- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

Counter-memo

If right-wing protesters are going to show up and yell at their elected officials during town-hall meetings, then left-wing activists need to start coordinating with those representatives to provide them with “cover,” says a four-page memo distributed by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), a coalition group supporting President Obama’s recommended plans.

Conservative groups who help mobilize like-minded people to oppose proposed health care reform legislation have outraged Democrats, left-leaning think tanks and blogs, in light of their success in spurring contentious town-hall meetings that have been filmed and uploaded to the Internet. Much to their chagrin, video clips of conservative activists in Pennsylvania and Texas chanting and booing their elected officials have become a symbol of public angst over Mr. Obama’s agenda.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has even accused conservative organizations of distributing “rent-a-mob instructions” on how to protest the president’s health care plans. As evidence, she pointed to a mailer from a group called Right Principles.

To help push back, HCAN — whose members include ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union, the National Education Association and the National Council of La Raza — issued some instructions of their own. The memo, e-mailed Tuesday to HCAN’s 120 field staffers in 44 states, encourages activists to contact elected officials before public events to plan ways to pre-empt the opposition.

“Ask the Member’s staff what would be most helpful and talk through a strategy for making sure the right messages don’t get drowned out by chaotic protesters,” field director Margarida Jorge advised. The memo’s introduction says she has “years of union organizing experience” and has “laid out tactics for people attending town halls to follow to blunt the right.”

Another one of Ms. Jorge’s tips is to “Address the [member of Congress] directly with a positive message: Remember, these Members need cover and they are getting beaten up by right wing zealots in these meetings.”

HCAN Communications Director Jacki Schechner said protecting elected officials who support their favored reforms was necessary given the contentious nature of some town-hall meetings.

Ms. Schechner said conservatives are baiting lawmakers into holding town-hall meetings, “so [lawmakers] can get yelled at and they don’t want to feel unsafe and uncomfortable.”

“They don’t want to put themselves out to be bait for pushing and shoving, that’s not dignified discourse.”

British warning

British Conservative Daniel Hannan begged American college students not to let their country “go into the direction of socialism” and let the government take over the U.S. health care system during a conference sponsored by the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) at George Washington University on Wednesday.

The students were well acquainted with the British member of the European Parliament; he became a media sensation earlier this year after delivering an eloquent and hard-hitting rebuttal to Prime Minister Gordon Brown that many U.S. conservatives thought was equally applicable to President Obama.

Mr. Hannan warned the students not to let the U.S. government implement any kind of government-run health care system in his Wednesday address. “Do not think you can experimentally introduce a state option in health care and think you can get rid of it if you don’t like it,” he said.

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