John McCaslin

We'd observed last week that Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, at age 91, is the longest-serving member in the U.S. Senate's history, having taken office on Jan. 3, 1959.

Now, one West Virginia reader wants to remind us that before he became a senator, Mr. Byrd served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, having been first elected in 1952. (During all these years, Mr. Byrd has an amazing 98.7 percent attendance record).

As for the longest-serving representative in the House, that would be Jamie Whitten of Mississippi, a conservative Democrat who served 53 years, two months, 13 days. His 1995 obituary in the New York Times described the congressman as having a style of deliberate vagueness that stirred a mixture of admiration and frustration among House colleagues.

It was explained that he had a technique of dropping his voice and thickening his already strong Southern drawl when he wanted to disguise his true purpose. "Mr. Mumbles," Rep. Silvio O. Conte, Massachusetts Republican, called Mr. Whitten in 1985.

"He'll give you an ulcer," Mr. Conte said. "Dealing with him is like throwing putty at a wall."

DEBATE THE FUTURE

Five if not more of the major candidates to become chairman of the Republican National Committee will hold a Jan. 5 debate in Washington.

"We are working with bloggers and other activists to develop the questions to be asked during the forum, and we encourage everyone to visit rncdebate.org in the coming days to submit and vote on questions," says Grover Norquist, whose group Americans for Tax Reform is sponsoring the debate.

The hopefuls going head-to-head will include Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Republican Party of Michigan; Ken Blackwell, former Ohio secretary of state; Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party; Chip Saltsman, former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party; and former Maryland lieutenant governor and GOPAC Chairman Michael S. Steele.

Also invited: current Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, who was elected to his post in January 2007; Tina Benkiser, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas; and Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida Republican Party.

PROBLEMS AT HOME

Speaking of the Republican National Committee, it has launched a new Web video titled "Questions Remain."

The video highlights "evolving" explanations delivered by President-elect Barack Obama and his advisers concerning their contact with scandal-plagued Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, despite what the RNC calls Mr. Obama's promises to instill greater transparency and confidence in government.

GLOOM AND DOOM


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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