Suddenly, Rep. Tom McClintock is portraying himself as willing to work with Democrats.
But the conservative Republican did not quite have that reaching-across-the-aisle thing down when he showed up for a debate of his choosing – at 7 a.m. Tuesday at Auburn City Hall – with his challenger, Art Moore.
McClintock, 58, is seeking a fourth term in Congress and almost certainly will win. But Moore, 37, an underfunded neophyte making his first run for public office, might be throwing a bit of scare into him. That wouldn’t be bad.
A Republican and an Iraq War veteran, Moore repeatedly accused the incumbent of being hyper-partisan and doing little for the 4th Congressional District, which includes Rocklin, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite.
“What kinds of coalitions are you building?” Moore asked early in the debate, and returned to the point many times during the next hour.
“I’m very proud of my record of reaching across the aisle,” said McClintock, who lives in Elk Grove. He has “always” been willing to find areas of compromise on policies, he added.
Of course, he is not turning too blue. He slapped at President Barack Obama for his stewardship of the economy, invoked Ronald Reagan and the founding fathers, pushed for tax cuts, and said fear of climate change is being used to shut down the use of coal for electricity and restrict fracking to extract oil.
But to illustrate how well he gets along with Democrats, McClintock pulled a letter from a folder and read it to the audience. The author was Dennis Kucinich, a former congressman from Cleveland. “What a joy it has been to work with you,” Kucinich wrote to McClintock.
Exactly what they had worked on wasn’t apparent from the letter or the debate. But they must have been quite a pair.
Kucinich, who was gerrymandered out of his district after 2010, variously was described during his time in Congress as one of the House’s quirkiest and most left-leaning Democrats.
He once filed a $150,000 lawsuit because a sandwich he bought at the Longworth House Office Building contained an olive pit that damaged his teeth. He ran for president multiple times and still maintains a LinkedIn page that lists under interests: “Becoming the Next President of the United States.”
On his Twitter feed, Kucinich touts his support for the Ohio Hemp Chamber of Commerce, which cites the many uses of the weed – rope, insulation, diapers (wouldn’t that scratch a baby’s bottom?), “medicine, recreation, sacrament.”
In the Huffington Post last month, Kucinich denounced the U.S. attacks on the Islamic State as “a violation of international law” that “could lead to crimes against humanity and the deaths of untold numbers of innocent civilians.”
“And yes,” Kucinich wrote, “members of this Democratic administration, including the president who executed this policy, must be held accountable by the International Criminal Court and by the American people, who he serves.”
Kucinich certainly is a Democrat. But is he the best McClintock could do?
McClintock told the audience that he managed to navigate the partisan shoals in winning passage of one piece of legislation. He acknowledged it wasn’t major legislation, and he is right.
House Resolution 2388 is a one-page bill. In 124 words, the measure authorizes the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians to take 40.8 acres of land into trust. The House passed the bill by voice vote, so there are no recorded votes for or against.
The website govtrack.us reports that McClintock signed on as co-sponsor of 136 bills in the most recent Congress. Only 15 of those bills, 3.7 percent, were introduced by Democrats. That was the lowest percentage of bipartisan co-sponsorship among California’s 53 House members. No. 52 on the list was the paragon of bipartisanship, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, at 4.3 percent.
A few of the 15 bills McClintock co-sponsored were weighty. One seeks to limit militarization of local police departments by restricting the authority of the Defense Department to give them surplus property.
But four of the 15 co-sponsored bills seek to rename post offices; another would award the Congressional Gold Medal to former Israeli President Shimon Peres; and two would be to mint coins commemorating the Coast Guard and breast cancer awareness.
McClintock can be proud of many things. He has won elections, built an intensely loyal following and has not become rich during his time in office. But holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” with Democrats is not among his accomplishments.
Follow Dan Morain on Twitter @DanielMorain.