If the turnout and response at his Thursday night "town meeting" at the National Civil Rights Museum with Michigan congressman John Conyers was any indication of Steve Cohen's future fortunes, the 9th District congressman might as well start looking into long-term living arrangements in the District of Columbia.
Conyers isn't your ordinary visiting congressman, for starters. The longtime congressman from Detroit is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on which freshman Cohen sits. Not only that, he was on Judiciary in 1974 when the committee voted articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon, hastening that errant president's departure from office. Not only that, as Conyers reminded this reporter afterwards, he wrote the first articles of impeachment against Nixon.
In short the man is a congressional legend, and Conyers' very presence here was a tribute to Cohen's standing this early in his congressional tenure. And, since Conyers takes a back seat to no one on economics and civil rights issues, it was also the best assurance imaginable to the African Americans in the audience (who were numerous and enthusiastic and who conferred frequent praise on both congressmen) that Cohen has their interests at heart.
The two congressmen fielded an abundance of questions and concurred on such matters as impeachment (justifiable but not practical with other priorities facing the nation), health care (a scandal and a scam as proposed by Bush), Iraq (should be ended now by cutting off funds), Iran (containable without military adventurism by Bush, a specter which should be stopped at all costs), civil liberties (severely menaced at present), getting out the vote (election procedures need amending and rights need to be safeguarded), and much more..
Conyers and Cohen dilated, when asked, on everything from inadequate traffic lights at 3rd at Holmes to the continuing shameful conditions in New Orleans after Katrina. They spoke without hesitation and with no roundabout dodges. People were still lined up to ask questions when Cohen aide Willie Henry was forced to call time, advising the crowd (which filled up both the Museum's auditorium and an overflow room with a TV monitor) that written questions could be submitted with assurances they would be answered later, presumably by mail..
The crowd, mixed with equal parts Everyman and Who's Who types, seemed satisfied. So did the two congressmen. Cohen, whose verbal nimbleness was on a par with that of his illustrious guest, will no doubt make a habit of these affairs. He would be well advised to.
Or so thought such attendees as maverick blogger Thaddeus Matthews, who boldly proclaimed afterward: "This is the first time in decades this district has gotten straight answers."
Among those "straight answers:
"Weve got to get some people voting .Weve got to get them to believe that there are people like Cohen and Conyers and Maxine Waters and lots of people coming into this Congress that are going to be doing something..