Unlike many Washington politicians at recent Town Hall meetings, our U.S. Representative, Ted Lieu, did not step in front of an angry crowd but to a standing ovation.
Word of mouth was spreading throughout the canyon that Dorothy Reik, President of Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains (PDSMM), invited U.S. Representative Ted Lieu to come to Rocco’s for dinner and update the group on the chaos in Washington, DC. When 50 people responded, she looked for a bigger space. When the numbers started to grow towards 100, she called Bill Buerge to book the Mountain Mermaid for what was now a Town Hall meeting and about 100 people, not only Topangans, showed up on Monday evening, March 13.
Setting the scene for the times we live in, Theatricum Botanicum’s Ellen Geer, Melora Marshall and Peter Alsop reminded us, musically, of the perilous environment that America has become for immigrés with a heartfelt rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos” (aka “Deportee”) and then, of what America must continue to mean with “This Land is Your Land.”
“This is a town hall like no other,” Reik began. “This is not a normal time. This was not a normal election. We need to get out in the streets and show up. Because so many things happen so quickly, we must continue to resist,” she continued, instructing people to text “RESIST” to 37619 for information on where and when demonstrations are being held.
“We are so lucky to have a superstar for our congressman,” said Reik as she introduced the Congressman. “Every time I turn on the TV, there is Ted Lieu!”
To a standing ovation Topanga style with whoops and hollers, Lieu took his place at the microphone. “It’s such an honor to be here,” he said. “Thank you, Dorothy for fighting the good fight, and Bill for hosting.
“We are in a very dangerous time. After the elections, I said that what I think makes America great is a peaceful transition of power. I concluded after that, however, that Donald Trump is a danger to the Republic and came to that view because of the behavior of our president. He is going after and delegitimizing the judicial branch of government as well as the press and has incited national discord. I will resist Donald Trump every time I can,” he said as another standing ovation erupted.
Before he would take questions, Rep. Lieu wanted to talk about three things: Russia’s part in the election, the ACA or what is now morphing into “Trump Care,” the Muslim ban, and “how all of you can do your part.”
THE RUSSIA CONNECTION
“Russia launched a massive cyber-attack to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.” Lieu was clear and forthright that this is not the time to mince words. “In an unclassified intelligence report on Russia, they hacked into the electoral boards of 20 states.” Everyone gasped. “There is clear and convincing evidence that Russia did this last year. Donald Trump is lying when he says other countries could have done this and he and his administration are lying about meetings with Russian officials.
“Attorney General Sessions lied under oath to Congress and, when an executive lies there is a law about perjury and what he did. Donald Trump also instructed his campaign to alter the Republican platform in favor of Russia against Ukraine. This was all documented in 2016.
“It doesn’t take a lot to connect those dots. I have called for an independent commission to determine if there was collusion and I hope that Republicans will put party aside and go forward with a bi-partisan investigation. The administration is fighting this tooth and nail and it’s very suspicious.”
Referring to the devastating report by the Congressional Budget Office on the proposed replacement to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Lieu asked, “What will it take for Trump not to put his name on something!”
“Once a year I agree with Tom Cotton (R-AR),” the congressman quipped. “He [Cotton] says TrumpCare is a disaster and House republicans need to start over and work with democrats. The ACA is not perfect but this bill will cause chaos. Now we know why [House Speaker] Paul Ryan (R-WI) tried to push his bill through before the CBO report came out.
“I am going to fight aggressively against this legislation. It is my hope that the GOP will put country above party and work with democrats. We will fix the ACA but won’t repeal and replace it.”
Referring to the first attempted ban of seven countries, Lieu said the number of people killed in the U.S. by people from these countries is zero. The second ban removed Iraq from the list but is still regarded as having harmful effects to U.S. soldiers deployed to Iraq and elsewhere.
“I hope the courts will strike this ban down as well, and in 20 months we [democrats] will take back the House,” Lieu said referring to the mid-term elections in November 2018.
On inauguration day, when Lieu heard Trump’s dark speech, he said he was sad, “but the very next day, when I saw the Women’s March on Washington, it gave me a huge amount of energy. It gave a signal that we cannot go on like this.”
When Steve Bannon told the press to “Shut up,” Lieu said he bought subscriptions to the New York Times, the Washington Post and several other publications and had them sent to his son.
As Vice Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), “whose principal mission is to support Democratic House candidates every step of the way to victory,” he observed that it is not as effective as it should be. Working with DCCC Chairman, Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), they will be “doing a series of reforms” in the committee because, Lieu said, “The best way to stop Donald Trump and his agenda is to take back the House. We will get the House back in 2018.”
In a Q&A that followed, the congressman addressed the wars in Syria and Yemen.
“In Yeman, a Saudi-led coalition is fighting a civil war, killing hundreds of civilians, bombing schools, neighborhoods, hospitals. People are dying of starvation because the port is closed. I joined 52 congressional members asking Secretary of State Tillerson to reopen that port. International law says it’s a war crime and so few people know about this warI choose to be a voice on this issue.”
Regarding Syria’s civil war, Lieu referred to a recent press report that Donald Trump sent 500 U.S. government troops to Syria with no congressional debate. “Now, we have U.S. Marines firing artillery in the assault on the city of Raqqa. Trump needs to explain our strategy. It’s a very bad idea and I opposed it on the foreign affairs committee.”
A question was called out from the audience. “Whose side are they fighting on?”
“I don’t know,” Lieu responded.
The Congressman’s time was up and as everyone started to disperse, a voice rose above the din, “That was the best Ted talk ever!”