- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Richard Gephardt's imminent departure from the ranks of congressional leadership brings to an end a sturdy and largely admirable congressional career. In any other line of work, he would receive accolades, banquets and a substantial structure named after him for his years of good work. In politics, he receives its cruelest blow the back of his party's hand, followed by being ignored. In this business, gratitude is only expressed to those from whom future benefits may be expected. He deserves better.
While this page has rarely found a good word to say for Mr. Gephardt's policy proposals (should he run for president we are likely to oppose his campaign platform with great relish), nonetheless, his heavy labors have been a credit to his party's efforts. And with one or two exceptions, his decades of leadership have contributed measurably to the perpetuation of the democratic process.
In 1994, during the waning months of the Democratic Party's majority, Mr. Gephardt could be seen day and night plodding manfully through the halls of Congress, trying to rally his party to Bill Clinton's ill-advised health-care proposal. In the end, he couldn't even bring it to the floor for a vote so unpopular was it with even Democrats by then. But, it did not fail for want of Mr. Gephardt's best effort. With the mood in the ranks growing ever more sour, Mr. Gephardt maintained his calm, rational and pleasant demeanor. He labored, but he never tired. Such an effort was typical of this former Eagle Scout's leadership over the many years. He gave his party and his country everything those virtues could produce.
We are obliged to note the one prominent exception to this record. In 1995-96, he permitted himself to be brought into the Democratic Party's inexcusable abuse of the ethics process as Democrats filed false charge after false charge against the new Republican speaker, Newt Gingrich. Eventually, Mr. Gingrich was cleared of all of the substantive and virtually all of the technical charges Mr. Gephardt helped file against him. Mr. Gephardt also failed to keep regular order on the floor of the House on his side of the aisle. But in the context of Mr. Gephardt's long career, and considering the high partisan passions of 1995-96, that breach of propriety should be seen as an exception not a characteristic of his leadership.
As the House Democratic Party trudges deeper into its minority over the next two years, we suspect that there will be many days when Dick Gephardt's steady hand and instinctive integrity will be missed on both sides of the aisle. Permit us, then, to tip our conservative hat to a gallant and determined gentleman across the barricades.


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