Sunday, Dec. 22, 2002

Paul Wellstone

Washington's Latter Day Mr. Smith
It's easy to picture Paul Wellstone's life as a Hollywood movie: scrappy unknown idealist, married to his high school sweetheart, overcomes solid incumbent to win a seat in the Senate. There he storms, and eventually charms, Washington with his rabble-rousing advocacy for the downtrodden. Before he was killed in a plane crash just days before the November election, the Minnesotan son of Russian-Jewish immigrants was a voice for laborers, the poor and the mentally ill, emphatically embracing the long-out-of-fashion label "liberal." In October, Wellstone was one of 23 Senators to vote against the resolution to authorize using force against Iraq. His righteous indignation and occasionally long-winded speeches could grate, but he won respect and personal affection on both sides of the aisle for that rare trait in Washington: staying true to himself, no matter the political risk.