The series of intensely covered noisy protests at  state capitols in Madison and Columbus brought back vivid memories for me of those who repeatedly threatened during the 1980s to take over the governor’s reception area, yes, the reception area.

During my service as the press secretary to former California Governor George Deukmejian, you could always count on one group or another to take over the governor’s reception area at least once, if not twice a week. Wonder how I ever slept at night?

And if you are thinking that occupying state capitols and governor’s reception areas only impacts GOP chief executives, keep in mind that our Democratic predecessor (successor?) by the name of Jerry Brown installed nicely varnished, but highly uncomfortable benches in the waiting area to discourage long-term visits. These benches were not very forgiving for reclining and sitting tushies.

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The Theatre of the Absurd would play out each week in the following fashion. Let’s say a group with a clear (mis)understanding between the responsibilities of the federal and state governments decides to go to Sacramento (of all places) and demand that the US get out of Central America. Hint: Sacramento is nowhere near Washington, D.C. in terms of location, authority or infinite wisdom.

You see there was this irritating guy by the name of Daniel Ortega and his Sandinistas (and just like Jerry Brown, he is still there) that were waving red flags in Nicaragua and getting the executive branch so mad that they even sent a Marine Colonel down to the White House basement to lead the fight against them. What was the name of that colonel? Hmmm…

Anyway, the “US Out of Central America” crowd would call the always receptive and easily excitable Capitol Press Corps in Sacramento and say that they were going to occupy the governor’s reception area if they don’t get to see the governor. Of course, they never called and asked for an appointment in the first place. Details, details.

So the time would come and the protesters would arrive with the cameras and newsies coming along and demand to the always affable and she-has-seen-every-nut-case-more-than-once receptionist Jackie Habacker Grunwald that they must see the governor. Jackie would then ask politely if they had an appointment…”Appointment, we don’t need no stinking appointment.” And then the theatre performance would ensue.

My phone would soon be ringing inside the governor’s press office, about 25 feet away from the reception area and the first of several media calls would breathlessly announce that the governor’s reception area was being taken over.

And I would reply: “Again? How many times has it been this week?”

Reporter: “Will the governor see them?”

Me: “Do they have an appointment?”

Reporter: “So the governor is not going to see them?”

Me: “If he did, what should he do? The presence of US forces overseas is a responsibility of the federal government. Alas, we are just a mere nation-state.”

Reporter: “Well, I guess they are going to seize the reception area.”

Me: “And let me tell you what is going to happen. At five minutes to six, the state police are going to announce that the governor’s office is closing in five minutes and they will ask the protesters to leave…”

Reporter: “Ah…uh…”

Me: “And then at 6 pm, the state police are going to politely announce that the governor’s office is closed, so please depart…”

Reporter” “Ya…”

Me: ”And then at 6:05 pm, the state police will announce that anyone who does not leave will be escorted out, cited and eventually released, which is exactly what the protesters want…and guess what?”

Reporter: “What?”

Me: “You get to cover it all because you are being used.”

Reporter: “Used!”

Me: “And then you will call me next week when the next group comes in and demands to see the governor because of Paraquat spraying of marijuana or whatever, and then they will take over the reception area…and you get to cover that charade as well. Get the picture.”

Even though my attitude was sarcastic and some may even say jaded, the key point is to not overreact because that is what the protesters want. The public will eventually tire of these tactics and tune them out. Stick to your principles and ride it out. And remember when it comes to democracy: it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/01/AR2011030106108.html?wpisrc=nl_politics

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Ortega

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_North

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Contra_affair

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacramento,_California

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraquat

http://articles.latimes.com/keyword/governors-suits

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