Everything was possible, yesterday.
The most famous was none of them -- all being outgloried by a movie-star wife.
One had been a professional basketball player, but that stopped counting for much as soon as the winning vote was cast.
One was youth, at 26.
One was a very gray freshman at 68.
All were winners, even -- or especially -- the daughter of Alf Landon, whom the country forgot about in hordes in 1936.
There were 77 new members in the House, 20 in the Senate of the 96th Congress, and yesterday was the day they got to eat the bacon they'd brought home on election day. They toasted themselves in benisons of song from a black quintet; in Dr. Pepper, in cheers raised with the last victory speeches of a long, long year new over.
All, of course, will spend less, tax, lighter and sweep harder, as new brooms should do, and at the great susurrus of receptions all over the Hill, most still believed it -- except, of course, for the Old and Great Ones who glided in to offer welcomes, and remember the day in their own lives when everything was possible. Henry Allen
"Mr. Speaker!" Democratic Rep. William Ratchford boomed out when Tip O'Neill walked into the office of the new representative from Connecticut.
"Mr. Speaker!" O'Neill boomed back.
The Speaker of the House had come to Ratchford's office yesterday afternoon to repeat the "official swearing in" for all the friends and relatives who had gathered for a party.
"Uh... I do say, hereby," fumbled O'Neill, "swear that you uphold the Constitution and the Democratic Party at all times."
The guests collapsed with laughter. They applauded. O'Neill and Ratchford linked arms and cameras flashed.
"I'm here to see all my friends from New England," said O'Neill. "We pay special homage to people like Ratchford. He's a former speaker of the Connecticut state house. I might have to come to him for advice."
Ratchford was surrounded by friends spilling out from his office in the Cannon Office Building: Joan Mondale, Sens.Lowell Weicker Jr. and Abe Ribicoff of Connecticut, presidential assistant Anne Wexler and husband Joseph Duffey of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and 150 residents of the Nutmeg State who drove or bused down. They feasted on cheese and crackers, wine, beer and soft drinks. And they all seemed to own cameras.
Ratchcord's wife, a journalism teacher, stood by with sons Shaun, age 18, Scitt, 15 and Rian, 12. Ratchford, who served in the Connecticut State Legislature for 12 years, tried unsuccessfully to run for the U.S. Congress in 1974. "It's doubly sweet today to be sworn in," he said.
"At first he was afraid to run," said Shaun Ratchford, "afraid he wouldn't have enough money to send me to school. But we told him this was something he should do.It's something he's always wanted to do."