Citizens are speaking truth to power. Aren't Democrats supposed to like that?Protesters and citizens asking angry questions have flooded the "town halls" where congressional representatives have tried to sell President Obama's health care reform agenda to the American people.
The protesters have stolen the show, with 69 percent of Americans telling pollsters they are following the story closely. Town-hall-goers -- some raucous -- are probing costs, are raising questions about government encroachment on private life, and are deploring the fact that few legislators seem to have read the 1,000-page health care reform bill. Democrats have often had trouble answering credibly.
The protesters are having an impact. Last week, the administration appeared to pull back on the "public option" as a centerpiece of Obama's reform agenda.
I thought folks on the left loved protesters -- the rowdier, the better. Liberals are fond of reminding us that free speech is sacred, and that dissent -- "speaking truth to power" -- is a patriotic duty. Remember the 2008 Republican National Convention? The ACLU of Minnesota went to court to win a parade permit that would have allowed thousands of protesters, including anarchists who had vowed to shut down the convention, to encircle St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center, where delegates convened.
Frank Rich of the New York Times says:
The G.O.P., whose ranks have now dwindled largely to whites in Dixie and the less-populated West, is not even a paper tiger — it’s a paper muskrat.“It is time to water the tree of liberty” said the sign carried by a gun-toting protester milling outside President Obama’s town-hall meeting in New Hampshire two weeks ago. The Thomas Jefferson quote that inspired this message, of course, said nothing about water: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” That’s the beauty of a gun — you don’t have to spell out the “blood.”
The protester was a nut. America has never had a shortage of them. But what’s Tom Coburn’s excuse? Coburn is a Republican senator from Oklahoma, where 168 people were murdered by right-wing psychopaths who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Their leader, Timothy McVeigh, had the Jefferson quote on his T-shirt when he committed this act of mass murder. Yet last Sunday, when asked by David Gregory on “Meet the Press” if he was troubled by current threats of “violence against the government,” Coburn blamed not the nuts but the government.