I was sad to read yesterday that one of the U.S. Reps I used to cover, Democrat Tom Lantos of California, had died.
The only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, he was a political powerhouse, ably bending members of both parties to serve what he felt were the country's best interests.
He was an unabashed critic of China and other countries that flagrantly abuse human rights; he got arrested in 2006 in a protest of violence in Darfur.
I covered Tom when I was a reporter in San Mateo, California, his adopted hometown. Though his district included parts of San Francisco - read: bigger papers - he always kept us in the loop, always returned our calls, and even got me an interview with Andrew Cuomo when he was the HUD Secretary under President Clinton.
I remember one press conference - he always brought his wife, holding their little dog - he held outside of an expensive nursing home that had failed to keep residents cool during a heat wave. At least one died and several were hospitalized; Lantos was outraged, pointing out that elder abuse could even occur in such a tony community as Burlingame.
He always smiled and greeted each of us individually, shaking our hands, a true gentleman.
Lantos was admired by Democrats and Republicans alike - for his power, certainly, but also his true bipartisanship and the ability and willingness to go to bat for who and what he believed in.
A business reporter friend that I worked with recalled that Lantos took on Safeway, whose corporate headquarters are in the SF Bay Area, when the company was trying to bust a union.
"I'm not asking you if you want paper or plastic!" he roared.
In an era where no party seems to support the working person, where most politicians seem to be whores for big businesses that take their jobs overseas, where few elected officials seem to care about anything besides their own personal political gain, Lantos will be missed.