He was an absolute wreck until a fleeting glimpse of JFK saved his life and paved the road of his destiny.
Sounds like the dust cover to a Democratic politician's biography, right? Try the opening grafs to Washington Post reporter Mary Beth Sheridan's February 27 profile of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)
"His father abandoned him. His stepfather was an alcoholic. By his sophomore year at the University of Maryland, Steny Hoyer was short of cash, getting D's and drifting," Washington Post repoter Mary Beth Sheridan began her front page profile of House Majority Leader.Then one spring day in 1959, a Pontiac convertible cruised past him on campus, carrying a familiar figure. Hoyer followed it to the student center. Spellbound, he listened as Sen. John F. Kennedy appealed to young people to get involved in government.
"It was just like that," Hoyer says, snapping his fingers as he sits in his U.S. Capitol office. "Just like that." The next week, he switched his major from public relations to politics. He started getting A's and went on to law school.
"You know the rest," he says.
As a lifelong Marylander, I do know the rest. Hoyer -- full disclosure, he's my congressman -- is a consistently liberal Democrat (lifetime ACU rating of 8), a point often softened by media portrayals which often refer to him as a moderate due to his penchant for supporting local military installations with government largesse.
Sheridan did affix the liberal label on Hoyer, noting he started in politics by running as a "liberal reformer." And she did mention that Hoyer's pork barrel voting record has earned him the scorn of Citizens Against Government Waste. But Sheridan then gave Hoyer room to issue a rebuttal: "A Hoyer spokeswoman says voters have shown time and again that they appreciate 'the federal investment he secures.'"
Perhaps that's fair, or at least understandable for congressmen of either party who represent a sizable federal worker constituency. But it's not just political conservatives and government waste-watchers that disapprove of Steny's politics. Sheridan left out any reference to how the small business advocacy group the National Federation of Independent Business.
After all, it's small business, not government, that is the engine of the country's economic growth. Hoyer scored a mere 14% on NFIB's 109th Congress scorecard.