What is it about jarring events that brings out the best in people and the worst in politicians?

People struck by Thursday's blackout (search) responded splendidly, which is to say they went about their business and helped each other, while politicians outside the afflicted zone reacted typically, which is to say they yawped angrily, despite the fact that they were operating under conditions of almost perfect ignorance.

A few demanded that President Bush drop everything and do something. Like what? Fly to New York, spread his arms and decree, "Let there be light"?

Other members of the whinging opposition blamed the catastrophe on the president, oil companies, Tom DeLay, profit-seeking who's-its, just about everything besides some troublesome transmission wires in Ohio.

Now, note a key difference between contemporary politics and life on the street: When hardship struck, people stopped, took stock and dealt with the problem. Kindness and determination carried the day. Politicians, meanwhile, concluded that hardship is good and destruction equals gain.

Nothing galls an officeholder more than irrelevance, and let's face it, most of these folks were themselves utterly without power last week. Their views didn't matter, and they certainly didn't shed any light.

Well, that's about to change, because Washington has another chance to deal with the electricity mess. My advice for the lawmaking class: Put a sock in it. Take your cues from the people you're supposed to represent. Don't gibber and point fingers, just do your job.