On Saturday, I continued my tradition of attending the annual Joplin Tea Party rally.
Unfortunately for organizers, though, there weren’t that many teapartiers who were willing to continue their tradition of attending. This year’s contingent was much smaller than last year’s, which was much smaller than the year before.
But the sparse crowd—maybe 150 folks—was nevertheless thrown lots of blood-red meat from the speakers, which besides the usual locals, included would-be senator Rep. Todd Akin, who has never met a Democrat who wasn’t also a socialist, and, of course, Colonel Ozark Billy Long.
Now, I happened to be standing in the back of the crowd, when I spotted Colonel Billy trying to slip away from the area where the speakers were huddled:
Sensing a chance to talk to the Colonel one-on-one, I hurried over to where I thought he was heading, camera in tow. I was prepared to make and post a newsworthy video for my faithful readers. As I was walking, I looked up and saw Ozark Billy staring at me as I approached, with an unwelcoming look on his face. Nevertheless, I pressed on, again, with camera in tow.
As I walked up to my congressman, my representative, I introduced myself and told him I was from Joplin, clearly identifying myself as one of his constituents. I asked him if he minded if I interviewed him with my camera on. No, he said. Really? I asked. No, he said, I don’t want you to do that. Well, I protested, why can’t I use it? He anxiously looked around as if he were waiting on someone, then responded again that he didn’t want me to use the camera. He said, what is it you want to ask me?
Okay, I thought. No camera, thus, no record of our conversation, but I must soldier on.
I told him I wanted to talk about his vote on the Ryan budget plan the previous day, which essentially does away with Medicare while giving tax cuts to the wealthy. I asked him how he justified that vote. We have to do something, he said. He told me that what the plan does is merely give people a “cafeteria” plan like he gets as a government employee. Since Ozark Billy didn’t know I had been a government employee, I suppose he thought that his response would suffice to shut me up. But, of course, it didn’t.
I hurriedly explained to him—he was getting fidgety waiting— that the Ryan Medicare plan would end Medicare as we know it, and the so-called voucher proposal for those under 55 would not be sufficient to purchase insurance and people would have to pay much more out of their pockets. I added that those under 55, even while receiving reduced benefits themselves, would be forced to pay for the current Medicare system, the beneficiaries of which will continue to receive the current generous benefits for many, many years.
He didn’t dispute that but merely reiterated that something needed to be done because the system was designed when people only lived to be “48 years old.” Aghast at that, I responded with a “that’s simply not true,” and was poised to explain why. Except that a vehicle—the one Ozark Billy had been so anxiously awaiting—pulled up beside us. And without even saying goodbye, in went the Colonel and off went the car.
I, one of Congressman Long’s constituents, was left standing on the sidewalk, camera in tow.
Long returned a short time later and gave a speech that was mostly a repeat of an interview he gave to local right-wing radio station, KZRG. He even gave us another rendition of his now-famous “auction chant.” The small crowd cheered. I turned red with embarrassment.
But toward the end of his speech, Ozark Billy said the following to the crowd, and to me, the camera-toting constituent he had earlier snubbed:
We’re just having a lot of good success helping people. But it is the House of Representatives. Never forget that. It is the House of Representatives.
I’ve got a Bozo on the front of my truck—a lot of people say how come you got Bozo on the dash?—that’s to remind me—and I’ve had it on there for years—that’s to remind me not to take myself too seriously. I’m doing your work in D.C., and I was standing right down there last year with ya and I’ll be back down there in a minute…
Good! I thought to myself. He’s doing “our” work. And he’s coming down “here” among “us,” the folks. That would give me a chance to continue my conversation with him. What a man of the people! Colonel Ozark Billy Long, man of the people!
Except that after he finished his speech, I watched him leave the podium, walk over to his Bozo-guided truck, and get in the passenger side. Then I watched someone drive him away.
Still holding my camera, all I could think to say was, Bye-bye, Colonel Billy! Thanks for stopping by and chatting with your constituents!