Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Right Wing Mobs Shout Down Democratic Officials In Orchestrated Campaign

Democratic officials are increasingly being harassed by right-wing mobs shouting them down during town hall meetings, especially on health care reform:

Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops, congressmen fearful for their safety — welcome to the new town-hall-style meeting, the once-staid forum that is rapidly turning into a house of horrors for members of Congress.

On the eve of the August recess, members are reporting meetings that have gone terribly awry, marked by angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior. In at least one case, a congressman has stopped holding town hall events because the situation has spiraled so far out of control.

“I had felt they would be pointless,” Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) told POLITICO, referring to his recent decision to temporarily suspend the events in his Long Island district. “There is no point in meeting with my constituents and [to] listen to them and have them listen to you if what is basically an unruly mob prevents you from having an intelligent conversation.”

In Bishop’s case, his decision came on the heels of a June 22 event he held in Setauket, N.Y., in which protesters dominated the meeting by shouting criticisms at the congressman for his positions on energy policy, health care and the bailout of the auto industry.

Within an hour of the disruption, police were called in to escort the 59-year-old Democrat — who has held more than 100 town hall meetings since he was elected in 2002 — to his car safely.

One protester expressed pride in the treatment meted out to Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas:

When she arrived at the store, she said, a large crowd had already surrounded Mr. Doggett. “People were shouting and booing his answers,” she said. “He said, ‘A few angry people won’t change my mind.’ ”

Eventually, Mr. Doggett cut the meeting short and headed for his car. “He jumped in and fled,” Ms. Markley said with a laugh. “It was like he was tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. It was a beautiful thing.”

Tarring, feathering and riding people out of town. Beautiful traditions to some. Here's Doggett's reception:

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke in Philadelphia. Sebelius said, "We can either stand here and shout at each other...or we can have a conversation." The hecklers were not there to converse:

A crowd waited for Senator Carl Levin of Michigan to leave a Democratic picnic and then shouted out the Pledge of Allegiance–as if the Pledge is theirs alone. Do those who would use it against fellow Americans believe in "liberty and justice for all"?

These disruptions are being orchestrated by anti-Obama groups espousing constant harassment, as a leaked memo revealed:

The lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which orchestrated the anti-Obama tea parties earlier this year, are now pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform. A leaked memo from Bob MacGuffie, a volunteer with the FreedomWorks website Tea Party Patriots, details how members should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress:

– Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”

– Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

– Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

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