The Problem With Newbies

As anti-incumbent fervor continues to shape the election landscape, the 24 hours after Tuesday’s primaries reminded us that there is something to be said for experience. As much as people like to hate politicians, the gaffes the newcomers make, and the distraction from the real issues the gaffes create, do not advance the cause of democracy.

The Tea Party candidates like to say they are here to take the government back, though they are not very precise from whom they wish to take it. They are, however, usually precise about what they want to do with the government once they take it back. In Nevada, GOP Senate nominee and Tea Party-backed candidate Sharron Angle listed her positions on her website. She aimed to privatize Social Security and Medicare, eliminate the Departments of Energy and Education and withdraw the U.S. from the United Nations. But, lo and behold, having won the primary Tuesday night, those positions were removed from her website Wednesday. In case Angle hadn’t noticed, in politics today, nothing can be scrubbed completely, there is always a video or a copy. The one thing the Tea Partyers had going for them was the patina of authenticity, they speak their mind and stand for their principles, but dumb moves like removing controversial material from your website cashiers even that credential.


Carly Fiorina, the GOP Senate candidate in neighboring California, also forgot what is now known as the Gordon Brown Rule: Never forget to find out if the microphone you are wearing is live. She was caught on camera no less, apparently disparaging rightwing Fox News darling Sean Hannity and talking cattily about Sen. Barbara Boxer’s out-of-date hairdo. It was an inauspicious beginning to Fiorina’s general election campaign. Mind you, I agree that Hannity should be disparaged and it is foolish to start a general election campaign, when you run to the center, by doing an interview with a Fox News blowhard. On a day when Fiorina needed to be introducing herself to those Independent and moderate Democratic voters whose votes she will need in November, instead of articulating her message, she was caught sounding petty, and the fact that she was caught off guard meant that the clip trumped any and all other messages she might have wanted to deliver. There are good, substantive reasons to vote for or against Sen. Boxer but her hair is not one of them.

Not to be outdone, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in South Carolina was discovered, the day after his surprise win in the primary, to have been charged with a felony sex charge after he showed obscene photographs to a University of South Carolina undergrad. The state Democratic Party chairperson has asked Alvin Greene to step aside despite his primary victory, so the state party can choose someone else to go up against Sen. Jim DeMint. DeMint is arguably the worst U.S. Senator currently serving, so there is a case to be made for his early retirement, but sex offenders have a hard time making that case. Mr. Greene, too, has no prior political experience.

I know the rap on politicians. They are too cautious. They have to poll-test every issue. They do not just say what they think or feel. But, ya know, looking at these three newcomers, I am thinking there is a lot to be said for a little bit of boring, predictable, poll-tested insincerity.


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Tom Maher
8 years 7 months ago
The senortiy system in the U.S. Senate and House of Representative is the problem not new membership. Both the House and the Senate have plenty of multi-decade members who are extremely powerful and infleuncial becasue of their senority rather than the their freshness, brilliance, productivity or effective, insight or ability. Often the long-serving are out of touch with our rapidly changing society. However their accumulated power from the senority system makes these members irreplaceable to insiders of both parties.

Senator Ted Kennedy with almost fifty years of service became a king-maker. Kennedy's endorsement of Obama went a long way toward Obama getting the nomination and becoming president and not Hillary Clinton. Why should one person have such enormous power to influence the rest of society?

The intent of the U.S. Constitution to not concentrate power in the hands of one or a few persons, like a king, is being circumvented by the senority system that makes long-serving incumbents uniquely powerful.

It is a very welcome development to have candidates chosen by primary voters rather than automatically re-nominated by a relitivley few party insiders who are oftern out of touch with the wider public. Senator Arlen Spector who in his eighties and in ill health and a recent Republican was valued as irreplaceable by the Demoratic party insiders but the primary voters chose otherwise

