The town hall held by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) on Tuesday night was a fun house.
One opponent was escorted out by aides after yelling too loudly. A flash mob started on the floor of the auditorium in which the town hall was being held. A man was kicked off the property after physically accosting an Obama supporter. Rampant interruptions and forceful questioning plagued the Congressman at every turn.
Moran played what cards he could. After promising to speak for a half hour and then take an hour and a half of questions, he spoke for over an hour, handed the microphone over to former Vermont Governor and health care activist Howard Dean — his co-host — and took approximately a dozen questions. Moran actually handed the mic to Dean for at least 10 of those questions, either chiming in on the side or deferring to the Governor entirely. Moran re-used talking points from his original material to provide most of the answers he did tackle himself.
“I asked my Congressman a question, not Howard Dean!” yelled one angry constituent during the Q&A, after Moran had deferred to Dean on yet another question.
Thousands of people snaked around the building in advance of the 6pm doors-opening at a high school in Reston, VA. Moran’s is a deep blue district, and the affinity of the protesters reflected that. Obama supporters handed out pre-printed signs, and many of the supporters seem to have come from a local hospital, in addition to consisting of many students from the school.
One worker who was registering names for the Congressman refused to speak to those who were visibly against the Democratic health care agenda, and discouraged her fellow workers from speaking to them, either.
“Don’t speak to her!” she whispered.
Moran jabbed back at attendees who talked out of turn: “Ma’am, really, sometimes people say more about themselves than they do about the issue when they yell like that.”
After he explained the process for taking questions and was met with loud jeers, he responded with a joke: “I mean, that wasn’t even a controversial statement!”
But it was clear the Congressman was frequently rattled. After one name was called from the question bin, someone posed as the individual who was called and asked their question anyway. When Moran discovered she was a poseur, he yelled “You’re not Miss Appleton! That’s totally inappropriate.”
When Moran asked if a name was pronounced a certain way, one questioner said “It is in Virginia.”
“I’ll pronounce it any way you want,” he replied.
Dean seemed to have a sense of humor about the whole thing.
“I’d like to be extremely brief,” he said in opening remarks, after the crowd had just gone wild over Moran’s opening statements, “because I’d like to hear from you, even though it’s clear I’m doing a lot of that already.”
Moran tried to address several issues during the course of the event, focusing on things he called health care “myths.” According to Moran, Obamacare wouldn’t mean “expanded government control over your health care,” specific end-of-life care would not be forced upon consumers by the government under the public option, and employers would provide more coverage, not less, under the proposed reforms. After making the claim that “there is no rationing of care under this plan,” the crowd booed, and then cheered, with the cheers taking over the boos.
Moran just shook his head.