Republicans Speak on the Stevens Conviction.

27 10 2008

Sarah who?  Today’s theme in Alaska has been “All Ted, All the Time.”  To be honest, it’s been sort of refreshing to have a break.  We needed to cleanse the brain with something completely different – a mental sorbet between courses of Sarah Palin. 

Let’s ask the obvious question.  “Senator Stevens, what do you have to say for yourself?”

“I am obviously disappointed in the verdict but not surprised given the repeated instances of prosecutorial misconduct in this case. … I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have. I am innocent. This verdict is the result of the unconscionable manner in which the Justice Department lawyers conducted this trial. I ask that Alaskans and my Senate colleagues stand with me as I pursue my rights. I remain a candidate for the United States Senate.”

That was quick, and it’s no surprise.  Stevens plans to blame the system, and appeal the verdict.  And, yes, he will continue his campaign to retain his Senate seat, and asks for the support of his constituents and fellow Senators.

So (rolling up sleeves) we’ve heard what Ted has to say.  What about those national Republican and Senate leaders for whose support he has asked?  What do they have to say about their colleague in peril? 

“This is a sad but serious day. Sen. Stevens was found guilty by a jury of his peers, and now must face the consequences of those actions. As a result of his conviction, Sen. Stevens will be held accountable so the public trust can be restored.” – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

OK.  Senate Minority Leader sounds pretty disappointed.  “Face the consequences”, “held accountable”…..Sounds like Mitch McConnell is thinking self-preservation and taking a giant step away from the convicted felon.  McConnell is running for re-election in a race that’s a little to close for comfort, and can ill-afford the Stevens albatross around his neck.

“This is a sad day for the United States Senate. Ted Stevens served his constituents for over 40 years and I am disappointed to see his career end in disgrace. Sen. Stevens had his day in court and the jury found he violated the public’s trust – as a result he is properly being held accountable. This is a reminder that no one is above the law.” – Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Well, it’s pretty obvious that the Republican Senate leadership has pretty much thrown Ted under the bus.  And it’s not surprising, really.  Once the suffix “convicted felon” appears after a politicians name, any continued affiliation with them is pretty much political suicide.  Nobody, but NObody in the Republican Party would be foolish enough to snuggle up to Ted Stevens at this point.  I mean it would be like holding a big sign that said “I Pal Around With a Convicted Felon!”   Right, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski?

“Given today’s verdict, it’s a sad day indeed for Sen. Stevens and his family as well as for Alaska. Ted Stevens is an honorable, hardworking Alaskan who has served our state well for as long as we have been a state….Ted has asked for Alaskans and his Senate colleagues to stand with him as he pursues his legal rights. He stood with Alaskans for 40 years, and I plan to continue to stand with him.” – Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

You guessed right.  Murkowski is NOT up for re-election this year.  But Rep. Don Young IS.

“I’m deeply disappointed. It surprises me. I don’t think he had a jury of his peers. That’s the way it goes. I’m sure there will be an appeal. If you watched the conduct of the court with the one juror leaving and going out and, of course, the actions of the prosecutors themselves, there definitely will be an appeal, and it will go for a long period of time.” – Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

Hit the brakes!  What’s this?  He didn’t have a jury of his peers?  What peers do you mean Rep. Young?  All the other members of Alaska’s infamous “Corrupt Bastards Club?”   Ohhh… that’s right, they are either in jail, testifying against Stevens, or are actually his offspring.  Guess that means he’ll have to settle for some other kind of jury…like the one selected by the attorneys on both sides.

What about that other Alaskan politician that’s been in the news lately?  What’s her name, again?

“This is a sad day for Alaska and for Sen. Stevens and his family. The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company that was allowed to control too much of our state. … As governor of the state of Alaska, I will carefully monitor this situation and take any appropriate action as needed. In the meantime, I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system. I’m confident Sen. Stevens will do what’s right for the people of Alaska.” – Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska.

Interesting.  So it’s the corrupting influence of big oil, not the corrupt compliance of politicians.  Subtle distinction.  It wasn’t Ted’s fault…it was those darn kids he was hanging around with that got him into trouble.   Then she tosses some word salad, with meaningless filler croutons.  And then “Respecting the workings of our judicial system” sounds good…but is she talking about the verdict we just got, or Ted’s upcoming appeal?  And what will Senator Stevens do that is “right for the people of Alaska?”  Does that mean step down, or continue to run?  In a nutshell, Sarah Palin said absolutely nothing with any substance.  How very…..Sarah Palin.

But, after all this, what is the official comment from the Republican Party of the State of Alaska?  THE most important Alaskan Republican in the history of the state has just been indicted on seven felony counts.  He has been tried by a jury of his peers, in front of the nation.  He has been held up to the world as an example of the degradation, rampant greed, and incomprehensible hubris of the Republican Party.  Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican senator in history, once third in line to the Presidency,  has been castigated and rebuked by the national Republican Senate leaders.  He is the poster boy for how far, long, and hard the Republicans have fallen.  What say you, Alaskan Republicans?  How do you console and guide your stricken party members who are reeling from betrayal and humiliation.  Let’s face it…the last two years have been pretty tough on Alaska Republicans, and now the demi-God of the party has just poured salt in the wounds.   I’m sorry Republican Party…I had asked you a question.  You were saying?

“We need to continue to support Sen. Stevens. We need to vote for him because a vote for him is a vote for a conservative candidate, a Republican who best represents the interests and beliefs of Alaskans. … We don’t know what happens in the future. But if you don’t want Mark Begich, you vote for Ted Stevens.” – McHugh Pierre, spokesman for the Alaska Republican Party.

You heard it here, kids.  The Alaskan Republican Party has just reaffirmed their endorsement of, and told you to vote for A CONVICTED FELON!  You show ’em Alaska Republicans!  Hold your head high, walk in to the voting booth with the blessing of your political party, fill in that little oval, and vote with impunity for A CONVICTED FELON!  Drive home with a satisfied smile, kiss your spouse, and say, “What did you do today, Honey?  I voted for A CONVICTED FELON!”  Proudly call your friends and relatives out of state, and tell them how you, and all your buddies in the Republican party, puffed out your chests, and proudly hitched your wagon to the star of an 84-year old CONVICTED FELON!  Maybe you should call your local party headquarters and suggest a fundraiser…you could do t-shirts, and hats that say, “I VOTED FOR A CONVICTED FELON!” 

Then, put your feet up, and watch the national news, and watch a couple political talk shows, and wonder to yourself, “How did Alaska become a laughing stock?”

 

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Ted Stevens. End of an Era.

27 10 2008

An hour has passed since hearing that Ted Stevens was found guilty on all seven counts, and I have finally been able to coax my jaw into a closed position. After having had the opportunity to discuss the verdict with several fellow Alaskans, I can describe the universal reaction as: stunned. Even those who were happy, were happy through a filter of disbelief, and a realization of the gravity of this verdict. Alaskans regard Stevens, who has been in power since Chrismas Eve 1968, as much more than a Senator. For many, it is as if the elves at the North Pole just learned that Santa was convicted on seven felony counts of reindeer abuse, and selling unsafe toys.

It’s hard to dispute the fact that Stevens has worked hard, and was a stubborn advocate for his fledgling state when he took power. He brought much to the state that anyone with a lesser constitution would never have been able to pull off. And now, stalwart Alaskan icon Ted Stevens has become a frail, almost dottering, 84-year old convicted felon. The mighty have indeed, fallen. So, it is with a mixture of sadness and elation that even Progressive Alaskans view the outcome of this trial.

Power has corrupted. Arrogance has become karma. Justice has been served.

All that said, I have little doubt that Stevens has not been cowed by this experience. It’ll take more than a few goddam lousy felony convictions to get to “Uncle Ted.” Remember, this is the guy who wears Incredible Hulk ties on the floor of the Senate. This is the fist-pounding, curmudgeon that just told Democratic challenger Mark Begich he was “crazy as the Devil” during their latest debate. Ted will not go quietly.

