Along about 1940, North Carolina's Robert Lee ("Muley") Doughton, Congress' oldest member, inaugurated a biennial ritual that Washington hands learned to take as a sign of spring. First comes a spate of rumors that Muley will not run again. Then comes a statement to the press: in response to his friends' demands, he will run after all. The ceremony came off right on schedule a fortnight ago; it was almost time to look for the first forsythia. Then, last week, Muley sadly broke the tradition. He announced that his doctors had ordered him not to risk the strain of another...

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