As part of the day job, I had occasion to talk for a while last week with Michael Dukakis, whose energy I continue to envy. We talked about trains. My lord, does this man like to talk about trains. Anyway, he mentioned that, somewhere in a dusty file cabinet, there is a plan for a 10-state high-speed passenger rail system that would connect all the major -- and some of the not-so-major -- cities in the Midwest. As it happens, I spend an awful lot of time in O'Hare Airport -- aka Gehenna With Bookstores. Some ungodly large percentage of the flights in and out of that sclerotic nightmare cover 350 miles or less, according to Dukakis. If you could get from Chicago to St. Louis -- city center to city center -- in four hours, why would you not do that? Or Indianapolis to Madison -- again, city center to city center. This whole thing was a revelation to me. More to the immediate point, Iowa is included in the plan and, as Dukakis fumed, have you heard any of the Democratic contenders even mention this thing in the past two years? (The GOP field is, of course, hopeless, unless the plan can be made to include windowless cattle-cars for the transportation of undocumented lawn-service men, or a luxury rolling seraglio for Mrs. Giuliani du jour, or both. However, it should be noted that one of the original drivers of the plan was Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor who's already dropped out.) Part of the whole reason for giving slices of Velveeta like Iowa and New Hampshire pride of place in the nominating process is to make the national bigfeet respond to local concerns. This is why we have to talk about freaking ethanol every four years. This is a real plan -- and, note well, Dean Broder, a bipartisan plan -- that will ease congestion, reduce greenhouse gases, and make lives easier for hundreds of thousands of people across an important region of the country -- to say nothing of the fact that it will help get this country on the same track -- Yeah, I know, but there was no way around it -- with the rest of the industrialized world on something. (Today passenger rail; tomorrow, universal health care!) Speak up, lady and gentlemen.
I would love to see this happen: