The villain in "A Time to Run," Sen. Barbara Boxer's first novel, is a conservative writer for The San Francisco Chronicle. A salvo at moi? Hardly. His name is Greg Hunter, and Boxer's alter ego, Ellen Fischer, also a Democratic senator from California, has a personal history with the scribe, including one special night when they were both students at UC Berkeley.
Alas, Hunter never got over Fischer's rejection of him in favor of his best friend, Josh Fischer, who winds up marrying Ellen. Years later, Hunter still carried a torch. He would ask himself, "Why did she choose Josh and not me?"
Did the perceptive Fischer see a flaw in Hunter that made him undeserving of her love? Or did her rejection move him from his enlightened youthful liberalism to the dark right side of politics and into the service of evil GOP Sen. Carl Satcher?
When chick lit turns into chick lib lit, the answer is: Whatever makes the liberal look pure and mistreated. Hence a story, co-written with Mary-Rose Hayes, of how the beloved Boxer/Fischer enters politics after Hunter digs up dirt on Josh Fischer, who was running against Satcher. Josh Fischer, in a rush to drive home in the tule fog to confess about a long-ago infidelity, dies in a car accident. The Democratic Party unites -- so you know the book is fiction -- to persuade a reluctant Fischer to run in her late husband's place.
You also know that the tale is fictional because Boxer/Fischer decides to run for office out of anger that the columnist and GOP politician "dug up the worst dirt and invented the worst lies to force" her husband out of the race.
In real life, Boxer first won her Senate seat in 1992 after a Democratic Party official confronted Republican rival Bruce Herschensohn at a campaign rally and asked him, "Is it typical for the voters of California to elect someone who frequently goes to strip joints in Hollywood?" Herschensohn -- who might not have won but was closing in on Boxer's lead -- lost.Now you might think that after that dubious start, Boxer would hesitate to paint her alter ego as a squeaky-clean victim of political dirty tricks. Wrong. The fictional Chronicle conservative tells her, "Politics is not for the likes of you. It's dirty."
Apparently, Washington is the great sanitizer. And apparently, no one close to Boxer was able to warn her off of putting her name on books that smack of every liberal conceit.
You can forget the Bush-era lectures about how the right only sees the world in terms of black and white. In Boxerdom, all the villains are Republicans and all the Democrats are virtuous.
Her second book, "Blind Trust," also co-written with Hayes, is even more self-laudatory. Her new husband, Ben Lind, is a former "liberal Republican" congressman, who fell in love with his "cunning little vixen" after "she had changed his mind" on her legislation to confiscate guns from child abusers. When he proposed, Lind told her, "Listen, ever since I saw you across that room fighting for your children's bill with every nerve in your body, I've loved you and wanted you and I can't stand the thought of losing you."
Fischer heartily berates the Republican administration, which, she charges, has "trampled on individual liberties and jeopardized the Bill of Rights" in trying to prevent another large-scale terrorist attack. She dismisses them as "the fear detail."
So what does her husband do when he learns that someone has hacked into their blind trust? He had someone comb through the political affiliations, travel history, phone calls and "uncharacteristic behavior" of the many people who might have access to the Lind/Fischer finances. Now, he's not the government; he's just a rich lawyer. But it's amazing how Fischer is convinced it is wrong to use invasive surveillance techniques when Republicans want to prevent American deaths -- but it's OK if her career is on the line.
In the novels, Fischer is a solon in Washington's more deliberative body. Or as the Senate Democratic leader tells Fischer, she would be the right Democrat to fight the mean Republicans' nomination as Homeland Security secretary, because, "You're an inspirational leader who can think on her feet, and you've always had support from the party and so many of the American people -- which, of course, has been justly earned. You've proven yourself to be honest, tough and energetic, with the courage of your convictions."
And: "You've personally raised the integrity bar. People are asking themselves, if they can't trust you, then who can they trust?"
In the first book, Fischer's chief of staff reminds the petite senator of her role as "the conscience of the liberals."
Does Boxer think people really talk like that? If so, she has spent too much time on her pedestal in Washington.