Friday, August 7, 2009

What I Learned at the Congressman Dingell Health Care Townhall

Well, I've been watching many of the videos on the internet and on the news about the various town hall meetings around the country, and it has made me want to see one for myself. I've heard the spin from Republicans and Democrats on what actually occurs at these town halls, so when I found out Congressmen Dingell was hosting a town hall in an area of Michigan known as a Democrat stronghold, I knew I had to be there.

First of all, I was surprised at the number of people at this town hall. The room reserved for the town hall probably fit in about 200 people and there were so many people that Congressman Dingell (one of the co-sponsors of the House's version of the health care bill) decided to have another meeting right after the first. Even so, at least 200 people were left outside to demonstrate and never got into the town hall.

I was fortunate enough to gain entry into the 2nd of the 2 town hall meetings, but the video I posted below is of the first meeting. From what I've heard from others and seen on YouTube, the two meetings were fairly similar with the 2nd of the town halls probably being a little toned down due to Congressmen Dingell answering a lot of the same questions again and people waiting for almost three hours before the 2nd town hall started. In the first town hall, Mike Sola, of Milan, interrupted the congressman as he pushed his son with cerebral palsy, Scott, in a wheelchair, to the podium. He said proposed changes wouldn’t help Scott and called Dingell a fraud. Dingell's staff had both of them ejected by the police.

As you can see in this video, during the first meeting, people decided to turn their backs on Congressman Dingell when they were fed up with what they perceived were lies.

Here's how Dingell was able to have the most successful (for his bill) of the town halls I've heard about:

1. No one was allowed to speak during virtually the entire event because Congressman Dingell had everyone submit written questions before the event started. Then, although the man who represented AARP and read the questions said all the questions would be addressed time-permitting, that was not the case. The questions were clearly screened and out of over 200 questions submitted to both town halls, I'd be surprised if more than 25 were read. The one's chosen were often tough questions, but Congressman Dingell would answer them rather quickly with answers that didn't seem to satisfy the crowd.

2. Congressman Dingell used crutches to walk in the room and he did so very slowly. I wouldn't point this out except for the fact that he left the event very quickly and didn't need his crutches then. I don't know for sure if what I'm guessing is true, so I'll let you make your own conclusions.

3. Congressman Dingell invited a woman approximately three feet tall to open the meeting with a story about herself. People were very respectful to her until she started making broad generalizations, and called the people who don't support the bill names.

4. Before the event started, I saw a man in a suit with a bunch of signs underneath his arm and when I got a closer look, I saw they were all home-made looking signs in support of the plan. I can't be sure if Congressman Dingell's staff made them to feign support for his bill and pass out to the minority of supporters they had at the event, but that was the impression I got.

That said, during the question and answer part, the man who organized the Lansing Tea Party was arrested early on for disrupting too much. After that, people quieted down a little bit and seemed to listen to Congressmen Dingell more. However, people were visibly frustrated that the format of the event left no one an opportunity for follow-up questions. Congressman Dingell went through most of the major issues most people seem to have with the bill and said that they were all lies and that "he wrote the bill" so he knows everything that is it and no one else does, so anyone that disagrees with him is lying. The only thing that Congressman Dingell agreed was part of the bill that most people don't like was the government option, but the things he said about the government option make me wonder if Congressman Dingell has seen enough reliable research on the issue.

Finally, Massachusetts health care was brought up and Congressman Dingell seemed more than eager to talk about that. He praised the health care system in Massachusetts and said it is virtually the same as Obama's plan. My question, which was never answered, was on that very topic. Democrats in support of Congressman Dingell's plan strategically kill two birds with one stone by trying to connect health care in Massachusetts and the current proposal. First, they hope to gain moderate and some republican support for the plan by pretending that it is like what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts. Next, they can hurt Mitt Romney's standing with many Americans opposed to the current proposal by tricking them into thinking they are fighting against the liberals in congress, President Obama, and Mitt Romney. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mitt Romney has penned multiple pieces recently on this issue and he has also made a few television appearances. The Democrats completely ignore these. Also, if Congressman Dingell and the members of his committee are so infatuated with the Massachusetts plan, the why haven't they contacted Mitt even once about the plan?

Romney Attacks Obamacare

Mr. President, what's the rush? - Romney on Health Care

Say No to Government Insurance

Romney Interview on Health Care

National Review: Mitt’s Massachusetts Mandate?

Health Law Costs Are Not The Problem in Massachusetts