Wednesday, March 9, 2011

At listening session, Sensenbrenner, Vukmir, refuse to listen

On Tuesday night, Republican Congressional Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and Republican State Sen. Leah Vukmir held a joint town hall meeting at the Wauwatosa Public Library.

Unfortunately for those that attended, Sensenbrenner and Vukmir adjourned the meeting early due to the overwhelming presence of opponents of Scott Walker's budget bills. Apparently it was too much to ask of these two representatives to have a meeting where constituents could voice their grievances.

Vukmir state that she felt bombarded by the people in attendance. "It is very clear to me that the folks that came last night were there for two reasons, to disrupt and to intimidate," she said.

Sensenbrenner echoed those sentiments in a statement released by his office: "It is unfortunate that the same respect given at Congressman Sensenbrenner's Town Hall Meeting in Brookfield Sunday evening wasn't experienced [Tuesday] night."

But those that attended the meeting -- actual constituents and other members of the city's government -- paint a different picture of what transpired. One member described Sensenbrenner as "[swinging] his gavel anytime someone from the crowd voiced dismay." Some city officials described the crowd as civil, never out of control, and that the meeting was adjourned early due to Sensenbrenner and Vukmir's dissatisfaction with the crowd's attitude towards the budget bills.

The description of Sensenbrenner in this manner certainly fits his M.O. While acting as Judiciary Chairman in 2005, Sensenbrenner refused Democrats the right to speak at a hearing on the PATRIOT Act, shutting off their microphones, turning off C-SPAN cameras, and walking out of the room with his fellow Republicans.

It seems likely that's exactly what happened on Tuesday night in Tosa. Sensenbrenner, angry that the room was full of his ideological opposites, ended the meeting early with his colleague Vukmir, citing non-existent disruptions as the reason to do so.

Were the people there upset? Probably. Did they voice that frustration? No doubt. But "disruptive" is in the eye of the beholder, and Sensenbrenner has a terrible track record of making the determination of who is and isn't disruptive -- usually on the basis of one's political stance.

In fact, when Tea Party protesters invaded the town hall meetings of Democrats in the run-up to pass health care reform, Sensenbrenner praised those "disrupters" and scorned Democrats as not listening to the people.

So when Sensenbrenner is the recipient of similar protests, does he adhere to the same standard he required of Democrats? Of course not -- what a silly question to ask!

Whether Sensenbrenner and Vukmir agree with their constituents or not is up to them. It's also up to their constituents to determine whether they want to support them in the future. But calling off a town hall meeting because you disagree with the points of view of the majority present is disrespectful -- especially if the purpose of the town hall is to hear the concerns of your constituents. Sensenbrenner ought to be ashamed of himself, as should Vukmir, for how they conducted themselves on Tuesday evening, ignoring the voices of the people they supposedly represent. The least they could do, at a listening session, is listen.

No comments:

Post a Comment