A model politician

Barbara Boxer may be the most controversial politician to come out of Hollywood since Jay Billington Bulworth.

One of California’s U.S. Senate representatives has become one of the most vociferous voices for the far left. Her personal conviction and unwillingness to compromise have caught the attention and respect of more moderate Americans, including this humble conservative columnist.

Boxer, 64, is her party’s chief deputy whip and was just re-elected to her third term, but she has been making headlines for her outspoken and controversial style, conjuring images of Warren Beatty’s character in the 1998 political satire “Bulworth.” Boxer’s role in Condoleezza Rice’s confirmation hearing was parodied on Saturday Night Live, consummating her rise to national recognition.

Combined with Howard Dean’s acquisition of the Democratic Party chairmanship, Boxer’s sudden rise to prominence has the potential to tilt the Democrats’ boat to the left. It also has the potential to make an honest party out of them.

Unfortunately, some Democrats on Capitol Hill want to quell Boxer’s influence in an effort to moderate their collective image.

During an interview last week on NPR, Boxer was asked about the muzzle the party might try to put on her. She boldly responded, “I don’t represent the party. I represent the people of California.”

She isn’t even a member of the Democratic National Committee.

Boxer has received strong criticism from the media for her pointed questioning of Rice during the secretary of state’s confirmation hearing.

“I was just doing my job,” she insists. “I’ve done that since the day that I got into public life, asking hard questions, trying to hold people accountable for their decisions, trying to hold myself accountable for my decisions.”

The media has also accused her of using the hearing as a publicity stunt and a fundraiser. It is unfortunate the American public and the national media have become so suspicious of public figures; they assume dubious motives for every act.

Boxer doesn’t need more publicity. She received more votes last November than anyone in the country, excluding the two presidential candidates. She won her election by more than 20 percentage points. Perhaps it is this wide margin that gives her the confidence to voice her unpopular opinions.

Perhaps legislators across the country should take notice and follow her example of unfettered speech.

In an era when many people expect politicians to lie, Boxer has emerged with a reputation as a straight-shooter. She is frequently compared to Hillary Clinton, but Boxer doesn’t have a problem telling the public what she thinks. Clinton more frequently tells the public what she thinks they want to hear.

Democratic strategist Bob Beckel explained the difference between the senators’ approaches.

Clinton is, or will be, running for president, he said. Boxer isn’t.

I wish I could ask Beckel why it is a prerequisite for presidential candidates to lack conviction. The honesty and commitment Boxer exudes are the qualities that make her attractive. I think Clinton will run whichever way the wind is blowing, and I don’t respect that.

Politicians should be visionaries working to make a better world for all of us. I want my public officials to be consistent and to make decisions that are, by their judgment, the best for our nation.

Politicians should be committed to something other than their own popularity.

For the record, Boxer said she has no interest in running for president. That hasn’t stopped thousands of people from bedecking their cars with “Boxer for President” bumper stickers. Several liberal Web logs tout her as the Democrats’ best hope for 2008.

It is refreshing to hear a politician speak with personal conviction. She cannot compete with Bulworth’s ghetto fashion and rhymed speeches, but Boxer’s no-nonsense style is making waves in the American political pool.

The energy and integrity from leaders like Boxer could bring revived respect and popularity to the downtrodden Democrats.

More importantly, Americans might realize that we can and must demand personal accountability from our public officials.

Eric Carlson, Daily Lobo, University of New Mexico.