Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pete Sessions Answers the Blimp Question (sort of)

A Sessions Watch team member from Oak Cliff (who we'll refer to as KP, for Kessler Park) attended last night's town hall meeting in Irving, and filed this report. For the benefit of those who want to see the blimp question first, we've put the video of Pete Sessions' answer at the top of the post. The transcript is at the bottom of KP's report:

video


Last night's town hall meeting took place in the gymnasium of Ranchview High School with the audience sitting on bleachers, which was an appropriate setting for what turned out to be more of a pep rally for Pete Sessions than anything of substance. Sessions Watchers who want to know how he keeps winning should go to one of these things. Pete Sessions can give the most non-sensical-non-answer you've ever heard, and receive thunderous applause and wild cheers. It's an amazing spectacle, for anyone with a brain.

I arrived an hour early to take pictures of some of the protesters outside; one person on the tea party side asked, "Are you a good guy or a bad guy?" I said, "I'm a good guy, because I'm taking pictures of signs from both sides of the debate." But seriously, as the song say, "There ain't no good guy, there ain't no bad guy, there's only you and me, and we just disagree."

The atmosphere inside the gym was reminiscent of the highly charged, hyper-partisan 2004 debates between him and Martin Frost. Back then, Sessions got NATO confused with the U.N.; compared the September 11 tragedy to "a home game" that we lost; and gave the wrong name for his own website--several times--on live TV, giving the opposition a chance to buy the domain name for an anti-Sessions website. (It also came out during the campaign that he streaked in college, then gave an interview to the press afterwards, using his real name! No big deal, really, except that the whole purpose of streaking was to do it spontaneously and anonymously, hence the term "streak." A streaker was supposed to be an unidentified naked blur, but he had to go an give an interview. Gee whiz, even when doing harmless pranks, he can't get it quite right!) But no matter what he said, every gaff, blunder and scatterbrained answer won him standing ovations from his supporters, for the simple reason that he was the Republican.

From the audience response to his answers last night, it's clear that times haven't changed any for the pro-Sessions crowd. We can watch him, pointing out his flip-flops and errors in judgement, but there's a slight majority of people in this district who just think Pete Sessions is the best Congressman ever, for reasons that elude the rest of us. If he did nothing more than read a list of names out of a phone book, ending with the word "freedom," his diehard supporters would cheer and applaud, proclaiming it the best speech he's ever given.

Just about every question was about health care last night, and, to Sessions' credit, he began the town hall by asking for people who disagreed with him to come to one of the two microphones, set up on opposite sides of the floor, and asked the audience to be polite. Interestingly enough, when people gave testimonies about how their insurance companies had let them down, there was huge applause from the audience, even from those who claim they don't want "government" having anything to do with health care. Sessions told several people with complaints about access to affordable health care to "tell it to the President," which kind of defeats the purpose of a town hall with your Congressman, doesn't it? Isn't he supposed to be our advocate in Washington? In answer to several consumer complaints about health insurance, he also explained that insurance regulation is an issue for the states, not Congress. But isn't state regulation a form of "government control of health care?" And as Pete Sessions has said many times, he wants people to be able to buy health insurance across state lines, which would then call for federal regulation, right? Some of his ideas have some loose ends that are a bit hard to tie up.

Towards the end of the town hall, though, he actually offered to help one woman who complained of high prescription drug bills--from what she said, it's likely that she falls into the Medicare Part D "donut hole," one of the problems with the bill that made several Republicans object to it, leading to Tom DeLay's infamous arm-twisting and keeping the vote open 'til 3:00 am. I would be interested to hear a follow-up from that woman, to see if he can really do anything for her, and if he'll vote on legislation to close that huge gap in prescription drug coverage.

Pete Sessions allowed one person on the "tea party" side to read a litany of objections to H.R. 3200 (published by Dick Armey's group Freedomworks) which have been refuted in several blogs and publications. One item on her list, which drew yells of affirmation from the audicence, was a charge that the bill allows illegal aliens to benefit--but Section 246 of the bill says it plain as day:
NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS.

Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.
For all their yelling at the opposition to "read the bill," they apparently haven't taken their own advice! I was disappointed, though not surprised that Pete Sessions didn't correct her; surely Republicans have objections to the bill as written without making stuff up that isn't in there.

