As opposition grows to President Obama's health care reform plan and angry protests erupt at town hall meeting after town hall meeting across the country, the Democrats have responded by attacking the motives of their critics.
The strategy employed by the Democrats and the left is not new. They seem much more comfortable personally attacking their opponents than debating them on the issues. The Left personally attacked President Bush over and over and over again to undermine his credibility with the American public. They have employed the same strategy against Sarah Palin.
I experienced some of this approach on Facebook this week. I ended up in a conversation about abortion with some pro-choice folks. I found myself bombarded by personal attacks, name-calling, and nasty vulgarities. The pro-life movement was ridiculed, as was the Catholic Church. It was a real, eye opener. Most of the respondents did not address the points I raised at all.
Thus, I am not surprised the Democrats have unleashed the attack dogs on the critics of health care. Even members of Congress themselves have joined in. Nancy Pelosi has accused attendees at the townhalls of being Nazis. Rep. Brian Baird used the phrase "Brownshirts." Harry Reid refers to people worried about the plan as the "fringe." And so on.
Oh, and let us not forget. The White House has asked Americans to spy on their fellow citizens and report anyone making "fishy" claims.
So, let me get this straight. The Democrats are attacking and ridiculing American citizens for being concerned about a 1,000 page bill that adds $1.6 trillion to the defecit and completely overhauls our entire health care system? For being nervous about a complex bill that few people seem to understand and which many members of Congress haven't even read?
My recommendation for the Democrats: Enough with the ridicule and attacks. How about answering the concerns and questions of the people. How about slowing things down, so everyone can read and digest the bill. Then survey the people and let the chips fall where they may.
Peggy Noonan has an excellent column on this subject in the Wall Street Journal today.
...But most damagingly to political civility, and even our political tradition, was the new White House email address to which citizens are asked to report instances of “disinformation” in the health-care debate: If you receive an email or see something on the Web about health-care reform that seems “fishy,” you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The White House said it was merely trying to fight “intentionally misleading” information. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas on Wednesday wrote to the president saying he feared that citizens’ engagement could be “chilled” by the effort. He’s right, it could. He also accused the White House of compiling an “enemies list.” If so, they’re being awfully public about it, but as Byron York at the Washington Examiner pointed, the emails collected could become a “dissident database.” All of this is unnecessarily and unhelpfully divisive and provocative. They are mocking and menacing concerned citizens. This only makes a hot situation hotter. Is this what the president wants? It couldn’t be. But then in an odd way he sometimes seems not to have fully absorbed the awesome stature of his office. You really, if you’re president, can’t call an individual American stupid, if for no other reason than that you’re too big. You cannot allow your allies to call people protesting a health-care plan “extremists” and “right wing,” or bought, or Nazi-like, either. They’re citizens. They’re concerned. They deserve respect.
Noonan's full column is here.
Investor's Business Daily also has an excellent editorial on the subject. A couple excerpts:
Democrats, bloodied over their attempt to force health care "reform" on Americans, are looking more unreasonable and hysterical by the day. This isn't healthy for the republic.
Their increasing anxiety and fear of failure are typified in the words of the leader of their party, who wants Republicans to keep their mouths shut while he "fixes" health care.
"I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking," the president said Thursday at a political rally in Virginia. "I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess."
So much for the promises of bipartisan lawmaking. So much for open discussion. So much for understanding who really caused the "mess" in the first place. Like Al Gore claiming the debate about global warming is over, the White House simply wants to shut down dialogue over who controls more than one-seventh of the economy...
...Truth is, there's nothing more American than revolting against heavy-handed authority, be it a long train of abuses from a king or the lawmaking of elected officials with strong authoritarian urges. This is a nation founded on independence, and there is a large portion of it that wants to retain that priceless heritage.
This seems to confuse some lawmakers. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., can't understand that what he's watching is a freedom movement. In his eyes, the protesters are Nazis — or almost.
"What we're seeing right now is close to brownshirt tactics," Baird said Wednesday, by way of explaining why he was refusing to face his constituents directly in town hall meetings and would instead hold telephone town halls.
Voters' deep anger is justifiable. They have every right to disrupt and shout down public figures who, as the protesters can be heard chanting, work for them. At dispute is not a mere difference of opinion that can and should be discussed in a civil manner, but a fundamental question of who is in charge of peoples' lives.
We are not advocating violence, though coercive government is at its core violent as the state is required to resort to force to ensure that its directives aren't violated.
But we do support our fellow citizens' right to express their rage at an injustice, particularly if it makes lawmakers uncomfortable. Shouldn't Americans bristle when their independence is threatened, when a federal official, in this case White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, says party leaders "will punch back twice as hard" when voters merely show their displeasure?
The freedom the protesters are defending can sometimes be messy and imperfect. A lack of freedom, however, is eternally oppressive. It is an unrelenting prison that poisons the human spirit, even when cloaked in allegedly humane programs such as government-run health care.