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Fox News political contributor Dick Morris, a former adviser to President Clinton as well as several Republican lawmakers, urges anti-health care reform protesters to “terrorize” conservative Democratic members of Congress who might not strongly support the Obama health care reform initiative. Interviewed by Fox’s Sean Hannity, Morris accuses Democrats and reform supporters of comparing the anti-reform protesters to Nazis (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 11, 2009, May 13, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, and August 7, 2009). The reform supporters have “compared us to Nazis, they’ve called us brownshirts, crazed mobsters,” Morris complains. Hannity agrees: “All in an effort to shut down dissent.… The president, himself, wants everyone to shut up.” Morris then advises: “I would urge people to go to these town meetings.… Go to the meetings and don’t listen to the people, some of whom spoke earlier on this station, that you should be very nice and polite and stick your hand up and ask mild-mannered questions. Nonsense! These people are trying to take away your health care in six weeks!” After Hannity accuses Democrats and reform advocates of fomenting violence at the town hall meetings (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, and August 10, 2009), and Obama of urging Democrats to “infiltrate” town hall meetings “to create a confrontation,” Morris says of conservative Democrats who might turn from supporting reform: “If they are not terrorized during August, by the public outpouring, and they don’t have thousands and thousands of handwritten letters on their doorstep waiting for them when they return from the August recess, they’ll fold. But if they absolutely get an outpouring of public opinion, I think we can win this thing.” [NewsHounds, 8/11/2009]
Former health insurance executive Wendell Potter (see July 10, 2009), who formerly headed the PR division at Cigna, says that the skyrocketing profits of health care corporations and their executives are directly driving the industry’s opposition to health care reform. According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the profits of the US’s 10 largest health insurance companies rose 428 percent between 2000 and 2007. In 2000, those 10 companies made a combined profit of $2.4 billion. In 2007, those numbers had risen to $12.9 billion. During that seven-year period, the number of Americans without health insurance rose 19 percent. The CEOs of those 10 firms made an average of $11.9 million in 2007 alone. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow notes that the health insurance industry “bankrolled efforts to kill the last effort at health care reform” in 1994 (see Mid-January - February 4, 1994). In an interview with Maddow, Potter blames the insurance industry for much of the recent spate of “town hall” disruptions that have helped derail debate over 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, August 6-8, 2009, August 8, 2009, and August 10, 2009) “and a lot of the deception that’s going on in terms of disinformation that many Americans apparently are believing.” Potter goes on to note that health insurance firms are making tremendous profits on the steady erosion of paid premiums going to fund medical claims. In 1993, the industry paid out roughly 95 percent of the premiums they took in to claims. In 2007, that number had dropped to 80 percent. Insurance firms also routinely “kick sick people off the rolls when they do get sick or when people get injured.… [A]nd also, they’re paying fewer claims.” The health insurance industry is dead set against the so-called “public option,” Potter says, for the simple reason that a publicly run alternative to private insurance would cost its members profits. [MSNBC, 8/11/2009]
A protester displays a handmade sign advocating “Death to Obama” and to his family. [Source: WHAG-TV]At a “town hall” meeting to discuss health care reform, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) is plagued with “almost non-stop” hecklers who “hoot and holler” at his every statement, according to the Baltimore Sun. Outside the town hall, an opponent of health care reform holds a small, handwritten sign that says: “Death to Obama. Death to Obama—Michelle and 2 stupid kids.” (The man is detained by Secret Service agents.) The event, held at Towson University, is packed with anti-reform protesters, who regularly outshout those who have come to support Cardin and health care reform. Cardin is a proponent of the Democrats’ health care reform efforts. “I know some of you don’t want me to mention the facts, but listen to the facts,” he says towards the beginning of the event, drawing screams and catcalls from the protesters. Cardin’s every statement is greeted with jeers and shouts, and protesters break “into raucous cheers” when their fellows yell dismissive or abusive remarks towards him. According to the Sun reporters in attendance, Cardin keeps calm throughout the event. His statements that illegal immigrants would not be given coverage under the plan receives some of the heaviest levels of profane jeering and booing; in contrast, one of the longest and loudest ovations comes when an audience member asks why tort reform is not part of the reform plan. When one audience member asks if Cardin will put himself under a public plan, he retorts: “I’m in a public plan. It’s called Medicare.” Cardin is protected throughout the event by a large number of uniformed university security officers. About 500 people make their way inside; hundreds more are turned away and conduct their own protests, arguments, disputes, and screaming matches outside the venue. One supporter tells a reporter: “I guess we’re going to rally and scream at each other. It’s ridiculous, but you can’t just have one side control the whole discussion.” One protester, carrying a sign reading “Obama Lies, Seniors Die” (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, and August 11, 2009), tells reporters, “I’m not a mob.” Cardin addresses the “euthanasia” issue in the venue, assuring the audience, “There would be nothing in a health overhaul plan about terminating people’s care at the end of life.” He then adds, “And by the way, President Obama is also a citizen of the United States.” [Baltimore Sun, 8/11/2009; MSNBC, 8/13/2009; Associated Press, 8/13/2009]
Andrew Breitbart. [Source: Media Bistro (.com)]Conservative activist and blogger Andrew Breitbart uses recent allegations by St. Louis tea party activist Kenneth Gladney to attack the Obama administration, the “liberal” media, and others. Gladney claims to have been “savagely beaten” by “union thugs” during a recent town hall forum in St. Louis (see August 6-8, 2009 and August 8, 2009). Gladney is “under fire” from what Breitbart calls “the Democrat-Media Complex (the natural coalition of the Democratic Party and the mainstream media)”; CNN’s Anderson Cooper, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, and others, Breitbart writes, have “led the charge” in attacking tea party members, who they derisively call “tea baggers,” a term Breitbart says tea party members find offensive. The media, along with many Congressional Democrats, are working in collusion to deride and delegitimize the tea parties, Breitbart says. Breitbart turns to the Gladney incident, saying that Gladney was “viciously attacked” by “Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members,” one of whom called him a “n_gger,” Breitbart alleges. “These union thugs were directed by the White House to go to the protests and ‘punch back twice as hard,’” Breitbart continues, “[a]nd they did.” Only Fox News is reporting the Gladney story, Breitbart claims, while the “liberal media” resolutely ignores it. He concludes: “With the Democratic Party in control of all branches of government and the Fourth Estate acting as the Democratic Party’s protector, the tea party movement is the closest thing America has to checks and balances. If that isn’t enough to motivate you, perhaps showing your solidarity with Kenneth Gladney, a fellow patriot, is.” [Washington Times, 8/10/2009] 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.
The progressive news Web site AlterNet publishes an analysis of how health insurance and medical industry firms use so-called “Astroturf” organizations (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) to work against health care reform. One firm investigated is the Medicines Company, a small pharmaceutical firm, which has hired the Washington lobbying firm DLA Piper to promote its interests, including fighting health care reform. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) is a senior policy adviser for DLA Piper, and heads the “grassroots” organization FreedomWorks, which apparently conducts protests and advocacy for the interests of DLA Piper’s clients (see April 14, 2009). The AlterNet analysis, by Adele M. Stan, accuses Armey of having a conflict of interest in his dual roles as lobbyist and “grassroots” organizer. The Medicines Company’s contract with DLA Piper comprises 15 percent of that firm’s business. (The Medicines Company will later claim that it does not contract with any lobbying firms to influence anyone’s position on health care legislation.) Other “Astroturf” organizations such as Grassfire.org and its subsidiary, ResistNet, are also involved in combating reform. ResistNet bills itself as “[t]he online community for patriotic citizens who are opposing the Obama-led socialist agenda.” The home page of ResistNet’s Web site features a video entitled “Obama Equals Hitler.” ResistNet is run by Grassfire, which says it funds ResistNet as part of “our overall patriotic resistance efforts.” Stan expands her analysis to include media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose NewsCorp owns Fox News. NewsCorp invests heavily in health industry firms, and, according to Stan, would profit by keeping reform from becoming law. Stan notes that one of Murdoch’s key hires was radio and former CNN host Glenn Beck. Beck was hired, Stan claims, to host a Fox News show and to organize a group called the 9/12 Project. Beck’s 9/12 Project, which, like Grassfire and ResistNet, serves as a “social networking” tool to bring together reform opponents, has been involved in a number of raucous anti-reform protests (see June 30, 2009 and August 6, 2009). Stan says the combination of these elements, along with what she calls “an oppressed-white-people narrative that has its roots in the origins of what used to be called the New Right,” has created the “perfect storm” of converging trends to create a chaotic and confrontational season for anti-reform protests and lobbyists. [AlterNet (.org), 8/10/2009; MSNBC, 8/14/2009]
Entity Tags: ResistNet, News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, Medicines Company, FreedomWorks, Glenn Beck, AlterNet (.org), Adele M. Stan, 9/12 Project, DLA Piper, Grassfire (.org), Dick Armey, Fox News
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters documents a number of instances where conservative commentators twist the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) into accusations of “calling Americans Nazis” or accusing citizens of being “un-American.” Hoyer and Pelosi wrote an op-ed in USA Today saying that for groups of corporate-sponsored protesters to disrupt and prevent open debate on the topic of health care reform was un-American (see August 10, 2009). Apparently the “Nazi” accusation comes in part from recent allegations by Rush Limbaugh that Pelosi and other Democrats have used Nazi accusations of their own (see August 6, 2009) and have, themselves, adopted Nazi symbology and precepts (see August 6, 2009).
MSNBC's Scarborough - MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, says on his show, “[O]n the left, you’ve got a speaker calling Americans un-American for going to town hall meetings and accusing them of carrying swastikas in there.” Scarborough goes on to say that it is not right to counter right-wing accusations and disruptions “by calling your opponents Nazis.”
Fox News Anchor - Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett says, “First of all, in the beginning, Pelosi sort of suggested that any American citizen who dared voice an objection in a protest is a Nazi, apparently based on one isolated incident.” Former George H. W. Bush speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote that Pelosi called protesters “Nazi-like.”
Wall Street Journal Columnist - Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto echoed Noonan, writing that Pelosi “insinuated that they [protesters] are Nazis,” and added that Nazi analogies are “far more common on the left than the right.” Limbaugh said flatly that Pelosi “is saying the people who oppose this are Nazis.”
Washington Times Op-Eds - The Washington Times says that Pelosi is “misleading” in asserting that protesters were “carrying swastikas.” Instead, the Times writes, “Closer examination [of the protest signs being carried at the town hall forums and rallies] revealed that in every case, the symbol was being used as a warning against the arrogance of power of which Mrs. Pelosi has become emblematic.” Citizen journalist Andrew Breitbart, in a Washington Times editorial, says that Pelosi “blatantly lied and said that the protesters were wielding ‘swastikas and symbols like that.’” The Wall Street Journal called Pelosi “completely clueless” for saying that anyone carried Nazi symbols to protests. Taranto wrote that Pelosi was suffering from “a fevered imagination” in seeing swastikas at protests and rallies. [Media Matters, 8/11/2009]
Fox Hosts - Fox News hosts Gretchen Carlson and Steve Doocy tell their viewers that Hoyer and Pelosi called protesters “un-American.” Carlson says, “Some lawmakers are outright canceling the town halls now, and Nancy Pelosi says anyone who speaks out is un-American.” Doocy says moments later: “Of course, going back to Nancy Pelosi saying that apparently the opposing view to her view is un-American, that’s our text question this hour. Is it un-American to debate health care?” [Media Matters, 8/10/2009]
Protests of Nazi Rhetoric - The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization, has protested the use of Nazi symbols and rhetoric both by anti-health care reform protesters and by conservative commentators (see August 7, 2009).
Entity Tags: Media Matters, Gretchen Carlson, Gregg Jarrett, Andrew Breitbart, Joseph Scarborough, James Taranto, Washington Times, Steve Doocy, Steny Hoyer, Rush Limbaugh, Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan, Nancy Pelosi
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
Betty Anne McCaskill watches as her daughter Claire McCaskill addresses the audience. [Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch]Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) brings an effective ally to a potentially contentious health care reform discussion at Jefferson College in Missouri: her aging and ill, but outspoken, mother. Betsy Anne McCaskill, an octogenarian who suffers from diabetes and heart problems, calls herself “Exhibit No. 1” in the debate over reform. She interrupts the forum early on to give her daughter advice: “As Harry Truman said, give ‘em hell.”
Winning Over the Crowd - The McCaskills are interrupted at the outset by shouts and boos, but as the event continues, they win over the bulk of the crowd—some 2,000 strong, held in the campus field house—with what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch later calls their “mix of frank talk and tough love.” Senator McCaskill says after the event: “I just hope that the word goes out that every member of Congress can and should have these kind of meetings. I don’t think we should shy away from public discourse just because it gets a little rocky.”
Confusion over Contents of Bill - She fields a number of tough questions, and assures that the reform plans will neither fund abortions nor require citizens to change their health care plans or insurance providers. After the forum, many tell reporters that they aren’t sure McCaskill was entirely honest with them. One expresses a concern that many seem to share: confusion over exactly what is and what is not in the bill. “It doesn’t seem to be as transparent as [President] Obama promised. It seems to be a hurry-up-and-get-it-done attitude.” A Tea Party protester says he appreciated McCaskill’s openness and candor. “She’s got a lot of guts to be here,” he says. “I have to give her a lot of credit.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/12/2009]
One Arrest over Racial Confrontation - One man is arrested when he tears a sign from the grip of veteran Democratic activist Maxine Johnson. The sign is not about health care, but is a poster of famed civil rights activist Rosa Parks, depicted on the poster as the “First Lady of Civil Rights.” As posters and signs are not allowed in the hall, Johnson and several friends, who brought similar posters, had rolled them up once entering the venue and being “booed and berated” by the crowd, according to one reporter. A journalist asks Johnson to show her the poster; when she does, anti-reform protester James Winfrey rips it from her hands and begins crumpling it up. An angry Johnson is escorted from the building, but Winfrey is later charged with third-degree assault. One witness later says that Winfrey just “came over and grabbed” the poster from Johnson’s hand. Watching the brief conflict, McCaskill says from the podium, “I’ll bet you a dollar that’s all they show on the news tonight.” During the conflict, a security officer asks McCaskill if she wants to exit the forum for her own safety. She responds, “Not on your life.” [Talking Points Memo, 8/11/2009; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/12/2009; Huffington Post, 8/12/2009] According to liberal blogger Pam Spaulding, the apparent racism evidenced by Winfrey is not an isolated incident at the venue. One African-American woman is accosted by a white woman who tells her how tired she is of “n_ggers” and “baby killers,” and President Obama is depicted in signs, pamphlets, and posters outside the hall as, Spaulding writes, “some sort of Nazi, socialist, foreign born, communist, Muslim, euthanasia enthusiast, fascist who wants to tyrannically impose new environmental standards to perpetuate the dangerous myth of global warming all the while teaching the wee little babies about birth control in pre-school and plotting to knock off Grandma.” [Pam Spaulding, 8/12/2009]
Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) writes a letter to Michigan resident Mike Sola, who was removed from a riotous health care forum hosted by Dingell days before (see August 6, 2009). Sola had accused Dingell and the Obama administration of wanting to kill his son, afflicted with cerebral palsy, with their health care reform initiative, currently labeled HR 3200: America’s Affordable Health Choices Act. Dingell writes to Sola: “I know you left last week’s health care reform town hall in Romulus without answers to your question about what the bill does to help people with disabilities. I attempted to explain an amendment which was adopted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but sadly before I was able to give the details of that amendment, the crowd became disruptive.” Dingell details one element of the House bill, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, “which would create a new, voluntary national insurance program for adults who become functionally disabled.… The CLASS Act is widely supported by many disability groups including United Cerebral Palsy, American Association of People with Disabilities, Assisted Living Federation of America, National Council on Aging, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, and the Catholic Health Association of the United States.… The legislation is based on the principles of independence, choice, and empowerment, and creates a framework to help individuals gain access to the care they need to live independently.… Beyond the CLASS Act amendment, there are other parts of HR 3200 that will guarantee care for your son. First, this bill ends the insurance practice of denying coverage due to a pre-existing condition or charging higher premiums based on health status and gender. If your son ever had to buy insurance on his own, he would be guaranteed coverage. In addition, the bill ends lifetime limits on benefits. With the status quo, no such guarantee exists. Also, HR 3200 will ensure that no one will ever again go bankrupt because of medical bills. The bill ends lifetime limits on benefits, which should bring a particular comfort to all families who have a loved one with a disability because they often need a lot of costly medical care.” Dingell outlines a number of elements of the bill, and concludes: “Finally, your son will have a range of options when it comes to insurance plans. He will be able to keep his current plan, if so desired. No one will force him into any plan against his will.” [US House of Representatives, 8/11/2009]
Entity Tags: National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Council on Aging, United Cerebral Palsy, Obama administration, Mike Sola, Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, American Association of People with Disabilities, John Dingell, Assisted Living Federation of America, Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, US House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Catholic Health Association of the United States
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
Representative Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), who a month ago said that the Obama administration’s ideas on health care reform would send a message to senior citizens to “drop dead,” says that the idea of “death panels” as touted by former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and others (see July 16, 2009, August 7, 2009, and August 10, 2009), is untrue. Brown-Waite opposes the Democrats’ health care reform in the House because it would cut funds from the Medicare Advantage program, costing some senior citizens more money. Of the so-called “death panels” provision, Brown-Waite notes, “It doesn’t say that they’re going to receive counseling on euthanasia, that’s not what it says.” And, she adds, lawmakers are not considering “some of the gruesome options opponents are slinging around as scare tactics” (see July 24, 2009). “I do not believe that Americans would ever accept end-of-life care advice that included any form of ways to end one’s life.” Some conservative anti-reform protesters now consider Brown-Waite a “Democratic collaborator” for her comments, but she has won praise from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) for exposing Palin’s “death panel” rhetoric as a lie. “She put principle first and laid out the facts,” the AARP notes in a news release. [Ocala Star-Banner, 8/11/2009]
Header from the mailer sent out by 60+, depicting four senior citizens apparently suffering from lack of health care. [Source: 60+ / Plum Line]The “60 Plus Association” (60+), a conservative anti-health care reform organization, sends out what Washington Post commentator Greg Sargent calls a “brutal” mailer to Nebraska residents, depicting photos of senior citizens apparently suffering from various untreated ailments and making the questionable claim that health care reform would be funded by $500 million in Medicare cuts. 60+ is leading a media push against the Democrats’ reform package by claiming that the government would institute so-called “death panels” (see Shortly Before August 10, 2009). Sargent writes: “This is kind of a new frontier in the scare campaign targeting old folks: It links the prediction of drastic Medicare cuts to the widely-debunked claim that health care reform will lead to mass government euthanasia of the elderly” (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, and August 11, 2009). The mailer repeats the widely discredited claim that the government could deny you treatment even if “you and your doctor insist on them,” and quotes President Obama as saying during one “town hall” forum, “Maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.” Sargent notes: “Taken out of context, the comment sounds like a callous declaration to a patient that he or she should suck it up and forget about getting needed care. In fact, Obama was actually discussing the difficulties inherent in helping the elderly make good medical decisions.” [Plum Line, 8/11/2009]
Top “tea party” and other conservative organizers, taking part in a private conference call, discuss their primary goal for health care reform: blocking any kind of compromise entirely, and ensuring that no health care reform package of any kind is passed. An AFL-CIO organizer manages to get involved in the call, and his notes are provided to, first, the union itself, and then to the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. The call consists of representatives of powerful lobbying and “grassroots” organizations (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) such as the American Liberty Alliance, the “Tea Party Patriots,” and RecessRally.com (see August 5, 2009). [Plum Line, 8/11/2009] The conference call is sponsored by the “Tea Party Patriots,” which labels itself the “official grassroots American movement.” The group is sponsored and organized by, among other organizations, FreedomWorks (see April 14, 2009). When the “Tea Party Patriots” organized a trip to Washington in July, FreedomWorks provided the members with prepared packets of information and briefed them on how a visit to Capitol Hill works. [MSNBC, 8/12/2009] Sargent writes: “It’s certain to be seized on by [Democrats] to argue that organized tea party opposition to [President] Obama has no constructive intentions and is fomenting public ‘concern’ about Obama’s plan solely to prevent any reform from ever taking place. GOP officials would argue that they don’t share these goals.” The moderator on the call tells participants that bipartisan compromise on the Senate Finance Committee, where senators are holding talks, must be stopped at all costs. Organizers are told to pressure Republican senators seen as likely to compromise with Senate Democrats, including Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), to stop the negotiating. “The goal is not compromise, and any bill coming out this year would be a failure for us,” the moderator says. He adds that “the Democrats will turn even a weak bill from the Senate Finance Committee into Canadian-style single-payer through underhanded implementation.” Single-payer, or a system of government-only health care, is not in any versions of the legislation in either house of Congress. Another organizer says, “The purpose of tea parties is not to find a solution to the health care crisis—it is to stop what is not the solution: Obamacare.” A spokeswoman for the American Liberty Alliance later acknowledges that comments like the ones noted by the AFL-CIO source were likely made, and that the organization’s specific goal is to prevent the current legislation in Congress from becoming law. No audio of the call exists, she claims. A “tea party” organizer later denies that his organization has any intention of “politically ‘accepting’ or denying legislation.” [Plum Line, 8/11/2009]
Entity Tags: Greg Sargent, American Liberty Alliance, AFL-CIO, Barack Obama, FreedomWorks, Senate Finance Committee, Charles Grassley, Olympia Snowe, Mike Enzi, Tea Party Patriots, Recess Rally
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
A swastika painted by an unknown party on the office sign of a Democratic supporter of health care reform. [Source: Associated Press]A swastika is found spray-painted on a sign outside the district office of Representative David Scott (D-GA), an African-American Democrat and health care reform supporter. Scott says the swastika reflects an increasingly hateful and racist debate over health care; he hopes it may shock people into toning down their rhetoric. Scott’s staff found the Nazi graffiti sprayed on a sign outside his Smyrna, Georgia, office upon arriving to work. On August 1, Scott had been involved in a contentious debate over health care reform at a community meeting that was intended to be about plans for a new highway in the district. Scott says he has received mail and e-mails calling him “n_gger,” terming President Obama a Marxist, and photos of Obama with swastikas painted on his forehead. Scott reads one of the letters on the air to CNN’s Carlos Watson: “They address it to n_gger David Scott,” he says, and reads, “‘You were, you are, and you shall forever be, a n_gger.’ I got this in the mail today. Somewhere underneath this, bubbling up, is the ugly viscissitudes of racism. We should be proud we have an African-American president and celebrating him willing to take on the difficult issue of health care, an issue that reflects 19 percent of our economy. Here we are in Congress trying to grapple with an almost impossible task—almost two improbables together, bring the cost of health care down while expanding the coverage of it. That is a difficult assignment and it should not be relegated to these mobs of people who will come and hijack a meeting.… We have got to make sure that the symbol of the swastika does not win, that the racial hatred that’s bubbling up does not win this debate. There’s so much hatred out there for President Obama.… We must not allow it to intimidate us.” The Smyrna Police Department, along with the US Capitol Police and the FBI, are investigating the vandalism of the sign. [Associated Press, 8/11/2009; WXIA-TV, 8/11/2009; Huffington Post, 8/12/2009]
Targeted by Fox News Talk Show Host - Liberal news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that the day before the vandalism, Fox News host Glenn Beck had targeted Scott in a tirade against health care reform, saying in part: “Congressman, how many Americans… have called and called and called, only to be treated like swine? You know what? I’m not sure, Congressman, if you are aware that not everybody has access to a brand new Gulfstream G550 [luxury jet]. I mean, it might be tough for the average Joe, who makes $129,000 less than you do to swing by the office for a meeting in Washington, DC. We hope you understand and accept our offer instead to use a common alternative to private jets that are so much better for the environment called the telephone. America, you call your congressman. You call just—the congressman that represents you. You call your senator right now.” [Think Progress, 8/11/2009]
'Liberal Conspiracy' - Within minutes of the story becoming news, right-wing commentators and bloggers begin stating their belief that the swastika was painted by liberals to stir up controversy. The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack writes: “It’s possible that a neo-Nazi actually vandalized Rep. Scott’s offices. But given the fact that the Nazi imagery so neatly dovetails with the left’s smearing of health care protesters as fascists (see August 10-11, 2009), isn’t it more likely that this act of vandalism was committed by one of Scott’s supporters?” The next day, conservative blogger John Hawkins writes that “a liberal” probably painted the swastika on Scott’s sign. “Let’s see, you have a congressman who loves to play the race card and a controversial health care debate that the Left is losing,” he writes. “If you’re a liberal, painting a swastika on his door might look like a pretty good idea.” [Weekly Standard, 8/11/2009; John Hawkins, 8/12/2009] Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh tells his listeners: “I don’t buy this. This is too politically convenient.… I think the Democrats are doing this themselves.” [Media Matters, 8/11/2009]
'Frightening Display of Bigotry and Ignorance' - Scott’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Wright, says she believes the accusations that Scott sympathizers painted the swastika are “funny.” Bill Nigut, the Southeast Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, says the swastika is a “frightening display of bigotry and ignorance that should not be tolerated by a democratic society.” [Think Progress, 8/11/2009]
Entity Tags: Fox News, Glenn Beck, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Carlos Watson, Bill Nigut, Jennifer Wright, Barack Obama, Smyrna Police Department, John Hawkins, US Capitol Police, David Scott, Rush Limbaugh, John McCormack
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) tells progressive MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that, although he believes much of the dissent against health care reform is genuine and many of the protesters against reform are “legitimately angry,” he believes that much of that anger and concern “is based on the fear that—on the fears that people in Washington, that corporate lobbyists, the fears they play on to create fear among people. You know, frankly, Rachel, if we had had these kind of corporate groups in Washington, they were around—been around the country creating the fear that we just saw on television. If we had seen that 45 years ago, we probably never would have gotten Medicare (see 1962). That’s why it’s so important to patiently, one person at a time, explain what this health care bill is about. Be patient, even with the anger people show. Don’t let them show disrespect. But at least, stand your ground. Don’t get angry. Don’t fight back, but answer calmly and rationally, because we need to pass this health care bill the same way that some pretty gutsy people 44 years ago passed Medicare.” The people who are “screaming euthanasia, socialized medicine” are “the people that are the most fearful.” He recalls speaking with one elderly Ohio woman who told him: “I hate socialized medicine. I don’t want government in my health care.” Brown recalls: “I asked her if she’s on Medicare. She said, ‘Yes, and I’m really pleased with my Medicare.’ Those people need education instead of the fear-mongers playing up on their fears.” [MSNBC, 8/12/2009]
Hundreds wait in line for dental care at the Remote Area Medical clinic at The Forum. [Source: UPI / Jim Ruymen]The New York Times cites an eight-day health care event in Inglewood, California, as evidence of the overwhelming need for health care reform. Thousands of residents, who either lack any health insurance at all or are underinsured, line up every day outside The Forum, where the Los Angeles Lakers used to play professional basketball, to see a doctor, dentist, or nurse. The event serves 1,500 people per day; hundreds more are unable to get in to be seen. “It looked as if it was happening in an underdeveloped country, where villagers might assemble days in advance for care from a visiting medical mission,” the Times writes. “But it was happening in a major American metropolitan area. This vast, palpable need for help is a shameful indictment of our health care system—one that politicians opposed to reform insist is the world’s best.” The event is run by an organization called Remote Area Medical, originally formed to provide critical care to natives living in the Amazon basin. But the group realized that tremendous need exists within America itself, and began delivering free services in rural areas of the country. It has now expanded into urban areas. The first day, the group sees around 1,000 patients, and asks hundreds more to return the next day. By August 13, it has all available slots for the eight-day event committed. The Times writes: “The clinics are an inspiring example of what dedicated volunteers can do. But they are temporary events and come nowhere near to meeting the nation’s needs. Health care reforms under consideration in Congress could make big strides toward filling the gaps: by offering less costly insurance on new exchanges; by expanding Medicaid to cover more poor people and reaching out more vigorously to enroll them; by subsidizing coverage for low-income people; by helping increase the supply of primary care doctors; by requiring insurers to offer essential benefits and preventing them from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.… Americans deserve to know all of the facts, including that tens of millions of their neighbors and friends have no health insurance coverage at all or insurance that is grossly inadequate. If they still have doubts about why reform is so necessary, they should take another look at those lines in Inglewood.” [Guardian, 8/12/2009; New York Times, 8/15/2009; United Press International, 8/15/2009]
Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), fresh from a contentious “town hall” meeting on health care reform, holds another such forum in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Though the Lebanon auditorium seats only 250, over 1,000 show up for the forum. Those who arrive first get in first, and therefore many anti-reform protesters enter the auditorium to grill Specter, while many union members and pro-reformers are left to mill about in the parking lot outside. Many of the protesters come in response to e-mail alerts sent from local and national anti-tax, anti-reform, and “tea party” organizations, along with Specter’s own mailings. The New York Times reports that many protesters repeat slogans and questions recently aired on conservative talk radio shows, though when asked about their propensity to parrot material from such sources, the reporters receive indignant protestations of the protesters’ independence. Many shout that they are not mob members or puppets, though the chants seem orchestrated, and some of the protesters were bused in by the lobbying organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see May 29, 2009). Many of the protesters, according to the Times, are there to protest about issues other than health care. One protester says health care reform is just one aspect of the Obama administration’s plans for “the dismantling of this country,” a line which draws loud applause. “We don’t want this country to turn into Russia.” One local “tea party” organizer, John Stahl, says the issues debated at the forum go well beyond health care. “We believe there are several issues out there that leave the existence of the Republic at risk,” he says, “not the least of which is this Obamacare.” Many want to talk about enforced euthanasia of elderly 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, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009), immigration policy, and other concerns. In an attempt to impose some order on the forum, Specter imposes a rigid format, allowing only the first 30 people who wish to speak to submit cards with their questions. He also stands face-to-face with questioners, and allows them to speak fully before giving answers. The auditorium is patrolled by three uniformed Capitol Police officers from Washington as well as local law enforcement. One protester, Craig Miller, becomes involved with the police when he stands close to Specter and bellows, “You are trampling our Constitution!” The officers move in to restrain him but Specter asks them to give Miller his space and allow him to leave the venue under his own power. Miller refuses to leave, and instead shouts, “One day, God is going to stand before you, and he’s going to judge you!” Specter then informs the rowdy, cheering protesters that anyone who disrupts the proceedings will be removed. [New York Times, 8/11/2009]
CNBC, a cable business news outlet, contacts “tea party” activisits looking for anti-health care reform protests that will be confrontational and violent enough to make good television. Jenny Beth Martin, the national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots organization, sends an e-mail to a “tea party” Google group that reads: “We have a media request for an event this week that will have lots of energy and lots of anger. This is for CNBC.… So, where are the big events this week and where can TPP best be represented on the news?” A group member, Pat Wayman, responds with a suggestion that CNBC sends crews to a health fair hosted by Representative David Scott (D-GA), where uninsured people can receive free medical care. “This one should be a riot! literally,” Wayman writes, and notes, “This is the congressman who got a swastika painted on his office sign last night” (see August 11, 2009). Wayman also includes a link to a right-wing Web site listing the Scott event. Martin will later deny recommending the Scott event or any others to CNBC for coverage, saying her group “does not endorse anything that incites violence of any kind.” She also notes that the e-mail list is unmoderated, and says, “I can’t moderate every single comment.” She will confirm that CNBC solicited an event with “lots of energy and lots of anger,” saying, “That was the impression that I received from them.” Later, Martin informs her organization that it will not become involved in Scott’s health fair. In an e-mail, she will write: “I have thought about this more and think it would be best to send a press release saying how we think the health fair is a perfect example of free market events. That we support free markets and the fact that in America we are compassionate and take care of the uninsured. Look at these businesses who are doing this without the government taking over our health care. I think TPP does not need to have a presence there. If the other groups want to do it, that is their prerogative. Right now Tea Party Patriots is under a ton of scrutiny and we need to make sure our methods are above reproach.” [TPM Muckraker, 8/12/2009]
Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) denounces comments by President Obama (see August 11, 2009) and press secretary Robert Gibbs that, he says, implies he supports some version of the Democrats’ health care reform legislation. The day before, Isakson had told reporters that claims by former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and others about so-called “death panels” were “nuts” (see August 10, 2009). Isakson says he “vehemently opposes” both the House and Senate versions of reform legislation, and denies that he drafted language in the bill calling for the government to expand Medicare and provide for “end-of-life counseling.” In a statement, he says: “I categorically oppose the House bill and find it incredulous that the White House and others would use my amendment as a scapegoat for their misguided policies. My Senate amendment simply puts health care choices back in the hands of the individual and allows them to consider if they so choose a living will or durable power of attorney. The House provision is merely another ill-advised attempt at more government mandates, more government intrusion, and more government involvement in what should be an individual choice.” [US Senate, 8/11/2009]
Congressman Dennis Moore (D-KS) reveals that he has received two credible and serious death threats in the last week, apparently over his support for health care reform. One was in the form of a phone call to his congressional office; the other was a threat he says he does not feel comfortable discussing with the media. [MSNBC, 8/13/2009]
A montage of photos aired by Glenn Beck in April 2009, featuring Hitler, Stalin, and Lenin. Beck’s voiceover asked, ‘Is this where we’re heading?’ [Source: Media Matters]Fox News host Glenn Beck shows a four-minute video montage filled with images of Nazis, and speaks on what he says is “the beginnings of and the history of eugenics.” During his presentation, Beck warns that “the people who are writing their blogs in the basement” are going to claim that “Glenn is saying eugenics is coming.” Beck denies he is making any such claim: “No, I am not. I am not saying anything like that at all. Eugenics are not coming.” Beck has made claims in the recent past that the Democrats’ health care reform proposal would lead to eugenics (see May 13, 2009). [Think Progress, 8/12/2009]
Eric Boehlert. [Source: Simon & Schuster]Eric Boehlert, an author and editor of the progressive news watchdog organization Media Matters, writes that, in his eyes, the media is ignoring the biggest “political story of the year”: “the unhinged radical-right response to [President] Obama’s inauguration and the naked attempt to dehumanize and delegitimize him through a nonstop smear campaign,” which he says is sponsored by the Republican Party and its conservative supporters. “The misguided movement breaks all kinds of taboos in American politics,” Boehlert writes, “as well as in the press, and is redefining our political culture—for the worse. Yet the press continues to play dumb.”
Playing the Nazi Card - Boehlert takes as his springboard the relative disinterest the mainstream media shows to the repeated accusations that Obama and/or Congressional Democrats are Nazis, or Nazi sympathizers, or have Nazi-like goals and ideals (see July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, and August 10-11, 2009), as well as the virtually unreported use of Nazi symbols and rhetoric at anti-health care protests (see July 25, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 4, 2009, and August 8, 2009). Boehlert notes that in January 2004, the liberal advocacy organization MoveOn received weeks of negative publicity and media attention when it briefly posted two amateur video clips on its Web site submitted as part of a contest for 30-second Internet advertisements against the policies of the Bush administration. The organization removed the clips within hours and apologized for posting them, but was berated for weeks over the ads. Now, Boehlert notes, Rush Limbaugh and other prominent conservative spokespersons routinely use accusations of Nazism in their rhetorical attacks on Obama and Democrats, with virtually no acknowledgement from the press. Boehlert writes: “Despite the fact that Limbaugh has not apologized for his comments—unlike MoveOn in 2004—and is continuing to compare the Obama White House and the Democratic Party with Nazis, many in the media don’t consider it newsworthy and haven’t condemned it. And more important, journalists don’t show any signs of believing that the episode tells us anything about the radically unhinged nature of the right-wing media in this country today.” Apparently, he writes, most media analysts just consider Limbaugh’s extreme rhetoric a case of “Rush being Rush.” But, he asks, if Limbaugh is going to be considered the de facto leader of conservative thought in America, why isn’t he being challenged on his use of what Boehlert calls “his radical and outrageous rhetoric.… He went to a place that previously was considered unconscionable and unpardonable by the press.… Why isn’t Limbaugh uniformly condemned for his words?”
Accusations of Racism, Racist Pronouncements - And Limbaugh is merely one of many. Fox News commentator Glenn Beck recently accused Obama of being a “racist” and having a “deep-seated hatred of white people” (see July 28-29, 2009), and outside of the small number of progressive/liberal hosts on MSNBC and a few scattered notations in the press, the accusation was virtually ignored. “At the [Washington] Post, which obsesses over the intersection of the media and politics,” Boehlert writes, “the jaw-dropping attack by Fox News’s superstar host wasn’t considered newsworthy. That’s correct: Two of the most popular and powerful conservative voices in America have recently called out Obama as a Nazi and a racist.”
Legitimizing Extremism - Boehlert assigns part of the blame to journalists being “spooked by decades’ worth of ‘liberal media bias’ attacks” that drive them to “refuse to connect the glaringly obvious dots on display.” The extreme rhetorical attacks dovetail with what he calls “the town hall mini-mobs that are wreaking havoc across the country” and “the bizarre birther conspiracy theory” that insists Obama is not a US citizen, but some sort of “plant” from Kenya brought to America to bring down American democracy. “The three right-wing phenomena are all related,” he writes, “and they all revolve around a runaway hatred of Obama (as well as the federal government), and they’re all being fueled by the [conservative media operation], especially Fox News and Limbaugh, both of which no longer recognize common decency, let alone journalistic standards. Yet instead of putting Limbaugh on the receiving end of well-deserved scrutiny and scorn, rather than turning his comments into a political firestorm, the press plays dumb and actually goes out of its way to legitimize the worst offenders of the GOP’s hate brigade.” Boehlert condemns ABC News for inviting conservative blogger and columnist Michelle Malkin to take part in a discussion of health care reform “with Pulitzer Prize-winning writers.” Malkin, he writes, is a prime member of the “hate brigade,” helping push the increasingly angry and violent mob confrontations as well as exhorting readers to believe that the Democrats want to exterminate the elderly (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 7, 2009, and August 10, 2009). The New Yorker recently praised Michael Savage, who routinely attacks women, gays, liberals, and minorities with the worst rhetorical excess (see January 10, 2008, February 1, 2008, February 21, 2008, March 13, 2008, April 3, 2008, June 6, 2008, June 6, 2008, August 25, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 21, 2008, October 22, 2008, November 10, 2008, and November 18, 2008), calling him “fun” and “addictive.”
Comparing the Statistics - Boehlert notes that in January 2004, the Indianapolis Star published five letters to the editor about the MoveOn controversy. To date, it has not published a single letter about Limbaugh’s Nazi accusations towards Obama or Democrats. In January 2004, 28 of the nation’s largest newspapers published a total of 54 stories, articles, or letters about the MoveOn controversy. To date, that group has published a combined total of six stories about Limbaugh’s Nazi allegations. No paper has printed more than one story on the topic. In January 2004, the MoveOn-Nazi story garnered 300 percent more airtime on CNN than the Limbaugh-Nazi story has received. [Media Matters, 8/11/2009]
Entity Tags: Indianapolis Star, Glenn Beck, Eric Boehlert, Barack Obama, ABC News, Washington Post, Rush Limbaugh, MoveOn (.org), Obama administration, Michael Savage, Media Matters, MSNBC, Fox News, New Yorker, Republican Party, Michelle Malkin
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections, 2010 Elections
Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck compares the media’s portrayal of “tea party” participants to the Nazis’ portrayal of anti-Nazi “complainers.” Beck shows his viewers a poster from Nazi Germany depicting “complainers” about Nazi policies, saying, “This is a poster of what you see every day now in the news media making the complainers, the tea partygoers, look somehow rotten.” [Media Matters, 8/11/2009]
Protester William Kostric, bearing his sign and wearing a gun strapped to his leg. [Source: London Daily Mail]President Obama holds a “town hall” meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to discuss health care. Although the audience is allowed to attend on a first-come first-served basis, it is comprised mostly of health care reform supporters. During the event, Obama repeatedly solicits questions from skeptics of his health care plan, telling the audience, “I don’t want people thinking I have a bunch of plants in here.” In his remarks, Obama addresses what he calls some of the “wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to what’s in the [reform] bill.” He says for years, patients have been “held hostage” by insurance companies, and adds that “for all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary” and risky would be the status quo, such as projections that Medicare will be in the red within five years. [ABC News, 8/11/2009; Think Progress, 8/11/2009] Seventy percent of the participants in the town hall were chosen in a random, online lottery, without consideration of political affiliation. The questions Obama answers are not prescreened. [MSNBC, 8/12/2009]
Debunking 'Death Panels' - Obama opens by saying: “I do hope that we will talk with each other and not over each other. Where we do disagree, let’s disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that’s actually been proposed.… Because the way politics works sometimes is that people who want to keep things the way they are will try to scare the heck out of folks. And they’ll create boogeymen out there that just aren’t real.” [MSNBC, 8/12/2009] Obama notes the claim of so-called “death panels that will pull the plug on Grandma,” directly referring to former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK)‘s recent claim that the Democrats intend to create “death panels” that would decide who lives and dies (see August 7, 2009). Obama responds: “[I]t turns out that this, I guess, rose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care,” as well as living wills, hospice care, and the like. The “intention” is to help patients prepare for “end of life on their own terms.” Ironically, Obama adds, one of the chief sponsors of this idea is a Republican, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who “sensibly thought this would expand people’s options.” (Isakson takes issue with being identified as a sponsor of “end-of-life” counseling—see August 11, 2009). Obama says that beneath the false claims of “death panels” exists a real concern: “if we are reforming the health system to make it more efficient that somehow that will mean rationing of care.” He gives an example of such a concern: “some bureaucrat” saying “You can’t have this test, you can’t have this procedure” because “some bean counter” says so. This will not be the case, Obama says. The reform package would ensure that doctors and patients, not bureaucrats, make such decisions. He notes that insurance company bureaucrats “right now are rationing care.… So why is it that people would prefer having insurance companies making those decisions rather than medical experts and doctors figuring out what are good deals for care?” Obama tells his listeners: “I want to be very clear” about the “underlying fear that people won’t get the care they need. You will have the care you need, but also care that is being denied to you right now—that is what we are fighting for.” [ABC News, 8/11/2009; Think Progress, 8/11/2009]
Countering Claims of 'Enemies List' - Obama also counters recent claims that the White House is attempting to compile a list of “enemies” in asking that emails containing “fishy” health care information be forwarded to it. “Can I just say this is another example of how the media just ends up completely distorting what’s taking place?” he says. “What we’ve said is that if somebody has—if you get an email from somebody that says, for example, ‘ObamaCare is creating a death panel,’ forward us the email and we will answer the question that is being raised in the email. Suddenly, on some of these news outlets, this is being portrayed as Obama collecting an enemies list. Now, come on guys, here I am trying to be responsive to questions that are being raised out there—and I just want to be clear that all we’re trying to do is answer questions.” In recent days, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) claimed that the White House “want[s] information on opponents of its health care plan.” [Think Progress, 8/11/2009]
Advocating Violence outside the Venue - Outside the venue, a man, William Kostric, stands in the crowd with a gun strapped to his leg. Under New Hampshire law, he is within his rights to openly carry a handgun. He carries a sign that reads, “It is time to water the tree of liberty.” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow notes: “It’s a reference, of course, to Thomas Jefferson’s famous words, ‘The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.’ For perspective on the implication of Jefferson’s words in this context being quoted by the guy with the gun at the event as which the president was speaking, when Timothy McVeigh was arrested 90 minutes after the Oklahoma City bombing, he was wearing a t-shirt with that slogan and a picture of Abraham Lincoln on the front and a tree dripping with blood in the back” (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). Maddow later notes that McVeigh’s shirt bore the words “Sic Semper Tyrannis”—“thus always to tyrants”—the words shouted by Lincoln’s assassin after firing the fatal shot. Another anti-reform protester, Richard Terry Young, is arrested by security officials after sneaking inside the building hours before Obama arrives. He is carrying a knife on his person and a .38 caliber semi-automatic pistol in his truck with a round in the chamber. A number of anti-reform protesters from the New Hampshire Republican Volunteer Coalition also stage a protest outside the event. One advocates murdering all undocumented immigrants: “Why are we bankrupting this country for 21 million illegals who should be sent on the first bus one way back from wherever they come from? We don’t need illegals. Send them home once. Send them home with a bullet in their head the second time. Read what Jefferson said about the Tree of Liberty—it’s coming, baby.” [Think Progress, 8/11/2009; MSNBC, 8/12/2009; MSNBC, 8/13/2009]
Entity Tags: William Kostric, Rachel Maddow, Medicare, New Hampshire Republican Volunteer Coalition, Barack Obama, John Cornyn, Johnny Isakson, Obama administration, Richard Terry Young
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism, 2010 Elections
Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) holds a “town hall” forum to discuss the Democrats’ health care reform efforts in the North Georgia Technical College auditorium. The audience is primarily white, elderly, and supportive of Broun’s opposition to reform. He begins by displaying three white binders to the audience and declaring: “Folks, this is Obamacare. Let me start this by telling you what I think of this bill and Obamacare.” He then raises the binders over his head and slams them to the ground. “This is a stinking, rotten fish, and they don’t want you to smell it, and they want to shove it down your throat and make you eat it before you smell how rotten and stinky it is,” he says, and promises to vote against the reform bill no matter how it is changed. Broun has made headlines by claiming the health care reform proposal “is gonna kill people” (see July 10, 2009) and comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler. During the forum, he calls Latin American socialist leaders Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez Obama’s “good buddy” (sic).
