The Washington Post’s ongoing love-bombing of John Dingell continued on Wednesday. Post reporter Ben Terris began promoting Dingell’s wife Debbie to take over his seat in Congress, with an announcement now expected on Friday – without one word focused on any Democrat or Republican challengers, and without any pushback to the notion that this House seat is Property of the Dingells.
The headline was “For Dingell, a life primed for politics: As wife of longtime lawmaker she’s ready to run to take over familiar reins.” It should be “one of the easier transitions to Congress,” proclaimed Terris the Post flower-petal tosser:
And as someone who has built up a network in D.C. and in her home state, it could just be one of the easier transitions to Congress.
“Everyone knows her, she knows the players, she knows how to get things done,” says Jack O’Reilly Jr., the mayor of Dearborn, Mich., which is in Rep. Dingell’s district. “It’s a great loss for us. . . . No one knows more about the federal government than [John Dingell]. But she’s been exposed to all that.”
Even before she has made her announcement, she already has major players in her corner. “Anyone who knows Debbie is dazzled by her intellect, her talent and her resolve to get the job done,” says Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)...
Her boosters will say that she’s just as active, perhaps more so, in Michigan.
“She’s one of the only people I know who can really be two places at the same time,” says Anita Dunn, who has worked as a consultant on various campaigns for John Dingell.
Adds Ann Stock, U.S. assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs: “Every time you see her, she has glasses on the top of her head and a pen in her hand ready to go to work. Seriously, look at every picture.”
Terris talked to six experts who uniformly thought she was just terrific. He called her “royalty” to lay it on thick: “Dingell was something of Michigan royalty before she ever met her husband. Her maternal grandfather and his brothers started Fisher Body, a manufacturer that General Motors bought in 1926.”
Even the Post has loved her over the years: “In 2000, Al Kamen’s In the Loop column in The Washington Post made her a runner-up for one of that year’s Political Animal awards.” Whoop-dee-doo.
Terris ended this puffball piece with more gush:
“I can tell you firsthand I have heard people say, ‘If political people could embrace each other or have that sense of camaraderie among themselves, it would be very helpful,’ ” said Catherine Reynolds, a philanthropist and now one of the co-hosts of the luncheon. “Any time you can sit and break bread with someone, I think you can begin to understand their perspective and open up a relationship or dialogue.”
The goal of such an event may just be to make friends, to seek comity in an otherwise divided city. But of course, it has the added benefit of building a network. In D.C., where connections are currency, Dingell may be one of the richest women in town.
On top of that, the Post editorial page included a gushing tribute to John Dingell from Post assistant managing editor David Maraniss. Dingell had his interventionist fingers in every pie, and who doesn’t love that?
Thirty years ago, I spent a year studying Big John and his committee and never came close to running out of material. In Energy and Commerce, I wrote then, “day after day, crucial decisions are made affecting everyone who breathes, drinks, eats, smokes, watches TV and movies, listens to the radio, drives, plays the stock market, needs medical care, pays for insurance, enjoys sports, worries about hazardous waste and nuclear power plants, buys faulty products, rides the railroads, and gets buried.” That takes care of pretty much all of us, and that was before the advent of the Internet and its attendant technology, which would also fall under the committee’s purview.
Maraniss concluded: He had the stern exterior of a prosecutor or high school vice principal, precisely enunciating each syllable of every word as though he were issuing a proclamation from above, yet his favorite haunt outside the Rayburn building was the Kennedy Center, where he pursued his obsession with ballet. Not exactly lithe, this Big John, but he had a certain grace of loyalty and doggedness and authenticity that is now dancing off the stage, never to be repeated."