Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Perfect Illustration That Really Wasn't

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Perfect Illustration That Really Wasn't

Article excerpt

ONE DAY right after the new Congress came to town, I chased freshman Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., through the Capitol for snippets of quotes about an item on his legislative agenda. It's what we call a "walk-and-talk," though it's almost always more like a lope-and-talk.

For all the Senate's snailing along as a deliberative body, senators themselves usually dash hither and thither at a frenetic gallop from floor to committee room to office - business-suit-charcoal blurs.

Suddenly, Ashcroft did a dead-stop. Right under the Rotunda. I looked up from my notebook just in time to miss a rear-end collision. Ashcroft stooped. Off the marble floor, he picked up a $20 bill. He looked at me. We both looked at the bill. Not mine, I shrugged. Not MINE, tch-tched Ashcroft. He prides himself on wearing bargain ties, and I imagine he would never, never throw a $20 bill on the floor.

Sternly, he marched over to a red velvet tourist-lane rope. Eye-to-eye with a startled camera-toting tourist. They both looked at the $20 bill in Ashcroft's hand. Mystified, the tourist patted his pockets. Threw up his hands in surrender. Ashcroft tch-tched. Thrust the money into the tourist's hand. Spun and galloped away. The tourist stared at the lost $20 unexpectedly returned by a U.S. senator.

Nutshell, I thought. One of those little satisfying ah-ha's, as I huffingly trotted to catch up with my quarry. There's the whole election that brought Ashcroft - and all the other Republican freshmen - in a nutshell.

You know the analysis: Angry, frustrated Americans looked at Congress last November and saw a corrupt bunch of wastrels, their votes bought by folks who throw money at representatives' and senators' feet. And horrors, there's Ashcroft stooping down to pick it up. Didn't the last, old, Democrat-controlled Congress tie itself in knots to avoid overhauling campaign financing so the career-politicians could keep picking up those bucks to stay in office?

Republicans, that analysis holds, won so strikingly because they listened to that angry, frustrated America. Vote for us, they said, and we'll cut taxes. We'll put your money back in your hands. …

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