California's spectacular First Congressional District, the longest C.D. in the lower forty-eight states, stretches 300 awe-inspiring miles from the Oregon border to the San Francisco Bay. Our delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from C.D.1 is Democrat Mike Thompson, a member of the self-described "conservative-to-moderate" Blue Dog Coalition, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Wine Caucus and a Napa County vineyard owner. California has more people than any other state, so we send the biggest delegation to the House of Representatives. There is one member from each its 53 congressional districts.
Hi, I'm Mitch Clogg. I'm running for Congress. This is who I am, what I've done and why you should vote for me. When you're running for something, somebody points a camera at you and asks for an eight-second sound-byte. That's your typical chance to present yourself. This is what you wish you had time to tell:
I was born in Baltimore in 1938, of standard American mutt stock. My big sisters were two and four. Practically on my first birthday, Germany invaded Poland and started World War II. Seeing Hitler's success, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and it was no longer a "European War." This state of global war was, as far as little Mitch knew, the only state there was. British sailors on leave stayed in our house. My dad built a factory to make things of steel: deafening racket, hot metal, war stuff. I got caught on the toilet in the dark one night when the sirens went off and we had to turn out the lights for the air raid drill. I tried to sneak a light for a second so I could find the TP, but the air raid warden on the street outside yelled at me. We got mail from friends fighting in the South Pacific. It was exciting. I was just about to turn seven when it ended. How could war end? It was an integral part of life, as much a part of my environment as the industry-poisoned streams and rivers I splashed in but didn't drink. I didn't know I was asking one of the most important questions of all. The war newsreels at the Saturday movies were exciting! Young people are built for sex and trouble, and they know it before they know they know it, so how could something so powerful and huge end? It's time we found out. This atrocity in Iraq will end up costing over a trillion dollars. Imagine what we could do with all that money, what we could have done for the last, say, 90 years, since we entered World War I, if we'd spent it on peace instead of war—imagine!
The Clogg family had that noisy Ozzie-and-Harriet kind of household that America likes to call "middle class" (and the rest of the world knows is unbelievably well off). My dad never made a million. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, in their Baltimore mansion, they were rich. Americans who made over a million gave back 90 percent in taxes, with loud complaining, but I was old enough to know that $100,000 was good money. Working-poor wage earners paid 20%, up from 4% when I was born. A kid brother and sister came along. We were a family of seven, not counting dogs and cats.
In 1955, my parents and younger brother and sister, two grown friends of the family and our dog died when the small boat they were using to get to a remote hunting lodge ran into stormy weather and capsized. We older kids were not there. My sister Sandra was newly married, and Judy was in nursing school. I was 16. I finished high school and went to college for a few months, but I was restless. Hungary rose up against the U.S.S.R. and got crushed. I quit school and joined the 101st Airborne Division.
During my time, men of the 101st were sent to rescue then-V.P. Dick Nixon and Pat from a mob in Venezuela, to stop a rebellion in Lebanon and to integrate Central High School in Little Rock. The Vietnam nightmare was barely clouds on the horizon, but relations between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were explosive, and the 101st was a first-strike division, cannon fodder. I was relieved to get out as the Fifties ended.
Back in Baltimore I cast my first vote ever for JFK, became a husband and a father of three, a college student, construction worker and union member and a newspaper reporter. When our third child was two months old, my wife ran off with another man. She later died of cancer. I spent the next 18 years as a bachelor father. I cooked, washed the diapers and dishes and worked hard for the money. I brought my son and two daughters—eight, six and four—to Northern California in 1968. With the help of daycare centers, babysitters and housekeepers I saw them through puberty and young adulthood. I worked on the docks of San Francisco and then found a newspaper job. I covered the revival of the women's movement in the Sixties and Seventies. I had an inside view of their issues, through the lens of my own situation and countless conversations with "other mothers." I covered a massive student strike at SF State, in depth, the only reporter the Third World Liberation Front would talk to. I got honorable mention from KQED's ground-breaking "Newsroom" for my reports.
