Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is retiring. In almost eight years as a Senate staffer, I spoke with him only two or three times. I know that I cannot think of a time when I agreed with something he said on economic policy. His prairie populism is a completely different perspective from my own.

It’s because I so often disagree with him that I think it’s important I pass along this story from a friend. This friend has economic policy views similar to my own, and at the time he worked for a Republican Senator:

I’ve always had a soft spot for Senator Dorgan because of one incident on the Senate floor. He and my boss were in a big policy argument on the Senate floor, and I had some charts printed up and things kept going wrong with the graphics – I scratched out some last-minute fixes and the new blow-up was hastily delivered to me on the floor – I took a cursory look at it to be sure the fixes were made, they were, and I put it up behind my boss.

So my boss is going to town, just tearing into Senator Dorgan’s argument, and Senator Dorgan comes over and whispers to me “Those numbers on your poster just can’t be right.” And as he’s telling me how, I look at the board and yes indeed – they had screwed up the dates on the bottom of the chart. Somehow they’d gone back to an earlier version of the chart that had a different timeline on the bottom. What should have been decade by decade was labeled as year by year.

I wanted to fall through the floor. I told Senator Dorgan he was right, slipped a note to my boss telling him the chart was wrong, and awaited the further public humiliation.

Senator Dorgan went back to his place and did a vigorous rebuttal to my boss – and conspicuously didn’t mention the error on our chart. He could have made us look idiotic – he didn’t.

Sort of thing a staffer never forgets.

I tip my hat to Senator Dorgan, a vigorous and honorable advocate for views with which I strongly disagree.

(photo credit: Wikipedia)