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on Monday, June 14th, 2010 at 9:13 am by Radley Balko
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This is the Republican Party pushing buttons (and doing it well). It will be the next big thing. Stick a kid on the street with a Flip Video and have him ambush a politician with a loaded question. Then claim outrage and make hay when one of them gets overly pissed about it. Post it on YouTube, with your operative’s face blurred out of course.
This is not a defense of the congressman, who should be sharp enough to see this for what it is, but it was a bullshit move.
The congressman acts like he’s drunk, in my opinion. At least judging from the way he moves and talks.
He’s also a jerk; all he had to do is say “No comment” and walk away, rather than acting like an asshole about it.
I think it’s fair to say that both sides employ the camera-in-the-bushes ambush. Max Blumenthal really started the trend when he’d ambush people at various right-wing events. (To hilarious effect, I might add.) I don’t really have a problem with it. You’re in a public space. You’re a public servant. Know to say “no comment” and move on. He wouldn’t have acted like this if it was a news network camera.
The student did exactly the right thing by not striking back.
Because the student did not strike back, Etheridge kept digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole. Note that the student repeatedly asked the Congressman to let go of his arm. By failing to do so, the Congressman went well beyond any reasonable standard of self-protection.
Also, if the student had done anything (even a simple breakhold maneuver, which is ridiculously easy against a one-hand grip), there is a good chance that Etheridge would have been able to play it up as if he were somehow wronged.
In all fairness, both journalistic and social research ethics requires interviewers to clearly identify themselves when approaching someone for a statement (with exceptions for personal safety). These guys really should have started off by introducing themselves by name and who they represented (stating they are students does not identify what university of if their project has been approved by the university. Granted, the response to not responding was not justified (the congressman should have just said no comment and kept on walking), but the interviewer were unethical in their approach.
“Fight back! Whenever you are offered violence, fight back! The aggressor does not fear the law, so he must be taught to fear you. Whatever the risk, and at whatever the cost, fight back!”
Col. Jeff Cooper
I should clarify. Yes, of course he is a dick. No, there is no way you could defend the crazy reaction he had. Yes, anyone should be free to tape in a public space and members of congress should expect to be engaged.
I guess I think the whole thing is kind of a bummer.
Go back to sleep, Eric. Walking up to someone on the street isn’t “ambush.” The kid said nothing derogatory or rude. And even if it is meant to be provocative, well, I’m glad they’re doing it, because SOMEONE ought to hold these people accountable.
Don’t let up on this guy — call his offices, contact the Office of Congressional Ethics, and send this to everyone you know. AN ATTACK ON ONE CITIZEN IS AN ATTACK ON ALL.
Two observations. First, the kid might not have fought back because the esteemed congressthing appears to have grabbed his camera. All other considerations aside, if the thug was knocked down, the camera might have been damaged.
re: #30: Actually, I was just thinking about how much I would personally be willing to contribute to make sure this gets all kinds of radio and TV play in his district. The answer is: a LOT. I might even go to the trouble of just buying some ads myself.
Politically, there are two ways Etheridge can handle this:
The first way is to make some derogatory comments about “smart-ass college kids trying to play ambush journalists.” This is the dumb way, but it will play with the Congressman’s partisans, who will ignore the fact that he grossly over-reacted.
The second way is to make a flat out apology with some comment about being startled and not thinking straight at the time. That would be the smart way as it would sit easier with his softer supporters.
Not that the public official isn’t behaving badly, but we have no context. After being burned by gotcha videos that turned out to be half truths or worse, I simply can’t jump on the wagon with you guys when a video pops up out of the blue depicting a politician acting badly out of the blue.
