Monday, April 17, 2006

Senator Lugar "The Wise Man" Among Time's 10 Best Senators

Political blogsites were abuzz today with talk of Time magazine's ranking of "America's 10 Best Senators." Proudly, Indiana senior Senator Richard Lugar made the list as "The Wise Man." He was joined in this honor by many well known senators such as Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John McCain (R-AZ), and Arlen Specter (R-PA), along with lesser known senators, including Thad Cochran (R-MS), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Carl Levin (D-MI) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

Time says it "spoke to dozens of academics, political scientists and current and former Senators to pick the 10 best of the 109th Congress" and offered varying reasons for those who made the list. Former Sen. Bob Kerrey says of Lugar, "He is a quiet, intelligent, steady force . . . he's unmovable when he reaches a conclusion about what ought to be done." Time writes, "That level of conviction helps when, as one of America's leading internationalists, you're a defender of free trade and an enemy of farm subsidies, yet you represent a state dominated by manufacturing and farming." He is also lauded for taking the early lead in recognizing the problem of "loose nukes" after the Soviet empire collapsed and co-sponsoring legislation with former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) to fund the removal of nuclear weapons in several former Soviet states.

Time also made a list of the 5 Worst Senators. That list included Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Wayne Allard (R-CO), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Mark Dayton (D-MN). In the case of hall-of-fame baseball player Bunning, Time observes that he seems interested in very little other than baseball, and he is hostile to Senate staff and sometimes to other senators. Sen. Mark Dayton makes the list of the worst because of his erratic behavior, once closing his D.C. office for nearly a month because of an unspecified terrorist threat and advising constituents not to visit the Capitol.

Equally as noteworthy is who didn't make the list. Indiana's junior Senator Evan Bayh (D) believes he's ready to be the next president of the United States, but his performance in the Senate does not make him a standout. Michael Barone often describes senators as either being "work horses" or "show horses." If Sen. Lugar is a "work horse", Sen. Bayh would have to be described as a "show horse." He does a lot of face time on the television news and talk shows and gets quoted a lot in the newspaper, but he has little in the way of legislative achievements to speak of. That contrasts sharply with the prolific legislating his father, former Sen. Birch Bayh, did while serving Indiana in the Senate for 18 years.

Not making the list, however, shouldn't prove to be a disadvantage to Bayh in seeking the Democratic presidential nomination because not one of his potential Democratic opponents now serving in the Senate made the list either. That list includes Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT).

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