There was no clashing last night, it was all smiles and laughter at the Berkeley Repertory Theater’s hosting of Culture Clash where Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was making one of her last public appearances before tomorrow’s primary election.
Lee, the incumbent in the ninth district, faces civil engineer Kevin Greene in Tuesday’s primary.
Lee started receiving national attention on September 14 when she voted against H. J. Res. 64, which gave President George Bush the authority to use military force in response to the terrorist attacks. Much of the attention was negative, Lee has received upwards of 700,000 pieces of derogatory mail, including death threats, directly related to her stance against taking military action.
Recently, especially with strikes in Afghanistan escalating and allies showing signs of leeriness, her critics are faltering and supporters are rallying, her campaign war chest for this campaign is twice as hefty as the previous election.
“People have been really supportive all the way through it,” Lee said, adding that in addition to death supports she received numerous emails applauding her lone vote.
“But now as I watch Sen. Daschle and Byrd, they are now asking my questions. What I said one night when the vote came down on this resolution is that it was so vague. And now I think, especially after the axis of evil speech, that Congress is beginning to realize how much power we gave him.”
Just days ago it was reported that the defense department could not predict how long the strikes will last or how much they will cost in the end.
Lee said the resolution was written that way, “open-ended and broad.”
“And I think people see that, it’s just that fear gets in the way,” she added.
There was no one for Lee to fear last night. She was surrounded by supportive voters applauding her for bravery and thanking her for the stand she took against military action.
“When this all came down a lot of people just got depressed. They felt helpless because they thought there was nothing for them to do. It was good to have you as an example,” Elise Fried of San Francisco said to Lee.
Also on hand with words of support was longtime friend and actor Roger Guenveur Smith — most recently noted for a critically acclaimed one-man play about Huey P. Newton. It was showing February 13th on PBS, but will continue to sporadically throughout the year.
A Berkeley-native, Smith said Lee was the most progressive of the National Progressive Caucus and a true friend to the people.
Lee’s signature concerns have been health care and education. She’s also worked on the International Relations Committee and the Financial Services Committee (Subcommittees on Housing and International Monetary Policy). In addition, she played a key role in Congress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, helping to secure more than $5 million in funding in Alameda County.
She has received key endorsements for this primary and preliminary pollings indicate she pulled out early as the front-runner, despite predictions that her lone “No” vote on Sept.l4th was going to haunt her come election time.
“But I say until every vote has been cast and every ballot counted we are still going to be hard at work,” Lee said. “Out there talking to people, knocking on doors, continuing the grassroots campaign we’ve always done.”
But things haven’t been so cordial for the Congresswoman.
David Horowitz, editor-in-chief, of “FrontPage” even called her an anti-American communist. Horowitz, in an essay entitled An Enemy Within,” alleged that Lee supports America’s enemies and actively collaborates with them.
He recalled meeting her early in her career with the late Huey Newton. Horowitz referred to Newton as the infamous "Minister of Defense" for the Black Panther Party, a gangster at war with America, and referred to Lee as his undercover agent in local government.
Horowitz, a self-proclaimed conservative libertarian, ultimately suggested that Lee’s behavior was similar to treason.
But other than the ultra conservatives like Horowitz, some political commentators are beginning to point to Lee’s lone voice back in September, saying that perhaps she had a point.