June 27, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 10

Political challenges on the left and right

Write to the Point

It can’t be easy being a politician.

We often lambaste them for a variety of things under the sun, some real, some perceived, if not invented. But politics involves successful practice of the art of the deal, and that’s something hard to find these days in the other Washington.

I get the impression members of Congress know and understand this more than they’re prone to publicly let on, based on last Friday’s visit to our office by 5th District Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. Not so much by what was said, but how it was said.

Agree with her or not, I appreciate the fact she is willing – often at her request – to meet with the editorial board and staff of a small, weekly community newspaper, especially when there’s a bigger media fish just down the road. That’s impressive, considering at times I think our line of questioning has made her uncomfortable.

In Friday’s visit, McMorris-Rodgers touched on the latest hot bed issues, expressing disappointment that the House failed to pass a new Farm Bill and urgency on the need for the Senate to approve legislation heading off a doubling of the interest on federal student loans. Yes, there was some partisanship here, particularly in noting Democrats failed to provide the votes they said they would to get the Farm Bill passed and moving towards conference committee with the Senate.

But there seemed to be a little exasperation with some of the 62 House Republicans, over a quarter of the caucus, who also voted nay. And, maybe, a veiled threat (?) that there would be similar hard votes down the road on issues those dissenters held important, and would be looking to fellow party members to come on board to help pass.

On immigration reform McMorris-Rodgers was more cautious. She trotted out the talking points well: fixing border security, visa reform and getting the E-Verify system to work at 100 percent efficiency.

She noted there was bipartisan support for these, and when asked, said she was not one of the Republican “hardliners” who do not want any type of immigration reform.

“I want it done right,” she told us.

But one of the advantages we have as journalists, and one difficult to convey to readers, is the ability to watch how people respond. Body language, voice inflection, subtle smiles and glances can say as much as a Tolstoy-sized list of talking points.

McMorris-Rodgers’ “disappointment” over the failure of the Farm Bill is probably a nicely worded understatement, not just about Democrats but maybe more about members of her own party. In discussing immigration reform, she kept referencing things done by and in the Senate, instead of in her own chamber.

The meeting left me with a feeling there is not just frustration, but maybe a little fatal resignation, brewing in Washington, D.C. Not over the differences of opinions on issues, but on the very process of governing.

There always has been and will be hardliners on either side of an issue. But there will be more people residing in the middle, voters or legislators, who are willing to compromise on some things in the greater interest of moving the country forward.

In today’s political climate heavily influenced by an abundance of public opinion polls and partisan commentators with more and quicker public access, that middle ground isn’t necessarily shrinking. It’s just getting harder to stake out and hold, leaving little room for the fine, seldom-practiced art of statesmanship.

Nope, it can’t be easy being a politician.

Reader Comments