Bob Franken

Health Care Mobs and Their Instigators. Denials Ring Hollow


What do you call a crazed group of people that disrupts a meeting on health care and hangs the congressman holding it in effigy? A mob.

What do you call the partisan groups that whip up their fear-of-change ultra-conservative base to engage in that symbolic lynching and then disavow any responsibility? You have a choice here between “deniers” and a word that rhymes with it.

GOP Chairman Michael Steele, for instance, insists, “We’re not inciting anyone.” But what about all the soulmate special-interest groups with close ties to the party? How about their allies, who issue insidious calls for disruption on their websites?

Can someone point to any Republicans who have been harassed as they hold meetings on health care? Are there any who have been taunted the way Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were? Or chased from a supermarket parking lot gathering when an angry crowd of 200 closed in, as was the case with Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas, or hung in effigy, like Rep. Frank Kratovil of Maryland?

They and some others who have been under siege in their home bases have one thing in common. They’re all Democrats — senators and members of the House who have been heckled and threatened as they tried to explain their views on the health care reforms moving through Washington.

House Minority Leader John Boehner predicted Democrats would have a “long hot summer.” Apparently he knows what he is talking about — all to well. (For the record, Boehner calls any charges of coordination a “fabrication.”)

One Democrat, Sen. Claire McCaskill, suggests the tactic may backfire, saying that “rude and obnoxious behavior is not very persuasive.”

Where did she get that? One can only hope that this effort at organized intimidation doesn’t escalate. What if the other side decides to meet the conservative mobs head on?

Here’s a better idea: How about reasoned debate? That is so crazy it might work — even better than “rude and obnoxious behavior.” (And if you believe that, I have a completed health care bill to sell you.)

Much will depend on just how cynical those encouraging the mob frenzy are — while denying responsibility. What shall we call them? Mobsters?

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