Just Desserts

I’m not normally the guy putting up political YouTube videos, but this was just too funny to pass up. Ill. rep Baron Hill talks down to a journalism major about why she’s not allowed to record video during his town hall: because videos invariably end up showing compromising moments on YouTube. And now here he is, hectoring the girl, on YouTube.

Lesson: For politicians, life is like the Internet. If you do something stupid, it will always be there for everyone to see.

26 Responses to Just Desserts

  • “Lesson: For politicians, life is like the internet. If you do something stupid, it will always be there for everyone to see.”

    Amazing how many of them still don’t realize that. The internet has changed everything about politics and so many practitioners are showing they have a very steep learning curve.

  • Desserts, Indiana.

    Agreement on … well, not stupidity, but errors.

    That said, I think it’s … unwise to suppose one’s public meetings won’t be broadcast on the internet. Somewhere. Eventually politicians will get the message, and they will be inclined to more circumspection in their public appearances. And that will be good, right?

  • It seems to me that the Congressman was in the right here. You don’t have the right to film a Congressman’s townhall if he doesn’t want you to. The fact that a video ended up on YouTube seems less a matter of just deserts than of vindication.

  • “You don’t have the right to film a Congressman’s townhall if he doesn’t want you to.”

    Why not? He is an elected official meeting with constituents. I doubt that there is any law giving him the right to unilaterally stop video taping of a public meeting. Even if he did have the right, he was a complete idiot for exercising it, especially in a district where, except for 2008, his victory totals have been unimpressive and he lost his seat for two years in 2004.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baron_Hill

    His perennial opponent Mike Sodrel, who beat Hill in 2004, is hinting that he might run against him in 2010.

    http://hoosierpundit.blogspot.com/search/label/Mike%20Sodrel

  • If he does not want compromising moments, then he simply should not create any.

  • I agree with Blackadder here; this is not to say I think he is wise to say “don’t film,” because that will encourage it. On the other hand, I understand why he says it — it is very easy to take such film out of context.

  • The least interesting question here is whether the Congressman has a legal right to bar videotaping of a town hall meeting that he convenes. People have the “right” to do all kinds of stupid, immoral, and wrongheaded things. A congressman who convenes a public meeting of his constituents with the stipulation that it may not be recorded is making a foolish decision at several levels, but the most important level is that he will be understood as behaving like a potentate rather than a servant.

  • “The least interesting question here is whether the Congressman has a legal right to bar videotaping of a town hall meeting that he convenes.”

    The fixation, in part, on rights. What about common courtesy? If a person hosts an event and asks people not to do something … take video, get drunk, spit tobacco juice on the carpet … what does it say when people do not heed a request? Even a servant can ask, “Please extend your leg further so I can shine your shoe.”

  • “What about common courtesy?”

    Mr. Hill was showing zero courtesy, common or otherwise. Townhalls used to be photo-ops for members of Congress. I guess Hill didn’t get the memo that times have changed quickly. Elected officials had better get used to being video taped by constitutents. That genie is never going back in the bottle.

  • Well, Donald, I didn’t watch DC’s video. I have no reason to doubt the congressman may have acted a bit like a rump if you say he did.

    The question then shifts: does it make a difference, then, if a potential YouTube target says please and thank you? Or if somebody demands you take your crappy boots off at the door, does that give you license to track mud where you please?

  • I do think that the journalism major shows herself quite a child of the moment with her phrasing “isn’t that my right?” I don’t see that video taping a townhall is any kind of a right.

    What does strike me as amusing here is that the girl asks a question very politely, having clearly obeyed the request to not use her video camera.

    The congressman then proceeds to put her in her place pretty rudely, explaining that it’s his townhall and no one can tell him how to run it — all the while being caught on video by someone else in the room (from the quality, I’d guess it’s someone using a cell phone to record the video). If the congressman had seen fit to explain his position politely, there would have been no YouTube moment, but instead he takes the assumed safety of there being no video cameras to give a college student the “I’m way better than you” treatment, and ends up as a YouTube sensation.

    I do think that it has to do with the importance of politeness, but the politeness of the congressman is the problem here. If he’d remained polite despite his assumption there were no cameras running, there would have been no YouTube notoriety despite someone disobeying his rules.

