February 10th, 2007


Barack Obama has let me down

I hate to bring this up on the very day he announced his Presidential candidacy, but I have uncovered a significant error of fact in U.S. Senator Barack Obama's new book, The Audacity of Hope. Consider the follow passage, which can be found on page thirteen:

The Senate chamber is not the most beautiful space in the Capitol, but it is imposing nonetheless. The dun-colored walls are set off by panels of blue damask and columns of finely veined marble. Overhead, the ceiling forms a creamy white oval, with an American eagle etched in its center. Above the visitors' gallery, the busts of the nation's first twenty vice presidents sit in solemn repose.

Untrue! When I worked for the Senate, I was frequently called upon to lead tours of the Capitol for constituents, so I know that while there are in fact twenty busts of former vice presidents sitting in solemn repose above the visitor's gallery, they are not of the first twenty vice presidents. Rather, they are of the first seventeen vice presidents, plus nos. nineteen through twenty-one. What about no. 18? I hear you cry. Well, his name was Henry Wilson, and he was Ulysses S. Grant's second vice president. He has a bust — all former vice presidents do, in honor of their Constitutional role as President of the Senate — but it's not in the Senate chamber.

There is a small office across the lobby from the Senate chamber that is set aside for the Vice President to use when he's at the Capitol presiding over the Senate. Nowadays it's not used very often, but back in the day, vice presidents had little to do other than preside over the Senate. Vice President Wilson, like all other vice presidents of that era, used it regularly. He was using it on November 22, 1875, when he passed away sitting at his desk — still being used today, and now known as the Wilson Desk — in that office. That's why, when his bust was completed, the Senate decided to place it on permanent display in his old office.

So now you know the truth. I'm reasonably certain Sen. Obama was not trying to deliberately mislead his readers, but nevertheless I'm sure you'll want to give it due consideration when deciding whether to support his nascent Presidential campaign.

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Poet's Corner: Buffalo Dusk

Buffalo Dusk

The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands and how they
   pawed the prairie sod into dust with their hoofs, their
   great heads down pawing on in a great pageant of dusk,
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.

Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967)

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