Lots of politicos get heckled, from grassroots activists to the President of the United States, and all of these incidents have one thing in common: the cluelessness of the hecklers. Generally speaking, the higher the profile of the speaker, the gentler they have to handle the hecklers, which is why you won’t see Barack Obama tee off on people who interrupt him, at least not during a speech. That’s both for political reasons — no President wants to come off looking bitter or angry — and for strategic purposes. If one heckler manages to force a President into ad hoc engagements, then the heckler parade will be never-ending.
That calculus doesn’t apply to First Ladies, though, or at least it didn’t last night. When an LGBT activist started heckling Michelle Obama at a Democratic fundraiser, she gave the crowd a choice as to who they wanted at the microphone:
First lady Michelle Obama experienced a rare face-to-face encounter with a protester late Tuesday – approaching the activist and threatening to leave a fundraiser if the person did not stop interrupting her speech.
Obama was addressing a Democratic Party fundraiser in a private Kalorama home in Northwest Washington when Ellen Sturtz, 56, a lesbian activist, interrupted her remarks to demand that President Obama sign an anti-discrimination executive order.
Obama showed her displeasure – pausing to confront Sturtz eye to eye, according to witnesses.
“One of the things that I don’t do well is this,” she said to applause from most of the guests, according to a White House transcript. “Do you understand?”
A pool report from a reporter in the room said Obama “left the lectern and moved over to the protester.” The pool report quoted Obama as saying: “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.”
And they did. Sturtz got escorted out of the soirée post-haste, much to her clueless consternation:
“She came right down in my face,” Sturtz said. “I was taken aback.”
Bullies often are when their own tactics are turned on them. That’s exactly what happened here. Sturtz paid the $500 entry fee specifically to gain access to disrupt the event. She interrupted a speech that others had paid good money to hear, rather than wait to see if the First Lady would take questions. And then she’s “taken aback” when the speaker pushes back?
Frankly, I think Mrs. Obama took the right approach, especially since she’s not an elected official who has to be held accountable for her performance in office. One can make the argument that a President who won’t usually even entertain questions had better be prepared for a few interruptions when he’s monologuing through a press availability, for instance, but interrupting a speech from any First Lady is just flat-out rude and self-important.
Nor is that the only example of cluelessness in heckling. Dale Franks describes an incident yesterday where conservatives ended up biting off their noses to spite their faces:
Tonight was the big night for the big Muslim/Diversity seminar where the US Attorney for the Eastern district of Tennessee, Bill Killian, and FBI Knoxville SAC Kenneth Moore were gonna explain to us how we might be prosecuted for saying nasty things about Islam or Muslims on the interwebs.
Taking a play from the book of liberals who shout down speakers like Ann Coulter, however, some conservatives showed up and apparently ruined the event by constant heckling.
So, to all you hecklers who ruined the seminar by being disruptive: Now none of us know what Killian meant when he said Facebook postings might be criminal. We don’t know how he thought he could prosecute such postings. That would’ve been interesting to know. Now we don’t know, because you effed it up. So, the next time Coulter gets shouted down by Lefties, you can have nice big cup of STFU. You’re no better than they are.
Update: A number of commenters are claiming that the White House “scrubbed” the transcript, but I think the problem is that they likely only had the audio. It’s very difficult to make out what the exchange actually was from just the audio above; the pool report is necessary to distinguish it. Rather than make assumptions, the transcriber at the White House would have used the “[unintelligible]” placeholder to note where the specific words could not be distinguished.