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Monday, June 14, 2010

Defending the Indefensible – Bob Etheridge Assaults Student

Over the weekend, a group of students confronted North Carolina Congressman, Bob Etheridge (Democrat – Lillington), regarding the Obama agenda. He asked the group of students who they were, and before they could realistically respond, the Congressman assaulted one of the students.

Watch Video Here

It would be reasonable for one to think that an incident as serious as this would be above partisan politics, but sadly it is not. Although the Congressman did apologize for his absurd behavior, there are several Democrats who are defending his actions. Etheridge issued the following statement:

“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.”

It would have been smart for Democrats to leave it alone after the Congressman apologized, but instead DNC spokesman, Brad Woodhouse, said: “Motives matter, and I think you can see who was behind this." "This was a Republican party tracking operation. “If it wasn't a party tracker or intern, why is the face blurred and why is the source hidden?”

In addition, a national Democratic Party official e-mailed around a set of talking points, under the subject heading, "Etheridge Gotcha Video Background."

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.

Are these people SERIOUS? There is so much wrong with this, one would have difficulty finding a starting point, but we’ll make an attempt. First, why would the student identify himself? If “Joe the Plumber’s” fifteen minutes of fame gone bad doesn’t give you a clue, then you’ve been too far removed from the political arena to continue reading. It’s safe to say that the folks running the Republican Party may not be the sharpest tools in the shed, but I’m certain they can devise a better “hatchet” job than this student popping the million dollar “gotcha” question “Do you fully support the Obama Agenda?” They must have spent weeks coming up with that one…

Second, it is completely irrelevant what these kids’ motives were, who they were, and if they were part of a group with a political agenda. So what if they were? It doesn’t matter if they devised this wicked little scheme up on Friday night; regardless, they have a right to QUESTION an ELECTED OFFICIAL. They did so in a manner that was not threatening to Etheridge. They approached him politely, and asked a very simple question. Etheridge assaulted the student when he posed absolutely no threat. To be clear, Etheridge did have the right to ask the students to identify themselves, and it was his right to decline an interview; however, he had no right whatsoever to break the law. Why is it that elected officials feel they are above the law? Any civilian could be arrested for this type of behavior.

Lastly, and most important, is the fact that any defense of Etheridge’s behavior is a move against free speech, and the FREEDOM to question the people who work for the citizens of this country. If people are not allowed to politely question their elected officials, then this is a country without freedom, and those in Congress are rulers instead of representatives elected to carry out the people’s business. Why can no one question not only the Obama Administration, but folks in Congress who staunchly approve of the Administration’s agenda? From the continual nonsensical bashing of FOX News to the attempts to denigrate any writer or organization that disagrees with this Administration smacks of the very ideology that they try so desperately to deny. Everyone who reads my columns on a regular basis knows I did not vote for George W. Bush for either of his terms, and while I spent eight years sharply criticizing his Administration – especially economic policies, I never saw these kinds of attempts to silence people regardless of how vile the attacks became. If this video of Etheridge doesn’t offend you, then you are part of the problem.


Bp said...

The whole thing was ridiculous. Yer absolutely right that the Rep. in question was nuts.

In my opinion, you induce perhaps a bit much from his personally bizarre behavior -- and your studiously indignant reference to those poor, benighted journalists at FOX was a bit silly -- but I think yer 100% correct that the kids were entirely justified in what they did and how they comported themselves.

That they did not identify themselves and have gone to great lengths to disguise their identities is fishy; still, it in no way explains or excuses the Rep.'s conduct. You don't smack around or grab and restrain citizens asking you questions on the street.

Nonetheless, this incident seems to me to be a strange and sad and ultimately unimportant episode in our political discourse.

Let's move on to something else. What do we do about the 198,000 gallons of oil (per day) being shit into the Gulf?

I propose expanding drilling in ANWR. Marine wildlife has been having all the petrofun lately.

It's time to choke some polar bears with crude, methinks. My SUV doesn't run on cornjuice, damnit.

Michelle S said...

Thank you for your comment, but I believe you missed my point in making the reference to FOX News. I’m not an apologist for the network, nor do their commentators have my sympathy. The point is anyone, be it FOX or Andrew Brietbart is condemned for challenging anyone on the left. The issue of concern is the attempt to silence/discredit opposing voices. The key here is free speech and people’s ability to hear different viewpoints. It doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with what is said. This point is that you HEAR it so you can decide. You are stomping all over the first amendment if you don’t defend the speech you dislike or disagree.

I ‘m very surprised that you see this as “unimportant.” You don’t find the attitudes of our elected officials concerning? Etheridge is not the first elected official to behave in a bizarre manner.

I look forward to your commentary when I get around to publishing my column on the oil spill. Your sarcasm is noted. Crude oil is in about every single product on the market…far more than gassing up your “SUV.” I assume you are well read on the types of products that are made from crude oil as well as some of the drawbacks that the current alternative energy sources pose. Therefore, perhaps we can drill in places that have far less liability to the environment…on the shores and land as opposed to a mile deep in the ocean. Then, we might not have to choke those poor polar bears.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for yer earnest reply; I'd like to address a couple of these points...

