Thursday, December 18, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

The man who said ‘nay’

Maureen Dowd

By
From page A7 | January 04, 2013 |

Michael Bennet was supposed to be going off a cliff in Vail.

But instead of his usual New Year’s trip to a ski lodge with his wife and three daughters, the junior senator from Colorado found himself in a strange, unfamiliar place in the middle of the night: breaking with the president and his party to become one of only three Democratic senators and eight senators total to vote against President Barack Obama’s fiscal deal.

“I was a little surprised that the margin of the vote was so big,” said a weary Bennet, who seemed a bit taken aback to be such an outlier. He was munching on a late-afternoon cheese steak sandwich at “George’s, King of Falafel and Cheese Steaks.” (The senator loves falafel, which his girls call “feel awful.”)

”I almost ordered extra cheese,” he said sheepishly, “but I would have been embarrassed.”

Long before Bennet came to work in the “land of flickering lights,” as he mockingly calls the dysfunctional nation’s capital where he grew up, Frank Capra dreamed him up. In a Congress that has become opera bouffe, Bennet is the freckled blond choir boy singing a cappella. The 48-year-old senator looks like the Yale law student he once was, wearing a Jos. A. Bank plaid shirt, gray sweater and khakis. “These are the only clothes I have in Washington that’s not a suit,” he grins.

As Katherine Boo wrote in The New Yorker, back when Bennet was the crusading Denver schools superintendent, his open face and amiable manner “only partly masked the intensity and severity of his judgments.” He was, Boo wrote, “an overachiever. He liked to announce improbable goals, then defy expectations of failure.”

Voting to let the country fall off the cliff was an audacious, even precocious, move by the Democratic golden boy and presidential pet – one that, oddly, put him on the side of Marco Rubio and Rand Paul rather than Obama and Joe Biden. “It is an interesting group,” he deadpanned about the naysayers.

He also had to go against Majority Leader Harry Reid, who anointed the freshman to be the new leader of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Bennet, the future of his party, comes from the fertile territory of the Mountain West. Asked if his vote was a way to stake out some centrist and independent territory for a future White House run, he demurred, “No, no, no.” Appointed in 2009 and little known in his state, he managed to survive the conservative wave that swept out so many Democrats in 2010 and his coalition of Hispanics and women became the model for the Obama campaign in Colorado in 2012. Democrats are counting on Bennet to recruit a new generation of candidates who will broaden the appeal and geographic reach of the party.

In the frantic New Year’s Day deal-making, he voted “nay” at about 2 a.m., and the House passed the bill at around 11 p.m. He said he did so because the deal did not have meaningful deficit reduction, explaining: “Going over the cliff is a lousy choice and continuing to ignore the fiscal realities that we face is a lousy choice.”

He said he thinks the president wants serious deficit cuts but is dealing with people “so intransigent I’m not sure they could be brought to an agreement that’s meaningful in the absence of going over the cliff. But it’s a terrible thing to say. People at home are so bone-tired of these outcomes.”

He said his focus now is the same as when he was the Denver superintendent trying to get more poor kids to stay in school.

”The burden of proof has to shift from the people who want to change the system to the people who want to keep it the same,” he said. “I think if we can get people focused to do what we need to do to keep our kids from being stuck with this debt that they didn’t accrue, you might be surprised at how far we can move this conversation.

“Washington politics no longer follows the example of our parents and our grandparents who saw as their first job creating more opportunity, not less, for the people who came after. My mother’s parents were refugees from Warsaw who came here after World War II because they could rebuild their shattered lives. But the political debate now is a zero-sum game that creates more problems than solutions.”

He thinks the trouble is not so much a clash of Democratic and Republican orthodoxies as it is a clash of past and future. “I think the inhabitants of the past are fighting hard to keep the rents they acquired in the 20th century,” he said.

I noted that his wife said that his special skill is knowing the difference between worthy challenges and impossible ones. He laughed, then mused: “This may be one of the impossible ones. But we have to do it. I know this country is not going to allow itself to go bankrupt. It’s challenging, though, because in this town there are all kinds of people whose job it is to obfuscate the facts.”

Then the exhausted senator left to see “Skyfall.” The one with James Bond, not John Boehner.

Maureen Dowd is a columnist for The New York Times.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Articles

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    Solano News

    Solano College trustees move back ‘home’

    By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Needs of small dog give Solano man life’s mission

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

     
    Christmas comes early for prenatal program participants

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Jury convicts teen for role in 2012 DeBartolo’s heist

    By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 3 Comments | Gallery

     
    Police chief: Suisun crime up 3 percent in 2014

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

     
    Council OKs $65,730 pact to advocate for Travis base

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

     
    Fairfield pays $42,500 to settle soil suit

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

     
     
    Fairfield police log: Dec. 16, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

    Fairfield police log: Dec. 15, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

     
    Suisun City police log: Dec. 16, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

    Suisun City police log: Dec. 15, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

     
    .

    US / World

    US, Cuba patch torn relations in historic accord

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Fears fanned by hackers bring down Sony film

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Like Iran, secret diplomacy leads to US-Cuba thaw

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    Pope played crucial role in US-Cuba rapprochement

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    US travel industry carefully eyeing Cuba tourism

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    US-Cuba thaw could benefit farmers, energy and travel firms

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Cubans cheer historic renewal of US relations

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

    Freed American endured years of declining health

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Bay Bridge light sculpture to keep on shining

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

    Study: Huge wildfire supports need for controlled burns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    A fresh setback for efforts to cure HIV infection

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

    14 charged in deadly 2012 meningitis outbreak

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Study: Alcatraz inmates could have survived escape

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Nigerian court sentences 54 soldiers to death

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

     
    Colombian rebels announce unilateral cease-fire

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

    Russians flock to stores to pre-empt price rises

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

     
    Pakistan buries victims of school massacre

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    .

    Opinion

     
    Crime Witness Protocol 101

    By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

    Asia needs to prepare for a possible China crash

    By William Pesek | From Page: A7

     
    Editorial Cartoons: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Living

    Today in History: Dec. 18, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Community Calendar: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

    Horoscopes: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

     
    My siblings don’t want to replace abusive mother’s pacemaker

    By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

    .

    Entertainment

    25 movies chosen for the National Film Registry

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

     
    Saving Private Ryan’ among films being preserved

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

    TVGrid

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    .

    Sports

    For MLB, changes in Cuba will take time to sort out

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Falcons cruise by crushers in girls basketball

    By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    49ers release McDonald amid further legal trouble

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Carr faces another tough test in rookie season

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

    Painkillers lawsuit against NFL dismissed; may be appealed

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Garcia resigns as FIFA prosecutor

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Chattanooga women stun No. 7 Stanford 54-46

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    Track coach Drummond gets 8-year doping suspension

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Warriors’ Bogut out with knee injury vs. Thunder

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    AP source: Romo close to $15M, 2-year deal with Giants

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Baseball monitoring White House Cuba decision

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    APNewsBreak: Judge rejects NCAA concussions deal

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    This date in sports history for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    .

    Business

    Health care exchange sign-ups exceeding last year

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

     
    Fed to be ‘patient’ about a rate hike; stocks soar

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

    McDonald’s in Japan limits orders of fries

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

     
    Amid scrutiny, Uber says it will focus more on safety

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

    .

    Obituaries

    Ernest “Ernie” Moretti

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Jennie Ponce Reyes

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    Patricia “Pat” Anne Stringfield-Pierre

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Marian L. “Chicki” Downs

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Beetle Bailey

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Frank and Ernest

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Zits

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Sally Forth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Garfield

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Peanuts

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Dilbert

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Get Fuzzy

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    For Better or Worse

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    B.C.

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Rose is Rose

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Blondie

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Pickles

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Baldo

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Baby Blues

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Wizard of Id

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Word Sleuth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Crossword

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Cryptoquote

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Sudoku

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Bridge

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9