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President Obama holds a “town hall” meeting on health care reform, sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The meeting is conducted by telephone at AARP’s Washington headquarters, where a small studio audience and approximately 180,000 callers from around the country listen and take part.
Rumor Control - In his introduction, AARP CEO A. Barry Rand tells the participants: “There’s a lot of misinformation about health care reform—even on what AARP stands for, and what AARP supports. This town hall is part of our ongoing effort to debunk myths and provide accurate information.… I want to make it clear that AARP has not endorsed any particular bill or any of the bills being debated in Congress today. We continue to work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and with the administration to achieve what is right for health care reform.” AARP president Jennie Chin Hansen notes some of the most prevalent myths and misinformation about health care reform as expressed in previous AARP-sponsored town halls: “Like, will the government tell my doctor how to practice medicine?” For his part, Obama says: “Nobody’s trying to change what does work in the system. We are trying to change what doesn’t work in the system.” He reassures the participants that “Nobody is talking about cutting Medicare benefits. I just want to make that absolutely clear.… [W]e do want to eliminate some of the waste that is being paid for out of the Medicare trust fund that could be used more effectively to cover more people and strengthen the system.”
Opposition Profiting from Status Quo - Of the anti-reform opposition, Obama says: “I know there are folks who will oppose any kind of reform because they profit from the way the system is right now. They’ll run all sorts of ads that will make people scared.… Back when President Kennedy and then President Johnson were trying to pass Medicare, opponents claimed it was socialized medicine. When you look at the Medicare debate, it is almost exactly the same as the debate we’re having right now. Everybody who was in favor of the status quo was trying to scare the American people saying that government is going to take over your health care, you won’t be able to choose your own doctor, they’re going to ration care.… You know what? Medicare has been extraordinarily popular. It has worked. It has made people a lot healthier, given them security. And we can do the same this time.” If nothing is done to change the status quo, Obama says, the cost of health care coverage will rise dramatically. “Health care costs are going up much faster than inflation,” he says, “and your premiums will probably double again over the next 10 years.… We’re already seeing 14,000 people lose their health insurance every day. So the costs of doing nothing are trillions of dollars over the next couple of decades—trillions, not billions… without anybody getting any better care.” Controlling health care inflation will allow the government to stabilize the Medicare trust fund: “[N]ot only can we stabilize the Medicare trust fund, not only can we help save families money on their premiums, but we can actually afford to provide coverage to the people who currently don’t have health care.”
End-of-Life Rumors - One caller is concerned about rumors surrounding end-of-life care. “I have been told there is a clause in there that everyone that’s Medicare age will be visited and told to decide how they wish to die,” she says. “This bothers me greatly, and I’d like for you to promise me that this is not in this bill.” The host elaborates: “As I read the bill, it’s saying that Medicare will, for the first time, cover consultation about end-of-life care, and that they will not pay for such a consultation more than once every five years. This is being read as saying every five years you’ll be told how you can die.” Obama replies, “Well, that would be kind of morbid,” and reassures the caller that the rumors are not true, adding, “Nobody is going to be knocking on your door.” He explains that one proposal would have Medicare pay for consultations between doctor and patients about living wills, hospice care, and other information critical to end-of-life decisions. “The intent here is to simply make sure that you’ve got more information, and that Medicare will pay for it,” he says. “The problem right now is that most of us don’t give direction to our family members, so when we get really badly sick… the [doctors] are making decisions in consultation with your kids or your grandkids and nobody knows what you would have preferred.” Obama is refuting rumors that claim under his reform proposal, elderly Americans would be encouraged to die sooner (see July 16, 2009 and July 23, 2009).
Pre-Existing Conditions - Insurers will no longer be able to deny care to people with so-called “pre-existing conditions.” Obama reflects on his mother, who died of cancer: “She had to spend weeks fighting with insurance companies while she’s in the hospital bed, writing letters back and forth just to get coverage for insurance she’d already paid premiums on. And that happens all across the country. We’re going to put a stop to that.… We’re going to reform the insurance system so that they can’t just drop you if you get too sick. They won’t be able to drop you if you change jobs or lose your job.… We want clear, easy-to-understand, straightforward insurance that people can purchase.”
Keeping Existing Coverage - Obama reassures another caller that she will not have to drop the coverage she has. “Here’s a guarantee that I’ve made: If you have insurance that you like, then you’ll be able to keep that insurance. If you’ve got a doctor that you like, you’ll be able to keep your doctor. Nobody is going to say you’ve got to change your health care plan. This is not like Canada where suddenly we are dismantling the system and everybody’s signed up under some government program. If you’ve already got health care, the only thing we’re going to do for you is, we’re going to reform the insurance companies so that they can’t cheat you.… If you don’t have health insurance, we’re going to make it a little bit easier for you to be able to obtain health care.” Those dissatisfied with their coverage, or who have no coverage at all, would have a wider array of choices, including, perhaps, a government-run plan (the “public option”).
Rationing Health Care? - One caller asks, “Even if I decide when I’m 80 that I want a hip replacement, am I going to be able to get that?” Obama responds: “My interest is not in getting between you and your doctor—although keep in mind that right now insurance companies are often getting between you and your doctor. [Decisions] are being made by private insurance companies without any guidance as to whether [they] are good decisions to make people healthier or not. So we just want to provide some guidelines to Medicare, and by extension the private sector, about what [treatments] work and what doesn’t.… We don’t want to ration by dictating to somebody [that] we don’t think this senior should get a hip replacement. We do want to provide information to [you and your doctor about what] is going to be most helpful to you in dealing with your condition.” He gives the following analogy: “If you figure out a way to reduce your heating bill by insulating your windows… you’re still warm inside. [But] you’re not wasting all that energy and sending it in the form of higher bills to the electric or gas company. And that’s then money you can use to save for your retirement or help your kid go to college. Well, it’s the same principle within the health system.” Obama is refuting claims by health care opponents that the government intends to ration health care and deny elderly patients needed treatment (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, and July 28, 2009).
Reform Not 'Socialized Medicine' - Obama assures the participants that his vision of health care reform is not socialism under any guise. “A lot of people have heard this phrase ‘socialized medicine,’” he says. “And they say, ‘We don’t want government-run health care. We don’t want a Canadian-style plan.’ Nobody is talking about that. We’re saying, let’s give you a choice.” He recalls: “I got a letter from a woman the other day. She said, ‘I don’t want government-run health care. I don’t want socialized medicine. And don’t touch my Medicare.‘… I wanted to say, ‘That’s what Medicare is. It’s a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with.’”
Conclusion - Obama says he doesn’t expect a perfect health care system. “But we could be doing a lot better than we’re doing right now,” he says. “We shouldn’t have people who are working really hard every day without health care or with $8,000 deductibles—which means basically they don’t have health insurance unless they get in an accident or they get really sick. That just doesn’t make sense. So we’ve got to have the courage to be willing to change things.” After the town hall ends, AARP board chair Bonnie Cramer says she believes Obama “really made it very clear that Medicare beneficiaries will not see cuts in Medicare services.” By speaking directly to older Americans, Cramer says, “He put to rest a lot of their concerns.” [Slate, 7/28/2009; AARP Bulletin Today, 7/29/2009; McKnights, 7/29/2009]
Bernie Sanders. [Source: Down With Tyranny (.com)]Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a progressive independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, explains to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow why Democrats are having so much difficulty winning broad support for their health care reform proposal. “There seems to be a gap between the seriousness of what’s actually being fought over in Washington right now and the level of discourse about it,” Maddow asks (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, and July 27, 2009). “Why do you think it is that there’s so much sideshow craziness about this issue?” Sanders responds that Democrats “have not been as clear as we should be in what, in fact, we are fighting for.” Sanders, a proponent of government-led “single-payer” health care, which would in essence supplement private health care and health insurance, says that because single-payer “is off of the table because of the power of the insurance companies and the drug companies,” the resulting proposals have become “pretty complicated… [opening] up opportunities for the extreme right-wing to come up with their crazy ideas.” Maddow says, “They’re sort of filling the vacuum of the lack of details that people don’t understand with craziness that people are willing to [believe].” The health care crisis is real, Sanders says, with thousands of Americans dying every year because of lack of access to doctors, and 1 million American families predicted to go bankrupt over staggering health care bills. But the discussion has been derailed, he says, into discussing “killing Grandma” and “rationing health care.” Sanders believes that the insurance companies, and their Republican and Democratic allies in Congress, are battling the so-called “public option”—providing a government-run health care alternative for people who can’t afford health care from the private providers—because they “are very afraid and rightfully so, that if given the choice, the people would gravitate towards a public plan because a public plan will not have the administrative costs, the huge CEO compensation costs, and the general bureaucracy that a [private] plan will have.” Besides, Sanders notes, “if you want to do any kind of cost containment, you need to have the competition from a public plan because without that, the private insurance companies will be out there on their own, being able to raise rates as much as they have in the past.” Health care corporations are spending $1.3 million per day lobbying lawmakers and other influential government officials, Sanders says, and health insurance and drug companies are spending millions on negative advertising. That kind of money has a powerful impact. “[W]ith all of that money coming into Capitol Hill,” he says, “I’m afraid that too many of my colleagues look at the world from the perspective of the insurance companies, from the drug companies who are charging us the highest prices for medicine in the entire world, rather than from the needs of ordinary Americans.” [MSNBC, 7/29/2009]
Slate reporter and columnist Christopher Beam coins a new term, “deathers,” to label conservatives who are spreading the debunked rumors that President Barack Obama’s health care proposals would kill old people (see July 16, 2009 and July 23, 2009). Beam publishes his article on the same day that Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) claims that under Obama’s reforms, seniors would be “put to death” (see July 28, 2009), and that Obama holds a “town hall” meeting where he debunks this and other rumors surrounding his proposals (see July 28, 2009). The claim apparently originated with lobbyist and lawyer Betsy McCaughey (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 16, 2009, and July 23-24, 2009), who used similarly questionable claims to derail the 1994 reform proposals by the Clinton administration (see Mid-January - February 4, 1994). Others have made similar assertions; Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) recently warned that Obama’s reform proposals would “kill people” (see July 10, 2009), and conservative commentator and author Charlotte Allen says: “Obama’s not going to say, ‘Let’s kill them.’ But he seems to be perfectly comfortable with the idea that a lot more old people are going to die a lot sooner.”
End-of-Life Consultations - Beam shows that the language of the bill, as it stands in Congress at this time, provides for “end-of-life consultations” between patients and doctors, if the patients wish them. In those consultations, doctors would explain what kind of services are available to those patients—palliative care and hospices, in-home care, more intensive treatments in a hospital, etc.—but would not tell patients that they had to restrict themselves to less intensive treatments that would shorten their lives. Some “deathers” have also insisted that the bill provides for the withholding of “artificially administered nutrition and hydration.” McCaughey is a vocal proponent of this claim. However, such a choice would have to be made by the patient and/or the family, specifically not a doctor.
Shared Decision-Making - Opponents of health care reform such as McCaughey claim that the House bill would “coerce” seniors into taking part in a program that forces them into making decisions about “trade-offs among treatment options,” or takes the final decision-making power away from them and places it in the hands of doctors or government officials. In reality, the bill would provide an informational tool for patients and families to make informed decisions. No coercion could legally be applied.
Obama Staffers Cause Concern - Some of Obama’s staffers have said and written things that cause consternation among reform opponents (see July 23-24, 2009). One of Obama’s senior health care advisers, Ezekiel Emanuel, who serves as health policy adviser at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), wrote in 2008 that doctors too often interpret the Hippocratic oath “as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost or effects on others,” leading some to wonder if Emanuel would put cost concerns over patients’ needs; others have gone farther, comparing Emanuel to Nazi doctors and of advocating “eugenics.” In 1977, Obama’s “science czar,” John Holdren, joined two other authors in writing about possible methods of population control, including a speculative bit about sterilizing people by introducing chemicals into the water supply. (ABC News later reports that the controversial passage was from a textbook in which various methods of population control were considered and rejected. Holdren recently released a statement saying that population control is not the government’s job; his statements on the matter passed muster in the Senate Commerce Committee, whose Republican members joined Democrats in unanimously approving his nomination as the director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.) And some worry that the proposed Independent Medicare Advisory Council, which would oversee cost containment for Medicare, would be staffed, in Allen’s words, with “a certain class of secularized intellectuals” who might put cost concerns over quality of life. [Slate, 7/28/2009; ABC News, 7/28/2009]
Entity Tags: John Holdren, Charlotte Allen, Barack Obama, Christopher Beam, Ezekiel Emanuel, Senate Commerce Committee, Elizabeth (“Betsy”) McCaughey, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Medicare, Virginia Foxx, Paul Broun
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
Melissa Harris-Lacewell. [Source: Melissa Harris-Lacewell]Melissa Harris-Lacewell, professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton, attempts to explain the increasingly overt and virulent racism being promulgated by some conservative lawmakers, talk show hosts, and anti-health care protesters (see February 1, 2008, August 1, 2008 and After, August 4, 2008, August 19, 2008, November 18, 2008, February 24-26, 2009, April 7-8, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 25, 2009, and July 28, 2009). “[A]s a political scientist, you always want to start with the assumption that a political party, whatever choices it’s making are trying to seek office,” she says. She says one must assume that the racist rhetoric “is somehow a strategy of the right or strategy of an element of the GOP to somehow gain office either in the mid-term elections or more long term for the presidential race.” However, that is not the entirety of the reasons behind the rhetoric: “[T]he other part, I think, that I have maybe not been thinking about as carefully is that when we think about the history of race in America, sometimes we have to put aside the notion of strategy and just embrace the reality that race in this country has often brought out irrational anger, fear, anxiety, emotionalism. So it is possible that this is not actually a GOP or a conservative strategy but is instead really kind of an emotional tantrum on the part of some members of the conservative wing who really just are floundering as they look at a world that is changing so dramatically around questions of race.” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow expands on Harris-Lacewell’s point, saying: “I was with you on it being an irrational tantrum until I started to see the same very specific tactic used in very different venues about very different subjects, this idea of the person who is not white being the problem racist, being used against [Supreme Court nominee Sonia] Sotomayor (see May 26, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 28, 2009, May 28, 2009, May 29, 2009, May 29, 2009, June 5, 2009, and June 12, 2009)… being used against the president now, inexplicably, unrelated to any policy issue but just as a free floating critique of the president. And it does make me wonder about this as an overt political strategy.” Harris-Lacewell replies: “President Obama paused in the middle of the primary race to speak in Philadelphia about the question of race in America. And he set up sort of two possibilities, black anger rooted in a history of African-American inequality and white resentment rooted in a sense of kind of a loss of racial privilege. Now, I think in many ways it’s a very accurate assessment of sort of the ways that blacks and whites, not completely and not perfectly, but often perceive things quite differently. So I spent the month in New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina is a perfect example of this. Everybody in the country was mad but African-Americans saw the failures of the federal government around Katrina as a race issue. White Americans who were still angry about the failures of the government saw it primarily as a bureaucratic issue rather than a race issue. So here, you have these two groups with very different perspectives. Now, that made all the difference in being able to make policy. So I think that they’re hoping that these differences in how blacks and whites often see the world can be a perfect kind of wedge to use on health care, to use on education, to use on a wide variety of issues that, in fact, really—if we don’t fix health care, it is bad for all Americans. But if we can somehow kind of suggest that the president is just trying to do things that are good for black people and bad for white people, then it opens up that kind of possibility of anxiety, distrust, and different perceptions.” [MSNBC, 7/30/2009]
Fox News actively promotes the September 12, 2009 march on Washington, the central focus of Fox host Glenn Beck’s “9/12 Project” (see March 13, 2009 and After). Beck and Fox News have promoted the event before now, and will continue doing so, as a “nonpartisan” rally that is not “about parties or politics or the president.” However, the Fox promotions routinely feature attacks on Democratic lawmakers (see October 13, 2009). One of the organizing groups for the rally, the Tea Party Express, provides a list of 28 congressmen and women, all Democrats, targeted for defeat in 2010, “who have betrayed their constituents by pushing through massive deficits, higher taxes, and government intervention into the private sector and private lives of American families.” One of the organization’s funders, the Our Country Deserves Better political action committee (OCDBPAC), was created to promote Republican candidates and oppose the Obama administration’s agenda. In 2008, OCDBPAC stated that its only objective was “to defeat [Barack] Obama,” and hosted numerous rallies for Republican candidates John McCain and Sarah Palin. OCDBPAC’s vice chairman Mark Williams has frequently challenged Obama’s citizenship, calling him a “Kenyan” by birth, and once called Obama “the former Barry Soetoro (see October 8-10, 2008), Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug turned anointed.” [Media Matters, 7/29/2009]
The editors of the conservative National Review criticize the “birther” movement, which has for years claimed that President Obama is not a US citizen despite all evidence to the contrary (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, and December 3, 2008). Although the editorial mocks Obama’s character and political stances, it asserts that Obama is, indeed, a US citizen, and the evidence presented by the Obama campaign in 2008 is enough for anyone to accept that as fact (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, July 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, July 1, 2009, and July 28, 2009). “Much foolishness has become attached to the question of President Obama’s place of birth, and a few misguided souls among the Right have indulged it,” the editors write. They call the idea that Obama is not a citizen a “myth” that “represents the hunt for a magic bullet that will make all the unpleasant complications of his election and presidency disappear.” The editors say that conspiracy theories such as “birtherism” are usually promulgated by liberals and progressives, citing the “9/11 truther” movement and the various arguments made against the Iraq invasion and occupation as “left-wing” conspiracy theories. The editors believe that the White House, while probably not actually encouraging “birther” speculation, certainly takes advantage of it, because, they write, “[t]here is nothing that President Obama’s coterie would enjoy more than to see the responsible Right become a mirror image of the loopy Left circa 2003.” The editors write: “The fundamental fiction is that Obama has refused to release his ‘real’ birth certificate. This is untrue. The document that Obama has made available is the document that Hawaiian authorities issue when they are asked for a birth certificate. There is no secondary document cloaked in darkness, only the state records that are used to generate birth certificates when they are requested. If one applies for a United States passport, the passport office will demand a birth certificate. It defines this as an official document bearing ‘your full name, the full name of your parent(s), date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, and the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records.’ The Hawaiian birth certificate President Obama has produced—the document is formally known as a ‘certificate of live birth’—bears that information. It has been inspected by reporters, and several state officials have confirmed that the information in permanent state records is identical to that on the president’s birth certificate—which is precisely what one expects, of course, since the state records are used to generate those documents when they are requested. In other words, what President Obama has produced is the ‘real’ birth certificate of myth and lore. The director of Hawaii’s health department and the registrar of records each has personally verified that the information on Obama’s birth certificate is identical to that in the state’s records, the so-called vault copy. Given that fact, we are loath even to engage the fanciful notion that President Obama was born elsewhere, contrary to the information on his birth certificate, but we note for the record that his mother was a native of Kansas, whose residents have been citizens of the United States for a very long time, and whose children are citizens of the United States as well.” However, the editors note, “[t]he hallmark of a conspiracy theory is that a lack of evidence for the theory is taken as yet more evidence for the theory. Indeed, the maddening thing about dealing with conspiracy hobbyists of this or any sort is the ever-shifting nature of their argument and their alleged evidence: Never mind the birth certificate, his step-grandmother said he was born in Kenya (see October 16, 2008 and After)! (No, she didn’t.)” [National Review, 7/28/2009]
Hawaii’s health director, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, releases a second statement that verifies President Obama was indeed born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961, and therefore is a valid US citizen. Fukino is responding to persistent rumors that Obama is not a valid US citizen and therefore is ineligible to serve as president. The statement reads: “I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen. I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008 over eight months ago.” Fukino released a similar statement before the 2008 presidential election (see October 30, 2008), which was derided by “birthers” who are convinced Obama is not a true American citizen. CNN’s Lou Dobbs has demanded to see Obama’s “long form” birth certificate, even though Hawaiian law states that all such documents remain under lock and key and are not publicly released; Dobbs continues to push the “birther” story on his nightly talk show, even though CNN’s US president Jon Klein has told Dobbs’s staffers that the issue is a “dead” story. Birthers dispute the fact that Obama was born in Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu on August 4, 1961, despite the release of a verified copy of the certificate (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, and August 21, 2008), court rulings, and statements by Fukino and Hawaiian Governor Linda Lingle (R-HI). [Honolulu Advertiser, 7/28/2009]
Glenn Beck and the hosts of Fox & Friends. Brian Kilmeade is on the far right. [Source: Media Matters]Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck, appearing as a guest on Fox News’s morning show Fox & Friends, tells viewers that President Obama is a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred of white people.” During a discussion of a recent incident involving black professor Henry Gates and a white policeman, Beck says, “This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture, I don’t know what it is.” Host Brian Kilmeade notes that Obama has many people in his administration who are white, so “you can’t say he doesn’t like white people.” Beck continues making his point: “I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people, I’m saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.” [Media Matters, 7/28/2009; Huffington Post, 7/28/2009; Chicago Tribune, 7/29/2009] Though Beck says nothing about the comments on his own show in the afternoon, the next day he reiterates his statements on his radio show. “I said yesterday on Fox News & Friends that the president is a racist; I think he has race issues.… Well, I stand by that—I deem him a racist, really, by his own standard of racism—the standard of the left.” [Daily Mail, 7/30/2009] Fox News vice president Bill Shine says of Beck’s comment: “During Fox & Friends this morning, Glenn Beck expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Channel. And as with all commentators in the cable news arena, he is given the freedom to express his opinions.” The Chicago Tribune’s Mark Silva will write, “The remarks may say more about Beck than Obama, and perhaps something about the level of political discourse that Fox is sponsoring in Beck.” [Chicago Tribune, 7/29/2009] Politico’s Michael Calderone calls Beck’s remarks “ridiculous,” but notes that Beck is in line with at least one other conservative commentator: Rush Limbaugh has recently called Gates, a scholar, author, and documentary maker, “an angry racist.” [Politico, 7/28/2009] MSNBC talk show host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, calls Beck’s comments little more than an attempt to garner attention. The White House declines to make a statement on Beck’s comments. [Daily Mail, 7/30/2009] In part because of Beck’s comments, a number of advertisers, including Proctor & Gamble, will soon remove their ads from his show. [Huffington Post, 8/6/2009] The African-American advocacy organization Color Of Change uses Beck’s comments to mount a call for more advertisers to drop their sponsorship of his shows. The organization calls his comments “repulsive” and “divisive.” [Color of Change, 7/29/2009]
Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Glenn Beck, Bill Shine, Brian Kilmeade, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Color Of Change, Obama administration, Henry Louis Gates, Proctor & Gamble, Mark Silva, Joseph Scarborough, Michael Calderone
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
Governor Tim Kaine (D-VA), chairman of the Democratic Party, defends his party’s difficulties in moving its health care reform proposals through Congress. Interviewed by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Kaine says: “This is a heavy lift. Every president since President Truman has said, we need to find a health care future where we have a competitive insurance market and all Americans receive coverage. What we’ve seen happen in the last month or so is we now have bills that have passed through three different committees in the Senate and House. Two other committees are expected to take action very soon. We’re farther than we’ve ever been. It’s heavy lifting. It ain’t easy. We’re going to have to take the various bills and then make them into a workable plan.” Part of the reason why the legislation is moving so slowly is that Democrats are ideologically diverse, Kaine says. “[A]n awful lot of this debate is ultimately getting the Democrats to pull together and be results-focused rather than what has to be my plan or I’m not getting onboard.” The situation in the Republican Party is quite different, he continues: “What I’m looking for among Republicans is, you know, are there any Republicans who are going to stand up and say, ‘You’re right, this system needs fundamental reform and change?’ A system where 15 years ago, more than 60 percent of small businesses provided health insurance to their employees, and today, 38 percent do, and that number is dropping like a stone while the percentage of GDP that we spend on health care is going up. That system is broken. You don’t hear a single voice really among Republican leadership standing up and acknowledging that and saying we’ve got to make some changes.” [MSNBC, 7/30/2009]
The press learns that in the final months of the 2008 presidential campaign, the McCain-Palin campaign investigated claims that then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) may not be a legitimate US citizen. The campaign investigation was spurred by reports of a court filing in Pennsylvania (see August 21-24, 2008). A lawyer contacted by the McCain-Palin campaign called the court filing “idiotic,” but the filing prompted the campaign to do some investigating of its own. Trevor Potter, a Washington attorney who served as general counsel to the 2008 McCain campaign, recalls: “We monitored the progress of these lawsuits against the Obama campaign. The McCain campaign faced a series of lawsuits like this, too, alleging that he could not be president because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Both campaigns took the position that these plaintiffs lacked standing.” Potter and other McCain legal experts quickly ruled out any chance of those lawsuits holding up in court. They also investigated the claims underlying the lawsuits. “To the extent that we could, we looked into the substantive side of these allegations,” Potter recalls. “We never saw any evidence that then-Senator Obama had been born outside of the United States. We saw rumors, but nothing that could be sourced to evidence. There were no statements and no documents that suggested he was born somewhere else. On the other side, there was proof that he was born in Hawaii. There was a certificate issued by the state’s Department of Health (see June 13, 2008), and the responsible official in the state saying that he had personally seen the original certificate (see October 30, 2008 and July 28, 2009). There was a birth announcement in the Honolulu Advertiser, which would be very difficult to invent or plant 47 years in advance” (see July 2008). [Washington Independent, 7/24/2009] McCain’s own citizenship has also been unsuccessfully challenged in court (see March 14 - July 24, 2008).
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly provides harsh criticism towards CNN talk show host Lou Dobbs for promoting the “birther” conspiracy theory, which claims that President Obama is not a US citizen (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, and December 3, 2008). O’Reilly says he and his staff have investigated the claims and found them groundless. He questions Dobbs’s choice to continue promoting the idea on his show, but in an interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Richard Cohen, defends Dobbs’s right to make the statements. O’Reilly says: “That theory has been around for a while. The Factor [O’Reilly’s talk show The O’Reilly Factor] investigated, found out it’s bogus. But Mr. Dobbs is still engaged.… Again, we found out that President Obama was born in Hawaii… we were sent the documents. And what are you gonna do? I don’t know why it’s still around.” When Cohen says that CNN should remove Dobbs from the airwaves, O’Reilly disagrees, saying: “Why are you guys overreacting?… It’s not true. Mr. Dobbs is, is trying to get ratings, trying to be provocative.” Cohen calls O’Reilly’s explanation a “poor excuse” and accuses Dobbs of “trading in right-wing baseless conspiracies for years.” [Huffington Post, 7/27/2009]
Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY), a progressive Democrat who favors single-payer (government-provided) health care and is one of the strongest voices from the Democratic left in favor of the “public option” in health care reform, introduces an amendment to the pending health care reform legislation, HR 3200, that would eliminate Medicare. Weiner has no intention of actually trying to eliminate Medicare, instead he wants to get Republicans, who have repeatedly said they don’t want “government health care” (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, and July 28, 2009) to go on record as supporting Medicare, a government-run health care provider. Weiner tells interviewer Rachel Maddow: “I guess Republicans don’t like publicly funded, publicly administered health plans except for Medicare, and, I guess, except for the Veterans Administration and except for the health care that our military gets from the Department of Defense. The fact of the matter is, what we’ve learned is that government administered health care works pretty darn well. It’s got lower overhead and people like it. So, when my Republican colleagues pound the drum and pound the podium about how they hate government-run health care, I guess they haven’t looked at what they get.” Weiner says he introduced the amendment in part to embarrass House Republicans whose rhetoric on public health care he thinks has become quite harsh. [MSNBC, 7/31/2009]
Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the Senate minority whip, says that the health care industry needs no further regulation or government intervention: “The health insurance industry is the most regulated or one of the most regulated industries in America. They don’t need to be kept honest by a competitor from the government.” Kyl is referring to the proposed “public option” in the Democrats’ pending health care reform legislation, which would provide a government-run alternative to private health care for millions of Americans. [MSNBC, 7/31/2009]
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says of the corporate-led resistance to health care reform (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, July 27, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, Before August 6, 2009, and August 6-7, 2009): “Insurance companies are out there in full force, carpet bombing, shock and awe against the public option. These are initiatives that are very important in this legislation, and they are to correct what the insurance companies have done to America and to the health of our people over the years.” Afterwards, Pelosi is equally blunt, telling reporters: “It is somewhat immoral what they are doing. Of course, they have been immoral all along how they have treated the people they insure. They are the villains in this. They have been part of the problem in a major way. The public has to know that.” [MSNBC, 7/31/2009]
Gregg Jarrett, guest host of Fox News’s “straight news” broadcast The Live Desk (see October 13, 2009), tells viewers that the Obama Justice Department “thinks it’s okay to intimidate white people, not okay to intimidate black people at the polls.” Jarrett and others are discussing the Justice Department’s decision to dismiss a case against the New Black Panthers, who had been accused of intimidating white voters during the November 2008 elections. Jarrett interviews Washington Times editor John Solomon, whose paper implied, without proof, that the decision to drop the case may have come from “senior elected or politically appointed” White House officials and not from career prosecutors who felt the case lacked merit, as the Justice Department says. Solomon says that during the Bush administration, Congressional Democrats “very strongly raised questions about the politicization of the Justice Department—political people, or career people answering to political people, overruling the front lines of the Justice Department, and this fits that debate right now in the Justice Department. And I think Congress, the Republicans and some Democrats, are asking questions now about whether career people got their say here and whether they were really listened to, or whether some other agenda had been carried out.” Jarrett then notes: “Well, the other message may be that this is a Department of Justice who thinks it’s okay to intimidate white people, not okay to intimidate black people at the polls. That could be one conclusion that people may reach here by their decision.” [Media Matters, 7/30/2009]
Stars and Stripes, the official news outlet for the US military, publishes an analysis of a lawsuit filed by Army reservist Major Stefan Cook, who asked a court to stop his deployment to Afghanistan because of his doubt that President Obama is a US citizen and therefore lacks the authority of commander in chief. The lawsuit was dismissed after the Army rescinded its deployment orders for Cook (see July 8-16, 2009). Stars and Stripes reporter Megan McCloskey writes: “[T]he Army reservist’s intention appeared not so much to fight for America as to fight against President Barack Obama, in furtherance of a bizarre conspiracy theory.… Cook is one of the so-called ‘birthers,’ a small group of activists who subscribe to a fringe conspiracy theory alleging that Obama was not born in the United States and therefore cannot legally serve as president. The conspiracy theory, proven false by numerous media investigations as well as officials in the state of Hawaii where Obama was born (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, and July 28, 2009), first surfaced early in the presidential campaign, but in recent months it has continued to fester on the Internet.” McCloskey theorizes that the lawsuit was engendered by Cook’s attorney, “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz (see November 12, 2008 and After and March 13, 2009), in order to “gain [her] a few more minutes of screen time on the cable news networks. Taitz, a Russian-born dentist who got her law degree online, is the public face of the birthers. She has been trying to get the conspiracy theory heard in court since before the election. So far, all of the lawsuits brought by the birthers have been summarily dismissed.” The Army, McCloskey writes, “refused to be baited” by this lawsuit. Lieutenant Colonel Holly Silkman, a spokesperson for SOCCENT (US Special Operations Central Command), says Cook’s critical engineer billet could not be “hijacked by further legal wrangling.” Cook was scheduled to deploy on July 15, and his position cannot sit empty. The officer Cook was supposed to replace “is going to have to remain in Afghanistan a while longer,” Silkman says, and adds that the Army is working to find a replacement: “No one has been identified yet, but it is a priority fill, so we’re working on it and expect to fill it soon. Engineers are in high demand.” Taitz, interviewed by McCloskey, tells the reporter: “I have one question: Why would any member of the US military risk his life or take any orders… from someone who is refusing to prove he is the legitimate president? We can’t stand for the arrogant, obnoxious behavior of Obama. He wants to defraud the whole nation.” Taitz refuses to allow McCloskey to interview Cook. Brandon Friedman of VoteVets (.org), a political action committee seeking to elect veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to public office, says of Cook: “That’s not leadership. That’s not the way Major Cook was trained and brought up in the Army. You don’t leave a unit like that, and you certainly don’t do it because you’re trying to make a political statement.” [Stars and Stripes, 7/30/2009]
Anti-health care reform proponents claim that the Democrats’ reform package will allow the government direct access to US citizens’ bank accounts. In some variants of the claim, the government will steal money from those accounts to fund the reform package. The claim is quickly disproven.
From an E-mailed 'Clearinghouse of Bad Information' - Apparently the claim originates in a “chain e-mail” sent out by an anonymous anti-reformer. The e-mail, which references its claims by page numbers from HR 3200, the pending House version of the reform legislation, is characterized by the St. Petersburg Times’s “PolitiFact” team as a hugely long e-mail that they call “a clearinghouse of bad information circulating around the Web about proposed health care changes.” The e-mail is apparently based in part on the work of Peter Fleckenstein, who sends frequent and regular commentaries on Twitter under the name “Fleckman,” and posts his analyses on his blog. Fleckenstein identifies his Twitter comments with the tag #tcot, which stands for “top conservatives on Twitter.” A health care analyst with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, Jennifer Tolbert, calls the e-mail “awful.… It’s flat-out, blatant lies. It’s unbelievable to me how they can claim to reference the legislation and then make claims that are blatantly false.” Tolbert is particularly offended by the e-mail’s claim that ordinary citizens will suffer a lack of health care in order to provide free care for illegal immigrants. Many of the e-mail’s other claims are equally wrong.
Based on Provision for Electronic Health Records - The claim that “[t]he federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer” is based on a portion of the legislation that provides for electronic health records, including the enabling of “electronic funds transfers in order to allow automated reconciliation” between payment and billing. However, the government will not have access to citizens’ bank accounts and will not be able to make unauthorized withdrawals. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/30/2009; TPM Muckraker, 8/11/2009]
Quick Promulgation - However, the lie quickly makes the rounds of conservative anti-reformers. Talk show host Rush Limbaugh cites the false claim numerous times on his radio broadcast; on August 6, he calls the program “[d]irect deposit access to every individual’s bank account,” and says: “That is in the House bill. You think that’s the worst thing in it. I’m not arguing with you, but there are things that are a greater abomination than that. I mean, this bill determines, the government’s going to determine who lives and dies. They are going to fund abortions and they are going to be for euthanasia on the back end” (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, and August 10, 2009). On a local conservative radio show in early August, Representatative John Shadegg (R-AZ) calls the supposed provision “pretty Orwellian.” On August 11, a participant in a “town hall” forum hosted by Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) asks about the claim. [KFYI, 8/2009; Rush Limbaugh, 8/6/2009; TPM Muckraker, 8/11/2009]
Similar to Automatic Bill Payment - Progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes: “[I]f you’re paying back a student loan from the government (like we are) and you’ve set up automatic bill pay online, this is the same thing. Completely uncontroversial, and totally not scary—unless if you’re trying to fearmonger.” [Media Matters, 8/6/2009]
Progressive author and columnist Joe Conason writes that if the Democrats’ attempt to reform health care fails, “much of the blame rests on our political culture’s empowerment of deception and ignorance. Fake erudition is revered, every hoax is deemed brilliant, and prejudice is presented as knowledge—while actual expertise is disregarded or devalued.” Conason points to two conservative commentators as primary founts of destructive misinformation: neoconservative publisher and cable news pundit William Kristol, and health industry lobbyist Betsy McCaughey (see January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, July 16, 2009, and July 23-24, 2009), whom Conason names as “the right-wing celebrities who worked so hard to kill the Clinton reform plan” in 1994 (see Mid-January - February 4, 1994). Conason labels McCaughey as “the source of the ‘elderly euthanasia’ hoax now circulating on the Internet, talk radio, and in right-wing media, which claims that Democratic health bills will force old, ill Medicare recipients into making plans for their own deaths” (see July 28, 2009). A thorough debunking of her claims by a variety of Congressional and media sources (see July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, and Late July, 2009) has done little to derail the impact on the media, and on the citizenry, that McCaughey’s claims are having. McCaughey’s falsehoods are being heavily, and effectively, promoted by Kristol and other conservative pundits (see July 17, 2009) on Fox News and other media outlets. Conason notes that Kristol, interviewed by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, admitted that the government provides “first-class” healthcare to American soldiers and senior citizens (in the form of the Veterans Administration and Medicare) before trying, and failing, to back away from the admission. [Salon, 7/31/2009]
Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who co-authored the provision in the House health care reform legislation mandating that Medicare would pay for periodic “end-of-life” counseling sessions between patients and doctors, releases a fact sheet called “Myth vs. Fact: Advance Planning Consultations in HR 3200” (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, and July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009). Blumenauer writes: “Few areas are more vital for honest discussion and careful consideration than end-of-life care for America’s seniors. Unfortunately, families often do not know their loved ones’ preferences for end-of-life care and are not confronted with these difficult decisions until an emergency arises. This leaves spouses, sons, daughters, and grandchildren unprepared; as a result families struggle to make decisions in the midst of turmoil. The House health care legislation includes a provision (Sec. 1233) that provides seniors with better care as they grapple with these hard questions. This provision extends Medicare coverage to cover the cost of patients voluntarily speaking with their doctors about their values and preferences regarding end-of-life care. These are deeply personal decisions that take thoughtful consideration, and it is only appropriate that doctors be compensated for their time.” He then corrects three “myths” surrounding the provision:
Myth: Patients will be forced to have this consultation once every five years. In reality, he writes, such advance planning consultations are entirely voluntary; the provision mandates that Medicare will pay for one such consultation every five years if the patient chooses. Under certain circumstances, Medicare will pay for more frequent consultations.
Myth: Patients will be forced to sign an advance care directive (or living will). Blumenauer writes that no such mandate exists in the legislation, or is being contemplated. Like the advance planning consultations, living wills are entirely voluntary.
Myth: Patients will have to see a health care professional chosen by the government. The government will not choose any health care professionals for anyone. If a patient chooses to have an advance planning consultation, it will be with a doctor of his or her choosing.
Blumenauer notes that the following organizations have endorsed his provision: the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, the American College of Physicians, the American Hospice Foundation, the Center to Advance Palliative Care, Consumers Union, Gundersen Lutheran Health System, the Hospice and Palliative Nursing Association, Medicare Rights Center, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the National Palliative Care Research Center, Providence Health and Services, and the Supportive Care Coalition. [US House of Representatives, 7/2009 ; Politico, 7/28/2009]
Entity Tags: Consumers Union, Center to Advance Palliative Care, American College of Physicians, American Association of Retired Persons, American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Supportive Care Coalition, Providence Health and Services, National Palliative Care Research Center, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Hospice and Palliative Nursing Association, Medicare, Gundersen Lutheran Health System, Earl Blumenauer, Medicare Rights Center, American Hospice Foundation
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
The Internet news site Politico reports on the quickly escalating confrontations occurring at “town hall” meetings held around the country, featuring conservative protesters agitating against the White House’s health care reform proposals (see Late July, 2009). Reporter Alex Isenstadt writes: “Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops, congressmen fearful for their safety—welcome to the new town hall-style meeting, the once-staid forum that is rapidly turning into a house of horrors for members of Congress.” The meetings, held by Democratic House members attempting to discuss the health care proposals with their constituents, have quickly devolved into confrontational events disrupted by shouting, cursing protesters waving signs and shouting down speakers, often before they can begin speaking.
Other Methods to Discuss Issue with Constituents - After one such meeting (see June 22, 2009), House member Tim Bishop (D-NY) says he will not hold more town halls until late August. “I had felt they would be pointless,” he says. “There is no point in meeting with my constituents and [to] listen to them and have them listen to you if what is basically an unruly mob prevents you from having an intelligent conversation.” He adds: “I have no problem with someone disagreeing with positions I hold. But I also believe no one is served if you can’t talk through differences.” Other Democrats such as Bruce Braley (D-IA), Allen Boyd (D-FL), and Thomas Perriello (D-VA) have experienced similar incidents at their own town hall meetings. Isenstadt characterizes the meetings as plagued by “boiling anger and rising incivility.” Braley explains the heated protests by saying, “I think it’s just the fact that we are dealing with some of the most important public policy issues in a generation.” Bishop notes: “I think in general what is going on is we are tackling issues that have been ignored for a long time, and I think that is disruptive to a lot of people. We are trying, one by one, to deal with a set of issues that can’t be ignored, and I think that’s unsettling to a lot of people.” Dan Maffei (D-NY), whose July 12 meeting at a Syracuse middle school was disrupted, says he is considering other options to avoid the confrontations. “I think you’ve got to communicate through a variety of different ways,” he says. “You should do the telephone town hall meetings. You should do the town hall meetings. You should do the smaller group meetings. It’s important to do things in a variety of ways, so you don’t have one mode of communication. You’re going to have people of varying views, and in this case, you’ve got the two extremes who were the most vocal.” Russ Carnahan (D-MO) says he enjoys the town hall meetings, and will not let disruptions stop him from holding them. Perriello agrees. “I enjoy it, and people have a chance to speak their mind,” he says.
Countering the Protesters - Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), has planned countermethods for the spate of meetings to be held during the August recess. According to sources familiar with the meetings Van Hollen has held, Van Hollen advised his fellow Democrats to “Go on offense. Stay on the offense. It’s really important that your constituents hear directly from you. You shouldn’t let a day go by [that] your constituents don’t hear from you.”
Continuing the Protests - Van Hollen’s Republican counterpart, Pete Sessions (R-TX), who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), says the protests will continue. “We’ve seen Russ Carnahan, we’ve seen Tim Bishop, we’ve seen some other people face some very different crowds back home,” he says. “The days of you having a town hall meeting where maybe 15 or 20 of your friends show up—they’re over. You’ve now got real people who are showing up—and that’s going to be a factor.” Asked if the Republicans would use the confrontations against Democrats, Sessions says, “Wait till next year.”
Possible Backlash? - Democrats warn that Republicans will likely face a backlash in public opinion if the public perceives the party as being too closly aligned with tea party activists or other radical-right protesters. Former DCCC political director Brian Smoot says: “It’s a risk that they align themselves with such a small minority in the party. They risk alienating moderates.” [Politico, 7/31/2009]
Entity Tags: Dan Maffei, Brian Smoot, Allen Boyd, Alex Isenstadt, Chris Van Hollen, Tim Bishop, Russ Carnahan, Bruce Braley, Obama administration, Pete Sessions, National Republican Congressional Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Politico, Thomas Perriello
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
A screenshot from a Democratic National Committee ad highlighting phrases from the memo. [Source: Weekly Standard]The conservative Web site and political action committee (PAC) Right Principles releases a memo entitled “Rocking the Town Halls: Best Practices,” written by Bob MacGuffie, a founder of the organization and a volunteer with the “Tea Party Patriots,” a subsidiary of the conservative lobbying group FreedomWorks (see April 14, 2009). [Think Progress, 7/31/2009; Tea Party Patriots, 8/6/2009] The organization is very small—basically MacGuffie and four friends—and although MacGuffie volunteers with the aforementioned tea party group, he insists he and his organization have no connections to the much larger and well-funded FreedomWorks or other lobbying organizations that support anti-health care protests. “We are recommending with that memo that other grassroots groups that share our view should go to the town halls of their members and use the strategy that we did,” MacGuffie says. “We are trying to get into that town halls to make them understand that they do not have the unanimous support from people in their communities.” [TPMDC, 8/3/2009] Although the site either never posts the memo or takes it down shortly after, it quickly circulates throughout the conservative community (see July 23, 2009), and will be used to disrupt “town hall” meetings by Democratic House members, who intend to spend time during the August recess holding such meetings to discuss the Obama administration’s health care proposals. [Right Principles, 2009; Think Progress, 7/31/2009] MacGuffie later claims to have first e-mailed the memo to “8-10 community activists” in June. [Weekly Standard, 8/5/2009]
'Best Practices' - The memo advises conservative activists and protesters of the best ways to dominate and disrupt the town hall meetings. Basing the memo on actions conducted by Right Principles members and supporters during a May 2009 town hall meeting held by Congressman Jim Himes (D-CT), MacGuffie writes, “We believe there are some best practices which emerged from the event and our experience, which could be useful to activists in just about any district where their congressperson has supported the socialist agenda of the Democrat leadership in Washington.” Some of the steps include:
Artificially inflating numbers. “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”
Being disruptive from the outset. “You need to rock the boat early in the rep’s presentation. Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the rep’s statements early.” The memo also advises, “Don’t carry on and make a scene, just short, intermittent shout-outs.”
