Skip to comments.Novak & Noonan Say Wellstone Was Good Man -- What Are the Odds?
Posted on 10/26/2002 9:03:32 PM PDT by fatguy
Godspeed, Happy Warrior Wellstone
By ROBERT D. NOVAK
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Last Wednesday morning as Sen. Paul Wellstone walked into a news conference room in the State Office Building, he spotted me seated in the rear. "Oh, no," Wellstone said in mock dismay. "Call off the press conference. Novak's here."
We had that kind of relationship: disagreeing about everything but good-naturedly with a sense of fun. He was the happy warrior of 21st-century politics. Arguably the U.S. senator furthest to the left, he was a throwback to a different time.
That posture was not always a political asset. Wellstone was fighting for his political life against former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, in what private polls of both parties showed to be a tossup. This was the country's purest Senate race, and one that could determine which party will control the chamber. Wellstone, a champion of the poor and an advocate of big government, was running against a pro-life, pro-tax cut Republican, and they were virtually even with each other.
When pollster John Zogby surveyed key Senate races several weeks ago, he found that Wellstone had higher negatives than any incumbent senator with the exception of New Hampshire's Republican Sen. Bob Smith (who lost in a September primary). That was partly because Wellstone had broken his promise to serve only two Senate terms, but also because his ideology was on the left fringe.
The decision by many endangered Democratic candidates this year to fudge on issues and even use the image of George W. Bush in their commercials was not for Wellstone. He was the only vulnerable Democratic senator to vote against President Bush's Iraq resolution, and he did not agonize about it.
In my many television interviews and occasional private conversations with Wellstone, he never hid his concern with the pragmatic leadership of the Democratic Party. He often stated that the party was losing its soul under Bill Clinton. When I told him he was my ideal Democratic candidate, Wellstone shot back that I was looking for a loser.
Kidding aside, he was sincere about a presidential bid in 2000 and would have tried had he been able to finance it. Laid-back Bill Bradley was not exactly the passionate Wellstone's kind of Democrat, but he was better than Al Gore in Wellstone's eyes. He could not tolerate the strategizing and hedging of the Gore candidacy.
When I chided Wellstone for breaking his two-term pledge, he told me he felt he was needed not only to counter Bush conservatism but also to avert the Democratic drift. Last year, he spoke out against his party's moderation in these words: "I think Democrats are without a politics if they're not bold and honest for the things they think are right."
Nevertheless, Wellstone had changed during his nearly dozen years as a senator. The fighting left-wing professor from Carleton College had not altered his views but did soften his style. Moreover, he came to love the political game and mastered its tricks -- as he showed in the last hours of his life.
Coleman had correctly pointed out that Wellstone sometimes found himself on the short side of 97 to 3 and 95 to 5 votes, particularly when it came to national defense issues. "I'm running against a guy who's been fighting everybody for years," Coleman told audiences. Wellstone was concerned about being labeled an ineffectual outsider, and tried to do something about it at the Wednesday morning press conference where I encountered him. He brought in eight executives from Minnesota's booming medical device industry to praise him for passage Oct. 17 of a bill to speed government approval of new products. In fact, he was at best a secondary figure in backing the bill, was not a sponsor and was not even on the Senate floor when the bill passed.
The businessmen looked uncomfortable. Wellstone came over to me before the press conference began. "This is counterintuitive," he told me, his eyes twinkling. Paul Wellstone was exaggerating his role, but he was delighted by his command performance for CEOs who had made maximum contributions to his Republican opponent. Paul Wellstone was enjoying the great game, with two more days to live.
Paul Wellstone: An Appreciation A good guy dies an untimely death.
Friday, October 25, 2002 3:50 p.m.
Liberals don't appreciate conservatives enough. Conservatives don't appreciate liberals enough either. Here's an appreciation of Paul Wellstone, who died a few hours ago in the middle of a great battle in the heart of the great democracy.
I met him only once, in Washington, in 1996. I wish I'd taken notes and could refer to them now. We met in the halls of the Senate, introduced by a mutual acquaintance, and what I remember is Wellstone was funny and modest and shy, and I thought: Good guy. It was an instinctive response, an instinctive read, and I trusted it.
A few minutes ago on CNN, Candy Crowley, a reporter one of whose gifts is an obvious sense of humanity toward those she covers, said that Wellstone was "a pure liberal"--meaning he wasn't kidding; his liberalism wasn't a jacket he put on in the morning to fool the rubes and powers--he meant it. He seemed to be a politician who was not a cynic, who was not poll driven, who was not in it just for the enjoyments of power. He operated from belief. And as beliefs do, his sometimes cost him. It's possible, perhaps likely, that his belief that an American invasion of Iraq was wrong was costing him in Minnesota, his state, which he was furiously stumping, hop-scotching over the snow banks in a chartered plane, in an effort to hold on to his Senate seat.
It's good to have men and women of belief in Congress. It's tragic to lose one. It's amazing to live in a time when these Allen Drury-type "Advise and Consent" plot twists yank the drama of the coming election off its predictable tracks. And it seems to me more and more in our country that we're getting these dramatic and unpredictable and novelistic plot changes, whatever that means and for whatever it's worth.
