The videos of what are described as “angry” townhalls around the country keep pouring in. Here’s one from Green Bay, WI.
Of course there are tons of others.
The Democrats and the left have answered the protests by claiming that they’re nothing more than “right-wing extremists” under the control of powerful interest groups. Thus the charge of “astro-turfing”.
These accusations by the DNC seem to ignore the Tea Party movement’s origins which was, on inspection, a true grass-roots movement (and one that has taken both Democrats and Republicans to task for their profligate spending). Notice too that they include the “birthers” in their vid to underline their “extremist” claim.
The White House, instead of trying to calm the waters, has chosen employ Saul Alinsky against the protesters:
A key part of the developing strategy: ridicule the opposition — and portray those who disrupt meetings with loud chants and signs as part of the same ilk of people who showed up at campaign rallies for John McCain and Sarah Palin right after the 2008 Republican National Convention.
So this turns into a propaganda war. The left will be attempting to turn public opinion against the protesters by portraying them a certain way.
Patronizing opponents is a tried and true tradition in Washington, and Democrats have used the tactic with success. They ridiculed the hundreds of thousands of conservatives who protested the stimulus package as “tea baggers.”
But Republicans are just as responsible for the perception. The folks who tend to show up at protest events tend to be to the right of the mean in the party. And, as the spread of the birther movement demonstrates, not a small chunk of these Republicans are reactionaries. The challenge for the White House and Democrats is that they find a way to separate genuinely anxious conservatives who ask good questions — even if those questions are provided by conservative groups — and the crazies who tend to pack town hall meetings.
Of course, most reasonable people would suggest, upon reflection, that if this was an “astro-turfed” movement, those who are paying for it would have much tighter control and avoid the obviously unhelpful signage and any connection with the birther movement. That’s obviously not the case.
So the right and Republicans have the momentum, at least for now, but it isn’t clear if they have an advantage for the reasons stated.
The challenge for Republicans is to prevent the media from labeling everyone who attends a meeting with a Democratic lawmaker and who calls him or herself a conservative as a crazy person. Some polling suggests that the percentage of Republicans who don’t know whether President Obama was born in the United States is fairly high, although it is hard to say how much of that confusion stems from ignorance or from a generally jaundiced, perhaps racist, view of the President.
A range of smaller, ideologically conservative interest groups are organizing the protests. Finding pockets of activist-oriented arch-conservatives in places like Texas, Missouri and Indiana is easy, especially if the set goal is to defeat Obama-care, which is being sold to these people as the approach of government-run health care, something that these folks have been worried about for years. Add to the mix a desire to hand the progressive President and his agenda a decisive defeat.
And there’s an interesting question about pushing back on the left – where are its activists and organizations?
The more troublesome question for Democratic strategists is why the major Democratic groups, including Organizing for America, the labor unions, Health Care for America Now, seem to be flatfooted and unable to match the much smaller conservative organizing capacity in these critical districts. One answer is that the media pays attention to the loudest voices, which are coming from the right. The other is that organizing around major — even popular — reforms of existing institutions is tough. The Democrats don’t have a single bill right now, and the elite left is worried about what’s not in the cards — a public plan — and is therefore fairly unenthusiastic. If the liberal elite isn’t enthusiastic, the liberal base — less knowledgeable — will be as well.
And of course, there’s the media – which, it seems, leans mostly toward helping the administration. For instance, the conclusion of the article from which I’ve been quoting from Mark Ambinder at The Atlantic:
To focus minds, Democrats are coordinating TV and radio ad blitzes, including the biggest expenditures by the Democratic National Committee to date. President Obama, his cabinet and his vice president will be ubiquitous. Quickly responding to disinformation will be a key goal, an administration official said, pointing to this morning’s release of a video from Linda Douglass, a former television and print reporter who serves as a key White House health care adviser, which rebutted a misleading video posted on the Drudge Report.
