Good morning Austin:
I got to the mock Roger Williams Town Hall meeting at Flores Mexican Restaurant in Dripping Springs about fifteen minutes before it was supposed to start Sunday afternoon, and, were it not for my esteemed rank as a member of the Fourth Estate, and the kind willingness of one of the volunteers working the door to let me take her place among the 100 that fire rules permitted on Flores’ porch, I would not have gotten in.
There were a long line of people who were not so fortunate, but watched from the lawn, or, went inside the restaurant for the occasional peek. Others, seeing the large crowd, simply left.
To call it a mock Roger Williams town hall is not quite right, though the double meaning worked for the purposes of the event. But the Republican congressman was invited, and, if he had showed up, it would have been a real Town Hall. But he didn’t and it was thus a mock town hall in which he was represented by a handsome cardboard cutout of his likeness.
Williams was also “represented” by a Arthur Simone, (” actor, artist and co-founder of Austin’s ColdTowne Theater. He graduated in Theatre from Oberlin College and studied improvisation at Chicago’s Improv Olympic”) who would come to the lectern to answer some of the questions posed to the cardboard congressman, sometimes reciting things that Williams had said, and sometimes not.
But, those vaudeville touches aside, the mock Town Hall was conducted with serious purpose in launching a week that will see more of these in Central Texas and across the nation during Congress’ President’s Day district work period – one of the breaks in the Washington schedule, once known by the far happier title of a Congressional recess, with its sweet image of members of Congress racing toward the see-saw and the jungle gym.
It had very briefly appeared last week that perhaps Williams was holding a Town Hall of his own Sunday evening.
From Friday’s Dripping Springs-Century News.
But that, it turned out was a misunderstanding:
Correction- In the printed version of the February 16, 2017 The Century News incorrectly listed Congressman Roger Williams’ visit to Dripping Springs as a “town hall and town meeting,” which implied open attendance. Wally Kinney, President of the North Hays Republican Club (NHRG), stated that the meeting is a “private/member only meeting of the NHRG.” The corrected version follows below. The story is a compilation of three separate news releases.
Dripping Springs’ Congressman Roger Williams (R – Austin), will visit Dripping Springs on Sunday, February 19th, from 6:30 pm to 8 pm, at The Church of the Springs located at 230 Sports Park Drive, as guest of the North Hays Republican Group (NHRG).
Wally Kinney, President of the NHRG, said, “The visit will be a private/member only meeting. We encourage members to attend with their guests. Williams will give a report on what’s happening in D.C. and will answer questions from NHRG members and their guests. The Dripping Springs High School Republican Club will also be in attendance and will present Congressman Williams with one of their new DSHS Republican T-shirts.”
Instead the mock town hall had to suffice, and, while it was my first, it appeared to me to be so efficiently executed that it set the bar rather high for mock town halls to come.
Nice venue. Perfect weather, despite fears of the thunderstorms that came much later. Large crowd – more than twice the capacity – that arrived just enough ahead of schedule so that the event could start right on time.
There were a pre-scheduled group of questioners, plus time for other questions, and all of which were serious in nature, as Mary Huber reported for the Statesman.
The constituents say they are concerned about changes to the Affordable Care Act, cuts in Medicare, regulations on big banks and immigration policies, among others.
To which Adcock added that, thanks to Medicare, his hands are neither cold nor dead.
There were a number of questions about the future of the Affordable Care Act from people for whom it is absolutely crucial.
“In her three and a half years, we’ve been in and out of Dell Medical Center for five procedures,” said Lance Langharr “How are you going to take care of people with pre-existing conditions?”
In each case, the individuals posing the questions identified themselves by name and zip code, including sometimes their zip-plus-four, which is the level of specificity needed to demonstrate they were, indeed, the congressman’s constituents.
The meeting ended in song.
Afterward, about 70 of the attendees drove a few minutes over to the church where the congressman was meeting with North Hays County Republicans, lined up across the highway and chanted in the gathering dusk, “Roger, Roger, Town Hall Dodger,” “Do Your Job,” and “Red Rover, Red Rover, Can Roger Come Over.”
Also, “I’m not paid,” a response to the accusation by some Republicans and Trump supporters, that the opposition is all on the payroll of billionaire liberal philanthropist George Soros.
This was what Vince Zito, Williams’ spokesman, had to say about the congressman’s decision not to attend the town hall meeting in Dripping Springs.
