In his third-floor office in the Capitol, Steny Hoyer is plunked down in a big red armchair, his left leg crossed over his right. He is wearing a dazzlingly white shirt and a red patterned tie. There are two pens in his breast pockets and visions of grandeur dancing in his head.
Hoyer is the Democratic whip in the House of Representatives, the man responsible for keeping tabs on his party in that chamber of Congress -- what they are thinking, how they are feeling, what they need, and what it'll take to get their vote when the party needs it. So he is not a bad measure of the Democratic mood.
How do I know? Because he is a Democrat, and because the party that is, and has been, so united behind him is also bipolar. Good news makes its members giddy; bad news sends them into paralyzing fits of self-doubt and recrimination. So, at some point, when the news goes south again for Kerry, the sniping will resume. It will turn to concern, then to worry, and eventually to dissension. And then things will be as they should.
“You know us -- we're up and down,” confessed one Hill Democrat this week.
After the cascade of inflamed adjectives came tumbling in to express our revulsion with photos from Abu Ghraib -- “disgusting,” “abhorrent”, “brutal,” “sickening”, “inhumane,” “un-American” -- the debate about the causes and consequences of the Iraqi prison abuse is moving into decidedly more complicated territory for the administration.
For a White House that hates having to explain itself, these are going to be tough days. And if Congress continues to assert itself, demanding answers and a little respect, the whole thing could get messy. We could end up with a full-blown congressional investigation.
Diana DeGette is a true-blue liberal from what in the conventional wisdom has to be considered a solidly red state. And despite her reputation as a legislator who is particularly effective when her party is in the minority, it is easy to view the efforts of the Colorado Democrat as the pointless flailings of a politician with no real leverage. She is, after all, a Democrat in the GOP-led House of Representatives.
If Arlen Specter wins re-election in November and serves out his full term, he will become the first person in Pennsylvania history to serve five terms in the Senate. Boies Penrose is the only other senator to match the four terms Specter has served so far, but Penrose's tenure was in an age before the 17th Amendment allowed for the direct election of senators.
And that is a whole lot different than having to raise and spend $14 million to run television and radio ads and man phone banks from Latrobe to Wilkes Barre and Moyamensing to Erie, which is what Specter had to do to win a tough primary race on Tuesday.