At Town Halls, Blue Dogs Face Skeptics
President Obama is holding a town hall meeting in Montana this afternoon, and last night two Democratic lawmakers got a taste of the sort of questions he might face.
In rural east-central Iowa, Democratic Representative Leonard Boswell was surprised that more than 100 "animated" people showed up at his town hall Thursday evening, according to the Des Moines Register.
The 75-year-old Boswell, one of the fiscally conservative so-called "Blue Dogs" in the House, reportedly relied on his "courtly manner and folksy style" to deal with those angry about the Democrats' health care reform efforts. Supporters of the reform event were also present at the event, though they were outnumbered.
"How will you protect, or how will this bill protect against abuse of power by this Congress?" one woman asked.
Boswell repeatedly noted that there is not yet a bill, and said he thus can't yet know how he will vote. He also encouraged attendees to "be respectful" after some laughed at the notion of life being cut short during discussion of the end of life counseling proposal that has been labeled a "death panel" by critics (a claim media outlets have repeatedly noted is a myth).
In Kokomo, Indiana, meanwhile, another blue dog, Representative Joe Donnelly, got an earful from those skeptical that the government, which oversees Medicare and Medicaid, should be playing a greater role in health care, the Wall Street Journal reports. The newspaper notes that 500 people showed up for an event at which only 72 chairs had been set up.
"Given the government's track record on running various corporations like Amtrak and the Post Office, how can you guys in good conscience decide to run one-seventh of the national economy?" asked one man.
"I just want to know, when do these entitlements stop?" another asked. "I'm responsible for myself and I'm not responsible for other people. I should get the fruits of my labor and I shouldn't have to divvy it up with other people."
A third compared the government to "an individual that maxes out one credit card then goes out and gets another."
The Journal reports that most of the attendees were older, fitting the profile of most of the town hall attendees around the country. Donnelly told the crowd that he has not come out for or against reform efforts.
In Brooklyn, New York, meanwhile, Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner might have expected a more sympathetic reception at his town hall meeting yesterday. But the crowd at the Council Center for Senior Citizens was skeptical – and hungry, according to the New York Daily News.
"Are we going to have a say in this or are we becoming a Communist country?" one man said. "I've never heard of a government program that doesn't explode in costs. This is a joke." Another reportedly earned applause by yelling, "it's a socialist country!"
"I know a lot of people like to get all worked up when the cameras are all around, but the truth is we have a republic form of government and in this system you get to vote for the people you like," Weiner said, urging everyone to calm down after being characterized as one of the "crooks" who is "bankrupting the country."
The Daily News notes that not everyone was so passionate about health care reform.
"Usually our lunch starts at noon," one woman said. "I think he is going to cause us to delay our lunch. That's no good."
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