(Transportation Sec. Drew Lewis, upper right, with President Reagan
and Attorney General William French Smith in 1981. Associated Press)
I was in college and Gerald Ford was president when I met Drew Lewis. He was a prominent Pennsylvania Republican, and was the featured speaker at the Villanova Political Union where I was in the Liberal Party. In those days, cooperation across party lines was still possible; Senators Dole and McGovern, for example, worked on bills together. After our college debates were over, the student debaters repaired to a nearby tavern and insulted one another according to Robert’s Rules of Order. I remember thinking how clever the upperclassmen were.
The seriousness of the radical right became clear a few years later when Ronald Reagan, with Lewis as his transportation secretary, fired air traffic controllers. I thought it was reckless, but conservatives insisted it showed the Soviets that Reagan meant business. Nowadays, courteous and dignified conservatives like Lewis get primaried out of their seats. Perhaps they were too courteous and got rolled over. Perhaps the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of his generation will restore responsible conservatism from the wreckage of those who scorn all restraint.
My old sparring partners are now grandparents. Change takes a long time, and ours is running short. R.I.P. Drew Lewis.