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Adam Schiff, Potential American Hero

He would be my choice to be President, though I know it will never happen. He largely fits my perhaps idealized version of what an American President should be. He is not dynamic in the way that John F. Kennedy or Bill Clinton or Franklin D. Roosevelt were. But he is highly intelligent, apparently extremely honest, and very articulate.

I have often felt that we Americans, at least on the liberal side, tend to be most drawn to someone who seems as if he is a movie star, with looks, eloquence and charm. Not that Schiff doesn’t have some of that, but he is essentially a very sober, meticulous and forthright political person. Every time I see him on television, I am impressed.

Except for Bill and Hillary Clinton, I don’t know of anyone in the political realm who is so articulate and intellectual. His speeches and statements as Chairman of the House Committee which prosecuted the impeachment and conviction of Trump, were remarkable. His final speech to the Senate, when he knew that there was no way that the Senate would convict, but he wanted to leave them and the country with long-ranging words of wisdom, should be printed in a book of great speeches.

Schiff is 61, he and I share the same birthday! He is never mentioned for any higher political office. He might like to be Senator, but our Governor Gavin Newsom appears to want to make ethnic minority choices ; he appointed Alex Padilla to fill Kamala Harris’ seat, and has talked about wanting to choose a Black woman to replace Dianne Feinstein, who is unlikely to seek re-election. That is his right, but Schiff deserves the Senate seat. There is no path for him to rise politically; and even if he wanted to run for President, our next nominee will almost certainly be Biden or Harris.

If the Republicans take over the House in 2022, Schiff will once again be relegated to Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee with no real power; a Committee which would be run by a dreadful Republican, whoever it would be, who would spend his or her time investigating Biden, Harris, and Hillary, maybe even Schiff. The goals of Republicans in Congress are purely radical and political.

Adam Schiff has just published a book, “Midnight: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy, and Still Could.” I will buy it, though I virtually never buy such books, because they are depressing and worrisome to have to sit down and read through. But he is so articulate that it would be worth it to read his undoubtedly perceptive insights.

On October 16, he will be at Los Angeles’ last great bookstore, Vroman’s, in Pasadena, with Jason Alexander, discussing his book. Schiff has also tried his hand at screenwriting, with a post-Holocaust story, a murder mystery, and a spy drama story. He has not sold any of them, but I would imagine that they are intelligently written. He is also a marathoner and triathlete, and apparently a very devoted family man.

I think that what we really need as leader of this country, is someone of the highest intelligence and analytic ability, not a natural politician. I used to remark with friends that we would never elect a pudgy man with glasses as President. (That is not a description of me, just an archtype!).

Actually, I guess that Al Franken comes close to that image, and if Republicans had not destroyed his Senate career by paying and encouraging very questionable women (read Jane Mayer’s after-the-fact article about how they were lying) to accuse him of whatever, he might have been a potential candidate in 2020, though I doubt that he would have been nominated. The point was that we so often choose based on looks or style. There is some study about how the taller of the two presidential candidates is almost always the one we elect, whatever that may tell us.

Electing a President is not giving out an Academy Award. Nor is it, as my brother would comment, like looking for a “genial host,” as on the late night talk shows. The template is flawed. This country is suspicious of intellectuals, they prefer “bluff, plain-speaking people,” like Reagan and the Bushes and even Trump, with his phony red cap, portrayed themselves to be.

Or on our side, we are looking for a combination of JFK and RFK and MLK, and many thought that Obama was that, so preferred him to Hillary, who always said that she was not comfortable on the political stage, but who has great gifts of intelligence and the ability to work with people to create important policies. Her husband said in his speech at the 2016 convention, that she was the greatest change-agent that he had ever seen.

That is what we need, much more than someone who can give eloquent speeches and talk in platitudes. Not that a speech cannot be helpful or memorable at times, but someone like Obama, whose entire career seem to encompass giving speeches, was never preferable to the intellectual and actually liberal Hillary. But we so often get fooled, and likely will again in the future.

I would feel very comfortable and optimistic with Schiff as President, because he is uncommonly bright, intellectual, knowledgeable, thorough, articulate; and from everything I have seen or read, scrupulously honest. Of course he is not a “minority” person, with the current cachet which this brings. He is Jewish, which is a minority, but a very small one, and would not gain him any substantial amount of votes by itself.

In short, he is not the kind of candidate we elect as President. Which is something to consider, since last time, we looked at the twenty or so candidates who were running in the Democratic primaries. and most of us had a hard time finding any of them who was both what we really wanted, and who could also win a national election. We need to have a better evaluation of what we want in a President, as we face a particularly dangerous era, not only in terms of issues to deal with, but a Republican Party which has no soul, no interest in fixing anything; only in power and wealth and tyranny. We need someone who will perceive this, speak about it, and can deal with the immense threat they pose to our civilization.

16 Responses

  1. I am a fan of Adam Schiff, at the very least he should be the next speaker of the house should Nancy do as she implied and retire. It’s not that I do not admire her ability to get things done, but sadly, IMO, she is another reason we got Obama. At the time my feeling was that she wanted to be the most important political woman, so she downplayed Hillary and gave her support to the novice Obama, and we got VERY LITTLE as a result.

    This country is suspicious of intellectuals, they prefer “bluff, plain-speaking people

    I wish I had a better understanding of why this is. Republican rubes especially are attracted to men like W and Trump. I really want a president who I think is smarter than I am, and in my adult lifetime of presidents the only one who qualifies is Clinton. W especially cemented this idea of the ‘not so intellectual’ becoming president he truly was, as Pierce says ‘C+ Agustus’. Now, there are those who will say that you have to be smart to get elected president in the first place, but IMO, in today’s climate the type of ‘smart’ you need to be is really just cunning and calculating and to surround yourself with the same type.

    • Yes, I think that Pelosi’s support of Obama over HIllary was not only wrong, but was a political mistake, in that the Democratic Party did not get much out of the eight years,and she herself lost her Speakership. in the Republican landslides of 2010 and 2014. She has been admirable for the last five years, certainly, and I will miss her if she retires. If we can somehow keep the House, then Schiff would be my choice for Speaker.

      I think that this country, even though its Constitution was written by intellectuals, doesn’t often vote for them. Of course, the Republicans don’t have any; the few they did have, like Kristol and Frum, have left. So the only intellectuals, so to speak, who could run, would be on the Democratic side. And even there is this wish that many have for someone like Jimmy Stewart’s roles, the plain-speaking man of the people who cuts through the complexities.

      I think that the news media also does not like brainy people. Dukakis was, and they mocked him, as well as Gore, and of course Hillary, smarter than either of them. As far as GW Bush, he seemed to be a convenient tool of the plutocrats who ran the Republican Party; someone they figured they could make into a winner. He said virtually nothing of substance during his entire 2000 campaign, and it was almost embarrassing to listen to him. But the media went after Gore for sighing in the debate, and for some inane story about raising campaign money at a Japanese temple, and Bush somehow won with the direct assistance of his brother in Florida,and the Supreme Court. To me, Schiff would be the welcome antidote to much of this lowering of the intellectual level of political debate, and I think he would make an excellent President.

  2. I just want someone who can freaking get legislation passed that will actually help people. Like before hell freezes over. I don’t freaking care if he/she qualifies for Mensa membership.

    • If William condescends to respond to my comment, which I doubt he will do since he is busy reading Keats and sipping Fuji water, I know exactly what he will say:

      “Well, yes, but….”

      • Beata, I would love to see important legislation passed. We don’t need an intellectual to do that. We need somebody to do it. I do think that a knowledge of history, political and general, is useful for a President, although such people make bad mistakes, too. I always felt good that Bill Clinton had a grasp of such things, which helps to give a larger perspective to act from. Hillary certainly does. Obama never showed me any knowledge of it. The Republicans are hopeless in that regard..

