Ted Stevens

  • Ted Stevens never worried much about making friends in Washington. "I'm a mean, miserable s.o.b.," he bragged. Stevens was a tough character, and to underscore the point, he sometimes wore an Incredible Hulk necktie on the Senate floor. Those may not sound like political assets, but Stevens, who was killed in a plane crash Aug. 9 at 86, harnessed them in the service of a Senate career that lasted four decades.

    Stevens was a titan in both Washington and Alaska, particularly during his eight-year tenure as the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, a post he used to steer billions of dollars into pork back home, including for much criticized projects like Alaska's infamous Bridge to Nowhere. But in 2008, Stevens was found guilty of corruption for failing to disclose $250,000 worth of gifts from a powerful Alaska businessman. His conviction was later overturned because of prosecutorial mistakes.

    Decades ago, Stevens said he'd had a premonition of his own death in a plane crash. He almost met that fate in 1978 but survived a crash that killed five, including his wife. Some have suggested that the experience instilled in him a bitterness that manifested itself as anger in his public life. Perhaps that helps explain how Stevens became the Senate's Incredible Hulk. But the question seems moot, now that his dark premonition has been fulfilled.