Kate Szumanski still remembers the note her professor wrote at the top of an essay in her senior year: “This is a good argument … Why don’t you come visit me at office hours and we’ll talk about graduate school.”
By all accounts this was a good note. Szumanski got an A on the paper – and she’d done well in the political science class all semester. But that note terrified her. “I started to shake, my cheeks turned bright red,” she told me recently. In all four years of college, she’d never once gone to office hours.
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The next week, she mustered up the courage to climb the three flights of stairs to her professor’s office. The first time she got to his door, she kept walking. And the second. And the third. Eventually, she just left.
“I never worked up the nerve to go in,” she recalls. “I remember feeling just intimidated and frightened; as if I’m an imposter and he’s going to figure me out.”
Ask just about any college student, and they’ll tell you a similar story: Office hours are scary.
And so here’s our guide to taking the fear out.
Let’s start first with the mystery: Students often don’t know what office hours are – or what they’re for, or how they’re different from class time.
They’re part of what some students say is a hidden curriculum – the set of rules on a college campus that no one ever tells you about. And then, what students do know is that you have to meet one-on-one with your professor, which in some cases means talking to the smartest, most powerful person you know (remember, professors are the ones giving out the grades!).
I’ve had dozens of current college students describe office hours to me as “intimidating” or “terrifying.”
This fear is so universal that Arizona State University made a satirical video about it, spoofing a pharmaceutical commercial. The diagnosis: Fear of Meeting One on One with My Professor, or FWOOMP. The suggested treatment: Faculty Office Hours, or FOH. But once students try FOH: “Everything fell in to place,” a smiling student tells the camera, “I knew how to study for class. I’m hooked.”
This video is definitely fun, but it also offers an important message: No matter how scary, office hours are a huge factor in a student’s success. Not only in college, but even after — in the workforce and in life.
“Office hours are a way for your professor to get to know you,” explains Anthony Abraham Jack, a professor at Harvard University and the author of The Privileged Poor. “You gain access to institutional resources, you gain access to a professor’s network. You gain access to a professor’s support — for adventures and experiences that you may not even know about.”
It’s a valuable part of the college experience; a time when your professor can transform into an advisor and ultimately a mentor. For students who don’t know this – or are too nervous to take part – they may be missing a crucial component of what they’re paying for by enrolling in college.
“The students who are least likely to go to office hours are the students who would benefit from them the most,” explains Jack. He says colleges and professors need to do a lot more to make office hours more accessible. A good place to start, he says, is to actually tell students what office hours are — not just when they are.
Kate Szumanski, who did laps on the third floor to avoid meeting with her professor more than 25 years ago, now teaches college students at Villanova University, just outside Philadelphia. She holds her office hours on the second floor of the library, with 20-year-old Kate in mind. “My office travels to where students are. Office Hours on the road,” she says. “That’s my kind of small way to say, ‘Where are our students who need my services?’ “
No matter how lovely a faculty office is decorated, she says, it’s not a familiar space for students. Moving office hours to a student-centered location like the library, a dorm or the food court can make students feel more at ease. Szumanski thinks of her road show as a gateway to other office hours, in more formal settings.
Professors have tried other strategies to demystify Office Hours, including changing the name to “Hangout Hours” or “Student Hours.”
“There is a power dynamic that has to be acknowledged,” says Monica McLemore, who teaches nursing at the University of California, San Francisco, “I completely understand why students avoid it.” McLemore holds her office hours over video conferencing apps — like Zoom and Facetime — since many of her students are commuters.
For students who are still wary, Harvard’s Anthony Abraham Jack has this advice: “Never, ever, be afraid to ask for help: It is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.”
Plus, he says, when you got to office hours, you’re letting the professor do their job.
WASHINGTON — Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign was under attack, and he and his advisers were torn over what to do.
For more than a week, President Trump had been hurling unfounded accusations about Mr. Biden, his son Hunter and their dealings in Ukraine. Mr. Biden and his advisers debated whether to mount a fierce counterattack or to stick to a set of policy arguments he had been planning to roll out. Bad news loomed in the background: Mr. Biden’s poll numbers had already grown wobbly, his fund-raising was uneven, and cable news was flashing chyrons by the hour showing Mr. Trump’s wild claims.
