We came to Washington the same year, 1969, and his announcement reminded me what a different world it was back then when Members didn't go home every weekend to raise money and actually stayed in Washington and got to know one another.
I can remember social occasions back then when Democrats and Republicans who fought by day, actually enjoyed each other's company after hours.
No more. They say such awful things about each other today, they're uneasy socializing and generally don't.
Not long ago, for example, a staffer for a Congressional leader actually asked if we could provide a private waiting room for his boss who was appearing on "Face the Nation" because the boss didn't want to share a room with someone from the other party.
In the old days when an old warhorse like Obey retired, members of the other party frequently said something nice (if innocuous). But in Obey's case, the Republican National Committee spokesman took a final shot, saying it was "understandable that the architect of the President's failed stimulus package has decided to call it quits."
And Obey managed a parting shot as well &30151; not at Republicans but at his own party, at the Senate his own party controls.
He said one reason he was leaving was he decided there was more to life "than explaining the ridiculous rules of the Senate to angry, frustrated constituents."
In 1969, a House Member wouldn't have said that, either - but he might have thought it!