On Snowe's Decision

Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, among a dying breed of moderate Republicans in Congress, announced this week that she will not seek re-election in the fall. Our sister paper, the Boston Phoenix, has an insightful editorial on her departure and that of a pol who couldn't seem more different, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank. An excerpt is below. The whole thing is worth reading.

Maine Republican senator Olympia Snowe and Massachusetts Democratic congressman Barney Frank are studies in contrast.

The most obvious difference is, of course, party affiliation.

Then there is their manner. Snowe: cool, calm, soigné. Frank, on the other hand: excitable, passionate, and sporting a wardrobe that would be the envy of a mid-level Teamsters official.

Snowe is the soul of gentility, as at ease with a local barber or a working mother as she might be with an ambassador or a head of state.

Frank sometimes gives the impression that he's not even at ease with himself, and he certainly doesn't suffer fools gladly.

Frank is whip smart and has probably forgotten more than he knows. Snowe is more deliberate; she strives for wisdom — an almost unrecognizable virtue in the Gomorrah of today's Washington.

But for all of their differences, the senator and the congressman share a common bond: they have a deep and abiding love for public service. Over the course of their long careers, they have served their nation, their constituents, and their parties with all the imagination and energy they could muster.

And now both Snowe and Frank are calling it quits. Both shocked the political world with surprise announcements — Frank this past November and Snowe just this week.

Snowe and Frank chose different words to explain their withdrawals, but, when one cuts through the rhetoric, their reasoning was essentially the same: Washington is too corrupt, too partisan, and too brain-dead for an individual to make a difference.

A few days before Snowe announced her decision not to seek re-election, National Journal, one of the nation's most respected and thoughtful political magazines, published a long reported essay by John Aloysius Farrell. (Farrell also happens to have published the definitive biography of the late Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill.) Titled "Divided We Stand," Farrell's story sounds the death knell — at least for the immediate future — for individual political initiative. Smart political mavericks of conscience are creatures of the past. Original thinking is dead. All that really matters is what the gangs within the political tribes demand.


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