As he ascended to majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Republican Mitch McConnell set an encouraging tone and low expectations.
Kentuckians might have hoped for something more ambitious from the first from our state to lead the Senate since Democrat Alben Barkley.
But McConnell's workmanlike, unprovocative approach is also welcome at a time when just working would represent a great leap forward for Congress.
Barkley led the Senate through the tumultuous years from 1939 to 1947 when the U.S. climbed out of a worldwide economic depression and emerged as a global superpower.
McConnell takes over in an era of partisan gridlock and legislative dysfunction, when many Americans wonder whether this superpower is really going to let its physical and scientific infrastructure crumble, along with its middle class.
McConnell recently told CNN's State of the Union that Americans want the "dysfunction" to stop. Amen to that, senator.
He also said, "When the American people elect divided government, they're not saying they don't want anything done. What they are saying is they want things in the political center, things that both sides can agree on."
Disappointingly, the areas of potential agreement cited by McConnell are few — international trade deals and tax reform.
Confirming the low expectations, the Republican Senate planned to make its first order of business approval of the Keystone Pipeline, a project that the plunge in oil prices may already have rendered economically unfeasible.
If McConnell sticks with his promise to allow amendments, though, Democrats might help turn the pipeline bill into something that really would stimulate jobs creation and economic growth.
On its way out, the last Congress restored government support for the risky derivatives trading that required a bank bailout in 2008 and plunged the country into the Great Recession.
With the economy showing real signs of life now, everyone should beware the Republican majority's zeal for deregulation, lest it set the stage for a repeat of the economic meltdown.
McConnell is also wisely providing something of a reality check to the more strident and extreme elements of his own party with reminders that Democrat Barack Obama is our duly elected president for two more years.
In an interview with WHAS political editor Joe Arnold, McConnell said Obama "got elected, but so did we. And, so my point is, the message is, 'OK, we're not entirely sold on either of you guys,' but there must be some things we all can agree on and that's what I think we have an obligation to try to find."
We congratulate McConnell, 72, on realizing this landmark in his accomplished political career and wish him well on that quest for common ground.