Mr Smith goes to Washington (not!)

Praveen Seshadri
6 min readMar 19, 2024

Does Adam “it isn’t genocide” Smith actually represent the progressive WA 9th district?

DallE “oil painting of Saruman in front of the US capitol”

“We will drive the machine of war with the sword and the spear”

[Saruman: Lord of the Rings]

Adam Smith isn’t exactly a household name outside of the hallways of defense contractors and AIPAC. Most of you have probably never heard of him (no folks, this isn’t the 18th century economist Adam Smith, author of the Wealth of Nations). This is the congressional representative of the WA 9th district encompassing parts of Seattle, Tukwila, Renton, and Bellevue. I live in his district and I have voted for him as part of my regular “D” voting slate for the last few electoral cycles. But to be honest, I never really paid much attention so far. My bad indeed!

Mr Smith has been in Congress since 1996. For much of that time, he has held an increasingly powerful position in the House Armed Services committee. It is an impressive career. Indeed, many people in the world have felt its influence especially if they live at the receiving end of his decisions in Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria or Libya or now in Palestine. As for us right here in the US, here is an extract from his Wikipedia that should warm our hearts:

Ah yes. That kind of Democrat.

So then, what exactly are we doing in the 9th district voting for this guy? I got to find out by attending a town hall organized by Mr Smith’s office at the Sammamish High School last Sunday. It was the first warm sunny weekend of the year (a very big deal in the Seattle area). Yet, more than 150 people were there to attend. And boy, was it an eye-opener.

What what will you say of .. the children that lie dead there?

[King Theoden to Saruman: Lord of the Rings]

In this multi-cultural town, many people there were protesting the genocide in Gaza and the US role in supplying the weapons that enable the daily slaughter of people. Naturally, Mr Smith seemed to know he was going to face protest. But he made a series of decisions that seemed pretty odd in the moment.

  1. He sat alone on a chair on the stage, speaking like Saruman (literally, I was reminded of the “voice of Saruman”) from a throne, and lectured the audience with his version of historical events Jan 6th, Hamas, etc. Already, I was starting to think, this doesn’t seem like a “listening” session.
  2. Some audience folks were very upset, yelling about genocide in Gaza. Did their representative feel their pain as they cried that their loved ones were being killed every day? No, he just sat there smug and powerful, and chided them about interrupting him.
  3. Someone in the audience shouted that he was supporting genocide. And Mr Smith decided to respond. He contradicted her, saying she was wrong because “it isn’t genocide”. Wow! That’s on tape, and that’s certainly not going to age well.
  4. And then he committed a cardinal sin IMO. Mr Smith decided to play off people against one another by abruptly cancelling the townhall “to respect the majority of people in the room”. I was shocked in the moment because it felt like cowardice. Surely a leader of the Armed Services Committee wasn’t so thin-skinned that he can’t take criticism by some passionate young people voicing their frustration. So my initial reaction was — jeez, what a coward, can’t even face a little heat. And I also felt disrespected. All of us showed up there on Sunday morning because he wanted to hear our thoughts. Did he ask for our opinion or permission before dismissing us? Or were we just props for some political theater?

But then, the full cynicism of his actions became clear with his press release yesterday which calls the protesters “pro-Palestinian extremists”. I mean, the dude got his office to scramble out a press release about something that had got zero press till then! It turned out it was just propaganda and spin. In fact, maybe that’s why he had an entire platoon of police officers to escort him. Not because anyone appeared remotely interested in any kind of unlawful activity, but perhaps because it would be such good press if someone had. Someone recorded video of our fearless Armed Services Committee leader fleeing his own town hall meeting, no doubt wounded by the verbal missiles and traumatized by the truth bombs exploding around him. When I can get a link, I’ll add it here.

Perhaps a more disconcerting observation was about the staff working for Mr Smith. As usual, they are good young folks probably drawn to the work by their values aligned with the Democratic party. I talked to quite a few of them as I tried (in vain) to rescue the town hall by urging some of the protesters to let the town hall continue. The protesters were willing to do so, but it turned out the congressman was not. Because I guess, this was his plan all along? These staffers were all tired and disillusioned, as you could see them openly struggling to explain why their boss was acting like such a dick. It’s that sick-in-the-stomach feeling when you realize that you thought you were with Gandalf, but you actually are working for Saruman. Yeah, and since you aren’t on the boards of Adam Smith’s top campaign contributors, you still have a soul and can feel it slowly being crushed along with your idealism. One of them told me I should appreciate that Mr Smith held townhalls without pre-vetted questions (apparently unlike most of his peers). Well, ha, ok, I’ll give you participation credit for that. A couple of them tossed out that Mr Smith would do a coffee meeting if I wanted to talk to him. I found that funny — no that’s not a favor to me. But he should sure want to talk to me and people who are critical of his policies but still polite enough to spare him the time and try to change his mind. Basic respect.

“Tell me, ‘friend’, when did Saruman the wise abandon reason for madness?!
[Gandalf to Saruman : Lord of the Rings]

Congressman Smith — — dude, you seem to have forgotten that you work for us. There was a time when you rang doorbells to seek the opinions of people in your district. Interrupting you is the right of your constituents. Your job is to listen, not to lecture, especially if they criticize you. You have no right to interrupt your constituents. You work for the lady who told you she felt you are supporting genocide. Your job is to listen and understand her perspective. You should admire the kid who had the nerve to criticize you to your face. Nobody came to your town hall to hear your words of wisdom. You came there to hear them because their wisdom may help you serve them better. It seems obvious that there’s a lot of people in your district who are unhappy with your position on Gaza. Even senators in your own party are openly criticizing Israel now, so maybe it is time to think about aligning better with the opinions of your district? Or are you going to call all of us “extremists”? You should have shown consideration for people in frustration and grief, but instead you decided to attack them with your press release. I disagreed with your positions before, but that’s where I lost respect for you.

I have found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk, that keeps the darkness at bay
[Gandalf to Frodo]

So that’s my takeaway from my Sunday morning with Congressman Adam Smith. It is only human to lose humility in positions of power. But what was lost can be regained! Mr Smith has given us and the world many gifts, not the least of which is a forever war and an ongoing genocidal rampage that offends decency and morality. But we too have the opportunity to give Mr Smith a gift this year, in fact an early Christmas gift this November. At the presidential level, we get the godawful choice between a war criminal and a criminal of every other kind. Perhaps, we will be more fortunate in our choice for the congressional seat in the 9th district. May 10th is the filing deadline. Will someone in the 9th district file papers to represent us with common sense, peace, and decency? I for one, and perhaps many others in the 9th district, would support that person enthusiastically as a vote for a positive future.