Mr. Scranton foresaw future
By the time he died Monday at 96, William Warren Scranton had not only seen it all but had predicted a great deal of it during his rather brief but highly eventful political career.
In his attempt to wrest the 1964 Republican presidential nomination from arch-conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater, Mr. Scranton warned that his party and the nation could not prosper if the GOP had "one foot in the 20th century and one in the 19th."
Today, the paralysis in Congress demonstrates what Mr. Scranton predicted. The politicians are secure in their seats with the help of ruthless gerrymandering, but they are the opposite of Mr. Scranton's call for "progression rather than regression."
The fiscally conservative Mr. Scranton lived that motto during his single term in Congress from 1961 through 1962. He voted for civil rights legislation, foreign aid and the establishment of the Peace Corps.
As governor, Mr. Scranton erased a budget deficit by increasing the sales tax rather than eviscerating education or other services. He created the state Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and vigorously promoted the creation of community colleges.
The state constitution at the time limited governors to a single term and when Mr. Scranton completed his in 1967, he vowed never again to seek elective office. Political experts at the time scoffed and suggested that Mr. Scranton was posturing, but he never again ran for office.
That is not to say that was the end of his public service, however. He became a go-to emissary for several presidents, beginning in 1968 when President Nixon asked him to assess U.S. Mideast policy and Israeli-Arab relations. He proved ahead of his time again, reporting that the United States needed a more balanced approach to gain credibility among Arab states. That prompted protests that led Mr. Scranton to agree that his view did not conflict with maintaining a strong Israeli state.
In 1970 Mr. Nixon called again on Mr. Scranton, this time to lead the inquiry into the shooting of protesting Kent State University students by National Guard troops.
President Ford appointed Mr. Scranton as United Nations ambassador in 1977 and, at the request of President-elect Ronald Reagan, he led a delegation to the then-Soviet Union to informally discuss future relations in light of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Mr. Scranton recommended that Mr. Reagan maintain strong sanctions against the Soviet, which the United States did.
Outside his public service, Mr. Scranton was highly regarded in the business community, serving as a director of such companies as The New York Times, IBM, Mobil Oil and others, and as a trustee of Yale University, his alma mater.
Mr. Scranton's principled politics and generous service to his country are an indelible source of pride in his namesake home town.