Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Bush league" behavior isn't confined to the minor leagues

...and this post is *not* about George W. Bush...

Perhaps inspired by the commencement of baseball's spring training season (reporting dates here), I've been struck (not for the first time, nor am I the first to make this observation), that politics is has a structure that is very similar to professional baseball.

School committee and city council seats and the like are analogous to A-level minor ball. For many, if not most, of the holders of these offices, these are entry level positions where they spend most of their time learning their professions.

Mayors and state legislators are politics' AA leagues. There are some entry-level participants, and a few are ready to make the jump to the bigs, but most have some experience but still need to hone their craft. Lower level statewide offices tend to fall into this category, too.

Higher-level statewide offices and most seats in the U.S. Congress are the equivalent of AAA. Most of the participants have major-league ready skills, but are in search of an opportunity to move up.

At the major league level are a few Congressfolks (Speakers, Majority and Minority Leaders and Whips, etc.), most U.S. Senators, and, of course, the President of the United States.

The categories are a little flexible, as politics is more about influence wielded than about the office occupied. For example, for the longest time, the most powerful elected official in Massachusetts wasn't the governor or one of the U.S. senators. Instead, the mayor of Boston was often held that distinction. Must have been something about controlling when the State House was plowed out during the winter. :)

Arizonans, Democrats and Republicans alike, should be grateful that Phil Gordon doesn't have the big stick of snow removal available to him. :))

All of which serves as a set up to this - while most political offices and office-holders are "minor league", with the colorful imagery that name can bring to mind, few are "bush league."

"Bush League", courtesy Princeton University - "a league of teams that do not belong to a major league (especially baseball)"

One of the common characteristics in both baseball and politics is that while players are learning the basic skills of their respective professions as they rise through the levels, they also learn the 'soft' skills, the behaviors that lead to long-term success at the next level.

Behaviors that have less to do with knowing how to hit curve balls or how to initiate a quorum call to block a bill, and more with acting like a professional.

The movie Bull Durham has a couple of good scenes about shower shoes and interview cliches that illustrates this phenomenon.

It looks like many Republicans, even putative "major leaguers," have forgotten that as much as anything else, professionalism influences how long someone stays in the big leagues.

Sometimes it's something as trivial as threatening to kill a fellow legislator's bills in a given session of the AZ lege because that legislator (a Dem, of course) dared to publicly and on the record, debunk the Reps' talking points about the state's budget crisis. (Hey guys - it's not Janet Napolitano's fault, no matter how much you want people to ignore the lege's creation of every budget) Still, the AZ lege is definitely a minor league, and that sort of behavior isn't exactly unheard of in the minors.

Some Republicans however, don't have that mitigating circumstance to fall back on.

This week, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) put together a web ad crowing about the solidarity of the House GOP in it's opposition to the economic stimulus package that President Obama signed into law today in Denver.

It was set to the song "Back in the Saddle" by Aerosmith.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the lyrics of the song, it's about a guy...ummm... "expressing his happiness" at getting back together with a favorite hooker and some of their ensuing activities.

Which, coincidentally, are the same things that the Reps in Congress have been doing to America for years.

It's pretty bush league to crow about screwing your employer.

The video had been posted on YouTube, but was later pulled down due to a copyright complaint from the band's management.

Copyright infringement for political gain is pretty bush league, too.

HuffingtonPost coverage here.

Cantor hasn't been having a good month - just last week, his office sent out an obscenity-laden anti-union (AFSCME to be specific) video (SF Chronicle). He defended it by saying it was a satire, but later apologized for it.

It's pretty bush league to attack your employers (yes, union workers are citizens, taxpayers, and voters) as profane thugs.

I'll be nice and ignore the fact that the employer of the wife of the stridently anti-bailout Cantor received millions of dollars from the bank bailout. (HuffingtonPost)

Piling on would be so bush league. :))

Of course, some of the bush league stuff is closer to home.

Both of Arizona's U.S. Senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, are ignoring the President's visit to one of the state's areas that is most impacted by the collapse of the housing bubble.

They have "other plans."

Ignoring the needs of your constituents because the President isn't a member of your party is pretty bush league...oh wait. They were doing that even when fellow Rep George W. Bush was in the White House.

Never mind. :)

Anyway, not quite falling into the "bush league" category was former Congressman (and eternal blowhard) JD Hayworth's appearance on MSNBC yesterday on the show "Hardball with Chris Matthews."

It was more in the category of "faded player hanging around the independent leagues [i.e. - talk radio] pathetically trying for one more shot at glory."

He insisted that Republican policies of endless deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy weren't the problem with the economy, it was Sen. Charles Schumer and George Soros.

I'm not making this up. Watch the video.

Anyway, it's hardly unheard of for players who don't want to fade quietly into retirement to sign on with an independent league to showcase/maintain their skills while seeking another chance at a season in the sun.

Rickey Henderson, one of the all-time great, perhaps the single greatest, leadoff hitters ever played in a number of indy leagues while waiting for one last call from a major league club. That call didn't come, but he was a first ballot electee to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year.

On the other hand, JD was and is no Rickey. About the only thing they have in common is their ability to talk a good game.

However, unlike JD, Henderson could actually *play*.

Of course, Hayworth's appearance may not have been a case of a "pathetic attempt to regain former glory".

It could have been a case of "the Republicans are scraping the bottom of the barrel of people who can spew their anti-average American BS with a straight face."

The take of Tedski at R-Cubed on this, with embedded video, here.


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