Chuck Todd bungles Obama town hall story

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

This is definitely going to be a thing today, with President Obama hosting a town hall meeting in New Hampshire to discuss health care reform. The chatter has already begun about whether the GOP mini-mobs will show up outside or even inside and try to disrupt the events.

Obviously the mini-mobs have been in the news as they turn town hall gatherings into shrieking free-for-alls. But those have been at events sponsored by members of Congress. Obama's, of course, will be a POTUS forum, complete with a Secret Service detail, among other key differences. Just keep that in mind.

Now, to Todd [emphasis added]:

Pres. Obama holds his OWN town hall in New Hampshire this Tuesday where the issues of the economy and health care are likely to be the dominant issues. Of course, what many will be watching is to see if this town hall invites the same passion as we've witnessed at town halls for members of Congress this last week...

And as much as some might want to believe the White House will be staging the questions, don't believe that hype. The White House knows the political price for being caught doing that is MUCH higher than having to deal with a confrontation or two at the meeting itself. If anything, I'd bet some inside the White House are hoping for a confrontation since they believe the president's demeanor alone will politically play well with the folks the White House cares most about right now, ACTUAL independents.

With that, Todd helps set the perimeters of the debate: Will the White House basically censor citizens from protesting inside town hall forums? Todd says no way because the political fall-out would be "MUCH higher" than having to deal with the confrontations. Meaning, Obama would catch holy hell if word got out that the White House tried to keep the mini-mobs out; if the White House tried to pick and choose who got into the NH town hall.

Really?

Because in case Todd forgot, back in 2005 when President Bush held town hall forums to push his failed idea to privatize Social Security, it was an open secret that only Bush supporters were allowed into the events. In fact, in one celebrated instance, three Denver liberals were physically removed from a Bush town hall. Their infraction? Arriving at the event in a car that had a "No More Blood For Oil" bumper sticker on the back.

Even Foxnews.com took note of the White House's heavy head:

The unceremonious ouster of three people from a recent White House Social Security event in Colorado has critics wondering how far President Bush will go to ensure friendly, sympathetic audiences at his town hall-style forums and rallies.

And Fox News' Chris Wallace has also conceded that, "in the Bush administration, George W. Bush, they had a lot of these town hall meetings, and they chose all the people there. So everybody has always tried to get a home-court advantage."

So as the Obama town hall forum story unfolds, let's keep in mind the words of former Bush White House spokesman Scott McClellan who defended the practice of removing Bush critics from town hall-style events:

If someone is coming to try to disrupt it, then obviously that person would be asked to leave. There is plenty of opportunity outside of the event to express their views.

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