Remember North Carolina, Congressman Etheridge supports the Presidential commission for deficit reduction:
Watching this Presidential commission discuss strategies for deficit reduction is like watching a pack of gluttons talk about getting in shape while they prowl up and down a buffet table. They linger over the deep-fried mortgage interest deduction caps, dip their spoons into the rich chocolate of the VAT tax, and lick their lips as they wait for the expired Bush tax cuts to pop out of the oven. They end up perched on the edge of creaking chairs, tittering at the wonderfully naughty idea of devouring everyone’s 401k plans for dessert. It’s a nauseating spectacle that will only end when they’re escorted from the restaurant by angry voters.
Yeah, I’m angry. Not quite Congressman Etheridge angry, but I also did not put two shots of bourbon in my coffee this morning. Then again, I am not a mean drunk.
Actually the kids question “Do you fully support the Obama agenda” is an ambush question, its akin to “When did you stop beating your wife”. So clearly the kid is going for a gotcha moment rather than a serious debate. (typical right wing nut jobbery). This ain’t a class project like he claims. Of course the congressman should have responded with question about what specific policies he was talking about.
The second way is to make a flat out apology with some comment about being startled and not thinking straight at the time. That would be the smart way as it would sit easier with his softer supporters.
I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic (this forum needs blue font). Do you really think that his question was an ambush question? He easily could have said “no comment” or the less incriminating “I support parts of the agenda. Look at my voting record for the specific ways.” Or, shockingly, he could have answered the question substantively. He is a god-damned politician who should have the baseline competence to answer something as simple as whether or not he supports an agenda.
Assuming that the kid was being a jerk, an elected official who wants to remain an elected official needs to learn how to respond without being a grabby dick. Also, they probably shouldn’t be walking around shitfaced during the day. I thought I was watching a video of Sean Penn.
An hour ago, the assault was already the top search on Google for “Bob Etheridge” and is on his Wikipedia page. Look at his own home page: he cannot spell “healthcare” and his link to “education” is broken….which is appropriate since he about to be SCHOOLED
David: I’m not so sure it is a career ender. He could spin this as being a tough guy, which would be a good move against a GOP opponent. I recall a certain politician who was caught sleeping with an intern, impeached, and ended with higher ratings as a result.
The old, “But it was a trick question” defense to assault, eh?
I’m not defending the congressman, I’m pointing out there is something fishy with the “students” (who won’t identify themselves). It clearly wasn’t intended to be a fair question, and its not: the word “Agenda” has negative connotations, that is why the right wing relentlessly tries to associate it with Obama, instead of talking about issues. Agenda sounds sinister. Yes, this was part of a “project”, a right wing hit project no doubt.
Incredibly stupid and criminal response to an inane loaded question.
This Congressman is either a dangerous psycho or a complete drunk or both.
The video is partly edited so maybe there is more but it really seems that the Congressman should have just ignored and walked on.
I do dislike the “ambush journalism” stuff because I think it puts scoring points ahead of seeking substantive information. That said this guy looks like a buffoon and probably just ensured he will not be re-elected.
Having worked on Capitol Hill before I can say it is quite typical to be confronted with wacky activists and all sorts of nonsense (even when you are, as I was, a very low level worker with no decision making power of any kind). The fact that this guy couldn’t handle the daily grind of political life on the national stage without putting some guy in a head lock is pretty shameful.
1. They were under absolutely no obligation to identify themselves, nor does that in and of itself represent anything suspicious. I would never identify myself to a public official in ANY circumstance unless I was in a situation in which I was legally required to do so.
2. Who gives a crap what their motivation was for asking the question, or whether it was worded in an inflammatory way? What difference does it make?
There were a couple moments where I really wanted to head-butt the respected gentleman from North Carolina. Grab me like that, buster, and you’ll walk away with a broken arm and a concussion!
However, there’s more going on here than was recorded on video. Was this their first approach to the congressman? Had they been “ambushing” him before this footage starts and — if so — did he first try to walk away with more acceptable mumbles of “no comment”? What happened during the edits? None of this fully justifies grabbing the guy and acting like a booze golem chanting, “Who are you?”
This was almost certainly a “right wing” ambush where the kid hoped to catch the other party’s guy saying something Drudge-worthy and he got lucky. Really, really lucky.
