Blog on Pat Lucey

At a time when Craig Gilbert’s masterful and depressing series “Color Us Divided” was appearing I attended a visitation where I could bid a fond, admiring farewell to Pat Lucey.

Almost simultaneously I got a copy of a letter that Mel Laird wrote to the Director of the Fogarty International Center about his long (and long ago) partnership with his friend, colleague, and collaborator on health care and research John Fogarty (D-Rhode Island).

Pat Lucey was, among other things, the most self-effacing politician I ever met, and I have met a lot of politicians.

I was chair of the 1966 Knowles for Governor campaign against Pat which Warren Knowles won.

We got over that.

He once told me that his favorite Republican was Jack Olson, who he beat in the 1964 race for lieutenant governor and the 1970 race for governor. He liked Jack, he said, because Jack was the only Republican he could beat.

He also attributed some of his early success as governor to getting Democrats to vote for programs that his predecessor Knowles had proposed.

Typically he downplayed his enormous success on most matters great and small while he was governor up to and including the essential but vigorously opposed merger of the two state systems of higher education, where he was lavish in his praise of the help he got from then UW-Stevens Point chancellor Lee Dreyfus and state Senator Tiny Kreuger of Merrill.

Mel Laird is remembered as the Secretary of the Department of Defense who orchestrated our country’s withdrawal from Vietnam. Overlooked or unknown are his enormous contributions to national health research and disease control in partnership with the aforementioned Democratic Representative John Fogarty. It took both of them to get the money for the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control through the Congress and past the reluctant presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson.

An element of this alliance was that Laird went to Rhode Island and campaigned for Fogarty and Fogarty repaid the favor in Wisconsin—-an idea emulated recently by state senators Tim Cullen (D) and Dale Schultz (R) to tepid applause.

What I find notable in retrospect, along with their contributions to the public good, is how much these men respected the trade and its practitioners.

Cause and effect? Probably, but not provably.

Better than demonizing and gridlock? Indisputably.

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