[h/t John V. Moore]
Texas Governor Rick Perry has opened his candidacy for the GOP nomination with dog whistles and bombast, hitting on Ben Bernanke and President Obama with equal fervor. But perhaps the best contrast between the two of them can be seen here, where each of them has someone heckling them for an answer in a hostile, crowded environment.
Gov. Perry responds by poking his finger in the questioner's chest and telling him he doesn't know what he's talking about.
President Obama responds by engaging and correcting the misstatements of the tea party activists who are in his face, and after a couple of minutes, leaves the conversation after observing that they don't appear to be interested in listening.
Of course they're not. They were looking for the "media moment," which they've gotten on Fox News. That exchange at the end is so characteristic of what TeaPublican politics has done to our discourse. After the president explains the context and meaning to them, they just start shouting him down by cheerleading their cohorts to "stay strong." The final exchange is the equivalent of a middle school spat on their part. When the President says they're not interested in listening their response is that he's not listening to them.
At that, I roll my eyes and play my violin for them. Please. As if they care if he listens or not. For the record, it seemed that he was listening since he actually answered their questions.
President Obama's heckler was Ryan Rhodes. Rhodes is the state chairman for the Tea Party Patriots who organized protests against the president in 2010, bringing in other activists from six states. I wonder if the Koch brothers paid the bus fees. He wanted the press coverage, and now he has it.
As time goes on, I'm sure there will be more of this kind of disruption at President Obama's town halls, and I'm sure all of the conservative media outlets will use the confrontations to stoke up even more anger at him over nothing. Personally, I think he shouldn't feed the trolls. They managed to hijack this news cycle, leaving everything he said about issues or engagement with Congress floating on the wind. If he hopes to get his actual message out, it might be good for him to simply ignore the Republican plants in every town and stay on the message he's trying to convey.
To support that idea, here's a panel discussion on Megyn Kelly's show this morning where Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation, a man who routinely ramps up the rhetoric to a level that borders on violent, paints the Tea Party as a demonized group. I especially love it when he says he wants to round up "real Americans" to "take back" the White House.
This segment was the first of at least three. I've seen it on Megyn Kelly's show, Neil Cavuto's show, and now The Five. Clearly Fox News feels compelled to use this as a way to rehabilitate rudeness.