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Context of 'August 11, 2009: Democratic Senator, with Help from Mom, Keeps Health Care Forum under Control'

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Betty Anne McCaskill watches as her daughter Claire McCaskill addresses the audience.Betty Anne McCaskill watches as her daughter Claire McCaskill addresses the audience. [Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch]Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) brings an effective ally to a potentially contentious health care reform discussion at Jefferson College in Missouri: her aging and ill, but outspoken, mother. Betsy Anne McCaskill, an octogenarian who suffers from diabetes and heart problems, calls herself “Exhibit No. 1” in the debate over reform. She interrupts the forum early on to give her daughter advice: “As Harry Truman said, give ‘em hell.”
Winning Over the Crowd - The McCaskills are interrupted at the outset by shouts and boos, but as the event continues, they win over the bulk of the crowd—some 2,000 strong, held in the campus field house—with what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch later calls their “mix of frank talk and tough love.” Senator McCaskill says after the event: “I just hope that the word goes out that every member of Congress can and should have these kind of meetings. I don’t think we should shy away from public discourse just because it gets a little rocky.”
Confusion over Contents of Bill - She fields a number of tough questions, and assures that the reform plans will neither fund abortions nor require citizens to change their health care plans or insurance providers. After the forum, many tell reporters that they aren’t sure McCaskill was entirely honest with them. One expresses a concern that many seem to share: confusion over exactly what is and what is not in the bill. “It doesn’t seem to be as transparent as [President] Obama promised. It seems to be a hurry-up-and-get-it-done attitude.” A Tea Party protester says he appreciated McCaskill’s openness and candor. “She’s got a lot of guts to be here,” he says. “I have to give her a lot of credit.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/12/2009]
One Arrest over Racial Confrontation - One man is arrested when he tears a sign from the grip of veteran Democratic activist Maxine Johnson. The sign is not about health care, but is a poster of famed civil rights activist Rosa Parks, depicted on the poster as the “First Lady of Civil Rights.” As posters and signs are not allowed in the hall, Johnson and several friends, who brought similar posters, had rolled them up once entering the venue and being “booed and berated” by the crowd, according to one reporter. A journalist asks Johnson to show her the poster; when she does, anti-reform protester James Winfrey rips it from her hands and begins crumpling it up. An angry Johnson is escorted from the building, but Winfrey is later charged with third-degree assault. One witness later says that Winfrey just “came over and grabbed” the poster from Johnson’s hand. Watching the brief conflict, McCaskill says from the podium, “I’ll bet you a dollar that’s all they show on the news tonight.” During the conflict, a security officer asks McCaskill if she wants to exit the forum for her own safety. She responds, “Not on your life.” [Talking Points Memo, 8/11/2009; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/12/2009; Huffington Post, 8/12/2009] According to liberal blogger Pam Spaulding, the apparent racism evidenced by Winfrey is not an isolated incident at the venue. One African-American woman is accosted by a white woman who tells her how tired she is of “n_ggers” and “baby killers,” and President Obama is depicted in signs, pamphlets, and posters outside the hall as, Spaulding writes, “some sort of Nazi, socialist, foreign born, communist, Muslim, euthanasia enthusiast, fascist who wants to tyrannically impose new environmental standards to perpetuate the dangerous myth of global warming all the while teaching the wee little babies about birth control in pre-school and plotting to knock off Grandma.” [Pam Spaulding, 8/12/2009]

Entity Tags: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, James Winfrey, Maxine Johnson, Claire McCaskill, Betty Anne McCaskill, Pam Spaulding

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections

Senator Grassley’s signature on the flyleaf of the book ‘Glenn Beck’s Common Sense.’Senator Grassley’s signature on the flyleaf of the book ‘Glenn Beck’s Common Sense.’ [Source: Think Progress (.org)]Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), one of the Republicans whom the Obama administration is looking to for help in making the health care reform legislation a bipartisan effort, tells a “town hall” audience that it should be frightened of the legislation because it will allow the government to “pull the plug on Grandma.” To a crowd of some 300 listeners in Winterset, Iowa, Grassley says: “In the House bill, there is counseling for end of life. You have every right to fear. You shouldn’t have counseling at the end of life, you should have done that 20 years before. Should not have a government-run plan to decide when to pull the plug on Grandma.” Grassley is echoing “deather” claims that the reform package will give the government power to pressure doctors to prematurely force elderly or terminally ill patients to die in order to save money (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 12, 2009), an idea former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) dubbed “death panels” (see August 7, 2009). Grassley’s fellow Republican, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who helped write that portion of the House bill, has called the idea “nuts” (see August 10, 2009). After the event, state senator Joe Bolkom (D-Iowa City) calls on Grassley to repudiate those who spread lies and disinformation about health care reform. Bolkom notes that a measure similar to that in the House bill has already been passed in Iowa by “large bipartisan majorities.” Grassley has previously said that terminally ill Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), dying of brain cancer, would not receive care for his illness under the Democrats’ reform proposal because care would be preferentially given to younger patients who can “contribute more to the economy” (see August 5, 2009). Grassley’s town hall, unlike many others (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009), remains calm and peaceful. [Think Progress, 8/12/2009; Iowa Independent, 8/12/2009] During the event, Grassley hands a reporter a copy of conservative Fox News host Glenn Beck’s book Glenn Beck’s Common Sense, after autographing it for him. Grassley tells the recipient, “it’s something you gotta read a couple times.” [Think Progress, 8/14/2009] Beck has claimed that the Democrats’ health care reform package constitutes Nazi-like “eugenics” (see May 13, 2009 and August 11, 2009), has used his “9-12” organization to coordinate confrontational and violent protests at Congressional town halls (see June 30, 2009, August 6, 2009, and August 10, 2009), and has said that he believes in so-called “death panels” (see August 10, 2009).

