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Barbara Boxer: Rice Hearings and the 2004 Vote

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently made headlines with her tough questioning of Condoleezza Rice during her confirmation hearings for Secretary of State. Boxer was also the only senator to object to the certification of Ohio's electoral votes.


Other segments from the episode on February 10, 2005

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 10, 2005: Interview with Barbara Boxer; Review of the album “And now;” Commentary on language.


DATE February 10, 2005 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California,
discusses politics

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest Senator Barbara Boxer of California is one of the most outspoken
Democrats in the Senate and is now the chief deputy whip. When she was
re-elected last November, she received more votes than any other candidate in
the nation with the exception of the two presidential candidates. She was
first elected to the Senate in 1992 after serving 10 years in the House.
Recently, she has opposed the war in Iraq and voted against the confirmation
of Justice Department head Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice. Now she's fighting against the Bush administration's plan to privatize
Social Security and opposing efforts to restrict access to abortion. We
invited her to talk with us about the direction of the Democratic Party and
her own political style.

Senator Boxer, welcome to FRESH AIR.

You've been taking a very vocal role in the Democratic Party now. During the
certification of the Electoral College vote, you challenged the Ohio vote.
During the confirmation hearings of Condoleezza Rice, you asked very
challenging questions. Let me quote something Johanna Neuman wrote in the
LA Times last month. She wrote, "With liberals dusting themselves off after
their November setbacks, California Senator Barbara Boxer has emerged as the
left's new flamethrower." What do you think of that description of you?

Senator BARBARA BOXER (Democrat, California): It's silly. I was just doing
my job. I've done that since the day I got into public life, asking hard
questions, trying to hold people accountable for their decisions, trying to
hold myself accountable for my decisions, and people have just noticed it.

GROSS: Do you think that most of the people in the Democratic Party on
Capitol Hill are comfortable with how outspoken you are? Do you think there
are many people in the party who wish that you would moderate your voice so
that the party could have a more moderate public face?

Sen. BOXER: Well, I don't represent the party. I represent the people of
California, and I'm a proud Democrat. And believe me, when things are going
well and we can work together, I'll be moderating my voice. I'll be smiling
more, but when things aren't going right, when people are misleading the
American people, I'm going to hold them to account. It's not something that's
planned. It's just an honest response to the issues of the day.

We are in a fight really for the heart and soul of this country in my opinion,
and we need to get back on track whether it's getting back on fiscal track,
whether it's keeping our promises to older Americans, meaning Social Security,
whether it is making sure that people have a quality of life, that their first
responders have what they need to do their job, that the children get a good
education, that the bill that I wrote with a Republican colleague to give
after-school to kids is fully funded. These are important issues and, you
know, whether you bring them to the public in one style or another to me isn't
important. The most important thing is that the people's voice is heard.

GROSS: One of the things that Harry Reid, the new Senate minority leader, has
done is he's created a Democratic war room on Capitol Hill. What has that been

Sen. BOXER: This was really a brainchild of several members who felt that
the messages that we know we're working on are just not getting out to the
American people. And so what Harry did--and I think it was a bold move--is to
make sure we can reach out to the media in a better way. For example, you
mentioned the Condi Rice hearings and then we had the Gonzales confirmation
debate and vote. It was very important to get out to the media something that
we thought they weren't really explaining to the American people and that is
that our job is advise and consent. A lot of people think, `Well, the
president should be able to say who he wants in his Cabinet and that's the end
of it.' Well, that's not what our founders thought. So we wanted to make
positively sure that people knew we were doing our work. It's not always easy
but it's important.

In the case of Condi Rice, many of us felt, even if those who voted for her,
that we did have to discuss the kinds of things she went out and told the
American people before the war and continuing after the war, things that were
not true. In the case of Gonzales, we thought it was very important those who
voted for or against him to lay out on the record his association with a
policy on torture that was in effect for really two years which we think led
to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. We thought it was important to get that out.

GROSS: The Republican National Committee issued a 13-age document this week
saying that Harry Reid is determined to obstruct President Bush's agenda.
What's your reaction to that?