That pundits on the right are "condemned for challenging anyone on the left" is just par for the course in terms of punditry. You paint as one-sided this discourse of invective, but it isn't.

The Right is equally hyperbolic, dismissive, simplistic, and overbearing. They brook just as little criticism. Does Michele Bachmann refrain from condemning everyone who disagrees with her views? Does Ann Coulter? Does Glenn Beck? Michelle Malkin? Rush Limbaugh? I should think not -- they make their money viciously demonizing those who disagree with them.

There are certainly those on the Left who take the same tack (though maybe less mean-spiritedly and more snarkily...) I think of Maher, Maddow, Olbermann, et al.

Taking an isolated incident and using it as evidence of a conspiratorial, totalitarian campaign of suppression seems kind of overblown to me.

Furthermore, the Rep. hardly suppressed the speech rights of those kids. They asked him a loaded question and he attacked them... well, he grabbed them anyway... it was a pretty "namby-pamby" assault if ye ask me...

The point is, they weren't trying to tell him anything or debate anything. And his reaction is hardly par for the course in terms of the interactions of lawmakers and their constituents.

As far as oil drilling goes, its true that crude's in everything. That's because it was cheap... as in "below cost of production" cheap. Incidentally, so is corn; which is why corn is in everything.

It is public policy that makes oil/corn cheap. It is public policy which could make it expensive. Make it more expensive, and it will cease to be as pervasive. Less pervasive, less necessary, less drilling, less damage. Remove an incentive for markets to rely on petroleum and you create incentives for other technologies and resources to replace it.

There is no safe place to drill or process petroleum. Rigs blow up; pipelines crack; refineries explode; tankers run aground. That shit gets spilled.

So far, we've only got one planet... and we're poisoning the fuck out of it. Meanwhile, people go nuts over some idiot from the Carolinas going nuts over some Republican interns playing gotcha with him on the street. Its unimportant.

Looking forward to yer thoughts on these and other matters,

Reaganite Republican said...

It’s Obama who set the tone… HE is the one with “get in their face”, “hit back twice as hard”, and gonna “kick ass” while Salazar puts his “boot on their throat”. What the hell is this, the Third Reich?

Now this arrogant clown Etheridge thinks it OK to get violent with an innocent reporter asking a question… and in the most polite fashion imaginable- who cares what his motivations were or weren’t.

What a horrible example Team Obama and allied union thugs have set for their minions.. who now feel free to lash out like punks at any who dare question them.

Anybody who still considers Obama some sort of unifier ought to have their head examined- rather, the damage he's doing to this society is immense

Michelle S said...

@ BP

I didn’t allude to anything being one –sided in my column. As I said, my issue is with an elected official breaking the law by assaulting non-violent students. I would have posted this video and column, regardless of which side of the political aisle they are on. Defending free speech and one’s right to question and challenge elected officials is above partisan politics, as I mentioned.

As for the pundits on the right that you mention, we are deviating away from the point of my article – which focuses on the assault. I wouldn’t have had any problem whatsoever if Etheridge challenged these kids to a debate or was snarky with a response. I’d say it would be classless on his part, but that’s his prerogative. With the exception of Michele Bachmann, the rest of the people you mentioned are talk radio hosts. It’s their job to invite controversy and have a personality that invites people to come back for more…and quite different from people elected to carry out the people’s business. They don’t have to answer to the people, nor do they have the power to write policy.

This is not an isolated incident. We are seeing more and more of it. Rather than explain viewpoints, this administration has chose to denigrate anyone who disagrees with them. It’s been taken a step further than George W. Bush’s “you are either with us or against us,” which was bad enough. It goes beyond the typical political strategies. Do I think that we are becoming a communist nation overnight? Of course not, but this is how it starts. It’s enough to raise an eyebrow of concern.

I’ll touch on this more if I ever get round to writing my article, the problem with your “incentive” agenda, is that viable alternatives for crude oil simply do not exist. There is no viable replacement for crude, and that has nothing to do with policy. In fact all the incentive in the world lies in finding a replacement, as the next billionaire will be waiting in the wings. Basic economics tells us supply and demand dictate price, and much has been done, especially with corn to inflate the price since we 1) subsidize farmers and 2) burn it as fuel to cut down on some crude consumption. There are places far safer to drill than one mile into the ocean, and considering the amount of drilling that done on a daily basis, the number of spills are very minimal. The last major one was the Exxon Valdez over 20 years ago.

We do have one planet, and I’ve been hearing for years how it’s being destroyed. I was told by the year 2000, no one would be able to walk outside because the ozone layer would be gone. Scare tactics really take away from what little legitimacy there is. Sorry, but I believe that this is an overblown farce. I am not against taking measures to take care of “Mother Earth,” but not through ridiculous scare tactics and force from the government. More important is one’s right to free speech. Otherwise, you and I would not be able to have this conversation on this blog. You may not have a problem with a congressman assaulting people, however mildly, but I do. Those people work for US, and this is what they forget. I don’t think people should have to fear that they might get smacked around if they ask a simple question – “loaded” or not. Their intention is irrelevant. I disagree with your defense for the congressman's behavior by your attempts to minimize it.