From Niall Ferguson's August 10 Financial Times column:
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.
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.
Politico reports that Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and former Republican Senator Rick Santorum has written a fundraising email for the RNC – which was sent to the Washington Times' subscriber list. In the email – addressed "Dear Fellow Conservative" – Santorum waxes sentimental about how "a great tide of conservative Republicans swept to victory in races all across America," and claims that "we are facing a very similar opportunity today."
This follows fundraising emails sent to the Times' list on behalf of House Republican Leader John Boehner and the right-wing Judicial Confirmation Network. Perhaps John Solomon's promise that the Washington Times would maintain a "neutral, civil voice" kicks in next month?
Malkin, who spent the Bush years denouncing active Bush critics as demented "Moonbats," is now online's head cheerleader for the health care min-mobs. Suddenly, political protest isn't treasonous or unhinged, it's democratic and much-needed.
When I first noted Malkin's rather obvious double standard she responded by claiming she only called out violent liberal Bush haters. And that the town hall mini-mobs weren't made up of violent people. Just deeply concerned citizens.
Right, and tell that to Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) whose office recently received an Obama death threat via fax. (See below.) Greg Sargent has the details.
Malkin must be furious with these right-wing Moonbats, right? Right?
Oh, boy. Now Newsbusters' Brent Baker is upset that former CNN reporter Bob Franken describes disruptive protesters who hang a congressman in effigy as "a crazed group of people" and a "mob."
The one from late last week in which Pearlstein penned a surprisingly frank column about the health care 'debate,' and called the town hall mini-mob members "political terrorists," and detailed the blatant lies Republicans were spread about Obama's health care push.
The column ("Republicans Propagating Falsehoods in Attacks on Health-Care Reform") raised lots of eyebrows and was widely cheered by liberals as being a rare example of a Beltway pundit who hit back hard and didn't hide behind a phony both-sides-do-it framework. Pearlstein clearly and unequivocally called out the right-wing misinformation and intimidation. And for that, he deserves credit.
But I thought there was a gaping hole in Pearlstein's otherwise excellent column, especially when reading passages like this [emphasis added]:
The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.
Who does Pearlstein have in mind when he refers to the "fellow-travelers"? I suspect it's members of the GOP Noise Machine, which has been amplifying the the health care attacks launched by Republican leaders. I suspect he's referring to Fox News, which in recent weeks has transformed itself into a misinformation clearing house on health care. My guess is that Pearlstein has people like Rush Limbaugh in mind, who's being doing his best to make sure listeners have no idea what today's health care reform is actually about, and instead simply unleash their hatred for the federal government.
I'm guessing that's who Pearlstein's referring to, but I don't know for sure because Pearlstein never spells it out. Because in his otherwise excellent and insightful column, Pearlstein never explains who the "fellow travelers" are and never once makes reference to any members of the right-wing media who have fueled today's "political terrorists."
I'm sorry, but if "Republican leaders" waged "attacks" on health care reform and there wasn't an irresponsible GOP Noise Machine to propagate the attacks, nobody would care what the GOP thought, simply because most Republicans today, by being such a small minority in Congress, are essentially powerless to impact the legislative process. The Republicans' only true source of power is the hate and rampant misinformation spread by right-wing media.
In other words, the right-wing media are the story here. At least a big portion of it in terms of the health care 'debate.' Yet the Beltway press continues to look away and play nice and refuse to single out offenders for deserved ridicule. And people like Pearlstein write columns that seem to dance around the obvious; columns that refuse to call out the real villains in the misinformation movement.
From Kurtz' online discussion today:
Washington, D.C.: Howard,
A few years ago, a random Internet user posted a video linking Bush to Hitler in an ad contest on MoveOn.org. The ad was quickly removed when it was located.
This was followed by a week's worth of coverage and calls for apologies by almost the entire conservative movement and the media.
You even wrote an entire article about it that was in the dead tree version.
Last week, Rush Limbaugh made an even more direct comparison of our president to Nazis.
Why do you think the media, including The Washington Post has not had the same level of outrage, call for apologies, and asking politicians to distance themselves?
Howard Kurtz: I don't know. Rush did it twice, comparing Obama's governing style to that of Hitler and saying the health care reform logo resembled a Nazi swastika (I asked White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass about the latter comment on my CNN program yesterday.) Maybe Limbaugh has said so many controversial things in the past six months that the left no longer feels the need to challenge each one.
The left isn't challenging Limbaugh's comments? Oh, really? The White House criticized the comments. How can Howard Kurtz, whose job is jobs are to cover the media, not know that the White House press secretary has criticized the nation's most-listened-to radio host for making comparisons to Nazis? Isn't that stunning ignorance of what's going on in his beat something that should concern Kurtz's Post bosses?
Kurtz, by the way, never mentioned Limbaugh's comments in the Post. Maybe he's still embarrassed about calling Limbaugh "mainstream" a few years ago.
NRO's Kathryn Jean Lopez predicts, "I suspect this will be the most linked-to YouTube of the day on the Right." The link is to a video clip of Hillary Clinton saying in 2003, "I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration somehow you're not patriotic, and we should stand up and say we are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration."
Presumably, Lopez is suggesting that Clinton's comments are somehow at odds with what Pelosi and Hoyer wrote in their USA Today op-ed today, but they're not.
As we pointed out this morning, Pelosi and Hoyer wrote that "it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue," and that "[d]rowning out opposing views is simply un-American."
Pelosi and Hoyer did not declare opponents of health care reform - or anybody who disagrees with the Obama administration -- "un-American." They were speaking in favor of "civil dialogue" and against actions that disrupt it and "drown out opposing views."
On the off chance that Lopez was merely pointing out a great 6-year-old quote on the freedom of speech from our now-Secretary of State, fantastic. We concur.
Washington Post media critic again gave his other employer, CNN, a pass for its promotion of Birther conspiracy theories during his online discussion today:
Newark, N.J.: While I think the Birthers story will die down, I feel it's always going to under the surfaces. This won't die and were just one more YouTube.com clip of a similar event to that town hall in Georgetown, Del., with a cousin of "Crazy Eileen" (yes, that is actually her real nickname; look it up) and a crowd yelling about our Kenyan-Indonesian-anything but American president to bring this back into the spotlight on a slow news week.
Howard Kurtz: The media can only control their own behavior, not whispering campaigns and YouTube clips. I am baffled why this fringe of a fringe, arguing something that has factually been disproven, has gotten as much attention as it has. Lately, liberal programs have spent more time on the birthers than conservative ones, in an effort to spotlight what they view as craziness on the right.
The most prominent promoter of the notion that Barack Obama still needs to produce a birth certificate is Lou Dobbs. Lou Dobbs hosts a decidedly-not-liberal program on CNN. CNN's president Jonathan Klein has defended Dobbs' Birther comments as "legitimate." Howard Kurtz also works for CNN on the side. And Kurtz has never mentioned, in any of his many forums, Klein's comments.
And now Kurtz claims to be "baffled" why this fringe of a fringe has gotten media attention. The answer is clear: CNN president Jonathan Klein says obsessively insisting that Obama produce a birth certificate is "legitimate" journalism. The fact that Howard Kurtz refuses to say that is really something the Washington Post's Ombudsman needs to address.
It's also another reminder that the conflict of interest inherent in Kurtz's dual employment by both CNN and the Washington Post comes into play even when he never mentions CNN -- in this case, it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that it's the reason why he didn't mention CNN.
Are we approaching a critical mass of reporters understanding that the media has done a terrible job of covering the substance of the health care debate?
Earlier, I noted that MSNBC's coverage today is far better than Friday's, that the New York Times has produced a "primer" on health care, and that even Mark Halperin thinks the media is dropping the ball in focusing on yelling at town halls rather than on the actual issue.
In a just-completed Washington Post online discussion, Post reporter Alex MacGillis directly and forcefully debunked the "death panel" nonsense, wrote "I agree wholeheartedly that reporters too often rely on the 'he said/she said' model and shy from stating what they know to be the truth on an issue," and agreed that the media is partially responsible for people holding false beliefs about health care reform.
Even Howard Kurtz wrote of Sarah Palin's "death panels" lie: "there is a point where the media should say a politician is wrong, and this is the point."
And Friday night, Time's Michael Scherer denounced that day's cable news coverage of health care:
the word "violence" was thrown around like candy for the masses, who are apparently torn between wanting more blood and wanting more outrage over the blood. Meanwhile, the substance of any policy discussion--like President Obama's quiet decision to deal away Medicare bargaining power for prescription drugs--is lost.
What else is out there? Feel free to post other examples of reporters explaining or criticizing the flaws in health care coverage in the comments.