Thursday, April 24, 2014
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, is getting lots of national media questions in the final months of her 34-year career in Congress.
It’s the kind of attention she has attracted repeatedly in recent years as one of the last, lonely moderates in Congress.
Bloomberg Businessweek is the latest to quote Snowe as part of an “exit interview” with four departing members of the House and Senate. The recurring topic of conversation is the same one Snowe cited in February when she made her surprise retirement announcement – partisan polarization.
Snowe, for example, was asked what it was really like to go against her party's leadership and vote with Democrats.
“People within your party used to understand that it is essential. People have to represent either their district or their state on the issues that matter and take those positions accordingly. But today there is no reward for that. In fact, there is this party adherence, and as a result if we don’t get past the party platforms that are offered by either side of the political aisle, then we can’t solve the problem. And we are not transcending those differences. That is a huge departure from the past,” she said.
As outspoken as Snowe has become about the problems in Washington, it was Rep Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., who had the harshest words. And he was aiming them at the public and the media as much as the parties.
“It used to be you had real friends on the other side of the aisle. It’s not like that anymore. Society has changed. The public is to blame as well. I think the people have gotten dumber. I don’t know that I would’ve said that out loud pre-my announcement that I was going to be leaving…. But I think that’s true. I mean everything has changed. The media has changed. We now give broadcast licenses to philosophies instead of people. People get confused and think there is no difference between news and entertainment. People who project themselves as journalists on television don’t know the first thing about journalism. They are just there stirring up a hockey game,” Ackerman told Bloomberg.
Snowe didn’t jump on that bandwagon and blame the public. But she did agree that the whole legislative process has been “dumbed down.” Intelligence and thoughtfulness are no longer appreciated, she said.
“Legislating isn’t easy on these complex matters,” Snowe told Bloomberg. “You can’t just instantaneously come up with solutions to problems. Somehow we have dumbed down the process. Somehow we think, “Oh gosh, are you for or against?” Well, geez, it just came up. Can I give it some thought? Can I think about it? Can I read about it? Maybe I should learn more about the facts on the issue. But there is no time, no deference paid to thoughtfulness in the legislative process today.”
While she didn't place blame, Snowe did say it ill be the up to the public to demand changes.
Open Season is your guide to the 2014 campaign. Our team of political writers has its sights set on Maine’s major elections, from the Blaine House to the U.S. Capitol.
Steve Mistler is covering the 2014 governor's race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @stevemistler
Eric Russell is covering Independent Eliot Cutler during the 2014 governor's race. He is a general assignment reporter for the Portland Press Herald.
Eric can be reached at 791-6344 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @pphericrussell
Matt Byrne is covering Republican Paul LePage during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Falmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth and Freeport for the Portland Press Herald.
Matt can be reached at 791-6303 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @mattbyrnePPH
Randy Billings is covering Democrat Mike Michaud during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Portland City Hall for the Portland Press Herald.
Randy can be reached at 791-6346 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @randybillings
Kevin Miller is covering Maine's U.S. Senate race and 1st Congressional District race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @kevinmillerdc
Michael Shepherd is covering Maine's 2nd Congressional District race. He is a news and State House reporter for the Kennebec Journal.
Michael can be reached at 621-5632 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @mikeshepherdME