Sen. BOXER: Well, my reaction is really Harry's reaction because I was on the
floor of the Senate when he learned about this. First of all, they attacked
his family which was incredible and my colleague, Dick Durbin, who doesn't
mince words, said something like, `The hottest place in hell is reserved for
those who attack a politician's family.' It was a low thing to do. And Harry
pointed out with all the problems we have, the deepest deficits in history,
even with all these terrible cuts, the deepest deficits, deepest debt, every
child born has got about a $36,000 debt on his or her back. I call it a birth
tax. We've got no exit strategy from Iraq. We still have people who are
losing their health care and now we have people scared they're going to lose
their Social Security. With all these issues, they turn on Harry Reid and try
to attack him, and I think he basically said, `You know, this isn't what the
American people want.'

GROSS: The general wisdom seems to that one of the reasons why the
Republicans won the presidential election is the evangelical vote. Jim
Wallis, who is a liberal evangelical has a book that's on the best-sellers
list called "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't
Get It," and by the left doesn't get it, he means that he thinks that the left
is too secular in that they need to address religious values in a more direct
and compelling way as opposed to being as secular as he believes they sound
now. I think he also--I mean, I know that he also addressed many Democrats on
Capitol Hill. I'm wondering your reaction to his argument.

Sen. BOXER: I met him and I heard him speak and he's really smart. And I
think it is true that we in the Democratic Party regardless of whether we're
progressive or moderate or more conservative, we should be very willing to
talk about our spirituality. I certainly have no problem with it. When I
made my speech against drilling in ANWR, the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge,
I call it God's gift. And I quoted a rabbi who wrote 1,500 years ago that we
better be careful what we do with the lands that we've been given by God
because if we ruin it there won't be anyone to repair it. So I think it's
true that sometimes we want to keep our spirituality private, and I think if
we feel comfortable referring to it, I think that's fine. If we don't, that's
fine, too, with me.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Barbara Boxer, Democratic
senator from California.

The new leader of the Democratic National Committee is almost certainly going
to be Howard Dean. He's generally regarded as being on the left side of the
party. Let me read something that David Brooks, the conservative columnist,
wrote in The New York Times. He said, `Many Republicans are mystified as to
why the Democrats having lost another election are about to name Howard Dean
as party chairman and have allowed Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy to emerge
unchallenged as the loudest foreign policy voices.' `The answer,' as Mickey
Kaus observes in Slate, `is that the party is following the money. The energy
and the dough are in the wing which is not even a wing of the party
but the head and the wallet. Only the most passionate and liberal voices can
stir up this network of online donors from the educated class.' What do you
think about that? Do you think that, you know, MoveOn and funding issues are
behind the choice of Howard Dean?

Sen. BOXER: I can't say why people voted for Howard Dean 'cause I'm not in
the organization, the DNC. They decided after looking over everybody that he
was the one who probably--and I don't know this for sure--had the most
organized plan for the Democratic Party just knowing him as I do. And I think
it must have gotten him very excited, but I have to say that to say that Ted
Kennedy and Barbara Boxer are suddenly speaking out against the war because we
know that it's going to bring in dollars is so ridiculous. It's insane. The
fact of the matter is Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer and Carl Levin and Paul
Sarbanes and a number of others of us, Robert Byrd for an example who is not
considered in the liberal wing of the party really, just very much against
this war. We've been consistently saying that we went into war on false
pretenses. There was no plan for an exit strategy. We're worried about our
men and women in uniform. We want to make sure that they come home as soon as
possible, leaving behind a stable Iraq. That's what we've been saying for a
long time. We're not saying that because, you know, we want people to send
checks. We're saying it because we want our young men and women to be able to
come home as soon as possible safe and sound and that's really where it's at.

GROSS: You were very opposed to the invasion of Iraq. Has the outcome of the
vote affected your view of what America did there?

