Day: August 29, 2009

The Ten Worst Senators In American History, And Seven Other Candidates! :)

I have had the question asked of me, after giving my ranking of the best Senators in American History, as to who would make the list of the WORST Senators ever in our history.

This is much more difficult and complex a challenge, but let me begin by stating that there are, unfortunately, many mediocre senators on the list of nearly 1800 who have served since 1789. However, a small number particularly deserve condemnation, and I base who to condemn not on the fact that some are corrupt in their personal life or in financial endeavors, but rather on if they promoted prejudice, discrimination, narrow mindedness, or suppression of basic freedoms. In other words, their negative attitude toward civil rights and or civil liberties qualifies them for this despicable list.

I cannot easily rank them from one to ten, as the differences are so minor, but what I will do is discuss nine of them, and then finish with who I think is CLEARLY Number One. Then I will add seven more potential candidates.

I wish it was not so, but the majority of the list comes from the Old Confederacy, because of the issue of civil rights, as well as civil liberties. This is a sad reality that cannot be blamed on Northern prejudice. The Civil War may have resolved the issue of slavery, but it did not settle the issue of race, and there were a long list of senators who really fueled hate and prejudice, and justified extreme violence and mistreatment against African Americans, but also Jews, Catholics and immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia.

So here goes in no special order except being in the top ten.

Benjamin Tillman, Democrat of South Carolina, who served from 1895-1918, had the nickname “Pitchfork”, and promoted racism and segregation in a voluble manner, and condemned Theodore Roosevelt for his White House invitation to the African American educator, Booker T. Washington, in 1902.

James K. Vardaman served as a Democratic Senator from Mississippi from 1913-1919, and gained a reputation for using the N word effortlessly, and advocating violence and the Klan to keep African Americans in their place.

Theodore Bilbo was Democratic Senator from Mississippi from 1935-1947, and was infamous for his orations against African Americans, and was simply an embarrassment to the Senate he served in.

Harry F. Byrd, Sr. of Virginia served as a Democratic Senator from 1933 to 1965, and led the fight against the school integration decision of the Supreme Court in 1954, advocating “massive resistance”, promoting the closing of public schools in the Commonwealth. His being in the Senate for a very long time made him more damaging just by its duration.

Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina served as a Senator for the second longest term ever, nearly 48 years, first as a Democrat from 1954 to 1964, and then switched parties to the Republican side and served from 1964 to 2002. Thurmond had, while Governor of his state, been a third party candidate for President as a “Dixiecrat” in 1948, and promoted the reversal of President Truman’s executive orders integrating the armed forces and Washington, DC. He went on to be an activist against the entire civil rights movement, including calling Martin Luther King a “communist’, and only reluctantly, backed away slightly from his vehement stands in his later terms, partially to win reelection with a growing African American participation in voting in the Palmetto state.

Jesse Helms served as Republican Senator from North Carolina from 1973-2003, and gained a reputation of being the most implacable foe of civil rights, using the race card on a regular basis to win close races in his state. He was seen as the image of the Old South revived even in modern times. A lot of people, including some colleagues, were simply scared of him! ๐Ÿ™‚

The seventh and last southern senator on this undistinguished list would be Phil Gramm of Texas, who first served in the House of Representatives as a Democrat, switched to the Republican party, and served as a Republican Senator from 1985-2002. While by the time that he served, the race issue was not emphasized anymore in an open way, Gramm proved to be very insensitive to the poor and deprived, emphasized a balanced budget over all else, and gained an image of being linked to powerful corporations. To top it off, after he left office, and when the Great Recession we are suffering through emerged, Gramm was judged as one of the ten on the list of villains on a CNN investigation, that helped by their actions and connections to have caused the collapse in the mortgage industry, and the general financial meltdown. He was also an embarrassment to Senator John McCain during the Presidential campaign of 2008, when he was one of his economic advisers, and complained that America was a “nation of whiners”.

So sadly, seven of the top ten worst senators come from the South, with two from Mississippi, two from South Carolina, one from Virginia, one from North Carolina, and one from Texas.

The other three on this unfortunate list come from the “heartland”, two from the Midwest and one from the Far West.

Senator Roman Hruska served from Nebraska as a Republican from 1954-1976, and could be called the true measure of a mediocre Senator, who is most infamous for his assertion during the Senate debate over the nomination of G. Harold Carswell of Florida by President Nixon in 1971 to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, that indeed Carswell was a mediocre judge, but after all, a lot of Americans are mediocre, and they are entitled to one person on the Supreme Court who represents them! I think that is enough said about Hruska! ๐Ÿ™‚

Then there is Senator Patrick McCarran, Democrat of Nevada from 1933-1954, who became infamous for being an active participant in promoting violation of civil liberties, most notably as part of the Second Red Scare in the years after World War II and into the mid 1950s. He was vicious in his pursuit of the destruction of many people’s reputations and livelihoods without justification.

Ok, now we are ready for the tenth and last, but actually the person who would easily be placed at the top of this list of the worst senators in US History. Many learned people may already have guessed who I am going to name. ๐Ÿ™‚

Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, who served from 1947-1957, became infamous for the “witch hunt”, the Second Red Scare, and the creation of a new “ism”, McCarthyism, which means unjustified attacks on and destruction of people for a purely political and ideological agenda. McCarthy had no limits in his tirade on people from all walks of life that the labeled very freely as “Communists”, and yet no one he ever attacked was ever convicted of any such charges. He undermined Americans’ faith in their own government and their Presidents at the time, Truman and Eisenhower, and too many of his colleagues in the US Senate were either supporting him for political ends or unwilling to stick their neck out and denounce him. Of course, there were those who were courageous in and out of the Senate and condemned him, but it took five long years before he was finally brought down by a censure vote after his accusations that the military services were rife with Communists. His demagogic actions, unfortunately, gained many supporters, many of whom, or their descendants, still defend this despicable man, the worst Senator ever, even today, and aim to divide us.

I welcome discussion and debate on this list, but I also wish to add seven more candidates to this list, who might be considered to make a longer list. ๐Ÿ™‚

The other seven would be, in no special order or ranking as follows:

S. I. Hayakawa, Republican of California, 1977-1983, who became most noticed for opposing the Panama Canal treaty by stating that “we stole the canal fair and square, and should not give it back!”

Rick Santorum, Republican from Pennsylvania, who served from 1994-2006, and was probably most noticed for opposing gay equality, and worried publicly that the next step would be dogs and humans marrying!

Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, serving from 1998–2010, unable to get along with anyone in his own party, let alone the other party, and often saying inane things, and serving as an embarrassment to his fellow home state senator and Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. Ironically, Bunning had had a distingished career as a baseball pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies from 1955-1971, had pitched a perfect game in 1964, and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. That distinguished career, unfortunately, did not translate into the Senate, and he has recently been noted for working to prevent access to Presidential records in the National Archives by preventing the bill from being considered, what is called “legislative privilege” to put a hold on a bill by one individual senator. When he retires next year, he will NOT be missed! ๐Ÿ™‚

John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, serving from 2002 to the present, having been a Supreme Court judge in Texas before being elected to the Senate. However, it has been hard to watch Senator Cornyn and not be embarrassed by his statements and actions. ๐Ÿ™‚

Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, serving since 2005, and a medical doctor. But like Cornyn, it has been hard not to wince when observing his statements and actions in office.

We cannot end this entry without adding Coburn’s fellow Republican Senator, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who has served since 1994. He is best known for being the leading fighter against former Vice President Al Gore’s global warming initiatives, but beyond that, it is just hard to watch and listen to him on any subject! ๐Ÿ™‚

One other newcomer who seems to be going down this road to be on this list is Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who has served since 2005, and has recently been railing about “socialism”, and saying health care is not a right, but a privilege.

So I now open up to commentary by any readers on this subject! ๐Ÿ™‚

Time To Honor Robert LaFollette, Sr. And Ted Kennedy Together!

The passing of Senator Ted Kennedy, the great spokesman for modern American liberalism, brings to mind the exceptional career of the late Senator Robert LaFollette, Sr, “Mr. Progressive”, of the early 20th century Progressive Era.

Coming to the Senate about two thirds of a century apart, Kennedy and LaFollette both came to personify the fight for social justice, regulation of corporations, and political reform. One was a Democrat from Massachusetts, while the other was a Republican from Wisconsin, but despite their large separation by time, they both personified the best in the American tradition of caring about others and standing for change to promote an equitable society.

