Monday, March 05, 2012

A moderate’s lament

This is what I emailed my favorite Senator, Colorado's Michael Bennet, after reading this article: "I know it's hard to soar with eagles when you're surrounded by turkeys, but keep up the fight Michael!"


He had survived a brutal campaign in 2010 to win his first full term. But after a year of deadlock and partisanship in the Senate, he was wondering whether it had been worth the struggle. "It was right after we managed to end our session with a two-month extension of the payroll tax," Bennet told me Wednesday. "I got to a point where I was referring to this place as the Land of Flickering Lights, because the standard of success was we kept the lights on for another two months."

So his aides sat their boss down for a stern talk. "My chief of staff said to me, 'You know, it's not okay to hate your job,' " Bennet recalled. "And he's right. There's no point in wallowing in self-pity. No one's going to feel sorry for you." And so Bennet rededicated himself to his package of reforms — none of which has much chance of passing — and stopped the kvetching. "I'm back from the brink," he said.

For now. But with each day on Capitol Hill comes more evidence that the place is broken beyond repair — and that the last remaining vestiges of sense and moderation are fleeing. The latest blow came on Tuesday, when Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the Republican Party's last moderates, said she wouldn't seek a fourth term because she sees no imminent change in "the partisanship of recent years."

Also heading for the door is much of the remaining core of Senate moderates: Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas; independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut; and Democrats Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Jim Webb of Virginia. After that kind of exodus, Bennet will be one of the last reasonable lawmakers still standing. "I think that it should be a real wake-up call to people here," he said. "There are a number of folks who don't want to come here and participate in the dysfunction."

Bennet is holding on in hopes that external events will eventually conspire to force action on a major federal debt agreement along the lines proposed by the Bowles-Simpson commission, but he acknowledges that it won't happen this year. In the meantime, he's keeping his sanity by focusing on relatively small stuff.


A moderate's lament

By Dana Milbank , Published: February 29, Washington Post

A few months ago, Sen. Michael Bennet's staff staged what the Colorado Democrat calls an intervention.

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