Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Official Greatest Senator List

In 2000, the Senate named their own Seven Greatest Senators. It's a weird list:

John C. Calhoun

Henry Clay

Robert LaFollette

Robert Taft

Arthur Vandenberg

Robert Wagner

Daniel Webster

OK, Clay, Webster, Wagner, and LaFollette I agree with. John C. Calhoun is certainly one of the most important senators ever. Calhoun's case depends on how you define greatness. If you define it as simply chamber shaping and driving American political life, then there's no way to keep Calhoun off the list. While those are necessary components to qualify, I have to argue for a moral side as well. The policies pushed by that senator cannot be loathsome. In particular, the single most important architect in the push to commit treason in defense of slavery cannot be on my list.

As for Vandenberg and Taft, what? They are both important senators for sure. But I feel like Senate Republicans were going to be good and damn sure that they got their favorite progenitors on that list. It seems that Taft's entire case rests upon the Taft-Hartley Act, which even if it wasn't evil, isn't enough to qualify him. I'd like to think it takes more than union busting to make a great senator. Vandenberg was a very important senator when it comes to foreign policy, but it seems that the list overstates that importance. I'm more comfortable with Vandenberg than Taft, but I'd probably argue for another 10 senators before he came into the picture.