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Pete McCloskey
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1983
Preceded by Burt L. Talcott
Succeeded by Ed Zschau
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1975
Preceded by Glenn M. Anderson
Succeeded by John Hans Krebs
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
December 12, 1967 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by J. Arthur Younger
Succeeded by Leo Ryan
Personal details
Born Paul Norton McCloskey, Jr.
September 29, 1927(1927-09-29) (age 95)
Loma Linda, California
Political party Republican (1948-2007)
Other political
Democratic (from 2007)
Residence Woodside, California
Alma mater Occidental College
California Institute of Technology
Stanford University (graduated 1950)
Stanford Law School (1953)
Religion Presbyterian
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy (1945-1947)
United States Marine Corps (1950-1952)
U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (1952-1974)
Years of service 1945-1964
Rank Colonel
Battles/wars Korean War
Awards Navy Cross
Silver Star
Purple Heart (2)

Paul Norton "Pete" McCloskey, Jr. (born September 29, 1927) is a former Republican politician from the U.S. state of California who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1967 to 1983. He ran on an anti-war platform for the Republican nomination for President in 1972 but was defeated by incumbent President Richard Nixon.[1] In April 2007, McCloskey switched his affiliation to the Democratic Party. He is a decorated United States Marine Corps veteran of combat during the Korean War, being awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and two awards of the Purple Heart.

He published a book called Truth and Untruth: Political Deceit in America in 1972. One of McCloskey's enduring legacies is his co-authorship of the 1973 Endangered Species Act.[1]

Early life

Pete McCloskey's great-grandfather was orphaned in the Great Irish Famine and came to California in 1853 at the age of 16. He and his son, McCloskey's grandfather, were farmers in Merced County. The family were lifelong Republicans.[2]

McCloskey was born on September 29, 1927, in Loma Linda, California, and attended public schools in South Pasadena and San Marino. He was inducted into South Pasadena High School Hall of Fame for the sport of baseball.[3] He attended Occidental College and California Institute of Technology under the U.S. Navy's V-5 Pilot Program. He graduated from Stanford University in 1950 and Stanford University Law School in 1953.

Military service

McCloskey voluntarily served in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1947, the U.S. Marine Corps from 1950 to 1952, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from 1952 to 1960 and the Ready Reserve from 1960 to 1967. He retired from the Marine Corps Reserve in 1974, having attained the rank of Colonel.

He was awarded the Navy Cross and Silver Star decorations for heroism in combat and two Purple Hearts as a Marine during the Korean War.[1] He then volunteered for the Vietnam War before eventually turning against it.[1] In 1992, he wrote his fourth book, "The Taking of Hill 610", describing some of his exploits in Korea.

Political career

McCloskey served as Deputy District Attorney for Alameda County, California, from 1953 to 1954 and practiced law in Palo Alto, California, from 1955 to 1967, cofounding the firm that eventually became Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. He was a lecturer on legal ethics at the Santa Clara and Stanford Law Schools from 1964 to 1967. He was elected as a Republican to the 90th Congress, by special election, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of U.S. Rep. J. Arthur Younger and was reelected to the seven succeeding Congresses, serving from December 12, 1967 to January 3, 1983. In a 1981 interview, he stated that he thought he "was the first Republican elected opposing the war" despite the fact that his "constituency, two to one, favored the war in 1967."[4]

He sought the 1972 Republican Presidential nomination on a pro-peace/anti-Vietnam War platform, and obtained 11% of the vote against incumbent President Richard M. Nixon in the New Hampshire primary. At the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida, Rep. McCloskey received one vote (out of 1324) from a New Mexico delegate. All other votes cast went to President Nixon, thus McCloskey finished second place in the race for the Presidential nomination. Congressman John Ashbrook of Ohio had also challenged President Nixon's bid for re-nomination, albeit on a conservative platform.

McCloskey was not a candidate for reelection in 1982, but was instead an unsuccessful Republican candidate for nomination to the United States Senate. The 1982 California Republican Senatorial primary was a contentious battle between Rep. McCloskey, Maureen Reagan (daughter of then-President Ronald Reagan), Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr. (son of Arizona Senator and 1964 Republican Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater), and San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson. Wilson was the eventual victor.

His book The Taking of Hill 610 put an end to Pat Robertson's 1988 Presidential run.

McCloskey, who served with Robertson in Korea, wrote a public letter which said that Robertson was actually spared combat duty when his powerful father, a U.S. Senator, intervened on his behalf, and that Robertson spent most of his time in an office in Japan. According to McCloskey, his time in the service was not in combat but as the "liquor officer" responsible for keeping the officers' clubs supplied with liquor. Robertson filed a $35 million libel suit against McCloskey in 1986. He dropped the case in 1988, before it came to trial and paid McCloskey's court costs.

McCloskey was the first member of Congress to publicly call for the impeachment of President Nixon after the Watergate scandal and the Saturday Night Massacre. He was also the first lawmaker to call for a repeal of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that allowed for the War in Vietnam.[1] He chose, in early 1975, to see for himself the effects of US bombing in Cambodia, stating afterwards that his country had committed "greater evil than we have done to any country in the world, and wholly without reason, except for our benefit to fight against the Vietnamese."[5]

An opponent of the Iraq War,[6] McCloskey broke party ranks in 2004 to endorse John Kerry in his bid to unseat George W. Bush as President of the United States.[1]

In 1989, McCloskey co-founded the Council for the National Interest along with former Congressman Paul Findley. He taught political science at Santa Clara University in the early 1980s. For many years, he practiced law in Redwood City, California and resided in Woodside, California.

