Edward Brooke's Bipartisan Moment

Momentary nostalgia for bipartisanship as the first elected black senator -- a Republican -- receives the Congressional Gold Medal

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Former Senator Edward Brooke was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Obama on Wednesday. Leaders from both parties praised the nation's first popularly elected black U.S. senator — a Republican from Massachusetts — as a bridge builder and a "trailblazer" who worked across the political aisle to pass legislation. The 90-year-old Brooke, however, seemed less impressed with today's political parties. "It's time for politics to be put aside on the backburner," he said, urging Republicans and Democrats not to let partisan politics get in the way of progress. "You've got to get together. You have no alternative."

Did Brooke's message get through? For a moment. Politicians and pundits briefly exhibited a sense of bipartisan nostalgia, but the senator's advice was quickly eclipsed by musings on the wonder of the nation's first black president honoring the first black senator.

  • Awkward  At The Washington Post, Ann Gerhart says Brooke's chastising about partisanship made Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell a little uncomfortable. Brooke, she said, "displayed a flash of the fortitude he used when cajoling fellow lawmakers. Using the license accorded to a man who has lived for 90 years, Brooke turned, fixed his eyes on McConnell and directly addressed the Senate Republican leader. 'We've got to get together,' Brooke lectured, with a smile. McConnell fidgeted. The crowd burst into applause, and McConnell joined in."
  • Refreshing  MSNBC Countdown guest host Lawrence O'Donnell welcomed the break in partisan bickering. "Today, in an all-too-rare bipartisan moment in the Capitol, [Brooke] was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the full approval of the leadership of both parties." 
  • Historic  At The Swamp, Mark Silva notes that "President Barack Obama, who has spoken often of 'the arc of history,' today honored one of the men who paved a path for the president's own historic election." First Read's Athena Jones takes away the same message. "The first black president -- a man who made history himself last November -- lauded Brooke as a man who spent his life breaking barriers and bridging divides across the country." 
  • An Unrealistic Call For Bipartisanship  NPR's Frank James says "Brooke sounded a little like Rodney King when he urged lawmakers to put their differences behind them."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.