It’s es­tro­gen, stupid, and plenty of it

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

The Democrats fi­nally in­stalled Nancy Pelosi as the speaker of the House on Jan. 4, and the talk of Capi­tol Hill was not about what to do about the war in Iraq, the min­i­mum wage, find­ing that oxy­moron quaintly called “con­gres­sional ethics,” or even the prospect of rais­ing con­gres­sional pay.

Jan. 4 was all about cel­e­brat­ing es­tro­gen. More pow­er­ful than stron­tium-90, dead­lier than polo­nium-210, es­tro­gen is bet­ter for you than testos­terone. That was the new speaker’s mes­sage, and she got a lot of “amens,” even if most were from the “womens.”

“This is a his­toric mo­ment for the Congress, and for the women of this coun­try,” Mzz Pelosi told her ju­bi­lant par­ty­go­ers. “It is a mo­ment for which we have waited for more than 200 years.”

The new speaker, catch­ing her­self, once tried to soften the tone of par­ti­san and sex­ual (or “gen­deral,” in the po­lit­i­cally cor­rect us­age) tri­umphal­ism. “I ac­cept this gavel in the spirit of part­ner­ship, not par­ti­san­ship, and look for­ward to work­ing with you on be­half of the Amer­i­can peo­ple. In this House, we may be­long to dif­fer­ent par­ties, but we serve one coun­try.” There’s no “may” about it — the House is def­i­nitely made up of dif­fer­ent par­ties — and the next few months should tell us whether the 110th Congress will serve one coun­try.

Sev­eral Demo­cratic women from the Se­nate wan­dered over to join the 71 women in the new House to join the stand­ing ova­tions and to see what a lady speaker looks like. Even Bill Clin­ton, ever on the scout for traces of es­tro­gen, was in town to wave from the gallery to Hil­lary. They’re both look­ing sleek and buff, just back from their Caribbean vacation where, de­spite the harsh spec­u­la­tion of one wag, they did not sleep on sep­a­rate is­lands.

“The Democrats are back,” the speaker cried, once rais­ing her tiny fist in a back-to-power salute. “The elec­tion of 2006 was a call to change, not merely to change the con­trol of Congress, but for a new di­rec­tion for our coun­try. Nowhere were the Amer­i­can peo­ple more clear about the need for a new di­rec­tion than in Iraq.”

Mzz Pelosi in­sists that her new job makes her the most pow­er­ful wo­man in Amer­ica, and maybe it does, but tiny fist or not she prob­a­bly shouldn’t say that if she runs into Cindy Shee­han on nanny pa­trol in the cor­ri­dors of Congress. Cindy routed Demo­cratic lead­ers on Jan. 3, tak­ing over a press con­fer­ence called to set out the party’s leg­isla­tive agenda, and send­ing se­nior Democrats flee­ing into an ad­join­ing room where they barred the door. No one had seen the right hon­or­able mem­bers of Congress in such panic since the con­gres­sional scut­tle from First Manas­sas in 1861, or at least since Denny Hastert led his troops down the Capi­tol steps in flight from the great an­thrax fright, knock­ing over furniture, aides and ev­ery­one in the path to a car, bus, train or plane bound for any­where but here. Not even a speed­ing bul­let moves faster than a con­gress­man in full fright.

Over on the Se­nate side, Harry Reid of Ne­vada, the new ma­jor­ity leader, was mak­ing sim­i­lar politi­cian’s prom­ises that no one ex­pects a pol to keep. He said his ma­jor­ity, such as it is, would “work in a bi­par­ti­san ba­sis in an open fash­ion to solve the prob­lems of the Amer­i­can peo­ple ar­gle, bar­gle, blah, blah and zip­pity doo-dah [. . .]”

Mr. Reid looks un­der­stand­ably ner­vous, be­cause his 51 to 49 ma­jor­ity is as frag­ile as the wires and tubes hold­ing it to­gether in an in­ten­sive-care unit at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity Hospi­tal, where Sen. Tim John­son of South Dakota is strug­gling to over­come the ef­fects of a brain hem­or­rhage and the sub­se­quent surgery that saved his life. Not since Bill Frist, who has since re­turned to his heart-surgery prac­tice in Ten­nessee, was re­as­signed to a desk next to the late Strom Thur­mond with in­struc­tions to do what­ever it took to keep a sen­a­tor breath­ing has a Se­nate ma­jor­ity looked quite so frag­ile.

The rout of the Democrats by Cindy Shee­han il­lus­trates just how frag­ile the party’s grip of power may be. The peace-at-any-price Democrats imag­ined they were vot­ing for the im­peach­ment if not the hang­ing of Ge­orge W. Bush, and they’re not likely to lis­ten to rea­son just be­cause tem­po­rary san­ity rules at the top of the party. Still, it was a great day for hugs, kisses and an es­tro­gen fix pow­er­ful enough for any­body.

Wesley Pruden is ed­i­tor in chief of The Times.

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