I don’t know who congressional leaders should appoint to the super-committee on deficit reduction—well, I do, but they wouldn’t listen to me anyway—so here’s my alternate suggestion: appoint Gabrielle Giffords as honorary chair.
The Arizona Democrat’s surprise appearance on the House floor Monday evening to vote in favor of the debt ceiling deal was a powerful moment. Giffords looked frail and halting; her hair was shorn short. Her arrival made grown members of Congress weep, and some grown columnists, too. It served as a reminder, both sobering and uplifting, of the way in which the terrible shooting summoned Americans’ better angels. The tragedy brought together Democrats and Republicans to support the congresswoman and other victims of the senseless shooting. That sense of bipartisan unity has seemed decidedly absent in recent weeks.
The super-committee faces a daunting task. It needs all the help it can get. Naming Giffords as honorary chair would not change its balance of power. She would not have a vote and would not need to participate in the substantive discussions. But Giffords has been a voice for bipartisanship and reason. At honorary chair, she could provide an important symbol of the ability of Americans — even Americans in elected office — to transcend partisan divisions. Her presence might serve as a chastening reminder about the importance of unity over division, common sense and flexibility over intransigence and enmity. It could appeal to the better angels of the committee members. Lord knows we could use that. Whoever the members turn out to be, they could probably use it, too.