The Post Shines on Sheldon

Like any press secretary worth her salt, Alex Swartsel knows how to spread the good news. Here's a sunny report on her boss, US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, from today's Washington Post.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) was getting needled by his peers from the moment he walked into his first meeting of Judiciary Committee Democrats in early January.

"Hey, Sheldon," Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) barked at the newcomer, a member of one of his state's oldest families. "Normally, you've got to be a Jew or a Catholic to get on this committee. You're the first WASP."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), left, shown with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), is a former federal prosecutor. His stature on the Judiciary Committee has risen during the U.S. attorneys probe.

"Hey, Chuck," Whitehouse shot back, looking over a room filled with four Catholics, five Jews and himself. "This is the first time in my life I've brought diversity to a group."

Three months later, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee chairman, invoked the story to demonstrate that the former federal prosecutor and Ocean State attorney general has, indeed, brought a new aspect to the Democratic side of the panel. "Here's a man who knows what it's like to be in the courtroom," Leahy said.

Whitehouse's experience, particularly his four years as the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island in the mid-1990s, has come to the fore as the committee has probed the Justice Department's firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year. Nine of the 10 Judiciary Democrats have at least 14 years' experience in Congress, making Whitehouse the lone Democrat to have any practical legal experience in the past 15 years.

Whitehouse said it is a personal affront to see inexperienced lawyers who were political appointees "throwing their weight around" in ousting federal prosecutors with decades of legal experience.

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