Sunday, June 14, 2009

Talking Politics at The Torch

Okay, this is what passes for "celebrity journalism" in Flint Expats...

I paid a visit to The Torch last night with my old pal Sparky Sanford. At about 10:30 U.S. Congressman Dale E. Kildee — looking dapper in a dark suit — stopped in for nightcap. I hadn't seen him since I was an ineffectual intern at his Washington office in 1986. Through the haze of smoke in the bar, he shook hands, gave us a brief update on Flint politics, then settled in at a nearby table. After 30 years representing Flint, he still knows how to connect with his constituents or, in this case, two former constituents.

Paul's Pipe Shop lays down the law on smoking in Flint.


  1. See, now this is precisely the problem with politics in the good ol' US of A. Kildee has been a Rep for 30 (!!) years. During that 30 years, deficits/debt/war/bubble/bust and recession/depression.

    Now, Mr. Kildee is no more or less to blame than any other pol that has been in the seat of power for 30 years. They should all have term limits, they should all be forced to have honest, non-taxpayer supported careers.

    Making a 30-year career out of being a Representative tells me Mr. Kildee's primary mission was to ensure that Mr. Kildee remained in Washington.

  2. sgc, it sounds like you think being in Congress somehow isn't a profession. Do you think it would be better if you had people just dabble in it rather than devote themselves to the job? This notion that you can waltz into Congress after being something else and do well at it has always perplexed me. I'm not saying it can't happen, but the job isn't exactly easy. Why do you think someone with limited experience would do better? But I'm open different interpretations. Just give me some evidence.

  3. If the pols were all forced to be amateurs, the chiefs of staff and key subject-specialist aides would just run the country to an even greater extent than at present...and they're entirely unelected.

    No thanks. At least in the current system, we can vote someone out if we don't like their staff's work, and it disrupts things for a while.

  4. [quote]This notion that you can waltz into Congress after being something else (...)[/quote]

    Actually Dale Kildee was a teacher at Central beforehand, and by some accounts at the time a good one.

  5. Congressman Kildee taught Latin and was heading for the priesthood before that (hence his staunch opposition to abortion rights, the only blemish on his record as a classic friend-of-labor, left-of-center liberal).

    Soap Box Alert: No one ... NO ONE ... has done more for Flint and Genesee County over the past few decades than Dale Kildee. He deserves nothing but praise for being a rock, a true believer and an advocate.

    I've really enjoyed watching his nephew Dan mature into a spirited leader as well. Flint would be a better place today if it had more people willing to serve as this family has.

  6. Again, I'm not trying to single out Mr. Kildee, other than to use him as an example of the problem.

    In the past 30 years, Flint's future certainly have become less promising.

    Mr. Kildee was the PRIMARY voice of Flint in Washington during those 30 years. I'm not sure that any other voice would have been more successful at maintaining a viable manufacturing base there, but we'll never know.

    The current system is lopsided towards favoring incumbents, fosters an aggressive pursuit of funds and a never-ending campaign cycle, all with the goal of REMAINING in power.

    IMHO, the business of constituency representation comes in a distant second to the forever-campaign.

  7. No disagreement here, sgc ... like you, I believe career legislators are, in general, bad for government. Sadly, the system has devolved to favor incumbency to such an extent that it takes a major scandal involving farm animals, children or someone else's bank account; death or an expensive, ego-driven counter-campaign by someone who usually wants to be in the job more than they want to serve to dislodge them.

    At the same time, I believe Congressman Kildee is an exception to any concerns about long-term incumbency and that SE Michigan's lucky to have him for a while longer.

  8. Say, how much does a pint go for at the Torch these days. I remember when we used to visit Flint from NYC and SF respective and laugh with glee at how cheap the beer tab was.

    I could use another chuckle. Anyone know? Do they still serve Guiness and Harp?

  9. I am not much for being a Democrat, but I think Dale Kildee is a great Rep. His office has helped a couple of times dealing with the phone company, and had brought a congressional inquiry into my wife's Social Security disability appeal. A friend and I were at Poor Jake's once when he came in and sat next to us at the bar. We talked for about half an hour. Great guy.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at