POLITICS AUGUST 11, 2009
Across the country, town hall discussions about health care are being drowned out by mobs of booing, threatening, and screaming activists. The phenomenon has worsened to the point that some, like Illinois Democratic Senator Richard Durbin, are refusing to hold such events at all during the recess--reasoning that disagreement is welcome, but "I don't have to put up a stage for them."
What's making these town hall meetings so frustrating? Click through this video slideshow to see some of the drama.
Asked whether members of Congress can be trusted if they don't read their bills, Senator Arlen Specter says that he divides proposed legislation up among his staff, so they can judge the bill's overall quality. Chanting activists seize on Specter's description of how the judgments need to be made "fast," and a voice can be heard shouting "Why? Why? Why?"
Representatives Mike Ross and Vic Snyder face numerous angry constituents. One claims that a figure on the U.S. health care system was written by "two socialists from Ireland and London" who worked in the "former Soviet Bloc countries." Another is in tears, expressing terror about what America has become, and another warns that health reform will shred the Constitution.
A brawl starts at this Florida town hall event held by Rep. Kathy Castor, showing just how difficult controlling crowds can be. Castor calms the room for a short time, but ruckus erupts again at the two-minute mark. The representative had to leave early, and one journalist had his glasses and camera broken due to a clash between health care supporters and opponents outside the door.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer tries to engage in a back-and-forth with "tea party patriots," vowing to tell them the facts. When he starts citing figures, people in the front row yell "you're lying to me," "you're no friend."
Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson is heckled at a town hall meeting in Napa Valley, California. About 500 people attend, many of them booing at Thompson's support for health care reform. "Vote against it or we're going to vote against you!" and "What's wrong with profit?" are popular refrains.
Republicans are handling the town hall outrage in a different way. Here, Missouri Rep. Todd Akin jokes that Democrats "almost got lynched" in their districts, and says he identifies with the angry mobs. "'There are people out there who are really mad," he says. "Yeah, that's like me."
By Elise Foley and Noah Kristula-Green