May 15, 2003

Constituent Services

Three weeks ago, I sent e-mail messages to my congressman, to my own senators, and to Republican Senators Snowe and Voinovich, who were objecting to the size of President Bush's tax cut proposal. To each, I expressed the view that, as far as tax cuts are concerned, less is more, and my preference would actually be to rescind the massive cuts enacted at the beginning of Mr. Bush’s term. Today, I received my first letter in response to these messages. It was from Republican Senator Rick Santorum.

As most people know, Mr. Santorum is one of the most partisan, right wing ideologues in Congress. I did not expect him to be much affected by my message, but I wanted him to know that this constituent, anyway, did not agree with him. From experience, I know that Senator Santorum answers his mail. In fact, I received a 2-1/2 page letter. I expected that this would be something of a standard letter—no senator has time to compose 2-1/2 pages of personal response to every letter received. Nonetheless, I was unprepared for the senator’s response. The letter began:

Thank you for contacting me regarding congressional and presidential efforts to strengthen American’s economy. I appreciate hearing from you and having the benefit of your views.
This is a fair opening. The senator then provided 11 paragraphs of explanation of how he and President Bush are working to bring the benefits of the President’s tax cut proposal to the people. The letter concluded with:

I appreciate hearing your specific comments on the current condition of the economy, and as the 108th Congress continues I will be sure to keep your views in mind. If I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to call on me again.
Nowhere does the senator acknowledge that I expressed a view diametrically opposed to his own. A reader of his reply might reasonably conclude that I had written a letter in praise of his enlightened leadership and wise policy positions. Obviously, Senator Santorum does not give a damn about what any constituent thinks. Did anyone in his office even bother to tabulate my note as a dissenting one?

The senator is in good company among Republicans, of course. Like President Bush, Senator Santorum knows what he knows and has no need to measure his views against reality. Also, like President Bush, he could learn a thing or two about respecting—or evening pretending to respect—the views of others.

[Senator Rick Santorum figures in another of my essays. Read Rick’s Fix in Commentary.

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