Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Out in Alaska

Ted Stevens will not be returning to the U.S. Senate. He lost his re-election bid to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. I don't know Begich at all, but I do know Stevens, and it was past time for him to go.

Ted Stevens has led an amazing life, including distinguished service in WWII, as a U.S. attorney, and possibly the man most responsible for Alaska's statehood. He is the longest serving Republican in Senate history, and it was past time for his to go.

Pork-barrel politics is toxic to American democracy. Politically, it is especially poisonous to Republicans. Stevens was a staunch defender of earmarking, believing it was his responsibility to bring back federal money to his constituents. His recent conviction on seven counts of failing to disclose gifts was marred by prosecutorial misconduct, and will likely be overturned on appeal. But Stevens' casual comfort exchanging favors with those lobbying his Senate Committee was disturbing enough, even if it were legal.

As a Republican, I'm not thrilled that the Senate will have someone who by all appearances will be nothing more than another rubber-stamp for Majority Leader Harry Reid. But I also see an opportunity to bring the Republican Party back to its core values. Tom Delay destroyed the Republican Caucus in the House, and he's gone. Ted Stevens was the King of Pork, and he's leaving. The GOP needs new leadership in Washington to end earmarking, hold the Democrats accountable for their shady tactics and failed policies, and present an agenda of smaller, more responsible government to the American people.

I'm sad today for Ted Stevens. He has served his country and his state for longer than most of us have been alive. But his way of doing things was long past over, and I'm not sad to see him go.

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