Decline and fall

The sinister character Noah Cross in the movie Chinatown memorably claimed that 'Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.' Representative John Dingell of Michigan, unfortunately, disproves the maxim.

Rep. Dingell is soon to celebrate his 50th anniversary in Congress, a milestone even more striking when one considers that he succeeded his father in holding the seat. But to my intense sorrow, a man I once admired and liked has been dragged down by his party. Once an iconoclastic advocate for causes, like gun rights, dear to hearts of his constituents, he has been reduced to political hackery of the lowest sort. The arc of his career parallels the tragedy of the Democratic Party. 

Rep. Dingell has been the subject of many news items, favorable MSM editorials and features on the occasion of his anniversary. Earlier this week he appeared for a lengthy interview on PBS's The Charlie Rose Show, certifying his MSM status as an icon.

It was a remark he made in the waning seconds of his interview with Mr. Rose that stuck with me. Enumerating the typical leftist checklist of crimes against humanity the Bush Administration has committed, he finally summed up his thinking by saying that the current executive is 'the worst administration since Caligula.'

Leave it to Rep. Dingell, 79, to at least make an attempt at a quip while his allies have only pedestrian venom and bile to offer. Yet it was also a perfect example of how low the Democratic Party has sunk. Rep. Dingell's own career is a primer on the steady decline of a once—great political entity. Here was John Dingell, the master strategist, once the most—feared investigator on the Hill, resorting to a cheap ad hominem attack to express his personal outrage at power lost, opportunities squandered and relevance gone, merely days after the remarkable events in Iraq.

As an intern for two summers in Congressman Dingell's district and Washington offices, I had the opportunity to observe this historic figure from a close vantage point. Rep. Dingell treated his staff and interns with respect and good humor (once he announced he had to visit the restroom by saying he had to 'salute the President'). He made time to speak individually with interns for an hour or so, and treated D.C. interns to lunch (on his tab) and humorous anecdotes in the House dining room. One of the most memorable conversations I have ever had came in his district office, when he ruminated on a career that brought him to the heights of power and caused personal heartache, as well as correcting me when I asked how many Presidents he 'served under.'

'None,' was the answer, given with an impish grin. 'I have worked with Presidents since Eisenhower. We serve together.' Asked if he had ever thought about running for the Senate he smiled again: 'I'm not interested in a demotion.'

The earthy congressman wasn't shy when discussing his father, whose seat in Congress he filled when John Dingell, Sr., died in 1955. Rep. Dingell told of his father being given the proverbial six months to live midway through his life, due to a disease. Dingell the elder looked his doctor square in the eye and, according to his son, said 'Doc, I'm going to piss on your grave one day.' Again the delightful grin spread slowly across the congressman's face. 'He did, too.' Stories like that make a summer answering phones and writing mundane correspondence to constituents, convinced that black helicopters are swarming their rooftops, well worth it.

Yet the illusions of youth are sometimes swiftly swept away. So it was for me when members of the Democratic Congressional Caucus were bussed down Pennsylvania Avenue for an improbable Impeachment Day Rally in honor of their boy Bill on December 19, 1998. There, along with lemmings such as Tom Daschle, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Sheila Jackson—Lee and Ted Kennedy, was John D. Dingell, Jr., applauding and nodding as Vice President Al Gore maniacally declared the first elected President ever to be impeached 'one of our greatest Presidents.'

Whatever claim Rep. Dingell had to being an independent figure and thinker on the Hill was wiped out at once. The same man, who sat in his office with a young intern and spoke of the admiration he had for people like Barry Goldwater during the Watergate crisis, not only stood down when faced with a President of his own party lying to the nation, and under oath, about his own 'conversations' with an intern, but joined the fools proclaiming his greatness. Party power and prestige, apparently, were more important than right, no matter whom one had to stand behind and promote. It was a pathetic tableau and embarrassing for anyone who had ever spent any time in Rep. Dingell's office.