Attempt to rattle or goad the speaker. “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”
The memo also attaches some possible questions for the representatives, “which apply to most any Democrat that is supporting the socialist agenda,” it says. [Bob MacGuffie, 7/2009 ; Think Progress, 7/31/2009] Progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress will note that the questions closely resemble talking points handed out in July by FreedomWorks. [Think Progress, 7/31/2009] Liberal MSNBC host Rachel Maddow will accuse Right Principles of crafting a “how-to” manual for disruptive “rent-a-mob” activities. [Washington Times, 8/6/2009] The conservative Weekly Standard will accuse “liberal media” outlets such as Think Progress and MSNBC of “manufacturing outrage” over the memo, and prints MacGuffie’s denials of having any connections to FreedomWorks. “There is no formal connection,” he says. “I don’t know anyone from FreedomWorks.” [Weekly Standard, 8/5/2009]
Entity Tags: Weekly Standard, Tea Party Patriots, Right Principles, Jim Himes, Obama administration, Rachel Maddow, Think Progress (.org), FreedomWorks, Bob MacGuffie
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
Professor Stephen Hawking. [Source: Quarkscrew (.com)]The conservative publication Investors Business Daily (IBD) writes an editorial harshly criticizing the Democrats’ health care reform package. The editorial repeats the debunked canard that the reform proposal will mandate allowing elderly, less “productive” citizens to die rather than pay to keep them alive (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, and July 28, 2009). IBD compares the US health care system to Britain’s government-run National Health Service (NHS), claiming that in Britain health care is strictly rationed and routinely allows people to die if they don’t meet up with the criteria for paying for their care. “The British have succeeded in putting a price tag on human life, as we are about to,” the editorial claims. In the original version of the editorial, the editors write, “People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.” The IBD editors are apparently unaware that Hawking was born in Oxford, England, lives in Britain, teaches at the University of Cambridge, and has been supported by Britain’s health care system for his entire life. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein writes: “You could write some long response to the rest of the lies and distortions in that IBD editorial, but the more appropriate reply is to just warn people against ever reading the editorial page in Investor’s Business Daily. It’s not just that they didn’t know that Stephen Hawking was born in England. It’s that the underlying point was wrong, as you’ll note from the continued existence of Stephen Hawking. They didn’t choose an unfortunate example for an accurate point. They simply lied.” Hawking himself tells Guardian columnist Hugh Muir: “I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.” After the corrections, IBD alters the editorial to omit the Hawking reference, but does not acknowledge that Hawking has remained alive due to NHS medical interventions. [Investor's Business Daily, 7/31/2009; Washington Post, 8/10/2009; Guardian, 8/11/2009; Huffington Post, 8/13/2009]
Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA) holds a session designed to allow him to discuss the proposed health care reform package with his constituents on a one-on-one basis. The event, held at a restaurant in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, draws so many would-be participants, many of whom are unruly and volatile, that Murphy agrees to change the format and discuss health care and other issues with the entire group. Murphy’s remarks are received with shouts, screams, curses, and repeated attempts to interrupt Murphy with slogans and chanting, mostly from conservative anti-reform protesters. According to a local reporter, Murphy “kept his cool, listening to people’s concerns and defending his plans while occasionally asking hecklers ‘to be respectful.’” Murphy holds a second, equally contentious meeting at a local grocery store, although, a reporter notes, “the crowd seemed more evenly divided politically at the supermarket than the restaurant.” Murphy says: “The great thing about Bucks County is that people really can be very passionate. So that’s why I don’t flinch and give them their chance to talk while most of my colleagues are putting their heads in the sand.” At both meetings, Murphy draws an extended session of boos and catcalls when he tells the crowds, “I happen to think [President Obama is] doing a pretty great job.” He repeatedly calls the present health care system “unsustainable,” and stresses that he supports the so-called “public option,” which would allow people to choose between a private and government-supervised health care plan. He also says that if the public option becomes available, he and his family will use it. He is repeatedly asked whether the various health care proposals contain provisions for mandating the “euthanasia” of elderly people, which none of the proposals feature. And he insists that the reform package will benefit small business owners and will not raise taxes for ordinary Americans. One anti-reform protester shouts, “A national health care bill would rob us of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” to which a pro-reform advocate retorts: “You’ve had your say. Now shut your mouth.” Murphy intervenes: “Let him speak,” he says. One resident says after the meetings: “Deciding to open up the question to the full crowd was a good idea, but I think many people are still confused as to what the bill is trying to accomplish. The question is, what type of health care will be available to citizens, and at what price?” Another audience member praises Murphy’s calm in the face of sometimes-ugly opprobrium. “If I was in his shoes, I don’t think I could have done it,” he says. “He was very respectful and did a good job trying to keep tempers down.” [Bucks County Courier Times, 8/2/2009]
Anti-reform protesters carry signs depicting Doggett with ‘devil horns’ and a sign featuring Nazi SS lettering. [Source: Raw Story]Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) receives a hostile reception in a town hall meeting in an Austin grocery store. The meeting is to discuss the controversial Democratic health care reform proposal. The crowd is much larger than some had anticipated, and apparently packed with anti-health care reform protesters; anti-reform and anti-Obama signs are prominently displayed, including signs that read, “No Socialized Health Care.” Protesters also wave signs with Doggett depicted with devil horns, of a marble tombstone with Doggett’s name on it, and with slogans alleging Democrats are Nazis. When Doggett tells the crowd that he will support the reform plan even if his constituents oppose it, many in the crowd begin chanting “Just say no!” and, according to news reports, “overwhelm… the congressman as he move[s] through the crowd and into the parking lot.” One resident says of the meeting: “The folks there thought their voices weren’t being heard. They were angry, but they were respectful. There wasn’t any violence.” Another says, laughing: “He jumped in [his car] and fled. It was like he was tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. It was a beautiful thing.” Doggett later notes that because of the disruption, he is unable to engage in discussion with constituents who have other issues, including a father who wants his help in getting his son into a military academy. [Austin American-Statesman, 8/3/2009; New York Times, 8/3/2009; Atlantic Monthly, 8/4/2009]
Congressman: Protesters a 'Mob' - Doggett will later characterize the anti-reform protesters as a “mob.” In a statement, he says: “This mob, sent by the local Republican and Libertarian parties, did not come just to be heard, but to deny others the right to be heard. And this appears to be part of a coordinated, nationwide effort. What could be more appropriate for the ‘party of no’ than having its stalwarts drowning out the voices of their neighbors by screaming ‘just say no!‘… Their fanatical insistence on repealing Social Security and Medicare is not just about halting health care reform but rolling back 75 years of progress. I am more committed than ever to win approval of legislation to offer more individual choice to access affordable health care. An effective public plan is essential to achieve that goal.” [Politico, 8/3/2009; CBS News, 8/3/2009]
Coordinated by Local Republicans, Washington Lobbyist Firm, 'Tea Party' Group - The protest is coordinated by Heather Liggett, a local Republican Party operative, and by officials with the lobbying firm Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which has organized numerous anti-tax “tea party” demonstrations (see April 15, 2009 and May 29, 2009). Liggett confirms she is part of a national network of conservative organizers putting together anti-reform protests. Doggett says: “This is not a grassroots effort. This is a very coordinated effort where the local Republican Party, the local conservative meet-up groups sent people to my event.” Of the event itself, he says: “In Texas, not only with the weather but with the politics, it is pretty hardball around here. I have a pretty thick skin about all of this. But this really goes over the line.” And Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), adds: “Conservative activists don’t want to have a conversation. They want to disrupt.” [New York Times, 8/3/2009] Democratic National Committee (DNC) spokesman Brad Woodhouse says, “The right-wing extremists’ use of things like devil horns on pictures of our elected officials, hanging members of Congress in effigy, breathlessly questioning the president’s citizenship, and the use of Nazi SS symbols and the like just shows how outside of the mainstream the Republican Party and their allies are.” Another group with connections to the “tea party” movement, “Operation Embarrass Your Congressman,” helped organize the protest. It says on its Web site: “These arrogant, ignorant, and insolent [Congress members] have embarrassed America, trampled the Constitution, and ignored their constituents for far too long. Attend their townhall meetings during recess and press them with intelligent questions (unlike the mainstream media), asked in an intelligent manner to see if they are really in touch and on board with ‘the will of the people.’” [CBS News, 8/3/2009] After the meeting, FreedomWorks, a conservative lobbying organization that actively promotes disruptive behavior at Congressional town halls (see April 14, 2009), posts video from the meeting, and exhorts its members, “If you know of a town hall meeting your Congressman is having, be sure to show up, bring some friends, and them know what you think.” [FreedomWorks, 8/3/2009]
The fraudulent birth certificate presented by California lawyer Orly Taitz ‘proving’ that Barack Obama was born in a Kenyan hospital. [Source: Snopes (.com)]California attorney Orly Taitz posts an image of what she says is President Obama’s “true” birth certificate, this one issued in Kenya (see June 13, 2008). Taitz then files a motion in federal court to prove its authenticity. The conservative news blog WorldNetDaily (WND) quickly publishes an article repeating Taitz’s claim. WND notes that the Kenyan document lists Obama’s parents as “Barack Hussein Obama and Stanley Ann Obama, formerly Stanley Ann Dunham.” The birth date is August 4, 1961, and the hospital of birth is Coast General Hospital in Mombasa, Kenya. The document lists no attending doctor. It does list the signature of the deputy registrar of Coast Province, Joshua Simon Oduya. According to the document, it was issued as a certified copy of the original in February 1964. WND claims that it has compared the Taitz document to other Kenyan birth certificates, and, it concludes, “the form of the documents appear to be identical.” WND admits that other fraudulent Kenyan birth certificates have recently been posted on the Internet, but, it says, “[t]he new document released by Taitz bears none of the obvious traits of a hoax.” Critics note that the Taitz document was certified as being issued by the Republic of Kenya on February 17, 1964, though the Republic of Kenya did not come into existence until December 1964. However, WND says, “Kenya’s official independence was in 1963, and any number of labels could have been applied to government documents during that time period.” According to WND, Taitz says she received the document “from an anonymous source who doesn’t want his name known because ‘he’s afraid for his life.’” Taitz’s court filing, in the US District Court for the Central District of California, requests the purported evidence of Obama’s birth—both the alleged birth certificate and foreign records not yet obtained—be preserved from destruction, asks for permission to legally request documents from Kenya, and seeks a subpoena for deposition from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Taitz tells WND: “I filed the motion with the court asking for expedited discovery, which would allow me to start subpoenas and depositions even before Obama and the government responds. I am asking the judge to give me the power to subpoena the documents from the Kenyan embassy and to require a deposition from Hillary Clinton so they will be forced to authenticate [the birth certificate]. I’m forcing the issue, where Obama will have to respond.… Before, they said, ‘You don’t have anything backing your claims.’ Now I have something. In fact, I have posted on the Internet more than Obama has (see June 13, 2008). My birth certificate actually has signatures.” Taitz says she plans to file more documents with the court in the following days. [St. Petersburg Times, 8/2/2009; WorldNetDaily, 8/2/2009]
Forgery - PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, asks for clarification from Salim Lone, the spokesman for Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Lone says via email: “It’s a forgery. Kenya only became a republic in December, 1964. Other arguments could also be marshaled, but they are not needed.” Blogger Steve Eddy then finds a nearly-identical document on the Internet using Google Search, posted on a genealogy Web site by an Australian, David Jeffrey Bomford. Eddy compares the two and, according to PolitiFact: “Same format. Same book and page number in the birth registry. Some of the officials’ last names were even the same.” Eddy tells PolitiFact, “At that point, it was pretty obvious the Kenyan one was a fake, that someone had used this real one from Australia to make their version.” An ABC affiliate in Australia asks Bomford, a public service clerk in Adelaide, about the controversy, and Bomford replies: “That is ridiculous. Little old person in Adelaide, the president of the United States. I don’t know whether to laugh about it or not, be worried about it.” Bomford says he had nothing to do with the hoax. “It’s little old me and my mum and everything else up there,” he says. The birth certificate he posted online is his own, he says. “Oh, I definitely confirm that the birth certificate was mine. That was quite easy to see—my address, even the style of the birth certificate was an old South Australian one. So it’s quite easy to identify that it’s mine.… It’s definitely a copy of my certificate. It’s so laughable it’s ridiculous.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/2/2009] The Washington Independent’s David Weigel notes , “The image is part of the extremely ill-informed conspiracy theory that Obama was born in Mombasa—conveniently, one of the more Muslim parts of the country.” The Obama family lives in an entirely different part of Kenya, over a thousand miles from Mombasa. Moreover, at the time of Obama’s birth, Mombasa was not a part of Kenya, but part of Zanzibar. [Washington Independent, 8/3/2009]
Rebuttal - Taitz posts on her Web site that Bomford’s certificate, not her own, is the fake, and says Bomford or someone else altered that certificate from the “original” Obama certificate to discredit her. Eddy says of Taitz’s claim, “There’s no reasoning with some of these people.” A blogger from “Obama Not Qualified” writes a long screed detailing his or her belief that the Taitz document is real, though noting his or her belief that the photo Taitz originally posted may not be real, and giving a step-by-step walkthrough of how to create a falsified document. PolitiFact receives a response from Val Edyvean, registrar of births, deaths and marriages for South Australia, saying: “It appears that a South Australian loaded an image of his own birth certificate onto a family history Web site and that the format was used by others to ‘create’ a document which purported to be a Kenyan birth certificate for Barack Obama. As the South Australian man has now removed this image, and the date of his birth is in the period of certificates which are restricted from public access, I do not intend to add to speculation by commenting on details of either that certificate or any aspects of it.” [Obama Not Qualified, 2008; St. Petersburg Times, 8/2/2009]
Conclusion - WND publisher Joseph Farah publishes a column expressing his feeling that the Taitz certificate is “probably” a forgery, and claims that WND never made any assertion of its validity. (Farah also says that the State of Hawaii has “steadfastly refused” to state that the birth certificate posted by the Obama campaign in 2008 is valid, a false statement—see October 30, 2008 and July 28, 2009). “The Kenyan document could be real. I haven’t seen a single disqualifying error pointed out in the last 24 hours. But I still strongly suspect it is not,” he writes. Instead, he says, WND posted the certificate and the accompanying article so that it could be fact-checked. He then claims that Obama has “hidden” his real birth certificate and “virtually every other meaningful document in his life” from public scrutiny. [WorldNetDaily, 8/4/2009] PolitiFact concludes that the Taitz certificate “is a fake.” However, “we have no delusions this changes anyone’s mind in the birther movement.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/2/2009]
Entity Tags: Steve Eddy, US District Court for the Central District of California, WorldNetDaily, Salim Lone, Val Edyvean, Orly Taitz, David Jeffrey Bomford, David Weigel, Barack Obama, PolitiFact (.org ), Joseph Farah, Joshua Simon Oduya, Hillary Clinton
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Conservative blogger and commentator Michelle Malkin, on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” calls the “tea party movement” opposing taxes and health care reform “counterinsurgencies.” Malkin says there is a growing “tea party movement—these counterinsurgencies amongst taxpayer rights groups,” that is fomenting opposition to health care reform. She claims that these “counterinsurgencies” will escalate their confrontation behaviors in what she calls “town halls-gone-wild.” And, Malkin says, the “counterinsurgents” are members of true “grassroots” organizations (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, and Before August 6, 2009). [Think Progress, 8/2/2009]
Fox News covers the Sebelius/Specter town hall meeting. [Source: Eyeblast (.org)]Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) hold a meeting at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to discuss the White House’s health care reform proposals. A large and vocal crowd of anti-reform protesters attempts to shout over, or shout down, both Sebelius and Specter during the event. Over 400 people attend the meeting, and many “cheered, jeered, and booed” the two, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sebelius’s response to the crowd: “I’m happy to see democracy is at work.” The Inquirer reports, “Sebelius and Specter managed, barely, to impose a tenuous civility on the hour-long meeting titled ‘Health Insurance Reform—What’s in it for You.’” At one point, the booing and screaming become so pervasive that Sebelius informs the crowd, “We can shout at one another, or we can leave the stage.” Audience members verbally engage with each other as well: one, a self-identified Republican “political junkie,” says the nation cannot afford to insure 47 million uninsured Americans, and is countered by a rheumatologist who works with underinsured and uninsured patients, and who describes the horrific situations many of them face. One anti-reform participant tells the pair, “The American people don’t want rationed health care,” winning cheers from many in the audience. When Sebelius retorts that health care is already rationed for the 12,000 people a day whose insurance disappears when they lose their jobs, she wins applause from other audience members. About a dozen members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are there to support Sebelius and Specter, and some members of the pro-reform group Physicians for Obama are also in attendance. Countering them are numerous audience members with “Tell Washington No” bumper stickers plastered to their chests. One anti-reform organization, the Philadelphia Tea Party Patriots, will later claim to have around 40 members in attendance. Outside the hall, dozens of anti-reform protesters picket with signs saying, among other slogans, “Government Health Care: Dangerous to Your Health,” “Welcome to the United States Socialist Republic,” and various anti-abortion signs. After the meeting, Sebelius says: “Health care touches everybody personally.… I find it difficult, because so much misinformation gets repeated in questions at town hall meetings. We have a challenge to get the message out.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/3/2009] After the meeting, FreedomWorks (see April 14, 2009), a lobbying organization that actively promotes the town hall disruptions by conservative protesters, calls the event “a must emulate at town halls across the country over the next month.” [FreedomWorks, 8/3/2009]
The lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), funded by nearly 1,300 health care providers and other medical companies, urges its members’ employees to, in AHIP’s words, “GO TO TOWN MEETINGS WITH MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN AUGUST TO CONFRONT THEM on House Democrats’ top recess message—that health reform legislation is ‘health insurance reform to hold insurance companies accountable’” (all caps from the source). AHIP plans on releasing negative television ads opposing the Obama administration’s health care reform proposals. According to AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach: “The American people want Washington to focus on solutions, not the same old divisive political rhetoric that hasn’t worked in the past. Our industry has offered to completely transform how health insurance is provided today. We have stepped up to do our part to make health care reform a reality. That’s an INCONVENIENT FACT that some people have chosen to ignore. These attacks are politically motivated, and they ignore the significant commitment that our industry has made to the health reform process. WE’RE GOING TO BE VERY ACTIVE. We have people on the ground in more than 30 states. There are thousands of industry employees WHO HAVE NOW HAD THEIR INTEGRITY CALLED INTO QUESTION. They want to have their voices heard as part of this. We have contacted all of our member companies and encouraged them to get involved. August is a great time because of the face-to-face interaction with members.” [Campaign for an American Solution, 8/2/2009]
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) says that Democrats and supporters of health care reform should not be swayed by the numerous instances of outrage and disruption effected by conservative and anti-health care reform protesters (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, and August 3, 2009). Durbin says he believes Congressional Democrats should continue “speaking with the public, meeting with people who are the health care professionals, and talking about the current situation. I’ve done it and I’ll continue to do it. But you know, I hope my colleagues won’t fall for a sucker punch like this. These health insurance companies and people like them are trying to load these town halls for visual impact on television. They want to show thousands of people screaming ‘socialism’ and try to overcome the public sentiment which now favors health care reform. That’s almost like flooding the switchboards on Capitol Hill. It doesn’t prove much other than the switchboards have limited capacity. So, we need to have a much more balanced approach that really allows members of Congress to hear both sides of the story, rather than being sucker-punched or side-tracked by these types of tactics.” [Think Progress, 8/3/2009]
On Fox News’s early morning show “Fox & Friends,” co-host Peter Johnson thanks the group of conservatives engaging in orchestrated protests against health care reform (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, and August 4, 2009). Johnson says, “[W]e thank you for representing Americans, and we hope that other Americans get out there.” [Media Matters, 8/6/2009]
Anti-health care reform protesters sound off at a health care forum in Hartford, Connecticut, featuring Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT). Many of the protesters identify themselves as either belonging to a “tea party” protest organization or a related group calling itself “Dump Dodd.” One protester seems to suggest that Dodd, who has been diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer, either commit suicide or be forced to die: “How come we don’t just give Chris Dodd painkillers? Like a handful of them at a time! He can wash it down with Ted Kennedy’s whiskey!” The protester is apparently referring to a claim by Rush Limbaugh that the reform proposal would deny senior citizens needed treatment, and would instead force them to rely on pain medications while waiting to die (see July 28, 2009). One reform advocate, who later posts his impressions of the event on the liberal blogs Daily Kos and My Left Nutmeg, writes that the “Dump Dodd” protesters rail about communism and socialism taking over American democracy, and notes, “Never mind that they were essentially calling Medicare, the VA, and the military’s Tricare communist and socialist.” [My Left Nutmeg, 8/4/2009; Stephen Herron, 8/5/2009; Washington Post, 8/6/2009]
Conservative anti-health care reform protesters disrupt a “listening session” held by House member Steve Kagen (D-WI) in a Green Bay, Wisconsin, library. The library quickly fills with 300 participants, leaving some 50 to listen and protest outside the venue. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, “[t]he vast majority of people attending the event appeared to come in protest of the health care legislation, and they repeatedly disrupted the event by shouting.” Green Bay police soon appear at the library in response to reports of disruption, and they stay throughout the event to keep order. No one is arrested. Local reports say Kagen keeps his calm throughout the event, and does not try to shout over the protesters, but several times speaks about the attitude on display. “You can talk, but I can’t listen to 100 people at the same time,” he says. “This is not a shouting contest. This should be a discussion.” According to the Press-Gazette: “If the event were a shouting match, the mob won. Kagen tried talking about the health care bill, but the roaring chants deafened his attempts. Several elderly people covered their ears and grimaced at the level of noise.” The Press-Gazette calls many of the shouts and screams “incomprehensible.” In the last half hour of the session, the crowd calms somewhat, and Kagen is able to engage in a more active discussion. One participant will later explain the crowd’s behavior: “We are scared and when we get scared, we get angry,” she says. “We sit back here [in Wisconsin] and we have no control.” [Green Bay Press-Gazette, 8/4/2009; Think Progress, 8/4/2009]
Fox News host Sean Hannity tells the conservative protesters engaging in orchestrated protests of health care reform (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, and August 4, 2009), “Now, so far at these town hall meetings, you’re doing terrific.” He adds: “This is what’s going to stop this. You are. You’re gonna make it happen.… You’re standing up to these bureaucrats. You’re standing up to their phony platitudes, talking points, and bumper stickers. The polls are now turning against [President] Obama, [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, and [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid, so now they’re bringing out their own pollster to lie to you and find out a way how they can win the PR battle, and they’re telling them that they’ve got to attack the insurance companies.” [Media Matters, 8/6/2009]
The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder says that the Democrats are, in part, being beaten in the public perception battle over health care reform because they were caught flat-footed by the wave of angry, if orchestrated, conservative opposition manifesting itself at town hall meetings across America (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, and August 4, 2009). Ambinder writes: “Democrats know the rulebook. The tactics being used against them by Republican and conservative groups were perfected by the party when it set out to defeat President Bush’s Social Security privatization proposals. They also know that it’s easier to gin up noise against a major legislative initiative than it is to sell an initiative that isn’t fully formed yet.… As a Democratic strategist said to me: ‘I think as Dems we learned a lot of lessons from beating Bush on privatization—we know and perfected all the tricks and tactics so we know what to expect from the tea baggers, the insurance companies, and other opponents.’” But because the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats have not yet created a cohesive, easily explained health care reform package, conservatives are finding it easy to attack the various proposals while Democrats flounder in attempting to explain that not-yet-perfected package. It is also easy for conservatives to allege horrific elements of that package which do not exist, but succeed in inflaming public opinion and raising the “fear level” among ordinary citizens. Ambinder concludes: “The press will be complicit in telling the story, as the louder voices at town hall meetings will ultimately get more coverage. As the Democratic National Committee has learned, it’s not easy to engineer a massive national congressional switchboard campaign unless there is a defined target.… The goal of the opposition—of FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity (see April 15, 2009)—isn’t to change minds; their activists know what they believe already: it’s to make noise. Making noise scares members of Congress. And Democrats are vulnerable to panics.” [Atlantic Monthly, 8/3/2009]
House Representative Gene Green (D-TX) holds a “town hall” meeting in North Houston to discuss a number of issues, including the economic stimulus and health care reform. Anti-health care reform activists attempt to disrupt the meeting, as has happened at previous events (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 4, 2009, and August 4, 2009). However, according to local reporter David Jennings, although Green “had to struggle to keep his town meeting in order,” he “did not lose control of his meeting.” Jennings writes that Green was prepared for the disruptions. He chose a small venue for the meeting and allows people to “vent a little.” The disruption is limited, with one protester repeatedly shouting and catcalling (and eventually being upbraided by another audience member outside the venue). Health care reform is the dominant topic of discussion in the meeting. [Lone Star Times, 8/4/2009] Local Fox News reporter Duarte Geraldino interviews many of the conservative anti-reform protesters and reports, “some attendees admit they don’t live in the district.” Geraldino finds that many came as a result of “an internet campaign” by right-wing activists (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, and Before August 6, 2009) urging their members and supporters to attend town hall meetings and heckle Democratic Congress members. Geraldino hosts a video clip of one protester and notes, “Pay close attention to the man behind the congressman, he seems to have forgotten the part about respect.” The crowd is reportedly so raucous and disrespectful that another attendee says he came to give Green “a really hard time” but decides not to after being annoyed by the constant screaming and heckling from his fellows. “This is a free country, but I think there’s a certain degree of respect” required. [My Fox Houston, 8/4/2009; Think Progress, 8/4/2009] One conservative protester asks the audience to raise their hands if they “oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care.” Almost all raise their hands. Green quickly responds, “How many of you have Medicare?” About half the attendees raise their hands. Think Progress reporter Faiz Shakir later writes that they apparently “fail[ed] to note the irony.” Later in the discussion, a small business owner who supports health care asks how many people “do not have health insurance of some kind.” When only one person raises their hand, she says, “I think the people who are objecting are the people who have insurance.” [Think Progress, 8/4/2009]
