Editors don’t like partisan politics

Published 1:32 am Saturday, January 14, 2012

Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the economy?

That was just one of the questions when seven newspaper publishers and editors sat down with one congressman for supper last week.

We are friends, all of us, with long years of association. And we were mostly feeling better about the economy. Government, not so much.

We were pretty much in agreement that Romney will emerge as the Republican’s presidential nominee, hands down. He wasn’t a favorite among the editors – and there were some Fox News aficionados among us.

The follow-up question was whether or not Romney – or anyone else – could take the White House next November. We were none of us sure about that, either. Even the congressman, a conservative Republican, thought the president could gather steam if the economic indicators continue to move in the right direction.

The discussion turned to Gov. Bentley and how we’d grade him after his first year in office. His “grades” ranged from C to A-minus, with the hardest marks coming from those who blamed him for not vetoing the immigration bill.

The congressman, always a gentleman and a skilled politician, asked us to grade him, as well. But not before he shared stories about how tough it is to do his job these days.

He talked about TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) passed in the waning days of the Bush administration to address the subprime mortgage crisis and strengthen the financial sector. It was a tough, tough vote, he said, recounting the tension on the Hill as it was debated. He believed then, as he does now, that without TARP, we might have seen the collapse of world economies.

“We were on the verge of anarchy,” he said. “Can you imagine how people would have reacted if they couldn’t get their money out of the banks?”

More than three years later, that vote has made him a Tea Party target. And like other members of Congress, he knows what it feels like to be unpopular in general.

“On the plane coming home, I helped a lady next to me with her bags,” he said. “She asked me what I did in Washington. I hesitated and said, ‘I work in government.’ Her immediate response was, ‘Well, I hope you’re not in Congress.’ ”

In November, that body’s approval rating had fallen to 9 percent.

As we talked about that, we agreed that it is the extreme partisanship in Washington that those of us in the center don’t like, and indeed distrust, even though we like this congressman very, very much.

It’s nice to know at least one of them is listening. By the way, we gave him an “A.”