A friend of mine finagled a ticket to attend a town meeting in Portsmouth, NH. Four of us answered seemingly innocuous questionnaires a few days ago and waited to be “chosen”, which I thought a strange way to hold a town meeting style event. To my cynical way of thinking, this odd procedure gave the appearance of an attempt at stacking the crowd, but then that’s just me.
We thought it strange also that of the two requests from New Hampshire, one request from Maine and one request from Massachusetts, the nod went to the one from Massachusetts. Hmmm…Long story short, there was a little swapping of the two tickets provided and she won. My friend and her son-in-law went to the meeting.
I watched the meeting from the comfort of my couch. After a couple of anticipated digs toward the previous administration which were met with wild applause, I began to smell a rat. There were nine questions asked. After the first seven softballs laced with praise for the plan were answered, the President asked for some challenging questions. The eighth “challenging” question was from a medical professional working at Portsmouth New Hampshire who wanted to know where additional doctors and nurses would come from. (Yawn)
In my opinion, only the last one was oh, so, slightly challenging, asking why the President does not chastise congress for not accepting the same program he proposes for us. I think he said we would basically have the same choices they have, but I’m still quantifying his response. He also assured the man (that stated that he had “turned himself in” on the website as a non-supporter) his people weren’t “collecting names” through the White House web site.
The meeting seemed to be the extreme opposite of what we are seeing across the country, and the transparency of this event was embarrassing. I spoke by phone with my friend and her son-in-law shortly after the meeting ended, and, armed with a few prepared questions, asked her the following:
1. Upon your arrival at Portsmouth High School, did you feel comfortable, or did you feel intimidated or controlled in any way?
Answer: Comfortable. There were people offering badges, which we politely declined…BUT there were two big buses that needed the way cleared for them and the Obama supporters cheered the buses.
2. Once inside, did you feel as though the meeting was stacked in any way with special interests? Did you see any signs?
Answer: We did not see any signs. I would say 80%-90% were Obama supporters. Clearly there was an out of state presence.
3. Were any questions asked that reflected your concerns?
Answer: The last question. (see above)
4. What was your question and were you allowed to ask it? Was there a satisfactory answer?
Answer: My question was similar to the last question, wondering if congress would give up their current plan for this one. I was not satisfied with the answer because it was still unclear.
5. By what you saw and heard, were the proponents and/or opponents respectful?
Answer: Yes, everyone was respectful but for the most part they were his supporters.
6. In general were you satisfied with your experience and if so, or if not, why?
Answer: Yes, I guess we were satisfied. He is a wonderful speaker, charismatic, and charming. We think a great part of the problem stems from the fact that neither side really understands or refuses to understand what he is proposing. What we heard today directly from him was articulate and convincing; if in fact it is true.
7. Do you have any additional comments?
Answer: Obama is a great speaker. We wished it was more of a 50/50 split. It was definitely staged. Media does not represent his position (what we heard today) very well. It seems both sides are very confused about the proposal because of conflicting news reports. My feeling was, when it was over, I needed to get out of there before I started believing him.
Personally I am disappointed with this town meeting. The stark contrast of support shown here is questionable to say the least. Had the President taken the hard questions asked in other town meetings, he would have done more to clarify his position and possibly gain the support and understanding he so desperately wants.
To read more from this writer please click here