Here’s the story from Politico. The accompanying youtube videos can be found at the bottom. What do you believe is happening, are Republicans holding Democrats accountable or are they simply attacking freshman Congressman?

Peril awaits any first-term lawmaker who ventures to the House floor unprepared for a duel, but Ohio Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy had a particularly rough go of it the other day.

Kilroy took the floor to support an amendment to a popular public-service bill — only to face an ambush from Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who hit her hard for her vote on an unrelated American International Group measure.

It wasn’t an accident.

Foxx is part of a team of Republican members that House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has put together to create embarrassing, YouTube-worthy moments for vulnerable Democratic freshmen.

Cantor’s floor staff has created a photo album to help identify the 42 most vulnerable Democrats. The aides send daily e-mails to the members of the attack team and alert lawmakers when these targeted members are speaking on the floor. They even draft quick scripts to help focus the questioning.

The tactic seems to be working.

Democrats have begun pulling their vulnerable members from the floor as soon as the attacks begin. And even if the targeted Democrat doesn’t take the bait, video of the episode inevitably finds its way to the Web as evidence of either ineptitude or cowardice.

The Foxx-Kilroy smackdown was so rough that Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) tapped Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), a ferocious debater, to play the part of Foxx during a subsequent exercise with his freshmen on floor procedure.

Team Cantor says it’s just holding Democrats accountable.

“This is about accountability and being the party of honest opposition,” says Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring. “Members speaking on the floor have an obligation to talk straight with the American people, and if Democrats are going to run this place, they have a responsibility to know what it is they are talking about before they try to pass it.”

The floor can be a scary place for first-term lawmakers in both parties. Voices quiver as they read awkwardly from scripts drafted by their staff. Many are flustered by the rules, particularly those requiring lawmakers to avoid a direct dialogue with colleagues on the other side of the aisle by instead addressing whoever sits in the speaker’s chair.

Nervousness — and a lack of familiarity with the rules — make it tougher for new members to deflect political attacks when they find themselves in the cross hairs.

“The freshmen will all take some time getting their sea legs,” Kilroy told POLITICO last week.

Since January, Republicans have been trying to capitalize on that uncertainty.

The strategy took root during a briefing Cantor organized earlier this year with former Rep. Bob Walker (R-Pa.), whose mastery of floor procedure frustrated Democrats again and again during the GOP’s last stint in the minority.

As it evolved, Cantor and his floor team recruited members, like Foxx, to request time to speak when vulnerable Democrats, like Kilroy, offer amendments or bills. The goal is to put these Democrats on the spot to answer tough political questions on sensitive topics. Under the rules of the House, the targeted members are forced to answer the questions or risk embarrassment in front of C-SPAN viewers and YouTube surfers.

The group of attackers includes members such as Foxx, freshman Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and talkative Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert — lawmakers who enjoy mixing it up in public.

Of course, these attacks don’t always work out. Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly, a veteran of party politics, quickly turned a Chaffetz challenge against his attacker. The Utah freshman also appeared flustered when Kilroy left the floor recently as he launched another line of questioning about her AIG vote.

Democrats are now hip to the scam and rarely take the bait. A top aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) quickly ushers most junior members out of the chamber whenever Republicans launch an attack — even if the member is controlling debate.

But the guerrilla tactics — which are just about all the Republicans have — are sure to continue as long as Democratic leaders, in a time-honored bid to help junior members look productive, keep encouraging them to offer amendments and bills.

To this point, the Foxx-Kilroy episode remains the textbook attack.

Foxx reserved time to question Kilroy as the Ohio Democrat was trumpeting her amendment to a recently approved public service bill. Foxx, whose mountain drawl belies her ferociousness as an inquisitor, asked the freshman “why she didn’t serve her constituents” by backing a GOP bill that would grant Treasury the authority to recoup millions in recently paid bonuses to top AIG executives.

The bill was a Republican alternative to legislation offered by Democrats during the AIG bonus scandal, and most freshman Democrats voted against it. But details like those don’t count for much during these made-for-C-SPAN encounters.

The attack caught Kilroy off guard. She stammered as she struggled to regain her rhetorical footing while Foxx kept pressing her into ever-more-awkward responses. Since Foxx controlled the time, she could cut Kilroy off any time she started to gain some momentum. Finally, time expired and Kilroy escaped the interrogation.

But the Columbus paper ran a story on the incident. And the next morning, Democratic leaders gave Kilroy a chance to insulate herself from the attack by offering a resolution to decry the AIG bonuses.

Hoyer backed that up by immediately scheduling a long-planned briefing for freshmen on floor tactics.

The majority leader plans to hold a follow-up briefing for freshmen shortly after members return from the two-week spring recess, a senior leadership aide said. The focus of this next meeting will be on teaching these freshmen to hit back when Republicans put them on the spot — citing Rep. Barney Frank, the sharp-tongued Massachusetts Democrat who regularly embarrasses any lawmaker who questions him on the floor.

“It’s not just getting them off the floor,” the aide said. “It’s teaching them to hammer back.”

Foxx said she’s surprised that her encounter with Kilroy has gotten so much attention.

“As just a country woman from western North Carolina, I’m surprised they’ve paid so much attention to me,” Foxx said.

“I just thought she should be held accountable for her vote,” Foxx said.

Asked if she felt this attack strategy was effective in any way, Kilroy said, “Does rudeness ever work?”

© 2009 Capitol News Company, LLC

89 Thoughts to “Politico: Cantor’s Strategy: Ambush Democrats”

  1. Gainesville Resident

    Elena – I read about Murtha – from the little I’ve read it sounds like he should be investigated. I’m sure there’s some others on both sides that fall into that category too!

  2. Moon-howler

    ShellyB, I agree with you about the lesson it sends. You are right, she has had her childhood stolen from her. I always thought he was a POS, from the moment I laid eyes on him. He just didn’t seem committed. I watched the body language. Also, if he was going to ‘do the right thing’ and marry her, why had he not done so already.

    For the record, I was hoping that the Palins would discourage marriage. I believe that is a rather antiquainted way of handling unwed pregnancy and most of the time it doesn’t work out.

    The bottom line is, daughter will have all the real responsibility. What’s his face will just have to pay. And if he doesn’t, he will be like so many others. It might be harder for him to escape responsiblity because of the Palin’s national profile.

    At any rate, the family did look the situation right in the face, sucked it up and moved forward. Good for them. I don’t like Palin’s politics but I have to respect her handling of an uncomfortable, awkward situation.

  3. ShellyB

    Yeah, but if you would discourage a shotgun wedding as the solution, why do you fault the boy for being afraid about doing it? He was really scared. It’s one thing to find out you’re going to be a father at age 18, but on top of that you’re a prop at the Republican National Convention and EVERYBODY KNOWS your business. Poor kid. I can’t fault him for having safe sex most of the time. That’s better than some kids do.

  4. Elena

    I agree M-H, I give the Palin family Kudo’s for how they handled it. Sounds like Bristol has strong backbone. She’ll need it as a single mom.

  5. Moon-howler

    Shellyb, how do you know he is scared? Let him have a baby as a single mom, then he gets to be scared. He came across as a selfish lout to me. Men can walk away. Women can’t and rarely do.

    He didn’t have to come to the convention. He could have stayed home.

  6. Emma

    Hello, all I have to do is look in the mirror to answer your question about who will bear the ultimate costs of cap and trade. Also, capping the maximum emission rate and then allowing trading in emission rights will cause a great deal of variation in value of those rights. Those of us wealthy enough to invest in “emission rights” (not me) will face a lot of uncertainty about the future value of those investments. So what does a prudent investor do? Last I checked, we are still a capitalist society, so that investor will want to demand a higher rate of return.

    So what? I would imagine much less investment in alternative energy. Wasn’t that the point in the first place?

    And Justin, I do not get my talking points from Eric Cantor or anyone else, any more than I’m sure you don’t get your talking points from It’s common sense.

  7. ShellyB

    You’re right, M-H. He should have “manned up” and done the right thing by marrying Bristol. That is what our old fashioned values tell us to do. But I did have sympathy with how scared he looked at the convention, and I guess he won me over on Tyra Banks. I hope he is a good father even if he is not married to Bristol.

  8. ShellyB

    Emma, we are not talking about you following a script. It was the Republican Congressmen and women who were reading off a script written by Cantor.

  9. ShellyB

    Who brought up Sarah Palin on this thread? I just realized she has nothing to do with the topic. I must be very easily distracted from the topic! Why are we talking about Palin?

  10. Emma

    Shelly, I’m aware of the Cantor “script.” I was responding to Justin’s criticisms of hello’s cap-and-trade comments, i.e., “That should be your focus, rather than which Eric Cantor propaganda ploy is best going to undermine the Obama administration.” Hello was pointing out how expensive this plan will ultimately be, and how unlikely the c&t earnings will be invested in alternative energy sources, and Justin tied to to the Cantor “script.”

  11. Moon-howler

    Shellyb, I am glad they did not marry. Why would anyone wish that on their daughter. Bristol will be just fine. She has a good support system.

    Much has come out about him, what a player he is.

  12. ShellyB

    Okay. I know nothing about cap and trade, so I’ll back away slowly. You know, I’d be more willing to listen to yours and Hello’s argument about cap and trade. But this is an example of how you are drowned out by Eric Cantor’s deliberate distortions and ridiculous use of an ambush script. You get lumped in with him.

    Because how do you think it feels for a free thinking American to hear $3,100 cost to every family and get very worried, and then find out it was just a lie designed to get you worried so you can be manipulated. The truth is the estimate was $31.

    Cantor is out of control, trying to make a name for himself as a fierce attack dog but he looks more like a disgruntled poodle.

  13. Emma

    I don’t believe either side anymore, Shelly. My party has abandoned me and looks more pathetic every day. I’m waiting for a new one. Jesus might come sooner than that will happen.

  14. Emma

    And speaking of cap and trade, hello, have you read about the White House Science Advisor John Holden’s idea of injecting reflective dust into the atmosphere as an effort to combat climate change? The snake oil we’re being sold gets thicker every day.

  15. Moon-howler

    I have nothing to say about cap and trade either. Not a scientist. More of a social scientist by education and trade and I do recognize bullying in these videos. Why are we deflecting the attention away from what is really going on? Does it not alarm people that our law makers are bullying others to achieve political gain?

  16. A PW County Resident

    There isn’t a politician or a political party that doesn’t have a script. Heck, even our President can thank himself by misreading a script. Is there really a naivete on this board? Does anyone think that when the democrats weren’t in power and they all said the same thing that they weren’t following some leader’s script. It is hypocritical to just put this on Cantor.

  17. A PW County Resident

    And, M-H, the rules were designed on the Hill to do just the bullying that you are complaining about by the minority party. Ever seen the House of Commons when the Prime Minister is speaking?

  18. A PW County Resident

    Neither right nor wrong, it just IS.

  19. kelly3406

    I agree that the tactics of the Republicans are bare knuckles, but there is certainly nothing unethical, unpatriotic or even unusual.

    When Bush’s popularity was soaring and the country was unified following 9/11, the Democrats plotted similar methods to take him down.

    One could argue that such tactics are repugnant, but the reaction is skewed depending on whom the tactics are directed. Against Bush, it was depicted as simple dissent.

  20. “Is there really a naivete on this board?”

    I doubt it. It’s more like informed disgust.

  21. Moon-howler

    I hardly think the British House of Commons is any decent role ,model. They are rude and obnoxious.

    I don’t like it regardless of who is doing it and to whom it is being done. Bullying should never be condoned. It is actually a sign of great weakness.

  22. Moon-howler

    Do I get to enjoy an evening of defense of bullying? (rolling eyes)

    Pinko, I have a feeling that the more I object to bullying, the more I will be called naive. (rolling eyes again)

    Sorry, I am not going to wink wink nudge nudge through this one. Bullying is bullying.

  23. Emma

    I agree with you there, kelly. The rally-round-the-flag that occurred right after 9/11 was a direct threat to the Demoocrats, and their efforts to bring down George Bush were stepped up once all the war fever settled down. It wasn’t long before loyal Democrats were required to apologize for their war votes, the war–and subsequent surge– was declared a “failure,” and Democrats did everything possible to trash their opposition. Plenty of bullying on their side, too, so I guess it’s all fair, isn’t it?

  24. JustinT

    Emma, come on, are you really still stuck on the “call them unpatriotic” trip. We were all united after 9/11 because we are all Americans. We weren’t hoping Bush would fail, that he would lie WMD’s to bring us into the an unnecessary and endlessly bloody war in Iraq, that he would bungle said unnecessary and endlessly bloddy war, that he would thus bungle the “war on terra” and never bring bin Laden to justice, that he would torture people, that he would lie about torturing people, that he would corrupt the justice department, that he would lie about corrupting the justice department, that he would appoint a horse salesman as the director of FEMA, that we’d lose a major city as a result. No, we were NOT hoping for Bush to fail. We were not plotting what to do IF he failed either. No one imagined he might fail on the scale that he did.

    But yes. Once we came to realize what Cheney/Bush had done to our country, we did get mad, and we did vote their part out of power with two landslide elections in a row.

    That’s how democracy works. You reward failure with a boot.

    But Democrats weren’t trying to undermine Bush when he had control of Congress, we were just trying to stop him from destroying the country.

    The difference is, we waited to see how Bush was doing before we jumped to any conclusions. If you look at poll numbers at this point in Bush’s Presidency, Democrats were giving him a chance.

    Republicans are not giving Obama a chance. It just leads me to believe that underneath all their scapegoating and hate-mongering, the really just ain’t got nothin’.

  25. Emma

    If enacted, cap and trade will have more of an impact on most of us than almost any other issue I can think of. By any definition, it is a backdoor tax that will harm smaller businesses and individuals and do nothing whatsoever to slow climate change, any more than dinosaur farts did anything to cause the last ice age. On the upside, issues such as illegal immigration won’t seem like a big deal, since we’ll all be on our way to personal and national insolvency on our way to a third-world economy. It is an issue well worth understanding, and worth fighting hard against.

  26. Emma

    By the way, Justin, as far as I know, Obama has done nothing to move along charging any of the detainees at Bagram with any actual crimes. Amnesty International isn’t happy about it, either. Human rights violations continue, just not under the klieg lights of Guantanamo Bay. Obama’s not that stupid.

  27. kelly3406

    Reply to JustinT,#74: I would like to rebut your statements, but we really have no foundation on which to debate. You provide a litany of cliches that serve only to demonstrate your poor understanding of intelligence (Bush lied about WMDs) and your poor knowledge of military history (endlessly bloody war). You may not agree with the Iraq war but the fact is that there were relatively few casualties by any historical measure.

    And you may not have personally wished Bush ill, but there was a plan among Democratic leadership to bring him down after 9/11. It is possible to find the references if you try hard enough.

  28. Moon-howler

    Interesting that the obvious Republicans aren’t objecting to their congressmen being called bullies. Those congressmen and women are singling out less experienced people. Perhaps this is just an initiation to the good old boys club? Hazing at its worst?

    I don’t like it when anyone does it.

  29. JustinT

    Yeah Kelly, my post does sound like a rant. I typed it really quickly. I would not call Bush’s failures cliches though, and I did forget to list a lot of them, taking Clinton’s record surpluses into record deficits for instance. I wouldn’t want to go down the road of trying to apologize for the Iraq war by saying only 4,266 people are dead. That’s a lot more people than I would prefer to be dead, and that’s not to mention the wounded, nor the deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians.

    The toll that Iraq has taken on our country is still being measured, as we face the runaway debt and bankruptcy it caused, and the threat of terrorism that it distracted away from.

    As for the cover-up story that “we got the intelligence wrong,” you’ll just have to go on believing that and I’ll have to go on disbelieving it. Those who are loyal to Cheney/Bush will never accept the overwhelming evidence that they treated the Iraq War as a sell job, where intelligence was crafted to fit the policy. Oh, that reminds me of another one. Outing a CIA agent because her husband dared to tell the truth about one of the WMD lies Bush committed in his 2002 Presidential Address.

    Now I’ve typed another rant. But there are less typos at least. Off to bed.

  30. Moon-howler

    How about the General Assembly refusing to accept stimulus money? I sure wasn’t asked about that. The vote went along party lines. It looks like the Republicans simply don’t want to win any more elections in Virginia.

  31. Emma

    Moon-howler, one of the conditions of accepting that stimulus money (for unemployment benefits) is that umemployment benefits would have to be extended to part-time workers, too, not just the jobless. Some states look about that and worry about the financial viability of continuing that benefit once the stim money runs out.

  32. Emma

    And I’m not defending Republicans here, just representing the issue as I understand it. They are not my party anymore.

  33. Moon-howler

    When did they stop being your party?
    It seems to me that the more sensible reaction would be to enact emergency legislation that linked the part time workers to the stimulus package rather than making it a forever sort of thing. Wouldn’t that have been possible.

    I know a lot of people who have had employment benefits run out, and yet they still don’t have a job. Part time workers probably need work just as badly as full time workers do. From what I read, the Republican voters appealed to the desires of business, once again.

  34. Emma

    The bumbling morons stopped being my party when they pretty much handed over the election to Obama and the Democrats in Congress and the Senate. It makes me angry to think of all the missed opportunities, all the issues that McCain was afraid to touch, and the complete lack of focus during the debates and the incessant Republican mantra of “Cut taxes! Cut taxes!” Not to mention all of the lame attempts at regrouping–thinking that Bobby Jindal and Michael Steele’s African-Americanism would pose some kind of serious challenge to Obama. They’ve become a Laurel and Hardy sideshow anymore and they have empowered the ultraliberal Democrats to an unprecedented extent.

  35. Moon-howler

    So Emma, are you just a woman (assuming Emma is a female) without a party, an Independent, or what?

    I became an independent many years ago after I got sick of both parties. Locally, the Democrats couldn’t win an election if they counted their own ballots. The Republicans have been hijacked by the Religious Right for about 20 years or longer.

  36. Emma

    I’m just a middle-aged female– “Emma” is a favorite literary character. I don’t even call myself an Independent at this point, just a disgusted and soon-to-be-overburdened tazpayer who is justifiably worried about the future for her children. When an Obama advisor starts talking about sprinkling magic, reflective fairy dust into the atmosphere to try to stop climate change, I have even more reason to worry about what these idiots will do to our environment just to try to prove they are right. The issues I care about most have been intensively politicized, and those of us who have to stand by and watch the infighting will be the ultimate losers.

    Maybe I just need to turn off the news, trash the papers and magazines and just follow the soaps and “American Idol” instead. Blissful ignorance.

  37. Moon-howler

    I like Jane Austen also, and yes, Emma has to be a favorite.

    I think you might be on to something about just turning the news off. I find if I just watch the local news I am much happier. The network news shows all have to validate themselves too much. Additionally, I found I had to stop watching Fox News. There was just too much editorializing and opinion punctuating news.

    I am one of those who has to do their own interpretations and analysis. I am assuming I am more centrist than you are? I am far from liberal except with one or 2 issues, which I do not elaborate on on this blog, as a general rule.

  38. A PW County Resident

    I think, M-H, I will stop posting again since everything I say is some kind of attack to you. All I said was that this in Congress is what it is, since I have worked the venerable halls of Congress. Everything I say seems to be taken as some attack and I am tired of your incessant attitude. Obviously, I cannot post even when I say nothing personal. Look within yourself and I am satisfied that I have fought for more people who have been underdogs. Pat yourself on your back if you want. It is really okay. I am just done with it.

    And when I leave, please tell everyone where I have said anything to you or anyone that has been unkind.

  39. Moon-howler

    Resident, you may do as you please. Please stop the paranoia. I have accused you of nothing. I don’t even recall talking to you today. I believe I spoke to Emma and Pinko here. Did I leave anyone out?

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