Radio talk show host Dennis Prager calls Barbara Boxer’s election to the U.S. Senate in 1992 one of the darkest days in American politics. Former Vice President Dan Quayle said her victory caused him pain second only to that inflicted by his and President George H.W. Bush’s defeat by Bill Clinton and Al Gore. In light of Boxer’s recent rants, including essentially calling Condoleezza Rice a liar during her Senate confirmation hearings for secretary of state, the darkness and pain of the liberal Democrat’s victory over then L.A. radio and TV commentator Bruce Herschensohn have been revisited. It’s fair to say that perhaps even some Democrats are embarrassed by Boxer’s antics — since parodied on “Saturday Night Live” — not the least of them California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein. The lingering resentment of Boxer by California Republicans does not stem so much from the fact the ex-congresswoman won a Senate seat a little over 12 years ago, but the way she won. Heading into the week before Election Day it seemed likely she would lose to Herschensohn, one of the most principled and sage gentlemen ever to grace California politics. Then, a dirty bombshell. State Democratic political director Bob Mulholland, not exactly a poster boy for Marquis of Queensbury rules, charged that Herschensohn was a frequenter of Hollywood strip clubs, conjuring up the image of a rain-coated, black-socked lowlife skulking into shadowy places with lust on his mind. The fact was that while double-dating one night with another couple, Herschensohn, his companion and their friends had stopped in at a club for an after-dinner drink. Yes, exotic dancers were present, but that fateful, just-for-fun visit was a far cry from “frequenting strip clubs.” But the damage was done and Boxer came from behind to pull out a five-point win over the man many Republicans consider the best senator California never had. Almost as frustrating as Boxer’s 1992 win was the inability of a weak-benched California GOP to confront her with a strong challenger in 1998 and again last year. The result has been continued representation by an obnoxious blowhard with one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate. And with the year just over a month old, Boxer has distinguished herself as the only senator refusing to certify President Bush’s 2004 Electoral College win and with the spectacle of her spiteful tirade against Rice. In an attack lasting almost 15 minutes that had nothing to do with vetting Rice or her qualifications and everything to do with excoriating the Bush administration, Boxer derided Rice’s truthfulness and character. In doing so she took advantage of a double standard favoring all Democrats — the ability to attack an African-American without being branded a racist. Similar disparaging remarks directed at an African-American by a Republican would have resulted in that politician being hounded into resignation by Democrats and the media. But Boxer showed what she was really made of in an appearance on CNN’s “Late Edition” when she said of Rice, “She turned and attacked me.” Rice’s attack? Requesting that Boxer “refrain from impugning my integrity.” Portraying herself as the victim is hypocrisy typical of Boxer. This is the same person who led a march of women on the Senate to protest the alleged sexual harassment of Anita Hill by then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, but who had little to say about President Bill Clinton’s confirmed dalliances with a young intern. I’m not sure what Boxer is trying to achieve by positioning herself as the Democrats’ weapon of mouth destruction, beyond the fundraising pitch she has made on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, promising to “raise my voice on the Senate floor” and asking for money from donors. But if she’s trying to keep her party from moderating, which is exactly what it must do to have a chance in 2008, Democrats may have more reason to worry about her than Republicans do.
Barbara Boxer: California's fringe senator
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