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Sen. Michael Bennet is not a cynical careerist

“If you get to the final point and you are a critical vote for health care reform and every piece of evidence tells you if you support the bill you will lose your job, would you cast the vote and lose your job?”

Every congressman should have to answer this question directly. In this case, however, David Gregory asked it of Sen. Michael Bennet, the Colorado Democrat appointed to Ken Salazar's seat. Bennet answered very simply: "Yes."

Bennet, it should be said, is a vulnerable senator. He's a moderate Democrat in a swing state who was appointed to his seat with no electoral skills or existing political base. But maybe that accounts for his clarity on this question. Bennet was formerly chief of staff to the mayor of Denver and then superintendent of the city's school system. He has never made the compromises that lead to reelection, nor learned the complex set of rationalizations that lead so many politicians to justify those compromises. He can, presumably, imagine life after elected politics, in a way many career politicians can't. He's not learned how to say "no" to Gregory's question yet, or come to believe that he should. It's a refreshing attitude, and on some level, the only peculiar thing about it is that it's so rare.

By Ezra Klein  |  November 23, 2009; 11:56 AM ET
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I never thought much of them, but is this an argument for term limits?

Posted by: _SP_ | November 23, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

It was John King not David Gregory who asked the question. Come on Ezra. If you had just clicked on your own link you would of caught that. Tisk Tisk!

Posted by: hillery23 | November 23, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

The bold names are annoying.

Posted by: Asherlc | November 23, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

It certainly makes one wonder if term limits for Senators is the way to go.

Posted by: HappyRockefeller | November 23, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I can't tell if this post is sarcastic, but it certainly doesn't seem to be. So it looks like you are contending that a politician TELLING an interviewer that they think putting principles before their own career ambitions is an example of courage? I have a feeling that there are 535 members of congress who would make a similar statement if asked a similar question.

Posted by: EricthePoliticalHack | November 23, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Another way of dealing with elected officials' inveterate focus on getting re-elected is for Democratic voters to make it clear that Dem Senators and congressmen will pay a price if they vote against health care.

Posted by: sprung4 | November 23, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

You really couldn't be more wrong in your analysis.

First, I think that the title to Klein's post is grossly off the mark. Michael Bennet is facing a primary challenge and whatever you think of Andrew Romanoff's chances currently there's no surer way to piss of the Democratic base in Colorado than by failing on healthcare reform. Michael Bennet is certainly aware of this and while he has been consistent on the issue of healthcare it's hardly a sign of his not being a careerist. Quite the opposite really. A smart politician in a primary is going to make sure he is in line with his base on an issue such as healthcare. I'm not saying that Bennet made this statement purely out of cynical career concerns but his statement certainly isn't an example of a politician eschewing career concerns.

Second, Klein makes the all too common mistake of looking at a resume which includes high level political jobs but no elected office and concluding that Bennet is a political neophyte. The man was Chief of Staff to Mayor Hickenlooper, that's a position that clearly required Bennet to learn "the complex set of rationalizations that lead so many politicians to justify... compromises." He was also Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, which is about as political of a job as you will find in this state and obviously requires political compromises, justifications and rationalizations.

How Klein can look at this resume and not see that Bennet's experience is over-flowing with political experience is beyond me. Klein conflates electoral experience with political experience. As Bennet demonstrates you can have political experience without having electoral experience.

Posted by: steve_balboni | November 23, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

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