Jim Ramstad held another Town Hall in Plymouth on this cool spring Monday evening. Ramstad enters and thanks various entities, among them, his wife and father, who are present, and the people of the Third Congressional District--'the finest people on the face of the earth.'
Ramstad praises himself for being the last of a dying breed--the moderate Republican. He informs us he'll be speaking at Harvard's Kennedy School soon, to a study group called An Endangered Species: The Moderate in the US House of Representatives. At turns Ramstad employs rubber-chicken-circuit 'self-effacing' references to his Norwegian heritage, which elicit the predicted polite laughter. As at every Ramstad Town Hall, the congressman congratulates himself generously for his courage in holding Town Hall events. It's a credit to your genius, master.
In truth I've never really seen Ramstad fighting to retake his party from the likes of Kline and Bachmann; neither his judgment nor his courage ought to place him in the top 49% of newspaper readers. He never leads the moderate ideological charge because he's quite content being the last of the Republican moderates, as it gives people reason to flatter him, which he deeply enjoys--and returns--inviting more of same.
An example: Our dependence on foreign oil is a national security nightmare. Failing to drastically reduce our dependence on foreign oil, quickly--and exposing the American people to grave national security risk--ought to count severely against a congressman's reputation. But Ramstad doesn't goad his fellow House members to act; he doesn't rail and grandstand and attack those in bed with Big Oil. He's unwilling to lead such a charge, since to do so would take real courage and not the glen plaid substitute traded by the golfers at the Minnesota Prayer Breakfast. Ramstad is a professional laurel recipient.
Someone points out that a United Nations entity has ranked America's health care system 37th internationally. Ramstad hints that the questioner is somewhere in the obviously-wrong-to-wacko area, telling the audience that he would bet his life that statistic can't be true. But this factoid was widely reported; it comes from the UN World Health Organization's World Health Report 2000. See for yourself here--look for page 155. (Your constituents have decided to pardon you this time, Congressman; next time, please wager more responsibly.)
Ramstad helped get America into our disastrous current Iraqi quagmire. But he still can't bring himself to express any regret, embarrassment or shame for supporting our launching of this war. His particular variety of courage is again evidenced when he calls for binding benchmarks we might impose upon the Iraqi government--and then lists none, nor any consequences.
People start asking questions from the floor. Almost every question is preceded by a lengthy plastic-covered-sofa of a fawning preamble, praising our knightly Washington envoy for this, that and the other thing. 'I thank you for all your hard work Jim.' 'You are not just a representative; you are a statesman.'
Ramstad is in large part a psychic projection for what the audience likes about America. People aren't really impressed by his intelligence, elegance of expression or by his record in office. The ongoing exchange of mutual admiration between Ramstad and his constituents is a placeholder which might one day be substituted with real thought, and non-slobbering democratic citizen interaction. It is a good thing this inane congressman's tenure is coming to an end.