been engaged in sometimes violent struggle for the right to unionize. My father, an unskilled sawmill worker, spent many a day on a picket line.

A Seattle congressman of the late 1930s and early 1940s was charged with Communist Party membership. A conservative colleague of the time referred to ``the 47 states and the Soviet of Washington.'' The region was heavily settled by immigrants who had moved from Scandinavia and through the upper Midwest, bringing with them the progressivist, participatory, talking-politics-all-night-over-coffee traditions usually identified with Minnesota and Wisconsin. On the eastern side of the state, where Foley grew up the son of a judge, the traditions were more conservative. Yet memories of rural depression were real and politics and public service honorable pursuits.


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