Aug. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Democrats lashed out at critics of President Barack Obama’s health-care plan, accusing opponents of orchestrating the disruption of public meetings convened by Democratic lawmakers to discuss the legislation.
The Democratic National Committee released a new Web charging that “desperate Republicans and their well-funded allies are organizing angry mobs” to “destroy President Obama and stop the change Americans voted for overwhelmingly in November.”
“We have to push back against what is knowingly not true,” presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters today in Washington.
House Democrats, in coordination with the White House, are using their August recess to try to persuade the public to support legislation pending in Congress to overhaul the health- care system. They’ve encountered such vocal opposition that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday decried the “loud, shrill voices trying to interrupt town-hall meetings.”
The Democratic Party ad featured footage of demonstrators who disrupted an Aug. 1 meeting that Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, convened in Austin to discuss the legislation. Protesters chanted “Just Say No” and carried signs that said “No Socialized Health Care.” One carried a picture of Doggett with horns drawn on his head.
Hanging in Effigy
“Am I going to convince people” who hanged a “congressman in effigy about the details of the health-care plan? Probably not today,” Gibbs said, referring to an episode last month in Salisbury, Maryland, where an effigy of Representative Frank Kratovil was hung by a protester outside the Democratic lawmaker’s local office.
Obama himself was greeted today by several hundred people protesting the health-care legislation outside a factory in Wakarusa, Indiana, where he announced government grants for electric-car development at a Navistar International Corp. factory. Laura Cole, 47, who drove 90 minutes from her home in Wabash, carried a sign that said “Just say no to Obama Care.”
“The things he’s proposing will do away with a lot of our founding freedoms,” Cole said in an interview.
A Quinnipiac University poll released today found greater voter disapproval of Obama’s drive to revamp the medical system. The poll, conducted July 27 to Aug. 3, found that 52 percent of American voters disapprove of the way Obama has dealt with the issue, while 39 percent approve. That’s a switch from a 46-42 percent margin of approval Obama had in a poll the university’s polling institute conducted in late June.
‘Very Hot Summer’
At a press conference last week, Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio predicted that as “Americans learn more about their plan” Democrats are “likely to have a very, very hot summer.”
In a statement today, Boehner’s office said the Republican leader’s prediction proved correct as “Americans are showing genuine concern about the cost and consequences of a government- run health plan.” It cited news accounts of people heckling House Democrats talking about health care, including Steve Driehaus of Ohio and Steve Kagen of Wisconsin.
“Here’s some free advice for the Democrats: When you are attacking the voters, you are losing,” Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement about the ad.
‘Bragging’
The Democratic counteroffensive began yesterday when Gibbs accused leaders of Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, which has held rallies against Obama’s health-care plan, of staging protests, saying they “have bragged about organizing and manufacturing” anger expressed at the public meetings. The group’s Web site features a schedule of town-hall meetings that Democratic lawmakers have convened to discuss the legislation.
Richard Scott, the organization’s chairman, said in a statement that “no one needs to manufacture anger or concern” because the American public “is threatened by a massive government takeover” of health care.
House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland was shouted down by protesters yesterday at a press conference in Utica, New York.
“Why would you guys try to stuff a health-care bill down our throats in three to four weeks when the president took six months to pick” a “dog for his kids?” one protester said. The hecklers had a sign identifying them as members of the “Ft. Stanwix Tea Party Patriots.”
‘Stubborn Things’
In a letter today to Obama, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas urged the president to “cease” what he called an unprecedented effort to encourage citizens to report to the White House “fishy” e-mails or Web sites that spread what the administration calls disinformation about the health-care plan.
A White House blog posting entitled “Facts are Stubborn Things” listed an e-mail address where such reports could be sent. Cornyn said citizen involvement in the debate “must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free-speech rights.”
The White House isn’t “compiling lists or sources of information,” spokeswoman Linda Douglass said in an e-mail. “We may post fact-checks from time to time to be sure Americans know the truth about health-insurance reform.”
Three committees in the House approved different versions of the legislation to create a government-run insurance program to compete with private insurers. Those measures, which would cost about $1 trillion over 10 years, will be reconciled when lawmakers return in September.
The Senate Finance Committee is still trying to draft bipartisan legislation, while another Senate panel already approved its version on a party-line vote.
Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, a senior Democrat on the finance committee, said he is concerned that the protests are becoming a distraction that benefits opponents of the legislation, because they keep the focus off the pro-consumer policy changes the Democrats are seeking.
“It disrupts the message,” Rockefeller told reporters. “The disruption becomes the story, not the message.”