Linda Douglass “rebutted” nothing. She made a bunch of claims she’d have difficulty substantiating. But that is how it is being reported. The implication is that what is coming from the right is “disinformation” and the only true source of factual information is the White House.
I think we all know that dog won’t hunt.
But this should be a very, very interesting August.
[Welcome RCP readers]
To hear the left talk about these protests that are springing up and townhalls held by various Representatives and Senators, you’d think that such protests are just unAmerican.
And, of course, the usual raft of “astro-turf” allegations are being thrown around. I’ve watched a few of the videos though and these folks doing the protesting seem pretty darn dedicated to stopping the big health care grab.
In fact, what I see happening is the right using the same sorts of tactics and methods that the left seemed so comfortable with during the Bush administration. Web 2.0 communications that networks protesting groups and keeps them updated and mobilized. I guess there are those out there that can’t imagine that happening at a grass-roots level anymore, although that is the MO the left developed previously while denying the astro-turf allegations.
In fact, I’m somewhat surprised because the right is less likely to run in packs like the left is, so a tip of the hat to the righties – good community organizing guys.
As for the left, suck it up and have the good grace to suffer in silence, recognizing that what you’re seeing now is what you defended as the highest form of patriotism during the previous 8 years.
The Obama administration’s health care czar, Macon Phillips, has put up a blog post on the White House blog entitled “Facts Are Stubborn Things”. He warns readers that there are a lot of “scary chain emails” and videos that “percolate” through the ether, but he has the “truth” which may be a little “inconvenient” to those opposing “health insurance reform” (the reconstructed “reform” after it became apparent “health care reform” was going nowhere).
In this video, Linda Douglass, the communications director for the White House’s Health Reform Office, addresses one example that makes it look like the President intends to “eliminate” private coverage, when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
The video essentially tries to tar the opposition with a broad brush, implying anyone who opposes “health insurance reform” is dealing in bad faith and broadcasting disinformation. Watch it for a lesson in pure propaganda.
After the video Phillips says:
For the record, the President has consistently said that if you like your insurance plan, your doctor, or both, you will be able to keep them. He has even proposed eight consumer protections relating specifically to the health insurance industry.
Here’s a dirty little truth which may be inconvenient to the “truth” Dr. Phillips is peddling – it doesn’t matter what the President has “consistently said”, he’s not writing the legislation. And the legislation in question doesn’t support what the President has “consistently said”. So the claim by Phillips is a red herring. Unless the President continues to say that and promises to veto any legislation that doesn’t support what he’s said, what he is saying is meaningless.
Phillips ends his post with:
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to email@example.com.
I wonder if I ought to send him a link to his own fishy blog post?
This is fascinating. You’ve probably seen this popping up. It first appeared in LA:
The UK’s Mail Online says:
The right-wing editor of the American Thinker website, Thomas Lifson, wrote today: ‘It is starting.
‘Open mockery of of Barack Obama, as disillusionment sets in with the man, his policies, and the phony image of a race-healing, brilliant, scholarly middle-of-the-roader.’
But the President’s supporters have condemned the image, calling it ‘mean-spirited and dangerous.’
A spokesman from the Los Angeles urban policy unit said that depicting the president as demonic and a socialist ‘goes beyond political spoofery.’
“Mean-spirited and dangerous?” “Goes beyond political spoofery?” Really?
So what was this?
I don’t know about you, but I call it “free speech”. Funny though – now that the shoe is on the other foot, this sort of spoofery is “mean-spirited and dangerous” as far as the left is concerned. And, of course, the first reaction of some is to try to make it a racial thing (the same publication which published the cover above, naturally).
And then there was this from Vanity Fair. Seems there was no problem at all with Joker parodies in July of 2008:
As one of the commenters at Vanity Fair said:
Poor Joker, he doesn’t deserve this. Bush isn’t good enough to wear his face.
Quit whining. Save your outrage for someone who hasn’t seen your act before.