  • This wasn’t a private home Todd or a private meeting for invited guests only. This was a public meeting held by a Congressman and anyone, by definition, could attend. Video taping such a meeting is commonly done by members of Congress for campaign commercials to show how in touch they are with their constituents. Now members of the public are doing precisely the same thing and some of the members of Congress are foolish enough to say publicly that they think is terribly unfair. This is not about manners, but rather a testament to just how totally out of touch some members of Congress are.

  • I would disagree that the Congressman’s response was rude (he gets a little snippy towards the end, after he’s already been booed). In fact, if his response is considered rude, it’s hard for me to imagine how he could have explained his position without coming across as rude. Maybe if he’d said “I paid for this microphone” people would be applauding him. But I doubt it.

    As for the question of whether he could prohibit people from videotaping, come on. Suppose I had stood up at the townhall and started playing a violin. Presumably I would be asked to stop or leave. By whom? By the same people who told the young lady to stop recording. Why? Because they set up the townhall, and have the authority to set the conditions under which it is held.

  • Apples and Oranges BA. Your playing a violin would serve no useful purpose, while video taping a townhall does, and that is why Hill didn’t want it done. He realizes the political climate and he doesn’t want a video to add to his electoral difficulties. Ironically his futile attempt to stop video taping has added a great deal to his 2010 problem as the ad writes itself.

    A townhall is specifically set up for a Congress member to hear from his constituents. Some of Hill’s attendees want to video tape the process. Hill had a choice and he made the decision to attempt to enforce a self made rule against video taping which is clearly unenforceable due to modern technology. He now looks foolish on YouTube. Good. May his discomfiture be a lesson to other politicians who do not yet realize that they no longer control this process of public meetings alone.

  • “This wasn’t a private home …”

    What is it with the legalese of rights, privacy, et cetera? Isn’t “privacy” the mantra of the pro-choice effort? Are you sure you want to associate your argument with it?

    There are technical reasons why amateur video capture isn’t always a great idea. I for one feel frustrated when the questions from the floor aren’t properly mic’ed and equalized, like the main speaker usually is.

    And sure, a Fox-style editing of comments is well within the technical capability of many videographers. The ad, by the way, doesn’t write itself. It will need some editing, which I’m sure will be provided.

    So I went ahead and watched the video. I withdraw my assumption Donald was right. He was quite wrong. The representative stated his policy firmly but politely and was booed before he finished his statement. He reacted to it by stating his policy in a more stern tone of voice. Not what I would have done, but it wasn’t a butthead expression like his detractors. He didn’t seem at all discomfited to me.

    Not seeing what came before this exchange, it’s hard to tell if the boo-birds were just being boorish because they had a bad day or if the previous minutes weren’t going well for them.

    Like most anything else, context means quite a bit. I think Rep Hill was within bounds to request the meeting not be taped. The one who did tape it showed her or his colors by continuing to do so.

  • “The one who did tape it showed her or his colors by continuing to do so.”

    Yep. An American who understands that elected representatives are public servants and not lords of the manor. Last I checked the YouTube video has had 170,000 views and over 1000 comments, almost all of them scathingly against Hill. I do encourage all Democrat members of Congress to adopt the same policy, and attitude, of Hill at townhall meetings, and I also encourage all members of the audience to treat all such policies against video taping at a public meeting with the complete disdain they merit.

  • The decorous Baron Hill calling opponents of ObamaCare at townhall meetings political terrorists. No wonder he doesn’t want some of his rantings video taped!

    http://hoosierpundit.blogspot.com/2009/08/baron-hill-repeats-political-terrorists.html

  • I found it most interesting when he went beyond “This is MY townhall meeting” to “You’re not gonna tell me how to run my congressional office.” Tell me Mr. Hill, what exactly do constituents do in your world?

  • “What is it with the legalese of rights, privacy, et cetera? Isn’t “privacy” the mantra of the pro-choice effort? Are you sure you want to associate your argument with it?”

    Right, because not wanting to be filmed in your own home and wanting to murder a child in private are just soooo similar.

    Is this a desperate times call for desperate measures sort of argument, or are you trying to keep us all entertained?

  • While the legality of it may be in question in the current milieu, a appeal to the principal of it:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    If those words were not written to allow the accurate documentation of the public words and actions of an elected official for the purpose of disseminating it for those not present… the I have no clue as to why it would be inserted in such a place between freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble.

    This act was clearly an attempt to control the press.

