Mike Flynn at Big Government:
Maybe it is my Catholic upbringing, but I’ve always been cursed with a bit too much empathy. It is often difficult to witness people bearing the full weight of the consequences of their decisions, even when it is richly deserved. (And, in the case of House Democrats few have ever been more deserving of reaping everything they’ve sown.) We’re human, after all, and witnessing people on the cusp of realizing that they’ve lost everything can be difficult.
Last week, Democrat Congressman Bob Etheridge (D-NC2) attended a fundraiser headlined by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He was asked by some students on the street whether he supported the “Obama Agenda.” He didn’t take it well.
Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin’s place:
Getting a little testy, aren’t they?
Reminder for Democrats: If somebody comes up to you and expresses a concern for where their tax dollars are going, just do like Charles Rangel and say “None of your damn business” and walk away.
Reader Joe Glandorf writes: “Why would any sober adult get that animated over a simple question? Why not just ignore it?” And Will Collier is reminded of a movie.
Maybe he felt safe attacking a student because he’s done everything he can to disarm Americans? It’s a thought. His F ratings at links below.
Etheridge displays the all-too typical attitude of a public “official” as opposed to a public servant. I can’t help wondering if a belief that he can slap constituents around with impunity might be one of the reasons he’s big on citizen disarmament, having been rated “F” by both the National Rifle Association and by Gun Owners of America.
How can Congressman Bob Etheridge (D-NC2) think he can lay hands on someone for asking a question like that? Why did that question make him so angry? Look how much he believes in his own capacity and right to intimidate! Quite aside from the manhandling, where does Etheridge get the idea that someone who asks a question is required to divulge his name? Is he completely deranged? Does he not remember what a camera is? Has he never heard of YouTube? I bet he has now.
Radley Balko at Reason:
Another public official not fond of being recorded in a pubilc space.
Michael C. Moynihan at Reason:
The Atlantic rounds up the reactions here, and notes this “skeptical” tweet from my pal and former colleague Dave Weigel: “He’s a student! He’s working on a project! He has no name! Nothing shady there.” Sarcasm acknowledged, but what is “shady” about asking Etheridge a simple, if vague, question? First, the Congressman asks “Who are you?” while knocking the camera out of the kid’s hand and, demonstrating that he possesses a limited familiarity with American law, declaring that he has “a right to know who you are.” On a public street, you have the right to walk away, Bob, but members of Congress have no special rights to demand names and affiliations of those asking questions. Should these kids have been more specific? I would have been, though as demonstrated in the video they were attacked before they were allowed a chance to respond.
The American Prospect’s Tim Fernholz tweets that the video looks “like James O’Keefe 2.0,” a reference to the conservative activist who produced the infamous ACORN “pimp” videos. If this is meant as criticism—and I suspect it is—it is meaningless. Does anyone doubt that Fernholz would blog with indignation, until his fingers were raw, if the member of Congress doing the shoving and wrist-grabbing was, say, Michele Bachmann?
Also noted by The Atlantic is a post from blogger Doug Mataconis who declares that “sticking a camera in somebody’s face and demanding they answer a question is hardly a form of reasonable political debate, and perhaps not the best way for a constituent to interact with his or her Congressman.” Sticking a camera in someone’s face? Demanding? This is nonsense on stilts, as the video clearly demonstrates. And if Mataconis, the moral arbiter of what constitutes “reasonable debate” (this wasn’t a debate but a flimsy journalistic question; I suspect he means reasonable inquiry), thinks that tracking down a member of Congress on the streets of Capitol Hill is unreasonable, or constitutes some form of harassment, does he hold the major networks and Hollywood studios—think 60 Minutes or Michael Moore—to the same standard?
The only thing new about the “student’s” journalistic methodology is that it bypasses the usual media channels and is distributed via YouTube and Breitbart. And we all presume, though don’t know for sure, that the kids were right-wingers. So just be honest, my liberal comrades, and admit that you hate the questions, not the method.
U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington) released the following statement on the viral video which appeared on the internet today:
“I have seen the video posted on several blogs. I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction and I apologize to all involved. Throughout my many years of service to the people of North Carolina, I have always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect. No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response. I have and I will always work to promote a civil public discourse.”
Rep. Bob Etheridge (NC-02)
Don’t be too quick to sneer at his apology. Compared to the rest of the left, which has been desperately trying to change the subject by screeching about the fact that the student in the video refused to identify himself, this guy is a model of contrition. In fact, Ben Smith’s got a copy of the Democrats’ talking points on the assault. What’s missing?
1. There is always the part of the story that you can’t see in these gotcha style videos — what were these folks doing, how did they approach him, how were the cameraman and/or others off camera acting?
2. Why would any legitimate student doing a project or a journalist shagging a story not identify themselves. Motives matter — what was the motivation here? To incite this very type of reaction?
3. This is clearly the work of the Republican Party and the “interviewer” is clearly a low level staffer or intern. That’s what explains blurring the face of the “interviewer” and refusing to identify the entity this was done for. The Republicans know if they were caught engaging in this type of gotcha tactic it would undermine their own credibility — yet if it was an individual acting on his own there is no reason that person would have blurred themselves out of the video — and if it was the work of a right wing blog they would have their logo on the video and be shouting their involvement from the roof top.
4. This was a purposefully partisan hit job designed to incite a reaction for political reasons — but it is a tactic so low — the parties involved are remaining anonymous.
5. The fact that no one wants to take credit for this should raise real questions in the minds of voters and the press.
6. Push hard w/ blogs the lack of credibility inherent to anything Breitbart does/posts, given its role in the debunked ACORN videos…
Not a single word is devoted to the idea that asking a question of a congressman shouldn’t mean walking away with his palm print on your neck. Howard Kurtz, Dave Weigel, and Mediaite, among others in the media, have naturally zeroed in on the questioner’s identity as well, which comes as no surprise. As has often been noted, when a government leak hurts Republicans, the story is usually about the information that’s been leaked; when a leak hurts Democrats, the story is usually about the fact of the leak itself. When tea partiers knock off a centrist Republican incumbent, the story is about fringe-dwellers and their insane ideological purity; when the nutroots knock off a centrist Democrat, the story is about principled liberals keeping their representatives honest. Same thing here: If Joe Wilson had answered a question about whether he supports “the Bush agenda” by grabbing a kid by the throat, the kid’s professional affiliation would, I dare say, not be viewed as some sort of mitigating factor for Wilson. But this is the media we have. Second look at conservative “epistemic closure”!
Breitbart and Michael Flynn say they have no idea who shot the video; assuming that the students were indeed Republican “trackers,” paid to shadow Democrats in hopes of capturing a gaffe on film, I wait with bated breath for an explanation as to why these guys are illegitimate but the guy who caught George Allen’s “macaca” line on tape is A-OK. As for why they’re anonymous, R.S. McCain offers a persuasive theory: Given the viciousness of the DNC in trying to make this a story about them, wouldn’t you want to stay anonymous too in order to avoid reprisals?
UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald
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Jim Geraghty at NRO