Twenty dollars here, twenty dollars there. After coming from thousands of people, it starts adding up.
Anyone who listens to Ed Schultz's radio show or has seen him on MSNBC has almost surely heard Schultz refer to "town hall meetings" he moderates across the country.
Schultz began organizing the gatherings during the '08 campaign and revived the practice earlier this year, holding more than a half dozen that collectively have drawn thousands of people. The most recent was in Buffalo, N.Y., on June 13, with at least three more to go.
Here's Schultz's "Morning Joe" appearance June 16 touting them (as shown in embedded video) --
JOE SCARBOROUGH: You know there aren't though a lot of guys out there that are as connected to the working-class Americans as you are. I always talk about how the media is insular, but it's not just ideologically, it has to do with world views also. We don't have a lot of guys in the military working in the media. We don't have a lot of guys that went to community colleges working the media here in Manhattan. Not a lot of voices like yours out there.
SCHULTZ: Well, I try to bring that perspective to MSNBC. I do town hall meetings, I did one Saturday night in Buffalo at Canisius College. We're going to Madison, Wis., Portland, we're going to Albuquerque, we've got, you know, a lot of things planned. And I've always been one that I like to get out and put the microphone in front of the people and, I have to tell you, there is an undercurrent in this country right now that the Senate Democrats are blowing this, on health care and on supporting the president. The president has the people with him. That's what I think, that's what I'm hearing.
Of course this is what Schultz is hearing -- because his "town hall meetings" are hardly the open public forum their title suggests. Instead, like-minded attendees have paid $20 admission -- or $100 for a private "meet and greet" reception with Schultz beforehand.
You'd never know this from Schultz's "Morning Joe" appearance or, more significantly, his nationally syndicated radio show. I've listened to Schultz's radio show five days a week for more than 18 months and not once have I heard Schultz tell listeners he charges admission to these, uh, "town hall meetings."
In fact, I wasn't aware Schultz did this until reading the comment thread to a NewsBusters post by P.J. Gladnick on June 6. I went to Schultz's Web site after that and, sure enough, those commenting were correct -- Schultz charges $20 admission (though the cost of attending a "VIP" reception with Schultz has dropped in half to $50).
I'm not saying Schultz lied about this because I haven't heard him saying anything that could be described this way. And those who go to Schultz's Web site to learn more about the meetings quickly find out about the admission charge.
But what about those who venture straight to the venue where the meetings are held? They might not learn about paying admission until arriving at the hall if they had gone by what Schultz says on his radio show. No, Schultz hasn't lied about this, but his lack of transparency risks being perceived as a lie of omission.
Just as Obama promised more transparency in government and followed through, to cite one example, by releasing previously classified CIA documents on interrogation of al Qaeda captives. Obama also, however, refused to declassify CIA documents that former vice president Dick Cheney has said corroborate his assertion that waterboarding averted further al Qaeda attacks.
Is it really "transparency" when the only records released flatter the keeper of the records?
What Schultz is doing is also akin Obama and congressional Democrats wrapping any number of initiatives in the gauzy rhetoric of altruism while neglecting to disclose hidden costs that will eventually rear their ugly heads.
For example, "cap and trade" to combat the mass-hysteria fraud of manmade global warming. It won't do a whit to alleviate the allegedly catastrophic effects of climate change (any year now, please remain patient) but anyone using energy in America -- and that would be you -- will eventually pay much more for it.
"Stimulus" spending, to cite another example. Only a small fraction is for "infrastructure" -- roads, bridges and the like -- though you wouldn't know it from proponents' overwrought rhetoric last winter. And most of the "stimulus" won't be spent until after 2009, neatly dovetailing with the midterm elections (that was yours, Rahm, right?)
And who cares if the bailouts and stimulus and 8 percent increase in supplemental spending and $3.5 trillion budget combine to more than double the deficit, to its highest percentage in decades? Hey, your kids and my kids and their kids won't mind eventually paying in nosebleed taxes and daunting interest rates. Think of it as character building for future generations.
Trillion-dollar "health care reform" for better medical coverage? So goes the claim -- as opposed to the reality of Obama trying to create a massive new bureaucracy filled with patronage hires and coatcatchers rewarded for their efforts at keeping Obama and party in office. It will be modeled on the New Deal, which brought mixed results in ameliorating the Great Depression but remains unparallelled as the template for acquiring and keeping political power in America.