Rep. Jerry McNerney's taken some heat for his phone-in town halls regarding health care. Understandably, some constituents are frustrated by the lack of direct access inherent to this particular medium.
But the poor guy is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.
McNerney has seen what's happened across the country when other congressmen and -women have met face-to-face with the public. While a good portion of the people showing up want real answers to pertinent questions, you also get this, this and this. These folks sure know how to take the "civil" out of "civil debate."
That's probably something he doesn't want to deal with. And I don't blame him. It wouldn't take but one or two unbalanced folks looking to cause a ruckus to hijack the entire event.
On the other hand, not having a face-to-face meeting with the public makes it looks like he's trying to distance himself from his constituents. It could even give the impression that he's trying to control what questions get asked, which comes off as distinctly anti-democratic. (Remember, trust is something for friends and family, not politicians. Not even the ones you like and vote for.)
No matter how many phone-in town halls McNerney hosts, it will not be as satisfying as a face-to-face event. (Though in the eyes of some, even those meetings would not satisfy.)
Ideally, I'd like to see McNerney host an in-person town hall in a couple cities around the 11th Congressional District, allow people to ask questions, lend their support, voice dissent, even cause a scene.
The result might not be pretty. But it would undoubtedly make for some great theater.