Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

With Bradley's Bow-Out, Senate Loses Thinker, Centrist Fixture

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

With Bradley's Bow-Out, Senate Loses Thinker, Centrist Fixture

Article excerpt

"A SENSE OF Where You Are" by John McPhee was about the keen instincts on the basketball court of New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, a native of Crystal City, Mo., and a former professional athlete.

Bradley's sense of where he is right now is mired in a political system that is flawed in the eyes of the American people.

"In growing numbers, people have lost faith in the political process and don't see how it can help their threatened economic circumstances," Bradley, 52, a Democrat, said Wednesday as he announced that he would not run next year for a fourth term.

Bradley's departure leaves the Democratic Party with an extra challenge in capturing seats next year in the Senate, where Republicans already hold a 54-46 majority.

The announcement also opens speculation about Bradley's future. Will he run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2000? Or might he decide to run as an independent next year?

What is certain is that the Senate is losing one of its leading lights and a fixture in the ranks of its centrist members. Former Sen. John C. Danforth, R-Mo., who left the Senate earlier this year, said Wednesday that Bradley was someone who could work with all factions.

"If you had what you thought was a good idea, there was at least a fair chance that Bill Bradley would be supportive," said Danforth, who worked alongside Bradley on the Senate Finance Committee. "What's happening is that the two political parties are becoming polarized, and the people who have been in the center are leaving."

Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., who also is leaving the Senate, noted that "excessive partisanship" has made the Senate harder on thoughtful members like Bradley. "They say that the Senate is the world's greatest deliberative body. The reality is that when you make a speech in the Senate, there may be one or two or three members in the chamber."

Bradley has long been in the vanguard of tax policy, and last year he took a leading role in trying to break the impasse in Congress over health care reform. He is known for reflective speeches on race relations, and for scolding fellow Democrats when he thinks they need it.

In a memorable speech in 1991, he made some of his colleagues squirm when he asked them bluntly if they had ever talked about race with a member of a minority. "Whether we're going to continue down a road of dialogue and healing, or whether we're going to lurch back into the dark recesses of a past dominated by hatred and insensitivity is up to us," Bradley said in a speech opposing the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas.

Bradley's announcement prompted Republicans to begin thinking about the prospect of winning enough seats next year to reach the magic number of 60 - the votes needed to cut off a filibuster and thereby establish ironclad control of the Senate. …

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