Where have we witnessed this scene before: throngs of angry, belligerent conservative goons disrupting public debate of a heated issue? And where have we seen this tactic before: Republicans trying to frame issues with malicious lies about the opposition and its policies?
That's exactly what's happening as President Barack Obama attempts to reform the health care industry to create universal coverage, and as Democratic members of Congress hold "town hall" meetings across the country to explain the program. Hordes of semi-violent demagogues have hijacked these events, shouting down the speakers and even hanging the legislators in effigy. It's shocking and reprehensible.
There's been much controversy surrounding these highly contentious gatherings over the belief that the mobs have been prepped and mobilized by the GOP and/or special interest groups backed by the drug, hospital and insurance industries. While the likelihood is that most are (radio host Sean Hannity's Web site entices people to "Become a part of the mob! Attend an Obama Care Townhall near you!" and then lists dozens of scheduled meetings), that's not the real issue here.
It's not our business whether the crowds are organized by self-serving, anti-Obama conservative groups. I don't care whether Karl Rove himself packs these people on a bus, provides them scripts, hands them lunch, and personally leads them into the meeting areas. The First Amendment protects free speech, and these people have a right to organize, assemble and speak their minds however they see fit, as long as they do so in a non-disruptive, non-threatening civil manner. But what is of concern is that these self-proclaimed "patriotic Americans" are acting in a bullying and often violent manner, thus stripping the opposition of its right to free speech. It's all very reminiscent of the 2000 "Brooks Brothers" mobs who, under the guise of local protesters but actually official GOP goons, disrupted the Miami re-count in the Bush/Gore post-election battle. These rowdy town hall meetings have been overrun by rabid Republicans acting like brutish mobs with the singular goal of preventing the health care debate from taking place. They seek to shout down and drown out the opposition. And that's not acceptible.
Republicans are very good at lying and deceiving in an effort to bolster their cause and frame the issues. Can we ever forget how Sen. John McCain, Sarah Palin and others did their best to portray Obama as a terrorist, socialist and Muslim? What about the "birthers," who insist that Obama's presidency is not legitimate because they believe he's not a U.S. citizen? These disengenuous Republicans fear-mongered to get us into war with Iraq, and now they're fear-mongering again on health care, scaring people into thinking that if Obama's reform succeeds, then the government will dictate the who/what/when/where/why of their personal coverage. They're even scaring ailing senior-citizens into thinking they'll be euthanized rather than to spend wasteful taxpayer dollars keeping them alive. This suggestion is beyond despicable, but not a surprise.
So while the health-scare mobs spread their lies and deceptions, let's set the record straight on a few main points of Obama's proposal:
-There'll be no caps in coverage
-There'll be no exclusions of pre-existing conditions
-There'll be no euthanizing of seniors
-No one has to change their current doctors
-No one has to change their insurance carrier
To be sure, the health care issue is extremely complex. Both sides of the aisle are throwing facts and figures around as they try to convince people that they have Americans' best interests at heart. But in cutting through all the muck, there's one very simple, logical question in determining who's lying and who's not: are Republicans really the party that's gonna protect the old, the sick and the uninsured more so than Democrats? Sounds absurd, right? Yet so many people still allow themselves to become brainwashed by the GOP's deceptive rhetoric.
What's most unfortunate in this whole mess is how so many people continue to be used and manipulated by the GOP. They're the same ignorant lot who believe that Obama's a Muslim, that he hangs out with terrorists and that he was born in Kenya. They are the birthers, the tea baggers and now the health scare fools who've been duped yet again, despite almost 100 years of proof to the contrary, that the Republican Party is the party looking out for the little guy.