Scott DesJarlais speaks with constituents

Scott DesJarlais speaks with constituents

August 25th, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

M.L. Tate speaks during a "listening session" hosted by U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais at the Sequatchie County Courthouse in Dunlap, Tenn., on Wednesday. The Republican congressman travelled to Pikeville, Tenn., for another such session later in the day in the 4th District.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

U. S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais attends a "listening session" at the Sequatchie County Courthouse in Dunlap on Wednesday. The Republican congressman travelled to Pikeville for another such session later in the day in the Fourth District.

U. S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais attends a "listening...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

DUNLAP, Tenn. - As an aide recorded the moment with a digital camera, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais strode into the Sequatchie County Courthouse, shook hands and began a "listening session" with the Republican faithful.

But there wasn't much listening.

Out of the 42 minutes that followed, DesJarlais, R-Tenn., spoke for 31, although the congressman's office promoted the session as a chance to "solicit ideas and opinions from ... constituents on important policy issues being debated in Washington, D.C."

The imbalance didn't seem to bother the 15 people reclined in red-cushioned church pews, as person after person lobbed party-line questions -- spending cuts, federal debt concerns and "ObamaCare" frequently came up -- to the freshman representative.

None of the questions challenged DesJarlais' voting record or appeared to take him off guard.

"The military not being so prominent as it used to be, I don't like that," said Mary Frances Hixson, a Dunlap resident. "I like for us to be the No. 1 nation."

For a moment, DesJarlais, a physician-turned-politician, appeared to disagree, saying he wasn't sure America should be "the policeman of the world."

"We have domestic issues we need to worry about," he said. "But I agree ... we are not perceived as No. 1 anymore. We can't afford to let that happen."

In March, DesJarlais voted against a House resolution that would have removed armed forces from Afghanistan, where America has maintained a military presence since October 2001.

Most other questions centered on fiscal policy, as constituents took positions on Social Security (privatize it) and foreign aid (stop it).

DesJarlais agreed.

A staffer passed out a constituent issues survey and asked crowd members to identify their most important ones. Hixson, the woman who talked about the military, circled all 12 options, which included "war on terror," "moral values" and "crime and drugs."

DesJarlais' "Listening to Tennessee" tour made its second stop Monday in Pikeville, where constituents were a little chattier than those in Dunlap.

One woman suggested a community-service requirement in exchange for unemployment money, an idea Tennessee's Fourth District congressman appeared to endorse.

Still, most in attendance praised DesJarlais "for all the great work you've done," as one Bledsoe County man put it.


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