Can Cooperation Bloom in D.C.?

Recent events show a diversion from politics as usual.

In this video image from Senate Television, senators speak on the floor of the U.S. Senate during voting on an amendment to the budget resolution at the Capitol on Washington, Friday, March 22, 2013.

So Washington had a snow day when spring was meant to be upon us. Never mind, we have other stuff on our minds. But not politics as usual.

Like, did you know the Senate had a huge slumber party Friday night going into Saturday's dawn? They broke up at 5 a.m. after an extraordinary "voting marathon" on the budget, said The Washington Post. That gave everyone a chance to know each other better, you know, with all the new faces lately. Yes, you could hear the legislators laugh as background music while the gavel was pounded for order.

Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., acquitted herself as the majority chairman on the Democratic side. She ran as a "mom in tennis shoes" years ago and still has a straightforward simple demeanor. Fun for a night owl like me to spy who was talking to whom on C-SPAN.  They generally huddled together along party lines, but clearly everyone was seeing everyone else anew. Their collective energy belied their average age; as a group they were jovial and well pressed all night long. Impressive, actually.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

I can tell you who I didn't see speaking to each other: Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and upstart freshman Ted Cruz, R-Texas. They had a tense exchange over an assault weapons ban recently and she dealt with his rudeness by icily asking him to respect her views. It was a beautiful thing. Clearly, women will play a greater leadership role and have a larger voice in the Senate, for they have reached 20 in number for the first time. Ever.

If a new wind's blowing in the Capitol, the White House also had a game-changing week. President Obama went to Israel and captivated the country that considered him a lukewarm, lackluster friend. He spoke Hebrew, went to Yad Vashem, the sacred Holocaust memorial, and gave a heartfelt speech to young people that reached out the United States arm of friendship.

Somehow Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, relented on an apology to Turkey and on calling for a two-state solution to the perennial Palestinian conflict. Now that old buddy Mitt Romney is wiped off the political map, Bibi showed a bit of human warmth in doing business with the president. They even found common ground on Iran.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Middle East.]

L'haim!  Nothing like a face-to-face, just like the Senate.

Yesterday was Passover for lots of Washingtonians. A season of hope, celebrating the crossing over of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt to freedom. The story must be retold every spring to cherish and to hand down to the next generation. I went to an inclusive, lively Seder in Chevy Chase where about half were Jews and half were Gentiles. (I am in between.) Three British guests lent their accents to the reading of the Haggadah.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Should the U.S. Discourage Israel From Attacking Iran?]

The ritual symbols of the dinner were as stirring as ever, and as always, the ancient and the modern, the religious and the secular meet in the middle. A couple of us felt a sense of existential despair going in and felt our spirits lift like a bird in flight. Also, the nation has languished under a cloud, close to crisis, for several years since the day Obama took office.

So even with a dusting of snow in spring, lo, the long winter is past. Cherry blossoms will light the land and river before long. We are all in this human skin together and it's best to mix, mingle, come to the table, with friends and foes. Then the Chinook wind of spring will be sweet, perhaps as a promise we have finally gotten to a better place.


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