Are You Ready To RUMBLE?

(CBS)
Nothing like a paranoid headline - in this case, Thug Life. Enter the unions - to grab your attention. Poor Michelle Malkin is having a fright over the prospect of the AFL-CIO getting into the health care overhaul debate. It's actually a lot less sinister than she fears. More about that in a moment. Meanwhile, why not take a breath, exhale and enjoy watching democracy in action because this is part of an evolving story that's getting more intriguing with each passing hour.

As chronicled by the likes of Steve Benen, TPM, RedState and others, the debate over the Obama administration's health care reform proposals is now increasingly hostage to the fine art of agitprop. First blood was drawn by the teabaggers and think tanks urging their supporters to show up at town hall meetings and give their representatives an earful. But increasingly, Democrats are complaining about being victims of an orchestrated campaign to disrupt their conversations with constituents.

Now, the White House and its allies are scrambling to fight back. Barack Obama's "Organizing for America" email apparatus has cranked up, sending electronic missives which urge Americans to contact their elected representatives to make sure that "a tiny minority being stirred up by special interests" does not shout down the "huge majority" that it says supports enacting real health insurance reform in 2009.

The umbrella group Health Care for America Now has issued its own list of dos and don'ts to its membership on how to thwart town hall protesters. And the AFL-CIO, the source of Malkin's Thursday dyspepsia, has also issued own marching orders to its minions, along with a statement blasting "corporate-funded mobs" for trying to block passage of major health care reform legislation.

Asked about the potential for violence at future town hall meetings, spokesman Eddie Vale dismissed the prospect of a physical confrontation between the AFL-CIO's membership and health care opponents.

"We're not going there to match them shout for shout, anger for anger," he said. "We're going there to show our support for health care, not as surrogate security. Our members will be there with union tee shirts and signs. And they'll also be going to the podium, to agree with a representative's support or asking for their support. Our people are well used to this and will be respectful. They're not going to be fighting even if the other side tries to start something."

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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