Congress / Politics / Woods
Who Needs Town Hall Meetings? Cooper Looking for Other Ways to 'Interact with Constituents'
by Jeff Woods
on Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 5:39 AM
Rep. Lloyd Doggett's meeting with constituents on health care reform in Austin, Texas.A town hall meeting in Philadelphia with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Sen. Arlen Specter.
Whoa! These town hall meetings are getting a little out of hand, aren't they? For that reason, Congressman Jim Cooper might decide against holding any during Congress' August recess.
Are you boiling with outrage and antsy to exercise your democratic right to act like an ass in a public meeting and scream at Nashville's congressman? Why don't you stop listening to Rush Limbaugh instead?
Cooper, a key player in the health care debate, cares what his constituents think, according to the congressman's new flack, Peter Boogaard. Cooper really, really wants to "interact with constituents" on this important issue, Boogaard insists. In a conversation with Pith that lasted maybe 10 minutes, Boogaard must have made that point a dozen times.
"We're not entirely positive what he's going to do yet. We're going to have constituent relations for sure. We haven't decided exactly how we're going to do that, but the congressman wants to communicate with constituents. He wants to be able to interact with constituents."
OK, Pete, we get it. But what about town meetings? "We don't know whether that's the most effective way to communicate with the constituents," he admits. "People are getting so riled up that there's not even an ability to have any sort of dialogue."
You can't blame Cooper. Town hall meetings have turned into mob scenes. Right-wing radio loudmouths and Tea Party wingnuts are orchestrating these assaults on reason. As Politico reports:
Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops, congressmen fearful for their safety -- welcome to the new town-hall-style meeting, the once-staid forum that is rapidly turning into a house of horrors for members of Congress.
But if Cooper doesn't hold public meetings, how will he find out what voters are thinking? "There are a lot of different ways for him to communicate with his constituents," Boogaard says. Yesterday, Cooper was holed up in his office talking to people on the phone. Pith hopes no one yelled at him.
Also see Mary Mancini and Mark Brown on the right-wing special interest groups organizing disruptions of town hall meetings.
Update: Keith Olbermann goes after Tanner and Gordon on health care. Somehow, Cooper emerges unscathed. From Dru Fuller and the MSNBC transcript:
I could ask Blue Dog Democrat John Tanner of Tennessee, since he got $215 grand from hospitals over the years, if I and the appropriate number of my friends were willing to make it $216 grand, if we could buy his vote or would there still have to be an auction?
Congressman Bart Gordon of Tennessee: Congressman, undecided on the public option? At $1,173,000 from the heath sector I am surprised. You should have already said 'no' and loudly. The only thing you should be undecided about is whether or not you are a Democrat. So much for Congressman Gordon.