Congressman Barney Frank didn’t just remove his gloves tonight when he stepped in the arena at the Dartmouth Council on Aging. The liberal heavyweight dipped his mitts in glue and glass, and proceeded to swing mercilessly at simpletons who came to spar. The event was not supposed to be a Town Hall shebang – Frank was scheduled to address the Dartmouth Democratic Town Committee, and ultimately chose the larger venue to entertain America’s infectious municipal congregation craze – but he was more than happy to pummel dingbats for two-and-a-half straight hours. The scene was familiar to anyone in tune with cable news: flocks of anti-government foot soldiers in open-toed sandals and knee-high tube socks yelling things like: “No Obama Care.” They’re everyday constituents – the butcher, the baker, and the crystal meth maker – just much fouler in all regards. Though this contrarian subset gets information from model-types and preppy studs – you should have seen the brunette smoke show accompanying Fox News pretty boy Griff Jenkins – Obama’s vocal adversaries make an ugly bunch. That especially goes for when they fire up their grills; the group’s forced howls at the mere mention of FDR, Medicaid, and the Boston Globe were particularly babyish and crude. I’m not sure if they’re just political pedestrians who were achieving virgin civic orgasms, but several people there were snapping pics like it was Disney World: “Look honey – this is from when we ambushed that gay Jew congressman.” The crowd was mostly old, and, from what I can tell, about half with Frank and half against. There was a disappointing lack of rednecks, but Lyndon LaRouche supporters picked up the crazy slack. Distributing literature with pictures of President Obama sporting a Hitler ‘stache, they caught the ire of Frank, who asked one cute hippie chick LaRuskie: “On what planet do you spend most of your time?” (Note to Chuck Turner and other black politicians who have welcomed LaRouche support: it’s time to shoo them off). Beside LaRouche drones, there weren’t too many full-blown Neanderthals; I was actually proud to discover that even our conservatives and bigots here in Massachusetts aren’t slow enough to believe that Obama wants to euthanize Wal-Mart greeters. But that doesn’t mean cats weren’t rude; after all – the throwdown was a ripe opportunity for ambitious healthcare gadflies to influence peers and snatch national spotlights. It worked; Larry King led with the batshit LaRouche bitch, and, on a smaller note, one attendee wearing a t-shirt that read “Time Is Running Out America” told his friend that the Obama Nazi pic was going on the fridge (right next to a “My Kid Crippled Your Honor Roll Student” bumper sticker, I presume). Frank doesn’t like being called a “freaking liar” – particularly when he’s reading directly from the proposed healthcare bill (that several antagonists insisted he had not read, despite his being familiar enough with the document to locate specific sections). Still, the congressman traded flames with detractors around the room – even those speaking out of turn, and even when those people didn’t understand the difference between federal and state legislation. Among Frank’s resounding zingers: “It’s been 21 years since I’ve had a secret,” “Who do you think paid for the war, Santa Claus?” and “You’re acting like you just discovered that it’s August” – the latter his response when someone accurately accused him of favoring a universal coverage model. Like his colleagues have across the country, in Dartmouth Frank stepped into an un-winnable war against intellectual geriatrics who dislike deficits, but refuse to even partially blame George W. Bush, and who argue in the same breath that federal healthcare providers are both economically implausible and potentially endowed with enough resources to wipe out private insurance companies. But unlike many of his congressional comrades, Frank is not afraid to combat stupidity with hilarity and evidence. He’s so good at it, in fact, that as long as interest lasts I suggest he hosts these shindigs every week and televises them. Though none of the scuffles blossomed into bloodbaths, our South Coast trip was worthwhile. Everyone should witness first-hand that Town Hall heckling is not an “Astroturf” movement, as Keith Olbermann and his MSNBC cronies have incessantly reported. This is genuine outrage and rigmarole, folks; these savages are angry, and they won’t take facts for an answer. That said; one thing the majority of these protesters and interrupters are not: establishment conservatives. The room was peppered with tucked-shirt Republican operatives, but those who engaged the debate distanced themselves from the extremists by behaving (and in one case by denouncing the comparison of Hitler to Obama).I knew that poor and working class Americans were surfacing in droves to rival their best interests, but it’s especially sad to see them up close. They’re clearly blinded by ignorance and fear; why else would they fight on behalf of greedy insurance companies? Why else would they oppose tax hikes for people making more than $325,000 a year? Judging by their clothes, jewelry, and cars, it’s unlikely that many people there have ever earned substantial six-figure salaries. Come to think of it, of course big bank jerkoffs who benefit from healthcare inaction didn’t show to battle Barney. After all, they have an army of white trash circus clowns, ideologues, and talk radio wannabes who are glad and willing to execute their dirty work.