Keeping calm to carry on is not always regarded as a virtue in Washington, where there’s always a television camera nearby or a reporter with a pad and a pencil at the ready. Making partisan noise is the name of the game with an infinite number of players. Never let a crisis go to waste, and all that.
But shooting up a congressional baseball practice scared a lot of folks calm, leaving them reluctant to carry on in the usual harsh way. It won’t last. Politics is a rough game, with lots of sharp elbows and trash talk. Nevertheless, the weekend was nice even if it was merely the quiet before a new storm moves in.
Ordinarily, wholesale death by gunfire prompts a lot of breast-beating and demands by Democrats for Congress to “do something,” and “something” is always legislation to take guns away from the law-abiding. After the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut set out in three directions at once, accusing his colleagues of “an unconscionable deafening silence” about what to do, and to the cheers of the magpie media opened a 15-hour filibuster to demonstrate his passion. Congress, he said, should put forward “legislative action within an hour after a shooting.”
This time circumspection, if not calm, prevailed in Democratic ranks. Or maybe it was merely resignation. “You know,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont to Politico, the political daily, “today is not the day [for partisan demands to do something]. People know my record, but today is not the day for that. I’m praying for the victims.”
Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate and a fierce advocate of all gun control legislation, concedes there’s “a feeling of resignation” among his Democratic colleagues. “Until there’s significant changes around the country or within Congress, we know each other’s positions and we know they don’t change. There’s a fatigue. We know each other’s arguments. We know what’s going to happen.”
What’s going to happen, obviously, is not very much, and that’s good news. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who tried to tighten gun control after earlier violence, dampened speculation about whether another incident will encourage new legislation this time. “It always spurs that,” he said. “I just don’t get overexcited any more.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican, understands. “I own a gun,” he says. “I don’t go around shooting people with it. Bottom line: People get shot, run over by cars, stabbed. It’s just a crazy world. If we had [another gun debate], it would end like it always ends. We’re not going to tell law-abiding people they can’t own a gun because of some nut job.”
Over or under, excitement is just not the game this time among Democrats, sensitive to criticism that they have created the anything-goes hysteria to punish Donald Trump and Republicans, and eager to honor, at least for now, the ancient proverb that “you don’t speak of rope in the house of a man who was hanged.” That’s probably just for the moment. After all, as a famous philosopher of the Old South once said, “tomorrow is another day.”
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