BuzzFlash Interview, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren
August 21, 2001
CONGRESSWOMAN -- ZOE LOFGREN OF CALIFORNIA (D-16th District)
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren hails from the high-tech corridor area around San Jose, California. A native of the Golden State, she was elected to Congress in 1994, after having served on the staff of Don Edwards, her predecessor.
She joins Jan Schakowsky, Danny Davis, Bernie Sanders, and Luis Gutierrez as U.S. Representatives BuzzFlash has interviewed because they put up the good fight day after day for truth, justice and the American way! Just like BuzzFlash.
BUZZFLASH: Well, have you seen BuzzFlash?
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: I'm a subscriber to BuzzFlash.
BUZZFLASH: Well I hope you're enjoying it.
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: I am.
BUZZFLASH: Good, a couple of weeks ago we posted your comments just as the session ended before the Congressional break. You said, "It's a good thing Congress is about to recess. I don't know if the country could stand another week like this one of Republican "victories" - where the special interests rule to the detriment of ordinary Americans."
(see: The Insurance Company Bill)
Are we a little bit safer now that the House is in recess?
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: Well, Bush is still there.
BUZZFLASH: But heís on a working vacation.
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: But he took time out to make sure the scientists of America wonít have a good chance to get their scientific advances done on stem cells. Who knows what damage he might do elsewhere, even from the ranch? I do think that with Congress out of session, we canít dismantle the Patients' Bill of Rights this week nor approve any more oil drilling in national parks until September.
BUZZFLASH: You said that the Patients' Bill of Rights was transformed into a bill that protects insurance companies, essentially an insurance company protection act. Can you explain that a little bit for us?
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: Iím proud to say that the California State Senate divided up the California delegation and called us all to point out that the bill before the House preempted the California State's strong and good law that does give actual protection to patients for misbehavior by HMOís and insurance companies. If the bill that weíre now fondly referring to as the HMO's Bill of Rights does get through the Senate, the California's progressive approach will be wiped out. Now practically every day I think of Senator Jim Jeffords and say, ďThank you, Jim,Ē because I think hopefully the Senate will have the ability to stop some of the wackier and wilder things that the House sends over. Between this, as well as the energy plan and the other matters such as the so-called faith-based initiatives and the flag burning amendment, the House Republicans are treating the Constitution as a rough draft. I have to give credit for that remark. That was Pat Schroder's original remark in 1996. I donít want to steal her line.
BUZZFLASH: Are you talking about insurance company protection?
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: Iím talking about the Constitution and how many Constitutional Amendments we've seen discussed this year. So you know itís a right wing agenda thatís at odds with what I think most people in America want. I think in all honesty a lot of people didnít feel they were getting this. George Bush and the Republicans did try to fuzz up what they initially intended to do, and it was a big surprise to some people.
BUZZFLASH: Well he took the credit, I believe it was in the third debate when Al Gore challenged him about the HMO Bill of Rights. He said something like, ďWell there you go again. We have a very strong one in Texas,Ē and of course we all know he didnít sign the bill he referred to. That, in fact, the supreme of all ironies is that the bill that passed the House will override the strong Texas law that Bush wouldnít sign to begin with and later took credit for in the third debate. It's mind boggling hypocrisy.
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: Exactly, that this guy could just say this stuff and get away with it. Itís astonishing.
BUZZFLASH: Al Gore was painted as a liar, and here we have an administration that never seems to be on the same side of the truth on the same day in its positions. Whatís your take on the 2000 election? Do you think itís over? There are a lot of BuzzFlash readers that are particularly upset that although these revelations continue to come out of Florida about how the Bush campaign hijacked the electoral process, nothing seems to stick. There seems not the least inkling of a stirring in Congress to investigate or pursue this. Is there anything on the horizon that will go back and look at the 2000 election as far as either a House or Senate action?
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: I canít speak for the United States Senate, and I think if there were sufficient evidence I would like to think that they would look into this. Clearly the House of Representatives is controlled by right-wing ideologues and there is not a chance in the world that they would ever take a step that will be adverse to the Republican administration. I donít care what evidence you give them, there is no way that they would ever do anything to upset that apple cart.
BUZZFLASH: So for the moment it's sort of a stalemate as far as looking back at the election other than the occasional newspaper stories BuzzFlash has come across?
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: It seems to me that what we need is an honest district attorney someplace in Florida who can say if there is actual evidence of conduct that rises to criminal misbehavior. And if so, somebody ought to look at it.
BUZZFLASH: What do you see happening when the recess is over in September? What actions do you see the House being particularly concerned about?
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: Well I think there has been speculation as to whether we will actually have a defense appropriation or not. Theyíve already spent all the money. As you know weíre borrowing money to give a tax cut. And thereís speculation that they will not do an appropriation for defense at all. Theyíll just put some continuing resolution in, with Star Wars and all of the other things they want to do and that will further crush the budget.
I think one of the interesting things for BuzzFlash followers to look at is campaign finance reform. We do not have quite enough signatures on the discharge petition. If we can get a couple of the so-called moderates to actually sign up, we can discharge that to the floor and end up approving the Senate bill, and that would actually make a difference for us.
BUZZFLASH: Whatís the deadline date for the discharge?
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: There is no deadline. You have to wait a sufficient number of hours to start the petition. Thatís already been done. I've signed it. Iím number twenty-one on the list. We're about 18 or 19 short, so thatís something Buzz Flash readers should find out. Whether their representatives have signed or not -- and if not, get them to sign.
BuzzFlash Note: Here is the list of Reform Supporters Who Have Not Yet Signed the Discharge Petition, from Common Cause: Click for list of Representatives to urge to sign the discharge petition
BUZZFLASH: Let me ask you a question on gun control. Some Democrats are saying that the party needs to cool it on gun control. Do you have any thoughts on that?
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: Well, we're not going to get anywhere on gun control with Republicans in charge of the House. There is no way. The administration is anti-law enforcement on this. What they have done so far is shameful. Just shameful.
BUZZFLASH: You mean, in relation to NICS and the rolling back to zero days and Ashcroft?
Note: John Ashcroft has rolled back, at the request of the NRA, the number
of days the FBI and BATF will have to audit gun purchases for possible
criminal activity from 180 days to 1. Ashcroft has also personally indicated
in a letter to the NRA that he fully supports their position on the Second
Amendment. He was rewarded by being the cover boy on a recent edition
of the NRA magazine. Oh yeah, the NRA also gave $375,000 to Ashcroft's
failed senate bid. See:
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: The mainstream of America doesnít think that you need to have an Uzi, but that is not apparently how this administration thinks. I think that some of our party's rhetoric could be more finely tuned. Because most people, including myself, are not opposed to people being hunters. IĎm not personally a hunter, but I have a friends who are and I have friends that have guns. Thatís fine if you're not a felon or have a mental illness or a restraining order for violence against you.
We have a very different attitude towards guns in America than they do in the rest of the world. And I think to the extent that the NRA thinks that if you're against 12-year-olds packing Uzis, then youíre against people going out in deer hunting season. We allowed the NRA to create that crazy picture and we could do a better job of turning that around.
BUZZFLASH: Do you think that one perspective may be to hold the gun industry more accountable rather than in focusing on individual gun owners and the NRA?
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: Well I think that that is a possibility, but all the action is going to come from state legislatures and California courts have gone way beyond anything that has ever been discussed.
BUZZFLASH: Your governor (Gray Davis) has been saying, "No more. No more." (Governor Davis supports gun control, but has placed a temporary hold on any more bills.)
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: There are a few more things that will happen and what I would like to do is the next time deer season opens, I want all the gun owners in California to reflect that even though the NRA is having a hissy fit, deer season is still happening. In spite of the NRA's crazy rhetoric and scare tactics, the proof is in the pudding. It hasnít stopped anybody other than felons. It hasn't stopped legitimate people from going ahead and enjoying skeet shooting and deer hunting.
BUZZFLASH: Let me ask you a more general question that has to do with Republican media strategyósomething BuzzFlash probably harps upon obsessively. Beyond the fact that Fox is a Republican network, given that Roger Ailes heads their national news programming. And CNN may be teetering in that direction if they hire Rush Limbaugh, which is the rumor of the day. And then there's all the other media sympathetic to the Bush administration and peddling so-called Democratic scandals. Then we have Republicans like your "colleague," Dan Burton, on the House side, and various people on the Senate side obsessively go after personal issues trying to criminalize Democrats and obsessively investigating Democrats to tarnish them. Democrats generally hold to a higher standard and generally donít pursue that route.
From our perspective, it does have an impact on the American public where they start to see Democrats as somehow fallen, evil people or people with bad moral repute. And the fight is one-sided because itís unseemly to still be investigating Janet Reno as Dan Burton has seemed to be doing at least up until the recess. The public gets a one-sided image and you have people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill OíReilly and others sort of echoing whatever the investigation of the day is. Do you have any thoughts about the tie between the Republicans use of Congressional investigatory power and their media shills?
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: Well I think the point you made is not incorrect, but Iím not going to take my time and talk about the sex lives of Republicans in Congress. Iím just not going to do it. I think itís unseemly. I think the American people are a lot smarter than most of the Republicans give them credit for. In fact, Al Gore did win the popular vote and the majority of American people do not agree with what George Bush is trying to accomplish. And maybe it would be useful politically for Democrats to start investigating the sex lives of Republicans. I just donít think that any of us, who are serious about policy, which is almost all of us--thatís why those of us from California commute 5000 miles a week--are going to try to run some kind of tawdry number on the RepublicansÖ.
BUZZFLASH: Let's move from sex scandals for the moment to a fundraising issue. It seems to us there was a certain fundamental imbalance when the Vice President held a fundraiser at his house, which is the people's vice presidential house in the Naval Observatory, there was a editorial commentary here and there but no call for an investigation on the part of Democrats. But Al Gore was smeared for years because of an alleged fundraising impropriety in California. That sort of represents more of what Iím talking about. There is an investigative obsessiveness on the part of Republicans, even if there is no impropriety. But if they can make it seem the appearance of an impropriety, they investigate the Democrats.
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: I think that there were certainly comments made by the Democrats about the Cheney incident. Weíre in no position in the House. We donít chair a single committee, so we donít have an ability to do an investigation in the House. Certainly there were people who commented on it on the Democratic side. There was almost no coverage of what the people said because of the right-wing ownership of all these media outlets. I do think that people will comment, but most of the Democrats I know are serious about doing something thatís beneficial for the people of the country. That is our priority. And you might criticize that impropriety and refer it to the Justice Department for "official" action, but Iím more interested in getting health care for the people in my community than spending the next year investigating and trying to smear somebody else.
BUZZFLASH: It almost seems that there is, and Iím not trying to lead you to the answer, that there is a personal vendetta. The Republicans can't seem to win on the issues. They think that no one is going to see the horrendous, insulting appointments George Bush has been making. Or you brought up the vote that he fuzzed up during the election so at some points he looked as if he were part of the Democratic Leadership Council. And they insidiously attacked Al Gore with this totally slanderous notion that he's somehow a serial liar. And somehow Bush sneaks through. They can't win on the issues, so they use so-called investigations, whispered leaks, and the right wing media network to muddy up the Democrats.
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: Weíll see what happens next year, but people come up to me and say, "Okay, where are the prescription drug benefits the President promised?" In the end, I believe reality is what is going to count. You can say what you want, but if you donít produce itís going to be noticed.
BUZZFLASH: Do you have any prediction if the House is going to return to Democratic control in 2002?
CONGRESSWOMAN LOFGREN: I think it depends a lot on what people like BuzzFlash readers do. Weíre in good shape historically. It should return to us. We only need 6 seats, and with the exception of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his first off-year election, all presidents lose that many members of their party at that election time. But thatís not a guarantee. People have to wake up and work. This isnít something that should concern only the elected officials. I mean, this country is no more mine than it is yours, and if we wonít get off our collective duffs, then weíre going to deserve what we get.
BUZZFLASH: Anything else you want to say to BuzzFlash readers?
LOFGREN: No, just that Iím glad you're out there.
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