Friday, October 9, 2009

Best politician nominee: Henry Waxman

Henry Waxman is one of the two best members of the House of Representatives. (The other is Barney Frank.) It should be enough to say that he was one of a couple of people most responsible for mandatory nutrition labeling on food products and for smoking bans in airplanes and federal buildings, which led to smoking bans nationwide.

He has written a fine book called The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works. You hear that politics is the art of the possible, or that it is compromise. Waxman looks at half a dozen bills (Orphan Drug Act, Clean Air Act, nutritional labeling, tobacco legislation, and steroids in baseball) and tells us why it was the best outcome a liberal could expect and what the compromises were. He also told how he has use hearings to get memes out in public.

I ended up with more respect for the process and a great deal of respect for Waxman's insights and political abilities. He's a good liberal in a safe liberal district (Santa Monica, Beverley Hills, West Hollywood, and a dozen other nearby neighborhoods and cities), and he hasn't wasted his position. It helps that he's smart, reasonable, and patient. It may even help that he looks like a nebbish, so nobody on the other side is threatened by him. But he has taken on big issue after big issue and made progress. Currently he's lead on one of the House health care bills and the cap-and-trade bill.

And Waxman (assuming he wrote it himself, which I have no reason to doubt) can write. Individual sentences are graceful, and that makes the book a quick read for having so much in it. You don't have to wade through bureaucratese.

Any liberal who reads about politics would like this book. Conservatives might be infuriated by his assumptions, but they could learn something about how Congress works, Q.E.D.

I just re-read this hagiography before posting, and my goodness it sounds like Peggy Noonan talking about Ronald Reagan, but I still agree with every sentence of it, and even with the tone. He is one of the two best members of the House, so go buy his book.

Title changed 10-17-09

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