Saturday, April 3, 2010

Town Hall Experience

A week or so after this campaign implosion, Senator McCain had a town hall meeting at the VFW in Claremont in the western part of New Hampshire at 8:00 in the morning on a Saturday. So I got up at 6:00 and headed off to the town hall, leaving some extra time in case I got lost, which I did. Once back on the right route I should have been right about on time, except I turned too soon, drove by the back side of the building and headed right out of town. When I finally found the VFW I was incredibly late. The meeting hadn’t started yet so I signed in and went up stairs into the crowded little hall. It had a stage set up in the center of the room and an AC unit that buzzed loudly in a futile attempt to keep the room from becoming a hot box. Just a moment after I found a place to stand, Senator McCain walked by towards the stage, stopping just in front of me to my right.

I felt for him, as that could not have been a good week. Everything that could have gone wrong in a campaign did, and my instinct was to pat him on the shoulder and say ‘good luck,’ or ‘next week will be better,’ or something to that effect, but then thought it probably wasn’t appropriate to pat the candidates. Senator McCain was introduced, he took the stage and spoke for a few minutes, then took questions. The first question asked was, “How can we make this campaign about issues again?” to which everyone applauded. Senator McCain then said that by talking to people directly and continuing to do these town hall forums. The second question was, “The press and pundits have declared your campaign dead. Why should we continue to support you when no one gives you any shot at winning this race?” As the fellow asked the question a big smile started to come to the Senator’s face. Senator McCain joked that he should have given the mike to someone else, but then answered that he was still in it and that he’d keep talking to people and running his race and he’d let the voters decide in January.

A lady, who was wearing a t-shirt that said “Army Mom,” had also asked a question and she, or possibly her husband, brought up the fact that Senator McCain also has two sons serving in the military. Afterwards, in an odd scene, the media swarmed Senator McCain. This small quiet New Hampshire town had a few dozen supporters standing outside calmly waiting to see Senator McCain, a few dozen reporters within two feet of Senator McCain, and nobody else around for what seemed to be miles. Senator McCain made a bee-line for the Army Mom, making sure he chatted with her, and answered any other questions she might have had. He shook hands, took pictures, and talked with people as he headed out. Then one cameraperson exclaimed, “He has to get in his car,” and started sprinting across the street along with a reporter. The locals politely waited to shake the Senator’s hand as he left, and they were in stark contrast to the media who appeared to be on Ritalin. The rest of the town apparently was still asleep.

That was one of the first moments it dawned on me that politicians often don’t get enough credit. Most rational human beings would not choose this kind of life, where a political mistake essentially garners mindless harassment, and taking a position on an issue means receiving threats and not being able to walk to your car in peace.

This was actually one of the lessons of this entire experience. Politicians, in general terms, aren’t so bad. If you take an honest look at what is expected of them, the scrutiny and criticism they receive, even on balance with the perks of having the power, prestige, and influence that comes with an important office, I don’t think it is a job too many people would take.

Look statistically at the number of politicians who do bad things versus the total number of politicians. Their profession takes the rap for the bad actions of a relative few. Granted, these bad deeds are typically more serious due to that politician’s violation of the public trust. However, not many other professions take a hit the way professional politicians do when another politician commits an offense.

Also, consider going to work and having someone, regardless of what you do, standing over your shoulder saying, ‘I wouldn’t have done that.’ Then think of the demands of the job, the media attention and interaction, the hours away from home. Is that something you would really want to sign up for?


An Independent Call from NH On by Katherine J. Morrison available at Amazon.

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Senator McCain's First Town Hall Meeting After The Campaign Implosion #9

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