Reform an Excuse for Martial Law - Going even farther, Broun claims that a “socialist elite” made up of Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) intends to use a pandemic disease or natural disaster as an excuse to declare martial law. “They’re trying to develop an environment where they can take over,” he says. “We’ve seen that historically.”
Killing Old People - Broun feeds into his elderly audience’s concerns over the debunked claims that the reform proposal would lead to the euthanization or untimely death of American seniors (see July 23, 2009 and July 23, 2009). Obama “is going to let the old folks die, and I don’t like that at all,” one audience member says. Broun agrees, telling the audience that younger citizens would get preferential treatment over elderly patients. “Eventually, mama will be lying in bed until she gets pneumonia and dies,” he says. Citing a study by the Lewin Group, which has not only been debunked but shown to have been propagated by health insurance company UnitedHealth (see July 27, 2009), Broun tells his audience that under the reform bill, 114 million Americans will be forced off their employers’ insurance plans and onto a competing government-run plan because small businesses will not be able to pay for the mandated insurance. The reform proposal will lead to a government-only “single payer” system, he asserts. “They want to take away your insurance and dictate what kind of health care you’re going to get,” he warns. Furthermore, the government will end Medicare and other federal health care programs.
Broun's Alternative: 'Letting the Market Work' - Broun says his Republicans have an alternative: allowing groups of citizens to form private insurer groups and thusly enjoy group rates and other cost reductions. His other ideas include expanding Medicare’s stable of private providers, strictly capping malpractice lawsuits, making health care expenses tax-deductible, and relaxing some state insurers’ restrictions on pre-existing conditions. “We can lower the cost of health care markedly by giving people more options and letting the market work,” he says.
Supportive Crowd - The crowd is almost uniformly made up of Broun supporters, but one woman attempts to ask a question about covering the uninsured while Broun is speaking. Uniformed deputies remove her from the auditorium for a time before allowing her to return. When she asks another question during the question-and-answer period, audience menbers demand that the facilitators “cut her mic.” Broun conducts two sessions, the first containing some 400 participants and the second 150. The auditorium seats 250. [Think Progress, 8/12/2009; Atlanta Banner-Herald, 8/12/2009]
11-year-old Julia Hall asking her question during the Portsmouth town hall. [Source: Puma By Design (.com)]Conservatives attack an 11-year old girl who asks President Obama a question at a “town hall” rally held in New Hampshire (see August 11, 2009). Julia Hall, a sixth-grader from Malden, Massachusetts, asks: “As I was walking in, I saw a lot of signs outside saying mean things about reforming health care. How do kids know what is true, and why do people want a new system that can—that help more of us?” Obama gives a long response about the false rumors surrounding health care reform, including the debunked idea of “death panels” (see August 7, 2009). In their own responses, conservative pundits attack Hall for being an “Obama plant.” Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh tells his listeners that the entire town hall was “a stacked deck. That thing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was totally phony. The little girl that asked a question is the daughter of a huge Obama supporter.” One blogger makes the unsubstantiated claim that he could see a “mysterious” woman mouthing the girl’s question as she spoke, and shows a video of a woman saying something during Hall’s question, though it is unclear exactly what she is saying or whether she is speaking to the girl. Hall’s mother, Kathleen Manning Hall, later tells a Boston reporter that she had her daughter write down her question beforehand, and was “shocked” that her daughter had decided to try to ask a question of Obama. A Boston blogger notes, correctly, that Manning Hall is an Obama supporter, and adds that the White House said “that audience members are selected randomly.” Conservative author and pundit Michelle Malkin claims that Manning Hall “has donated thousands of dollars to Obama, as has her law firm,” and adds: “Now, look for Dems to play the kiddie human shield card to the hilt. Anyone who mentions Hall’s political pedigree will be attacked as a vicious meanie stalker.” The Washington Times adds its own criticism, misidentifying the girl’s age as 13 and stating, “It’s a sad commentary on the health care debate that the president has to resort to this kind of stunt to attempt to insulate his plan from criticism.” Hall herself later says she was thrilled to have been part of the debate, saying, “It was like a once in a lifetime experience.” She says she would like to “work in politics” when she gets older. [Raw Story, 8/12/2009]
Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson, commenting on the Democrats’ health care reform legislation on the morning show Fox and Friends, claims “no one is saying” that the reform package would 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, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009). “The president’s reform plan is a redistribution of health care,” Johnson says. “And what he’s saying is, I want to reduce hospital costs by $220 billion from Medicare. I want to cut out Medicare Advantage that affects 10 million people. I want to reduce imaging studies. I want to reduce electric wheelchairs. I want to reduce advanced nursing care in facilities. So no one is saying that the president wants to kill old people.” Unfortunately, on the very same program, Johnson said two weeks before that the reform package would indeed kill old people: “Some people are saying, well, this is a health care reform, other people say—maybe me—that this is a subtle form of euthanasia. And when you start looking at the proposals, you say, ‘God, what’s happening?’” Johnson has made similar accusations in the recent past, and said that under the reform proposals, America would become a “kind of 2009 ‘Brave New World,’ ‘Soylent Green,’ ‘1984,’ Aldous Huxley kind of world” where doctors will advise you to end your life rather than continue your care. [Media Matters, 7/28/2009; Media Matters, 7/31/2009; Media Matters, 8/3/2009; Think Progress, 8/12/2009]
President Obama as ‘The Joker.’ [Source: Paul M. Jones]Representative David Scott (D-GA), whose office was recently vandalized with a spray-painted swastika (see August 11, 2009), receives an anonymous fax depicting President Obama with a swastika drawn on his forehead. The fax also contains racial slurs and the statement, “[T]he Ethiopian cannot make himself white.” Last week another lawmaker, Brian Baird (D-WA), received a fax depicting Obama as the Joker (the villain from the popular Batman series of comics and movies), and proclaiming: “Death to All Marxists! Foreign and Domestic!” The Secret Service says the faxes are “potentially an investigative intelligence matter.” [Think Progress, 8/12/2009]
Wendell Potter, a former health insurance executive with CIGNA who has now become a whistleblower against the industry (see July 10, 2009 and August 10, 2009), says that the raucous and contentious protests at health care “town halls” are the result of what he calls “covert,” or “stealth” efforts by health insurance companies. Potter says he lacks the specifics for the current campaign, but he witnessed and actually took part in similar efforts in earlier years. This year’s efforts follow similar patterns to the ones he was familiar with, he says. “The industry is up to the same dirty tricks this year,” Potter says after meeting with House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who supports the Democrats’ health care reform initiative. “When you hear someone complaining about traveling down a ‘slippery slope to socialism,’ some insurance flack, like I used to be, wrote that,” Potter says. He notes that during his 20 years in the industry, he watched—and participated in—the industry’s funneling money to large public firms who would create “Astroturf,” or fake grassroots, organizations (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, August 6-7, 2009, and August 10, 2009) and use friendly conservative media voices. Slaughter says, “[T]he notion that this is going to be something devilish comes from the people who would lose money on it.” [The Hill, 8/12/2009]
Senator Grassley’s signature on the flyleaf of the book ‘Glenn Beck’s Common Sense.’ [Source: Think Progress (.org)]Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), one of the Republicans whom the Obama administration is looking to for help in making the health care reform legislation a bipartisan effort, tells a “town hall” audience that it should be frightened of the legislation because it will allow the government to “pull the plug on Grandma.” To a crowd of some 300 listeners in Winterset, Iowa, Grassley says: “In the House bill, there is counseling for end of life. You have every right to fear. You shouldn’t have counseling at the end of life, you should have done that 20 years before. Should not have a government-run plan to decide when to pull the plug on Grandma.” Grassley is echoing “deather” claims that the reform package will give the government power to pressure doctors to prematurely force elderly or terminally ill patients to die in order to save money (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 12, 2009), an idea former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) dubbed “death panels” (see August 7, 2009). Grassley’s fellow Republican, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who helped write that portion of the House bill, has called the idea “nuts” (see August 10, 2009). After the event, state senator Joe Bolkom (D-Iowa City) calls on Grassley to repudiate those who spread lies and disinformation about health care reform. Bolkom notes that a measure similar to that in the House bill has already been passed in Iowa by “large bipartisan majorities.” Grassley has previously said that terminally ill Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), dying of brain cancer, would not receive care for his illness under the Democrats’ reform proposal because care would be preferentially given to younger patients who can “contribute more to the economy” (see August 5, 2009). Grassley’s town hall, unlike many others (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009), remains calm and peaceful. [Think Progress, 8/12/2009; Iowa Independent, 8/12/2009] During the event, Grassley hands a reporter a copy of conservative Fox News host Glenn Beck’s book Glenn Beck’s Common Sense, after autographing it for him. Grassley tells the recipient, “it’s something you gotta read a couple times.” [Think Progress, 8/14/2009] Beck has claimed that the Democrats’ health care reform package constitutes Nazi-like “eugenics” (see May 13, 2009 and August 11, 2009), has used his “9-12” organization to coordinate confrontational and violent protests at Congressional town halls (see June 30, 2009, August 6, 2009, and August 10, 2009), and has said that he believes in so-called “death panels” (see August 10, 2009).
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a senior health care adviser in the Obama administration, rebuts claims that he is a “deadly doctor” who advocates wholesale euthanasia for America’s senior citizens (see July 23-24, 2009, July 28, 2009, and August 7, 2009). Emanuel, a medical ethicist, does not own a television or have an Internet connection and so remained unaware of the accusations about his medical beliefs for weeks. “I couldn’t believe this was happening to me,” he says. Both Emanuel and Time reporter Michael Scherer point out that Emanuel has worked throughout his career to oppose euthanasia and increase care for dying patients. “It is incredible how much one’s reputation can be besmirched and taken out of context,” Emanuel says. Scherer notes that the New York Post op-ed by Betsy McCaughey (see July 23-24, 2009) used “selective and misleading quotes from Emanuel’s 200 or so published academic papers,” and soon “went viral” on the Internet and among conservative opponents of health care reform. Scherer writes: “The attacks on Emanuel are a reminder that there is a narrow slice of Americans who not only don’t trust government, but also have come to regard it as a dark conspirator in their lives. This peculiar brand of distrust helps create the conditions for fast-moving fear-mongering, especially on complex and emotionally charged topics like the life and death of the elderly and infirm.” Scherer notes that throughout his career, Emanuel has wrestled with the ethics of medical care, often wading into horrific hypothetical situations such as how to choose who gets a single kidney if there are three dying patients in need of it and no way to procure two others. “No one who has read what I have done for 25 years would come to the conclusions that have been put out there,” says Emanuel. [Time, 8/12/2009]
Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL) denounces the raucous and polarizing debates surrounding health care reform that have led to what she calls “circus” town hall meetings 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, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009). At the same time, she hands out a flier warning that the Democrats’ health care reform proposal would “encourage” senior citizens to “give up,” rather than seek treatment for serious illnesses. Biggert’s flyer says that the reform legislation “requires end-of-life counseling for seniors that might encourage them to give up when facing a serious illness.” It also asserts that the plan would “force” 114 million citizens onto government health care, and remove “millions of seniors” from Medicare. She concedes that the flier is “a little inflammatory,” and explains, “I probably wrote it when I was mad.” Biggert denies knowing that her staff would place the flyers on the chairs of scores of attendees at a Naperville Chamber of Commerce panel on health care reform. The flier promotes Biggert’s own reform ideas and attacks the Democratic plan. Biggert’s assertions have been roundly debunked (see July 23, 2009 and July 23, 2009). Biggert, 71, says that she understands why seniors are frightened of reform. “I picture myself going out into the forest and sitting there like the tribes used to do or getting on an iceberg and floating away.” As for the admittedly inflammatory flier, she says: “I think that is something that is between me and whoever… whether it is my doctor or my conscience or whatever.… I’m not talking that there is euthanasia or anything, but it is a concern particularly for seniors and a lot of seniors are upset about that. I’m not trying to upset them. This is what I have heard from them.” She denies handing the fliers out in the senior centers she has visited recently. [Chicago Daily Herald, 8/13/2009; Think Progress, 8/13/2009]
Pollster Nate Silver writes on his Web site, FiveThirtyEight, that “the real upside to the [anti-health care reform] protests is that they perpetuate misinformation about the Democrats’ bills.… Ultimately, the message that Democrats need to be getting across is not that the protesters are protesting in the wrong way or for the wrong reasons, but that they’re protesting, in some substantial measure, about the wrong things: that what they seem to think is contained in the health care package doesn’t necessarily match the reality.” [FiveThirtyEight (.com), 8/12/2009]
Representative John Mica (R-FL) tells listeners of Florida’s WDBO-AM that the idea of “death counselors” actually exists in the Democrats’ health care reform package. “They create a whole new category,” Mica says. “There are death counselors. There is authorization for reimbursement for those counselors for Medicare. You have a whole new cottage industry.” Mica’s idea, apparently sparked by debunked claims by former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and health care industry lobbyist Betsy McCaughey, among others (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 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 12, 2009), actually refers to the legislation’s provision that Medicare would pay for “advanced care planning consultations” for elderly and seriously ill patients (see July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009). [WDBO, 8/12/2009; Think Progress, 8/12/2009]
Folk singer Joan Baez discusses health care reform with a reform opponent. [Source: Dutch Shots]Folk singer Joan Baez, who made a reputation as a staunch progressive anti-war protester in the Vietnam War era, confronts angry health care reform opponents at a pro-reform concert and rally in Idaho Falls, Idaho, with composure, successfully defusing what could have been a potentially harsh situation. According to a writer who attends the forum and later posts his account on the liberal blog Daily Kos, Baez conducts herself “according to [her] unshakeable ideals of non-violence and compassion.” Some of the protesters bear signs accusing Baez of supporting killing children and accusing her of committing treason during the Vietnam War era. Before the concert, she approaches the protesters, who themselves are more reasonable than their signs may indicate; one of the first things said to her is, “We appreciate the work you did on civil rights and women’s rights.” Baez listens as the protesters, many of them Vietnam veterans, express their feelings of betrayal by anti-war protesters, and assures them that she stood by the veterans then and now. Baez is supported by her merchandise salesman, Jim Stewart, himself a Vietnam veteran. Though some rather heated words are exchanged, as the writer notes, “Joan’s continuing acceptance of their stories and her willingness to hear them out began to melt their anger.” Some even ask her to autograph the posters that vilify her; she says she will sign the back but not the front of “those horrible things.” One protester, carrying a sign accusing her of killing babies, says he will remove her name from the poster if she signs it, which she does. During the concert, Baez dedicates a song to the protesters, and says: “You know, they just wanted to be heard. Everyone wants to be heard. I feel like I made four new friends tonight.” The writer concludes: “She took the high road, as always. It wasn’t my name on those signs, yet I gave in to anger. She never did. As we deal with tea parties and increasingly violent right-wing protests it would do us all good to remember the example of non-violence and compassion that Ms Baez has exemplified for the 50-plus years of her career.” [Daily Kos, 8/12/2009]
Progressive MSNBC host Rachel Maddow worries on the air about the possibility of physical violence, and perhaps even political assassinations, being perpetrated as a result of the escalating violent rhetoric surrounding the health care reform debate. In recent days, at least one Democratic lawmaker has been threatened with death (see August 11, 2009), an African-American congressman has been vilified with swastikas and racial slurs (see August 11, 2009 and August 12, 2009), and guns have been brought both openly and surreptitiously to town halls (see August 5, 2009), some with President Obama in attendance (see August 11, 2009). Maddow tells her listeners: “[O]pponents of health care reform have chosen to fight at this time with force and with threats of force. Not just fringe talk show hosts, but members of Congress telling their constituents that Barack Obama is like Hitler; members of the United States senate telling their constituents that they are right to be afraid, that health care reform really is a plot to kill the elderly (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009). Corporate funded conservative PR operations promoting those lines of attack and then telling their activists to go put the fear of God into members of Congress (see August 6, 2009). Are we now operating in a political environment which is not just politics as usual, which is not just a rowdy debate? Has enough kerosene been poured on the flames that the possibility of violence—even assassination—is being posited as a real political tactic in the United States? It’s not a rhetorical question. It’s not even a question about rhetoric. Because there are people in this country—people in the health care field, in fact—who have faced the actual threat of assassination as a political tactic (see May 31, 2009).… As the anti-health reform protestors flirt with the same exultation of violence, that same excuses and purported justifications of violence, that echo in the extreme anti-abortion movement in this country, it is worth remembering that the possibility of American politics turning to violence and terrorism—at the fringe—is not all theoretical.” Maddow’s guest, abortion provider Dr. Warren Hern, himself a target of political assassins, tells her: “They have—the anti-abortion movement decided, more than 15 years ago, to use political assassination as a tactic, as a method of not only political expression but a way of organizing their followers and getting support and that’s what they’ve been doing. They’ve been assassinating doctors. And the question I have pointed out when they get through assassinating abortion doctors: who’s next?… [I]t’s very clear that there’s been a progression of violence increasingly toward individuals. And this is one of the frightening trends. And so, we have to be very concerned because the violent and the aggressive rhetoric and action or statements lead to more violent action and to assassination.” [MSNBC, 8/13/2009]
Investigative journalists find that at least seven prominent Republicans who now denounce what they call “death panels” and claim that the Democrats’ health care legislation will lead to the untimely deaths of US 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, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, and August 13, 2009) actually supported proposals similar to the legislation’s provision for government-funded “end-of-life counseling.”
Palin, Gingrich Supported 'Advance Directives' - In August 2008, Sarah Palin (R-AK), then the governor of Alaska, proclaimed “Healthcare Decisions Day.” She urged public health care facilities to provide more information about so-called “advance directives,” and said that seniors must be informed of all their options as the end of their lives draw near. The proclamation has recently been deleted from the Alaska governor’s Web site. Reporter Matt Taibbi notes that in late 2008 and early 2009, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) endorsed an aggressive “end of life” program from a Wisconsin health care provider, Gundersen Lutheran Health System, and wrote, “If Gundersen’s approach was used to care for the approximately 4.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who die every year, Medicare could save more than $33 billion a year.” Taibbi accuses Gingrich of “lying [about death panels] in order to scare a bunch of old people.” [Matt Taibbi, 8/12/2009; Think Progress, 8/13/2009]
Five Others Voted for End-of-Life Counseling - In 2003, five Republicans who now oppose the supposed “death panels” voted in favor of an almost-identical provision in that year’s Medicare reform legislation. Representatives John Boehner (R-OH), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and John Mica (R-FL), and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) all voted for the bill, which provided coverage for “counseling the beneficiary with respect to end-of-life issues and care options, and advising the beneficiary regarding advanced care planning.” Boehner, McCotter, and Mica have claimed that the current attempt at health care reform would lead to “government-encouraged euthanasia.” Isakson opposes the House legislation because it allows the “government to incentivize doctors by offering them money to conduct end-of-life counseling.” And Grassley told constituents that they are “right to fear” that government could “decide when to pull the plug on Grandma” (see August 12, 2009). [Plum Line, 8/14/2009]
Widespread Republican Support in 2003 - In all, 202 House Republicans and 42 Republican Senators voted for the Medicare bill. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow will say: “And there was not a peep about then-President Bush having a secret plan to kill old people. Bottom line? Either Republicans like Chuck Grassley and John Boehner and John Mica have totally changed their minds about whether living wills are really a secret plot to kill old people, or they voted for something just a few years ago that they actually thought was a secret plot to kill old people. Take your choice.” [MSNBC, 8/17/2009]
Entity Tags: Matt Taibbi, Gundersen Lutheran Health System, Charles Grassley, John Boehner, Johnny Isakson, Thaddeus McCotter, John Mica, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Medicare, Rachel Maddow
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
Tom Raum, a reporter and analyst for the Associated Press (AP), calls Social Security “a giant federal Ponzi scheme” destined to “bury… the nation ever deeper in debt.” Raum then writes: “Although calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme—think of the huge frauds that sent billionaires Bernard Madoff (see August 14, 2009) and R. Allen Stanford to prison—may be a bit of a stretch, there is one clear similarity. As in a Ponzi scheme, the concept works fine at first. So long as there are more new ‘investors’ pumping money into the system to pay off the earlier ones, everyone is happy. But at some point not enough new money is coming in and the scheme collapses.” Raum claims that Social Security system trustees have reported that by 2016, money paid out in benefits will exceed the revenues flowing in, and in 2037, the system will be entirely penniless. Thusly, Raum writes, Social Security “is projected to go insolvent in 2017.” [Associated Press, 8/16/2009] (The Raum article is reprinted over several days by different press outlets, but according to progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, originally appears on August 12.) [Media Matters, 8/12/2009] However, the trustees did not say what Raum claims they said. In their May 12, 2009 report, the trustees said that the Social Security trust fund, not Social Security itself, will be completely depleted in 2037. And after that happens, according to the trustees, revenue from payroll taxes will be sufficient to pay about three-quarters of scheduled Social Security benefits through 2083: “Under the intermediate assumptions, the OASDI cost rate is projected to increase rapidly and first exceed the income rate in 2016, producing cash-flow deficits thereafter. Redemption of trust fund assets will allow continuation of full benefit payments on a timely basis until 2037, when the trust funds are projected to become exhausted. This redemption process will require a flow of cash from the general fund of the Treasury. Pressures on the federal budget will thus emerge well before 2037. Even if a trust fund’s assets are exhausted, however, tax income will continue to flow into the fund. Present tax rates are projected to be sufficient to pay 76 percent of scheduled benefits after trust fund exhaustion in 2037 and 74 percent of scheduled benefits in 2083.” The Associated Press accurately reported on the trustees’ report the same day it was issued. [Administration, 5/12/2009 ; Associated Press, 5/12/2009; Media Matters, 8/12/2009] Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal made a similar claim to Raum’s in February (see February 2, 2009).
