- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A day after the White House dismissed protesters at town-hall events as people sent from opposition groups in Washington, the administration’s political wing began mobilizing millions of its own supporters.

“We’ve got to get out there,” President Obama said in an e-mail message sent Wednesday to the more than 13 million supporters of his campaign group, Organizing for America.

“These canvasses, town halls and gatherings only make a difference if you turn up to knock on doors, share your views, and show your support,” he said. “So here’s what I need from you: Can you commit to join at least one event in your community this month?”

Supporters who go to group’s Web site are asked to enter their names, e-mail addresses, mailing addresses and phone numbers. The site says that after they have done that, a staffer will “be in touch to let you know about upcoming events near you.”

The group also organized a gathering Wednesday in Detroit to counter protesters that might show up at an event attended by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The coordinated effort from Washington to produce grassroots action comes one day after the White House and Democrats in Washington denounced protesters at health care town hall forums across the country as “manufactured” by the Republican party and lobbyist allies.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs maintained that this was the case Wednesday morning.

“I think there is a lot of manufactured anger going on,” he said, repeating a line he first said Tuesday.

The Democratic National Committee released a Web video aimed at discrediting the loud and sometimes angry protests that have popped up around the country and distributed through YouTube and other forms of online video.

“This mob activity is straight from the playbook of high-level Republican political operatives. They have no plan for moving our country forward, so they’ve called out the mob,” says the video, which shows footage of protesters in Texas surrounding Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Texas Democrat, on Saturday, and chanting “just say no” repeatedly.

Click here to see the video.

Republican groups and operatives have ridiculed the idea that there is any high-level organization behind the protests, beyond the posting online of when and where town hall forums are taking place so that opponents of the president’s reforms can be informed and show up if they choose.

But DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse has accused “Republican operatives” of bussing in volunteers to the events. And Democratic strategist Donna Brazile told The Washington Times she thinks the protesters are being paid to show up.

“They’re renting organizers,” she said. “The left has done it. Now they’re doing it. This is not some spontaneous outbreak of emotion.”

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said Mr. Obama’s Democratic allies were doing “what psychologists call projection.”

“The other team does bus people in,” he said. “If they wanted to get 100 people to a rally they have to pay them.”

Mr. Norquist said that none of the major business or commercial groups that might have played a role in stirring up grassroots opposition has come out against the president’s plan, as the White House has worked hard to keep all the major industry stakeholders at the table.

“They cowed K Street but forgot about Main Street,” Mr. Norquist said. “And Main Street is angry and Main Street doesn’t like this.”

John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, said industry groups are “caving in, selling out.”

“I can’t think of a single industry group that is not ready to cut a group with Obama tomorrow,” he said. “So this is real grass roots.”

A Quinnipiac poll of 2,000 people showed that 72 percent do not think Mr. Obama will keep his promise of not adding to the nation’s projected $1.8 trillion budget deficit.

“The guts of this poll was people say if health care reform means running up the deficit they don’t want it, and they don’t believe Obama when he says he won’t run up the deficit in doing health care reform,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“That’s a pretty big fringe group,” he said.

A separate CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll of 1,136 people found 50 percent approval and 45 percent opposition to Mr. Obama’s plan to reform health care.

But the poll also showed that 44 percent thought Mr. Obama’s reform plan would help other people and their families but not them, while 30 respondents thought the president’s plan would help them personally, and 20 percent did not think reform would help anybody.

Mr. Obama appeared Wednesday at an event in Elkhart County, Ind., conveyed an optimistic message about the U.S. economy but did not talk about town hall protesters.

“I believe our ability to recover, and to prosper, as a nation depends on what happens in communities just like this one,” Mr. Obama said, announcing a $39 million grant for two automobile plants in Elkhart that will fund the building of 400 fuel-efficient trucks.

In their push to get volunteers out to local events, OFA also promoted a video of Mr. Obama that showed the president giving a rousing speech, complimented by pictures of younger, smiling, optimistic-looking people and inspiring music. It was a stark contrast to the images of older Americans chanting slogans and holding signs in the DNC attack ad.

Mr. Woodhouse, the DNC spokesman, said in an e-mail about the protests against Mr. Obama’s reforms that “people are scared because they are being fed frightening lies.”

In Indiana, Mr. Obama guaranteed the passage of health care reform this year.

“I promise you: We will pass reform by the end of this year because the American people need it,” he said to applause.

During an interview with NBC afterward, Mr. Obama said that he hopes Republicans will work with the Democratic majority in Congress to pass a bipartisan bill, but left open the door to ramming a bill through without GOP approval.

“At some point in September we’re just going to have to make an assessment,” he said. “The bottom line is the American people, the American economy and the federal budget have to have some sort of reforms in the health care system. And you, know, failure is not an option.”

But the Quinnipiac poll showed that Mr. Obama has a long way to go in convincing the public that a partisan bill is a good idea.

The poll found 59 percent disagreement, and 36 percent agreement, with the statement that “Congress should approve a health care overhaul even if only Democrats support it.”

• Jon Ward can be reached at jward@washingtontimes.com.

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