May 7, 2012 | The thing about political campaigns is you never know when a certain moment will both titillate and provide a clear and insightful look at a candidate. On April 23, this unique moment struck Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, who is up for re-election in District 4 against a little-known county probation officer Tojo Thomas. The debate filmed by Castro Valley TV and posted to YouTube, may not stifle Miley’s re-election in June, but it gives a glimpse of unbridled arrogance and shocking hubris from the long-time county supervisor. Below is a transcript of a four minute exchange between Miley and Thomas that began, innocently enough, with Miley asking Thomas who his hero is (Mahatma Gandhi) and ending with Miley saying his controversial membership in two prestigious East Bay health clubs helps him avoid his chirping constituents.
To guffaws from the small audience, Thomas asked Miley,”Why don’t you just endorse me like a real man?” which led Miley on a three minute, highly animated rant skewering Thomas’s intellect, among subjects.
“I won’t endorse you because you lack the experience, the know-how and the capability of running a county such as Alameda County. You talk about corruption. You talk about this, that, and the other thing, which is unsubstantiated. You talk about being able to come in and make significant changes. I really don’t think you have clue. And I’m being kind. So the thing is, I would never endorse you. I would never endorse anybody I don’t think could represent me, my constituents, my colleagues. I would dare say it would take you more than four years to understand the county government and to provide a good service to the constituents.”
You’re probably a good probation officer and I think you should stay there. You talk about integrity. You throw out all of these platitudes and allegations which are unsubstantiated. Apparently, you know more about what’s going on with your chief probation officer. In this country, people are innocent until proven guilty, but you’re saying this, that and the other person should do that, this thing and the other when you throw out this kind of misnomers, these things that are not factually proven. When you make these kind of comments, that’s why I couldn’t endorse you. You don’t have my respect and I don’t think you deserve my respect.
As an experienced politician and, yes I think I’m an experienced politician. I think I do a good job in my humble opinion. There are many issue and they are not black and white, many of them are quite gray. Frankly, I don’t think you are capable of distinguishing between what’s an easy issue and what’s a more challenging issue. If my constituents in District 4, care to elect you, then God bless them because they deserve you to be their elected official. I think my constituents are going to support me because they understand running Alameda County is a complex matter and a difficult matter. It’s no time for on-the-job training and I think it would take a long time to get you up-to-speed. [Time] Alright.”
Thomas did not back down, though. “I don’t have experience in corruption,” he replied. “I don’t have any experience in paying my dues at the Belleview Club and the Claremont Club from campaign funds. I don’t have any experience getting into scandals. I’m a probation officer. The media ran a record check on me. All I have is two traffic tickets. A perfect, clean record. On the job training? Is that how you learned?….You don’t have to respect me. When I win, I’ll take care of business. Thank you.
Miley’s inability, at times, to become undisciplined when attacked, again reared its head. In response to the mini-controversy over the use of campaign funds to pay for access to high-class recreational clubs, Miley more than insinuated the exclusive clubs were needed for him to escape everyday queries from constituents.
“You say that I pay dues to the Belleview Club. Yeah, I can pay dues to the Belleview Club. I pay dues to the Claremont. I do that because I need to get away and have an opportunity to be in an environment where I don’t have to deal with constituents who are constantly talking to me whether I’m in church, walking the streets or I’m in the grocery store. Once again, it didn’t say paying dues was illegal. It just said if I’m using those dues and it’s inappropriate that I need to pay those dues back to my campaign. So you make all these accusations that are totally outlandish.
Replied Thomas: “When I need to relax. I go home and play with my kids.”
To observers of the county board of supervisors, Miley’s chest-pumping and bloviating is nothing new. He often challenges public speakers to vote him out of office if they don’t like him. The macho bravado is likely part of his political DNA. As a former member of the Oakland City Council, members of that body learn quickly for the need to grapple with the litany of passionate Oaklanders or risk being torn apart. What is inexplicable is that a politician of Miley’s ilk could be so unnerved by a political novice like Thomas. In two debates, Miley has looked sullen, combative and highly defensive. He has allowed Thomas to make each debate be solely about scandal and corruption. Miley’s response to each–whether it be ACAP, David Muhammad or Nadia Lockyer–has been to buck the conventional wisdom of his constituents and applaud his participation in each scandal.
It shouldnt’ be this easy to tweak an experience politician, but, for some reason, Miley keeps taking the bait.
Below is video of the exchange between Miley and Thomas starting at the 8:12 mark through 12:49. The clip is the second half of the entire debate, which can be viewed at CastroValleyTV.com.