Facts And Tactics Under Fire In Health Care Debate
Fox News: "Lawmakers battled Sunday over whether demonstrations against health care reform legislation at town hall meetings across the country are real or contrived ... Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Ky., told 'FOX News Sunday' that it's not clear who's organized and who's not but that Democrats' efforts to 'demonize' the protesters reflect weak spots in the substance of their plan."
"He said concerns over how the plan will be paid for are probably triggering a lot of the passion and tempers at the meetings ... However, McConnell said neither side should be trying to disrupt the meetings. Rather, he said they should be focusing on the issues."
"Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said there are plenty of Americans who just want to attend the meetings and ask 'honest questions' about health care reform. But he said they're being squeezed out by an organized opposition movement. 'This is clearly being orchestrated and these folks have instructions,' he said on CNN's 'State of the Union,' adding that it's not right for those who are part of that movement to disrupt the meetings" (8/9).
The Associated Press/Chicago Tribune: "Tempers flared Saturday at a health care forum hosted by Sen. Tom Harkin, with several audience members shouting criticism and questions at the Iowa Democrat. Opponents of health care reform proposals interrupted the nearly hourlong meeting several times. At one point a man from the audience yelled: 'This is not health reform, this is control, control over our lives.'
"Harkin said reform opponents have been using 'scare tactics' in an attempt to stop reform. 'There's a lot of people out there making a lot of money on this system, and they don't want to change it,' Harkin said" (8/8).
NPR: "The battle over health care is sparking claims on both sides, but many of the assertions being made twist the facts and others are outright false, says the editor of a Web site that tracks the claims."
Bill Adair, editor of PolitiFact and the Washington bureau chief for the St. Petersburg Times, tells Melissa Block that one group that opposes an overhaul says the health care bill allows illegal immigrants to get free medicine. 'We gave that our lowest rating on our Truth-O-Meter: a pants on fire,' he says. 'To the contrary, there's language [in the bill] that says that undocumented aliens would not be eligible for the credit under this plan.'"
"Bogus claims aren't just coming from those who oppose an overhaul. Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri recently claimed that the Congressional Budget Office estimated the current plan would create a $6 billion surplus over 10 years. Adair's group has rated that as false" (All Things Considered, 8/7).
The New York Times: "The traditional town hall meeting, a staple of Congressional constituent relations, had been hijacked, overrun by sophisticated social-networking campaigns - those on the right protesting so loudly as to shut down public discourse and those on the left springing into action to shut down the shutdowns."
"Citizen gatherings, of course, are as old as the republic itself, but as a form of constituent relations town hall meetings are relatively new. In the 19th century, lawmakers spent more time at home, mingling with voters at block parties, barbecues and parades ... Now, though, the complaining constituent is not always who he seems to be. In Wisconsin last week, Representative Steve Kagen, a Democrat, was challenged on health care by a woman who declared herself politically unaffiliated; the local television station later discovered that she was a former Republican Party official who had worked for Mr. Kagen's opponent in his Congressional race."
"Then again, just because someone has been recruited to an event does not mean his sentiments are not real. Dr. William Crowley, a retired neurologist in Austin, Tex., who participates in antitax "Tea Party Patriot" protests... (insists) he was nobody's tool. (Stolberg, 8/9).