Klobuchar hides behind telephone for town-hall meeting

Just a week ago, I noted what a non-entity Minnesota’s other Senator, Amy Klobuchar, has been in the Senate.  Yesterday, Klobuchar gave a demonstration of why she’s been the Unknown Senator and losing ground in the state during her tenure.  Klobuchar held her one and only session of accountability with her constituents over the phone yesterday evening instead of facing the voters directly.  Not only that, but the teleconference was somewhat difficult to join:

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar took the national health care debate to the phone lines Sunday night, talking with more than 10,000 Minnesotans about reforming the current system.

Most of the hourlong conversation, which Klobuchar dubbed a “tele-town hall meeting,” focused on holding down health care costs and making it more affordable for families and small businesses. …

After the session, she said she thought most of the 14 calls she fielded came from “more conservative” people, but rather than taking ideological stands, they were focused on money issues, such as how small businesses can negotiate with insurance companies or consumers can find affordable coverage.

So Klobuchar spent an hour on the phone with constituents and took 14 questions?  Wow.  Now that’s a Profile in Courage!  Klobuchar called the exchanges “civil,” which means “they didn’t disagree with me.”  Indeed, the Pioneer Press noted her reaction:

“What I got out of the call, more than anything,” she said, “is there’s starting to be some general acknowledgment, through all of the bickering and yelling, that we are going to have to do something about costs here, that we have to make it more affordable.”

Interestingly, the larger newspaper in the Twin Cities, the Star Tribune, didn’t provide any reporting on the conference call this morning.  They may have had the same problems that other Minnesotans had, which was that they couldn’t call into the teleconference.  As Power Line notes, calls to the published number went unanswered last night:

I was selected to participate in my humble servant Senator Amy Klobuchar’s tele-townhall. I registered as instructed and received the following email from her office on Thursday: “Thank you for signing up to participate in a discussion on making health care more affordable. You will receive a reminder phone call this Friday, August 21st, and will be automatically called on Sunday, August 23rd at 7:00 PM to be joined to the call.” I was called on Friday to remind me to be on hand at 7:00 Sunday to be connected to the tele-town hall.

I was ready to ask a respectful yet tough question. Imagine my surprise when at precisely 7:00 on Sunday I received a recorded phone call from the Senator herself informing me that at 7:00 that evening she had hosted a discussion on health care with someone from Mayo and the biggest nurse in the land. Gee, she was sorry she missed me, but I can go to her Web site later tonight to hear a recording of it.

Fraters Libertas has a snarky “live blog” of the proceedings:

6:52 PM – The way this forum works is that I signed up online before noon on Friday 8/21 and provided a phone number. Early today, I received a conformation that I would be called to be conferenced in around 7 pm tonight.

7:05 – No call yet. I assume the technical issues make lateness a possibility. I won’t bail for at least half an hour.

7:10 – Could Amy be having a Brett Favre like change of heart? I wonder how her team feels about this? I wonder how Brett Favre feels about this? Here’s the announcement from her web site:

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar will be hosting a live statewide tele-town hall meeting to discuss making health care more affordable and answer questions from her constituents. Joining her will be Dr. Denis Cortese, CEO of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and Mary Wakefield, the highest ranking nurse in the federal government.

7:15 – In the link above, it suggests that if you’re not called by 7:10, you should call her office. I did so and received a message that her voice mail is full. She can’t get a town hall meeting started on time, yet she expects us to trust her with our health care?

7:19 – I just got the call. It was a recorded message from Amy. It basically said (not direct quote, but my best shot):

Tonight at 7 pm I hosted a live town hall meeting to discuss health care with Dr. Denis Cortese, CEO of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and Mary Wakefield, the highest ranking nurse in the federal government. I am sorry that you were unable to join in this discussion. However, I am posting meeting in it’s entirety on my website: klobuchar.senate.gov. Thank you for participating in this important discussion.

As for the nature of the 14 questions Klobuchar took, even the liberal Minnesota Independent isn’t buying the notion that they originated organically from those attendees lucky enough to get the promised call from Klobuchar:

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar promised “I’m not going to be rationing health care” but she rationed out 14 question-asking opportunities among more than 10,000 callers during her tele-town hall on health care reform Sunday. Her staff wouldn’t let the St. Paul Pioneer Press see exactly how the tele-death panels that chose the lucky questioners operated, but you can hear the results for yourself via The UpTake.

In other words, Klobuchar hid behind a telephone, hand-picked the questioners to give the illusion of fairness, and excluded a significant number of people who wanted to hold Klobuchar accountable for her representation of Minnesota in the Senate.  She then pronounced herself and her policy direction vindicated.  It’s easy to do accountability when you can create your own constituency and ignore the rest of the state.  I wonder whether Klobuchar will continue to hide in her bunker for the entirety of her term, or if she will find the courage to venture out in public when she needs cash to run for re-election.

Update: Mitch Berg would like to get confirmation that anyone else was on the line at all.