Long before there were supply-side Repubicans, populist Republicans, fundamentally religious Republicans, social-issues-only Republicans and opportunity-society Republicans, there was Charles A. Halleck, who described himself simply enough as "a Republican, period."
Mr. Halleck, who died Monday at the age of 85, left Washington 18 years ago, and thus missed out on the intellectual ferment of the current conservative renaissance. But he was not a renowned intellectual anyway, and was probably at his best in those days when it was enough to say you were a Republican, period, and then you could move on to the business of passing bills your president wanted and obstructing those the other guys' president was pushing. At that sort of thing he was quite a master.
He was especially effective as majority leader (under Speaker Joe Martin) in advancing the legislative program of the first Eisenhower term. In 1959, playing the role of conservative Young Turk, he seized leadership of the House Republicans from Mr. Martin, and for most of the next six years made a fairly effective opposition leader, working with a coalition consisting of his fellow Republicans and southern Democrats.
It was during this period that Mr. Halleck and his Senate counterpart, Everett Dirksen of Illinois, appeared regularly before the cameras and microphones in what came to be known as the "Ev and Charlie Show." It was a rousing hamfest, full of cannon blasts at the Democrats and all their works, and was rightly described in a Post editorial as "inimitable."
In 1965 Mr. Halleck lost his leadership post to a Young Turk named Gerald Ford. Mr. Halleck's bulbous nose and combatively partisan manner had made him a regular subject of cartoon caricature here, but when he left the House a few years after being deposed, we printed this editorial comment, which we think bears repeating now:
"Mr. Halleck will be missed by many of his colleagues, for he is a resourceful legislator and a strong party man. Unfortunately, he is best known for his leadership of the conservative Republican- Democratic coalition that has wrecked a vast amount of legislation during his 34 years in the House. Yet there have been many occasions when his skill has been felt on the constructive side, as in the enactment of the civil rights bills of 1957 and 1964. Likewise he gave his support to the Marshall Plan and the aid program to save Greece and Turkey from communism."
Mark especially that part about the civil rights legislation. Mr. Halleck took a lot of heat from his southern Democratic allies for it, but on what was certainly the great moral issue of our times, he did right by the country.