Brouhaha Over Grassley Town Hall

There is a flap right now among some Iowa politicos about a Grassley town hall last week in Carroll where some members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) are said to have behaved in an impolite manner.  A local reporter, Douglas Burns, wrote a scathing story about it for the Carroll paper and some Iowa Democrats harshly criticized CCI for doing whatever it was that Burns said they did that was impolite. The Des Moines Register coverage lays it all out in a very thorough manner, making you wish they had also done such stellar reporting on the issues discussed at the meeting.

Here is what Burns wrote about CCI members:

“despicable…indecent..paid political hacks…physically hostile…mad-eyed characters who should have their local pharmacies on speed dial so they can pop pills to silence the voices in their heads…using ambush tactics and perverting political protest into a beast more akin to anarchy…shameful…hateful…dangerous”

Wow.  Glad we’re all being civil. Go liberal media!  But some Democrats agreed. There were thumbs up and likes all around by fellow Dems on FB. (I got the feeling there’s some bad blood between CCI and some Dems…).

Meanwhile, I and some other commenters on the Burns piece pointed out that we hadn’t noticed similar indignation in his reporting of tea party meetings last year. I recall one Grassley town hall in particular where an attendee suggested they all go to DC with their guns implying that it would be a good idea to shoot the President. I don’t think anyone in the Iowa media got upset over that one, other than Blog for Iowa and other lefty bloggers. And how about that “death panel” moment of Grassley’s when he egged on his constituents, saying they had “every right to be afraid” of the “death panels”?  He could have set the record straight on “death panels” right then and there.

What actually occurred in Carroll is unclear. There is a video of the entire event  that doesn’t seem to reveal anything resembling dangerous, despicable anarchy.  And several of the commenters on the Burns piece who said they attended the event did not experience it at all as he described it. A couple of commenters felt the discrepancy was so stark that they facetiously wondered if they had attended the same event. CCI denies Burns’ allegations of what happened following the event, accusing him of using profanity towards them.

Saturday, Huffingtonpost published an article about the nontroversy, bringing us even further off of what should have been the topic  – Grassley’s  policy positions –  focusing instead on the brouhaha. The Huffpo article  has the links and background if you’re interested and Think Progress has a positive article about the town hall. Think Progress actually covered the issues discussed.  If you want to know how Grassley answered the question posed to him about the Social Security cap, you can go there.

CCI is not composed entirely of Democrats of course. In fact, they don’t even really appear to like Democrats that much.  They are truly a home grown, grassroots, non-partisan, populist group –  NOT a faux grassroots group funded by the Koch Brothers like the tea party.   What?  You didn’t know that bit about the tea party and the Kochs?  Could that be because no one is bothering to report that small detail? That would be correct because the media is too busy going off the deep end about a bunch of populists trying their damndest to save Social Security, Medicare and our Democracy itself – which happens to be hanging on by a thread in case you haven’t noticed.

The fact is, CCI is on our side when it comes to fighting for the same things.  That said, if Democrats  and CCI (who happens to be a bi-partisan heckler having inexplicably heckled Debbie Wasserman Schulz at the state fair) want to form the proverbial circular firing squad and attack one another, as is our time-honored tradition, so be it. It goes with being Democrats, or so it is said. But for a member of the Iowa media, who is supposed to be an unbiased, professional journalist, this is disturbing.

Consequently, we now have in place a media narrative,  an accepted version of events that has not been fully corroborated, and one which entirely omits information about the issues actually discussed at  the town hall meeting.  And it is frustrating that Democrats, rather than being strategic and seizing the perfect opportunity to take the progressive message to the media about the uncivil policies that Grassley and his party support, have instead chosen to pile on CCI.  So the failed Republican policies are abandoned by the media in favor of the sideshow.  As Jon Stewart portrays it, “Squirrel!”  This did not have to happen.

Here’s the more effective message that should be coming from Dems, IMHO.

Well yes, these folks are angry. They’re afraid of having their Social Security and Medicare cut.  They’re afraid Gramma’s going to have to eat cat food.  They are understandably impatient with the machinations of the political process. They are part of a growing movement across the country.  Ignore them at your peril!  Politicians who ignore them risk getting unelected. They think Republican policies are going to ruin America.  They are  independent minded people.  They represent many others who feel the same way. They do not feel they are out of line because they think politicians are not listening to their concerns. They want answers. They are frustrated by politics as usual.

Sound familiar?  Of course it does because it is how the Iowa and national media have been covering the tea party ever since the traumatic health care town halls and I think we can all agree their behavior was way worse.  Iowa Democrats should not participate in this double standard.

If the media want to report that it is bad to be obnoxious at town hall meetings it should be the same standard for everyone.

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