Expect him to go full steam ahead with his campaign. Expect an appeal of the verdict. And expect a few more good chapters of the Ted Stevens story before this is all over.

And, on the other side, expect many many Alaskans to vote for him anyway because that feel that either:

A) This is a trumped up charge and some part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to take down the Alaskan Republican Party or

B) He’s done a lot for the state, all politicians are corrupt anyway, and he deserves a little gravy for all he’s brought to Alaska.

Be reminded that there is nothing legally stopping a convicted felon from running for the Senate, and nothing stopping Alaskans from voting him into office. He can, however, be politely asked to leave by a 2/3 vote of the Senate.

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Democratic challenger Mark Begich will win this seat. The most recent polls have the candidates in a dead heat, with Begich showing a statistically insignificant one-point lead over Stevens. Unless there’s a huge unanticipated pity vote, this verdict will tip the election in Begich’s favor.

After witnessing politician after politician in Alaska ride off into the sunset to various private prisons scattered across the Lower 48, we are all struck with that old adage that “power corrupts”. I chatted with Mark Begich the other day and asked him how he was doing. He said he was hanging in there, but that these last few days felt like a lifetime. The next time I see him, I’m going to ask him how he is doing. Then I’m going to grab his tie, and pull him forehead-to-forehead. Then I’m going to look him square in the eyes from two inches away and say, “Don’t. Screw. Up.” The Democrats have a golden opportunity to be the white knights, and restore a modicum of respect to Alaskan politics. But power corrupts unless we are on our guard….however many years, or decades we hold elected office.

So Mr. Begich, be wise, be careful, and treat the Senate seat with care. Actually after four decades, I think you’re going to need a totally new seat. After 40 years, that one is sporting a permanent Stevens butt print, and we need a fresh start.

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Alaska Senior Senator Ted Stevens Guilty on All 7 Counts!

27 10 2008

The jury, which just got a new alternate juror this morning, has found Stevens guilty on all seven felony counts of lying on his Senate financial disclosure reports by not revealing gifts and services totalling over $250,000.

Mark Begich, wherever he is, is doing the Snoopy dance.

UPDATE:

Stevens will still be able to finish out the election, and be elected to office, even though he is now a convicted felon.

The Senate can vote him out by a 2/3 majority.





Ted Stevens Trial Resumes

27 10 2008

Well, it’s Monday, and the Alaskan “trial of the century” resumes. Apparently, Juror #4, who left Washington D.C. last week because of the death of her father, could not be reached over the weekend, leaving the Judge to appoint one of the four alternate jurors to take her place.

The jury must now go back to square one, and begin their deliberations over again about whether Senator Ted Stevens is guilty of seven felony indictments for failure to disclose more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations on his Senate disclosure forms. Two full days of deliberation are lost, but the trial will now continue.

Although it’s impossible to tell exactly where they were in their deliberations before losing – and then regaining – a juror, the jury appears to be moving at a pretty fast clip so far. They got the case Wednesday afternoon and sent Sullivan a note Thursday afternoon asking to go home a little early and saying they had reviewed all of the instructions.

It was a positive development for the jury, which has had more than its share of theatrics since it began its deliberations. The judge took note.

“Everyone was smiling, everyone seems to be in a good mood this morning,” the judge said. “No one appeared to be agitated or displeased. That’s all I have to say.”

Their first day of deliberations last week, jurors asked to go home early because they were stressed and needed “clarity.” The second day, Thursday, 11 of the jurors complained in a note about a 12th juror and asked her to be removed from the panel for being rude and prone to “violent outbursts with other jurors.” The judge resolved the problem with a stern lecture on civility and the jurors left Thursday afternoon, seemingly in harmony.

While it’s fairly common for juries to proceed and reach a verdict with only 11 jurors, less than that is almost unheard of. It’s possible that Judge Sullivan decided to place an alternate, rather than proceeding with 11 jurors, in case Juror #9 acts up again and ends up being removed.