Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How I Pissed Off Congressman Mike!

(If you just want to see the pictures, scroll to the end of the post.)

Yesterday I was awakened at 7:30 AM by a strange voice.

“Is this Craig? Craig Chaffin?”

Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I said “Yes?”

“This is Mike Thompson, your U.S. Representative, and I want to know why you called me a ‘weenie!’”

“Huh? Oh, in that letter I sent at your site?” I tried to remember, as I write a lot of letters to people who don't know me.

“Do you know my Iraq voting record? Do you know anything about me? Why did you write me such an offensive message?”

Gathering my dream-spattered thoughts: “Well, I assumed I would only get a form letter from you, so I called you a ‘weenie’ about Iraq in case I might actually get a response. Look’s like I did. You know, it’s hard to get the attention of an institution without spraying some graffiti.”


“Never mind.”

“Is it true you are a doctor, a medical doctor?”


“I can’t believe that you, an educated man, would write me this.”

“What, do you want me to apologize?”

“Do you know my record on the Iraq war? I was posterized by the Republicans for visiting Iraq before the war, looking for a non-military solution. And have you heard of the recent McGovern bill for immediate re-deployment of our troops? We only have 171 votes. So it won’t get passed. But I voted for it.”

“Is Pelosi with you on this?”

“Of course.”

“That’s good to know. But why do I hear all this noise of trying to compromise with the Republicans?”

“There is no compromise.”

(On his website he prides himself for being a moderate Democrat known for his bipartisan work.) “That’s refreshing to hear,” I say, “especially with the vetoes and Democrats talking about benchmarks and all.”

“Do you know I’m a vet and I saw my buddies blown up and that I go to Walter Reed every two weeks to visit the wounded?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Well I do!”

I resisted the temptation to ask, “Are you a chaplain, too, or just a saint?” because at this point I’m wondering what he wants. A medal? An apology? Absolution? A contribution? I mean, who am I? Just some nut case from his district that occupies all of coastal Northern California.

“Uh huh.”

“And I’ve opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. I’ve always voted against funding the war.”

This I tried to check online but I couldn’t find his 2002-03 voting record.

“That’s good to know.”

“So who told you I wasn’t doing anything about Iraq?”

“Oh--when I attended the peace rallies outside your office, it was the considered opinion of all the activists that you weren’t doing enough.”

“Why don’t you tell those people to go protest at the office of someone who supports the war and leave me alone!”

“Are there any other congressman in our district?”

“Uh… no.”

“So where do you suggest we go?”

He couldn't even recommend another congressman to bother.

I suppose you could make this stuff up but I didn’t. Since he called me at 7:30 AM I assume he was in DC. For reasons I can only surmise, my e-mail must have crawled up his tightly wound ass big time. I mean, “weenie?” I’m sure he wanted to wash my mouth out with soap or rap my knuckles like a nun with a ruler, his being a Catholic and a vet and all. I’m sure in Viet Nam he never heard anything worse than, “Watch out for those darn gooks!” Oliver Stone and Stanley Kubrick must have lied to me.

Afterwards I did him the courtesy of researching his record online as much as I could in a few hours, and indeed, he should be proud of his stance on Iraq, the salmon fisheries, and other issues.

But why a relative flew with him on a junket to China in 2005 and who paid for it, I couldn’t find out, so I wrote him back to ask. And what a general partnership in “Travis Webb,” worth $100,000, might be I have no idea so I asked him about that as well. I hear he serves at the World’s Largest Salmon Barbecue in Fort Bragg every year so I told him that I hoped to see him there and meet him in person. I was tempted to sign my new letter, “Your Employer,” but I don’t think he’s ready for that yet.

Ah, the hubris. In a country of free speech my own congressman spends half an hour on the phone with me because I dared to call him a “weenie.” As my employee, how dare he wake me up early in the morning and rant about my insulting him! I have every right to insult him!

What--after all these years dealing with the press and politicians and constituents, does he expect life to be fair? Is he losing touch? Did his wife turn him down the night before so he had to sublimate some anger at an easy target? Or is he just a stuffed shirt Boy Scout type like Shakespeare's Malvolio, wearing crossed yellow garters? Heck if I know (see how he's already helped me clean up my language?).

