Columnist Max Blumenthal, writing for on-line politics and culture journal The Daily Beast, says the fierce and vocal opposition to health care reform is the perfect elixir for Sen. David Vitter, whose re-election prospects not long ago seemed dimmed by his brush with the D.C. Madam. But Vitter has found in his barnstorming tour of the state “surrogate campaign rallies for the scandal-scarred senator’s 2010 reelection bid,” forums where he can play spokesman to the anxieties of the anti-reform “mobs,” as some on the left have characterized them.
Unlike his Democratic colleagues who take all comers at their town halls, Vitter has sought to enforce a strict code of message control. According to a citizen journalist attending the August 8 Vitter town hall, “No one was allowed to spontaneously address the podium. There were no questions read that presented anything other than Vitter’s view and those who spoke with him. … Vitter was said to have no time to answer questions from the press.” Indeed, Vitter only responded to questions that were written on cards by audience members and screened in advance by his staffers.
Many of those attending Vitter’s town halls have been shepherded to the events by local chapters of TeaPartyPatriots.org, a supposedly grassroots network of national activists that happens to “partner” with the health-care and insurance industry-funded lobbying firm Freedom Works, which has directed angry mobs to Democratic events. At a town-hall meeting on August 10 in Jefferson Parish, many local constituents were reportedly turned away while Tea Party activists were allowed to enter. When the event concluded, Vitter rushed out of the back door and away from the press and his constituents, guarded by a phalanx of police officers.