A decade ago, Time Magazine unveiled an in-depth article on the death of Detroit. One of the politicians whom the article blamed for Detroit’s woes was Rep. John Dingell.
The Dingell clan has held a congressional seat outside Detroit since 1932. Their 87-year tenure has not coincidentally coincided with the decline of a thriving industrial city into a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
But it’s been good for the Dingells, three of whom have sat in their congressional seat since the days of Herbert Hoover, the rise of Hitler, and the radio age, and fattened their pockets on its sinecures.
Dingell Sr. was the son of Polish immigrants who started out in politics as a union boss, jumped into a newly created seat, and kept it through eleven elections before passing it on to his son. Dingell Jr, outdid daddy by becoming the longest serving member of Congress in American history. Before he died, he passed on the seat to his second wife, whom he married when she was 28 and he was 55 years old.
She was a GM lobbyist who married the Congressman from GM. What was good for GM was good for the Dingells.
By 2014, Dingell Jr. was listed as the third richest member of Congress from Michigan with a net worth of $3.5 million. When Debbie took over for him next year, her net worth was up to $3.6 million. The salary for House members was $174,000. The median household income is $57,000 in the 12th.
Not bad for a family whose business was and is the 12th district from western Detroit through Ann Arbor. Much of the Dingell money came through GM. And Rep. John Dingell had vocally fought for the GM bailout. The GM couple, which had millions in GM stock, had a lot riding on taxpayers bailing them out.
Taxpayers spent billions and the Dingells got millions in an arrangement made in the depths of hell.
Even though Rep. Debbie Dingell ran unopposed in the Democrat primary, and even though she was running for office in one of the most heavily Democrat districts in the country, she still raised over $1 million for that campaign, and another $1.2 million for 2018, and is already up to half a million now.
Even though no one running in the 12th whose last name is Dingell could lose an election to Abe Lincoln.
Where’s the money coming from? Unions, PACs, including the GM PAC, the Ford PAC, Walmart, and, insurance companies. GM, Ford, and Chrysler had also been paying her an undisclosed salary before she took over her husband’s congressional seat. It was a very neat arrangement.
The Dingells take care of them and they take care of the Dingells. Everyone else can go to hell.
Despite Rep. John Dingell’s motorcade pausing at the Capitol, and the gushing tributes to the “longest-serving” member of Congress, even his own party loathed him in life.
In 1996, the New York Times called him a “bully”. Some years earlier, Bloomberg had accused him of the, “bullying of bureaucrats, executives, and colleagues.”
“In the arrogance of his power, he terrorized individuals and institutions that he wanted to humble,” Anthony Lewis wrote in the Times.
“There isn’t an industry in the country not touched by our committee,” Rep. John Dingell had bragged.
That includes finance which dragged him into the BCCI scandal through a $10,000 contribution and a mortgage on a home in McLean, Virginia.
After ruling the Committee on Energy and Commerce for 28 years, his own party grew tired of him and unprecedentedly forced him out in 2008. The overthrow of the corrupt “old bull” was the work of none other than Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Despite eventually becoming the longest-serving member of the House, it was his fellow Democrats who conspired to take away the privileges of his seniority.
All that has been forgotten. Dingell’s descriptions of Asians as “little yellow people”, his greed, shameless abuse of power, and arrogance were replaced with empty tributes to his greatness.
President Trump hasn’t forgotten.
And so, at a campaign rally in Michigan, Trump recalled a phone call from Rep. Debbie Dingell on her husband’s funeral. “‘He’s looking down, he’d be so thrilled,’” He recalled her saying. “I said, that’s okay, don’t worry about it. Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe. But let’s assume he’s looking down.”
The locals laughed.
It was impossible to be from Michigan, to have had a front row seat to the antics of the Dingell clan which practically date back to the birth of mass automobile ownership, and imagine “Big John” in heaven. The image of the old crooked thug with wings and a harp is hopelessly laughable.
It’s easy to imagine him looking up, but President Trump generously tried to assume otherwise.
This isn’t the first time that Trump has gotten into trouble for bluntly poking fun at the niceties of a political industry where every crook is “honorable” and everyone pretends to believe it in public.
Does Speaker Pelosi really believe that Rep. John Dingell was a saint? If she does, why did she conspire to take away his chairmanship, against precedent and the seniority rules of the road?
Do the New York Times and Bloomberg want to apologize for calling him a bully?
John Dingell was not a nice guy. Nobody seriously thinks he would have been traumatized by the suggestion that he might not be going to heaven. This was a man who admired a tombstone that read, “He’s done his damnedest.” There’s two ways to read that one. But Dingell never pretended to be a saint. His calling card was hauling pork back to his district and supporting local companies. Like GM.
Nor did he restrain his rhetoric.
“I’ve read enough of that Steele dossier to know just how risky a ‘used Trump hotel mattress’ can truly be,” he tweeted in 2018, referencing a smear by the Clinton campaign.
But Trump reached out to Rep. Debbie Dingell. John got a nice funeral in Washington D.C. And Debbie responded by voting to impeach President Trump for the smears of her fellow Democrats.
Nor is Debbie a nice person. At one point she inveighed against the, “the 13 white boys–sorry to say it that way–that are going to be doing this in the Senate”. So much for civility and collegiality.
Was Trump really supposed to pretend that this racist, thieving clan is heavenly?
The D.C. political class throws a fit every time President Trump speaks bluntly about members of the swamp. And Rep. John Dingell wasn’t just part of the swamp. He owned his own mire. In his days ruling the Committee on Energy and Commerce with an iron fist, he would define his jurisdiction by pointing at the planet. These days his ambit, wherever it may be, is a whole lot smaller. And that’s for the best.
There’s a place for civility and collegiality. And had the Dingell clan sailed off into the sunset, maybe we could all remember them fondly the way we do the Hapsburgs, the Bourbons, and the Gambinos.
But they’re not going anywhere. That’s what this is all about.
After John Sr, came John Jr, and after John Jr. came Debbie, and after Debbie will come Christopher, currently a Michigan judge, and on and on, endless generations of Dingells, marching through the House, porking, thieving, and procuring, passing the family legacy of taxpayer money on through the ages until the Republic falls. Should President Trump or anyone else really be afraid to say it’s so?
America didn’t need a single Dingell in her House. It certainly didn’t need three.
If the country is to be rid of them, the chattering classes will have to accept hearing that John Dingell Jr. might not, despite his lifetime of good deeds for GM at taxpayer expense, have made it to heaven.