Congressman Williams believes in listening to his district and in doing so spends as much time as possible meeting with constituents and groups throughout his district.
Congressman Williams will always humbly listen to the thoughts and concerns of all of his constituents- he always has and always will.
And although he appreciates the invitation, he declines to attend the club meeting of the Dripping Springs Democratic Action and its associated groups
I think if you closely examine the statements and missions of these groups, it’s clear that civil, substantive discourse on issues is not their true agenda.
Congressman Williams looks forward to continuing to fight for the issues that his constituents sent him to Washington to fight for, including: real tax reform, strengthening our military and rolling back the job killing Obama trademarks such as Obamacare and Dodd-Frank legislation.
Sunday’s mock town hall was organized by various Indivisible groups within his district, Indivisible being a movement that was launched with the creation of an on-line document, Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, which originated with some former staffers to U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and almost instantly swept a huge swath of the disconsolate left into action with local affiliates springing up everywhere.
The guide offered practical advice on influencing your local member of Congress, which is the unit of influence that the guide suggested was most practical and important. Indivisible has also issued a Missing Members of Congress Action Plan, on how to try to get your member to hold a town hall meeting, or hold one for your member if that member won’t.
Suffice to say, Williams is correct that the audience he avoided Sunday probably did not include a Williams voter among them. However, it is also true that they are his constituents and that it never looks good for a member to be avoiding constituents. But, practically speaking, it probably looks better to have them berating a cardboard cutout of you, than you, on camera and on the news, however courageous that might be.
And, while the folks who showed up at Flores Sunday would love it if Williams shared their concerns about Trump, they generally consider him a hard case and would be happiest if they could somehow defeat him in 2018, a very long-shot proposition.
Williams’ response to the Dripping Springs town hall was relatively mild and circumspect.
Other Republicans have lashed out at the angry audiences they have faced at actual town halls.
How Republican members deal with town halls – real and mock – will, I think, be the big story of this week’s district work period, and, with neither of Texas’ two U.S. senators nor any of Central Texas members of Congress scheduling their own town hall meetings this week, the story of these mock town halls will serve as a stand-in.
Monday, Feb. 20
6-8 p.m. Cruz/Cornyn Mock Town Hall
Spider House Ballroom
2906 Fruth Street, Austin, TX 78705
Wednesday, Feb. 22
5:30-7:30 p.m. TX31 Wilco Indivisible John Carter Town Hall
3830 Brushy Creek Rd, Cedar Park, TX 78613
7:30-8:30 p.m. TX17 Indivisible Bill Flores Town Hall (Pflugerville)
Blackhawk Amenity Center
3111 Speidel Dr., Plugerville, TX 78660
Thursday, Feb. 23
6:30-8 p.m. TX10 Indivisible Michael McCaul Town Hall
Congregation Beth Israel, 3901 Shoal Creek Blvd, Austin, TX 78756
So, I think an important national story in the coming week will be conflict at town hall meetings, avoidance of town hall meetings, the politics of town hall meetings, and who is behind all the fuss over town hall meetings.
And, I believe that before the week is over, President Trump will interject himself into that conversation, and that he will blame it on Barack Obama.
Why do I say that?
Because last Thursday, even as Trump was delivering the press conference to end all press conferences, that was what Austin’s own Alex Jones was saying on Infowars in a conversation with New York Post columnist Paul Sperry, and generally speaking, Trump adopts Jones’ frame on these sorts of issues.
I quote the Jones-Sperry exchange at great length because, the experience of the last year has taught me that, with Trump, what happens on Infowars doesn’t stay on Infowars.
On Feb. 11, Sperry wrote in the Post, How Obama is scheming to sabotage Trump’s presidency
When former President Barack Obama said he was “heartened” by anti-Trump protests, he was sending a message of approval to his troops. Troops? Yes, Obama has an army of agitators — numbering more than 30,000 — who will fight his Republican successor at every turn of his historic presidency. And Obama will command them from a bunker less than two miles from the White House.
In what’s shaping up to be a highly unusual post-presidency, Obama isn’t just staying behind in Washington. He’s working behind the scenes to set up what will effectively be a shadow government to not only protect his threatened legacy, but to sabotage the incoming administration and its popular “America First” agenda.
He’s doing it through a network of leftist nonprofits led by Organizing for Action. Normally you’d expect an organization set up to support a politician and his agenda to close up shop after that candidate leaves office, but not Obama’s OFA. Rather, it’s gearing up for battle, with a growing war chest and more than 250 offices across the country.
