Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska’s current First Congressional District representative, convened a townhall late Monday afternoon at Southeast Community College. Folks who read our articles regularly know that we have written quite a few about Fortenberry, and that he is the elected official who has been the most "Deserving of Darts" since we adopted our friendly inn / neighborhood tavern theme a little over a year ago.
Considering the time spent focused on the Congressman, one would think that there would be nothing new to be learned from attending one of his townhalls. But, as the title of this article indicates, it was a very mixed bag. I will mostly leave "the bad and very ugly" for another article, but it's worth noting that despite a quite a few previous experiences listening to and watching the Congressman both live and in person, nothing quite compares to observing the gentleman when he is interacting with a standing room only crowd of uncharacteristically boisterous constituents.
Readers will forgive me for needing a little time to unscramble my brains after the two hour session. Some hours of contemplation and a bit of conversation with my husband and Linda have brought the matter some additional clarity, but I'll need a little more time to sort things out fully. The bottom line is, that the unscrambling process requires sorting Monday's events by degrees of bad.
When Linda and I spoke later in the evening, she recalled a video, which was a campaign commercial spoof we'd included in one of our previous articles about Rep. Fortenberry. Unfortunately, the townhall experience evoked this memory:
So, what was good about Monday's townhall? I have two positive remarks for Congressman Fortenberry - credit should be given when it is due, no matter how much disagreement might exist. As a constituent, I appreciate the fact a townhall was convened, and second, that the Congressman took a lot of questions and stayed until the line of people wishing to speak one on one with him was down to the last man (actually, a woman, which was me).
On an even brighter note, some teamwork, footwork, and a whole lot of moxie proved worthwhile. Some of this effort resulted in several important revelations and even made a bit of news. Teamwork resulted in the construction of several questions in hopes that at least one would get through. Ultimately, all the subjects were covered and two of our questions were asked.
One of those questions required some research. Based on Linda's previous examination of Rep. Fortenberry's voting record, which was based on taxpayer watchdog ratings, we knew that the Congressman has had a poor record on spending and taxation since he took office in 2005. This fact and his recent vote on the debt-limit bill, which has already proven disastrous, caused us to undertake an even deeper analysis of Fortenberry's voting record on spending and taxation. By looking more specifically at the contents of legislation and Fortenberry's corresponding votes in this policy area, we confirmed that he righteously deserves - and then some - the label "big spender". We believed it was important to reveal this fact to other attendees of the townhall and to directly challenge the Congressman regarding his credibility on devising any substantive solutions to America's spending problems.
And this is where the moxie comes in. Linda chose to ask the question we constructed, despite the fact that a previous exchange brought between Fortenberry and another constituent, who presented a similarly tough challenge, resulted in obvious anger from the Congressman.
The question Linda asked:
"I've researched your voting record since you took office in 2005, and it's a fact that you are the biggest spender in Nebraska's Congressional delegation. Some of the things that you voted for make absolutely no sense."
I'll report on the details of the exchange when I've sorted the whole thing out, but I should note that it took some skill and persistence on Linda's part to get her entire question out, Mr. Fortenberry attempted to derail her, in ways that were...somewhat odd.
Linda persisted and her challenge to the Congressman made news; her question leads the story in the Omaha World-Herald and is noted in the Lincoln Journal-Star (including her picture).
A couple of notes: The photo of Rep. Fortenberry appears to be from the OWH files. While OWH reported crowd size to be 150, my notes and Linda's count are in agreement with the estimate of 200+, as reported by the Lincoln Journal Star.
Considering that deeper research wholeheartedly confirms what we previously know and that message has now had at least a greater chance of getting in front of some Nebraskans for their potential contemplation, we would like to recall another song we've used in a prior Fortenberry article.
Congressman Fortenberry, we dedicate this song to you: