As the first game of the National Healthcare Series unfolded, attention focused on a local angle -- how a local player would perform under pressure, especially if events placed him in an important position at a crucial time. This Pittsburgh-area congressman had not yet proven himself; even among fans, few knew much about him, and what was known generated questions concerning his motivations, his background, his reliability, his heart.
The stakes were high enough that teammates and fans disregarded the sketchy parts of his record and assumed he would come through when it counted. Suspense built as events moved toward a gripping late-night crucible, and it became apparent that his performance could determine victory or defeat.
And then he proved himself with the right vote at the right time (just before midnight). Stilling fears about his awkward background, his uncertain leanings, his creepy pals (some of whom he bunks with -- literally), he provided an invaluable vote for healthcare reform.
Never again doubt Mike Doyle (left) in the clutch.
Another local Democrat, however, has some 'splainin' to do. He dithered. He contributed nothing substantive to debate. He consumed the time, effort and spirits of Democrats for months. Yesterday, he voted for a nasty, overreaching amendment that pandered to anti-abortion absolutists -- but even that did not break his supporters, who were willing to see it as a distasteful but practical ('one step back, two steps forward') tactic.
And then, at the defining moment of his term as a member of Congress, Jason Altmire (right) inexplicably stood with Michele Bachmann, Joe Wilson, Steve King and Mike Pence, and voted against healthcare reform.
If a credible, persuasive explanation of Rep. Altmire's conduct exists, he should provide it promptly. His constituents deserve it and his legislative career appears to depend on it.
UPDATE: Rep. Altmire has issued an explanation, albeit one neither credible nor persuasive. (Whom are these collegues he expects to be "working with," now that the Democratic infantry has moved on without him? And what sequence of events toward a better bill could have been promoted by his "no" vote? Did he ask anyone to read this gibberish before he posted it?) Given the press of events and the likelihood he was shortstaffed on the weekend, Rep. Altmire should be given until the close of business on Monday to extend and revise these remarks, ideally working toward the "credible and persuasive" standard.