HR3200, the House’s version of health care reform, can be found here, at the GPO’s web site, in PDF format. All 1017 pages of it. You’ll need some time to read it. It’s dense. Too dense, in fact, for Congressmen to read, apparently.
Or, you can read this PDF file instead, which is a summary of the high points provided by Liberty Counsel, a conservative, pro-life legal firm, which apparently did read it. They reference the GPO’s file directly, so you can quickly track down the references they cite. A randon selection from the critique:
• Sec. 205, Pg. 102, Lines 12-18 – Medicaid-eligible individuals will be automatically enrolled in Medicaid. No freedom to choose.
• Sec. 223, Pg. 124, Lines 24-25 – No company can sue the government for price-fixing. No “administrative of judicial review” against a government monopoly.
• Sec. 225, Pg. 127, Lines 1-16 – Doctors – the government will tell YOU what you can make. “The Secretary shall provide for the annual participation of physicians under the public health insurance option, for which payment may be made for services furnished during the year.”
• Sec. 312, Pg. 145, Lines 15-17 – Employers MUST auto-enroll employees into public option plan.
• Sec. 313, Pg. 149, Lines 16-23 – ANY employer with payroll $400,000 and above who does not provide public option pays 8% tax on all payroll.
• Sec. 313, Pg. 150, Lines 9-13 – Businesses with payroll between $251,000 and $400,000 who do not provide public option pay 2-6% tax on all payroll.
• Sec. 401.59B, Pg. 167, Lines 18-23 – ANY individual who does not have acceptable care, according to government, will be taxed 2.5% of income.
• Sec. 59B, Pg. 170, Line 1 – Any NONRESIDENT alien is exempt from individual taxes. (Americans will pay for their health care.)
• Sec. 431, Pg. 195, Lines 1-3 – Officers and employees of HC Administration (government) will have access to ALL Americans’ financial and personal records.
• Sec. 441, Pg. 203, Lines 14-15 – “The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax.” Yes, it says that.
It’s actually quite an interesting read, even minus Liberty Counsels alarmist tone and worst-case-scenario suppositions.
The scary thing is…maybe they aren’t being alarmist.
Also, note the tax rates above very carefully for employers who don’t provide health insurance. If you don’t think those rates are low enough to positively incentivize employers to dump private health coverage and turn it over to the government, then you just aren’t a very astute observer. 8% of payroll is nothing, compared to getting rid of the administrative headaches.
It’s not called “single-payer health care”. But, objectively, that’s precisely what it is. Private health insurance won’t be outlawed, of course. It’ll still be perfectly legal to provide it, or acquire it. It will just be starved to death under this plan, because employers will stop buying it. It’ll be easier and cheaper just to push the employees over to the “public option”.
I wonder if our NHS ID cards will have our pictures on them.
An interesting video here – you could entitle it “What The Hell Is The Rush?!”
It is Arlen Specter at a healthcare townhall meeting being given whatfor when he says that they have to rush on the health care bill. Also speaking is Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. It would be hard to characterize the crowd as “warm and welcoming”.
The one thing I think politicans will hear almost universally is the public demands they read and understand the bill they’re voting on – not their staffers. And until they do and can discuss it rationally and actually bring it to the floor and debate it – giving debate all the time it needs – they don’t want them voting on it.
Now, that’s not to say that some of those making this demand don’t want to see health care reform passed as a result. But I think even they understand that there is no crisis and their is no rush to pass such legislation quickly. That’s a self-imposed political desire – passing it quickly – because Democrats understand that not doing so risks getting nothing passed at all.
We’ll see if politicians heed this message or, when they head back into the atmosphere prevalent inside the beltway, again fall into line with party leadership and try to rush this turkey through.
If the video is any indication, doing so could end up being a very big electoral mistake.
