We’ve talked about it several times. This morning we shared with you Mitch McConnell’s vague statement. But now that Alaskan Senator Ted “The Internet Is Not a Truck!” Stevens has been convicted, it’s time to re-examine McConnell’s relationship with him.
On April 12, 2007, Mitch spoke to the United States Senate in honor of his “colleague and friend,” Ted Stevens. Let’s take a look at what he had to say. All kinds of praise he heaped on his friend, the corrupt Alaskan Senator.
Mr. President, I rise to honor a colleague and a friend, Senator Ted Stevens, who this week becomes history’s longest serving Republican member of the Senate. This is an outsized accomplishment for a man whose name is virtually synonymous with the Nation’s largest State. Yet no one who ever crossed paths with Senator Stevens is surprised that he has achieved it.
The long list of things he has done for the people of Alaska in the course of a remarkable 39 years in the Senate traces an arc as vast as the State itself. His love for that State and this country is legendary. This milestone is merely an occasion to recall and retell that legend. As the Republican leader, an admirer, and a friend, I welcome it.
It is a story that takes us back to a day when transistor radios were new to the White House and construction workers had just cleared a space in the Bronx for Yankee Stadium. America was changing quickly, and Theodore Fulton Stevens would take as much of it as he could.
Born in Indianapolis, he moved to Redondo, CA, as a boy and learned to surf along the beaches of the South Bay. His pioneering spirit took him to Oregon and Montana for college and then to even more exotic places as an Army Air Corps pilot in World War II. At 19 years old, he was flying C-46 transport planes over the Himalayas and into China supporting the legendary Flying Tigers. He left the Army after achieving the rank of lieutenant and in recognition of his bravery received a Distinguished Flying Cross and an Air Medal.
Read the rest after the jump…
A decorated war veteran in his early 20s, Ted returned to California to resume his studies and later enrolled at Harvard Law School. A consummate tough guy, the man who would one day prepare for tough legislative fights by donning ties that featured the Incredible Hulk helped pay his way through law school by tending bar and selling his own blood.
After law school, Ted showed up in Washington to practice his trade. He married a girl named Ann, and together they set out on yet another adventure. With an appetite for risk and a passion for service, Ted would carve a life for himself and his young family out of the vast expanse of the Alaska territory. He would devote the rest of his life to helping people there achieve the same rights and privileges that those in the lower 48 took for granted. As a result of decades of work in the service of that goal, the name “Ted Stevens” would one day be synonymous with an area one-sixth the size of the entire United States.
He was there at the creation. As a young lawyer at the Department of the Interior, Ted Stevens stood over a map with President Eisenhower and traced out the borders of the 49th State. He returned there in 1961, started a law firm of his own, and soon won a seat for himself in the Alaska House of Representatives. Four years after that, Democratic Senator Bob Bartlett passed away, and on Christmas Eve, the State’s Republican Governor chose Ted to replace him.
Now, Ted Stevens wasn’t well known outside his home State, but curious folks in Washington could have found this brief description of him in Newsweek. Here is how they summed him up:
Stevens is a 56″ cigar smoker who hunts moose and earned a reputation as a scrapper in the Alaska House of Representatives.
It was brief, but it wasn’t far off. Ted didn’t leave his scrappiness in Juneau. He would bring it to Washington.
A story about the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 illustrates the point. Ted was a first term minority senator at the time, but he was determined to find a way to get this piece of legislation enacted into law.
The story goes that Ted was carpooling into work one morning with the Democratic chairman who could make it happen, and he got him to agree to a vote on his amendment that day.
Well, the day passed without any action. They called the bill up on the floor, and the thing went through second reading, third reading, and then onto a final vote. No amendment.
Ted ran right up to the Chairman and yelled at him right to his face: “You SOB, you promised me a vote!’ Hearing the commotion, the Democratic leader, Mike Mansfield, came over to chastise Ted. Nobody swears in this chamber, he said.
But then Ted told Mansfield what had happened, and how important the bill was to his State. Mansfield turned to the chairman and asked whether the story was true. When he found out it was, he took the bill back to a second reading, offered the Stevens amendment in his own name, and the amendment passed.
This was just one of the major pieces of critical legislation Ted has fought for on behalf of Alaskans. There have been many others. Ted never tires of fighting for the people of Alaska. But if you ask his staff, they’ll say he just never tires.