And then, someone asked the question we've all been waiting for--why a blimp? One man asked Pete Sessions about the blimp project, in a roudabout way, asking how the project would benefit North Texas, why the Illinois company (which had never actually made a blimp before) was picked, and what was accomplished from the forty thousand dollar engineering study. The audience tried to shout down the question, but Pete Sessions very graciously said, "Thank you very much, you asked a question and you're entitled to an answer," and went on to make this statement (this is directly transcribed from the video tape, and is unedited):
The appropriators had it for over a year before they brought it to the floor. The appropriators knew that the United States Army and Air Force is in fact looking for the opportunity to take massive amounts of weight from the United States to the theater. Blimps are much like the hydroplanes that the Marine Corps went to where they've got hovercraft. And they spend seventy-eight thousand gallons taking two tanks overseas on an aircraft. This would accomplish sixteen tanks for three gallons. The forty thousand dollars that was spent on the engineering study before they asked for it was looked at by the Air Force and the Air Force is interested in this and you watch what happens. Thank you so very much.
The overwhelmingly pro-Sessions audience greeted this statement with wild cheers and applause, on a par with the kind Oprah Winfrey gets when she tells her audience, "Look under your chairs...!" But his answer raised more questions than it answered. Interesting about the 40-thousand dollar engineering study, but the whole amount steered towards Jim G. Ferguson Associates was $1.6 million. Sessions also used a fake Dallas address for the company, making it look like a local project. Why did he do that? Is the company planning to relocate to North Texas? Though he did answer one of our questions, "Why a blimp" by explaining that the Air Force is considering dirigibles for transportation of supplies overseas, he did not explain why this company in particular is so well-suited for the contract, especially since they have no prior experience in manufacturing blimps. And, Pete Sessions placed this earmark into the appropriations bill himself, so what's the connection between him and this company? Is it former aide Adrian Plesha, who is now a lobbyist for the company? If it's a good project with no "funny business" attached to it, shouldn't he be featuring it front and center as a clean energy and cost-saving initiative instead of running away from the question?

Towards 8:30 p.m., even the diehard Sessions fans were leaving the gym, so I left, too. There was still a long line of people waiting to talk to him, so I hope he makes good on a promise he made at the beginning of the evening to do more town halls during the August recess. May I suggest Mountain View College?

Thanks, KP, for the report and video. Sessions Watch will follow Pete Sessions' advice and "watch what happens" with the blimp story.

7 comments:

Nancy said...

Thanks for doing all this KP. I saw that woman on channel 11 last night who told about her husband's liver transplant medicine. It showed h im telling her to tell it to the President! I'd say I can't believe it, but unfortunatley I can because I've seem him in action before.

Anonymous said...

Hold on a sec. I want to see that engineering report. You're telling me that a big slow-moving dirigible can carry all the heavy tanks and armored vehicles across the ocean? I'm not an engineer, but that just doesn't sound right. You may see an energy saving solution but I see a big, slow moving target with all our stuff in it. What happens if it gets shot down by an enemy in a boat?

jim said...

I'm glad somebody finally asked about that blimp. after reading anonymous i agree that the plan sounds "fishy." sorry, somebody had to say it!

Lisa said...

I saw that, too, Nancy, and I felt so bad for her. He just absolutely doesn't get it.

Good job, Sessions Watch team. Thanks for watching him, so I don't have to!! :)

Sessions Watch (KP) said...

Thanks for comments, everybody.

I posted a new video at our new YouTube channel; the link is here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYaYqe3ARJU

This video is Sessions' response to the woman who talked about the anti-rejection drugs her husband is taking, following his liver transplant.

I also found an article about the family at the CBS 11 website:
Falling Through The Cracks Of Health Care Debate
http://cbs11tv.com/health/health.care.debate.2.1137858.html

DougT said...

Unfortunately, the blimp issue is one that nobody seems to take seriously, no matter which party is involved. Earmarking is essentially a payoff to a donor (or in this case a former staffer). The technical issues focus on who is spending money on what.

What we really need is another congress critter or newspaper to pick up where Proxmire left off. The Golden Fleece award embarrassed so many politicians that frankly they were afraid to do anything that would come out in public. While we may not consider shame to be an effective political control, it really is.

Since our media is now so controlled by corporate interests looking for these earmarks, it has no interest in exposing them. Ditto for other congress critters whose campaign war chests are filled by those who expect handouts from the government. We need to expose our corrupt politicians so that the public can punish them at the ballot box.

What other earmarks did $e$$ion$ put into legislation? Who is holding him accountable? When do we get our relief from elected officials who steal our money to give to their buddies?

Sessions Watch (KP) said...

Good point, Doug T. We do need another "golden fleece" watchdog to hold our representatives accountable, or at least an independent reporter willing to ask hard questions.

David Smith of The Examiner (http://www.examiner.com/x-17004-Dallas-County-Republican-Examiner) has indicated an interest in following up on the blimp earmark. Hope he's serious about doing that story; our best hope is the independent internet media, going where corporate media fears to tread.