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POLITICIANS AND TOWN HALLS

I’ve covered my share of town meetings, and it’s always just a matter of time before someone gets up and starts shouting about schools, traffic signals, or new sewers.

Passions boil, because people care. They have worked all day then schlepped out at night to town halls, hoping someone will listen to the little guy with big ideas about how things should get done.

Sometimes TV cameras show up. People in charge hate that.

They tell me it encourages showboating, and playing to the grandstand. And perhaps it does. However, I also find it encourages people in charge to showboat, and play to the grandstand. One thing the cameras make sure of: nobody tries to bully the little guy.

And so when the shouting starts, almost nobody has the nerve to call them “rude,” or to call security. It is all about democracy. Like making sausage, sometimes it is ugly. But, for 233 years, it’s worked pretty well. Apparently, until now.

President Obama is doing his best Austin Powers imitation, screaming, “Oh behave!” Or, as he puts it, “TV causes a ruckus … let us make sure we talk with one another, and not over one another.” Especially if you disagree with HIM! This man has used television in every step of his career. Since he’s been in the White House, Obama has been setting a new record for TV face-time, creating the Teleprompter Presidency.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that he thinks everyone should stick to HIS script. But town halls are filling up with 21st Century Howard Beales, who dare to stand up and say they’re “mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore.”

The President said, “In spite of what we hear on television, I believe that serious debate is taking place at kitchen tables all across America.” Oh really? I think he meant to say, “BECAUSE of television, I believe a serious debate is taking place.”

None of these town hall folks are dressed in pinstripes. None are showing up in Jaguars, or vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard. They are not programmed by Rush Limbaugh, or part of a new vast right-wing conspiracy. Many are just plain afraid.

They are afraid because, since September of last year, they have been bombarded with warnings that the economy was going to collapse, that their life savings would disappear, along with anything else they invested in Wall Street. They were convinced by President Bush and then President Obama that if we did not spend billions and billions and billions, all would be ruined.

Therefore, we spent billions and billions and billions. And we saw many of the Wall Street folks who caused all the chaos laughing all the way to the bank with millions in bonuses. Moreover, the economy did not bounce back. So while others got paid off, they’ve been laid off, and who could blame them if they’re ticked off?

It’s hard to argue with some of the abuses and outrages of the health care system, and we know it’s the poor and middle class who suffer the most. They have every right to stand up and argue that we need change, and we need it now. However, there are always two sides.

This is not about left and right. It’s about right and wrong. And it’s about Americans who have the right to be right or wrong at the top of their voices.

When I got out of school my first job was working at the talk-radio station WMCA, and I worked for, among other radio greats, Barry Farber. In his famous Southern drawl, he used to tell me, “I always find that politicians don’t want to be questioned, they want to be congratulated! Don’t let ‘em get away with it.”

Dick Brennan at Dbfox5news@aol.com

 

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