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Thursday, July 23, 2009

DEMS ASK: Is Barbara Boxer Too Obnoxious ?



Barbara Boxer is proof that you can take the girl out of Brooklyn but you can't take the Brooklyn out of the girl. She is the stereotype pushy loud girl from my favorite NY Borough. The only difference is Brooklyn girls are a lot smarter

Just recently there was the famous "don't call me Ma'am episode" and her run-in with the head of the Black Chamber of Commerce is an all time classic. Those two events are not unique, Boxer has a reputation for nasty, brashness.

For example there was that time she criticized Condoleezza Rice for not having children:
"I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a personal price, as I understand it, with an immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families... not me, not you." When Rice interjected, Boxer responded by saying, "Madam Secretary, please. I know you feel terrible about it. That's not the point. I was making the case as to who pays the price for your decisions. And the fact that this administration would move forward with this escalation with no clue as to the further price that we're going to pay militarily... I find really appalling.
Boxer's penchant for beginning to worry Senate Democrats. After the recess Cap and trad is going to rest in her hands and it will take delicate negotiations and diplomacy. This has never been part of Barbara Boxer's skill set:
Dems raise concerns about Boxer
By: Lisa Lerer and Manu Raju



A big chunk of the House climate change bill is in the hands of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer — and some of its supporters are worried that she’s not up to the task.


In private conversations, Senate staffers say that Boxer’s abrasive personal style helped tank the climate bill that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) sponsored last year. And several recent embarrassing episodes involving the California Democrat have them worried about a repeat performance.


During a committee hearing in June, Boxer upbraided a brigadier general for calling her “Ma’am” rather than “Senator.” During another hearing this month, Boxer found herself in a testy exchange with the CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, who accused her of “condescending” to him.


For some Democratic staffers, the incidents underscored the danger of having an outspoken partisan liberal in charge of making the kinds of compromises needed to get cap and trade through the Senate.


“One of the criticisms that comes down on Boxer a great deal is that she takes it to really a very personal level,” said one Democratic staffer.


Added another Democratic aide: “People don’t look at her as the person who’s going to make a deal and bring both sides to the table. Her way is the only way.”


Boxer says that she doesn't regret the recent episodes — and that any attention her political opponents devote to them will help her in her 2010 reelection bid.


“That only revs up my people,” she told POLITICO. “I use that to send them letters and say, ‘Help me.’ So I get millions of dollars because these people are attacking me in the most ridiculous, unfair way. The more they do it, the more I get energized for my [reelection] race, and the more my supporters help me because they think it’s so ridiculous and unfair.”


Although the Lieberman-Warner bill cleared her committee last year, Democratic staffers complain that Boxer failed to win over enough Democratic senators to get it through the Senate and relied on moralistic global warming arguments to guilt Democrats into backing the bill — even though several thought they lacked the information they needed to vet or alter it.


“You can’t just do this by guilting folks,” said one senior Democratic aide who, like others, would speak only on the condition of anonymity. “It has to be an orderly process where every member has their say.”


This time around, Democratic leaders have spread Boxer’s workload among six committee chairmen.


“I don’t think anyone is going to let her take the ball this year,” said one staffer at an environmental group. “Not after last year.”


But Boxer insists that she prefers the division of labor.


“I took the things that worked last year and didn’t work last year and am trying to approach it in a different way,” she said. “It’s not my baby.”


“What I learned from the last time is the more committees have a stake in this, the better; the more the president has a stake in this, the better; the more the leader has a stake in this, the better,” she said. “And the more one-on-one contact, the better.”


Still, some see signs that the old problems are creeping into her committee. With Boxer as chairwoman and Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe — who calls man-made global warming a “hoax” — as ranking Republican, the committee hearings tend to be politically charged. Staffers say it would be better for the committee to focus on more politically palatable arguments about job production, national security and the country’s dependence on foreign oil.


“They act in the moral space of doing something on climate change,” said a Democratic aide. “The makeup of the committee is so polarizing that there’s not a general sense of digging into the details.”


To get a bill passed through a reluctant Senate, Boxer will have to entice skeptical Midwestern Democrats with concessions to industries typically reviled by environmentalists. At the same time, Boxer must keep the support of the environmental ground troops who will be a key source of funds and fieldwork during her reelection bid.


“It ought to be a challenge of a career to pull it off, because it’s going to require some very deft maneuvering to get 60 votes without giving the whole store away,” said Frank O’Donnell, head of the environmental advocacy group Clean Air Watch.


Boxer says she is working hard to include as many of her colleagues as possible in the discussion — which has taken on more urgency now that Democrats have a 60-vote Senate majority and one of their own in the White House.


“She has been more attentive, and other committees are also more engaged, so that gives her more to work with in terms of reciprocal interest,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).


“There’s a difference between a test flight, which last year ultimately was, and the main event, which this year looks like it’s proving to be.”


Boxer is holding long meetings with every Democratic member of her committee and a handful of Republicans. A group of about 20 members and staff, organized by Boxer, also meets every Tuesday to strategize about the bill and hear from speakers who have included senior White House political aide David Axelrod.


Democratic moderates like Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Mark Warner of Virginia and Mark Begich of Alaska have attended the gatherings, staff say. At the meetings, some senators have volunteered to contact other colleagues who might be persuaded to get involved.


Members of her staff recently traveled to Amsterdam with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, who has raised concerns about the bill. Boxer is going to Alaska with Begich, another uncertain vote, during the August recess, and she is also working closely with Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.).


“She’s doing a lot more outreach this year because everyone knows this year is real and last year we didn’t have time to do it,” said Kerry. “There’s a difference in the framework.”


There’s also a difference in timing; Boxer is up for reelection in just over 15 months. Republicans believe that if Boxer looks ineffective in failing to push through a climate change bill for the second straight Congress, it will disappoint her supporters and could cost her precious campaign contributions.


But if she succeeds, they’ll accuse her of imposing a big tax increase when California is already in a dire financial crisis.


“Her environmentalist extremist friends, and there are a lot of them out there, they’re going to be mad at her because she didn’t get it done,” said Inhofe. “And the logical people who know the science isn’t there, and that taxes are something we can’t handle, they’re going to be mad at her because she tries so hard.”


Either way, Republicans sense vulnerability — especially if former Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina runs for the GOP Senate nomination.


Boxer, too, senses danger from a potential wealthy challenger. She’s been raising money at a faster pace than she has in previous elections, reporting $5.4 million in cash on hand through the second quarter of this year.


But Boxer says she won’t suffer a backlash politically if she can’t get the bill through the Senate, saying that the “most important” thing for her supporters is that she continues to fight for the environment, health care reform, economic recovery and abortion rights.


“If I stop fighting for them, I would never get reelected, because these are the issues that have always been my signature issues,” Boxer said.

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