Senator Manchin is mentioned in your book. It’s after Al Franken has said he’s resigning, and Manchin gives you a hard time for going to his resignation speech after you said he should step down — without realizing that Franken’s office had given you the OK to be there. What was your intention in including that scene? The whole thing was painful. Al Franken, I really liked him. But this unacceptable behavior on the part of people with power — I and so many others are sick of it. So anyway, I mentioned Joe because he was the only one who said, “What a bunch of hypocrites you are to show up after you forced him to resign.” No, we did not force him to resign. He made that decision. I think that he made the right decision, although he has since said that he didn’t. But I like Joe. He sits in front of me. I said to him during the long period, “Do you think it should have taken 11 hours for your concerns to be resolved?” He said he thought he had made it plain to our leadership that he didn’t want to extend unemployment insurance benefits longer than July. He had his perspective.
Wouldn’t the left be doing the same things if Democrats had appointed the last three Supreme Court justices? I get that kind of argument often. I expect the Supreme Court to actually expand people’s individual rights and freedoms. I don’t expect the Supreme Court to be constraining voting rights and a woman’s right to choose. I expect the Supreme Court to be protective of minority rights, and that is not where this Court is. So this is not an equivalency. I don’t mind conservatives on the Court. I mean, of the three new ones Gorsuch is pretty conservative, but he’s a literal person: If it says so right there in black and white, then he’ll go with it. Sometimes it results in really stupid decisions, in my view. If the law was there to protect people from falling through a round hole and a person fell through a square hole — too bad for you. He’s smart enough to know that’s a ridiculous posture.
You cut yourself off earlier. You find all religion to be very what? I find a lot of religion to have all of the proscriptions and not openness and acceptance of other people’s legitimately held faiths. That is why I describe myself as a Buddhist. Buddhism, we don’t even have a book. It is a way of living and being, which is to be compassionate and kind. I think those are two good things to try to follow. I’m not perfect in that. I can be very terse with people. Part of it is that I don’t think many of my colleagues have dealt with short Japanese women. So here I come, and I’m saying, “[expletive] you” to them, and they don’t quite know how to react.
Can you think of an example? Ted Cruz. I was his ranking on his Constitution subcommittee and we had a number of these hearings; not very many of my Democratic colleagues would come. A reporter asked me why and I said they have better things to do than to come to these half-assed hearings. There was one in which all these Republicans who showed up went over their five minutes, and it got me kind of irritated. I said to Cruz, “Are you going to let everybody go eight minutes, nine minutes?” And he said, “When you get the gavel, you can do whatever you want.” I put my hand on his shoulder — this was pre-Covid — and I said, “It can’t happen soon enough.” At that same hearing — we had a break so the mics were not on; it’s not like I’m saying this in an open hearing — he said, “Look, it’s not my fault that your people are not here.” I said, “I don’t give a flying [expletive] what your reasoning is.” He stopped and said, “I will always treat you with decorum, even if it’s not reciprocated.” I said, “I wasn’t swearing at you.”
It’s funny–the one Netroots Nation conference I attended was when Hirono was running for Senate and she was one of the featured speakers. While admittedly she had to follow Elizabeth Warren, an unenviable task for anyone, she gave a really rote campaign speech that left myself and I think most other people a bit cold. But she’s really grown into her own as a total force of nature in the Senate, one of the boldest progressives in the body. Moreover, since she has absolutely no time for wankery about Senate traditions and all that (no longing for being naked in the Senate locker room for her!), she simply cuts straight through all the bullshit in a very refreshing way.