A Politician's Yearning

LONGING for home may be a standard part of an American political persona, calculated to show a common touch after years inside the beltway.

But it can also be absolutely sincere. That's certainly true of Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum's remarks on announcing her retirement from the Senate. The Kansas Republican, finishing her third six-year term, said she simply wanted to return to her farm and her grandchildren.

In interviews, she also noted that American politics are becoming increasingly combative, hooked on image rather than substance. The implication: that these media-drenched times intensify the desire to get out of politics, or (a la Colin Powell) not to get in. But her own record as a centrist Republican who broke with her party on such issues as gun control and sanctions against apartheid in South Africa shows the value of a political career.

On the Democratic side of the aisle, such figures as Sam Nunn of Georgia and Bill Bradley of New Jersey will take a wealth of experience and technical knowledge away from the Senate floor as they depart. Fortunately, both apparently intend to stay involved in public issues: Mr. Nunn recently joined with former Education Secretary William Bennett to attack tawdry television talk shows.

There are, doubtless, many capable people who, like Kassebaum, Bradley or Nunn, may never have envisioned themselves in Washington's vortex of power. The health of the republic largely depends on their willingness, nonetheless, to get involved.

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