Saturday, December 31, 2005

Senator Stevens' Mental Health

Ted Stevens has been a United States Senator from Alaska since LBJ was President. He is now President Pro Tempore of the Senate. The President of the Senate is Dick Cheney, but he only shows up to break tie votes. The rest of the time, the President Pro Tem either runs the show or delegates the task. But that ain't all: the President Pro Tem of the Senate is the #3 in the line of succession to the Presidency. Veep is first, of course, followed by the Speaker of the House — just like on West Wing last year — and then PPT of the Senate, followed by the Cabinet officers. That means that Ted Stevens is only three heartbeats from the Presidency, and one of those three is Dick Cheney.

There is also the fact that Ted Stevens is, by his own direct admission, mentally ill. Ted Stevens has copped publicly to being clinically depressed, and is receiving treatment for that condition. That in itself is no big deal, and certainly no disqualification for high office. What is more worrisome is his out-of-control behavior on camera, on the floor of the United States Senate and its committees. Stevens appeared to be on the brink of physical violence when committee members suggested that the testimony of oil company executives about energy policy should be given under oath. He seemed to be on the brink of a nervous breakdown when it was suggested that a bridge serving only 50 people might not be the best possible use of millions of federal highway dollars. His determination to permit oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is beyond obsessive.

When he is facing a particularly difficult challenge on the Senate floor, Senator Stevens likes to wear a necktie with the Incredible Hulk on it. I remember a pre-schooler (brother of a friend in high school) who used to run around in his green costume, shouting, "I'm the Crebin Hulk!" Evidently, Senator Stevens is at a comparable stage of emotional development.

It is abundantly clear from Senator Stevens' recent irrational outbursts that there are very real questions as to whether he remains mentally fit for office, and most especially whether he is really the man America wants to assume the Presidency in the unlikely catastrophe that Bush, Cheney, and Hastert are all incapacitated. I think the time has come for Senator Stevens to return home and spend some quality time with his 17 children and grandchildren.

By the way, yes, I really do mean it when I say it would be a catastrophe if George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Dennis Hastert [Pres, VP, and Speaker of the House] were all incapacitated. Much as I disapprove of all three officials, the only way they all fall at once is in a major disaster. The "collateral damage" from that disaster would be inflicted upon the American people.

And with that, I wish you all a Happy and Prosperous Old Year — all 63 minutes we have left of it!