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Beltway Mourns Loss of Artur Davis, ‘Concerned Democrat’

The announcement today that former Democratic congressman Artur Davis will speak at the Republican National Convention later this month came as little surprise. Davis has for a while now been making the journey from being an early Barack Obama booster, part of the next-generation wave of African-American politicians, to shifting to the center in a disastrous attempt to win the governorship of Alabama, to coming out in favor of Voter ID laws in Alabama, to declaring that he had become a Republican living in Virginia to, now, ending up in the esteemed Zell Miller speaking slot at the convention.

But much as Democrats might shrug at the loss of Davis to the other side, his apostasy has in fact come at great cost for one group in Washington: the political press. Starting surprisingly soon after Obama’s election, Davis became a favorite go-to for Beltway reporters seeking a quote from a House Democrat “concerned” about the direction that Obama was taking his administration. More often than not, these quotes were anonymous -- in the interest of “candor,” of course. How do I know Davis was the source of them? Well, because I was smack in the middle of the one of the newsrooms that was relying heavily on him.  The blind quotes were often quite sharp and pithy, and directed personally at the performance of the president—Davis gave good quote, as we say.

But here and there, he’d go on the record in more banal terms to voice his disappointment about Obama or his fellow Democrats. A few samples, courtesy of ace TNR researcher Rachel Wiseman:

On objections to TARP and the stimulus. Washington Post, March 20, 2009:

The disclosures ratcheted up anger on Capitol Hill at both the conduct of Wall Street firms benefiting from taxpayer dollars and the Treasury Department’s oversight of the program. Lawmakers are still furious over multimillion-dollar bonuses to executives at firms receiving bailout money as well as lavish retreats and expenses by those companies.
“We’re eroding confidence in the way taxpayer dollars are managed and spent,” said Rep. Arthur Davis (D-Ala.) “And the cost of that? It’s going to make it harder than ever for us to do the things that must be done to get this economy moving forward.”

On the health care legislation. Washington Post, March 9, 2010:

“A comprehensive, 2000-page, near-$1 trillion dollar overhaul of the health-care system is just too cumbersome and too costly in a time of trillion-dollar deficits,” [Davis] said.
Davis added: “I am disturbed by a mind-set in Washington that a bill with less than 40 percent support from the American people has to be passed at all costs.”

On why congressional Democrats should and would go along with deep entitlement cuts if Obama cut a deal with them. Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2011:

Artur Davis, an Alabama Democrat who left the House last year, said that, ultimately, Mr. Obama is likely to get the votes he needs, just as George W. Bush did even when anger among House Republicans was at its height late in his presidency.
“The Democrats are not going to take the risk of sacrificing Barack Obama’s presidency,” he said. 

So long, Artur. It was good while it lasted.

Follow me on Twitter @AlecMacGillis.