Fortney Hillman “Pete” Stark, Jr. is a California State Representative. A Democrat, he has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1973, representing California’s 13th congressional district in southwestern Alameda County.

An open atheist, he is also a man who has a tendency to start and fuel controversy.

The long record of a verbal arsonist

In August 1990, Stark drew controversy for calling Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Wade Sullivan, an African American, “a disgrace to his race” for supporting Bush Administration policies that Mr. Stark called “bankrupt and damaging to minority members”. Stark was criticizing a speech by Sullivan. Sullivan’s opposed proposals for federally-sponsored national health insurance when Stark had introduced legislation for national health insurance at the time. Stark said that Sullivan had been influenced by George H. W. Bush administration officials such as Office of Management and Budget Director Richard Darman and White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu to change his positions on both abortion and health care. Sullivan replied in a statement, saying in part, “I guess I should feel ashamed because Congressman Stark thinks I am not a ‘good Negro.’ As a Cabinet member who has spent almost four decades of my life dedicated to healing,… am unable to express my own views without being subject to race-based criticism by those who are not ready to accept independent thinking by a black man.” Stark later apologized for the controversy.

In May 2004, Stark responded to a constituent Army National Guard member’s letter critical of Stark’s recent vote on the war in Iraq by immediately calling the service member’s telephone and leaving a feisty response on voicemail which was later broadcast on San Francisco’s talk radio station KSFO. Stark’s harsh voicemail was transcribed as follows:

Dan, this is Congressman Pete Stark, and I just got your fax. And you don’t know what you’re talking about. So if you care about enlisted people, you wouldn’t have voted for that thing either. But probably somebody put you up to this, and I’m not sure who it was, but I doubt if you could spell half the words in the letter, and somebody wrote it for you. So I don’t pay much attention to it. But I’ll call you back later and let you tell me more about why you think you’re such a great goddamn hero and why you think that this generals [sic] and the Defense Department, who forced these poor enlisted guys to do what they did, shouldn’t be held to account. That’s the issue. So if you want to stick it to a bunch of enlisted guys, have your way. But if you want to get to the bottom of people who forced this awful program in Iraq, then you should understand more about it than you obviously do. Thanks.

On October 18, 2007, Stark made the following comments on the House floor during a debate with Congressman Joe Barton of Texas:

Republicans sure don’t care about finding $200 billion to fight the illegal war in Iraq. Where are you going to get that money? Are you going to tell us lies like you’re telling us today? Is that how you’re going to fund the war? You don’t have money to fund the war or children. But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President’s amusement.

Following the initial criticism to his statements, when asked by a radio station if he would take back any of his statements, Stark responded

Absolutely not. I may have dishonored the Commander-in-Chief, but I think he’s done pretty well to dishonor himself without any help from me.

The same day, his office also issued a press release, saying in part,

I have nothing but respect for our brave men and women in uniform and wish them the very best. But I respect neither the Commander-in-Chief who keeps them in harms way nor the chickenhawks in Congress who vote to deny children health care.

Five days later on October 23, after the House voted down a censure resolution against Stark sponsored by Minority Leader John Boehner, he said,

I apologize for this reason: I think we have serious issues before us, the issue of providing medical care to children, the issue about what we’re going to do about a war that we’re divided about how to end.

Other controversies include singling out “Jewish colleagues” for blame for the Persian Gulf War and referring to Congressman Stephen Solarz of New York (who co-sponsored the Gulf War Authorization Act) as “Field Marshal Solarz in the pro-Israel forces.” in 1991.

In 1995, during a private meeting with Congresswoman Nancy Johnson of Connecticut, he called Johnson a “whore for the insurance industry” and suggested that her knowledge of health care came solely from “pillow talk” with her husband, a physician. His press secretary, Caleb Marshall, defended him in saying, “He didn’t call her a ‘whore,’ he called her a ‘whore of the insurance industry.'”

In 1999, he said to former California State Welfare Director Eloise Anderson, herself a former welfare mother, that she would “kill children if she had her way” for her advocacy of welfare reform.

In a 2001 Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health hearing on abstinence promotion, he referred to Congressman J. C. Watts of Oklahoma, an African American, as “the current Republican Conference Chairman, whose children were all born out of wedlock.”

In 2003, when Stark was told to “shut up” by Congressman Scott McInnis of Colorado during a Ways and Means Committee meeting due to Stark’s belittling of the chairman, Bill Thomas of California, he replied, “You think you are big enough to make me, you little wimp? Come on. Come over here and make me, I dare you. You little fruitcake.”

On August 27, 2009, Stark suggested that his moderate Democratic colleagues were “brain dead” for proposing changes to the health care reform bill being considered by Congress. Saying that they “just want to cause trouble,” Stark claimed, “they’re for the most part, I hate to say, brain dead, but they’re just looking to raise money from insurance companies and promote a right-wing agenda that is not really very useful in this whole process” during a conference call. Stark believes that a public option which pays doctors rates based on Medicare would be less expensive for the government and for patients than a public option which negotiates rates itself.

The San Francisco Chronicle editorialized on Stark, “Only a politician who assumes he has a job for life could behave so badly on a semi-regular basis by spewing personalized invective that might get him punched in certain East Bay taverns. Would-be challengers sometimes sense a whiff of opportunity, but the reality of taking on a 16-term Democrat in solidly liberal terrain is nothing short of daunting. Surely there must be someone along the shoreline between Alameda and Fremont who could represent the good citizens of the district with class and dignity. It’s not the case now.”

Pissing on the little people

At a recent town hall meeting given by Stark, an elderly man takes the microphone to air frustration about the efficiency of government run programs and the health care bill. The man points out that Obama claims there will be saving to be gained by removing the waste in Medicare. He then asks a very important question: “Why isn’t he doing it right now?” which is calling attention to the fact that if we wanted we could have already removed the waste which Obama claims the bill will do. I think any rational person can see It is a valid point deserving of an answer. It is our money and they owe the people an explanation about how our money is being wasted.

He then calls attention to other government run programs rife with more waste; Social Security, Medicare, the Veteran’s Hospital (Walter Reed Medical Center) in Washington, D.C. with rats running in the hallways which illustrates the problems caused by large, government-run programs.

He closes his statement with the metaphor; “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” serving as a colorful and down to earth way of saying that in spite of all of the good things government has to say about their government run health care plans, we know it will be just another huge bureaucracy full of waste. He is saying “We know better.”

To be clear; it was not a personal insult to the congressman. The nice man was talking about the message we always get from congress about their selling points of their favorite bills providing us with “services” versus the bungling and the waste of the bureaucracy running the service. It was a challenge to be honest with us.

What the nice man got in return was vile, insulting and totally uncalled for. Instead of thanking the nice man and addressing his points with a smile Mr. Stark felt is was better to reduce the nice man to a value less than that of his Urine.

You can see him make this remarkable statement below, beginning at around a minute and a half into the video.

Maybe it isn’t this way in other countries, but in America, our elected officials are viewed as servants to the people b[put there to serve at our convenience. They should remember that.

Mr. Stark seems to have elevated himself to the level of some kind of royalty. He doesn’t “get it.”

He may have sealed his political fate by the things he said to his “boss”.