Part of the Job of Congressional Staffers

Here in southeastern Michigan, Republican Congressmen Joe Knollenberg and his staff are under the constant harassment of one Bruce Fealk, an individual described by The Hill  as a "MoveOn foot soldier," who is "seeking employment in the political arena."

Mr. Fealk's tactics are the usual from these suspects: picketing, public demonstrations, and harassment that include appearances at Rep. Knollenberg's district office and even his private residence in Oakland County. The other day, Mr. Fealk was alerted to Rep. Knollenberg's presence at a pharmacy in Rochester and took it upon himself to do a shabby impersonation of another disgraceful Michigan export, Michael Moore. It is the sort of thing we ordinarily might expect from people of unhinged mind with plenty of time on their hands.

Mr. Fealk finally won the national acclaim he and his ilk so crave, if by national acclaim you include a mention on "Countdown With Keith Olbermann." Actually that would be quite a dubious claim given the show's dismal ratings. Mr. Olbermann  ran a YouTube video shot by Mr. Fealk in which the latter goaded Knollenberg chief of staff Trent Wisecup to, bluntly, make a fool of himself. Mr. Wisecup told Mr. Fealk he was "not a citizen" and to "go away." Mr. Wisecup later said he was did not regret what he said to Mr. Fealk. All the lefties are having a hearty laugh at the mean old conservatives.

In Mr. Wisecup's defense, there are aspects of being a member of a congressional staff that are monumentally frustrating. Dealing with the likes of Mr. Fealk every day can force normally composed, kind-hearted folks into musing upon what color they should choose when they are fitted for a straitjacket. Aggressive constituents and/or the insane are neither cowed nor satisfied with a detailed letter over the congressman's signature explaining his or her position on an issue. Talking to the man on the phone who wants the congressman to order the Air Force to shoot down the black helicopters hovering over his domicile can get old really quickly.

Phone calls, e-mail, snail mail, and ambushes upon them such as Mr. Fealk's are the way of the world for congressional staff, now more than ever given our ability to rapidly communicate. Mr. Fealk is the worst kind of these agitators because, as this YouTube  video shows, he is suddenly taciturn when confronted with his own tactics and questions he does not wish to surface -- even though his face is covered by a gigantic mask of Rep. Knollenberg. In addition, I assume that even if Rep. Knollenberg had stopped and invited Mr. Fealk out for coffee and discussed his views with him for two hours, Mr. Fealk would not be placated. Despite his protestations, a civil conversation with Rep. Knollenberg is not his goal. Getting mentioned on "Countdown" is the apparant goal.

But Mr. Wisecup was clearly in the wrong here. For all of his clownish antics and childishly stupid questions, Mr. Fealk is a citizen and is entitled to -- and should -- question his representatives in Congress when he wants. It's admittedly easy to armchair quarterback this situation, but Mr. Wisecup and everyone confronted with these folks need to "kill ‘em with kindness" or, at the least, gently remind people like Mr. Fealk that they have repeatedly made the positions of the congressman clear through mailings, press conferences, news articles, and the like. There is no need to even remotely reinforce the caricature leftists have of Republicans as elite royalty with no desire to commune with the riff-raff in any way.

Members of Congress and their staff, whether they like it or not, must be responsive to their constituents -- always. If they don't like it, they should perhaps seek alternative employment. At the least, they must be courteous. Mr. Wisecup was neither of these things to Mr. Fealk in the videotaped confrontation and gave the latter exactly what he wanted. Members of Congress and their staff are never at liberty to tell a constituent to "go away," no matter how frustrating, annoying, or stupid a constituent may be. If Mr. Fealk's antics indeed cross the border to illegal harassment, it is incumbent upon Mr. Wisecup and Rep. Knollenberg to take legal action and prove it in a court of a law and let Mr. Fealk reap the consequences of his behavior.

There is no doubt that over the years Mr. Fealk has succeeded in frustrating and exasperating Rep. Knollenberg, his staff, and his family. These sorts of demonstrations are typically ugly, ignorant, and petulant but it is, unfortunately, a price public servants must sometimes pay. Yet everyone associated with the Republican and conservative cause needs to remember and apply to the crazed left what Secretary Condoleezza Rice's parents used to tell her she had to be when dealing with the racists and segregationists growing up in Birmingham, Alabama: Twice as good.

Matt May is a freelance writer in metro Detroit and welcomes comments.

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