Wednesday, April 09, 2008

CA-12: Jackie Speier goes to Congress

Former state senator Jackie Speier (D) easily won the special election on Tuesday to replace the late Tom Lantos (D) for the remainder of this current session of Congress. (There's another primary election on June 3rd to determine who will be each party's nominee for November, which Jackie should again win quite easily.) Speier had lost a close race in the Democratic primary to John Garamendi for Lt. Governor in 2006. Garamendi went on to beat UCLA grad Tom McClintock (now carpetbagging in CA-04 to replace the corrupt John Doolittle) in the general election.

But what's amazing about Speier is her life story. She survived the 1978 Jonestown massacre. If you wondered where the phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" came from, it was from this, where over 900 cult members who followed Jim Jones from San Francisco to Guyana committed murder-suicide by drinking Flavor Aid laced with poison. (Yeah, it wasn't actually Kool-Aid, but the phrase stuck.)

This 2003 San Francisco Chronicle article tells part of the hell Speier had to endure.

There is a compartment in Jackie Speier's mind where she stores away the old memories of her fact-finding trip to the cult compound of Jonestown.

When it opens, all the agony comes rushing back: She is there on the oppressively humid jungle airstrip in her polka-dot sundress and platform shoes, a congressional aide with clipboard in hand, rushing anxious defectors onto a waiting plane. Then the ambush, as Jonestown's henchmen open fire.

She feels five bullets pierce her body, one blowing away a huge chunk of her thigh. She sees her boss and mentor, Rep. Leo Ryan, dead on the tarmac. She chills as flies and mosquitoes buzz around her wounds. She sips rum to deaden the searing pain. Left for dead with a handful of other wounded survivors throughout the night, she thinks of her parents back in the Bay Area and tape records them a farewell message.

On the cataclysmic night of Nov. 18, 1978, the Rev. Jim Jones dispatched the death squad to the airstrip and then led more than 900 of his flock -- most of them from the Bay Area and about a third of them children -- into a "white night" that became the worst mass murder/suicide in modern history.

Chilling. Here's the TIME magazine article from December 1978 if you want to learn more about that horrific story and how she survived. And if the people of San Francisco didn't suffer enough that month, just nine days after the massacre, ex-supervisor Dan White murdered San Fracisco mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. Now-Senator Dianne Feinstein was the one who discovered Milk's body, and was later sworn in as mayor to replace Moscone.

Update: Wow, when Speier was sworn in on Thursday in Congress, Republicans actually started booing her when she spoke about Iraq in her first speech in front of Congress.

For a few feel-good moments Thursday, Jackie Speier basked in bipartisan warmth, sworn in as the newest member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Her family, supporters and schoolchildren cheered as she embraced her new colleagues.

Then, in her first speech in Congress, she spoke out about Iraq. Applause turned to boos and hoots on the Republican side of the aisle.

"When will we get out of Iraq?" was the most frequent question she heard, she told the House, while campaigning in the special election she won Tuesday to succeed the late Rep. Tom Lantos.

"The process to bring the troops home must begin immediately," she said, as several Republicans loudly booed and some Democrats cheered. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Vista Republican, bolted from his seat and left the floor.

The hoots grew in volume as Speier, a San Mateo Democrat, continued: "The president wants to stay the course and a man who wants to replace him suggests we could be in Iraq for 100 years" - a reference to Republican John McCain's assertion that U.S. forces could be in Iraq indefinitely if they are not taking casualties.

"But history will not judge us kindly if we sacrifice four generations of Americans because of the folly of one," she said to a mixture of cheers and boos.

"The House is not in order," shouted Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. Speaker Nancy Pelosi banged her gavel. "Why are they booing my mother?" Speier's 13-year-old daughter, Stephanie, asked, according to a staffer.

Classy, those Republicans. I'll have more on Darrell Issa's latest scumbaggery in a future post.

No comments: