Cicero and Catiline or Chuck and Mitch?


AFT Local 1360

When it was obvious the Senate’s “skinny repeal’” of the Affordable Health Care Act was toast, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell got grumpy, came down with the mulligrubs and slumped in his chair.

With TV cameras focused on him, my thoughts turned to a similar scene in another senate 2,080 years ago —  painted, perhaps a tad fancifully, in 1889.

Cesare Maccari might not have been as handy with a chisel or a paint brush as another Italian named Michelangelo. But he achieved at least some renown for Cicero Denounces Catiline, his version of a storied event from Roman history.

The U.S. Senate is named for the Roman Senate. 

Anyway, in 63 B.C.E., co-consul Marcus Tullius Cicero rose in the Senate to diss the dastardly Sen. Lucius Sergius Catalina — Catiline in English — for scheming to overthrow the Roman republic. Maccari has Cicero orating and Catiline slouching. The fresco painting is in the Palazzo Madama in Rome, where the Italian Senate sits.

Maybe it’s just my imagination, but Catiline, er, McConnell, seemed to sink deeper into his seat while Cicero, sorry, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, addressed the Senate after the vote was tallied. (Before Schumer spoke, McConnell groused in defeat.) 

After Cicero’s speech, Catiline hightailed it out of Rome. Kentuckians won’t get a chance to run McConnell out of Washington until 2020. But already Bluegrass State Democrats are relishing the prospect of making their “Ditch Mitch” cry finally come true. 

Meanwhile, perhaps some American handy with a paintbrush might consider portraying Schumer speaking and McConnell slumping.