My representative to Congress, Karen Bass, held a Town Hall meeting on Sunday. She's been doing this fairly regularly the past six months, including an off-beat but very interest "telephone Town Hall" where you could join in and listen and even hit a phone key to let them know you wanted to ask a question. What's surprising is that probably more than most people in Congress she doesn't really have to do this. Recently, a friend was saying to me that he too lived in a very Blue district so he know what it was like. What I was tempted in responding (after I looked the stats up to be sure) was, "No, your Representative won with 71% of the vote. Karen Bass got 89% of the vote. That means I can go anywhere in my district, shout my angriest vitriol against Trump and the GOP and feel pretty comfortable that no one will start screaming back in disagreement." (Not just because there are so few who would want to, but also because they know that if they did, other people would pour out of the woodworks to defend me...)
The point is that Karen Bass's seat is pretty safe. But she keeps holding these Town Hall's, which I find admirable. I've only gone to a couple, plus the phone Town Hall, but I'm glad the opportunity is there. Mainly, I go because they're sort of like a big tent revival meeting with lots of "Hallelujahs!!" And these days, "Get rid of that devil."
I didn't stay for the whole thing -- probably about an hour. I got the point by then, and also heard enough discussion of the impeachment situation, which was my main reason for going. (In addition to being chair of the Black Caucus, Rep. Bass serves on the Judiciary Committee and House Oversight Committee -- which had been lead by Elijah Cummings who sadly passed away last week. She told some lovely stories about him, including when she was fairly new to the committee seeing Rep. Cummings wave her over and being terrified for it, wondering what she'd done wrong. "BASS," he shouted (she said he always called her "Bass"), "Doing a good job" and then walked off.. Yes, it was a little self-serving, but it was also clearly a fond remembrance of someone she dearly admired. And having seen so much of Elijah Cummings on the news the past three years, it was fun to be able to hear his voice in those words.
I took a few random notes and thought I'd pass them along.
She said the Judiciary Committee that she's on isn't holding hearings on impeachment, like the Intelligence Committee, but their work on the subject is mostly involved in court filings. She also added that the Foreign Affairs Committee she's on and others in the House are working in concert with the Intelligence Committee and gave great praise to her fellow-Los Angeles rep Adam Schiff for how he's running things.
She noted that with the passing of Elijah Cummings the current work is continuing under the temporary leadership of the next in line, but that she expected there to be a "contentious election" to determine the next head of the committee.
She's at in on House Intelligence Committee hearings and said that Republican talking points that things are being run unfairly are just "lies." (She didn't rest of overly-polite decorum and use euphemisms, but said the word "lie" a lot at the event.) The hearings are being held in private because these are depositions, but that the results would be made public. And questioning is totally even-handed -- they aren't doing five minutes per member back-and-forth, but rather having staff lawyers handle the questions, an hour for each side, back-and-forth. And all members can be involved if they wish.
As for Syria, she commented that Erdogan got exactly what he wanted, to get rid of all the refugees in his country, and she added that she has the feeling that one of the reasons Trump went along with that is because he could empathize since it's exactly what he wants to do in the United States, as well. I haven't heard any media analysts make that interesting point.
She is very confident that Trump will be impeached. But what I found surprising is that she also said that there is a "strong possibility" that he will be convicted in the Senate. That's something I wrote here a few weeks back, but it's one thing for me to yammer about it on my website, it's another for a U.S. Congressman to say it in public. To be clear, she didn't think it likely, but still she went farther than just "possible" and was more emphatic. Part of her reasoning is that her sense is that many in Congress see Trump's instability, and she felt he was being perceived as a "clear and present danger."
Rep. Bass handles the questions in an interesting way -- she takes about a dozen questions at a time, so they move along fairly quickly, and then she gives sort of "rapid fire" responses to them. It tends to avoid long speeches by the questionnaires and back-and-forth follow-up. It's a touch cursory, but beats dragging things out, and when questions demand longer answers, she gives them. Most questions don't require long answers -- many need only "I agree" and "Yes, I'll look into that."
Before all the constituents lined up to ask their questions, she first took about 10 questions from little kids in a "children in media" type of program. The first question was "What is your favorite restaurant in Los Angeles and Washington?" Her answer: Natalee's Thai. (Actually, it's just Natalee Thai, which has a few spots around town, quite tasty. She forgot the Washington part of the question, though.) And "Who is your favorite superhero -- and why?" It's Black Panther, and because of how they dealt with Africa.
But some of the kid's question were very sharp. The one that got the biggest reaction from the crowd came from a child who looked about 10 and asked, "Is there a plan to get kids out of cages?" Ms. Bass's reply was -- yes, a new administration.
Later, when the adults got their chance, the funniest moment came when a guy was asking about criminal problems with some cabinet secretaries and started to name them -- "...like Barr and Pompeo and... -- but then got stuck and forget who he was thinking of next, and during the pause while he was trying to remember, Rep. Bass chimed in, "Just name one, take your pick." Eventually, the fellow remembered. It was Rick Perry. (There was a touch of irony in that, by the way. You'll recall that in the 2016 GOP primary debates, it was then-candidate Perry who was trying to lambaste waste in government and saying three cabinet departments should be eliminated -- but could only remember two of them. The added irony is that the one he couldn't remember was the Department of Energy, the one he was later named to head.)
Also, related to this, when asked about impeaching vice president Mike Pence, she noted how "ineffective" she thought Pence was that that in meetings he comes across "like a cult member."
Karen Bass is a smart, thoughtful representative, but from the Town Halls I've attended she is also quite clearly blunt.
And it was around that point that I'd had my fill and took off. The tent revival was continuing to sing as I headed off...
Leave a Reply.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor