The NRCC welcomes Congress back from its aestas horribilis with a four-minute video reminding them of the pleasures of being away from their constituents. Think of this as the equivalent of ESPN’s big-hit review on Sunday nights after a weekend of football. There are many key moments revisited in this compendium, but perhaps none more instructive than the clip of Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN) telling constituents that they have no say in how he runs his Congressional office and that he sets the rules for town halls:
This is my town hall meeting, and I set the rules. I’ve had these rules — [booing] — Uh, let me repeat that one more time. This is my town-hall meeting for you. And you’re not going to tell me how to run my Congressional office. Now, the reason why I don’t allow filming is because usually the films that are done end up on YouTube in a compromising position.
Yes, they often end up on YouTube in the compromising position of showing elected officials acting like arrogant jerks who forget who works for whom. In this case, Hill accurately predicted exactly what happened, although one has to admit that this turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hill was hardly alone in demonstrating the arrogance of the noblesse oblige; Arlen Specter scolded his audience that they were lucky to have a town-hall forum at all with him, since he wasn’t getting paid extra to hold them. Other Democrats simply chose not to appear at all, either hiding behind teleconferences with limited access or just hiding out for the entire August recess.
Now they’re back on safe ground, ensconced in the loving arms of the federal bureaucracy, safe from their constituents and accountability. They shouldn’t get too comfortable, however, because a number of them will be hearing “Welcome Back” after the 2010 elections from those same constituents, who will send replacements who understand their place a little better.