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Ted Stevens: Farewell and 'To Hell With Politics'

Convicted Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), fresh from his defeat in a belabored reelection race, gave his last ever Senate floor speech today, bidding farewell to his colleagues and the chamber he has served in since 1968.

Stevens, who was defeated Tuesday on his 85th birthday by Democrat Mark Begich, acknowledged leaving the Senate a wounded man, convicted this month of seven felony conspiracy counts.

"I don't have any rear-view mirror, I look only forward. And I still see the day when I can remove the cloud that currently surrounds me," the often irascible senator said. "My motto has always been 'to hell with politics, just do what's right for Alaska.' And I've tried every day to live up to those words."

Stevens expressed confidence that God has more work for him to do, adding, "I look forward with a glad heart and with confidence in his justice and mercy."

The senator's speech prompted a standing ovation, tears and a stream of farewell speeches from colleagues on both sides of the aisle. The most poignant speech came from legendary fellow earmarker Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), a dear, longtime friend of Stevens - and the longest serving member of the Senate - who turned 91 today.

Byrd, who lately has been using a wheelchair, rose on the floor as best he could to recite a personalized version of a famous Irish poem in honor of his friend: "May all the roads which you have built, Ted, rise up to meet you."

"Bless your heart, Ted," Byrd concluded. "I love you."

"Stand tall," Stevens' good friend and fellow octogenarian Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said.

Retiring Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), famous, of course, for his airport men's room arrest, told the story of how he came to call Stevens "Uncle Ted." Craig said he was in a cab, on his way to the Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, when he pulled up to the curb and said out loud, "Oh my, Ted's got an airport. That's neat."

The cab driver, according to Craig, said "Do you know Uncle Ted?" Craig recalled the driver saying, "I know of no other person who has done more for my state than Uncle Ted."

"Ted Stevens now knows why I call him Uncle Ted more often than not. I view that as a much more affectionate term than Senator Stevens," Craig said, adding as he leaned over to Stevens, "I'm gonna miss you, Uncle Ted."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Stevens "a lion" and subtly acknowledged the Alaskan's uncanny ability to steer mounds and mounds of earmarked federal funding to his state. "He has been an advocate for his state, and that's an understatement," Reid said. "I wish nothing but the best for Ted, Catherine [his wife] and his daughter, who I've known since she was a little girl."

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), whose reelection contest against comedian Al Franken has now become a closely watched recount, talked about the "love" inside Ted Stevens - "the love that's in his heart." He added, "This nation has been blessed by his service."

Besides his knack for earmarking, Stevens became well known two years ago for his rambling, bizarre "series of tubes" speech about the Internet, prompting entrepreneurial online DJ's to make this unforgettable techno remix of the speech. Though no one mentioned the episode during today's lengthy farewell fest.

Surprisingly, Stevens didn't wear his signature lucky tie for his final floor speech. But the tie was not forgotten.

"I always got a kick out of it when he wore his Incredible Hulk tie," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said, adding, "I even liked his crankiness."

Despite his many heated tangles with colleagues who tried to kill his various attempts to steer many millions of dollars to his home state for pet projects such as the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," Stevens and his colleagues parted ways on a high note.

"I bare no ill will toward any member of this body," Stevens said.

And by all accounts, the feeling was mutual. As Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) explained during her floor tribute to the surly Alaskan, "He's all bark and no bite."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  November 20, 2008; 12:45 PM ET
 
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Comments

Geezer-pa-looza. I'm against term limits, but geez, I'm 44 and I feel it in my bones and can't imagine being over 70 and expecting to absorb information and make a smart decision. There are mandatory age restriction in other professions, why can't we have one in the Senate and the House?

Posted by: Muley63 | November 20, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the operative phrase for Ted Stevens now is go straight to hell, aka jail, do not pass Go. Stay there for the rest of your miserable life. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Posted by: dsrobins | November 20, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I hope Teddy enjoys his "accommodations" in a Federal Prison. Bet he does not fresh caught salmon for a meal. This person is a six time convicted felon. I have zero sympathy for his prior service. He just finally got caught; he has probably been doing this for years unnoticed under the unethical republican rule. (Oh wait, the worst Prez in the history of America, GW Bush will pardon this criminal too.

Posted by: jkenney14 | November 20, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

A United States Senator is probably the only job in the world where you can be convicted of a felony related to your work, and then be treated with completely whole-hearted respect and support. Amazing.

Posted by: benjaminlobato | November 20, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

These politicians get away with so much (some of the perks they get from industry are completely legal) that they don't even understand why anyone would care. As the old expression goes "there is no such thing as something for nothing" and it is quite clear from the hole our country is in right now that our politicians have been giving away the country for the presents they get from corporations and wealthy individuals. If we don't dramatically change the way our "leaders" do business our children are going to grow up in a much less powerful country than we did.

People in Alaska loved Stevens becasue he used his influence in the Senate to bring a huge amount of federal money to his state, but his allegance was supposed to be to the constitution and the USA, not to some special interests. Add to this the fact that we have Senators who are so old that there is virtually no industry in the world that would allow them to work, because they know that an 80 or 90 year old brain just doesn't work as well as that of a younger person. If we just look at it as a matter of fairness to succeeding generations it is only fair that these old guys step asside and let someone else have a chance to run for their seat.

Bottom line here is that an old politician who was probably always taking gifts from his supporters, finally got caught. I doubt that he was the only one who is doing this sort of thing but one less criminal in office is always a good thing. Perhaps some other politicians will be a little less willing to take these gifts in the future.

Posted by: bjuhasz | November 20, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

No doubt the most dysfunctional, inefficient, unrepresentative body, with a load full of senile old members and their BS seniority system, at public expense can pad each other on the back. All this while their public approval is less then 15%. The SOBs have no shame for their hideous self interest and self righteousness, mismanagement and appropriation of tax payers money and actions to have the country in this economic terror. Steven's has no where to go except climb down into the grave he dug for himself. Hopefully the SOBs who cheer this felon will join him soon. They are all a bunch of SOBs only second best to child molesters.

Posted by: winemaster2 | November 20, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

To the DisHonorable Ted Stevens,

Please, just go away. We don't care where you go as long as it's not the US Capitol. So, go away. You're a crook and a loser so SHOO!

And....

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

I have so much enjoyed watching you squirm!

Posted by: asd2 | November 20, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Where else in American society would you find a body of supposedly intelligent people, chosen by the members of the public to represent them in almost every aspect of their lives, come together and actually PRAISE a convicted felon?

Disgusting and shameful--as well as an unscripted insight into the true corrupt characters of our elected officials.

What scum. What vermin.

Posted by: reporter1 | November 20, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Yo Stevens,

Maybe you can run for Queen in federal prison. No term limits for that job, I hear. Enjoy your new pinstripe dress, bieaaaach.

Posted by: tmaffolter | November 20, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I wish the candidate would discuss global poverty more. According to The Borgen Project:
$30 billion: Annual shortfall to end world hunger.
$540 billion: Annual U.S. Defense Budget

Posted by: maryna1 | November 20, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Uncle Ted this is GOD your cell is ready....

Posted by: rharring | November 20, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

To hell with you former senator dumba_ss! Go back to Alaska and freeze to death you miserable old fart.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | November 20, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I hear Kristol's leaving his gig at the NY Times. Maybe Sen. Stevens can ramble on about internet tubes and bridges to nowhere with the grey lady as his platform.

Posted by: dougbob | November 20, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Even in his farewell, you couldn't get his quote right. I am sure you will treat Mark Begich with more respect. After all, his pop went down in a plane with Cokie Roberts and she's someone who counts. You guys slay me.
Until one of your reporters noticed my blog about the real guywho beat Ted Stevens, a
third party unknown named Bob Bird who scooped up 13,000 votes on a 28k budget, it wasn't mentioned. Washington lost serious
journalism when I F Stone died.

Posted by: steveconn1 | November 20, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Funny how so many senators from both parties stand up to laud a convicted felon. I guess bar has been set so low, and that the attitude is "he just got caught."

Posted by: SeattlesBest | November 20, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

And may I add, good riddance and to Hell with Stevens and the other Alska miscreant (with all due respect to Dobson and his Focus on the family darling) Palin. Focus on the Family Motto "Don't get caught--getting caught is the only sin.

Posted by: trollr31 | November 20, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

It REALLY IS SOMETHING. . . . .

A bunch of crooks applauding a convicted felon who got caught.

WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS?

WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT US FOR ELECTING THEM?

Keep dancing America, the piper can wait.

Posted by: buckheaddad | November 20, 2008 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Ted,

Bend over and prepare to enjoy your time in the slammer. Well earned.

Posted by: tmaffolter | November 20, 2008 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Convicted Felon Ted Stevens Said....

