Bob Kastenmeier dies at 91; congressman was early critic of Vietnam War

Bob Kastenmeier, liberal Democrat from Wisconsin who spent 32 years in Congress, dies at 91

Bob Kastenmeier, a liberal Democrat from Wisconsin whose 32 years in Congress were marked by his early and staunch opposition to the Vietnam War, died Friday. He was 91.

Kastenmeier, a World War II veteran who represented the liberal Madison area starting in 1959, had been suffering from heart problems and died at his home in Arlington, Va., said his wife, Dorothy. She said her husband's main interest had always been world peace, "and I think the people will remember him for that."

Kastenmeier's incessant pursuit of civil rights, nuclear disarmament and openness in government became a symbol of Madison's political climate during the 1960s and 1970s. He was an early critic of the Vietnam War, and even brought a House subcommittee to Madison to hold hearings on how the war was affecting his constituents.

Kastenmeier maintained his anti-war stance after he left office. He opposed the U.S. invading Iraq, saying that if George W. Bush had been president during the Cold War, his policies would have led to a nuclear holocaust.

"Let me be very clear: I do not support the war against Iraq," he said in 2002. "I am appalled by President Bush's obsession with it."

Kastenmeier was a vocal supporter of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He also was a specialist in copyright legislation — in 1976, he led the passage of the first revision of the nation's copyright law since 1909.

He also favored the impeachment of President Richard Nixon over the Watergate scandal, and directed the drafting of rules that governed impeachment hearings in 1974. He even persuaded the House Judiciary Committee, of which he was a ranking member, to separately vote on each article so each charge would be openly discussed, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Born Jan. 24, 1924, in Beaver Dam, a city in south-central Wisconsin, Kastenmeier was an infantryman in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946 and served with the War Department in the Philippines after World War II ended. He earned his law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1952. He began his congressional career later that decade, but in a surprise defeat lost his seat during the 1990 election to Republican Scott Klug.

After marrying in 1952, he and his wife had three children.

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