The Plank

The Realignment Within


The November election and January power switch suddenly changed the value of a lot of people's stocks in Washington: Democratic lobbyists up, Dick Wadhams down. But a more amusing phenomenon -- and equally influential in terms of the life or death of legislation in a small-majority Congress -- is the change of value of various commodities on the little stock market constantly running inside Washingtonians' own souls.

Take Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, the wacky former president pro tempore who threatened to resign from Congress if his Bridge to Nowhere pork project was slashed to fund Katrina relief, became a cult sensation for a fab remix of his "Series of Tubes" floor speech, and obsessively supported expanded oil drilling, even donning an Incredible Hulk tie during pro-drilling floor speeches to intimidate the opposition. Not much of an environmentalist, he. But the environment's up on the charts now: Senator Stevens is going green with a notable bill calling for much stricter vehicle fuel standards; according to a flack at Commerce, the committee Stevens formerly chaired, the bill will be promo'd with a major speech later this week. ("Series of Tubes" fans, stay tuned!) We may never know whether it's inspired by honest concerns on Stevens's part, the perception that environmental protection played very well with voters this cycle, or the raw, shuddering fear produced by a Washington winter so freakishly warm it suggests it may be the last one we all spend on Earth.

Update: Brad points out that Stevens voted in 2002 to terminate these standards altogether.

--Eve Fairbanks

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