June 25, 2006


A bare-knuckles politician hulks over Senate race here (Alicia Mundy, 6/25/06, Seattle Times)

Waving his hands, his voice rising in anger, [Ted] Stevens admonished his colleagues that a vote against ANWR drilling would impoverish Hurricane Katrina victims, leave the elderly to freeze during the winter and even aid terrorists.

He vowed to travel the country and tell voters about the harm their senators inflicted by blocking the flow of Alaskan oil and the money it would raise.

Then he turned his attention to Cantwell, who had led the opposition: "I hope the senator from Washington likes my visits to Washington state, because I'm gonna visit there often.

It was an embarrassing public defeat for someone who has directed billions in taxpayer dollars to help other senators. And it was the culmination of a rift between Stevens and Cantwell over energy and environmental issues.

However, the final sentence he muttered is more crucial to understanding the depth of Stevens' anger. As he ended, he stared at his colleagues and said, "The time I've spent with you, working on your problems ... ."

They owed him. Ultimately, he would collect those IOUs.

Stevens, the most senior Republican in the Senate, is the high priest of bare-knuckle politics. For almost longer than Cantwell has been alive, he has practiced that religion fervently in public, and more fervidly behind closed doors.

He has used his seat on the Appropriations Committee and his perfect knowledge of lawmaking's arcane details to reward supporters and punish opponents.

As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, he oversees fisheries, telecommunications, oil-tanker safety and other issues important to the Northwest. He's also president pro tempore of the Senate, which makes him third in line for the presidency.

Closer to home, his long history working with Washington's congressional delegation has led some people to call him the state's third senator.

But now there's acrimony, with Stevens striking out against the state to get at Cantwell and the two snapping at each other at public hearings.

He blames Cantwell.

"Cantwell really hasn't done much around here, so she needed something to attack," Stevens said in an interview. "She and her staff have been out to make me the enemy of Seattle."

He added, "We've got a bad apple in this basket." [...]

ANWR is back, too.

Last month, the U.S. House voted to approve oil drilling in the Arctic refuge. The issue likely will go back to the Senate, where Cantwell and Stevens could face off again.

Some members of Washington state's D.C. contingent say Cantwell should try to smooth over the hard feelings and call Stevens or send him a note.

He doubts that will happen, noting the antagonism in Congress between the two parties.

"It is necessary to have across-the-aisle relationships," Stevens said. "It is not an aisle now, it is a canyon.

"Build a bridge across that one," he said, smiling, "and that is a bridge to nowhere."

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 25, 2006 9:54 AM

Doesn't it seem odd that the opposition to drilling in ANWR isn't comig from Alaskans themselves, but from environmentalists in the other states? We have to coin another term to describe this: "Not in your backyard!"

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 25, 2006 11:25 AM

Environmentalism, like all the isms you lot are prey to, is about the self, not about the environment.

Posted by: oj at June 25, 2006 11:31 AM

Environmentalism for a Seattle urbanite, when applied to places like northern Alaska, is cost free, a way to earn salvation and extirpate a variety of other minor sins (like making big bucks working for a company like Real Networks).

And since when have Environmentalists and Leftists in general ever cared about "other people" other than as stage props for their ecotourism vacations and for their propaganda value in selling their agenda to the suckers back home?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at June 25, 2006 12:23 PM

Robert - exactly - it is mostly Dems (as we know mostly concentrated in coastal states) and Northeast RINOs blocking ANWR. In other words states most energy dependent have Senators blocking additiional oil sources. That's why the GOP needs to get this message to that state's voters.

Posted by: AWW at June 25, 2006 2:56 PM

Sorry for this

Posted by: orpha at July 5, 2006 10:52 PM