Alaska’s long-time senior senator, the late Ted Stevens (1968-2008), had a vicious temper. He could erupt in a split second. Turnover on his staff was constant for few folks would take his berating their competence for long.
He was demanding, would not accept excuses and expected one never to make the same mistake twice. His caustic criticism often was aimed at the press. He rarely hesitated to call a reporter and let them know how badly they’d screwed up.
Behind all the anger, bluff and bluster, though, there was one decent person who had a tender heart, truly cared for those less fortunate and was devoted to his wife, Ann, and their children. He was a man of his word, a tireless advocate for Alaskans and a formidable adversary. He rarely carried a grudge, with one major exception - his senatorial colleage, Alaska’s junior senator, Mike Gravel.
He hated Gravel, and with good reason Stevens truly believed, and it was plausible, that Gravel brought about the situation that led to the death of Ann.
Gravel, born in Massachusettts, went to Alaska with the not so secret desire to achieve high public office. He drove a cab for awhile but soon got into real estate and was successful enough to seek office. An intelligent, charming fellow, he was liked well enough by his House colleagues to be elected Speaker.
In 1966 he trried to parlay the Speaker post into election as Alaska’s sole member of the House but was defeated in the Democratic primary by Ralph Rivers.
In August of 1968, though, he shocked many Alaskans by upsetting the venerable Ernest Gruening, one of Alaska’s last territorial governors and, along with Bob Bartlett, one of the first two Alaskan senators. Gruening, who will forever be remembered as one of only two sagacious votes against LBJ’s Tonkin Gulf resolution authorizing the president to do whatever he had to do in Vietnam, was in his early 80’s. To his regret he ignored Gravel and did little campaigning. Gravel went on to win the first of two terms in November.
Twelve years later Gravel himself was knocked off in the August Democratic primary by Ernest Gruening’s grandson, State Rep. Clark Gruening. Gravel had by then alienated many Alaskans but the clincher was the move Stevens quietly organizned to have a massive Republican turnout vote in the open Democratic primary for young Gruening. Stevens exacted his revenge.
Had Gravel been resonsible for Anne Stevens’ death? You be the judge. (more…)