Republican House Speaker William O'Brien left no doubt last week that he is a Grade A bully, more interested in himself than the office. Past references by the editorial board here at Foster's Daily Democrat to the Speaker's bullying tactics have been repeatedly rebuked by a handful of readers. http://www.concordmonitor.com/article/340391/obrien-bans-monitor-from-press-conference?SESSefad2452e208c288985b42a449cd73d8=google
But on Friday, the state representative from Mont Vernon cut the legs from underneath even his staunchest supporters by banishing the Concord Monitor from a news conference called to to discuss the abusive use of EBT cards, debit cards given to welfare recipients.
As noted in a guest editorial published in Foster's on Tuesday, O'Brien had been taken to task in a Monitor editorial cartoon which depicted the Speaker as Hitler for the dictatorial way in which he has conducted House business.
In response, O'Brien failed to invite the Monitor to his Friday news conference. Having learned about the event secondhand, the Monitor sent reporter Annmarie Timmins who recorded the exchange and posted the video on YouTube.com.
Timmins was told she wasn't welcome. Later O'Brien's office released a statement that read: "When the Concord Monitor proves they have chosen to become a responsible media outlet, we'll be happy to invite them to future media events."
Many a politician farther up the food chain than O'Brien has tried to muffle the press. Perhaps the most prominent politician to learn his lesson the hard way was President Richard M. Nixon, forced from office thanks to Deep Throat and writers Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
But beyond O'Brien's Nixonian-like arrogance is a more troubling notion - that he alone somehow has the right to decide if a newspaper is doing its job.
The last time we looked it was the free market that passed judgment by way of advertising dollars and readership, not as decreed by someone who considers himself king of all he surveys.
On the one hand, O'Brien's behavior on Friday should not be surprising after the long string of abuses he has heaped on fellow lawmakers.
Some of these were outlined in a Concord Monitor editorial published Tuesday:
"The kerfuffle capped months of griping from lawmakers of both parties that O'Brien behaves more like a dictator than a speaker. One Republican lawmaker even sponsored a bill to outlaw bullying - a pointed rebuke to her shabby treatment by O'Brien. Another threatened to sue, claiming O'Brien refused to accommodate his disabilities in his seating assignment because of political disagreements.
"Just last week, O'Brien yanked the sole House Democrat from a health care committee to prevent an outcome - the expansion of Medicaid coverage - he disapproves of."
But truth be told, we can yet find no one who thought O'Brien would go off the deep end as he did on Friday.
It is one thing for an individual member of the Legislature to embarrass himself. Former Seacoast representative Marty Harty caught many words of editorial criticism after insensitive comments about sending the mentally disabled "to Siberia." The result was his resignation.
But O'Brien not only represents the people of his hometown, Mont Vernon, he is the leader of the New Hampshire House. As such he stands as a figurehead for the state as a whole - taking second seat along with the Senate President Peter Bragdon, only to Gov. John Lynch.
It is unfortunate for the residents of Mont Vernon - and the state as a whole - that O'Brien has failed to measure up to the responsibilities given him as state representative and Speaker.
That said, it will be even more of an embarrassment if, later this year, the voters of Mont Vernon return him to office. And in the unlikely event that happens, God forbid that House membership should even momentarily think of returning him to the Speaker's chair.
Republican House Speaker William O'Brien left no doubt last week that he is a Grade A bully, more interested in himself than the office.
Past references by the editorial board here at Foster's Daily Democrat to the Speaker's bullying tactics have been repeatedly rebuked by a handful of readers.