I saw Vice President Joe Biden in the Senate late last week and asked him about the chances of passing the gun reform legislation expanding background checks. Usually the soul of confidence and good cheer, Biden gave me a weary smile. "I've got my fingers crossed," he said. That wasn't enough. By a vote of 54-46 -- short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster -- the U.S. Senate proved once again that Washington is the place where change goes to die. This wasn't merely the Senate being what the Founding Fathers envisioned: the "cooling saucer" for the hot coffee of legislative emotion. This was the Senate, constricted by its own rules and the laser-focused fire of the NRA, being the slaughterhouse of public will.