I will miss Dave Obey when he retires at the end of this Congress. Obey is a Hell Raiser for Justice the title of his memoir. Most recently Obey fought for a legislative end to the Iraq War, called for a surtax on the rich to finance the Afghanistan War, championed the social safety net and battled for education for all and health care reform.
I worked with Obey for 40 years on these issues and many more including peace between Israel and Palestine, campaign finance reform and institutional and ethics reform in the House. He always kept trying, is forthright, direct, outspoken and that combination makes him courageous in a legislative world where “getting along” tolerates ducking issues that should be faced and not avoided. Obey was not one who ducked important public matters by running away but confronted tough issues and choices by being a problem solver.
As a liberal he fits the model of my favorite conservative the British parliamentarian Edmund Burke who courageously supported the American revolution and decried the excesses of the French revolution. Obey, passionate in his belief in public service, vigorously represented his small town and rural Wisconsin district. What Obey always remembered and practiced, as Burke did, is that he is “not a member of Bristol but he is a member of Parliament.”
Obey’s integrity means that he will tell you, friend and foe alike, what you need to hear even if you do not want to hear what he has to say. For me that is a lasting memory of an elected official and public servant doing his public work intelligently and passionately.