It’s no wonder many Americans hold politicians in low regard.
Our political “leaders” often say one thing when they are in power and something diametrically opposed when they are not. They often appear to be reading from a script, changing roles depending on whether they just won or lost a special election or whether they are in power.
Probably the best example of political hypocrisy is Gerald Seib’s terrific column “The Politics of the Debt Ceiling” in the April 26 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Read it if you haven’t yet done so.
Seib points out that in seven votes to raise the debt ceiling since 2002, Iowa’s two Senators voted directly opposite. When a Democrat was in the White House, Sen. Tom Harkin (D) voted to raise the limit and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) voted against it. When a Republican occupied the White House, Grassley supported raising the limit and Harkin opposed it.
Seib calls President Barack Obama to task for doing much the same thing. In the Senate, Obama said raising the debt limit would be a “leadership failure” and voted against it. But — surprise, surprise — now that he is president, Obama says failing to raise the debt limit would bring financial disaster.
Yes, the president says he “regrets” that vote, which he calls a mistake. I’d take that reversal seriously if it didn’t seem like a transparently political flip-flop to explain his new position.
I encountered another role reversal recently when I interviewed former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D), who was defeated in November but is back again to try to regain her Arizona seat, now occupied by freshman GOP Rep. Paul Gosar.
Kirkpatrick is extremely nice and clearly sincere about wanting to improve things for her district and the country as a whole. I liked her a great deal.
But as I interviewed her, I could only think of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s comments last cycle about Republican former Members who suffered defeat but were running to regain their old seats.
The DCCC mocked these former Members as “retreads,” dismissing their efforts to return to Congress.
For example, in late October of last year, then-DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) told this newspaper that then-Rep. Frank Kratovil (Md.) would be re-elected, in part, because “Andy Harris is the same guy who lost last time so he’s a retread.” Harris, of course, won.
Van Hollen used the same demeaning “retread” label elsewhere to describe former Reps. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio). All three of them won their races last year.
When I asked Kirkpatrick about being, in the DCCC’s words, a “retread,” she smiled and wisely dismissed her party committee’s language as merely part of the political game. Yes, it really is a game — and a very silly one.
Kirkpatrick, by the way, isn’t the only Democratic “retread” who has either decided to run again or is considering a bid.
In New Hampshire, Carol Shea Porter is running, while Dina Titus is likely to run again in Nevada. Other Democrats who lost last time are looking to run again, including Tarryl Clark in Minnesota, Ami Bera in California and Dan Maffei in New York.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.