|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
With the support and encouragement of the Republican leadership, one of America's most despicable political thugs, Dick Armey, a corporate lobbyist funded by the "health" industry, is organizing mobs to disrupt, harass and intimidate every public event organized to discuss the health care reform effort.
It's not just Dick Armey. The entire Republican leadership has been fanning the flames with persistent lies claiming the Democrats want to force euthanasia on old people, abortions on the unwilling and have Obamacrats tell your doctor how or whether to treat you. We've seen months of pernicious lies, and they're having the predictable effect in scaring the elderly and inciting the gullible to vent their anger at anyone they can associate with Obama or health reform.
But instead of condemning such reprehensible behavior, the media writes absurd stories about the resurgence of the party, it's prospects for 2010-12 and who the next leader will be. But we already know: the leaders of the Republican Party are liars who think it's fine to organize thugs to disrupt town halls and stifle discussion.
Armey's Republican endorsed effort is profoundly anti-democratic. It is nothing less than an assault on the country's ability to talk about public issues. It seeks to prevent public officials from speaking to or hearing from affected citizens.
The organizers and their corporate sponsors are not interested in public dialogue or debate. Their purpose is to intimidate and threaten reform proponents, to silence them and prevent their views being heard.
The First Amendment protects even the most objectionable speech. Even speech whose content you hate. But this will quickly move beyond speech. It is sheer thuggery, driven by anger and induced by lies. And because the Republicans are inciting the most gullible and desperately fearful, it will get worse unless the Party's leaders, organizers and their corporate sponsors are shamed into stepping back from the abyss.
The restraints that separate where we are from organized violence are always fragile, based as much on a commonly shared sense of fairness as on civil enforcement. That shared notion has been severely damaged in recent years. Once it's gone, it's a small step for angry people to cross the line from vigorous, constitutionally protected demonstrations to illegal and violent behavior.
Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) will not be hosting any town hall events this August -- instead, he's making himself available to constituents for one-on-one meetings about health care reform -- and at least part of the reason is this: His offices have received threatening phone calls, including at least one direct threat against his life.
"We had no town hall events scheduled for the August recess anyway, but in light of everything that's happened -- we have received a threatening phone call in the D.C. office, there have been calls to the Raleigh office," said Miller communications director LuAnn Canipe, in an interview with TPM. The threatening call in question happened earlier this week.
"The call to the D.C. office was, 'Miller could lose his life over this,'" said Canipe. "Our staffer took it so seriously, he confirmed what the guy was saying. He said, 'Sir is that a threat?' and at that time our staffer was getting the phone number off caller ID and turning it over to the Capitol Police."
They haven't heard anything back from the police yet, but they did get the caller's number. So this could develop into something soon enough.
Hectoring protesters at a handful of Democratic town hall forums became a flash point Wednesday in the health-care debate, as party leaders cast the critics as "angry mobs" trying to "destroy President Obama" while Republicans accused Democrats of dismissing public opposition to their proposals.
As House members head home for the August recess, some Democrats have been met by taunts, jeers and, in one case, an effigy. Video footage of the sometimes-belligerent protests has taken hold online and on television in a relatively quiet news week, threatening to drown out any health-care debate.
That has fed a political tug of war over whether the protests, at gatherings from Pennsylvania to Texas to Wisconsin, have been organized by conservative groups or sparked by average citizens voicing their own displeasure.