        I don’t drink wine, and I don’t eat cheese. I almost always respond to your comments, and those of anyone who is interested enough to want to comment about anything I write. Discussion is one of the most important aspects of a blog, I think.

        If I am correct that you are very frustrated at the immense difficulty we are having in passing legislation, most of us are. But how to fix it? Obama passed one major piece of legislation, and it was mostly Pelosi’s doing. Then he lost the Congress and the state legislatures, and he passed nothing. We need someone who can win, who can somehow get past the media narratives and deflections, and convey to the people what he or she is trying to do, and then get it done. That becomes increasingly difficult with our media, and with many Americans who don’t care to know anything, and thus get led around by Republican bullhorns trying to misdirect them to fear and anger.

        • I fail to see how Adam Schiff, who is not known for any particular ability to pass legislation, would be able to do the laundry list of things you say must be done to save our country, although he is indeed very smart.

          You are right that I am frustrated. Getting major legislation like the reconciliation bill passed is very important to me. As a person who grew up poor and suffered a great deal because of it, I understand how life changing this bill would be. I won’t be around much longer so the the reconciliation package will not help me personally. But it might help young people like I once was and it might help elderly people who suffered like my mother did. I never want anyone else to go through what she went through! It was a living hell. So this is is not an intellectual discussion to me. It is a life or death situation. Millions of people in this country are suffering today for lack of food, housing and medical care. Some will not be alive tomorrow. This suffering could be prevented. Do you understand that?

          If Democrats want to win in the future, that is what they need to focus on. Helping people. Not on who has the highest IQ.

  3. I love Adam Schiff. But I’d rather see him as a Senator.
    The intellectuals and their Wall Street backers had eight years with Obama. Remember when Donna Brazile said the Democrats needed to ditch the party’s old coalition for the new coalition under Obama? And Paul Begala said you can’t have sustained success with just Eggheads and African Americans?
    But going with Obama guaranteed that there would be a political novice in office and would need to rely on consultants and more connected advisors to get stuff done. Plus, he wasn’t in the US Senate long enough to have his own coalition. He had to borrow one. I’m curious to know which coalition was assigned to him.
    Pelosi’s role was purely administrative. She was tasked with carrying out the party’s objective: get Obama and not Hillary elected at any cost. They thought the old coalition would come around. But this blog was plugged into the old coalition matrix and they were pissed as hell. Mostly it was because they voted for Hillary and they were completely ignored. The entire state of California, all 400+ convention delegates were completely ignored. New Jersey’s delegates were given away without voter input on the convention floor.
    The DNC thought their voters would come around and be motivated by having the first African American president. And some did. But it left such as bad taste in the mouth. A lot of very VERY angry old coalition voters defected to the Tea Party. I thought that was a bad idea at the time. Some did it because they felt their concerns were ditched because of identity politics. In retrospect, that wasn’t far off in that the party put emotion above potential results.
    Obama did nothing for the DNC. it whithered and died under him and needed to be funded by Hillary in 2016. The worst part of that neglect was Republicans used the power vacuum to take over state legislatures. We are dealing with that fallout today.
    Verily I say unto you, the old coalition is not ever going to vote for a cool brainy type again. Nahgahhappen. They might come around for a candidate like John Fetterman who is currently running for Pat Toomey’s seat in PA. He’s a straight talking, unslick, 6’8” tall, working guy type. Is he the new flavor of the month for old coalition voters? We shall see.

    • Well said, RD.

      I don’t know much about Fetterman yet. I do like Sherrod Brown from Ohio.

    • Obama lacked two things to have been a successful President:

      1) He lacked sufficient experience in Congress to get legislation through, even with an overwhelming majority in both houses

      2) He lacked any executive experience (especially on the Federal level) so he had trouble organizing the Executive Branch and just getting stuff done.

      And, of course, he really didn’t seem to want to do much anyway. If he’d come in with a clear, well-developed action plan and a deep knowledge of which arms to twist when, he could have been one of the most successful Presidents in US history.

