When your congressional representative can’t find some kiddie human shields to hide behind, he or she may be choosing the next best method of constituent avoidance:
Over 10 years in Congress, U.S. Rep. Brian Baird has stayed tethered to his district, flying back to Southwest Washington for more than 300 sometimes-bruising town hall meetings during Congressional recesses.
But this year, he’s literally decided to phone it in.
Instead of appearing in person, where “extremists” would have “the chance to shout and make YouTube videos,” Baird said Wednesday, he’s holding what he calls “telephone town halls” instead.
Baird said he’s using the new system because he fears his political opponents may be planning “an ambush” to disrupt his meetings, using methods Baird compared to Nazism.
“What we’re seeing right now is close to Brown Shirt tactics,” Baird, D-Vancouver, said in a phone interview. “I mean that very seriously.”
A Washington state reader e-mailed me today that GOP Cap-and-Tax 8’er Rep. Dave Reichert is also going telephonic for his August 6 town hall.
Reminder: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is holding a “virtual” town hall tomorrow. Info here.
From reader Jay B. in Tennessee:
Michelle, our “blue dog” congressman John Tanner in West TN is also holding a telephone town hall meeting where you have to register via his website providing phone number and e-mail address in order to participate. Obviously they can then cherry pick who gets to ask questions based on whether you’re a good Democrat donor or vote in Democrat primaries. Here’s the link: http://www.house.gov/tanner/press111-038.htm
Our local Madison County YR group that I chair has been circulating a petition since last Friday to get Tanner to hold an public town hall. Here’s our petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/tannertownhallmeeting/ There has been a lot of buzz about this in the local media and on local talk radio, especially from Mike Slater: http://thenewtj105.wordpress.com/
Any publicity you can provide would be much appreciated. Tanner is keeping his head low trying to run out the clock in a very conservative district that voted for McCain by over 60%.
From reader Tom in NY:
Syracuse area congressman Dan Maffei (25th district democrat) is also calling it in. I called his office today to find out when he was going to have a town hall about health care. A staff member told me he had one a few months ago and it was so raucous he won’t do it again. Instead he’s having a by-appointment only meeting this Saturday and then sometime in the future a phone town hall. Where you would sign in and wait in line to ask a question. I told his representative that his [constituents] would think he was ducking.
Reader Karl in Seattle:
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Jay Inslee also “phoned it in” last night. I managed, after some effort, to figure out how to get access to his “Telephone Townhall” and I called in. He didn’t make it easy. I had been watching his congressional web page for a few days trying to figure out if he would be scheduling a Townhall meeting during the recess. The notice did not show up on his front page until less than 2 1/2 hours before the telephone call. (I got sreen caps of his web page to show that the notice showed up shortly before the 7:30 PM call).
Apparently, he had sent out an e-mail notice earlier…but who knows who that went to. I certainly didn’t get it. I guess he only wanted his friends on the line!
Sound Politics pointed out that he pulled something similar at his previous telephone townhall last week.
At the end of the session Inslee mentioned that there were about 9000 callers on the line. Going from memory I’d say he took about 10 questions. Who knows how they selected those callers / questions.
Karl in Seattle
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