Oct 1 1995

Bill Bradley: The ‘Special’ Senator

When Sen. Bill Bradley (D.-N.J.) announced he was retiring from the Senate, ABC News pundit Jeff Greenfield wrote a column (Dayton Daily News, 8/18/95) about how much “respect and admiration” the “political establishment,” including the Washington press corps, has for him.

One example Greenfield gives of the integrity that made Bradley “so special as a senator” was that he was the only Northern Democrat to support aid for the Nicaraguan Contras. And Greenfield notes that when Bradley “fought for simplification of the tax laws in 1986, no one ran to check the list of contributors to his campaigns to see who would benefit from those changes.”

Well, why not? Bradley, who narrowly won re-election in 1990 over a candidate that he outspent 12 to 1, was highly indebted to corporate donors. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, from 1987 to 1992, Bradley got nearly $2 million in contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate sector. Almost $1 million of that came from securities and investment firms. Bradley got another million from lawyer/lobbyists. No doubt these fans of good government gave all this money to the senator because they knew it would have absolutely no effect on the way he voted.

Greenfield went on to remark that Bradley, who is a former basketball player, “was one of the few white political figures who had spent years working with blacks who were equal to or superior to his abilities.”

Greenfield seemed to be saying that basketball is one of the few arenas where you can find black people who are as talented as white people. We wondered whether he was spending too much time in the nearly all-white world of New York journalism.

Asked for clarification, Greenfield replied: “Chalk this up to rank sloppiness. I was trying to talk about status, not abilities–very few whites have the experience of having worked under blacks. Bradley has (cf. William Reed). But no question I picked the wrong word.”