If there really is no check of political views at the door, if the climate isn't any different in New Hampshire, Colorado, and Montana than it's been anywhere else this August, and if he really pulls them off as planned, then Obama's foray into town halls this week ought to be great theater.
He plans three trips into the hinterlands, three town halls, messy democratic (small d) enterprises that can be, at once, the very essence of a free people and, simultaneously, the epitome of nutty tastelessness. All that's sweet and looney in American democracy could well be on display. What Obama experiences in those town halls--and what we see because every news outlet will be there--will be fascinating.
If the madness is in evidence, the image of the protestors as grass roots patriots will take a hit because when they shout down the Pres they'll look like the wingnuts progressives claim they are. On the other hand, if none of the rancor appears, Obama will suddenly morph into George W., whose town halls were perfectly manicured tea parties.
Maybe I'm weak-kneed, but I can't help but get a little scared. I remember sitting in fifth period Civics, upstairs, southeast corner of the old high school, when the voice of the principal came from a wooden speaker up on the wall beside the clock. "President John F. Kennedy is dead. . ." I don't remember the exact words, but I do remember feeling emptied, even though in the town where I grew up, levels of hate and fear about Kennedy, the Roman Catholic, were likely equivalent to the emotions aflame about the baby-killer, this nation's first African-American President, in the town where I live today.
When a vice-presidential candidate in the last election accuses the President of designing "death squads" to rid the world of down-syndrome children, the level of rhetoric is creating an atmosphere dangerously combustible.
Who knows what will happen this week? Stay tuned. I certainly hope that what we witness will only be great theater, and not history.