Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Rep. Martha McSally, Former Rep. Ron Barber, and Courage

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 10:07 AM

I attended the Tuesday rally outside Rep. Martha McSally's office along with 125-150 others. It was organized by McSally Take a Stand, which, according to the group's handout, "has been calling for Congresswoman Martha McSally to hold public town halls in order that her constituents in CD-2 can speak with her in person." Petitions with over a thousand signatures were delivered to her office. The group even rented a room for a town hall in late February during Congressional District Work Week when representatives are supposed be in town to meet with constituents, and invited McSally to attend. The event will go on with or without the Congresswoman.

Tuesday afternoon after the rally was over, McSally held a tele-townhall, a quiet event where people ask questions from their home phones and she answers from the safety of her office. One questioner asked why she hasn't scheduled any recent face-to-face town halls. McSally defended herself by saying Democratic activists just want to use those events as political theater to ambush Republicans. And you know, she's not wrong. Democrats do hope to score political points by holding her feet to the fire and making her as uncomfortable as they can. I admit, it takes courage to schedule an event knowing you're going to be attacked verbally, to stand up in front of a group of constituents, many of them hostile to your ideas, and do your best to hold your own. But for someone who puts her 26 years in the Air Force at the top of her official biography, touting her courageous combat missions flying the A-10 Warthog in Iraq and her refusal to wear Muslim garb when she travelled off-base in Saudi Arabia, McSally is showing a distinct lack of courage under political fire.

By way of contrast, let me note an example of courage from her predecessor, Rep. Ron Barber. When Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot during her Congress on Your Corner event January 8, 2011, Barber was among 18 others shot at the event. Barber went on to win the congressional seat in 2012. He didn't have to continue Gabby's Congress on Your Corner tradition, but he chose to anyway, standing in the public square and taking questions and comments from constituents. Given his experience two years earlier, that had to be far more terrifying than facing a roomful of people at a town hall. His first of several Congress on Your Corner events was held four days after he was sworn in, a frightening echo of Gabby's January 8 event which was held four days after she began her third term.

It's also worth noting that Rep. Giffords stood in front of raucous, rowdy crowds during three town halls she held when the Tea Party was in full-on attack mode over the proposed Affordable Care Act. I attended one of them held in a packed high school auditorium. Republican activists were bussed in from around the Tucson area to disrupt the event. They stood and booed everyone who spoke in favor of the proposed health law, drowning out their comments. They cheered with equal fervor when someone spoke on their side, though they interrupted their cheering long enough to allow the speaker to be heard. Gabby stood her ground throughout the event.

It's McSally's choice whether she stands in front of an audience at an open, public town hall. However, she might consider the example of the two people who held the seat before her as she makes her decision.

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