BEST POLITICIAN (2001)
Paul David Wellstone
Minnesota's senior senator had a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington moment last year: As the Senate gave a free pass to the China trade bill, Wellstone raised his voice in protest of that nation's history of human-rights abuses and religious persecution. Though he wasn't alone in his opposition to normalized relations with China (he had an unlikely ally in North Carolina's crusty Jesse Helms), Wellstone's objections were remarkable in both force and integrity. And, as a case in point of America's current realpolitik, he was roundly criticized as a rabble-rousing fly in the Senate's ointment: "How dare one man impede business as usual!" the indignant pundits roared. Months later, though, after the deadly explosion of a Chinese elementary school where students were being forced to manufacture fireworks, Wellstone's one-man picket line is starting to look courageous. He may indeed be an ornery, self-righteous troublemaker with a strain of demagoguery running through his progressive rhetoric. But he may also be the most principled, passionate man in Washington minding the people's business.