It's no secret that armies of drooling nut-jobs are mobbing congressional town-hall meetings across the country. Sadly, the question has become which elected officials have the stones to look them in the eye and not give the crazies any more "Democrats are hiding" fodder.
Three of Oregon's four Democratic House members are holding public meetings this month and facing the healthcare-reform controversy head-on. But one congressman found it more appealing to hold so-called "telephonic" town halls, far from the angry crowds. For letting his fellow Democrats take the heat while he phones it in, we're naming Rep. Earl Blumenauer this week's Rogue.
Blumenauer wrote one of the most controversial provisions of the healthcare package: requiring Medicare to pay for docs' voluntary end-of-life consultations (see "End Times," WW, July 29, 2009). It's a worthy proposal that has been miscast by the same wack jobs descending on these meetings, yet it's Blumenauer's fellow pols getting screamed at in sweaty auditoriums while Blumenauer opted for telephone conferences Aug. 11 and 14.
Meanwhile, those shouts you heard this week were Rep. David Wu being filleted at Portland's Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center on Tuesday, where Wu was booed and called a fascist. Rep. Kurt Schrader held three public meetings this month and Rep. Peter DeFazio is holding no fewer than 14.
If Schrader and DeFazio are braving crowds in their far more conservative districts, Blumenauer could have shown up at a town hall in inner Southeast Portland. Instead, he fuels the conspiracies by hiding behind closed doors.
Blumenauer spokeswoman Erin Allweiss said the purpose of the phone conferences wasn't to hide but to reach more people. She denied that failing to appear would give fodder to the loony fringe.
"He has been more than open," Allweiss said. "The information is on our website. This is an opportunity to get as many people involved as possible."