Jewish World Review August 17, 2010 / 7 Elul, 5770
A Man in Full
By Paul Greenberg
The fatal air crash that took the life of
The best way to understand the man may be to refer to an earlier crash he survived, although his wife didn't. How he handled, indeed surmounted, that crisis speaks to all the qualities that made
Once upon a time (June of 1997), the senator spoke of that earlier crash to a cub reporter who'd been sent to interview him, and who trembled at the prospect of bearding this lion of the
"I was working on a profile for Roll Call newspaper, and I was told by a former
"Not wanting him to explode on me, I carefully noted to Stevens that while it must have been terrible to lose his wife, in an odd way it must have been even more awful to survive the crash that killed her. To my surprise, rather than snapping at me or avoiding the topic, Stevens was upfront about the guilt he felt.
"I think that's something a lot of people don't grasp," Stevens said. "It's one thing to survive your wife. It's another thing to survive the crash in which your wife was killed. It was a very traumatic period for me."
The senator went on to describe how he had had to break the news of their mother's death to all five of his college-age children just as they returned home happily anticipating the Christmas holiday. Then he got on a plane to
"Why in the world would he fly again so quickly?" the reporter asked himself. "Stevens told me he decided that the only decent way to break the news to his 93-year-old father-in-law was to do it in person rather than just picking up the phone.''
The senator went on to tell the young reporter about that sad meeting. "You can't believe it," he said, "but my father-in-law looked at me and he said, 'Did you love my daughter?' I said, 'You know I did.' He said, 'Well, then, I want you to go and find another wife.' "
"Stevens briefly stopped the interview,"
In his last time out, the senator was defeated for re-election by the narrowest of margins (a few thousand votes, a little over 1 percent of the vote) in the wake of an unjust conviction on corruption charges, a conviction that was overturned, with all charges dropped, after the truth came out: The real ethical lapse revealed by the senator's nine-month trial and ordeal was the prosecution's withholding the evidence that might have exonerated him. (What ever happened to those federal prosecutors, anyway? If the answer to that question is nothing much, then that's one more miscarriage of justice.)
The methods used to convict
One of his lawyers was more explicit about the injustice done an innocent man: "The jury verdict here was obtained unlawfully. The government violated the Constitution of
If there is consolation in
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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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© 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.