Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Back Porch Capuano

Now he's mine. I've long admired plainspoken and progressive U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano. As a result of redistricting, as of January, he gets my part of Boston as well as other neighborhoods and other towns.

He's constantly going and was tough to get on Left Ahead. He did join us eventually a few years ago. We'll get him on again.

Two nights ago, he was up on my hill holding forth and shaking hands with about 40 of us. He is introducing himself to his new constituents. As always, his candid talk and answers went over well. I don't think he's capable of lying or even dissembling. While he's proudly lifelong Somerville, his plain talk could fit just as easily in New Jersey or West Virginia, two areas I grew up in where they admire and respect it.
An earlier post contains clips of his predictions for November wins by Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren.

Forever Mayor

He poked fun at himself for retaining his quality-of-life focus from his days as Somerville aldeman and then Mayor. He says he still does non-Congressional things, even ones some people consider stupid, like noting where there are potholes that need fixing. He says, "I think these are the things that really matter to people. I care way too much."

In some way, Capuano is a character in his own long-running play. He clearly enjoys letting voters see his foibles and learn about what makes him angry or pleased. That goes a long way toward humanizing him, so that when he casts a vote in the House you don't necessarily like, you have a sense of why...and if you don't, he'd be willing to explain it.

In fact, his candor and conviction remind me of another beloved member of Congress. In a post here six years ago, I recalled something "...U.S. Senator Wayne Morse (D-Oregon) told me many years ago [in the 1960s]. He was staunchly anti-Vietnam War in a state whose voters had the opposite view. When I asked him about compromises and importance of being counted, he said, 'Don't believe a thing a politician tells you if it doesn't square with his voting record.'"

Monday evening, Cappy spoke as though the crowd didn't know his voting record or politics. Surprising to this wonk, he was right.

Up top, he explained why he voted against invading Iraq, which he saw as not involved in 9/11. In contrast, he voted for involvement in Afghanistan, where al-Quaeda had was being shielded. He approved of the anti-terrorism military activities, but not nation building. However, he thinks we are being far too slow in leaving, as the terrorists have long left. He still would support sending troops wherever al-Quaeda or their ilk move.

He went to controversial issues to explain how he legislates and deals. For a big example, he supported the Affordable Care Act for healthcare overhaul, even though he found it only a good beginning and far from perfect.

He enjoys the process, which he describes as politics are "the most difficult thing you can do without hitting each other." He hasn't appreciated the obstructionism by the GOP for the past several years. In fact, he longs for a return to when "...we got to fight with people we disagree with. Then we have to fight among ourselves about the details. Those family fights are the ones I miss."

Stand Up, Speak Up

He said that unfortunately, "my side is full of complainers." He wants both the President and those in Congress to speak up about key issues. "I really want more people on my side to show up and not be afraid to talk about civil liberties."

As much he is willing to mix it up, he says there's an important role for bipartisanship. On the other hand, he said, "There's a big difference between getting along with someone and just selling out." He wants Democrats from the President down to be more aggressive on key issues.

For the long-lasting impasses in Congress, he isn't surprised. He sees it not as a symptom of the Congress members, rather of the national division. "Congress is severely divided" he said because the nation is. The folk voters send to D.C. accurately represent their constituents, hence the conflicts.

For pending issues, he continues to define himself as proud liberal who is a fiscal conservative in the old sense. "I'm not afraid of taxes," he said, "I pay 'em and I have no problems asking you to pay them, but I want them to be used properly." He tells constituents who complain about taxes that if they don't pay them, they don't get the services they want. "You don't get anything for free."

By the way of conclusion, he said plainly that he had no idea of how Congress would act during its lame-duck period looming or even the first six months of the new term. "I'm not optimistic for the next six months or so, but I'm incredibly optimistic for the long term."

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