Political Fix (19 January, 2017)

What are you doing the morning of January 20th?

Over one million people will be attending the presidential inauguration–and a few very excited Republicans from Kings and Tulare County will be among the attendees.

Congress plays host to the inauguration and each member of the House received 197 tickets to give to their constituents. The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) also gave tickets to the Senate and Donald Trump, totaling nearly 250,000. So our local Trump supporters aren’t expecting a private box. Its standing room only.

The inauguration takes place on the west side of the Capitol Building and ticket holders have a view of the platform where President-Elect Trump will take the oath of office. Anyone can watch the inauguration from the National Mall but just to get within a half mile of the action you need a ticket.

Vern Costa and Trent Soares of Kings County were two lucky recipients of tickets from Congressman David Valadao. Republican Central Committee Member Vicki Riddle received her ticket from Congressman Devin Nunes, the last one he had.

Vern Costa didn’t wait to see who won the election before he started preparing. He was so hyped up after attending the Republican Convention he started making plans to attend the inauguration in July. Ironically, when he called mid-summer the closest hotel available was in Virginia. But then, after all the Clinton supporters canceled their hotel reservations right after the election, he got a room for himself, brother and daughter at the Hyatt down the street from the Capitol.

I asked which inaugural ball he planned on attending. “The inaugural balls aren’t my cup of tea. I think we will do a pub crawl,” said Mr. Costa.

Mr. Soares is college friends with Mr. Valadao and Congressman Nunes’ staff. His dad and uncle are staying at the Watergate Hotel but he is crashing at Mr. Valadao’s chief of staff’s place. He is going to go with the flow and only knows that everyone will be attending the Great Gatsby Ball at the National Portrait Museum after the inauguration.

Ms. Riddle was a lead organizer for Mr. Trump’s successful fundraiser in Tulare last August. She was part of the motorcade that brought Mr. Trump’s entourage from the Fresno Airport to the private residence where the event took place. She said before Mr. Trump got back on his plane he put his hands on her shoulders and asked “What do you think is going to happen?” She never told me what she said, but did say she was impressed with how humble Mr. Trump was during one on one encounters and how interested he was in each person that he met.

When Ms. Riddle flies into Washington DC Thursday morning she will go straight to Mr. Nunes’ office to pick up her packet. Mr. Costa said that going by the representative’s Washington DC office was the only way to get your ticket as they weren’t handed out locally. The packet also contained suggested events which to attend but Ms. Riddle is going to play it by ear and see which balls might have room given there are always last minute cancelations. She got her reservation just a few days ago on Hotel.com and went for the most expensive place. To her surprise there were three rooms left at the Marriott at 20% off right on the parade route.

Mr. Costa explained that the inauguration tickets are color coated to designate the seven viewing areas. Each member of congress got a variety of colors to make it fair because some regions have better viewing than others. But Mr. Costa was in Washington a few weeks ago checking it out and said all the ticked areas are good spots.

So will Donald and Melania make an appearance at the Great Gatsby Ball where it seems most of the Central Valley folks will be in attendance? It is very unlikely. Mr. Trump’s Inaugural Committee chairman, Tom Barrack, told ABC News, “We’ll have basically three balls. Two in the [Washington] Convention Center, one called the Commander in Chief Ball, which is a traditional military ball. And then we’ll have a series of private dinners.”

What Mr. Costa is most looking forward to is the presidential address. “It’s a celebration of our country’s unity and a celebration of our Democracy. We sometimes take the peaceful transfer of power for granted.”

“I’m excited,” he said.

Behind the Interview

In the January 5 issue of the Valley Voice I wrote an article about Congressman Devin Nunes and his relationship with President-Elect Donald Trump. Mr. Nunes was asked to join, not only the transition team, but the executive transition team where he is part of a small group of people who advises the president.

I was impressed. Mr. Nunes was typically modest.

He was honored of course to be appointed to the transition team. But he was just as humble as ever, looking as if he could hop on a tractor or sit down with the president at any moment and advise him on the United States’ tax code.

During our several interviews over the years, it would be an understatement to say he talks over my head. It’s not like Mr. Nunes uses a string of nine dollar words or tosses around complicated sentences. He speaks in layman’s terms and repeats the concept until I understand. Then I’ll ask a stupid question and he will repeat the whole thing again without even batting an eyelash.

I not only asked stupid questions, I put my foot in my mouth several times. I said, “Well it’s not like you are on the Ways and Means Committee.” Well, yes he is, and the number-two member. Then when Mr. Nunes spoke about entering Trump Towers through a back door I said, “Well it’s not like you are known
nationally so no one would recognize you.” He said that, yes in fact, he was known nationally and that was why he went in the back entrance, “to avoid the circus.”


In my defense, most members of congress are not known outside their district. But even though we live in an ignored little corner of California, Mr. Nunes is a big fish in Washington DC. He just doesn’t “strut his stuff” and make a big deal about it. Unless Mr. Nunes sees the need to promote policy on the national media, he stays out of the spotlight.

Also in my defense, Mr. Nunes has been working on some of his bills for a decade and they are complicated. He is involved in some pretty hard-hitting stuff like the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, corporate tax reform and California water policy. Not your typical dinner conversation.

Towards the end of the interview Mr. Nunes pointed out something I never thought of. Because of the way Congressional District 22 is configured, if he ever leaves office, Tulare County will never have its own congressional representative. 65% of the voter base lives in Fresno County and only 35% lives in Tulare County. That means any future representative will be from Fresno. So we kind of take it for granted that our representative lives around the corner.

But Mr. Nunes doesn’t plan on leaving his congressional seat any time soon. He respectfully took his name out of consideration for a position in Mr. Trump’s administration because he didn’t want to give up his seat, and didn’t want to move his family to Washington DC.

The irony of ironies is that Mr. Nunes could never win a statewide office in California, such as senator or governor, but because he is respected nationally, could conceivably be our vice president or even president.

Why? What other Republican would have a better chance of winning the Republican primary in California?

My Son had a Dog Named Roo

When I was 27 years old I had two babies in diapers, worked full time, and wallowed in the marital bliss of no money, lack of sleep, and dirty dishes. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to get pregnant again, contract pneumonia, and lose my job.

My emotional reserves were so low that even my cat got on my nerves. I didn’t want one more thing demanding my attention and I never let myself get emotionally attached to an animal again.

That is until last year.

In the spring of 2016, my adult son, Alex, started feeding a stray dog and named him Roo. He always wanted a dog and was pretty stoked that such a big sweet animal would come into his life. I was amazed how they both were so good natured, and for the fact that out of all the stray dogs in Tulare County, one so similar to Alex would show up at our door.

I ignored the dog. I had other things to take care of. I had a Junior in high school and was attending a lengthy trial during the day and writing for the paper at night. I was fending off legal attacks from my dad and step mom and coping with a co-worker who was threatening to quit for the third time in two months.

But Roo had no clue I was trying to ignore him. He sat at my feet whenever I sat on the couch and I would move aside and go on about my business. I then noticed he was at my feet while I wrote or while I ate dinner, with one eye looking up at me just in case I looked back.

When a cat catches your eye it’s usually a look of contempt or an expression of “what have you done for me lately.” So cats are pretty easy to ignore.

But Roo was persistent. With his eyebrows arched and his ears perked up he stared at me waiting for my validation. When I finally gave in and returned his gaze, he furiously wagged his tail. He thought, “she loves me” and, reluctantly, I did.

I realized then that I hadn’t let an animal touch my heart since the cat I had in college. So I quit trying to resist. I was stronger and more mature than the young woman I was 30 years ago, and if Roo wanted to love me, then I had some left over to give him.

From then on, Roo became both my and my son’s dog.

Roo started his day by jumping on our bed and rolling on his back expecting his belly rubbed. He then nudged me until I gave him a long hug. If I had food he would smack his lips as if he were eating along with me. Whenever Alex or I were in the room he wagged his tail standing up, sitting down, and even laying on the bed or couch, making big thwaps.

If I had been out of town for a few days, Roo would lay across my body putting his front legs around my neck until he was sure I would not leave again. Even if strangers came in the house, he stood up on his hind legs and put his front paws around their neck. I probably should have told Roo to get down but it seemed everyone loved Roo as much as Alex and I did.

Alex was getting weaker and sleeping more as the holidays approached but we didn’t comprehend at the time how sick he was. I argued with Alex about taking Roo out for walks, but I didn’t want to make the situation worse. So instead of arguing I took on most of the responsibility of walking Roo. Almost every day we went to an orange grove in Exeter where he could run free, chase the coyotes, and roll around in the puddles. I mapped out a course on dirt roads away from cars, and a paved road that only had three occupied homes.

It was raining on December 31st and Roo had been cooped up in the house for two days. I put on my coat knowing he would probably enjoy a romp in the rain and decided to take him to Exeter. About 3pm in a light drizzle, a man who knew Roo well and called him the “big goofy dog” got into his truck, sped down the country road, and ran him over.

The man knew we were there as Roo had stopped by his gate to say hi and I had on a neon green rain coat. He also knew that Roo chased trucks. This time was no different, as Roo hit the passenger door then slipped under his back tires. The man then drove away.

Roo cried out and spun in circles not understanding what happened to him. The first five minutes after the accident he was able to walk and we met in the middle of the road. He then coughed up blood.

I wish I had just sat on the wet asphalt those first five minutes and taken his face in my hands and told him I loved him. It was the last time Roo would be conscious enough to know who I was, and the last time he could return my gaze with his piercing brown eyes. But I was too preoccupied yelling for help from a neighbor to give us a ride back to my car.

At the animal emergency clinic on Mineral King the x-ray showed Roo had heavy bleeding in his chest cavity. He went from being able to sit upright to lying on his side gasping for air in the space of an hour. When I stroked his neck and talked to him I could see his labored breathing eased just a bit, but I knew he only had a short time. When he strained for his last breath his eyes stayed open but the arches were gone from his brows and his ears were no longer perched to hear my voice.

Ten days after Roo died Alex would be lying in a hospital bed at Kaweah Delta. I wished again I could take Alex’s face in my hands and pray his illness away. But I couldn’t stop Roo from chasing trucks and I can’t pray away Alex’ disease, as much as I wish I could.

This wasn’t the best of years for Alex. Last summer he lost everything he owned in a house fire including the shirt off his back. He lost the only dog he ever owned on New Year’s Eve, and now he lied curled up on a hospital bed in the Intensive Care Unit.

When I gave birth to Alex, my labor progressed so quickly that I ended up delivering him myself on our bathroom floor. When I brought him up to my chest I could see his little cheeks were slightly bruised from his brusque entrance into this world. He clasped his hands and looked up at me with worried eyes and I told him everything would be alright.

I never said those words to Roo because I was pretty sure he was dying. But when Alex looked over at me from the hospital bed with his hazel eyes, I knew he was going to live. I stroked his hair like I did when he was a child and said everything was going to be all right.

Sylvia Brown, a famous late psychic, said that animals are angels that only grace this Earth once, while human souls incarnate many times. She believes that our pets wait for us to join them on the other side. While I know Roo is anxiously waiting for me and Alex when our time comes, I also know it’s not going to be right now. Alex and Roo crossed paths in this life but now they have gone their separate ways.

And Roo is just going to have to wait, tail wagging and all.

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