The excessive power of senority needs to be broken by term limits. All members of Congress should be limited to two decades or less service. A constitutional amendment is needed to curtail the excessive political power concentrated in the hands of long-serving members of Congress.
8 years 7 months ago
I'm not sure what this post is even about, and let alone whether it merits a comment, but I'm bored so what the heck.
To compare Gordan Brown's insulting and dismissive comment about the EXACT voter he was aiming to sway to Carly Fiorina's benign comments is laughable.  First, don't you think it HELPS her with independents & centrist Democrats to know what she really thinks about Sean Hannity?  Seems to me its a brilliant move to have it out that you think he's a blowhard; who's he going to tell people to vote for - Barbara Boxer?  Secondly, if you think women, yes even women politicians, aren't grousing about someone's hair, then you seriously misunderstand human nature.  And I can tell, that comment probably HELPS her with Republicans who pretty much consider Boxer insufferable so anything to get under her skin is good.  Third, compared to what Barbara (Just call me Senator, I've earned it) Boxer has said on camera, this is probably a net positive for Fiorina, who by the way in case you don't know ran a major corporation in this country while Barbara Boxer was off doing whatever it is she does.
What you should be lamenting is the "starching" given to first time candidates to "iron out" their problems.  We SHOULD be celebrating quirky, off-key moments rather than lamenting them.  Maybe if we tolerated a little more quirkiness, we'd actually have some measurable progress in legislation.
PS - The Democrat in South Carolina is all your problem; not going there.
ed gleason
8 years 7 months ago
Carly Fiorina as CEO shipped 30,000 jobs to China/India while she took Hewlett Packard ,a California icon company down a sliding slope. The Packard family dumped her. Come out here to Ca, and watch her lose to 'not much'
8 years 7 months ago
What a great plug for Sean Hannity.  It has got to make him smile when he heard what Carly said.  And by the way I consider Sean Hannity a much more moral man than Sean Winters.  He cares about people and social justice, not just mouthing platitudes as is done around here.
If that is all they got on Carly, then watch out Barbara.  If CNN could have made her look bad they would have in a second but as it is, they made Meg Whitman out very positive by playing Carly's candid.
Helena Loflin
8 years 7 months ago
"And by the way I consider Sean Hannity a much more moral man than Sean Winters." -JR Cosgrove
Despicable comment.  Shame on you! 
8 years 7 months ago
Social Security is now in the red.  Medicare will shortly be there.  Gee what do we do?  I know the one trick pony the Democrats have in mind.  Raise taxes.  But wait raising taxes puts people out of work.  Social Justice is so hard to do.  I know, I know; life is never easy.  What is the Democrat Party way.  Which group controls more votes.  That will solve the problem.  Who do I pay so I can screw others but get elected at the same time.  Social justice is not so hard to do.  
Here is a short article on the potential fixes for social security.
8 years 7 months ago
''And by the way I consider Sean Hannity a much more moral man than Sean Winters.'' -JR CosgroveDespicable comment.  Shame on you! 
I am expressing my opinion based on my observation of both men.  Mr. Winters has trashed Sean Hannity more than once in the past.  He frequently distorts the situation and pushes to the edge what he can get away with.  For example, in the candid of Carly Fiorino she essentially praises Sean Hannity.  Mr. Winters then makes a negative characterization of him.  In Catholic School I was taught not to do things like this and part of my training was by Jesuits.  
Do you think that Sean Winters is a more moral person than Sean Hannity?  I do not listen to Sean Hannity very much but when I do I have never seen him go after people the way Mr. Winters does here.  I also look at the positions each takes and I find Mr. Winter's positions often immoral because of their long term negative implications and Sean Hannity's position essentially moral ones because of their long term potential positive implications.  I base this on history.
This may not go down well with a lot of people who read and post opinions here but maybe some considered thought will replace the one sided shallowness that passes as insight on this site in the future.
Eric Stoltz
8 years 7 months ago
The anti-incumbent narrative that is now so popular with media looking for an angle is somewhat tiring. I'm surprised Sean led with this. Last night Jon Stewart noted that of 84 incumbents seeking re-election Tuesday, 82 were re-elected. Isn't it time to stop paying attention to fake movements and tiny, insignificant movements (like the Tea Party)? I remember the breathless coverage of the national Tea Party convention a few months back. I was only able to learn from ONE story how many people were there: 600. We have more people than that at two Masses any Sunday at my parish.
Brendan McGrath
8 years 7 months ago
