Not a minute’s walk from where the Democratic caucus was taking their stand this afternoon — the room in which Sen. Harry Reid struggled to answer a question about why they were using their organizational skills to hold a press conference instead of to get back in a room with the Republican leadership — is Statuary Hall, one of those ornate, majestic rooms in the Capitol that has murals stretching up to its dome. And in it were tourists, almost shoulder-to-shoulder, most with headphones on, silently taking part in virtual tours and learning bits about the country’s history with anything but urgency. Kids yawned, people stood and rotated to get panoramic movies, groups shuffled from point of interest to point of interest.
For a reporter rushing into the place, still feeling a bit dirty from the mud-slinging going on down the hall and half-deafened by the clicking of cameras, there could hardly have been a more perfect bit of bathos to contrast with the do-or-die government shutdown clocks and bitter back-and-forths that are dominating the 20,000-foot discussions. It’s arresting to come face-to-face with how far-removed the realms of politics can be from Americans on the ground, even when they’re only a few feet away.