This kind of behavior can certainly make you doubt the sanity of a politician. He took a shotgun to an ant, a very sleepy ant at that. Luckily the ant, though mistaken about the facts of the congressman’s record, did not take the assault personally—especially since Thompson belongs to the Congressional Sportsman’s Club and I assume has guns, just as our late DA up here, Norm Vroman, was discovered to have a cache of illegal weapons and a small marijuana farm when they searched his house after he died. (Norm would have been re-elected, btw, if he hadn’t croaked. In fact, up here, if we’d contacted Jonathan Edwards we might have been able to re-elect him from the beyond. Everyone's so "spiritual" up here, though I think them more spiritualist. Did Arthur Conan Doyle really have a hand in murdering Houdini? Now there's an interesting story...)

Since marijuana is the biggest cash crop in our county, I regret I didn’t ask him what he was doing about it. I assume, like most politicians around here, he opposes legalization to keep our prices high. And since we need illegals to harvest the grapes and pears, of course he voted against the seven-hundred mile fence down south. That's too bad, because everyone knows that Mexicans steal the jobs Americans are too lazy to take.

All that said, I need to ask you this question to check my own sanity: Have you ever been awakened by a congressman early in the morning who bitterly complained about you calling him a “weenie” in an e-mail message? I submit that this may be one of the strangest occurrences in my long and interesting life. Unfortunately, now I can’t help but think of Mr. Thompson as “Weenie Mike.” I mean, who but a weenie would call up a constituent to complain about being called a weenie? Tsk, tsk.

Here's the good congressman at his wine-promoting site:

Now his face does look a little florid in this one, but I wouldn't accuse him of overindulging in wine promotion--it's probably just too much sun:

1 Kilobunny,

Craig Erick


  1. Your Congressman sounds much more interesting than my MP, perhaps you should send him a link to your blog!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Sorlil. I thought my take would get a few hoots stateside but am slightly disappointed none of the locals who share my rep. said a thing.

    Maybe that's because in Northern California weirdness is taken for granted.

    Hope the baby's sleeping through the night!

  3. Dawn Hofberg1:14 PM PDT

    Hi Craig,
    I came across your blog while we were waiting to go on the telephone conference Mike Thompson held in our district this week. We were sort of thrilled to hear about your phone call from Mike, because it corroborates our experience with him.
    Not that he has ever called us at ANY time of the day, but this last April when we visited DC, we had his ear for about the time it took him to walk us from the front gates of the White House to the doors where we had scheduled a tour. Apparently it is common for Congressman (or women) to do this for their constituents visiting the capitol. For some reason, we were told by an aide, Mike Thompson had never participated in this activity before, and after we had his ear for the five minutes or however long that walk took, he may not decide to continue. One of the questions we asked him was about why we weren't seeing any withdrawal of troops from Iraq, as we felt this was why Obama and the democrats were so overwhelmingly elected. He was irate with us. We mentioned his not holding out as long as a couple other representatives on the vote to get out of the War in Iraq and Afghanistan. He got very red (and I don't think it was the sun, or Napa Valley wine) and snapped at us "That's not true" but when we asked how many troops were still in Iraq, only his aide could really answer us.
    We felt he could and should have been a bit more polite about his disagreement with our facts, though to be fair, we had so few moments, we didn't couch our discontent in too much fluff ourselves.
    The question we asked on the forum was:In March of this year you voted against withdrawal of troops, and last week you voted against a bill that would allow more spending for the war in Afghanistan. What was the difference?
    His answer was (I think), that in March he was giving the president his support because he had had a plan in Afghanistan before he was elected and he need a chance to make it work. Then he went into his (pat) answer about the War not working in Afghan. which I agree with, but he had said all the same words earlier on the news with KZYX. It might have made some sense if he that vote in March had been 2008, but it was not. It was March 2009. So it's hard to trust him, though we do appreciate that he has done much to promote the interests of Mendocino County... (Mendocino Coast Clinics, Salmon Fisheries, opposing offshore oil drilling).
    I hope you and others will continue to tell the congressman how we feel about these wars and that we are watching his record on this.

  4. Dawn, thanks for your comment. At the least Mike is irascible, with a quick temper. I get the feeling he is trying to tread the line of Democratic loyalty too finely instead of absolutely opposing both wars--as the majority of his constituents do. I'm tired of hearing all the reasons we can't leave Afghanistan. It has been well called "the graveyard of empires." It's a lost cause that goes on losing money, enriching criminals, and offending the local populace. Nation-building is ridiculous. We can't judge other countries by our own view of democratic principles; we need to deal with them as they are, not as we wish them to be. I can't believe that the Vietnam generation has been complicit, at the highest levels, with these doomed boondoggles. Whenever we leave Iraq or Afghanistan, civil wars will proceed. The sooner we accept this failure, the better, knowing that the failure was a priori and not post facto.




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