Mr. Biden himself was equivocating: He wanted to defend and protect his son, but he also believed the president was baiting him into a dirty fight. And as a lifelong adherent to congressional tradition, Mr. Biden was wary of acting hastily as an impeachment inquiry was getting underway.
The strain grew so acute that some of Mr. Biden’s advisers lashed out at their own party, taking the unusual step of urging campaign surrogates to criticize the Democratic National Committee — a neutral body in the primary — for not doing more to defend Mr. Biden, while the Republican National Committee was running TV ads attacking him. Frustrated, D.N.C. officials informed the Biden camp that it would continue denouncing Mr. Trump but would not run ads for Mr. Biden or any other candidate.
The Biden campaign’s tense deliberations reached a climax last weekend when Mr. Biden agreed to give a scorching rebuttal to Mr. Trump in a speech on Wednesday in Reno, Nev. But he delivered it well into the evening on the East Coast, and it was mostly lost amid another long day of Trumpian eruptions.
To some Biden allies, it seemed too little too late: a case study in political indecision. Now Mr. Biden looks more vulnerable than at any point since he entered the campaign. Facing one of the greatest challenges of his candidacy, Mr. Biden has plainly struggled to meet the moment, or fully reconcile his own cautious instincts with his protectiveness of his family’s privacy and his preference for taking the moral high road against Mr. Trump.
Interviews with more than 50 Democratic strategists, lawmakers and lobbyists provide a portrait of a candidacy facing challenges on all sides, and one at risk of losing its core argument that Mr. Biden is the Democrat best able to defeat Mr. Trump in a general election.
There is no evidence behind Mr. Trump’s claim that Mr. Biden intervened inappropriately with Ukraine to help his son, but Democrats have been unnerved by the president’s onslaught and Mr. Biden’s halting response.
In addition to the attacks from Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden’s top rivals, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, each out-raised him in the third quarter by about $10 million. And as Ms. Warren has emerged as Mr. Biden’s most formidable competition, Mr. Sanders, her main challenger for progressive support, just had a heart attack, casting uncertainty over whether he could siphon votes from Ms. Warren, as the Biden camp had hoped.
Even before last week, Mr. Biden’s advisers were acknowledging to donors that he may well lose both of the leadoff nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
His communications aides contend that most voters were more focused on what Mr. Trump did to prompt the impeachment inquiry than on the false claims themselves. And they pointed to the former vice president’s forceful attacks on Mr. Trump at a news conference Friday to argue that he was now ready to do battle with the president.
“This guy like all bullies is a coward,” Mr. Biden said. “He does not want to run against me.”
On Thursday, Mr. Biden, whose inner monologue rarely remains repressed, gave voice to the tension he is struggling with as he spoke at a fund-raiser in Palo Alto, Calif.
Recalling the difficulty Hillary Clinton had in confronting Mr. Trump’s campaign style, Mr. Biden worried about being “sucked into the trap of the stuff that Trump was laying. He wants you in a mud fight.”
“But when you respond to that,” he continued, “it brings you back down into that.”
Mr. Biden was even blunter, and angrier, in private after news first emerged that Mr. Trump had exhorted the Ukrainian government to investigate him and his son.
“I can’t believe this guy is going after my family like this,” he told Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, as the two campaigned in Iowa, Mr. Coons recalled.
Leading Democrats have been pleading privately with Mr. Biden and his top aides to aggressively confront Mr. Trump, and expressing impatience with them for not seizing this opportunity to engage him in a two-man race. After all, Mr. Biden had spent months framing his candidacy as a singular crusade to oust an aberrant president.
“It’s time to really respond so everybody hears it,” said Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, a campaign co-chairman. “If someone says something enough, people will start to believe it, and this president gets in his zone of telling a lie over and over again. You have to make sure people don’t believe in it.”
David Plouffe, former President Barack Obama’s campaign manager, was mystified. Mr. Biden “should use this moment and become Trump’s opponent,” Mr. Plouffe said. “I don’t understand it.”
But Mr. Biden is confronting an almost unimaginable situation: the president he hopes to challenge is facing impeachment for urging another country to help smear him. What’s more, the House inquiry centers on what Mr. Biden values most in his private and public life: protecting his family and honoring institutional norms.
Several Democrats close to Mr. Biden say he did not take on Mr. Trump sooner in large part because of his reverence for congressional prerogatives — he did not want to immediately insert himself into the House’s jurisdiction. But Mr. Biden also sought to address the attacks on his son on his own terms rather than sit for hastily arranged television interviews that would have forced him to answer questions about Hunter Biden’s work that few of his own aides dared pose.
Now, just as his monthslong lead in the primary is eroding, he faces an opponent who’s threatening his son, the political system he dedicated his adult life to and, as he approaches his 77th birthday, his last chance to become president.
Worried about his family
For Mr. Biden’s campaign, no attack could have been more difficult to deal with than one involving the candidate’s son.
Mr. Biden nearly did not run for president because of the effect it would have on his family — and particularly on Hunter Biden and his children, according to multiple advisers to the former vice president. Hunter Biden has struggled for years with substance addiction and had recently gone through a very public divorce from his first wife.
In separate interviews, Mr. Coons and his fellow senator from Delaware, Tom Carper, both said they had warned Mr. Biden that the president would target his family.
“He expected his family to be attacked,” Mr. Carper said, adding that Mr. Biden assured him he was braced for “the onslaught.’’
Mr. Biden’s family, including his son, encouraged him to enter the race, knowing the attacks were inevitable. But as Anita Dunn, one of Mr. Biden’s closest advisers, put it: “When it happens, it still feels pretty lousy.”
The Biden campaign has attempted to handle the candidate’s son with great sensitivity. Mr. Biden made clear at the outset that Hunter, a lawyer who had long advised his father on his campaigns, should not be made to feel excluded, people who spoke with him said. One adviser to Mr. Biden recently telephoned his son to solicit advice on the upcoming debate in Ohio.
But to most of Mr. Biden’s aides, Hunter Biden has been a spectral presence. He is living in Los Angeles and stayed away from Mr. Biden’s campaign launch in Philadelphia. Hunter Biden quietly attended the last two debates and appeared with his new wife, Melissa Cohen, at a July fund-raiser in Pasadena, Calif.
Still, Mr. Biden’s advisers are aware that Hunter Biden carries political vulnerabilities. His business career has intersected repeatedly with his father’s political power, through roles he had held in banking, lobbying and international finance. Working for a Ukrainian energy company beginning in 2014, he was paid as much as $50,000 a month while his father was vice president, and some of Mr. Biden’s admirers worry that, while Mr. Trump’s accusations are without merit, voters may view Hunter Biden’s actions as problematic.
In the past, Mr. Biden has bristled at questions about whether his family had benefited financially from his political career. He did so again on Friday when he was asked whether his son’s work in Ukraine represented a conflict of interest. Pointing a finger at the questioner he said: “Let’s focus on the problem. Focus on this man, what he’s doing, that no president has ever done. No president!” The Trump campaign was soon circulating a clip of the episode.
For his allies, it is both poignant and painful that Mr. Biden’s family is again at the heart of his public identity. He lost his first wife and daughter, and nearly lost his two sons, in a car accident in the weeks after he was elected to the Senate in 1972. His final years as vice president, as well as his hopes to run for president in 2016, were overwhelmed by his elder son Beau’s death from brain cancer.
Jim Mowrer, a former Democratic congressional candidate from Iowa who served with Beau Biden in the military, said he spoke to Hunter Biden early this year and got the impression he was trying to focus on personal matters rather than the campaign. Mr. Mowrer said he saw the elder Mr. Biden in Iowa last month and they discussed not Hunter but his other son, Beau.
“Beau’s death is very, very fresh in his mind, and so now these attacks on Hunter are even more unsettling,” Mr. Mowrer said.
A big bet on South Carolina
The politics of Ukraine and impeachment have been so costly for Mr. Biden, in part, because he is confronting so many other challenges in the Democratic race: a struggle to excite liberal primary voters, an ascendant rival in Ms. Warren and a decline in fund-raising that has forced him to spend even more time appealing to donors in cities hundreds of miles from the early primary states.
Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, Greg Schultz, acknowledged some of those problems in a briefing for Democratic donors at Morgan Stanley’s New York office last month. Mr. Schultz assured the group that they had a path to the nomination that depended on winning South Carolina — the fourth primary state — and then scoring big victories in the Super Tuesday primaries in March.
In South Carolina, where Mr. Biden’s support appears strongest among the early-voting states, some of his supporters are discussing a trip to Iowa before Thanksgiving — to vouch for the former vice president, and to emphasize his ability to appeal to minority constituencies, like African-Americans.
