Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

The true legacy of Ted “series of tubes” Stevens (R-AK)

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“No.” “It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.”

You could argue that the legacy of Ted Stevens is his work to get Alaska to be a state or his 40 years in the Senate. And this may be the theme of the on-air obituaries you may see in the initial period following the news that the former senator died in a plane crash at the age of 86.

After the dust clears, Stevens’ offbeat legacy reads as long as the years he served in the Senate. Think about this: Stevens was the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate.

And his lengthy stay in Congress’ upper house, combined with the archaic rules of Congress, where seniority means more than competence.

Stevens’ opinion on the “series of tubes” mattered because he chaired the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation at that point, and the Republicans were in charge of the Senate.

We don’t directly vote for chairs of committee — House and Senate — but the party in power picks people based on how long they have lasted, regardless of their knowledge of the subject. If nothing else, Stevens helped illustrate what is wrong with that concept.

And though the on-air tributes to Stevens point out — correctly — that he was exonerated on multiple indictments over the funding for home remodeling, the cause was more to the tune of overzealousness by prosecutors than whether Stevens did anything wrong. And it was the Obama Administration who stepped up and admitted that.

There were the airport at nowhere controversy when Stevens added $3.5 million into a Senate bill to help finance an airport to serve a remote Alaskan island with about 100 residents.

And there was the fact that a plane crash in 1978 that killed Stevens’ first wife, Ann, and left him in bad shape and this plane crash had in common: both financed by private corporations.

Stevens was a complicated person. He was pro-choice for the most part, and believed in stem cell research.

Let’s consider all that Stevens provided, good and bad, in his memory. And despite his crack about the Internet being a “series of tubes,” even in his unfinest hour, Ted Stevens was still smarter and knew more about politics and the world than Sarah Palin.

From the archives: Will Alaska voters vote for the convicted Ted Stevens on November 4?


Written by democracysoup

August 10, 2010 at 3:32 pm

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