Trump stirs fierce blowback in NJ, and GOP Congressman hide | Moran

"We brought him cookies and cake - I mean, what's better than home-baked goods," says Lauren Caiella, one of the organizers.

They have been holding weekly vigils at Frelinghuysen's districts offices and handing in petitions begging for a public hearing. When the Congressman's staffers mumbled about how tough it is to find a public hall, the group, NJ 11th for Change, rented four halls in his district on different days and invited him to come. Still, No answer.

Sir Rodney is a descendent of Frederick Frelinghuysen, an officer who served under Washington during the Revolution. Which makes it ironic that he is acting like King George III.

The award for courage goes to U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th), the only one who has agreed to step into the coliseum and face the lions. He scheduled his 41st town hall Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg, then added as second session Saturday, the 25th, at 9:00 a.m.

Go figure. Lance was known for his courage during his years in Trenton. A centrist state senator, he was endorsed every time by the Sierra Club, and was famous for losing his chairmanship of the Budget Committee when he refused on principle to support Gov. Christie Whitman's slippery pension plan, the one that started the downward spiral.

In Washington, he was among the few Republicans to support a 2009 cap-and-trade bill to combat climate change.

But then the Tea Party came along, and Lance ran to the right like a scared rabbit, flipping positions on nearly everything, including climate.

So maybe he's being courage now because he's scared of this looming Tea Party of the left. Still, he's a decent man who is impossible for me to dislike, so he gets credit anyway.

The toughest call is U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th). Like Frelinghuysen, he is hiding in the closet and refusing to hold a town hall.

So why a tough call? Because his protestors have been so obnoxious that a town hall is likely to be nothing but a shout-down event designed for Facebook.

"I know they're upset based on the emails and phone calls and letters," says U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th). "But they called me an ass hole, and worse than that. And when people call me an ass hole, I'm less likely to take their opinions seriously."

Woah. This is the kind of charges that can be difficult to verify without a recording. But I called the woman he named to check it out, and she confessed.

"With regard to obscenity, yes, I must be more careful," said Robin Nowicki, who helped organize District 4 Coalition for Change.

It gets worse. Smith is an ardent Catholic, and the group posted a piece on its web site calling Mother Theresa "a sadistic religious fanatic" and a "disgrace."

Ok, I'm no expert on how to win friends and influence people, but I'm pretty sure that is the opposite.

I asked Nowicki about that, too. She said she posted an article criticizing Mother Theresa on her personal Facebook page, with no added comment. When I showed her a screen shot of the group's page, with the screaming comments added, she jumped back and forth.

"I don't remember," she said. Then, "I would never write that." Then, "I don't know if I posted it." Then, "Why is this relevant?"

My mixed verdict: Smith ought to hold a meeting, for God's sake. It's a democracy.

But his protestors don't seem to be looking for a discussion. More like an emotional purge, a town hall meeting as therapy. So I can't get too whipped up about Smith's refusal.

He knows what happened to U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican who held a town meeting on Feb. 9 and was shouted down repeatedly by a rowdy crowd.

Chaffetz if one of the creepiest of the creeps, so I get the feeling. He is chairman of the House Oversight Committee, but has no intere

Last week, he sent a letter to the Justice Department seeking an indictment of the State Department employee who helped Clinton set up her private e-mail server. That is not a joke.

"When the history of this dark period is written, Jason Chaffetz will go down as one of the real villains," says Norman Ornstein, a Congress-watcher at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank.

So those Utah protesters achieved the impossible: They turned Chaffetz into a sympathetic figure, at least among those who don't know better. I hope the protestors against Smith take note

Still, give it up for the protestors, one and all. As I watched Trump's press conference this week, a sickening dread swept over me. Like many others, I've never been so scared for the country's future.

Republican members of Congress have to know that if they go along with Trump, they are declaring political war on the majority of New Jersey voters. Even in their gerrymandered districts, that can be dangerous.

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