Better Read than Dead
Sun November 11, 2007 8:26 am

Redstate.com answered my post about its less than inspiring podcast with congressional candidate Pete Olson, whom it endorsed for the Republican nomination in the 22nd congressional district (Phil Gramm Engineers Key Endorsement for Former Aide in DeLay’s Old District, 11/2). I have to confess that Eileen sent me the link several days ago, but due to circumstances beyond my control – my technological incompetence – I lost it. The main points of my original post were (1) that Gramm is still knee-deep in Texas politics; (2) that Redstate’s interviewer didn’t do a very good job of making Olson look good; and (3) that staffers don’t necessarily make good elected officials. I’m going to publish two rebuttals below, one that ran in Redstate, one from a friend who is active in conservative politics in Austin.

First, Redstate, posted by “haystack”:

Down here in the Lonestar State we’re very proud of our Texas Monthly Magazine, and “messin’ with The Monthly” is right up there with…well, you get the idea. There’s a highly titled and otherwise heavily read fellow by the name of Paul Burka (Senior Executive Editor) for whom I have much respect…ordinarily.

In this particular instance, however, we couldn’t disagree more.

I’m honestly sick and tired of having to listen to ‘political experts’ tell me over and over again that the only thing that matters is winning; somehow what one stands for or believes in means nothing when it comes to politics.

It doesn’t help that Burka takes a cheap shot at Redstate and Erick Erickson, and it only serves to cheapen the debate when “holier than thou” platitudes are ascended towards in the pursuit of sounding right, regardless the facts being mangled to do so. Burka’s piece appears to be more concerned with tilting the playing field away from someone for whom he has no real appreciation.

He lists, and immediately discounts, each of the GOP candidates in kind and makes it clear he considers the two candidates NOT running as the only ones likely to unseat Lampson. Overall, he apparently believes the GOP field is weak and leaves TX-22 looking as if it were Lampson’s to lose.

While that may turn out to be true, it seems more like a pre-clarion call to bring in ‘his boys’ as opposed to advising the declared field on how to better approach an attempt at defeating the incumbent.

Respectfully, Mr. Burka-you got this one wrong:

[The boldfaced language below is mine, quoted by Redstate]

It seems to me that there is an increasing trend of staffers seeking public office, in Austin and in Washington, and I don’t think it’s a good trend. Staffers, by definition, are followers, not leaders. These days, they tend to be ideologues (especially if they worked for a strong ideological figure like Phil Gramm). Worst of all, their careers take place inside the bubble of Capitol Hill. They deal with lobbyists and other staffers. They never see real people. They never learn what real people think – or how they think. People who have run successfully for public office have a broader perspective, because they have diverse constituencies.

First, the upside to staffers running for office is their experiences having learned the system and how it’s gamed. If any of us woke up tomorrow and found ourselves in Washington as a Congressman we would appear as a deer in the headlights, and spend most of our first term trying to figure out just what the heck we got ourselves in to. Politics in Washington is far from your every day ordinary nine to fiver-at least Olson would have that behind him.

Second, Washington has become a trainwreck, precisely because of this imperial wisdom that suggest ONLY Representatives see real people or learn what and how real people think. Now that, Mr. Burka, is twisting things up a bit. Is not Mr. Olson (and everyone else aspiring to unseat Lampson in TX-22) a real person?

Fresh faces - ones that bring knowledge of the system without carrying good old boy TX-22 baggage - from small towns with respect and humility and a genuine desire to get things done for their district is apparently a radical idea, and not a winning combination for Mr. Burka.

We just disagree.

Olson will win or lose on the merits. Erickson can fend for himself on that disingenuous cheap shot about being ‘juvenile’ but the bottom line here is simple-Washington and the GOP both need fundamental change. Olson, however “raw” he might be, has a shot and I’m still happy to have seen him endorsed here.

I do, however, appreciate the free advertising in the Texas Monthly markets.

Redstate is entitled to its say, and I am not going to rebut their rebuttal–except to respond to this line: Burka’s piece appears to be more concerned with tilting the playing field away from someone for whom he has no real appreciation.

I am NOT concerned with tilting the playing field away from Pete Olson. Here’s what I wrote:

Don’t get me wrong. Olson clearly has an outstanding record of service to his country, both in the military and in the government. He’s the kind of person any father would be proud to have raised. But he’s an aspiring politician now, facing several experienced rivals in an election that’s just four months away, and he’s going to have to do better than come across as a cookie-cutter candidate.

I don’t have a dog in the hunt, but if I did, it would be Sugar Land mayor David Wallace, who isn’t running. He is a seasoned politician, and I think he would have grown into an influential member, but I gather that he isn’t ideologically acceptable. This district deserves Shelley Sekula Gibbs.

Here is the rebuttal from my conservative friend, whose name most readers would recognize, although he asked me to “remove his fingerprints”:

I admittedly have not been paying as much attention to this cycle’s campaigns to know who is running, but I disagree that there is a trend in Austin. Democratic legislative staffers have used that as a springboard into the House for at least the last decade. Check out the bios and see how many of them worked as staff here before being elected. In that party, staff experience is a plus because you know how the system works. On the Republican side, staff experience is a negative because you’ve “never had a real job.”

Another factor why you don’t see Republican staffers running is that none of us can afford to run…or to serve. The Republicans who get elected to the lege either are independently wealthy, have spouses as primary breadwinners, or “leverage” their offices while they are here. Frankly, I think the Republicans would be in much better shape if a bunch of staffers replaced their bosses. The chambers would probably not run closer to where you would like philosophically, but at least more honestly and competently.

Love that comment about Republicans who “leverage” their offices. It applies equally to Democrats. The author appears to agree with my point that staffers tend to be more ideological, and that is my big concern, on both sides of the aisle.

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