Former New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman passed away this week at the age of 82 from complications related to lymphoma. His loss is being memorialized in papers across the country, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and many others.
Rudman became an impressive presence in Washington during his two terms as Senator, serving from 1980-1993. Rudman was aggressive and confrontational at times, but was also known and respected for his willingness to work across the aisle on big issues and small and he played an important role in American history during his years in Washington.
Rudman was a vocal critic of President Reagan during the Iran-Contra hearings. He served on the Senate Ethics Eommittee and led the investigation of the Keating Five, five U.S. Senators accused of corruption during the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980’s.
Perhaps the most interesting connection between the times in which he served and the time in which he passed away was the role that Warren Rudman played fighting against the growth of government spending. Rudman became a leading voice for fiscal reform as he warned the nation against soaring deficits. Decades before the term “fiscal cliff” became a part of the political lexicon, he railed against a partisan Senate where nothing got done and spending went unchecked.
Rudman joined with Democratic Senator “Fritz” Hollings of South Carolina and Republican Phil Gramm of Texas to enact the Gramm-Hollings-Rudman Act in 1985. The legislation was the first effort to force limitations on federal spending and while our current national debt of 16 trillion dollars is proof enough that it did not work, at the time, the effort was considered laudable.
Politics is our sport here in the Granite State and great politicians, for good or for bad, often achieve an almost cultural icon status. Senator Warren Rudman is one of those politicians, described as “pugnacious” and “combative” as well as “moderate” and “compromising,” serving during a period where Washington was no more functional than it is today in many ways, and yet he managed to show leadership on difficult issues and character in difficult times.
As politicians mourn the passing of Senator Rudman, perhaps they could also take this opportunity to learn from his example and show leadership, display character, and help move our nation through these difficult times.