Rep. Bob Etheridge grabs arm of College Republican asking dumb question (Breitbart)

The video at shows a college student - presumably a College Republican - trying to engage Rep. Bob Etheridge (Democrat of North Carolina) in conversation on a Washington DC sidewalk. Rather than pausing to speak to him, Etheridge grabs his arm and then puts him in a horse collar, repeatedly asking, "who are you?" The video is currently linked by Drudge, and Glenn Reynolds [1] and Andrew Breitbart [2] [3] [4] among others are currently promoting it. Whether Breitbart was involved in making the video isn't clear, but it's in the Youtube account belonging to his associate Larry O'Connor [5].

Whether this was actually assault isn't clear since we can't see the full confrontation. The camera did get close into Etheridge's face, but at the same time it's doubtful that he could have considered a cookie cutter Ronald Reagan Jr. as a threat. Hopefully there will be some sort of investigation, because unless they're threatened, politicians shouldn't be grabbing people like yahoos.

But, there probably won't be an investigation of any kind, and the reason for that is because those involved have no intellectual power and aren't trying to get it:

1. This video is akin to paparazzi who try to get publicity for them being beaten up by a celebrity after they get into that celebrity's face. Whether the student wanted to provoke a response similar to what he got or whether he actually wanted to engage the Congressman in conversation isn't clear, but generally speaking we should be concentrating on discussing ideas rather than Congressmen Behaving Badly.

2. The "question" the student had is one of those bad questions: "Do you fully support the Obama agenda?" and it's on the same level as and uses the same "ambush" technique as the GOP has been doing for over a year. Actually, whether they're still doing videos like that isn't clear, because they never had an impact. While there's the possibility that the student was simply using the first question as an entree into really tough questioning, that possibility is incredibly slight. Those in that orbit seem incapable of coming up with tough questions but instead rely on repeating talking points or cheap stunts.

3. Just a few days ago, I continued my campaign to try to get Breitbart to raise the bar by asking truly tough questions, tweeting the following (starting here):

@andrewbreitbart: if you want to send a message the Obama admin can't ignore, help discredit Jim Wallis. He is/was fan of Karl Marx, plus... he's incredibly vulnerable to being discredited. Send a smart, experienced trial lawyer to one of his appearances to... "cross-examine" Wallis over Then, post the video of the exchange to your site.

Once again, I don't know whether Breitbart was involved with the making of the video, but what I suggested to him is the opposite of the video he's promoting. The type of questioner I'm suggesting isn't a wet-behind-the-ears College Republican but an experienced trial lawyer or similar. And, while ideally the questioning would take place at a designated Q&A session, if it had to take place on a sidewalk I'd hope that the experienced questioner wouldn't just shove a camera in the person's face. And, most importantly of all, the goal would be to discredit the ideas of Jim Wallis, and not to catch him behaving badly.

UPDATE: Etheridge has released an apology; it says in full (

"I have seen the video posted on several blogs. I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction and I apologize to all involved. Throughout my many years of service to the people of North Carolina, I have always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect. No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response. I have and I will always work to promote a civil public discourse."