South Bay congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s campaign is shopping around an article and video today that purportedly shows incumbent and fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda falling asleep at public event in September.
The San Jose Inside article by reporter and editor Josh Koehn starts thus:
Mike Honda sits in what’s been billed as a town hall meeting in Fremont, surrounded by healthcare experts. The congressman starts to drift as they answer questions about the Affordable Care Act’s effects on seniors, who comprise most of the audience. Having heard yet another answer about Obamacare’s deductibles or small business eligibility requirements — it’s hard to say at times, as the microphone cuts out intermittently — Honda sets his glasses down on the table and locks his fingers behind his head. He closes his eyes and takes a 20-second power nap.
Honda, 72, can’t be entirely blamed. Hearing a hundred different people ask a hundred different questions about how an untested health benefits reform law will protect them from unknown ailments is a steady drip to narcolepsy. I know, because I’m sitting in the back of the senior center, wondering why I drove to Fremont for a public forum at which the person who sponsored it has little to say.
I had hoped to hear the bold words of a man who’s in the fight of his political life. Town halls are supposed to be where angry voters hold lawmakers’ feet to the fire. The NSA reads our emails and taps our phones. Republicans are calling Obamacare the worst thing since slavery. Syria’s sarin gas attacks have just threatened to drag the U.S. into an expanding global conflict. Our guy in D.C. is here to account.
But Honda seems restive to the point of lethargy. A panel speaker stops talking and Honda opens his eyes—the man is a pro, after all. He blinks himself clear before anyone appears to notice.
Here’s the video, also uploaded by Koehn (though apparently not shot from that back-row perch):
Power nap, or resting his eyes? Mountain or molehill?
“Those who know Congressman Honda well know that he will sometimes close his eyes to focus or concentrate on an issue,” Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan said Wednesday.
As for what Honda did and didn’t discuss at the meeting, the event was billed as “an important discussion about the Affordable Care Act, Covered California, and how both are going to affect you, your family, your business, and our community” featuring representatives from federal, state and local health agencies.
I can’t help but think of the not-so-subtle ways in which Democrat Eric Swalwell, then 31, drew attention last year to the great age gap between himself and incumbent Rep. Pete Stark, then 80 – either by jabbing at the Social Security benefits that Stark’s kids collect or by going out of his way to make himself look as young and vital as possible (training with county firefighters, sparring with a police dog and so on) as if to say, “Look what I can do and Pete Stark can’t.”
Ultimately it was Stark’s own gaffes and unsupported accusations that helped turn the tide in Swalwell’s favor – mistakes the more affable Honda isn’t likely to make.