Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Politicians getting macaca'ed

I've been amazed at how the video of Bob Etheridge responding violently to the two young men who tried to ask him about his support for the Obama agenda ricocheted around the internet yesterday and into the MSM so it was the first page story in my local newspaper.
It really is a sign of how new technology has changed politics, a topic I often stress with my students. In an age when anyone can have a video camera inside a cell phone, politicians have to realize that they can be filmed any time, any where and need to behave accordingly. You would have thought that George Allen's fate after he called the videographer from his rival campaign "macaca" and saw his campaign implode that politicians would have learned to be more careful when someone starts filming them. May I recommend the response of Congressman Aaron Schock when he was asked a question from a TMZ reporter.

Respond with good-natured humor instead of trying to put the guy in a headlock. Just imagine if Bob Etheridge had responded to the question: Do you fully support the Obama agenda by saying that he thoughtfully tries to consider each element of the Obama program individually to figure out what was best for his state and then shook the hands of the two kids and walked on. There would have been absolutely no story. Instead he tried to go all Rambo on them - which was quite silly for so little provocation and in front of a camera. Then his apology was quite lame as he blamed how politics had become so intrusive and partisan. I would hope that our politics hasn't gotten so partisan that it is perfectly acceptable for a congressman to try to put a kid in a headlock even if the kid does work for the other party. Why should that matter? If he doesn't want people asking him his political opinions, he can just get out of politics. That is not the way our system works.

In the early days of our country, even before the Revolution, citizens wanted their representatives to their local assemblies to live amongst them and be reelected every year so that they could exercise more control over how he would vote. Now these Democratic congressmen don'teven want to face their constituents in townhall meetings or on public streets.

Who knows if these two guys were indeed working on a school project or for some conservative or Republican organization. That is the talking point that the Democrats are putting out. That shouldn't matter, just as it didn't matter that the guy filming George Allen worked for his opponent, Jim Webb. No one in the media bought into the idea that a video made by one's rival should be illegitimate if it showed a politician in a bad light. In fact the Washington Post gloried in the story running article after article about it, but only have a small item today about the Etheridge video in which the writers spend as much time wondering who the two young men were as if that mattered. It certainly didn't matter to the Washington Post when they were running story after story about George Allen and "macaca." I can safely predict that Bob Etheridge's run-in with these two young men will blow over in the MSM much more quickly.

I've actually met Congressman Etheridge a couple of times when I won teaching awards. He graciously came out to my school and spoke with my middle school students about the importance of education. He went on and on about how much he admired teachers and gave me a little apple pin. I remember, however, that he ducked a couple of policy questions that my students tried to ask him at that time. The students were quite annoyed that he wouldn't answer serious questions that they'd worked hard to write up. Maybe he just prefers platitudes to answering questions about policy.

Etheridge has a reputation
as a moderate in the state and was courted by the Democratic Party to run against Richard Burr this year in the senatorial election. However, he votes basically down the line for the Pelosi agenda. In fact, the Club for Growth scored him as less fiscally responsible than Nancy Pelosi. That might not be a winning platform for a candidate in a district that leans slightly to the Republicans.

Whether his votes and his violent reaction in the video will be enough to sink a candidate who is rather popular with his district is uncertain. But it's certainly an opportunity to highlight his opponent, Renee Ellmers, a nurse who got into politics this year because of her opposition to the Obama health care plan. Her response given to John Hawkins to the video of Etheridge manhandling the young man points out how he would have been treated if he'd been one of the teachers he professes to so admire and had done the same thing.
If a teacher or principal treated a student this way – it would raise serious questions and he would be suspended. This kind of behavior is equally unacceptable in a Congressman.
If you would like to send Bob Etheridge home so he won't have to worry about being asked questions on a public street, you can donate to Renee Ellmers.

UPDATE: Richard Pollock points out that the Washington Post ran 131 stories about George Allen and his macaca moment. Pollock was contrasting their coverage of that rather trivial moment with their coverage of Helen Thomas's disastrous expression of her wish that Israelis go back to Germany and Poland.

So what's you're over/under of how many stories the Post publishes on Bob Etheridge?

UPDATE II: Drew M at Ace has already figured out how Renee Ellmers can use this episode in an ad this fall.
Start with him saying "Who are you" and then cut to voters saying they live in the district and are upset with his votes on issue a,b,c, then show the Who Are You? bit and have Ellmers say, "I'm Renee Ellmers and I approve this message because it's time we send a conservative to Washington who will fight the Pelosi/Obama agenda, not citizens who ask questions".
You can send a bit of money Ellmers' way so she can afford to air such an ad.