WASHINGTON – While the filibuster is supposed to be a talkfest — a never-ending debate in which Senate lawmakers must keep gabbing — that doesn't mean visual aids are unwelcome.
Nearly every senator who has gotten up to speak in the debate over whether to approve President Bush's judicial nominees has brought along a big sign. The battle over judicial nominations has also become a battle over who has the best graphics.
In one recent discussion, Sen.Trent Lott (search), R-Miss., referred to a picture of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown.
"'Why,' you might say, 'why's he got a picture?'" Lott asked before launching into his defense of the candidates.
It could be that a picture is worth a thousand words. Signs with statistics on them also say a lot, though often the numbers change and the signs are left with cross marks through them.
"If I had a magic marker, I'd paint a big yellow line through this and write an 81 percent," Sen. Tom Carper (search), D-Del., said while making a recent debating point.
Democratic Sen.Frank Lautenberg (search) of New Jersey came up with some of the most creative signs during the latest debate. While talking about the arcane topics of cloture, the vote to cut off debate, and filibusters, he produced images of actor Jimmy Stewart from the film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Lautenberg even compared Republican senators to the evil Senator Palpatine from the new Star Wars movie.
Watching the Senate is starting to resemble watching sporting events — like NASCAR for instance — where signs are omnipresent. Some sporting events even have virtual advertising — where signs are inserted electronically behind home plate or in a basketball arena.
It's unlikely the Senate will start selling advertising space on the chamber's walls, but it could help balance the federal budget. Political messages would, of course, not be permitted, but advertisements for products like breakfast cereal, beer or even the sexual enhancement pill Levitra could help the Senate rake in millions. It's not like one former senator hasn't already backed a competing drug.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Brian Wilson.