There is no question U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Atherton, 63, is a people person. I still recall the first time I interviewed her six years ago. That interview is still relevant to this day.
After speaking at a legislative luncheon, she started in my direction but was cut off again and again by friends, fans and well wishers. There were hugs and short intense verbal exchanges and then, another move in my direction, only to be interrupted again by hugs and more intense verbal exchanges.
Meanwhile I was leaning against a post contemplating my "lead” for the story.
Should it be, "Another lady disproves the myth that women cannot be hard-nosed, effective legislators?”
Or, should it be, "The lady has guts,” for her vote in favor of the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) despite the opposition of some of her most ardent constituent supporters?
This reflects the dichotomy legislators must face when they are sent to represent a local district and are asked to vote on issues of broader national scope.
Some quiver, quake and vote only their own local interests.
Others rise above that and vote their consciences for what they perceive to be the greater national good. These are the ones who make history and leave their mark on the national consciousness.
Finally, she reached me and we headed for a stairway and away from this madding crowd.
No luck! Another fan was mounting the stairs. Another hug and another short intense exchange and finally we were able to make it across the lobby to some soft chairs in a secluded corner of an adjoining room.
Our staff photographer, was circling about us with his cameras like a stalking panther.
"Matt!” I growled. "Take her photo from any angle. There’s no way that you could ever make this lady look bad.”
Another friend walked across the room. Another intense exchange. Does she know and make contact with everyone in the world?
Finally, she leaned forward to speak. Intense. Passionate. Infused with the juices of life. To me, it was deja vu, like the old days in ethnic Chicago where people freely communicated their emotions as well as their intellect. Like the others before me that morning, to Anna Eshoo, at this moment, I was the only other person in the world.
Facts: Born in New Britain, Conn. Armenian-Assyrian. (Looks with disdain upon those who change their names to disguise origin for career purposes.) Father: jeweler and watchmaker. Mother: housewife. Speaks lovingly about her greatest accomplishments, her teacher daughter and then college student son who, after serving in the Peace Corps, is now a humanitarian and economic aide in Laos.
Came to California in 1962. Served for 10 years on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors before winning a seat in Congress in 1993. Sixty-three years old.
She speaks passionately about her commitment to her constituents, expanded health care, environmental protection, abuse-protection for women and children and other humane areas of legislation.
Then, I framed the next question as delicately and sensitively as possible: "How in the hell did you, the first Democrat in decades and the first woman ever, become elected with a 20 percent majority in such a heavily Republican district?”
She sat back shyly and modestly presents me with a practiced litany about how she had learned to be a loser in her first run in 1988 and how her 1,200 volunteers had put her over the top and ...
I broke in: "Baloney! C’est toi! C’est toi! It’s you! It’s you! You did it. You touched some nerve and revived some confidence in the disenchanted electorate to gain a margin of victory that would have been a shock even in Mayor Daley’s Chicago.
"Nobody can tell me that a Congressional member who is a favorite of both the president and vice president of the United States, has been elected repeatedly to leadership positions so early in her national career and who has won the ungrudging support of the hard-nosed CEOs of Silicon Valley is a shrinking violet. You’ve got something, Lady!
Well, she has never gone off that course. Same issues. Same concerns, except expanded, big time. Now, she sits on the House Intelligence Committee, where she is the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence; the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Subcommittee on Telecommunication and the Internet; Subcommittee on Health; the House Medical Technology Caucus and the 21st Century Health Care Caucus.
And, although she opposed our involvement in Iraq, she is unfailingly a big-time supporter of our troops wherever they are, as well as returning veterans.
Are there any committees more important in the 21st century than these where Eshoo can exercise her experience as a legislator and strong influence?
As we used to say back in the 1960s, "You’ve come a long way, lady!”