By Lanny Davis - 07/15/09 06:02 PM EDT
Before I explain the title, a few disclosures are necessary:
I also have Republican friends or those I admire in public life who are conservative Republicans; sometimes they even have good ideas. Shocking! These include Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), Florida Rep. Connie Mack, New York Rep. Pete King, and New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith. (Sorry to all — I know my complimentary words might hurt you back home with your Republican base!)
I have even come to be friends with Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who, during the days I served as special counsel to President Clinton, ran the House Oversight Committee that looked into the Clinton campaign fundraising issues and drove me to distraction conducting his investigations and hearings. Yes, there were times we crossed wires on TV and outside the hallways of his hearings, and I still believe he was very often unfair and imbalanced in his criticisms of and investigations about President Clinton.
But time has passed, and since then, Rep. Burton and I have talked, as well as worked together on various issues, and I believe we have come to respect one another. The other day, when I was testifying at a hearing and I was introduced, Dan Burton actually applauded. I thought to myself: If ever there were an example where it is possible to differ on politics but still remain friends, Rep. Burton applauding me was a great example.
Second, I happen to be a lawyer (sorry!) and sometimes lobby the Congress (nothing to apologize for — lobbyists are good people too!). So I will try to avoid writing about topics that might help one of my clients or on a subject on which I am doing some lobbying for a client.
But given the number of my clients and the overlapping of so many issues in this town, I may not be able to avoid writing about some topic that could affect my client. If that happens, I will try to disclose my professional involvement in the subject (though I may not be able to reveal my client due to confidentiality obligations).
So back to why I chose the title “Politics and counsel” for this column: As to the “counsel,” I already pleaded guilty to being a lawyer, but what I mean is to offer observations and analysis of current issues before the Congress and administration and, I hope, of particular interest on the Hill (and for readers of The Hill).
One topic of such “counsel” will be to the media covering politics. Many of them are my friends and some of them have been tough on clients I have represented but are still great and fair journalists. But at times I will point out instances when even good reporters get so caught up in a premise for a story, they end up looking for quotes and facts to support the story — and omit, or de-emphasize, facts and quotes that run contrary to that premise.
I also will look for opportunities to point out the double standard in both parties — such as when Republicans refer to “strict constructionism” when the case is decided they way they like, or when Democrats oppose filibustering federal judges during the Clinton years but like filibustering when they are blocking up-and-down votes on President Bush’s nominees to the federal bench.
As to the first word in the title, that’s easy: Contrary to what seems to be one of the favorite blood-sports of American pundits — bashing politicians — I love politics and admire politicians.
I admire their hard work and dedication.
I admire how underpaid most of them are.
I admire that they put up with a loss of privacy, often sacrifice family life and absorb cheap personal shots in the media and from talking heads who have never run for office and never could get elected if they did.
So while often the words in this space will be critical of positions taken by politicians, especially where they are using double standards, that won’t take away from my basic respect for people who devote themselves to public service, almost all of whom are honest men and women who truly believe that a life spent on behalf of the public good is a good life. Which makes almost all of them, Republicans and Democrats, very good people.
Davis, a Washington lawyer and former special counsel to President Clinton from 1996-98, served as a member of President George W. Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in 2005-06. He is the author of Scandal: How ‘Gotcha’ Politics Is Destroying America.