The GOP is in mourning today after it was revealed that former U.S. House Republican leader Bob Michel has passed away. He was 93 years-old.
Politico reported that Michel was first elected to represent Illinois in 1956, and he went on to spend 38 years in Congress, more than half of that time in his party’s leadership. This is the longest that any Republican has ever held a position in the party’s leadership.
When the leadership transferred from Michel to Newt Gingrich in 1994, a huge impact was felt by House Republicans and then all of Congress as the fabric of civility soon fell apart and both political parties became more polarized.
“It’s day and night,” said Thomas Mann, a political scientist and long time student of Congress. “I see that transition — the shift from Michel to Gingrich — as the beginning of our really dreadfully dysfunctional Congress and a politics that became so personal and negative and anti-institutional that it really changed the whole character of public life in this country.”
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 17, 2017
Michel was known for his mix of grace, humor and battle-tested bravery that is rarely seen in Washington D.C. today.
“I think of Bob as the gold standard for public service … The other part of it was the respect he had for friend or foe,” said former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who worked for Michel as a House staffer before succeeding him in Congress in 1995. “Bob always had respect for everyone and treated everyone respectfully. And as a mentor to many of us, what we learned was, respecting people’s point of view even when you don’t agree with it, really is an important lesson in life.”
Rest in peace, Bob Michel!