Bill proved that pretense and politics don’t have to be synonomous.
Bill didn’t care about what people thought of him. But he cared deeply about meaningful thoughts.
Those of us who he taught in politics called him the “Doctor.” We knew he hadn’t finished up his Ph.D. work. He never said he had. We didn’t care. Neither did he. He was still the “Doctor.”
Bill taught me a couple of important lessons.
He explained his politics in simple terms, but reflective of how much he thought about it before boiling it down. He said, “I’m a Democrat. I help elect Democrats. It doesn’t mean that I think that Democrats are always right. It’s just that helping Democrats means more often than not, I’ll sleep well at night.”
But Bill also had a healthy view of the two political parties. He’d say we never want one side to completely defeat the other. He taught me that there’s always been a party of “freedom” and a party of “justice.” He said the shame of it was that even though at the end of the Pledge of Allegiance we repeat “with liberty and justice for all,” we never are taught that those are values in conflict. That absolute freedom creates an unjust society, and absolute justice results in a denial of freedom. We always said we needed to keep the conflict alive and well.
There aren’t many political operatives who thought about things like Bill did. And fewer still who are as generous as he was in sharing those thoughts.
Bill wasn’t a perfect guy. He’d forget stuff. But never his friends. Or what he was about.
When I ran former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown’s political show, Bill was my partner. I knew he knew what I didn’t know. He knew that I knew his value. Together we had a heck of a run. After I moved on, Bill stayed. He belonged. He contributed. He was fun.
Bill died keeping his cancer a secret. That’s no surprise. Bill was good at keeping secrets. That’s why so many of us trusted him.