In a week of spectacle and rising rhetoric and temperatures, the image of two quiet men sitting stands out for me.
Former United States Secretary of State George Schultz (also a former Secretary of Treasury and Labor, Director of the Office of Management and Budget) and former California Governor and United States Senator Pete Wilson sat stoically at the funeral for Nancy Reagan, each accompanied by their brilliant spouses, Charlotte and Gail.
Both men are Marines, though it was Schultz — now 95 — who went ashore at Peleliu in World War II. Both men still live and work in the Golden State. Both remain active in advising many behind the scenes. Both will play a role in the California GOP primary on June 7, which increasingly seems likely to impact the GOP convention in Cleveland a month later.
I see “Pete,” as he has been known to enormous numbers of Californians since his early political career in the state legislature and as mayor of San Diego, and see him a couple of times a year at various gatherings around Los Angeles. Secretary Schultz is a northerner, but he came down to dedicate the naming of the law school at which I have taught since 1995 — Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law in Orange, Calif. He also spent a couple of hours the week before the Reagan Library debate with this year’s media fellows at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. On both occasions this remarkable man spoke at length and without notes in a precise, deep assessment of the state of the world he was once tasked by Ronald Reagan to help organize and hold together against the then still menacing Soviet Union.
Schultz and Wilson combined must have a half century in high office, 50+ years without a whiff of personal scandal or anything other than the grudging admiration of all their GOP foes and many of their Democratic ones. Both exemplify extraordinary talents put at the service of the country.They must not recognize the politics of 2016.
Certainly they contended with problems every bit as large as those facing today’s America, but never did they vent spleen in public. Tough, of course. They are Marines. Hardball was familiar to both and they could throw inside, at home and abroad.
But both are gentlemen. Old school. When politics was of a piece with public service, not a full time career in the service of oneself.
I suspect, but do not know, that they will endorse Ohio Gov. John Kasich when the carnival comes to town in late May before the increasingly obvious, enormously important California primary. Kasich is the credentialed candidate who has actually governed and, if as I confidently predict he will, Kasich carries Ohio on Tuesday, the Buckeye State’s two-term governor and two decade veteran of the Congress will appear to be a more conservative version of Pete Wilson, who once sought the presidency only to have his campaign undone by untimely malfunction of his vocal chords. Schultz and Wilson are serious men of experience, and I expect they will look to the most experienced in actually governing, which would be Kasich.
When and if they do endorse and explain, they will do so without rancor or bile towards anyone, but that will deny their recommendation attention and thus wider audience. Because they are quiet and serious men of demonstrated patriotism, perhaps we should all pay a little more note to what they say and do these days. In a time when many complain that good men and women are hard to find, this duo of Golden State statesmen are a model to be studied, and hopefully restored as guides to lives of genuine accomplishment.
This column was originally posted on WashingtonExaminer.com.