Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) announced Thursday that he will be trading his Senate seat in January to assume the helm of the Heritage Foundation. Covering the surprising development in its Friday edition, Politico dismissed DeMint as a mediocre politician with an undistinguished record who is moving on to captain a conservative think tank that has become "predictable, uninspiring, and often lacking in influence."
Manu Raju and Scott Wong mocked DeMint's lack of credentials in their front-page story titled, "DeMint Departure Fallout." They described him as a popular senator who has actually "accomplished very little" in Congress because he "wasn't a legislator" and having "no signature laws to his name." Of course, this betrays an inside-the-Beltway way of thinking about success in Congress. Conservatives dedicated to shrinking the size and scope of the federal government are not going to be be known for legislative accomplishments, which more often than not are about expanding the federal government's size and scope, not dismantling old bureaucracies.
While Raju and Wong concentrated on the reaction among politicians, noting that some unidentified sources within the GOP believe that DeMint has hurt their brand for being too conservative, their colleague Dylan Byers focused more on the reaction of columnists and professional political pundits.
One in particular seemed to interest him most, Neera Tanden, who is the president of the liberal Center for American Progress. Although CAP is the new kid on the block as far as Washington think tanks go -- opening its doors in 2003 -- Byers hailed it as the "leading progressive think tank" in Washington. By contrast (emphasis mine):
Jim DeMint's surprise departure from the Senate reinvigorates the 39-year-old Heritage Foundation at a time when much of the ideas and policy output flowing from conservative think tanks has become predictable, uninspiring and often lacking in influence.
When's the last time that you heard a journalist dismiss a liberally-minded organization as "predictable" or "uninspiring," even if all they tend to offer is the predictable prescription of tax hikes and more spending?
Byers' lengthy piece gave readers an abbreviated history of Heritage, briefly stopping along the way for comments from the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, Red State's Erick Erickson, and even the New York Times for good measure.
Kristol in particular, was concerned about the aggressive activism of the Heritage Action Committee. Picking up on Kristol's complaint, editors blared the headline, "Conservative Caveat: DeMint a Fighter, Not a Thinker," atop the jump page for the article. Diplomatically concluding that the "Heritage Foundation is adding some potent political firepower."