I happened to attend a meeting today that featured Rep. Bob Filner (D-California), out campaigning in support of Howard Dean.
He addressed a small group of folks (about 10) and answered questions in Carroll, Iowa, speaking positively of Gov. Dean. He said it'd be good to have a doctor as president for working with healthcare issues, such as with how prescription drugs are marketed.
Many of Filner's answers were part of an overall critique of politics in general and the influence of special interests. He was very critical of President Bush and Republicans. He said he doesn't refer to them as "the Administration," but as "this crowd," saying, "It's like a mafia." With special interests influence, he said the Republicans are giving away the country. He said this is true in any major sector, that it's "all being given away."
The group was less curious about what programs or policies Gov. Dean might enact as President and more interested in venting their frustration about Bush and his policies. Filner's response was a strong critique of Bush and the Administration, especially since 9/11. Concerning John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act, he said, "A climate of fear makes it possible for them to stay in power... It's a climate of fear that's kept up," and this masks the dangers of their policies. On the Patriot Act specifically, Filner said, "It's the most un-American law," and the way it is promoted, "It sounds a little like Germany before and with Hitler." He said he was one of approximately 25 members of Congress who voted against the Patriot Act.
Rep. Filner spoke as well of the influence of special interests in Congress. He described how the special interests who are contributors or have a large presence in particular states influence votes. Concerning this influence, he said, "Everyone is bought-off to some degree." And there is no real accountability for Congress in elections, he said, because around 98% of incumbents gain re-election, a greater average than in the Soviet Union when they had a one-party system. Concerning his own district, around San Diego, he said he's served as Congressman for 12 years, and for anyone to mount an effective campaign against him it would require at least $1 million just to start.
Of the other Democrat candidates for president, Filner was critical of Richard Gephardt and John Kerry, especially for their support of the war in Iraq. He said the war has not made us safer but just the opposite is true. Sorry, I don't have any exact quotes on this except he called Gephardt "a friend." One little Kerry nugget was when I said I had heard Kerry saying that the Patriot Act will expire in December 2004 (that was my best recollection). He said he did not know that but accepted it as true if Kerry said it, and asked if this was Kerry's "excuse" in voting for it.
Concerning the big issue of ethanol in Iowa, Filner said he was the only California congressman to support ethanol development. This is not because of Iowa and corn, but because they have some way of getting ethanol from sugar cane that is grown in his district.
Gov. Dean was not present at this meeting, alas. But I and my wife each had a latte in his honor. The event was held at the Inspired By Coffee coffeeshop.
I have a picture and other items at my new (recently REstarted) blog.