By Doug Porter
It’s one of those twists of fate: the former standard bearer for all that’s liberal in San Diego and the former standard bearer for all that’s not liberal in Washington DC both hit bottom on the same day.
We’ll start with the local courtroom drama and end with DC’s cloakroom conspiracies in the nation’s capital. There are lessons to learned from both.
Robert Earl Filner stood before California State Superior Court Judge Robert Trentacosta and pled guilty to one felony count of false imprisonment by violence, fraud, menace and deceit and two misdemeanor counts of battery.
The courtroom appearance was the culmination of a plea bargain deal orchestrated by Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. The hearing was broadcast live, with the camera showing reporters in the background furiously texting and Tweeting blow by blow accounts. Filner, dressed in a blue suit and wearing a gold tie, seemed oblivious to the near-circus atmosphere around him, responding only when spoken to.
Sentencing was set for Dec. 9, and a press release from the Ms. Harris’ office indicates Filner will serve three months of home confinement followed by three years of probation. He assented to undergoing mental health treatment, will never to seek public office again and will give up a portion of his city pension.
You’d think that would be the end of the Masher Mayor saga. But you’d be wrong.
It Ain’t Over ’till the UT Says So
There were always twin aspects to the fall of Filner. Both were true.
First were his fallibilities. Decades in elected office left him believing in his own infallibility. Power is ultimately a bad habit, and Filner was/is a fully functional addict. Claiming the mantle as defender of the oppressed as his path to elected office, he became what he was supposed to be fighting.
As a comic strip character once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us”.
His sense of invincibility, re-enforced via a “winning” track record, left him blind to the consequences of his behavior. And he failed on multiple levels, both as a human being and a leader, as a result. Those failures translated to anguish and humiliation for the women he treated as less than human sex objects.
Secondly were his politics. In the world of San Diego’s ‘get along’ culture he was a threat even before he took the oath of office. No more “business as usual” was an affront to the sorts of vested financial and political interests who’ve ruled this roost for decades. “Wink, wink”, “nod, nod” and a couple of cocktails at the US Grant hotel were no longer part of the process. What made it more maddening was there was no discernable course of action towards ‘getting things done’ for those accustomed to deal making in America’s Finest City.
A series of small battles became major slugfests. Major amounts of political capitol and energy were expended. Minimum wage (or slightly above) hotel workers were paraded in front of reporters as the victims of a Mayor Gone Mad.
For the “downtown interests”, waging these battles was simply a matter of hiring more help to litigate, spin and agitate. Then came the “gift” of Filner’s presumed allies calling for his resignation.
I believe Cory Briggs, et. al., when they say they had no plan. The best evidence for this belief is the events unfolding in the wake of their disclosures.
The local reactionary establishment could (and did) just sit back and watch the administration self destruct. For Republicans and their ilk, the scandal was good for business. The divisions and distractions it caused laid the foundation, they thought, for future deals and personal prosperity.
The era of Mayor Bob effectively ended the day of that first press conference. For a politician removed from the cocoon of Congressional politics, these battles became all consuming.
Nobody’s agenda was being enacted.
On August 30th, Bob Filner left office.
So now he’s out of office. Out of power. He’s a freak circus meriting more media attention than the various policies that are being undermined, reversed or quietly eliminated.
The popular narrative, expressed succinctly in a UT-San Diego editorial cartoon today, is that the city “suffered” through 270-odd days of Mayor Bob as great damage was done to the economy.
And they’re not through with Bob Filner yet.
Now Filner’s legacy is to be used as bludgeon to batter any who might claim to support any part of a liberal agenda.
Mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer is figuratively donning a superhero cape at campaign stops as he regales audiences with the tale of how he ‘saved’ San Diego from certain destruction.
Witness today’s sermon from Manchester’s Mission Valley minions:
But let’s drop any pretense that this will bring “closure” to the appalling Filner saga.
It’s not just his many victims’ continuing emotional trauma. The fact is the former congressman, city councilman and school board member was helped by a long list of enablers — Democratic elected officials, union leaders and power brokers who knew of Filner’s long history of obnoxious behavior but gave him a pass on it because they saw him as a strong mayoral candidate in 2012. Closure begins when these enablers — starting with labor-boss-turned-
In short: Filner was a pig. And “they” were out to get him. Those truths are not incompatible.
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda…
His supporters—and I include myself in this group—should have known better. In fact I even wrote about my misgivings in the OB Rag in August, 2011 after attending the first of what would be many meetings leading up to the birth of the San Diego Free Press.
There were more than a dozen activists in the room, gathered for conversations that had nothing to do with the Mayoral race. None-the-less, the campaign for San Diego’s next Mayor did come up. After all, these were activists, progressive activists, many of them with long political pedigrees, all of whom should be excited about the prospect of a democrat running the show at City Hall.
We went through the list of candidates; DeMaio = Disaster, a mean spirited collection of ambitions, willing to tell any lie to sell his program, Dumanis = Jerry Sanders redux, Fletcher = Willing to smile while he hands out cigarettes (he’s collected over $30K from big tobacco in recent times) to City workers in lieu of a pension…. then there was the Democrat of the bunch, Congressman Bob Filner—the resulting conversation, given that many of these folks have known Filner for years, was shocking.
Adjectives like “thin-skinned”, “hot tempered”, “out of touch” made the rounds of the group, who by all accounts should be amongst Filner’s strongest supporters. Nervous laughter erupted when one participant let this rip: “You know, sometimes that guy (Filner) talks like he thinks he’s good looking”. Another: “I just wish another democrat would run”.
To be sure, Congressman Filner had people willing to defend him in the room.
His political history goes back to the civil rights movement, and, unlike County Supervisor Bill Horn, Filner’s got the mug shots to prove it. He’s acquired a reputation in Congress as a Democrat with a Backbone(TM), one willing to go against his party’s centrist leadership on matters of principle, which includes a track record of supporting legislation that benefits people over corporate profits.
The discussion grew heated at times: “Are you willing to throw this election to DeMaio over his (Filner’s) disposition?”
As it turns out, nobody in the room thought another Republican as Mayor was a particularly good idea. So I opened my big mouth and said something like this: “Hey y’know, I’m writing a series on the Mayoral contests for the OB Rag, how about a ‘Dear Bob’ letter?…
Me and my big mouth.
I wrote that post and Filner obviously read it. Here’s how it started out:
I’ve been observing your campaign for a few weeks now, and, frankly, I’m concerned that you’re endangering a perfectly good opportunity to be the next Major of our fair city. Some of your statements to the media have left me wondering—aghast, really—if you understand how much you’re hurting your cause….
And here’s how it ended….
The point of this story is that I think you’d be a good Mayor. But you’ve had a safe seat in Congress, and while you re good at pressing the flesh, you’d better start doing your homework, lest these crafty weasels on the other side of road get the opportunity to turn your personality and foibles into the issue surrounding your candidacy.
One month later at a “Politifest” event sponsored by Voice of San Diego, he sought me out, shook my hand and promised to take my message to heart. That was the only time I ever spoke with Bob Filner. Oh, the things I should have said…
But I didn’t. Lots of people didn’t say anything. Lesson learned.
That experience with one failed human being won’t stop me from moving on and fighting for what I think is right.
It’s time to move on.
The End of the End Times in DC…(?)
My reading of the political tea leaves in Washington says that the current budget standoff is just about over.
From the Washington Post:
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) started Tuesday with a last-ditch attempt to exert control over his restive caucus, proposing a new plan to open the government and raise the debt ceiling in an effort to give Republicans a bit of leverage.
But as evening fell over the Capitol, it was increasingly clear who had control over the House GOP: no one.
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid talked about the chaos on the GOP side of the aisle in a Tweet last night:
Obamacare is no longer Republicans’ #1 issue. Their #1 issue is to divert attention from the fools they’ve made of themselves on Obamacare.
From Huffington Post:
The office of Speaker Boehner told the office of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s on Tuesday night that they would be willing to send them a “message” so that the procedural process of getting a debt limit and government funding bill could move faster….
…A message is a legislative vehicle that if sent from Boehner to the Senate would allow Reid to skip one cloture vote. This would ensure that if one Senator wanted to gum up the works, he or she could only force 30 hours of consideration.
A request for comment to Boehner’s office was not immediately returned, though if the news is true, it is a signal that the Speaker knows the time for staring down the Senate is up.
The capper for all this analysis has to be Charles P. Pierce at Esquire.com this morning:
In the end, it appears, they cannot, or will not, govern even themselves.
A day that was supposed to bring Washington to the edge of resolving the fiscal showdown instead seemed to bring chaos and retrenching. And a bitter fight that had begun over stripping money from the president’s signature health care law had essentially descended in the House into one over whether lawmakers and their staff members would pay the full cost of their health insurance premiums, unlike most workers at American companies, and how to restrict the administration from using flexibility to extend the debt limit beyond a fixed deadline.
That is the state to which the whole thing has devolved. The denizens of the monkeyhouse are bringing the world economy to the brink of chaos in order to fk their own staffs over on health insurance. Or at least that’s what they say. In reality, what this is about is a rump faction of one of our two major political parties that doesn’t think we should have a federal government at all, that wants to roll back its functions to a state half-past the Articles of Confederation, and that is doing so while believing itself to be some unholy combination of the Founding Fathers and the X-Men. They have cast themselves in their own action adventure movie, and the rest of us serve pretty much the same function as New York City does in The Avengers. We’re the set decoration that gets demolished as Our Heroes fight evil. These are pathetic, worthless children, playing dress-up, and smashing things because they like the sound of things breaking.
On This Day: 1966 – Joan Baez and 123 other anti-draft demonstrators were arrested for blocking the entrance to the Armed Forces Induction Center in Oakland, CA. 1973 – Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were named winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Vietnamese official declined the award. 2002 – The Arthur Andersen accounting firm was sentenced to five years probation and fined $500,000 for obstructing a federal investigation of Enron.
