Guest Post by Sanford D. Horn
Much akin to throwing the Christians to the Lions, and by Lions I mean the winless 2008 Detroit Lions, so anemic they haven’t the will to devour their potential prey, US Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia’s eighth Congressional District faced a mostly convivial if not staged audience Tuesday night at South Lakes High School in Reston.
People began arriving before 3 p.m. on Tuesday for an event that was slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff with doors opening at 6 p.m. According to Moran’s official website, the event would be limited to residents of the eighth district and they would be asked for identification in an effort to ensure seating for the Congressman’s constituents. That turned out to part of the smoke and mirrors that was this town hall meeting as several Moran staffers handed out slips of paper for folks to write their addresses and IDs were not checked, except for one gentleman, whose ID was examined specifically by Moran himself, later in the evening.
Then there were the Obama minions handing out a couple thousand pre-printed signs supporting his health care program sponsored by Organizing for America, an Obama political action group. They also had several tables set up near the school’s entrance to sign people up for something or another. Plus, there was a large group of Obama supporters attempting to circumvent the line by going to the locked doors, asking security to allow them entrance because they were “with the group.” When denied entrance, they simply stood at the doors in front of the folks who had stood in line for nearly three hours.
Somehow, although I was close enough to the front of the line to touch the door, upon entering the building and then the gymnasium, the first five rows were already filled with Obama/Moran/health care supporters and their signs to put on a good show for the cameras, of which there were plenty.
For those who have been accusing the people who are opposed to Obama-care of behaving like a mob and acting un-American for daring to demonstrate dissent, let the record show that the pro-Obama-care forces, who outnumbered the opposition about eight to one of the crowd of nearly 3,000, were behaving in a mob-like fashion. They shouted “yes we can,” drowning out the room in what some may have described as a pep rally atmosphere. Quite frankly, with the cacophony of angry shouts and chants the atmosphere mirrored that of a union meeting full of recently laid off auto workers – and no offense to auto workers.
This is not to say that the people opposed to Obama-care behaved like perfect angels, but theirs was more reactionary than antagonistic as some of the pro-Obama-care forces demonstrated. Quite frankly, it is because of such ill-conceived legislation that people have attended these meetings en masse to demonstrate their outrage and ask questions of their legislators and actually expect answers.
At one point a crowd gathered near the front of the room during one of the chanting battles and without any instigation or provocation, a woman in her late 50s to early 60s with a hideous red dye job poked a man with her cane. Later in the evening the same woman used profanity toward several anti-Obama-care forces. Later still, she used her professionally made sign to block the gentleman sitting behind her from using his video camera. When he moved, she moved, and so on.
Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, also a doctor, was on hand to assist Moran with details about Obama-care. When he was introduced at about 8:05, nearly an hour into the scheduled two-hour event, that began 10 minutes late in the first place, the polarizing figure drew more boos than applause, and this was a favorable Obama-care crowd. A group sitting two rows behind me stood up and began chanting “we won’t pay for murder,” in reference to Dean’s apparent support of federally funded abortions as part of Obama-care. This went on for more than five minutes until Fairfax County police “escorted” the chanters out of the room.
During the chanting, a swarm of media converged around them with cameras and microphones, but not all the photographers were members of the media. One woman in particular, working for no media outlet, stood about a foot from me – I was seated during this near-mêlée, observing and taking notes – readying to take my picture. While I am not camera averse, I saw no reason to be photographed by some random woman. I put my hand up between my face and her camera – touching neither her or her camera. She in turn put her hand up to my face, swore at me and then gave me the one-fingered salute as she retreated.
So unpopular was Dean, that when Moran passed one constituent’s question to Dean, the constituent objected saying he did not want to hear from Dean, but from Moran, his elected representative. Dean did admit that the drug industry does better as a for profit entity. But then reverted back to form when he said he does not think insurance companies should be for profit, much to the delight of the Obama-care supporters.
Another battle that ensued also came from people sitting one row in front of me and one row behind me. Yes, in the sixth row, I had a delightful ring side seat. My new friend Tito, a Colombian native who also lived in Venezuela prior to becoming a US citizen and now owns a construction business, shouted “liar,” with each explanation offered by Moran for what he called “myths” about HR 3200, the health care bill. The folks sitting a row in front of me, supporters of Obama-care, detecting Tito’s obvious Hispanic accent, shouted at him to shut up and go home. In fact, any time opposition was expressed, Obama-care supporters simply yelled shut up and more often than not, had no facts on which to base their support of Obama-care.
The problem is that an overwhelming number of Obama-care supporters are young people living in the generation of government support from womb to tomb and cradle to grave – nothing at all like the intentions of the Founding Fathers. That a public option could even be considered when it has the potential to eradicate private insurance and become a government monopoly is unconstitutional, yet there is nary a challenge to this notion.
In addition to the professionally made signs supporting Obama-care, the most creative came from the anti-Obama-care people who brought their handmade signs with them. Some of the signs read: “Obamacare will destroy my business,” “Dissent IS American,” “Doctor’s oath: do no harm – Congress’ oath: spend, spend, spend,” “Obamanomics – trickle-up poverty,” “My health, not your power,” “Euthanize socialist health care,” and one held by a young man on crutches: “Cripples Against Obamacare.” He said being handicapped, it was his prerogative to use the word crippled.
Overall, this was a pro-Obama-care crowd and that was evident from the outset and the words offered by Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk of the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation. Crossing the line of church-state with his prayer calling for health care reform, saying “health care needs help,” the rabbi’s words drew jeers from some of the crowd, demonstrative of the evening that followed. And quite frankly, the rabbi wasn’t all that pleasant after the event when I approached him to verify the correct spelling of his name – something any responsible writer would do. He wanted my name, who I was with and then guided me to the congregation’s website to garner such information. Only when I asked him about someone connected to his congregation, did he acquiesce.
Early on, Moran said “dissent is as American as apple pie,” to which came the shouted response, “tell Pelosi.” Moran followed with “the voices of the American people should not be silenced,” and again the response of “tell Pelosi” could be heard loud and clear.
Yet is was Moran himself who attempted to squelch the voice of one of his own constituents during the all too brief question and answer period during the last half hour of the two-hour event. My new friend Roland Tulino sitting next to me, had his name drawn from the box to ask his question. He had also been rather vocal during the event leading up to the Q and A session. Upon arriving to the dais to take the microphone, Moran accused Tulino of being an imposter and asked him for identification. Having showing it to Moran, Tulino then asked Moran for his ID, but was rebuffed. Several minutes after asking his question Tulino received a public apology from Moran for the previous exchange, which Tulino accepted.
This is just demonstrative of elected officials who so rarely descend from their ivory towers to mix and mingle with the folks. The less than friendly banter between the pro-Obama-care and the anti-Obama-care contingents battled throughout the meeting, save for when the subject of tort reform was finally raised near the end of the evening. On this singular issue it was obvious that both forces could agree on one thing – all have a common enemy – lawyers. All in all, however, what the event lacked in civility and potential progress, it certainly made up for with grandstanding and political theater of the absurd.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer living in Alexandria, VA and an 8th District resident.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.