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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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Clarification: You are insulted or accepting? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wisper, rosarugosa, ColoTim

    Notice: This Comment © 2012 ROGNM

    by ROGNM on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 06:50:19 AM PST

  •  You Weren't Really Insulted Though Right? (6+ / 0-)

    It was just a clever device, he didn't really want you to leave the room. :)

    I think he's right to an extent.  If Heidi Heitkamp takes the approach that what's best for North Dakota is best for the nation and takes care of North Dakota, great things will happen for her AND the Nation.  This could be the first of many statewide election wins for her (and maybe not all for Senator).

    Heitkamp though--like Al Franken--won a very close race.  Someone who won a big victory in a very blue state--someone like Elizabeth Warren--can afford to spend a little more time in the spotlight as a wider-ranging spokesperson for Democratic/Progressive causes.  I think their constituents actually expect it to a degree.

    Too Folk For You. - Schmidting in the Punch Bowl - verb - Committing an unexpected and underhanded political act intended to "spoil the party."

    by TooFolkGR on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 06:51:43 AM PST

    •  Ditto with Chris Murphy, I think, in that he won (0+ / 0-)

      by quite a bit more than most would have predicted: even Nate Silver's seemingly rosy forecast (based on "state fundamentals") was Murphy +7, not Murphy +12.

      We don't want our country back, we want our country FORWARD. --Eclectablog

      by Samer on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:16:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'd like to see Franken lead (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Carol in San Antonio, dennis1958

    I wish he had Wellstone's courage.  Heck we threw the R's out of the legislature and banished their amendments.  We could have your back Al if you have a spine.

  •  No (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fleet, rosarugosa, ColoTim

    Progressive ideas need to be aired.

    There has been a muzzle of right wing philosophy entirely stifling any Progressive debate for over 30 years. This has left our country in ruins in many areas and can lead into the entire culture regressing into third world. Somewhere near half of all working Americans are living under the shamefully low Federal poverty level. This is not good precedent and it is not healthy for any first world nation.

    "Til you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules" John Lennon - Working Class Hero

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:18:59 AM PST

  •  Hillary Clinton & Kirsten Gillibrand... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ankae

    have showed everyone how to be a brilliantly successful newbie Senator. Both worked tirelessly on behalf of their State's constituents. Both politely, humbly, but very effectively learned how the Senate works and where to put the lever to move the boulder.

    The result? Hillary Clinton has been the most effective U.S. Secretary of State in recent memory, and has gained almost universal respect. And Kirsten Gillibrand is widely admired for her political smarts and effectiveness. I can easily see a future Presidential run by Senator Gillibrand, while I don't think a 2016 run by Clinton would be out of the question either.

    There's a difference between smartly learning the ropes and being an effective 'stealth Senator' and being a meek pushover. Sounds like O'Donnell doesn't quite get this.

  •  Dissection time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rosarugosa

    Dissection time:  

    1. The writer contends:  national spotlight is bad for one's state interests.    Counter example:  Edward Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Robert Byrd

    2. The writer contends: in order for constituents to feel special, one must keep a low profile.   Counter example:  Herb Kohl, former senator from Wisconsin.    He kept a low profile, but so what.   Now the state government is red plus a redneck Senator Johnson.   Yes, Kohl was a loyal Democratic Senator, but he didn't come to my area.  Senator Feingold traveled the state for his listening sessions.  Kohl did not.

    ---------------

    Alternate theory time:

    1. Spotlight is not a bad thing.    The spotlight brings attention to issues, especially to unlit corners of issues.    Example:  Sandra Fluke and The War on Women.    

    2. Regardless of spotlight or not, keep working.

    •  Spotlight as pertaining to new Senators (0+ / 0-)

      As Dkos member ankae  and our original writer mentions, the story is about new Senators and learning the ropes.

      Dissection time:

      3. Learning the ropes is good.   I agree.

      4. Don't be counterproductive with what you say.  I agree.

      -------------------

      Tactics.

      3. Find a mentor:   Al Franken, Tammy Baldwin, Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Maria Cantwell.

      4. Make friends, keep them.   Make more friends.

      5. Let the constituents have some spotlight.

      6. Draw a few lines in the sand in conjunction with your mentors.

    •  Senator Kohl, fine tuning (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rosarugosa

      Senator Kohl is Senator for another 2 months.  THEN, he is former Senator.

  •  I agree with him to a point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rosarugosa, ColoTim

    I recall leaving University and accepting a post as a Manager in a Fortune 500 organization... but I didn't understand the politics within the Leadership Team.

    My early missteps caused problems for me and it impacted my department...It changed in time, but it was a difficult 18 mths.

    Lessons learnt... Stay under the radar, learn the business, learn the politics, be careful who you align with as a newbee and always perform your tasks with excellence. The one thing that all my peers said that I was not afraid to stand up for my team or for what I thought was right...so though I got "hammered on one side" they knew I was not a push over.

    The new senators were sent by their districts to represent them..though they need to balance their excitement with restraint as they learn the inner workings..., their districts expect that on the critical items, they will stand up and let their voices be heard.

    ELizabeth Warren especially needs to play it smart, as she will be a GOP target right out of the gate.

    This is our moment...this is our time! President Barack Obama

    by ankae on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:42:55 AM PST

  •  I am not sure about the advice, but don't these (0+ / 0-)

    people get advice from other senators? I would think Tammy Baldwin would get advice from Feingold or Kohl and from people who are already senators.

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