Share story

THE death of former U.S. House Speaker Tom Foley, who represented his Eastern Washington constituents for three decades, is a moment to recall and affirm there are other ways to conduct the peoples’ business.

Foley’s service and leadership in the House of Representatives and, later, as U.S. ambassador to Japan provide a benchmark for the erosion of competence and dignity in Congress.

The turmoil on Capitol Hill in recent weeks, months and years illustrates how much has been lost. Foley’s legacy of civility, bipartisanship and inclusion comes from another era.

Indeed, Foley frustrated his colleagues at the time with his willingness to hear all sides, consider other points of view and weigh those contributions.

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

His defeat in 1994 was virtually a symbol of what was ahead for the nation. He got crosswise with conservative constituents over term limits and with his vote for a federal assault-weapons ban.

Were their complaints about his ability to represent and deliver federal services and emoluments to his district? No, he was undone by comfortable ideologues.

Foley, who won office at age 35 with a handful of votes over a longtime Republican incumbent, would eventually lose office in a resurgent GOP victory in 1994. He was sent to represent the United States in Japan in 1997 by President Clinton.

Foley’s service to his district, state and nation, recounted by reporter Kyung M. Song of The Times’ Washington bureau, illustrates the capacity of a politician to represent the interest of the entire country.

Former House Speaker Foley leaves a deep and unmatched legacy of skills, knowledge and political understanding.

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.