U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine kept things clean in discussing Social Security and Medicare, as well as a range of other issues, last week at a forum at the Greenspring retirement community in Springfield.
But it was the filibuster, of all things, that made the typically staid former Virginia governor venture into territory that would even approach being considered salty.
In addressing a question about how to break through gridlock in Washington, Mr. Kaine talked about the importance of rules and developing relationships across the aisle in order to squirt oil into gears that have ground to a halt on Capitol Hill.
The practice of the filibuster, a tactic by which opposing senators can halt action on a bill if supporters don’t have 60 votes required for cloture, Mr. Kaine said, “has expanded far beyond its original purpose.”
“A filibuster has had a venerable historical purpose, and the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, I would leave that where it is,” he said. “But I would make anybody who filibusters anything to have to stand on the floor of the Senate, and stand up and say, ‘This is why I’m acting to block … whatever’s going on.’ “
“Because at the end of the day,” he continued, “the American public ought to be entitled to know whether the filibusterer is like Jimmy Stewart in ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,’ or just an SOB who wants to stand in the way of progress, you know?”
The reference, of course, was to the famous 1939 Frank Capra film in which Mr. Stewart’s character, Jefferson Smith, dramatically filibusters an appropriations bill to protest the building of a corrupt dam project in his home state before he collapses from exhaustion.
“And at the end of the day, the voters ought to be able to make that call,” Mr. Kaine said. “So I would pass a rule to limit how a filibuster is used, because it was never intended to be used to block all kinds of appointments and everything. It was supposed to be used - and it was used - on huge matters of policy change, not everyday use of the Senate.”
Hmmm. It’s hard to say whether or not to agree with Mr. Kaine’s take without knowing if tweaking the rules would result in less - or more - bloviating from politicians in the chamber, most of whom, with all due respect, aren’t exactly blessed with the pureness of heart of Mr. Smith.
Apologies for the apology
How many D.C. Council members does it take to breeze past the preferred nomenclature for an entire immigrant population? Just one, and you know who.
Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat who served as D.C. mayor for 16 years, issued a seven-word apology on Friday morning after he used the term “Polacks” in the course of apologizing to Asian groups for comments he made about Asian-owned take-out restaurants in his ward and about the plethora of Filipino nurses in lieu of homegrown ones.
“I misspoke. I should have said ‘Polish,’ ” Mr. Barry said.
The “mayor for life” was speaking to Asian-American groups on Thursday about racial tensions in America when he said, “The Irish caught hell, the Jews caught hell, the Polacks caught hell.”
“Polacks” is considered a derogatory term for Poles, so his clear-the-air summit only added to Mr. Barry’s cultural-sensitivity woes.