Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” truly insulted me and most of his viewers last Thursday. He asked us to leave to room, go cook something, do the dishes, or take a walk. He wanted a very narrow audience, the twelve new Senators elected on November 6.
His point was that their political future would best be ensured if they maintained a low profile with the national media and instead limited their appearances to local media within their state. His reason was that voters in their states want to feel special; that their newly elected senator was exclusively dedicated to the interests of his or her constituents and did not have aspirations to rise into the national spotlight.
The example that he used was Senator Al Franken of Minnesota. Franken has exclusively appeared on Minnesota outlets with one exception. That was when he was sandbagged into an interview at the Democratic National Convention by one reporter. The reporter happened to be none other than Lawrence O’Donnell. Franken knew that he was stuck; that he couldn’t just run away from an interview. However he justified his appearance because he was standing in the middle of the Minnesota delegation at the convention.
O’Donnell took special care to direct his advice to newly elected Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. She has already established herself as a spokesperson for national consumer protection and fiscal reform. She is the person to whom her peers in the Senate, as well as citizens across the nation, take to lead this movement. Without her engagement, it’s possible that President Obama will not give high priority to these issues. So she may be the exception to the rule.
O’Donnell, who worked for seven years for New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, learned at the foot of the master. Moynihan eventually became a spokesperson for a number of issues, but not until he had kept a low profile in his first term.
O’Donnell’s suggestion is empirically based. It is a difficult task that he is asking the freshman to follow. But clearly it seems wise.