on the putatively unacceptable behavior by the Obamacare critics at the town hall meetings. Is what they are doing disruptive to the point of being wrong? I repeat Richard Lowry’s remark which I quoted earlier:
Obama wants power over us, via a radical alteration of America. Like McCain with the 2007 immigration bill, he wanted to push that nationalized health monstrosity through with no debate. So how are citizens to react to this revolutionary power grab? Politely? Like the subdued, tranquilized, Canadianized guests on the News Hour? No. Like Americans. What’s happening is great.
Health Debate Turns Hostile at Town Hall Meetings
By IAN URBINA
Published: August 7, 2009
The bitter divisions over an overhaul of the health care system have exploded at town-hall-style meetings over the last few days as members of Congress have been shouted down, hanged in effigy and taunted by crowds. In several cities, noisy demonstrations have led to fistfights, arrests and hospitalizations.
Democrats have said the protesters are being organized by conservative lobbying groups like FreedomWorks. Republicans respond that the protests are an organic response to the Obama administration’s health care restructuring proposals.
There is no dispute, however, that most of the shouting and mocking is from opponents of those plans. Many of those opponents have been encouraged to attend by conservative commentators and Web sites.
“Become a part of the mob!” said a banner posted Friday on the Web site of the talk show host Sean Hannity. “Attend an Obama Care Townhall near you!” The exhortations do not advocate violence, but some urge opponents to be disruptive.
“Pack the hall,” said a strategy memo circulated by the Web site Tea Party Patriots that instructed, “Yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”
“Get him off his prepared script and agenda,” the memo continued. “Stand up and shout and sit right back down.”
The memo was obtained by the liberal Web site ThinkProgress. Its author, Robert MacGuffie, a founder of the conservative Web site Right Principles, confirmed to The New York Times that the memo was legitimate.
In response, liberal groups and the White House have also started sending supporters instructions for countering what they say are the organized disruptions.
A volatile mix has resulted. In Mehlville, Mo., St. Louis County police officers arrested six people on Thursday evening, some on assault charges, outside a health care and aging forum organized by Representative Russ Carnahan, a Democrat. Opponents of the proposed changes, organized by the St. Louis Tea Party, apparently clashed with supporters organized by the Service Employees International Union outside a school gym.
That same day in Romulus, Mich., Representative John D. Dingell, a long-serving Democrat, was shouted down at a health care meeting by a rowdy crowd of foes of health care overhaul, many crying, “Shame on you!” A similar scene unfolded in Denver on Thursday when Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California visited a clinic for the homeless there. [LA replies: Now what does “shouted down” mean? Does it mean that Dingell was unable to continue speaking? As has happened to innumerable conservative speakers at colleges, with nary a complaint from Pravda on the Hudson? I don’t think so. I think it means that someone shouted over him at that moment, and then he resumed.]
In a statement Friday, Mr. Dingell, 83, deplored those trying to “demagogue the discussion,” but said he would not be deterred. “As long as I have a vote, I will not let shouting, intimidation or misinformation deter me from fighting for this cause,” he said.
The tenor of some of the debates has become extreme. Ms. Pelosi has accused people at recent protests of carrying signs associating the Democratic plan with Nazi swastikas and SS symbols, and some photographs showing such signs have been posted on the Web.
On Thursday, the talk show host Rush Limbaugh said the administration’s health care logo was itself similar to a Nazi symbol.
On Friday, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League released statements criticizing the comparison.
“It is preposterous to try and make a connection between the president’s health care logo and the Nazi Party symbol, the Reichsadler,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Wiesenthal center.
On Thursday, top White House aides tried to bolster Senate Democrats during a lunch meeting, arming the lawmakers with tips for avoiding disastrous public forums.
“If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard,” said Jim Messina, the deputy White House chief of staff, according to an official who attended the meeting.
Earlier this week, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, compared the scenes at health care forums to the “Brooks Brothers brigade” in 2000, a reference to the protests that disrupted the vote count in Miami during the presidential election battle between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Portrayed at the time as local protesters, many were actually Republican staff members flown in from Washington. [LA replies: This is a lie. No Republicans disrupted the vote count. What happened was that the vote count moved into a closed room where it could no longer be observed, and several Republican men standing in the hall made a ruckus until they were allowed into the room to recommence observing the vote count. Nothing untoward happened, except in the overheated fantasies of liberals. I talked about the incident in this article.]
For Representative Steve Kagen, Democrat of Wisconsin, Mr. Gibbs’s criticism rang true.
After he faced heckling during a heated discussion about health care at a forum on Thursday, Mr. Kagen was confronted by a vocal opponent named Heather Blish, who identified herself as “just a mom from a few blocks away” and “not affiliated with any political party.”
When interviewed by the local NBC affiliate, Ms. Blish insisted she was not a member of the Republican Party. But her page on the networking Web site Linked In said she was the vice chairwoman of the Republican Party of Kewaunee County until last year and worked on the campaign of John Gard, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Kagen last year.
Ms. Blish’s boss, Scott Detweiler, owner of IdealCampaign.com, which develops political candidate and campaign Web sites, confirmed that she had been active in local Republican politics. But Mr. Detweiler said she was sincere when she said she was not involved in any party, because she ended her activities with the Republican Party a year and a half ago.
One of the week’s most raucous encounters occurred Thursday in Tampa, Fla., where roughly 1,500 people attended a forum held by Democratic lawmakers, including Representative Kathy Castor. When the auditorium at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County reached capacity and organizers had to close the doors, the scene descended into violence.
As Ms. Castor began to speak, scuffles broke out as people tried to push their way in. Parts of her remarks were drowned out by chants of “read the bill, read the bill” and “tyranny,” as a video recording of the meeting showed. Outside the meeting, there were competing chants of “Yes we can” and “Just say no.”
Some of the protesters told local reporters they had been urged to come by a local activist group promoted by the conservative radio and television host Glenn Beck. Others said they had received e-mail messages from the Hillsborough County Republican Party that urged people to speak out against the plan and offered talking points.
Elsewhere, there was similar discontent. On Sunday in Morrisville, Pa., Representative Patrick J. Murphy, a Democrat, was forced to scrap plans for a one-on-one, meet-the-congressman session when people in the crowd started shouting, so he agreed to discuss the issue with the entire audience.
At an appearance at a grocery store in Austin, Tex., on Aug. 1, Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat, was drowned out as he tried to speak on health care change. One opponent had a mock tombstone with Mr. Doggett’s name on it.
Last week, a protester hanged an effigy of Representative Frank Kratovil Jr., Democrat of Maryland, at a rally opposing health care change. This week, Representative Brad Miller, Democrat of North Carolina, said he had received a death threat about his support.
Contributing reporting were David M. Herszenhorn and Theo Emery in Washington, Brian Stelter in New York, Sean D. Hamill in Pittsburgh, Carmen Gentile in Miami and Malcolm Gay in St. Louis.