Since Donald Trump’s election, this little-known but well-funded protesting arm has beefed up staff and ramped up recruitment of young liberal activists, declaring on its website, “We’re not backing down.” Determined to salvage Obama’s legacy, it’s drawing battle lines on immigration, ObamaCare, race relations and climate change.
A week later, on Saturday, Sperry wrote another story,,Obama-linked activists have a ‘training manual’ for protesting Trump
The training manual is the Indivisible Guide, which is self-consciously modeled on the tea party playbook of eight years ago.
And Obama’s bunker. I guess that’s his house which has been designated a bunker because, I guess, of some additional security measures on the president’s post-presidential residence.
Here is the extended conversation between Sperry and Jones last week.
PAUL SPERRY: Obama will be overseeing it all from a shadow White House located within two miles of Trump. It features a mansion, which he’s fortifying with construction of a tall brick perimeter, and a nearby taxpayer-funded office with his own chief of staff and press secretary. Michelle Obama will also open an office there, along with the Obama Foundation.
PAUL SPERRY: Obama is the mastermind behind the protests and the sabotaging of Trump. Trump’s hitting Hillary at his press conference today when he should be calling out Obama. Organizing for Action is what I look at in this piece for the Post. It’s listed on Obama’s post-presidency web site, one of only two organizations listed. The other is the Obama Foundation. In fact he’s going to merge the two together in this very large, very well-funded super-structure.
PAUL SPERRY: And he’s bitter about the election results, and he’s desperate to salvage his legacy, and that goes for everything from Obamacare to the Iran deal, and he wants to continue to advance the leftist agenda that voters repudiated at the polls, and so what he’s setting up here is a shadow opposition government, and it’s already wreaking havoc on the new Republican administration and its very popular America First agenda.
And there’s remnants of the Obama administration still deeply entrenched inside the Trump government, where they’re sabotaging him from the inside. Meanwhile Obama is building this shadow government that I talk about in his column, to sabotage Trump from the outside. So you’ve got saboteurs on the inside working against Trump, and Obama saboteurs from the outside.
ALEX JONES: It’s like it’s not even hidden that they say they are going to sabotage his agenda. They’re going to throw him out of office. Michael Moore is saying he is a Russian, not that he’s a Russian agent, with no proof, and that they’re going to overthrow him.
ALEX JONES: And you’ve got former CIA people like Evan McMullin running around saying he’s a domestic enemy. I mean, this is like Twilight Zone.
PAUL SPERRY: I’m a little worried if Trump doesn’t, and Republicans too because they are getting hit too at these Town Hall meetings, and really are going to get hit harder next week during the recess by these groups, by Obama’s group, OFA, primarily.
PAUL SPERRY: But I’m afraid if Trump doesn’t get out in front of this, and call it for what it is, actually directly call Obama out. Forget about Hillary, Hillary’s gone. His main concern right now is Obama. I mean the guy’s set up a bunker down the street from the White House..He’s got a mansion. He’s got an office. OFA, the Obama Foundation he’s setting up. He’s got his own chief of staff, press secretary. He’s setting up his own shadow White House, just within two miles of the White House .. This is something on the order of a civil war here.
PAUL SPERRY: He’s really gearing up over the next year or two to creating a huge, really well-funded, organizing and protesting infrastructure, that’s going to constantly go after and attack Republicans and this new administration.
ALEX JONES: Looking at this, studying history, I’ve not seen anything like this in U.S. history, I mean maybe the Civil War, like you say, has parallels, but this is a civil war by elements of the government, and bureaucracies and foreign governments, against the president, who is so clearly a populist, clearly Americana, going up in the polls. And I agree with you, at a gut level I am more concerned about this than anything I’ve seen in 20 years on air. They mean business, and I don’t disagree that they want to build this up over the next few years, but it appears they are making moves right now to try to topple the president.
PAUL SPERRY: Yeah, Trump and Republicans don’t know what they’re up against. I”m mean there’s no other precedent for this. No other president has stayed behind in president, at least not in 100 years, not since Woodrow Wilson.
ALEX JONES: And what’s scarier is you are the only one pointing it out.
PAUL SPERRY: Well, finally people are calling it for what it is, all these protests. This is a shadow government that’s behind it. But this needs to get into the mainstream media, but of course the media is behind the protests, so every time they get a video feed from one of these marches or protests, they play it over and over again to make it seem like this is this big grassroots revolt against Trump, but of course it’s not. I’s just artificially manufactured Astro Turf.
