I think the Internet is one of mankind’s greatest achievements. Oh sure, I have to give credit to the Kellogg’s folks for conceiving the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pop-Tart. And I certainly want to tip my hat to Scott Boilen; if he hadn’t courageously asked, “What is stopping me from putting sleeves on a blanket?” then there would have never been a Snuggie®, and I wouldn’t have a thing to wear to my next job interview. But the Internet has brought us something very special indeed: The Citizen Journalist.
I have a feeling, though, that US Congressman Phil Hare disagrees. Representing, as he does, a district so gerrymandered that its tentacles encompass parts of Uzbekistan as well as the lost city of Atlantis, Hare seemed to have everything working in his favor. That is until a Flip Cam-wielding blogger captured some very unflattering footage of the Representative at a town hall meeting.
This was last April when, you may recall, the public debate over President Obama’s health care boondoggle had reached a rolling boil. As some of his constituents repeatedly challenged him to substantiate the constitutionality of the plan, Hare was perspiring and sputtering away until he finally spat out those words that even now resonate through cyberspace:
“I don’t worry about the Constitution on this, to be honest.”
Realizing the remark was politically disastrous, the Congressman made a half-hearted attempt at a save by saying, “I believe that it says we have the right to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’”
This backfired, of course. One nanosecond later a constituent corrected him, explaining to the Representative that he had just quoted the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution.
“It doesn’t matter to me! Either one!” a petulant Hare muttered. A moment later, in red-faced exasperation, he finally, angrily conceded he could not substantiate the constitutionality of Obamacare.
Once the video was posted on the Internet, it “went viral” as the kids say these days. (Truth be told, as I watched the clip, I was angered by Hare’s comments, but I still felt sorry for him. He looked like a June bug surrounded by a flock of hungry ducks.)
It was all downhill from there, of course. None other than Bill O’Reilly himself rode it for a full news cycle. So much political blood was drawn by it that Representative Hare even had to post a video rationalization on YouTube.
Eventually the entire incident faded from the public consciousness. That is, until this past weekend when, once again, Flip Cam + YouTube = headache for Phil Hare. The Congressman was at a dog-and-pony show at a hotel somewhere, when out from behind a potted plant a Citizen Journalist pounced on him.
Now, I ask you: If you had been subjected to a grilling like the Congressman had endured back in April, wouldn’t you have made sure that you had a 24-karat sound bite in the holster for the next time someone pulled out a video camera and asked, “So, where in the Constitution does it say that you can force people to buy health care?”
I would have. Phil Hare didn’t. He was bereft of bon mot. He offered no quaint, quotable quips. He merely sighed and said, “Oh, boy. We’re not going there again, are we?”
The rest of the clip is an increasingly awkward-looking attempt by the Representative to press the flesh with his supporters while the tenacious blogger stubbornly demands an answer. Finally, Congressman Hare steps in it again by telling a staffer who was trying to intervene, “Pat, don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it, Pat. It’s just silly stuff.”
And the blogosphere lit up like Aunt Gladys with a hot flash! (Note to Phil Hare’s handlers: Work up an answer to that question for your boy there. He’s starting to remind me of Basil Marceaux.)
Which brings me to Tuesday. Some dear friends invited me to attend a meet-and-greet for Hare’s opponent, Republican pizzeria-owner Bobby Schilling, held at the AmericInn in Monmouth.
As I listened to Mr. Schilling talk, a wicked idea struck me: I have a YouTube account. I write a blog. And I had a Flip Cam in my pocket! I decided to ambush this fellow and see how he handled it.
Pulling out my camera and sticking it in his face, I demanded, “Where in the Constitution does it say that you can force people to buy health care?”
“It does not,” Schilling said.
Well, okay then.
Calls to Congressman Hare’s office for comment were not returned by press time.
Check out my video of Hare vs. Shilling here: