I've been watching the reporting on several media outlets on these townhall meetings. The reporting appears, of course, to be a bit slanted depending upon which media outlet you pay attention to. So, rather than give comment on either of the various reports, I'll speak of what I saw and what I think about what I saw.
Time was that the townhall was used as a place where the people had a chance to tell their representatives what was on their minds and to ask for clarification on issues being discussed in the US Congress and get straight answers! But more recently, townhalls have become successful stumping grounds for political candidates in putting forth their political agendas prior to election. Thus, because that was so successful, townhalls have become a place where the well-entrenched politicians can come and tell us what they're doing and spin their actions such as to either confound their constituents further or to make "an appearance" of being a real representative for what is best for their constituents.
These more recent healthcare townhall meetings started with Arlen Specter and Kathleen Sebilius.... the first thing I noticed was that what came out of Specter's mouth was the excuse about not having time to read bills due to the rush put on them to pass the legislation, and then the same old rhetoric that has been spouted by healthcare proponents in the halls of Congress in Washington DC. At that point it became very clear that he and Kathleen were going to present the same old "blah-blah-blah" that had been spouted by all the healthcare reform supporters, and that's when those in attendance who are fed up with the same ol', same ol' began forcefully speaking out.
Yes, it was loud... and why? Because Specter and Sebilius had the microphones and they didn't, and they were determined to make their points. They saw that these two people came to present the same old propaganda with which they disagreed, and that these two standing in the front of the room really had no true answers to the legitimate questions the people had. So, their hopes of hearing something different, something to which they could ascribe, were dashed immediately and the result was that their frustration quickly grew.
I don't blame them. I've sent messages to my senators and representative and all I get for my effort is a thank you for contacting us form letter. There is no genuine statements of concern or that they were affected by my or anyone else's misgivings, nor did they give direct answers to my questions. So, if we call, email, or write letters and receive no real acknowledgement, is there any wonder that we're frustrated to the point of "getting in their face" just to be heard?
Today, I watched another of Arlen Specter's townhall meetings. Approximately 200 people or so were allowed into the hall and of those only 30 were allowed to draw numbers to ask questions. I applaud his attempt to control his meeting, but actually I found myself watching political "dodge ball" in some of the exchanges, meaning that I heard some pat "political non-answer answers" to a few of the questions to which he knew he'd get the most pushback or those he didn't want to directly box himself in on. I did hear a few promises made to not vote for certain provisions which were of concern to the audience members. Whether he keeps those promises is yet to be seen. After all, he abandoned those who put him in office, didn't he? All in all, it was a fairly respectful exchange with some passionate and pointed statements and questions. But I was still left with the feeling that Arlen Specter wasn't changed in his position by the concern and types of questions he was being asked. Rather, I feel that he was just relieved that he made it through this townhall meeting in one piece!
I feel it is really important to state that in the first townhall, I noticed the absence of what appeared to be an organized demonstration. I saw no pre-printed placards, I saw no group T-shirts. The only "union" I saw was when someone made a point that was shared by others in the audience, they stood up and applauded. For the most part they remained in their seats and a few stood to make their point before sitting down again. In the second one, I noticed the presence of law enforcement.... still no printed placards, no group T-shirts... no angry fists pumping in the air... just really concerned citizens. (But that's not what the far left and liberal media is claiming happens at these meetings.) Rather than troublemakers, I saw people who looked to be uber-mainstream... though somewhat older than those you normally see in a rowdy demonstration. No one advanced on the podium, no one shook angry fists in the speakers face, though there was some pointed fingers driving home their points. They were determined that this meeting was was not going to be a "just sit there and listen while I tell you what it is that's best for you," but the people in the smaller second townhall audience were more respectful and thanked him for showing up.
The atmosphere in these townhalls was charged no doubt, but they certainly weren't threatening. If the senators and representatives and cabinet members felt threatened, it must have come from within, knowing that what they were trying to sell wasn't a "genuine" product. And it wasn't until the White House called for their "paid grass roots" people - who are stupid enough to wear identification in the form of apparel and pre-printed placards - to attend and make their presence known - and were given preferential seating in the halls so as to present a more favorable appearance to the media - did there appear anything resembling violence. That's how they've been trained in these community organization camps - to disrupt through civil disobedience if necessary which means they can be violent, they can smack people around, they can shove and push, injure, and intimidate, etc. They better watch out, though. I've heard that little old grannies and old vets can be forces to be reckoned with!
I'm now watching Obama's townhall meeting and listening to him restate himself on some things he already said he wanted his healthcare plan to do. Standing behind him on stage are about a hundred obvious Obama supporters. The first several rows in the audience appear to be more of the same. Certain people are being selected from the audience to give their questions. In spite of the insistence that this isn't staged, it has all the appearances of an orchestrated townhall where he can relive his campaign glory days in a loving atmosphere and regurgitate his "charming" rhetoric to the viewing audience in an attempt to reset the tone and regain support for his healthcare/insurance plan.
I'm not the only one who's noticed a change in some of the terms he's using now. I'm not sure if it's due to the pressure he's feeling from some of these outspoken townhall attendees.... or a just reaction to the polls that are moving more and more to the negative. In an effort to win back those who have grievances against the original plan as published by the House of Representatives in their bill HR3200, Obama is now shifting from calling it "healthcare reform" to "insurance" reform.... just like he did when he changed the term the "stimulus" to "recovery". And why was that? Because the effects of the "stimulus" have not been evident. Recovery is a prolonged and less quantifiable term.
So far, the House and Senate leaders are sticking to their guns, though, and calling it healthcare reform. Some of these terms and other "volatile" terms continue to come out of the mouths of the House leadership. They're not following Obama's precedence. Perhaps Obama's Communications Director (or Czar or whatever) needs to communicate with the Senate and the House of Representatives about what the "term of du jour" is because they aren't saying the same things...
And it also appears that no one in Washington has actually read HR3200, or if they have, they don't know what actually is or isn't in it. You can tell that by the blank stares or excuses they're getting when asked about specific passages in the bill. Even Obama doesn't know what's in it and has said as much. No one has been able to answer what the actual cost of this legislation will be and where the funds to pay for it will come from. In fact, they want to pass it way before they know this information. That seems an asinine move. Would you commit to making a major purchase without knowing the cost and how you're going to pay for it? So I ask, are we surprised that we are somewhat confused about what is contained in this bill, what effect this healthcare/insurance plan will have on us, and what it's going to cost us not only in the immediate but down the road???
Regardless of what this piece of legislation is called it doesn't change the content of the bill and the things are that the townhallers are incensed about. I can't help but wonder. The majority of the people do not want this particular bill in either version. What they do want is tort reform, changes in insurance companies' control over cost and coverage, and they want affordable insurance premiums and healthcare. Why then are these congressmen embracing all these other things that are in this bill? Well, the answer is that's Washington. Slip whatever you can in under the radar so that you get what you've been paid for or repay those to whom you owe favors. I heard a report that pharmaceutical companies struck a deal with the White House within the last few days. Hmmm. There's only one answer for that I can think of.... lobbyi$t$!! What do you think?
I can only assume that Congress really doesn't care about how it affects everyone else because it doesn't touch them in a personal way. Well, hopefully those things are being watched more closely by the citizenry from now on, and those in the Senate and House will be held more accountable after this. Not only do we need to keep pressuring our representatives with questions for clarity on the healthcare issues, but we need to hold them accountable for all the promises they have made in their campaigns and in these townhall meetings.