WHILE I WAS WRITING THIS BOOK, two former members of Congress whom I knew and respected passed away, and I would like to acknowledge them here. Both were men of honesty, integrity, and courage and this nation is a better place for their having served it.
Paul Tsongas, from Lowell, Massachusetts, was first elected to the House in 1974, one of the "Watergate babies." I met Tsongas when he was serving in the Senate and I was a young reporter right out of college, covering the Massachusetts congressional delegation for the Griffin-Larrabee News Service. Over the years I interviewed Tsongas many times, and he was always thoughtful and straightforward. He also had a dry wit and could be extremely funny. I always looked forward to talking with him, and I always knew I would learn something.
Some people, most of them his political adversaries, thought he could be a bit self-righteous. But I remember him as someone who set high standards both for himself and for the rest of us. He thought Americans were smart and mature enough to hear the truth. His 1992 campaign for the presidency was mostly about truth telling. He focused on the federal budget deficit and even bravely addressed the issue of Social Security and entitlement reform. His tough-love message did not win many votes, but he did manage to win the New Hampshire primary. And he emerged from the presidential campaign a national figure of greater stature.
In December 1995, at the height of the second government shutdown, I spoke with him about the budget fight and the freshmen. He was sympathetic to their goal but disagreed with them on a number of details. Tsongas felt that he represented the "passionate center" of Americans who are fiscally conservative, socially tolerant, supportive of environmental protection, and sickened by the existing campaign financing system.
When he discovered that he had cancer, Tsongas left the Senate to return home to his family and to Massachusetts. He underwent painful bone marrow replacement and for some years it appeared he had beaten the cancer. Until his death in January 1997 at 55, Paul Tsongas continued to speak out on issues that were important to him and continued to make a difference.
Mike Synar also wasn't afraid to go his own way, but he was no centrist. Synar was an unabashed, unreconstructed liberal. Whereas Tsongas was understated to the point of being accused by some of having no charisma, there was nothing understated about Mike Synar. He grabbed life with both hands and shook it. He was irrepressible, pushy, exasperating, irreverent, smart, funny, and always outrageous, not to mention one of the best dancers I have ever known.
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Publication information: Book title: The Freshmen:What Happened to the Republican Revolution?. Contributors: Linda Killian - Author. Publisher: Westview Press. Place of publication: Boulder, CO. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 435.
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