The Return of Town Hall Anger

Published on
by
Politico

The Return of Town Hall Anger

by
Reid J. Epstein

John McCain tries to answer a question at a town hall meeting. The liberal calls for action echo the right’s 2009 crashing of congressional town halls.

Still licking their wounds from what liberals believe was a capitulation by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats on the debt deal, liberal activists online are consoling themselves with — and pushing — confrontations at congressional town hall meetings.

Sites like Daily Kos and Think Progress are gleefully cataloguing local news reports of angry constituents confronting the likes of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — for reading the Wall Street Journal’s “hobbits” editorial — and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) — for entitlement cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Obama’s perceived move to the right.

The liberal calls for action as lawmakers return to their districts for the summer break echo the right’s successful 2009 strategy of aggressively crashing congressional town halls and haranguing Democrats over the health care bill.

“Hopefully we see this scene play out in states and districts all over the country this August, and that the cry ‘Where are the jobs?’ will be as loud and get as much attention as the cries of ‘death panels’ two summers ago,” Joan McCarter wrote at Daily Kos. “In fact, we should make sure it is. Keep an eye out for your representative and senators’ town meetings. Show up and ask them, Democrat or Republican, ‘Where are the jobs?’ Ask them about tax breaks for corporations and rich people. And get it on video.”

Some of that anger it being taken out on Democrats from liberal constituents unhappy with the debt ceiling compromise. McCollum, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, faced questions about Obama like “Whose side is he on?” and “What are progressives telling him?”

But it is not just liberals that are angry this summer.

During his exchange with tea partiers in Gilbert, Ariz., McCain defended the “hobbits” remark, according to TV footage posted to Glenn Beck’s The Blaze blog.

“What apology is in order? What was wrong that I said?” McCain said. “There was no way that a balanced-budget amendment would have passed the Senate. If anyone said that it could, they were not being truthful. Hobbits are not real, and the point is that it was not real.”

Blaze writer Christopher Santorelli was not impressed. He wrote: “Despite Sen. McCain’s July 27 comments being a quote, many feel they were an attack on the collective Tea Party, inappropriate for the Senate floor, and hypocritical considering it was Sen. McCain who brought to prominence Sarah Palin, a hero to many who identify with the Tea Party.

In Nebraska, the Lincoln Journal Star expressed surprise at the level of passion at a Monday afternoon Sen. Mike Johanns event.

“Emotions spilled over during the hour-long session, which sharply veered away from the typical calm of a Johanns town hall,” the paper wrote. “Many of the loudest voices and waving fingers urged Johanns to include tax increases — particularly applied to the wealthiest Americans — as part of the solution to debt reduction.”

And Think Progress posted a video of Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) pacing a Wauconda, Ill., town hall meeting bemoaning the government’s lack of money while a constituent yells at him, “Let’s tax the rich!”

While most of the stories from town hall gatherings tend to come from the mood of the constituents, occasionally the star attractions will break mild news.

Already this summer GOP Reps. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Michael Burgess of Texas have drawn attention by suggesting Obama be impeached, though Burgess backed off that idea at a subsequent event, “frustrating Tea Party backers,” according to Patrick Michels at the conservative American Independent blog.

Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry told a crowd in Washington, Neb., on Monday that he disavowed the Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge he signed while campaigning.

“I informed the organization I don’t consider (the earlier pledge) binding,” Fortenberry said, the Lincoln paper reported. “I don’t care to be associated with it. It’s too constraining.”

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