I admit it. I don't hate the guy. I don't hate Sen. Stevens, and I'm not doing a victory party over the fact that he got convicted on all seven counts. I don't disagree with the verdict - I'm simply living out what so many politicians have said.
The "it's a sad day for Alaskans" refrain is not just a sound byte - it really is a sad day for Alaskans. I strongly support Mark Begich for Senate, but I don't think it's doing a disservice to him to say this about Sen. Stevens - that this really brings a sad end to what has really been a legendary career.
"Uncle Ted" has, without a doubt, done a lot for Alaska. I don't agree with all of it, but believe, maybe naiively, he was acting in Alaska's interest for most of his career. I don't think many in the Lower 48 could hate a senator who had done half as much for their state.
Although he has not been quite as supportive in recent years, Ted Stevens really did do a lot for Alaska Native people in the past. More important to me, he came out for Native rights when it wasn't popular - before statehood when the "No Natives or dogs" signs were still hanging in storefronts. For this alone, I will continue to respect much of his past record.
With that being said, no past actions forgive corruption of any kind. A jury of his peers - and I think certainly a more objective jury than he would have had here in Alaska - has listened to the evidence and arguments, and decided without a doubt that he is a felon, and deserves punishment for that. That is certainly good enough to convince me. We trusted Ted for many, many years to do the right thing, and in recent years he's been leaning a bit more outside of that trust. This conviction brings a truly sad end to his political career.
I wish that Ted would have called it quits many years ago. We would have had a senator who - hopefully - would be out there with new energy, fighting the fights Stevens used to champion. Stevens could have retired with accolades and wide respect in Alaska, with none of the tarnish he's now put to his name.
Sen. Stevens seems to, like Don Young, have grown so accustomed to his role as an elected official, that he has come to view it as his right. The feeling of entitlement is an unfortunately common trait in politicians, and Stevens has, like so many before him, fallen prey to his own greed and disregard for the ethics of the people.
Although Stevens has done so much for our state, my father reminds me that we elected him to do just that. We literally entrusted Stevens to represent Alaska for decades - and he ran on a platform of doing what was right.
I wish I could meet the Stevens of so many years ago, the man who championed Native rights and fought for Alaska's statehood, and interests. I think he would be an amazing man to meet. But we haven't seen that Stevens in a long, long time, and I don't think I'm alone in Alaska in saying that I'm sad it had to end this way for him.
It will be an interesting experience now to go pick someone up at the Ted Stevens International Airport, or drop someone off in front of the sign at the Native hospital saying "Thank you" to Sen. Stevens. So much honor given to someone who turned out to be another corrupt politician.
In the end, he has lost my respect, and my vote.