Taking on career politicians
Lawrence O’Donnell deserves some sort of medal. Especially from small government proponents and the Tea Party crowd. Seriously.
In one of the best MSNBC segments in a long time, O’Donnell brought NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner on his show The Last Word Monday night to call him out.
For what? His sexting scandal? No. His platform? Nope.
In fact the gauntlet thrown had little to do with Weiner in particular and more what he represents. The career politician. The perpetual political class.
“What is wrong with you?” was the strange opening question. Weiner was confused. O’Donnell elaborated: “What is wrong with you that you cannot seem to imagine a life without elective office?… What I find strange about your campaign is what seems to be your absolute desperate need for elective office and what seems to be your inability to live outside of it. What did you do for example with your time away from elective office?
Did you find any problem anywhere in the world that you thought I think I’d like to apply myself to that and try to help some people who might need my help? You didn’t do that. You just set yourself up for running for elective office again… You started in politics right out of college working here in Washington as a congressional aid… you’ve been pursuing elected office for over twenty years now…”
O’Donnell ended by criticizing him for becoming a lobbyist soon after leaving office (which Weiner took issue with): “You did the classic hack thing and you know it.”
So why is this even worth bringing up?
Because the general public is not exposed to this line of reasoning regularly enough such that some don’t even seem to understand the general thrust of O’Donnell’s argument.
Josh Feldman wrote a column for Mediaite breaking down the debate: “There are no words that can do this mess justice, only to say that for the first time since the first picture of his penis emerged on the internet… you may end up feeling bad for Anthony Weiner.”
Really? Did we watch the same clip? It’s unclear why Feldman thinks this. Perhaps because O’Donnell wasn’t asking the generic “so how’s the campaign going?” questions candidates are used to facing, followed by a quick nod to the issues the media has designated as major. Such are the polite society rules of the mainstream media.
No, instead O’Donnell took a swing at the entire concept of the career politician. At the entire concept of the perpetual political class that views Washington and any other seat of government as a giant trough.
It’s an indictment on American political discourse that it has somehow become bad form to call out leeches for their leeching.
Weiner was shocked by this line of questioning. He claimed O’Donnell was implying “public service is not a noble thing to do”. Which is what you’d say if you had nothing substantial to say.
But O’Donnell’s question is fair. What are Weiner’s credentials? What skills does he have? Talents? Most aspiring politicians at least have the decency to pose as lawyers for a few years before their first campaign.
Ron Paul resumed his obstetrics career when he lost his senate seat in 1984. It shouldn’t be assumed and accepted that ousted politicians will become lobbyists to help special interest groups take from the taxpayer under the auspices of some feel-good program.
If someone thinks they’re good enough to be one of the few people charting the course of the country, it’s not unreasonable to ask why they’re not able or willing to make it in a real career or in the private sector while not in office.
The bottom line is career politicians need to be challenged because they’re the true impediment to fighting big government.
In 2010 Citizens Against Government Wasted broke down the $16.5 billion of taxpayer money spent on pork barrel projects. They labeled Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran the king of pork for the 240 projects worth $490.2 million with his name on them. The Republican senator was first elected in 1978.
O’Donnell gets it (although admittedly may not draw the same fiscally conservative conclusions). Got a problem with certain legislation and want to hold office for a couple terms to change it? Come on board. Want to endlessly suck at the taxpayer’s teat and see yourself on the cover of the paper to satisfy your ego? Get out of town.
The fight against big government isn’t just about specific pieces of legislation. It’s about making conversations like this more mainstream.
Anthony Furey can be reached via www.fureyonpolitics.com and @anthonyfurey.