The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Barbara Boxer’s Bad Week, Part Five of Five


So far this week, we have examined Sen. Barbara Boxer’s purchasing of endorsements, the five-figure expenses tied to her jaunts to do “official business” at beach resorts, her 143 bounced checks for more than $40,000 in three years, and massive payments to her family from campaign funds. (Notice that you don’t need to be a conservative Republican to find any of these issues troubling.)

Today, we examine the possibility that Boxer is . . . not really in touch with what is going on around her.

There was a revealing moment last month when Barbara Boxer, meeting with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, offered a vivid, compelling anecdote . . . that simply didn’t happen.

“I asked [Condoleezza Rice] how many people had died and she did not know the answer to that question. And since we had lost a lot of Californians, I was concerned. And I said, you and I don’t have, we haven’t paid a person price, I said, you and I, I said, myself, my grandkids are too young, my husband too old, and as far as I know you don’t have anybody in the war.”

There was some embarrassment for Boxer when the paper went to the C-SPAN footage and found that Boxer never asked Rice how many U.S. troops had died in Iraq when she began her “personal price” remarks and in fact, never asked Rice any question.

Every long-term officeholder risks ending up in a bubble, constantly surrounded by sycophants and favor-seekers, applauding crowds and friendly media. They’re shielded from the usual frustrations and conflicts of life, and begin to presume everyone around them agrees with them. They may fall out of touch with their constituents, losing the ability to relate, to understand, to empathize or even to grasp normal decorum and behavior. What is fascinating is that Boxer does this so frequently, and so obviously, that even her allies acknowledge she’s out of touch.

There was obviously her infamous request to Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh to call her “Senator” instead of “ma’am,” the title consistent with military protocol. Then, when the chair of the National Black Chamber of Commerce testified against her energy policy, she clumsily tried to refute him by citing position papers from the NAACP and the 100 Black Men of Atlanta, with spectacularly bad results.

Deborah White, a delegate to the California Democratic party convention, lamented the transformation of a senator she has supported in the past:

As both a California Democratic Party delegate and a Californian who voted for Boxer in her three previous Senate races, I found her plea to be odd, her convention speech to be stale and out-of-touch, and her total lack of accessibility to be in vivid contrast with all other politicians (including Nancy Pelosi) in attendance at the convention. Therein lies the root of Sen. Boxer’s lukewarm support in 2010 from Democrats in blue-state California.

. . . Sen. Boxer seemed disconnected from the painful issues impacting voters in 2010 in her financially ailing home-state. And she seemed genuinely puzzled as to why her political support has faded. I believe that Barbara Boxer spends too much of her time in and on the insular world of Washington D.C., mired in national policy power-plays and bogged down in Senate intrigues, protocols, and social circles. And not nearly enough time caring and personally connecting with voters back home . . .

Sen. Boxer’s podium plea for California Democrats to “get excited” about her campaign was odd: the three-time senator seems to forget that successful politicians inspire excitement and campaign energy, as Barack Obama did in 2008. Excitement and energy among voters are not entitlements . . . Demanding excitement doesn’t work.

Even those who agree with her stances acknowledge she is not an effective leader. Frank O’Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, said “it would be a good thing in a lot of respects” if Democrat Tom Carper took over the Environment and Public Works Committee, in part because Boxer is seen as highly partisan. “I think it is one of the little dark secrets that’s never discussed is that people all think Barbara Boxer is fantastic when it comes to content but she’s lacking when it comes to leadership and style.”

It may be tough to lead when you have a habit of making assertions that don’t line up with . . . well, all known facts and the perspectives of roughly everyone else on the planet.

She’s argued that “I’m going to put in the record . . . a host of quotes from our national security experts who tell us that carbon pollution leading to climate change will be over the next 20 years the leading cause of conflict, putting our troops in harm’s way.” More than religious and ideological extremism? More than ethnic conflict? More than the profits and power from drug cartels or people smuggling? More than the age-old phenomenon of strong nations attempting to subjugate weak ones, like Russia’s annexation of Georgian territories?

The polls for California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina look a little tough lately. But Boxer’s been running television ads statewide since September 13. Her ads were running throughout the polling period of the recent Field Poll, and Boxer’s support remains unchanged at 47 percent since their July survey, and her disapproval rating remains at 47 percent.

Fiorina just started on September 23, with this simple message:

One big infusion of ads for Fiorina, reminding Californians of just how little 18 years of Barbara Boxer has done for them and how much she has done to them, and this race is over.

Tags: Barbara Boxer , Carly Fiorina


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