2006 run for Congress

On January 23, 2006, McCloskey announced at a press conference in Lodi, California that he would return to the political arena by running against seven-term incumbent Republican Richard Pombo in the Republican primary for California's 11th congressional district.[7] Earlier in the year, he formed a group called the "Revolt of the Elders" to recruit a viable primary candidate to run against Pombo. McCloskey's aging campaign bus sported the slogan "Restore Ethics to Congress." McCloskey said, "Congressmen are like diapers. You need to change them often, and for the same reason."[1] McCloskey was endorsed in the Republican Party primary by the San Francisco Chronicle[8] and the Los Angeles Times.[9] In the June 6, 2006, primary, McCloskey was defeated by Pombo. McCloskey received 32% of the vote.[10]

On July 24, 2006, McCloskey endorsed Jerry McNerney, a Democrat who would go on to unseat Pombo in the 2006 midterm elections.[11] McCloskey spent most of Election Night at McNerney's victory party.[12] The Sierra Club recognized McCloskey for helping to unseat Pombo with their 2006 Edgar Wayburn Award.[13]

Change of political affiliation

In the spring of 2007, McCloskey announced that he had changed his party affiliation to the Democratic Party. In an email and letter to the Tracy Press, McCloskey stressed that the "new brand of Republicanism" had finally led him to abandon the party that he had joined in 1948.[14][15] He followed this up with an op-ed column in which he explained that "Disagreement [with party leadership] turned into disgust" and "I finally concluded that it was fraud for me to remain a member of this modern Republican Party", although it was a "decision not easily taken."[2]

Political positions

McCloskey is pro-choice, supports stem cell research and Oregon's assisted suicide law. He was a co-chair of the first Earth Day in 1970.[1]

IHR controversy

Pete McCloskey gave an address to the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) in 2000. When he ran in the 2006 Republican Party primary for congress, there was controversy over exactly what he said about the Holocaust at the event. According to the San Jose Mercury News McCloskey said at the time, "I don't know whether you are right or wrong about the Holocaust," and referred to the "so-called Holocaust". McCloskey replied that he has never questioned the existence of the Holocaust, and the 2000 quote referred to a debate over the number of people killed.[16] McCloskey said in an interview with the Contra Costa Times on January 18, 2006 that the IHR transcript of his speech was inaccurate.[17] Journalist Mark Hertsgaard of The Nation, in response to criticism of an article he wrote praising McCloskey's campaign against Pombo, stated that a tape he had viewed of McCloskey's speech to the IHR did not contain the "right or wrong" wording present in the transcript.[18]

Family and personal life

McCloskey's first marriage was to Caroline; they had four children, Nancy, Peter, John, and Kathleen, before divorcing. He later married Helen V. Hooper.[19]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 "White knight in a battle-bus". The Economist. 2006-06-01. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 McCloskey, P. "Another Point of View: What Happened to the Party of Ford & Eisenhower?". (Auburn, Calif.) Sentinel, April 27, 2007.
  3. South Pasadena High School
  4. "Interview with Paul N. Mccloskey, 1981.” 10/14/1981. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved 3 November 2010.
  5. Logevall, Fredrik (2010). "The Indochina wars and the Cold War, 1945–1975". In Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad, eds., The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Volume II: Crises and Détente (pp. 281–304). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-83720-0. 
  6. Mark Hertsgaard, A Dragon Slayer Returns, The Nation, posted March 9, 2006 (March 27, 2006 issue). Accessed June 20, 2006.
  7. map
  8. McCloskey over Pombo, San Francisco Chronicle editorial, May 24, 2006.
  9. James Taranto, From the WSJ Opinion Archives, Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2006.
  10. Brian Foley, Pombo to face McNerney in November; Zone 7 candidates tight, Tri-Valley Herald, June 8, 2006. Accessed June 20, 2006.
  11. McCloskey Bucks GOP, Backs Democrat, Washington Post, July 24, 2006
  12. McNerney, enviros take down Richard Pombo, Capitol Weekly, November 9, 2006
  13. John Upton,Greens honor McCloskey, Tracy Press, November 25, 2006
  14. Lisa Vorderbrueggen, McCloskey leaves Republican Party, Contra Costa Times Politics Weblog, April 16, 2007
  15. McCloskey, Pete (April 21, 2007). "McCloskey: Why I have switched political parties" (– Scholar search). [dead link]
  16. Mary Anne Ostrom, At 78, Spoiling for One Last Fight, San Jose Mercury News, February 20, 2006, reprinted on McCloskey's web site. Accessed online June 20, 2006.
  17. Lisa Vorderbrueggen, McCloskey takes challenge to run against Pombo, Contra Costa Times, January 19, 2006. Archived.
  18. Mark Hertsgaard, "'Dragon Slayer' No Saint George? Hertsgaard Replies", The Nation, May 1, 2006. Accessed July 04, 2008.[verification needed]
  19. Pete McCloskey. NNDB. Retrieved 2009-07-06.

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
J. Arthur Younger
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 11th congressional district

Succeeded by
Leo Joseph Ryan, Jr.
Preceded by
Glenn M. Anderson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 17th congressional district

Succeeded by
John Hans Krebs
Preceded by
Burt L. Talcott
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 12th congressional district

Succeeded by
Ed Zschau

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