"Of my three campaigns, this one has generated the most emotion, the most volunteers," Paul Wellstone told me on an unseasonably cool and beautiful afternoon in late August as his legendary green campaign bus bounced along down some Minnesota byway. "My supporters think there's just so much at stake, so much to lose."
With the midterm elections now less than a month away, the Democrats have been split into two camps on the issue of war and peace. The most dramatic split, surely, is the one between the House of Gephardt and the House of Gore. The rift is more glaring because, at least at first glance, each leader has had to reverse his stance on the Persian Gulf War to arrive at his present position. In endorsing a microscopically watered-down version of Bush Junior's original resolution, Dick Gephardt has said just that: He now believes his vote opposing the 1991 resolution authorizing Poppy Bush to go to war was a mistake.
The suspicion will not die that the Bush administration turned to Iraq for relief from a sharp decline in its domestic political prospects. The news had been dominated for months by corporate scandals and the fall of the stock market, and the November elections were shaping up as a referendum on the Republicans' handling of domestic social and economic issues. Investigative reporters had turned their attention to Dick Cheney's role at Halliburton and George W. Bush's sale of his Harken Energy shares just before the stock collapsed.
Senator Paul Wellstone, who died today along with his wife Sheila, his daughter Marcia and five others in a plane crash in Minnesota, was perhaps more than any other individual the very heart of American liberalism. His death leaves a gaping hole in our politics -- liberal politics, American politics -- that will be very hard to fill, and a gaping hole in our hearts that will not be filled at all.
Prospect editor-at-large Harold Meyerson went to Minnesota to profile Wellstone and his campaign. Here is what he wrote: