I met Paul Wellstone only one time, but it was memorable to me. It was the day after the Jewish new year six or seven years ago. We had just had my family over for the holiday, including the brother (Alan E.) of a cousin-in-law who had worked as an aide to the senator in Washington. He told me at length how much he liked the senator and how much he had enjoyed working for him.
The next day I was at the airport leaving town and happened to look into the news stand on the concourse from which I was departing. I noticed someone plunking down one copy of each daily newspaper the stand carried. Looking up, I saw that it was the senator. I greeted him, introduced myself, and he greeted me warmly. I told him I’d been campaign treasurer for Rudy Boschwitz in his second race against him (in 1996), the one in which he had whomped Rudy. He turned down his friendliness only a little, but inquired in detail about Alan.
Much as I was predisposed to dislike him, and much as I wanted to, I left with a warm feeling for him personally and know I would have enjoyed talking with him at greater length. Although I was struck in person by how short he was, unlike many other politicians whom I have met, he was larger — not smaller — than life.
Senator Wellstone died in a tragic accident in the midst of his reelection campaign against Norm Coleman three years ago today. At the American Enterprise, my friend Dan Ritchie takes a look at the development of the Wellstone cult in Minnesota since Senator Wellstone’s death: “Blessed Paul Wellstone.”
UPDATE: See also John Harris’s Washington Post review of the new Wellstone biography by Bill Lofy: “Portrait of a politician as an anachronistic icon.”