I am compelled to respond to Dorothy Scanlan's June 27 letter concerning Congressman Chris Van Hollen's recent visit to Westminster.
I, too, was at that meeting and thought that the insults were counterproductive. However, I believe them to be not the result of bad behavior, but of reaction to the arrogance displayed in general by Washington and Annapolis.
If Scanlan was ashamed of the behavior that followed, then perhaps she should reacquaint herself with behavior shown to Gov. Robert Ehrlich in similar circumstances at Johns Hopkins University, or view newscasts of the recent abortion bill vote in the Texas state house, for comparison.
Regarding Scanlan's specific concerns, I assure her that I sat fairly close to Michelle Jefferson Monday evening and did not hear her yell anything derogatory. She respectfully raised her hand to ask questions; however, not many opportunities to speak occurred in our general area.
I was pleased by the variety of questions asked, but less so by the responses -- "thoughtful and articulate" does not necessarily equal "complete and accurate." Van Hollen's answers could have been taken from any Democratic National Committee election handout, and he all but used the slogan "it's Bush's fault" in statements on the economy. However, I was in complete agreement with him concerning U.S. involvement in Syria (oddly enough, asked apparently by one of the handful of Democrats attending).
I commend Van Hollen for his composure during what I'm sure he realized was to be a tough evening. I think also that it should be brought out that one of his staffers did seek out Jefferson prior to the meeting to inform her that the congressman in no way wanted to have her barred from participation. Van Hollen made a rather tepid statement at the beginning of the meeting to that effect. However, if he had made a much stronger statement, and singled out Jefferson for a question right at the beginning, then credibility and bridge building could have been greatly improved.
As it is, I side with the 72-year-old Navy veteran who said that he has never seen the level of distrust between Washington and the people that exists now.