The calls from Time magazine to staffers for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) did not signal any kind of story out of the ordinary.
They knew Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, was going to be part of a story about the major issues facing the upper chamber.
But Saturday, Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker got a "heads up'' call from Time's managing editor.
Durbin was named one of "America's 10 best senators,'' dubbed "The Debater'' in a big spread that featured two pictures of the senior senator from Illinois, the Democratic whip.
"On issues from immigration reform to judicial nominees, the Illinois Democrat frequently engages in public back-and-forth with his Senate colleagues in hearings and before votes -- and rarely uses notes to do it,'' Time writes.
"And while the debates don't often change the votes of other members, Durbin's tough questioning of his colleagues and his willingness to defend his proposals clarify and distill complicated issues for the C-SPAN-viewing public.''
Time noted an example of when Durbin's oratory won the day. I wrote a recent column about it, how Durbin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, persuaded his colleagues on the panel to shield humanitarian workers assisting illegal immigrants from federal prosecution. That the immigration legislation is now stalled is another story.
Talking was his trouble in '05
Time's kudos for Durbin show what a roller coaster people in public life live. And how there are many second acts in politics.
Just last June, Durbin's penchant for speaking off the cuff -- the same oratory that impressed Time -- landed him at the low point of his Senate career, when he was pressured to apologize for comparing alleged torture at Guantanamo to that of the Nazis and others.
Time's decision was based on interviews with dozens of academics, political scientists and current and former U.S. senators. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) also was cited as one of five freshman "up-and-comers'' -- so was Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
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