New man on the Hill

Jeff Zeleny reports in ths Chicago Tribune:

Obama Obama has worked to navigate the complicated channel of etiquette in the Senate, a place that can be hidebound by its fusty conventions, protocol and feigned gentility. He has already had face-to-face meetings with 14 senators to seek their thoughts or offer his help. His political touch is nimble, his smile works overtime.

He was among the first to call Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) after she fainted while delivering a speech in late January. He reacted with humor when Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) butchered his name during a speech at the National Press Club, saying: “Osama bin . . . uh, Osama” before finally settling on “Obama.”

And on a recent afternoon, Obama paid a visit to Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat first elected to the Senate in 1958 and the chamber’s resident keeper of the institutional flame. Sitting in Byrd’s library, Obama listened as his elder talked about protocol, history and regret.

There was Byrd, a former Ku Klux Klan member, sitting with Obama, only the third African-American elected to the Senate. The meeting was private. But as Obama walked back to his office later that day, he said Byrd had talked about a mistake he made in his younger years “that is now the cross around my neck.”

“I said if we were supposed to be perfect, we’d all be in trouble,” Obama recalled, “so we rely on God’s mercy and grace to get us through.”

That he is even serving in the Senate with Byrd is no small feat of history.

Read more here.