Yesterday evening, my Congresswoman, Democrat Jane Harman of California’s 36th District, showed up in Santa Monica for an event at the new West L.A. Democratic Club headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard. I’m pretty sure this is the first time that I have ever met my Congressional representative face to face. Harman, whose district extends from Venice down through the South Bay communities to the Port of Los Angeles, officially came to kick off her 2008 re-election campaign. Her most important message, however, was that area Democrats need to gird themselves for a very close, very tough national election, and they need to do everything they can to elect Barack Obama President, with a larger Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.
The diminutive Harman, while friendly and personable, is a firebrand. Harman earned a reputation for toughness during eight years on the House Intelligence Committee, including four years as Ranking Member. Her toughness came through as she spoke to the standing-room only crowd of volunteers, staffers, and Democratic party activists.
In particular, Harman’s no-nonsense style of politics left no room for the theoretical. As for local issues, she is a staunch environmental advocate. After an enthusiastic introduction by ubiquitous City Council Member Bill Rosendahl, Harman stepped to the unmiked podium and cited her fight against excessive noise and pollution at the Santa Monica Airport, as well as her opposition to the expansion of LAX. Harman stated emphatically that she opposes increased offshore oil drilling, and would only support an energy bill containing more drilling provisions if such provisions were “nothing” compared to an overall bill that included comprehensive renewable energy provisions. She cited her opposition to the proposed Woodside liquified natural gas terminal off the coast of LAX, which she claimed would be a prime terrorist target. Harman also mentioned her support for “Justice for Janitors,” and several SEIU members wearing purple SEIU t-shirts were on hand to thank her for her assistance in negotiating better contracts for janitors at Northrop Grumman and other aerospace companies with offices in and near the 36th district.
Likewise, when asked what she thought about Sarah Palin’s recent speech before the Republican National Convention, Harman did not dwell on theoretical policy disagreements with Palin. Instead, she said that Palin is an effective, dynamic messenger for her party, and a game-changer for the election. Harman stated that Joe Biden will have to think carefully about how to deal with Palin during their debate next month. She also said that the Presidential election is going to be “very close,” and that the campaigning will get “raw” and “ugly.” To help the party in these battles, Harman presented the West L.A. Democratic Club with a personal check for $5,000.
Shortly thereafter, I buttonholed the Congresswoman to ask her what she thought about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 2006 campaign promise that impeachment of George Bush would be “off the table” in a new Democratic Congress. Instead of saying that the Constitution specifically calls for impeachment, Harman went with the practical, telling me that Pelosi felt the Republicans had suffered politically when they impeached President Bill Clinton, and Pelosi did not want to make a similar mistake.
Then Harman turned to the nearby television set to watch John McCain deliver his Republican Convention speech. According to Harman, “we need to understand the enemy.”