“Sen. Hatfield was not a very top-down kind of chairman,” Kennedy said in the oral history. “He didn’t seek to impose his own particular view of the world on the rest of the subcommittees. He would be moved to make recommendations, and subcommittee chairman would do what they could to accommodate him, but he didn’t attempt to dictate things to his subcommittee chairman colleagues.”
During his time in the Senate, Hatfield was an opponent of war, the death penalty and abortion. Along with Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.), he introduced an amendment to end military operations in Vietnam in 1970. He also voted against the Persian Gulf War in 1990 and criticized President Bill Clinton for sending U.S. troops to Bosnia.
As Appropriations chairman during the 1980s, he found himself at odds with President Ronald Reagan, directing money away from defense spending and toward social programs.
Despite that, Hatfield held a regard for the presidency, Ritchie said. His office was decorated in President Abraham Lincoln paraphernalia, and he often said President Herbert Hoover, a fellow Oregonian and a candidate for whom his mother campaigned, was an underrated president. In 1981, he was chairman for Reagan’s inauguration, the first held on the West Front of the Capitol.
“He devoted quite a bit of attention to that,” Ritchie said.
While he was often mentioned as a candidate for the vice presidency — including in the 1960s to run on the ticket with President Richard Nixon — nothing ever came to fruition. One of his unfinished projects was a book about the vice presidency, Ritchie said.
“(Hatfield) thought people didn’t understand what the office meant,” he said. “That was something he wanted to change.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who first came to Capitol Hill as an intern for Hatfield in 1976, noted how the late Senator differed from other politicians.
“Sen. Hatfield took courageous positions of consciences — from opposing the Vietnam War to advocating for the abolition of the death penalty — in the face of substantial political opposition,” Merkley said in a statement. “He inspired many to public service, encouraging them to work to do what is right, rather than what is convenient or popular.”
Correction: Aug. 8, 2011
An earlier version of this article misstated Keith Kennedy's title. He is a former staffer of the late Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.).