“We probably know Joe Biden a lot better than they do,” said State Senator Dick Harpootlian of South Carolina, a Biden supporter.
Mr. Schultz acknowledged at the briefing that Mr. Biden had been uneven at times during debates and on the stump. Still, he predicted Mr. Biden would maintain an advantage over Ms. Warren, saying she would struggle to overcome the persistent competition on the left from Mr. Sanders.
But Ms. Warren has recently pulled well ahead of Mr. Sanders. Now, even Mr. Biden’s own campaign aides privately acknowledge that South Carolina may not be much of a political firewall if Ms. Warren rolls through Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
As he finds his way forward, Mr. Biden is relying on a circle of advisers, some formal and others less so, but there is no chief strategist. Mike Donilon, who wrote much of the Reno speech, may be the closest person to playing that role. Democrats who know Mr. Biden well say the campaign is mostly in his hands — and he makes the final calls.
While Mr. Biden’s team has done little polling in the race, he is expected to conduct a survey of Iowa Democrats next week on the Ukraine issue ahead of a new advertising push in the state.
Mr. Biden has begun to escalate his attacks on the president, and his campaign began airing a commercial hitting back at the president for trying to “pick his opponent and face only the candidates he thinks he can beat.” Still, there is no final consensus, in Mr. Biden’s camp, about how consistently he should confront Mr. Trump.
“He’s never gone negative,” said William M. Daley, the former White House chief of staff, who worked on Mr. Biden’s 1988 campaign. “That’s not him, that’s the charm of Joe.”
Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting from Los Angeles.
Late-night host Seth Meyers claimed on Thursday that President Trump confessed to wrongdoing when he said that Ukraine should investigate the Bidens.
“So, he just confessed on TV,” Meyers said after playing a clip of Trump speaking outside of the White House. “After two weeks of lying and spinning, he just admitted to the crime he’s accused of — he basically just blew the whistle on himself.”
He was referring to Trump telling reporters that it made sense for Ukraine to investigate corruption allegations surrounding former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump, on Thursday, was asked what exactly Trump hoped Ukraine would do after his phone call with the nation’s president in July.
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“Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens. It’s a very simple answer — they should investigate the Bidens,” Trump said. The clip, played on Meyers’ program, also showed Trump saying that if he were President Volodymyr Zelensky, he would recommend the country start investigating the Bidens.
Meyers responded by mocking Trump, saying he should walk around with a whistle. “Ukraine should investigate Joe Biden,” Meyers said before blowing a whistle.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, arguing that he didn’t pressure or engage in any quid pro quo with the president of Ukraine. The rough transcript he decided to release showed him suggesting Zelensky look into the Bidens.
He has maintained that he was not trying to influence the 2020 election. Rather, he said, pushing that type of investigation was a legitimate exercise of his presidential authority.
Developments in the House impeachment inquiry were fast and furious this week. It was hard to keep up, even for those of us who are paid to do it. Here’s a breakdown of important articles you may have missed.
President Trump’s public call on China for help that could benefit him in the 2020 election comes amid an impeachment inquiry into a similar request to Ukraine.CreditCreditPete Marovich for The New York Times
If you haven’t had a chance to read through the whistle-blower complaint at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry, here’s an annotated version. And a second official is weighing whether to blow the whistle on President Trump’s Ukraine dealings. The second official, a member of the intelligence community, was interviewed by the inspector general to corroborate the original whistle-blower’s account.
In a series of tweets, Aaron Carter publicly accused his late sister of sexual abuse. This accusation comes amid an ongoing feud between Carter and his older brother Nick. Aaron recently confessed to family that ‘he harbors thoughts and intentions’ of killing his brother’s pregnant wife and unborn child.
Aaron Carter briefly appeared to want to make amends with his family.
The troubled singer, 31, tweeted and deleted his desire to make right with brother Nick Carter, writing, “I’ve been very hurt by the fact that my big brother has not made an effort to be part of my life for a long time. So therefore, I lashed out and said some hurtful things I did not mean to say.”
“I love my brother,” he added. “I love my family, and all I want is peace and love for everybody.”
“In light of Aaron’s increasingly alarming behavior and his recent confession that he harbors thoughts and intentions of killing my pregnant wife and unborn child, we were left with no choice but to take every measure possible to protect ourselves and our family,” wrote Nick, who has since welcomed a baby girl.
The statement continued: “We love our brother and truly hope he gets the proper treatment he needs before any harm comes to himself or anyone else.”
Marchers – wearing blue doctor’s masks – told reporters that the protest movement was merely harboring its strength for the long haul as Hong Kong’s most disruptive crisis since its “one nation, two systems” agreement with the Chinese in 1997.
Shops and banks were shuttered. Lines formed at cash machines, while the entire transit network of subways and trains that usually handles more than 4 million trips a day was closed.
Students march to the Chinese University to show support to those students who were arrested by police in Hong Kong, on Thursday. (AP)
The government’ initiated the ban after widespread violence in the city on Tuesday, which marred China’s National Day and ended in blood. Two teenagers – 14 and 18 years old – have been shot by live ammunition by police.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is blamed for sparking the movement with a now-abandoned bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts in mainland China.
Lam added that the ban targeted violent protesters and rioters and “will be an effective deterrent to radical behavior.”
Protesters throw petrol bomb outside the Tsuen Wan police station in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Holding up posters saying “Don’t shoot our kids,” Hong Kong residents and schoolmates of a teenage demonstrator shot at close range in the chest by a police officer rallied Wednesday to condemn police actions and demand accountability. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
But, analysts cautioned that the use of the Emergency Ordinance for the first time in over half a decade set a dangerous precedent.
Those who break the regulation will face a year in jail. Police said no arrests had been made so far on the anti-mask ban but did not explain why.
Before Lam spoke, thousands of masked protesters marched through city streets, chanting slogans for greater democracy including “Wearing a mask is not a crime.” Cars stuck in the chaos honked their support.
A masked protester holds up his hand to represent the protesters’ five demands as he walks next to a banner reading “Hong Kong police deliberately murder” in Hong Kong on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. All subway and trains services are closed in Hong Kong after another night of rampaging violence that a new ban on face masks failed to quell. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
In a televised address broadcast on Saturday, a solemn Lam described Hong Kong as “semi-paralyzed.”
Even though many blamed Lam, some are turning to the government’s side in the wake of the riots.
“Protesters want democracy and freedom, but don’t they have freedom now? People can go anywhere and do things freely,” 67-year-old retiree Peter Tai said. “Freedom is more valuable than democracy. I hope these young people don’t do things they’ll regret forever.”
The University of Kansas athletic director Jeff Long issued an apology on Friday night following a controversial performance by Snoop Dogg during the school’s “Late Night in the Phog” preseason celebration.
The performance, which kicked off the Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team’s 2019-2020 season, featured pole dancers, a money gun and profanity in front of a raucous crowd of 16,300 people at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.
Snoop Dogg performs onstage at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The University of Kansas has apologized for its risque Late Night at the Phog event in which the rapper performed, stripper poles were wheeled onto the Allen Fieldhouse floor and fake money was shot over the heads of prospective recruits. (Photo by Paul R. Giunta/Invision/AP, File)
“We apologize for the Snoop Dogg performance at Late Night,” Long said. “We made it clear to the entertainers’ managers that we expected a clean version of the show and took additional steps to communicate to our fans, including moving the artist to the final act of the evening, to ensure that no basketball activities would be missed if anyone did not want to stay for his show.”
He added: “I take full responsibility for not thoroughly vetting all the details of the performance and offer my personal apology to those who were offended. We strive to create a family atmosphere at Kansas and fell short of that this evening.”
During the event, Snoop Dogg performed some of his famous hits like “Gun and Juice,” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” complete with a team of pole dancers. He wore a Kansas Jayhawks Jersey and even shot fake money into the crowd, which ESPN reported featured his own face on the currency.
While the performance isn’t new for the rapper, the school is currently facing five NCAA Level I violations, including a lack of institutional control and a violation of coaching responsibilities standard. Those violations could result in serious penalties for the basketball program.
Kansas head coach, Bill Self also issued an apology for the event while exclaiming the performance went a bit further than he expected.
“That’s not the direction that anybody at our school would want that to go, at all,” Self told USA Today. “Regardless of the entertainment that it provided many. It was still not the right way to provide the entertainment.”
President Trump on Saturday ripped into Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, over his criticism of Trump’s request for foreign investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden — branding the 2012 presidential hopeful a “pompous ‘a–’” who “choked” in his own run for the White House.
“Somebody please wake up Mitt Romney and tell him that my conversation with the Ukrainian President was a congenial and very appropriate one, and my statement on China pertained to corruption, not politics,” he tweeted. “If Mitt worked this hard on Obama, he could have won. Sadly, he choked!”
“Mitt Romney never knew how to win. He is a pompous ‘a–’ who has been fighting me from the beginning, except when he begged me for my endorsement for his Senate run (I gave it to him), and when he begged me to be Secretary of State (I didn’t give it to him),” he said. He is so bad for R’s!”
Trump was responding to recent criticism by the Utah senator over his comments in which he said that China should investigate Biden, just as he had urged Ukraine to do in July.
“China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened with China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump said earlier this week. “I’m sure that President Xi [Jinping] does not like being under that kind of scrutiny where billions of dollars is taken out of his country by a guy that just got kicked out of the Navy.”
Trump had urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call this summer to “look into” the Biden family dealings in the country, particularly related to gas company Burisma Holdings, where Hunter served on the board.
On China, Trump was referencing a 2013 trip to Beijing on Air Force Two in which Hunter tagged along. NBC News reported that Hunter Biden was attempting to start a big-money private equity fund. Chinese authorities issued the business license for the fund 10 days after the trip was over.
Romney on Friday said that Trump’s call for China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens was “appalling.”
“When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated,” Romney tweeted.
He added: “By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”
Trump and Romney have feuded with regularity in recent years, with Trump regularly referring to Romney’s 2012 defeat to President Barack Obama. Romney, earlier this year, penned an op-ed in which he attacked Trump’s conduct and said, “he has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
Fox News’ Sam Dorman and Tyler Olsen contributed to this report.
Ensnarled in an impeachment probe over his request for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, President Donald Trump is now calling on another nation to do the same: China. There is no evidence of any wrongdoing by the Bidens. (Oct. 3) AP, AP
ALLENTOWN, Penn. – Rep. Susan Wild was prepared for the criticism on Wednesday evening.
She’d come to Muhlenberg College ready to defend why Democrats in the House of Representatives were moving forward on an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
It was her first town hall since announcing that she, a freshmen Democrat who beat a Republican in a swing state in 2018, also supported the historic move put in motion by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in late September. The forum would offer a peak into how the ruckus in Washington was playing out at home.
But over about 90 minutes in a packed room full of hundreds of people, so many that officials had to bring in more chairs, impeachment was only raised a handful of times. Instead, people in this eastern Pennsylvania city wanted to know about bread-and-butter issues like health care and education and weren’t preoccupied with the hysterics surrounding the quickly moving impeachment probe.
“I didn’t come to Congress to pursue an impeachment inquiry,” she told the hundreds who attended the town hall. “It was the last thing in the world that I wanted.”
From a stage flanked by Pennsylvania and American flags, Wild asked those in the audience to line up if they had any questions or concerns. One by one, they appeared at microphones on both sides of the event hall, but missing from their comments was the topic that was leading most newspapers and cable news.
“Do you believe that there should be a profit motive in health care, and if not, then we need to work toward Medicare for All,” the first constituent at the microphone asked, also noting Wild’s work on mental health after the recent death of her partner by suicide.
The second, a young woman, approached the microphone: “Have you changed your position on the Green New Deal? Will you please sign on to co-sponsor” the legislation, she asked, raising the climate change resolution posed by fellow freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent New York progressive.
Of the 31 questions she took from constituents throughout the evening, impeachment came up just a few times. Only two people stood up to criticize her or Democrats for launching the inquiry, which started after a whistleblower charged that Trump used his office to go after a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
It wasn’t until about 20 minutes into the event that someone brought up the issue. That person argued a majority of Americans don’t support removing Trump from office and that the inquiry would prevent Congress from being able to solve problems and work together.
“I just want to make a point that there is another way,” one man told Wild. “I did admire when you said you did several, a few collaborative bills, bipartisan. Just don’t hear much about that anymore, and I think more Americans would be happy to hear more of that and less of the accusation du jour.” The crowd booed.
House Democrats have been trying to stress they haven’t lost sight of issues important to their constituents, even as they attempt to explain the inquiry to voters in their districts. Republicans want to sell Democrats as so hell-bent on impeaching Trump that they’ve abandoning kitchen-table issues.
