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Rogan's Recollections

(And Occasional Historical Observations)

Remembering Congressman Chris Cannon (1950-2024)

Congressman Chris Cannon with my daughter Claire, 1998


My old friend and colleague, former Congressman Chris Cannon, died this week at age 73.


Chris and I first met when we were elected to Congress in November 1996. He sat next to me during our freshman orientation, and we struck up a friendship immediately. That friendship grew over the next couple of years, and it deepened when, as freshmen members of the House Judiciary Committee, we found ourselves enmeshed in what became the first presidential impeachment and trial in 130 years.


The House selected thirteen "managers" to lead the prosecution of President Bill Clinton in the U.S. Senate. Both Chris and I found ourselves on that roster. I could spend hours talking about the intensity and the stress we faced. Suffice to say that I saw many of our colleagues go wobbly as the Senate let us know, before we ever called our first witness, that the fix was in and that they would acquit Clinton—no matter what the evidence showed. One who never flinched, and who insisted on the right of the House to present its case in full, was Chris. For a freshman congressman to throw down the gauntlet in the face of our own leadership looking for ways to cut and run took tremendous courage, and it endeared him to me.


The day of opening statements was filled with stress and angst. At the end of that very long day, I went home exhausted. My wife told me that my mother had called from California and wanted me to return her call before I went to bed. I did so. When I got Mom on the phone, I asked if she had watched her son's opening statement in the impeachment trial of the president of the United States.


"Yeah, I saw it," she said with an air of indifference.


Surprised at the blasé tone in her voice, I asked her how she thought I did.


"Oh, you did OK," she replied, "but I didn't like your necktie. Where did you get it?"


"I don't know where I got it," I told her, my annoyance now growing. "What difference does it make? You watch me give an opening statement in the trial of the century, and all you noticed was my necktie?"


"I didn't like your necktie," she insisted. "Now that Congressman Chris Cannon—he had a lovely necktie! Where does Chris Cannon get his neckties?"


"How the hell do I know where he gets his neckties! I don't care where he gets them!"


"You need to ask him where he gets his neckties."


"Mom, is that all you have to say about my presentation?"


"No. I also didn't like your haircut. Who cut it?"


"Liria cuts my hair. She used to be the Senate barber, and now she has her own business. What do you mean you didn't like my haircut?"


"I just didn't like it. Now Chris Cannon—he has a wonderful haircut. Very nice. You need to ask him to take you to his barber."


The next morning, the House Managers were assembling in our conference room for a meeting before resuming the Senate trial. I couldn't wait to tell Chris about my experience the night before, but I never got the chance. Chris walked into the room, saw me, and approached with a beaming smile.


"Hey, Rogan," he told me, "you'll never guess who called me last night!"


Oh, God, please—no.


"This woman called the office and insisted that she speak to me. I came on the line. She said she's your mother! She wants me to take you tie shopping and for a haircut! She sounded very sincere and insistent. Was that really your mother?"


I looked Chris square in the eye. "No," I told him. "It wasn't my Mom. It was probably some crackpot calling your office."


He laughed. "She told me that you'd probably say that," he replied. "Anyway, I'm going this weekend for a haircut. Want to come along? No offense, but I think your Mom is right—you need some help. And when we're done, maybe we can go pick up a few ties."


We never went tie shopping or haircutting together, but some months later, when my mother made her only visit to Washington, I took her to lunch in the House Members' Dining Room—and of course, her sartorial hero Chris Cannon joined us.


Rest in peace, old friend. 

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