So what? So what? So what? It’s a politicians JOB to deal with the public and media who may or may not hold the same viewpoints as they do. I just don’t get going on and on and on and on about these kids’ agenda. how in the holy hell does that matter? Why should Congress”man” Muckety Muck only have to deal with public and media who agree with him?
Also, I can think of a ton of appropriate responses to this and any other question he doesn’t want to answer:
“Hey guys, I’m on my lunch break, can we talk later?”
“I’m off to a committee meeting, I’ll have to catch you later”
“Here’s my office number, one of my staff will be happy to go over my record with you”
“Here’s my website – you can see my voting record there”
“Hi, how are you doing? Great to see you. Bye.”
I’ve been bothered by complete strangers while walking down the street (bums, religious proselytizers, hookers, touts etc.) about 3000 times in my life and have never felt the need to assault any of them. The congesscritter need to get a grip on the realities of life in the big city (and his temper).
Rep. Bob Etheridge apologized Monday for his physical confrontation with two young men who identified themselves as students and asked if the North Carolina Democrat “fully supports the Obama agenda.”
“I have seen the video posted on several blogs. I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction and I apologize to all involved. Throughout my many years of service to the people of North Carolina , I have always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect. No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response. I have and I will always work to promote a civil public discourse.”
What a lovely non-apology. Am I reading that correctly as, “They totally had it coming, I just shouldn’t have stooped to their level”?
OK…so after making the blog rounds on this issue, I have come to a couple conclusions that I want you all to help me with:
1. Anybody who thinks that the congressdouche was justifed and that this assault was no big deal should promptly be asked to post their name and address online so that we can make sure they are assaulted. You know, since they think it’s OK and all, and since they’ve provided just cause for retaliation through their provocative and anonymous comments.
2. The answer to this whole “this is Breitbart” bullshit is simple: all of us, all the time, videotape every public official we meet, even if he’s just picking his nose. All of them need to get knocked off their high horse in a hurry.
“1. They were under absolutely no obligation to identify themselves, nor does that in and of itself represent anything suspicious. I would never identify myself to a public official in ANY circumstance unless I was in a situation in which I was legally required to do so.”
I agree – they had no obligation to identify themselves to the congressman or others on the street. I’m talking about how the video has been posted only anonymously and the faces of the operatives have been obscured. Why is that? It is a clear indication that something more sinister is at play here. I’ll bet we find big right wing money is behind this AND that the video’s (like what they did to acorn) don’t tell the whole truth.
“2. Who gives a crap what their motivation was for asking the question, or whether it was worded in an inflammatory way? What difference does it make?”
It indicates that there is more to this story, i’d like to know what that is.
Remember the photo of the South Vietnamese police chief shooting an unarmed man in the head that was so inflammatory? The rest of the story is that the man shot was an NVA insurgent captured at a pit containing the bodies of 34 people, including wives and children of local police.
This video is suspicious, I think we deserve the rest of the story before we make judgements. Perhaps if you a the video taken from the congressman’s point of view you would say “wow, the congressman demonstrated remarkable restraint given the situation” .
to MassHole @18: I would have done more than merely “bitch slap” him. He would be dealing with a broken nose at the very least.
McGillican @25: Ethics? Like this pile of shit knows anything about ethics. Congressthings are the perfect example of un-ethical behavior in most everything they do.
MacK@26: He is not a “gentleman” nor should he have been treated as such.
Chris @27: Bingo! This scum is a congressthing. He thinks he is above the law and needs to be taught a lesson. A lesson in the facts of violating an individuals personal space and a citizens right to question his ilk…anytime, anwhere.
Psion @72: First part is correct; this is a the perfect opportunity to head-butt him across the bridge of the nose. Second part of your comment is wrong….”right wing”, left wing it does not matter. He is supposed to be a public servant and has lost sight of that fact. His job is to answer questions not to be a bully.
