Gwen's Take

Meaning What You Say

Posted: February 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm

It’s a familiar cycle. Voters say they want new faces and fresh thinking in Washington. But once the newcomers arrive in the nation’s capital, they discover themselves consigned to back benches and basement offices.

Reality soon sets in. It’s harder than it seems to get things done.

But in both the House and the Senate this year, first-termers are making their presence felt on deficit spending, defense budgets, anti-terror laws -- and even Big Bird.

Sending Signals

Posted: February 10, 2011 at 5:53 pm

When it Matters and When It Doesn’t

House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor strolled out onto the White House lawn after lunch with the President this week to deliver an upbeat and focused message to the reporters gathered there.

“I thought it was pretty clear today that the President wants to try to find some common ground with us,” Boehner said.

“The economy so desperately needs us to work together,” Cantor added, “to send a signal that we should start growing again as America.”

Date Night: Or Why the Best Part of the State of the Union Address Wasn’t the Speech

Posted: January 27, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Seldom have I watched the President’s annual speech to the joint session of Congress with anticipation that had so little to do with the contents of the address itself.

By now we surely know that – aside from the occasional brandishing of a veto pen or the periodic pledge to rein in government – these speeches are seldom memorable.

Kennedy, King and the Power of Words

Posted: January 20, 2011 at 5:59 pm

I am not such a fan of celebrating anniversaries for their own sake. Much of what we say on such occasions is rote – if not trite – and the true meaning of observance is easily lost.

But there were two occasions this week (while we in Washington were all on the lookout for post-Tucson lapses in civility) that made me rethink. Both cases involved taking the words of famous men and allowing others to speak them.

Of Symbols and Meaning: Part Two

Posted: January 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Last week in this space, I mused about how quick we can be to over interpret events and ascribe tenuous meaning to actions that so often defy explanation.

Less than forty-eight hours after I posted that column, 19 people were gunned down in a Tucson parking lot---six died---and suddenly we were sucked into a situation in which symbolism seems all too real.

Guns. Mental illness. Overheated political speech. Personal security. Everyone flocked to their favorite theory.

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