By Robert Mann
When U.S. Rep. John Dingell announced his retirement from Congress last month, the Michigan Democrat was characteristically blunt about why he’s stepping down after 58 years in office.
“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” the 87-year-old Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history, told the Detroit News.
Someone should share Dingell’s secret with the horde of candidates running for Congress in Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District. Some of these office seekers might be surprised to learn that the frenzied, frustrating life of a junior House member is about as glamorous and interesting as service on a parish council, only with considerably less power.
Actually, as one House member from California has concluded, serving on her local government body might be more satisfying. In a recent story in The Washington Post, “Why it stinks to be a Member of Congress — especially one from California,” reporter Ben Pershing chronicled the succession of California members who have abandoned their seats for less-powerful positions.
That list included first-term Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, now running for the San Bernardino County Board of Commissioners. “Congress isn’t all that fun a place to be at the moment — with record low job approval ratings and gridlock as the watchword,” Pershing explained.
Of course, listening to our Louisiana candidates boast about their unique talents and their plans to transform Washington, you’d never know it’s a powerless office they seek.
One candidate is Baton Rouge software entrepreneur Paul Dietzel, who has said, “[A]s the youngest Congressman in the country . . . I will be the spokesman for an entire generation of young Americans being left behind by both parties.”
State Sen. Dan Claitor’s website boasts that he will “work to cut government regulation, simplify the tax code, and free small businesses to create the jobs our people need.”
Garrett Graves, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s former coastal adviser and a former congressional aide, believes he can fill a void in Washington because he will “hit the ground running.” After announcing his candidacy, Graves modestly added, “The real option that I bring to the race here is that it’s one thing to have a position . . . it’s something else to be able to fix it.” The “it,” presumably, is the nation’s problems.