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Dreier Departure Bad News for Congressional Civility

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It was a rare meeting of the California congressional delegation.

They had gathered, both Democrats and Republicans, to meet with the new Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Not everyone was pleased to be there. A few of the Democrats were still upset with the recall of Gray Davis and they feared the new Governor would be far too conservative for their liking (which was the case at the start but later turned out to be very much not the case).

That the meeting took place at all was somewhat of a milestone.

The two political parties are so polarized that the fact they all represented the same state never seems to matter much. There was little to connect the liberal from San Francisco with the conservative from Bakersfield.

But they came nevertheless. After all it was David Dreier who asked.

Dreier is the Republican congressman from San Dimas. First elected in the 1980 sweep by Ronald Reagan he has been around longer than any other member of the California delegation.

Over the past 30 years he has slowly risen through the ranks and now was the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. Schwarzenegger had picked him to head his transition after he was elected in the 2003 recall.

There was a reason why Arnold picked him for the job and it was part of the same reason why just about everyone arrived for that meeting.

Whatever you thought of his politics the fact is Dreier was a nice guy. It is the part the public doesn’t see --the part where members of government, in the midst of an adversarial relationship, can treat people with respect and even be friends.

Dreier was known for inviting as many Democrats to his private parties as Republicans. The Washington Post called him “polite to a fault.”

For him it was all about being fair, human and building relationships.

There was a day when, after fierce partisan debate on the floor of the Senate a liberal like Hubert Humphrey could take a conservative like Barry Goldwater to dinner (the two were best friends). David Dreier was part of that culture.

We can only hope whoever replaces him in Congress will attempt to carry on, if not his politics, at least his goodwill for the others who disagree in the name of Democracy.

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