During the course of the last week, you may have wondered why anti-health care reform activists are so riled up--what buttons are being pushed by the people encouraging the town hall disruptions.
Well, here's video footage of a Patients First bus tour event in Pueblo, CO, that shines some light on that.
Patients First is a project of Americans for Prosperity--one of the key conservative interests groups helping to organize the town hall protests we've been covering. The speaker repeats the debunked conservative canard that Democratic health care reform will mandate physician assisted suicide. "Adolf Hitler issued six million end of life orders--he called his program the final solution. I kind of wonder what we're going to call ours."
And after comparing Democratic health care reform efforts to the murderous regimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, the speaker advises his audience to "go to offices of members of Congress and put the fear of god in them."
The White House was pretty mum after President Obama's meeting yesterday with the "Gang of Six" bipartisan health care negotiators on the Senate Finance Committee. But the first words leaking out won't please health care reformers.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform says Obama would sign off on a privately run co-operative system, in lieu of a public option, if it increased competition in the insurance market.
"We would be interested in that," DeParle said.
In the past, Obama's suggested that he has no theoretical objection to the co-op structure, as long as it serves as a mechanism for keeping insurance companies honest, just as a public option would. But DeParle's new rubric appears to be much less stringent. And coming as it does a day after Obama met with the bipartisan group that may determine the fate of health care reform, proponents of the public option may have reason to worry.
The New York Timesreports that Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who had been on the verge of challenging appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the 2010 Democratic primary, will not be running after all -- meaning that Gillibrand will probably not face any sort of significant primary:
A person close to Mrs. Maloney, a Democrat from Manhattan, said she made her decision not to run after days of agonizing over the fact that running meant she would have to leave her current job at a point when she had significant seniority in Congress.
"It's been a tough decision for her," said the Maloney associate who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
Polls had generally given Maloney a slight edge, with high undecided numbers and low name recognition for both candidates.
The White House went to great steps to urge Maloney and other prospective candidates out of the race. Whatever Maloney's motives for not running might be, the Obama administration and the overall Democratic establishment certainly have succeeded in clearing the field for Gillibrand.
CNN reports that Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), who was not running for re-election in 2010, will resign his seat early.
Republican Gov. Charlie Crist -- who is already running for the seat, and is the clear frontrunner in all the polls -- will appoint a replacement under Florida law, who will hold the seat through the 2010 election.
For what my advice is worth (which is not much), Crist should appoint somebody other than himself, to serve as a caretaker. The history of governors appointing themselves to the Senate, even seemingly popular governors, is simply awful, and usually results in defeats for themselves and their parties at the next election.
These town halls are really getting out of hand, as we saw last night in two examples.
In Missouri, at a town hall by Rep. Russ Carnahan, a fight broke out between Tea Party activists and supporters of the health care bill. Six people were arrested. It's not at all clear who started it and both sides appear to be blaming the other. To a certain degree, this is probably a consequence of so many people being packed together in a contentious debate, where the venues have been filled to capacity and people have been turned away as a result.
Check out this amateur video. Both the Tea Party and labor union folks are yelling at each other:
And of course, there's the Florida event of Rep. Kathy Castor, where a fist fight reportedly occurred. Here's a video of the protestors yelling about the doors being closed:
One thing that should be noted, despite the right-wing chants of "You work for us," and "Hear our voice," is that both of these districts are overall heavily Democratic. Carnahan's district voted 60% for Obama, and Castor's district voted 66% for Obama
This exchange between Rachel Maddow and Tim Phillips, president of the conservative interest group Americans for Prosperity, is fascinating. Phillips is a smoothy, but cleverly, Maddow ekes out of him just about everything you need to know if you want to understand Americans for Prosperity, including who it's funders are and what its leaders' real interests happen to be.
Particularly enjoyable: "You don't hear us complaining about George Soros pouring tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars..."
Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA), whose office has received eight letters forged by lobbyist firm Bonner and Associates, revealed the names of two more groups whose name was signed to the letters without their permission, the Washington Post reports.
The two other groups where the Jefferson Council on Aging, and the Charlottesville chapter of the American Association of University Women.
"We've worked a long time to build up a reputation, and keep our name untarnished, and the notion that someone would come along and take that name ..... it's deceit. It's outright deceit," said Lisa Maatz, the group's director of public policy and government relations, told the Post. Maatz also said the AAUW doesn't have a Charlottesville chapter.
Here's a fun example of astroturfing in its purest form: A woman attending a town hall event for Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI), and--while loudly raising objections to the Democrats' health care reform proposal--insisting she's just a regular concerned citizen. Except, she's actually a GOP official.
Heather Blish was vice-chairman of the Kewaunee County GOP until 2008. She actually worked for Kagen's opponent, and, according to her own resume, is affiliated with the Republican National Committee.
Report: White House Advises Dems On Health Care Protests
The Associated Press reports that White House officials have advised Democratic lawmakers on how to respond to disruptions at town halls, and promised a strong response if any lawmaker faces direct criticism in TV advertising. This reportedly took place at a closed-door session before members went home for the recess.
Obama's Day Ahead
President Obama will deliver remarks on the economy at 1:15 p.m., from Henderson Hall at Fort Myer. At 5 p.m. ET, he will meet with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).