New York Magazine has an article about Barack Obama which begins:
Since occupying the White House, Barack Obama has hosted fifteen town-hall meetings; appeared in more than 800 images on the White House Flickr photo-stream; and held four prime-time press conferences, the same number held by George W. Bush in his entire presidency. He’s sent a video message to the people of Iran. He’s given an address in Cairo that was translated into fourteen languages. He’s sat on Jay Leno’s couch, where he riffed about the supreme strangeness of having his own motorcade (“You know, we’ve got the ambulance and then the caboose and then the dogsled”), and he’s walked Brian Williams through the White House, where he introduced the anchor to Bo the dog. Two weeks ago, when he made a controversial comment at a press conference (that the Cambridge police had “acted stupidly” toward Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.), he followed up with yet another press appearance in the White House briefing room—and an exclusive interview on Nightline. And that was before he sat down for a well-publicized beer with Gates and the offending officer …
Such are the president’s media habits. It’s gotten to the point where one expects to see and hear from him every day. He’s in the information business almost as much as the policy business. “This is president as content provider,” says Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman and adviser to George W. Bush. “It’s like when Rosie O’Donnell had a show and a magazine and a blog.”
The obvious and not very subtle point of Gillespie’s comment is people tired of Rosie O’Donnell rather quickly, especially when she was overexposed at that time, and her star quickly faded.
The question I’ve been pondering for some time is whether Obama risks overexposure to the point that people just start tuning him out? For a political junkie like me, I’ve mostly tuned him out already, since after listening to a couple of the town halls, I’ve realized that what’s going on with him now is not much different than during his campaign. He has a set of talking points, depending on the subject, and you can depend on him repeating them. During questions, he’ll repeat them again. Knowing the talking points, I see no need to watch them delivered again and again – especially when I know most of them are nonsense.
As things develop and more and more people who aren’t in the “political junkie” category pay closer attention, will they too end up having the same reaction I have had? Especially when they see the talking points (“your taxes won’t go up by even a dime”) turn to political dust?
And here’s another point from the article’s subtitle:
Barack Obama’s ubiquitous appearances as professor-in-chief, preacher-in-chief, father-in-chief, may turn out to be the most salient feature of his presidency.
It may indeed end up being “the most salient feature of his presidency”, but I wonder how long Americans are going to stand being lectured about almost every aspect of their lives, especially as the economy continues to tank? At what point do you suppose the majority will say, by tuning him out, “why don’t you concentrate on governing the country and we’ll take care of running our lives?”
New York Magazine, unsurprisingly, thinks that this seemingly deliberate strategy of “ubiquity” isn’t the same as overexposure and is thus a good thing:
It’s a large helping of Obama, surely. But those who think the White House has overdone it are missing the point. In today’s media environment, ubiquity is not the same as overexposure. It’s a deliberate strategy. And it’s critical to any understanding of the Obama presidency.
What they’re referring too is this country’s celebrity culture. And Barack Obama was certainly a political rock star on the campaign trail. But this premise that his “ubiquity” now is going to be a good thing seems to ignore the ubiquity of George Bush in terms of media exposure, especially in the last 4 years of his presidency. Few will argue that exposure was a “good thing” for him. Most of it, however, was media driven and mostly negative.
New York Magazine is arguing this is different (and I’d agree since much of Obama’s “ubiquity” is also media driven and mostly positive).
But just as Americans tired of George Bush, doesn’t this seeming overexposure of Barack Obama, especially this early in his presidency, risk the same will happen to him? New York Magazine may find referring to it as “ubiquity” somehow makes his constant appearances on just about every subject something other that overexposure, but I’m not ready to buy into that just yet.
I’m already tired of seeing him. I’m just wondering if the same thing will happen to the majority of my fellow citizens – and, if so, what political effect that might have.
I have not posted much lately. Busy. Very busy. I don’t see how McQ does it. He’s a machine.
But I have been paying attention, and I must say Obama is as amusing during his first six months as I had hoped, and maybe more. Here’s a brief summary of where he’s at as far as I’m concerned, categorized into various types of success and failures on the political front.