Sen. BOXER: No. I am very happy at the vote because I think it shows that
the Iraqi people really do have the courage to stand up to these insurgents in
their own way, but to me, we could have done the same thing without losing
1,400 plus of our beautiful people and wounding 11,000 had we kept on what we
were doing which is to work with the world to keep pressure on Hussein. He
couldn't have withstood it, intrusive inspections. We could have done this
just as we did with Milosevic. We used some of our military in terms of air
power, but we nabbed him. We could have done that this way. So, no, I think
we could have brought this about in a much better way. We now have a breading
ground of terror there. The new estimates of the insurgency are climbing.
There are some estimates from Iraqi intelligence that there's as many as
200,000 supporters of the insurgents. So this is a very costly, complicated
situation, and I think we could have seen a better result and brought
democracy to those folks in a way that didn't have such terrible human cost,
and by the way, dollar costs at a time when we are now slashing and burning,
you know, so many programs important to people--not me but this president.
You know, he's got an open checkbook for Iraq with absolutely no end in sight.

GROSS: My guest is Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California. We'll
talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Barbara Boxer, Democratic
senator from California.

Now one of the biggest issues that you'll be facing on Capitol Hill is the
future of Social Security. I understand that you have a memo, a paper, that
you want to introduce into Senate discussion. Tell us what you plan to do.

Sen. BOXER: There are two papers that I want to introduce into Senate
discussion. One of them is a White House memo that was leaked and has a very
clear statement, and that clear statement is that for six decades they've been
trying to get rid of Social Security and finally they have their opportunity.
And I can give you the exact quote. I have it in front of me. This was
written January 3rd, 2005, by one of Karl Rove's assistants. "For the first
time in six decades," he writes, "the Social Security battle is one we can
win." Now let's just analyze that. That's 60 years. So it's right out there.
For 60 years, they've been trying to do away with Social Security. And then
the other document is a 1983 paper that was put out by a very right-wing think
tank and it was called "Achieving a `Leninist' Strategy." And they talk about
the strategy that this tyrant Communist Lenin used to overturn capitalism and
this is one of the quotes in there. "Unlike many other socialists at the
time, Lenin recognized that fundamental change is contingent both upon a
movement's ability to create a focused political coalition and upon its
success in isolating and weakening its opponents." And in that paper, it
essentially says you have to buy off the people who are older, tell them
they're going to be OK. And essentially everything they suggest, the
president's doing.

For example, this is what they said. "The sine qua non of any successful
Social Security reform strategy must be an assurance to those already retired
or nearing retirement that their benefits will be paid in full. By accepting
this principle, we may succeed in neutralizing the most powerful element of
the coalition that opposes structural reform."

Now that was written in 1983 by this right-wing think tank. Here's George
Bush, February 2nd, '05, State of the Union. "I have a message for every
American who is 55 or older. Do not let anyone mislead you. For you, the
Social Security system will not change in any way."

So there's a blueprint out there, and the blueprint is clear. And this
administration is carrying it out. And it's a tragedy for the people of this

GROSS: In a way, it's not a surprise that there would've been a paper like
this in 1983 because a lot of conservatives have never really liked federal
funding, particularly of programs that have been called entitlements,
including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. So what do you find shocking
about this? I mean--and it's one memo. Do...

Sen. BOXER: Oh, I find it very shocking that these right-wingers who are
supposed to hate communism lay out a strategy to emulate Lenin and say exactly
how the president, a president--they didn't know George Bush would be the
one--should carry this out. In it, they called for building a powerful
well-financed coalition. "That coalition should consist not only of those who
will reap the benefits from the private system, but banks, insurance
companies, and other institutions." And what do we see happening now? We see
the--and this is a quote from The Wall Street Journal, from an article called,
"To Get Backing For Overhaul, $35 Million Effort Begins."

"The administration's careful planning of the pro-overhaul lobbying effort,
its messages and scope are being coordinated by White House political guru
Karl Rove."

Now why should people be shocked? Because here's the president coming to
them via the State of the Union address, one of the most important speeches
that a president gives, and telling them Social Security is in crisis, it's
on the verge of collapse. He uses the word `bankruptcy' several times. And
he's trying to tell the people that this is why they have to essentially end
the system when in fact this has been the right-wing's plan for six decades.
This is not about a crisis. So I find it really shocking that the president
would put that out to the people, that he's acting because there's a crisis.

By the way, in 1978, President Bush, then candidate for Congress, said,
`Social Security is going bankrupt by 1988 if we don't do private accounts.'
He was wrong then, he is wrong now. He is doing this because he is so
ideological, he runs the Senate, he runs the House, and he runs the White
House. So this is the moment that these people who wrote about using a
Leninist strategy have been waiting for. And I do find it really shocking
that the right wing would be embracing Lenin.

