During the first of their 20 years in Washington, D.C., Doc and Claire Hastings held quiet holiday parties, serving wines from their home state for staff members of the congressman.
They were happy occasions, and it was the kind of thing that contributed to the reputation of Hastings’ office as a busy but congenial shop.
Eventually, though, the parties moved to restaurants.
Tri-Cities author C. Mark Smith risks a historian’s opinion in his new Hastings biography as to why the shift in locales: Doc’s home had snow white carpeting. Even Washington red wines were a risky delight.
As usual, Smith performs a prodigious amount of background research for his fourth book. "Congressman Doc Hastings: Twenty Years of Turmoil" covers Doc’s career of tough choices in the “other Washington.”
The biography provides extensive local, national and political perspectives, and there is no doubt whose lead Doc followed throughout his political career: Ronald Reagan.
When the voters of the 4th Congressional District of Washington voted for a mainstream Republican conservative, that is exactly what they got.
Doc was there on the dams, on Hanford, on taxes, on wrangling the Environmental Protection Agency, on farm issues and, emphatically but more quietly, on abortion.
But if they wanted drama, they were out of luck.
Smith asked Doc about his core political belief. Here it is:
“My political philosophy is based on the notion that for one to have liberty and the freedom to pursue their individual goals, government should have a limited role in their individual lives. This is a logical extension of what our Founders envisioned when they created a 'government of the people' based on the rule of law and with the consent of the governed.
“I believe that history has proven that such a government, coupled with free markets, has been beneficial to its citizens and is what has made the United States exceptional among the nations of the world.”
Doc was as much a student of the processes of the U.S. House of Representatives as he had been interested in the workings of the Washington State House of Representatives when he served there.
Although he spent more than his share of time presiding over the U.S. House during lulls in the political fireworks, he also was called on to preside, in committee or in the Speaker of the House’s chair, because of his rock solid integrity — his insistence on playing square with all sides of a controversy.
Doc worked well with Democrats even when they were, usually, on opposing sides of an issue.
It was a more congenial place then than it is today. Smith says Doc subscribed to Harry Truman’s joking dictum, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
But Doc had work friends and plenty of them. They included Newt Gingrich, whose Contract With America brought Doc to Congress, and former Speaker of the House John Boehner.
Smith provides the anecdote about Boehner asking Doc when he was going to shave off the little beard Doc started sporting, to which Doc replied without skipping a beat, “When you quit smoking.”
In his quest to learn the ways of Congress, Doc received help from Republicans and Democrats alike and, in the beginning, from his own staff members, many of whom he realized had more political experience at this level than he did.
Smith’s book is an honest look at Hastings and at that period in the history of the Tri-Cities.
Citations fill many pages at the end of the book. The Tri-City Herald, Yakima Herald-Republic and Seattle papers provide a lot of them.
Early indications suggest Smith may have a lively market for his latest book just in the possible number of contenders for Doc’s old seat, now held by Rep. Dan Newhouse.
This book could sharpen — or quench — their thirst.