AGAINST THE GRAIN: Reflections of a Rebel Republican
Release date: 05/01/2000
In this informative, if inconsistently engaging, autobiography, former five-term U.S. Senator Hatfield traces the origins of his political and religious beliefs, and the various tests of these faiths encountered in a remarkably long political career. Raised in Depression-era Oregon, Hatfield learned early the Populist values of that peculiarly progressive state and came to view poverty as "arguably the most prevalent violence in our society." During service in the navy, he witnessed both the horror of war—at Iwo Jima and Okinawa—and of its aftermath, in postwar Hiroshima. In his political career, Hatfield thus became a determined defender of the powerless and an ardent opponent of military folly, especially that of the Vietnam war. Much of the book deals with his early and persistent opposition to that war and the pressures he faced from constituents, colleagues, and presidents because of this stance. Hatfield also writes, in a direct yet quiet way, of the strong religious faith that has served him throughout his life, and allowed him to view political opponents not as enemies but as friends with whom he simply disagreed. Not surprisingly, then, he is also critical of the current political culture of "partisanship, misuse of power, and the marketing of politics." While at times falling into vague banalities—"we all belong to the human race"—it is nevertheless refreshing and instructive, in this jaded political era, to read the memoirs of an elder statesman who put principle above party, and the well-being of the community above that of his career.