Wednesday, February 22, 2006

MY INTERVIEW WITH "CANDIDATE X," RUSS WARNER, THE DEMOCRATS' BEST CHANCE IN YEARS TO RETIRE DAVID DREIER

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This is going to make more sense if you read the article I posted yesterday called MEET THE DEMOCRATS' CANDIDATE X. I'll take it from there. The incumbent is the execrable David Dreier, another hypocritical, self-loathing Republican closet case, who has misrepresented California's 26th CD for 25 years. (It's a moderate suburban L.A. district not unlike the Northern Virginia districts that used to vote Republican but went overwhelmingly for Democrat Tim Kaine in the gubernatorial race there a couple months ago. It's usually thought of as the San Gabriel Valley, but it also extends into San Bernardino County and some of the better known communities are La Canada, La Crescenta, Flintridge, Rancho Cucamonga, Altadena, a bit of Pasadena, San Marino, Glendora, La Verne, Monrovia, Arcadia, Claremont, Upland... There is no primary and the challenger, yesterday's "Mr. X," is Russ Warner, a successful local entrepreneur.

I met Russ and one of his 3 sons, Greg, at a rally for Wes Clark on October 28 in Cheviot Hills. Greg, who's in the Army and had recently returned from Iraq, had urged his dad to run for Congress. I prefer to be able to look at someone in the eyes when I talk with them but I had trouble enough getting an interview with Warner to be too picky, so tonight I sat down and had a nice, relaxed, friendly conversation with him on the telephone.

I was half expecting a what I've been referring to on DWT as a Rahm Emanuel shill candidate; I thought I had it all figured out in advance. I didn't. Russ had his own point of view on issues-- some identical to mine, some very different from mine, all probably well-suited to the district he's lived in for the last 25 years. My best guess it that he'll be a moderate Democrat-- in the real sense of "moderate," not as a polite way of saying a "right-wing Democrat" like Jim Marshall, or Henry Cuellar or Ben Nelson.

On some of the tough issues, his reflexes were absolutely spot on. He's adamant that America needs universal health care and that the country is ready for it now. He speaks about it with conviction and passion and it's obviously a topic he's thought long and hard about. Most everything we talked about flowed through his life-experience as an entrepreneur, something I'm very comfortable with, having come from a similar background. His analysis of the state of the union finds grave fault with the greed, avarice and arrogance of Big Business. And, for Warner, salvation is the hard work, sweat and dedication of the enlightened entrepreneur and small businessperson. It could be a lot worse-- and for CA-26, it's pretty close to perfect.

One crucial issue for the race is going to be immigration. The loony and extremely xenophobic/racist Minutemen are strong in Southern California and some local right-wing drive-time radio show targeted Dreier in 2004 and hammered him mercilessly. Their motto is kind of "Anything But Dreier" because he supports Bush's corporatist immigration policies. (That wing-- as opposed to the neo-Nazi Tancredo wing-- of the GOP encourages a flood of immigration, illegal better than legal, in order to drive labor prices down for their corporate allies and to undermine union's bargaining power. The Republicans have always hated minimum wage laws, safety in the workplace laws, child labor laws, all the kind of stuff that differentiates free citizens with dignity from serfs and slaves-- the right-wing's ideal condition for the non-wealthy.) Anyway, the radio loons, "John & Ken," still hate Dreier, who fears them the way a 10 year old girl lost in a forest would feel a pack of hungry wolves. Dreier has tried to move a bit in their direction on the issue but they're not having any of his weasel-words and they never shut about how terrible and corporate he is. And he has some Minuteman type challenging him-- ineffectually-- in the GOP primary. Warner understands the immigration issue and his response is very reasonable: to crack down on the big businesses that encourage illegal immigration by hiring illegals.

His answer about equal protection for gays and lesbians was very matter-of-fact-- sort of like a moderate version of Paul Hackett's: we're all Americans and all entitled to equal protection under the law-- and he specifically brought up civil marriage. Funny how a happily married man, confident in his own skin, has no problems with gays while a closeted, self-loathing and petrified homosexual like David Dreier feels the need to victimize gay people every chance he gets as a legislator. Dreier's homosexuality, his hypocrisy in that area, and the scandal of his taxpayer-financed lover's inordinately large salary are issues Warner refuses to talk about-- even when prodded. He's a decent guy who is determined to take the high road.

