Dick Gephardt - A Nice Guy

Democratic presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt waits for a television interview during a visit to the ballroom where his election party will be held Monday, Jan. 19, 2004 in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Every time a nice guy finishes first, someone says, `Well, that just shows that nice guys don't always finish last.' But the truth is, plenty of nice guys do finish last. And politics lost one of the nicest last week when Dick Gephardt, the longtime congressman from Missouri, gave up his long quest to be president after a miserable finish in Iowa.

I covered Dick Gephardt for the better part of a quarter of a century. I wrote some stories that he liked and some that he didn't. We sometimes disagreed, but I never found him disagreeable. Whether I wrote a tough story or one that took his side, he was always the same. He had his job, I had mine. He'd let me know if he thought I had it wrong, but it was never personal. He knew there would be another day and another story.

I could always find an issue on which we differed but over the years I found many more reasons to admire him: his doggedness, the straightforward way he led his party during very tough times when it was in the congressional minority, the way he treated his staff, his seeming inability to lie, and most of all for the loving relationship he had with his family.

A nice guy stepped away from politics last week, scarred from a thousand battles. No, he never got to be president, but he played the game honorably, the way it should be played, and that made the game better, and those who covered him and those who competed with and against him respected him for it. I wish him the best.