TDR @80: Amen!!! His actions bespeak his sense of arrogance toward the people.
Sorry, Kevin, but since the point of my second part (actually third) wasn’t to blame right or left wing (you will note I put “right wing” in scare quotes originally), I wasn’t wrong at all. Y’see, I was making conclusions about motivations. It’s the usual us vs. them mentality where one party thinks it always has to get the dirt on the other in the hopes of tarring with ridiculously wide brushes.
And as I and others have pointed out, we still don’t know what else happened in these encounters. Yep, the “distinguished gentleman from North Carolina” earned a trip to the emergency room with his behavior, but the video shows nothing about how the whole thing started.
I remember when Buzz Aldrin punched Bart Sibrel for claiming he lied about the Moon landings and calling Aldrin a coward. Sibrel didn’t touch him, but I sure applauded when Buzz knocked some sense into him. Etheridge is no Aldrin, but I’m not ready to assume a nameless, faceless videographer is completely innocent, either.
Not to excuse the Congressman’s behavior, but what kind of question is, “do you fully support the Obama agenda?” supposed to be? What is Breitbart’s motivation in asking questions that way? Just get to the point.
Criminal charges would be nice, unfortunately the congressman enjoys immunity while Congress is in session. You might be able to construe this as “breach of the peace” but I have scant hope of law enforcement actually having the stones to cuff and stuff. Anyone who tries will probably find himself “back to busting gay bathhouses.”
(Bonus points for naming movie, character, and actor)
“They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses,”
Article I, Section 6
This may be covered under breach of the peace, but again, find a cop willing to put the arm on a Member of Congress for something like this. The cop that does will be on every crap detail and graveyard shift until retirement.
“I have seen the video posted on several blogs. I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction and I apologize to all involved.”
LMAO! He sounds just like a cop. To paraphrase:
“Now that the video has become public, I deeply regret having made a complete fucking moron of myself and realize now that I should have grabbed the camera out of that little twerp’s hand, thrown it under a bus, and then complained to a nearby cop that the two kids assaulted me, whereupon they would have been arrested, charged, and convicted because, after all, I am a U-fucking-S Congressman and those two kids are nothing but inconsequential little people.”
For an arrest to be made, the little pisher with the video camera would actually have to come forward and make a complaint. Considering that he’s gone to the trouble of blurring out his face on the video, I doubt he’s interested in making his identity public. Plus, the he’d have to face the justifiable ridicule of swearing out a complaint against a man 50 years his senior for holding his wrist for a half minute.
And you’re no partisan hack! You’d of course be making these same eloquent points if the guy with the video camera had been Max Blumenthal, and the abusive member of Congress had been, say, John Boehner.
Au contraire, my friend. I am the biggest partisan hack on this site. Why would I bother denying it. If a Republican congressman had acted this way, I’d be calling for him to be taken to the black prison at Bagram and held for questioning.
To brush up your analogy, let use somewhat more equivalent personnel, shall we? How about a similarly aged GOP back bencher, how about Cliff Stearns of Florida instead of the somewhat younger and more powerful Boehner. And instead of the irrepressible Max Blumenthal, let’s posit two anonymous, progressive funsters who are reputedly associated with George Soros.
How does that look to you now?
I mean, sure I’d try to play this up if I thought I could inflict a little damage on the other side. Why not? All’s fair, etc. I’d be very leery of the source, though, as well as the real possibility that this thing could turn around and bite me in the ass.
A mean, why are these guys anonymous? Why go to the trouble of blurring out the face? What are they trying to hide? Why don’t they release the full video files from both cameras? Was there any editing/sound funny business?
At the end of the day, this is two young turks shoving a camera right in an old (likely drunk) man’s face and old man doing a little grabbing/shoving during the encounter. Is that really something the police should be involved in? Is that your opinion as a libertarian?
You know what the big difference here is? If this had been a GOP member and a couple of over eager, left-wing douchebags getting shoved around a little, the GOP member would have already sent out an e-mail blast trying to fund raise off of this little incident. Book it.
Fuck you….not that Radley can’t handle his own shit but you are an asshole.
You are using subterfuge to divert attention form the real issue and that is; the congressthing should have answered the question or said no comment but the minute he put his scummy hands on the kid with the mic he was way over the top….drunk or not!
Don’t make excuses for this asshole who is overly impressed with his self worth. Don’t go off on some stupid nonsense about left or right side of the aisle. That is not what this is about. What it is about is proper control and respect of others even if you don’t like their tactics or the question.
What this elite pile of shit did was demonstrate how he thinks he is better than those he alleges to “serve”. HE IS NOT.
Hey, give this congressman a break! Geez! The guy was drunk, and he sees this sexy young college kid come up to him with a camera, what’s he supposed to do? Naturally, since’s he’s into domming as a homosexual BDSM enthusiast, he tries to assert control over the young kid, hoping he’ll act really submissive. Then, he realizes he’s in a public place, not the gay leather bar he just left, so it’s probably a political ambush, so the next thought through his mind is “Crap! This is going to be all over youtube tomorrow!” so then, his mammalian brain reasserts control over the reptilian brain, …and… no harm done, right? Friends again? ;)
…So what if he revealed that he believes there’s no such thing as an individual first amendment right to a free press? So what if he revealed that he believes that the freedom of the press should only apply to people who have a “press pass” issued by someone who has the blessing of the divine oligarchs of the federal reserve? So what if his private, personal (now public) view is that the common man is simply chattel for his tax-financed retirement?
After all, noone in the USA has the balls to hold him accountable for his views, and everyone else in congress feels exactly the same way!
The USA is full of “libertarians” too meek ever to pull the trigger on these assholes. Joe Stack proved that (even he couldn’t live with the risk of capture and a trial that comes with “part II”). There was no violent rebellion after Wilson sold our kids to the federal reserve, and there will be no rebellion ever. After all, when the whites saw slavery on the horizon, they lied to themselves and said “Maybe the universal laws of economics won’t apply to my kids. Besides, they’re white, I’m sure they’ll find a way to stay in charge!”
…So much for that. And now the old cowards who shrank from any kind of intellectual responsibility are dying. They accepted the physical burden of wars they didn’t ask for, thinking that physical bravery would exempt them from the burden of intellectual honesty. Ooops!
…You don’t get another chance, you weak-willed, useless American filth. Go to the grave with a smile on your face, as failures who chose comfort over freedom, with slavery for your own kids as part of the deal. Condemn the young as rebels and delinquents, and never question your own role in selling America into communist rule. Smile when you remember “the gipper”, and push from your mind the S&L bailouts under his doddering rule.
America the dutiful, god shed his waste on thee, and crown they herd with brotherhood, for proletariat’s grain! Collectivists with shit for brains, all scoundrels with bent knees, America in servitude, …from sea to shining sea!
I’d better get to bed soon. Since the SEC made a law in 2001 that says that I can’t trade stocks based on pattern recognition, I now have to trade stocks based on the advice of a stockbroker/government-protected-scoundrel. That means longer hours for me, since I’m just an American slave, not one of the protected class. You see, if I had $25,000, then the rules for stock-trading slaves wouldn’t apply to me, because I’d have a higher status as a milk-cow that produces lots of good cheese for my government overseers (Oh, wait, the rules are really to protect me from my own stupidity, right? LOL!!!!). Hopefully, I’ll make enough money by waking up early and working hard to move up one rung in the echelon of slaves, perhaps finally to “house negro”. Then, maybe I’ll finally be able to trade a few of these depreciating pieces of paper for 1/1,000,000,000,000,000 of the gold in existence, so I can be 1/1,000,000,000,000,000 as powerful as my federal reserve masters. That way, I can harbor some lovely delusions about being free when I die, because it sure aint happening in this lifetime.
If this congress critter tried to hug me like that, he would have had to parry a stiff blow to the trachea.