Former speaker of the House Tom Foley, who died today, was a hardened pol and a man of the old left (although decidedly not of the radical new left). He didn’t mind seeing his colleagues do some unfair smearing of Republicans now and then; and he didn’t mind cracking the whip a little bit and fudging on procedural matters here and there — in a sort of old-school, “this is how it’s done, son,” kind of way — but those transgressions all stayed within the ordinary bounds of the tradition of politics-as-rough-business. But he was a patriot, and he cared about the dignity of the House of Representatives; and by old-pol standards he was a gentleman: personally courteous, fair-minded in the ordinary course of business, and modest in tone and manner. He was a far nicer man than his two predecessors, Jim Wright and Tip O’Neill, and he personally refused to engage in attack-dog politics. The political world would be a far better place today if Democrats still bestowed leadership on men of Foley’s disposition and personal virtues. May he rest in God’s eternal peace.