Wednesday, March 15, 2006

In the Company of Ghosts

Democratic senators, filing in for their weekly caucus lunch yesterday, looked as if they'd seen a ghost.

"I haven't read it," demurred Barack Obama (Ill.).

"I just don't have enough information," protested Ben Nelson (Neb.). "I really can't right now," John Kerry (Mass.) said as he hurried past a knot of reporters -- an excuse that fell apart when Kerry was forced into an awkward wait as Capitol Police stopped an aide at the magnetometer.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) brushed past the press pack, shaking her head and waving her hand over her shoulder. When an errant food cart blocked her entrance to the meeting room, she tried to hide from reporters behind the 4-foot-11 Barbara Mikulski (Md.).

"Ask her after lunch," offered Clinton's spokesman, Philippe Reines. But Clinton, with most of her colleagues, fled the lunch out a back door as if escaping a fire.

(Washington Post) In a sense, the Senators were seeing ghosts. Like Jesus at the Transfiguration, bracketed by the specters of Moses and Elijah, Feingold walks the halls of Congress surrounded and advised by the ghosts of the great politicians profiled in John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage -- politicians who were plenty pragmatic and far from perfect but who, when the crunch came, put principle above privilege.

Of course, it would be nice if Feingold were surrounded by living, breathing colleagues walking the same path, but since most courageous politicians died off long ago, he’s relegated to the company of ghosts. And while bloggers (and Molly Ivins) seem curiously capable of seeing the company Feingold’s in, the less-visionary eyes of his fellow-Senators and the mainstream press see him standing alone, seemingly talking to himself.

This despite the latest "generic question" poll:

Now is not the best time to be a Republican member of Congress. A series of independent polls released over the last month show Democrats with an ever-widening lead in the generic ballot question ("If the congressional election were held today, would you vote for the Democratic candidate in your district or the Republican candidate?"). The most recent survey, conducted by CNN/USA Today/Gallup from March 10-12, showed Democrats with a 16-point edge -- 55 percent to 39 percent.

It’s sad when supposed Democratic firebrands like Barack Obama lie and say they haven’t read the five-page document that could be the linchpin of his party’s fortunes, and when the apparent frontrunner for 2008 flees in terror even from the toothless Capitol Hill press pack. But if I read my Bible correctly -- always an iffy proposition, the acknowledgement of which makes me a progressive -- I’m pretty sure that Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and the other ghost-talking standalones in that book tended, after periods of suffering and isolation, to triumph in the end. I’m pretty sure that’s the storyline. I’m pretty sure it’s the storyline today. So, personally, I’m going to keep backing the crazy, solitary guy. I think there’s a pretty good percentage in it.

UPDATE, 8:17 AM: And I swear, on that same Bible, that I did NOT read Glenn Greenwald's excellent but scarily parallel post today before writing this one! I'm getting tired of my friend's 5-hour time-zone advantage...


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