Politicians react to Bono’s death
U.S. Rep. Sonny Bono, R-Calif., 62, who died in a skiing accident at Heavenly Ski Resort Monday, came a long way in the three years he served as a United States congressman, according to his Northern Nevada colleagues.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, 57, who has represented Nevada in Washington for 16 years – four years as a congressman and the last 12 years as a senator – said Bono’s first few years in the nation’s capitol were rocky.
“It was awkward, with his celebrity,” Reid said Tuesday from his office in Washington, D.C. “I don’t think being mayor of Palm Springs prepared him for Washington.”
But over time Bono had earned a position of respect, and was a favorite speaker at Hill functions, Reid said.
“He was very, very cordial,” he said. “I think it’s good that people like Sonny Bono are willing to take the plunge into politics. We need people from all walks of life.”
Reid added that he had been a fan of Sonny and Cher and had enjoyed listening to their music.
U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nevada, 53, contacted in Washington Tuesday, said he, too, was a fan of Sonny Bono, the musician.
“I grew up admiring him and being a fan of his music,” he said. “This is a deep loss personally. My wife Dawn and I had become good friends with Sonny and his wife Mary.”
Gibbons, elected in 1996 to his first term in Congress, said that as a result of their friendship, Bono was planning on coming to Nevada this year to campaign for him.
Gibbons said Bono was concerned about his image on Capitol Hill, even in his second term.
“He and I sat next to each other on the National Security Committee,” Gibbons said. “Often, there were only the two of us, and we would exchange notes during lulls. We’d talk about how he felt about his perception on the Hill.”
Gibbons said Bono was concerned that his background as a singer and entertainer might make people perceive him as shallow or less capable.
“In fact, he was an articulate and caring individual who could understand the most complex issues,” Gibbons said. “I’d tell him, ‘If you believe it in your heart, say it, and when you’re proven right you’ll be victorious.'”
Gibbons said working with Bono in Congress was a delight.
“He was the Will Rogers of Congress,” Gibbons said.
When the Republican Caucus Committee met last fall, with 220 members of Congress in a room to discuss voting records and accountability, Gibbons said the tension in the room was so thick you could cut it with a knife.
“This was a very, very tense situation, with people venting off, and lots of tension in the room,” Gibbons said. “Sonny, realizing that if we were to get through it and make progress, stood up and told us of his past history, and he did it with such humor and warmth, that by the time he was through, we were all laughing and the tension was gone.”
Gibbons said that one action conveyed an important message to all the assembled “class presidents” – headstrong individuals with great egos who find their way into national politics.
“He showed us that we should never take ourselves so seriously that we can’t do the work we’ve come to Washington to do,” Gibbons said. “We should definitely take our jobs seriously, but not ourselves.”
The day after Bono’s death, Gibbons said this memory of his fellow congressman will remain one of his favorites.
“It was one of the most memorable events in my life,” Gibbons said. “I will miss him personally, as a fan and an admirer, and I know America will miss him.
“He lightened us all up.”