LIBN Column: Public Officials, Public Events…

Below is the Text from my LIBN Column published today 1/14/2011
I’ve been there, retail politics with a high-profile electedofficial.  In my case, it was US SenatorChuck Schumer on whose staff I served for nearly 6 years.  Chuck loves retail and does it often andwell.  He spends countless hours on LIRRplatforms, in front of supermarkets and at countless parades andfestivals.   He listens to everyone, evenpeople who disagreed with him.  Chancesare if you have gone to the Oyster Fest, Riverhead or Huntington Fall Festivalsyou have seen the Senior Senator talking with his constituents and enjoying thelocal corn.  He loves getting and I lovedbeing with him, even though it often meant working weekends and always added tomy workload.  Elected officials exist toserve the public and you can’t serve the public if you’re not willing to go tothem. 
I never worried that a public event would end inviolence.  To think a nameless, facelessthug would attempt to take the life of an elected official for any reason isunfathomable, even today.   Whilerhetoric employed in modern politics has received greater attention in the wakeof the Arizona shootings, it’s nothing new. Jefferson once referred to John Adams as a hermaphrodite, and there arecountless examples of heated politics in our history.  I’m sure we will debate what effect the toneof the last election had, but clearly this was an act of insanity andfanaticism that has no place in our republic.
After what happened in Arizona, elected officials and staffsacross the nation are likely reconsidering how they interact with voters.  I’m confident this won’t stop them all fromparticipating in retail politics, but it will certainly stop some.  Let’s hope the lasting impact of Arizonawon’t be less access to our leaders by regular people who need their help andrarely have opportunities to interact with members of congress.       
I pray that Giffords survives and goes back to that Safewayfor a “Congress on Your Corner” event soon, and I hope that others don’t hidein their offices as a result of what happened in Arizona.