"The internet is a series of tubes..."

And you will be going down the septic ones..."and dont bend over for the soap in the shower".....

Posted by: AlexP1 | November 21, 2008 7:06 AM | Report abuse

It is entirely possible that Dubya may grant Stevens a full pardon before he has to spend a day in prison.

Our utterly corrupt government at work!

Posted by: book134 | November 21, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

It's disgusting to see/hear various Senators (including Sen. Mcconnell) commend, even praise, Stevens. No wonder the public has contempt for Congress! He
should have been summarily expelled from the Senate, but that would violate "club rules". Will the majority of voters never
allow themselves to be pandered to and then
insulted by public officials?

Posted by: forested2000 | November 21, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

More over due garbage out of Washington. I can't wait until Jan. 20, 2009 when we get the biggest piece of garbage ever out of Washington. {George W.RONG FOR AMERICA Bush}

Posted by: SWAMPYPD | November 21, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

All of your folks crowing about Uncle Ted doing his time -- you are just SO cute!

He's not going to serve a freakin' day, people. Have you forgotten what phase of the presidential term we just entered? It's lame-duck season, which means it's Pardoning Time!

Why, yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus, and his name is George W. Bush. He has this special pen he can use to sign away the sins of corrupt politicians and his own criminal fixers and hatchetmen. And don't for a second think he won't use it.

Scooter? Dead-Eye Dick? All the scumbags who authorized and rationalized torture? And dear, dear Uncle Ted?

Come the second and third weeks of January, all will be forgiven, pre-emptively if necessary (and these guys are all about pre-emptive. Ask the Iraqis.)

Enjoy your retirement, Uncle Ted, along with the pension and the excellent health and dental coverage. Maybe you can hang out with your girl Sarah. She's a lot of fun. May the rest of the gerontocracy join you soon.

Posted by: WaitingForGodot | November 21, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

No, Mr. Stevens, the Court's finding and verdict are that you've more than often done what's "good" for Ted Stevens, apparently whether legal or not.

Posted by: igorvitch33 | November 21, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

For Norm Coleman "love" is a very relative word, subject to what's advantageous to Mr. Coleman at a specific time. He has his own possibly shady deal with which to deal. Perhaps, he could go to "Uncle Ted for advice. Nah, had better not.

Posted by: igorvitch33 | November 21, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

TERM LIMITS!
TERM LIMITS!
TERM LIMITS!

Posted by: cosmiccanine | November 21, 2008 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry Ted.

Bush will give you a pardon along with Cheney, Alberto and all the rest of the criminals.

:-)

Pool bets anyone?

Posted by: toritto | November 23, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Where is the love?

Posted by: bobbyque2004 | November 25, 2008 1:23 AM | Report abuse

He who is without sin, cast the first stone! I just hope some of the commenters above are living up to the standards they are judging others by, but I doubt it. The tone is just too hateful!

Posted by: cewt610 | November 25, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I guess when you have stolen all you can steal then it is time to get out. Should be in prison.

Posted by: SWAMPYPD | November 25, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

benjaminlobato aptly observed:
"A United States Senator is probably the only job in the world where you can be convicted of a felony related to your work, and then be treated with completely whole-hearted respect and support. Amazing."

He's right. It is amazing.

As bjuhasz succintly explained:
"These politicians get away with so much (some of the perks they get from industry are completely legal) that they don't even understand why anyone would care."

That's right on, too... and you can see this in Stevens' demeanor. He doesn't seem to have a clue that he even did anything wrong. A professional life of privilege and dishonesty ("To hell with politics", says the career politician) has deprived this man (and apparently the entire Senate) of the perspective from which ordinary Americans see things.

A quarter million dollar home improvement project? That would more than BUY the homes of most of us, but it is a matter of so little significance to this Senator that he claims, with a straight face, to have been blissfully unaware that he was being bribed. And yes, it IS bribery to curry favor with a powerful official by giving him valuable "gifts", whether there was ever an EXPLICIT quid pro quo or not.

Unfortunately, jkenny14 is probably right, too, when he notes that Bush the Lesser will probably pardon this felon before Bush hits the exit.

If Americans accept this state of affairs, maybe its true that we get the government we deserve.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | November 25, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

There's no telling how many bribes he's taken, how much dirty money he's pocketed. You can bet your life it wasn't just the times he was convicted for. They are ALL CROOKS.

Posted by: PercyKution | November 25, 2008 6:40 PM | Report abuse

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