I took time to chip away at college, eventually studying at the school I admired most, U.C. Berkeley, with my near-adolescent kids, the necessary assistance of the G.I. Bill and cheap student housing. I worked on the local paper, exposing a web of corruption in Berkeley businesses and city hall. I studied political science and economics and finally got a bachelor's degree in the Liberal Arts (Rhetoric). My career as a public servant, begun as a soldier, shaped by my experience as a reporter, enlarged with two terms on a city planning commission, took center stage when I went to work in Berkeley for the California Department of Health. I inspected Bay-Area nursing homes that profited from the dark-ages treatment of helpless old people. It made it personal. The nursing-home chains despised me, with reason. I imposed the first cash fines on them they ever paid, made possible by new, stiffer laws that came on line as I started the job. I closed a boys’ home that caged and tormented its mentally impaired young patients, Abu Ghraib-style.
Next I worked for the California Department of Water Resources in the upper Sacramento Valley. We were responsible for watchdogging the environment as well as assuring the water needs of farmers and ranchers. The north state's vital rivers were dying from dams and overuse. Lower flows and erosion from logging and road construction were killing the natural fisheries and spoiling the swimming holes. I made a documentary film about logging, but a sister agency, the California Department of Forestry, killed it despite my pleas. The timber barons wouldn't stand for scrutiny, however fair, and the state caved in for them.
Mendocino can be a hard place to find work. I waited till the kids were safely launched before I moved back to the Coast. I got a radio job, covering local news, but when I did a feature on why gas prices are higher on the coast than anywhere else, I was fired. The boss had complimented me on the story, but when he got complaints from local businessmen he sacked me. I cleaned Stygian stables in Westport, and did construction work in Ft. Bragg. When I heard the director of the county department of social services was holding out on the clients, returning funds each year so he could gain favor with County conservatives, I took a job with the welfare department. The staff worked feverishly, hours of unpaid overtime, because there were never enough people to handle the caseloads. I freelanced a story for the local press. That spiked my career as a welfare worker, but the director resigned, too, and a new one took over who worked for the people that needed her.
Mendocino was then the hot center of environmental activism in California. Oil companies wanted to drill offshore. For a couple of years, I gave all my time to that fight, and I watched, with thousands of other people, as U.S. Interior Department officials, here to do the bidding of the oil companies, slipped away exhausted from a marathon public meeting, defeated by the tsunami of public will they had triggered. We won that fight!
I ran for congress as a Democrat. A big crowd at a convention of the state's new Green Party called for me to switch and run as a Green. I'd worked with the Greens. Their values were mine, so I switched, but my "nomination" was not legally authorized and my candidacy was halted in a Sacramento court almost before it began. I returned to the Democratic Party.
The Democrats did glorious work for most of my life, but in recent years the party's representatives in Congress have become as greedy and shifty as any of Washington's bottom feeders, its Jack Abramoffs and that culture of lawlessness and avarice, especially in the Bush-Cheney era, can make it. This is not its first descent into the muck, but the loud-and-clear citizen outcry that echoed coast to coast from last November's election demands a revival of old-time Party decency. That won't happen without new leadership. Our congressman, Mike Thompson, ranks very high with the party hacks. It won't happen with him.
That's why you should vote for me.
In 2004 I wrote, published and distributed a newspaper that compared America's evil and ignorant little despot, George W. Bush, with Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Bush never did anything good, ever (except raise and spend money). He's a crook from a crooked family, four generations of malformed Bushes and Barbara's kin who’re just as bad. He runs the country as a crime syndicate. Hussein clawed his way up out of poverty and illiteracy to become "the most progressive Arab leader in the Middle East," as the State Department described him. Then he turned bad. Bush never had a productive period. He's been bad from the start. I told the two men's stories side-by-side and put my papers onto the streets of Washington and New York, under the lashings of Hurricane Camille. I mailed it to all U.S. senators and 500 newspaper editors before I ran out of money, but the '04 election was totally rigged, and it didn't matter what I or anybody else did. Early in '05 I came down with the first symptoms of throat cancer, and public service had to wait for a while.
