Former Speaker Calls Rostenkowski Product of His Era
Byline: Kerry Lester firstname.lastname@example.org
The longtime suburban Republican House speaker remembered Dan Rostenkowski as an intimidating and influential colleague but also one who failed to adapt as politics changed.
Dennis Hastert, of Plano, pointed out that he and the late Chicago Democrat shared a birthday -- Jan. 2 -- but the 14 years and party politics separating them yielded markedly different leadership styles.
Speaking from his vacation home in Wisconsin, Hastert reminisced Wednesday about entering Congress in 1987 when Rostenkowski, a 36-year congressman and longtime chair of the Ways and Means Committee, "was at the pinnacle of his power."
"You couldn't get anything done if it dealt with Illinois or Chicago or tax matters unless you went with him," Hastert said. "He came from the time of kings. ... In my time, I was dealing with five-vote margins, a little different type of situation."
As a freshman lawmaker, Hastert remembered meeting with an Illinois delegation of representatives and senators once a month.
As the meetings were run by Rostenkowski, former Democratic Sen. Alan Dixon and Republican Rep. Bob Michel, "I'd sit there and listen to those guys talk about policy," Hastert said.
"Some things they couldn't agree upon, but at that time there was a good feeling among them."
Still, Hastert spoke of being ultimately intimidated by the man who had "power supreme. …