What's the difference between a duck? Reflections on meetings with Representative Billy Long and Senator Claire McCaskill 04/19/2011
Representative Billy Long in Springfield, MO earlier this morning.
Senator Claire McCaskill in Billings, MO earlier this evening.
When we were growing up, my Dad used to tell my brothers and I two old riddles. One riddle explained why fire engines are red and the other riddle was "What's the difference between a duck?"*
Today, I had one of the 'what's the difference between a duck' days, only instead of a 'duck', I'd like to substitute 'politician'.
Like, What is the difference between a politician?
My morning started at the Experience Works Billy Long Senior Forum. Some 100 seniors gathered in the Boys and Girls club gymnasium to hear our Congressman, Billy Long, discuss "discuss issues impacting the lives of Southwest Missouri seniors.".
The unspoken irony was that Experience Works operates the federal government's Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) with funding from Title V of the Older Americans Act, and state and local grants-- And we all know how Billy feels about government money.
In a talk billed as "free and open to the public" Long said he gets 80 to 85 people wanting to see him 'every single day' but if you mention you are from the 7th district he will "push you to the top of the list".
Long told the seniors he thinks "government spending is out of control".
As he related how he voted for budget extensions before voting against the budget extensions before voting for them before voting against them, Long said, “A business cannot budget two and three weeks at a time."
A person sitting next to me commented upon hearing this, "They certainly can if it not doing so would wreck the economy."
Long said during the budget discussions they were "throwing out so many numbers I couldn't keep up with them." I thought this was a cue for this. Didn't happen. I guess this audience was more sophisticated than the Joplin Tea Party audience.
About this time Long started losing his audience and he started talking about our troops and how Congress was "playing chess with our troops". Long was referring, I think, to this press release he issued: Congressman Long: Support the Troops.
In an unintended irony, Long said that after he voted NO on the house budget compromise, a New York Times reporter asked him "Are you happy?" Billy wasn't, perhaps finally realizing that by voting against the budget compromise, Long was voting AGAINST our troops.
Long said we need people in Washington who are not afraid to take the hard vote, who don't care if they are not re-elected.
"There are so many people that are there for window dressing. They'll run down there and make a floor speech and I'll be back in the cloakroom right off the floor there, watching it on C-SPAN because I can hear it better than I can on the floor....and they'll come back and say, 'How'd I do? how'd I do?' and alltheir buddies will say, 'Aw, you did great, we're gonna take that and make a youtube video out of it.' "I'm not sure, but is he talking about congressman giving floor speeches and making youtube videos like this one?
Or maybe this one?
Long also said "he was not popular with leadership" because he's "not voting how they tell me to vote."
Once again alluding to the mythical "THEY", Long closed his remarks by saying "They shouldn't come up here with common sense ideas."
At the entrance to the gym, attendees were given the opportunity to write down questions to ask Long. Someone, maybe these two, chose which questions Billy would answer, or attempt to answer. Unlike Senator McCaskill's town hall meetings where the questions are pulled from a jar, the questions at today's event were pre-screened.
The first question was when would seniors receive a pay increase for Social Security. Long's long involved answer was that seniors vote and Washington listens when they speak. Later, when Long was asked which senior programs are on the chopping block, Long again did not give a direct answer. But he did tell the audience not to believe everything they read in the newspaper.
As one reader phrased it:
If you are going to stand in front of a group of your constituents and tell them not to believe what they read in the paper, you should at least tell them why. You should be well versed enough in the budget you voted for to explain what the misconceptions are and what the effects will or might be.
Another questions was about domestic oil drilling (Long's for it), one question was about debit card increases (Long didn't have a position)
When asked "How influential is the Tea Party?" Long said he had not joined the Tea Party Caucus because "(I) don't have time to go to every caucus there is." Luckily for us, he did have time to join the "Cowboy Hat Caucus".
In another easily checked comment, Long said "I'm voting more conservative probably than the tea party is right now."
Billy talked a little more about cardboard boxes, nails from China and Mexico which means it's time to cue this important video, "How do you keep a free market free?"
After Long's prepared remarks and the pre-screened questions, some from the audience came up to Billy for more "Billyisms". I was part of this group, we had a question to ask Billy.
Unfortunately, this was as close as I got. A phalanx of young men surrounded Long, continually cutting me off at the pass.
I soon tired of playing hide and seek with the congressman and headed over to the anteroom for the press conference.
What happened next has gone viral: Representative Billy Long Doesn't Play Well With News Media
Not able to attend the press briefing, I waited outside by the side door, patiently, thinking maybe I might be able to ask Long a question as he exited the building.
I too saw the black F150 with Bozo the Clown on the dash. The driver was furiously texting.
When I walked down the side of the building, I saw who the driver was texting.
Then I realized what they were texting. As I turned back to the black F150 with Bozo the Clown on the dash, I saw the passenger door shutting as the truck pulled away.
I went home, got in my dump truck and went to the leaf dump.
This evening, I went to a Claire McCaskill function in Billings. About 40-50 people were gathered in a side room waiting for McCaskill to arrive. And when she arrived, what a difference to this morning's event.
McCaskill is accessible to her constituents,
McCaskill is in the crowd,
No phalanx of young metro somethings running interference
I was welcome to wander about and take photos
Senator McCaskill spoke from the heart.
Senator McCaskill shares a moment with a long-time supporter
In her remarks, McCaskill said she was "looking out for our pocketbooks." She is working hard with her collegues taking care of the people. She spoke of the last 13 months of private sector job growth, of protecting Medicare and Social Security, not that there aren't some changes that need to be made.
McCaskill "won't balance the budget on the backs of seniors and the middle class."
After her remarks, the Senator came up to me and introduced herself, and asked about my day -- I was glad to share my opinions with her.
As the Senator and her entourage left in her black Ford, I couldn't help thinking about the last time I saw a politician getting into a black Ford.
Oh yeah, the difference between a duck? One of its feet are both the same. Long and McCaskill are both my elected representatives. Long's demeanor today was that of a tired, angry old man who looked exhausted and angry and not welcoming of any dischord, in complete contrast to McCaskill.