“Twenty-five percent of my people believe the Pentagon and Rumsfeld were responsible for taking the twin towers down. That’s why I don’t do town meetings.”
–Rep. Collin Peterson, MN 7th District
Minnesota GOP Chairman Tony Sutton replies:
“Collin Peterson must immediately apologize for the outrageous and offensive comments he made about his own constituents. By stating that ‘twenty-five percent of my people believe the Pentagon and Rumsfeld were responsible for taking the twin towers down’ and that’s ‘why I don’t do town meetings,’ Peterson revealed just how out of touch and disconnected he has become in Washington. Given his liberal voting record, the real reason Peterson doesn’t hold town hall meetings is because he is afraid to face the residents of his district.”
Let’s seperate some issues here;
1) Do 9-11 “truthers” (conspiracy theorists) deserve to be shunned, ridiculed and avoided.
My attitude, having debated these people several times, is yes, they deserve shunning and ridicule. More importantly, almost all the falsifiable claims made by these conspiracy theorists have been proven wrong. (Popular Mechanics did a great job with this.)
2) Is Collin Peterson wrong about the number (25%) and is Sutton right about his interpretation? (Is it 25% of his district or just 25% of those who attend townhall meetings or is it 25% of Democrats in his district?)
To me, it sounds like Peterson is talking about Democrats or the people who attend townhalls. But, even if he’s talking about the entire district, there is some support for his assertion. The Wikipedia article on the subject cites several different polls (none too recent) suggesting 36% of the American population believes the U.S. either participated in 9-11 or covered up foreknowledge of the event. Up to 16% of the population believe explosives were used to take down the World Trade Towers.
So, halfway between 16 and 36 is 26. Not a bad estimate, even adjusting for the conservatism of the district. (And, living in the district, I can tell you there are “truthers” out there.)
Peterson has some justification for his estimate.
3) Is it right for Peterson to avoid spending time talking to conspiracy theorists?
It’s Peterson’s choice to either represent the district with his industry or his judgment (borrowing from an Edmund Burke quote here). It’s up to the district to vote his methods up or down. Personally, I can’t knock Peterson for avoiding conspiracy theorists.
4) Is Peterson really disconnected from the district?
Debatable. Since his re-election campaigns are uncompetitive, he doesn’t spend a lot of time or resources on grassroots organizing. Not doing townhalls makes him look more aloof. However, I’ve generally found his office responsive to requests. Since Peterson is a Democrat representing a district that McCain won (With 50% of the vote; Peterson won with 72+% of the vote), let’s assume he does connect in some way to the district.
5) Is Sutton doing the right thing?
Is Sutton defending the conspiracy theorists in his press release? Is Sutton denying these crazies even exist? Why would Sutton choose this particular quote to pick a fight with Peterson? Peterson comes out on top by admitting 9-11 truthers are nuts, disruptive and should be ignored. Peterson gets points for being pragmatic and honest. Sutton could easily have taken a different route here by using Peterson’s statement to attack these nuts (who are generally on the left) and portray Democrats in a negative light.
Two thumbs down Tony.
“If anyone was offended by my off-handed comment, I sincerely apologize — I certainly wasn’t trying to make fun of anyone,” Peterson said in a statement Tuesday.
He said he was referring to constituents who have “called me and talked to me” about alternate explanations of 9/11 and others who try to “hijack” public forums.
Because of this concern, Peterson has kept his several town hall meetings a year focused on specific topics like health care, agriculture or the economy.
Peterson gets a thumbs down for apologizing and saying he didn’t want to make fun of anyone.
Why not, if you’re making fun of fringe characters?
I think Peterson causes more problems with his response than with his initial statement. So, Sutton gets his thumbs down revoked.
No thumbs up for anybody though, this is just ugly politics.