As I related yesterday on Smart Girl Nation, my trip into DC for the Congressional House Call turned out to be more eventful than I had expected. Prior to my run-in with the odious George Burke, Director of Communications for Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), my day was wonderful. I want to share more about the events before, during and after my run-in with George the Bully. It started out on the west steps of the Capitol, where thousands of passionate Americans gathered under blue skies to hear from Rep. Michele Bachmann, Mark Levin, and a host of other fine conservatives.
And the view from the south side of the Capitol:
Knowing that time was tight because I had to pick up my kids from school in a few short hours, I headed over to the Cannon House Office Building early. I was surprised by the number of Capitol Hill police officers standing watch in front of the building. The snark in me wonders if DC’s finest were on call for Gerry Connolly, who is apparently afraid of his constituents, particularly the female variety.
The line to go through security was starting to build:
My Flip video camera and I made it through security with no problems. I did not observe any signs explaining the rules of use for video equipment. In fact, I started shooting video right away, as I wandered through the halls of Cannon in search Gerry Connolly’s office (327). I was stopped by neither security nor staffer.
Once inside the office, I did as asked and filled out the form — it was clear that Gerry Connolly, once again, did not have the courage to face his constituents. I included all of my contact information and the purpose of my visit: Keep your hands off my health care! I decided to take some video while I was filling out the form. As you can see, no one said a word about me filming in the office at that point. This was my first ever visit to my Congressman’s DC office and I was documenting it, with hopes of sharing it with my 9- and 11-year-olds, who are budding history freaks. I’d also like to point out that my demeanor — as evidenced on the video — was neither aggressive nor combative.
I returned my form to the very polite young man and took out my Flip again. If Mr. Connolly was not going to answer my question, I figured it was the job of the staff to do so. Well, answers are in very short supply in this office. After inquiring about Mr. Connolly’s position on the pending health care legislation, I knew immediately that this young man was told in advance to not answer this question. The staffer immediately deflected the topic at hand by telling me that my tiny Flip camera and I needed press credentials.
See that older, red-faced guy in the background? His name is George Burke, and he is apparently the overlord of the office and designated chief constituent harasser. As you see on the video, when I questioned why a regular citizen like myself would need press credentials, Mr. Burke started to get agitated. You can almost see the thought bubble above his head: “How DARE this peon come into MY office and ask this question on camera!” Well, George, you work for me and I have every right in the world to be there and question my elected officials.
As the video ends, you can see Burke starting to advance on me. Whereas he could have politely asked me to put my camera down and explain why they were not answering questions, he instead bellowed, “Do you live in the 11th District?!” Well, yes, George, I do! For almost three decades, in fact, and perhaps even longer than you have? I could tell the young staffer was taken aback by Mr. Burke’s aggressive behavior and he hastened to assure him that I was a constituent and had filled out the form provided. Mr. Burke did not care about that, and instead decided to forcefully push his body into my right arm, which was still holding the camera. I was incredulous. I believe I said to him, “You did not just do that.” At this point, Mr. Burke, the aggressor, denied that he had touched me and decided to the play the sissy card — he threatened to call the police on me. My offense? Not marching in lock-step to the wishes of George Burke, apparently.
I was shaken by this, as I was there by myself and the other constituents in the office seemed a bit stunned that Burke was behaving this way and a bit more stunned that I held my ground. I didn’t have the time to be arrested that day, though, as I needed to collect my four young children from school. But I knew I needed to get a name before I left. I asked him at least three times for his name and Mr. Tough Guy would only tell me “George.” Well, George, if you don’t want people to know who you are, may I suggest you not put your business card on the reception desk? I grabbed his card and rather lamely told him that I would be sure to blog about my experience. To which he replied with a smug disdain, “I’m sure you will.” TRANSLATION: Oh, you stupid little woman, this is MY town and you are a nobody.
Well, I am mostly, but not completely, a nobody. You see, what George Burke, Director of Communications, apparently doesn’t understand is that there is a thriving beehive of information out there called new media, and I am an active participant. What happened next is a testament to how far the right has come in mastering tools like Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites. My dear friend, Tabitha Hale, tweeted that I had just been pushed by a Connolly staffer. As often happens, Tabitha’s tweet was widely retweeted, which brought the story to the attention of folks from The Washington Times, The Washington Examiner and Townhall.com. We on the right may be in the electoral minority (for now), but we’re wickedly tenacious, something arch communicator George Burke is slow to comprehend. He, of course, has denied the episode took place — just like every schoolyard bully does.
I have been asked why I didn’t seek out security and file a complaint against George Burke. Well, I honestly didn’t think I would be taken seriously. I didn’t have the names of the witnesses and I had to leave immediately to travel back to Virginia to get my kids. And to me, George Burke’s use of physical aggression, though clearly wrong, was not nearly as bad as his arrogance. He saw me as the enemy from the start and didn’t try to hide his disdain for me, someone whose politics are different from his own. And this is, of course, indicative of today’s Democrat party. They do not see us average Americans as people, they see us the enemy who must be destroyed. It is a dangerous game for them to play because, like I said, we center-right folks are wickedly tenacious.
[Footnote: Another dear friend found some interesting history on George Burke and she blogs about it here.]