Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stevens' Conflicting Statements Raise Doubts about his Mental Acuity

Yesterday, I suggested that Ted Stevens' best strategy for this election would have been to gracefully retire and protect Alaska's power in the Senate by sharing the knowledge he's accumulated in his long years of experience by mentoring his successor.

I also reported that he mumbled now and then. Today I got a link to this story from the Begich* campaign:

Sen. Ted Stevens is creating a legal defense fund to fight federal charges that he concealed more than $250,000 worth of gifts.

The Alaska Republican has asked the Senate Ethics Committee to approve the fund, which would be administered by a trustee who could solicit donations to help the senator with his court fees, according to Stevens’s spokesman.

Stevens said Tuesday during an Alaska Public Radio interview that the fund was already established, but his spokesman indicated Wednesday that Stevens misspoke and that he was "now seeking approval ... to establish such a fund.”

Senate rules require legal defense funds to be approved by the Select Committee on Ethics before any money can be raised. So far, no paperwork is on file with the Senate’s Office of Public Records. Once it is approved and the appropriate paperwork is submitted, Stevens can use the fund to pay his legal bills.

The old [younger] Ted Stevens wouldn't have made this mistake. It's not the fact that the the fund didn't exist yesterday that is important to me. It's the fact that Stevens didn't know it.

*I get emails from the Begich campaign and others now and then. It's raised questions for me about my role here. Clearly I lean toward what people call 'left.' but I don't see this as a partisan blog that simply pushes the party line. But I do try to put the pieces together and Stevens' error here is news. Calculating the value of his experience has to be balanced by calculating liability of his declining mental alertness over the next six years.

I'm also trying to figure out how to address questions about Begich's friend John Rubini. I haven't been on Ray Metcalfe's Anchorage tour of "Anchorage Political Corruption." But I have heard from other sources that Rubini looks very questionable. My basic response has been that Begich has known forever that he would eventually run for higher office, he has a good sense of the ethics rules, and that he's smart enough to avoid doing something stupid enough to jeopardize those ambitions. I was told, "All that may be true, but everyone has blindspots."

Of course, this all helps me understand why Republicans are sticking by Stevens. Those who like to spout black and white ethics simply haven't looked a little below the surface. If not Begich, who should I vote for? I don't think that Begich has done anything wrong. But supposing he has? Would that eliminate him from consideration? How bad would it have to be? This is a smart politician who in many ways has a vision that mirrors mine, though certainly not completely. Reps from the Begich campaign, people I respect, assure me that there is nothing there. Damn, life is so complicated.

So, I guess I'll have to check out Ray's tour and then bring my specific questions to Mark Begich. Why am I writing this if this is only rumor now? Well, the general story has been well covered by Ray Metcalfe. And I expect this is going nowhere. I'm also mindful that it isn't my job to find fault with candidates I support any more than the Republicans find fault with their candidates. Let the Republicans do the work. But I also want to have a blog that deals with the long-term truths of human beings more than the short term outcomes of specific political campaigns.

We are headed out of town next week, so this will be on hold for a bit.


  1. "I also want to have a blog that deals with the long-term truths of human beings more than the short term outcomes of specific political campaigns."

    This is why I keep coming back to your blog. They say that ten minutes with a wise man is worth a year's study of books, and I feel that I get a million times more from your blog! (It's more pleasant than the University of Hard Knocks!)

  2. Philip - thanks, I fixed it right away.

    Tea - don't embarrass me. I believe in modesty including in one's praise. Mine is just one perspective and probably full of holes. I'm glad you find something of use, but I learn more if you point out what I missed. (Gently of course.)


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.