It's hot, and Representative John D. Dingell, Jr. is cranky. Dingell, who's running for re-election to the seat in Michigan's newly drawn 12th Congressional District, set off a firestorm when he was quoted as saying: "I never thought ignorance or inexperience was a qualification for running for office." Dingell said this in an interview with Dearborn Patch, speaking about his Democratic challengers who tout their lack of political experience and entanglements with PACs and special interests as political pluses. Dingell's slip up is somewhat surprising, because the Congressman has, for the past year, been urging civility in American political discourse. He even went so far as to make a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives urging listeners to "reclaim civility" in political discourse. You can watch the speech below:
On September 15, 2011, Mr. Dingell wrote a lengthy editorial published in the Detroit Free Press in which writes, "This partisan viciousness needs to stop." He was, of course, chiding his colleagues in the U.S. Congress, but the mainstream media latched on to Mr. Dingell's message as a clarion call of all politicians to, well, quit the nasty political hair-pulling and get to business. It comes as rather a surprise for the incumbent to stoop to name-calling. The Congressman's opponents, in response to his swipes at their "ignorance" and "inexperience" refused to rise to the bait.
"I don't care about politics," Dearborn Republican and 12th District candidate Karen Jacobsen (right) told Dearborn Patch. "I care about fixing the big problems in this country before we go over the edge."
Meanwhile in Ann Arbor economist and Democrat Daniel Marcin chose a campaign website name to reflect what he hopes will be the end of Dingell's career representing Michigan in the U.S. Congress: No30thTerm.com. "He's been in office since before my parents were born," Marcin said in a Patch interview. "I think my ideas are more aligned with the people in the 12th District than his. I happen to think he has been there too long."
Dearborn Patch readers, for the most part, agreed. They also expressed disappointment with Mr. Dingell's personal attacks on his fellow Dems. The second comment set the tone for the subsequent discussion among the readers:
It's time for Dingell to step aside along with his ever present wife and let someone else step in. No one should be the longest serving member of congress and if you see this guy he can barely keep his mouth closed on his own. I frankly don't care if it is a democrat, plutocrat or a republican, just get some new blood in there. Any incumbent with the same job for so many decades is totally out of touch and completely indebted to special interests. Dingell go enjoy the social security you worked so hard to protect. Move on buddy.
Mr. Dingell, in response to the writer's questions about campaign trail attacks against him said, "People wave and say, 'Thank you, Mr. Dingell, for what you do. We've been helping and serving people for over 50 years here and I find the people of this district rather like it.""
The majority of the dozens of comments in response to the piece, however, were not from constituents waving and sending along their sincere best wishes. They were, for the most part, chastising the incumbent.
What an arrogant condescending statement by a guy who had zero experience back in the paleolithic age when he joined Congress. Maybe the ladies who want his job dont have as much experience milking the public trough like Dingell but give em a chance. heck does the democratic party have such a shallow talent pool that they have to prop up this hand puppet? What happens if he gets incapacitated while on duty? He'll be close to ninety by the end of this term. I like my granny but I'd rather take her to the grocery store than have her run the country.
Even the Congressman's wife, Debbie Dingell, took some lumps. However, peppered among the calls for the 86-year-old Dingell to retire were the occasional nuggets of stout support.
Thank you, Congressman Dingell! You are a fabulous, caring, highly accomplished human being, and we are so lucky to have you in Dearborn. Thank you for many years of experience and untarnished excellence!
I have waited 10 years to be back in Congressman Dingell's district. For 10 years Downriver has been split to diminish our influence. I am so glad to have such a find man representing my community again.
No one in political life today has done more for working people, middle class citizens and our communities than John Dingell. We are lucky to have him as our Congressman -- as long as the dear Lord sees fit.
It appears from the comments that John Dingell's insults about his Democratic opponents hit two nerves: first, readers perceived his comments as arrogant. Second, many comments took exception to Dingell's crack about "inexperience" making a candidate "unfit to hold office."
Unfortunately when we are a mature individual we fail to realize that youth needs to have the opportunities that we had when we were young. How else will our youth be able to obtain the same experience. Both young and old are valuable. Maybe it is time to collect his pension, he is one of the few that has earned it. Politians only need to serve 2 terms before receiving full benefits. Full pension and full health insurance. I don't remember voting on this issue but I guess my mind isn't ras it tuse to be. There was a time that people were proud to serve their country and didn't require a position until death, and recognized the value of training young people to help with new hope and new ideas. Those of us in the middle class have the opportunity to support the poor and the wealthy how lucky can one be. It truly is a time for change so that we can build the wonderful country we live in. We need job opportunities for all that are fit to work. If we are working until we are in our late 80s we are taking away a job from someone. We need to think with open minds and give opportunities to those needing them. Politians need to put their hands in their pockets, and listen to the American people and their realities not the irrational realities of the politiians. We need to see what you are saying and not listen to what we hear. Quite often they do not match.
Last time I checked anytime you are new you have inexperience. It's a shame this is the words he chose to use. But being in politics longer than my dad has been alive I wouldn't of expected anything less. Just makes me want to vote of his competition by the ignorance of his comments.
Then again, Democrat Daniel Marcin shot himself in both feet and stuck them in his mouth when he was quoted in an interview as saying the incumbent "pretty much sucks," at his job. While reader comments in response to Marcin's May 7, 2012 faux pas were critical of his choice of words, there were also calls in response to that piece for John Dingell to step aside. One reader pointed out the obvious. Again.
A little history, gentle readers: John Dingell will be 86 on July 6. He has been in Congress since he was 29 years old. In fact even longer, if you include that he served as a page in the House of Representatives from 1938-43 (age 12-17). He won a special election in 1955, to complete his father's term after the senior Dingell died in office. He has run and been reelected 26 times. If he serves until June 8, 2013, he will become the longest-serving member of Congress in American history. I think perhaps it's time he retired, even he doesn't think so. We need fresh faces and new ideas.
I don't think the language should be the focus of voters' attention. Politeness and political correctness do not get the job done, good ideas and passion do. John Dingell needs to retire, not die in office.
On her campaign website, Dearborn Democrat Karen Jacobsen responded to Dingell's attack. She writes in a press release: "According to John Dingell, my experience as a business owner, Accountant and lifelong Michigan resident make me ignorant, inexperienced and unfit for Office. As a private citizen and voter, I am unhappy with Mr. Dingell's job performance in Washington, D.C., but I would never call him names. My campaign is about how we move forward, how we solve the big problems facing our country, and how we get this economy growing to make Michigan and the United States the best place for jobs and opportunity."
Evidently, one of the candidates in the race for Michigan's 12th District Congressional seat has been listening to John Dingell's calls for more civility in national politics and in Congress.