Progressive columnist Eugene Robinson, an associate editor for the Washington Post, calls the efforts by anti-health care reform protesters to disrupt and block debate “shocking.” Robinson tells interviewer Rachel Maddow: “This seems extreme, extraordinary—you could almost say shocking. It’s hard to be shocked in politics, but this is so clearly an organized campaign of intimidation, of theater. I mean, it’s not theater in ‘all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players’ metaphorical sense, but theater in a, you know, ‘let’s put on a show’ kind of sense to, not just to shout down any individual congressman or congresswoman who happens to be holding a town meeting, but to create this videotape that gets posted on Web sites, that gets on television that creates this sort of atmosphere of health reform—the very idea of health reform being on the defensive. [T]his is something that strikes me as particularly noxious and out of bounds.” Robinson says that the original anti-tax, anti-Obama “tea parties” had little effect, partly because they were not focused on a single issue. Now that the “tea party” organizers have focused their groups on opposing health care, they are much more effective, Robinson says. “[T]here’s a definite aim here, which is to stop in its tracks the most serious attempt at actual health care reform that could make a difference in millions of people’s lives and also make a difference to the bottom lines of insurance companies and others that make money off the health care industry as it is.… [T]his is a tactic that’s sort of almost mob intimidation at these meetings—you never know where they’re going to pop up, when they’re going to pop up—that I don’t think anyone quite knows how to respond to at this point. I mean, do you bring in your own side to shout down the shouters down? Do you bring in the… police to enforce the disorderly conduct laws? I’m not quite sure what you do.” Maddow wonders if there may not be a political cost to the conservatives over “being associated with this kind of raw thuggishness,” and continues: “I’m all in favor of rabble rousers and people even being disruptive and using their First Amendment rights, even if it is an untoward, unfriendly way. But when it is part of a corporate strategy organized by lobbyists who are sort of astroturfed (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, July 27, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, Before August 6, 2009, and August 6-7, 2009), do they ultimately get in trouble when that is exposed?” Robinson says while that may well be the case, in the short term pro-reform advocates “have to find a way to go on the offense in this debate and not be caught on the defensive—and there is a sense that this new tactic has put health care reformers on the defensive or at least wondering exactly how to respond.” [MSNBC, 8/4/2009]
A town hall meeting to discuss the White House’s proposed health care reform package is disrupted by a volatile crowd of anti-reform protesters. The event is hosted by Representative Steve Driehaus (D-OH), and takes place at a Unitarian church. The event draws so many participants that it is moved to a larger room, but many still are forced to remain outside. Driehaus opens the meeting by saying, “I know that there are those with the tea party group and I welcome you and I welcome them to my office.” The protesters respond by screaming and shouting over Driehaus as he tries to outline his reasons for supporting reform. “Tell the truth!” one participant screams as Driehaus tries to explain what is and is not in the proposal. Another shouts, “Move to Europe!” Driehaus says he understands there are dramatically different points of view surrounding the reform proposals. “I know some people would like a single-payer system and some would like no change at all,” he says. “I get that.… We have the most expensive health care system in the world. We’ve got the best medical system in the world, if you can afford to pay for it.” One protester outside the church, Sue Hardenbergh, holds a sign opposing what she believes will be “nationalized health care,” and tells reporters she doesn’t believe assurances from the Obama administration that citizens will be able to keep their same doctor and private insurance plans under the new program. “I am in favor of reform. I am in favor of fiscal responsibility,” she says. “I think the bill as presented is going to eliminate a competitive market and the private insurance industry.” [Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/3/2009; Think Progress, 8/4/2009]
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh says that if the recent spate of disruptive and violent protests against health care reform (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, and August 4, 2009) are, in fact, orchestrated (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, and Before August 6, 2009), then it is “about damn time.” He continues: “We have had groups like ACORN [the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now] and Democrat rent-a-mobs making up excuses and lying about things they oppose to affect public policy for years, while people like me haven’t had time because we work. We do not protest for a living. We do not rent ourselves out to be part of mobs. So, if this is actually an orchestrated event, then I’m glad somebody on our side’s getting in gear.… It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other [if the protests are coordinated]. The people who are showing up are genuinely angry. And if their transportation is being facilitated—about damn time. You’ve got to take these people on the way they play the game. The aggressor sets the rules in a conflict.” [Media Matters, 8/6/2009]
Two House Representatives, James McGovern (D-MA) and Richard Neal (D-MA), are booed and heckled during a contentious town hall meeting at the University of Massachusetts to discuss health care reform. Like so many other such forums and meetings, the discussion is disrupted by anti-health care reform protesters, who shout, scream, boo, catcall, and chant throughout the meeting (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, and August 4, 2009). Both McGovern and Neal support the Obama administration’s health care reform proposals. University officials threaten several times to shut down the meeting because of the behavior. One protester shouts that McGovern is like Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who performed horrific experiments on concentration camp prisoners during World War II. According to local media reports, protesters outnumber supporters at the meeting. They argue that health care would be strictly rationed and elderly citizens would be denied care altogether, points vehemently disputed by the two congressmen. After the meeting, McGovern says it is plain that health care reform opponents had planned to dominate the meeting with their tactics, but adds: “This is still the United States of America and people have the right to be heard. The meeting wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t always polite but I got the opportunity to express my view on the subject.” [Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 8/4/2009]
Conservatives for Patients’ Rights logo. [Source: Conservatives for Patients? Rights]An organization called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR) publicly takes credit for orchestrating the disruptive and sometimes-violent protests against the White House’s health care reform proposals (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, and August 4, 2009). Washington Post reporter Greg Sargent says the admission “rais[es] questions about [the protests’] spontaneity.” CPR is headed by Rick Scott, a former health industry CEO who once ran Columbia/HCA before being ousted for malfeasance in 1997. (Columbia/HCA subsequently paid the US government $1.7 billion dollars in fines due to fraud that occured during Scott’s tenure.) Scott, who was once a part owner of the Texas Rangers with George W. Bush, now owns an investment firm that primarily traffics in health care, and owns a chain of Florida urgent care clinics called Solantic. [Washington Post, 5/10/2009; Plum Line, 8/4/2009] (Solantic also boasts former Bush administration official Thomas Scully as a member of its board. In 2004, Scully deliberately withheld information from Congress that the Bush administration’s Medicare reforms would cost $200 billion more than acknowledged.) [MSNBC, 8/7/2009]
Contracting with 'Swift Boat' PR Firm - Scott is spending millions on CPR’s public relations effort, and has contracted with CRC Public Relations, the group that masterminded the “swift boat” attacks against 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. He is also coordinating his efforts with Grover Norquist, the conservative advocate and influential Washington insider. CPR spokesman Brian Burgess confirms that CPR is e-mailing “town hall alert” flyers and schedules of town hall meetings to its mailing list. CPR is also actively recruiting members for the “tea party,” a loosely organized group of conservative protesters (see April 8, 2009). Scott says, “We have invested a lot of time, energy, and resources into educating Americans over the past several months about the dangers of government-run health care and I think we’re seeing some of the fruits of that campaign.” Doug Thornell, a House Democratic staff member, says: “The more you dig the more you learn that this is a carefully orchestrated effort by special interest lobbyists and the Republican Party, who are using fringe elements on the right to protect insurance company profits and defeat health care reform. The anger at these events looks very similar to what we saw at McCain/Palin rallies in the fall.” [Washington Post, 5/10/2009; Plum Line, 8/4/2009]
Group Interested in Protecting Industry Profits, Critics Say - Richard Kirsch of Health Care for America Now, a pro-reform group, says of Scott: “Those attacking reform are really looking to protect their own profits, and he’s a perfect messenger for that. His history of making a fortune by destroying quality in the health care system and ripping off the government is a great example of what’s really going on.” CPR plans on spending over $1 million a month in anti-reform television and radio ads. [Washington Post, 5/10/2009] White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, learning of CPR’s admission, says the organization is led by a “CEO that used to run a health care company that was fined by the federal government $1.7 billion for fraud. I think that’s a lot of what you need to know about the motives of that group.” Scott retorts, “It is a shame that Mr. Gibbs chooses to dismiss these Americans and their very real concerns, instead opting to level personal attacks.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 8/4/2009]
Entity Tags: Greg Sargent, Doug Thornell, Columbia/HCA, CRC Public Relations, Brian Burgess, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, Solantic, Thomas A. Scully, Rick Scott, Richard Kirsch, Obama administration, Robert Gibbs, Grover Norquist, Republican Party, Medicare
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Civil Liberties, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
Christopher Murphy (D-CT) holds a town hall in Meriden, Connecticut, to discuss the Democrats’ attempt to reform health care. Unlike many other town hall meetings in other areas (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, and August 4, 2009), Murphy’s meeting, held at a local library, is peaceful and relatively undisturbed by orchestrated groups of angry anti-reform protesters. Instead, Murphy hears one story after another of constituents denied health care by their insurers, or having life-saving treatments delayed by those insurance providers. “I really feel we can get a system of health care in this country that covers everybody and costs less than what we have now,” Murphy tells the audience. [Meriden Record-Journal, 8/4/2009] Local bloggers express disappointment in the lack of protests at the Murphy town hall, and exhort conservatives and anti-reform proponents to take part in Murphy’s future meetings, as well as other Connecticut Democrats’ meetings. Blogger Chris Healy writes: “One’s [sic] perrson’s [sic] mob is another person’s concerned citizen’s group. People should be vocal, direct, but polite and respectful. Most of the yourtube [sic] tapes show that. If Members of Congress get upset because people are shouting at them, maybe they should listen.” [Chris Healy, 8/5/2009]
House Representative Todd Akin (R-MO), holding a forum on health care reform at Maryville University, tells audience members that he opposes the Obama administration’s health care reform proposals. “Why do we want to turn over all of our health care to the government?” he asks. Akin, who bills his meeting as a “Freedom Conference,” also lambasts the Obama administration’s environmental and economic moves. Contrary to many health care discussions with Democratic lawmakers (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, and August 4, 2009), the crowd at Akin’s forum is largely friendly and supportive. The forum also features speakers from conservative organizations and industry lobbying firms such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA)‘s Center for Health Transformation. [St. Louis Beacon, 8/4/2009] During the meeting, Akin jokes about his Democratic colleagues being lynched, a crack that receives cheers and applause. Akin remarks, “Different people from Washington, DC, have come back to their districts and had town hall meetings, and they almost got lynched.” After an outburst of cheers and laughter, Akin, grinning, says, “I assume you’re not approving lynchings, because we don’t want to do that.” As he says this, he mockingly imitates being strangled, presumably by a noose. [Think Progress, 8/6/2009; TPMDC, 8/6/2009]
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh defends the lobbyist-funded conservative agitators and their raucous protests against health care reform (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, and August 4, 2009). Protesting characterizations of the protesters as “unruly mobs,” he says, “These are orderly people… geniune voting American citizens.” Limbaugh says that President Obama is the “community agitator” who taught liberal protesters “how to show up at events like this over and over again and rip ‘em apart, and tear ‘em down, disrupt them, and make sure they don’t happen.… This time it’s not ginned up, it’s genuine. It’s real. People do not want [health care reform].” [Media Matters, 8/4/2009] The day before, Limbaugh defended the protests’ orchestration, saying if they are orchestrated, it is “about damn time” (see August 3, 2009).
Progressive reporter and columnnist Steve Benen writes that the Republicans and conservatives orchestrating (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, and Before August 6, 2009) the raucous anti-health care reform protests (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 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, and August 4, 2009) must be careful to avoid a backlash among moderate and independent Americans. Noting that the media has reported multiple instances of protesters’ comparisons of President Obama and his administration to Nazis, and their stated opposition to Social Security, Medicare, and other popular government programs, Benen writes: “It’s probably the one angle the corporate interests and their lobbyists haven’t considered: the unintended consequences of rallying confused right-wing activists to shout down policymakers who’ll improve their health care coverage. Once you wind up the fanatics and point them in the direction of a town hall meeting, you never really know what they’re going to say, do, wear, or hold.… This is not to say all opponents of reform are radical extremists. The point, though, is that conservatives run a risk of convincing the American mainstream that the only people worked up in opposition to health care reform are nutjobs.… Obviously, those concerned about the reform proposals go beyond fringe, unhinged activists. But if and when the anti-reform campaign becomes synonymous with right-wing lunatics, organized by insurance companies, it becomes far easier for the political mainstream to dismiss their legitimacy, while regular Americans think, ‘Well, I don’t want to be on their side.’” [Washington Monthly, 8/4/2009]
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tells a San Francisco reporter that she does not believe the recent spate of conservative anti-health care reform protests at local “town hall” meetings between Congress members and constituents (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, and August 4, 2009) are spontaneous. They are, she says, organized by “Astroturf” groups purporting to be founded and run by ordinary citizens, but in fact are organized by corporate lobbying firms to serve industry interests (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, and Before August 6, 2009). “I think they’re Astroturf,” she says. “You be the judge. There is no question that people want to know what’s in the legislation, want to know how it is paid for, and know what it means to them. And that is why we have town meetings, either electronically or personally. Just because someone opposes their understanding of what this health care is, that’s not a bad thing. But some of what is orchestrated to prevent the opportunity of presenting the plan, that’s a different story.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 8/4/2009] In the same interview, Pelosi says that she has seen some protesters “carrying swastikas and symbols like that” to the meetings. Pelosi has distributed a memo to her fellow House Democrats that provides them talking points to rebut some of the harsher anti-reform claims, short, finely crafted answers informing citizens what health care reform will provide for them, and accusing health insurance companies of leading a “carpet bombing, slash-and-burn, shock and awe” effort to defeat the “public option” plan. [NewsMax, 8/6/2009]
Local ‘tea party’ protesters at the Arcuri/Hoyer town hall. [Source: WKTV]Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), taking part in a town hall meeting in upstate New York hosted by House member Michael Arcuri (D-NY), is browbeaten and verbally assaulted by conservative protesters who are against health care reform. The meeting is to discuss a proposal for a high-speed rail system for the area. “You’re lying to me!” one protester, local conservative activist Don Jeror, screams during the assemblage. “Just because I don’t have sophisticated language, I can recognize a liar when I see one!” Jeror adds, “Why would you guys try to stuff a health care bill down our throats in three to four weeks, when the president took six months to pick a dog for his kids?!” Jeror and many of the activists, who continue to scream and shout over Hoyer during his entire presentation, belong to a group called the “Fort Stanwix Tea Party ‘Patriots.’” House Member Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), who was recently accosted by conservative protesters during a town hall meeting in his district (see August 1, 2009), says the protests are anything but spontaneous and citizen-driven. “This notion of a grass-roots campaign is totally and completely phony,” he says. “The Republican Party has coordinated this apparent outrage and stirred it up.” While he and fellow Democrats welcome dialogue, he says, “there’s no way you can change the legislation to satisfy any of these Republicans and their insurance allies.” Doggett is referring to allegations that corporate lobbying groups such as Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, and Before August 6, 2009) are behind the protests. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs agrees, saying, “I think what you’ve seen is they have bragged about manufacturing, to some degree, that anger.” Bob MacGuffie, a Connecticut conservative activists who recently wrote a strategy memo directing fellow conservatives in methods to disrupt and dominate town hall meetings (see Late July, 2009), says that while there is organization, the anger and resistance to reform is “most assuredly real.… We’re organizing those voices, but it’s a real emotion, coast to coast.” ABC News reports that polls show the “protesters are not representative of the public at large, which overwhelmingly supports provisions such as ‘requiring insurance companies to sell health coverage to people, even if they have pre-existing medical conditions’ and ‘requiring that all Americans have health insurance, with the government providing financial help for those who can’t afford it.’” [ABC News, 8/4/2009; TPMDC, 8/4/2009; WKTV, 8/4/2009]
Entity Tags: Lloyd Doggett, Americans for Prosperity, ABC News, Bob MacGuffie, FreedomWorks, Robert Gibbs, Don Jeror, Michael Arcuri, Steny Hoyer, Republican Party
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
A group of right-wing organizations, including Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (ATAH) and the Liberty Counsel, warns that the Democrats’ health care reform proposal would mandate government funding of transsexual surgery. “Say NO to Tax-Funded ‘Tranny Care,’” ATAH proclaims on its Web site, and writes: “No American should be forced to pay for these nature-rejecting procedures with his or her tax dollars. Homosexual groups like Human Rights Campaign boast of their support for taxpayer-funded ‘sex-change’ operations in cities like San Francisco.… Folks, you don’t have to be very politically sophisticated to predict that GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) activists and their liberal allies are going to demand ‘Tranny-Care’ under a federal health insurance system, in the name of ‘fairness’ and ‘inclusion’—even if it’s not passed initially as a ‘benefit.’ And yes, the idea of subsidizing body-disfiguring ‘operations’ surely would be considered ‘queer’ by the average tax paying American.” The site goes on to note that the House version of reform legislation, HR 3200, provides for “standards, as appropriate, for the collection of accurate data on health and health care” based on “sex, sexual orientation, [and] gender identity.” The Senate version of the bill says that the government will “detect and monitor trends in health disparities,” which ATAH says would require “the Department of Health and Human Services to ‘develop standards for the measurement of gender’ (i.e., officially recognize subjectively self-determined ‘transgender’ or ‘transsexual’ gender identities). It further mandates ‘participation in the institutions’ programs of individuals and groups from… different genders and sexual orientations.’” The Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber writes: “There’s a gulf of difference between what [President] Obama and liberals in Congress, and the American people deem ‘medically appropriate’; especially when it’s ‘we the people’ footing the bill. To force Americans, against their conscience, to fund abortion on demand and to facilitate gender confusion by subsidizing the elective practice of genital ‘sex-change’ mutilation is unconscionable.” Barber demands that citizens oppose reform legislation “unless taxpayer funding for both abortion and sex change surgeries are expressly excluded.” [Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, 8/4/2009; MSNBC, 8/5/2009]
Critics: Controversy a 'Red Herring' Based on 'Misinformation' - Autumn Sandeen, a transsexual whose photo is prominently featured in the ATAH post, writes that the entire controversy is a “red herring” enabling conservatives to mount an attack on health care reform over a non-existent issue. Sandeen writes, “Let’s keep in mind what those who are bringing up ‘sex change operations’ don’t really care that much about whether or not I personally get genital reconstruction surgery paid for by the government; what these folk really want to do is derail all health care reform—and if badmouthing trans people like me is how they believe they can derail it, then they’re going to badmouth trans people like me.” [Autumn Sandeen, 8/5/2009] Liberal blogger Pam Spaulding accuses Barber and ATAH of “shilling misinformation and twisting facts to frighten people,” and says of Barber, “It’s no surprise he wants to fixate on something he believes is fertile ground for generating heat on Obama’s health reform.” [Pam's House Blend, 8/4/2009]
Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) appears on an MSNBC talk show hosted by progressive Rachel Maddow. Three days before, Doggett was accosted in a Texas grocery store by an angry, shouting mob of anti-health care reform protesters (see August 1, 2009). Doggett says opposition such as this just bolsters his commitment to battle for reform. He says that the anti-reform protests are “staged” (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, July 27, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, Before August 6, 2009, and August 6-7, 2009). “[M]y real complaint is not their cameras or their taunts or their silly signs saying I was a traitor to Texas and a devil to all people—my complaint is that when other neighbors show up, they should not be silenced. And that’s what this crowd did. After I listened to their taunts and questions and discussed the bill with them for an hour, they insisted on yelling, ‘just say no,’ any time anyone else wanted to speak.”
Countering the Anti-Reform Protesters - Doggett says that pro-reform advocates need to counter the anti-reform protesters: “[P]eople need to not sit back and think that President Obama and a Democratic Congress can solve all of these problems. They have to be engaged and involved. We cannot turn over the agenda to folks that really remind me, Rachel, like that crowd of Republican staffers that showed up for Bush against Gore down in Florida. It’s the same kind of approach.” Maddow reminds viewers that Doggett is referring to the “Brooks Brothers” mob riot from the 2000 presidential recounts in Florida, where the “spontaneous” riot was created by Republican aides and operatives brought down from Washington. She notes that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and the National Republican Congressional Committee “have sent out the footage of what was done to you at this town hall meeting. They’re bragging about it. They’re publicizing it. They’re implicitly calling for more of this sort of thing.” Doggett says of his Republican colleagues: “No, nothing surprises me about these people. They’ll do anything they can to block health care reform just as they have for six decades.… [The protesters are inflating their numbers] because they’re under-numbered at the people that have been being abused by the health insurers come out [sic] and tell their story.” Doggett gives his fellow Democrats the folliwing advice: “Don’t give up or give in. This is too important. We have few more important issues in America today, and we need to be steadfast in our commitment to learn from those who have legitimate concerns and criticisms. But there’s no way you can rewrite this bill to satisfy this mob. We need to be firm and committed to a strong, public plan that will give that nudge to the insurers.”
Obama 'Judo' - After Doggett’s interview is completed, Maddow interviews Chris Hayes, an editor for The Nation magazine, who adds to Doggett’s statements by saying he believes the Obama administration and the Democratic Party are trying to use the excesses of the anti-reform rhetoric against reform opponents. Maddow says: “I think the lesson that the Obama folks took from the—this past year’s presidential campaign, where they didn’t try to organize people to go to McCain-Palin rallies, to shout down the ‘kill them all’ rhetoric that they were hearing from their crowds.… They publicized it, essentially… they used those displays of extremism to try to splinter the people who were on the right… who were either tolerating that stuff or denouncing it.” Hayes says he believes the same thing is beginning to happen now. “I mean, this is sort of signature Obama political strategy, which is a kind of judo, right? To kind of use the excesses of your enemy against them. And I think that you’re already seeing that DNC [Democratic National Committee] and other people sending the message out showing the signs of swastikas that are showing up at these rallies. The images of Stalin, the screaming, the sort of red-face spittle-flecked anger that is coming out in these town halls to show that, look, this is isn’t just, you know, some kind of middle-of-the-road, undecided independent voter who’s having some reservations about the possible cost of the health care bill. These are radicals. These are extremists. These are zealots.… They should just be called out for what they are.” [MSNBC, 8/5/2009]
Glenn Beck, who hosts a daily radio show along with his Fox News talk show, attacks “birthers” who believe President Obama is not a citizen (see see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, and August 1-4, 2009). He says: “Everybody says, everybody says, ‘why is Barack Obama not just producing the birth certificate?’ Okay, first of all, he did (see June 13, 2008). And you’re never going to get, you’re never going to get a conspiracy theory to stop. You’re never.… One of the reasons why he doesn’t just come out is because it is so great for him because it immediately marginalizes anybody who says that kind of stuff. It makes them immediately look like they’re flat earthers.” [Media Matters, 3/24/2011]
Pamela Geller, who owns and operates the far-right blog Atlas Shrugs, continues to claim that “forensic analysis” performed on President Obama’s birth certificate by a blogger on her site she calls “Techdude” proves the certificate is forged, even though independent analysis has long since proven that “Techdude’s” analysis was fraudulent (see July 20, 2008). She claims that the analysis was never subjected to “peer review,” ignoring a review and analysis by an actual computer forensics expert, Dr. Neal Krawetz, who showed how cunningly “Techdude” manipulated the data to produce his fraudulent results. Nevertheless, Geller continues to say that her blog’s analysis “proves” Obama’s birth certificate, as posted on his Web site (see June 13, 2008), confirmed by Hawaiian officials (see October 30, 2008), and independently analyzed and verified as accurate (see June 27, 2008 and August 21, 2008), is “an altered document.” Geller claims that a year after her blog “exposed” the birth certificate, the “birther” issue “is on fire. Why? Perhaps because the American people, in their sudden desperation at having made a shotgun wedding, are looking for an annulment. And just as you couldn’t get Al Capone on his heinous crimes of murder and racketeering, but got him on tax evasion, so they hope they can get Obama on this technicality regarding eligibility. Obama’s refusal to release the vault copy has only increased interest, with the speculation now creating a veritable birth certificate circus.” Geller speculates that the recent release of an obviously fraudulent “Kenyan birth certificate” (see August 1-4, 2009) is the result of “something more sinister at work,” perhaps a “psyop” by either Obama administration officials or Obama’s supporters “to smear the Republicans in general as ‘birthers,’ conspiracy nuts who have given themselves over to right-wing nuttery.” Conservatives, she writes, are the victim of the birth certificate conspiracy, and Obama is entirely to blame for not releasing what she calls the “vault copy” (see July 1, 2009), “whether because it contains something damaging or simply because it enables him to wield the weapon of ridicule against the right. At this point, the effect is the same regardless of which of those possibilities is true. This carnival of conspiracy has become a deliberate distraction from the real issues and the real destruction being wrought by the Obama administration.” [NewsMax, 8/4/2009]
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), says the outcry and dissension over health care reform as demonstrated by protesters in town hall meetings across the US (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, and August 5, 2009) will help the Republican Party elect more people to Congress. Democrats say Cornyn, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), and other Republican lawmakers are actively encouraging the sometimes-explosive town hall confrontations. Inciting fear and anger among conservative voters is a perfectly defensible strategy for a party that has been soundly defeated in two straight elections, Cornyn says. “Fear, I would say, precedes anger, and I think there are a lot of people who tell me they are scared of what they see coming out of Washington in terms of spending and the debt and muscular federal intervention on everything from financial institutions to healthcare,” he says. “It’s almost like a part of the grieving process.… I see real opportunities for us.” [The Hill, 8/5/2009] In July, Cornyn’s colleague James Inhofe (R-OK) said that for the GOP to succeed in 2010, it must “stall” health care reform (see July 22, 2009).
