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McCain to Stevens: It’s Time to Go

Forget partisan camaraderie.

In the wake of Sen. Ted Stevens’ conviction yesterday on charges of failing to report corporate gifts, Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential hopeful, has a terse message for his colleague of 22 years: See ya!

From a McCain statement issued Tuesday:

It is clear that Sen. Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will be spurred by these events to redouble their efforts to end this kind of corruption once and for all.

There’s never been much love between Stevens, the unapologetic king of earmarks, and McCain, who’s made a career of condemning federally funded pet projects like those Stevens has been so prolific in securing.

Still, the conviction is hardly welcome news for McCain as he enters the final week of the campaign. Most Americans aren’t familiar with the personal clashes between McCain and Stevens, and might instead just associate the two Senate veterans based on their shared GOP affiliation — a brand already suffering from image problems after eight years of the Bush administration.

Steven Haycox, a cultural historian at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, said the conviction, aside from helping Stevens’ challenger Mark Begich, the Democratic mayor of Anchorage, will also help Ethan Berkowitz, the Democratic opponent of long-time Alaska Rep. Don Young (R), who faces a series of corruption charges of his own.

But, Haycox added, the guilty verdict is “not very likely” to help the Obama ticket in Alaska, where Gov. Sarah Palin remains a popular figure.

Stevens yesterday proclaimed his innocence and vowed to stay in the election fight. But McCain isn’t the only GOP voice questioning the Alaskan senator’s fitness to serve. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, issued a statement of his own yesterday, saying he was “disappointed to see [Stevens’] career end in disgrace.”

Sen. Stevens had his day in court and the jury found he violated the public’s trust — as a result he is properly being held accountable. This is a reminder that no one is above the law.

That seems to indicate that Stevens, even if he were to cling to his seat next week, would face a less than collegial reception on his return to Washington.

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