"...................BatBoy Henry Waxman, Mr Personality
Waxman simply makes his case point by point by point. He is not liberalism's man for all seasons. He is only its legislative genius.
"Henry never entertains colleagues," says his longtime aide Howard Elinson. "He does no sports. His staff would say, You should go golfing with (House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell.' Fat chance."
It's an inauspicious start for what will soon become one of the worst days in Henry Waxman's life. At 8:15 on a drizzly Election Day morning, the Democratic congressman from West Los Angeles addresses 120 government students at Beverly Hills High and not surprisingly, the rage against Congress has spilled into the Establishment confines of Beverly.
The first questioner, a kid in baggy pants and backward baseball cap who's two parts Beavis and Butthead to one part Rush Limbaugh, wants to know about congressional pensions. A lawyerly Young Republican notes that illegal immigrants won't necessarily lose out on education should Proposition 187 pass because they can always pay tuition. A student who grew up in Nicolae Ceausescu's Romania interrogates Waxman on smoking. Cigarettes, he insists, can't cause cancer because it's the government that says so, and governments never tell the truth. The bulk of the questions are innocuous, but all the pointed ones come out of right field. As the class winds down, the one hand still waving in the air belongs to Beavis-'n'-Rush, w ho wants to know whatever happened with the House banking scandal.
Through it all, the 55-year-old Waxman remains decorous and unembattled. His House seat, certainly, is in no danger: He will win reelection with 68% of the vote. spending practically nothing on his own campaign. Besides, he know how to work the students; he talks about his work on behalf of abortion rights and a cleaner environment. But he doesn't know how to wake the students. The morning never becomes electric.
Short, bald and pudgy, Waxman has all the charisma of a CPA. He persuades by argument, not by humor or personality. Where Ralph Nader unleashes a torrent of indignation, Barney Frank stings with wit and Tom Hayden still taps into a vein of adolescent anger, Waxman simply makes his case point by point by point. He is not liberalism's man for all seasons. He is only its legislative genius.
It's a genius not widely recognized in Los Angeles, where Waxman is still chiefly known for his political alliance with his longtime friend, congressman Howard L. Berman -- though by now, the fabled Waxman-Berman organization, which shaped California politics for the last two decades, has virtually ceased to exist. Indeed, Waxman maintains a low public profile generally. In an age of mediagenic politicians, he is exactly the opposite. Low-key and sound-bite-adverse, he lacks some of the essential elements of a politician's personality. "Henry's a very reserved person," says Lenore Wax, a confidante of 35 years who is his campaign committee president. "He still doesn't enjoy small talk."