Room with a view?

Columnist

In hopes of staving off a Senate meltdown wherein Democrats would use the “nuclear option” to get presidential nominees through the chamber, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) suggested on Thursday that lawmakers sit down to a nice, collegial lunch in the Old Senate Chamber.

But before they call the caterers, senators may want to think about the history of that space and what that might portend. Sure, it was the site of some of the chamber’s finest moments, including a meeting of both parties before the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, in which the sides agreed to a plan for the proceedings.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

But the Old Senate Chamber might best be known as a den of artifice and violence.

These days, the chamber is most often used by senators for staging shoots of themselves being sworn into office (no photos are allowed on the real Senate floor, where oaths are actually taken). So there’s a strong tradition of fakery.

And going back a ways, the chamber was the scene of the most spectacular example of Congress-on-Congress violence.

Amid the chamber’s finery, Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina bludgeoned Sen. Charles Sumner with a cane in 1856, after Sumner insulted the congressman’s cousin. Sumner spent three years recovering from the blows.

The Senate historian’s office says: “The caning of Senator Sumner signalled the end of an era of compromise and sectional accommodation in the Senate, further heightening the discord that culminated in war.”

Not exactly a promising place for some productive peace talks.

Lovely consolation prizes

Despite the failure of a missile defense test last week, the Pentagon says it has faith in the system being deployed out west to thwart any incoming from the North Koreans.

“We believe that we have a robust missile defense architecture in place, and we are in a position to respond to any threat that emanates from North Korea,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said this week, according to ABC News.

(Quite true, especially since the North Koreans apparently don’t have any missiles that can reach the United States.)

The July 5 test was the third test failure in a row for the system going back to 2008. Little said that, like any organization, the Pentagon was looking into what happened and working on fixing it.

(The Pentagon has a 14-2 winning record in shorter-range tests, but its overall record in long-range interceptor tests in the past decade is a less-than-inspiring 3-7.)

So folks at the Missile Defense Agency probably are feeling like a team that’s in a bit of a slump these days.

Hey! All the more reason to go to the Missile Defense Agency store and order up a fine MDA polo shirt (ladies and men’s in various colors for only $25) or a cool “sandwich bill” cap for only $15.

A Washington baseball team hasn’t won the World Series since 1924, but that doesn’t stop you from donning your Nats cap, does it? Even Cubs fans . . .

A littered mind-set

Talkin’ Trash III: The saga continues.

We’ve written about the National Park Service’s new policy — begun in April — to start removing trash cans from sites along the George Washington Memorial Parkway as well as the Iwo Jima memorial, Great Falls and Roosevelt Island.

The idea was to force visitors to take their empty bottles and such with them when they leave, thereby keeping the parks clean and reducing trash-pickup costs.

We were skeptical that folks in this area — especially tourists with box lunches and such — could learn to handle trash the way backpackers or veteran hikers in the Rockies do.

A Park Service official said the program had worked at other parks — it’s just a matter of “a mind-set shift.”

Unfortunately, it seemed last month that minds don’t shift very quickly, as trash and litter piled up near the Iwo Jima statue across the river, officially known as the Marine Corps War Memorial.

A Park Service spokeswoman said the transition might take a little while longer.

But a Loop Fan sent us pictures Wednesday morning of litter overflowing a lonely can remaining by the scenic row of portable toilets.

A Park Service garbage truck came in a short time later to haul it away.

Well, we’ll keep hoping for the Great Mind-Set Shift to occur. Meanwhile, let’s hope they don’t sell the garbage truck.

Speaking of cleanliness

Our quote of the week comes from an Associated Press story about the unlikely way that confessed 9/11 architect Khalid Sheik Mohammed had been entertaining himself while in CIA custody in secret prison in Romania: designing a vacuum cleaner.

But the funnier part comes when the AP quotes a “former senior CIA official,” about the terrorist’s odd pastime and identifies its sourcing in a most entertaining way: the official was “one of several who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the now-shuttered CIA prisons or Mohammed’s interest in vacuums.”

Now, that’s someone who can really dish the inside dirt.


With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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