More comments on the all-night Senate debate over the Reed-Levin amendment; Wednesday, AM:

I am a fan of Senate debate, as it is brimming with tradition and pageantry. However, it is mostly theatrical (as Republicans pointed out again and again over the course of the long night). Of course, that is not the point. A presidential inauguration is mostly theatrical. So many of our most cherished rituals are purely theatrical. The assertion of theatrics misses the importance of national political theater and ritual.

No matter, what detractors really seek to convey is that Senate debate is rarely productive in terms of accomplishment. Senate debate is a last resort when action is impossible. The business of the Senate is done off the stage. Deal making and consensus happens off the floor behind closed doors. The Senate works on consensus and compromise.

What does debate do for the Senate? Debate generally reinforces formerly held positions. Senate debate facilitates intransigence.

Personal example: if ever I am wavering on supporting the President, General David Petraeus and the troops, all I need to do is listen to Carl Levin and Dick Durbin, and I am ready to shoulder a weapon and march off to Iraq.

What we really need is a consensus to save ourselves. As I have said often as of late, the great question today is whether the Democrats are willing to forego political advantage to save the nation? Time will tell.