Stevens’ senatorial support

STEVENS’ SENATORIAL SUPPORT…. The U.S. Senate operates on institutional cordiality. Every member tends to describe his or her colleagues as “friends” and the “distinguished senator” from their given state.

But there’s something unseemly about pretending Ted Stevens is ending his career on an honorable note.

ThinkProgress posted this clip from C-SPAN, featuring Stevens’ farewell speech to the chamber, the lengthy standing ovation he received from his colleagues, and the glowing praise he received from Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Amanda Terkel noted that the tribute just kept going, with praise from Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

I’m not suggesting it’s appropriate to kick an old man when he’s down, but this is more than a little excessive under the circumstances. Ted Stevens is a convicted felon. He faced seven corruption-related counts, and was found guilty on all of them. Had he won re-election, Stevens was poised to be kicked out of the Republican caucus — there were reportedly enough votes to make that happen on Tuesday — and probably expelled from the Senate altogether.

And yet, to watch today’s spectacle, Stevens isn’t leaving in disgrace at all.

Consider this: if Stevens weren’t a convicted felon, and had simply lost a re-election fight to a Democratic rival, would today’s tribute and ovation be any different? If the answer is no, and I suspect it is, then senators are collectively pretending the felony convictions simply didn’t occur. That’s bizarre.