Rays of bipartisan hope

? Sometimes you find hope in unexpected places. Just when I thought I was going to gag on the rancid partisanship of so much of our politics these days, I found reason for optimism at opposite sides of the country — at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., and in the Rainier Club here in Seattle.

Earlier this month, Madeleine Albright, the former Democratic secretary of state, came to breakfast at the club to encourage a largely Republican group of business and civic leaders to support expansion of the Bush administration effort to spur economic development in the world’s poorest countries.

She was preaching to the choir. A year ago, philanthropist Bill Clapp, former governor and senator Dan Evans, former Environment Protection Agency head Bill Ruckelshaus, prominent attorney William Gates Sr., and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman John Shalikashvili formed the Seattle Initiative for Global Development, with the ambitious agenda of eliminating extreme poverty worldwide.

Encouraged by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar and others, they have organized similar groups in Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Portland, Ore., and San Francisco, with Los Angeles, New York City and Tampa due to be next. Their goal, Evans said, is to have a national network ready by next spring to advocate a large increase by the United States and other nations in development assistance for the billion people who live on less than $1 a day.

Bill Center, the president of the Washington Council on International Trade, said that humanitarian considerations aside, no other investment is more likely to reduce the threat of terrorism and improve the future marketplace for American goods than eliminating extreme poverty.

Albright, though critical of some aspects of Bush foreign policy, urged the group to support the “hard-headed approach” embodied in Bush’s Millennium Challenge Corp., a new publicly financed agency that will channel economic development funds to countries with rigorous plans for market-tested reforms. Madagascar is the first recipient, with Honduras up for a vote next week and three more countries in the pipeline.

So far, the president has asked for just a tiny fraction of the $20 billion a year the Seattle executives think the United States should be spending. Evans said, “We just have to get the president to move it up on his priority list.”

That same largeness of spirit was visible a few days later, in Washington, D.C., when Interior Secretary Gale Norton opened her department’s auditorium and its penthouse, with its stunning views of the federal city, for a celebration of the legacy of her Democratic predecessor of the 1960s, Stewart Udall, and his brother, the former Arizona congressman and Democratic presidential contender, Morris “Mo” Udall.

On display at the department was a collection of Udall memorabilia assembled by the University of Arizona, and the tributes that followed Norton’s warm welcome to the Udall clan were genuine and unforced. John McCain, who was taken in hand by Mo Udall when he first came to Congress, recalled their joint efforts to secure passage of the Arizona Wilderness Act, which, he said, “has kept pristine 3 million acres of our beautiful state.”

Another Republican senator, Gordon Smith of Oregon, a Udall cousin on his mother’s side, talked about the four generations of Udalls who were public servants in Arizona and the ethic of “being stewards of the land” that was a central tenet of their Mormon faith and a motivation for all of them.

The tradition continues, not just through the educational foundation bearing Mo Udall’s name but with Udall cousins Mark and Tom, the sons of Morris and Stewart Udall, respectively, now serving in the House from Colorado and New Mexico.

Stewart Udall, now 85, who despite failing vision has just completed the screenplay for a possible Hollywood Western, devoted most of his remarks to the memory of his brother, who died in 1998 after a long hospitalization with Parkinson’s disease — an ordeal throughout which he was regularly visited and comforted by McCain.

In an implicit commentary on today’s legislative climate, Stewart Udall recalled that when a bill was reported out of the Interior Committee during his brother’s chairmanship, “it wasn’t a Democratic bill or a Republican bill. It was a committee bill, shaped by every member who chose to participate in writing it.”

Udall also recalled that when their fellow Arizonan Barry Goldwater was the Republican candidate for president in 1964, he, as a member of Lyndon Johnson’s Cabinet, avoided any personal criticism of Goldwater except in one speech — “and I’ve regretted that speech ever since.”

On both sides of the continent, good people saying good things and doing good works.

— David Broder is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.