Emotional Farewell For Sen. Lincoln

In late December, the American public saw some emotional speeches given in the U.S. Senate. It’s hard to know how many people viewed these farewell addresses on C-SPAN, but if you saw Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s message to her colleagues, you would’ve been impressed by what she had to say. After an exhausting campaign that seemed to last nearly two years, it all came down to her standing alone on the Senate floor addressing both Democrats and Republicans.
To her everlasting credit, Lincoln didn’t show any bitterness and spent most of the time thanking friends, family and colleagues for their support during a 12-year Senate career. If there was any part of her career that probably didn’t receive enough credit, it was the behind-the-scenes efforts at bipartisanship. Some of those efforts – especially when it came to matters affecting agriculture and the cotton industry – didn’t receive nearly enough attention or credit.
Most political observers believe it was Lincoln’s willingness to work with Republicans that created workable compromise on the 2008 Farm Bill. In particular, she had a true ally in Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), former Senate Ag Committee chairman and ranking member. On more than one occasion these two put aside partisan differences and worked through a mountain of details in the legislation. The two senators didn’t always agree on certain points, but they somehow bridged the gap and found common ground.
We know that senators are often criticized for compromising when it appears that they have deserted their core beliefs. But, in the case of Sen. Lincoln, she put agriculture ahead of such partisan behavior. And, whether you agreed with her or not, she certainly used her recent position as Senate Ag Committee chairman as a forum to bring attention to all ag issues. She continued to do that even after losing her re-election bid in November to Rep. John Boozman.
From a personal standpoint, I will miss the senator’s civility and kindness shown to everyone in the cotton industry. She was available to ag media in a way that I have yet to see repeated anywhere else in Congress. And, as I have said on other occasions, I will always remember my visit to her Little Rock office in July of 2009. She spent the better of an afternoon sitting for an interview, and we covered every imaginable ag topic.
I couldn’t help but think about that visit as I saw her giving the farewell speech on the Senate floor. Is her political career over? Have we seen the last of Blanche Lincoln? Will she and her husband and children continue to live in the DC area? Questions abound, and nobody seems to have the answers right now.
At this point, we’ll just have to wait and watch. If this was the final chapter in her political career, the cotton industry won’t forget her anytime soon. And somewhere down the road, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her write a book about what has been a most interesting career in Arkansas and Washington politics.
Stay tuned.

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