After briefly backing away (see August 10, 2009) from her earlier claim that the Democrats’ health care reform legislation would mandate so-called “death panels” (see August 7, 2009), former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) reiterates her claim. In a post on her Facebook page, Palin writes: “Yesterday President Obama responded to my statement that Democratic health care proposals would lead to rationed care (see August 11, 2009); that the sick, the elderly, and the disabled would suffer the most under such rationing; and that under such a system, these ‘unproductive’ members of society could face the prospect of government bureaucrats determining whether they deserve health care. The provision that President Obama refers to is Section 1233 of HR 3200, entitled ‘Advance Care Planning Consultation.’ With all due respect, it’s misleading for the president to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients.… Section 1233 authorizes advanced care planning consultations for senior citizens on Medicare every five years, and more often ‘if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual… or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a long-term care facility… or a hospice program.‘… President Obama can try to gloss over the effects of government-authorized end-of-life consultations, but the views of one of his top health care advisers are clear enough (see July 23-24, 2009). It’s all just more evidence that the Democratic legislative proposals will lead to health care rationing and more evidence that the top-down plans of government bureaucrats will never result in real health care reform.” Members of Palin’s own party have called her claims inaccurate (see August 11, 2009) and “nuts” (see August 10, 2009), White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has identified Palin as one of the persons responsible for spreading “wrong” information about health care reform, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is using her claims in a fundraising plea to supporters, calling her statement “disgusting” and “outrageous.” [Politico, 8/13/2009]
UnitedHealth Group (UHG), the nation’s second largest health insurer, sends a letter to its employees urging them to become involved in protesting health care reform. UHG asks its employees to call its “United for Health Reform Advocacy Hotline” to learn about ways they can engage in protesting health care reform, and specifically the so-called “public option.” Some of their options include getting hotline help in writing “personalized” letters to lawmakers, receiving “talking points” designed to refute the arguments for the public option during town halls meetings and forums, and receiving an events list hosted by the conservative “America’s Independent Party.” [Group, 8/13/2009; TPMDC, 8/19/2009]
An elderly protester outside the Raleigh, North Carolina, office of Representative Brad Miller (D-NC) ties together two popular claims of the anti-health care reform movement: the reform proposal will kill senior citizens, and the reformers are like Nazis. The unidentified protester tells a television interviewer: “Hitler got rid of his undesirable citizens through ovens. [President] Obama wants to get rid of people like me through hospice.… If [people] are a certain age, grim reapers calling themselves as counselors will go and tell them to take a pill and just die.” [New York Times, 8/13/2009]
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani tells a group of Republican state legislators in Illinois that “it is natural” to assume that the Democratic health care reform plan will lead to “death panels” making end-of-life decisions for seniors. “This is a real concern not made up by radio talk show hosts,” Giuliani claims. In recent weeks, the claim of so-called “death panels” has energized the conservative anti-reform movement even as it has been roundly debunked (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, and August 12-13, 2009). Giuliani admits that there are no provisions for “death panels” in the Democratic legislation pending in Congress, but says that “simple economics” tells him the panels will happen. “President Obama says he will cover 30 to 40 to 50 million people who are not covered now—without it costing any money,” he says. “This is absurd. Health care—in case the Obama administration hasn’t noticed, is very expensive. They will have to cut other services, cut programs. They will have to be making decisions about people who are elderly.” He goes on to blame Obama and Congressional Democrats for creating the worry about “death panels” because of “the ambiguity of the legislation.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 8/13/2009]
Former President Bill Clinton accuses Republicans of trying to terrify Americans into opposing health care reform, and says the GOP is using those tactics because it lacks the political clout to fight it. Clinton, whose own health care reform efforts were derailed in 1994 (see December 2, 1993 and Mid-January - February 4, 1994), says the big difference between then and now is that Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate as well as control of the House of Representatives. He calls allegations that the Democrats’ reform proposals include so-called “death panels” (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, and August 13, 2009) “crazy.” [Associated Press, 8/13/2009]
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) denounces the comparisons of President Obama and Congressional Democrats to Nazis, comparisons made by conservative op-eds, radio and television hosts, bloggers, and anti-health care reform protesters (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 11, 2009, May 13, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10-11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 13, 2009). Without naming names, McMorris Rodgers, the fifth-ranking Republican in the House, says: “I think the purpose of the town halls is for people to be able to express their views in an orderly and respectful manner, and that needs to take place on both sides. I certainly don’t condone violence, I don’t condone calling President Obama Hitler and painting swastikas on signs at town halls.” McMorris Rodgers is the first Congressional Republican to publicly decry the Nazi comparisons. [The Hill, 8/13/2009; Think Progress, 8/14/2009] Another Republican, Joseph Cao (R-LA), joins McMorris Rodgers in condemning the Nazi comparisons. He says: “I believe—you know, I respect the Constitution protecting our right of free speech, our right of expression. But I believe that when we go to extremes like that, it disrupts dialogue and it causes conflicts which, at the end of the day, impede us from reaching a solution to a pressing problem.” [MSNBC, 8/17/2009]
David Frum. [Source: Public Radio (.org)]David Frum, a conservative pundit and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, says that the potential for violence from anti-health care reformer protesters is too high, and protesters must restrain themselves. After noting the instances of protesters bringing guns to health care debates (see August 5, 2009 August 11, 2009) and the threats of gun violence against health care supporters (see August 7, 2009 and August 10, 2009), Frum notes: “[F]irearms and politics never mix well. They mix especially badly with a third ingredient: the increasingly angry tone of incitement being heard from right-of-center broadcasters.… All this hysterical and provocative talk invites, incites, and prepares a prefabricated justification for violence.” Frum goes farther, accusing “some conservative broadcasters” of “lovingly anticipating just such an outcome,” citing instances of Fox News hosts Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity openly advocating violence against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama (see August 8, 2009). Frum says: “Hyperbolic accusation and fantasy murder may well serve a talk radio industry facing a collapse in advertising revenues.… As revenues dwindle, hosts feel compelled to intensify the talk radio experience, hoping to win larger audience share with more extreme talk. It’s like the early days of the pornography industry: At first a naked woman is thrilling enough, but soon a jaded audience is demanding more and more, wilder and wilder. For the radio hosts, it’s all mostly a cynical marketing exercise. But the audience? Not all of them know better.… The guns are coming out. The risks are real.” Frum then gives his solution: “It’s not enough for conservatives to repudiate violence, as some are belatedly beginning to do. We have to tone down the militant and accusatory rhetoric. If Barack Obama really were a fascist, really were a Nazi, really did plan death panels to kill the old and infirm, really did contemplate overthrowing the American constitutional republic—if he were those things, somebody should shoot him. But he is not. He is an ambitious, liberal president who is spending too much money and emitting too much debt. His health care ideas are too over-reaching and his climate plans are too interventionist. The president can be met and bested on the field of reason—but only by people who are themselves reasonable.” [New Majority, 8/13/2009]
A conservative, anti-health care reform group called “The Pray In Jesus Name Project” e-mails a petition to members and others saying that the Democrats’ health care reform legislation will not only result in the death of American 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, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, and August 13, 2009), but also a takeover of the US health care system by gay and transgendered people. The petition claims in part: “Your tax dollars will pay for preferential hiring of homosexual hospital administrators, who distribute $50,000 grants to gender-confused activists for unneeded elective surgery to mutilate their own genitals (and force Christian doctors to perform it).” Apparently the organization is following up on specious claims by other groups that have claimed the reform proposal would mandate free sex-change operations (see August 4, 2009). The New Republic says that many of these claims originated with the Liberty Counsel, a group affiliated with the late Christian evangelist Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. The New Republic also notes that the section of the Senate bill cited by the organization requires the “participation in the institutions’ programs of individuals and groups from… different genders and sexual orientations,” and refers to government grants awarded to students doing research in mental and behavioral health. [New Republic, 8/13/2009]
Investigative journalist Robert Parry draws direct connections between the strategies being used by Republicans and conservative organizations in opposing health care reform, and the effort to mislead and terrify the US public into supporting the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In the run-up to that war, Parry cites “fear-mongering” about attacks on US soil by Iraqi WMDs, “wildly exaggerated (indeed, false) alarms” about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities and its willingness to provide al-Qaeda with a nuclear device, Iraq’s responsibility for 9/11, and other equally false claims that drove the hysteria level past the point where rational discourse could take place. “There is a direct lineage from the Iraq War hysteria to the current madness surrounding the health care fight,” he writes. “In both cases, the hysteria was stoked by leading Republicans and their right-wing media allies. Both involved disseminating far-fetched, nightmare scenarios to a gullible (if not paranoid) segment of the population, which was then whipped into a frenzy that spilled over into intimidation and silencing voices of disagreement.” Then and now, dissenters were publicly vilified and smeared as “traitors” and “Nazis,” Parry notes. Parry also cites his belief that while the truth of the matter may eventually win out, if history is any judge, it will happen far too late to affect the outcome of the health care reform debate. “Truth is a battle, much as democracy is,” he writes. “Bringing truth to light requires resources and infrastructure, as well as personal honesty and courage. That is especially true when the other side in the battle has opted for a strategy of falsehoods and exaggerations—and has assembled both powerful artillery and well-trained mercenaries to carry out what it calls ‘information warfare.’ In such a conflict, there is no guarantee or even a likelihood that the ‘truth will out,’ at least not on its own. Nor is there any reason to believe some mythical pendulum will restore a normal order. What I have seen during more than three decades in Washington is that many truths remain effectively hidden, even if technically they have been revealed. A rare moment of truth-telling can be easily overwhelmed by a steady barrage of falsehoods and an infusion of well-calibrated doubts. Before long, it is the oft-repeated faux reality that is remembered. It becomes Washington’s conventional wisdom and then the official history.” As happened seven years before, Parry writes, “a similar phenomenon is playing out on health care reform. A well-funded and well-organized right-wing infrastructure is pouring out deceptive talking points and hitting emotional hot buttons. Like during the run-up to the Iraq War, the opposing forces seeking to make rational arguments and counter the hysteria find themselves out-gunned and out-maneuvered.” [Consortium News, 8/13/2009]
In an op-ed for USA Today, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) takes the White House to task for “letting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] and Congress run health care reform into the ground,” and says that Republicans have always “stood ready to work with him to pass bipartisan health care reforms that reflect the priorities of struggling American families and small businesses.” Boehner says Pelosi and the Congressional Democrats have crafted a bill that “puts Washington in control of Americans’ health care—something most Americans staunchly oppose.” He then accuses President Obama of trying to “spin the American people” about what he calls the “hopelessly flawed bill.” He terms the bill “radical,” and claims, falsely, that Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer labeled opponents of the bill “un-American” (see August 10, 2009—Pelosi and Hoyer wrote that “[d]rowning out opposing views is simply un-American”). Boehner says that neither Republicans nor anyone else “condone… the actions of those who disrupt public events,” but decries those who claim the dissent against the bill is in any way “manufactured” (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, August 6-7, 2009, August 10, 2009, and August 12, 2009). He says Obama is lying about the portion of the bill that would allow Americans to keep their present health care, and cites the debunked study by the Lewin Group (see July 27, 2009) as evidence. He says the bill would add $239 billion to the deficit over the next decade, says Obama is lying about not cutting Medicare benefits, and says Obama is lying when he says the bill would not lead to health care “rationing.” Boehner concludes by claiming that “Republicans are offering better solutions that would make quality health care more affordable and accessible for every American,” and calls on Obama to “scrap this costly plan, start over, and work with Republicans on reforms that reflect the priorities of the American people.” [USA Today, 8/13/2009] Liberal news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that Boehner’s office has sent out messages promoting the town hall disruptions, and notes that Boehner’s claims of “rationing” are wrong. [Think Progress, 8/13/2009]
Attorney George Felos, who represented Michael Schiavo in the Terri Schiavo end-of-life case, says it is ironic to have the same politicians who insisted on becoming involved in the Schiavo decision in 2005 now saying it is not politicians’ place to become involved in end-of-life decisions as part of their opposition to health care reform (see July 10, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, and August 13, 2009). (Terri Schiavo had been in a coma for years; her husband wanted to have her feeding tube removed and allow her to die. Republican politicians, including then-President George W. Bush, attempted to block the move.) MSNBC host Rachel Maddow notes: “When Terri Schiavo’s next of kin, her husband, Michael Schiavo, tried to carry out what he said were his wife’s end-of-life wishes, it was the Republican Party who decided that actually the government knew better—actually the politicians understood this better than that family and the government should intervene. And now, many of the very same people who interfered in Michael and Terri Schiavo’s health care decisions at the end of Terri Schiavo’s life, the politicians who brought that end-of-life decisions to floor of the US Capitol, they are arguing against health care reform now on the grounds that they don’t want the government to interfere an end-of-life decisions.” One of the Republicans involved in the Schiavo case, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), says that the health care reform legislation pending in the House will no longer include a provision for government funding of end-of-life counseling. Felos tells Maddow that there are “some similarities” to the Schiavo case: “[E]nd-of-life decision-making for patients is a very sensitive issue. People have legitimate fears. They have legitimate concerns about that. And in the Schiavo case, those legitimate fears and concerns were exploited for political and ideological reasons. And I think that’s what we’re seeing now done in an opposite way.” [MSNBC, 8/14/2009]
President Obama appears at a “town hall” forum in Belgrade, Montana, where he promises to protect US citizens against health care insurers, and says those without health care insurance will benefit from his plans to reform the health care system. Unlike many other town halls (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009), no one heckles or attempts to shout down Obama during his speech and the subsequent question-and-answer period. Around 1,300 audience members take part in the rally, held at an airplane hanger; only two questioners ask anything remotely confrontational. Later, White House officials confirm that they had hoped Obama would get the chance to answer some difficult questions. One questioner accuses Obama of planning to raise taxes to pay for the reforms, and another says he is guilty of “vilifying” insurance companies. Obama gives detailed answers to both questioners, promising not to tax the middle class for his reforms, and saying that although some insurance companies have been “constructive,” others have fought against “any kind of reform proposals.” John Weaver, who helped Republican presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ) organize often-confrontational town hall meetings, says Obama would do well to face more criticism. “He needs a confrontation to end some of this information,” Weaver says of the raft of false accusations and allegations surrounding the debate. “We don’t know if that’s his strength. But that’s his opportunity right now. If he really wants to turn the tide of the debate, he has to engage.” White House officials say that they are not attempting to “stack” the president’s crowds with supporters. [Washington Post, 8/15/2009]
Representative Steve Buyer (R-IN), the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, issues a press release claiming that the proposed health care reform legislation would hurt veterans’ health care. In his statement, Buyer says, “The current Democrat bill harms veterans.” He claims that under the legislation some veterans would be subjected to “penalty” taxes for failing to have “acceptable” health coverage. The White House Director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy, Matt Flavin, himself a veteran of Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, quickly counters with a statement contradicting Buyer’s claims: “I’m here to tell you quite simply that if you are eligible for VA [Veterans Adminstration] health care, you will remain eligible. There is no impact on VA health care. So veterans, please be comforted in the fact that your health care will not change under health reform efforts. There is no effect.” Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA), a former Navy rear admiral, confirms Flavin’s rebuttal, and goes further, noting that the Obama administration’s budget restores VA care for some 500,000 veterans kicked out of the system during the Bush administration. “President Obama’s budget is going to also restore what we call the Priority 8 veterans to the VA system,” he says. “Back in 2003, the Bush administration kicked out over 265,000 veterans out of the Veterans Administration who happened to earn a bit over $34,000 for a family of two. Now, it’s 500,000 that are denied. And President Obama’s budget in the next four years brings them all back in. Not only does it preserve the system for our veterans, it enhances the system for our veterans.” Sestak adds: “I can absolutely confirm and the exact words are that the VA healthcare plan meets the minimal, acceptable requirements, which means it’s exempt from that 2.5 percent tax that they’re talking about. It states it just like that.” [US House of Representatives, 8/14/2009; MSNBC, 8/17/2009]
The press releases a confidential, “sensitive” memo from the American Petroleum Institute (API) detailing a plan to create “Astroturf” rallies at which industry employees posing as ordinary citizens will urge Congress to fight climate change legislation. The memo was obtained by the environmental group Greenpeace and sent to several reporters. It urges oil companies to recruit their employees for events that will “put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy,” and will urge senators to “avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill.” The campaign is funded by a coalition of corporate and conservative groups called the “Energy Citizens” alliance, which includes the anti-health care reform group 60 Plus, the industry “grassroots” organization FreedomWorks (see April 14, 2009), Grover Norquist’s Americans For Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union, and the National Taxpayers Union. API president Jack Gerard, who signed the memo, asks recipients to give API “the name of one central coordinator for your company’s involvement in the rallies.” And it warns, “Please treat this information as sensitive… we don’t want critics to know our game plan.” At least two major oil corporations, BP and Shell, are members of API and also belong to the US Climate Action Partnership, which supports the House legislation sponsored by Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA). API has spent over $3 million lobbying against that bill this year. API spokesman Bill Bush says his organization is not trying to deceive anyone. “I don’t think anyone’s hiding the ball about this,” he says. “I don’t think anyone’s trying to suggest that this doesn’t have anything to do with the oil and gas industry.” Greenpeace has asked API to reveal the member companies funding the Astroturf efforts. Shell Oil Company later informs reporters that it will not take part in the rallies. In a statement, the corporation says, “Shell’s position is not aligned with the consensus opinion of the API on Waxman-Markey, therefore Shell will not participate in the rallies.” [Gerard, 8/2009; TPM Muckraker, 8/14/2009]
Entity Tags: British Petroleum, American Conservative Union, 60 Plus Association, American Petroleum Institute, Bill Bush, Greenpeace, National Taxpayers Union, Energy Citizens, FreedomWorks, Royal Dutch/Shell, Americans for Tax Reform, Jack N. Gerard
Timeline Tags: Global Warming, Domestic Propaganda
Katie Couric. [Source: Stylelist (.com)]CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric denounces what she calls the “fear and frustration” being tapped in the sometimes-riotous demonstrations against health care reform. The anti-reform efforts have “stirred [up] a hornets nest,” she writes, and are uncovering “disturbing attitudes and emotions that have nothing to do with policy.” What, she asks, does bringing a handgun to a church where President Obama is speaking have to do with health care policy (see August 11, 2009)? “How does a swastika spray-painted on a congressman’s office further a discussion about Medicare (see August 11, 2009)?” Couric warns her readers that “we can’t let fear and frankly ignorance drown out the serious debate that needs to take place about an issue that affects the lives of millions of people. It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath and to focus on the task at hand before this sideshow drowns out the main event.” [CBS News, 8/14/2009]
John Stossel. [Source: Nashville Scene]The lobbying firm Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which is heavily involved in so-called “Astroturf” protests against 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, August 6, 2009, August 6-7, 2009, August 10, 2009, and August 12, 2009), announces it will hold three town-hall style meetings in Wisconsin on August 26 and 27. The meetings will take place in the districts of three House members, David Obey (D-WI), Ron Kind (D-WI), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), all of whom AFP feels might be open to pressure. ABC reporter John Stossel will moderate the sessions for AFP. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/14/2009] Progressive news watchdog Web site Media Matters questions the propriety of Stossel, a supposedly nonpartisan member of the media, moderating the sessions for AFP, an avowedly partisan organization. [Media Matters, 8/17/2009]
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), the head of the “astroturf” organization FreedomWorks (see April 14, 2009), leaves his position as senior policy adviser for the Washington lobbying firm DLA Piper. Armey says he is leaving because of the negative press attention FreedomWorks is garnering, including “unwarranted” accusations that it is organizing “grassroots” citizen protests against health care reform on behalf of DLA Piper’s clients. In an interview, he says: “The firm [DLA Piper] is busy with its business, and shouldn’t be asked to take time out from their work, to defend themselves of spurious allegations. No client of this firm is going to be free to mind its own business without harassment as long as I’m associated with it.” DLA Piper chairman Frank Burch says that the decision for Armey to leave is mutual. In his statement, Armey adds: “It is painful and frustrating to see a good, decent, able, and effective partnership of honorable men and women and their clients attacked for things in which they are not involved simply because of their association with me. One would expect a higher degree of competence and professionalism from members of the media than spurious attacks on innocent bystanders.… Let me be perfectly clear about DLA Piper. It is a fine firm with good, competent people. It has been my privilege to be associated with them and I will miss them. I am leaving the firm with regret but also with anticipation of being more fully engaged in the nation’s struggle [against health care reform] and without having attacks on me being directed at others.” Armey says he will now focus all of his efforts on FreedomWorks: “It is imperative for me, within the context of my life’s work in the defense of personal liberty against the encroachments of big government, to give my undivided attention to the work we do at FreedomWorks. In short, the threat to personal liberty in America is so serious and imminent at this time that it requires the full commitment of my efforts. While I consider it a personal sacrifice to leave DLA Piper, it is a sacrifice I must make in light of the important work I am committed to at FreedomWorks.” [Politico, 8/14/2009; TPM Muckraker, 8/14/2009]
Bloomberg News counts up the number of lobbyists the health care industry is funding to pressure lawmakers to oppose or support the reform legislation proposed by Congressional Democrats and the White House. It finds that some 3,300 lobbyists—six for each of the 535 representatives and senators weighing the issue—are working to convince lawmakers to take their clients’ position on the health care reform package. Over 1,500 organizations, from pharmaceutical firms and medical providers to “grassroots” organizations and citizens’ groups, employ the lobbyists, with three new organizations signing up each day, and each of the 10 largest Washington lobbying firms is involved in the effort. The groups spent a combined amount of $263.4 million on lobbying Congress during the first six months of 2009, exceeding the $241.1 million spent during the same period in 2008. The Sunlight Foundation’s Bill Allison says, “Whenever you have a big piece of legislation like this, it’s like ringing the dinner bell for K Street,” referring to the Washington street where many lobbying firms have offices. “There’s a lot of money at stake and there are a lot of special interests who don’t want their ox gored.” Most lobbyists assume that health care reform is going to happen in some form or fashion, says John Jonas of the lobbying firm Patton Boggs LLP. “They assume health care reform is going to happen and they want to be protected,” he says. Jonas’s firm has three dozen clients in the debate, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Wal-Mart. Many lawmakers, such as Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), the Senate Finance Committee chairman, see lobbyists every day. Baucus’s office rotates between different schools of lobbyists, seeing representatives of health care providers one week, purchasers the second, and consumers the third. Larry McNeely of the US Public Interest Research Group says, “The sheer quantity of money that’s sloshed around Washington is drowning out the voices of citizens and the groups that speak up for them.” [Bloomberg, 8/14/2009]
Entity Tags: Max Baucus, Bloomberg News, Bill Allison, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Larry McNeely, Senate Finance Committee, John Jonas, Wal-Mart, Sunlight Foundation, US Public Interest Research Group, Patton Boggs LLP
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
Eric Bolling, a host on Fox Business Channel, appears as a guest on Fox News’s The Live Desk, where he attacks Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme.” Bolling explains that a lack of increase in July’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) means that Social Security benefits also fail to increase, but then shifts into a claim that Social Security is “underfunded or almost unfunded.… People are paying into Social Security. That money’s being used to pay for seniors right now, so, it’s kinda like a Ponzi scheme.… They should rename it the Madoff Social Security system, because down the road, there’s not going to be enough money.” Bolling is making reference to Wall Street financier Bernie Madoff, who stole billions of dollars from clients through a web of fraudulent schemes. [Media Matters, 8/14/2009; Media Matters, 9/7/2010] In February, the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore made a similar claim (see February 2, 2009). And an Associated Press reporter made a similar claim two days before Bolling (see August 12-16, 2009).
A 1983 photo of Madelyn Dunham hugging her grandson, Barack Obama, on the occasion of his graduation from college. [Source: Daily Telegraph]Speaking to a crowd of largely pro-health care reform supporters in Colorado, President Obama cites the death of his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, to debunk the widespread idea that his ideas for reform would include so-called “death panels” (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, August 13, 2009). “I just lost my grandmother last year,” he says. “I know what it’s like to watch somebody you love, who’s aging, deteriorate and have to struggle with that.” He disputes “the notion that somehow I ran for public office or members of Congress are in this so they can go around pulling the plug on grandma.… When you start making arguments like that, that’s simply dishonest—especially when I hear the arguments coming from members of Congress in the other party who, turns out, sponsored similar provisions” (see August 12-13, 2009). Dunham died of cancer at the age of 86 (see November 10, 2008). “Health care is really hard,” Obama tells the crowd. “This is not easy. I’m a reasonably dedicated student to this issue. I’ve got a lot of really smart people around me who’ve been working on this for months now. There is no perfect painless silver bullet out there that solves every problem, gives everybody health care for free. There isn’t. I wish there was.” Continuing his push on his weekly Internet and radio address, Obama says, “I know there’s plenty of real concern and skepticism out there. I know that in a time of economic upheaval, the idea of change can be unsettling, and I know that there are folks who believe that government should have no role at all in solving our problems.” He says it is imperative for everyone to “lower our voices, listen to one another, and talk about differences that really exist.” [Associated Press, 8/15/2009]
Two Democratic House members say that the media should not “glorify” the contentious, sometimes-riotous anti-reform protests that have recently occurred at health care debates (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009). Alan Grayson (D-FL) cites the violence that occurred at a debate featuring Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL—see August 6, 2009), saying that the “disrepect” shown at the debate reflects badly not on Castor, but “on the people who show the disrespect for the democratic process.” He adds: “I think in any society, you’re always going to have a certain percentage of people who are nuts. But these are not people who deserve any special recognition, much less glorification. You don’t treat people the way those people treated Kathy Castor. It’s wrong.… I look for intelligent, well-founded criticism of any bill because that’s how you make the bill better. But if you have people running around saying this bill is going to kill every old person in the country (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, and August 13, 2009), how could you possibly show any respect for that silly point of view? It makes no sense to me.” Patrick Murphy (D-PA) says that the contention that the reform proposal threatens Americans’ freedoms is simply wrong: “I had a guy yesterday try to say to me, ‘You know, I’m worried about my freedoms.’ I say, ‘Sir, I fought for your freedoms [Murphy is a veteran of the Iraq war]. I’m going to protect those freedoms. I took an oath to support and defend those freedoms. And I take that responsibility very seriously. But, you know, we need to understand that the current path for small business, for everday families, for seniors, is unsustainable.” [US House of Representatives, 2009; Think Progress, 8/15/2009]
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) issues a “fact check” press release attempting to debunk what it calls the “falsehoods” surrounding recent allegations that two of its members “savagely beat” tea party activist Kenneth Gladney during a recent town hall in St. Louis (see August 6-8, 2009 and August 8, 2009). According to the SEIU, Gladney was not the victim of any assault; instead, SEIU member Elston McCowan, a disabled minister, was assaulted, presumably by Gladney. The video documenting the incident begins with McCowan already on the ground and clutching his shoulder. McCowan suffered a chipped bone and dislocated shoulder during the assault. Gladney, who later claimed to have suffered injuries to most of his body, is only seen being pushed to the ground by another union member, presumably coming to the defense of McCowan. Allegations that Gladney was beaten and kicked by multiple union members are not supported by the video. Some media reports alleged that Gladney was “rushed to the hospital” after the attack; in reality, Gladney, who was pushed to the ground during the incident, leapt to his feet and began walking around the event talking to others and even conducting live television interviews. He also took part in a live television interview after the town hall. Gladney later took himself to the hospital, where he alleged he suffered injuries to his “knee, back, elbow, shoulder, and face.” Two days later, Gladney made television appearances while “confined” to a wheelchair and “under heavy medication,” according to his lawyer. Gladney told people at the event and afterwards that he had no health insurance and could not afford to have his “injuries” properly treated; that was a lie refuted by his own lawyer, David Brown, who later admitted Gladney has coverage through his wife. Gladney has repeatedly insisted that he has no ties to the tea party movement and that he was at the town hall selling anti-Obama buttons merely as a part-time job. However, Gladney and Brown are both tea party activists. In February, Brown formed an LLC in Missouri called “The Political Mint” that has publicized its efforts to raise funds for tea party groups. Gladney has also been involved in tea party activities. [Service Employees International Union, 8/2009] Misdemeanor assault charges will be filed against McCowan and another union member; both will be found innocent of any wrongdoing (see July 12, 2011).
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch corrects a statement made to its reporters by Roy Blunt (R-MO), the chairman of the House Republican Health Care Solutions Group. Recently, Blunt told Post-Dispatch reporters and editors that he couldn’t get hip replacement surgery in Canada or Great Britain—two havens of socialized medicine—because of his age. “I’m 59,” Blunt said. “In either Canada or Great Britain, if I broke my hip, I couldn’t get it replaced.” The Post-Dispatch checked his claim, and found: “At least 63 percent of hip replacements performed in Canada last year and two-thirds of those done in England were on patients age 65 or older. More than 1,200 in Canada were done on people older than 85.” Blunt promises to modify his rhetoric when confronted by the Post-Dispatch’s findings. “I didn’t just pull that number out of thin air,” he says. The figure came from testimony given to the House Subcommittee on Health by, Blunt notes, “some people who are supposed to be experts on Canadian health care.” He adds: “I had been given that example. I was told that 59 is the cutoff. I’m glad you pointed that out to me. I won’t use that example any more.” The Post-Dispatch writes that it takes Blunt at his word, but notes that he is “not the only Republican leader who has his facts wrong about British and Canadian health care. And some of his colleagues are a bit less contrite” (see August 5, 2009). Blunt has made other false claims, including the assertion that an uninsured American could get a hip replacement through emergency care: “If they go to the emergency room, I think they can get that done.” The Post-Dispatch corrects him, writing: “Emergency rooms don’t do hip replacements, which require both hospital care and weeks of rehabilitation. They do emergency surgery, necessary to save a life. St. Louis hospitals offer discounts to patients who are poor and uninsured. But patients often are asked to make substantial down payments before surgery; they don’t hobble through the ER door and get them done for free.” Blunt has also made untenable claims about the number of Americans without health insurance by falsely saying that nearly 12 million of the 45 million uninsured Americans are illegal immigrants, a claim disproven by research by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, which, according to the Post-Dispatch, “puts the number of uninsured who are immigrants—both legal and illegal—at about 9 million.” Blunt later reduces the number of illegal immigrants in his claims, though the Post-Dispatch notes he still inflates his figures. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/16/2009; Plum Line, 8/17/2009]
Author and historian Rick Perlstein reminds Washington Post readers that the kind of conservative-based outrage against health care reform is nothing new in American history. Asking whether the protests are orchestrated or spontaneous, Perlstein says they are both. “The quiver on the lips of the man pushing the wheelchair (see August 6, 2009), the crazed risk of carrying a pistol around a president (see August 11, 2009)—too heartfelt to be an act. The lockstep strangeness of the mad lies on the protesters’ signs—too uniform to be spontaneous. They are both. If you don’t understand that any moment of genuine political change always produces both, you can’t understand America, where the crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy, and where elites exploit the crazy for their own narrow interests.”
Charges of Soviet-Inspired Treason - In the 1950s, Perlstein writes, Republicans referred to the presidencies of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman as “20 years of treason,” and accused the two of deliberately surrendering the world to communism. Some conservatives leveled the accusation that a new Bible translation was the work of Soviet agents. Then-Vice President Richard Nixon claimed, without proof, that Republicans entering the White House at the beginning of the Eisenhower administration “found in the files a blueprint for socializing America.” When President Kennedy proposed using intercontinental ballistic missiles to form the basis of America’s nuclear defense instead of the traditional long-range bombers, and floated the idea of opening relations with Eastern Bloc nations such as Yugoslavia, conservatives accused him of trying to disarm the US in secret collusion with the USSR.
'National Indignation Convention' - In 1961, thousands of angry conservatives packed a National Indignation Convention in Dallas, where the keynote speaker shouted that he wanted to hang Chief Justice Earl Warren. A Kennedy proposal to expand mental health services included a new facility in Alaska; right-wingers claimed it was actually an internment camp for political dissidents. During the Johnson administration, conservatives claimed that the civil rights movement was conceived and orchestrated in the Soviet Union; many of them claimed that the 1964 Civil Rights Act would “enslave” white Americans.
'Uncanny' Similarities between Then and Now - Perstein notes that the similarities between the protests then and now are “uncanny,” writing: “The various elements—the liberal earnestly confused when rational dialogue won’t hold sway; the anti-liberal rage at a world self-evidently out of joint; and, most of all, their mutual incomprehension—sound as fresh as yesterday’s news. (Internment camps for conservatives? That’s the latest theory of tea party favorite Michael Savage.) The orchestration of incivility happens, too, and it is evil. Liberal power of all sorts induces an organic and crazy-making panic in a considerable number of Americans, while people with no particular susceptibility to existential terror—powerful elites—find reason to stoke and exploit that fear.”
Now, More Success at Manipulating Media, Shaping Policy - Perlstein cites examples of fake “grassroots” letters to newspaper editors written by Nixon administration aides that defended the then-president from Watergate-related charges, and how successful they were in manipulating the discussion. Now, he writes, the “Conservatives have become adept at playing the media for suckers, getting inside the heads of editors and reporters, haunting them with the thought that maybe they are out-of-touch cosmopolitans and that their duty as tribunes of the people’s voices means they should treat Obama’s creation of ‘death panels’ as just another justiciable political claim.” In the 1960s, news anchors such as Walter Cronkite didn’t bother debunking claims about internment facilities for conservative critics, he writes. “The media didn’t adjudicate the ever-present underbrush of American paranoia as a set of ‘conservative claims’ to weigh, horse-race-style, against liberal claims. Back then, a more confident media unequivocally labeled the civic outrage represented by such discourse as ‘extremist’—out of bounds. The tree of crazy is an ever-present aspect of America’s flora. Only now, it’s being watered by misguided he-said-she-said reporting and taking over the forest. Latest word is that the enlightened and mild provision in the draft legislation to help elderly people who want living wills—the one hysterics turned into the ‘death panel’ canard—is losing favor, according to the Wall Street Journal, because of ‘complaints over the provision.’ Good thing our leaders weren’t so cowardly in 1964, or we would never have passed a civil rights bill—because of complaints over the provisions in it that would enslave whites.” [Washington Post, 8/16/2009]
The Office of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), releases a fact sheet contradicting what it calls “a myth opponents of health insurance reform have been spreading: that people would be ‘forced’ to choose a public health insurance option, and falsely attributes it to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).” The claim has circulated throughout the media, Pelosi’s office notes, and says, “In fact, the public option in America’s Affordable Health Choices Act simply provides those using the Health Insurance Exchange a choice between various private plans and a public plan—with the choice being made by the individual, never an employer.” The fact sheet notes four instances of the claim being made on August 16 alone:
Representative Tom Price (R-GA) tells an Associated Press reporter that the Democrats’ reform bill would force citizens to abandon their private health care plans in favor of a government-run plan, and says the CBO supports his claim.
ABC reporter Jake Tapper, on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, asks, “How can the administration make the promise that if you like your insurance plan you can keep it, when CBO and other analysts estimate that some people will be switched from private to public?”
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, on Fox News Sunday, tells his listeners of “a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office which found that by 2016, 9 million people will no longer have their employer-based plan under health care reform because businesses would decide in many cases that it’s cheaper simply to pay the penalty and push people into a public plan.”
David Gregory, the anchor of NBC’s flagship Sunday talk show Meet the Press, asks, “Does he [President Obama] undermine his credibility when he makes some claims like, if you like your insurance you can keep your insurance, when a lot of people have said not really; employers could drop people from insurance if they wanted to move people into a public plan, if that existed?”
Pelosi’s office states that, unlike the claims and questions advanced by Price, Tapper, Wallace, and Gregory, the CBO has noted that under all versions of reform legislation, US citizens would retain the choice of whether to keep their existing insurance or join the “public option” government program. [Speaker of the House, 8/17/2009]
After today’s media reports that a man armed with an automatic rifle patrolled back and forth in front of the venue where President Obama gave a speech on health care reform (see August 17, 2009), MSNBC progressive host Rachel Maddow interviews former Secret Service agent Joseph Petro, a 23-year veteran of the force. Maddow notes that aside from the man with the automatic weapon, about a dozen armed people were outside the venue in Phoenix today. Petro says the Secret Service does not routinely plan for this kind of situation, because “it’s not something the Secret Service often encounters.” He adds: “You know, the Secret Service is protecting [sic] presidents for a long time. And there are a whole series of processes and procedures that they go through to create perimeters. And each of those perimeters become more and more difficult to penetrate, up right to the end where the agents are actually around the president. But I think this is less a Secret Service issue and more as an issue for all of us. You know, you said a few days ago that the possibility of American politics turning to violence or terrorism at the fringe is not all that theoretical. I would argue that the vitriolic political rhetoric we’re hearing from some seemingly responsible people is stimulating a lot of these foolish stunts, and they’re not very helpful. And I think they’re dangerous actually. And I think they’re dangerous for two reasons. One is, it’s hard enough to protect the president. The Secret Service and the local police are being distracted from that—from that duty to keep our president safe. And I think the second reason, and maybe even more serious, is the fact that it could incite or encourage one of those individuals at the fringe that you mentioned, from doing something really dangerous and perhaps violent against the president or some other person. So, I think it’s—this is not a helpful situation and maybe the politicians should look at lowering some of the rhetoric to try to create a more positive atmosphere.” Petro again calls the display of firearms at a presidential event a “stunt” and “irresponsible.” Maddow goes further, calling it “an implied threat of force.” Petro notes: “It’s not in the Secret Service’s interest to have this kind of these theatrics going on around. Clearly, those people are not dangerous to the president at that moment. You know, they’re outside the building. They’re a block away or, you know, they’re not going to—they’re not an immediate danger to the president. But what they’re creating is an atmosphere that is—that could become dangerous for the president. And that’s what would concern me, and I’m sure it concerns the Secret Service.” [MSNBC, 8/18/2009]
Dick Armey (R-TX), the former House Majority Leader who now heads the conservative lobbying firm FreedomWorks, predicts that the Obama administration will try to counter the “grassroots” protests with what he calls a “fear campaign” designed to frighten wavering lawmakers, whom he terms “bed-wetters.” The administration will use false claims of a “swine flu” epidemic in its efforts, Armey says in an interview with the Financial Times: “In September or October there will be a hyped-up outbreak of the swine flu which they’ll say is as bad as the bubonic plague to scare the bed-wetters to vote for health care reform. That is the only way they can push something on to the American people that the American people don’t want.” FreedomWorks reprints the original article, published in London’s Financial Times, on its Web site. [Financial Times, 8/17/2009]
Militia member Chris Broughton stands in front of a Phoenix VFW where President Obama is speaking. Broughton wears a pistol on his hip and an assault rifle strapped to his back. [Source: Arizona Republic]Twelve anti-health care reform protesters openly carry firearms outside an event in Phoenix featuring President Obama as the main speaker. One, a man initially identified only as “Chris,” carries an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle strapped to his back. Carrying such weapons is legal in Arizona if the bearer has a permit to carry. Obama is speaking at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Outside the venue, people both supporting and opposing health care reform stage contentious, but peaceful, protests. [Arizona Republic, 8/17/2009; TPM LiveWire, 8/17/2009]
'Forcefully' Opposing Will of Majority - “Chris,” interviewed by fellow protester Ernest Hancock on a home video posted on YouTube, says, “We will forcefully resist people imposing their will on us through the strength of the majority with a vote.” He also speaks against taxation: “Just because you sic the government on people doesn’t make it morally okay to steal money from people. Taxation is theft.” Asked why he is carrying a weapon, “Chris” responds: “Because I can do it. In Arizona, I still have some freedoms.” He tells Hancock that “it would be insane” not to be armed, and says he wears a gun at all times. “Chris” is asked at the beginning of the video, “You gonna water the tree of liberty?” a reference to a Thomas Jefferson quote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” He responds, “I hope not.” He also comes out “absolutely, totally against” health care reform, saying such a plan would amount to “stealing it from people.” The video is uploaded by two small Phoenix-area libertarian groups, Freedom’s Phoenix and 4409. [TPM LiveWire, 8/17/2009; TPM LiveWire, 8/18/2009]
Veteran: 'I Gave Them the Right' to Protest - Another anti-reform protester, Jim Mariman, identifies himself as a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and says protesters are simply “speaking their hearts and minds.… These people can protest because I gave them the right.” [Arizona Republic, 8/17/2009]
Interview Staged by Violent Militia Supporter - Hancock, who organized “Chris’s” trip to the Obama event and interviewed “Chris” with a 9mm pistol strapped to his leg, is later shown to have close ties to members of the violent Viper Militia group convicted and jailed for plotting to blow up at least seven federal buildings in 1996 (see July 1, 1996). Hancock tells CNN that the entire event, including the “interview,” was staged and planned well in advance. He has known “Chris” for two years because of their mutual work for 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX). Hancock had contacted the Phoenix police two days before the event to alert them to their intent to come armed to the event. He says he was partially motivated to display his weapon because of the controversy surrounding William Kostric, who brought a pistol to a previous Obama event in New Hampshire (see August 11, 2009). CNN’s Rick Sanchez tells Hancock, “A lot of people are going to look at this and say it was a publicity stunt,” and Hancock replies, “Absolutely—you guys are so easy.” Hancock says he, “Chris,” and the 10 other armed protesters all belong to local militia groups. [TPM LiveWire, 8/18/2009; TPM LiveWire, 8/18/2009; MSNBC, 8/20/2009] “Chris” will later be identified as Chris Broughton, a member of Tempe Baptist Church, whose pastor has repeatedly called for the divine assassination of Obama (see January 18, 2009). [Phoenix New Times, 8/29/2009]
Entity Tags: Rick Sanchez, Jim Mariman, Tempe Baptist Church, Freedom’s Phoenix, Barack Obama, Chris Broughton, Ernest Hancock, 4409, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Viper Militia
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism
A member of the LaRouche Youth Movement compares the Obama health care reform proposal to Nazi policies. [Source: Darren McCollester / Getty Images]A testy Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) loses patience with a raucous, shouting crowd of angry protesters at a two-hour town hall meeting in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Frank, who strongly supports the Democrats’ health care reform proposals, attempts to answer the shouted questions and accusations from protesters, who often attempt to shout him down before he can complete his answers, and boo him from the moment he is introduced. Frank repeatedly asks, “You want me to talk about it or do you want to yell?” and asks, “Which one of you wants to yell next?” He also says frequently: “Disruption never helps your cause. It just looks like you’re afraid to have rational discussion.” Frank finally loses patience when Rachel Brown of the LaRouche Youth Movement tells him that President Obama’s health care policies are comparable to those of Nazi Germany, meanwhile waving a pamphlet depicting Obama with a Hitler mustache. “This policy is actually already on its way out,” Brown says. “It already has been defeated by LaRouche. My question to you is, why do you continue to support a Nazi policy as Obama has expressly supported this policy? Why are you supporting it?” Frank, a Jew, retorts: “When you ask me that question, I’m going to revert to my ethnic heritage and ask you a question: On what planet do you spend most of your time? You stand there with a picture of the president defaced to look like Hitler and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis.” He says her ability to deface an image of the president and express her views “is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated,” and concludes: “Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it.” During less contentious moments, Frank rebuts claims that the reform proposal would mandate free health care for illegal immigrants, and attempts to read the pertinent section of the bill through the shouts and catcalls. He asks why protesters demand for him to answer and then scream through his answers: “What’s the matter with you all? I don’t know if you get angrier when I answer the questions, or when you don’t think I do.” [Associated Press, 8/19/2009; CNN, 8/19/2009; Think Progress, 8/19/2009; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 8/19/2009; Boston Globe, 8/20/2009]
'Look for the Mustache' - A representative of the Massachusetts Republican Party later says Brown and other LaRouche supporters were at the forum “to cause problems,” and denies any Republican involvement in the shouting or pamphleteering. A LaRouche spokeswoman, Nancy Spannaus, says, “LaRouche PAC members are giving leadership to these town hall meetings all around the country so we are being at any one that we possibly can.” The Obama “mustache poster” “symbolizes the fact that the president is attempting to implement a Hitler health care policy,” she adds. “At any town hall, you’ll know LaRouche people are there if you just look for the mustache.” [Washington Post, 8/20/2009]
Fox News: Frank's Remarks Proof that Democrats are 'Alienating Voters' - Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity and a Fox reporter, Griff Jenkins, say that Frank’s retorts to the protesters are proof that Democrats are “alienating voters” with their reform policies. Jenkins tells Hannity that Frank “talked down” to the protesters. Hannity calls Frank’s comments full of “arrogance [and] condescension.” Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Hannity’s guest, praises the LaRouche questioner and other protesters as evidence of American “democracy in action.” [Fox News, 8/18/2009]
Representative Wally Herger (R-CA) praises a constituent who describes himself as a “right-wing terrorist,” and tells listeners, “Our democracy has never been threatened as much as it is today” by the Obama administration’s policies. Herger holds a “town hall” meeting to discuss health care reform in Redding, California. The audience is largely made up of reform opponents who cheer when Herger calls the “public option” an “unacceptable” provision of reform. A local reporter writes, “Although Herger called several times for the audience to ‘respect each other’s opinions,’ those opposed to President Obama’s health care were greeted with cheers while the few in favor were interrupted with catcalls.” Two audience members are escorted out by police officers during the event, after arguing over the health care plan. One audience member says, “I am a proud right wing terrorist”; the audience largely cheers his declaration, and Herger beams: “Amen, God bless you. There is a great American.” Most of the audience members who ask questions denounce health care reform as a “socialist” idea. [Mount Shasta Herald, 8/21/2009; Think Progress, 8/22/2009; Daily Kos, 8/26/2009]
Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) tells Fox News viewers that health care reform is unconstitutional. She says: “It is not within our power as members of Congress, it’s not within the enumerated powers of the Constitution, for us to design and create a national takeover of health care. Nor is it within our ability to be able to delegate that responsibility to the executive.” Ian Millhiser of the progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress takes issue with Bachmann’s statement, writing that she “is wrong about both the contents of the health care plan and the requirements of the Constitution.” None of the versions of health care legislation being considered in Congress make any provision for a “national takeover of health care.” Bachmann may be referring to the “public option,” which would create a government-run health care plan that citizens could choose to participate in. Millhiser notes that Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the power to “lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises,” and to “provide for… the general welfare of the United States.” Millhiser writes, “Rather than itemizing specific subject matters, such as health care, which Congress is allowed to spend money on, the framers chose instead to give Congress a broad mandate to spend money in ways that promote the ‘general welfare.’” Millhiser writes that it is unclear what Bachmann means by “delegat[ing] that responsibility to the executive,” but notes that no one has proposed giving the White House anything approaching the authority to run or reconfigure the US health care system. He calls Bachmann’s view of the Constitution “radical,” and writes: “If Congress does not have the power to create a modest public option which competes with private health plans in the marketplace, then it certainly does not have the authority to create Medicare. Similarly, Congress’ power to spend money to benefit the general welfare is the basis for Social Security, federal education funding, Medicaid, and veterans’ benefits such as the VA health system and the GI Bill. All of these programs would cease to exist in Michele Bachmann’s America.” [Think Progress, 8/19/2009]
Charles Grassley (R-IA), a Republican senator considered a key element in the Obama administration’s push for bipartisan health care reform, says that the recent outpouring of anger and resistance at “town hall” forums has “fundamentally altered the nature of the debate and convinced him that lawmakers should consider drastically scaling back the scope of the effort.” Grassley says he believes the public is strongly against the Democrats’ ideas for health care reform, and considers the ideas a run-up to what he calls “a government takeover of health care.” Grassley is a member of the so-called “Gang of Six,” a group of three Republican and three conservative Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee primarily responsible for writing the committee’s reform proposal. In recent days, some Democrats have accused him of attempting to suborn any bipartisanship in the process by his advocacy of “death panels” (see August 12, 2009) and his misleading use of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)‘s terminal illness (see August 5, 2009) in his arguments against reform.
