Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., officially assumes chair of Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday, a post held for years by longtime (1944-80) Washington Sen. Warren G. Magnuson. Cantwell has summited Mt. Rainier, the Grand Teton, and Kilimanjaro (by a tough route) in her time. Still, she has big shoes to fill with memories of Maggie. With Magnuson as chair, Commerce wrote the key public accommodations section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Maggie took early interest in consumer protection, witness Flammable Fabrics Act for little kids’ clothes. He took up auto safety. It was before the Commerce Committee that GM apologized after being caught spying on “Unsafe At Any Speed” author Ralph Nader.
Maggie was also famous for his malaprops. Responding to environmentalist who denounced the Boeing SST project, he declared: “We can’t all go live at Walden Pond. Even Walden only lived there two years.” He addressed a powerful colleague, House Ways and Means Chairman Wilbur Mills, as “Orville,” and referred to France’s President Georges Pompidou as “Poopidou.” One gaffe was likely deliberate. Arrogant, overbearing International Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage came before the committee, as part of long-running feud with the Amateur Athletic Union. Magnuson called him to the witness table as “Mr. Average Brundy.”