Senator Ron Wyden and I were talking at the mall today…

I think Senator Wyden may get to the mall more often than I do — he periodically puts up a sandwich board explaining he is having “Sidewalk Office Hours” and there he is, hanging out near the jewelry store, with people (like me) just wandering up to talk to him about how we need to get out of Iraq, how much money the tobacco lobby is spending to defeat Oregon’s Measure 50, the FCC, and other matters of national interest as people walk by with their Made in Oregon bags.

I caught him on a break, and kept him company while he ate a sandwich. I suppose I should’ve come up with a handy introduction, having just been warned by Jancee Dunn in her book But Enough About Me… that it’s useless and off-putting to say, “Hi, how are you?” to famous people. (But, in my defense, she’s writing about rock stars, who are way more famous than Senators. A rock star would create a mob scene at the mall as people crowded around them, which doesn’t happen to a man who’s proposing a national universal health care act… go figure.)

So I didn’t have a snappy introduction to loosen him up. I skipped right into asking him why Congress can’t defund the war — which is hard to ask without sounding a tad frantic. He replied, “I voted to defund the war, but I was only one of 14 senators. It’s the other 86 you have to talk to.” Hmmmn… not sure how I’m supposed to do that. I just looked at him blankly for a moment.

“Can’t you talk to them? Especially those Democrats. What’s going to get them on board? A lot of people I know are getting pretty disheartened because things haven’t changed since 2006 when we voted them in.” He seemed to agree with me on that one, but had no solution except to keep the issue visible and public (another reason to go to Seattle on October 27th). Well, I agree with him on that.
Other things we agreed on:

  • Media consolidation: bad
  • Amnesty for phone companies who help the government spy on citizens: bad (He brought that up, not me)
  • Universal health care: good (see Wyden’s Healthy Americans Act)
  • Tuna sandwich on whole wheat: good

We didn’t exactly have a fiery debate… mostly he said things and I nodded. The thing about talking to a senator is that his full time job is this stuff, so he knows the acronyms, he has teams of people telling him how to respond to every conceivable question… where I’m like, “Oh, look Senator Ron Wyden… what did I just email him about? Should I get a sin-for-my-heart-and-my-blood-sugar-bon while I’m at the mall? Is it okay to talk to him when my hair looks funny because I didn’t think I would run into my senator today?”

I brought up how much I liked Representative Blumenauer’s Phone Town Hall, where you could vote by pressing a certain number on your touch tone phone. I suggested he try it too. I told him I have a blog. Then, as a forty-ish white man whose every inch just screamed “I’m mainstream America and I vote!” walked up us saying, “My wife and I just LOVE you.” I thanked the Senator and headed back to my car.

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