Mike Erickson: Darlene Hooley is an "old dog."

By Misha Isaak of Portland, Oregon. Misha was campaign manager for Attorney General Hardy Myers in 2004. He is temporarily living in Philadelphia completing law school.

In his enthusiastic effort to insult the intelligence of every voter in Oregon's Fifth Congressional District by trying to buy an election with his personal fortune, Mike Erickson has doubly insulted 24 percent of the voting public.

In this week's face-off between the millionaire challenger and the popular incumbent Darlene Hooley, Erickson delivered this focus-group-tested gem-of-a-soundbite (according to the Oregonian):

Noting that Hooley had held local, state or federal office for some 30 years, Erickson said, "It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks." Hooley, 67, amiably brushed off the comment. "I don't think I'm an old dog," said Hooley, who explained how her experience has benefited her constituents over the years.

That's right: Darlene Hooley isn't qualified for office because... she's too old. Conventional wisdom might suggest that experience, in life and in government, is a virtue. I guess not if you're a young, ambitious millionaire running for Congress with no experience in government to speak of. (To his credit, Erickson does have one kind of valuable experience: This guy seems to have run for every office -- in every different district -- imaginable!)

In the long-shot-challenger tradition of stooping to the level of playground-caliber personal epithets, Mike Erickson has joined the ranks of Hillary Clinton-rival John Spencer in accusing his opponent of being too wrinkly.

It's too bad, Mike, that Republican icon Ronald Reagan served as president well into his seventies. Indeed, Hooley -- a vivacious and energetic, sneaker-wearing, sixty-something policymaker -- is in good company: 21 American presidents have served terms into their sixties.

Oh, and, let's not forget that 24 percent of the voting public is over age 60. But I guess Mike Erickson will just blame his impending Election Day defeat on the fact that those voters, in his view, are just a bunch of senile "old dogs."

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    Sorry, but trying to stretch the widely used idiom of "teach and old dog new tricks" to mean that someone is calling someone old, or a dog is rather stupid. I heartily support Hooley (and would have voted for here were I not in Wu's district, whom I did vote for) but this is a rather spurious argument.

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    ...voted for here...

    should read:

    voted for her...
  • Scott in Boring (unverified)

    I saw Erickson this summer at his booth at the state fairgrounds. There was no mention of his republican affiliation nor would he admit which party he was running under when asked directly by my wife. In my opinion a complete and spineless wimp who has no business running for any office.

  • sasha (unverified)

    [off-topic comment deleted. feel free to post a guest column if you think a topic is worthy of attention. -editor.]

  • Ernie Delmazzo (unverified)

    Nice writing Misha. My first reaction to Erickson's "old dog" slur was repulsion. Now go study! We need you.

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    lestat -- well, Erickson apologized.

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    Posted by: Kari Chisholm | Nov 2, 2006 12:51:46 PM lestat -- well, Erickson apologized.

    Well and good. But I think it is rather ridiculous a claim that using that idiom means you are saying someone is old or a canine. What next, calming people are being called dumb horses if someone were to use the idiom "you can lead a horse to water but can't make them drink"...?

  • Misha (unverified)


    Let's be clear: The phrase at issue certainly implies criticism of the elderly. Although it can be used in other contexts, that was not Mr. Erickson's meaning here. (It wouldn't have made sense in context if Congresswoman Hooley had been Mr. Erickson's peer, even if she'd had years of experience in Congress.)

    Here is the explanation from two idiom dictionaries:

    #1: "You can't teach an old dog new tricks: Old dogs and old people do not like to change or learn. Example: Our senior employees don't like computer training - you can't teach an old dog new tricks."

    #2: "Change longstanding habits or ways, especially in an old person. For example, His grandmother avoids using the microwave oven--you can't teach an old dog new tricks."

  • Righty (unverified)

    Well, all other things being equal, I tend to vote for the candidate that has more non-governmental experience. I grow concerned when I learn that a candidate has never worked outside of government. Let's face it - that fact that Hooley has been getting paid by the public for over thirty years is a negative (in my book). Of course, the same goes for career Republicans.

    Now this is not enough for me to change my vote because things are never equal and there is always one candidate that shares my views more than the other.

    Misha (nice name by the way) - your hypersensitivity is a joke. Do you go looking to be offeneded? Is this your answer to the Kerry misquote? Absurd. Is this supposed to rally the lib troops to Hooley's side? Don't worry - she will win.

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    Posted by: Misha | Nov 2, 2006 2:12:18 PM

    Do you honestly think it was an attack on her age and not an attack based on seeling the theme of trying to portray her as stayed and entrenched status quo in a "throw the bums out" appeal against an incumbent?

    Again, I am not trying to defend Erikson's campaign, one which I sincerely hope loses and loses big, but this is really reaching to make out that this is an example of attacking Hooley on age.

  • Chris (unverified)

    Well said, lestatdelc.

    Additionally, from the response in the Oregonian it's not even clear that Hooley saw Erickson's comments as an attack specifically upon her age.

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    Um, I'm less interested in the "old" part of the insult than the "dog" part of it. Frankly, Darlene Hooley is one of the classiest politicians I know - and one that hasn't forgotten her old friends despite her position.

    I saw her at a wedding reception this summer for a friend that we share in common. She was just Aunt Dar - laughing, joking, making people comfortable, and generally letting the bride and groom enjoy their folks.

    She was the furthest thing possible from a grandstanding politician, sucking all the oxygen out of the room.

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    Oh, and full disclosure: I worked for Darlene ten years ago.

  • Chris (unverified)

    Absolutely, Kari, I agree with you about Hooley's personality, and there's certainly nothing doggish about it.

    But, as it has been noted in this discussion, dragging the term "old dog" and its idiomatic context into the sun of literal meaning typically opens debates that yield more smoke than fire.

  • hobgoblin (unverified)

    You're more concerned about the "dog" part of it???

    That's even more asinine that complaining about the dig on her age (if one actually existed).

    Really, I think a seasoned (!) Washington politician doesn't need your knight-in-sensitive-and-easily-offended armor to come to her rescue on this one, pal.

    Wow. How silly to complain about a phrase that's older that Darleen Hoo. . . er, I mean older than the hills.

  • Chris (unverified)

    How dare you call Darlene a hill!

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