You don't see this every day-- Senator Patrick Leahy liberally scooping up treats.
He's building a sundae designed by Ben & Jerry's in his honor. Leahy is now the longest-serving Senator ever from Vermont. On Saturday he will surpass Senator George Aiken's record. The 68-year-old has spent nearly 34 years in office-- half his life.
"I never thought it would happen," he says.
The sundae mixes a scoop of Cherry Garcia-- since Leahy is a dead head-- and a scoop of Phish Food to mark the Senator's work to clean up Lake Champlain.
All proceeds from the sundae go to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. Oh-- and there are some nuts on top, since the ice cream company says you'd have to be, well, nuts-- to be in politics this long.
"I remember when I first came to the Senate they told me everything is based on the seniority system, I thought it was a lousy system," Leahy recalls. "Now that I've studied it for 34 years I think it's a wonderful system."
So much has changed. When Leahy took office Gerald Ford was President and the last U.S. troops were preparing to pull out of Vietnam.
"I'm the only Vermonter that voted against the war in Vietnam. The war was cut off by a one vote margin and I was the newest member of the committee to vote to cut it off, so that stands in my mind," Leahy says.
Senator Leahy is the only Democrat Vermonters have ever elected to the Senate.
The liberal Democrat has outlasted six presidents and been through several recessions.
"I'm hoping with the new President there will be less partisanship, we need less partisanship, we're facing the most difficult economic times our country has faced in my memory and we're all going to have to pull together," Leahy says.
But the Senator has also ruffled feathers. Four years ago, Vice President Dick Cheney swore at him on the Senate floor, using the "F" word. It followed an argument over Iraq military contracts awarded to Cheney's old company Halliburton. An infamous moment-- joked about on this day.
At Ben & Jerry's Leahy was asked, "In the Batman movie the Dark Knight, which villain does Senator Leahy's character fend off? A, the riddler. B, the joker. C, Dick Cheney?"
"If I didn't have three microphones on I'd have a great response to that one!" Leahy joked.
Leahy is set to become the fourth most senior person in the Senate, continuing to chair the Judiciary committee, and bringing home the bacon through appropriations. He says he's most likely going to run again in 2010 for another six years.
"It's remarkable, I've never had time go by so quickly," he says.
A Senator taking time to savor the sweet side of politics.
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