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I, attack ad

It was pretty early in the morning, but as soon as I told Joe Scarborough that Sen. Michael Bennet was one of the senators the White House seemed to regard most warmly, I had a feeling I'd end up in a Colorado attack ad. And, of course, I did.

The Bennet campaign notes that its candidate is one of the most independent of the Senate Democrats, breaking with his party more often than all but a small handful of his colleagues. And that's true. It's also, I think, why Obama rather likes him, and why Coloradans would be wise to return him to the Senate.

Bennet simply isn't a normal politician. Prior to being appointed to the Senate when Ken Salazar left to become secretary of the interior, Bennet was superintendent of the Denver public schools, where his work was notable enough that the New Yorker's Katherine Boo headed to Colorado to profile him. Before that, he served as chief of staff to Denver's popular and successful mayor Michael Hickenlooper and made a small fortune in corporate restructuring.

That's an interesting background for a senator, and it's led to an interesting senator. There are issues, like education, that Bennet simply understands better than his colleagues do. And his background dealing with failing institutions -- both public and private -- led him to recognize that the U.S. Senate was similarly dysfunctional. But rather than just talking about how Washington is broken, Bennet set out to fix it. In a move that's quite rare for a freshman, he proposed a comprehensive slate of reforms.

In other words, Bennet is a technocratic reformer who's around to get things done -- a description that fits many in the administration, too. That, not his loyalty to the party (many in the White House aren't that loyal to the party, either, or wouldn't be if they weren't now the leaders of the party) is what accounts for their affinity for him, and why it'll be a loss for the Senate if he doesn't return in January.

By Ezra Klein  | October 19, 2010; 5:20 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
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Comments

You can't be serious!! And I mean about Bennet being one of the Senate's better members. He's mediocre at best.

Posted by: Calvin_Jones_and_the_13th_Apostle | October 19, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

"many in the White House aren't that loyal to the party, either, or wouldn't be if they weren't now the leaders of the party"

I think that sums up the Obama Administration perfectly. And coming from a Scarborough guest like you, it's a far better condemnation than I could ever invent.

Posted by: stonedone | October 19, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I am a CO resident and plan on voting for MR BENNET. The majority of the voters in the CS area are republicians and can't see the forest for the trees. Just because the person running has a R after his or her name they will cast the vote for them. Never mind if they aren't any good, they will vote anyway. The GOP just want to be in charge, whether anything gets done or not. I am only voting for one person with an R after their name and that is the Sheriff. Michael Bennet is my choice. Not that awful Ken Buck. Get your heads out of the trees people and don't make the same mistake that was made when Bush was elected.

Posted by: kathlenemadson | October 19, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I remember being in Colorado before BHO's Iowa Causus win and even after. Nobody of any note had endorsed BHO. NOBODY. Except Michael Bennet that it. The Obama folks in Colorado and Michael Bennet got pretty close before all the attention. Michael Bennet's wife pretty much lived at the campaign HQ in Denver. Hence why Michael Bennet was vetted by the Obama transition team for Secretary of Education.

Posted by: Corey_NY | October 19, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm also a big Bennet fan, for many of the same reasons, even though a lot of progressives don't think much of him. He also seems genuinely interested in Senate reform, which I respect. Definitely an intelligent, thoughtful Senator who cares about policy. I consider myself pretty progressive, but there's no point in having someone progressive if they can't really understand why they're progressive - and when a different approach is needed.

Posted by: madjoy | October 19, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

You know Ezra, I wish smart liberal bloggers like you and Matt Yglesias--and no doubt others--would be a little more introspective about what generally seems to be your reflexive support for "technocratic" politicians. Fetishizing technocratic public officials carries with it more than a whiff of hostility to the (already limited) style of democracy we have in the U.S. (to me this comes out even stronger in posts by Yglesias), and that's not a good thing. We're hardly suffering from a surfeit of democracy these days.

You and Matt are DC insiders. You're also smart folks on the look out for smart ideas. That's great and perfectly understandishable. But I also think you at times slip into a kind of anti-democratic (small d) elitism when you laud people like Bennett because they are smarter and more pragmatic than others--you believe--and don't necessarily care what average people think or want (you don't say that above, but it's implicit in your remarks). I don't have a particular opinion about Bennett, but I think you at times evince an attitude that is frankly rather dangerous when you champion technocrats just for the sake of championing technocrats. Throughout history, technocrats have, at times, led us down some very dangerous roads.

Posted by: brooklyngj | October 19, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

--*Throughout history, technocrats have, at times, led us down some very dangerous roads.*--

But surely *this* time will be different!

If pure of heart Ezra can slay the conservative beast then the Mahdi will return and carry us all to collectivist heaven! And the poor will cast off their sloth and indolence and the hospitals serve everyone for free with broadband for all in the name of Marx forever and ever.

If people only cared enough.

Posted by: msoja | October 19, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Criticizing Conway for his ad certainly was repaid by the Republicans with respect for your wishes! :)

Anyway, the ad seems fair even.

Posted by: Hopeful9 | October 19, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Have you seen the advertisement featuring a quote from "Health-care reform is progressive". (March 8, 2010, 11:54 AM ET.)

"But the fact of it is that this bill [the PPACA] represents an enormous leftward shift for American social policy. It is not, in my view, a sufficient leftward shift, but it is unmatched by anything that has passed into law in recent decades."

The ad is effective: there aren't many voters who seriously believe that the PPACA was insufficiently leftist.

Posted by: rmgregory | October 19, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, it's a shame, really.

The tools like Barbara Boxer are going to win, and at least the semi-respectable people like Russ Feingold are going to lose.

As a Republican I'd prefer to have it the other way around.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 19, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

The fact that you can interact with Joe Scarborough without kicking him in midsection makes me question your integrity. The dude pretty much epitomizes dbaggery.

Posted by: slag | October 20, 2010 12:39 AM | Report abuse

Too bad Bennet voted for the Health Care Reform bill. It might not have passed without his vote. That one bad act will cost this country much more than he will be able to make up for with 20 years of superlative service in the senate. If he's as wonderful as you make out it's amazing that he didn't stick to his guns and let that thing die.

For the record I'm for health care reform. This wasn't it, this was health care expansion with no controls and with the funding questions kicked down the road. It was designed to protect the status quo of private insurance, Big Pharma (who immediately started running pro-Bennet ads here in Colorado when he came over and voted for the bill), hospital groups and the AMA etc. No cost controls were possible because every current stakeholder was protected except the taxpayer.

The taxpayer gets to pay in two ways. First, those that have insurance get to pay higher premiums. Secondly, those who pay taxes get to pay higher taxes as the formerly uninsured and the millions of refugees who used to be able to afford insurance are forced on to the dole. This class of people is also going to enjoy a shortage of health care workers as they compete with the ever shrinking number of doctors who will take provide service at a loss for medicaid and medicare patients.

Posted by: robert17 | October 20, 2010 2:55 AM | Report abuse

What, if anything, did Bennet accomplish as head of the Denver schools?

In this passage, we get our answer:

"His work was notable enough that the New Yorker's Katherine Boo headed to Colorado to profile him."

No need to know anything more?

Posted by: bobsomerby | October 20, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

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