Thursday, August 13, 2009

RIGHTWINGNUTS CAN'T DERAIL LOCAL TOWNHALL (UPDATED)

Posted By on Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 8:54 AM

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The wildly misinformed, angry-about-they’re-not-sure-what bullies who have been trying to shout down democracy at congressional health-care town hall meetings all across the country met their match Wednesday evening on the corner of Euclid and Adelbert on the Case Western Reserve campus.

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Eleventh District Congresswoman Marcia Fudge was holding what she billed as her First Annual Congressional District Address. The "over my dead body will you give me affordable health care" brigade showed up, although their numbers were straggly compared to the dozens of health care reform supporters also standing outside with signs. A lone woman stood in front of a car on Adelbert Road, holding a sign that said “Kill the bill, not the patient.” Across the street in front of Severance Hall, a camouflage-clad, flag-waving demonstrator brandished a sign that said “Govt. is sick.” He and a handful of compatriots were surrounded and outnumbered by supporters of single-payer health care.

But when Fudge’s meeting let out, they’d been replaced by a team of LaRouchies passing out pictures of President Obama sporting a tiny Hitler moustache and dense, wordy pamphlets titled “Act Now to Stop Obama’s Nazi Health Care Plan!” The cult of former fringe presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche takes a backseat to no one when it comes to The Crazy. Even the right-wingers yelling about socialism and euthanizing the elderly steer clear.

What had originally been planned as a “state of the district” speech turned into a de facto health-care forum; all but one of the dozens of questions asked concerned health care. CWRU’s 500-capacity Ford Auditorium was packed, and it was clear from the start that the crowd was supportive of the congresswoman, who is a strong advocate of health-care reform. She said that that “will be the most important thing this congress will do,” earning a round of cheers and a handful of boos. She got the same response when she said of the wilted economy, “We didn’t get this way overnight; we won’t fix it overnight — it took eight years of destruction.”

As she spoke, she was interrupted by someone yelling about “passing a bill to kill old people.” Fudge responded, “Anyone who would believe that anyone in this country would euthanize old people has really got a problem." But the screamer kept screaming and was hauled out by a couple of cops. That pretty much put the lid on disruptive shouting.

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The Q & A session was a mixed bag of people relating their health-care woes and pleading for solutions, single-payer advocates wanting to know why that approach is not under consideration, and anti-reform types spouting misleading talking points and misinformation. The anti-reform people complained about tax dollars paying for abortion (Fudge reminded the questioner that with a public option, people will still pay a premium and deserve the same services anyone else gets), about illegal aliens getting free health care and about cost.

“When George Bush became president, he had a $10 trillion surplus,” Fudge pointed out to more cheers [see note below]. “He left us in the worst economic condition in decades. If we had not found a way to right the ship, we’d be in worse shape. We’re not going to apologize for doing what we believe is right.”

A woman in a wheelchair said she’d like to be able to work without losing her health coverage. Another said she had been turned down by 14 insurance companies because of a family history of cancer. Medical students talked about the staggering cost of their education and how it limited their career choices. A critical-care nurse pointed to the need for the end-of-life counseling that’s been distorted and demonized as “euthanizing old people,” talking about seeing families in chaos because they haven’t discussed such issues.

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As the long line of questioners dwindled to one, a young man in sandals and shorts stepped up to the mic and changed the subject. The crowd cheered and laughed as he said, “My question is about medical marijuana.” He asked Fudge if she’d push for legalizing medical marijuana on a federal level. “It’s a state issue. I work for the federal government. So at this point, I’d just say no,” she said, closing the evening with a touch of levity. — Anastasia Pantsios

EDITOR'S NOTE: We were remiss in not pointing out when this was posted that Fudge's assertion about a $10 trillion surplus is inaccurate. We're not sure whether she meant to say "billion," but that would have been wrong too. The budget surplus at the time that President Bush took office was $128 billion.

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