U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer made sure everyone at the Democratic state convention understood that she’s really, really pleased about her own special brand of political courage.
“Time after time I had to face down the defenders of the status quo,” she told delegates, in a Saturday speech that formally announced her re-election bid without a hint of humility.
“I have never been afraid to stand up to anyone,” she further assured delegates and the media. “I have never been afraid to stand alone,” she added, lest we miss the message.
But just when the Calbuzz Medical Team went on high alert, concerned that California’s junior senator might dislocate a limb, patting herself on the back, she suddenly encountered something she was afraid to take a stand on: the propositions on the May 19 ballot.
Questioned by John Wildermuth of the Chronicle at a press avail, Boxer took a total duck on the props, only the most controversial issue at the convention, insisting that she and Sen. Dianne Feinstein were about to launch a major investigation to plumb the depths and detail of Props. 1A-1F:
“I don’t know yet. I’m studying them. Sen. Feinstein and I were just talking about that. Our plate’s been so full we haven’t looked at it,” she said.
“Senator Feinstein and I decided we were going to work together on this, and we will have a statement coming on this,” she added with a straight face.
Scene: Exterior Hart Senate Building. Tracking shot moves in on and through a blue-curtained window to interior of well-appointed private United States Senate office.
Sen. Boxer (Sally Field) is stretched out on brown leather couch under an American flag comforter, wearing a house coat and twirling a lock of blonde hair with one finger, peering over Bulgari designer frames, lost in concentration reading the Ballot Handbook.
Sen. Feinstein (Cloris Leachman) is seated at FDR’s old desk, in flannel jammies and fluffy slippers, hair in curlers, tapping at a calculator as she checks columns of figures on a legal pad.
Boxer: “Dammit, Di, these ballot props are so complicated – this is our third all-nighter in a row. I hope we can work through them together in time to get a statement out before May 19.”
Feinstein: “Now Babs, unlike you, I’ve been a chief executive and I know what matters to the people of California is that we get it right, even if it is a few days after the election. You know, like my decision about whether to run for governor.”
Fade to black.
When Wildermuth’s Chronicle partner, Carla Marinucci, pressed Boxer about why she had no point of view on the props, Senator Standalone got downright huffy, explaining that she’s been Terribly Busy with Really Important Things, all, no doubt, of greater moment than a $40 billion bagatelle budget deficit for the state she represents:
“You may have noticed that we’ve been a little hectic and very involved in our work in Washington,” she snipped.
Well, excuuuuse us for bothering you. Sheesh. We’re just sayin’.
While Boxer could not abide taking a position on the props without Difi signing off, she showed no such reluctance on the issue of a truth commission about torture, an issue on which she and Feinstein have very different views.
“I believe in openness and democracy and the truth and getting the facts to the people,” Boxer said, explaining her support for an independent commission with subpoena power. “I also believe that this is something you can’t just walk away from. You can’t just suddenly say, when it’s inconvenient, you know we’re not going to pursue the law. You have to always follow the law.”
Boxer’s view aligns her with Senators Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and Carl Levin, D-Mich., among others, and contrasts with that of Feinstein, who wants the whole messy torture inconvenience handled quietly by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which she chairs.
On Saturday, Boxer sidestepped when asked if she was happy with the way the Obama White House rolled out its position on whether to seek prosecution of Bush administration officials – with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel and Obama himself all expressive conflicting views.
“I don’t think there was any quote unquote good way to roll this out. This isn’t a good news story and a lot of times we feel ‘Oh my gosh we have to deal with this too,’ and I think there was some of that, so I’m not going to be critical,” she said.
“I just know that he’s doing the right thing to release these memos . . . and I hope he’ll come down on the side of an independent commission.”
Now, there’s a clarion call.