- The Washington Times - Monday, September 17, 2001

OAKLAND, Calif. Barbara Lee's vote Friday night against giving President Bush wide authority to wage worldwide war on terrorism was not the first time the Democrat from Oakland has stood alone in Congress, but it may prove to be the most costly vote she ever cast.
Mrs. Lee, a former state Assembly member and senator who is the lone black lawmaker now in office at any level from the San Francisco Bay Area, also cast the sole House vote in 1999 against former President Bill Clinton's plan to bomb Serbia. And in 1998, she was one of only five House members voting against bombing raids on Iraq.
None of those votes surprises anyone familiar with Ms. Lee and her background. She is the political heir to former Rep. Ron Dellums, an anti-war radical during the Vietnam era who was first elected to Congress in 1970.
Mr. Dellums, a self-described "commie pinko," became chairman of the House Armed Services Committee in 1993 but lost the post when Republicans took over Congress after the 1994 elections. For 27 years, Mr. Dellums represented the staunchly Democratic 9th District of California, which includes two bastions of radicalism, Berkeley and Oakland.
Mrs. Lee began her political career as a political intern for Mr. Dellums, also serving as his senior advisor and chief of staff before leaving to serve three terms in the California Assembly and one in the state Senate. She moved into her mentor's old spot in Congress after he retired in 1998. Mrs. Lee won 67 percent of the vote in 1998 and 85 percent last year.
A self-described "Army brat," she is the daughter of a retired Army lieutenant colonel and holds a graduate degree in social work from the University of California at Berkeley.
"I don't think we should take any action that would cause any more loss of life," she said, explaining her lonely vote. "I'm hoping we're all emotional right now, and that people will come to appreciate my concern. Violence begets violence, and we don't want that to happen. That kills people."
She also hopes not to suffer the same fate as Jeanette Rankin, the late Montana Republican who twice voted against U.S. involvement in world wars and twice lost her seat in Congress as a result. Rankin, the first woman ever elected to Congress, voted against entering World War I in 1917 and was defeated for re-election the next year. Back in Congress, she again was the lone vote against declaring war on Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Voters booted her out of office permanently in 1942.
The same will happen to Mrs. Lee if some of her constituents get their way.
"Maybe if the planes had hit the Oakland Coliseum during a Raiders game, her 'moral compass' might guide her differently," constituent Heath Shelburn wrote in an e-mail to a local newspaper.
"For her to be the only dissenting vote, that's ridiculous," wrote Bill Hennan, owner of an Oakland bar, in another e-mail. "There's a new battlefield of the 21st century and innocent people are now becoming cannon fodder. We have to deal with this problem militarily. You need to meet might with might."
And Oakland resident Steve Neal said, "I'm ashamed to say I live in Barbara Lee's district … the only thing I can do is voice my displeasure and move."
But some of Mrs. Lee's constituents sided with her. "I think what she did was smart," said Adolh Lushion, a shoeshine man in downtown Oakland. "A whole lot of people will be killed if we go to war. Just killing a bunch of people won't solve the problem."
That was essentially what Ms. Lee said in justifying her vote. "This nation is grieving," she said. "All of us are in pain. But we have to make sure we make no mistakes."
Oakland officials express doubt the vote will cost Mrs. Lee her seat, despite the fury of some constituents.
"It's hard to say what will happen, but she has a secure district and, knowing her, she felt it was the right thing to do," said state Assembly member Wilma Chan, a fellow Oakland Democrat. "She's been very consistent on these types of issues. She always votes her conscience."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide