At first, I too was taken in by the vociferous opposition to the president’s health care plan in these various “town hall” meetings around the country, at least until one goon demanded, “Get your goddam government hands off my Medicare!” If you can’t parse the basic, ineluctable contradiction in that sentence, you too are qualified to bellow at the next “town hall.” Then I read this leaked memo. Why does it remind me of the “Izod mafia,” orchestrated by the unlamented Tom DeLay, which mobbed the Dade County recount in 2000 and scared the hell out of poll workers who were simply trying to do their jobs? That “grassroots uprising,” populated in part by Bush campaign workers flown down to Dade for just this purpose, is just as genuine as the current one (that is, not at all), fed by demagogues like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity (and, to her eternal shame, Sarah Palin, whose “death panel” comments were too kooky even for many right-wingnuts). If I’m wrong, then why are so many other people also demanding we fight government health care while we lay off Medicare? Why? Because the howler monkeys of Fox News tell them to. After all, these geeks can, with a straight face, call the same guy a socialist and a fascist in a single segment!
Bill Maher did a beautiful job on American stupidity on a recent REAL TIME, but it’s nothing to laugh at. Lots of people, whipped up into a frenzy by wacko conservative groups, actually believe the Obama plan means to (1) use death squads to murder elderly people, (2) grab money directly out of your personal bank account, and (3) name your doctor and proscribe what he can do for you. Why do they believe such arrant bullshit? Because they saw it on TV.
Never mind that if anyone, anyone, planned to institute such “death panels,” then you, me, and nearly everyone else in the country would rise up to strike them down and run the creators out of Washington on a rail. It’s ridiculous: by that I mean worthy of ridicule. Yet the fearmongers have managed to work that up as an actual possibility! In 2004, John Kerry made the mistake of judging the Swift Boat smears as beneath contempt: so outré that no thinking person could possibly buy them. Look how that worked out for him. I remember a Republican consultant that spring saying, “By the time we get through with John Kerry, you won’t be sure which side he was fighting for.”
Karl Rove believed we were stupid, that the minority in the “reality-based community” couldn’t withstand the onslaught of a motivated mob. Look how that worked out for us. I’m tired of the mainstream media reporting these ginned-up “town halls” as reality. (This morning’s Times story about yet another “angry” “group,” this time shouting down Arlen Specter, at least reported that the mouth-breathers got there early enough to dominate the 250 seats available, leaving many of Specter’s supporters outside.) They’re no more representative of the country at large than were Fox’s “tea parties” earlier this year, though at least we didn’t have to face vandalism back then. The overwhelming majority of Americans wants health care reform, but I still expect to see some Looney-Tune tossing a shoe at some beleaguered Congressman before it’s all over. Wait till someone tells him that’s an Arab form of dissing!
EDIT, 8/13: A sickening Gail Collins column in this morning’s Times on the fact that increasing numbers of “jes’ folks” are bringing loaded guns to these meetings.