NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I suppose whether David Obey is a passionate political fighter or a generally unpleasant person depends on your politics.
Reporters who cover him know that Congressman Obey has a temper. His fellow Democrat Maxine Waters of California knows too, after getting into a shouting match with him on the House floor. Several sources say Obey gave his colleague a shove at the end of that exchange.
Obey’s staff almost always declines appearances on the Sunday morning TV news shows, not knowing how their boss would respond to tough questions.
There are several constituents in Wisconsin who’ve been on the receiving end of his sharp tongue when asking questions during town hall meetings. One such exchange happened earlier this year, when Obey was asked a question about healthcare reform. It's happened many times before.
Congressman Obey, although invited several times, has not appeared for an in-studio interview at his hometown radio station for at least eight years. Every time you’ve heard him on a WSAU newscast it’s been from a public appearance… never a one-on-one interview.
I bring this up because I heard a lot of this mean-spiritedness in Obey’s farewell news conference. He criticizes the demise of the news media. He laments over the lack of civility in politics. Yet he is uncompromising to his political opponents, saying the stimulus should have been bigger, health care should have been more generous, taxes should be higher to pay for it all. Anyone with a differing opinion - from past Presidents to humble constituients - is "wrong".
There is no question David Obey will be remembered as a towering political figure. He’s served in Congress for 41 years and retires as chairman of the House’s most powerful committee. In 25 elections, to seats in Madison and Washington, he was often the landslide choice of voters in Central Wisconsin.
Some will say David Obey is retiring because the political climate has turned against him and his party. Certainly Obey would not want to close out his career by being voted out of office by Dan Mielke or Sean Duffy. But while he would face a tougher fight than usual, he would also be considered the favorite for reelection if he was running.
There was a candid comment from Obey yesterday. He was planning to retire in 2000. He decided against it to fight against George W. Bush’s policies. He was planning to retire again in 2002. A meeting at the White House with Bush changed his mind after 9-11 because he was taken aback by the stubbornness of the President. David Obey has those very same traits. If you agree with him, he was your political bulldog. If you disagreed, Obey was not nice… and he’s given you lot of reasons to think so.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau