I had brunch with a US Senator this weekend and he said that the relationship between parties had gotten so bad in DC that the only issues likely to transact in the Senate this year were the things they “have” to do, i.e. budget and appropriations. Healthcare? Education? Public safety? Oh, those things likely have too much agreement to get anything done. If progress is made on any of these issues then the Republicans get credit because they are in charge of both houses of Congress — that the Democrats badly want back in the ’06 elections. And if legislation is passed with the help of both parties, then the Republicans can’t continue to bash the Democrats as stonewalling on the issues that the American people care about. Let’s face it, it’s good for fundraising. For both sides.I worked in the US Senate (not too, too long ago) when there seemed to be more reaching across aisles to pass bills and get stuff done. There seemed to be respect among colleagues. They could fundamentally disagree on the approach, but it was a diagreement based on fundamentally, true beliefs and not for political posturing. It was, in a word, civil. Where does the end of this current spiral downward begin? When is the beginning of the end of the caustic approach to “deliberative” government? It will likely take a leader to publicly reach out to the other side and say, “let’s forget about the R’s and the D’s next to our names and work together as Americans.” There was a time after 9/11 when this seemed possible. What happened?