GROSS: So what do you hope the outcome will be when you bring up these two
memos in the Senate. What do you expect the repercussions will be?

Sen. BOXER: Oh, I intend to make--oh, I have no idea what the repercussions
will be. But it's going to become part of the debate. These documents will
become part of the debate.

Now they've been exposed in the press already, so it's not as if I'm doing
something completely original. But I think it really is an expose of their
real intent here. When you see a document that's written just a month ago
that says, `We've been waiting for this day for six decades,' when you read
the right-wing think tanks--listen, you don't even have to go that far. On, I
believe it was NPR--it could've been on your show, I don't know--they had
Grover Norquist, and Sandra Reed(ph) was saying that Grover Norquist said,
`Look, Social Security's not really in crisis, it's just a lousy system, we
want to get rid of it.' Well, that's the most honest statement I've heard.
But the president is letting the people think that he's quote-unquote "Saving
Social Security" when in fact they just want to do away with it.

And the thing I would say to folks 55 and older, you are not off the hook
because imagine a two-tier system where everyone under that age gets a way
worse system, and a future president--say eight, 10 years from now--when
faced with the borrowing that has to go on to save the system, the future
president's going to say, `You know, I can't do this for 20 percent of the
population. What about 80 percent that isn't going to get this rich system?'
So no one is protected here.

GROSS: By the way, that report with Grover Norquist that you mentioned, I
think that one was on "Morning"--he's been on our show, but I think the
comment that you made was from "Morning Edition."


GROSS Just...

Sen. BOXER: Let the record be clear.

GROSS: Just let the record be clear, exactly.

So when do you plan on introducing these two documents?

Sen. BOXER: I'm planning to make a statement on the floor next week with the
women--you know, the Democratic women have organized under the leadership of
Barbara Mikulski, and each of us is taking kind of a different approach to
the president's plan. And as part of my statement next week, I'm going to
talk about these two documents, but I'm also going to hold a press conference
at home later this week if I get home from Washington in time, in California,
to let the folks know what I'm doing on this.

GROSS: Senator Barbara Boxer will be back in the second half of the show. We
invited the authors of the 1983 article on Social Security that Barbara Boxer
was discussing--we invited them to talk with us. One of the authors declined;
the other was unavailable to talk with us before today's broadcast. We're
planning a program on the Social Security debate, which we expect to broadcast
next week.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: Coming up, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer looks back on her 12 years
in the Senate. Also, linguist Geoff Nunberg considers the euphemisms we use
and don't use for having a child out of wedlock, and Kevin Whitehead reviews
the new CD by the reunited Revolutionary Ensemble.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Democratic Senator
Barbara Boxer of California. She's the chief deputy whip and is one of the
most outspoken senators in her party. She was elected to the Senate in 1992
after serving 10 years in the House.

Senator Boxer, you were in the House for 10 years. You've been in the Senate
for 12 years. Can you compare a little bit the two experiences from your
point of view, the difference between being in the House and being in the

Sen. BOXER: There's such difference, and people don't really get it. When
you're in the House, the obvious thing to tell you is you're one of 435
people. The majority party has ultimate power--ultimate power. That's the
way the rules go, and they were drawn up that way, because it would be, they
figured, unwieldy, so that when you're in the minority in the House, it's very
difficult to have an effective voice. You can use your platform, but you
don't get too many things done as you would want to.

In the Senate, as long as the minority party has more than 41, 42 seats, you
have tremendous influence there, so a Republican or a Democrat, majority or
minority, you have a lot of power. Individual senators can hold up business.
Individual senators can disagree to unanimous consent requests, so you can
have leverage on the business in the Senate. It's very interesting, because
particularly as a woman, people often ask: Is it really a men's club? Well,
the interesting thing is that in the Senate, because each senator is so
powerful in the sense of your prerogatives and your ability to exert pressure
on that body, using all the tools at your disposal, it's really an institution
where you're pretty much equal to everybody else.

In the House, where it's more based on seniority, it's much tougher, and
there, the women had less power, because you had to wait till you were there
20 years or get elected leader of the Democrats, like my wonderful friend,
Nancy Pelosi, has done, and she's so good at it.

GROSS: Now you joined the Senate in 1992, which was called the Year of the
Woman. Why was it called that?

Sen. BOXER: It was called the Year of the Woman, because it was the time
when Clarence Thomas had come before the United States Senate Judiciary
Committee. Anita Hill had made her accusations. And at first, the Senate
didn't want to take time out to even look at those allegations. And as you
may remember, and some of your listeners might, I was one of the congresswomen
walking over--was with Pat Schroeder and Patsy Mink and several others. We
walked over to the Senate, and we said, `Please, you need to give this woman
her day to explain what happened.' And we fought for a hearing. They did, in
fact, hold a hearing, but during that hearing, people in the country saw there
wasn't one woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was shocking to
people. They never realized it. I mean, they kind of knew it, but they saw
it, and I think they opened up their eyes and said, `You know, we need a few
women in the Senate.'

Well, I always thought it was an exaggeration to call it the Year of the
Woman. We went from two to six. We tripled the numbers, but it was a long
way to go. Now we're up to 14.

GROSS: You know, you mentioned how you and six other congressmen went to the
Senate and demanded that Anita Hill be given a chance to make her charges
against Clarence Thomas before his confirmation. What reaction did you get
from the senators?

Sen. BOXER: Oh, let's just say they weren't too happy to see us. We climbed
up the stairs. I think there were about 10 of us--I can't
remember--congresswomen, and between us, we must have had an average of, you
know, 130 years in the Congress, and we walked up, we knocked on the door, and
they basically said, `You can't come in.' The Democratic senators were having
lunch. Now, ironically, of course, I'm in that room every Tuesday. And they
said, `We don't let strangers in.' And I was shocked, and I didn't realize
that `strangers' was a term of art that meant anyone who's not a senator, and
I thought they were calling us, you know, strangers in the larger sense. I
said, `Well, we're not strangers. We're Democratic elected congresswomen. We
have all this experience.'

Well, they wouldn't let us in, but George Mitchell, who was the majority
leader at the time, did agree to see us privately, and he did, and I have to
give him tremendous credit. He did make sure that there was a hearing held.

GROSS: You think that the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings were really a
galvanizing experience of both the left and the right?

Sen. BOXER: Well, I don't really look at things as left and right, as you
seem to. I really don't. I see it as a galvanizing experience for Americans,
regardless of their political point of view. I think they saw, regardless of
how they felt about Clarence Thomas, that there were no women sitting on these
committees, and Republicans began to elect women. You know, when Senator
Feinstein and I were elected at the same time, same year, the first two women
ever elected from any state, we then had Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. We
have since had--from Maine--and from Washington state, Maria Cantwell and
Patty Murray. So--and we've had more Republican women elected. Well, Susan
and Olympia are Republicans, so I think it was very galvanizing in terms of
the lack of women and people seeing that.

GROSS: Does sisterhood amount to much in the Senate when somebody is in the
opposing party? In other words, the fact that you are a woman and, say, Kay
Bailey Hutchison is a woman, and her politics are very different than yours,
does that give you any kind of bond?

Sen. BOXER: Yes, there is a bond, absolutely, at this stage of our history.
But that doesn't mean, you know, we don't disagree. We disagree a lot. You
picked an individual with whom I've had many a battle on the--respectful
battle on the Senate floor about drilling offshore for oil vs. protecting the
environment and oil royalties that I fought to have them paid to the states
and so they can go into the classroom, and she's tried to reduce it because
she's representing her constituents, so--from Texas. But there is a bond
under it all, yes. And as a matter of fact, Barbara Mikulski and Kay Bailey
Hutchison work together so that all the women try to have dinner once a month
on Capitol Hill, regardless of party. And that's pretty unusual around here.

GROSS: My guest is Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California. We'll
talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California.

