Escaping Congress for Radio

Congressman Mike Rogers is giving up oversight of U.S. spying operations to man the mike of his own radio talk show, continuing a trend of politicians joining the media.Michigan GOP Congressman Mike Rogers is surrendering the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee to become a radio talk show host.

Rogers told Mark Leibovich, writing for the New York Times Magazine, that he is tired of "brand identity politicians" who want to make waves instead of solve problems. Now Rogers will be making his own waves — on radio.

His departure from Congress is part of a larger exodus of Members who say they are weary of DC gridlock, which has plunged congressional confidence ratings into single digits. So far, 40 House members signaled they are quitting after this term. There also are high-profile Senate defections. And that's before involuntary departures as a result of disgruntled constituents.

As Leibovich notes, Rogers' exit is unusual because he is hardly an obscure Member flopping about in the backwaters of Congress. Given his role overseeing U.S. spy operations, Rogers appeared 27 times on Sunday talk shows last year, more than anyone else with a congressional voting card. Rogers appears popular in his House district. He's not leaving because he is disaffected; he is leaving for a better job.

Joe Scarborough left the House in 2001, practiced law for a bit, then joined MSNBC where he now commands the microphone on "Morning Joe." Few Americans paid much attention to Scarborough as an elected official. Now millions listen to him as a talking head.

Mike Huckabee went from governor to unsuccessful presidential candidate to popular cable TV news commentator. Arguably Huckabee has more influence on public opinion than if he had been the successful GOP presidential nominee — or even if he had been elected.

No one knows for sure what brand of radio show Rogers, a former FBI agent, will deliver. His Democratic colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee said he was a voice of moderation and a consensus-builder. The question is whether the radio-listening public has the stomach for that kind of a voice.

Huckabee reminded Leibovich that television and radio, like Congress, is all about numbers — ratings and big earnings. One of the best things to happen to Huckabee was losing in 2008. He immediately began a broadcasting career, made a mint and moved to Florida. He doesn't have to worry about incessantly calling people to raise campaign cash or schlepping about the country eating rubber chicken and wearing funny hats. If he ran for office and won, he would have to give up his TV slot and all the influence it provides.

Leibovich predicts more disillusioned politicians may shift careers, in part to escape the enervating environment of Congress and in part to gain a bigger, more influential voice.

That may be a greater indictment of Congress than an approval rating in the dumpster.