Portland, Oregon, USA, 20 July 2020, Protest stickers on post downtown. (Photo: PikaPower / Shutterstock.com)
What one late GOP senator from Oregon would have thought about Trump sending federal troops to Portland

The deployment of armed federal security forces to Portland, Oregon, against the wishes of the city and state elected officials, ostensibly to protect the federal courthouse in the downtown area has been criticized as unnecessary and probably illegal by many Democrats but publicly by only one Republican, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.). 

However, another Republican, who if he were still alive, would no doubt join Senator Paul and the Democrats in condemning the deployment and the conduct of the federal forces. That would be the late Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield, for whom the courthouse is named. Based upon my interactions with him and my analysis of his career, I have no doubt he is turning over in his grave as a result of the Trump administration using a building named after him to justify this disastrous policy. Moreover, he would be appalled that the Republican Party, which supposedly is opposed to federal interference in state and local areas, would not have more members publicly condemning the Portland invasion.

Senator Hatfield, who died in 2011, served in the U.S. Senate for 30 years, from 1966 until 1996. Prior to that, he served two terms as governor of Oregon, Secretary of State, and a member of the upper and lower houses of the state legislature. Moreover, as a freshman in college when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor he immediately joined the Navy Reserves and after being commissioned he fought in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He visited Hiroshima a month after the atomic bomb attack and also went to Haiphong, Vietnam to aid the French forces fighting the Vietnamese.

As governor, while he opposed cuts in services to the poor and elderly, he also spoke out for individual responsibility and against undue interference by the national government in state and local matters. He publicly criticized the anti-communist crusade of Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy and President Nixon’s Southern strategy which he viewed as racist. Moreover, during the annual conference of governors in 1965 and again in 1966, he voted against a motion in support of the war in Vietnam. In 1965 he was one of just two who voted against it. (The other was Michigan governor, George Romney, Mitt’s father.)  A year later he cast the lone negative vote.

During his time in the Senate, he became an early and outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam and consistently opposed massive increases in defense spending, nuclear weapons programs, U.S. military involvement abroad, arms sales to non-democratic countries, and underground nuclear testing. While he approved President Reagan’s nuclear treaties with the Soviet Union, he opposed his Strategic Defense Initiative (the missile defense system known as “Star Wars”) — correctly concluding it could not work. In 1991 he was one of two Republicans who voted against the Gulf War and in 1995 was the only Republican to vote against the balanced budget amendment, which fell one vote short for passage.

Being responsible for 70 percent of the defense budget during my time in Reagan’s Pentagon, I personally dealt with Senator Hatfield, then the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, on several occasions. I always found him well-informed and insightful. One issue we disagreed on was whether to continue draft registration. In the 1980 campaign, he convinced candidate Reagan to promise to end draft registration, which President Carter had reinstituted after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. I helped convince the president not to end it because I thought ending it would send the wrong signal to the Soviets while we were embarking on a defense buildup. My reward for getting the president to change his mind was to have to explain the decision to Senator Hatfield.  When I went to his office I was overwhelmed by his gentility and could see why he was called the gentleman of the Senate.

I have no doubt that if Senator Hatfield were alive today, he would stand up to President Trump on this issue. Unfortunately, there are no longer many Hatfield’s in the Republican-controlled Senate to prevent Trump from doing this again, even if he withdraws from Portland. 

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