The most effective member of congress
One of the more idiotic beltway tropes is the old "both sides do it" nonsense, used most often by timorous journalists who are afraid of crazed conservatives calling them liberal if they describe what conservatives are actually doing. Yesterday provided a perfect example with this charmingly naive little piece by someone who works for Charlie Cook in which he calls this Republican House candidate the most frightening politician he's ever interviewed because she couldn't cite sources for her claim that climate change is a hoax. (This guy doesn't get around much, apparently. I can't imagine there's even one climate denier who can do that ...) Anyway, he naturally had to compare this foolish, superstitious lady with .. you guessed it ... Alan Grayson. Because both sides do it.
Except for the fact that Grayson is a brilliant and effective congressman who not only leads the progressive wing of the party he also gets more actual legislation accomplished than any other Democratic congressman. Dave Weigel profiled him last year:
Grayson and his staff scan the bills that come out of the majority. They scan amendments that passed in previous Congresses but died at some point along the way. They resurrect or mold bills that can appeal to the libertarian streak in the GOP, and Grayson lobbies his colleagues personally. That’s how he attached a ban on funding for “unmanned aerial vehicles,” i.e. drones, to the homeland security bill. He swears that they don’t back away from him because of his old persona—well, his relationship with Webster is “strained,” but he points out that Webster won re-election by 5,000 votes and Grayson won with 70,000. Never mind that. Are the members of Congress more forgiving than members of the press?
He's been doing this at a tremendous clip ever since 2012. I guess you can think that's nothing, but it's actually pretty much the only thing Democrats are accomplishing in the House.
“It’s either that, or we’re all senile,” he says. “In some cases it’s a short conversation. In some cases it’s a long conversation. In some cases, they’re desperate to talk to somebody. Some members are actually very lonely people.”
This is how he brings members aboard on bills that either keep resources in Florida or enshrine some liberal or libertarian principle in the law. “They might come from the perspective that Barack Obama is a horrible president, and I come from the perspective of being critical of the military-industrial complex.” Grayson added one amendment to the last homeland security funding bill that prohibited “funds in the bill from being used in contravention of the First, Second, or Fourth Amendments.” That was surprisingly easy to do.
“We knew they couldn’t vote against it,” he says. “They wouldn’t want to roll call vote against the Constitution. They’re constantly trying to acquire the Constitution for their own purposes, and claim that they’re the guardians of it, so we knew that couldn’t fail.”
The real prize of passing that amendment was writing the legislative justification for it into the Congressional Record. “The intent of Congress with this legislation,” Grayson wrote, “is to place an absolute prohibition on any DHS involvement of any type or to any degree with any surveillance of Americans without specificity or without probable cause, such as the National Security Agency’s recently revealed surveillance program.” That, he says, was “the benefit of future courts, for the benefit of future administrations.”
Not only that, his experience as a skilled litigator stands him good stead in his committee hearings where he is often extremely successful at questioning witnesses:
Perhaps people don’t realize that Alan Grayson isn’t just another lawyer/congressman. He’s an experienced litigator who fought whistle-blower fraud cases aimed at military contractors. The Wall Street Journal characterized him in 2006 as “waging a one-man war against contractor fraud in Iraq.” And he was very successful at it. As a politician Grayson is usually seen as a pugnacious fighter always at the ready with a pithy put-down on cable news shows. His floor speeches are often fiery indictments of his political opponents and the power elite.
All of this is to say that Grayson as the Democrats' designated clown doesn't happen by accident. The Villagers and the Republicans have turned him into that stereotype because he's a unique politician who not only is rhetorically capable of rousing supporters to his side but he also understands how the congress works and can get an agenda accomplished as a member of the House minority. He's independent and they can't stand that.
But that’s not why the Democrats should tap him for the job. As notable as all those characteristics are, they are not where Grayson’s true talent lies. He is a master at the task of committee questioning. During his first term as a member of the Financial Services Committee he practically had bankers whimpering on the hot seat and he took on everyone from Ben Bernanke to Timothy Geithner, eliciting important information. Unlike the vaunted prosecutor the GOP has tapped to lead the inquiry, Trey Gowdy (who specializes in browbeating and histrionic questioning), Grayson is never rude and he isn’t dismissive or insulting. He is serious, composed and extremely well prepared. And when he has the floor he is completely in control.
Alan Grayson proves that fearless progressivism has a place in our politics and can be far more effective than all the lukewarm, corporate bipartisan bilge the Party insists we have to swallow ever will be.
He's doing a money bomb. If you can, it would be very helpful to support him. He proves those Village wags wrong every single day. And that's a good thing.