Voice From the Republican Past

Two days after his 90th birthday, Edward Brooke was at the Capitol yesterday to receive the Congressional Gold Medal from President Obama and scold Mitch McConnell for his failure to be bipartisan.

Brooke, the first African-American ever elected to the Senate in 1966 as a Republican from Massachusetts, took the occasion to tell his party’s leader:

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. We’ve got to get together…It’s time for politics to be put aside on the back burner. You have awesome responsibilities.”

In today’s polarized climate, Sen. Brooke would be almost unrecognizable as a Republican, championing civil rights and fair housing, voting against two mediocre Nixon choices for the Supreme Court and speaking out as the first in his party to tell him to resign over Watergate.

As a nonagenarian, he may be a distant figure to today’s generations, but Barbara Walters brought him back into the spotlight last year by revealing in her memoirs that they had had a passionate affair in the 1970s but ended it out of fear of ruining their careers.

Nowadays, that might have just led to guest shots on The View and a joint coming-out interview on Sixty Minutes.

Cross-posted from my blog.

Author: ROBERT STEIN