"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

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carlson CHRIS


It’s too bad more voters in Idaho’s First Congressional District don’t tune in the venerable, long-running Sunday morning news interview program, Meet the Press. If they did they would see their relatively new congressional representative, Raul Labrador, at his patronizingly worst, shamelessly hawking himself to the right wing pooh-bahs inside the beltway who handout those $2 million a year executive director positions at their “think tanks” and foundations.

How else can one begin to understand what motivated the Tea Party favorite in his 6th appearance in a remarkably short time span to offer the gratuitous advice to the nation’s black leadership to renew the politics of hope, as Dr. Martin Luther King did, rather than continuing to follow the politics of despair?

Rep. Labrador’s comments came on the program just prior of the 50th anniversary of the historic Civil Rights march on Washington, D.C., and the delivery of Dr. King’s immortal “I have a dream” speech. The congressman claimed to have watched the 17 minute tape of the speech three times yet he still presumed to offer his gratuitous advice.

He offered no specifics to backup his claim but rather passed it off as accepted fact, and unfortunately was not immediately challenged by any on the panel of interviewers.

To any objective viewer it looked like he was pandering to those that think America has done enough to expiate for the forefathers having initially embraced slavery; to those who believe the African-American has

received too many “affirmative action” breaks, those who think the handup has become a hand out; to those who cheer the Supreme Court’s recent adulteration of the Voting Rights Act.

As my former Gallatin Group partner, Marc Johnson, noted in his essay on the subject of the Pew Research Center’s study on Race in America: “Fewer than 50% of Americans believe the country has made substantial progress in the direction of racial equality. . . about half of those surveyed said a “lot more has to be done” to create a truly color blind society.”

Johnson then cites the study documenting the retreat – not forward motion – on key measures like the growing gap in median income and household income between Black Americans and White Americans. Blacks are three times more likely to live in poverty than whites; black home ownership is 60% that of whites; rates of marriage are less for blacks than whites; out-of-wedlock birth rates are higher for blacks than whites. And then there is of course the incredibly higher rate of incarceration Blacks face than Whites do.

Despite this depressing trend, the fact is most African-American leadership continues to hold out hope for progress and an eventual color blind society evolving. Congressman Labrador’s gratuitous comment is insulting and demeaning to a colleague of his, Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who marched with Dr. King and continues to believe in the hope of the American dream for all.

Congressman Labrador certainly has an ability to sell his “up-by-the-bootstraps” story and has mastered quickly the art of promoting himself. He projects a perception as a “comer.” The inside the beltway media is of course fascinated with a Hispanic Republican, from the implied “rural, redneck state of Idaho” no less, and Labrador has skillfully parlayed that into the impressive number of six appearances on Meet the Press.

The current best seller, This Town, by Mark Leivovich of the New York Times, starts out with a long description of the funeral services for Tim Russert, the long-time host of Meet the Press. It documents how for many years this was the show to be on, and Russert was the one to be interviewed by. While it many respects being written about by Mike Allen in his daily “Playbook” memo (a subsidiary operation of Politico) has taken over top rank in the DC media hierarchy, Meet the Press is still up there.

As one watches Labrador’s appearances, keep asking how is he relating what he says to his First district constituents?

To this writer and long-time observer of the political scene it is transparently clear he is advertising his availability to take one of those few but lucrative executive director positions at an association, or a think tank or a foundation.

One gets the feeling he knows how much former governor and Interior secretary Dirk Kempthorne pulls in, or former Jim McClure resource staff assistant Jack Gerard, or former Larry Craig staffer Greg Casey. Each pulls in several million bucks a year.

Congressman Labrador wants to join them, and the sooner he does, the better. Then maybe the district will send someone to represent them more dedicated to serving the district’s needs rather than finding a stepping stone to wealth.

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