Is Betty Sutton, Ohio’s 13th Congressional District Representative (D-Akron), using teleconference calls to fabricate tall tales about what’s in the Obamacare bill that would otherwise be called into question if she were holding a town hall in an arena or stadium?
That she only addressed 9 questioners in one hour is, in itself, a slap in the public’s face.
On Tuesday night (August 25), from my home in exile, I went to a town hall meeting hosted by Democrat Congressman Adam Smith, of Washington’s 9th District. The health care bill he described doesn’t seem to resemble the health care bill that Sutton described.
To raucous cheers, Smith said he would not support the Obamacare bill if it were brought to a House vote in its current form.
” . . . he [Smith] expressed discontent with parts of the health proposals currently wending their way through Congress. For example, he is concerned that some options, such as health savings accounts, wouldn’t be available several years out.”
“Smith was cheered loudly when he said he wouldn’t support Democrats’ health care reform plan in its current form, saying the bill incorporates too many issues not relevant to providing universal health care. He named provisions for end-of-life counseling as something he didn’t believe belonged in the health care reform bill.
“‘There are huge issues in there that are not necessary to establishing universal access,’ said Smith, adding that he expects a very different version of the health care reform bill will reach the House floor.”
While he, like Sutton, favors a public option (I disagree–my own stance on health care can be found here), and while he espouses the same goals of expansion, access, and affordability of health care that Sutton does, the bill that Sutton is talking about already sounds like a “very different version.” to me. Lorain’s Morning Journal reported that Sutton offered this portrayal of the current bill:
“The public option would be subject to the same market reforms as private plans and would be budget-neutral, adding nothing to the federal deficit to burden future generations, Sutton said.
“A caller named Ben in Avon Lake said he was against the growing expenditures Congress is making.
“Sutton replied the proposed plan would reduce administrative waste, abuse and overpayments.”
The public option in the current bill would be budget-neutral? Does Sutton really mean that? Smith acknowledged that a public option is not without a price tag. Smith said, however, that the entire Federal budget would need to be addressed to bring budgetary concerns in line. Smith added that he supported a balanced budget when he first arrived in Congress in 1997, and he said that he’d like to return to balanced budgets in the future.
The proposed plan would reduce administrative waste? Does Sutton really mean that? Is she talking about the proposed plan in the current bill? Or is she talking about some wishful thinking about what she hopes will be incorporated into the proposal at some future point? In his criticisms of the current bill, Smith said that it unnecessarily adds several bureaucratic structures to the Federal government that aren’t crucial to improving access to health care. To me, that sounds like the current plan increases the administrative waste.
“. . . asked Sutton if she actually read the nearly 1,100-page bill and without a lawyer to help her.
“‘I did read it …’ she said. ‘And as to your question about whether I had a lawyer with me, I am a lawyer, so I don’t know how much that helped.'”
Perhaps she should have invited Rep. Adam Smith to be her study buddy as she read through the bill, so that House members within the same caucus would have similar accounts of what the current bill entails.
Even if she isn’t using the telephone medium to get away with distorting the provisions of the bill, even if she really believes what she says is true, what does it say about Betty Sutton that she restricts public access to her through this sheltered medium? Doesn’t it suggest that she’s a control freak who wants to tackle only a bare minimum of queries with carefully scripted responses wherein she always gets the last word? Is that a dialogue with the public? Or does it more closely resemble a more authoritarian rule-by-decree approach?
The Morning Journal ran an editorial that offered Sutton a criticism of its own:
“A matter of such magnitude and concern to all is a topic on which Sutton owes her constituents an in-person discussion. Hearing from a handful of disembodied voices on the phone is virtually worthless compared to the real communication one gets with an audience face to face.
“Sutton was elected to represent, and listen to, all of Lorain County, including those who disagree with her support of the proposed health reform legislation.
“Distancing herself from constituents by the length of a phone line in such an important conversation disrespects those constituents.”
Contrast that with this editorial from The News Tribune about Smith’s approach to public dialogue:
“Smith deserves some of the credit. His unwavering commitment to town halls – despite this summer’s specter of large, angry crowds – deflected much of the indignation that has been directed at some of his colleagues. It’s hard to be too mad at a guy who comes to see you even when he knows he’s in for a bruising.
“Smith also deftly managed the crowd, bowing to a shouted request to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the meeting but later chiding audience members for shouting down others.
“For those who had never met him, Smith’s wry delivery and moderate leanings were no doubt disarming. The congressman knew what he was doing when he prolonged his opening speech to criticize end-of-life consultations as a way to get seniors to settle for less care.”
Granted, I disagreed with a number of Smith’s views, and I never got an opportunity to pose my own questions about the legislative process as it applies to Obamacare (though I did submit some in written form), but Smith was able to go with the flow, exhibiting patience with the crowd, never allowing himself to become unhinged no matter how provocative the shouts might be.
Furthermore, Smith denounced the way in which some of his colleagues characterized Obamacare opponents as brown-shirted astroturf mobs. Apparently, Sutton buys into the astroturf mob paranoia.
I seriously don’t think Sutton, with her allergic reaction to the public so plainly evident, is well-suited to be a U.S. Rep. I’m eager to see a challenger enter the fray for next year’s election cycle.