December 9, 2005

Elected Representatives and Public Opinion

Carroll Andrew Morse

Almost always, the rule in political blogging is don’t blame the staff guys (and gals) for the contorted positions that their bosses sometimes force them to have to explain. To use a specific example, have some empathy for the John Kerry spokesman who has to answer a bunch of questions about his boss’ statement that “I voted for the Iraqi reconstruction before I voted against it”. It’s not the staff guy’s (or gal’s) fault that the boss is incoherent.

However, Beth Schwartzapfel's article in this week’s Providence Phoenix on the looming confirmation battle over Judge Samuel Alito gives justification for breaking the don’t-blame-the-staff-guys-rule. Here's what Stephen Hourahan, Senator Lincoln Chafee's spokesman, had to say about the best way to influence Senator Chafee’s vote…

Chafee spokesman Stephen Hourahan says the senator’s office has received some calls from constituents on both sides of the issue, "[But] as far as a great outpouring, we haven’t had that yet." His advice to groups on both sides is, "If you wanted to really make an impact, you could get an auto-dialer and start calling the senator’s office."
I thought that the job of an elected representative was to represent what the public really believes. Why is Mr. Hourahan encouraging people to provide a distorted view of public opinion to Senator Chafee?

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This is typical of Chafee and is simply the result of an unprincipled individual, incapable of thinking for himself. Hourahan's comments simply confirm this about Chafee.

What do you think is going on right now in the Chafee camp regarding Alito? That debate is surely not about what Chafee believes - we would all know right now what that is. That we don't know how Chafee will vote is due to the internal debating of the political consequences of his decision - again, not the traits of a principled individual.

Another example of this can be seen regarding the nomination of Roland Arnall as ambassador to the Netherlands.

Arnall, the largest campaign contributor to Bush since 2002 is the owner of Ameriquest Mortgage, a dirty rotten mortgage company that recently set aside $325 million to settle allegations that it had misled, overcharged and defrauded home-loan borrowers in more than 30 states. Rhode Island is among the 30 states.

Chafee voted to confirm this guy.

"But a spokesman for Chafee said the senator voted for Arnall because the California businessman is not an `officer or chief executive officer' of Ameriquest, was not individually charged with wrongdoing, and should not be blamed for what might have happened at the company.`
`He was not under investigation personally so to hold up his nomination would be improper,'' said Stephen Hourahan, Chafee's press secretary.

Oh, I see, he is just the OWNER of the scumbag company, that means the guy is clean. Silly me. Using that crazy logic, the Derderians should have all charges dropped regarding the Station fire - they only owned the place.

Further evidence that Chafee has no principles, only politics to guide him.

Posted by: Jeff G at December 9, 2005 1:17 PM

Quick (RI public!!!) high school civics lesson: the United States of America is a representative democracy. There is nothing wrong with mobilizing citizens to contact their elected public officials. Senator Chafee AND his staff should be commended for listening to and weighing constituent opinions. They should not be chastized for encouraging civic participation.

Posted by: Sarah at December 9, 2005 3:42 PM


You don't need an auto-dialer for civic participation. I don't understand why Mr. Hourahan didn't say something like "Senator Chafee encourages everyone with an opinion on this matter to call or write his office".

How does an auto-dialer come into play unless some group of people is trying to look more numerous than they really are? Am I misunderstanding how auto-dialers are used?

Posted by: Andrew at December 9, 2005 5:08 PM