This is just horrible news about the plane crash in Alaska, with former Sen. Ted Stevens and former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe on board. O’Keefe is a very good guy and a native of New Orleans, my hometown. He was acting secretary of the Navy, where he served well, and was comptroller of DoD under Dick Cheney. He did a great job at NASA, and also a great job as chancellor of LSU before becoming chairman of EADS North America. He was/is very talented, very smart, and a stand-up guy.
There is a seriously eerie aspect to all of this. Although Sean is a solid Republican, his uncle Michael was a dedicated Democratic state senator (and one-time state Senate president) in Louisiana for 24 years (before going to jail for various misdeeds that, like his ideology, do not reflect at all on Sean). Michael O’Keefe was the driving force behind “the Hale Boggs Plan” which gerrymandered the Second Congressional District in Louisiana (New Orleans area) to save an increasingly conservative U.S. House district for longtime U.S. Rep. Hale Boggs after the powerful Boggs barely squeaked past three-time Republican challenger (and later congressman and governor) Dave Treen in 1968. The uncle O’Keefe was very much a part of the Boggs political orbit in LA.
Hale Boggs, of course, disappeared and presumably died in a plane crash in Alaska in October of 1972. Also disappearing on that flight was Alaska U.S. Rep. Nick Begich. Begich was the father of current U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, who squeaked into office in 2008 by defeating…. yes, Ted Stevens. Stevens was vulnerable because he had been found guilty on several counts — a conviction that was vacated when proof emerged of serious, serial prosecutorial misconduct that clearly and definitively influenced the course of the trial and the ultimate determination of guilt.
Anyway, what IS it about politicos from Louisiana and Alaska on flights over the Alaskan panhandle? This is a horrible conicidence, sort of like a photographic negative of the flight that disappeared (and still never definitively found, unless I missed something) in 1972.
As a personal aside, let me note my deep fondness for Boggs’ widow, Lindy, who serve ably in honorably in Congress for another 20 years and later served as ambassador to the Vatican. She is one of the greatest and most gracious ladies I have ever met, and always was inordinately kind to me. The first time I ever actually saw her in person, by the way, was on a high school class trip to Washington in the spring of 1979 — where almost the entirety of her speech to our class consisted of a retelling of her experiences during the months they searched for her husband in 1972 and early 1973. She had every single one of my classmates (and me too, obviously) hanging on her ever word, telling the story with so much drama and dignity and feeling that I think we all melted.
That crash has haunted me ever since hearing Ms. Boggs’ account of it. Now this. How sad. At this writing, it is reported that at least five are dead, but that there may be survivors. My prayers go out to O’Keefe, Stevens, everybody else on the flight, and their families.