A hardy band of impeachment backers spent months getting Ed Markey to come to Framingham to hear from his constituents. The idea was to hold his feet to the fire, to let him know the level of outrage among people who thought a Democratic Congress could stop the high crimes of the Bush administration, end the war and hold the guilty accountable.

A hardy band of impeachment backers spent months getting Ed Markey to come to Framingham to hear from his constituents. The idea was to hold his feet to the fire, to let him know the level of outrage among people who thought a Democratic Congress could stop the high crimes of the Bush administration, end the war and hold the guilty accountable.

But when you invite a congressman who has spent 31 years in Washington to your place, you're going to get a politician who's more used to talking than listening. When you invite anyone interested to come to your open forum, you'll let in people with grievances that don't necessarily match the organizers' agenda.

So Markey spent a lot of time showing off his incumbency and seniority. He bragged about bringing $1 million in pork - federal dollars for streetscape improvements and WiFi, that is - to downtown Framingham. He introduced the local kid he had just nominated to the Air Force Academy.

The activists grew restless.

Markey talked about what he's been up to. He's chairman of the House Committee on Telecommunications and the Internet. After years of pushing, he finally got a law requiring packages shipped on passenger planes be screened just like the baggage. As chair of a select committee to address global warming and energy independence, he fashioned the bill, signed by Bush in December, raising fuel economy standards for the first time since 1975.

The activists started interrupting. Talk about the war, talk about impeachment, they demanded. Answer our questions.

Markey soldiered gamely on. He talked about how he had opposed the war before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, and how House efforts to force a withdrawal had fallen short of the 60 votes needed to close off debate in the Senate.

He said he was one of 23 - out of 435 - House members co-sponsoring a resolution censuring Bush and Cheney, but that impeachment would be a waste of time. Better to focus on the next election, he said.

The activists weren't pleased, but what did they expect him to say? What do they expect him to do? Why do they blast the Democrats who have tried, and failed, to get the president to stop this misbegotten war, instead of the Republicans who are keeping it going?

Then things started getting out of hand. The organizers wanted to talk about impeachment and Iraq, but they had invited others to attend, and they had their own issues. Some wanted to spout off about the evil SMOC, the social service agency that has sued Framingham in federal court. Some wanted to complain about illegal immigration, or the too-small cost of living adjustments in Social Security. When a couple of people started demanding Markey reopen the 9/11 investigation to expose a Washington conspiracy to bring down the twin towers and blame it on Islamic terrorists, things really started getting rowdy.

As entertainment, it beat the Super Bowl pre-game shows, but a lot of people left dissatisfied, especially the peace-and-impeachment now crowd.

The truth is, Ed Markey isn't as passionate about Iraq as, say, Jim McGovern. He hasn't taken the lead on impeachment. He's not on the committees that handle those issues.

But there are other issues, important ones. Markey's telecommunications committee has a key role in investigating Bush's surveillance programs and he and his colleagues are succeeding, so far, at stopping Bush's efforts to immunize telecommuncations companies from responsibility for letting the feds tap our phones and read our e-mail. Markey has been a leader in efforts to stop the CIA's policy of kidnapping people - including a former Framingham resident, Maher Arar - and shipping them off to be tortured overseas. Climate change is an urgent matter, and Markey's in a key position.

The activists didn't want to hear about this stuff, and I'm not sure they wanted to hear anything Markey had to say. Mostly, I think, they wanted to hear the sound of their own anguished protests.

By the time I left, Jack Hoffman, who learned about political theater from his older brother Abbie, was complaining that it was ``like watching C-Span at 10 at night.'' That's what you get when you choose to spend Super Bowl Sunday with a congressman.

Rick Holmes, opinion editor of the MetroWest Daily News, edits the Holmes & Co. blog (http://blogs.townonline.com/holmesandco). He can be reached at rholmes@cnc.com.