Taxes and Torture: Boxer’s Profiles in Courage (and Cowardice)


U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer made sure everyone at the Democratic state convention boxer1understood 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.

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There are 7 comments for this post

  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    So, what exactly did she really say, then? DUH!

  2. avatar Anonymous says:

    Your critique is fair on the May 19 ballot, but Boxer’s basic message was completely accurate. She is a very consistent, principled defender of her views. By comparison DiFi is a wishy-washy centrist, who often makes decisions based on the relevant configuration of Washington insiders at her last dinner party.

    Boxer may not have a position on the special election, but there’s no question that she is tough and principled. Just like she said in her speech.

  3. avatar Anonymous says:

    Remember when Boxer kited over a hundred bad checks to the U.S. Post Office? The checks were made out to “cash.”

    The P.O. kept requesting restitution, but Boxer never gave them a dime.

    Then someone blew the whistle, and the story made the newspapers. Boxer promptly repaid the bad checks.

    Question: if you had written even one bounced check to the USPS, do you think you’d get a pass?

    Boxer is a crook. Is there any doubt?

  4. avatar Anonymous says:

    We shouldn’t forget about Senator Dianne Feinstein either. She repeatedly used her committee chairmanship to funnel $millions into her husband’s company — in no-bid contracts:


    DiFi was forced to give up her committee chair for those shenanigans.

    Did she learn to be honest?



    It’s a sad commentary on the mainstream media that the bigger newspapers and TV networks deliberately cover up wrongdoing by not reporting this unethical behavior. By not exposing these corrupt pols, the media fails in their duty to report to the citizens – who must pay for Feinstein’s corruption. They should be ashamed.

  5. avatar Anonymous says:

    I have attended many Democratic State Conventions and have been forced to listen to Boxer bragging about her courage. While she supports every kind of abortion and will do whatever environmental groups ask her to, these positions do not put her in any peril. She just mouths the politically correct dogma of the party activists. Why doesn’t someone ask what she is doing to really resolve our state’s water crisis? We need more water storage and better facilities to transfer that water and she has done nothing on that issue of vital importance to our growing state. I give great credit to Senator Feinstein on this issue, but Boxer just keeps dodging the issue to appease her ulta-liberal base. There really is no real courge in Boxer, just more partisan rhetoric.

  6. avatar Anonymous says:

    It’s defensible for U.S. Senators to not take positions on the myriad CA ballot measures that appear on the ballot each election. The budget mess really is for the governor and legislature to clean up.

    It would be fairer for the media to press the senators regarding hypocrisy, corruption or performance regarding federal matters.

    Boxer, for example, IS chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that has jurisdiction over issues of great importance to CA voters and the nation as a whole. The public would be well-served by stories detailing how she is, or is not, leading the charge on federal policy related to energy independence, climate change, transportation etc.

    Feinstein’s position on torture is something worth probing at length as well.

  7. avatar sactownjoey says:

    This. Is. Awesome. Anybody who has worked around her in the Senate will appreciate this.

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