Obama Should Prove Commitment to Bipartisanship by Abandoning Public Option - Grassley says that if President Obama is serious about a bipartisan approach to reform, he should abandon his support for the so-called “public option” entirely. Such a statement, he says, is “pretty important… if you’re really interested in a bipartisan bill.” Grassley also says that a reform bill would not be truly bipartisan unless it received far more than a 51-vote majority, or even a 60-vote “supermajority,” enough votes to defeat a filibuster attempt. “It’s not about getting a lot of Republicans. It’s about getting a lot of Democrats and Republicans,” he says. “We ought to be focusing on getting 80 votes.” [Washington Post, 8/20/2009] Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent contrasts Grassley’s contentious position with the more accomodating overtures from the White House. He writes: “Grassley knows the White House is under tremendous pressure to contain a revolt on the left over the public option. It’s hard to imagine any reason for demanding Obama renounce the public option right now, before there’s even a bill out of the finance committee, other than to make life politically difficult for the president. How does that compare with the White House’s treatment of Grassley? When the Senator endorsed the ‘death panel’ claim, the White House reaffirmed its commitment to working with him. Dems quietly let Grassley claim a big victory by dropping the public option from the Senate bill he’s negotiating. And when Rahm Emanuel questioned the sincerity of GOP leaders yesterday, an apparent shot at Grassley, the White House rapidly walked it back. Grassley, meanwhile, has now raised the bar yet again for what will constitute true bipartisanship on the White House’s part. Pretty telling.” [Plum Line, 8/20/2009]
Bipartisanship Not Universally Desired - Other Republicans are less interested in bipartisanship. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) blames Obama for the increasingly strident tone of the debate, and accuses Obama officials of “reject[ing] our efforts to work together.” Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), considered a likely 2012 candidate for president, says flatly: “The Republicans should kill the bill. It’s a bad idea.” House Member James Clyburn (D-SC) says Democrats might do well to abandon any idea of bipartisanship and work on a bill without Republican input, especially since it is unlikely that Republicans will vote for any reform bill at all. But Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, says he remains committed to the idea of bipartisanship. [Washington Post, 8/20/2009]
On MSNBC’s Hardball, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) tells a harrowing tale of health care protests he weathered in the 1980s in which protesters “dumped” quadriplegics “on the floor” in front of him to make their point. Asked by host Chris Matthews about the “tea party” agitation and town hall disruptions surrounding the current health care debate, DeLay answers: “Chris, you shouldn’t be surprised about this. This has been going on forever. When I did my town hall meetings, I’ll never forget one back in the ‘80s—on health care, by the way. They brought in quadriplegics on gurneys and dumped them on the floor in front of my podium. I mean, this is not new. What’s new is, the people that came into disrupt my town meetings, we just let them go on because it usually turned off the people that were there. What’s happening here is the American people are on their side.” However, no sources can be found to validate DeLay’s claims. The progressive news Web site TPM Muckraker probes through a variety of news archives and finds a May 1996 article from the Houston Chronicle that reported on a number of protests by the disabilities advocacy group ADAPT. According to the Chronicle: “Groups of protesters, most of them in wheelchairs, barricaded two local political offices Tuesday to demand changes in the way disabled people receive care in America.… A second group of about 150 ADAPT supporters blockaded and occupied US Rep. Tom DeLay’s office in Sugar Land [Texas], until DeLay agreed to meet with them.… Tuesday’s protesters narrowly escaped arrest by Stafford police when DeLay, who is in Washington, DC, agreed to meet with them next month.” TPM Muckraker reporter Justin Elliott writes: “Is it possible that DeLay is thinking of the ADAPT episode—and just replacing ‘90s with ‘80s, district office with health care town hall, protesters in wheelchairs with quadriplegics dumped from gurneys, and not having been there at all with seeing it unfold in front of his podium?” Elliott also notes that “[t]wo reporters who’ve covered DeLay extensively over the years say the quadriplegic story is new to them.” [TPM Muckraker, 8/20/2009]
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that the misinformation permeating the debate over health care reform is having an effect. Forty-five percent believe that the reform legislation pending in Congress includes “death panels” (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, August 13, 2009, and August 15, 2009), and 55 percent believe that illegal immigrants will receive government-funded coverage. These numbers are disproportionately higher among Fox News viewers: 72 percent believe the government will fund coverage of illegal immigrants, 75 percent believe in “death panels,” and 79 percent believe the reform bill will lead to a government takeover of the US health care system. Large minorities of other network viewers believe these same examples of misinformation. MSNBC’s Domenico Montanaro writes: “This is about credible messengers using the media to get some of this misinformation out there, not as much about the filter itself. These numbers should worry Democratic operatives, as well as the news media that have been covering this story.” [MSNBC, 8/19/2009; Think Progress, 8/19/2009] Another poll, from Public Policy Polling, shows that 39 percent of Americans want the government to “stay out of Medicare,” apparently unaware that the government funds, administers, and operates Medicare. The same poll shows that 38 percent of respondents do not believe President Obama is a natural-born American citizen; six percent don’t believe that Hawaii, Obama’s birth state, is part of the United States. The poll does not differentiate between Fox viewers and others. [Think Progress, 8/19/2009]
Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) says he regrets using Senator Edward Kennedy’s name in recent statements he made criticizing Democrats’ attempts to reform health care. Grassley had asserted, falsely, that Kennedy, who suffers from terminal brain cancer, would have been denied care under Great Britain’s national health care system (see August 5, 2009). “I regret using Sen. Kennedy’s name,” Grassley says. But he adds that he has no regrets about vilifying the British health care system, or about more recent remarks he made accusing Democrats of wanting to prematurely end the lives of senior citizens (see August 12, 2009). [National Public Radio, 8/20/2009]
MSNBC reports that FreedomWorks, the non-profit “grassroots” lobbying organization that has spearheaded anti-health care reform efforts (see April 14, 2009, June 26, 2009, August 6-7, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 14, 2009, and August 17, 2009), has recently raised the amount of money it charges organizations to take part in anti-reform protests. FreedomWorks used to charge groups $2,500 to distribute their materials at FreedomWorks-sponsored events; now the price is $10,000. However, the new price includes the opportunity for a group to have a speaker at a FreedomWorks rally. FreedomWorks says it is trying to offset costs for stages, equipment, and other operating costs. [MSNBC, 8/20/2009]
Representative Lynn Jenkins speaks at the August 19 forum in Hiawatha, Kansas. [Source: Topeka Capital-Journal]At a town hall in Hiawatha, Kansas, Representative Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) tells constituents that the Republican Party desires a “great white hope” to appear, capable of defeating the political agenda of President Obama and the Democrats who lead Congress. Jenkins later apologizes for what she calls her infelicitous word choice. Jenkins lists a number of white Republicans who could emerge to lead the Republican Party against Obama and the Democrats. “Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope,” she says. “I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington.” Jenkins names three Republican House members—Eric Cantor (R-VA), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Paul Ryan (R-WI)—as potential leaders. “So don’t, you know, lose faith if you are a conservative,” she says. Local reporters note that the phrase “great white hope” is often associated with racist attitudes in the US, centered around African-American boxer Jack Johnson, who became heavyweight boxing champion in the early 1900s. The reaction among white Americans was strong enough to create a campaign to find a white boxer—a “great white hope”—who could defeat Johnson and reclaim the title for whites. Kenny Johnston, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, finds Jenkins’s remarks unacceptable. “The congressman might have avoided this problem if she had stuck to discussing constructive solutions to the health care crisis instead of lamenting the Republican Party’s search for a leader,” he says. A spokeswoman for Jenkins, Mary Geiger, says Jenkins intended no racial overtones in her word choice. “There may be some misunderstanding there when she talked about the great white hope,” Geiger says. “What she meant by it is they have a bright future. They’re bright lights within the party.” [Topeka Capital-Journal, 8/26/2009] Reporting on the incident, the news Web site Raw Story notes that in 1910, white boxer James Jeffries, slated to fight Johnson, told reporters, “I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro.” During the match, a ringside band played the song, “All Coons Look Alike to Me.” Johnson defeated Jeffries. [Raw Story, 8/27/2009]
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) says the Senate should not pass a health care reform bill unless it garners “bipartisan” support. Hatch goes on to say that such a bill would not be bipartisan unless it could win “somewhere between 75 and 80 votes.” Two of Hatch’s colleagues, Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), have made similar statements, with Enzi demanding “a bill that 75 or 80 senators can support.” Progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that all three senators have made very different claims in the past:
In 2001, all three boasted that then-President Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax-cut bill was “built upon bipartisanship” after it passed the Senate with 58 votes.
In November 2003, after the Senate passed a prescription drug plan for seniors that was heavily favored by pharmaceutical firms, Grassley praised himself as the “lead Senate architect of the bipartisan legislation.” The bill passed with 54 votes.
In 2005, Senate Republicans harshly criticized Senate Democrats for filibustering seven of President Bush’s 205 nominees to the federal judiciary. Hatch and Grassley argued strongly against those nominees needing to be confirmed by a 60-vote “supermajority.” Hatch called the filubuster “unconstitutional,” and Grassley described judicial filibusters as “an abuse of our function under the Constitution.” [Fox News, 8/20/2009; Think Progress, 8/20/2009]
Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), during a “telephone town hall” discussion of health care reform, reiterates her opposition to Democratic reform initiatives. Foxx, who has previously claimed that elderly Americans will be “put to death” under Democratic reform proposals (see July 28, 2009), says that any reform attempts by the federal government would be unconstitutional. Moreover, discussions about government reform issues are little more than “distractions” from more important issues. Foxx says: “The Constitution doesn’t grant a right to health care, and most of us are living as much by the Constitution as we can. It also doesn’t give the federal government the authority to deal with health care. As you may know, the 10th amendment, it says if it isn’t mentioned in the Constitution to be done by the federal government, it’s left to the states or the people.… I think one of the problems we have in this country right now is the fact that the federal government is trying to do too much. We need to leave things to the states and the localities.… And unfortunately, we are distracting ourselves from looking after the defense of this nation because we are dealing with issues that should, by right, be the state and individual’s.” Foxx has also claimed that every American has access to health care (see September 17, 2009), and has supported Medicare in past votes. [Think Progress, 8/21/2009]
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a key player in the Democrats’ health care reform process, defends his insistence on a bipartisan process that will produce reform supported by both Democrats and Republicans. Yet Baucus admits that Senate Republicans are almost uniformly committed to killing reform outright. Baucus is a member of the Finance Committee’s “Gang of Six,” a group of three conservative Democrats and three Republicans who are working to craft a reform proposal. “I just think if it is bipartisan, it’s more sustainable, it’s more durable, long-lasting,” Baucus says. “There will be more buy-in around the country. We’re going to make some mistakes. If it’s bipartisan, it will be easier to fix the mistakes, work together to fix the mistakes. It’s just better for the country.” However, he says: “The Republican leadership in the Senate and in the House is doing its utmost to kill this bill. They are putting intense political pressure on Chuck Grassley, Olympia Snowe, and Mike Enzi [the three Republican members of the “Gang of Six”], to bow out, because they want to kill it. So I’ve got a challenge ahead of me to work out all this on policy as we go through these meetings. The other thing is the politics of it: ‘People, this is the right thing to do for America. I know you’re under intense political pressure, but do the right thing. I know it’s easy for me to say right now, because I’m getting beat up by both sides, but not nearly as much as you are by the Republican hierarchy.’” Baucus says it is important to craft a bill that can garner the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster, which the Republicans will almost certainly invoke to try to delay or kill any reform bill. He does not support the reconciliation process that would allow the bill to pass with a 51-vote majority. [Think Progress, 8/21/2009; Helena Independent, 8/21/2009]
Betsy McCaughey is interviewed by Jon Stewart of ‘The Daily Show.’ [Source: Media Matters]Health care reform opponent Betsy McCaughey (see February 9, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 23, 2009, and July 23-24, 2009) appears on Comedy Central’s satirical news/comedy broadcast, The Daily Show. Host Jon Stewart devotes twice the usual amount of air time to interviewing McCaughey, and even then the interview is not broadcast in its entirety; Comedy Central posts the entire interview on its Web site. Stewart’s main interview tactic is to challenge McCaughey to prove one claim or another, such as her assertion that the health care reform legislation pending in the House would mandate “death panels” or “end-of-life” review committees; McCaughey then tries and fails to find language in the bill itself, and Stewart chastises her for spreading falsehoods. Late in the interview, Stewart calls McCaughey’s rhetoric “hyperbolic” and “dangerous.” [Comedy Central, 8/20/2009; Comedy Central, 8/20/2009; Media Matters, 8/21/2009; Huffington Post, 8/21/2009] He concludes by telling her, “I like you—but I don’t understand how your brain works.” [Salon, 8/21/2009] In an analysis of the interview, The Atlantic’s James Fallows, who lambasted McCaughey’s 1994 arguments against the Clinton administration’s health care reform efforts (see Mid-January - February 4, 1994), says he realizes after watching the interview that “I have been far too soft on Betsy McCaughey. Even when conferring on her the title of ‘most destructive effect on public discourse by a single person’ for the 1990s. She is way less responsible and tethered to the world of ‘normal’ facts and discourse than I had imagined.” Fallows writes that McCaughey succeeds as well as she does in the interview by ignoring Stewart’s points and rebuttals, and echoing her assertions even after Stewart effectively rebuts or mocks them. [Atlantic Monthly, 8/21/2009] Days later, McCaughey will be removed from her position as a director of Cantel Medical Corporation, in part apparently due to her performance on Stewart’s show (see August 20-21, 2009).
Health care opponent Betsy McCaughey either resigns, or is fired, from her post as a director of Cantel Medical Corporation. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow announces that McCaughey is fired; other sources report that she resigned voluntarily. Many media observers believe that part of the reason behind her departure is her poor performance on a recent interview with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart (see August 20, 2009). McCaughey retains her position as an adjunct fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, where she has consistently lobbied against health care reform and promoted issues favorable to health care and health insurance firms. In a press statement, Cantel says that “on August 20, 2009 it received a letter of resignation from Ms. Elizabeth McCaughey as a director of the company. Ms. McCaughey, who had served as a director since 2005, stated that she was resigning to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest during the national debate over health care reform.” [Yahoo! Finance, 8/21/2009; Stock Market Today, 8/22/2009]
Health reform organizer Randall Terry pretends to stab an elderly lady in the neck as part of an anti-reform protest. A fellow protester wearing a Barack Obama mask looks on. [Source: Feministe (.us)]Randall Terry, the former head of the extremist anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, gleans headlines during health care protests in the Southeast. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, Terry is nearly arrested while standing outside the federal courthouse stabbing baby dolls. In Nashville, one of Terry’s supporters dons an Obama mask and pretends to assault passers-by. One Nashville resident who witnesses the activities tells a local reporter: “It’s an angry white man in a black man’s mask. They’re just trying to shock people. They’re trying to say, ‘Barack Obama doesn’t care about you, he doesn’t care about your kids, because he’s black.’” During the same protest, Terry and an elderly supporter put on a bit of street theater: the elderly lady mimes seeking medical advice from Terry, who is dressed in a doctor’s jacket, and he pretends to stab her in the neck with a needle and kill her. According to Salon reporter Alex Koppelman, Terry’s twin messages in the protests are his opposition to abortion and to euthanasia—neither of which are supported in any health care reform bills before Congress. Before the protests, Terry wrote his supporters an e-mail: “It is refreshing to see the rage expressed at ‘town hall meetings.’ However, much of this anger is not about child-killing. It’s about the cost of the bill, or rationing, or if we can keep our current plan, or about treatments for the elderly. Our goal is to keep child-killing and euthanasia in the center of this debate until any vestige of taxpayers paying for murder is gone.” [Salon, 8/24/2009] At a Virginia rally soon after, Terry’s group re-enacts slave beatings (see August 24, 2009).
Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), a key player in the Senate battle over health reform, tries to explain his earlier statements that Iowans were right to “fear” that the federal government would “pull the plug on Grandma” by encouraging American senior citizens to end their lives prematurely (see August 12, 2009). During his explanation, Grassley blames President Obama for his words. On CBS’s Face the Nation, he tells host Bob Schieffer that even though he is aware the House health reform bill “doesn’t intend to” kill senior citizens, he feels he has a responsibility to make such statements: “I said that because—two reasons. Number one, I was responding to a question at my town meetings. I let my constituents set the agenda. A person that asked me that question was reading from language that they got off of the Internet. It scared my constituents. And the specific language I used was language that the president had used at Portsmouth (see August 11, 2009), and I thought that it was—if he used the language, then if I responded exactly the same way, that I had an opposite concern about not using end-of-life counseling for saving money, then I was answering.… You would get into the issue of saving money, and put these three things together and you are scaring a lot of people when I know the Pelosi bill doesn’t intend to do that, but that’s where it leads people to.” Schieffer asks Grassley directly if the House legislation “would pull the plug on Grandma.” Grassley responds, “It won’t do that,” but then goes on to say that such claims are effective: “It just scares the devil out of people. So that [provision for end-of-life counseling] ought to be dropped.” The progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that Obama did indeed use the phrase “pull the plug on Grandma,” but he “used it as an example of the lies his opponents were pushing around to scare the American public.” [Think Progress, 8/23/2009]
The cover of the VA booklet ‘Your Life, Your Choices.’ The cover text reads: ‘Planning for Future Medical Decisions’ and ‘How to Prepare a Personalized Living Will.’ [Source: American Veteran Magazine]Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace tells his viewers that the Veterans Administration (VA) has a secret “death book” that urges veterans to “pull the plug” and commit suicide. The 51-page booklet is called “Your Life, Your Choices,” and, Wallace says, was pulled for rewriting and reissuance in 2007, yet the VA under President Obama is still using it. In his Fox News blog, Wallace writes: “What makes the book controversial is that—according to critics—it seems to push veterans in the direction of ‘pulling the plug.’ For instance—page 21 is a worksheet in which the veteran is asked to consider various situations and then check—whether in each case, life would be ‘difficult, but acceptable’—‘worth living, but just barely’—or ‘not worth living.’ You might think that the scenarios would involve irreversible comas and the like. But no—they include: ‘I can no longer walk but get around in a wheelchair’—‘I live in a nursing home’—‘I am a severe financial burden on my family’—and ‘I cannot seem to “shake the blues”’.” Wallace’s guest, Wall Street Journal columnist James Towey, whom Wallace describes as helping to “end use of the book under President Bush, and was shocked to see it has now been reinstated,” tells viewers that the message of the book is simple: “hurry up and die.” (Wallace notes that he learned of the VA’s “death book” from Towey’s August 18 Journal column.) And, Wallace writes, quoting Towey, “he says—when government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude that life is not worth living—‘who needs death panels?’” Wallace briefly notes that he also interviewed VA’s Assistant Secretary, Tammy Duckworth, who noted that the book is “just one of many reference tools the VA makes available—and that it is currently being revised.” [Veterans Administration, 1997 ; Wall Street Journal, 8/18/2009; Fox News, 8/23/2009]
Debunking the Claim - The story of the “death book” is quickly debunked. Richard Allen Smith of the veterans’ organization VetVoice notes that the VA booklet is actually aimed at helping veterans choose not to commit suicide, and provides them with methods and resources to battle depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other conditions which lead veterans to consider prematurely ending their lives. [Richard Allen Smith, 8/23/2009] Progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes that the claim that the Bush administration “rescinded” the booklet in 2007 is false. While it was reviewed in 2007, the Bush administration actively promoted the use of the booklet throughout its tenure; an online document on the VA’s Web site labeled “Reviewed/Updated Date: December 29, 2008,” states, “To learn about a living will, read ‘Your Life, Your Choices.’” Wallace’s claim that the VA mandates all veterans receive the booklet is also false; it is considered an optional reference, not mandatory. [Media Matters, 8/24/2009]
Hidden Agenda? - Smith notes that Towey may have another reason for opposing the VA booklet. In 1996, Towey founded an organization called “Aging with Dignity.” In 1997, the organization released a 12-page pamphlet, “Five Wishes,” that it says does the same job as the VA’s booklet. It gives the ailing veteran a list of five questions that, it claims, when answered will guide your life decisions. For years, Towey has been trying to get the VA to stop distributing its own booklet and instead buy “Five Choices” to use with its veterans. In 2007, Towey did help force the VA to reassess and revise its booklet after complaining that it was biased against the anti-abortion viewpoint. Smith writes bluntly: “Astonishing. Jim Towey is one sick mother f_cker to argue that veterans should be presented with LESS information, not MORE, when it comes to making a living will, all so he can make a profit from peddling his end-of-life pamphlet that is shorter than the books my two-and-a-half-year-old reads.” [Huffington Post, 8/22/2009; Richard Allen Smith, 8/23/2009]
Claim Spread by Conservative Media - Even before Wallace’s August 23 broadcast, some conservative media outlets, having read Towey’s August 18 Wall Street Journal editorial, began spreading the story of the VA’s “death book.” The National Review printed editorials denouncing the booklet, and Fox News host Sean Hannity called it “the equivalent of a death panel.” Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) used her Facebook blog to accuse the VA of “encourag[ing] veterans to forego care as they make end-of-life decisions.” And radio host Rush Limbaugh told his listeners: “This thing is obsessed with death. It’s obsessed with you deciding—or with some—maybe some influence—that your life isn’t worth living. It’s—there’s nothing positive in this.” [Media Matters, 8/24/2009]
Entity Tags: Chris Wallace, Media Matters, National Review, James Towey, Fox News, Obama administration, Bush administration (43), Tammy Duckworth, Richard Allen Smith, Rush Limbaugh, US Veterans Administration, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
BlueCross BlueShield logo. [Source: TopNews (.us)]Health insurers have mobilized tens of thousands of employees to fight against the Democrats’ health care reform initiative, according to reports by the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. The insurance industry’s primary motive seems to be financial gain, according to the Times reporters. Many of the nation’s largest insurers, including UnitedHealth, have urged their employees to become involved in protesting health care reform, and provided advocacy “hot line” telephone numbers, printed “talking points,” sample “letters to the editor,” and other materials in almost every Congressional district throughout the nation. And many insurers, including BlueCross Blue Shield, have sponsored anti-reform television ads targeting conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats, many of whom are considered vulnerable to pressure from the industry. The insurance industry is paying for over 900 lobbyists, spending $35 million in the first half of 2009 lobbying Congress and the White House. AFL-CIO spokesman Gerald Shea says: “They have beaten us six ways to Sunday. Any time we want to make a small change to provide cost relief, they find a way to make it more profitable.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2009; Wall Street Journal, 8/24/2009]
Jamming the 'Town Halls' - Insurers like UnitedHealth and others are sending their employees to “town hall” meetings to protest against reform. The Journal reports, “[T]he industry employees come armed with talking points about the need for bipartisan legislation and the unintended consequences of a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers.” But they are instructed not to become contentious and argumentative, according to a “Town Hall Tips” memo provided by the industry’s chief lobbying organization, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP—see Before August 6, 2009). The memo warns those attending the meetings to expect criticism, and to stay calm. “It is important not to take the bait,” the memo cautions. AHIP president Karen Ignagni says the town hall meetings are an opportunity “to strongly push back against charges that we have very high profits. It’s very important that our men and women… calmly provide the facts and for members of Congress to hear what these people do every day.” Larry Loew, who works for the insurance administration firm Cornerstone Group, says he attended a recent town hall meeting hosted by Representative Alan Mollohan (D-WV) because “my whole industry is being threatened.” Loew claims he was not coached by AHIP, but admits to preparing for the meeting by gathering talking points from hospital and insurance company Web sites. AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach says about 50,000 employees have been engaged in writing letters and making phone calls to politicians or attending town hall meetings. [Wall Street Journal, 8/24/2009]
'Hallelujah!' - One industry proposal that is gaining traction among some in Congress is the so-called “individual mandate,” which would require all citizens to buy some form of health insurance. That provision would guarantee insurers tens of millions of new customers—many of which would receive government subsidies to help pay the premiums. Robert Laszewski, a former health insurance executive who now heads the consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates, says of the provision, “It’s a bonanza.” The industry’s reaction to early negotiations can, Laszewski says, be summed up in a single word: “Hallelujah!” Linda Blumberg, a health policy analyst at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, says, “The insurers are going to do quite well” with health care reform. “They are going to have this very stable pool, they’re going to have people getting subsidies to help them buy coverage, and… they will be paid the full costs of the benefits that they provide—plus their administrative costs.” Aetna’s chief executive, Ron Williams, says: “We have to get everyone into the insurance market. That is a huge, big deal [and] everyone has coalesced around that.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2009; Wall Street Journal, 8/24/2009]
Battling the Public Option, - Insurers have fought most strongly against the so-called “public option,” which would create a government-run, non-profit alternative to private health insurance. Some polls are showing public support for the public option has declined, and stock prices for the insurance corporations have tracked upwards. Other insurance industry proposals are gaining ground. The Senate Finance Committee is considering a proposal to lower the proposed mandatory reimbursement rate for insurers to policyholders from 76 percent to 65 percent, and the industry is pressuring Congress to lower the limit that insurers must meet to cover a policyholder’s medical bills, leaving more of the money it gleans from premiums as profits. “These are a bad deal for consumers,” says J. Robert Hunter, a former Texas insurance commissioner who works with the Consumer Federation of America. Insurance companies would reap huge profits by providing less insurance “per premium dollar,” he says. Former Cigna executive Wendell Potter says, “It would be quite a windfall” for the insurance industry. [Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2009]
Entity Tags: Consumer Federation of America, UnitedHealth Group, Urban Institute, Wall Street Journal, BlueCross Blue Shield, Alan Mollohan, Senate Finance Committee, AFL-CIO, Aetna, America’s Health Insurance Plans, Wendell Potter, Robert Laszewski, Health Policy and Strategy Associates, Gerald Shea, Cornerstone Group, J. Robert Hunter, Robert Zirkelbach, Ron Williams, Linda Blumberg, Karen Ignagni, Larry Loew, Los Angeles Times
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
Health care reform supporters pack a 2,700-seat high school gymnasium in Reston, Virginia, to hear former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean and Representative James Moran (D-VA) discuss the Democrats’ reform proposals. Two pro-health care groups, Organizing for America and Change that Works, helped turn out the crowd, gathered signatures, and passed out signs, some of which resembled campaign signs for President Obama’s campaign, and some that were drawn in magic marker to appear homemade. One supporter says she goes because “I’ve heard these town hall meetings have been rude and out of control. I wanted to lend my support to the side that supports health care reform. I’m here to show my presence, wave my sign, and show that a good portion of Northern Virginia supports health care reform.”
Violent Street Theater - Anti-reform protesters gather outside the gym, and former Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry entertains the crowd with some street theater similar to what he has performed in recent days (see August 22-23, 2009). Terry and his supporters put on a skit with a man in an Obama mask pretending to whip a bloodied woman, who repeats the line: “Massa, don’t hit me no more. I got the money to kill the babies.” Terry also re-enacts his previous performance of a doctor pretending to stab an elderly woman to death. He explains his performance, saying, “There’s no way to pay for this thing without killing granny.” Two other protesters heckle supporters as they enter the gym; they wave signs and wear large flags around their shoulders adorned with a large machine gun and the words, “Come and take it.” (Guns are forbidden at the event because it takes place on school property.)
Police Remove Protesters - Inside, a small number of protesters try to shout down the rabbi who gives a preliminary invocation, but reform supporters drown out their boos and screams with cheers. Moran accepts only pre-screened questions, in an attempt to forestall raucous outbursts, but this process is disrupted when one protester pretends to be someone else who had been called upon to ask their question, and shouts out his objections to health care reform. In general, Moran is able to speak over the top of the near-constant heckling by using an amplifier and ignoring the taunts and jeers. However, when Dean takes the podium, the protesters erupt, and Moran orders some of them to leave. Police escort Terry and at least one other person out of the gym as the majority of the crowd chants, “Kick him out!” Although Dean is known as a fiery supporter of the government-run “public option,” his presentation is low-key and somewhat technical. [The Hill, 8/25/2009]
The Republican National Committee (RNC) releases a memo entitled “CIA IG Report Confirms Effectiveness of CIA Interrogation Program.” The memo is in response to the release of a 2004 CIA report detailing numerous instances of torture and abuse against detainees by CIA interrogators and contractors (see August 24, 2009). The RNC memo asserts that, far from detailing potential crimes and abuses, the report proves that the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program was effective in garnering critical intelligence from detainees. The memo reads in part: “Media coverage [of the report] seems to imply that CIA interrogators were constantly going beyond programmatic guidance, where the IG report found the reality to be that ‘there were few instances of deviations from approved procedures.‘… Additionally, the media today has latched on to the use of a gun in an interrogation, without usually reporting the other important element of that salacious story, which is that the interrogator was promptly disciplined for his actions.… Similarly going unreported today is that the release of the IG report should finally put to rest claims that the CIA interrogation program was not effective and did not produce actionable intelligence.” The memo notes that in the report, “[a]gency senior managers believe that lives have been saved as a result of the capture and interrogation of terrorists who were planning attacks, in particular, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaida, Hambali, and [Abd al-Rahim a]l-Nashiri.” In the report, an unidentified senior CIA official called the program “an absolute success.” [Weekly Standard, 8/24/2009] The RNC statement is contemporaneous with a similar statement from former Vice President Dick Cheney (see August 24, 2009).
Former Vice President Dick Cheney releases a statement that asserts the just-released CIA inspector general’s report (see August 24, 2009) proves that torture, which he refers to as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” works, and follows up with an attack on the Obama administration’s commitment to protecting the nation. Cheney writes: “The documents released Monday clearly demonstrate that the individuals subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al-Qaeda. This intelligence saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks. These detainees also, according to the documents, played a role in nearly every capture of al-Qaeda members and associates since 2002. The activities of the CIA in carrying out the policies of the Bush administration were directly responsible for defeating all efforts by al-Qaeda to launch further mass casualty attacks against the United States. The people involved deserve our gratitude. They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions. President Obama’s decision to allow the Justice Department to investigate and possibly prosecute CIA personnel (see First Half of August 2009), and his decision to remove authority for interrogation from the CIA to the White House (see August 24, 2009), serves as a reminder, if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this administration’s ability to be responsible for our nation’s security.” [Weekly Standard, 8/24/2009; Washington Independent, 8/24/2009] Cheney’s statement is contemporaneous with a similar statement from the Republican National Committee (see August 24, 2009).
Disputing Cheney's Assessment - A Democratic official disputes the assertions, saying that the report provides no basis to conclude that torture was effective in eliciting actionable intelligence, and cites caveats in the body of the report. [Politico, 8/25/2009] And the New York Times notes that the memos “do not refer to any specific interrogation methods and do not assess their effectiveness.” [New York Times, 8/24/2009]
'Silly Semantic Game' - Reporter and columnist Spencer Ackerman notes that the memos seem to suggest that the most useful intelligence came from traditional intelligence techniques. He writes, “Cheney’s public account of these documents have conflated the difference between information acquired from detainees, which the documents present, and information acquired from detainees through the enhanced interrogation program, which they don’t.” Human rights organizations take a similar line. Gitanjali Gutierrez of the Center for Constitutional Rights says the documents “don’t make the case for torture, they only show that the CIA is able to tailor documents to justify its actions after the fact.” Tom Parker of Amnesty International notes that the memos “are hardly the slam dunk we had been led to expect. There is little or no supporting evidence in either memo to give substance to the specific claims about impending attacks made by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in highly coercive circumstances.” [Washington Independent, 8/24/2009; TPM Muckraker, 8/25/2009] Reporter Zachary Roth calls Cheney’s claim a “silly semantic game.” While it is true that the US gained actionable intelligence from detainees who were tortured, Roth observes, “it’s totally different from Cheney’s earlier claim—that the documents would show it was the EITs themselves that elicited the information.” [TPM Muckraker, 8/25/2009]
Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Bush administration (43), Obama administration, Central Intelligence Agency, New York Times, Gitanjali Gutierrez, Al-Qaeda, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Zachary Roth, Republican National Committee, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Tom Parker, Spencer Ackerman
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives
Opponents of health care reform lead the debate during a speech and followup session by Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), one of the so-called “Gang of Six” who are helping to write the Senate Finance Committee’s health care reform proposal. Around 500 people attend the event, held in a high school gym in Gillette, Wyoming. Enzi lambasts Senate Democrats and the White House for not engaging in what he calls “bipartisan collaboration” on reform, and calls for “market-based” health care solutions. Enzi says he has no use for a so-called “public option,” which would mandate a government-run alternative to private health care. “A government option is a monopoly, and it’s no option,” Enzi says, earning a strong round of applause. State Representative Timothy Hallinan, a Gillette Republican, earns more applause when he urges Enzi to pull out of negotiations with Senate Democrats and oppose any reform bill. When urged to do so by an audience member who identifies himself as a Republican, Enzi claims: “If I hadn’t been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care.… Someone has to be at the table asking questions. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.… It’s not where I get them to compromise, it’s what I get them to leave out.” Some pro-reform members of the audience note the large amounts of campaign contributions Enzi has taken, and argue for the public option. Enzi retorts by claiming two government-run medical programs, Medicare and Medicaid, are “going broke,” and a public option program would suffer the same fate. [Associated Press, 8/25/2009]
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh tells his audience in two separate broadcasts that President Obama “wants to mandate circumcision” as part of the Democrats’ health care reform proposal. On August 24, Limbaugh says: “Not that I’m against circumcision, but it’s a family’s decision. Leave our penises alone, too, Obama!” On August 25, he says: “[I]t is President Obama who wants to mandate circumcision. We had that story yesterday; and that means if we need to save our penises from anybody, it’s Obama.” Limbaugh cites as his source a Fox News story based on an upcoming report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that may recommend circumcision for newborn boys in order to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS (the procedure can, later in life, reduce transmission of the disease from women to men). The CDC has not yet decided whether to make the recommendation. It is also considering whether to recommend circumcision for adult men who are at high risk for HIV infection. CDC spokesman Scott Bryan tells the St. Petersburg Times that any such recommendations “will be completely voluntary,” both for parents and for adult males. The St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact investigative team researches what involvement Obama may have had in the CDC’s potential recommendation, and finds none. “From what we found, Obama has not used the word ‘circumcision’ in any public statement as a candidate or as president,” the reporters note. “We also found no evidence that he has recommended circumcusion to the CDC. The only link—and it’s an indirect one—that we could find between Obama and the CDC’s efforts was a press release on the White House Web site announcing a series of HIV/AIDS community discussions, the first one being held in conjunction with the National HIV Prevention Conference we mentioned earlier. But the release did not mention circumcision. It turns out that circumcision recommendations have been under discussion since 2007, when George W. Bush was president. Given the fact the CDC was pondering the idea back then, it is no more accurate to say Obama wants to mandate circumcision than to say Bush did.” The Times calls Limbaugh’s assertions “ridiculous.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/27/2009]
The mainstream media shows little interest in reporting that the just-released CIA report on torture (see August 24, 2009) does not prove that torture works as a method of eliciting actionable intelligence from detainees, according to Washington Post columnist and blogger Greg Sargent, writing on the Post’s political blog “The Plum Line.” Sargent notes that when former Vice President Dick Cheney was asserting that the then-classified memos did indeed show that torture worked, “[t]he mainstream media trumpeted Cheney’s lies about what the documents show. But now that they’ve been made public and they contradict his claims, most reporters seem to have lost interest.” He also notes the coverage given to Cheney’s claim that the report proves torture was effective (see August 24, 2009). Sargent backs up his claim with analysis of the media coverage provided by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and CNN; the Times was the only source to directly address Cheney’s claims, but, as Sargent observes, “this came in the 13th paragraph in an article not directly focused on Cheney’s claims.” He goes on to note that only ABC News and the Washington Independent devoted stand-alone stories to Cheney’s claims not being proven. [TPM Muckraker, 8/25/2009; Plum Line, 8/25/2009] CNN reported, “Cheney says documents show interrogations prevented attacks… and yielded crucial information about al-Qaeda.” Sargent notes that Cheney didn’t say that at all, but rather he said “that the same individuals who were tortured also happened to yield the most important evidence about al-Qaeda. He’s not saying that the docs proved torture was responsible for producing that info” (emphasis in the original). Sargent credits Cheney with “masterful obfuscation,” and says that CNN was “being played for chumps.” [Plum Line, 8/25/2009; CNN, 8/25/2009] Sargent observes: “To be fair, there was tons of news yesterday. Maybe the news orgs will get around to doing big takeouts on this. But come on, Cheney and his daughter Liz were granted tons of print space and air time to claim for weeks that these docs would prove torture worked. Seems fair to expect aggressive, stand-alone stories about what they do—and don’t—prove in the real world.” And reporter Zachary Roth concludes, “[N]o doubt, when Cheney or his daughter want to go public with their next set of self-justifying crap, they’ll be welcomed as authorities, as if none of this ever happened.” [Plum Line, 8/25/2009; TPM Muckraker, 8/25/2009]
Entity Tags: Greg Sargent, Associated Press, ABC News, CNN, Elizabeth (“Liz”) Cheney, Zachary Roth, Washington Post, Central Intelligence Agency, New York Times, Washington Independent, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Former CIA case officer Robert Baer, now an author and a columnist for Time.com, tells MSNBC host Alison Stewart that former Vice President Dick Cheney is wrong when he says just-released CIA documents prove that “enhanced interrogation techniques”—torture—works (see August 24, 2009). Baer says: “I’ve looked to the documents and there is no evidence that torture led to the disclosure of imminent attacks, ‘the ticking bomb,’ as they call it. There’s just no evidence there.… [W]hat Cheney said and what’s come out in these documents don’t prove anything at all.” Baer goes on to say that he has never seen torture work: “I’ve spent 21 years in the CIA. It isn’t—and watched other countries use torture and it never worked. In fact, there was a rule, a very fixed rule in the CIA—don’t accept tortured information because it’s unreliable. And that was across the board. It went from China to Zimbabwe to every country in the world. It’s unreliable.” The CIA was never equipped to perform torture, or what Baer “nicely” calls “hostile intelligence,” in the first place. The agency, Baer says, is “filled with liberal arts majors who go out and collect intelligence without coercion. So 9/11 comes along. The White House is desperate to do something. It turns to the CIA.… So, guys, like you and me, will go out and then all we know about torture is we watch “24”, and suddenly, these guys are put on the line and they improvise and they use mock executions. They threaten mothers and children and the rest of it. And it looks like the amateur hour because it is the amateur hour. This is not the role of the CIA to do abusive interrogations. I mean, if anybody should be doing them, it should be the military or the FBI.” Baer supports the release of the memos because, he says, “I’m afraid we’re going to be attacked again and everybody’s going to say, you know, under this administration, maybe and say, they do something, we have to start going back to torture. What we need to know is, was it really useful or wasn’t it? And no one’s answered that question in spite of what Vice President Cheney says.” [MSNBC, 8/26/2009]
In an interview with NPR, Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), finds it difficult to both support Medicare and attack government-run health care. Steele is interviewed by Steve Inskeep, and tells him that government-run health care is never a good option, but simultaneously demands that health care reformers protect Medicare and retain its funding.
Says Democrats Want to Cut Medicare, Then Advocates Cutting Medicare - Steele calls Medicare “a valuable program” that is “the last line of opportunity” for elderly Americans to receive health care. He accuses Democrats of wanting to “raid” the program to fund health care reform, and says accusations that he wants to cut Medicare spending is “a wonderful interpretation by the left” that he wants to reduce such funding. However, in response to the next question, Steele says he supports cutting Medicare spending; Inskeep asks, “[Y]ou would be in favor of certain Medicare cuts?” and Steele says: “Absolutely. You want to maximize the efficiencies of the program. I mean, anyone who’s in the program would want you to do that, and certainly those who manage it want you to that.”
Protecting and Attacking Medicare Simultaneously - Inskeep pins Steele down on the dichotomy by noting that he has previously written about the need to protect Medicare while attacking the idea of President Obama’s “plan for a government-run health care system.” Inskeep observes, “You’re aware that Medicare is a government-run health care program,” and Steele retorts: “Yeah, look how it’s run. And that’s my point. Take Medicare and make it writ large across the country, because here we’re now—how many times have we been to the precipice of bankruptcy for a government-run health care program?” In the following exchange, Steele, according to Think Progress reporter Amanda Terkel, “tie[s] himself into knots”:
Inskeep: “It sounds like you don’t like Medicare very much at all.”
Steele: “No, I’m not saying that. No, Medicare…”
Inskeep: “… But you write in this [Washington Post] op-ed that you want to protect Medicare because it’s politically popular. People like Medicare.”
Steele: “No, no, no, no, no. Please, don’t…”
Inskeep: “That’s why you’re writing to protect Medicare.”
Steele: “Well, people may like Medicare, and liking a program and having it run efficiently is sometimes two different things. And the reality of it is simply this: I’m not saying I like or dislike Medicare.… My only point is that, okay, Medicare is what it is. It’s not going anywhere. So let’s focus on fixing it so that we don’t every three, five, 10 years have discussions about bankruptcy and running out of money.”
