Well, as long as Will has brought it up here on HA, I thought I’d chime in and say that it is most definitely NOT time for Rep. Jim McDermott to retire. Seattle is fortunate to have the luxury of sending somebody like McDermott to Congress, a bomb-thrower who speaks his mind and gives the other guys conniptions (and yes, “the other guys” are sometimes his fellow Democrats.) There is as much a need for congressmen like McDermott as there is for congressmen like Rep. Norm Dicks, and for his part, McDermott plays his role well.
Joel Connelly abuses “McDermott’s ‘amen corner'” for brooking no criticism of their congressman, but it sure seems equally fashionable these days in both conservative and liberal circles to take a one-sided look at McDermott’s record. Take for example Joel’s “blame where credit is due” depiction of McDermott’s stance on the Iraq war:
It harkens back to 2002. McDermott went on network TV from Baghdad to say Bush would lie to get us into a war. The truth of the charge will be debated for years.
But it exposed Democrats to political attack and sent party leaders running — literally to the Oval Office — to show their patriotism.
That’s right, the Iraq War was apparently all McDermott’s fault for displaying the poor judgment to go on national television and warn the American people about the truth. According to Joel, it wasn’t the Bush administration’s fault for lying us into war, nor McDermott’s colleagues’ fault for cowardly caving in to the White House — McDermott is to blame. Hell, antics aside, Joel can’t even give McDermott credit for being right. (And he was.)
Then there’s the abuse heaped on McDermott for refusing to settle Rep. John Boehner’s lawsuit. Um… if Joel had found himself in possession of a tape exposing the Republican leadership defying a House Ethics Committee mandate not to conspire against any ruling regarding Speaker Newt Gingrich… I’m guessing he would have run with it, despite the fact that it was likely taped illegally. And I’m guessing Joel would have escaped without any civil or criminal charges, just as the New York Times and Washington Post went unpunished for publishing the tape after McDermott subsequently leaked it to them. Hell, I can’t help but wonder how much more supportive the editorial pages of the Times and P-I might have been, had McDermott leaked the tapes to them instead of to their big city competitors?
The fact is, the Republican leadership was caught with their pants down, and it ultimately led to Gingrich’s resignation. McDermott deserves thanks for that, not criticism, and perhaps, maybe, a little appreciation for once again taking a principled stand in defense of his right to speak the truth, regardless of the political or financial consequences. Countless congressmen go to D.C. for a decade or two and use the influence of their office to come home multi-millionaires. McDermott comes home $800,000 in debt for refusing to back down on what he believed to be his First Amendment rights, and for this he gets roundly lambasted in the local press? What is wrong with this picture?
No doubt McDermott is not the perfect congressman, but then, who is? A little bit of pork, a little more eloquence, perhaps a dollop of political savvy would all serve McDermott and his district well. But then, a Congress composed entirely of Norm Dicks’s or Jay Inslees or Adam Smiths would be a disaster. Guys like McDermott give guys like Smith the room to be, well, Adam Smith. Flaws and all, I have always been proud to call Jim McDermott my representative.
All that said, it wouldn’t surprise me if McDermott is considering retirement, and if you’re reading this Jim, don’t listen to Joel: now is not the time. 2008 is a busy and important year, what with the White House, the governor’s mansion and WA-08 all up for grabs, and we sure as hell don’t need the drama of the inevitable 12-way primary race to replace you sucking up all our media and financial resources. If you want out, spend the next year working to elect more and better Democrats, enjoy one final term in an expanded majority, and then let the battle for your seat-for-life play itself out in 2010 when the only other high-profile race on the ballot will be another lopsided victory by Sen. Patty Murray.
Besides… I’m just not ready to run.