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Swiftboating Town Halls

Original post made by The Fixx on Aug 5, 2009

With federal lawmakers returning home this week to begin their month-long recess, the far right is welcoming them with large, angry throngs at "town halls gone wild." "Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops [and] congressmen fearful for their safety" have marked the ugly scenes that have become the rule in recent days, as normally respectful meetings between representatives and their constituents have been inundated with right-wing protesters focused on killing health care reform. Over the weekend, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) became one of the more widely publicized victims, when a mob of protesters chanting "just say no" to health care followed him out of an event. These encounters are being orchestrated by the same lobbyist-run groups -- Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks -- that brought together the tax day tea parties in April. While trying to give the appearance of a "grassroots" uprising, the demonstrations are cover for a corporate-lobbyist engineered harassment strategy that encourages participants to "yell," "stand up and shout," and "rattle" elected officials in favor of reforming health care. Their goal -- recently outlined by an influential lobbyist as "delay" then "kill" -- is apparent: Having successfully delayed a vote until after the August recess, lobbyists are seizing on town halls to ambush lawmakers in an attempt to fool them and the greater public into thinking there is wide opposition to health care reform. Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took a "hard line against the Tea-Party organized disruptions," labeling them a "Brooks Brothers Brigade," a reference to GOP staffers staging protests during the 2000 Florida recount.

THE MEMOS: As with the tea parties, these town halls are "lessons in how political interests enlist human and technological resources to build political pressure while those responsible remain safely behind the curtain." Last week, The Progress Report obtained a leaked memo from a volunteer with Tea Party Patriots, a website sponsored by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) (led by a former associate of Jack Abramoff) and FreedomWorks (led by former Republican Majority Leader and current lobbyist Dick Armey). The memo detailed how town hall goers should infiltrate meetings and harass Democratic members of Congress. The memo said activists should "stand up and shout out and sit right back down" so the representative is "made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington." The overall goal, said the memo, is to "rattle" the elected official. Earlier this week, a FreedomWorks volunteer, who doubles as a Tea Party protester, published another memo that outlined a strategy "for his fellow activists -- a playbook of sorts for protesters seeking to disrupt and harass members of Congress during town hall forums in their districts."

A BROAD STRATEGY: Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has endorsed the strategy of staged protests, telling Politico the days of civil town halls are now "over." In a memo to House Republicans, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) promised "anger" during the August recess: "Americans' anger will be on full display in the weeks ahead as Members of Congress leave Washington and travel the nation listening to the voices of their constituents." The published memos are similar to talking points being distributed by FreedomWorks that push an anti-health reform assault all summer. Patients United, a front group maintained by AFP, is busing people all over the country to protest health care reform. America's Health Insurance Plans, the trade group and lobbying juggernaut representing the health insurance industry, is also sending staffers to monitor town halls in 30 states. Meanwhile, Conservatives for Patients' Rights (CPR), led by disgraced hospital executive Rick Scott, is running a national campaign against a public health care option. Yesterday, the group took credit for "helping gin up the sometimes-rowdy outbursts targeting House Dems at town hall meetings around the country, raising questions about their spontaneity." Earlier in the week, a representative of CPR "sent an email to a list serve (called the Tea Party Patriots Health Care Reform Committee) containing a spreadsheet that lists over one hundred congressional town halls from late July into September." And last weekend, CPR announced it will send staff to "confront" lawmakers at town halls and then transition to negative ads.

TOWN HALLS GONE WILD: In one incident of right-wing outrage, protesters surrounded Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY), forcing police to escort him to his car. In another, anti-health care protesters hung up an effigy of Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD) outside his district office in Salisbury, MD. The city was the site of a recent symposium on the dangers of "government-run health care," sponsored by a group called "Patients First," a project of AFP. Two nights ago, Reps. Steve Kagen (D-WI) and Steve Driehaus (D-OH) had to face down angry mobs. Kagen, whose town hall was targeted by the Wisconsin chapter of AFP, was "repeatedly disrupted" by "incomprehensible" shrieks and shouts from conservatives. And just last night, Fox's local Houston affiliate reported that at a rowdy town hall hosted by Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), some attendees admitted "they don't live in the district." Still, Democrats are vowing not to let the disruptions stop health care reform. "I hope my colleagues won't fall for a sucker-punch like this," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told The Progress Report. "These health insurance companies and people like them are trying to load these town halls for visual impact on television." Doggett agreed. After his town hall was ambushed he declared, "I am more committed than ever to win approval of legislation to offer more individual choice to access affordable health care. An effective public plan is essential to achieve that goal." And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) promised Democrats wouldn't waiver: "In spite of the loud, shrill voices trying to interrupt town hall meetings and just throw a monkey wrench into everything, we're going to continue to be positive and work hard."

Comments (13)

Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown
on Aug 5, 2009 at 1:25 pm

The above evidently cut and pasted from media articles...where are
the original thoughts...

Posted by It's tough!, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2009 at 2:27 pm


Now where is your compassion for the cognitively delayed? It's tough for these sheeple to think on their own after eight years of being told what to do and think by the media. It's like any other withdrawal symptom a drug addict experiences, only in this case their drug of choice is MSLSD.

Posted by Really?, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2009 at 4:30 pm

That's funny Curious, you didn't have a problem with the 7 installments of questions to ask about health care that are were cut and pasted in the three posts below.

Seems to me the Sheeple are the ones that will be asking the questions that were sent out from a Congressman and then posted. Hmmmm. Guess they dont have to think about what they are asking now. Good Comeback!

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Aug 5, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Web Link

Southern Poverty Law Center Report on Rise in Conservative Racism & Violence.

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Canyon Creek
on Aug 5, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Its funny that the whole premise of the article is that people shouldn't be against whaever is being voted for. If you are against it, you ar obviously a right-winged radical.

It also makes me smile that because the vote had to go to the august recess and the representatives actually had to hear from the people that this is a BAD thing. Of course all people are stupid, that's what they want you to believe, let the government take care of you, they know better that you.

Posted by Stay Cool, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2009 at 8:53 am

You can call people cognitively delayed, sheeple, whatever you want. It doesn't change the fact that town hall meetings are being disrupted in a way to prevent any rational discussion of health care reform.
Web Link
It's not that if you are against it, you're a right wing radical. It is that right wing radicals are issuing death threats and using effigies and nazi symbolism in these meetings, and there is absolutely no way to justify that. If you're genuinely opposed to health care reform, get in there and tell these people to quit acting on your behalf. Let there be open discussion and debate. This behavior is utterly un-American.
P.S. Quit trying to blame everything on the media. These things are really happening.

Posted by John, a resident of Country Fair
on Aug 6, 2009 at 8:59 am

Do not try and tell us that the Obama White House, Pelosi, and their extended arm of the media are not trying to blame this on others as an organization. Take a look at the videos of the town halls and they politicans cannot even answer any of the questions. Take a look at the polls and you will see the real sentiment of the american people. For the white house to come out and complain about its own citizens utilizing their right to free speech is beyond explanation. Nobody says a word when Bush is hung in effagy, called a war criminal, etc. and now that we are just expecting our politicans to perform are called right wingers by our own elected officials.

Posted by Stay Cool, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2009 at 9:15 am

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.
This is not citizens utilizing their right to free speech. Free speech would be a discussion in a town hall meeting. Not death threats and structured tactics to interrupt congresspeople (see link I provided above). The White House is not complaining about its own citizens utilizing their right to free speech. The polls might show the real sentiment of the American people, but the people preventing discussion at town hall meetings and issuing death threats to congresspeople are not showing the real sentiment of the American people.
The right wingers are preventing our politicians from performing by purposely disrupting town hall meetings.

Posted by John, a resident of Country Fair
on Aug 6, 2009 at 9:47 am

Stay Cool,

I simply do not share you feeling nor your opinions. I saw the video personally of Nancy Pelosi going after the people in the town halls and have seen Robert Gibbs talking about the people in these town halls. I see absolutely no difference between these people speaking out in the town halls and some of these other groups like code pink etc. protesting in the streets or Cindy Sheehan protesting on the public highway in front of Bush's place. This is only the beginning.

Posted by Stay Cool, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2009 at 9:57 am

Well, this is a rational discussion. I would disagree with you on the examples of Code Pink or Cindy Sheehan. The first push for health care was not to pass it before the August recess, to give congresspeople time to review the bill further and to talk to their constituents. Now they are being prevented from talking to, or listening to, their constituents by groups using aggressive tactics. This is an interference at the very heart of the matter. It is not a protest in the streets or in front of a ranch. This preventing the very process of democracy. Please keep in mind, too, that these people are being organized by groups with an agenda (again, please reference my link).

Posted by JJ, a resident of Downtown
on Aug 6, 2009 at 11:49 am

The "politicians can't answer the questions" because they're being shouted down by idiots who won't allow them to speak! Uncivilized and ignorant behavior.

Posted by John, a resident of Country Fair
on Aug 6, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Stay Cool,

I did look at your link and Garfoli is probably the biggest leftist Obama/Pelosi supporter there is in this area so I have just discounted it as being more of the same. The politicans did not pass it because they wanted time to read it they did not pass it because it made no sense. Very few have stated that they will even read it and Robert Gibbs said the other day when asked if President Obama was going to bother to read it and he smirked and just said he did not know the Presidents plans on holiday. come on you should be at least a little objective here or maybe not but you are losing much of your credability and are beginning to sounds a bit like Cholo.

Posted by Melissa, a resident of Country Fair
on Aug 6, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Here is some interesting numbers and it looks like Bush was more popular than Obama and it does not bode well for our campaigner in chief.

Web Link

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