To those who criticized her, Wild argued that impeachment would not be a distraction from the issues that got her elected. She pointed to her work on the Education and Labor committee and legislation aimed at lowering prescription drug prices.
But some backed Wild’s call for an inquiry – and took it a step further.
“Why can’t the House hold those who refuse to cooperate in contempt, find them, and put them in jail?” one woman asked Wild as the crowd cheered. Wild pushed back, explaining that Congress’ job was to investigate, not to jail or take the place of judges and juries. She also swatted away comments from another constituent who called the president “crazy,” saying she would not talk about the president’s state of mind.
“I hope that it is expeditious and I hope that we get it done,” Wild said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made an effort at drawing attention away from impeachment this week during a news conference. She declined to answer questions about impeachment without first discussing the proposed new North American trade deal and legislation that aims to lower prescription drug prices.
“Does anybody in this room care about the cost of prescription drugs and what it means to America’s working families?” Pelosi asked reporters.
Wild is one of many House Democrats in moderate districts who faced voters after months of resisting efforts to embrace impeachment by the progressive faction in the caucus.
But the mostly friendly crowd Wednesday evening was much more focused on issues like the status of schools in the area, health care and climate change. Such issues resonate in the purple 7th Congressional District, which encompasses everything from Allentown — one of cities with the highest populations in the state — to rural areas where cornfields, country homes and tractors are common.
Wild, a former attorney, captured a seat formerly held by Republican Rep. Charlie Dent in 2018 by eight points, but she is a top target of Republicans in the state in 2020.
She defended herself when questions came up about whether the impeachment inquiry could negatively affect her in the next election. She acknowledged that Republicans would likely target her as they have already Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright, who represents the district neighboring Wild. Ads have criticized Cartwright of backing “a radical scheme to impeach President Trump.”
House Democratic leaders accused President Donald Trump of “incitement to violence” Wednesday and warned him not to intimidate the whistleblower or potential witnesses in their impeachment inquiry. (Oct. 2) AP, AP
“I believe that I will be reelected because of the work I’ve done for the people in this district,” Wild said, “not because I went one way or the other on an impeachment inquiry.”
The political layout of Wild’s district displays the vacillations of swing districts. Her district includes Northampton County, one of the three counties in Pennsylvania that voted for former President Barack Obama and then flipped for Trump in 2016. Persuading voters in counties like Northampton could be key for both Democrats and Republicans in deciding both Wild’s political future and who controls the White House in 2020. Pennsylvania is one of five swing states that has been rated a toss-up by the Cook Political Report.
Large shopping centers are sprinkled throughout Northampton County, as are rural areas featuring acres of corn, wheat and soybeans, along with farm animals and inviting country homes. The county is also home to several colleges and businesses that range from industrial plants to small coffee shops frequented by millennials.
Outside a grocery store inForks Township — a community of about 15,000 people — voters said they felt torn by the constant investigations and the president’s conduct. While some felt worried by the president’s actions, others put the blame on Democrats.
Bridget Colman says she would rather hear about what’s being done to better health care and has gotten so fed up with the news that she doesn’t watch anymore.
“It’s like every time I turn it on I get angry. My blood boils for what?” she asked, noting she did not vote for Trump in 2016. “I can’t do anything but just watch this circus.”
Others like Dawn Dobrosky noted she wasn’t “a fan” of Trump but felt as though Democrats were picking on him.
“It’s like they won’t give him a break,” she said while loading groceries in her car.
Dobrosky, who says she wrote in a candidate instead of voting for Hillary Clinton or Trump in 2016, said she is still undecided on a candidate in 2020.
“It’s just constant,” she said of the fighting, adding that she would rather hear about education and health care instead of impeachment. “They seem to want to keep him under a microscope.”
Like Dobrosky and Colman, others were in agreement that impeaching the president wasn’t the issue that was most important to them.
As Mike Gerbasio and his wife, Cindi Hopkins, got seated in the back of the large event hall at Muhlenberg College — their first time at one of Wild’s town halls — both mentioned a variety of topics they wanted Wild to discuss.
“I just want to hear what she stands for and what she’s been working on,” Gerbasio said. “I know everyone in Washington has a tough job and I want to listen and hear what she is doing for us.”
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