On Monday, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) went on MSNBC and hit Democrats for going into “hiding” this summer, implying that they weren’t planning to peak with their constituents during the August recess:
CANTOR: [Y]ou look at the difference now of what we’re about as Republicans and what Democrats are about the course of this August recess. I would venture to say that Democrats have gone into hiding, whereas John Boehner and I and the rest of our conference are out there, taking our message to the people, talking about the specific things that they can expect if we’re a majority. And we’re frankly shocked — we’re listening to people, and I think the Democrats have demonstrated they’re unwilling to do that, and their agenda reflects that.
Today, however, two Virginia newspapers have editorials criticizing two GOP congressional candidates for banning the media from their closed-door events with Tea Party activists. Both state Sen. Robert Hurt (running for Virginia’s 5th district) and incumbent Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Virginia’s 6th district) have agreed to speak to the Lynchburg Tea Party’s Aug. 5 meeting, even though the media will be shut out. Tea Party Chairman Mark Lloyd said that the members wanted to have a “one-on-one type of setting without the lights and microphones” and claimed that at a May meeting — where there were two tv stations and a newspaper reporter — “nobody could see anything because of the cameras and all that.”
Today, two local papers have taken the two men to task for this arrangement. From the News & Advance:
Both [Goodlatte and Hurt] are public servants and both are running for public positions that deserve public scrutiny. Yet, neither candidate objected to excluding the media from the meeting.
What exactly is the tea party’s problem with allowing the media to sit in on the proceedings at the Monte Carlo restaurant? Are there some secrets that Hurt and Goodlatte want to share with the members — or that the members want to share with the Republican candidates? Who knows? [...]
Democracy gets a little messy at times, especially the way it’s conducted in the United States. The media often take seriously their responsibility to report to the public what public officials are saying and doing. And those cameras and lights do create distractions on occasion. Anyone who has attended a presidential campaign event knows all about that.
But do those distractions mean the public should be excluded from proceedings on the campaign trail? Certainly not. It is one of the ways the public learns about where the candidates stand on the various issues that surround the current campaigns for Congress.
By excluding the media from Thursday’s meeting, the Lynchburg Tea Party is serving only itself. But maybe that’s what this third party political movement is all about.
The Danville Register & Bee contrasts what Goodlatte and Hurt are doing with Rep. Tom Periello (R-VA), who “held town hall meetings in every city and county in the Fifth District last year and will do the same again this year. Perriello has no fear of meeting with people who disagree with him and having his answers recorded. Even people who strongly disagree with his votes give Perriello high marks for standing up and taking the heat.”
Ironically, Goodlatte has also stressed that he would like to make Congress more transparent, and earlier this year, he criticized Democrats for not letting the media (C-SPAN) cover the health care negotiations. Hurt’s campaign posted a letter to the editor to its website that praised the state senator for his “transparent voting record.”