Recently, I had a chance to write a review of the new Mark Hatfield biography for The Oregonian. The book, by Richard Etulain, is titled Mark O. Hatfield; Oregon Statesman (Univ. OK Press), and you can read my review HERE. I’m not going to rehash too much here; you can read the review to get my specific insights. I do want to spend a little time elaborating on a few points that I just didn’t have space to cover in 750 words. Fucking lucky you, huh?!?
In the review, I criticised Etulain a bit about his lack of substance when discussing the relationship between Mark Hatfield, and Tom McCall. These two leading Republicans in our state’s history were always in competition with one another; Hatfield in the lead, and McCall seemingly always wanting to catch up. In Fire at Eden’s Gate, the excellent and quintessential biography on McCall, author Brent Walth detailed their strained relationship. Recalling that decades long dislike that these grand politicians shared, I was very excited to read Etulain’s take on their strife. Alas…, he wrote nothing on the topic. NOTHING. So I figured I would dash a few words down here for you, Dear Ass Kicker, based mostly on Walth’s account.
Hatfield and McCall fucking HATED each other. Essentially on the same political-career timeline, they were envious and jealous of each other’s accomplishments. Editor of the Capital Journal, James Welch said, “They were as different as you’d expect a born-again teetotaler and a party boy to be… Mark considered Tom a noisy clown and Tom thought Mark was a candy-ass.” (Walth, 128). Reading Walth’s book, this deep animosity arises in really petty fashions.
The two had been well acquainted with one another through Young Republican functions, and Hatfield often dined at McCall’s home when the former was a young state legislator. Eventually, when Secretary of State Hatfield was governor-elect in 1958, he invited McCall to a meeting that lasted an entire afternoon, and said that since he would need to leave his current position as secretary to become governor, he was considering appointing McCall to the vacated position. McCall emerged from the hours-long meeting convinced that the new role was his. McCall traveled to Salem for Hatfield’s gubernatorial inauguration, where, alas, Hatfield publicly announced that he had appointed Howell Appling, an unknown volunteer for Hatfield’s campaign. A Texan, to boot! McCall was visibly hurt, disappointed and defeated. Even betrayed.
Eventually, McCall ran for the secretary of state position, which he won, and he assumed the role in January of 1965, under Governor Hatfield, who at that time was in his second term, and eyeing one of Oregon’s U.S. Senate seats. The two servers on the Board of Control, along with State Treasurer Bob Straub, a Democrat. The board oversaw the state prisons, the Oregon State Hospital, and other mental health facilities.
Hatfield was a real bitch to McCall, and would berate him during board meetings. He would attack McCall, make it appear as if McCall didn’t know what was going on, and “cut up Tom something awful” (Walth, 158). Hatfield was used to the previous board which would just follow along with his edicts; but the current board would not do so, with McCall and Straub forming something of an anti-Hatfield block, and voted against the governor. [Editorial note: Charles Johnson’s biography on Straub is quite good!] They served together for two years, until Hatfield left foe Washinghton D.C., and McCall won the gubernatorial election and began that post in January of 1967.
But their pettiness continued. During the 1968 Republican National Convention, a drunken McCall publicly berated Sen. Hatfield (considered a possible Vice-President selection to run with Richard Nixon) for his anti-Vietnam War sentiment, calling it a “yellow, chicken kind of resolution,” in addition to other insults. Once sober, McCall apologized for his tone, but not for his attack on the Senator. He said that his anger “had been seething inside of me for the last four years” (Walth, 342). Hatfield made sure that McCall was inaccessible to the media for the rest of the convention.
The two worked together as little as possible, which was a horrible position to put their fellow Oregonians in! Here was a senator and a governor that pushed aside their constituents’ best interests due to their petty bullshit. In 1969 when Governor McCall was in D.C., the senator invited him to a private lunch. He told the governor that he was “tired of your public tantrums and private apologies” (Walth, 344). Hatfield then leaked the details of the lunch to a reporter, who published the account. McCall later dug into the senator, saying, “he is not so interested in the state as he is in being president of the United States.” (Walth, 345).
McCall considered running against Hatfield in the Republican primary and taking away his senate seat. In February of 1972, at an official function, Hatfield pulled McCall aside and asked him what his intentions were. The senator told the governor, “Come into the race if you want to. But I want to say one thing. I’ll shred you.” As he recounted the conversation years later, Hatfield said, “Tom knew I would. Tom’s not a man who really wanted to get into the arena, bare-knuckling it. I can meet people on that basis if I have to.” (Walth, 346). McCall elected to not run for the national office, and Hatfield was reelected in 1972.
“Southern California is one thirsty camel whose nose we should let into our tent with the utmost caution.”
-Gov. Hatfield, 1965
As you may know from reading The Oregonian review, Mark Hatfield’s papers are sealed at Willamette University until his 100th birthday in July of 2022. Back in 2017, Claire Withycombe wrote a fantastic piece about the Hatfield Papers, and her article is well worth a read.
JB Fisher and I will be journeying down to Salem in July to consult the collection. We will be sure to give you some updates of what we find. I am particularly interested in finding if there is any more on Hatfield and McCall’s relationship. While I would like to find out more about Hatfield’s sexuality, his senatorial papers are unlikely to contain such a revelation. but his thoughts on gay rights, and his anti-homosexual record may be found in these 2000 linear feet of previously unreleased documents. And feel free to let us know if there are any other Senator Hatfield topics you’d like to here more about next summer!