I think of Paul Kane as one of the better-- as in both more perceptive and not lazy-- Washington Post regulars. That notion was shaken this morning when I read his "analysis," Pete Aguilar's Rising Star Status Meets The Moment At Jan. 6 Hearing. If the dictionary wanted a photo to illustrate the definition of "political hack," it could do no better than using one of Pete Aguilar, the extraordinarily mediocre Democratic congressman from San Bernardino. That definition I had in mind, by the way: "a politician who belongs to a small clique that controls a political party for private rather than public ends... A political hack is a negative term ascribed to a person who is part of the political party apparatus, but whose intentions are more aligned with victory than personal conviction. The term 'hired gun' is often used in tandem to further describe the moral bankruptcy of the hack."
A little basic background: Aguilar's district, CA-31, was a safe D+16 seat and has now been renumbered as CA-33, an even safer D+23 seat. Part of the Jerry Lewis (R) political machine, he was appointed mayor of Redlands and behaved just the way you would expect a conservative, careerist empty suit to behave. He ran for Congress as a "Democrat" in 2012, lost to two Republicans and ran again in 2014 when corrupt Republican incumbent Gary Miller retired. He narrowly won but has been in Congress ever since. A member of the corrupt, Wall Street financed New Dems, his record is right of center among Democrats-- the 197 "most progressive" with an overall "F" rating, out of synch with the California delegation.
Kane's description of him as a "rising star" has more to do with the "clique" part of the hack definition and Aguilar has thrown in with the worst bunch of congressional Democratic hacks led by Hakeem Jeffries. His assignment is to deliver the Hispanic vote for Jeffries' coming run for post-Pelosi speaker.
Though he's a moron and has no charisma, Pelosi gave him the political plum of a position on the select committee investigating the Trump coup attempt. Thursday was his day in the sun. He was excruciatingly awful as he stumbled through the mini-speeches his staff wrote for him. But that isn't how Kane described his time on the national stage. "As he dug through deposition testimony, Rep. Pete Aguilar noticed a common thread among the aides to former vice president Mike Pence: the power of prayer." Aguilar doesn't notice anything but who might write him a campaign check... but reporters aren't allowed to even think that at the Washington Post, let alone wrote it. Instead, he wrote that when Aguilar "neared the end of his questioning Thursday, he asked the witness about finding solace in the Book of Daniel during the hours spent hiding in the bowels of the Capitol from rioters on Jan. 6, 2021." The witness was religionist nut Greg Jacob, who had served as counsel to Mike Pence when he was Trump's vice president.
Aguilar's staff's strategy was to appeal to "the tens of millions of voters who have not paid attention to every detail in the attack." Greg Jacob knew what his own line was supposed to be: "He refuses an order from the king that he cannot follow and he does his duty in-- consistent with his oath to God," a way of enhancing his boss' appeal with the evangelical base he's largely lost to Trump.
Kane (or his editor) was obviously pitched the story by a p.r. person trying to help raise Aguilar's profile. It was a slow news day and Kane went right for it, regurgitating pablum about a humdrum, unexceptional, second-rate, unaccomplished but very ambitious member of Congress. He even wrote that "close friends view Aguilar as the man who could become the first Hispanic speaker of the House."
Pelosi picked him for the select committee because he is the type of lawmaker others gravitate toward, more than just a “team player.”
“Usually it means they’re a good follower, but that’s not the case with you,” she said, according to his recollection of the call.
As vice chairman of the Democratic caucus, he ranks sixth in leadership, an amorphous job. He’s told other lawmakers they should view him as a “human suggestion box.”
Sometimes that means convening groups, including Senate Democrats, to discuss what types of immigration legislation has a chance to reach President Biden’s desk. Other times, it means Aguilar listens to complaints about the House schedule.
His recurring theme, on pushing legislation and in campaigning, is that Democrats too often assume voters are devout consumers of politics as if they’re all devotees to MSNBC’s prime time lineup.
Most don’t understand the historically razor-thin margins in the House and Senate, nor do they fully understand arcane rules like the filibuster.
