It was a cool and rainy day when elders of the Republican tribe recently gathered to honor one of their own.
The honoree, Stuart K. Spencer, was unmistakable in his white duck pants and a lime-green sport coat so bright it almost hurt to see. A reformed chain-smoker, he snapped merrily away on a wad of chewing gum.
The event marked Spencer's 90th birthday, but the mood beneath the surface conviviality was unsettled and gray, like the clouds fringing the mountains outside.
If the occasion was intended as a personal celebration, it also had the feel of a wake for a time in politics long passed.
Spencer — savvy, irreverent, profane — spent decades as one of the most...