His chief of staff, George Lowe, remembers his first trip to Alaska with the boss. A staff assistant at the time, George was a little taken back when he picked Ted up at 6 a.m. and the Senator had already gone through the briefing book he’d been given the night before, already read the papers, and already been on the phone to Washington for a couple hours.
I needed a vacation after doing for two weeks what he’d been doing for 39 years,’ he said.
After Ann’s tragic death, Ted met his beloved Catherine. They would add a sixth child to Ted’s brood, Lily, who many of us remember running around the Senate as a little girl.
Catherine had to get used to Ted’s tenacity early on. The day after their wedding, he agreed to fill in for a colleague on a trip to tout Reaganomics in China. She had never let him live down that “Honeymoon.”
As chief of staff, George says nothing’s changed. He’s learned to put his Blackberry in the basement when he goes to bed at night, or the boss would keep him up with e-mails.
Ted will tell you he works so hard because there’s so much work to do. Alaskans don’t have the benefit of centuries of infrastructure and planning that much of the rest of the country does. Of the giant State’s more than 200 villages, only a handful had running water when Ted came to the Senate. But largely thanks to him, roughly half of them do now.
He’s tried to make sure that people on the outside understand the challenges. And turning down an invitation to Alaska from Ted Stevens isn’t recommended if you ever expect to appear before him at a committee hearing. An entire generation of Federal officials has trekked up there at Ted’s invitation.
Elaine and I have spent six of the last seven July recesses at the Kenai River King Salmon Classic and, like everybody else who’s been there, we never leave without being impressed by two things: the magnificence of the scenery, and just how much of Alaska’s progress is a direct result of Ted Stevens.
It starts at the airport: Ted Stevens Anchorage International. It runs through the pipeline; the land settlement claims; the double-hulled tankers that move along the shore; and through all the homes in the remotest reaches of Alaska that have radio and television because of Ted. And it continues with his epic battle to open up the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.
`They sent me here to stand up for the State of Alaska,’ Ted once said. That’s just what he’s done. And Alaskans love him for it: on March 22, 2000, the Alaska State Legislature named Ted Stevens Alaskan of the Century.
But he’s done a lot more for the rest of us besides. Thanks to a remarkable 35-year tenure on the Appropriations Committee, no one has done more for the U.S. military than Ted Stevens. Never one to deny or delay materials or supplies to troops at home or in the field, he’s secured funds to continue funding the F-117, to replace Air Force One, for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles like the Predator and Global Hawk, and for a replacement Coast Guard Icebreaker and the F-16 program.
He was instrumental in ensuring funds for early military research on everything from breast cancer to AIDS.
I remember asking myself when I first arrived in the Senate whether Stevens was ever in a good mood.
But I learned, as everyone else who knows him does, that, like Hamlet, Ted Stevens “speaks daggers but uses none.” And in this, “his tongue and his soul be hypocrites.”
Those who weren’t convinced of this changed their minds during that sad week in September 2003, when we learned about the death of Senator Gordon Smith’s son, Garrett. Senator Smith opposed Ted on ANWR, the biggest issue of his life. And a lesser man might have held a grudge. Yet it was Ted who arranged to fly himself and his colleagues in the Senate to the funeral.
They say the only way to have a friend is to be one. And Ted’s friendship with Senator Inouye, is one of the great models of bipartisanship this building has ever known. We all know the two men call each other brothers. But some might not recall that Ted has actually donaTed money from his own Political Action Committee to Senator Inouye’s re-election campaign.
How does Ted do all this?
He’s always looking forward. Thirty-nine years in the Senate, and he doesn’t reminisce. He hasn’t slowed down a bit. He plays tennis and enjoys fishing. He tries to get in an hour at the Senate gym every day. And when he says he’s a fighter, he means it: his staff assures me he still trains on a speed bag.
When Ted got to the Senate, he had a motto: “To hell with the politics, do what’s right for Alaska.” Over the years, he changed that motto, just slightly. Now it’s: “To hell with the politics, do what’s right for the Nation.” But in one of the most distinguished careers in the history of this body, he’s done both.
The people of Alaska and this Nation are better for having Ted Stevens around. We’d hardly know what to do without him. And in appreciation of his friendship and his noble service to State and country, I honor him today for his historic achievement and wish him many more years of good health and service.
What was that about Mitch McConnell not being directly tied to corrupt Ted Stevens?
Click here to read the entire transcript from that day of honoring Mitch McConnell’s dear friend, corrupt Ted Stevens.