“They need to feel safer and better, and they need to know that the Democrats care. It isn’t that we aren’t doing things. I think we are. It’s that they don’t feel that we’re doing enough,” Aguilar said. “And they feel that the President is better than the last guy, but that they still don’t feel as comfortable in their own personal position.”
Of Mexican descent, Aguilar has grown frustrated with how Democrats treated all Hispanics with a broad brush, leading to a troubling decline in political support from that voting bloc. The anti-police rhetoric cost Democrats votes in South Texas, he said, where a huge portion of Hispanic families work for the Border Patrol or local law enforcement. [Note: when he ran for Congress, the DCCC found him a Spanish language tutor in case he ever had to debate in Spanish. But he still fits Pelosi's idea of an identity politics Latino politician.]
“They’re very different,” he said. “How you talk to a Mexican American in Southern California versus a Cuban American in South Florida, we have to acknowledge that we can’t have boiler plate campaign literature.”
Aguilar has linked arms with Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Katherine M. Clark (D-MA), both just ahead of him in leadership ranks, to forge an alliance that many rank-and-file Democrats see as the next generation of leaders.
“We’re all very close. Pete Aguilar is a good friend, a colleague and a partner in government in the closest possible way,” Jeffries, 51, said of the trio.
But that leads to the most sensitive topic in the caucus: when the trio of 80-somethings-- Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC)-- will step aside.
Most Democrats just publicly pay tribute to the combined 106 years of congressional experience among Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn, more than half of that time serving in their current leadership slots.
“With that status, in my opinion, they get to choose their timing. They get to pick what that looks like and whenever that transition will occur,” Aguilar said.
When Pelosi called last summer to ask him to serve on the Jan. 6 committee, Aguilar’s first reaction was to try to say no, out of fear for how the profile might impact his wife and two children. “I didn’t need the death threats,” he recalled thinking.
Now, he’s consumed by the investigation. Each hearing has a clearly defined topic that can be presented in a roughly two-hour span, far different from the rolling 10- or 12-hour marathons of some congressional hearings.
Confronting someone with a brilliant legal mind like Michael Luttig, Aguilar just shrugged, obviously unable to follow along. Maybe Kane wasn't watching when Aguilar asked Luttig what he meant when he said Trump and his allies and supporters are a "clear and present danger" to democracy. Luttig looked at Aguilar as though he were a 9 year old and said he meant what he said. Aguilar was confused and moved on, more comfortable to talk to a fellow idiot like Jacob.
Then DCCC-chair Steve Israel encouraged Aguilar, an unaffiliated conservative at the time, to run as a Democrat in a purple district that was turning blue. He had never actually ever done anything well other than self-promotion, always good enough for Steve Israel.
Under Aguilar's leadership, as mayor, once thriving small businesses in Redlands were killed off by the Wal Mart Aguilar’s administration attracted and helped turn Redland's north side into a poverty zone. That helps explain why Aguilar came in 3rd in Redlands when he first ran for Congress. He's never held a job other than at the expense of taxpayers, unless you want to count his time as a banking lobbyist. When he first ran for Congress, his biggest campaign contributors were wealthy Republican donors Jack Dangermond, Stephen Matich, John Mirau, Barbara Morris, Barry JoLette and Carol Baker.
Aguilar is now a member of the Latino-Jewish Caucus but before becoming an AIPAC ass-licker, he was quite anti-Israel. He may have been drunk or coked up when he told supporters on a surreptitiously-recorded phone call that "the United States should back off from military and economic support to Israel. American support of Israel, and really Israel as a people and political power, is a drag on the United States, and frankly, the world." When one supporter asked about Aguilar's thoughts on Hamas, the candidate can be heard replying, "Hamas is trying to survive oppression. A couple hundred years ago, a group of brave men like Paul Revere tried and succeeded at doing the same thing here in [what] would become the United States. They didn't call it 'terrorism' back then, but it's the same thing over there."
AIPAC has destroyed the careers of Democratic politicians for a lot less than that, but they completely own Aguilar now so... all is well.