Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) attended Harvard, served two terms as a state governor, was elected to five terms in the U.S. Senate and now serves as chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, so when he talks, people expect to hear something worth hearing.
Lately, however, we're not so sure.
The senator's much-publicized rants against Carnival and the cruise industry are a little puzzling because they don't seem to amount to much more than rants.
After the Concordia accident last year, and more recently in the aftermath of several Carnival incidents at sea, Rockefeller has vilified the cruise industry and even stooped to accusing Carnival Corp. of "bloodsucking" on national TV.
He may have many reasons to be unhappy with the cruise industry, but of all people, he is in a unique position to channel his frustrations into something more constructive than name-calling.
The senator knows full well, or ought to, that there is no point in blaming a company or an entire industry for the legal and regulatory environment that our government has created for it.
As he admitted during his appearance on NBC's "Rock Center," the blame for creating tax loopholes falls squarely on "the Congress -- and we have to fix it."
Throughout his 30 years in the Senate, Rockefeller has had ample opportunity to ponder the cruise industry's situation. As far as we can tell, he hasn't done much to change it. In the current session, according to his website, he is sponsoring 13 pieces of legislation. Not one of them has anything to do with the cruise business.
If we had to invent the cruise industry from scratch, we would not come up with the peculiar matrix of treaties and tax, labor, safety and cabotage laws that now govern international maritime commerce. Nobody would.
But it's the system we inherited, and the companies that are trying to do business in it deserve a modicum of civility, even from senators.