My biggest specific problem with Warner was, probably predictably, Iraq. I think what drives Warner is his life's experience as an entrepreneur, a husband and a father and that these experiences are determinative of his positions. He's not an ideologue; he seems like a considerate and fair-minded problem-solver. The conclusions he's come to about Big Pharma's role in the deteriorating state of our medical system is a great example of how real life experience, not ideology, brought him to a common sense conclusion about the corrosive nature of Big Business in a democratic and middle class-oriented society. When it came to Iraq, however... his experiences are different from mine. When I put the question to him-- how do we get out-- he fumbled around a bit, perhaps still trying to get to the best solution to a problem that has too many grays. He started talking about troop rotations and getting Arab and Muslim and even NATO countries to send troops as we bring our boys home. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I pointed out that other countries, even the ones we bribed initially, are withdrawing troops and that no one wants to send new troops in. He pointed out that that's because no one trusts Bush. I pointed out that he's running for Congress and that, in all likelihood, Bush will be around for his entire first term. In the end came what I was afraid was the inevitable answer: the way out of Iraq is to... elect Wes Clark president. Warner is a true believer and has tremendous faith in the general. I don't want to start another war with the Wes Clark supporters (and risk hundreds of pieces of spam, most of it either filthy, racist, homophobic or a combination, all over my blog again) but this illusion that history depends on a (military) strongman disturbed me-- big time. I respect Clark and I respect Warner's admiration and trust in him, but as right as Clark was about the Iraq war in the beginning (that it would be a terrible and costly blunder), he has been wrong ever since. Somewhat astonished that Warner seemed to be equating an end to the problems in Iraq with the election of Clark as president, I asked him if that was the only way out. He said the Democrats have a strong line-up of potential candidates who he trusted could solve the problem. He mentioned 3 others: Mark Warner, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.

I think Russ Warner is a good challenger for David Dreier in the 26th CD. And a much better candidate than what I've come to expect from the DCCC. I think he has an excellent chance of winning and I think he'll be a decent congressman if he does-- far, far better than the inherently dishonest, conflicted mess we have in that seat now. Is he a DFA candidate? He seems to think so (although he doesn't even mention he's a Democrat on his website). I'm sure some DFA grassroots workers and donations would be welcome and useful. But this is a campaign that I think is one I'll be rooting for rather than participating in myself. The local DFA folks appreciate him and want to help and that doesn't really bother me if they have nothing better to do. (Francine Busby should be an incumbent by then. Progressive Californians in solidly Democratic districts should also consider helping Jerry McNerney to topple Richard Pombo and Charlie Brown to rid California of John Doolittle.) Still, on the very day-- today-- that DFA has endorsed 4 proud progressives, Francine Busby, Christine Cegelis, Mary Jo Kilroy and Lois Murphy, for Congress, I think it would be too much of a stretch for me to ask that organization to do likewise for Warner. Instead I'm calling my pals Bob, Mary and Grace in San Marino and asking them to give Warner a hand.

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4 Comments:

At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just out of curiousity do you ever post a comment that disagrees with your lofty positions? Would that not fall under the banner ot tyranny manking you no better than the Republicans.

 
At 6:18 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Apparently, you haven't read through the blog. First of all, the comments were never even moderated until 2 weeks ago when we wound up with over 100 filthy, obscene, homophobic and racist "comments" from Wes Clark supporters. Of course, they were all removed but all the Wes Clark supporters who disagreed with what I had to say about Clark without resorting to foul language and baseless accusations are still up. I look forward to being able to take message controls off again.( Although I should say that we prefer people don't post under "anonymous." It isn't a fast and hard rule though.)

Now, what is your beef with this one? Is Russ Warner too liberal for you or too conservative for you or what?

 
At 11:00 PM, Blogger Bill Garnett said...

I wonder how history will view this period of American politics. This ruse of making gays the boogeymen, the whipping boys, for the moral ills and the transmogrification of traditional American family values into the decadent excesses and moral ambiguities of 2006. Frightening this must be to those over 60. But even more frightening to those who so fear change, so hold dear the security of their status and the comfort of their family and the esteem of their position in society – to see all around them, wretched moral decay. Oh, politicians are clever and this generation has produced some of the cleverest. And in Machiavellian style they have looked for a scapegoat – not unlike how other minorities have been scapegoat in the past – we all know about those.

