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August 11, 2009

Krauthammer: Health Care Protesters Are Hurting The Cause

Last night on FNC Charles Krauthammer talked about the health care protests and he is pretty down on some of what he sees.*

The Democrats are pulling a rabbit out of a hat, and the Republicans (or conservatives) are handing the Democrats the rabbit. The Democrats have no argument. They have no facts. They don't even really have a bill.

And if people were just to stand up and quietly and civilly raise questions — "the money doesn't add up," "the CBO has said that you say it is going to control costs, but it increases it by $1 trillion," all of this stuff, it's really out there — they would be winning this debate as they were before the town halls.

What's happening is this is causing a backlash. It's completely unnecessary. It is shooting yourself in the foot. If you want to demonstrate, you want to shout, you do it outside carrying signs. When you walk inside [the town hall meeting], you ask questions.

This is going to have two effects. Public opinion will make people, if anything, rather unsympathetic to those who oppose the bills.

And secondly, it's going to give a great excuse for the Democrats, when Congress returns, to push a partisan bill with no Republican support and say it's because the opposition is not — is simply oppositionist without any arguments and is acting in an irresponsible way.

It doesn't take a genius to know that's going to upset conservatives and it did generate quite the reaction here on whichever thread was live at the time.

Writing seperatelyMichael Barone had a different take after reading yesterday's Pelosi/Hoyer Op-ed. His "tentative conclusions"(via Jim Treacher):

The Democrats’ health care bills have stirred widespread and deeply felt opposition. While some of the protests are organized, the turnout and strong feeling expressed indicate that we are watching something that is largely spontaneous. Try organizing such a protest when almost no one cares much about your issue: no one will show up. It’s the supporters of the Democrats’ health care bills, not their opponents, who are astroturfing—and spending plenty of moolah on television ads and the like.

The Democrats are spoiled because they are used to a mainstream media who spin things their way and a general public whose only expressions of spontaneous enthusiasm in 2006-08 were opposition to (if not hatred of) George W. Bush and support of Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates. Now the spontaneous enthusiasm is all on the other side, with the Democratic astroturf efforts producing pathetic turnouts and largely spontaneous opposition to the Democratic health care plans producing large turnouts.

tmi3rd emailed me about Krauthammer's take, I'll leave it to him to lay out his own thoughts but fwiw, I'm more with Barone. This is part of my email to tmi3rd (made up words and all).

Personally, I think CK is wrong on this. It seems to me he has a little Beltwayitis going on. Most people don't hold Congressmen and Senators in such high esteem that they are above being yelled at. This isn't a CATO or Heritage forum. It's real people who are mad and they aren't thrilled with the talking points they get fed back.

I don't think there's a rule that town halls have to be respectful, two way dialogues. Voters can go with their minds made up and a desire to make sure their reps know how they feel. They are under no obligation to allow their rep to 'educate' them or persuade them. It can be a one way event.

It's funny, I'm usually anti-populist but mostly I'm pro-republican [on this issue] (even though I don't like Jefferson that much). If people want to yell at their government, fine by me. We should demystify and deroyalize it more.

As for the utilitarian/image angle...I think the anger and spontaneous booing shows how real this stuff is and that it's not manufactured and scripted the way it so often is in DC. Do I think it can go to far? Sure, it can go too far (that's one of my beefs with Palin, everything is so personal and goes to 11) but on the whole I think the overreaction it has goaded the Dems into offsets any costs to us.

For those who want to write Krauthammer off over this, don't. Let's not put litmus tests on our guys. He was offering an analysis, that's all. It may or may not reflect where his sympathizes lay but he owes people his best and honest take on issues, nothing more. He's one of the best, if not the best, spokesmen for conservative on many issues. So please don't kill the guy over this.

*Apologies to NRO for lifting the whole quote but I didn't want to leave anything out and risk misrepresenting Krauthammer.

Since tmi3rd started this with an email last night, I thought I'd post his thoughts which are a bit more inline with Krauthmammer's and are generally on the role of comportment at this events.

He writes:

As I'm writing this, Rush is talking about it and is coming vigorously to the defense of the loud protesters- something I'm glad he's doing.

I thought Krauthammer's point was well-taken- I thought he wanted to make the point that we don't want the protests to become the story at the expense of obscuring what a disaster the healthcare bill is. When he decided to emote about it (calling the protests within the hall a "disaster"- you know you're wrong if Kondracke agrees), he departed the reservation.

My qualified agreement with Krauthammer is more of my own style in debating with folks- and therefore not entirely applicable to the situation, but bear with me here. The spectacle needs to be loud- getting the other side's attention. Inside the hall, on the other hand, I think very effective takedowns can be performed by purely asking questions from the facts within the bill- look at the Congressman Scott meltdown in Atlanta. With that said, the loud protests bear out a lefty tactic- repeat something often enough and it becomes truth for people.

Like Drew, I don't want to smash Krauthammer here- I am a huge Krauthammer fan, and I think he's right at least 85-90% of the time. I think it does bear some discussion as to whether tactics can be modified to be more effective, but the strategy is sound.

Fire away- and I'm really quite interested to see the back and forth on this!

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posted by DrewM. at 12:25 PM

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