Over the last few days, we heard many eulogies for Sen. Edward Kennedy. I found that the comments of Sen. Orrin Hatch were among the most fascinating. Here are a few of my take-aways:
– There are elected officialswho belong in the Executive Branch and those who belong in the Legislative Branch. There is no question that Sen. Kennedy truly came into his own once he realized he would never be President. That was when his not-inconsiderable gifts were focused on the nuts and bolts of legislation. He mastered the arcane. He built relationships. And he certainly affected the course of the nation’s history far more than many presidents.
– Niceties matter. I was struck by the number of times Sen. Hatch described small, personal gestures that cemented the friendship of these two men. He went to the funeral of Sen. Kennedy’s mother. Sen. Kennedy came to his mother’s funeral. By themselves, these gestures may not have seemed important. But they helped create a relationship in which the two men could disagree but still keep the communication lines open.
– Bipartisanship doesn’t mean everyone agrees all the time. Hatch and Kennedy had some donneybrooks over the years. Each cared passionately about the issues. They often disagreed. Tempers occasionally flared. But they kept talking and eventually reached a compromise.