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bob dorn says
Have no doubt, ManlyChester and his San Diego newsletter will bring Filner into the primary and general elections. The effort is most likely to lower the subscription list further, just as the national polls have documented that the shutdown has begun the slide of Republicans into something close to irrelevance.
That part on Filner was depressing. Very well written, but depressing nonetheless.
How well I remember that meeting, Doug. You presented it well, as a factual accounting of what took place. And to echo the comment – “I wish there were another Democrat running” – is it too late this time around?
Thank you for sharing these thoughts. We still need closure, and reflection is part of that.
We still have the same old obstacles to overcome, but Bob gave San Diego the gift of inspiration when he spouted big, San Diego-specific dreams and quoted RFK and MLK. Yes, some political operatives will further take advantage of victims by bashing Filner, but they’ll only be showing their poor characters and fueling our fight to prove that progressive policies are everything they’re idealistically supposed to be.
Frankly, part of the problem was elevating one elected leader to carry our water, when the responsibility belongs to all of us to build a movement and hold leaders accountable. There will always be struggle and it would be nice to abdicate responsibility to one savior-like figure, but that’s not real life.
You just keep writing better and better articles that are SO informative! Well done…no better than well done!
Mr. Mike says
I feel that somebody should mention the endless drumbeat done at the “San Diego CityBeat” by their editor over the Filner “scandal.” From minute one editor Dave Rolland or “the staff” said Filner should resign, and that he should resign now, and now why aren’t you resigning Mr. Filner. . . . . They did this for two months in the middle of this artificial media shitstorm, and then after it their bartender columnist Ed Decker wrote a long column about why Finer should not have been San Diego’s “king.”
As somebody who has read “SDCityBeat” back when it was “SLAMM” the music magazine (and Decker was the “political” guy then) it truly sickened me. I’m not opposed to that magazine saying “resign Filner”, but only after they had just cause; this seemed to be groupthink on the highest order, and during all of it Rolland was the only one on the “burn the mayor” bandwagon.
San Diego sickens me.
Doug Porter says
Obviously you weren’t on social media during this time.
Roland sounded downright reasonable compared to the other “engaged citizens” (with reputations that go way beyond the twittersphere). And his stance was consistent with the publication’s endorsement of Filner, which warned of his assholish tendencies.
Deciding when and where the preponderance of evidence against Filner merited withdrawing one’s support wasn’t easy for anybody. The drumbeat of the haters in the background didn’t make it any easier.
Finally, as I said in the article, it’s time to end this squabbling. Mayor Bob is gone and the “business as usual” types are the only ones who stand to benefit from further finger pointing.
Mr. Mike says
I don’t do social media, so I don’t know anything about who tweeted what. I’m talking about what was published in an ink-and-paper publication, and from that Rolland was endlessly drumbeating for Filner to resign from week one.
Brent E. Beltran says
He was guilty. Should’ve resigned earlier and saved us some grief.
Brent E. Beltran: Nobody should pick up a stone unless they have no guilt. That should keep almost all stones in place. The voters were not presented with proven high crimes and misdemeanors, just hearsay of personal scandal. The existing policies, procedures, and remedies for wrong-doing were swept away in the putsch. The neighborhood you cover is now exposed to predation by the forces Filner, among all the current ersatz candidates, most strongly and effectively opposed, so it’s not clear why you wanted him run out of office even sooner. The moral scale you weigh mayors on may need recalibration.
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman says
First of all, I am totally with Mr. Mike vis a vis the negativity of editor David Rolland’s and CityBeat toward Bob Filner. Probably Filner didn’t much like Rolland and let him know it.
But reporter David Rolland did a brilliant summary interview of Frye, Gonzalez and Briggs who twice demanded Filner’s resignation from the public square without an ounce of evidence or due process.
Not mentioned here was the scurrrilous coverage of candidate Filner from Day One by Liam Dillon from on-line VoiceofSanDiego.
Finally, the San Diego Free Press also has its share of egotists and “failed human beings” — not one of whom has ever run for and won political office. Even though you are full of opinions and 20/20 hindsight, until you’ve been there you cannot know what’s involved and how it shapes your world view. More compassion and less judgment of Bob Filner would be appreciated. His downfall is tragic.
Mr. Mike says
For the record I could not vote for Filner; I live in the unincorporated County (one of Dianne Jacob’s zones.) But if I was within City limits, I would have.
bob dorn says
A lot of people will say they want this conflict to be left behind, but a lot of them at the same time will offer that familiar disclaimer: “I approved heartily of his vision for the city but…” Then, too, there are people who can’t resist having the last word.
We all ought to save that energy and use it to elect better people to office. Everybody should do some work on more sensible transportation, support for neighborhood health clinics, protection of Logan from the next wave of environmental rape, defense against a Chargers raid on the city treasurer (they’re asking for a $700 million city subsidy)… Anyone else want to add what remains to be done?
John Lawrence says
Repairing the streets.