One reason Washington makes so much bad history is that so many people here know so little history. This helps explain why “comprehensive” immigration reform is foundering: Too few of today’s legislators know what happened 163 years ago.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell does know. The most important Kentuckian since Henry Clay, McConnell knows how his hero Clay, who was called “the great compromiser,” failed to engineer Senate passage of a comprehensive compromise in 1850. McConnell, who wrote his senior thesis at the University of Louisville on the Compromise of 1850, knows that this was achieved by the canniness of Stephen A. Douglas. His is a name not much mentioned on Capitol Hill since he died in 1861 at age 48.