Despite other testy town halls, Isakson’s telephone forum stays polite

While recent congressional outreach events in Georgia have proven to be raucous and rocky affairs, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s telephone town hall event on Thursday evening was remarkably civil.

Missing entirely from the 55-minute call were the protests, chanting and overall testiness that have marked in-person events across the state and nationally, including a constituent service event Isakson’s staff hosted with two other GOP offices last month.

Instead, Thursday’s question and answer session was nothing if not a polite affair, even with the questioners who said they were deeply concerned about President Donald Trump’s policies on issues such as refugees, health care and the environment. Many callers wished Isakson a speedy recovery from his recent back surgery and waited for him to finish his responses before asking follow-ups.

Isakson acknowledged the surge of civil engagement in the six weeks since Trump was sworn into office.

“I don’t know if there’s ever been a more interesting time in the last 12 years other than the last six weeks,” he said. “With the election and the swearing-in of President Trump, a lot of things have happened.”

 


 

The three-term senator fielded 17 questions on topics ranging from Russian meddling in the election to charter schools and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to name a few.

An Isakson spokeswoman said calls were screened beforehand in order to avoid repeat questions and topics but that staff was not looking to weed out tough questions.

She said roughly 3,400 people called into the event or live-streamed it online.

The tele-town hall came in stark contrast to many other events in Georgia and nationwide that Trump opponents have used as forums to vent their frustrations about Trump’s policies.

Compared to in-person events, the telephone format is a more controlled one that allows lawmakers to bow to pressure to talk directly to constituents while cutting down on the risk of embarrassing moments that can easily become viral video fodder. Other Republican lawmakers have chosen to avoid town halls altogether.

Indeed, not everyone left Thursday’s call satisfied.

Following the event, ‘Remember Us, Johnny?’ a group critical of Isakson’s agenda, issued a press release criticizing the format for being “carefully choreographed.” It said many people did not receive an invitation to the event.

“Senator Isakson seems to have forgotten that he represents all Georgians, and not just those chosen to interact with the senator during carefully choreographed events,” the group stated.

“While we understand the senator is recovering from surgery and wish him a speedy recovery, we urge him to schedule a live, in-person town hall meeting during the Easter recess,” the group said.

Isakson and other Georgia lawmakers have been under immense pressure to hold such events as Trump opponents reel over many of the president’s policies.

Many critics have turned to flooding the phone lines of congressional offices as others have held protests and vigils. About 100 demonstrators recently gathered outside of Sen. David Perdue’s downtown Atlanta office to hold a mock town hall event, directing questions to empty folding chairs representing Perdue and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

After one caller complained that she has been unable to get through to Isakson’s office in recent weeks, the Republican responded that his staff has fielded as many as 27,000 calls during some busy weeks.

“That’s a lot to handle,” Isakson said. “But we always will work to see to it that we meet every one of them and I appreciate everybody being on this call tonight.”

Only one other Georgia Republican has held a town hall in the six weeks since President Donald Trump was sworn into office. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, had a much rocker time at his in-person event last week.

Read more:

A lone GOP Georgia congressman holds a rocky town hall meeting

Anti-Trump protesters pack Perdue, Isakson event

Georgia Democrats try not to ‘waste’ anti-Trump movement

Isakson, Perdue’s offices inundated by calls during Trump’s first days

How to contact your Georgia congressmen

 

 

Reader Comments 0

18 comments
Edith Stanley
Edith Stanley

that is because nobody is on Isakson's telephone town halls except Republicans... so, of course, they are polite to one another... they do not have a differing opinion whatsoever... and most of them have a whole lot of empty space inside their heads anyway and so they just agree with whatever old Johnny says...

Tray Turner
Tray Turner

Why do Georgians keep sending this old man to Congress.....he is a coward, a swamp monster and a man with new ideas and a spine needs to come into office.

Beth Oliver
Beth Oliver

That's what happens when you censor calls. No praise is due.

James Campbell
James Campbell

To involve yourself in the type town hall meetings we've seen where grandstanding, self serving losers only intimidate and shout down GOP lawmakers is just futile and serves no constructive purpose.

Betsy Swarthout Whitley
Betsy Swarthout Whitley

Johnny, it's time to stop being so polite and faint-hearted. The country needs you to stand up to what you know is wrong, unAmerican, undemocratic and dangerous. The Republicans are better than this, or have been and should be. The U.S. cannot be the isolated, frightened, ignorant and broken country that we are being led to become. Republicans are going to be known as the ones who destroyed the country if you don't act soon.

JFitzgerald Myers
JFitzgerald Myers

How testy can a conference call get? The people or person gets angry and hangs up? This article should have never been written. SMDH

Justin Bruce
Justin Bruce

One more republican afraid of the people who put him in office. What a shame!

Sandra Jones
Sandra Jones

I attended and to be fair this wasn't the first town hall he has held this way so I won't accuse him of hiding. Only one person stated the usual Republican tropes we hear about party over everything. Most questions were good and he mentioned that he doesn't trust Russia either. People made their points with out all the vitrol and I feel it was somewhat productive, but wasn't long enough.

Scott Moody
Scott Moody

I can understand the Senator using this format as he recovers from surgery. However, these controlled telephone events should not take the place of public town halls.

David Anderson
David Anderson

The operative word being "controlled." It's easy to screen calls.

Alexander Moody
Alexander Moody

Indeed, they have a nasty habit of becoming nothing more than hour+ ad phone call since everything is screened and checked.

Debra Fish
Debra Fish

The BS at the town halls were organized by leftists. It seems that everyone knows that but the media.

Mary Ann Hall
Mary Ann Hall

Just like the right-wing political action in 2009, some protest actions were organized by the left-wing versions of Tea Party groups, and some were just folks who were mad. It's all exercise of the right to free speech. Why are protests announced in an Indivisible Facebook post any less legitimate than one announced in a Students for Liberty or American Family Association post?

Albert Maguffin
Albert Maguffin

Town halls are organized by elected officials dear. Drop your blind partisan script, turn off AM radio and grow up.

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