Mr. Stevens Goes to Washington
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BE TOLD, despite a reputation he works hard to perpetuate,
Ted Stevens is not an unrelenting grouch and bully. He does, however,
thrive on debate, and he loves to mix it up. He is most articulate
when he is the most exercised. It's as if the blood flow doesn't
hit his brain until he is in a lather over something.
fall, for example, when President Clinton vetoed a spending measure,
saying he could not "in good conscience sign a bill that funds
the operations of the Congress and the White House before funding
our classrooms, fixing our schools and protecting our workers,"
Stevens responded in classic froth: "He's in for it! I will
not take a threat from the President of the United States. This
is an open declaration of war against Congress."
people confuse Stevens' passion with anger, says his longtime friend
Michael Phelps, UCLA's Norton Simon Professor, chair of the Department
of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, chief of the Division of
Nuclear Medicine and director of the Crump Institute for Biological
Imaging. But, he says, "when Ted hits the passion button, you
better not be on the same street going the other way."
the inventor of the PET scan, was introduced to Stevens through
California industrialist and education reformer Norton Simon. He
describes countless hours during which Stevens, Simon and he would
debate lofty issues. There was one time, he recalls, when he and
Stevens, who was in Los Angeles to speak to the Veterans of Foreign
Wars, got into a discussion that stretched out for hours.
missed his talk at the VFW, and they never invited him back,"
age 77, Stevens loves a good joke, and he doesn't mind if it's a
little naughty. Fishing is his passion, the one thing he'll make
time for to relax. He's a wine connoisseur. And sometime Stevens,
an exercise fanatic, simply refuses to act his age.
spent much of his youth with his aunt and uncle in Manhattan Beach,
swimming and surfing in the chilly Pacific combers. (His favorite
board is propped in the corner of his office in the Hart Senate
Office Building, and among all the artifacts of public life that
clutter his suite, it is the item Stevens seems to cherish most.)
A few years ago, he and a boyhood friend, Russ Green, headed down
to their old beach haunt for a little body surfing. The ocean was
a bit rough, Stevens admits, but he and Green are good swimmers
and they didn't think much about it. As they were bobbing in the
waves, they soon noticed that the lifeguard had moved from his perch
and planted himself at the water's edge, anxiously watching them.
wife was furious that the lifeguard had gone on full-geezer alert,
but Stevens, who worked his way through UCLA as a lifeguard, thought
the scene was hilarious.
said that if I'd seen two old codgers going out in that kind of
water, I probably would have told them to come in," he says,