Parties Trade Barbs, Refine Messages Over Health Care Reform Town Hall Events
Protesters at Democratic health care reform events during the Congressional recess are sparking controversy between Democrats and Republicans who are accusing each other of wrongdoing in the protests, ABC News reports.
The Democratic National Committee's newly released Web video "says 'the right wing extremist Republican base is back' and shows the woman from the June 2009 town hall meeting in Sussex County, Delaware, yelling at Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., that President Obama is 'not an American citizen.'"
"DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse issued a statement about 'the Republican Party and Allied Groups' Mob Rule,' saying that the 'Republicans and their allied groups -- desperate after losing two consecutive elections and every major policy fight on Capitol Hill -- are inciting angry mobs of a small number of rabid right wing extremists funded by K Street Lobbyists to disrupt thoughtful discussions about the future of health care in America taking place in Congressional Districts across the country' Conservatives want to depict these protests as representative of an angry nation rejecting President Obama's health care reform push." (Tapper, 8/5).
CQ Politics: "Some experts on political organization say that despite the disruption of Democratic-run events - and divided public feelings on the health care overhaul - the shout-down strategy betrays an essential weakness on the Republican side, not a strength." But House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio says the protests reflect voters' true feelings. "Democrats ignore voter dissatisfaction with the health care overhauls proposed on Capitol Hill at their own peril, Republicans say" (Allen, 8/6).
The Washington Post: "Video footage of the sometimes-belligerent protests has taken hold online and on television in a relatively quiet news week, threatening to drown out any health-care debate. That has fed a political tug of war over whether the protests, at gatherings from Pennsylvania to Texas to Wisconsin, have been organized by conservative groups or sparked by average citizens voicing their own displeasure.
"Democrats have sought to marginalize the objections as part of a fringe movement, prompting House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to respond Wednesday: 'Democrats are in denial. ... [They are] trying to dismiss it as a fabrication'" (Rucker and Eggen, 8/6).
Roll Call: "But it now appears that Democrats may be looking to mobilize their own protests, Republicans said. Citing calls to Members' field offices from anonymous callers with DNC phone exchanges, Republicans in the House and Senate accused Democrats of preparing to deploy crowds of protesters to lawmakers' offices in the coming days. So far, according to aides, DNC callers have contacted the field offices of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), as well as House Republicans from Texas, Ohio and Michigan" (Stanton and Kucinich, 8/5).
The Los Angeles Times: "The challenge for Democrats is particularly tough because the healthcare system is little understood by most people, and the legislation contains a large number of elements that conservatives can seize upon. This is hardly the first time that lawmakers' town hall meetings have been swamped with emotional outpourings during a congressional recess. In past years, lawmakers have gotten earfuls about cracking down on illegal immigration and on former President George W. Bush's plan for overhauling Social Security" (Hook, 8/6).
The Hill reports that Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said the Republican Party is not behind the protests: "'To sit back and say this is some sort of Republican cabal is some baloney,' Steele said. 'And you can substitute that "B" with something else if you want'" (O'Brien, 8/5).
Conservatives say there won't be a let up, The Associated Press reports: "Some of the activists say they came together during the 'Tea Party' anti-big-government protests that happened earlier this year, and they've formed small groups and stayed in touch over e-mail, Facebook and in other ways. But they insist they're part of a ground-level movement that represents real frustration with government spending and growth" (Werner, 8/6).
Democrats are mobilizing, Roll Call reports in a second story: "Organizing for America, the grass-roots arm of the Democratic National Committee, is tapping into its database of 13 million e-mail addresses to urge supporters to attend local health care events to make sure protesters are outnumbered" (Bendery, 8/5).
The DNC has also bought TV ads to combat the message, Politico reports in a second story: "The DNC health care ad praises members for standing up to special interests and lobbyists who 'are fighting tooth and nail to stop reform and protect the status quo'" (Abrahamson, 8/6).