According to Original Intent
On January 17, the New York Times Magazine looked at the "Class
of '94" in the U.S. House of Representatives. Included were
photographs of the men and women first elected to Congress in 1994.
Across the board, the captions were rather ungenerous, sometimes
bordering on mean.
All the more surprising, then, the downright praise accorded one
George Radanovich, member for the 19th district of California. "Conservative
with a safe seat, and a former class of '94 president," Dana
Milbank wrote, "who is gaining stature and eyeing a statewide
A Conservative with stature? In the New York Times?
And now a confession at this crucial point, to avoid the risk of
being exposed in Salon magazine, or - perish the thought - in Hustler:
My wife and I had dinner with Congressman and Mrs. Radanovich -
not once but twice. The second time around, their infant son was
present as well.
But it was a different occasion that planted the seed of a column
in my mind.
Last October, after holding a town meeting at Fresno City College
in California, I attended a dinner at which some six hundred of
his supporters gathered to hear a report to be given by the Congressman.
The budget negotiations in the Capital were approaching their climax
- there was much these constituents, at the other end of our vast
continent, were rather anxious to find out from their man.
The first sensation was the warmth, and the complete absence of
pre-election hype in the large room. After a few short speeches,
there were the customary introductions and, finally, George took
his place on the rostrum.
He spoke at length, in rather quiet tones. He reported on the battle
going on in Washington, then on the varying fortunes of some local
issues, clearly matters of long standing concern. The guests listened
attentively, asked some questions, got straight answers - the show
In one sense, it was a most uneventful evening. Yet it made an
impression that stayed with me and resurfaced as I was reading the
It seemed like a simple story: Apparently, a working member of
the community woke up one day and decided to offer his services,
if the others thought they would have use for it. They did, and
sent him to Washington - twice. He was now back home, continuing
the ongoing conversation very much as a working member of the same
community. There were no "airs," no slogans, no promises,
Yes - the thought came irresistibly - that is how the Framers must
have pictured those who would go to Congress and represent the districts.
Even though, as president of the 1994 Freshman Class, George Radanovich
must have been tempted to make Washington the center of his universe,
he chose to remain firmly attached to the people who sent him there.
The story is one of those American miracles which occur here day
in day out, old hat for many. But they are miracles nonetheless,
because they do not occur elsewhere - like a Hungarian, such as
myself, and a Croate (Mr. Radanovich's family background) totally
unaffected by what is called "the historic baggage." Over
here, we are just a couple of Americans discussing how to derive
the best lessons from America's past to secure America's future.
Mr. Radanovich has been proposing his "American Vision,"
predicated on a balance of government, business, family and religious/civic
institutions. He has been making the rounds using a chair for illustration.
In a healthy society, the four legs of the chair ought to be the
same length. America used to be just such a chair. The role, the
influence of the four types of institutions used to be in balance.
But now, the government "leg" has grown into a ridiculous
equivalent of Pinocchio's nose, whereas the family "leg"
is a mere stump, and the chair topples over if you try to sit in
I have been proposing "four points of the compass" -
the rule of law, individual rights, the guarantee of property, our
common American identity - as the principles upon which this nation
was founded, and with which this society has succeeded as no other.
Four points of the compass, four legs of a chair - expressions
of a yearning for the America given birth here 222+ years ago. Our
sitting president may pay lip service to that America, as he did
at the end of his "State of the Union" speech the other
night. But the substance of his words sends a different message
to everyone willing to listen.
Loud and clear, Mr. Clinton served notice once again that he will
use any device to turn this country into yet another attempt to
prove that socialism works.
One wonders if career politicians will ever put up the necessary
Citizen-politicians, like George Radanovich, just might.