But here's what I really want to say. Democracy requires warriors. It requires leaders. It requires people who will go out there and fight for their vision of a better country in a better world. It requires men and women who will go into politics, and who will, in going into politics, in a way lose their lives. Or lose the relaxed enjoyment of daily life.
Politicians live lives of constant movement and effort, lives in which days are broken up into pieces that don't always cohere--up at 5, first breakfast at 6:30, run all day, on the plane, on the bus, into the van, to the fund-raiser, to the speech, to the dinner for the union supporter, to the late-night meeting with reporters; and don't forget to sound confident, to have the facts, to seem engaged. The exhaustion of constant extroverting; the fatigue of the modern politician. The only good reason to live like that is the desire to pull forward and push into being your vision of How Things Ought to Be. Those who do it for other reasons--well, as George Orwell said, they wind up with the faces they deserve. It takes commitment and hunger to live a political life. But when the person living it brings other qualities--a sincerity, a seriousness of purpose, a respect for the meaning of things--and when it is accompanied by a personal style of natural modesty twinned with political confidence, well, it's a moving thing to see. It's inspiring. It reminds you that there are good people in politics. And modern democracies need all the reminders they can get.
When conservatives disagree with liberals, and they're certain the liberal they're disagreeing with is merely cynical, merely playing the numbers, merely playing politics, it's a souring experience. When liberals disagree with conservatives and they're sure the conservative they're disagreeing with is motivated by meanness or malice, it's an embittering experience. But when you disagree with someone on politics and you know the person you're disagreeing with isn't cynical or mean but well meaning and ardent and serious--well, that isn't souring or embittering. That's democracy, the best of democracy, what democracy ought to be about. Paul Wellstone was a good guy. His friend Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, spoke at some length this afternoon about his "caring and belief." When tough old Pat Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, spoke of Wellstone this afternoon on CNN, he began to weep. And when Pete Domenici, tough old Republican of New Mexico, followed Mr. Leahy on CNN, he too began to weep, and had to beg off the interview.
Senators ain't sissies. They can be one cold crew. But Wellstone touched them in a way that was special, and that I think had something to do with democracy, and those who grace it.
It's sad to lose a good man. Good for America for raising him; good for Minnesota for raising him to the Senate; good for Wellstone for being motivated by belief and the desire to make our country better.
Ever since then I've looked at these outporings of post mortem adulation with a very jaundiced eye. The makeshift memorials that spring up all over the place now wherever a tragedy occur always make me wonder just how genuine the emotion on display is..how much it has to do with the victima nd how much it has to do with people wanting attention.
Death has a way of leveling the field. What amazes me is that pure devotion to one's own agenda is somehow worthy of high praise from all quarters. So the guy was devoted and unabashedly so. He was still wrong.
I'm sure when the time comes and Ronald Reagan leaves this world, many liberals will be dancing in the streets and celebrating. So be it.
Let's not forget, many in the opposition party may have respected Reagan, but even more on the leftwing, feared Reagan and that counts a lot more in my book.
And I have heard a few liberals who liked and worked with Reagan. However, most feared him and hated him. I guess we will see when he dies. May God rest his soul.
Well, I'm not going to be cordial. Wellstone was an enemy of the State...of Alaska. He lapped up the eco-terrorist party line hook, line and sinker. I, for one, will not miss his meddling in Alaska. Now onward to victory in November and then the opening of ANWR.
To the mewlers and pukers here at FR... He's dead. He can't do any more damage to our country. Bury what little is left of him and saddle up.
And you're a thoughtless jerk. But, then, you demonstrate it every time you open your yap.
Your mother didn't teach you any manners, did she?
If character counts, he apparently had plenty of that. So does Jimmy Carter, another enemy of Alaska. But, Wellstone did it the way he saw it honestly. That he saw things wrong is just one of those things. Like a photographer with no depth perception.
Good man or bad, he is now in God's hands ... and it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.
Couldn't care less about your 'Critter. You either believe that government has UNLIMITED rights to your, my, and everyone else's property, or you do not.
Given your commentary, it's rather obvious which choice you've made.
If Jesse Helms had been struck down in his prime, I doubt we would be hearing from Bill Press, Daschle, and Wellstone about his convictions, honor, etc.
They'd be dancing in the streets from Chapel Hill to the Castro district of San Francisco.
Basic human integrity and decency have gotten to be so damn rare in the Democratic Party that if you find even one liberal that seems to actually have it, it's hard for many of us not to feel appreciation and extend hearty congratulations.
I believe that it's possible. IMHO, there are two types of liberals: a) The type who really believes in what they say b) The type who uses the words of socialism to bring power to themselves.
I used to believe that Wellstone was merely misguided, like the people I described as type a. However, given his breaking of his term limit pledge, he may have been edging over to the type b liberal... On the other hand, it's possible that he was just doing what he believed was needed to combat encroaching liberties on his beliefs... It seems that most liberals believe that if they do what's for the "greater good," then a criminal act can't be wrong, for the ends always justify the means...