WASHINGTON (AP) -- Harry S. Truman called Congress into what was dubbed the Turnip Session, 12 days that produced nothing of substance and dramatized the "do-nothing" issue he used against the Republicans in his upset presidential campaign 52 years ago.
President Clinton used a government-shutting deadlock with congressional Republicans as the starting point for a revival to re-election. Then he made an unpopular Congress an issue-by-association against his challenger in 1996.
Those are exceptions. As a rule, which is holding so far in 2000, there's not much a campaign season session of Congress can do to boost one White House candidate or undercut the other.
That is not for lack of effort. Republicans are trying to make points on issues that could help their candidates to hold the House and Senate and, by the way, their presidential nominee, George W. Bush. President Clinton and the Democrats are doing the opposite, raising issues -- and defending vetoes -- as evidence of what they could do in 2001 with at least part of Congress back in their control and Al Gore in the White House.
On both sides, there is more posturing than productivity.
Congress is more often the butt of negative campaigns by the other party's nominee than a campaign player for what it delivers to fulfill the promises of the party in control of the House and Senate. That is so for Republicans now and it was so for Democrats during their 40-year reign.
That's why Truman summoned Congress into special session in 1948 on the midsummer date "which out in Missouri we call Turnip Day," and dared the Republicans to "pass some of these laws they say they are for in their platform." They did not, which was grist for Truman's campaign against the "do nothing" Congress.
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