But not completely. The VA clinic in Mendocino County sent me to the VA hospital in San Francisco, where they bombed and strafed my cancer until it was dead and I couldn't stand up: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The medical staff divided its time between the San Francisco's world-famous UC medical schools and hospitals and the VA hospital. They were brilliant, and the VA that helped me through college hauled me through cancer, too. I didn't pay. I had paid by soldiering. I was covered by the biggest medical-insurance plan, except for Medicare, in the country: the Veterans Health Administration. Years ago it was a scandal. Now it's the model for public health and proof that universal health care is super-efficient, stunningly cost-effective and dazzlingly successful. People who profit from the current health-care mess, including a rich bunch of Thompson supporters, don't want you to hear this success story, but I'm writing a book that shouts it from the rooftops, and so will I.
That's why you should vote for me.
The George W. Bush presidency has committed crimes at home and destroyed the sovereign nation of Iraq, which used to be friendly and admiring toward America. It has savaged the soul of this republic. There can be no national healing until the criminals who have soiled the Constitution they swore to protect are brought to justice. Impeachment is the calm and lawful—and only—remedy. Failure to impeach (it only requires a simple majority in the House) is failure by the members of the U.S. House of Representatives to carry out their oath of office. A simple majority, fifty percent plus one, 218 members out of 435. The president can't veto it. He can't escape justice without the complicity of Congress, and they seem determined to provide it. I champion impeachment every waking moment. That's why you should vote for me.
We need to remove our soldiers from Iraq and start to make things right in that suffering country. We need to rebuild New Orleans and make things right in our suffering gulf-coast cities. To have democracy, you have to educate for democracy. We're not born for self-governance, and it isn't easy. We need to make our schools best in the world and make education as free as health care.
We had these things in my lifetime, but we've allowed the rich and ruthless to gradually take over this grand experiment for their own unappeasable greed. The country and its institutions belong to us, not to our "top ten percent." Eternal war takes the wages of a society, pours them into a military-industrial funnel and straight into the pockets of the rich. So there's armed conflict in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The "Pax Americana" since WW 2 has been a period of constant war, few of them without U.S. involvement. When he left the White House, Eisenhower gave the most intelligent speech we ever heard from him, warning us about the Bushes and Cheneys of the world. Ike's gone and Cheney's one of the richest men on earth. Of in the House of Representatives' 435 members, 413 are millionaires, among them our First-District congressman. Can you trust your needs to be understood by them? How can we expect a renewed U.S.A. from them? How can we correct the current murderous inequity in income without restoring progressive taxes and making rich corporations and rich individuals play fair? That's what the Democratic Party used to do. That's what it has to do again, no ifs ands or buts. How much more money do we need to remake America, to lift up our people and fix our bridges, if the rich pay their share and we stop the deadly hemorrhaging of our fortune on an obscene and bloated military? Answer: none.
At the beginning I said I was born in 1938. So was Superman. He made his first appearance—his first flight!—that summer of '38. He and WWII cartoonist Bill Mauldin's G.I. Joe and my dad and grandfather taught me to be strong and do what you have to.
(So I have to find time next year to climb Mt. Shasta, the most beautiful mountain I know and one of the highest. I've climbed her six times. She keeps me from letting myself go.)
I'm not running now because my time is getting short. Cancer could have killed me, but instead it made me tougher. I've never been fitter than I am now. I'm running because our time is running out. You and I have got to stop this Gangster-Republican-and-Dirty-Democrat freedom-killing juggernaut now, or it will too late. This country belongs to us. It's our name--"We the People"-- who were a beacon to the world, it's our name on the pink slip. We still own the contract called the Constitution of the United States of America. We only need to honor it, to read it and act on it, and we can't go wrong. That's what I'm laboring for, and that's why you should vote for me. Washington is a wasteland, a quagmire. The people are longing to love their country again.
Let's drain that swamp!