Cooper, Percy and Case: When the Party Was Grand

The Republican National Convention begins in Cleveland July 18, just a few days from now. Rather than talk about presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, I want to use this space to point out what will be obvious — and totally missing — at this year’s GOP convention.

There used to be a group of Republicans, elected office holders, who were universally described as intelligent, worldly and reasonable. They did not view government as inherently evil, and they believed in public service. Their attitude toward people who didn’t agree with them was to candidly differ but never to call them names or use ethnic slurs to denigrate or degrade them.

Their policy and ideological pronouncements were always articulate, clear and measured. They were widely respected and didn’t view or practice politics as a blood sport. They would never crassly call anyone a “loser.” Most of all, their careers were distinguished by trying to find solution; they didn’t just stir up the pot to feed their egos or for personal aggrandizement.

In a phrase, they were classy gentlemen — and senators — who lived in Georgetown.

The word “moderate” was attached to their names. “Moderate” was not a dirty word in their day. The moniker meant an independent soul with sound and good judgment. Three former Georgetown residents who are no longer with us personified this vanishing breed.

My personal favorite was John Sherman Cooper. A tall, white-haired man from Kentucky, he was probably best known for teaming up with a Democrat, Frank Church, and authoring the Cooper-Church Amendment to remove our troops from Cambodia in a time certain. Cooper long sought to stop the madness and killing in Vietnam. His personal style was courtly and always kind. I distinctly remember coming up to him as a young GW student in the late 1960s. To show his interest in what I had to say, he cupped his ear so he could hear me. It was a small act of attentiveness, but so considerate.

Charles Percy was from my native state of Illinois. In the Senate, he took positions on issues that were not always predictable or partisan. His presidential ambitions were hampered because he was never a “sure” vote on conservative positions. He was viewed as “too independent.” His work in turning the Georgetown waterfront into a marvelous asset that we can all enjoy today was one of his proudest accomplishments. Indeed, Percy Plaza is located at K Street and Wisconsin Avenue.

Clifford Case could easily be called a bit more than a moderate. Some might have called him a “liberal.” But that would not have bothered the New Jersey senator. He was from what was called the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party. It’s an extinct category nowadays. This group valued progressive principles and sought to better the nation and not adhere to right-wing extremes.

I’ll be in Cleveland next week. Too bad for their party and our country that the likes of Cooper, Percy and Case seem nowhere to be found.

*Political analyst Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a contributor to Reach him at*

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