Angry protesters yelled at him, but Congressman Russ Carnahan refused to respond. He was holding a news conference at McMahon Ford in south St. Louis and the screams of his critics weren't going to keep him from praising the Cash for Clunkers program.
Rep. Carnahan talked about the "Win, Win" of the program. It helped consumers, dealers and the environment. It was a success, he argued. But Carnahan, who voted for funding it twice, seemed oddly uncomfortable answering simple and direct questions about the obvious problems with Cash for Clunkers. Even dealers who appreciate the extra business prompted by the program are calling it a poorly organized, under-funded mess that still hasn't reimbursed them for the clunkers sitting on their lots.
I asked the Congressman for his reaction to "what's going on outside." His response was to ignore the question and continue with his prepared remarks. "Not only has the program worked well by just about any measurement," he responded without missing a beat.
So, I pushed it more aggressively.
"But my question is. With all due respect," as I interrupted him.
"I'm going to get to your question," he answered.
"Please answer it," I urged him.
"You need to stop talking so I can answer it," said the Congressman, now clearly irritated.
"Thank you," I answered.
"Thank you," he said.
Then, he proceeded to not answer the question again. Eventually, he did admit that "some" people are against the program, but that the government needs to spend money and invest in the economy during troubled times.
The Cash for Clunkers program does have widespread support in Congress, but a recent poll by Rasmussen shows most Americans are against additional funding for it.
Rep. Carnahan declined to talk with the two dozen demonstrators. It's unlikely he would have changed their minds, but it's also clear that by choosing to ignore them he just made them angrier and louder.