Paul Greenberg

It was unheard of. Mainly because it hadn't been heard before: the sound of John Boozman shouting. The junior senator from Arkansas must be the most soft-spoken member of the U.S. Senate. A big man with a tender manner, a teddy bear inside a grizzly, he was reported to have shouted in the course of last week's Republican caucus in that chamber. At least that was the astounding word from Politico, an inside-politics publication that might best be described as a not always reliable source. Some of us would like to have heard the sound of John Boozman shouting. Just before spotting a legendary ivory-billed woodpecker, aka the Lord God bird, somewhere on an Arkansas bayou. Just once.

Talk about rare sightings/soundings, John Boozman's raising his basso profondo voice would be one for the books. Because the junior senator must be a senior member of the Quiet Man's Club, an exclusive breed in the U.S. Senate and maybe among politicians in general, who are scarcely known for their reticence.

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Just last week, one leather-lunged pol and senator (Ted Cruz, who's from Texas, of course) went on speaking for 21 hours, 19 minutes on the Senate floor without a break -- for himself or the country. Which put his performance just behind Wayne Morse's talkathon against the tidelands oil bill back in 1953 (22 hours, 26 minutes) but ahead of Huey Long's logorrheic seizure in 1935. Ol' Huey went on for 15 hours, 30 minutes of high popalorum and low popahirum directed against the Industrial Recovery Act of that year, and it fully deserved his every condemnatory word. As a unanimous Supreme Court would agree. If only Obamacare, a more recent monstrosity, had met the same fate.

We cannot vouch for the recipes for fried oysters and pot likker the Kingfish included in his filibuster, his version of Ted Cruz's discourse on "Green Eggs and Ham" -- one of my own favorite works of literature.

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No doubt about it, as a group our Senator Phoghorns can be counted on to orate at length, and at an impressive decibel level. They always seem to be tooting horns, usually their own. Which makes John Boozman a rarity in that high-volume circle. It would have been a novel experience to gain admittance to the Republican caucus in the Senate last week and catch the rare sight, or rather rare sound, of John Nichols Boozman raising his voice.

Not that the senator himself would confess to shouting. He called what had gone on in the caucus a "frank discussion" within the Republican family. Which, like so many, might best be described at this point as dysfunctional.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.