You know, we've talked a little bit about what it's been like to be a woman in
the House and in the Senate during a transitional time in American politics in
terms of women's roles. What was the role of the women's movement on your

Sen. BOXER: It was huge, because I moved to California in 1965. I was 25
years old. And I had my first child that year, my second child two years
later, so I was a young mother when the women's movement really started to
hit, along with the environmental movement and the peace movement. I mean,
this was all at that time. Because I was a young mother, I was extremely
concerned about the world that my kids were going to grow up in and was
concerned for peace in the world, and I stayed that way forever, and I was
concerned that my daughter would have the ability to do whatever she wanted
and follow her dreams. And, of course, the obvious, I wanted to be able to
breathe clean air and all the rest.

So I got very involved in these issues at a very early stage, and it led me,
step by step, into politics for a little while, into journalism, and the
women's movement really, I think, spoke to the women of my age group who were
having families and said, `You know, if you want, you can still be active in
issues and in life and in work. It's OK.' And that was important.

GROSS: How have American politics changed since you entered politics?

Sen. BOXER: When I ran for my first office, it was 1972. It was a local
county supervisor seat. It was at that time a part-time job, the incumbent
who held it, and I challenged that incumbent and I came very close to winning.
I actually lost something like 11,000 to 10,000. The letters to the editor
against me had nothing to do with my views on the issues. This was a
non-partisan race. It was that I had young children. My children were young,
and how dare I do this? And I had people, when I went door to door, say that.
Now I explained to them that my opponent was a man that--he had a full-time
job, he had two kids as well and his wife worked. But that didn't seem to
matter to people back then. They said, `Well, we know that, but, you know,
we're worried about your children.

And so I honestly do believe in those years, without question there was
prejudice. There were more people who were willing to vote against you simply
because you're a woman than there were willing to vote for you, and it just
was a very painful experience that I've written about. Things have changed
enormously now--enormously now, and I really don't know many women today who
face that type of prejudice.

GROSS: I guess one example of how things have changed are the Condoleezza
Rice confirmation hearings.

Sen. BOXER: Yeah. Definitely.

GROSS: Right. She's been confirmed for secretary of State, and you, a
Democratic senator, are asking her very challenging questions about her
record, and it seems like on either end it really has nothing to do with being
a woman. I mean, not to deny that you're women, but what's at issue isn't the
fact that you're women.

Sen. BOXER: Exactly. And how proud am I of that? The fact is, these are
very, very tough questions. It was interesting because, you know, there were
three women involved. We had Senator Feinstein who introduced her to the
committee. We had Dr. Rice, now Secretary Rice, and you had me as sort of
major players in this little drama that became a drama when all it was was
doing--each of us were doing our job. But somebody said to me afterward,
some media person, `Wow. Didn't you feel terrible giving such tough questions
to Dr. Rice, who is a minority woman?' And I said, `It would be so
condescending for me not to question her the way I did. It would show a lack
of respect for her work and what she's done and her record.' And I absolutely
agree that it was a breakthrough moment. I don't think--I think you're the
first person who's ever made that point, but I think it was a breakthrough
moment for women.

GROSS: Now I understand you got off of jury duty in order to prepare for the
Condoleezza Rice hearings, and whenever you're on--this is my experience,
anyway. When you're called for jury duty, there's a point in which the judge
says, `Is there anybody for whom serving in this jury would be, you know, a
very compromising situation?' `Compromising' isn't the word they use, but
they make it sound like it needs to be life and death. So how did you explain
to the judge that you really needed to study for these hearings? What did you

Sen. BOXER: Well, she didn't make it life and death. She just said, `Is
there anybody here who has a problem being at an 11-day trial?' which it was.
So it would have taken me not only the preparation but into--I would have
missed the hearing. Wouldn't that have been nice for Dr. Rice? I simply
waited in line. There was--we had a huge group of prospective jurors. There
were about 50 of us that had our reasons, and I was in the back of the room,
so I heard most of them, which were: `I own my own business and the hardship'
and, you know, `I'm ill and I have to go to the doctor,' and `I have a trip
and I have the tickets here to prove it.' And there were--'cause that was
something she said if you had a non-refundable airline ticket.

So when it came to me, I just stood up and I said, `Your Honor, it's a
privilege to be in your court, but I have to say'--and you have to say, by the
way, who you are and who you work for. And I said, `I'm Barbara Boxer and I
work for the people of California as their senator, and I have to prepare for
questioning Dr. Condoleezza Rice. It's a very important hearing,' and that I
would miss the actual hearing because of the 11-day trial. And the judge
said, `Thank you for all you do for our state.' Isn't that nice?

GROSS: Yeah. Now are they going to give you an alternate date?

Sen. BOXER: Oh, Terry, I hope not.

GROSS: Because that's usually what happens afterwards.

Sen. BOXER: I hope not. It's so difficult, but, I mean, that was a very
interesting trial there. They explained a little bit of it, but it's just
very difficult when you do this work, to be able to take time, unless it's on
a break, you know...

GROSS: Right. I understand.

Sen. BOXER: ...and you have a solid...

GROSS: I understand.

Sen. BOXER: ...week.

GROSS: I understand. Well, Senator Boxer, I want to thank you very much for
talking with us.

Sen. BOXER: Thank you so much, Terry.

GROSS: Barbara Boxer is a Democratic senator from California.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Analysis: Review of The Revolutionary Ensemble's new CD "And
now...The Revolutionary Ensemble"

In 1971, violinist Leroy Jenkins, bassist Sirone and drummer Jerome Cooper
formed a singular group known as The Revolutionary Ensemble. They broke up
six years and a handful of albums later. Last year the band reunited to make
a new CD. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says it's like they'd never been away.

(Soundbite of music)


The Revolutionary Ensemble was one of the great jazz bands of the 1970s. The
trio almost epitomized that much-maligned era in jazz. It was a time of
rethinking the available possibilities when new instrumental combinations and
new ways of sorting out ensemble roles became common. The '70s avant-garde
often had a lighter touch than the '60s version, not so loud and bashing.
Here was a band with a proud back-woods violin out front, given plenty of
elbow room by bass and drums. That makes for an airy texture.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: Violinist Leroy Jenkins came up in the Chicago collective the
Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, where colleagues like
Leo Smith and the Art Ensemble of Chicago valued silence as a counterbalance
to sound. It's remarkable how easily this group picks up where it left off a
quarter-century ago. Their new CD is "And now...The Revolutionary Ensemble,"
on the Pi label.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: Since these players parted ways, Leroy Jenkins has become a force
in contemporary music, collaborating with dancer Bill T. Jones and writer Greg
Tate, among others. Drummer Jerome Cooper has played inventive solo concerts,
accompanying himself with pre-programmed electronics he triggers live. Cooper
also saw the twin towers collapse from and East Village rooftop. On his long
elegiac sweep, "911-544," Cooper blows his Mexican folk oboe, the chiramia,
while drumming with his feet.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: Bassist Sirone is as handy with a bow as the violinist is, which
helps the blend, but he knows better than to crowd Leroy Jenkins given the
fiddler's impressive sense of pitch. Let the man breathe. Sirone has been
working out of Berlin and Vienna for years, and he brought the catchiest tunes
back to the band, including "Ism Schism," whose theme sounds like something
Mozart's parents danced to. The band wisely treat it with that breezy
detachment that's central to their charm. Great to have them back.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead teaches English and American studies at the University
of Kansas, and he's a jazz columnist for

Coming up, as we near Valentine's Day, our linguist Geoff Nunberg has been
thinking about some of the ways we use the word `love.' This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Commentary: Some of the ways we use the word `love'

Our linguist, Geoff Nunberg, has been thinking about some of the ways we use
the word `love,' as in love-child, love nest, lover. He says there's
something about the word `love' that makes it irresistible to the media when
they want to inject a salacious note into a headline. Geoff points out that
times may have changed, but when it comes to language, Victorian euphemisms
still reign.


When it came out recently that Denny Farrell, the chairman of the New York
Democratic Party, was about to have a baby with his longtime partner, the New
York Post reported the story in true tabloid style: `Farrell has fathered an
out-of-wedlock love-child,' it proclaimed a bit redundantly. Farrell was
enraged and not least by the wording. `It makes it look like a major sin,' he
said. `We're living in the 21st century.' Farrell's response provoked
predictable indignation from the cultural right. A columnist at National
Review commented sarcastically that Farrell's remark was a perfect
encapsulation of the modern mind-set, and an evangelical blogger noted that
when last he looked, bearing a child out of wedlock was still a sin.

