TPM Cafe: Opinion

Daschle: How Different The Senate Would Be With 100 Howard Bakers

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AP Photo / Tom Reed

When this country needed a leader to guide us through the painfully divisive Watergate crisis, he was there.

When we needed a leader to show extraordinary political courage under enormous political pressure to pass the Panama Canal treaty, he was there again.

And when President Reagan needed a strong person as his Chief of Staff, to reorganize his administration and reconnect with Congress, he was there once more.

The list is endless.

The world needed him and he was there.

When I was elected Senate Democratic Leader, he called to congratulate me and offered to come by my Capitol office. A few days later, as we discussed the responsibilities of the job and the enormous honor that it entailed, one of his last pieces of advice was to remember that in the harsh partisan clashes that were certain to unfold, I should never underestimate the importance of civility.

He could offer that advice with undisputed credibility. Howard Baker was the personification of civility. He set the gold standard. He did so with every word and action, including making a point to shake the hand of his legislative opponent, win or lose, after every Senate debate.

In 2007, as we lamented the increasingly confrontational and hostile political environment enveloping Washington, he readily agreed to join George Mitchell, Bob Dole and me to form the Bipartisan Policy Center. Virtually our first project was to construct and propose a comprehensive national plan for health care.

How different, how much better the world would be if we had one hundred Howard Bakers occupying the United States Senate today.

How badly we need his courage, his vision and his capacity to find common ground.

Our country needed him a lot more than heaven does.

Thomas Daschle is the former Democratic senator from South Dakota and served as the Senate Majority Leader from 2001 to 2003 and the Minority Leader from 1995 to 2001 and 2003 to 2005.