A protester at a health care forum wears a shirt from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, a prominent area health care provider. [Source: My Left Nutmeg (.com)]Representative Chris Murphy (D-CT) holds a forum in Simsbury, Connecticut, to discuss health care reform. Like many other forums in this and other states (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 25, 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, and August 5, 2009), Murphy’s meeting is disrupted by loud and angry protesters who oppose reforming health care. An African-American supporter of health care is accosted by one protester who, on camera, shouts: “You and your asinine friends say that we’re paid by big insurance—you’re paid by ACORN [a grassroots vote-registration organization] and our tax dollars. Yeah, that’s me, hello, get the f_ck out of my face and go back where you come from.” Another protester is caught on camera by a local blogger wearing an Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield shirt. [My Left Nutmeg, 8/5/2009; My Left Nutmeg, 8/6/2009] Anthem, like most corporations involved in health care, is opposed to reform of the health care industry. In recent days, it has asked to be allowed to raise rates on Connecticut members anywhere between 20 and 32 percent. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called the request “a rate increase that will be catastrophic, not only for our consumers but for our economy.” [Associated Press, 7/30/2009]
Democratic Representative Brad Miller (D-NC) says that his office has received a very credible and disturbing death threat over his support for the Obama administration’s health care reform proposals. Miller, unlike many of his colleagues, has not scheduled any “town hall” events to discuss health care reform with his constituents (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, and August 5, 2009). “We have received a threatening phone call in the DC office, there have been calls to the Raleigh office,” says Miller’s communications director, LuAnn Canipe. “The call to the DC office was, ‘Miller could lose his life over this,’” she says. “Our staffer took it so seriously, he confirmed what the guy was saying. He said, ‘Sir is that a threat?’ and at that time our staffer was getting the phone number off caller ID and turning it over to the Capitol Police.” Canipe says the police have not yet reported back to them what, if anything, they have found. She says Miller was not planning on holding any town hall meetings anyway, and would not schedule any now: “Our point is, we’re not gonna be bullied into having a town hall so it can then be interrupted by the fake grassroots folks.… We don’t want to people to think we’re shutting out our constituents. We’re meeting with them one on one to discuss health care reform.” [TPMDC, 8/5/2009; MSNBC, 8/13/2009] Afterwards, Miller expounds on his reasoning for not desiring to hold town hall meetings during the remainder of the summer recess: there is, he says, “a lynch-mob mentality out there. There is an ugliness to it.” [MSNBC, 8/7/2009]
Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) hosts a “town hall” meeting to discuss the Democrats’ health care reform proposal in Douglas, Arizona. As with so many other town halls of this nature, Giffords’s is repeatedly disrupted by shouting, screaming, and chanting audience members protesting the reform package (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, and August 3, 2009). Unlike the others, this event takes on a more sinister overtone when a pistol is found on the floor of the grocery store after the event. Giffords’s aides report the dropped pistol to local police. Giffords says she will not be intimidated by either guns or rhetoric. “Yelling and screaming is counterproductive,” she says. Trent Humphries, the leader of the local anti-reform movement in nearby Tucson, accuses Giffords of lying about the gun, and says none of his fellow protesters would hurt her. “Nobody is threatening Gabby,” he says. “But she does need to get in front of her constituents and answer to her constituents.” Giffords is a member of the so-called “Blue Dog” caucus of conservative Democrats who are balking at supporting the health care reform package in its current form. [Arizona Daily Star, 8/10/2009] Police investigating the incident will decide not to press charges. Officer Marcus Gonzalez will tell the press: “Apparently, there was no police report taken, the reason being that it was an accidental drop of a gun. Apparently, a male gentleman that went to the meeting had a gun holstered on his side. And when he sat down, it fell out of his holster.” The “male gentleman” owns the gun and was legally carrying it pursuant to Arizona’s “open-carry” law. “We’re not really conducting an investigation on this, because there’s not really an investigation to conduct,” Gonzalez says. [TPMDC, 8/11/2009] A conservative blogger will post a video from the event, and call it “tightly scripted.” [Gila Courier, 8/6/2009]
Charles (“Chuck”) Grassley addresses an AARP meeting in early 2009. [Source: AARP]Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), one of the GOP senators counted on by the Obama administration to help pass the Democrats’ health care reform package, tells a radio audience that under that reform package, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) would be allowed to die. Kennedy is in the final stages of terminal brain cancer. Under the proposal, Grassley says, Kennedy would be denied care; instead, a younger patient would receive that care because they could “contribute more to the economy.” On Iowa City radio station KCJJ-AM, Grassley says: “In countries that have government-run health care, just to give you an example, I’ve been told that the brain tumor that Senator Kennedy has—because he’s 77 years old—would not be treated the way it’s treated in the United States. In other words, he would not get the care he gets here because of his age. In other words, they’d say ‘well, he doesn’t have long to live even if he lived another four to five years.’ They’d say ‘well, we gotta spend money on people who can contribute more to economy.’ It’s a little like people saying when somebody gets to be 85 their life is worth less than when they were 35 and you pull the tubes on them.” The Iowa Independent notes that the health care reform proposal has no provisions for “rationed care” of any kind, as Grassley asserts, much less a provision to deny care to elderly patients in favor of younger, more potentially productive patients. [Think Progress, 8/5/2009; Iowa Independent, 8/5/2009] Adam Lioz, a correspondent to the liberal Huffington Post, writes: “My first thought after watching video of Grassley’s statements is that he has now disqualified himself from participation in further Senate Finance Committee negotiations. How can someone act as a good-faith negotiator on a critical and complex issue while simultaneously stoking fear and spreading bald-faced lies about the content of the leading legislation on the topic? And why should Democratic senators take him seriously and continue to engage him? Bipartisanship is helpful; but at what cost?” [Huffington Post, 8/13/2009]
Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA) says that a House member has been physically assaulted during a town hall meeting by anti-health care protesters (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, and August 4, 2009). He refuses to identify the representative in question. Instead, he warns that the increasingly riotous confrontations at town hall meetings by conservative protesters are rising to “a dangerous level.” He blames misinformation disseminated by conservative lobbying organizations who are helping orchestrate the town hall disruptions (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, and Before August 6, 2009) and on Fox News (see August 3, 2009 and August 3, 2009). “When you look at the fervor of some of these people who are all being whipped up by the right-wing talking heads on Fox, to me, you’re crossing a line,” he says. “They’re inciting people to riot with just total distortions of facts. They think we’re going to euthanize Grandma and the government is going to take over.” Another Democratic staffer says flatly, “These people are crazy.” Connolly notes that many of the more elderly protesters receive Medicare, but are seemingly unaware that Medicare is a government program. Steve Driehaus (D-OH), who recently held a contentious health care discussion (see August 3, 2009), says: “We’re not going to say we’re no longer going to listen to constituents because of a few angry protesters. We have no intentions of changing our plan based on any extracurricular nonsense.” Grover Norquist, president of the conservative advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform, says the protests are nothing more than spontaneous outbursts of real public anger. He also says his organization encourages its members to attend town halls, and gives them talking points, suggested questions to ask, and slogans to chant (see August 5, 2009). “People are pissed,” he says. “They’ve been lied to.” [Roll Call, 8/5/2009]
Salisbury Post masthead. [Source: Echo Media]An op-ed in the Salisbury (North Carolina) Post criticizes the current wave of disruptive protests that are derailing health care forums around the nation (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, and August 5, 2009). “With funding and staff support from advocacy groups opposed to health care reform and to the Obama administration,” the Post writes, “organized groups have been showing up at Congressional town hall meetings held mostly by Democrats in favor of health care reform. The protesters jeer, heckle, wave placards, shout over the speaker, and carry on much like the student radicals of yore. Memos that have cropped up on the Web show that these protests are not intended to be any kind of dialogue but purely disruptive, preferably ending with the member of Congress forced to retreat. Videos of the demonstrations almost immediately appear on the Internet. The idea is to make opposition to health care reform seem more widespread than it really is.… [I]t is impossible to dismiss the large quotient of manufactured outrage in these disruptions. The campaign smacks of what political operatives call ‘Astroturf’—fake grass roots” (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, July 27, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, Before August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, and August 6-7, 2009). [Salisbury Post, 8/5/2009]
Reporter and media critic Howard Kurtz writes of the difficulties in discerning perceptions from reality in the debate over health care reform, and the increasingly contentious town hall meetings across America (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, and August 5, 2009). “Is there a rising tide of anger in America against Barack Obama’s health plan and big-government programs?” he asks. “Or are the media just making it seem that way?” It has long been common practice to use footage of “one person… screaming, or us[ing] incendiary rhetoric” to add interest to an otherwise “dull and routine story,” he notes. In the modern age of YouTube, “instant” viral videos of protests and near-riots at town halls are subsequently played and replayed on cable news shows “in an endless loop.” Kurtz notes the controversial “strategy memo” for disrupting and dominating discussion at town halls, originally released by a small conservative Connecticut organization and picked up and redistributed by larger Washington lobbying firms (see Late July, 2009). He writes, “I have no idea how widely this memo has been distributed, but the language is revealing.” He also notes that some lobbying firms have taken credit for “helping gin up the sometimes-rowdy outbursts targeting House Dems at town hall meetings around the country, raising questions about their spontaneity” (see August 4, 2009). [Washington Post, 8/5/2009]
America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health care industry’s trade association, distributes “talking points” for use by opponents of health care reform that specifically target the so-called “public option” for alternative government-provided health care. AHIP has been heavily involved in orchestrating and facilitating the recent spate of raucous anti-reform protests (see July 10, 2009 and August 2, 2009). The talking points, entitled “August Recess Talking Points,” include the following: “Health plans strongly believe that now is the time for comprehensive, bipartisan health care reform that enhances affordability, improves quality, covers all Americans, and puts the health care system on a sustainable path. However, we also share the concerns that employers, providers, and patients have raised about the significant unintended consequences of a new government-run plan. A government-run plan would dismantle employer-based coverage, thereby violating the shared commitment to ensure that those who like their current coverage can keep it. The government-run plan would also add significant liabilities to the federal budget.” Reporter Greg Sargent notes that like any other lobbying group or citizens’ organization, AHIP has the right to “encourage… participation and distribut[e] talking points.” However, he notes that the industry AHIP represents “has a tremendous financial stake in whether a public plan becomes a reality. And the industry is not only telling people to go to town meetings, but also telling them how to voice their opposition to a public option. Bottom line: It’s indisputable that the industry is orchestrating public opposition to one of health care reform’s most important components.” [Plum Line, 8/6/2009]
Some Democratic politicians accuse Republicans of organizing “angry mobs” to disrupt town hall meetings around the country (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 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, and August 5, 2009). Conservatives retort that the protests are spontaneous outbursts of anger and concern from ordinary citizens who oppose the White House’s health care reform proposals. According to a Democratic National Committee (DNC) ad, Republicans “have no plan for moving our country forward, so they’ve called out the mob.… [D]esperate Republicans and their well-funded allies” are trying to “destroy President Obama.” Senator Arlen Specter, who took part in a contentious town hall three days ago (see August 2, 2009), says: “I think that a fair amount of the activity was orchestrated. I think a fair amount of it was involved individuals who came without being orchestrated. But it was a battleground.” And White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says some of the anger from the crowds is manufactured: “In fact, I think you’ve had groups today, Conservatives for Patients Rights [CPR], that have bragged about organizing and manufacturing that anger” (see August 4, 2009). In return, CPR spokesman Brian Burgess says, “The White House is desperate for a scapegoat to blame for their failure to convince Americans to let the government take over health care.” A Democratic organization with connections to the Obama administration, Organizing for America, is planning strategy for upcoming events, including a Michigan appearance by Vice President Joe Biden. An e-mail from the organization encourages Michigan Democrats to “stand with the vice president and against the angry mobs being directed by Republican operatives in Washington to disrupt events throughout the month of August.” DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse says that mobs of right-wing activists are being transported from one rally to another by “well-funded, highly organized groups run by Republican operatives and funded by the special interests who are desperately trying to stop the agenda for change the president was elected to bring to Washington.… This type of anger and discord did not serve Republicans well in 2008—and it is bound to backfire again.” Republican National Committee (RNC) spokeswoman Gail Gitcho responds: “In a remarkable example of callousness, the White House and Democrats have reduced the concerns and opinions of millions of Americans to ‘manufactured’ and have labeled them as ‘angry extremists,’ for voicing their opposition to President Obama’s government-run health care experiment.… Are Democrats so out of touch that they are shocked to learn that Americans are concerned about their $1.6 trillion government-run health care experiment?” CNN political analyst Bill Schneider observes: “On issues like this, intensity of opinion matters as much as numbers. Opponents of the president’s health care reform seem to feel more intensely about it than Obama’s supporters.” [CNN, 8/5/2009] Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, says he believes the use of intimidation and extreme tactics—including displays of overtly Nazi symbols and hanging representatives in effigy—will “backfire in a big way” because their aim is to keep people from talking about health care. “When you’ve got people shouting and hanging members of Congress in effigy,” he says, “most people are going to react badly to that. I think most people want to have a civil discussion.” Van Hollen says that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and other Republican leaders “are actively involved in sort of fueling the fire of these disruptions. They’ve got to be careful what they ask for here.… If Republicans want to continue to ally themselves with these fringe groups, it will continue to discredit them.” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain counters: “Democrats have gone from blaming Republican obstruction, to the insurance industry, to Matt Drudge, and now they are even blaming the voters who are registering their opposition at town halls across the country. At what point are they going to get the message that people simply don’t want a government takeover of health care?” [Roll Call, 8/5/2009]
Entity Tags: Chris Van Hollen, Robert Gibbs, Bill Schneider, Barack Obama, Arlen Specter, Brian Burgess, Obama administration, Republican National Committee, Ken Spain, Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Conservatives for Patients Rights, Gail Gitcho, National Republican Congressional Committee, Joseph Biden, John Boehner, Brad Woodhouse
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Michael Steele tells a Washington Times reporter that his organization had no role in the recent spate of raucous and near-riotous confrontations by conservative anti-health care reform advocates (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, and August 5, 2009). “I had nothing to do with that, I did not encourage that,” Steele says. “And we’re not encouraging people to be angry, I mean to the point of being nasty and brutish and ugly. That’s not what this is about. There’s no upside for the Republican Party or the people involved to do that. Now some people, you know, that’s how they express their frustration, that’s how they express their frustration. But that’s not something deliberately coordinated by me or any one state party.” Steele’s statement is at odds with recent exhortations and statements of support from House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), who has just issued a press release that celebrates the “success” of the town hall disruptions, and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which has celebrated the disruptions with a “Recess Roast” e-mail urging more disruptions. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is another Republican who disagrees with the angry, confrontational tactics: hours before Steele’s statement, he sent out a Twitter message that said, “Town hall meetings are an American tradition—we should allow everyone to express their views without disruption—even if we disagree!” [Think Progress, 8/5/2009]
Screenshot of Texas GOP Web site featuring Doggett protest video, from August 5, 2009. [Source: Think Progress (.com)]Though Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Michael Steele says that the Republican Party has no ties to, or involvement with, the recent spate of raucous and near-riotous protests against health care reform (seeAugust 5, 2009, June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 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, and August 5, 2009), the Web site of the Republican Party of Texas features a front page celebration of the recent disruption at a town hall hosted by Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett (see August 1, 2009). A photo of Doggett on the site links to a YouTube video of protesters screaming and shouting at him, hosted on the Texas Republican Party’s official YouTube account, txgoptv. The video concludesd with the words, “Produced by the Republican Party of Texas,” and features a legal disclaimer that proclaims the video was paid for the by the Republican Party of Texas. [Republican Party of Texas, 8/2009; Think Progress, 8/6/2009]
Grover Norquist, the highly influential leader of the conservative activist group Americans for Tax Reform, acknowledges that his group, along with Americans for Prosperity and the National Conservative Union among others, has encouraged its members to attend town hall meetings to protest health care reform proposals (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, and August 5, 2009). Norquist also admits that his organization provides talking points, suggested questions to ask, and slogans to chant at the meetings. However, he says his group does not endorse the raucous, sometimes riotous discussions that are taking place. “The more civilly you ask the question, the more powerful it is,” he says. “Nobody says go and scream. That’s the least effective thing you can do.” But a former Republican aide notes, “If you are going to town-hall, you understand the potential pitfalls.” [Roll Call, 8/5/2009]
Screenshot of the bottom of Recess Rally’s home page, taken August 22, 2009. [Source: Recess Rally (.com)]MSNBC host Rachel Maddow examines an organization called “Recess Rally,” which is promoting anti-health care protests over the Internet, providing information about upcoming “town hall” forums hosted by Democratic lawmakers, and proclaiming, “We the people say no to socialized health care.” Maddow gives some information on who is organizing Recess Rally. At the bottom of Recess Rally’s home page, a number of sponsors are listed, including conservative blogger and Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin, and conservative blogs such as RedState and Smart Girl Politics.
Funded by Corporate Lobbying Firms, Corporate Interests - Other sponsoring organizations are less easily identifiable as citizen organizations. American Majority is a lobbying organization headed by Ned Ryun, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush; many of the organization’s senior officials are veterans of the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign, former Republican lawmakers, and conservative lobbyists. American Majority is itself an offshoot of another organization, the Sam Adams Alliance. That organization is headed by a former executive director of the Illinois State Republican Party, and by a former Dow Chemicals engineer who also heads a large conservative think tank. Another sponsor of Recess Rally is a group called Let Freedom Ring, whose founder provided the funding for the 2008 Republican campaign ads that used footage of the 9/11 attacks to promote the Iraq war. Another sponsor was responsible for the 2004 “Swift Boat” campaign advertisements that besmirched then-presidential candidate Senator John Kerry (D-MA). Two other groups sponsor Recess Rally: Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see May 29, 2009, July 27, 2009, and August 1, 2009) and its subsidiary, Patients First (see July 23, 2009, July 27, 2009, and August 6, 2009). AFP runs Patients First, which is busing people around the country to demonstrate against health care reform, and another “grassroots” organization, Patients United Now (PUN). Maddow says that groups like these are “experts at fake grassroots campaigns that promote corporate interests.” (AFP president Tim Phillips will call the buses “really good props”—see August 6, 2009.)
Sincere Americans Protesting at Direction of Corporate Interests, PR Firms - Noting that AFP is headed by, among others, oil billionaire David Koch and longtime Republican fund-raiser Art Pope, Maddow says: “This oil industry and Republican operative millionaires’ club is, according to the Republican Party… just average, middle-class Americans—just regular American folks sitting around the kitchen table, thinking about whether they can get away with saying that the government continuing its long standing policy of encouraging living wills is really a secret plot to kill old people (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, and July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009). Americans are showing up at these events to shout down the discussion and to chase their congressmen and they are enraged. And they’re enraged at least in part because they’re being riled up by over-the-top, fabricated conspiracy theories about health care. And they’re being directed and orchestrated by the corporate interests that do this for a living and do it very well. RecessRally.com is not some organic outgrowth of American anger. This is how corporate America creates the illusion of a grassroots movement to support their own interests. This is what they do. They are professionals. This is an industry. To talk about these town hall events as some organic outpouring of average American folks who have concerns about health care is to be willfully blind as to what is really going on—which is professional PR operatives generating exploitive, manufactured, strategically deployed outrage in order to line their own pockets. These PR spinmeisters get paid a lot of money for doing it. The corporations they work for get to kill legislation that would hurt their profits. And the real people who they launch into these town hall settings after they’re told that health care reform is a secret commie plot to kill old people and to mandate sex changes—those real people get more and more and more angry, and more and more and more alienated. And ultimately, they get left, like the rest of us, with a health care system that is broken and doesn’t work in the interests of the American people, but does work in the interests of the corporations that profit from the way the system is now. This is professional, corporate-funded, Republican staffed PR, and it should be reported as such.” [Recess Rally, 8/2009; MSNBC, 8/6/2009]
Entity Tags: Sam Adams Alliance, RedState (.com), Tim Phillips, Smart Girl Politics, Recess Rally, Patients First, Patients United Now, David Koch, Art Pope, Americans for Prosperity, Let Freedom Ring, Michelle Malkin, Rachel Maddow, American Majority, Ned Ryun, George W. Bush
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
Representative Brian Baird (D-WA) tells MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that there is a real danger of violence being fomented by anti-health care protesters (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, and August 6-8, 2009). “[T]he first violence that’s happening is violence in the democratic process,” he says. “If people set out to disrupt town hall meetings, to intimidate people who sincerely want to discuss important issue, the first victim is the democracy itself. But beyond that, some of the rhetoric that we’re hearing is vaguely—not vaguely, but eerily reminiscent of the thing that drove Tim McVeigh to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).… [W]hen a concerted effort is made to intimidate, to suppress discussion, to threaten people, that crosses the line and it actually blocks the democratic process and informed debate.”
Says Constituents Intimidated, Unwilling to Participate - Baird acknowledges that he has not held any in-person town hall meetings, though he has scheduled so-called “telephone town halls” conducted via telephone and Internet connections. “What I’m opting not do is create a venue where people can purposefully intimidate other members of the community who want to be heard and want to express their views,” he says. “You know, when you read these Web sites, Rachel, it’s all about attack early, intimidate, shout them down, don’t get them have a word in edgewise. I’ve had town halls where that kind of thing has happened and average citizens have said: ‘This is frightening to me. This is not what my country is about. I’m not coming to these anymore.’ So, if you get a point where the only purpose to have a town hall is to have it disrupted and reasonable people who want to have a debate can’t be there, what’s the point of having the town hall?”
GOP Must Call for Restraint - Baird says that the Republican Party has a direct responsibility to “call for civility, because this is a question of our democratic process itself. Remember, they will have town halls as well. And we don’t really want a situation where our side decides, well, we’ve got to show up and scream and shout them down—because then you basically resort to mob rule. And that’s not what a constitutional democratic republic is about. It’s not enough for them to say, ‘We’re not coordinating it, we’re not condoning it.’ They must do as John McCain did (see August 5, 2009), and vigorously—vigorously oppose this.” [MSNBC, 8/7/2009]
'Death to All Marxists' - The next day, Baird receives a fax at his office. The fax depicts President Obama with a Communist hammer and sickle drawn on his forehead, and the message “Death to all Marxists, foreign and domestic” written underneath. [MSNBC, 8/13/2009]
The logo used for the Obama administration’s health care proposal on the White House Web site. The logo combines the Obama presidential campaign’s ‘sunrise’ emblem with a stylized version of the medical caduceus. [Source: White House]After denouncing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for claiming that anti-health care protesters had used Nazi symbols and rhetoric in their protests (see August 6, 2009), conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh also makes a comparison between the Obama administration and Nazis. “Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate,” he says. Like Obama, Limbaugh asserts, Hitler “was called the Messiah” and did not need the advice of a cabinet or other advisers to make decisions. “The people spoke through” Hitler, as Limbaugh says Obama believes is the case for himself. Hitler’s decisions “sound like the things liberals are doing all over this country.” To Pelosi, he says, “You look much more like [a swastika] than any of us [conservatives] ever will.” [Media Matters, 8/6/2009; Boston Globe, 8/6/2009] Limbaugh also says that the Obama administration’s health care logo looks very much like the “Nazi swastika logo.” He adds: “It reminded me of Germany. Something about it reminded me of Germany, 1942. The shape of the logo, the people.… The Obama health care logo is damn close to a Nazi swastika logo.… Ms. Pelosi has some major apologizing to do.” He says perhaps Pelosi’s supposed “repeated botox injections” have caused her to have “blurry vision” that may have prevented her from seeing the similarities he noticed. [Media Matters, 8/6/2009; Boston Globe, 8/6/2009] Limbaugh apparently gets much of his information, including the Botox joke, from a right-wing blog, “Sweetness and Light,” which he credits in his statement. [Sweetness and Light, 8/6/2009] The next day, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center says, “It is preposterous to try and make a connection between the president’s health care logo and the Nazi Party symbol, the Reichsadler.” [New York Times, 8/7/2009] Jennifer Crider of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) responds to Limbaugh’s assertions: “Rush Limbaugh’s comparison of the Democratic Party to the Nazi Party in World War II is as disgusting as it is shocking. Limbaugh’s use of the Nazi swastika in attempting to make a tasteless political comparison has no place in the public discourse. At a time when families need real solutions to rebuild the economy and make health care more affordable, Rush Limbaugh is attempting to sidetrack the important debate through his use of symbols that are synonymous with murder and intolerance. Americans deserve better.” [Boston Globe, 8/6/2009] Conservative columnist David Brooks of the New York Times calls Limbaugh’s rhetoric “insane.” [Media Matters, 8/10/2009]
An anti-health care reform protester carries a poster depicting President Obama as Adolf Hitler. [Source: The New Republic]An anti-health care reform organization, Patients First—a subsidiary of industry lobbyist group Americans for Prosperity (see May 29, 2009 and August 6, 2009)—holds an anti-reform rally in Pueblo, Colorado.
Obama's 'Final Solution' - The keynote speaker tells the assembled crowd that Democratic health care reform will mandate physician-assisted suicide: “If this new Obama-care program comes to fruition, when you reach 65 and every five years thereafter, you’re going to have a counseling session with some federal airhead. Part of this process is called end-of-life counseling and part of the end-of-life counseling can be an end-of-life order. Adolf Hitler issued six million end of life orders. He called his program the final solution. I kind of wonder what we’re going to call ours.” The speaker compares the Obama administration to the regimes of despots Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Pol Pot, and then tells the audience to “go to offices of members of Congress and put the fear of God in them.” [TPMDC, 8/7/2009; ColoradoPols (.com), 8/7/2009; MSNBC, 8/10/2009]
Commentator Blasts Nazi Comparisons - MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow later says: “Put the fear of God in them—because what Obama is doing with killing all these people like Sarah Palin said, that’s like what Hitler did and you know what Hitler deserved. This is the rhetoric that corporate-funded, GOP-allied groups like Americans for Prosperity are funneling through which they set up to look like grassroots organizations to get people to go ‘put the fear of God’ into elected officials.… What has started as rowdy and rude and mean-spirited disruptions has turned, in some cases, into actual violence, with several hospitalizations for minor injuries and some arrests being reported at health care town halls last night (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, and August 6-8, 2009). What’s also evident is that the anti-reform rhetoric increasingly is invoking specific references to Nazis and specific comparison of President Obama to Adolf Hitler.… You know, there are people alive today who barely survived the Holocaust. And there are many people alive today whose whole families were killed in the Holocaust. Nazism is not a metaphor for a political policy you disagree with. Used deliberately as a strategy to characterize a political opponent, it has a very specific resonance with people looking to justify violence. The implication of conjuring up the Third Reich is that, in the case of someone who’s identified as a Nazi, as a modern day Hitler, violence against that person, even murder, would not only be seen as justified, it might be celebrated. This rhetorical strategy sets the stage for political violence that the perpetrator could hope would be praised. As such the idea of assassination, other kinds of political violence are always in the subtext. And you know, sometimes assassination isn’t even in the subtext. Sometimes it just bubbles right up to the surface.” [MSNBC, 8/10/2009]
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) lambasts the organizers of the raucous and sometimes-violent protests against the Democrats’ proposed reforms to health care (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, and August 6-8, 2009). The protesters are attempting to “sabotage” the democratic process, Reid tells reporters. Using a piece of artificial turf—Astroturf—as a prop (see April 14, 2009 and April 15, 2009), Reid accuses conservative and industry lobbying groups of fomenting fake grassroots outrage to further the health care industry’s goal to prevent reform. “These are nothing more than destructive efforts to interrupt a debate that we should have, and are having,” Reid says. “They are doing this because they don’t have any better ideas. They have no interest in letting the negotiators, even though few in number, negotiate. It’s really simple: they’re taking their cues from talk show hosts, Internet rumor-mongerers… and insurance rackets.” In turn, Republicans accuse Democrats of “ginning up this cynical shell game.” In recent days, President Obama’s top political adviser, David Axelrod, has given advice to Democratic lawmakers on how to handle the raucous protests. “It’s a challenge, no question about it, and you’ve got to get out there and make the case,” says Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT). “This is not the time for the faint-hearted.” [Associated Press, 8/6/2009]
An anti-reform protester displays a large sign depicting President Obama as Adolf Hitler. [Source: Daily Kos]House Representative John Dingell (D-MI), an 83-year-old advocate of health care reform, hosts a “town hall” meeting in Romulus, Michigan, to discuss the Obama administration’s plans to reform health care. The forum has so many people attempting to participate that its organizer, the local chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), says it will sponsor a second forum at a later date. Like many other forums where health care is a primary topic of discussion, anti-health care protesters attempt to disrupt and dominate the discussion by shouting down and chanting over Dingell and other audience members (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, and August 6-8, 2009).
