U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette announced last week that he's bagging it and retiring.
LaTourette, a moderate Republican, is the congressman people count on to help defend Cleveland when Republicans control the House. He led the effort to keep the Pentagon payroll jobs from moving out of town a few years ago. He's been working to get more money to tear down some of Cleveland's thousands of abandoned houses.
But he's fed up that Congress is at a stalemate, that Tea Party Republicans are scuttling attempts at getting bipartisan agreement on anything. His departure raises questions about whether House Speaker John Boehner truly leads his Republican caucus, or whether the Tea Party hardliners lead him. (Boehner, a friend of LaTourette's, tried to help him pass a transportation bill with funds for mass transit, only to see more conservative congressmen slash it apart.)
I also wonder whether LaTourette is leaving too soon. Congresss will be forced to strike a grand bargain on taxes and spending in December or January, and moderates will have to play a key role in negotiating it.
But another reason to miss LaTourette is his sense of humor. This is the guy who hired humorist Dave Barry as his press secretary for four days when he arrived in Washington, and actually read a Barry-written speech on frivolous lawsuits into the Congressional Record. It began, “As a lawyer, I am the last person to suggest that everybody in my profession is a money-grubbing, scum-sucking toad. The actual figure is only about 73 percent.”
And -- how much more biapartisan can you get? -- LaTourette is the Republican who befriended Dennis Kucinich, worked with him on bills, and appeared on The Tonight Show with him, singing "Kum Ba Ya," riding a tandem bike, playing on a playground swing, practicing trust falls, and wearing blue-and-red-state snuggies.
To commemorate the political career of a practical moderate, let's go to the video.