More disgusting than clapping like a monkey to the declarations of a half—wit on behalf of an aging frat boy, however, was a letter Rep. Dingell wrote in 2003 to civil rights advocate Ward Connerly. Mr. Connerly, who happens to be black, was organizing in Michigan in an attempt to organize a signature drive to put the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative—a proposition to end racial discrimination and preferences—on the ballot for November 2004. The purpose of the initiative would be for the citizens of Michigan to force public institutions like the University of Michigan to comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial discrimination and preferences.

A portion of the letter reads like something George Wallace would have written to Martin Luther King, Jr.:

'Go home and stay there....We do not need you stirring up trouble where none exists.... We have no need for itinerant publicity—seekers, non—resident troublemakers, or self—aggrandizing out—of—state agitators....You have created enough mischief in your own state to last a lifetime.'

Congressman Dingell posted this letter on his website like a badge of honor and it went largely unnoticed by the media. Unless Mr. Connerly had made an issue of it, few would have noted its existence. That Congressman Dingell could put his signature to such an outrageous, patently offensive letter was, and is, truly shocking. Had a consistent standard of racial contrition that usually follows such acts been applied, Dingell would have been forced to publicly retract his letter in a solemn press conference, submit to a humiliating live interview on BET, all the while acknowledging his ignorance and disregard for the historical struggle of black Americans, and enduring plenty of tut—tutting from the alphabet anchors. Instead, he is feted and given the old 'We may disagree with him, but he's a jolly good fellow' tributes. 

So there you have it. Those two actions alone tarnish Rep. Dingell's long career in the House and square with the modus operandi of the Democratic Party: doing and saying anything in defense of anyone, no matter how criminal, for the sake of holding on to power, while simultaneously working to deny the most basic civil rights and privileges to those citizens whom they claim to defend. The present face of the Democratic Party is a sorry spectacle indeed and while it would have been difficult to say it just a few years ago, there is little to no difference today between the dean of the House and Howard Dean.

Matt May served as an intern in Congressman's Dingell's office in 1993 and 1994. He can be reached at matthewtmay@yahoo.com. His blog is here.

The sinister character Noah Cross in the movie Chinatown memorably claimed that 'Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.' Representative John Dingell of Michigan, unfortunately, disproves the maxim.

Rep. Dingell is soon to celebrate his 50th anniversary in Congress, a milestone even more striking when one considers that he succeeded his father in holding the seat. But to my intense sorrow, a man I once admired and liked has been dragged down by his party. Once an iconoclastic advocate for causes, like gun rights, dear to hearts of his constituents, he has been reduced to political hackery of the lowest sort. The arc of his career parallels the tragedy of the Democratic Party. 

Rep. Dingell has been the subject of many news items, favorable MSM editorials and features on the occasion of his anniversary. Earlier this week he appeared for a lengthy interview on PBS's The Charlie Rose Show, certifying his MSM status as an icon.

It was a remark he made in the waning seconds of his interview with Mr. Rose that stuck with me. Enumerating the typical leftist checklist of crimes against humanity the Bush Administration has committed, he finally summed up his thinking by saying that the current executive is 'the worst administration since Caligula.'

Leave it to Rep. Dingell, 79, to at least make an attempt at a quip while his allies have only pedestrian venom and bile to offer. Yet it was also a perfect example of how low the Democratic Party has sunk. Rep. Dingell's own career is a primer on the steady decline of a once—great political entity. Here was John Dingell, the master strategist, once the most—feared investigator on the Hill, resorting to a cheap ad hominem attack to express his personal outrage at power lost, opportunities squandered and relevance gone, merely days after the remarkable events in Iraq.

As an intern for two summers in Congressman Dingell's district and Washington offices, I had the opportunity to observe this historic figure from a close vantage point. Rep. Dingell treated his staff and interns with respect and good humor (once he announced he had to visit the restroom by saying he had to 'salute the President'). He made time to speak individually with interns for an hour or so, and treated D.C. interns to lunch (on his tab) and humorous anecdotes in the House dining room. One of the most memorable conversations I have ever had came in his district office, when he ruminated on a career that brought him to the heights of power and caused personal heartache, as well as correcting me when I asked how many Presidents he 'served under.'

