Senators with High(er) Hopes
Today's recommended read comes from the LATimes, in the form of this Janet Hook article on the even-higher-than-usual number of senators who are considering presidential runs in 2008. She counts eleven potential candidates (Frist, Allen, McCain, Hagel and Brownback from the GOP; Clinton, Bayh, Kerry, Dodd, Biden, Feingold on the Democratic side, with Obama as an additional wildcard/fantasy candidate) - that's more than a tenth of the total Senate membership, and she even omits Santorum.
Hook: "There are so many lawmakers considering a run for president that they are practically tripping over each other. The outbreak of ambition adds an 'every man for himself' dynamic to an institution that is already struggling to build consensus on important issues such as how to combat illegal immigration and high gas prices."
My favorite line from the article comes from Dick Durbin (D-IL), who told Hook he describes himself as one of the Senate's "designated drivers": "We are driving the Senate while so many of our colleagues are intoxicated with the idea of being president."
The article discusses how presidential aspirations can be a double-edged sword: candidate/senators either try to play to their respective bases (i.e. Feingold calling for censure, Frist holding votes on flag-burning and gay marriage amendments, McCain inexplicably reversing himself on tax cuts) or attempt to "broaden their appeal" (i.e. Hillary sponsoring legislation with Lindsey Graham, or Hagel criticizing the war).
It is unfortunate that the Senate's business will be impacted (perhaps even greatly impacted) by the effects of the 2008 presidential campaign. But that is the nature of the republican beast, and the best we can do is hope that some good comes of it all in the end. Until then, let's hope the designated drivers can hold their own and keep the Senate moving.