WASHINGTON — Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton lamented Wednesday the change in political climate since he came to Congress and cited recent congressional townhalls that have become magnets for angry protesters as part of the problem.
Barton, who is the manager of the Republican congressional baseball team, was on the Alexandria, Va. field in the morning when a gunman began shooting at members practicing on the field.
The gunman, a strong Bernie Sanders supporter who was mortally wounded by Capitol police that were present, shot and injured Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, a congressional staffer, a lobbyist and police officers.
“I think the Internet and Twitter and all the instantaneous…news cycle has made it more impersonal and members flying back to their districts every weekend,” Barton told reporters at a press conference.
He went on to say, “Very few members live up here. You know, it is a different climate today than it was in 1985 when I first got elected. Part of it is technology and part of it is the way politics have evolved. The attack politics and the 15 second attack ads and things like that, members are not looked at as people anymore.”
Barton added, “We’re kind of looked at as — I won’t say targets. But people think they can come to our town hall meetings and say just the most obnoxious things and we not feel it personally. All I can for you. Every member of Congress is a person. He has family.”
One townhall in February resulted in California Republican Rep. Mike McClintock being escorted out by law enforcement. In May, Tennessee Republican Rep. David Kustoff and an aide were chased by a female protester following his townhall. The woman was later charged with a felony.