Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Illinois Washington, D. C. –Based Group Says “Well Done” to Henry Hyde: And His Performance Shows He’s Back to the Old Form

WASHINGTON—A luncheon I attended Monday at the Capitol Hill club here paid tribute to Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL) who is not running for reelection due to ill health—and the chairman of the International Relations committee surprised the gathering by reminiscing in colorful form what he called “the high points and the low points” of his 32-year career in the House. The organization that paid tribute to him is an informally known “Illinois Group” composed of ex-congressmen, ex-staffers, current staffers, current Congressmen and business-oriented people with roots back in this state.

Several weeks ago when I was in Washington, I found Hyde fatigued and, frankly, lethargic as he sat in his wheel chair in his office. But the difference between that session and his performance at the luncheon was like night and day—due, a member of his staff said, to a change in his medication which had made him less energetic. Result: a glorious if subdued reincarnation of the old Henry Hyde, albeit in a wheel-chair and a softer voice, but as his remarks were amplified with a hand-mike, the audience thrilled to his humor, deft phrasing and cogent insights into public issues. His remembrances of the House was both historical and outrageously witty for young staffers who attended, as well as some of the old timers including former House Republican leader Bob Michel, retired Congressman John Edward Porter and scores of others who hung on Hyde’s words.

As for me, I was tremendously heartened. As chairman of the City Club, I invited him—and he accepted—to give a similar farewell to the state he served so well, as chairman of House Judiciary and later of International Relations. As chairman of International Relations, he is, strengthened by his ditching the old medication, back in fighting form and from his wheel-chair is pursuing an agenda that would tire many. At a later meeting I had with Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), himself one of the key leaders in the House and the man Speaker J. Dennis Hastert calls upon to wield the gavel whenever there is trouble and the skills of a top parliamentarian are required, the Peoria congressman said that Hyde is without doubt “the most respected member of Congress in both Houses and on both sides of the aisle.” LaHood was the top staffer for many years to Michel and remembers the House since he was a stripling, a matchless experience which has given him great understanding of parliamentary procedure and the history of “the People’s House.”

May I suggest this: Now’s the time for movement conservatives, pro-business leaders, supporters of a non-legislative judiciary, people who are interested in improved conduct of foreign affairs, to schedule “farewell and well done” meetings honoring this man who even now ranks with the greatest Illinoisans who ever served in Congress: Everett Dirksen, Peter Fitrzgerald, Paul Douglas and a host of others including J. Dennis Hastert, Joseph Cannon, William Rainey, Stephen A. Douglas and an obscure one-term member from Springfield, remembered chiefly as one who opposed the Mexican war, Abraham Lincoln. It would be terrible if we allow this great man to leave public life without the tributes he deserves. That goes for civic groups, business organizations, Republican organizations—all kinds of groups. There ought to be one tribute every weekend from some organization who has been well served by this brilliant orator and kindly gentleman. I can think of the Federalist Society (if it has an organization in Chicago), foreign relations groups, conservatives groups, business groups: they should come forward on their own.

I would like to see civic groups from all the major communities in his district honor him. That’s my two cents anyhow.

1 comment:

  1. Tom:

    There is a Lawyers' Chapter of the Federalist Society in Chicago (in addition to chapters at the law schools).

    In fact it is hosting a luncheon next week with Prof. Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago Law School entitled "Peek and Ye Shall Find: the Constitutional Policy Implications of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

    The details are:

    DATE: Tuesday, June 20, 2006
    TIME: 11:45 a.m. reception
    Luncheon Served At Noon
    LOCATION: Union League Club
    65 West Jackson Boulevard
    Chicago, Illinois
    COST: $20
    RSVP to Kevin Baldwin at (773) 562-5213

    Come on by, the Chicago Lawyers' Chapter hosts interesting speakers a few times a year.