It’s Showtime!

In the early 90’s I was visiting Barbara in LA and we made it a point to cram as many hip restaurants as possible into my short stay. I think we got it right because every place we went Dennis Hopper was there too.

He was at Spago’s the night we sat in the front room. So was Rona Barrett and at a table directly behind me were Willie Brown, Maxine Waters and four other politicos. They were having way too raucous of a time for elected officials.

It was close quarters and at one point Ms. Waters’ chair bumped the back of mine. She immediately apologized then smiled, placed her hand on my left shoulder and sighed reflectively “oh, to be young again.” I didn’t think I looked that young but I’ll take it wherever I can get it. In retrospect she was probably just being her savvy politician self and knew how to work the potential vote of a gay constituent.

About 10 years ago I was in line at O’Hare and she happened to be at the counter in front of me. This time when she saw me I got a scowl instead of a smile. I seriously doubt she remembered me but she studied me like maybe she thought she should.

She quickly turned back to deal with the agent. Obviously frustrated, their exchange was not going well. When it was finally resolved she looked at me again and rolled her eyes as if to say “can you believe this shit?” The magic was still there.

After the election on Tuesday I was feeling down about Democrats out polling Republicans nationwide by 10% but still not making significant gains. The deck seems stacked against us. My mood might have also been the by-product of working 16 hours at the poll that day. But even with the help of another super duper burger at the end it was hard to be buoyant.

Then this morning it dawned on me: Maxine Waters will be Chair of the Financial Services Committee. There is hope.

I have an ongoing correspondence with Nancy Pelosi’s office, who is my Congresswoman. They have been very responsive in helping me with problems. They have even contacted me after dormant periods in our communications to remind me they’re there to help. Now that’s responsive.

My last email to Pelosi, however, went unanswered. She had reprimanded Waters for the tone of some controversial statement. I thought she’d have been better off by just letting the matter slide. Civility is nice but at a time when the base is clamoring for forceful leadership we don’t need lessons in the social graces. Let Maxine be Maxine.

During the Clinton Impeachment Hearings, Congresswoman Waters was grilling Kenneth Starr. In the middle of one rambling, evasive answer she abruptly interrupted. “Excuse me, could you please repeat that? I think I may have heard you commit an impeachable offense.”

It was such a ludicrous thing to say but perfectly captured the spirit of that farce. The gavel will be in very competent hands.

I Did Not Vote for Feinstein

She’s emblematic of what is wrong with the Democratic Party. Even if they win back Congress they have no real vision. Devoid of both courage and conviction their one unifying ethos is “I am not a liberal.” Strong, progressive voices need to wrestle the party leadership away from the phantoms of Wall Street, Schumer and Pelosi.

The most fight I’ve ever seen in Feinstein was when she initially opposed the Healthcare Plan offered by a President from her own party. Before that she consistently did a Susan Collins during the Bush Presidency, always struggling with her conscience while voting solidly for the Republican agenda. Lately in the Kavanaugh Hearings she seemed reluctant to organize any kind of opposition even though she was in a leadership position to do so. Can you imagine what Mitch McConnell would have accomplished if he had the type of ammunition she had?

Her most egregious sin, however, was when she was Chair for the first Obama Inaugural. Admittedly it was a very exciting day, but in one of the tackiest displays of decorum I’ve ever seen she and her husband, Richard Blumenthal, were bouncing around the podium during the ceremony taking pictures on their phones. Maybe I’m just on the wrong side of history here and inevitably we will see Camilla doing selfies at the State Opening of Parliament.

It is her work with Blumenthal in aggrandizing personal wealth that may be her greatest achievement as a public servant. The Feinstein-Blumenthals purportedly are one of the biggest slum-lords in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. The Section 8 Housing and Single Room Occupancy Hotel programs that offer low-income tenants a place to live also guarantee landlords a hefty check subsidizing the difference between market rates.

And the next time you pay $7 for a pack of gum at the airport think of the FB’s. It’s rumored they own most of the leases at SFO and have gouged the merchants there for years

I’m sure the FB’s have not broken any laws and the Senator may have had no part in drafting either of these bills. But she definitely was privy to their immaculate conceptions and would have passed the tip on to her investment management husband encouraging him to get in on the ground floor. Since Republicans are the party of wealth preservation it may explain why she struggles so with her conscience at times.

Conflicts of interest policy in Congress simply means the elected person can’t have any but their family can. A decade ago I watched the healthcare debate intently. When it was down to the last few votes, Chris Matthews spent a week covering Evan Bayh’s indecisiveness. His vote was important because he represented the middle-of-the-road working class whose support was critical for passage. After days of analyzing his Hamlet act, Matthews casually tossed out an aside that Bayh’s wife was a lobbyist and had received a couple of million dollars from the healthcare industry for her work. Oh yeah, that.

Reporters like Matthews are part of the beltway bubble that selectively tells the truth. Everything is a negotiation in DC, certain knowledge is withheld from the public as a means of maintaining access to insider contacts. In exchange for the really big scoop, reporters ignore the mundane details about the work on the Hill. Like who actually does it.

It’s baffling that there can be so many 80 and 90 year-olds at the top of their game writing such complex legislation. And when John McCain and Ted Kennedy battled life-ending illnesses, they were rarely seen for a couple of years. Yet their offices continued functioning without missing a beat.

Somebody’s in charge but it’s not the individuals we’ve elected.  Senators themselves seem to be nothing more than holograms, displayed on camera every now and then for a well-placed sound bite.

We deserve representation that is more involved in and understands modern life. After the hits Republicans took on women’s issues in October, the Hologram from Iowa, Chuck Grassley, stepped up to offer an olive branch. He thought Dr. Blasey Ford was “very attractive.”

Had he only included that she was wearing a really pretty dress the GOP might have secured the women’s vote for the next generation.