WASHINGTON — College professor Paul Wellstone hurled a thunderbolt during November's elections: He became the only challenger to defeat a sitting United States senator. During the debate on Gulf policy the Minnesota Democrat hurled a second bolt: an electrifying maiden Senate speech that appealed at once to emotion, humanity, and reason.
The man Washington had labeled a newcomer to watch went for the emotional solar plexus. He has three draft-age sons, he said: ``I could not accept the loss of life of any of my children in the Persian Gulf right now. And that tells me, in my gut, that I do not believe it is time to go to war in the Persian Gulf.... President Bush appears to be on the verge of making a terrible mistake.''
Upstairs in the gallery visitors leaned forward as one, chins in hands. Whenever Senator Wellstone paused, silence hung in the air.
A military conquest of Iraq would create ``a new world disorder,'' Wellstone continued in his commanding voice; he raised the specter of a surge in Middle East fanaticism and increased regional instability.
``It is too early to give up'' on sanctions, he said in conclusion. ``An agenda for war has been laid out. It is time to develop an agenda for peace.''
``I've not heard any speech more eloquent, more thoughtful, and more laced with compassion and insight,'' offered second-term Sen. Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa. ``A great speech.''
``We have heard a voice of passion, of conviction,'' applauded Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) of New York, who knows a thing or two about making riveting speeches.
The man who was destined to be watched took less than a week to be heard.