Jewish World Review Nov. 15, 2002 / 10 Kislev, 5763
Robert L. Haught
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- WASHINGTON Congress is having another one of its "lame duck" sessions, and it's hard to say who's the lamest duck of all.
The slang expression goes all the way back to 18th century Britain, when it referred to a bankrupt businessman. The phrase later was applied to "politically bankrupt" politicians.
Top honors for being the lamest duck would have to go to a Democrat because the party took such a whomping in the elections. A prime candidate for the title is Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. He is still the Senate majority leader, thanks to the oddball decision by interim Minnesota Sen. Dean Barkley to be an independent in every sense of the word. That is, he won't vote with the Republicans or the Democrats. It makes one wonder why he even came to Washington at all if his vote doesn't mean anything.
But there's no accounting for Minnesotans. After all, they elected a professional wrestler as their governor. Barkley is the founder of the Independence Party, which gave Jesse Ventura the cloak of respectability to go to the statehouse. Ventura appointed him as a senator and maybe he feels an obligation not to be a rebel like one of his short-term colleagues, Jim Jeffords of Vermont.
Jeffords, the Senate's other independent, last year defected from the Republican Party, which had backed his campaigns. He has been siding with the Democrats. He'll be in the minority again when the new session begins in January, with Republicans in control.
Daschle sent a strong signal about the disastrous election results for his party when he showed up for a post-election news conference wearing a black shirt. He insisted he wasn't in mourning about the loss, and he came up with an excuse that sounds a little like "the dog ate my homework."
"We're going to take a Christmas picture with our two grandchildren," he said, "and they're going to be dressed in white. And so my wife thought it would be better if I dressed in black as a contrast. ..."
Linda Daschle is an Oklahoman and that sounds too dumb for an Okie.
A lame excuse for a lame duck.
Members of the House and Senate came back into session to work -- correction, make speeches -- on the homeland security bill and other legislation, and to see how much pork they can grab for their states in passing some overdue spending bills. Ho, hum.
There's usually some excitement in the leadership races, but they were pretty well locked up right after the election when House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., decided he was getting nowhere in that post. There's talk he might seek the Democratic nomination for president, which would put him head-on in a charisma contest with Al Gore.
The new session starting in January doesn't hold much promise for exciting times either, since former Ohio Rep. James Traficant failed to become the first person elected to Congress from prison. Traficant finished in third place with 15 percent of the vote. His wife threw an election night party anyway, feeding him returns from Ohio while he sat in an Allenwood, Pa., federal prison cell.
All hope is not lost -- for good column material from Congress, that is. With Elizabeth Dole's election from North Carolina, her Republican husband, Bob Dole, will join his 1996 rival, former President Bill Clinton, in the Senate spouse's club.
Talk about a pair of lame ducks.
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