      I like Schiff. I’d like him better as a Senator than as a President, I think. IMO he’d have to do a stint as a Governor or cabinet Secretary before being prepared to be President.

      Nothing would make me happier than seeing Fetterman in the Senate. I’ve donated to his campaign, although going through a second layoff this year has kind of diminished my campaign contributions lately. I would love to see him take Ted Cruz to school.

  4. While I agree that Obama fits the handsome, eloquent stereotype, I also remember when he was running for office, and someone on the radio was complaining that he used to be a professor and might be “too intelligent” to be President.

    I was stunned. I grew up in Europe, and could never imagine anyone over there saying that a candidate might be…too smart…to hold office. You are correct that American culture despises “eggheads” and intellectuals. I don’t know if that will ever change.

    Also, thank you for the tip about Adam Schiff’s book! I will look for it, although I also know reading it will depress the hell out of me.

    • Yes, me, too. But I think that Schiff has such a broad range of knowledge that he will make it interesting, not just a “we are doomed” kind of thing. He certainly hasn’t given up on any of it. If Feinstein does stay to the end of her term and then retires, Newsom cannot appoint the replacement, and Schiff could indeed run for senator.

      I have never lived in Europe, but everything I have read indicates to me that many Europeans do value learning and wealth of knowledge, in a way that most Americans refuse to. Here we have this absolute hatred of science shown by the Far Right, refusing to take vaccines, or listen to any medical professionals; somehow acting as children who don’t want to listen to anybody but those who feed them what they want to hear And I just read some very impressive comments from Prince William, who strongly criticizes our coterie of space billionaires for not spending their time and money trying to fix this planet, rather than going to another one. I think that they generally are much more aware and activist about climate change in Europe than they are here, and that is also a reflection of American anti-intellectualism and contempt for empirical knowledge.

      • Oh, absolutely…as far as I know, climate change denialism is near non-existent in Europe as compared to here. I have no idea where America’s anti-intellectualism came from, actually. Is it the philosophy of personal freedom at all costs and thus a complete disregard for any rules, including the rules of logic? I wish I would understand this better, as it really puzzles me.

        • I have mulled this over a great deal. I suppose a worthwhile book could be written on it. I very short attempted explanation might relate to the American frontier, all those people who went West, worked with their hands, built cabins. They were likely not people who ever read much, except of course the Bible. The schools which were built in the towns were mostly one-room schoolhouses, and you had to go home and do chores afterwards.

          I don’t think that there was a love of reading, or a thirst for knowledge that the so-called Founders had;; they were mostly from well-off families which valued knowledge of various types. And of course they were intellectual descendants of the European Enlightenment, which valued science. But there were so many parts of America which had nothing to do with this, and somehow there was a distrust of learning, perhaps a contempt for it, as compared to the demands of doing a hard day’s work. There was no time for studies, and who needed them?

          That is not a sufficient explanation, but it probably is part of i t. Of course Europe had centuries of a feudal system, and the serfs could not read or write, in most cases. Somehow, though, most of Europe did admire knowledge and learning. Parts of America, such as New York, did, but not the frontier, for the most part. We see various movies where the townsfolk are suspicious of the person with all the book learnin’,and think that he is going to bilk or somehow seduce them into bad ways. And then of course fundamentalist religion, which does not want science to be taught, or their precepts to be questioned. All of this is some part of the explanation, I think.

          • I think the gist of your explanation does make sense. I’m originally from Poland, and I know that a lot of the Polish immigrants who came to the States in the 19th century were working-class people trying to escape poverty, so there would not have been a lot of desire for intellectualism there. I suspect that was the case with many other European countries which produced immigration to America as well.

        • See historian Richard Hofstadter’s Pulitzer Prize winning nonfiction book “Anti-intellectualism in American Life” (1963). It’s a classic work in American history.

          I took an entire course on the subject as an undergraduate history major.

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