Tens of millions of Americans first got to know Rep. Adam Schiff, who will be the next senator from the great state of California, when he prosecuted former President Donald Trump for the latter’s high crimes and misdemeanors in 2020.
Call those among them who think that means Schiff’s political career has been all about Trump lazy — and I will, seeing as his three decades of public service prior to that are available to them by pressing a couple of buttons on their phones — it’s also just human nature. For simple reasons of recency bias, you are what you were when you filled our television screens night after night.
But my neighborhood has been represented by Adam Schiff, first in the state Senate beginning in 1996, and then in the House of Representatives beginning in 2000, for over a quarter-century now.
We know that the presidential prosecution by Schiff, superb as it was, is to the real people he represents just a footnote in a long career of public service.
That’s why we shouldn’t blame too much even savvy types such as my editorial board colleague Matt Fleming, who claimed in these pages last week that Schiff would never be elected to the United States Senate. They were blinded by the flash of those heady impeachment days into thinking Schiff is therefore a flash in the pan.
He’s not. He will be elected to the Senate, not because he has my seal of approval, but for the simple reason that he’s by far the most electable of the candidates who will run to replace retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
That’s why he has the endorsement of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when she could have stood up for her Bay Area colleague Rep. Barbara Lee or another prominent woman, Rep. Katie Porter. Don’t think Pelosi knows how to count votes?
That’s why, Matt, I’ll wager you $50 and a martini — Hendrick’s with a twist, thanks — that you are wrong. And, since you are a new dad, Matt, and still will be one when Schiff wins and you lose, I won’t even cash the legal tender. Write me a check and I’ll just frame it and hang it on the wall.
Conservatives and independents, you hate the FBI, right? You bet your Mar-a-Lago takedown you do. Then you’ll be thrilled to know that when Schiff was a young assistant United States attorney, he successfully prosecuted G-man Richard Miller for spying for the Russkies — on his third time through, after a hung jury and a reversed conviction. Nothing if not patient, that Adam Schiff.
Entering politics, Schiff lost twice in Pasadena-centric Assembly races against the wonderfully affable incumbent Jim Rogan, the former teenage Teddy Kennedy Democratic Convention delegate from a tough San Francisco neighborhood turned conservative Republican. But Schiff was later successful in a state Senate run, and is still known in the San Gabriel Valley for his Sacramento work in 1998 saving the Gold Line light rail by wresting its control from the Downtown interests of L.A. Metro and creating the independent construction authority that is building it out to this day.
Schiff’s first national fame came when he challenged, for a third time. then-Rep. Rogan, for Congress; it was the most expensive House race ever, and landed them on the cover of The New York Times Magazine. Schiff won, handily, taking 53% of the vote. My neighbors and I have now elected him 11 times to Congress because we appreciate his fight against helicopter noise, for the Armenian diaspora, for press freedom and for a president who believes in the rule of law.
When he’s your junior senator from California in two years, you’ll come to like being represented by the smart, moderate, gracious Adam Schiff, too.
Larry Wilson is on the Southern California News Group editorial board. firstname.lastname@example.org.