Patsy Senate hates herself.
She won another one for the Gipper, and she won it big, but she wants to die.
It's that old MX missile. It won't go away. She has voted and voted and voted on it. She has moaned and groaned and tied herself up in knots twice over it. Even the people who are for it keep telling her it's a turkey.
But Ronnie, the man in her life, loves it -- can't live without it. All Patsy Senate knows is that if she didn't give the MX to him, there would have been no living with him. So she gave in, knowing that people would laugh at her, her weak stomach, her bad back.
She listened closely to the debate, and it made her head swim.
Often, she couldn't tell from the speeches whether a speaker was for or against the MX. All she heard was "agony," "pain," and "reluctance." Daniel J. Evans (R-Wash.) called the MX "a flawed weapon," trashed its value as a bargaining chip -- is it red, white or blue, he asked -- and said it could lead to an unchecked arms race. Then he got cut off. And when the roll was called, he voted for it.
Patsy noticed that some senators looked at the floor when they told colleagues they were about to do the same. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), the Democratic leader, who was leading only nine of his flock on MX, sighed through a lame script about "this troublesome issue."
For a while, Patsy Senate had hoped that Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) would rescue her. Last December, he announced that he wanted to kill MX. Patsy was thrilled. Surely if Barry was against it, she could be, too.
But it didn't last. Even though Goldwater said, astonishingly, that he thinks we have enough missiles and the MX is a bummer, he would go for 21 more. Patsy wished he hadn't been quite so blunt about the reason: He said that if it didn't go through, the Soviets would see the commander-in-chief suffering "a major defeat."
"It is not necessarily a vote to build the MX," he said -- although surely the Pentagon will take it that way, "it is to uphold the commander-in-chief in a decision he has made."
Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) made Patsy Senate blush. "A lot of people were just frightened to win one on a weapons system for fear that the president will beat them to death for being weak on defense," he said.
Mercifully, just when Bumpers was getting warmed up, his time ran out. Patsy was so grateful. She had an idea he would have gone on to say even more dreadful things about her back problem.
Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Kan.) made Patsy Senate miserable, too. She said the MX should be judged on its merits. She didn't think it did a thing for deterrence, and she couldn't see why it had become the "key" in Geneva.
Patsy Senate remembered sadly that someone had described the senator from Kansas as looking like "a wounded wren." Why, Patsy asked herself, couldn't she sound like one? She also was the only senator who voted yes last time, said she wouldn't do it next time -- and stuck to it.
The Republican traffic went the other way. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who was deeply offended by strong-arm tactics of the White House, and Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.), who thinks the MX is really a bargaining chip between the president and Congress, both had splendid, well-recorded agonies -- and ended up with Ronnie.
It was all terribly painful and embarrassing.
Patsy Senate knows people think she's scared stiff of Ronnie. They don't understand that when he starts blaming her, she gets the shakes.
If only he had left the Soviets out of it, Patsy is sure she could have kept a clear head. He let her know that if she crossed him on MX, she would "knock the legs off the table" at Geneva and "cripple" our negotiators.
From all she hears, the Soviets aren't afraid of the MX -- they've probably been reading the Senate debates. But Ronnie thinks they are, and what Ronnie thinks is what is important to her. What if he came up there holding the broken legs of the table from Geneva, escorting Max Kampelman on crutches? She would faint; she knows she would.
Sometimes she wishes Ronnie would raise his MX money from the private sector. But for the MX, the big givers would be the defense contractors, and of course they would just turn around and bill the government for their contributions.
Next time it's going to be different, she tells herself between sniffles. Next time, she's going to stand up to Ronnie. When he comes asking for 48 more MXs, she'll say no and won't budge. You just wait and see. Next time.