How do you think this would go over with your employer?
Say, Joe, we have a few concerns about your work lately. We’d like you to drop by the office so we can discuss it.
Uh, no, I don’t think so. I heard someone might shout at me. Or worse, make a YouTube video. If someone makes a video, I might be held accountable for what I say!
I’m pretty sure that most of us don’t have the moxie to refuse a meeting with our employers, but Brian Baird, U.S. Representative from Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, has done just that; declined to meet face to face with his constituents, whom he fears may be dissatisfied with his job performance. Baird not only made the ridiculous statement about shouting and videos quoted in this article from The Columbian, but also compared concerned citizens who have shown up at townhall meetings to Nazi Brown Shirts and implied that speaking your mind at townhall meetings can lead to Timothy McVeigh-style violence.
It’s good to know that Congressman Baird holds his constituents in such high esteem.
Given all the dangers, Baird, who purports to be a man rather than a mouse*, has instead chosen to hold some telephone town meetings, but good luck if you want to “attend.” Again, from The Columbian:
Here’s how it’ll work: if you happen to be sitting near a publicly listed Clark County telephone line on the right day at the right time, your phone will ring.
In order to avoid software problems, Baird’s office says, the exact date and time will be kept secret from the public.
If you answer your landline, an automated message will ask whether you have a question for your Congressman.
Press *3, and you’ll be asked your location and the subject of your question. Sitting at his own telephone at an as-yet-undisclosed location, Baird then will choose a name based on its location and the topic.
There will be no further pre-screening, Baird said. After the call is over, the recording will be posted on his Web site.
Baird said the phone interviews will include “a much better cross-section of the public” than some live town halls.
Though Baird claims the telephone format includes “a much better cross-section of the public,” it actually excludes otherwise interested people who, for whatever reason, are away from their phones when the calls go out.
This format allows Baird nearly total control over the dialogue. It effectively eliminates any challenges to his statements or follow-up questions from other participants. It deprives people of the chance to persuade their neighbors and isolates each citizen, affording no opportunity to provide feedback to any of the speakers, not even a simple nodding of the head.
While Baird’s webside claims, “Today we were able to have a civil discussion with 10 times as many people that have ever come to any one of my other town halls. People on all sides had the chance to have their opinions heard,” is it really accurate to call it a discussion when input is limited to a hand-selected few? Is it accurate to call the people on the line participants if they’ve been relegated to the role of passive listeners?
It seems apparent to me that Congressman Baird, along with many, many other United States Congressmen of both parties, needs a refresher course on who he works for, as well as the proper protocol for dealing with his employers. Unless, of course, they’re not interested in retaining their jobs.
*During the call, Nansen Malin, Pacific County Republican Party Chairwoman, offered her living room as a venue for a townhall meeting and offered to act as Congressman Baird’s bodyguard. Baird agreed to the meeting, but no date has been set. Given Baird’s cowardly behavior in originally refusing to schedule actual townhall meetings, it’s not so surprising that he’s willing to hide behind a woman’s skirts.
Update: In the face of widespread public disdain and ridicule, Baird did schedule some actual townhall meetings. Watch as he’s taken to task by a retired United States Marine. Semper Fi.
(H/T, my friend, @flick47)