When op­po­sites rap­pel

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - DANA MILBANK danamil­bank@wash­post.com

It’s not ex­actly the lion ly­ing down with the lamb, but at this month’s State of the Union ad­dress, the Demo­crat will sit down with the Repub­li­can. And that, in it­self, is mirac­u­lous. On Thurs­day and Fri­day, House Mi­nor­ity Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Ma­jor­ity Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) be­came the lat­est law­mak­ers to call for Democrats and Repub­li­cans to sit to­gether, boy/girl/boy/girl style, for the pres­i­dent’s speech, join­ing a move­ment of law­mak­ers started by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and in­clud­ing such par­ti­san war­riors as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bar­bara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

For Udall, whose late fa­ther, Mo, rep­re­sented an area of Ari­zona that in­cludes what is now the district held by Gabby Gif­fords, it is just the start. Next, Udall wants Democrats and Repub­li­cans to join each other on an Out­ward Bound re­treat. ( Think Or­rin Hatch and Bar­bara Mikul­ski car­ry­ing a ca­noe, or Bernie San­ders and David Vit­ter teth­ered to­gether as they rap­pel down a cliff — but more about that later).

Cyn­ics will say Udall’s cross-aisle kum­baya for the State of the Union is just a sym­bol. But “some­times,” Udall told me, “ the im­age you present helps cul­tures change.” And that’s not just talk: Udall will put his der­riere where his mouth is. “ I’ll sit with Joe Wil­son,” he of­fered. No lie!

With 16 mem­bers al­ready en­dors­ing the bi­par­ti­san seat­ing plan, and oth­ers sure to fol­low, we can start to think about po­ten­tial pair­ings. Nancy Pelosi, the Demo­cratic leader, could sit with new Rep. Allen West ( R-Fla.), who tried to hire as his chief of staff a woman who called Pelosi “ garbage.” Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Tim Gei­th­ner could make room on his left and right for Reps. Kevin Brady ( R-Tex.) and Tom Price ( R-Ga.), both of whom called for Gei­th­ner’s res­ig­na­tion.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder would nat­u­rally be joined by Rep. Dar­rell Issa (who has called Obama’s “one of the most cor­rupt ad­min­is­tra­tions” in his­tory). Supreme Court jus­tices So­nia So­tomayor and Elena Ka­gan would sandwich Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, who led the op­po­si­tion to their con­fir­ma­tions.

To keep things lively, Rep. Michele Bach­mann (R-Minn.), who wants peo­ple “armed and dan­ger­ous” to fight the en­ergy bill, should sit with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), an en­ergy bill author. Se­nate GOP leader Mitch McCon­nell would prob­a­bly want to be near Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who made funny faces at McCon­nell dur­ing a de­bate.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who ac­cused Rep. Raul Gri­jalva (D-Ariz.) of “ad­vo­cat­ing for Mex­ico rather than the United States,” should sit be­tween Gri­jalva and the ac­tual Mex­i­can am­bas­sador. And Rep. Randy Neuge­bauer (R-Tex.), who shouted “baby killer!” on the House floor, should be chap­er­oned by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) of the Pro-Choice Cau­cus.

As­sum­ing that goes well — and how could it not? — it will be time to plan the Out­ward Bound trip. Amy Sax­ton, an Out­ward Bound spokes­woman, had some trep­i­da­tion about soft law­mak­ers join­ing the pro­gram. “I’m un­for­tu­nately con­tin­u­ing to pic­ture Jimmy John­son on ‘Sur­vivor,’ ” she said. Other prob­lems would be the rules against al­co­hol and cig­a­rettes — but “I’d make an ex­cep­tion for Boehner,” Sax­ton of­fered. And he could get a real tan.

The best wilder­ness “Codel” would prob­a­bly be the sail­ing trip, in which a group of law­mak­ers — say, Char­lie Ran­gel and the mem­bers of the House ethics com­mit­tee — would spend seven days on a sail­boat, eat­ing canned meat, sleep­ing be­neath tarps on deck, tak­ing no show­ers and us­ing a toi­let with­out pri­vacy.

Rep. Louie Gohmert ( R-Tex.), who in­voked bes­tial­ity and necrophilia in op­pos­ing a hatecrimes bill to pro­tect ho­mo­sex­u­als, would be told to take a hike — above 9,000 feet, with Rep. Bar­ney Frank ( D-Mass.). Rep. Ron Paul ( R-Tex.), who wants to abol­ish the Fed, would be ad­vised to jump in a lake, as part of a ca­noe­ing trip with Fed Chair­man Ben Ber­nanke in which they portage their ca­noes and share an open-pit la­trine.

The three-week glacier ad­ven­ture would be for hard cases: Global warm­ing de­nier Sen. Jim In­hofe ( R-Okla.) would be paired with En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency ad­min­is­tra­tor Lisa Jack­son, and Sen. Rand Paul ( R-Ky.), who wishes to abol­ish the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment, would be es­corted by Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Arne Dun­can. While there, they could en­gage in “ trust falls” ( fall­ing back­ward in hopes your part­ner catches you) and rap­pelling (where a mis­take by the rope holder, or be­layer, can cause a fa­tal fall).

Udall, a for­mer Out­ward Bound guide, has bravely of­fered to put his own life in the hands of Sen. Jim DeMint, the Tea Party leader who al­ready thinks “there’s more bi­par­ti­san­ship than we need in the Se­nate.” “ Team me up with DeMint!” Udall chal­lenged. Let’s give Udall’s idea a try. If it works, our lead­ers will learn to trust each other. If it goes poorly, there will be a lot of spe­cial elec­tions.

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