Monday, June 20, 2005

R.I.P Jake Pickle

Linking to two obits in one day is a bit much, but in this case there's a personal connection: former Congressman J.J. Pickle died over the weekend. I interned for Pickle in the Spring of 1989, by which time Pickle was the third most senior Democrat in the House. As you might expect, he didn't spend a whole lot of time with the high school kid, but we did have lunch together a few times, and to this day he's the most senior professional politician with whom I've gotten that amount of face time.

Several things strike me, as I recollect him. Instead of being embarassed by his somewhat silly name, he used it as a political brand: at political rallies, he would hand out small plastic pickle pins, and he also kept a collection of pickle-themed tchotchkes lying around the office. This was of a piece with his personal style. Pickle was the most genial guy you could imagine, to the point of being a bit of a ham, and you could see him engage completely and earnestly with even the silliest of constituent gripes. More seriously, the guy was living embodiment, indeed the archetype, of the late New Deal Democrat: with a technocrat's brain and a populist's heart, he was pro-Civil Rights Act, pro-farm subsidy, and pro-Social Security.

Though I can do without the farm subsidies, there's no doubt that today's Congress would be a far better place if it had a lot more people like Pickle.

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