Tags: dancrane | philcrane | russell | kirk | reagan

Remembering Ex-Rep. Dan Crane, R.-Ill.: Dentist, Veteran, Congressman

By Wednesday, 29 May 2019 06:45 AM Current | Bio | Archive

No sooner had the news come out on Memorial Day that former Rep. Dan Crane died at age 83 than press reports came out immediately focusing on the unfortunate ending to the Illinois Republican’s political career in 1983.

That was when three-termer Crane, married and a father of six, admitted to having sex with a 17-year-old U.S. House page three years before.

“I made a mistake,” read Crane’s statement, “I only hope my wife and my children forgive me.”

They did.  He and wife Judy stayed married until her death in 2012, and their six children remained close to both parents. 

But others were not forgiving.  The U.S. House censured Crane for his behavior.  The following year, constituents in the Prairie State’s 19th District, were shown a news clip of their congressman —asked about earlier rumors of other lawmakers engaging in sexual misconduct — saying the voters ought to “sock it to ‘em.”

Crane lost to Democrat State Sen. Terry Bruce. He returned to the practice of dentistry in his hometown of Danville, Illinois.

A sad and unfortunate story, but not the whole story of Dr. Daniel Bever Crane—not by a long shot.

“The Republican Kennedys,” is what Time Magazine in 1979 dubbed decorated Vietnam veteran Dan Crane and older brother, fellow Illinois Republican Rep. and 1980 presidential hopeful Phil Crane.

“And no family — not even the Kennedys — had three brothers in Congress at once,” Phil told me in 1980, when I met him and Dan for the first time, “But we’re going to fix that in November.” 

A third brother, psychiatrist David Crane, was running for Congress in Indiana. But it was not to be: David Crane ended up losing the closest House race in the nation in ’80 by 86 votes.

The son of famed psychologist and conservative newspaper columnist George Washington Crane, III, Dan graduated public schools in Chicago, Ill., earned a B.A, from Hillsdale College in Michigan and a D.D.S from Indiana University.

The young Crane was strongly influenced by his father, by postwar conservative intellectuals such as Russell Kirk and Milton Friedman, and by Ayn Rand.  Practicing dentistry in Indiana in 1966, Crane threw himself into a six-candidate Republican primary for an open U.S. House seat and placed fifth.

He spent six years in the U.S. Army, and saw action in the Vietnam War.  Crane would speak less of the combat in Southeast Asia, preferring to recall how, upon his discharge, he brought home a gibbon (tiny ape) whose ear-piercing scream frightened his mother.

In 1978, when veteran Democrat Rep. George Shipley retired, Crane again found himself the long shot in a Republican primary with several candidates.  The early front runner was State Sen. Roscoe Cunningham, who had the endorsement of all but one of the GOP county chairmen.

With brother Phil as Ronald Reagan’s state chairman in his 1976 challenge to President Gerald Ford, Dan became Southern Illinois campaign chairman for Reagan and thus had the lists of volunteers and contributors of the Californian.

“We used what was then the new plan for mobilizing volunteers that became famously known as the ‘Kasten Plan,’” recalled Terry Campo, an eager Crane campaigner and later national chairman of the Young Republicans, “And direct mail was in its infancy.  [Direct mail mogul] Richard Viguerie really got people charged up for Dan with a signed postcard featuring Dan, Judy, and their young kids.  Many folks sent small checks and returned the photo, thinking it was the only copy.”

Reagan Republican and anti-government conservative Crane easily beat Cunningham by 46 percent to 36 percent.  In the fall, he defeated Democrat (and his eventual successor) Terry Bruce. 

Dan Crane, as Campo put it, “was a dentist in a town of 60,000, so he was more of a regular guy than scholar-brother Phil or psychiatrist-brother David.  He loved to tell what are now considered ‘politically incorrect’ jokes and didn’t care who they upset—just that they were funny.”

Just as he extracted bad teeth, Rep. Crane wanted to extract what he considered decayed bureaucracy from Washington.  These included the Departments of Education and Energy and the Legal Services Corp. and similar entities he felt bankrolled leftist causes.

“Dan always asked three basic questions on votes,” his former chief of staff Cliff Downen told Newsmax, “He wanted to know if it is constitutional; if there was money to pay for it; and; is it beneficial to the American people.    He often voted against measures that he liked because they failed to meet the test posed by those questions”

The sad ending to Dan Crane’s political career is going to be relived and highlighted in the press.  But, hopefully, the very full and accomplished life he lived and his remarkable rise to Congress will be remembered as well. 

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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No sooner had the news come out on Memorial Day that former Rep. Dan Crane died at age 83 than press reports came out immediately focusing on the unfortunate ending to the Illinois Republican's political career in 1983.
dancrane, philcrane, russell, kirk, reagan
Wednesday, 29 May 2019 06:45 AM
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