  • “Last I checked the YouTube video has had 170,000 views and over 1000 comments, almost all of them scathingly against Hill.”

    Well, Donald, you’re already batting .350 on this comment thread. At that rate, you’d have posted almost thirty dozen times on YouTube.

    “Is this a desperate times call for desperate measures sort of argument, or are you trying to keep us all entertained?”

    Well I’m not part of your echo chamber, if that’s what you mean. It’s a good thing for the GOP that in the US, unlike in parliamentary democracies, you can’t sink lower than second place on the political totem pole. At least nobody has in nearly a century.

    “This act was clearly an attempt to control the press.”

    Right. Everybody with a cell phone and an internet connection is a member of the press. I’d stick with “peaceable assembly” instead.

    Take the last word, Donald. Three-fifty is worth another plate appearance … or seven.

  • “It’s a good thing for the GOP that in the US, unlike in parliamentary democracies, you can’t sink lower than second place on the political totem pole.”

    Todd, there is a political wave building that will relegate the Democrat party to that position. All the signs are there for a wipeout of the Democrat majority in the House next year and I assume you must not pay much attention to the internal mechanics of politics or you would not make such a silly comment. The best political prognosticator in the business is Charlie Cook and this is what he wrote earlier this month:

    “Clearly, the Obama administration was mindful that in the Clinton era Democratic majorities in Congress spurned the White House’s fully formed proposals. But in trying to avoid a repetition of President Clinton’s mistakes, Obama opened the door to charges that he was outsourcing domestic policy to Democrats on Capitol Hill.

    Even in the best of times, Congress is unpopular. And now voters see Obama as having sent suggestions rather than proposals to the Hill, staking his future and reputation on a body that they hold in low regard. (On foreign-policy matters, where Congress plays a small role, Obama’s job-approval ratings remain quite good. It’s on the domestic side that his numbers are dismal.)

    “With 14 months to go before the 2010 midterm election, something could happen to improve the outlook for Democrats. However, wave elections, more often than not, start just like this: The president’s ratings plummet; his party loses its advantage on the generic congressional ballot test; the intensity of opposition-party voters skyrockets; his own party’s voters become complacent or even depressed; and independent voters move lopsidedly away. These were the early-warning signs of past wave elections. Seeing them now should terrify Democrats.”

    http://www.cookpolitical.com/node/4828

  • I wonder how Hill would have reacted to audience members making audio recordings of the meeting? Or jotting notes of what was said. While any sort of recording can be used by an opponent against you, it can also be used as verification in your favor if somebody accuses you of an outrageous remark. It’s easier to misstate when taking written notes than when you have a backup recording.

    Hill, and other elected reps, should suck it up and get into the habit of practicing their manners and making sure they know what they’re talking about to minimize the likelihood that they will be filmed looking bad. It beats having your words misquoted and used against you.

  • First of all, it is silly to predict the impending demise of one political party from the dumbest thing that one of its hundreds of members of Congress did. If that ever happened, we’d have no political parties at all. There is always a Republican or a Democrat doing something utterly stupid.

    And this is one of them. As a Democrat and a strong supporter of health care reform, I thank the heavens that town halls WERE videotaped so we can see certain elements of the opposition in all their ugliness. They not only won over no converts, but they gave us priceless moments such as the guy screaming at his Congressperson to keep the government’s hands off Medicare.

    But on the other hand, just exactly how far did this attempted ban on recording go? Were TV stations not allowed to videotape? Were print reporters not allowed to use audio recorders? And if you can’t ban all, then how on earth can you try to ban some?

    What next? Granting access to your public “town halls” only to those pre-selected members of the public you like? How George Bush can you get?

  • According to Rasmussen ObamaCare now is at its lowest ebb: 56% oppose-41% in favor.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2009/09/28/rasmussen-obamacare-falls-to-lowest-level-of-support/

    In regard to Medicare, in order to pay for ObamaCare there are substantial cuts planned in Medicare.

    “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proclaimed her support for this cost-cutting agenda on Thursday. “Half the bill will be paid for by squeezing excesses out of the [Medicare and Medicaid] system,” she said, “and there is $500 billion dollars to do that and we’re looking for more. That can be achieved—waste, fraud, redundancy, obsolescence, whatever it is.”

    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/sep2009/heal-s12.shtml

    The gentleman yelling at his Congresscritter about Medicare has every right to be concerned.

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