A couple of weeks ago I wrote a report on how “health care terrorists” were engaged in an organized campaign to disrupt Congressional town hall meetings using tactics that bring shame on every responsible conservative. Since then, the news has been filled with stories focused on health care opponents behaving badly.
The “death panels” are a big lie
The Associated Press published an independent Fact Check about the “death panel” claims of health care reform opponents. The conclusion? It’s a lie. “Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin says the health care overhaul bill would set up a ‘death panel.’ Federal bureaucrats would play God, ruling on whether ailing seniors are worth enough to society to deserve life-sustaining medical care. Palin and other critics are wrong. Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision.”
The Seattle Times editorial board, normally a mouthpiece for the corporate elite, criticized the misinformation campaign of health care reform opponents: “One example is the bogus charge by opponents – backed by less-than-informed comments from former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin – that Obama’s health care reform would include a ‘death panel’ that would make life-or-death decisions about which patients get care and which would not… This is a gross distortion…”
In perhaps on of the most ironic twists of the whole debate, it’s now being reported that one of the loudest propagandists, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), actually voted in favor of an identical "death panel" provision in 2003. Oh, and Sarah Palin supported “death panels” too, as recently as 2008.
Health care reform opponents are lying about other things, too
Speaking of ironic twists, Paul Krugman of the New York Times reports “There was a telling incident at a town hall held by Representative Gene Green, D-Tex. An activist turned to his fellow attendees and asked if they ‘oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care.’ Nearly all did. Then Representative Green asked how many of those present were on Medicare. Almost half raised their hands.” My guess is that question wasn’t covered in the Tea Party Talking Points.
In fact, even conservatives rely on the government for their own health care coverage. Darren Hutchinson, writing for Salon.com, states, “According to a recent Gallup report, only 13.3 percent of Americans with health insurance purchase their policies on the open market. The remaining individuals are enrolled in either state-sponsored plans or in employer plans that are heavily subsidized by state and federal tax policy. The notion of a free market in health insurance is a myth for the vast majority of Americans.”
Congressman Rick Larsen (D-WA), at his most recent town hall meeting, “responded to one of many questions from a critic of proposed reform by reiterating that ‘the bill does not force people to change their health care plan.’ He then adds: ‘Folks will say that's not true but, I've got facts on my side and you've got Glenn Beck on your side.’"
The town hall protesters are really partisan hacks
The mainstream news media has finally decided to start reporting about the role of the Republican Party and the health care industry behind the town hall protesters – something that has been widely reported in the blogosphere for a couple weeks now. A recent article by the McClatchey News Service stated, “Much of the money and strategy behind the so-called grassroots groups organizing opposition to the Democrats' health care plans comes from conservative political consultants, professional organizers and millionaires, some of whom hold financial stakes in the outcome.”
Still doubt these health care protesters are organized rather than organic? The Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim reports that while “town-hall meetings are intended for constituents of congressional members’ districts, some if not a majority of attendees seemed to have come from further away.” Sign-in sheets from a town hall meeting held by Cong. John Dingell (D-MI) “lend credence to the accusation that the protests are a product of Washington-based ‘Astroturf’ organizations, rather than evidence of a groundswell of popular resistance to health care reform.” Staff for Cong. Gene Green (D-TX) report “as many as eight of ten members of the audience were from outside of the district.” A protester at Cong. Steve Kagen’s (D-WI) town hall meeting who described herself as “just a mom from a few blocks away” turned out to be the former vice chair of the Republican Party of Kewaunee County who had worked for Kagen’s most recent opponent. After a raucous town hall meeting in his district, Cong. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) provided evidence the protest “was a well-planned bit of political theater with the actors invited by the Chair of the Travis County Republican Party…”
Why all the bother? Washington Post reporter Greg Sargent has the scoop: “On a private conference call, a group of top Tea Party and conservative organizers offered a surprisingly frank description of their goal, according to a source on the call: Completely blocking any kind of bipartisan compromise, and completely preventing any type of health care reform bill at all from ever becoming law.”
News Tribune columnist Peter Callaghan writes, “Democrats have begun responding by urging supporters to show up at the same town hall meetings. At a Florida meeting last week, some burly union members were accused of intimidating those who tried to intimidate a congressman. While we don’t want our politics to turn into a battle of street toughs (insert Nazi Germany reference here), it is difficult to work up tears for those who think it is their right to intimidate members of Congress but unfair to be intimidated themselves.”
There are a lot of honorable conservatives who aren't raging bullies
Even some Republicans have had enough with the outlandish behavior of the most extreme elements in the health care debate. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) rebuked her fellow Alaskan when she said she was offended by Sarah Palin’s irresponsible rhetoric. “It does us no good to incite fear in people by saying that there’s these end-of-life provisions, these death panels,” Murkowski, a Republican, said. “Quite honestly, I’m so offended at that terminology because it absolutely isn’t (in the bill). There is no reason to gin up fear in the American public by saying things that are not included in the bill.” Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA), a member of the House GOP leadership team, called for a more respectful debate. “I certainly don’t condone violence,” she said, “I don’t condone calling President Obama Hitler and painting swastikas on signs at town halls.”
Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), hardly an arm-waving liberal, was extremely patient when boorish, bullying protesters hijacked his recent town hall meetings. “I’m not going to complain about (protesters) being organized. They have a right to speak,” he said, “but I think we have to explain, they’re not necessarily representative of America. I think they’re vocal. I don’t think they’re representative.”
In the end, terrorists always lose
According to Columnist Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post: "Republican strategists and their media rabble-rousers cleverly thought they could dispatch their shock troops this month and kill health reform once and for all. Instead, they're on the verge of generating what they've been desperate to avoid -- an urgent, national, rational conversation on how to make the health-care system fairer and more affordable.”
As President Obama said, at his own town hall meeting in New Hampshire, "Where we disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to what's been proposed.”
UPDATE: David Horsey's latest cartoon really seems to belong here: