Paul Hampton

Palazzo prefers a more serene venue than a town hall

A crowd gathers to ask questions about their health care or tell of experiences at the Biloxi VA Hospital during town hall meeting Thursday.
A crowd gathers to ask questions about their health care or tell of experiences at the Biloxi VA Hospital during town hall meeting Thursday. File

U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo should have been at this town hall.

It was held by the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, which operates the Biloxi Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which would seem like natural habitat for a politician who rarely misses an opportunity to mention his military service.

But as the saying goes, Palazzo was a no-show. That’s too bad. It was orderly, respectful and informative. In other words, everything a town hall should be. The Coast VA officials are to be commended.

Palazzo missed a chance to hear from the veterans he serves. He could have heard firsthand about problems at the Medical Center and what the staff is doing to fix them. He could have gotten the locals’ take on the much-touted Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, which Palazzo listed as a piece of “solid, conservative legislation” the news media isn’t reporting.

And, he could have heard at least a couple of veterans praise his district office for helping them navigate the sprawling VA bureaucracy. That’s the trouble with missing a chance to talk to your constituents — you never know when you might learn something or hear something good about yourself.

Where was Palazzo? At the Dixie Water Association office in Hattiesburg taking part in a roundtable with the Mississippi Rural Water Association, which has Mississippians from Beaumont, Pontotoc, Canton, Terry, Meridian, Leland, Como, Ripley, Bay Springs, Enterprise and Columbia among its officials. Is it just me, or does the outfit seem a little light on folks from the 4th Congressional District.

Friday, Palazzo was on a state radio inviting people up to the Lake Serene Grocery for biscuits and gravy and coffee, an invitation he extended through Twitter as well.

Earlier, according to Facebook, he was at William Carey University’s Tradition campus for graduation. Doesn’t look like he took questions. And he wasn’t answering commenters who wanted to know what he thought about the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Viriginia, and the white nationalists in general. Not that they noticed, seeing as they were so busy attacking one another.

But that’s what passes for political discourse with the congressman.

When a lawsuit was filed claiming President Donald Trump was violating Twitter users’ constitutional rights by blocking them, I asked on my Facebook page if anyone had been blocked by a public official.

One of the innumerable August Wests that inhabit was the winner.

“Chris McDaniel blocked me,” he wrote. “Palazzo blocked me. Phil Bryant blocked me. Roger Wicker blocked me. Micheal Watson blocked me. Casey Eure blocked me. And most recently Shea Dobson blocked me.”

That was more than a week ago. The list has likely grown.

Seems McDaniel and Palazzo are fond of picking social media fights and then blocking people.

“Chris is just doing them a favor,” Nicki Nichols chimed in. I suspect she rivals August for blockage.

The Sun Herald blocks people all the time, for indecency, threats and the like. Palazzo, readers tell me, blocked a woman for teasing him about poor spelling and grammar. And another for repeating a tasteless joke he told her.

Such arbitrary banning violates the Constitution, at least one federal court has ruled. Ironically, McDaniel’s main schtick is upholding the Constitution. Palazzo is pretty quick to flag someone for a constitutional violation, too.

And it ought to violate a public official’s sense of responsibility. But it doesn’t.

They don’t fear voters.

They have the almighty “R” beside their names.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton