Now He Tells Us: Bush Wants Us to Put Partisan Differences Aside

Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush both made conciliatory, can't-we-all-just-get along statements in the last 24 hours. And in strictly narrative terms, their timing could hardly have been better. This is material Dostoevsky would be proud to pilfer, and in the right hands - Tennessee Williams's, for instance, or Gloria Monty's - this might even seem like the ending their story was always going to have.

Until today, in any case, I had forgotten how partial W. was to the word "bipartisan' back when he first ran for president. As he proved when he was governor of Texas, he works and plays well with Democrats when he has to; who knows, maybe he is even a little bit relieved by the prospect of some supervision.

But, thrilling as it is that our president has invited some Democrats to lunch, the more meaningful appeal against bitterness was the one Harold Ford, Jr. made last night when conceding his Senatorial race in Tennessee. Here he is, done in by an overtly racist ad in the most notorious campaign since the one in which Republicans questioned Max Cleland's patriotism, and his reaction quote Scripture on the reason we can't take stuff like this personally? ("For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places.'' - Ephesians 6:12)

He still believes, he said, that what he heard most plainly on the campaign trail was "a hunger...a great appetite on the part of the American people for something much better and far more dignified and greater than what we've given them over the last several years.'' It is not so easy to follow Ford's lead, of course, even on a good night.

Or on a morning when the Nashville Tennessean reported that, "Some pundits and politicians speculate that the ad, paid for by the Republican National Committee, was just enough to put Republican Bob Corker over the top.'' (You know, the one where a blond girl who says she met Ford at a Playboy party winks into the camera and says, "Harold, call me.'') "Because Ford is black,'' the aforementioned pundits and politicians "said it played into racial fears of a black man dating a white woman.''

Today, the Texas actress who played the Playboy bunny in the ad described herself as "quiet'' and "family-oriented'' in an interview - by phone, of course -- with the Tennessean. "I don't just play the bimbos. I play the young mom, too,'' explained the actress, Johanna Goldsmith, who lives in Austin. "I love children and comedy.'' Ms. Goldsmith's agent, Linda McAlister, told the paper that she was amazed the ad made such a splash: "That's what's been so hilarious about the whole thing. We've been looking at each other like, "You are good. You sold it.'' It's, like, so not about them, I know: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, etc. And in the really long run, Harold Ford may have been the biggest winner of the night.