But no other former president has actively undermined a sitting president. Obama actually did that with the immigration ban on the terror-prone Muslims.
ALEX JONES: He also encouraged all these demonstrations, he says – you had it in your article – “heartening.”
PAUL SPERRY: Not just that, I’ve got transcripts in that story, talking about rallying the OFA troops and saying, `GO out there and protest Trump, and I’m going to join you in a big way once I get back from vacation this year,’ and that’s what he’s planning on doing, and no other president has set up this kind of permanent protesting machine against another president. I mean we’re going to see over the next year or two, I mean people are going to see it for what it is, because once he gets everything in place, Obama I’m talking about, with his Chicago presidential center, and OFA is going to be a part of that, plus he’s going to be in Washington with his compound there, just two miles from Trump.
So how do we, doesn’t matter your color, liberal or conservative,
So the good news that even in cooked polls, Gallup and Rasmussen, his approval rating is up to 55 percent, up from around 40-something at the time of the election, so positive things are happening, people are getting his message but at the same time, obviously a very dangerous climate, I’m just really thinking as a father, as a citizen, as somebody who love this country and the world, with such a good president who is obviously doing what he said he was going to do, it’s like a responsibility that I’m going to have to be on the air, but we’re going to have to organize, running for office, getting involved in the street, organizing the listeners to call C-SPAN and other show. What else do we do. Go to these town halls, let folks know? I think what you’re saying is the battle has just begun.
PAUL SPERRY: Yes, definitely go to your local reps’, senators’ town halls, and call out these people for who they are. They’re OFA, they’re Obama, but they’re not representative.
ALEX JONES: That’s key. The media will lie and not tell you that the main push is Obama.
PAUL SPERRY: But the problem is most traditional Americans are nice people who do not riot or fight in the streets. They’re too damn busy holding a job to march in the streets, while the other side has nothing better to do, these radical, leftists protesters, these Alinskyites for Obama, and that’s the problem, because the leftists get all the attention on TV.
So they go to these town hall meetings, they secretly record them and then they feed it to the media – CNN, MSNBC – they run it on a continuous loop and make it look like this is some big, sudden revolt against Trump, months after everybody voted in a landslide for his program and his policies. What it starts doing is seeding doubt in people’s minds who even voted for Trump, `Boy, maybe people want to keep Obamacare, maybe we don’t want to secure the border.’
It also gives Republicans cause to kind of second-guess their positions. Maybe we shouldn’t – after I met with my constituents – go back vote for this Trump legislation, maybe I should reconsider this. Maybe the people are against this. That’s what Alinsky, through Rules for Radicals, trained them to do, and by the way, I looked up these IRS 990s for this group, OFA, they are deploying an army of 32,000 well-trained Alinsky agitators, and they’ve got another 25,000 being trained to bully Republicans to back off border security and Obamacare, right now as we speak.
But these aren’t Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street rabble. These are professionally trained agitators who go through a six-week training program in Alinsky-style organizing, similar to the training Obama received in Chicago.
ALEX JONES: So now we’re seeing him go back to his former profession.
PAUL SPERRY: Exactly. He was never good at leading. He wasn’t even really good at governing.
ALEX JONES: That’s why he stirred up the country racially and divided it more than since the Civil War.
PAUL SPERRY: He’s a divider, and that’s the end game for Alinsky. Create chaos, civil war, and that will soften the ground for a revolution.
ALEX JONES: Cultural takeover. Exactly.
PAUL SPERRY: And that’s what he talked about. Revolution.
ALEX JONES: It’s just so insane that this guy could become president, and then meanwhile, if you get past the rhetoric of the media, this guy is literally the unifier if you listen to his speeches. He’s totally the opposite.
I’ll tell you, the New York Post is one of the only good newspapers out there. What would we do without the New York Post, without Drudge, without a few other publications. I mean none of us are perfect, we’re just not out for civil war.
PAUL SPERRY: You’ve got to call in and email in your local reps to counteract the OFA, they’re flooding the switchboards and the inboxes of the reps and that will help cement their spines because you’ve got to offset and counteract what these activists are doing against Trump and in support to protect Obama’s legacy programs.
But this is really a crisis that’s developing because Obama is not just subverting the new sitting government, but he is subverting the will of the people – 62 million people who voted for Trump and against the Obama agenda.