Metro East Milquetoast

The Madison County Record Jun. 26, 2005, 11:44am

Born in Belleville, raised in East St. Louis, and a graduate of Assumption High, two-term U.S. Senator Dick Durbin should be a source of great local pride to St. Clair County.

Indeed—- he’s serving a second term in the U.S. Senate, the world’s most powerful deliberative body. It has a mere 100 members, and one of them was reared in our backyard. Agree or disagree with his politics, that’s surely something.

But as we learned again last week, amidst a firestorm of national controversy over his comparison of the U.S. military’s actions to those of Adolph Hitler, Sen. Dick Durbin’s biggest Washington accomplishments are always just rhetorical. And like the Senator himself—- even when he conjures up B-actor tears on the U.S. Senate floor—- Durbin’s empty spiels are typically, swiftly forgotten, here and elsewhere.

That’s been a good thing for Durbin, whose only identifiable standard is that he’s dedicated to telling voters what he thinks they want to hear. If only we remembered what he told us before.

Once vehemently pro-life, Durbin’s now pro-choice. Once pro-gun owner rights, he’s now a champion of gun control. Around here he wears Cardinal red, but when Durbin’s in Chicago chumming with Mayor Richard Daley, rest assured he’s hedging in favor of the White Sox.

As Illinois’ tastes have changed over the years, so have Dick Durbin’s.

We believe this style of politics—- elected official as poll-taking follower rather than upright leader—- abominates the true spirit of the office. So we’re pleased to report that some voters are openly wondering just who we're electing these days-- public servants or paycheck-desperate chameleons.

To wit, the Metro East trial lawyers are bent out of shape that ‘their’ Democrats in Springfield ‘caved’ to perceived voter pressure in supporting medical malpractice reform last month. The Democrats voted for caps, so goes the argument, not because they feel they will work but out of fear they would lose their next election.

“They’re gutless,” one prominent Madison County plaintiff’s attorney told this newspaper last week, suggesting that Metro East’s legislative representation—- State Sens. Haine & Clayborne and Reps. Beisler, Hoffman, & Holbrook-- voted against their personal principles when they supported the reform measure.

There are no psychics here so we couldn’t say for sure. But if they did indeed forego their principles to tube a potential campaign issue against them, these Democrats were just following the lead of the master and role model. Surely Sen. Durbin—- had he been seated in Springfield—- would have chosen the same course.

That's the more popular course, of course.

Which brings us to how Durbin did react to public outrage to his Hitler comments. Once he realized that the majority disagreed with what he said, he took it back.

Plain and predictable. Safe and not sorry.

When voters so lower expectations for their elected leaders, they shouldn't act surprised when those leaders deliver.

Never famous or infamous, Dick Durbin may never lose his spot in the U.S. Senate. He'll never be Paul Simon or Everett Dirksen either.

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