by Dr. G. Terry Madonna and Dr. Michael Young
The ghost of Joe Clark has been lurking around the edges of political news lately following the election of Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey Jr. to the Senate. Clark served as US Senator from Pennsylvania from 1957 until 1969. Before entering the Senate, he was mayor of Philadelphia, a lawyer, a writer (author of two books), and something of an intellectual (a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences).
Clark is remembered due to the historical significance of his last electoral victory; in 1962 he was the last Democrat to be elected to a full six-year term until Bob Casey turned the trick in 2006. Clark and Casey have this history in common. But the two men seem almost polar opposites in most other ways. Tracing the backgrounds, careers, and philosophies of the pair reveal them to be virtual political antonyms--the yin and yang of Pennsylvania politics.
Where does Clark stand among those who served in the Senate from Pennsylvania? Not the best but certainly not the worst. In fact, Pennsylvania has sent some first-rate rascals to the US Senate. Names like Simon Cameron, Boies Penrose, Matthew Quay, and William Vare comprise a veritable rogue’s galley of senatorial sinners. Cameron typifies the breed. He was Lincoln’s Secretary of War until the Great Emancipator had to fire him to prevent his looting the War Department during the Civil War. Cameron is probably best remembered for his infamous definition of an "honest politician" as "one who, when he is bought, stays bought."
Not that all Pennsylvania US Senators have been scoundrels; far from it. The state has sent some illustrious personages to the US Senate. These include such figures as Robert Morris, known to history as the financier of the American Revolution, Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury under Jefferson, George Dallas, who served as Vice President under Polk, and David Wilmot, noted abolitionist and author of the Wilmot Proviso.
More recent 20th century primo politicians entering the Senate from Pennsylvania have included Philander Knox, Secretary of State under Taft, James J. Davis, who served as Secretary of Labor under three successive presidents, Hugh Scott, who was Minority Leader during the Watergate Era, Arlen Specter, who has distinguished himself as chair and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, and Rick Santorum, the number three ranking Republican Senator until his defeat last fall.
Clark clearly belongs in this latter group of distinguished US Senators. Certainly he was no Cameron or Quay; neither was he the equal of a Gallatin, a Wilmot, or even a Scott. Possessed of a first rate mind, but a third rate temperament, Clark achieved far more than most, and far less than he might have.
Politically Uncorrected™ is published twice monthly. Dr. G. Terry Madonna is a Professor of Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, and Dr. Michael Young is a former Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Penn State University and Managing Partner at Michael Young Strategic Research. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any institution or organization with which they are affiliated. This article may be used in whole or part only with appropriate attribution. Copyright © 2007 Terry Madonna and Michael Young.