Easiest Question Of The Day: Why Is Henry Waxman REALLY Retiring?
When Henry Waxman retires next year, he will be 75 years old. He will have served in Congress for 4 decades… 40 years! Even before being elected to Congress he had been a member of the state legislature. The man has served his country for a long time. He has 5 grandchildren. This morning he announced his retirement. People are reading much more into it-- as they did when George Miller announced his retirement-- than they should.
The lesson? Democrats aren't really counting on re-taking the House in 2014.I agree that the House Democrats can't possibly win back the majority with Steve Israel running the DCCC; it's mathematically impossible because he won't target vulnerable Republicans for several reasons-- his deal with the NRCC and his Center Aisle Caucus bullshit agreement. But that isn't why Waxman is retiring. I haven't asked him why he decided to do it-- I stopped talking to him when he backed Bush's illegal attack on Iraq-- but I bet it's for the same reason I retired from Warner Bros. It was time-- time for himself and his family and time to make room for younger generations. Really. Here's what he said on his official House website:
Waxman is the fourth top Democrat on a House committee who has either called it quits or opted to run for another office, and a fifth-- House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)-- said this week that he's still weighing his options.
In other words, about 20 percent of the people who stand to become chairmen if Democrats re-take the House are choosing not to stick around (there are 20 standing committees in the House)-- and possibly 25 percent, if Peterson calls it quits.
"The House Democrats don't think they're going to be wielding the gavels," National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) told my colleague Paul Kane shortly after Waxman's retirement was announced.
“As I reflect on my career, I am filled with gratitude. I am grateful for the support of my constituents, who have entrusted me to represent them and encouraged me to become a leader on national and international issues. I am grateful for my supporters and allies, who have worked side-by-side with me to fight for issues we care about: health, environmental protection, women’s and gay rights, and strengthening the ties between the United States and our most important ally, the State of Israel.
…“I first ran for office because I believe government can be a force for good in people’s lives. I have held this view throughout my career in Congress. And I will leave the House of Representatives with my conviction intact. I have learned that progress is not always easy. It can take years of dedication and struggle. But it’s worth fighting for.
“My parents were scarred by the Great Depression and as a result they were ardent Democrats. They believed in the ideals of this wonderful country and made sure that I had the opportunity to be the first in the family to get a college education. They taught me that the special interests have plenty of advocates; it’s the poor, the sick, and the powerless who need a champion in Congress. And that’s what I’ve strived to be.
...“There are elements of Congress today that I do not like. I abhor the extremism of the Tea Party Republicans. I am embarrassed that the greatest legislative body in the world too often operates in a partisan intellectual vacuum, denying science, refusing to listen to experts, and ignoring facts.
“But I am not leaving out of frustration with Congress. Even in today’s environment, there are opportunities to make real progress. Last Congress, I worked with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate to pass legislation that will ease the nation’s growing spectrum shortage, spur innovation in new ‘Super WiFi’ technologies, and create a national broadband network for first responders. Just last year, I worked on a bipartisan basis to enact legislation strengthening FDA’s authority to stop dangerous drug compounding and to track pharmaceuticals through the supply chain.
“And I am not leaving because I think House Democrats have no chance to retake the House. House Republicans have no compelling vision for the future. The public understands this, and I am confident that the Democrats can regain control of the House.
“The reason for my decision is simple. After 40 years in Congress, it’s time for someone else to have the chance to make his or her mark, ideally someone who is young enough to make the long-term commitment that’s required for real legislative success. I still feel youthful and energetic, but I recognize if I want to experience a life outside of Congress, I need to start soon. Public office is not the only way to serve, and I want to explore other avenues while I still can.
“I have had a long career and an eventful one-- and I wouldn’t trade any of it. I woke each day looking forward to opportunities to make our country stronger, healthier, and fairer. And I will always be grateful for this honor and privilege.”
Waxman's clear-headed decision is noble and compelling and something we should be toasting him for. There are plenty of Members of Congress who are older and far less capable than he is, who should take his example to heart. Steny Hoyer, Hal Rogers, Ralph Hall, Don Young, Charlie Rangel and Joe Pitts, for example.
UPDATE: So Who's Running?
Political hacks will all discount her-- looking for the usual suspects-- but Marianne Williamson should be able to win this one. People are ready for a fresh face. The non-fresh faces being pushed by the politicos: conservative ex-Republican and EMILY's List monstrosity Wendy Greuel, Fran Pavley (formerly an environmental guru), Zev Yaroslavsky, Debra Bowen. Julia Brownley decided to stay in CA-26, as she should. A couple iof Shrivers are not running. Ted Lieu just took himself out of consideration. Expect another half dozen names by morning. Has anyone heard from Harold Ford, Jr.? Here's a statement from Marianne Williamson on the new development in the race. Read it carefully. Deluded political pundits won't:
The political world was atwitter yesterday over the retirement of Congressman Henry Waxman, who announced he will not run for reelection. Mr. Waxman has had a long and illustrious career as a Congressman, and I join with others in my sincere best wishes for the next phase of his life and career.
Almost as soon as Mr. Waxman’s announcement was made, a great wave of speculation began as to who else will run for his seat. New candidacies have already emerged. And all that is good. Democracy is at its best when a lot of us want to play.
I wish to make very clear where I stand politically in relation to Mr. Waxman’s surprising announcement.
What I spoke of two weeks before his announcement, and what I will speak of two weeks after it, will be the same. I wasn’t running against Henry Waxman, any more than I’m running against any of the specific candidates who will be joining the race now. I’m running against the system that produced them.
We will hear some say, “Oh now, the race has burst wide open!”-- but do not be fooled. America’s traditional two-party rhetoric is not wide open. It is fundamentally narrow and constricted, at the effect of economic intimidation by forces that will only tolerate a little tweaking here and there.
No one should confuse the rash of new candidacies emerging over the next few days as representing a fundamental contest over the future of America. Rather, a very narrow vision of possibilities remains at the heart of our political system: given that huge moneyed forces are going to continue to have their way with us-- grabbing whatever resources they wish, then leaving crumbs to fall on the floor for everyone else to fight over-- here’s how this or that candidate will help build a bigger and better pile of crumbs. We need to do more than fight over crumbs; we need to put the American people back in control of our country’s destiny.
I am running for Congress because I feel in my heart that the political status quo today, instead of protecting the American people from encroachment by an unholy alliance of money and power, has become too often the handmaiden and advocate for that alliance. And at a time like this, there’s only one thing to protect us: ourselves. It’s time for a new American Spring, a pro-democracy movement here in our own country, by which we rid the US government of the undue influence of money, probably through a Constitutional Amendment forbidding it.
A majority of the American people, both on the Left and Right, feel money wields too much influence on our politics. We need to break the chokehold of a system that represents a narrowing of the democratic franchise for the majority of our citizens, by calling the system on what is really wrong. From income inequality to child poverty to GMO’s to our high mass incarceration rate, the most important issues will not be addressed until we deal with the issue that underlies them all. As long as Wall Street owns America, the American people will not.
Please donate what you can to make my candidacy a powerful statement, a dynamic container for a conversation that truly matters, and victorious at the polls in the primary election on June 3rd.