Let’s say you have to take an important exam. Fortunately, you have a staff that gets the questions in advance and prepares the answers for you.
That was Sen. Steve Daines’ “teletownhall” meeting last night — a rambling pile of alt-facts from a scripted Republican playbook.
I found out about the teleconference from a Facebook post 15 minutes before it started, and logged in. An operator took my question and then I listened in as Daines pontificated, and pimped for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, while his staff scrambled for talking points to the callers’ queries.
It was a classic case of misdirection — verbose, disconnected responses to questions asked — and a piss poor excuse for a town hall meeting.
Most of the questions took Daines to task. Callers wanted to know why he voted for Secretary of Education Betsy Devos; they were worried about their health care if the ACA is repealed; they wondered what would happen to Montana’s Superfund sites if the EPA is dismantled; they asked about any Trump/Russia connections.
Daines heaped praise on DeVos, gave bogus health care statistics, told us he was just trying to reign in the EPA’s “overreach,” and said he opposed an independent investigation into Russia’s alleged influence in campaign and administrative affairs.
A guy from Bozeman, with an obvious science background, wanted to know why Daines supported Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s first official act: ending the ban on lead bullets, shot and fishing tackle. To say that Daines was out of his depth in responding would be an understatement.
He gave a backhanded compliment to Democratic congressional candidate Rob Quist saying he liked his music but then parroted the party line, Quist is “too liberal for Montanans.” He hinted that Quist would make folks register their guns and that he’d also be welcoming radical Islamist terrorists into our communities with open arms.
Daines also took a poll, asking callers to push 2 if they supported Gorsuch for Supreme Court Justice or 3 if they were opposed. Toward the end of the phone conference, he released the numbers: 56% in favor, 25% opposed and the rest unsure or no opinion. This surprised me as it seemed most of the callers had a bone to pick with the good Senator. A show of hands at a real town hall meeting would have been more believable.
But a real town hall meeting isn’t in the offing. Daines wouldn’t be able to prescreen questions or have staff feeding him white papers and talking points. He’d have to deal with follow-up questions. There’d be more scrutiny of his impromptu polls.
He wouldn’t be able to choreograph the event and would have to give real, unscripted answers to the people, although you still might need those hip waders.