- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sauce, gander

Message coordination is bad, say Democrats. And have they ever been well-coordinated in saying that this week.

A series of videos of angry constituents berating elected officials at town-hall meetings over explosions in federal spending and sweeping health care overhauls have been widely circulated on the Internet and promoted by the highly trafficked Drudge Report recently. Those clips became fodder for cable TV news, symbolizing unease associated with the broad-sweeping health care plan President Obama originally wanted Congress to vote on before the August recess.

They aren’t concerned citizens, just manufactured grass roots (“Astroturf”), mere pawns of corporate-funded special interest causes, sniffed the Democrats. And the White House, Senate Democrats, left-leaning think tanks and labor unions were all on message, sometimes even mimicking one another’s phrases.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, told the left-leaning Center for American Progress in a video interview for its blog, Think Progress: “I hope my colleagues won’t fall for a sucker-punch like this. These health insurance companies and people like them are trying to load these town halls for visual impact on television.”

“That’s almost like flooding the switchboards on Capitol Hill. It doesn’t prove much other than the switchboards have limited capacity,” he explained. “So, we need to have a much more balanced approach that really allows members of Congress to hear both sides of the story, rather than being sucker-punched or side-tracked by these types of tactics.”

Think Progress writers pointed the finger at conservative nonprofits Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks for orchestrating the events. “These protests are coordinated by public relations firms and lobbyists who have a stake in opposing President Obama’s reforms,” one post said.

The Democratic National Committee similarly wrote in a blog post Monday afternoon that “Most of these actions are coordinated by the same lobbyist-run firms who organized ‘tea party’ events last April.”

Then, the talking point came right down from the White House, with press secretary Robert Gibbs telling reporters during an off-camera session Tuesday that outbursts were episodes of “manufactured anger.”

“I hope people will take a jaundiced eye to what is clearly the Astroturf nature of grass-roots lobbying,” he said. He also took a shot saying they looked like the same “Brooks Brothers brigade” that stormed Florida during the 2000 presidential recount.

Hours after Mr. Gibbs made the Florida comparison, the AFL-CIO, which supports most of Mr. Obama’s agenda, echoed that specific statement, but this time without the Brooks Brothers slam.

“Mob rule tactics stopped the Florida vote count during the contested 2000 presidential elections, ultimately turning the presidency over to George W. Bush - a strategy now emulated by the anti-health care reform lobby,” said a press release fired off by the union Tuesday afternoon.

FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe, at the center of these supposed nefarious activities, is happy with how things are going so far. He sent a letter of praise to supporters Tuesday afternoon, after all of the previous statements were issued, urging them to keep up the good work.

“Congress is closing up shop for the summer,” Mr. Kibbe wrote. “Think of this as ‘half-time’ in this year’s fight against the Obama agenda and the good news for freedom-loving limited government advocates is that the momentum is on our side.”

Obama’s closet

If White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was trying to suggest Republican protesters were elitist, country-clubbing type because some may favor Brooks Brothers fashions, he should pay more attention to his boss’s threads.

Brooks Brothers issued a press release in February touting the past presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, who have donned the label.

The latest one was President Obama who wore a Brooks Brothers coat, cashmere scarf and gloves on Inauguration Day.

Report ‘em

Health care reform is so important that not only does the White House think it justifies Astrot… er, grass-roots coordination, but it also wants bad-thought ideas sent to the government.

The White House has issued a statement asking people to report those spreading “fishy” information about health care reform on the Internet.

“There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care,” said an appeal posted on the White House blog.

“These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain e-mails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an e-mail or see something on the Web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.”

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@washingtontimes.com.

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