About the Fiorina incident - I'm curious; could someone please explain to me how this sort of thing happens?  What I mean is, it seems as if Fiorina was preparing to do an interview via satellite, with makeup being applied, etc.  I imagine that in the room were both members of her campaign and people from whatever media or news network it was - is that correct?  If so, why would she be speaking like that in front of people from the media who could make her remarks public, regardless of whether or not she was being recorded? 
If I'm mistaken, and it's only members of her staff who would be present there in the room (in which case I imagine that they take care of the camera/video stuff themselves, and just kind of connect with the news network), some questions still remain: why was the camera recording her before the actual interview had started?  And why was it being transmitted to the news network? 
Also, it seems like it's being forgotten that someone from the media took the video from the camera and/or from what was being transmitted, and thought, "Ooh, this is juicy; I'm going to pass this on."  And then the media decided to expose it.  You could debate whether that's ethical (or, more theologically, sinful, either venially or mortally) or not, but I think it's still something worth realizing - it's always important to remember the presence of the camera and the people operating it. 
This is something I wonder about aside from just this one case  - e.g., when the news does a story related to education, and shows footage of kids getting on the bus, walking through the halls, raising their hands in class, etc., there's a camera there, and the people in the video know that there's a camera there (unless it's hidden), and they may even have been instructed to do this or that.  If you'll permit me to go on a little rambling tangent here: A few years ago there were some gossip-worthy developments at my high school (St. Joseph's Prep) - at the time I worked in one of the offices during the summers, and the Philadelphia Inquirer came to the school, talked with the new principal, etc. (I imagine the school wanted to cooperate so as to have the story be balanced, etc.)  Here's the intriguing part: when the story appeared in the paper, there was a picture of the principal standing in front of the stain-glass window in the school chapel, staring downward, looking concerned.   Now, in order to get such a photo, the reporters would have had to 1) ask the principal to go into the chapel with them, 2) ask him to stand in front of the stain glass window which is in a corner, 3) ask him to pose for the picture with a certain look on his face.  (Note, of course, the fascination with Catholicism inherent in this little exercise - Catholicism as the "other."  You see this all the time: e.g., you'll always hear Christians who are Catholic identified as Catholic, but you'll rarely here so-and-so identified as a "Protestant," because Protestant is the "norm," while Catholic is the "other.")  I think I remember the principal actually relating to others later tha they'd asked to go into the chapel, asked him to look this or that way, etc.
My point is just that it's interesting how we tend to forget the presence of the camera and the reporters when we see a picture in the newspaper or footage on the news.  Rarely is anything just candid; it has to be staged.  The footage of Fiorina is not just footage; it's footage that someone decided to use.
8 years 7 months ago
A friendly suggestion.  When I am annoyed at public figures, especially those who are constantly expressing opinions on various subjects, I try to remind myself that all I know of them is a public persona-in many cases a studied performance.  Thus it's best to criticize comments and positions rather than people.  Being on the other end of the political spectrum from you, I tend to dislike the opinions of folks like Hannity and Beck and Coulter and Limbaugh, and even to think their ideas, if enacted, would be destructive for the country.  But for all I know, they go home at night, care lovingly for their families, support the poor, visit the sick, and lead exemplary lives.  I often fall short of the ideal of only criticizing their positions ,and not judging the people, but I think it is a good ideal to which all of us, regardless of political beliefs, might aspire  After all, our higest authority tells us to judge not lest we be judged.  Peace.
8 years 7 months ago
Mr. Mulchay,
I understand your point and I suggest you also direct it at Mr. Winters and several other authors here who routinely disparage people or present distorted opinions to make others look bad.  My initial point was directed at the bigoted remarks by Mr. Winters about Sean Hannity, something that is quite common for him.  I was thus commenting on the behavior of Mr. Winters which has been entirely consistent since I started reading this site about 7-8 months ago.  Generally I only dispute Mr. Winter's positions but when he goes beyond them to disparage others as he frequently does I sometimes clearly point that out.
James Lindsay
8 years 7 months ago
This whole conservatives gang tackle MSW meme is getting kind of old, especially since he never posts back.

