Thursday, February 14, 2013

Can There Be Real Redemption In Politics?


In 2010 the NRA gave ex-Republican Gabby Giffords, then one of the most conservative Blue Dogs in Congress, a C rating. A grade of C from the NRA isn't that "bad" for a Democrat. Most of the ones worth anything get Fs. Today, it would be hard for anyone to question Gifford's genuine concern for gun safety. Her come to Jesus moment was... well, very nearly an actual come to Jesus moment. Tuesday we looked at Bloomberg's trust that Gloria Negrete McLeod had genuinely changed her position on gun safety enough to invest over $3,000,000 in defeating her gun loon election opponent, California Blue Dog Joe Baca, and helping elect her to Congress. She's very conservative and as of now she and Ann Kirkpatrick (who, incidentally, boasts an A from the NRA) have voted more often with the GOP on crucial roll calls this session than any other Democrats in Congress. But there haven't been any gun votes... yet. I expect Kirkpatrick to stick with the NRA and McLeod to... stick with Mayor Bloomberg.

Patrick Murphy, just elected to Congress as a Florida "Democrat," is a lifelong Republican. We didn't support his House bid last year even though he was way better than the opponent he beat, unhinged war criminal Allen West. And what does Murphy do as soon as he gets to Congress? He circulates a letter among freshmen Democrats asking them to sign on to his proposal to insist that Nancy Pelosi be more accommodating to Republican policies. That was his first month in Congress. To me he's still a lifelong Republican no matter what he calls himself for the sake of getting elected to office.

On Tuesday we took a little stroll back in time and looked at some of the Republicans who are still in Congress today who voted to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998-99. One name that wasn't on the list was reactionary Republican James Rogan, who had been an impeachment manager in the House was a congressman who represented the district where I worked. I helped state Senator Adam Schiff beat his reelection bid in 2000 by raising over $100,000 from my colleagues in the music business for what turned into the most expensive House race in history (since surpassed).

I was delighted to have helped defeat the loathsome Rogan, now a state judge, but I was also happy that Adam Schiff, a Democrat, had been elected to replace him. That didn't last long. Schiff joined the Blue Dog caucus, amassed an ugly conservative record and backed George Bush's unprovoked war against Iraq. I was flabbergasted and ended the friendly relations I had with Schiff.

Under the new CA-28 district boundaries Schiff is now my congressman-- not just mine, but the congressman for some of the most progressive areas in America, like West Hollywood, Hollywood, Silver Lake, Atwater, Los Feliz, Echo Park... a part of L.A. that would be perfect for a primary challenger far to the left of Schiff on any number of issues. (There are no Republicans worth talking about in the area; Romney took 26.5% of the vote in November, while the largely unknown Schiff was reelected 154,348 (76%) to 49,501 (24%).

One of his staffers asked me if I would stop trying to recruit a primary candidate against him if he left the Blue Dogs. I laughed and said no. But he did quit the Blue Dogs a few weeks ago. And what's more, he's been a very good reflection of where his new district is politically. What had been a mediocre lifetime ProgressivePunch score has been raised significantly this session because his 113th score is a perfect 100. I'm impressed. You don't get better than 100. Even better, I see Schiff starting to sponsor some of the most progressive legislation coming down the pike. He hasn't had a great record on LGBT equality til now... but he now represents two of the most politically active LGBT neighborhoods in America. It looks like he's getting behind LGBT issues as fully as he's gotten behind Armenian issues when Glendale and Pasadena were the heart of his district. “We need to make sure that all military families-- including those with same-sex partners serving at home and overseas-- are treated equally, and this is an important step,” Schiff said in a statement Monday, adding that it is time for Congress to “finish the job by repealing [the Defense of Marriage Act] and passing legislation that will extend full benefits for LGBT service members."

Wednesday I was shocked by a letter I got from Barbara Lee letting me know she had introduced legislation to speed passage of gun violence prevention measures. I wasn't shocked that Barbara Lee was introducing a bill to repeal a bunch of NRA-backed amendments that Kansas gun nut Todd Tiahrt got passed in 2004 to prevent the Justice Department from getting access to data on illegal guns and which hinders background checks and limits law enforcement’s efforts to prevent gun violence. No, that's exactly the kind of work I know I can always expect from Barabra Lee.

Her Tiahrt Restrictions Repeal Act would repeal current provisions that require National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) records to be destroyed within 24 hours, that prohibit ATF from requiring licensed dealers from conducting annual inventory checks to detect lost and stolen guns, and that restrict state and local authorities from using trace data to fully investigate corrupt gun dealers and traffickers. “We must treat gun violence for what it is: a public health epidemic," she explained when she introduced the bill. "And no one would ever stop the Centers for Disease Control from tracking data on heart disease. To solve this problem, we need access to vital information, and that’s what The Tiahart Restrictions Repeal Act would give us.”

Thirteen Members of Congress immediately jumped on as cosponsors, primarily progressives: Jim Moran (D-VA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Sam Farr (D-CA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Mike Honda (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), David Price (D-NC), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), José Serrano (D-NY) and... Adam Schiff. I didn't vote for Schiff in November but if he keeps up this kind of behavior... I'm keeping an open mind, especially since one of the guys I was hoping would primary him has been going on Fox lately and making a jackass out of himself.

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