Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Conservative Viewpoint
- Butterfield Exits Early
From Health Forum

Article by Bob Steinburg
- Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony



U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C. was in Williamston last week. The Martin County Chamber of Commerce had invited the congressman to lead a round table forum on how the Democrats’ proposed health care bill would impact small business owners and their employees. The event was scheduled to last two hours.

I was among the standing room only audience. Upon registering, attendees were asked to write down questions we’d like the congressman to try and answer. We soon learned only questions Butterfield’s staff approved, had any chance of being addressed.

President Barack Obama and most of the elected and appointed Democrats in Washington today often appear to be mere thespians on a political stage, reading lines from Teleprompters or cue-cards and answering only those questions they choose. An all-too-often compliant mainstream media, some of whom are in residence at the Obama White House, adoringly comply, often losing any sense of objectivity.

The August recess from Congress was to create opportunities for representatives communicate with the people in their districts about two hugely controversial issues: the Climate Change bill (Cap and Trade) and the current proposed sweeping Health Care Reform bill. All this has managed to awaken an electorate trying to enjoy remnants of a summer vacation.

In North Carolina, as elsewhere, many Republicans have understandably been reticent to hold town hall meetings on either issue. Most opposed the climate bill and all Republicans oppose the Democrat’s prescription for altering the fundamentals of health care in America. Republicans agree the system needs reform, but not the frontal lobotomy Democrats have scheduled after congress reconvenes.

Congressional Democrats shouldn’t have the luxury of a relaxing holiday. Health care and the climate bill are, after all, their legislative initiatives, and the folks would like to learn more. What they’ve heard so far is making many angry. If these representatives were expecting a warm homecoming this August, they’re getting anything but.

Butterfield is a pleasant man, who comes across as somewhat shy and unassuming. I’d met him before. He is short, has a warm smile and a firm handshake.

Once the congressman arrived, I commented to a writer covering this event that Butterfield appeared unusually nervous as he turned his head to scan the packed room. He had good reason. When introduced he was greeted by deafening silence. Things only slid down hill from there.

In his opening remarks, Butterfield admitted that his congressional district is the fourth poorest in the nation, with the highest unemployment in the state and a poverty level approaching 25 percent.

He blamed former President George W. Bush for most of the nation’s current woes, taking a page right out of the Obama playbook. It would seem that sooner or later this administration and the Democrats in Congress better start taking responsibility for their own actions. Health care and the climate bill are two examples.

The blame-Bush gig was a great campaign tactic, but if polls are any indication, this jargon is wearing thin. Voters want results- not a continuation of the blame game. According to a recent Rasmussen Poll, Republicans are now favored by 5 points on the generic ballot, and are favored over Democrats on eight of 10 of the nation’s most important issues confronting voters, including the economy.

Butterfield attempted to explain the intricacies of the health care bill, no easy task, picking up a bound copy in his left hand. Someone yelled out, “Have you read it all?” He smiled and said he had not but that he was familiar with most of the 1,018 pages. He said his aides have combed through it and can provide many of the details when called upon to do so. The audience reacted negatively. In the first five minutes of his talk, Butterfield was booed twice.

Several times a member from the chamber had to rise and remind the audience to be respectful. Rather than disrespect, what I observed was an abundance of frustration with Washington that needed to be vented.

Even though the question period had not officially opened, the audience, growing weary of spin, began blurting them out. Perhaps they feared time would run out. Their fears were soon realized.

About 40 minutes into Butterfield’s remarks, a Martin County businessman rose and said out loud he’d heard enough and was leaving. He was followed minutes later by two women who appeared equally frustrated.

Suddenly two Martin County Deputies entered the room and stood at the front. Perhaps the chamber or Butterfield felt threatened by what I viewed as a vigorous exercise in freedom of speech. Interestingly, I asked one of the deputies afterwards why he was asked to enter and stand at the front. He replied, “I really don’t know. All I saw and heard were people exercising their first amendment rights to free speech and assembly. I just did what I was told.”

Did what I was told. It seems that’s what our government wants--just do what we are told. Well a free government is one that values and encourages dissent and debate. There was little of that on this day.

Shortly after an hour of this scheduled two hour event, it was announced that Butterfield had to leave because something had just come up. Yet 20 minutes later Butterfield was still in the room talking to the press and a few supporters. So much for addressing constituents’ questions and providing the answers they so desperately sought and deserve. If this was democracy in action, this country is in bigger trouble than I thought.

I agree. See my further thoughts on this same meeting (pictures included) at the article below, Butterfield Spoke ...