Before time keeps slipping, slipping, slipping into the future (apologies to the Steve Miller Band), let us collectively bow our heads and mourn the sudden passing of one of Washington's most successful socialists.
That would be former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in Senate history, whose legendary deeds will forever demonstrate the flaw at the core of the GOP's "small government" credo, the chasm separating the party's rhetoric and actions.
After Stevens perished this week in a plane crash at age 86, national party chairman Michael Steele praised the 40-year senator "for his unparalleled effectiveness at fighting for his home state interests." In other words, Stevens vaccumed every last possible federal cent and sent it off to Alaska, thereby practicing socialism on a scale unmatched by any of his senatorial brethren.
Naturally, no Republican has been eager to point out the fact that Stevens, over a recent span of 13 years, bestowed $3.4 billion in federal taxpayer money on his home state, for a plethora of projects ranging from the scandalous ($29 million to a fisheries marketing board chaired by his son) to the hilarious ($300 million for the infamous "bridge to nowhere" that would've served 50 people, the bridge that Gov. Palin ultimately opposed after she was for it).
Stevens honed his art for decades, without virtually any Republicans ever acknowledging that their stump talk about the evils of federal money was always fundamentally at odds with Stevens' behavior - and with their desire to maximize their own share of the money. Given the fact that he had his hands on all the money thanks to his long tenure on the Appropriations Committee, they were probably too terrified to take him on.
Stevens left office in January 2009, but the party's hypocrisy persists today, of course - as evidenced by the fact that so many of the Republicans who assail the Obama economic stimulus money have done so while lining up to collect the money. At last count, more than 100 Republicans have talked tough but taken the money. One of the Utah senators voted against the stimulus - then, two days later, he wrote a letter to the federal Agriculture Department, begging for the money ("I believe the addition of federal funds to these projects would maximize the stimulative effect of these projects on the local economy"). And, earlier this week, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford - who in '09 likened the stimulus money to "a thing called slavery" - formally accepted stimulus money in order to pay jobless benefits back home.
Those are worthy expenditures, at least. Ted Stevens basically ran amok, and turned the fundamental GOP contradiction into caricature - as I detailed in a freelance piece on Stevens that was posted today.