But even if you want to defend Victorian moral values, it's odd that we're
still using Victorian language to describe them, and particularly an item like
love-child, which the Victorians used as a sentimental euphemism for bastard
in an age when the illegitimate had neither legal rights nor social identity.

Even at the time, the phrase was considered a bit fulsome. Dickens thought
that it disguised the pain of being illegitimate. As he put it, `"Love-child"
means anything but a child of love.' And some worry that the phrase was
actually contributing to a moral decline by casting a romantic veil over
illegitimacy. As one clergyman put it, `It would be hard to estimate how much
the substitution of "love-child" for "bastard" has lowered the tone and
standard of morality among us or for how many young women it may have helped
to make the downward way more sloping still.'

But nowadays, it's hard to find anybody who will stand up for `bastard.'
There are still lots of people who consider it sinful for unmarried people to
have a baby. But linguistically, at least, we try to refrain from visiting
this sin on the offspring. That's why we no longer use bastard in its
original meaning unless we're speaking metaphorically, as in `arena football
is the bastard child of the NFL.' For us, `bastard' is merely an epithet for
a disagreeable person, something like `son of a bitch,' which could also imply
a dubious birth back when bitch suggested promiscuity rather than mere
nastiness. `If you want to call me that, smile,' Gary Cooper said famously in
the 1929 movie "The Virginian," but nowadays, people are a little vague on
what you were supposed to be smiling about.

Once people stopped using `bastard' in a literal way, they no longer needed
most of the euphemisms for the word. We still describe things as misbegotten,
but we don't associate that word with illegitimacy anymore. But journalists
still cling tenaciously to `love-child,' as if bastardy were still something
that has to be danced around. For some people, `love-child' has simply
inherited the taint of `bastard.' `Love-child,' The Supremes sang, `never
quite as good, afraid, ashamed, misunderstood.' But when you see it in the
media, `love-child' suggests not so much shame as `titillation' and `scandal,'
particularly in high places. It's only the rich and famous that the press
describes as having a love-child. Ordinary folks have to content themselves
with having children out of wedlock.

But then euphemisms that contain `love' often have a suggestive or lurid cast
that makes them too delicious for the press to abandon, even when time has
passed them by. When it came out that Bernard Kerik was using a police
department apartment in downtown Manhattan for assignations with his
girlfriends, reporters were quick to talk about his love nest, a phrase that
by all rights should have expired at the same time Prohibition did. Or then
there's simply `lover.' When you see a headline with a reference to
so-and-so's lover, you can usually assume that there's something
sensationalistic or lurid afoot: `Officer says he didn't shoot lover.'
`Peterson's ex-lover testifies.'

So I was looking forward to a juicy read when I saw the headline in the San
Francisco Chronicle not long ago: `University of California creates $192,000
post for Santa Cruz chief's lesbian lover.' But the story itself was a
letdown. It turned out that the lesbian lover in question was actually the
longtime partner of the newly hired chancellor of UC-Santa Cruz and was
herself a well-respected professor of engineering at the University of
Washington. That might be a potential administrative scandal, but it was a
singularly unsalacious one. When I asked a friend at the Chronicle about the
use of `lover' in that headline, she pointed out that gays and lesbians
sometimes do refer to their domestic partners as lovers. `That's true,' I
said, `but not with the adjective. I want you to meet my lesbian lover Jane.'

Since time immemorial, there's been no word like `love' to evoke a wink and a
nudge. It isn't just journalists who know that. You think of all the phrases
beginning with `love' that soft-core pornographers use to delineate the sexual
anatomy, always prefaced by `throbbing' or `churning' and somehow more
lascivious than the words they euphemize. Or, for that matter, recall how
Johnny Carson always got a laugh when he worked an item like `love-starved' or
`love hostess' into a routine.

If Victorian morality still has a hold on us, it has a lot to do with our
reluctance to give up the delight we take in clucking our tongues.

GROSS: Geoff Nunberg is a Stanford linguist and the author of "Going Nucular:
Language, Politics and Culture in Confrontational Times."

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: We're closing with music by Jimmy Smith who played the Hammond organ
and popularized the use of that instrument in jazz. He died Tuesday at the
age of 76.


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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