Louder and Angrier Participants Garner More Media Coverage - One audience participant, health care reform supporter Chris Savage, writes about the forum on the liberal blog Daily Kos. Savage also takes a photograph of an anti-health care reform protester carrying a large sign depicting President Obama as Adolf Hitler. He says that anti-reform protesters outnumber supporters approximately five to one. In the Huffington Post, Savage later writes: “Typically, the more hysterical the person’s message was or the more angrily they shouted, the more likely they were to get attention from the press. The young black man with the Obama-as-Hitler poster was the busiest one of them all.”
Shouting Down Participants from Outset - Even before the event begins, protesters are shouting and catcalling, with one woman yelling to an elderly reform supporter: “You may be dead in five years! They may euthanize you!” AARP official Erick Schneidewind is shouted down with calls of “Traitor!” and “Liar!” before he can even introduce himself. One disabled woman, Marcia Boehm, attempts to tell her story—how she lost her health care in December 2008 and her pre-existing conditions make it difficult for her to get new coverage—but is shouted down by protesters who scream, “I shouldn’t have to pay for your healthcare!” and “Get government healthcare!” After Dingell takes the podium, another protester, Mike Sola, approaches him, pushing his son before him in a wheelchair. The man accuses Dingell of participating in a government plan to kill his son, who has cerebral palsy, by denying him health care. When Dingell denies the charge, the man begins shouting “Liar!” over and over, and trying to push forward into Dingell’s personal space with his wheelchair-bound son. He is prevented from getting within touching distance by Dingell staffers; he is soon escorted out by police officers. The Daily Kos blogger writes that no matter what Dingell attempts to say, he is countered and sometimes drowned out by screams and chants of “Liar!” “Traitor!” “Bullsh_t!” “Did you even read the bill?” (Dingell helped write the House version of the bill.) “The goverment is going to kill us when we are older!” “The goverment is providing abortion money!” and other shouts, boos, catcalls, and chants. One protester in the second session, Matt McCormack, is particularly noticeable; after the first few minutes of the meeting, where he repeatedly shouts phrases like “Look at me! Look at me! You are being used!” he begins a loud conversation on his cell phone, looking up periodically to scream “Liar!” at inappropriate moments, like when questions are being asked. McCormack later stands up, launches a spate of invective towards Dingell, and storms towards the podium, but is intercepted by police and escorted outside. On his blog, McCormack later claims to have been arrested.
Attempts at Confrontation Outside Hall - Savage reports that outside the hall, anti-reform protesters attempt to provoke a physical confrontation with him, apparently in an attempt to create a disturbance for the media. One protester tells the blogger’s son, “Your dad is a coward!” for refusing to argue with him. [Daily Kos, 8/6/2009; Detroit Free Press, 8/6/2009; Huffington Post, 8/10/2009]
Many from Outside District - Almost half of the attendees who sign in to the event put down addresses outside of Dingell’s district. The Huffington Post will note, “In short, the sign-in sheets lend credence to the accusation that the protests are the product of Washington-based ‘Astroturf’ organizations, rather than evidence of a groundswell of popular resistance to health care reform.” [Huffington Post, 8/11/2009]
Refusing Offer to Meet One-on-One, Claims Intimidation - Dingell later offers Sola the chance to meet with him one-on-one to discuss his concerns over his son’s health care coverage, but Sola refuses. Dingell writes: “The offer still stands.… I have served in Congress and I have seen enough in my lifetime to know that the cause before us is too vital, too necessary, and too timely to allow it to fail. I remember many times in my career and in my life when powerful forces tried to stop progress. We cannot let this happen and we cannot allow this opportunity to go by without providing that each and every American has health care. As long as I have a vote, I will not let shouting, intimidation, or misinformation deter me from fighting for this cause.” [US House of Representatives, 8/7/2009] Sola will later tell a Fox News interviewer that one or more “liberal thugs” visit his house later in the evening to attempt to intimidate him. These “thugs” are supporters of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sola claims, and says that if he experiences a second such visit, he will use “lethal force” to protect his family. [Hispanic Business (.com), 8/10/2009]
Entity Tags: Erick Schneidewind, Chris Savage, Daily Kos, Huffington Post, John Dingell, American Association of Retired Persons, Mike Sola, Obama administration, Marcia Boehm, Matt McCormack
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
Tim Phillips (r) being interviewed by Rachel Maddow (l). [Source: YouTube]Tim Phillips, the president of the corporate lobbying firm Americans for Prosperity (AFP), is interviewed by progressive MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. AFP, like FreedomWorks, Conservatives for Patients Rights (CPR), and other organizations, is responsible for what Maddow calls “astroturfing” the health care reform debate—creating “fake grassroots organizations” such as Patients First and Patients United Now that purport to represent ordinary citizens, but are in fact entities created and controlled by corporate and/or political interests (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, July 27, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, Before August 6, 2009, and August 6-7, 2009).
Representing 'Real Folks' - Phillips is jovial with Maddow, insisting that AFP merely represents the interests of “real folks.” When asked who funds AFP’s “grassroots” offshoot, Patients First, instead of answering, Phillips tells Maddow that the organization is made up of patients “just like us. I’m a patient. Rachel, you’re a parent. So I think we’re all patients in this issue. And we all have something at stake here.” Phillips even denies being a Washington lobbyist, but instead calls himself “a community organizer” similar to the position once held by President Obama. “What do you think about that?” he asks. “Maybe I’m qualified to be president.” He finally claims that AFP is funded by citizen donors, though he admits that the bulk of its money comes from foundations such as the Koch Industries Foundations, the grant-giving arm of Koch Industries, the largest privately held oil company in the US. Maddow says, “[I]t seems odd to just call yourself patients like us when you’re a huge recipient of funding from a big company, and you’re trying to distinguish yourself from lobbyists and big companies.” Phillips in turn says that to label groups like AFP anything but citizen organizations is “demeaning” to the ordinary citizens who turn out at the rallies and forums. Maddow responds: “I’m not calling anybody, any individual American, a front group. I’m calling Americans for Prosperity’s subgroups a front group for the corporate interest that funds you, guys. Honestly, I mean, that’s the allegation that we’re making here.”
'We Would Love to Have More Corporate Funding' - Phillips says: “[C]orporate interests are a minuscule part of our funding.… And by the way, we would love to have more corporate funding. So if there’s more corporations watching us, feel free to give to us. We’ll be happy to have their support as well. We will get the message out on this health care issue.” He denies ever taking money from Exxon, but says AFP would be more than happy to accept Exxon and other such funding. Maddow notes that Exxon has listed AFP as a recipient of large amounts of money, and Phillips qualifies his statement: “This year, we haven’t had any Exxon money.… But again, though, we’re happy to take corporate money.” Maddow says that she isn’t sure the protesters showing up at the town halls at the behest of AFP know that the organization is funded by oil and health care corporations.
'Gotcha Politics' - After Maddow notes Phillips’s involvement with several Republican political and lobbying campaigns, Phillips accuses her of playing “gotcha politics.” Maddow retorts that Americans “want to know who the players are in this fight and who’s organizing what are being maintained as if they’re just spontaneous efforts happening organically by Americans who are angry and they’re aren’t being coordinated by industry and by lobbyists and by political campaign groups associated with the Republican Party. And that’s why I want to talk about who you are, because you have such an important role in coordinating these events and I think the American people are curious.” In his turn, Phillips says that it is “gotcha politics” that is helping the anti-reform movement win the issue. Before Maddow ends the interview, Phillips invites her to join AFP on the bus tour “as my guest to see these real Americans. Would you do that?” Maddow replies, “I can’t bear the conflict of interest with your corporate funders.” [MSNBC, 8/7/2009]
Entity Tags: Koch Industries Foundations, Conservatives for Patients Rights, Americans for Prosperity, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Republican Party, FreedomWorks, Patients United Now, Patients First, Tim Phillips, Rachel Maddow
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
Heather Blish speaks at Steve Kagen’s forum. [Source: WGBA]Congressman Steve Kagen (D-WI) attempts to explain his position on health care reform to a sometimes-raucous crowd, mirroring the difficulties other lawmakers have had with demonstrative and angry audiences (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 6, 2009, and August 6, 2009). Towards the end of the health care forum, one audience member, Heather Blish, questions Kagen’s position on the issue. Blish describes herself as “just a mom from a few blocks away” who is “not affiliated with a political party.” In reality, she was a Republican Party of Wisconsin and a Republican National Committee (RNC) official; she also worked for Kagen’s opponent, John Gard, in 2008. According to her LinkedIn profile, Blish is still a member of both Republican organizations, and an adviser to the state party. Reporter and pundit Sam Stein writes: “We don’t know why Blish chose to describe herself the way she did. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with people showing up at a town hall to express their differences. But Blish’s misdirection feeds a suspicion that she—like some other protesters at these events—are there to create political theater rather than participate in serious debate.” [Huffington Post, 8/6/2009; Think Progress, 8/7/2009; WGBA, 8/7/2009] Blish’s boss, Scott Detwiler, who owns a Web design firm that develops sites for political candidates and campaigns, confirms that Blish has been active in local Republican politics. Blish says she has terminated her connections with the Republican Party. [New York Times, 8/7/2009]
Club for Growth logo. [Source: St. Peterburg Times]The St. Petersburg Times’s “PolitiFact” debunks a recent claim that the Democrats’ health care reform proposal would let citizens die if keeping them alive would cost more than $22,000. The conservative Club for Growth has budgeted $1.2 million for advertisements opposing health care reform. One ad claims, “The health care reform plan would set limits similar to the ‘socialized’ system in Britain, where people are allowed to die if their treatment would cost more than $22,000.” It depicts a man weeping over another person lying in a hospital bed, while a voiceover says: ”$22,750. In England, government health officials decided that’s how much six months of life is worth. Under their socialized system if a medical treatment costs more, you’re out of luck. That’s wrong for America.” While the ad does not directly state that the Obama administration would put such a price tag on the lives of the elderly and dying, as PolitiFact writes: “[T]he implication is clear: The reform plan will lead to callous decisions that would allow people to die if they face a costly treatment.” The ad is based on “comparative effectiveness research,” which aims to find the most effective treatments for the lowest cost. Other conservative groups such as Conservatives for Patients Rights (CPR) have portrayed the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (FCCCER), a new board created by the stimulus bill to find the best health treatments, as being modeled after the British system. Unfortunately for the CPR claim, the proposed American system would be nothing like its British counterpart, which is run by government entities. In Britain, a government board, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), decides whether particular treatments are covered or not. The Democrats’ proposal says that the FCCCER will not “mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer.” Nor will its reports or recommendations “be construed as mandates or clinical guidelines for payment, coverage, or treatment.” PolitiFact notes that several prominent Republicans, such as Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), have made unsubstantiated claims that elderly people would be denied care in favor of younger patients if they were in Britain. Michael Cannon of the libertarian Cato Institute says that while the Club for Growth’s claim about a price limit of $22,750 for extending the life of the patient is not completely inaccurate (it is based on a single unusual case), the Democrats’ legislation does not “say it’s going to do what Britain is doing.” Dr. Sean Tunis, a former top Medicare and Medicaid official in the Bush adminstration, calls the ad “misleading” and “fallacious.” PolitiFact concludes: “[T]he ad’s main point about cost limits is incorrect. There is no such practice in the comparative effectiveness program, nor is it part of the current health reform proposals pending in Congress. The House and Senate bills under consideration would not require the government to decide how much a person’s life is worth.” It terms the ad “False.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/6/2009]
Entity Tags: Michael Cannon, Charles Grassley, Club for Growth, Conservatives for Patients Rights, Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research, St. Petersburg Times, Sean Tunis, Obama administration, National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
Protesters bang on the windows of the Children’s Board, demanding to be heard. [Source: WTSP]The raucous and near-riotous behavior of recent town hall and forum meetings about health care reform (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 6, 2009, and August 6, 2009) reaches new heights in Ybor City, Florida, just outside Tampa, as a large and disorderly group of anti-reform protesters disrupt a town hall meeting held by Betty Reed (D-FL) and featuring Kathy Castor (D-FL). [Think Progress, 8/6/2009; MyFoxTampaBay, 8/6/2009] The forum, apparently intended to be something of a pep rally for the Obama administration’s health care proposals, was organized by Reed, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and a pro-reform group, Organizing for America. But hundreds of protesters also appear, many affirming that they came at the urging of the Tampa 9/12 conservative activist group, an organization promoted by Fox News host Glenn Beck. Others say they received e-mails from the Hillsborough County Republican Party urging them to speak out against the plan and offering talking points. [St. Petersburg Times, 8/7/2009; Tampa Tribune, 8/7/2009]
Huge Turnout Exacerbates Tensions - Well over 1,000 people appear for the meeting, held at the Children’s Board, a venue that holds a maximum of 250. Local news reporters note that “[t]ensions were high among people who couldn’t get in.” Protesters accuse the forum organizers of barring people who oppose health care reform, but many of the people left outside are reform supporters. The meeting is marred by screams and shouts both outside the venue and in, as well as people banging on windows to be let in. [Think Progress, 8/6/2009; MyFoxTampaBay, 8/6/2009; Fox News, 8/7/2009] Both Reed and Castor are shouted down almost from the moment they begin speaking, and battle spates of shouting, chanting, and a variety of accusations throughout the evening. Castor leaves relatively early, apparently frustrated at being shouted down when she tries to speak; when Castor leaves, she requires an escort to avoid being accosted. [WTSP, 8/7/2009] One of the popular chants is an apparently orchestrated repetition of “Tyranny! Tyranny! Tyranny!” Other chants include: “Tell the truth! Tell the truth!” “Read the bill!” and “Forty million illegals! Forty million illegals!” One reporter will write, “The spectacle… sounded more like a wrestling cage match than a panel discussion on national policy.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/7/2009]
Verbal, Physical Violence - Outside the hall, a fistfight occurs, with Orlando cameraman Mark Bishop being roughed up. “That’s the most violent anyone has been towards me,” he says. A protester, Randy Arthur, attempts to force his way into the hall, and is instead slammed into a wall by, he claims, union members acting as door guards. (Susan Smith, a member of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, later says that members of the Young Democrats, not union members, were on the doors.) A photo of him displaying his torn shirt and scratches later makes the rounds of anti-reform Web sites. Arthur says he intends to file charges, though the Tampa police have no such plans, and says he intends to become more involved in Republican and conservative politics as a result of the forum. Inside the hall, Kathy Miracle, who supports reform, is “inadvertently” spat upon by a shouting anti-reform protester, Barry Osteen, sitting beside her, she will later say. She shoves Osteen’s face away, and is photographed doing so, in what some people construe as a slap. Osteen will say: “She didn’t slap me. I almost didn’t even know she was there.” Miracle later says she doesn’t “appreciate being spread all over the Internet.” Supporters and opponents of reform engage in a number of verbal altercations in the parking lot. No arrests are made, even though many ignore police orders, issued through bullhorns, to disperse. Later, a Tampa police spokesman says, “We walk a fine line between freedom of speech and public safety.” [WTSP, 8/7/2009; Tampa Tribune, 8/7/2009; Susan Smith, 8/7/2009; Tampa Tribune, 8/13/2009]
Cameraman Jostled - A protester with a camera, J. Mark Campbell, has his camera knocked out of his hand and his glasses broken during an attempt by protesters to force their way into the hall, and later tells his story to Fox News commentator Sean Hannity. Campbell claims that the event was “set up” by SEIU and Democratic organizers to bring supporters into the front rows and force protesters into the back rows. He also claims that four “thugs” from the “Pipe Fitters Union” not only “bum rush[ed]” the protesters, but then gave him their business cards. Campbell claims that a “28-year-old Democrat… with cancer” was assaulted by union members, but also identifies an adult woman as “his daughter.” “[T]his is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” he says. “And I’ve been into jihadist areas. I’ve been dealing with, you know, Muslim extremists. And, you know, this is the most afraid I’ve ever been.” Campbell’s video shows little more than jostling and shoving at the door of the hall; he tells Hannity, “it’s what you don’t see in this video is what’s really telling.” [Fox News, 8/11/2009] Tommy Ates, a diarist on the liberal blog Daily Kos, later identifies Campbell as a member of a group he calls “the far right, libertarian, and ‘islamophobic’ Florida Security Council.” (Campbell directs viewers to the organization’s Web site during the Hannity interview.) Ates also asks some questions about Campbell’s claims: “How did Campbell get the information that the Tampa town hall had been stacked with Pipefitter union members? If the men guarding the door were union men committing assault, why would they give their cards to the man they were assaulting? Why didn’t Campbell file a police report? And (if J. Mark Campbell dealt with terrorists), why didn’t he identify what international media organization he served under? And if he didn’t go overseas, is Mark trying to say he dealt with Middle East domestic terrorists?” [Daily Kos, 8/12/2009]
'Somewhere in All the Screaming, No One Got Heard' - One participant, Largo resident George Guthrie, says of the crowd, “They think they’re exercising their right to free speech, but they’re only exercising their right to disrupt civil discourse.” Andrew Reder, a reform opponent, defends the shouting from himself and his fellows by saying: “There were clearly people who were very, very upset. People are concerned about the direction of the county right now.” But Reder, who is allowed inside during the proceedings, admits that virtually nothing is accomplished in the meeting. “Somewhere in all the screaming, no one got heard,” he says. One protester, who identifies herself as a member of Beck’s 9/12 organization, says of Castor and Reed: “They’re hiding from their constituents. She works for us and needs to listen.” After the meeting, Florida Democratic Party chair Karen Thurman says in a statement: “Throughout the summer, we have been reaching out to Floridians to engage in an important debate on the future our health care system. We have heard story after story from people who are struggling to get the care they need. Recently, their thoughtful discussions are being interrupted by angry mobs—well funded and organized by Washington special interests—attempting to drown out the voices of the hard-working Floridians who are desperate for health insurance reform. These groups are not concerned about Americans’ access to quality heath care, but are extreme ideologues, only interested in ‘breaking’ the president (see July 17-22, 2009) and thwarting the change Americans voted for last November.” [WTSP, 8/7/2009; Tampa Tribune, 8/7/2009] Castor later echoes Thurman’s sentiments, saying: “The insurance industry and… Republican activists are manufacturing a lot of these phony protests.… I do expect some rabble-rousing.” Reed later says she was shocked at the behavior of some of the crowd. “When you get to the point of possible violence, you’ve gone over the edge,” she says. Castor says the protesters who appeared at this and other venues “would have been protesting Medicare.… They would never have accepted Social Security.” But protester Brad Grabill counters, “It’s the backlash to the arrogance of our government that you’re seeing here.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/7/2009; Tampa Tribune, 8/7/2009] After the meeting, the Tampa 9/12 group posts the following on its Web site: “Be courteous while anyone is speaking, including Castor. We don’t want to sound like an ‘angry mob.’” [Tampa Tribune, 8/7/2009] Smith, the local Democratic Party official, later posts an e-mail she receives concerning the event. The message reads: “WAR IS COMING. YOUR THUG PR_CK B_STARD [apparently President Obama] SHOULD HAVE KEPT HIS F_CKING COMMUNIST MOUTH SHUT.” [Susan Smith, 8/7/2009]
Entity Tags: Andrew Reder, Fox News, Tommy Ates, Service Employees International Union, Barry Osteen, Brad Grabill, Betty Reed, Florida Security Council, Daily Kos, Sean Hannity, Susan Smith, Organizing for America, Randy Arthur, Hillsborough County Democratic Party, George Guthrie, J. Mark Campbell, Karen Thurman, Hillsborough County Republican Party, Kathy Miracle, Obama administration, Kathy Castor, Mark Bishop
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism, 2010 Elections
An anti-reform protester carries a sign conjoining President Obama with a Nazi swastika. The protester was at a rally in Fort Collins, Colorado, outside the office of Democrat Betsy Markey. [Source: Huffington Post]Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh calls Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “deranged” for her assertion that some anti-health care reform protesters are carrying swastikas and other Nazi symbols to health care discussions (see August 4, 2009). He then accuses Democrats of being like Nazis in their ideology and agenda: “The speaker of the House accusing people showing up at these town hall meetings of wearing swastikas—that is not insignificant, folks. This woman is deranged. They are unraveling. But that is not insignificant. You have the Democrat speaker of the House saying that people—citizens—who are concerned about health care are now wearing swastikas. She’s basically saying that we are Nazis. She is saying that the people who oppose this are Nazis.… This party, the Democrat [sic] Party, and where it’s taken this country—the radical left leadership of this party—bears much more resemblance to Nazi policies than anything we on the right believe in at all.” Progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that numerous instances of Nazi symbols have been photographed at various health care forums, including one poster of President Obama with a Hitler-style moustache and several posters with swastikas prominently displayed (see July 25, 2009 and August 6, 2009). [Media Matters, 8/6/2009; Think Progress, 8/6/2009] At another rally, a Democratic lawmaker was compared to Nazi torturer Dr. Josef Mengele (see August 4, 2009).
Max Pappas, a senior official with the conservative lobbying firm FreedomWorks (see April 14, 2009), openly takes credit for his firm ratcheting up disruptive behavior at “town halls” across the nation devoted to discussion of health care reform (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, and August 6-8, 2009). Pappas is interviewed by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who says that FreedomWorks is “blowing them [town hall meetings] apart.” Pappas agrees, saying, “Yes, just like we blew up—” before Matthews talks over his response. Pappas says that FreedomWorks only has about 18 paid employees, and does most of its work over the Internet, working with 400,000 online members (referring to the number of people on its e-mail lists). “We… send them information about when the town halls are, give them briefings on the health care reform plans.” The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent writes: “[T]here’s nothing wrong with FreedomWorks or any other group doing this. But if industry-funded groups are pumping up turnout at town hall meetings, it makes it perfectly fair game for reform proponents to argue that the industry is trying to manipulate perceptions of public opinion for the sake of its bottom line.” [Plum Line, 8/7/2009] The next day, Pappas appears on C-SPAN, and a caller claiming to be a Republican veteran asks him “to tell these people to wrap it down.” The caller says: “We Republicans already have the image of being owned by corporate America. Now we’re getting the image of being owned by wild red neck America.” Pappas responds: “We don’t have the power to control how many people turn out or how they behave there. All we really do is facilitate their participation by letting people know when these town halls are and giving them information about the issues that are going to be discussed. The passions are so deep about this issue that we can’t send out an email that says ‘calm down.’” Another caller claims to be from the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white power and outspokenly racist organization (see June 2, 2009), and praises Pappas and FreedomWorks, calling him “a true patriot.” Pappas asks the caller to join the organization. [Think Progress, 8/7/2009]
Six people, including a local reporter, are arrested outside a public forum called by Representative Russ Carnahan (D-MO) at a middle school gymnasium outside of St. Louis. The forum, planned to allow constituents to discuss aging issues with Carnahan, quickly becomes contentious, with an overflow crowd denied entrance to the gymnasium and left to protest and wave signs in the parking lot. Many of the protesters are from a local anti-tax and anti-health care reform “tea party” organization. Local Democratic organizations counter with their supporters.
