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Clinton Remembers Rep. Walter Capps


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Nov. 12) -- President Bill Clinton presided over today's congressional memorial service honoring Rep. Walter Capps, the freshman lawmaker who died two weeks ago and was "entirely too nice to be in Congress."

Hundreds gathered to remember the former religious studies professor and Democratic congressman from Santa Barbara, Calif., including members of Congress, the White House staff, friends and family. Capps, 63, died from an apparent heart attack at Dulles International Airport.

Clinton, sometimes dubbed the nation's "consoler-in-chief" for his empathetic skills, delivered a touching eulogy, relating stories of Capps that elicited laughter from the crowd.

Recalling his first introduction to Capps, after a failed bid for Congress in 1994, Clinton said at the time, "I thought, this man is entirely too nice to be in Congress anyway."

Two years later Clinton campaigned for Capps at an event at the University of California, Santa Barbara attended by 15,000 people. "Not exactly an experienced campaigner," Capps was overwhelmed by the crowd, Clinton remembered. "[Capps] was up there. He says, 'I never had a crowd like this before. I never had a crowd like this before,'" Clinton related.

"I said, 'Walter, this is easy. You just go up, put one arm around me and wave the other arm. You can do this.'"

"[Capps] used to joke that I had actually had to grab him and teach him how to smile and wave to a crowd from a stage," Clinton said, turning serious.

"The things I taught him were superficial things. The things that he taught us were deep and enduring things."

"You know, he seemed to naturally be upbeat, harmonious, uniting. I try to do that, but some days, it's a real effort for me. I think it came out of the depths of his soul. I think he was at ease with the consequences of whatever could happen to him," Clinton said.

Clinton praised Capps for succeeding as a father with "integrity" and "constancy." Capps' daughter, Laura, is a White House speechwriter.

Joking that Capps was dated in the '90s by his use of "complete sentences and paragraphs," Clinton also said his positive attitude served as an "instant and consistent rebuke to the cynicism that some people try to make their way with in this day and age, especially when they talk about the political system."

"Maybe the lesson from God through Walter to us is, it wasn't me, it was you. And we should be a little more like him every day. And that will be his great and enduring gift not only to us, but to the United States," Clinton said.

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