More Bamboozlepalooza Revisionism?

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Chuck Todd getting on the Ambinder Social Security battle revisionism train?

TPM Reader JB sends in this clip from MSNBC’s First Read from this morning …

“If you’re a reporter who covered politics back in 2005, you know this pretty well: Brad Woodhouse and Americans United (funded by organized labor) helped defeat Bush’s Social Security reform. They organized protests, ran TV ads, and held town halls to get members of Congress on the record on Social Security. All of which seems ironic now that Woodhouse — the current communications director at Obama’s DNC — issued a statement yesterday denouncing the conservative “mobs” at Dem town halls. “Republicans and their allied groups … 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,” he said. And now the DNC has upped the ante, producing a Web video, entitled “Enough of the Mob,” that conflates these protests with the so-called “birthers.””

I’ll give Todd half a loaf on this one. The Social Security supporters who showed up at Bush townhall meetings and those held by Republicans and wavering Dems in 2005 didn’t show up for ‘thoughtful discussion’, to put it mildly. They knew exactly what they thought. They were trying to make the opposition to privatization very clear, make their voices heard, etc. And most specifically they were trying to pin members down on just what their position was because most wanted to fly under the radar and didn’t want to face the full public exposure of their willingness to phase out the program.But give me a break. They just weren’t doing what these teabag crowds are doing at a lot of these events, which is basically appearing en masse and doing chants and yelling to shut the meetings down. I don’t think I’ve yet heard a case where one of these teabag crews actually pressed a member of Congress on a specific policy position. I have no doubt it happened. But it doesn’t seem to be a big part of the plan.

Yesterday I noticed a tweet from, I think, conservative net activist Pat Ruffini, in which he said something along the lines of ‘Isn’t it weird how when Dems organize to turn out at townhalls they’re engaged grassroots activists and when Republicans do it they’re a crazed mob?’

Well, I think the answer is, ‘Yeah Pat, it is sort of a pattern, isn’t it? What’s up with that?’

Politics, as they say, ain’t bean bag. And more than that, real political engagement is not and should not be a debating exercise. There’s organizing and rough-and-tumble. That’s not an unfortunate concession. That’s how people with strong beliefs peacefully hash out their differences in a democratic society. But, c’mon, showing up as a mob and shouting people down is showing up as a mob and shouting people down.

Don’t run away from it. And reporters making a false equivalence do themselves no favors.

Late Update: I should note that further down in today’s edition of First Read there’s this graf which does more clearly get at some of the distinction between 2005 and today …

Fired up, ready to go: A person who was involved in those anti-Social Security reform protests back in ’05 tells First Read that they discouraged civil disobedience, frowned on arrests, and coached their people to stay on message. Indeed, these anti-Obama, anti-Dem protests do pose a potential risk for the GOP, especially as we see images of devil horns on a relatively popular congressman from liberal Austin, TX, Nazi “SS” references, and even protestors now joking about Chris Dodd’s cancer. At the same time, however, these conservative protests at Dem town halls are suggesting an enthusiasm from Republicans that we haven’t seen in years. To borrow a phrase from Obama, they’re fired up and ready to go. By comparison, we’re no longer seeing that from Democrats and liberals. Will that begin to change?

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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