Earlier this year, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, himself a model of modern progressivism and liberalism, sponsored a bill which was also supported in its introduction by Senators Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and–get this–Senator Ted Kennedy himself—to honor LaFollette with the minting of a silver commemorative coin regarding his life and legacy–in the year 2011. Along with the US Mint coin, a separate proposal called for the Congressional Gold Medal to be awarded to LaFollette posthumously by the President of the United States.

This is a brilliant idea and needs to move forward, but I propose both bills be modified, so that the US Mint coin and the Congressional Gold Medal be awarded not just to Senator LaFollette, but also to Senator Ted Kennedy, who LaFollette, were he alive today, would be very appreciative of the continuation of his vision by the liberal Democrat from Massachusetts.

This proposal to honor both LaFollette and Kennedy is a non partisan bill, with its purpose to appreciate the progressive and liberal tradition and promote its continuation, with very possibly Senator Russ Feingold as its new champion and leader. We need such leadership in Congress, but supported in full by President Barack Obama.

The death of Senator Ted Kennedy is time to gather the forces of change and make this sad event a moment to recharge for the many battles and struggles ahead. Onward to greater accomplishments! ๐Ÿ™‚

Mike Huckabee Becomes The Male Sarah Palin

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who is in a near dead heat in polling for the GOP 2012 Presidential nomination with Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, has apparently decided that he must out Palin Palin!

On his Fox News show, he asserts that if the health care bill passed, and were Ted Kennedy still alive, he would be sent home to die and would not be given proper health care.

Will Huckabee’s adoption of Sarah Palin’s “Death Panels” concept, which has caused so much grief and hysteria despite the fact it has no basis, advance him in the Presidential race?

Let’s just say IF it does, the Republican Party will be committing suicide whether or not the health care plan is passed into law.

This move by Huckabee only makes Mitt Romney look more rational and reasonable, faced with two opponents who have to be seen as demagogues for exploiting the issue of health care for their own selfish reasons, rather than providing a real answer to this massive problem the country faces.

Is Liberalism Dead With The Passing Of Ted Kennedy?

With the death of the venerated Senator Ted Kennedy, there is much debate as to whether the liberalism that he so aggressively promoted dies with him.

My answer is NO, and also that we, as a nation, cannot afford to allow the concept of social justice, promoting a level playing field, regulating corporations in the public interest, and working to democratize our political system, to disappear.

We have come too far in the past century to go back to the concept of laissez faire economics, and to Social Darwinism and corporate monopoly–that is, back to the mentality of the Gilded Age of the late 19th century and to the equally conservative era of the 1920s and the 1980s.

We cannot allow the Reagan philosophy that goverment is the problem to predominate, as government is the only way to promote necessary political reform, economic competition, and social change.

Leaving everyone to their own selfish interests would mean a repudiation of everything Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson worked so hard for with the Square Deal, the New Freedom, the New Deal, the New Frontier, and the Great Society. It would also be a rejection of prominent legislators of both parties–such as Robert LaFollette, Sr, George Norris, Robert Wagner, Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Paul Wellstone, and Ted Kennedy–who dedicated their congressional careers to the advancement of their fellow citizens.

Progressive and liberal thought and action have brought about the great reforms that have improved our country in the past century, and we cannot allow Ted Kennedy’s death to be portrayed as the end of progressivism and liberalism.

Kennedy’s passing, instead, must be a clarion call to rededicate ourselves to what he spent his whole life promoting–the vision of the Roosevelts, Wilson, the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson–a better, more equitable and just society.

Barack Obama must take this moment to reassess his nice guy image, and start to use the aggressive tactics of FDR and LBJ to accomplish the great challenges of the future, beginning with universal health care! He can become in reality as well as image the new leader of progressive and liberal change, and the country demands it!

Ted Kennedy’s Senate Seat Needs To Be Filled Pronto!

For the first time in 25 years, a Massachusetts US Senate seat will be up for competition as to who should represent the state.

But Massachusetts state law calls for an election no sooner than about five months after a vacancy.

This needs to be changed by the legislature promptly, as this is a crucial time on the health care legislation and other important initiatives of the Obama Administration.

The idea of a temporary filling of the Senate seat, by someone who would pledge not to run, sounds to me like a very legitimate and proper move.

Massachusetts should not be denied equal representation for such a long time, as unfortunately, Minnesota faced for six months because of the contested Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman.

So hopefully, we will see a new Senator sworn in, who has been appointed to fill the seat for a brief few months, by Governor Deval Patrick.