Everything had been said, but not everyone had said it. And so the members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic Party talked and talked and talked Saturday.
The morning session lasted five a half hours without a bathroom break. Then the committee spent a three-hour lunch talking some more. The ballroom at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., was so cold that you could have stored meat in it. But nobody was dissuaded. The members of the rules committee were being all they could be.
The topic at hand was what to do about the states of Florida and Michigan, which had been stripped of their delegates to the Democratic National Convention for holding primaries too early in the year.
But that was not really the topic at hand. The topic at hand was the process. The enormously complicated process through which Democrats pick a nominee.
"I feel a little bit like Alice in Wonderland," said Don Fowler, a committee member from South Carolina.
And I thought it was just me.
In the end, the committee restored all of the delegates to Michigan and Florida, but with only a half vote each. In Florida, this gave Hillary Clinton 52.5 votes and Barack Obama 33.5 votes. In Michigan, this gave Clinton 34.5 votes and Obama 29.5 votes. Got that?
The members of the committee heatedly discussed rule "20.C.(1).(a)" and rule "20.C.(5)" and rule "20.C.(6)" and, of course, rule "13(a)," otherwise known as the "Fair Reflection Rule."
I am not sure how fair things were Saturday, but the committee members sure reflected.
Voices were raised. Tables were pounded. Clinton supporters in the audience shouted and the Clinton campaign said it reserved the right to take the whole fight one more step to the Credentials Committee. The process was processed.
Never in the history of modern politics has process so dominated a primary campaign. Perhaps this is because there is so little substantive difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on issues. Or perhaps it is because campaign staffs have come to believe that "gaming the system" is one of the most important things they can do. Or perhaps it is because the media love process. (As complicated as it is, the process is easier to understand than things like the home mortgage crisis.)
Did I mention the media? So did Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean. Apropos of not much, Dean kicked things off by bashing the media.
"The cynics in the media and elsewhere will look at today's meeting and look at the conflict," Dean said just before committee members began talking about their conflicts for several hours.
Dean also said: "Over the course of this primary, there have been very tough feelings and ugly moments. There have been blatantly sexist comments, particularly by members of the media, and blatantly racist remarks."
Actually, if the topic at hand was whether the rules committee wanted to condemn sexism and racism, the meeting might have been wrapped up in a lot less time (maybe just seven or eight hours).
As it was, the rules committee was only meeting now because last year Dean had lacked the muscle to jawbone Florida and Michigan into holding their primaries after Feb. 5, which would have put them in compliance with party rules.
Florida and Michigan didn't want to wait that long, because party leaders in both states were absolutely positive that nobody would focus any attention on Florida and Michigan, because the winner would certainly be selected early and nobody would care about the late primaries.
So where will the eyes of the world be directed next Tuesday? On the last two primaries, those powerhouse states of Montana and South Dakota, because a winner has not been selected early and every state has counted.
Which led Sharon Stroschein, the rules committee member from South Dakota, to crow to the Michigan delegation, "We should have let you know how glamorous it is to go at our end of the process!"
Then she asked former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard, who was testifying before the committee, "If you had it to do over again, would we be going through this?"
Blanchard dithered for a bit and then basically answered: Yes.
Why? That answer was provided by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), also testifying before the committee, who said: "Michigan decided long ago we've got a totally irrational system of nominating our president."
Why is it irrational?
Because Iowa and New Hampshire always get to go first and Levin just hates that. Hates it! Iowa and New Hampshire are small, puny states and Michigan and Florida are big, bruising states, so why should Michigan and Florida have to go behind them?
Well, because the rules say so, that's why. But Michigan and Florida knew something: If you are big enough, sometimes you are too big to punish. So Michigan and Florida pushed to the front of the primary calendar in violation of the rules.
And the rules committee stripped them of their delegates last year. But now the members had cold feet. (And it wasn't just the temperature in the ballroom.) Punish Florida and Michigan, two states the Democrats want to win in November?
Uh, maybe a compromise could be worked out, even though the rules committee had all the authority it needed to enforce its own rules.
One of the many moments of high (or low) comedy came when Eric Kleinfeld, rules committee member from Washington, D.C., asked Mark Brewer, committee member from Michigan: "Are you relying on any rules?"
"No," Brewer said, "but we have to do something."
There were so many calls for "unity" and for "moving forward" and for not "disenfranchising" or "insulting" the voters of Florida and Michigan, that one had to remind oneself that what the whole discussion was really about how many people were going to get to go to the convention in Denver and party.
The ruling of the rules committee will most likely have little or no effect on the final outcome of the race between Obama and Clinton.
It was all about process and talking. Especially about talking.
"I am reminded of the old Will Rogers adage," Gov. Blanchard said. "I am a member of no organized party. I am a Democrat."