So what exactly happened at the Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) town hall event last night, in the St. Louis suburb of Mehlville, where six people were arrested outside after a confrontation between a Tea Party activist and some labor union guys? The picture is still murky. Here's a video that has circulated, appearing to show the Tea Party activist on the losing end of a fight, as well someone with SEIU who is on the ground:
The problem, however, is that a recording of a fight or an eyewitness account usually begins after the first punches get thrown, and people just begin to notice that something is going on. As such, we remain in the dark on what exactly happened.
Three people were arrested on suspicion of assault, two for interfering with the police and one for a peace disturbance -- including a reporter who the police believed was getting in the way of their effort to restore order.
For his part, the conservative activist who came out badly in this brawl -- indeed, he was treated at a hospital -- has identified himself as Kenneth Gladney, who claims he was attacked for being a black conservative while he was peacefully handing out signs that said "Don't Tread On Me." The local Tea Party organization has now announced that they'll be holding a new protest tomorrow -- right outside the local SEIU office.
In a new posting on her Facebook account, former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) made a dire statement about health care reform -- that it could result in an Obama-created "death panel" killing her infant son with Down Syndrome:
The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
And she pointed Americans' attention to a recent speech by none other than Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), warning of the dastardly involvement of Rahm Emanuel's brother, who is a doctor, in the health care debate:
Rep. Michele Bachmann highlighted the Orwellian thinking of the president's health care advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the White House chief of staff, in a floor speech to the House of Representatives. I commend her for being a voice for the most precious members of our society, our children and our seniors.
Could this be an early trial balloon for a Palin/Bachmann ticket in 2012?
A Senate source tells me that Linda Douglass, Communications Director for the White House's Office of Health Reform is encouraging members of Congress to carry out their town halls, despite the risk that those events will be disrupted by anti-health care reform protesters.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Though the weeks events have forced Democrats to rewrite the script for August recess, the administration's involvement suggests that they're not so concerned about the threat--both physical and political--to urge members to cut back on their public appearances.
Late update: In a statement, Douglass says her message to members was motivational. "[W]e hope supporters of health reform will be out in force in August doing everything from town halls to tele-town halls to visiting hospitals--speaking to people in their home states about how they are being affected by rising health care costs and unfair insurance regulations."
A Senate ethics panel today told Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) it found "no substantial credible evidence" they broke Senate rules with their Countrywide mortgages.
In letters to each senator, the Select Committee on Ethics said the two should have been more "vigilant" to avoid the appearance of receiving preferential treatment and rates.
After reviewing 18,000 pages of documents, the committee found that Countrywide's VIP program for friends of ex-CEO Angelo Mozilo offered expedited service and some discounts. But, since the discounted rates still weren't the best at Countrywide or in the industry, the program doesn't violate Senate rules, the committee found.
SEIU says it has now received an apparent threat involving gun violence from a right-winger in reaction to the union bringing their own people to town halls, Greg Sargent reports.
A woman identifying herself as Diana from Oregon left a voicemail with the union, denouncing their "thuggish" tactics, and then ending on a doozy of a punch-line:
"I suggest you tell your people to calm down, act like American citizens, and stop trying to repress people's First Amendment rights," said Diana. "That, or y'all are gonna come up against the Second Amendment. Stop the violence."
Via Firedoglake comes the below video, of Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), the Blue Dog's health care point man, boasting of holding House health care legislation hostage in the Energy and Commerce Committee for 10 days.
Ross also repeats a common, but strangely tone deaf, "critique" of a robust public option, tied to Medicare, nothing that "Medicare has really good rates, because they're negotiating for every senior in America." How horrible.
On MSNBC this afternoon, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) once again trotted out the possibility that Democrats will pass health care reforms through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process if Republicans try to extract too many concessions from the bill.
"We are making concessions," Schumer said. "But there's a limit."
"I wouldn't take anything off the table," he added.
It's the second time in a week that Schumer--who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, and who was a Finance Committee point man on the public option before being closed out of negotiations--has floated the idea. President Obama did the same this week, and though it's unclear whether the messages are co-ordinated, the two are meeting, at Schumer's request, tonight.
Based on the news that health care events are edging into violence, an anti-health care reform protester in New Mexico named Scott Oskay is calling on his hundreds of online followers to bring firearms to town halls, and to 'badly hurt' SEIU and ACORN counter protesters.
Popularized in part by conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, the hashtag symbol he's using, #iamthemob, has gone viral on twitter, appearing several times a minute according to a recent search.
Anti-reform activists have scheduled a protest outside SEIU Missouri offices tomorrow, and officials there are taking these threats seriously.
Late update: Looks like they're also getting death threats by phone.
Hours after the Labor Department said unemployment dropped for the first time since 2008, President Obama said, "The worst may be behind us."
"As we begin to put an end to this recession, we have to think about what comes next," he said. The U.S. "can't go back" to the greed and irresponsibility of the old economy, he said, but needs "a new foundation."
Obama's tone was hopeful, yet stern, saying there is still a "steep mountain" to climb.
"We will not have a true recovery as long as we're losing jobs," he said. "And we won't rest until every American looking for work has a job."
Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, the insurgent conservative Republican candidate for Senate in the GOP primary against moderate Gov. Charlie Crist, has issued his demands to Crist regarding the new Senate vacancy:
"As Governor Crist considers who he will appoint as Florida's next U.S. senator, I urge him to take great care in his selection. Florida deserves an interim senator who will go to Washington and serve as a true check on President Obama's push for more wasteful government spending, government-run health care and cap-and-trade. The last thing Florida needs is a U.S. senator that will stand with President Obama instead of challenging the wrong direction he is leading our country and offering constructive conservative solutions moving forward.