A small gesture yesterday but one worth noting: Sen. Tom Coburn apologized for calling Majority Leader Harry Reid "incompetent and incapable." Coburn, who like most senators is deeply frustrated with the bipartisan dysfunction of the Senate, lashed out at Reid. In the mythology of the Senate, Coburn's outburst broke an unwritten rule of not attacking fellow senators personally. (The most spectacular violation of this rule occurred in 1856 when Rep. Preston Brooks caned Sen. Charles Sumner within an inch of his life after the Massachusetts abolitionist made some intemperate remarks about a colleague.)

Regrettably, civility in the Senate these days is maintained more and more through clenched teeth. Nobody canes anymore, but they do consistently attack each other's motives. In the old days, this could have been resolved in a duel; today, the parties go to their respective corners on Fox and MSNBC.

What Sen. Coburn did was rare and refreshing. Instead of making some pseudo-apology uttered with enough loopholes to make it meaningless, the senator simply said he was sorry. He apologized personally and asked for forgiveness. How refreshing.