Entity Tags: Charles Grassley, Joe Bolkom, Johnny Isakson, Glenn Beck, Obama administration

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) denounces the comparisons of President Obama and Congressional Democrats to Nazis, comparisons made by conservative op-eds, radio and television hosts, bloggers, and anti-health care reform protesters (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 11, 2009, May 13, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10-11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 13, 2009). Without naming names, McMorris Rodgers, the fifth-ranking Republican in the House, says: “I think the purpose of the town halls is for people to be able to express their views in an orderly and respectful manner, and that needs to take place on both sides. I certainly don’t condone violence, I don’t condone calling President Obama Hitler and painting swastikas on signs at town halls.” McMorris Rodgers is the first Congressional Republican to publicly decry the Nazi comparisons. [The Hill, 8/13/2009; Think Progress, 8/14/2009] Another Republican, Joseph Cao (R-LA), joins McMorris Rodgers in condemning the Nazi comparisons. He says: “I believe—you know, I respect the Constitution protecting our right of free speech, our right of expression. But I believe that when we go to extremes like that, it disrupts dialogue and it causes conflicts which, at the end of the day, impede us from reaching a solution to a pressing problem.” [MSNBC, 8/17/2009]

Entity Tags: Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Barack Obama, Joseph Cao

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda

President Obama appears at a “town hall” forum in Belgrade, Montana, where he promises to protect US citizens against health care insurers, and says those without health care insurance will benefit from his plans to reform the health care system. Unlike many other town halls (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009), no one heckles or attempts to shout down Obama during his speech and the subsequent question-and-answer period. Around 1,300 audience members take part in the rally, held at an airplane hanger; only two questioners ask anything remotely confrontational. Later, White House officials confirm that they had hoped Obama would get the chance to answer some difficult questions. One questioner accuses Obama of planning to raise taxes to pay for the reforms, and another says he is guilty of “vilifying” insurance companies. Obama gives detailed answers to both questioners, promising not to tax the middle class for his reforms, and saying that although some insurance companies have been “constructive,” others have fought against “any kind of reform proposals.” John Weaver, who helped Republican presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ) organize often-confrontational town hall meetings, says Obama would do well to face more criticism. “He needs a confrontation to end some of this information,” Weaver says of the raft of false accusations and allegations surrounding the debate. “We don’t know if that’s his strength. But that’s his opportunity right now. If he really wants to turn the tide of the debate, he has to engage.” White House officials say that they are not attempting to “stack” the president’s crowds with supporters. [Washington Post, 8/15/2009]

Entity Tags: Obama administration, Barack Obama, John Weaver

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda

Two Democratic House members say that the media should not “glorify” the contentious, sometimes-riotous anti-reform protests that have recently occurred at health care debates (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009). Alan Grayson (D-FL) cites the violence that occurred at a debate featuring Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL—see August 6, 2009), saying that the “disrepect” shown at the debate reflects badly not on Castor, but “on the people who show the disrespect for the democratic process.” He adds: “I think in any society, you’re always going to have a certain percentage of people who are nuts. But these are not people who deserve any special recognition, much less glorification. You don’t treat people the way those people treated Kathy Castor. It’s wrong.… I look for intelligent, well-founded criticism of any bill because that’s how you make the bill better. But if you have people running around saying this bill is going to kill every old person in the country (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, and August 13, 2009), how could you possibly show any respect for that silly point of view? It makes no sense to me.” Patrick Murphy (D-PA) says that the contention that the reform proposal threatens Americans’ freedoms is simply wrong: “I had a guy yesterday try to say to me, ‘You know, I’m worried about my freedoms.’ I say, ‘Sir, I fought for your freedoms [Murphy is a veteran of the Iraq war]. I’m going to protect those freedoms. I took an oath to support and defend those freedoms. And I take that responsibility very seriously. But, you know, we need to understand that the current path for small business, for everday families, for seniors, is unsustainable.” [US House of Representatives, 2009; Think Progress, 8/15/2009]

Entity Tags: Kathy Castor, Patrick Murphy, Alan Grayson

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda

Three Senate Republicans—Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), former presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ), and Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-MO)—hold a “Health Care Reform Forum” at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. The event is closed to the public. The attendees were invited either by the senators or the hospital administration. McConnell tells the audience that he believes it is time to “step back and start over” on health care reform. McConnell and McCain intend to take part in two more health care forums, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Hialeah, Florida, but both events will also be closed to the public. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who has taken part in several contentious town hall audiences (see July 27, 2009 and August 11, 2009), criticizes the Republican senators for not allowing citizens to take part in the discussions, saying: “I’m disappointed that the Republican leader of the Senate is coming to Kansas City on Monday and participating in a forum, but they’re not opening it up to the public. It’s invitation-only. I think it might be helpful for the leadership in the Republican Party to have some of the experiences I’ve had over the last week, where some of the meetings are wildly in favor of reform, and other meetings are wildly against it. I think having that pulse is important, and I think the Republican leader would benefit from that.” [Think Progress, 8/31/2009; Charlotte Observer, 8/31/2009]

Entity Tags: Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Christopher (“Kit”) Bond, Claire McCaskill

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

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