The Top 5 United States Senators
By By Tray Smith
Though the Senate is generally a slow moving body that remains in a consistent political gridlock, there are some good Senators serving our country today who are willing to buck their party and ignore political consequences in order to do what they believe is right for our nation. Two of those Senators come from Alabama, which is blessed with a pair of very capable Senators in Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby. But beyond Alabama, I want to share with you my thoughts on whom our nation's best senators are. I have judged these leaders not on their ability to shovel pork money into their home states, but on their overall national leadership abilities.
Arizona Republican John McCain
When John McCain was captured by enemy soldiers in the Vietnam War, his dad was leading U.S. war efforts in Southeast Asia. Because of his father's status, the Vietnamese offered to free McCain as an embarrassment to the United States. But McCain opted instead to remain with his fellow soldiers in a Vietnamese POW camp. He is still unable to raise his hands above his head because of the torture he was subjected to. Since then, he has risen to become the most popular politician in the country, and is the front-runner for the GOP nomination in 2008. Earning a reputation as maverick, McCain has defied his party line on issues such as gay marriage, the environment, and campaign finance reform while remaining committed to the principles of a small federal government. McCain is an ardent supporter of the Iraqi war and President Bush. Whether you agree with him or not, you must admit that he always stands up for what he believes is best for the country, no matter what the party line is.
Mississippi Republican Trent Lott
While Senator Lott has seen his influence in the Senate diminish over the last few years, his legacy continues to serve him well. Leading the GOP Senate Majority during the Clinton years, Lott arguable advanced more conservative policies than his successor, Senator Bill Frist, has advanced under President Bush. He has also come to the aid of his home state of Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed his own home in Pascagoula. Lott was run out of his leadership post in 2002 after he made some complementary remarks to Senator Strom Thurmond, a former segregationist, at his 100th Birthday Party. Those remarks were blown out of context by the media, and President Bush's staff soon got involved to ensure Lott's downfall (at the time, they saw him as a political threat to the party.) Now they are probably wishing they had Lott back, as are several Republicans who believe that Lott has a better vision for the party than his less capable successor. He may return to the leadership post after this year's midterm elections.
Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman
After the 2000 Presidential election, Al Gore grew a beard and made a movie about ice caps. But his running mate, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, returned to the Senate to become a constructive leader in our post September 11 world. Lieberman wholeheartedly supported creating a Department of Homeland Security and implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he has also been an unashamed supporter of the Bush administration's war effort, a rarity in today's Democratic Party. As he runs for reelection in Connecticut this year, Lieberman is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by a liberal who is opposed to the war. While Lieberman will most likely win, a loss for Lieberman will hurt the party more than anyone. Lieberman is one of the few Democrats who understand the threat we face, and he is respected by moderate Republicans and Independents who admire his ability to take a stand.
Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn
Ascending into the Senate from his U.S. House seat in 2004, Tom Coburn has bucked the Senate GOP Leadership, calling his Republican colleagues out on their lack of fiscal restraint. As a member of the House, he was one of a few conservatives who abided by the voluntary term limits that he set for himself when he first ran for office (Governor Riley was another one) and he has not lost the revolutionary spirit of the Republican Party of the 1990's. While Coburn is new in the Senate and does not have much influence, he is never scared to say what he feels.
Delaware Democrat Joe Biden
Several Democratic politicians are opposed to the war in Iraq, and Democrats and Republicans alike have pointed out mistake that have been made. But as the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden is one of the few Senators on either side of the aisle who has put forward concrete ideas on how to move forward. Instead of using the war for talking points, he has shown a true commitment to victory. While I do not agree with him on most issues, his willingness to engage in constructive debate and speak his mind score him points with people like myself. The Democrats would be smart to nominate him in 2008.
What I have found is that the best Senators are those who are willing to stand for what they believe in, regardless of the political consequences. While they often see their ideas ignored by their fellow Senators, at least the public at large know where these leaders stand. Several of these Senators have Presidential ambitions for 2008, and their party's would be wise to nominate them.
That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a sophomore at Escambia County High School. He writes a political column for the Atmore Advance. He can be reached for contact at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears weekly.