Saturday, May 23, Senator Thad Cochran, age 77, married Kay Webber, age 77, a long-time aide and friend of his family. Cochran’s wife of 50 years died in December 2014, after years in a care facility suffering from dementia.
Last year Cochran’s political opponents accused him of having an affair with Webber. They made assumptions, offered innuendo, pointed fingers, but produced no proof whatever that Cochran and Webber had anything but a chaste relationship.
Tuesday we published photographs of Cochran and Webber emerging from a New Albany jewelry store in December. Some readers have taken issue with what we said in the concluding paragraph of the article that accompanied the pictures. They certainly have every right to disagree with us.
We said: “Cochran’s service to our state has been long and distinguished. He is an honorable man and deserves all the good things that may come his way. We do not know whether he and his bride bought any jewelry in New Albany, but we hope they did, and we wish them a long and happy life together.” We do not recant, nor repent those sentiments, but respect those who think otherwise
The scandal is that Cochran’s private life was brought up at all by his political opponents. Did he take comfort — chaste or otherwise — from Kay Webber, while he and his children Clayton and Kate endured the long years of Rose Cochran’s tragic illness and decline? We do not know and, frankly, do not give a tinker’s damn one way or the other.
Cochran’s worth as a public servant must be measured by the service he has given to his constituents during his long career in Congress. It ranks with the record of LeRoy Percy, Pat Harrison, Jim Eastland, John C. Stennis, and Jamie Whitten. He has delivered what the people of Mississippi expected of him, and they have demonstrated their satisfaction with his performance by voting him into Congress ten times.
That Thad Cochran is a sinner is a trait he shares with each of us. That any mortal would presume to judge and punish his sin is the scandal.
As politicians go, Cochran’s record as a sinner is weak, indeed.
Soon, a little history will be published in this space: hopefully, an entertaining and enlightening account of some of America’s most effective politicians, who have, alas, been big league sinners- presidents and other American political icons who have sinned with unrepentant gusto. Some of the most flamboyant have been Mississippians.