Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How Not to Behave at a Town Hall, by Barney Frank

Rep. Barney Frank, Critics Face Off at Town Hall Event - Political News - FOXNews.com

Apparently this was not the most genteel of gatherings.

I do not condone boorish behavior at these "town hall meetings" that Congressmen have been holding. It is appropriate to point out lies, mistruths, deceptions, falsehoods, and hyperbole masquerading as fact...and to do so in a clear voice. It is even appropriate to make facial expressions of disgust, dismay, anger, frustration, etc. when such lies are presented to you. I also have no problem showing agreement (nodding of the head, saying "Amen," smiling, etc.) when someone publicly uncovers a lie for what it is.

The whole idea of a town hall meeting, I thought, was to have a civil airing of ideas for consideration by those present. For that reason, those who want to shout in protest should remain outside. Certainly there have been some citizens who have been a bit, um, coarse in their displays of disagreement. Ideally, both the Congressman and the people of the meeting should show respect toward each other.

Enter Barney Frank, who had one of these meetings Tuesday evening in Massachusetts (see linked article). Some reportedly shouted and booed while he spoke, which, if true, is a bit rude. Yet Frank is also said to have remarked the following:

"On what planet do you spend most of your time?" This was in reference to a comment comparing the administration's policies to those of Hitler.
"Do you really think that advances your argument? I mean, I thought you were thoughtful people here to have a conversation." This putdown was a response to some of the "verbal attacks" Frank was taking.
The congressman was showing the following:
  • Contempt towards his constituents. He clearly has a dim view of those who disagree with him, and he speaks to them in a rude and condescending manner.
  • Contempt towards the views of his constituents. I did not see any references in the article to even a single outlandish quote from anyone present. Why hate a point of view that disagrees with yours?
  • An apparent inability to engage in civil discourse. Even if we give Frank all the benefit of the doubt and assume that the crowd was rude and unruly, it is still his responsibility to be civil.
What do you do with a guy like Barney Frank? Vote for someone else in next year's election, and send him back to the private sector.


Communications guru said...

You’re kidding, right?

“Apparently this was not the most genteel of gatherings?” “I do not condone boorish behavior?”

The rightwing lobbying groups that have set off this whole tea party stuff is not only urging you how to make the gatherings “u genteel” they are telling you exactly how to do it.

Barney Frank gave a measured, respectful reply, to a ridiculous and insulting question.

Brenda Brough said...

I'm hearing these stories more and more. Where these Congressmen step down to the local arena, and have conversation with their constituents about the health care reform issue. What I find odd is that they act surprised when these folks show such contempt and aversion to this reform. It's like these Congressmen just expected everyone to welcome them with open arms and pat them on the back for bringing such a great idea to our country. I certainly do not condone over-the-top disrepectfulness and ugly, mean-spirited behavior, but I think the American people are voicing their opinion and the men and women in Congress should wake up to how Americans REALLY feel. At least, that's what I'm hoping they will do.

Ken said...

Ummm...Mr. Guru, after I posted this entry I saw a video of the exchange described. Regardless of what any of us think about the validity of the woman's question, the congressman's response was out of line and rude.

I only hope the voters remember this next year and replace him with someone more amenable to the interests of the American people.