Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Randy Bryce Gets Some Time Off-- Kind Of


Randy Bryce by Nancy Ohanian

L.A. and New York are towns with lots of celebrities. It's an unspoken rule-- you leave them alone. You don't bother celebrities at a club or shop or restaurant or on the street in either city. When I was president of a record company with offices in both cities, sometimes I would be having dinner with some of the biggest music stars in the world; people were always cool-- well, except Morrissey fans, who would become hysterical and couldn't control themselves-- and would be respectful of the quasi-privacy of "public" figures. It's somewhat similar with political figures. Certainly no one bothers them in DC. But it's usually pretty cool in L.A. and New York for them too. At the height of all the craziness over Mark Foley's resignation from Congress over child molesting I took him for dinner at a very high profile Hollywood restaurant, Jose Andres' place, Bazaar. I could see people staring out of their corner of their eyes, never blatantly, but that was all. No one came over to say anything nasty or ask for an autograph or punch him in the face. Just another quiet night in L.A. If celebrities in L.A. want notoriety, they can go to Katsu Ya in Hollywood, where the paparazzi hang out and tourists hang out on the street. Otherwise, its hands off.

Last weekend, though, Randy Bryce was in town. He was here for a speech to the Labor Council convention. After he landed we went for dinner at Rao's, the L.A. branch of the East Harlem mob restaurant. Not a lot of subtlety there. It was early and the staff is over-the-top friendly. One waiter recognized Randy as soon as we walked in. He told the rets of the staff and I could see everyone was passing by the check him out. The floor manager walked over to break the ice and congratulate him and curse Paul Ryan. Then a waiter came over and told him America is counting on him and that he had sent him a contribution. Woah, I thought. That's heavy! What about the privacy rule? When we left, everyone wanted to slap Randy on the back and wish him well and tell him they were counting on him. A lot of these guys look like they're in The Godfather. On the way to the door, one guy looked more like Luca Brasi than Lenny Montana did and I can't repeat what he had to say about Ryan.

The next day, we decided to surprise Sam Jammal, like Randy a labor-oriented progressive who's running for an open seat in Orange County. Sam was having a house party in Santa Monica and I brought Randy along unannounced. Everyone recognized him instantly and the reaction was overwhelming. Sam introduced him to the crowd and they cheered heartily. Everyone wanted to wish him luck and tell him how meaningful his race in Wisconsin was to them. One woman came up to him and slipped him a campaign check. Most-- literally, most-- told him they had already sent him money. "I grew up near you," one woman said, "in Michigan. The country needs you in Washington." Nothing seems to ever fluster Randy. He always seems on the same level as everyone who speaks to him. There was one woman during Jammal's speech who was loud and very forward with her progressive values. After the speeches she came up to Randy to ask if they could take a selfie. His response was to tell her that every event like this needed someone like her to focus everyone's mind on the issues the way she had.

When we were driving back he asked me if I could pull over someplace where he could get beer. I don't drink so I'm not sure about this but I was thinking there's something about it being illegal to have an open container in the front seat. And we were like 15-20 minutes from his hotel. Couldn't he wait? But I pulled over to a alcoholic beverages mom and pop shop on Ocean Blvd before we got to the freeway. He went in and I worried if I was going to go to jail or just pay fine. He got back to the car with two six-packs. "Damn if I'm paying $10.95 for a beer at the hotel all weekend," he said. I breathed easy.

I'm the treasurer of Blue America but my function there is to try to figure out what candidates are going to be like if they get to Congress. My nightmare is always that we help get some candidate who tells us he's "a progressive" into Congress and then he starts voting with the New Dems or Blue Dogs. Or that he starts taking corporate bribes and drifts slowly-- or not so slowly-- towards being a Republican. Early on I made some mistakes, the worst of them being Chris Carney, who fed me a line of bullshit about how progressive he was and immediately joined the Blue Dogs and started voting with the GOP. Even before that,-- before Blue America-- I helped Adam Schiff raise money, only to see him also get into Congress, join the Blue Dogs and quickly turn into a right-wing warmonger. I've perfected my vetting techniques since those days. An Adam Schiff or Chris Carney would never slip by me these days. These days I look for certain traits in candidates other than just to ask them to regurgitate hackneyed talking points about healthcare and campaign finance. I'm more interested in less quantifiable traits: courage, independence, honesty, sincerity. These days I measure candidates in comparison to Bryce.

If a candidate is good on the basic issues-- choice, equality, war and peace-- then courageousness, an independent mind, an upright moral approach to life... all means more than the intricacies of policy. Stephanie Kelton can walk candidates through cutting edge economics; no one can teach empathy, sincerity and graciousness.

It surprises me how many people seem to have a vague notion than when Bryce beats Ryan in November-- if Ryan even runs again (he won't commit)-- he'll become head of the House. It doesn't work that way-- although Bryce has his own ideas about how it should work... how leaders should be chosen. I have a feeling he's going to start talking about that soon. But it's only a feeling.

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At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's the same with all of the BA slate.

There aren't enough of them to fix the party. And most of them will lose. Likely including Bryce.

The Pelosi-money vortex will still be sucking the life out of almost all who are in that party. The few it does not remove of their principles will either be paraded about as show ponies (warren, lieu, jayapal..) or primaried asap.

Randy will get lots of time off after November. And if he does not, he'll spend his time in utter impotence to affect any useful change at all.

At 8:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stopped for beer?
I guess he is no longer in recovery.
Drug and alcohol abuse is an unfortunate part of many lives. The abuser's choices affects the friends and family of the abuser. The abuser chooses to start on the path that sometimes includes the slippery slope to addiction which leads to a sad life. Sometimes, the addict chooses recovery, and is helped in that recovery by friends and family. Sometimes, the addict makes that recovery temporary and returns to that dark place.
Choices have consequences.


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