Altercations in Parking Lot - Verbal, and later physical, altercations erupt between reform supporters and opponents. Six people are arrested outside the gym, including St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Jake Wagman, for interference after he refuses to stop taking pictures of the altercations. One of those arrested, reform supporter Brian Matthews, calls the situation outside the gym “a bull rush,” and adds, “It all came from behind.” After the forum, Matthews and a friend, Javonne Spitz, attempt to photograph a man who appears as if he has been assaulted. The police object, and, as Matthews tells it, several officers “charge” them “from behind.” The police push Matthews to the ground and arrest him for interference; Spitz is pepper-sprayed “after she was subdued by the police,” Matthews says, causing her to vomit as they are taken into custody. A woman is arrested for assault and destruction of property for pushing a woman who is recording the events on her cell phone, then taking the phone from her and breaking it. A man is arrested for refusing to leave a circle of people surrounding Matthews’s pepper-sprayed friend. A police spokesman later says: “You’ve got to understand—we’re at a very volatile situation, we’ve got 800 people and we’ve got to maintain order. [The police] did what they had to do.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/7/2009; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/7/2009]
Kenneth Gladney - Conservative activist Kenneth Gladney claims to have been attacked by several of those arrested as he attempts to hand out yellow flags with “Don’t Tread on Me” printed on them; police later confirm that two men were arrested for assaulting someone attempting to hand out flags and fliers. A reporter interviews Gladney as he awaits treatment at a local emergency room for injuries he says he suffered to his knee, back, shoulder, elbow, and face. Gladney, an African-American, says one of his assailants used a racial slur against him. “It just seems there’s no freedom of speech without being attacked,” he says. Gladney later affirms that he had been hired by the St. Louis Tea Party organization to hand out flags, and adds, “I was attacked for something I believe in.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/7/2009; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/7/2009] He appears on several conservative TV and radio shows, including those hosted by Laura Ingraham and Bill O’Reilly, where he tells his interviewers that he was punched in the face by three different people and kicked by a fourth. Unfortunately for his claim, he appears in perfect health on the broadcasts, with no indication of swelling or bruising. [Daily Kos, 8/8/2009] Tim Tagaris, the new media director for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), later sends an e-mail and links to photos taken during the altercation which contradict Gladney’s tale. According to Tagaris, the photos show an SEIU member getting off the ground holding his shoulder. Gladney is identified as an African-American male in a khaki (or gray) shirt “walking around just fine after the altercation.” Tagaris says it is only after he begins appearing on talk shows that he takes to a wheelchair (see August 8, 2009). [Daily Kos, 8/9/2009]
Loud Attempts to Protest Health Care Reform - Inside the gym, protesters attempt to turn the discussion from the topic of the elderly to health care, an issue they apparently wish to shout down. “This isn’t even close to civil,” one audience member says after the forum. “The rudeness was beyond compare.” An elderly audience member calls the forum “a complete waste of time.” After the meeting, Carnahan says: “Sadly we’ve seen stories about disrupters around the country, and we have a handful of them here in Missouri. Instead of participating in a civil debate, they have mobilized with special interests in Washington who have lined their pockets by overcharging Americans for a broken health care system.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/7/2009] The next day, Carnahan says: “Sadly, they got out of control on both sides. That’s not helpful, and I condemn that activity.… Let’s have a spirited debate, a debate worthy of our country.” A member of the St. Louis Tea Party who attended another forum, local radio show host Dana Loesch, says: “Last night, it was a whole different scene. That’s not what this should be about.” Defending her colleagues, she adds: “I can’t blame them for being frustrated, but there are ways to handle this without calling these people mobs. This isn’t an angry mob.” SEIU spokeswoman Ramona Oliver says her union has no intention of confronting angry protesters. “The members didn’t come to talk to the angry mob outside, they came to talk to the congresspeople inside,” she says. “All our members want is to have a civil discussion. There is no campaign to confront the tea baggers.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/7/2009]
Entity Tags: Javonne Spitz, Brian Matthews, Dana Loesch, Kenneth Gladney, Jake Wagman, Laura Ingraham, Bill O’Reilly, Tim Tagaris, Russ Carnahan, Service Employees International Union, St. Louis Tea Party, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a primarily Jewish organization that battles anti-Semitism, decries the use of Nazi symbols and language in recent health care debates (see July 25, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, and August 6, 2009). In a press release, the ADL’s National Director Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, calls such remarks “outrageous, deeply offensive, and inappropriate.” He singles out conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh for specific criticism after Limbaugh repeatedly compares Obama administration policies to those of the Nazis. “Regardless of the political differences and the substantive differences in the debate over health care, the use of Nazi symbolism is outrageous, offensive, and inappropriate,” Foxman says. “Americans should be able to disagree on the issues without coloring it with Nazi imagery and comparisons to Hitler. This is not where the debate should be at all.… Comparisons to the Nazis are deeply offensive and only serve to diminish and trivialize the extent of the Nazi regime’s crimes against humanity and the murder of six million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust. I don’t see any comparison here. It’s off-center, off-issue, and completely inappropriate.” [Anti-Defamation League, 8/7/2009]
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow (l) interviews Frank Schaeffer (r). [Source: Crooks and Liars (.com)]Frank Schaeffer, who with his late father Francis Schaeffer helped shape the social and religious conservatism that currently dominates much of American politics, writes what he calls an “inside scoop” on “why conservatives are rampaging town halls” to disrupt discussions of health care reform (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, and August 6-8, 2009), and, ultimately, to deliberately foment political violence. Schaeffer was once a leader of the conservative evangelical movement who has now repudiated his former positions, and has written a book on the subject. [AlterNet (.org), 8/7/2009; MSNBC, 8/10/2009] Schaeffer’s father wrote a book, A Christian Manifesto, which compared pro-abortion policies to those of Adolf Hitler, and said that the use of force to roll back abortion law would be justified. Schaeffer himself has written a very different book, entitled Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elects, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All or Almost All of It Back. [MSNBC, 6/1/2009]
Comparing Pro-Abortion Activists to Nazis - He tells MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that his father used to compare pro-abortion activists to Nazis, and told his followers “that using violence or force to overthrow Nazi Germany would have been appropriate for Christians, including the assassination of [Adolf] Hitler.” It is a straight, short line, Schaeffer says, to go from the concept of justifiably assassinating Hitler to using violence against those who are compared to Nazis. “It’s really like playing Russian roulette,” he says. “You put a cartridge in the chamber, you spin, and once in a while it goes off. And we saw that happen with Dr. Tiller (see May 31, 2009). We’ve seen it happen numerous times in this country with the violence against political leaders, whether it’s Martin Luther King or whoever it might be. We have a history of being a well-armed, violent country.… There is a coded message here. And that is that you have a group of people who, like Rush Limbaugh (see July 21, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 6, 2009, and August 6, 2009) would rather see the president and the country fail, and their coded message to their own lunatic fringe is very simple—and that is go for broke. When you start comparing a democratically elected president, who is not only our first black president but a moderate progressive, to Adolf Hitler (see August 7, 2009), you have arrived at a point where you are literally leading—leaving a loaded gun on the table, saying the first person who wants to come along and use this, go ahead. Be our guest.” [MSNBC, 8/10/2009]
Conservative World View Shattered by Obama Election - In a separate op-ed, Schaeffer writes: “The Republican Old Guard are in the fix an atheist would be in if Jesus showed up and raised his mother from the dead: Their world view has just been shattered. Obama’s election has driven them over the edge.” Schaeffer says that when he worked with Dick Armey (R-TX), the former House Majority Leader and now lobbyist was “a decent guy, whatever his political views. How could he stoop so low as to be organizing what amounts to America’s Brown Shirts today?” He answers his own question: Armey, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), and others “can’t compute that their white man-led conservative revolution is dead. They can’t reconcile their idea of themselves with the fact that white men like them don’t run the country any more—and never will again. To them the black president is leading a column of the ‘other’ into their promised land. Gays, immigrants, blacks, progressives, even a female Hispanic appointed to the Supreme Court (see May 26, 2009)… for them this is the Apocalypse.… [N]ow all the the Republican gurus have left is what the defeated Germans of World War Two had: a scorched earth policy. If they can’t win then everyone must go down. Obama must fail! The country must fail!”
Using 70s-Era Anti-Abortion Protest Tactics - Schaeffer says conservative and industry lobbying firms orchestrating the anti-reform movement (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, Before August 6, 2009, May 29, 2009, and August 6-7, 2009) are using the same tactics he and his father helped create for anti-abortion clinic protesters in the 1970s. He notes one lobbying organization, Armey’s FreedomWorks. “FreedomWorks represents a top-down, corporate-friendly approach that’s been the norm for conservative organizations for years,” Schaeffer writes. “How do I know this is the norm? Because I used to have strategy meetings with the late Jack Kemp (R-NY) and Dick Armey and the rest of the Republican gang about using their business ties to help finance the pro-life movement to defeat Democrats. I know this script. I helped write it. Democratic members of Congress are being harassed by angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior at local town halls. It’s the tactic we used to follow abortion providers around their neighborhoods. ‘Protesters’ surrounded Rep. Tim Bishop (see June 22, 2009) and forced police officers to have to escort him to his car for safety. We used to do the same to Dr. Tiller… until someone killed him.” [AlterNet (.org), 8/7/2009]
Aware of Potential for Violence - In a previous interview with Maddow, Schaeffer expounded on this same topic. “[W]hat we did is we talked one game to the large public and we talked another game amongst ourselves,” he told Maddow. “And amongst ourselves, we were very radical.… I know that this is the case because of the fact that I was part of the movement, but also understood very well what we were doing back then was to attack the political issue when we talked to people like Ronald Reagan and the Bush family and Jack Kemp—the late Jack Kemp that we were very close to in all this. But on a private side, we also were egging people on to first pick at abortion clinics, then chain themselves to fences, then go to jail. We knew full well that in a country that had seen the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, two Kennedy brothers, and others, that what we were also doing was opening a gate here. And I think there’s no way to duck this. We live in a country in which guns are all over the place. We have plenty of people with a screw loose, plenty of people on the edge. It only takes one.” [MSNBC, 6/1/2009]
Using Lies to Obscure Facts, Disrupt Debate - The health care reform opponents are using what Schaeffer calls “[a] barrage of outright lies, wherein the Democrats are being accused of wanting to launch a massive euthanasia program against the elderly, free abortions for everyone, and ‘a government takeover’ of health care” to disrupt informed debate. Some protesters have escalated to physical violence and intimidation. Schaeffer says that just as in the 1970s, the protesters engaging in the physical violence are often “plants sent to disrupt public forums on the health care issue.… [M]uch of these protests are coordinated by public relations firms and lobbyists who have a stake in opposing President Obama’s reforms. There is no daylight between the Republican Party, the health care insurance industry, far-right leaders like Dick Armey, the legion of insurance lobbyists, and now, a small army of thugs.… No, I don’t believe that these people are about to take over the country. No, the sky is not falling. But the Republican Party is. It is now profoundly anti-American. The health insurance industry is run by very smart and very greedy people who have sunk to a new low. So has the Republican Party’s leadership that will not stand up and denounce the likes of Dick Armey for helping organize roving bands of thugs trying to strip the rest of us of the ability to be heard when it comes to the popular will on reforming health care.”
American Fascism - Schaeffer accuses the right of undermining American democracy and attempting to establish an almost-fascist control of society. “Here’s the emerging American version of the fascist’s formula,” he writes: “combine millions of dollars of lobbyists’ money with embittered troublemakers who have a small army of not terribly bright white angry people (collected over decades through pro-life mass mailing networks) at their beck and call, ever ready to believe any myth or lie circulated by the semi-literate and completely and routinely misinformed right wing—evangelical religious underground. Then put his little mob together with the insurance companies’ big bucks. That’s how it works—American Brown Shirts at the ready.” He notes that the murder of Tiller closed down his clinic, one of the few in the country that performed late-term abortions. So the murder of Tiller achieved the goal of the anti-abortion movement. “In this case a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save our economy from going bankrupt because of spiraling health care costs may be lost, not because of a better argument, but because of lies backed up by anti-democratic embittered thuggery. The motive? Revenge on America by the Old White Guys of the far right, and greed by the insurance industry.” Schaeffer concludes, “It’s time to give this garbage a name: insurance industry funded fascism.” [AlterNet (.org), 8/7/2009]
Sarah Palin holds her youngest child, Trig, for the cameras. [Source: Hollywood Gossip]Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), the Republican vice presidential candidate in 2008, writes on her Facebook page that the Democrats’ health care reform package would result in a government “death panel” that would kill her baby, Trig. Her child was born with Down Syndrome. Palin writes: “Americans delve into the disturbing details of the nationalized health care plan that the current administration is rushing through Congress, our collective jaw is dropping, and we’re saying not just no, but hell no!… And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.” Palin also commends Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) for warning the nation about President Obama’s “Orwellian” health care adviser: “Rep. Michele Bachmann highlighted the Orwellian thinking of the president’s health care advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the White House chief of staff [Rahm Emanuel], in a floor speech to the House of Representatives. I commend her for being a voice for the most precious members of our society, our children and our seniors.” [TPMDC, 8/7/2009; Time, 8/8/2009]
Inspired by Debunked Claims from Industry Lobbyist - Palin’s warning about government “death panels” is inspired by debunked warnings from industry lobbyist Betsy McCaughey and a variety of Republican lawmakers and conservative talk show hosts about the reform proposals’ implicit agenda to kill older Americans faster (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, and July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009). Politico’s Ben Smith writes: “As nonpartisan sources note, the [proposal] deals with medical practitioners helping individuals prepare living wills, powers of attorney, and the like. It’s a long ways from there to a ‘death panel’ where bureaucrats decide who lives or dies.” [Politico, 8/7/2009]
Countering Palin's Assertions - Progressive MSNBC host Rachel Maddow says of Palin’s assertions: “There is no Obama death panel. There’s no plan to kill old people. There’s no plan to kill off any people who aren’t productive enough. There’s no plan to kill off any of Sarah Palin’s children. And if we were actually talking about health care instead of waddling through this free-floating morass of factless partisan rage and corporate opportunism, it would occur to someone to notice that the provision being considered by Congress that has Sarah Palin ranting about Obama death panels and the death of her own children was introduced by Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia (see August 10, 2009). And it’s not about killing old people. It’s about making it easier for old people to create living wills. A similar provision was introduced by another Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine. This is a Republican idea.” [MSNBC, 8/10/2009] Days later, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) tells an audience: “It does us no good to incite fear in people by saying that there’s these end-of-life provisions, these death panels. Quite honestly, I’m so offended at that terminology because it absolutely isn’t [in the bill]. There is no reason to gin up fear in the American public by saying things that are not included in the bill.… There are things that are in this bill that are bad enough that we don’t need to be making things up.” [Anchorage Daily News, 8/11/2009]
Screenshot of Scott Oskay’s Twitter message urging health care reform protesters to ‘hurt’ ACORN and SEIU members ‘badly.’ [Source: TPMDC]Anti-health care reform protester Scott Oskay, who lives in New Mexico, sends out Twitter messages under the moniker “ScottEO” urging his hundreds of followers to attend health care debates with weapons. If members from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) attend the events “for disruption,” Oskay tells his Twitter followers to “stop being peaceful and hurt them. Badly.” He also urges his followers to take photographs of pro-health care advocates “on anticipation of disruption,” and “If ACORN/SEIU attends, remind them that your target is centralized, while you and your allies, are not.” Oskay includes the “hashtag” #iamthemob in some of his messages, an identification tag popularized in part by conservative blogger Michelle Malkin. According to TPMDC, the particular hashtag “has gone viral on Twitter, appearing several times a minute according to a recent search.” Oskay, asked via Twitter if he advocates violence against SEIU or ACORN members, replies, “I would advocate retaliation for intimidation, be it verbal or physical.” [TPMDC, 8/7/2009; RootsWire, 8/7/2009] After news of Oskay’s call to violence goes public, posters on Malkin’s blog will accuse him of being a “liberal plant,” and one says: “The individuals going to protest at town halls have no idea who Scott Oskay is, nor care. To suggest that his foolish tweet(s) (whether he truly is a ‘libertarian’ or not) influences all those protesters is preposterous. There has been nothing to substantiate the claim. If it weren’t for TPM bemoaning his Twitter, it’s likely he would have gone completely unnoticed (by both sides). If you wish to be ‘afraid’ of those scary protesters because of this one guy’s Twitter page, be my guest, but let’s not pretend that he’s the leader of some movement.” Oskay’s Twitter page has since been removed, according to posters on Malkin’s blog. [Michelle Malkin, 8/10/2009]
Conservative Fox News and radio talk show host Sean Hannity urges fellow conservatives to turn out in force at town halls in their area to protest health care reform. On his Web site, Hannity urges protesters to “Become a part of the mob! Attend an Obama Care Townhall near you!” Hannity’s site lists a number of town halls; at the bottom of the page, he credits the “Astroturf” lobbying group Conservatives for Patients Rights (see August 4, 2009) as the source of the list. [Sean Hannity, 8/2009; New York Times, 8/7/2009]
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), heavily involved in supporting health care reform, receives a call from an unnamed caller who threatens it with shooting. After the caller accuses SEIU of engaging in “thuggish violent tactics,” he says: “I suggest you tell your people to calm down, act like American citizens, and stop trying to repress people’s First Amendment rights.… That, or you all are gonna come up against the Second Amendment.” After issuing the veiled threat to shoot someone with the union, the caller concludes by saying, “[S]top the violence.” [Think Progress, 8/7/2009; Huffington Post, 8/10/2009]
Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY), who represents one of the more liberal districts in the nation, reflects on a much less contentious town hall meeting on health care reform he held the evening before at a Queens senior center. Weiner says the calmer crowd “shows you a little bit what’s different between the left and the right. You know, we have this notion that if we talk about issues and we discuss the challenges, we can reach conclusions. The other side just literally is yelling no. They do it on the floor of Congress and now, they’re doing around town. But for the most part, you know, people have legitimate questions. These are tough issues and I feel very strongly—for example, I said… you know, the single-payer plan like Medicare for everyone. [A “single-payer” system would eliminate private health care and centralize all health care provision through the federal government.] Yet, still, there were seniors there who were standing up, saying, ‘I want you to leave your hands off my plan and don’t touch it and by the way, I don’t want the government involved.’ And, you know, I had to remind them Medicare, like 40 percent.… Well, a lot of them were reading and hearing some of the things they hear on angry, shouting radio shows, and they were parroting them back.” Weiner notes that because inertia is such “a powerful force in Washington,” conservatives and Republicans feel they have an advantage in merely trying to stop health care reform instead of “try[ing] to do something” (see August 11, 2009). “So, I think the Republicans have made the analysis that if we can just stop the governing party, the Democrats, from getting anything done, then we’ll be OK. [T]his is tough sledding in large part because the Republicans and the conservative right have a much easier job. They literally just have to stand in front of us and yell at the top of their lungs, and they will have succeeded with their day’s event. And that’s going to be difficult for us.” [MSNBC, 8/10/2009]
The influential conservative blog HotAir promotes tea party activist Kenneth Gladney’s tale of being “savagely beaten” by “union thugs” during a recent town hall forum in St. Louis (see August 6-8, 2009 and August 8, 2009). Blogger Ed Morrissey writes of Gladney’s claims: “Pay attention, America. This is a glimpse into the next three years of the Obama administration, at least using the same logic by which the Left accuses health care reform opponents of ‘astroturfing.’ If its policies get organized opposition, especially at events designed to allow for public debate, purple-shirted thugs will appear to crack heads and scare off the opposition. And if nothing else, it’s a great look at how the unions will act once the secret ballot gets eliminated from organizing elections.” [Ed Morrissey, 8/7/2009] HotAir’s Patrick Ishmael posts an update later in the day giving more details about Gladney’s “brutal” “beating.” [Patrick Ishmael, 8/7/2009] Misdemeanor assault charges will be filed against two union members (see Late November, 2009); both will be found innocent of any wrongdoing (see July 12, 2011). The only person injured in the altercation was one of the union members (see Mid-August, 2009), though Gladney falsely claimed to have suffered severe injuries.
Columnist Mary Katharine Ham of the Weekly Standard reports on a recent altercation at a town hall forum in St. Louis, where tea party activist Kenneth Gladney has charged he was “savagely beaten” by “union thugs” for selling anti-Obama merchandise (see August 6-8, 2009 and August 8, 2009). Ham writes that the Gladney altercation has been twisted “by liberals looking to paint the violence as caused by critics of the administration.” According to a conversation with Gladney’s lawyer David Brown, who claims to have witnessed the altercation, a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) approached Gladney and called him a “n_gger.” Then, according to Brown: “Kenneth didn’t say anything to the guy. Before Kenneth could even say anything or act in any way shape or form, the SEIU representative punched him in the face. He went to the ground. Subsequently, two other SEIU representatives or members, however you want to say it, jumped on top of him, yelled racial epithets at him… kicked him, punched him.” Gladney has claimed being kicked by a woman as well, but Brown says he did not witness that. Gladney subsequently went to the hospital, and will begin making appearances on Fox News and at other tea party events in a wheelchair. “He sustained some injuries to his back, some bruising,” Brown says. Ham includes a video of the altercation, which as Media Matters columnist Eric Boehlert writes, “pretty much undercuts the entire tale of run-away union violence.” Boehlert writes: “Go watch the YouTube video.… The first thing you notice when the camera starts rolling is a union member already sprawled out on the ground with somebody standing over him. No explanation of how he got there (pushed, shoved, punched?) and Ham couldn’t care less. Then yes, Gladney is pulled to the ground by somebody wearing a union shirt. (At the :06 mark.) But instead of Gladney being beaten and punched, as his attorney describes, and instead of union ‘thugs’ standing over him and threatening him, Gladney bounces right back on his feet in approximately two seconds and the scuffle ends. That was the savage ‘beating’ the conservative blogosphere can’t stop talking about? The only real mystery from the incident is why Tea Party member Gladney, who’s seen up-close after the brief encounter walking around and talking to people and who appears to be injury-free, then decided to go to the hospital to treat injuries to his ‘knee, back, elbow, shoulder, and face.’ All that from a two-second fall to the pavement? Also unclear is why he contacted a newspaper reporter, or why his attorney wrote up lavish accounts and sent them to conservative bloggers, or why Gladney and his attorney appeared on Fox News.” [Weekly Standard, 8/7/2009; Media Matters, 8/8/2009] Misdemeanor assault charges will be filed against two union members (see Late November, 2009); both will be found innocent of any wrongdoing (see July 12, 2011). The only person injured in the altercation was one of the union members (see Mid-August, 2009), though Gladney falsely claimed to have suffered severe injuries in the altercation.
