The timely retirement of Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) seems to have garnered much of the attention in political Washington. But the departure of Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) is likely to have more historic consequences. That is because Dorgan's decision not to seek re-election leaves his Democratic colleague, Carl Levin of Michigan, as the preeminent combover in the United States Senate.

In one sense, Levin has always had the more impressive pate: The extent to which his skull is effectively wrapped in a few straining strands of hair, and his part is lost somewhere in the upper sideburn region, is one of the many wonders of the legislative branch. But Dorgan's combover is equally impressive: Not only because its upswing appears to defy gravity, but also because the thickness of Dorgan's topmost follicles has an element of ambiguity: Are those combed-over strands of hair gathered into a patch, or is that a rug?

The modern Senate has seen its share of memorable combovers--Robert Taft (R-Ohio), Adlai Stevenson III (D-Ill.), among others--and American history is replete with them as well (Gen. Douglas MacArthur is a good example.) But Byron Dorgan and Carl Levin have raised the art of lowered parts and stretched follicles to unprecedented heights, and the Senate has been fortunate to watch them serve together. The view from the Press Gallery will never be quite the same.

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