House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., alleged this week that some of the hecklers at the pro-Obamacare town hall meetings around the country with carrying swastikas.
The O’Reilly Factor featured a video clip of Pelosi visiting San Francisco General Hospital, where she fielded some rapid-fire questions from the media.
“Do you think there’s legitimate grass-roots opposition going on here?”
“I think they are Astroturf . . . you be the judge,” Pelosi answered. “They’re carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on healthcare.”
As it turned out, a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle had tossed out the loaded questions. Curiously, however, in the Chronicle’s published report on what it called “her finely manicured photo op,” the swastika part of the answer was left out.
The Chronicle went on to report some more of her less-volatile answers.
"There is no question that people want to know what's in the legislation, want to know how it is paid for and know what it means to them. And that is why we have town meetings, either electronically or personally.
"Just because someone opposes their understanding of what this health care is, that's not a bad thing. But some of what is orchestrated to prevent the opportunity of presenting the plan, that's a different story," the Speaker said.
Although Pelosi did not give any specific examples, KTHV-TV reported this week that the heckling that went on at a Little Rock Arkansas forum where Congressmen Mike Ross and Vic Snyder were shouted down throughout the course of the affair.
The team was trying to sell the message that healthcare costs were growing at twice the rate of inflation — and health insurance would reach a point in the next decade where employees and employers won't be able to afford it, according to an Associated Press report.
Audience members accused the pair of supporting a government-backed health plan that would take away Americans' personal choice and freedom. At one point, Ross was reduced to sitting with his head in his hands.
Pelosi, however, noted during her impromptu San Francisco remarks that her colleagues in the House were in her opinion savvy enough and tough enough to bear up under the onslaught.
"These members are members of Congress," Pelosi said. "They know how to handle it. They're OK. They're OK. But they do have to know the difference between grassroots and Astroturf."
According to the Chronicle report, Pelosi made it clear at the end of last week that she believed the best defense might just be a good coordinated offense. She announced that there would be a monthlong pro-reform campaign mounted during Congress' August recess.
Pelosi distributed to the members a pocket-sized "What's-in-it-for-you" talking points that among other things took aim at insurance companies, accusing them of a "carpet-bombing, slash-and-burn, shock and awe" effort to defeat the "public option" plan she and the president favor, according to another San Francisco Chronicle report.
The opposition apparently also is working to hone its skills at shouting down the reform package.
Several media sources have pointed out a memo of tactics that apparently is being used to outline the best ways to disrupt targeted town hall assemblies. The memo's logo is “Right Principles.” The memo proper is headed: “Rocking the Town Hall – Best Practices.”
One pointer in the detailed memo:
“Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Representative on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington. They need to leave the hall with some doubts about their agenda.
“The other objective is to illustrate for the balance of the audience that the national leadership is acting against our founders' principles which are on the other side of the debate - and show them that there are a lot of solid citizens in the district who oppose the socialist approach to the nation's challenges.”
Challenges and hecklers aside, Pelosi has not stopped her tough talk.
"Let me assure you," she said last week. "There will be a healthcare reform bill passed."
Healthcare reform has become the lodestone of the Democratic Party. The daunting project involves getting at the devil in the details of a $2.6 trillion healthcare system.
Calling the battle a "joy," Pelosi added, "For us, it's our life's work."
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