Meeting the opposition

This is a write up about my meeting with my congresswoman (Jaime Herrera Beutler R-WA3) at the beginning of February 2017. Of course, I didn’t actually meet with the congresswoman herself, because she was rightfully busy in DC, instead I met with her Assistant Director, Pam Peiper, at the local office in Vancouver WA. This meeting came about because I was inspired by Madelaine Albright’s tweet about registering as a muslim if/when Bannon’s muslim registry plan becomes a reality.

And around the same time I saw a video of Jaime Herrera Beutler talking about why she had not voted for Trump “I didn’t want to tell my daughter I was okay with behaviour like this..”.

I went onto the congresswoman’s website and filled out her contact form requesting a meeting. I was, admittedly, really surprised when Pam Peiper responded with an actual offer to meet. So the next thing was to prepare for it and these were the notes I took with me:

  1. Intro
  2. Madeleine Albright — commitment
  3. The administration may be deliberately testing the limits of governmental checks and balances to set up a consolidation of power.
  4. Support HR-804 (To amend the National Security Act of 1947 to protect the National Security Council from political interference, and for other purposes.)

I wanted to tell a personal story as well as make my points, so I told her about my mum (Gitta Sereny) and how we had been discussing an idea for a short film when she told me about King Christian X of Denmark. It turns out that her story originated from a cartoon published around 1943 which “depicted the monarch talking with the former Danish prime minister, who asks him, “What are we going to do, Your Majesty, if Scavenius makes all the Jews wear yellow stars?” …. The king responds by asserting, “We’ll all have to wear yellow stars.”

I went on to write and direct a short film (“My Blue Eyed Girl”) about people with odd coloured eyes being rounded up in the UK and the Queen, police and army all ending up resisting the government by wearing sunglasses. This story, I hoped, led up neatly to asking Herrera Beutler to consider following Madelaine Albright’s lead. Just in case this led to any conflict with Pam Peiper, I was prepared with some relevant articles and statistics from PewPew research about refugees coming to the US! But I was delighted to discover there was no conflict at all.

I told Pam Peiper that I had a lot of respect for the congresswoman’s bravery in announcing that she had not voted for the president and hoped that she would be able to continue to be brave…. And I then went on to discuss Steve Bannon and an interesting and thoughtful article I had read (which I now can’t find) about how the administration may simply have been testing the legal boundaries and loyalties of different departments. I told her that I was most concerned about the implications of the National Security Council changes. I asked Pam to ensure that the DC office seriously consider recommending that Herrera Beutler support Stephanie Murphy’s bill: H.R. 804 - Protect the National Security Council From Political Interference Act of 2017, which would remove Bannon from the NSC. Pam said that they would read it and follow its progress. I thought that was a pretty good result for my meeting.

So my takeaways from this are:

  1. want a meeting? Ask for one.
  2. be prepared with specific requests.
  3. be aware that the local office handles local affairs, the DC office handles policy issues.
  4. Be prepared to follow up and keep following up (this last one is a note to self).