'You're Doing a Wonderful Little Dance' - Inskeep continues to drill into Steele’s support for Medicare and his simultaneous opposition to government-run health care, leading Steele to note, “I want to protect something that’s already in place and make it run better and run efficiently for the senior citizens that are in that system does not mean that I want to automatically support, you know, nationalizing or creating a similar system for everybody else in the country who currently isn’t on Medicare.” When Steele says the government could regulate the private industry to make sure that private insurers don’t make decisions for citizens’ health care based on profit, Inskeep asks: “Wait a minute, wait, wait. You would trust the government to look into that?” After a brief, spluttering exchange, Steele says, “I’m talking about those who—well, who regulates the insurance markets?” Inskeep notes, “That would be the government, I believe.” Steele then accuses Inskeep of trying to manipulate the conversation: “Well, and so it—wait a minute, hold up. You know, you’re doing a wonderful little dance here and you’re trying to be cute, but the reality of this is very simple. I’m not saying the government doesn’t have a role to play. I’ve never said that. The government does have a role to play. The government has a very limited role to play.”
Insists that 'No One's Trying to Scare' Americans about Reform - Towards the end of the interview, Inskeep asks whether it is difficult to explain health care to Americans in a way that “doesn’t just kind of scare people with soundbites.” Steele replies: “No one’s trying to scare people with soundbites. I have not done that, and I don’t know any leaders in the House and the Senate that have done that.” [National Public Radio, 8/27/2009; Think Progress, 8/27/2009] Steele has called the Democrats’ health care reform plan “socialism” and accused Congressional Democrats of being in a “cabal” to enact government-controlled health care over the objections of the American populace (see July 20, 2009). And his RNC has sent out a survey suggesting that the Democrats’ reform proposal would discriminate against Republicans (see August 27, 2009).
The question from the RNC survey asking about possible discrimination against Republicans. [Source: Washington Independent]The Republican National Committee (RNC) mails a survey to thousands of recipients that implies the Democrats’ health care reform efforts will use voter registration information to ration health care, and to deny care to Republicans. A question in the survey asks: “It has been suggested that the government could use voter registration to determine a person’s political affiliation, prompting fears that GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system. Does this possibility concern you?”
'Inartfully' Worded - Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine retorts, “Even we can’t believe the latest in the RNC’s effort to scare voters, lie to the public, and ‘kill’ health insurance reform.” RNC spokeswoman Katie Wright says the question might have been “inartfully” written, but reflects legitimate concerns about confidentiality: “Americans have reason to be concerned about the failure of the Democrats’ health care experiment to adequately protect the privacy of Americans’ personal information.” Politico’s Glenn Thrush says of Wright’s wording, “‘Inartfully’ seems to fall short of a loaded question which seems to have little basis in reality.” He notes that though the House bill gives the government the right to glean “point of service” data about someone’s health care payments or remittances through the use of an electronic benefits card, “nowhere in the proposed bill is any reference to tapping voter registration information.” [Politico, 8/27/2009; Republican National Committee, 8/27/2009 ]
AMA Criticizes Survey - The American Medical Association (AMA) denounces the survey’s implication, writing, “Patients should rest assured that the health care legislation under consideration in the House does not ration medical care or discriminate based on political affiliation.” [TPMDC, 8/27/2009] Progressive television host Rachel Maddow says of the survey, “In the horrible Hobbesian, no rules, no shame, free-for-all of lies, overstatements, and outrageous mischaracterizations that has been the health care debate this summer thus far, this one—this health reform is a secret plot to kill Republicans lie offered up by the Republican Party itself—was so bad that the Republican Party actually had to apologize for it today.” [MSNBC, 8/28/2009]
'Fundraising Appeal' Designed to 'Inflam[e] the Republican Base' - Retired insurance underwriter Raymond Denny, who received the survey, equates the question to the classic “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” He says: “It’s so blatantly lopsided. I called them [the RNC] up and said, ‘This is ridiculous!’ They just said, ‘All right.’” Denny tells a reporter he is concerned that such baseless insinuations—that the Obama administration would deny health care to Republicans—would become yet another talking point for anti-reform proponents. Another question asks: “Rationing of health care in countries with socialized medicine has led to patients dying because they were forced to wait too long for treatment.… Are you concerned that this would be inevitable in the US under the Democrats’ plan?” Denny says: “I wrote insurance policies. I know how words can be used to make people do what you want them to do. The law allows a lot of latitude with politicians. That I understand. Some of these techniques are used by both parties. But this to me seems way over the edge of normal politics.” Pollster Mike Riley says the survey is not, apparently, a legitimate information-gathering device, but rather a means of inflaming the Republican base and garnering donations. Such “surveys” are standard practice, he notes. “It’s common, trying to stir the pot to see what kinds of issues get attention. Both parties do that. They are using some of the hot-button issues to see what activates the voters. It’s politics as usual within the party faithful. No one that I know puts any credibility in these types of polls.” Another pollster, Bob Moore, calls the “survey” little more than “a fundraising appeal.” If such tactics “weren’t effective, they wouldn’t be using them,” he says. [The Columbian, 8/27/2009; Washington Independent, 8/27/2009; Washington Independent, 8/27/2009]
Entity Tags: American Medical Association, Bob Moore, Brandi Hoffine, Democratic National Committee, Glenn Thrush, Katie Wright, Republican National Committee, Mike Riley, Rachel Maddow, Raymond Denny, Republican Party
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
Rex Rammell. [Source: Spokane Spokesman-Review]A Republican candidate for the Idaho gubernatorial nomination, Rex Rammell, says that he would like to hunt and kill President Obama. Rammell makes his remarks during a local Republican Party fundraiser. Criticizing Governor C. L. Otter for not buying a “wolf tag,” or a license to hunt gray wolves, Rammell responds to a shout from an audience member about “Obama tags” by saying: “The Obama tags? We’d buy some of those.” Rammell later says he was merely joking and, though he supports nothing Obama is doing as president, would never call for Obama’s assassination. [Magic Valley Times-News, 8/27/2009] While Rammell may have been joking, he also distributes his “humorous” remark to his press distribution list for statewide reporting. [Boise Weekly, 8/27/2009]
Extending the Joke; GOP Lawmakers Lambast Rammell - Within hours, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) demands that Rammell apologize for the remarks. Crapo is also challenging Otter for the governor’s post in 2010. He says Rammell’s jokes undercut healthy debate over important issues. “Rex Rammell’s comments are in very poor taste and should not have been said,” Crapo says. “Remarks like these should not even be made jokingly. He should apologize for those remarks and for the perception they may have created.” Rammell refuses to apologize, noting that any hunting tags he might buy in Idaho would not be valid in Washington. He says, “Anyone who understands the law knows I was just joking, because Idaho has no jurisdiction to issue hunting tags in Washington, DC.” [Associated Press, 8/27/2009] Other Idaho Republicans, including Otter, Senator Jim Risch, Representative Mike Simpson, and former Governor Phil Batt, later join in Crapo’s condemnation of Rammell’s remarks. “Reckless and inflammatory statements like these gravely damage confidence in the political process and the good citizens who serve the public,” says Otter. “As governor, as an Idaho Republican, and as a citizen of our state, I reject and condemn this kind of rhetoric. There is no place for it in Idaho.” Simpson says, “It is absolutely irresponsible to say such inflammatory things, especially for someone who seeks to be a leader in Idaho.” Risch says: “I disgree often with the president and his policies. But the comment was totally unacceptable and should not have been made.” Batt says of Rammell’s two comments: “I think those are absolutely irresponsible statements. Totally irresponsible, maybe criminal. You’re not allowed to threaten the president, with good reason. We’ve had some tragic assassinations in our history and we don’t want to encourage them, even in a joking way.”
Refusing to Apologize - Rammell again refuses to apologize, instead slamming Crapo for “giving away” two million acres of remote land “to the environmentalists,” and saying, “Phil Batt should go to jail for allowing the wolves to enter Idaho in the first place.” Rammell says they, not he, are the real criminals. Batt believes Rammell is trying to energize his long-shot campaign for governor. He also says he worries that Rammell’s remarks reinforce the national impression that Idaho is a haven for right-wing secessionists, militia members, and racists. “Even though Idaho has had a very minimal amount of overt racism and discrimination, it’s haunted us for years,” he says. “And each little indiscretion tends to magnify it. It’s really too bad.” [Idaho Statesman, 8/28/2009]
Not an Issue of Free Speech, but Incitement to Violence - Idaho columnist Jill Kuraitis notes: “What would Rammell’s mother say? Mine would have said: ‘Threatening the president is a felony, and you will never say anything like that again. Clear?’ What would Rammell’s father say? Mine would have said: ‘I expect you to take this matter seriously. And if you ever hear anyone make a statement threatening the president, you will loudly object and then call the police.’” She adds: “Tossing a serious matter like this off with a simple ‘Rammell, what part of ‘that’s not funny’ don’t you understand?’ isn’t good enough. Calling the remark ‘tasteless,’ ‘unfortunate,’ or ‘inappropriate’ isn’t good enough, either. This isn’t about silencing anybody’s voice. Standing up to threats, no matter the intention of the speaker, doesn’t mean the speaker’s opinions should be silenced. Rhetoric encouraging any sort of violence, especially toward the president—any president—is the issue.” [New West Boise, 8/27/2009]
Fox News television banner promoting its coverage of the ‘Tea Party Express’ bus tour. [Source: Media Matters]Fox News gives in-depth coverage to the “Tea Party Express,” a bus tour organized by the Republican political action committee Our Country Deserves Better (OCDBPAC), whose stated mission is to oppose the Obama administration’s policy initiatives. Fox has previously promoted and covered other “tea party” protests (see April 15, 2009 and May 13-14, 2009). The network covers the kickoff of the tour, after over a month of extensive promotion on Fox News, Fox Business, the “Fox Nation” Web site, and FoxNews.com (see October 13, 2009). OCDBPAC used Fox’s promotion of the tour in its own fundraising efforts. Fox has hosted OCDBPAC vice chairman and “Tea Party Express” organizer Mark Williams, who has publicly stated his disbelief that President Obama is an American citizen, has expressed his belief in the so-called “death panels” connected to the health care reform legislation being crafted in Congress (see August 7, 2009), and has compared Obama to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Fox News provides viewers with information telling them “how you can join” the tour by noting the dates and locations of 22 tour stops, with anchors encouraging viewers to “be a part” of the tour. Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity joins the tour for the day, and broadcasts “live updates” from the bus. Reporter Griff Jenkins is assigned to cover the tour for a number of days, and will provide segments for broadcast periodically throughout the tour. Another Fox reporter, William La Jeunesse, reports from the Sacramento kickoff, and tells his audience, “[H]opefully Washington will listen to [the protesters’] concerns.” In a kickoff-day interview, Williams tells La Jeunesse that the purpose of the tour is to revive the Republican Party, which he says is “right now in a coma.” [Media Matters, 8/28/2009]
An August 2009 sermon by Arizona pastor Steven Anderson calling for the immediate death of President Obama (see January 18, 2009) triggers an inquiry by the Secret Service. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, after playing video excerpts of the sermon to his viewers, interviews ex-Secret Service agent Scott Alswang, who says that Anderson is treading very close to violating a federal law prohibiting threats against the president. “He is walking a fine line,” Alswang says. “The problem I have with it is that he seems to be inciting his congregation to go and act in a direction toward the president. And that, at least on a local level, would seem to me to be an inciting charge. And if someone in that congregation had mental disabilities or were prone toward violence or had a direction of interest toward the president or his family, there could be grave consequences.” CNN analyst Mike Brooks says that his sources confirm that Anderson has been interviewed by the Secret Service. [Phoenix New Times, 8/29/2009]
Denies Calls for Assassination - After his August sermon, titled “Why I Hate Barack Obama,” Anderson insisted he was not calling for anyone to actually assassinate Obama. “Nowhere in the sermon did I advocate vigilantism,” he said on August 27. “It’s a spiritual battle.… I’d rather have him die of natural causes anyway, that way he’s not some martyr. I’m praying for him to die just so he gets what he deserves.” [TPM Muckraker, 8/27/2009] Later, Anderson is more ambivalent, telling an ABC reporter: “I don’t care how God does it, I’m not going into further detail than that. It would be better now than later.” [ABC News, 9/1/2009]
Says Congregation Is Armed and 'Ready to Protect' Itself - Chris Broughton, who recently brought an AR-15 to an event featuring Obama (see August 17, 2009), is a member of Anderson’s church, and says he moved to Tempe to join that church. “I actually moved to the area because this church was preaching the message I believe in,” he says. Anderson says his congregation has received death threats over his sermons, and adds: “Guns are a great deterrent. We haven’t had any violence because people know if they come down here swinging a baseball bat, we’re ready to protect ourselves.” Anderson makes a practice of posting YouTube videos of his conflicts with law enforcement officials; in April 2009, he claimed he was beaten by Border Patrol and Arizona police officers after being stopped for speeding. Anderson is facing disorderly conduct charges. He has posted other videos from previous confrontations with Border Patrol authorities, and with a police officer at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. [Arizona Republic, 8/29/2009; ABC News, 9/1/2009]
Newsweek publishes an extensive article detailing what it calls “the five biggest lies in the health care debate.” Despite the title, the article actually debunks seven.
The government will have electronic access to your bank accounts and steal citizens’ money (see (July 30, 2009) and After). The bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee indeed calls for electronic fund transfers, but only from insurers to doctors and other providers. Patients are not involved in such transactions.
You’ll have no choice in what health benefits you receive. This story seems to originate from a blog, Flecks of Life, which features a picture of President Obama made up as the Joker from the Batman films. The House bill provides for a “health care exchange,” including a list of private insurers and a single government plan, allowing people without health insurance to choose from the list. The government will prevent insurers from refusing clients with “preexisting conditions,” and require them to offer at least minimum coverage. However, Newsweek observes, “The requirements will be floors, not ceilings, however, in that the feds will have no say in how generous private insurance can be.”
No chemo for older Medicare patients. Newsweek calls this a “vicious” rumor coming from the so-called “deather” camp (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 15, 2009, August 18, 2009, and August 23-24, 2009). The claim is that Medicare will refuse cancer patients over 70 years of age anything other than end-of-life counseling, including chemotherapy and other life-extending treatments. The claim, Newsweek says, “has zero basis in fact. It’s just a vicious form of the rationing scare.”
[H]ealth-care reform will be financed through $500 billion in Medicare cuts. Again, nothing in the House bill or anything being considered in the Senate exists to back this claim. There are proposed decreases to increases in future Medicare funding, essentially reducing Medicare expenditures from the forecast of $803 billion by 2019. $560 billion would be removed from future Medicare increases over the next 10 years, and would not come from funds slated to provide actual care to seniors. And the House bill proposes increasing Medicare funding by $340 billion over the next 10 years. According to Medicare expert Tricia Newman of the Kaiser Family Foundation, the money would pay for office visits, eliminate copays and deductibles, and close the so-called “donut hole” in Medicare drug benefits.
Illegal immigrants will get free health insurance. While a 1986 law allows illegal immigrants to receive free emergency care through emergency room clinics like everyone else in America, the House bill does not give anyone free health care. Illegal immigrants will not be eligible for subsidies to buy health insurance. In July, the House defeated a Republican-sponsored amendment to require anyone enrolling in a public plan or seeking subsidies to purchase health insurance to provide proof of citizenship. After the amemdment was defeated, Representative Steve King (R-IA) began spreading the false claims that since proof of citizenship would not be mandated, illegal immigrants would indeed be able to obtain government-funded health insurance. Newsweek writes: “Can we say that none of the estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants will ever wangle insurance subsidies through identity fraud, pretending to be a citizen? You can’t prove a negative, but experts say that Medicare—the closest thing to the proposals in the House bill—has no such problem.”
Death panels will decide who lives. So-called “death panels” form the heart of the “deather” claims that the government would mandate “end of life counseling sessions” that would encourage elderly and seriously ill patients to allow themselves to die. Newsweek calls the claim a “lie” that “springs from a provision in the House bill to have Medicare cover optional counseling on end-of-life care for any senior who requests it. This means that any patient, terminally ill or not, can request a special consultation with his or her physician about ventilators, feeding tubes, and other measures. Thus the House bill expands Medicare coverage, but without forcing anyone into end-of-life counseling.”
The government will set doctors’ wages. This is another claim that seems to have originated on the Flecks of Life blog. Like the earlier claim, it is false. The House bill, according to Newsweek, “says that physicians who choose to accept patients in the public insurance plan would receive five percent more than Medicare pays for a given service, [but] doctors can refuse to accept such patients, and, even if they participate in a public plan, they are not salaried employees of it any more than your doctor today is an employee of, say, Aetna.” Amitabh Chandra of Harvard University says, “Nobody is saying we want the doctors working for the government; that’s completely false.” [Newsweek, 8/29/2009]
Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) gives a speech to an audience at the conservative Independence Institute in Denver, Colorado. Bachmann tells the audience that “we… have to make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers” to defeat health care reform. Bachmann, whose speech is frequently punctuated by cheers, says health care reform has “the strength to destroy this country forever.… Right now, we are looking at reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom. And we may never be able to restore it if we don’t man up and take this one on.” She continues: “Something is way crazy out there.… This cannot pass.… What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.… You’re either for us or against us on this issue.” Calling her speech a “personal legislative briefing,” Bachmann tells the audience that many Americans pay half of their incomes in taxes, and thusly, “This is slavery. It’s nothing more than slavery.” The Colorado Independent characterizes Bachmann’s speech as “filled with urgent and violent rhetoric.” She proudly calls herself the nation’s “second-most hated Republican woman,” behind only former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), and calls herself first on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)‘s list of “top targets,” presumably for defeat in the 2010 elections. Bachmann provides her own proposal for health care reform: “Erase the boundaries around every single state when it comes to health care,” enabling consumers to purchase insurance across state lines; increase the use of health savings accounts and allow everyone to “take full deductibility of all medical expenses,” including insurance premiums; include tort reform; and, she concludes: “Do a few other tweaks and you’re there. Your whole crisis is gone.” [Colorado Independent, 8/31/2009; Think Progress, 9/1/2009]
Three Senate Republicans—Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), former presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ), and Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-MO)—hold a “Health Care Reform Forum” at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. The event is closed to the public. The attendees were invited either by the senators or the hospital administration. McConnell tells the audience that he believes it is time to “step back and start over” on health care reform. McConnell and McCain intend to take part in two more health care forums, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Hialeah, Florida, but both events will also be closed to the public. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who has taken part in several contentious town hall audiences (see July 27, 2009 and August 11, 2009), criticizes the Republican senators for not allowing citizens to take part in the discussions, saying: “I’m disappointed that the Republican leader of the Senate is coming to Kansas City on Monday and participating in a forum, but they’re not opening it up to the public. It’s invitation-only. I think it might be helpful for the leadership in the Republican Party to have some of the experiences I’ve had over the last week, where some of the meetings are wildly in favor of reform, and other meetings are wildly against it. I think having that pulse is important, and I think the Republican leader would benefit from that.” [Think Progress, 8/31/2009; Charlotte Observer, 8/31/2009]
A ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ poster featuring the name of a Charlotte-area abortion provider. [Source: Women's Rights (Change.org)]A women’s clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Family Reproductive Health Clinic, is targeted with a series of “Wanted” posters naming the clinic’s doctors, and claiming they are “Wanted Dead or Alive” for the “crime” of abortion. The posters read in part: “We would like to introduce you to [two named doctors]. Their specialties are obstetrics, gynecology, and murder. Not only do these two men assist women and deliver babies, but they also harm women and kill babies.… You may contact them at their office or the clinic in which they perform the abortions.” The posters list the addresses of the named doctors’ private practices. The practice of anti-abortion organizations using such posters began as early as 1995 (see 1995 and After) and was ruled an illegal threat in 2002 (see May 16, 2002). The practice has allegedly resulted in the murders of three abortion doctors (see March 10, 1993, December 30, 1994 and After, and October 23, 1998), who were all named in similar “Wanted”-style posters. The practice has continued in spite of the court verdict (see January - April 2003). The clinic has been targeted for closure since 2002, when the Reverend Flip Benham, the head of Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue—see 1986), moved to the Charlotte area and vowed to shut it down. Since then, Benham and his group’s members have harassed and intimidated the clinic’s staffers and patrons; Benham has been videotaped screaming at patients that “Satan will drink the blood of your babies” and that the women will “go to your deaths” if they have abortions. Benham and his followers often use microphones amplified to what a clinic official calls “deafening levels” to speak to the patients, “swarm” patients’ cars as they enter the parking lot, and follow them up to the doors of the clinic, often stepping within inches of the patients as they harangue them. The clinic official says of the patients, “We try to prepare them for this when they make their appointment, but until you go through something like this, you can’t imagine what it’s like.” The police do little to curb the protesters’ actions, the official says. [Ms. Magazine, 9/2009]
Mark Williams, a conservative talk radio host in Sacramento and a prominent spokesman for the nationally based Tea Party Express (TPE), sends an email to colleagues defending himself against charges of racism and calling President Obama “our half white, racist president.” Williams writes: “CNN went over more than 7,000 articles on my site; likely they also listened to the shows archived there too. No doubt they did a Lexis Nexis on me and found 30 years of work by and about me. The best that they could do as a result was string together three quotes, out of context, and throw in a false allegation of me calling Obama a ‘Nazi.’ I was in the streets marching for civil rights while _sshole southern sheriffs were swinging nail-studded baseball bats at black’s heads, and stood between black kids and even more fucked up northern assholes were throwing rocks and gas bombs at school buses in my hometown during forced busing for deseg. Two things you can always count on: I will defend my record on race to no one [sic], under any circumstances and, I will call out any racist, any time, without regard to who they are… and that includes our half white, racist president.” Williams has called Obama “an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief” (see September 14, 2009). Williams is considered a leader of the Tea Party Express, which was created by a Republican consulting firm in 2009. [TPM Muckraker, 2/23/2010]
Conservative radio and Fox News television host Glenn Beck exhorts his radio audience to take part in the “massive” demonstration planned for September 12 as part of his “9/12 Project” (see March 13, 2009 and After). “I’m telling you, they [liberals, Democrats, and the Obama administration] have their hands around the neck of the republic,” he warns his listeners. “They are much farther ahead. We are just figuring it out. They have their hands around the neck of this republic and they are about to snap it.” He tells his audience to “get on your knees and pray, turn the other cheek, never in anger, never in anger, pray for more time, stand up in your community, and speak without fear.… You are the guardian and protector of liberty. You may be the only thing that stands between freedom and slavery. And if you can, join those who are willing to take a stand, on Washington, DC, on 9/12. If not, stand together, somewhere in your community, on 9/12. Get involved. They’re very well organized in their communities. And I didn’t realize how many socialist communities there were.” [Media Matters, 9/1/2009]
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