Whether there are witches to burn, or heretics to torture, or Jews to incinerate – or homosexual perverts to bash. Whip up frenzy, diatribes of ignorance, even exhort from your pulpits to exorcise the demons. Bring down the queers and their liberal weak nelly girly men supporters – for we are Americans, strong men brave and proud, and our women folk obedient and dutiful.

Nature seems to require that history repeat itself.

State after state has heard the call – rise up and defend your families, your youth, from the queer hoards that are at your borders. Carve deep into your most sacred texts, that no queer is to be tolerated, no sexual deviant quartered, no homo pervert to be comfortable in your midst. Roll back if necessary the very foundations of equality and permit the shadow of dark beliefs, from chapel and church, to take the helm of state and guide our nation through these waters.

And from heaven’s rim must Copernicus and Newton, Darwin and Galileo, even Socrates and Plato sadly shake their heads at how past lessons learned are lost. And how an extreme authoritarian right can, in the name of all that is good and holy, cause such pain, such anguish such inequity.

The hallmarks through time are glaringly similar – hypocrisy thy name is zealous conservatism. Lie enough and the ignorant masses believe, even you will begin to swallow your own lies. Oh how arrogant it is to have beliefs of one forced on another – for beliefs are just that, imaginings without fact. And when fact is dismissed out of hand, then one begins to have insight into principle motivations – power. Power and more power. Power for survival – to insure security of self and family. Power commands respect.

And the Republican Party has cleverly taken attention away from their naked power grab by turning such a powerful spotlight on the sexual bogeyman hiding in everyone’s ignorance.

And state after state is brought into this unholy alliance such that an overwhelming tyrannical majority is at the gates of the very Constitution – determined to craft hysteria into solid and everlasting law. In the name of good and God.

Oh how far have we as a people drifted, not just from God’s message but also from democracy’s message. How far from the idea that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was preeminent. That love and tolerance hold the majestic heights. That reason, common sense, humility, and individual accountability supercede myth, ignorance, superstition.

Odd, one might think this wouldn’t happen at a time when America’s stated position around the world is liberty and equality and recognition of minority rights. We fight that Iraqi women can vote, that Afghan girls can go to school. We demand that China give it’s population free and unfettered access to truthful information.

Yet – at home – we legislate and mandate the second-class status of millions of Americans who, through no action or fault of their own, happen to be of a different sexual orientation. We object, as a nation, to the beheading of homosexuals in Muslim countries – but can not see our own type of intolerance here.

Realizations have swept the world over and over through time, fighting against ignorance and those whose vested interests are at risk. But fact and reality eventually win out. As it is now in much of Europe – who as distant parents have come to realize essential truths not yet accepted by an arrogant and upstart progeny.

Timing is everything – and without the match, that spark of the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision that ignited this bonfire – perhaps this whole ugly episode would have been avoided, as the generations next in line are far more knowledgeable, accepting, progressive, and unfrightened of homosexuals. That generation may well have even expanded gay rights in conformity with The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada and in line with the thinking of much of the western world. And certainly in line with scientific and medical opinion.

And it may end up as an historical irony that the religious right’s ascendancy on this issue may be both short lived and followed by a backlash, that for some time will brand such power grabs from the right as exactly what they are. The Inquisition had their moment. Osama had his moment. The Nazis had their moment. And far right extremist religious conservatives in American may surely have theirs. But there is always a price to pay and history will record that as well.

 
At 1:14 PM, Anonymous mommybrain said...

Howie, thanks for the link from FDL to your interview. I am pleased to see that your assessment of Russ is so spot-on. He is perfect for his district and what attracted me to him is his (perhaps naive) passion about the plight of the country and the need to change course. Or, as Max Cleland puts it, "Correct and Recover".

Russ's opponent is pushing the "Republican Shill" rumor hard. I've seen no evidence of it in his campaign. Being a moderate doesn't necessarily make him a shill.

I'm heading to a grip and grin with Russ in my neighborhood. Welcome to FDL regular status. It's THE place to be. I look forward to future Saturday afternoons.

 

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