'None,' was the answer, given with an impish grin. 'I have worked with Presidents since Eisenhower. We serve together.' Asked if he had ever thought about running for the Senate he smiled again: 'I'm not interested in a demotion.'

The earthy congressman wasn't shy when discussing his father, whose seat in Congress he filled when John Dingell, Sr., died in 1955. Rep. Dingell told of his father being given the proverbial six months to live midway through his life, due to a disease. Dingell the elder looked his doctor square in the eye and, according to his son, said 'Doc, I'm going to piss on your grave one day.' Again the delightful grin spread slowly across the congressman's face. 'He did, too.' Stories like that make a summer answering phones and writing mundane correspondence to constituents, convinced that black helicopters are swarming their rooftops, well worth it.

Yet the illusions of youth are sometimes swiftly swept away. So it was for me when members of the Democratic Congressional Caucus were bussed down Pennsylvania Avenue for an improbable Impeachment Day Rally in honor of their boy Bill on December 19, 1998. There, along with lemmings such as Tom Daschle, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Sheila Jackson—Lee and Ted Kennedy, was John D. Dingell, Jr., applauding and nodding as Vice President Al Gore maniacally declared the first elected President ever to be impeached 'one of our greatest Presidents.'

Whatever claim Rep. Dingell had to being an independent figure and thinker on the Hill was wiped out at once. The same man, who sat in his office with a young intern and spoke of the admiration he had for people like Barry Goldwater during the Watergate crisis, not only stood down when faced with a President of his own party lying to the nation, and under oath, about his own 'conversations' with an intern, but joined the fools proclaiming his greatness. Party power and prestige, apparently, were more important than right, no matter whom one had to stand behind and promote. It was a pathetic tableau and embarrassing for anyone who had ever spent any time in Rep. Dingell's office.

More disgusting than clapping like a monkey to the declarations of a half—wit on behalf of an aging frat boy, however, was a letter Rep. Dingell wrote in 2003 to civil rights advocate Ward Connerly. Mr. Connerly, who happens to be black, was organizing in Michigan in an attempt to organize a signature drive to put the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative—a proposition to end racial discrimination and preferences—on the ballot for November 2004. The purpose of the initiative would be for the citizens of Michigan to force public institutions like the University of Michigan to comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial discrimination and preferences.

A portion of the letter reads like something George Wallace would have written to Martin Luther King, Jr.:

'Go home and stay there....We do not need you stirring up trouble where none exists.... We have no need for itinerant publicity—seekers, non—resident troublemakers, or self—aggrandizing out—of—state agitators....You have created enough mischief in your own state to last a lifetime.'

Congressman Dingell posted this letter on his website like a badge of honor and it went largely unnoticed by the media. Unless Mr. Connerly had made an issue of it, few would have noted its existence. That Congressman Dingell could put his signature to such an outrageous, patently offensive letter was, and is, truly shocking. Had a consistent standard of racial contrition that usually follows such acts been applied, Dingell would have been forced to publicly retract his letter in a solemn press conference, submit to a humiliating live interview on BET, all the while acknowledging his ignorance and disregard for the historical struggle of black Americans, and enduring plenty of tut—tutting from the alphabet anchors. Instead, he is feted and given the old 'We may disagree with him, but he's a jolly good fellow' tributes. 

So there you have it. Those two actions alone tarnish Rep. Dingell's long career in the House and square with the modus operandi of the Democratic Party: doing and saying anything in defense of anyone, no matter how criminal, for the sake of holding on to power, while simultaneously working to deny the most basic civil rights and privileges to those citizens whom they claim to defend. The present face of the Democratic Party is a sorry spectacle indeed and while it would have been difficult to say it just a few years ago, there is little to no difference today between the dean of the House and Howard Dean.

Matt May served as an intern in Congressman's Dingell's office in 1993 and 1994. He can be reached at matthewtmay@yahoo.com. His blog is here.