Some of the material posted by Judge Head. [Source: Think Progress]Lubbock County, Texas, officials remove posters displayed in the county courthouse by Judge Tom Head that display anti-Obama and racist content. Head’s posters depict nine alleged criminals, all wearing T-shirts displaying the Obama campaign logo; one contains racial stereotyping of Obama supporters. That one is a printout of a short, fictional narrative of a person contemplating waking up, putting on an Obama T-shirt, and then abusing drugs, robbing a store, and hitting his wife. The mug shots are of mostly African-American men wearing Obama T-shirts, with a note claiming no criminal had ever been photographed wearing Republican-leaning T-shirts. Head says his intent was merely to spark conversation about issues. “Nobody’s ever said anything to me, personally,” he says. “Apparently it’s performing its task now, because somebody got emotional about it.” Head says he has been posting socially and politically conservative material to the bulletin board for years, with the intention of stirring up discussion with those who disagree with him. “It seemed like a good thing to put on the board to try and get people talking to one another,” he says. “I don’t consider it racist. I still don’t.” [Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 8/8/2009] The poster apparently originated on a conservative Web site. [Think Progress, 8/11/2009]
Discussing the anti-health care reform protests, Fox News host Sean Hannity asks his guest, conservative radio host Mark Levin, “You think the president [Obama] bears any responsibility for this conflict now that is emerging in these 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, and August 6-8, 2009)? Levin responds, “[L]et me suggest that if there’s anything that happens at these town hall meetings, if anybody’s hurt or if anything really stupid happens, this White House has some responsibility for it.” Levin justifies his claim: “This White House is calling out its dogs. The president sent out an e-mail to millions of, uh, his supporters. [White House chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel, behind the scenes, is pushing too, so is [White House political coordinator David] Axelrod. If something terrible happens at one of these town hall meetings, I think the president in part can be held accountable.” [Media Matters, 8/8/2009]
In his weekly radio and Internet address, President Obama accuses health care reform opponents of using “outlandish rumors” and “misleading information” to combat his reform efforts. “As we draw close to finalizing—and passing—real health insurance reform, the defenders of the status quo and political point-scorers in Washington are growing fiercer in their opposition,” Obama says. “Some have been using misleading information to defeat what they know is the best chance of reform we have ever had,” he adds, and notes that it is critical for Americans to have all the facts as they meet their lawmakers in home districts. “Let me explain what reform will mean for you,” Obama says. “And let me start by dispelling the outlandish rumors that reform will promote euthanasia, cut Medicaid, or bring about a government takeover of health care. That’s simply not true.… There are those who… are trying to exploit differences or concerns for political gain.” Representative Tom Price (R-GA), offering the Republicans’ counter-address, says, “Rather than listening to the concerns of those who will face the consequences of the legislation, the White House has laughed off the thought that Americans might have sincere concerns about a plan that relies so heavily on government involvement in health care.” [Reuters, 8/8/2009]
Niki Tsongas. [Source: Boston Herald]Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA) holds a town hall to discuss health care reform in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. The crowd is relatively evenly divided between supporters and opponents. One audience member later writes about the event on the liberal blog Daily Kos. According to the blogger, some of the reform opponents sport the now-ubiquitous “Obama as Hitler” sign (see August 6, 2009); someone tells the blogger that the sign is being provided by an organization affiliated with the extreme right-winger Lyndon LaRouche. The school gymnasium hosting the event rapidly reaches its maximum capacity of 220, with people standing along the sides and in the back as well as occupying all of the available seats. The event is marked by frequent outbursts of shouting, booing, and name-calling, but Tsongas and the audience are somewhat able to ask and answer questions. The Lowell Sun later reports, “Supporters tried to counter with applause and cheer, but could not compete with the decibel level of the plan’s opponents.” One opponent screams, “We’re turning into a Communist country!” Others complain that illegal aliens will be covered, using monies that should be allocated for citizens’ care, and that health care will be strictly rationed, both claims that have been sharply disputed by President Obama and other Democrats (see August 8, 2009). Tsongas is frequently shouted down by protesters who, according to the Sun, “rush… the microphone” to ask questions and make statements. Exchanges among audience members are equally heated. One man receives cheers when he identifies himself as a retired Marine, but is booed when he declares his support for reform. A woman is booed when she identifies herself as a cancer survivor, but is cheered when she says she opposes reform. Listening to her tearful statement, one supporter calls out, “She’s an actress!” Another woman discusses her son, who has graduated from college but cannot find a job and suffers from debilitating kidney disease. When she asks Tsongas what her son can do, a reform opponent shouts, “He can go to work for McDonald’s!” A Sun reporter asks two elderly bill opponents about their views; the seniors refuse to give their names. “I won’t give my name because of the Gestapo politics,” one says. “The Obama administration will be investigating us if we give our names.” After the event, Tsongas says: “We managed to have a serious discussion. Different opinions were expressed and there were moments when people were very animated, but they respected the need to go forward.… Some people seemed genuinely concerned. I wasn’t suprised by it. We knew people would come and there would be strong opinions.” [Daily Kos, 8/8/2009; Boston Herald, 8/9/2009; Lowell Sun, 8/9/2009; MetroWest Daily News, 8/12/2009]
Kenneth Gladney being wheeled around a protest in Mehlman, Missouri. [Source: Common Cents (.com)]Anti-health care reform protesters hold a rally in Mehlville, Missouri, to protest what they say was the beating of fellow protester Kenneth Gladney by “union thugs” (see August 6-8, 2009). Gladney is prominently featured in the protest, sitting in a wheelchair with his knee bandaged and holding a flag emblazoned with the words, “Don’t Tread on Me.” Gladney says he was beaten by a number of members of the Service Employees International Union. The SEIU says that Gladney is inflating the confrontation, and that he initiated the fight. Gladney has become a cause celebre among conservative anti-reformists, with talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, among others, telling his story to their listeners. “Limbaugh gave the address” of the SEIU offices, one protester says. “This is just a demonstration of numbers.” Gladney’s lawyer, David Brown, reads a statement to the crowd of around 200 people, saying on Gladney’s behalf: “A few nights ago there was an assault on my liberty, and on yours, too. This should never happen in this country.” Brown then tells the crowd that Gladney is unemployed and has no health care insurance, and is accepting donations towards his care. Brown would not elaborate as to what, if any, legal strategies he and his client are planning. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/9/2009]
Inflating the Story - Gladney’s story has taken on new details as he has retold it to a variety of conservative talk show hosts and to Mary Katharine Ham of the Weekly Standard. In its latest iteration, he was mauled by a number of SEIU “thugs” who drove him to the ground and “brutally” beat him while screaming racial epithets. Three of his assailants, he says, were wearing SEIU shirts. Unfortunately for his story, the video uploaded to YouTube which Ham says proves his story actually shows something quite different. The injured party in the video is clearly identifiable as an SEIU member. Gladney is pulled to the ground by another SEIU member, but no one punches or kicks him; instead, he bounces to his feet and walks off camera. Media Matters reporter Eric Boehlert writes: “The only real mystery from the incident is why Tea Party member Gladney, who’s seen up-close after the brief encounter walking around and talking to people and who appears to be injury-free, then decided to go to the hospital to treat injuries to his ‘knee, back, elbow, shoulder, and face.’ All that from a two-second fall to the pavement? Also unclear is why he contacted a newspaper reporter, or why his attorney wrote up lavish accounts and sent them to conservative bloggers, or why Gladney and his attorney appeared on Fox News.” [Media Matters, 8/8/2009; Weekly Standard, 8/8/2009]
Lied about Health Insurance - Days later, other elements of Gladney’s story will change. Brown will confirm that he can no longer represent Gladney because he was involved in the altercation as a “witness” and therefore cannot be involved in any legal proceedings on Gladney’s behalf. Brown will also confirm that Gladney’s claim not to have health care insurance is “misinformation.” Brown will say, “He’s just unemployed [and] has insurance through his wife.” Brown has identified himself as a “friend” of Gladney’s, but is unsure what kind of job Gladney had before his alleged layoff, and is not sure what Gladney’s wife does for a living, either. St. Louis Tea Party organizer Bill Hennessy confirms that Gladney is still soliciting donations to help him pay for his injuries, even though he has insurance: “Well, who doesn’t need a donation? If people want to give him a donation because he’s injured and unemployed, that’s up to them.” Brown says Gladney has raised about $1,100 in donations so far. Reporter Daphne Eviatar confirms that Gladney appears uninjured in the video, and only began appearing in a wheelchair after landing interviews on Fox News. Brown says his brother, Andrew Beeny, will represent Gladney, and that neither he nor Beeny have copies of Gladney’s medical report. Brown says Gladney intends to sue both the individuals who he claims attacked him and the SEIU, since “unions have a 100-year history of intimidation.” [Washington Independent, 8/10/2009]
Entity Tags: Eric Boehlert, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Hennessy, Andrew Beeny, David Brown, Weekly Standard, St. Louis Tea Party, Mary Katharine Ham, Fox News, Service Employees International Union, Daphne Eviatar, Rush Limbaugh, Kenneth Gladney
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
Anti-Obama protester at the discussion sponsored by Joe Donnelly. [Source: Daily Kos]Representative Joe Donnelly (D-IN) holds a meeting at a supermarket in South Bend, Indiana. He expects a few constituents to show up and discuss issues with him, including health care. Instead, several hundred people appear. One person attending the event later writes about it on the liberal blog Daily Kos. According to the blogger, about 70 percent of the attendees are vocally against health care reform. Many of them wear red T-shirts emblazoned with slogans claiming that reform is tantamount to government tyranny. “In all my life,” the blogger writes, “I have never heard such uninformed, paranoid, and downright ignorant discussion of an important issue as the conversation that went on before Donnelly arrived.” Numerous comparisons to Nazi Germany are made both before and during the event, with one woman directly comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler. The same woman claims that Obama wants to use reform as an excuse to begin euthanizing senior citizens (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, and August 7, 2009) and enslaving American citizens. Other arguments being advanced include health care taking money from Americans to cover illegal aliens, mandatory abortions, health care rationing, and more. Several opponents claim that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Republicans Nazis, a falsehood spread by conservative talk radio (see August 4, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, and August 7, 2009). After the meeting, Donnelly says: “I don’t think it was heated. People are passionate about these issues. They expressed their ideas and gave me a chance to tell them what I think.” [Daily Kos, 8/8/2009; WSBT-TV, 8/8/2009]
David Vitter. [Source: The Earmark (.com)]Senator David Vitter (R-LA) holds a “town hall” meeting in Pineville, Louisiana, to discuss health care reform and other issues. In Louisiana University’s Guinn Auditorium, Vitter tells a relatively calm and cooperative crowd of some 1,500 people that he is “totally and unalterably opposed” to the proposals being put forth in Congress. One attendee asks Vitter about the disruptions and confrontations taking place at Democratic town halls around the country (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, and August 6-8, 2009). Liberal news and advocacy site Think Progress writes that “Vitter seemed to mock his colleagues,” saying that although he had been advised to have “security” at his meeting, he “told them the best security is to do what the people want you to do.” He adds, “[T]he angry mob is always welcome at my events.” Perhaps the reason why the meeting is so controlled is that Vitter, unlike most of his Democratic colleagues, is using pre-screened questions chosen ahead of time. No one is allowed to ask impromptu questions. [Think Progress, 8/9/2009; Alexandria Town Talk, 8/9/2009]
60+ logo. [Source: 60 Plus Association]An anti-health care reform television ad designed to frighten seniors into believing that so-called “death panels” will have government officials choosing to terminate them (see August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, and August 10, 2009) is produced by a supposedly “non-partisan seniors advocacy group.” However, in fact the group is led, organized, and funded by senior Republican operatives. The ad says in part that health care reform will, for seniors, “mean long waits for care, cuts to MRIs, CAT Scans, and other vital tests. Seniors may lose their own doctors. The government, not doctors, will decide if older patients are worth the cost.” The organization that produced and released the ad is called the “60 Plus Association,” or “60+,” a registered non-profit organization that claims to be non-partisan. The president of 60+ is Jim Martin, a former official for the National Conservative Action Committee and another group, Americans Against Union Control of Government. The honorary chairman of 60+ is Roger Zion, a former Illinois Republican congressman whom the group’s site calls “one of Washington’s leading spokesman for the conservative cause.” When 60+ began running ads against prescription drug reform a few years ago, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) discovered that, in the organization’s words, “virtually all of their largest contributions in recent years have come from the same source—the nation’s pharmaceutical industry.” John Rother of AARP will confirm that 60+ is “funded primarily by corporate interests, especially pharmaceuticals.” Speaking to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, he says that 60+ and other anti-reform groups are specifically targeting seniors. “I don’t think you can look at those commercials and not conclude that seniors are the target of a very intentional scare campaign,” he says. “And many seniors, of course, are worried about change because they depend on Medicare. They are perhaps not in the greatest of health, and they definitely want to know that Medicare will be there, their doctor will be there when they need it. So, change can be a little scary.… It certainly makes me angry because, you know, there are real issues and people should be engaged in this debate. But to scare people, to raise these bogus issues, to intentionally mislead a big part of the population is—you know, it’s a subversion of democracy.” Rother adds: “[W]e’ve looked at this bill and we read every page, we’ve concluded that the bills proposed in the Congress would be good for seniors, would actually help them afford their medications better, make sure that doctors are there when they need them. So, we feel there’s nothing to be scared about in the actual legislation.” In 2003, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer paid 60+ to organize opposition against prescription drug reform in Minnesota and New Mexico. 60+ in turn hired a PR firm, Bonner & Associates, which according to the AARP “specializes in ‘Astroturf lobbying’” (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, July 27, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, Before August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, and August 6-7, 2009). Bonner paid employees to call residents of those states and, identifying themselves as volunteers for 60+, urge them to oppose the legislation. 60+ also has ties to former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who directed Native American tribes to donate to 60+ in return for Republican support in Congress. 60+ has also lobbied in favor of approving the storage of nuclear waste at the infamous Yucca Mountain, Nevada, storage site. Maddow says: “[T]he campaign against health care reform in this country is being brought to you by professional, corporate-funded, Republican-staffed political PR operations. In this case, an organization that promotes itself as non-partisan but appears to be anything but. These are professional PR operatives that are scaring real Americans with increasingly paranoid and kooky lies about health care. And they’re getting rich in the process, thanks to the largess of extremely interested parties who are more than willing to pay for their services.” [MSNBC, 8/11/2009; MSNBC, 8/12/2009]
Bob Inglis. [Source: The Political Elite]Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC) is booed and jeered by a crowd of rowdy anti-health care protesters when he chides them for listening to Fox News host Glenn Beck and being part of what he calls Beck’s “fear-mongering.” Inglis speaks to a crowd of some 350 people at the Upstate Family Resource Center in Boiling Springs, South Carolina. Reporter Jason Spencer writes: “The loudest part of the crowd seemed to have its mind made up before Inglis even began talking, scolding him and applauding anyone who referenced the Constitution or denounced socialism.” One speaker gains a standing ovation by standing up, identifying himself as a “mainstream conservative,” and saying: “I look at the government, and they’re so far outside the Constitution and there’s not a week that goes by that I don’t hear talk about revolution in our country. The only one I know in Congress who abides by our Constitution is Ron Paul.” Though Inglis wins applause for advocating medical liability reform and stating his opposition to the Obama health care plan, the crowd is audibly opposed to his reminders that poor people should have access to health care regardless of their ability to pay. But the crowd launches into high-volume vilification when Inglis, responding to shouts and imprecations from the audience, tells the audience to “turn off Glenn Beck” and stop the “fear-mongering.” Spencer is unable to quote Inglis directly for the screams and shouts that his remarks engender, but speaking with Inglis after the meeting, Inglis confirms what he told the crowd. Asked if he used the term “fear-mongering,” Inglis says: “Probably. That’s what he does. That’s what Glenn Beck is all about. And Lou Dobbs. I’ve had the misfortune of listening to those shows a couple of times.… I don’t listen often to Glenn Beck, but when I have, I’ve come away just so disappointed with the negativity… the ‘We’ve just gone to pot as a country,’ and ‘All is lost’ and ‘There is no hope.’ It’s not consistent with the America that I know.… The America that Glenn Beck seems to see is a place where we all should be fearful, thinking that our best days are behind us. It sure does sell soap, but it sure does a disservice to America.… If Walter Cronkite said something like Glenn Beck said recently on the air, about the president being a racist (see July 28-29, 2009), Cronkite would’ve been fired on the spot. But I guess the executives of these cable news shows are more enamored with the profits that come from selling this negative message than they are with undermining the faith of people in this wonderful constitutional republic.… There is every reason to oppose President Obama’s health care package. It’s the wrong prescription. It needs to be stopped. But that doesn’t mean we need to abandon hope in America, and say the end is near, and people are going to force us to have immunizations. There’s no reason to go to that extreme.” Inglis goes on to say that most of the fear and violent opposition he encounters is centered in people who identify themselves with the Libertarian and Constitutional parties: “The conservative Republicans there realize that the Constitution is stronger than any president. We have every reason to have faith in the institutions that hold the country together. But when fear takes over and people start thinking the Constitution is not strong enough to meet the challenge of a president they don’t like, you end up with some fairly hysterical reactions.… This is a constitutional republic that can withstand any president I disagree with. It withstood Bill Clinton. And if you were a George Bush-hater, it withstood George Bush. And it will withstand Barack Obama. And that’s just because there’s such confidence in the Constitution and the framers, who set up such an incredible system of checks and balances.… It’s inspiring to me to think about that. What you saw tonight was people who had been convinced of this negativism, and are detaching from the communities and institutions that hold us together. And I believe in the importance of strong institutions. I’m not an anarchist. And I’m not a Libertarian. I believe in a strong, smart federal government that is able to meet challenges like 9/11, and figure out how to correct its mistakes from Katrina.… I hope to convince people that there’s every reason to be optimistic and there is a way forward. And I hope to help position the Republican Party as the party that presents a message that America can fall in love with, rather than a message that would drive fear in order to win votes.” [Spartanburg Herald-Journal, 8/7/2009; Spartanburg Herald-Journal, 8/7/2009; Think Progress, 8/7/2009] In 2010, Inglis will lose a contentious primary battle to a “tea party” candidate who will denounce Inglis’s criticisms of Beck. [Think Progress, 9/24/2010]
House Democratic leaders Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) publish a jointly written op-ed in USA Today, pressing for the Democrats’ health care reform package. They acknowledge the innate controversy inherent in the issue, and write: “We believe it is healthy for such a historic effort to be subject to so much scrutiny and debate. The failure of past attempts is a reminder that health insurance reform is a defining moment in our nation’s history—it is well worth the time it takes to get it right. We are confident that we will get this right.” They declare flatly that the House “will approve” a reform bill “in September.” However, they note, “an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue” (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, and August 6-8, 2009).… These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views—but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades. Health care is complex. It touches every American life. It drives our economy. People must be allowed to learn the facts.” After this screed, Hoyer and Pelosi give a brief defense and explanation of the health care reform package:
It will provide more patient choice;
It will allow Americans the freedom to keep their current plan or move to a different plan;
It will take away the power of the insurance companies to determine health care choices;
It will lower health care costs;
It will promote preventative care.
“This month, despite the disruptions, members of Congress will listen to their constituents back home and explain reform legislation,” they write. “We are confident that our principles of affordable, quality health care will stand up to any and all critics.” [USA Today, 8/10/2009]
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) does not withdraw her accusations that Congressional Democrats are planning to institute “death panels” for elderly Americans as part of their health care reform proposal (see August 7, 2009), but she does call for civility at town hall debates over the reform proposals (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, and August 8, 2009). On her Facebook page, Palin writes: “There are many disturbing details in the current bill that Washington is trying to rush through Congress, but we must stick to a discussion of the issues and not get sidetracked by tactics that can be accused of leading to intimidation or harassment. Such tactics diminish our nation’s civil discourse which we need now more than ever because the fine print in this outrageous health care proposal must be understood clearly and not get lost in conscientious voters’ passion to want to make elected officials hear what we are saying. Let’s not give the proponents of nationalized health care any reason to criticize us.” Talking Points Memo correspondent Eric Kleefeld notes: “It would be incorrect to say that Palin is backing off. Rather, she is calling for civility in the manner of the debate, so as to focus effectively on how evil and disturbing her opponents are.” [Politico, 8/10/2009; TPMDC, 8/10/2009] MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow says of Palin’s apparent backtrack: “[I]n politics the price of cultivating the extremist fringe—the price of that is losing your support from absolutely everyone else who is not on the fringe. And that’s why politicians get caught saying, ‘Who me?’ They try to both cultivate the fringe and to deny that they are doing so. So you get Sarah Palin allying herself with the off-the-kook end fringe by denouncing mythical death panels in health care reform. And once those remarks draw wide attention, you get her trying to appear to be responsible by calling for civility.” [MSNBC, 8/11/2009]
Conservative radio and Fox News television host Glenn Beck says he believes that “death panels” are real. Beck is referring to a recent statement made by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), who accused Congressional Democrats of creating “death panels,” review boards that would make decisions as to who would receive medical treatment and who would be allowed to die, as part of their health care reform legislation (see August 7, 2009), itself a larger part of the so-called “deather” belief (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, and July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009). On Beck’s radio show, he asks: “So, why is there no more discussion than there is on Sarah Palin and what she said over the weekend that there would be death—what did she call it?—a death squad? Or a death—” His executive producer, Steve Burguiere, fills in the name, “Death panel.” Beck continues: “A death panel for her son Trig. That’s quite a statement. I believe it to be true, but that’s quite a statement.… I believe she at least should be listened to and you should question, ‘Is it evil?’ Would there be—what would make her say that there would be a death panel? I mean, tomorrow on Fox at 5 o’clock, make sure you’re joining us, because we’ll ask some of those same questions. We will show you some of the reasons why you could read it this way. It’ll be up to you whether or not you find it credible enough to say: ‘Well, now, wait a minute. Those are really bad seeds that have been planted before. Maybe we shouldn’t plant those seeds.’ But it’s up to you to decide.” [Media Matters, 8/10/2009]
One of the clearest indications that lobbying groups are directing the “grassroots” protests against health care reform comes during a forum held by Representative Tom Perriello (D-VA) in Ruckersville, Virginia. Many of the protesters hold up signs provided by Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see May 29, 2009), a corporate-funded lobbying group. One protester tells Perriello, “I’m angry that you ignore the law of the Constitution that requires Obama to prove that he is a natural born citizen.” After the event, the protester confirms that he believes President Obama is not an American citizen, but that he was contacted by AFP’s Ben Marchi to distribute talking points and signs before the event. Marchi is the Virginia state director of Americans for Prosperity and a former staffer for former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. In a related item, a local right-wing blogger calling himself “Send a Rope” attends this meeting. He follows Perriello around from forum to forum, videotaping him and accusing him of being a “traitor” for voting for energy reform. The blogger encourages people to send lengths of rope to the White House and Congress—implying that lawmakers will be lynched if they do not comply with the wishes of the senders—and declares on his Web site: “I don’t think that there are enough trees or rope in Washington, DC, to handle all the traitors you would find there.… I hope it doesn’t come to us having to do what we all think is coming with these guns, but you better be ready if it is.” The blogger does not claim a connection to AFP, but avows his inspiration is drawn in part from Fox News host Glenn Beck. [Think Progress, 8/11/2009]
In an op-ed, the Miami Herald decries the attempt by protesters to disrupt and block discussion at health care forums around the country (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, and August 8, 2009). “[D]on’t confuse the rowdy protests in the health care reform forums with the fine American tradition of talking back to those who wield political power,” the Herald writes. “In forum after forum around the country, including Florida, members of Congress have been shouted down, cursed out, and forced to cancel town hall meetings on health care reform because of bully tactics by opponents of health care proposals. This doesn’t promote debate and the exchange of ideas. Rather, it promotes fear and intimidation—similar to the Cuban government’s goon squads, the so-called repudiation brigades.” The Herald cites a recent forum held by Kathy Castor (D-FL—see August 6, 2009) as an example of an attempted discussion derailed by orchestrated attempts to shout down speakers and audience members alike. The protests often “tak[e] on the character of anti-administration rallies and much of the venom [is] directed at President Obama himself.” The editorial also criticizes the display of posters depicting Obama as Hitler (see August 6, 2009), and notes, “Such outrageous tactics were used against President Bush in protests about the war on terror.” The anger and concern among citizens is real, the Herald acknowledges, “[b]ut staging raucous protests and drowning out real discussion is no way to win the argument. It only leads to more argument.” The Herald goes on to note: “Some of the disruptions, without doubt, are politically motivated and orchestrated by organized opponents of reform. Conservatives for Patients’ Rights and Americans for Prosperity have been linked to some of the public outcries. Genuine grassroots opposition is discredited when the forums turn into shouting matches designed to embarrass public officials and tarnish the reform effort. The anger of protesters at some of these forums is fueled not by the content of health care reform proposals but by disinformation, the hallmark of an orchestrated campaign.” The editorial concludes: “Urge your elected representative to support reform—or not—but give others a chance to speak and be heard. That’s the American way.” [Miami Herald, 8/10/2009]
Johnny Isakson. [Source: Washington Post]Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), one of the foremost advocates of expanding Medicare’s end-of-life planning coverage, responds sharply to suggestions by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and others that the Democrats’ health care reform proposal would create “death panels” for the forcible euthanasia of citizens deemed “less productive” or “undesirable” (see August 7, 2009). Isakson, who co-sponsored the 2007 Medicare End-of-Life Planning Act and has proposed a similar amendment to the House’s language in the Senate version of the health care bill, notes that the bill would lead to the funding of voluntary end-of-life counseling sessions between doctors and their patients, and would allow patients to choose the level of care they would receive as their lives come to a close (see July 23, 2009 and July 23, 2009). He calls Palin’s interpretation of the legislation “nuts.” Isakson says: “In the health care debate mark-up, one of the things I talked about was that the most money spent on anyone is spent usually in the last 60 days of life and that’s because an individual is not in a capacity to make decisions for themselves. So rather than getting into a situation where the government makes those decisions, if everyone had an end-of-life directive or what we call in Georgia ‘durable power of attorney,’ you could instruct at a time of sound mind and body what you want to happen in an event where you were in difficult circumstances where you’re unable to make those decisions. This has been an issue for 35 years. All 50 states now have either durable powers of attorney or end-of-life directives and it’s to protect children or a spouse from being put into a situation where they have to make a terrible decision as well as physicians from being put into a position where they have to practice defensive medicine because of the trial lawyers. It’s just better for an individual to be able to clearly delineate what they want done in various sets of circumstances at the end of their life.… It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you.” He says he has no idea how Palin and others have become “so mixed up” on the concept. [Washington Post, 8/10/2009] Liberal news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that another Republican senator, Susan Collins (R-ME), supports a similar provision to Isakson’s amendment. [Think Progress, 8/11/2009] The Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen notes that Isakson is a “deep-dyed” conservative, and writes, “Assorted wingnuts and teabaggers may not believe the administration, Democrats, objective news sources, or the plain black-and-white text of the legislation, but they should at least be willing to consider reality from one of the Senate’s most conservative members.” [Washington Monthly, 8/11/2009]
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