Congressman Chip Cravaack held what was supposed to have been his first town hall meeting on Minnesota’s Iron Range on Tuesday evening. But the event at the Mountain Iron Community Center more closely resembled a sales pitch for the Ryan Budget than a town hall meeting. Much like the snake oil salesmen of yore, Cravaack adroitly attempted to spin a tale of how his product would cure all that ails you.
Worried about the debt, Medicare, jobs, national security?
No problem. The Ryan budget gets us out of debt, makes Medicare solvent while maintaining benefits, creates 2.5 million jobs and makes us more secure from foreign threats, he promised with a crocodile smile.
Cravaack even came armed with the modern day shill, a power point presentation filled with manipulative phrases, colorful graphs and ‘official’ numbers. He slickly pimped the plan to the crowd, strictly adhering to Tea Party talking points.
The problem for Cravaack was that astute Iron Rangers weren’t buying what he was selling.
They came to discuss the actual facts, not as Cravaack stated “the facts to the best of my ability”. Forced to go off script, his snake oil salesman persona gave way to the proverbial deer caught in the headlights, unsure of what to do next. The numbers he cited for various aspects of the budget were particularly problematic for him. When challenged, Cravaack became increasingly confused and/or inconsistent as to the sources (originally stated to be the CBO), to the point where one participant from Ely noted with disgust “He has no idea where those numbers are coming from”.
Cravaack was unprepared for the questions from his constituents and even more surprised that he was unable to placate the crowd by simply repeating the phrases “I work for you”, “I won’t vote for anything that won’t protect seniors”, “It’s the best plan I’ve seen”. When confronted by the fact that his votes have indeed hurt his constituents or they don’t like what he’s doing, he talked about being in the military, about working for his constituents, or just babbled nonsense, prompting many comments in the audience about his ability to ‘sling the bs”. I don’t recall anyone getting a direct honest answer, not even well-respected former Eveleth legislator Joe Begich who raised some specific concerns about Medicare and pointed out that even Newt Gingrich came out against the Ryan budget.
The standing-room only crowd of approximately 125 was comprised of constituents from Nashwauk and Keewatin on the western part of the Mesabi Range to Eveleth on the east. There were people from International Falls, Ely, and Duluth in attendance as well. Quite an impressive turnout, especially with the price of gas hovering around $4.00 per gallon. Many, I dare say most, were not given an opportunity to be heard or to have their questions answered as the bulk of the time was used for the power point presentation.
It is very clear that Rep. Cravaack had no intention of this being a true town hall meeting where he listened to his constituents. It was merely his way of getting a captive audience to listen to his snake oil pitch for the Ryan budget. This was a bait and switch, plain and simple.
We deserve to be treated much better by our congressman. And he will hear us in 2012.
Loudly and clearly.