One thing on Social Security - it is not in the red. It is drawing on its federal assets - as programed. 9 years ago, this was projected to have happened in 2008. It happenned 2 years later, largely because estimates are required to be conservative.

Social Security will eventually be in the red in a less than two decades and a lot can happen before then. For now, adjusting Social Security is not the appropriate answer - finding funds to pay it back is. Those of us who overpaid these taxes and had these funds go to general fund spending are owed their return without cuts (because the government can only invest in itself - imagine the unmitigated disaster that would hav occurred had they invested Social Security Assets in Mortgage Backed Securities).

The answer to the Social Security, and to some extent the Medicaid, problem is to change the demographics by incentivizing larger families and penalizing smaller ones with lower wages (due to a higher tax burden). The only way to make a Ponzi scheme work is more entrants. This also goes for capitalism, which is a similar scheme. Visualize a total stock supported Social Security system, where retirees live off of dividends from stock investments. Dividends are only possible with an expanding population of workers to generate the profits and consumers to generate the revenue which leads to profit.
8 years 7 months ago
''This whole conservatives gang tackle MSW meme is getting kind of old, especially since he never posts back.''
Mr. Winters posts every day and can choose to answer or not in these subsequent posts.  There is little evidence he answers the objections raised.  Other authors occasionally answer back in the same thread but he has chosen by design not to do so.  It then is incumbent on those who object to what he posts to continue each time he raises the same ''tired'' points.  To say it is getting old is just another way of trying to stifle objections by making it look as though those who have objections are being petty with their persistence.  If Mr. Winters persists then he and others should expect those who object to persist.
I personally would stop and move on except this is the official site for the Jesuit's main publication to the faithful in the US.  As such the Jesuits and editors should be held accountable for whatever is being issued in their name.  As far as I have seen the thinking that flows from the people here are not representative of an organization that has been one of the intellectual giants of the last four centuries.  Mr. Winters is a talented writer but the thinking that accompanies that writing is at best simplistic and he has a very un-Catholic like practice of denigrating those he does not like.  My guess is that he is capable of a much higher level of thinking but chooses to use rhetoric and ad hominems instead to slant his posts.  And the readers suffer as a result.  That should be the ''oldness'' you should object to.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 7 months ago
"My guess is that he is capable of a much higher level of thinking but chooses to use rhetoric and ad hominems instead to slant his posts."
But, JR, you do the same thing when you say that Sean Hannity is a more moral man than MSW and accuse MSW of inferior thinking and ad hominems.   Aren't you, yourself, slinging out an ad hominem?  And you base this on MSW calling Hannity a "blowhard"?
Face it, people see things differently in this country, and they usually describe those who think differently in colorful languange.  This has nothing to do with morality, it's the way we air the issues.
I appreciate hearing your point of view, but your attacks on America magazine, and particularly MSW, really are getting tiresome.
8 years 7 months ago
Regarding your response to my suggestion, please note that it was in fact generally directed, and I included myself among those who need to be less judgmental.  Specifically, note the clause: "a good ideal to which all of us, regardless of political beliefs, might aspire."  I've given up watching television news (from all ends of the spectrum), reduced my time listening to radio news, and cut back on blog reading.  I tend to feel calmer and more charitable since doing so.  Perhaps since Mr. Winters irks you so, and seems to you such a bad person, you might feel better if you gave yourself a break from reading him.  It's commendable of you to seek out opposing positions and to engage in dialogue, but perhaps it's too great an irritant for you right now.
8 years 7 months ago
Ms. Cioffoletti, a couple things.  
Pointing out that someone is using ad hominems is not an ad hominem.  Pointing out that someone is using rhetoric instead of reason is not an ad hominem.  If you want me to point out the bad reasoning that is easy to do with Mr. Winters.
I actually believe that Mr. Hannity is a much more moral man than Mr. Winters and I can lay it out in terms of Catholic teaching if you want because I believe Mr. Hannity and I share a lot of the same attitudes.  Nearly all my attitudes were formed based on what I was taught in Catholic school and my attitudes have not changed since that time.  I said it was an opinion and was meant at the moment to show the irony of Mr. Winter's attacks on another in this case Sean Hannity.  It is a common occurrence in his writings to disparage others.  The fact that you and others do not admit it or call him on it is interesting.  
Attacking falsehoods should not be ''tiresome'' or ''old'' if it has merit.  I will continue to do so and you should applaud such efforts to get to the truth.  Something I fear is very lacking on this site.  As I said many times the only reason to do so here is because this site represents the Jesuits in the United States.  I was taught by Jesuits and what I find here wouldn't have passed the first draft without a harsh rebuke from the ones who taught me.  Faulty reasoning, clever turns of phrase, one sided presentation of the facts and ad hominems would have gotten me a solid and deserved ''F.''
A general observation about liberals or progressives as some now want to be called (without knowing all the negative baggage that term brings.)  They cannot accept criticism.  They do not like to debate on the merits of their positions and will use all sorts of stratagems to avoid it.  One is to say that the criticism is old or tiresome or we have heard that before.  What I  am trying to do with some of Mr. Winter's posts is to lay out the inconsistencies or negative consequences of his recommendations.  Why someone does not support such an effort is puzzling.  Actually it is not puzzling because I have seen the behavior many times elsewhere and it is easy to understand what is going on.
8 years 7 months ago
Mr. Mulcahy,
Thank you for the advice.  I haven't watched a television news show in years except for the occasional visit to someone else's home when they have the TV on.  I do listen to radio, mainly John Batchelor which I call conspiracy radio, but which has the most eclectic set of guests one will find anywhere in the world.  It tends to be conservative but he will have guests on from such publications as the Nation, which is a hard core socialist publication.  
My only exposure to Sean Hannity is when I am driving between 3 and 6 in the afternoon and I occasionally turn him on.  I will then frequently turn him off because I do not find him very entertaining but not because I do not agree with what he says.  But with any particular person, there is much to disagree with but Sean Hannity's heart is definitely in the right place.  So I find Mr. Winter's attacks on him quite an eye opener.
The only web site I visit besides here is instapundit which is a libertarian site and really not a blog since there are no comments and is just a site pointing to commentary on the day's events.  And by the way I am not a libertarian but I find they do not accept faulty reasoning so easily as is done here.  And my home page is google news so that is how I keep up with the world.  I have not seen one second of television on the gulf oil spill mainly because I rarely watch television.
When I am not working, I read a lot.  I have Mr. Winters book on my night stand and will finish it in the next couple weeks.  I have my own business which allows me to indulge myself some times in dialogue and right now this is the only place I spend what little time I have for this.


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