WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday turned to its favorite tool – the Internet – to bolster President Barack Obama's push for health care overhaul and challenge misconceptions about Democratic plans.
The Web site seeks to disprove several claims made by critics, including that proposed changes would result in rationing of care, euthanasia or end Medicare. As lawmakers return home for their August recess and faced wary constituents, the White House sought to calm fears and brace for a barrage of accusations.
"Given a lot of the outrageous claims floating around, it's time to make sure everyone knows the facts about the security and stability you get with health insurance reform," said White House senior adviser David Axelrod.
During last year's campaign, the Obama organization created a Web site to challenge what it said were smears. On that Web site, for instance, Obama posted a copy of his birth certificate to debunk claims that he is not a citizen.
Organizing for America, President Barack Obama's political operation, also urged supporters to visit the offices of members of Congress to express their support for overhaul. The sessions, dubbed "Office Visits for Health Reform," are designed to counter the opposition and tap into the president's extensive grass-roots network established during the campaign.
The e-mail appeal to supporters suggest they stop by the local congressional office for a quick conversation or to drop off a customized flier. "We can't let extremists hijack this debate, or confuse Congress about where the people stand," the e-mail says.
Claims about what health care overhaul would do have dogged the White House. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin posted on her Facebook page that Obama's plan would create a "death panel" that would deny care to the neediest Americans. Radio personality Rush Limbaugh compared a White House health office logo to a Nazi symbol.
Opponents have disrupted town hall-style events with members of Congress. The White House is bracing for its own disruptions when the president heads to New Hampshire to talk about health care on Tuesday. His aides and advisers, meanwhile, are pushing back on specific concerns on the Web.
"I'm here to tell you, quite simply, that if you are eligible for (Veterans Affairs) health care, you will remain eligible," said Matt Flavin, the White House's policy adviser for veterans affairs. "There is no impact on VA health care."
On the same site, Council of Economic Advisers chairwoman Christina Romer called complaints about small business impact a "myth" and White House policy chief Melody Barnes called rumors of euthanasia "fiction." They then explain why they believe the criticism is bunk.
Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, brushed off the White House's new message.
"In reality, the Web site simply recycles the same false claims that the administration and its allies in Congress have been pedaling for weeks," he said in an e-mail to supporters.
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