Senator Mark Hatfield; He Waves A Mean Olive Branch
Mark Hatfield, who was among the first Americans to see Hiroshima after the atom-bomb blast, now leads a nuclear-freeze movement to prevent that kind of devastation.Skip to next paragraph
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''I see all life as a part of God's creation, and I think it's rather audacious and presumptuous of humankind to consider that it has the right to destroy creation, to destroy all life,'' says Mr. Hatfield, a Republican senator and lay minister from Oregon. He leans forward intently, his mild blue eyes lit with the fervor of an Old Testament prophet. ''We've developed the ability to destroy the planet, but that doesn't give us the right to destroy the planet.''
He is sitting in his high-ceilinged Senate office in a straight-backed Victorian chair drawn up to a Revolutionary War drum doubling as a table. Hatfield has just raised the specter of Libya's building a nuclear bomb and warns that 60 other countries will have nuclear weapons by the end of the century. Almost on cue the phone rings, and an aide enters to whisper, ''The President wants to see you this morning.'' Hatfield takes the call. He listens. ''Yes. Yes. . . . I'll be there at 11 o'clock,'' in a calm, dispassionate baritone.
Hatfield is jointly sponsoring with Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts a resolution calling for a freeze on the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons by the United States and the Soviet Union. He is the militant nuclear dove of his party, a man whose warnings echoed at the huge rallies in New York City last weekend keyed to the UN debate on a disarmament resolution.
At a later interview, he is asked about his sudden summons to the White House. Did it have to do with President Reagan's startling proposal three days later that the US and the USSR reduce their strategic missile arsenals by one-third? Senator Hatfield smiles quietly. The official purpose of the visit was to appear at a presidential announcement on the budget, he says. Pause. ''But when I was down there, he (President Reagan) told me he was going to make those remarks at Eureka College, and said he thought I'd be pleased.'' Is Hatfield pleased? He is semi-pleased. Is it enough of a step?
''No. No. Not enough of a step. But . . . I'm delighted, of course. (It's) a step in the correct direction, yes, indeed it is. I think the President's a very sincere man, but I think there's a built-in contingency there (in the President's proposal) that makes it impossible for the Russians to respond to us. I think that they could respond to a freeze.'' He will go campaigning for one, he says as slowly and inexorably as a boulder beginning to roll down a mountain.
Sen. Lawton Chiles (D) of Florida sees a parallel between Hatfield's adamant, initially unpopular stance against the Vietnam war and his present championing of the nuclear freeze: ''I suspect even if it (the freeze resolution) doesn't pass, it will have already had great influence. Some of the steps the President is taking and the other steps couldn't have happened without it. . . . The McGovern-Hatfield amendment was one of the earliest get-out-of-Vietnam propositions. . . . Time after time his propositions did not pass . . . but it was Mark Hatfield's perseverance over the years'' that set the pattern.
Senator Hatfield views the resolution as part of a national groundswell against the imminent possibility of nuclear war. It's one of those instances ''where the people are ahead of the politicians,'' he says. He ticks off the grass-roots support across the country, from New England town-hall resolutions to initiatives for a California referendum on the freeze. But the big push will not come at any particular rally or march, Hatfield says - the big push will be at the ballot box next fall, when the nuclear freeze issue becomes the litmus test for voters trying to decide which candidates to support.