Saturday :: Jan 21, 2006

My Senator, Barbara Boxer


by Marie

I have had a soft spot for Barbara Boxer for over thirty-five years. Nixon had just expanded the Vietnam War into Cambodia and young college students across the country were participating in anti-war rallies and activities. On one of those days Barbara with her young daughter by her side showed up and participated in one of the small ad hoc discussion groups that took place all over the campus in between the time we spent marching, chanting, holding up anti-war placards and distributing anti-war leaflets. She was attractive, interesting and articulate, but she probably stood out more for being a few years older than the rest of us than because she exhibited any other special quality that would have made her stand out in the crowd. I can’t imagine that anyone in the group had any sense that we had just met a future Senator from California. Of course, back then, Boxer didn’t even have anymore than vague political aspirations. Of course anything more than that for a Democrat in a county where Republicans dominated local government and the long-term Republican Congressman appeared to have a lifetime position would not have been realistic.

While Boxer and Feinstein were both first elected to the Senate in the same year, 1992, Madame Feinstein acts as if she is the senior Senator from California and the MSM has reinforced this fiction by always first looking to Feinstein as a voice from California (on another one of the Sunday shows tomorrow). Not once have I heard the MSM make any mention of the fact that Boxer garnered a higher percentage of the vote in her third bid for the Senate than Feinstein did. What makes this situation so ridiculous is that there is no comparison between the skill level, knowledge, competence and preparation between these two Senators.

One need not look further than Feinstein’s performance in the Judiciary hearings last week. It would have been embarrassingly inept for a newly elected Senator. Clearly Feinstein sees herself as being above the need to learn anything or develop any new skills since she was first elected. (And she can’t even resist the temptation to comment on a filibuster after Reid requested that Democratic Senators not do so. What a stupid woman.) Compare that with Boxer’s performance on the Senate floor on Judge Janice Rodgers Brown. Boxer had done her homework on Brown, had excellent visual aids prepared and presented a clear, lucid and convincing case on what made Brown a radical rightwing extremist. On the evidence, Alito is a white male version of Janice Rodgers Brown, but Dianne helped to make him look like a moderate. This also demonstrates their respective management skills. Boxer outperforms Feinstein in part because she has assembled a far superior staff. One that also gives her one of the highest ratings in DC for being great to work for.

A few weeks ago I watched Boxer being interviewed by John Dean before an audience in Los Angeles. While I have long held a high opinion of Boxer, what occurred to me after I watched that interview was how much even I have underestimated her. The depth and breadth of her knowledge of politics and our federal government is far beyond most members of Congress, only surpassed by DC institutions like Bobby Byrd and John Conyers. How authentic, real and honest she was in answering questions from either Dean or the audience. She’s genuinely personable and passionate about this country and good government. While she chooses her words carefully on highly contentious issues, she doesn’t pander to conservatives or try to mislead others about her principles, values and priorities.

Barbara Boxer has come into her own. I don’t know when that happened. Perhaps it was in easily winning her third term or maybe I hadn’t been observing her closely enough over the years. Maybe it was when she became the sponsoring Senator for Congresswoman’s Tubbs’s formal objection to the certification of the Ohio election results. Maybe it was completing her novel. Whenever it happened, it left her with a level of charisma that she didn’t have earlier in her political career.

What a shame someone as charisma challenged as Hillary commands so much national political attention and Boxer so little. Hillary flashed her political experience this week when she said that “Republicans run the House as if it’s a plantation, and you know what I’m talking about..” Sorry, Hillary, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know how to use a plantation analogy for the House. To suggest that House Democrats are similar to slaves or that the power imbalance between a slave and a plantation owner is similar to what House Democrats face today are both offensive. It was not only an artless analogy but it also failed to illuminate a truth. The truth that the Republican Party shamelessly, but artfully, makes use of bigotry among the population to win elections. Barbara knows better than to include such artless and weak analogies when she speaks. Knows that handing fodder to the rightwing is only done when she is prepared to engage in and win the PR fallout from it. Knows that it’s a loser to try to fight a battle after the fact or when the reference is lost on average people. Such skills are not developed in one or two terms in office. (Some never develop these skills.) High profile politicians with limited experience will stumble again and again in public appearances unless they always read from a script (and then they will only appear scripted and inauthentic to anyone with half a brain).

Marie :: 12:16 PM :: Comments (25) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!