Steve already noted that Ted Stevens was convicted on seven felony counts today. This is a very good thing, for (at least) two reasons. First, Senators who are corrupt ought to know that there is a non-negligible possibility that they will be convicted of felonies and sent to prison. Second, the Republicans might lose another Senate seat because of this, a fate they might well have avoided had they either induced Stevens not to run for re-election or fielded a successful primary challenger against him. I suspect politicians, like most people, will generally be unwilling to turn on one of their own in this way absent some compelling reason to do so. Knowing that they risk losing a Senate seat needlessly might help to concentrate their minds and firm up their resolve. (And yes, I do think this about politicians of both parties.)
Besides that, though, Stevens really is outrageous on the subject of earmarks. And while I don’t think that earmarks are always and everywhere bad, Stevens seems to have gone way, way over the line in extracting them from Congress. Moreover, he is, by all accounts, a bully. Here’s an excerpt from a profile of him from TNR, which I can’t find online any more, but excerpted a little over a year ago:
“”I’m a mean, miserable S.O.B.,” he once proudly told his colleagues. And yet, he rose to awesome heights of influence in the Senate, controlling billions of dollars in public money. (…) How was Ted Stevens able to turn the fear and loathing he engendered in others into a political asset? (…)
Perhaps more than any other senator, Stevens obsesses over which of his colleagues are friends and which are enemies. “People who vote against this today are voting against me,” he declared after one contentious vote on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (anwr). “And I’ll never forget it.” After another Senate debate, Stevens announced that he had “written off” several friends in the Senate who had allegedly betrayed him. “I’m not traveling with them anymore, and I’m not going to play tennis or swim or do various things with them,” he seethed. Even something as simple as an October 2005 dispute about amending a spending bill led Stevens to liken relations with his old friend, longtime Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia, to a cold warera meltdown: “Our friendship is close to the brink, very close to the brink,” he warned.
Stevens doesn’t just end friendships–he gets revenge. (Or, as he has put it, “I don’t make threats–only promises.”) In the past, he has campaigned against colleagues who have angered him, and, in March 2006, he openly admitted to pulling a bill that would aid the Puget Sound shipping industry to spite Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, who had crossed him over anwr. As a result, no one wants to say no to The Hulk, lest they land atop his hit list.”