You read here recently that humorist Al Franken is at work on a D.C.-based sitcom with the irresistible formula, "They're Democrats, they're members of Congress, they're roommates!"
Two U.S. senators and one representative sublet sleeping space in the two-bedroom townhouse digs of George Miller, the Martinez Democrat. On weekends, they go home to their doting families and constituents.
Now--are you listening, Mr. Franken?--someone who's had occasion to spend time at the townhouse has revealed to This Space even more comedy-fraught potential:
Miller and one of his earliest tenants, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, claim the bedrooms. The senior senator from New York, Charles Schumer, sleeps on the fold-out couch in the living room, where an earlier tenant, a Connecticut congressman, also got his shut-eye, sleeping on the kind of fold-up rollaway cots that hotels keep handy.
The a.m. drill was sometimes chaotic--days' worth of coffee cups piled in the sink, the elected elite tightening ties and tying shoes as their aides raced in and out. In odd-couple fashion, Miller, like a sitcom dad, liked to go to bed early while some of the others, like sitcom teenagers, stayed up late, watching TV and talking political strategy.
(Word is that Garden Grove's Rep. Loretta Sanchez, in the early days before she found her own place, stayed briefly at Camp Miller, where one of the men gallantly gave her his bedroom.)
Funniest bit--write this down, Mr. Franken--is that the honorable members have sometimes been forgetful about the rent, and dashed into some caucus meeting only to hear Landlord Miller say, "Before we start, I need to remind my roommates they're two weeks late with the rent."
The Sound Bite, With the Emphasis on Bite
Politicians long ago learned to speak softly and carry a big spokesman, relegating the most acidulous critiques to surrogates--except for a few souls like former Orange County congressman Bob Dornan, once disciplined by his House colleagues for accusing President Clinton of giving "aid and comfort" to North Vietnam by avoiding the draft.
And (with a possible exception, see below) no surrogate may have been better at voicing his boss' sentiments in words his boss could never have used than Dan Schnur. During a 1992 state budget standoff, Schnur, who was Gov. Pete Wilson's spokesman, dismissed Speaker Willie Brown's offer of a compromise as a "Democratic wish list. . . . It's got tax increases. It's got deficit spending. All that's missing is aid to the Viet Cong."
Schnur is officially post-partisan politics, for now. Having left Richard Riordan's gubernatorial campaign, he's been hired by the Orange County Transportation Authority to provide "media training" for its board of directors--a boon to reporters insofar as it may spice up the board's stodgy public pronouncements.
Schnur's chief competitor for the sharpest tongue in state politics may be Bob Mulholland, the state Democratic Party's advisor. When it emerged that, in the late 1970s, Schnur's boss, then the mayor of San Diego, had hired an illegal immigrant maid, Mulholland thundered: "In office, he attacks illegal immigrants. At home, he hired illegal maids to clean his toilet bowl."
This was a double-barreled week for Mulholland. He e-mailed a letter to First Lady Laura Bush, who met with 11 women exiled from Afghanistan. "That's great," wrote Mulholland. "You may want to also invite 11 pro-choice Republican women . . . exiled from the Republican Party, to push the Republican leaders (including your husband) to repeal their anti-choice Taliban Platform language" regarding abortion.
The same week, Mulholland fax-blasted USC law professor Susan Estrich, who managed Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential campaign, for backing Richard Riordan for governor.
"So the former campaign manager for Michael Dukakis . . . is now working for Republican Dick Riordan. Isn't Riordan the candidate backed by Bush Jr.--the same goons who attacked Michael Dukakis as not a real American? Susan, how much is Dick Riordan contributing to your USC law school?"
Estrich says a Riordan GOP rival, Secretary of State Bill Jones, went after her a week before for the same thing, and now, with the Mulholland fax, "I must be doing something right."
Opting to Opt Out of the Musical Chairs
It's getting to be news when someone's not running for Gary Condit's seat in Congress.
State Sen. Jim Costa's time in the Legislature--going on two dozen years--will soon be up. But he won't be running for Congress in either the Central Valley's 21st Congressional District or the 18th District, Condit's district.
The Fresno Democrat had been saying that he'd run for Condit's seat if Condit didn't--but Costa's "no" doesn't mean that Condit is a "yes" for reelection. It just means, said Costa's chief of staff, that there's no time left for Costa to round up a campaign committee and start the campaign-contribution slog.