Struggling to enforce a policy handed down from headquarters 2,600 miles away is touchy business. Just ask Mathew Kostrinsky, San Diego field representative for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Kostrinsky had the unenviable task of trying to keep reporters and photographers out of Feinstein's downtown San Diego office lobby after having allowed a small group of activists to set up camp there.
The activists, calling themselves San Diegans Against Bush's First Illegal War, plopped themselves down in the Feinstein's lobby just before 11 a.m. last Thursday and waited for her to fax back a signed copy of "Contract with America." Drafted by the activists, the "contract" says Feinstein will publicly condemn the "barbarous" invasion of Iraq at every opportunity, hold herself partially responsible for the "predatory venture," call for an investigation of "grossly misrepresented" intelligence leading up to the war, do everything she can to bring the troops home and turn Iraq over to the United Nations, initiate impeachment proceedings against George W. Bush and support prosecuting the President in international court for war crimes.
Initially, Kostrinsky told reporters from the San Diego Union-Tribune and CityBeat that they could not come into the lobby to interview the protesters and that they'd have to call Feinstein's press office in Washington, D.C., if they had any problem with that. (A U-T photographer shot her photo of the activists when someone going into the lobby opened the door.) However, Kostrinsky relented after a CityBeat reporter complained loudly on the phone to a Feinstein press official that the lobby was a taxpayer-funded public place.
Inside, the activists sat patiently amongst a series of professional-looking signs that cast aspersions toward the President and his claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that threatened the U.S. or anyone else. They said they intended to wait there until Feinstein signed the contract, and they knew it would be a long, if not eternal, wait.
"Oh, I'll bet Pokez delivers, too-big burritos," said activist Hal Brody, using his hands to approximate the size of the downtown Mexican food joint's offerings.
The activists aimed their ire at Feinstein because they've historically supported her candidacy and because she, as a Democrat, should have known better.
"She voted for this war even though Californians were against it," said Lynn Gonzalez, recalling that Feinstein had said she was privy to secret intelligence before casting a vote in favor of an armed invasion of Iraq. "But if she was duped like the rest of us, she should take a leadership role in calling for an open, bipartisan, independent-perhaps even judicial-investigation of all intelligence that led to the invasion of Iraq."
Seated on the floor, Omar Clay said a "groundswell" of skepticism surrounding the intelligence the Bush administration used to promote the invasion has begun to gather across the nation. "People are starting to hear what's going on, to see what's going on and to get upset about it," he said.
Roughly six hours later, the band of activists were asked by Feinstein's people-with the help of a San Diego police officer-to leave.
And they'll not get a signed contract, Feinstein spokesman Howard Gantman said in an e-mail to CityBeat: "Senator Feinstein does not traditionally sign such contracts. She prefers to make her position known through her own statements and letters."
Gantman added, "Senator Feinstein believes serious questions have arisen about the way intelligence was used in the lead-up to the War in Iraq and voted in favor of establishing an independent commission to investigate this."