Before I detail the good, the bad, and rehash the very ugly about Rep. Ed Royce’s August 8, 2009 town hall, I tip my liberal hat in thanks to the Congressman for holding more than 100 town halls during his 16-year tenure. Agree with Rep. Royce or not, he listens and responds to all questions and questioners, as time permits. And he’s prepared. He does his homework.
Last week, I blogged that I hoped to ask Rep. Royce “… how he plans to address the health insurance needs of his constituents if he plans to vote down Americaâ€™s Affordable Health Choices Act,” which is House health care reform legislation.
The good news is that Rep. Royce had responses, however sparse, to that burning question. Royce voiced support in:
- Disallowing pre-existing conditions as basis to deny coverage;
- Implementing portability for all health insurance plans; and
- President Obama’s belief that “enormous savings can be made in current systems.”
While this list is pitifully short of addressing the reform needs for existing health insurance policies, and does little to address the desperate needs of uninsured residents of Royce’s district, it’s a start.
The Congressman likely realizes that certain reforms are legislative fait accompli, and he wants to be seen as jumping on the bandwagon for provisions that will benefit his constituents. I hope his commitment to real health insurance reform is deeper than that.
Rep. Ed Royce consistently pandered at his town hall to the conservative crowd’s worst instincts with words sure to rile-up the mostly elderly attendees:
- Despite firm public assurances by President Obama, Rep. Royce threatened that Democratic health care reform will cover illegal immigrants.
- Rep. Royce repeated the myth flatly denied by the White House that the elderly will “lose Medicare options to fund” Obama’s health care reform.
- At every possible chance, Rep. Royce invoked the name of Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, to animated groans, hisses, and head-shaking sighs.
- For good measure, Rep. Royce also reiterated threats of people losing and/or being taxed on their existing employer-based health care policies.
And my personal favorite, Rep. Royce carefully explained to the room that “Government-Run Care Means Lower Survival Rates for Cancer.” (See Royce’s hand-out at right.) The unmistakable message: Adopt Obama’s plan, you are more likely to be fated painful death by cancer.
Never mind that the U.S. government wouldn’t be “running” health care delivery… Never mind understanding the assumptions, particulars, or even dates for the “worldwide population based study” vaguely cited… Never mind that most aspects of European and proposed U.S. health care systems are not comparable.
The predictable result of Royce’s fear-laced mantras was frightened elderly conservatives who became more frightened, and who left armed with few solid facts, particularly about the dire consequences of not reforming rising medical costs.
The Very Ugly
As I reported yesterday, political literature containing Nazi imagery linking President Obama and Adolf Hitler was openly disseminated inside the room just prior to Rep. Royce’s arrival.
The Congressman issued a statement today that an individual “… was able to sneak several highly objectionable fliers… into the meeting” and “Any attempt to portray me or my office as endorsing these repugnant fliers is 100 percent false.”
All well and good, I suppose, except that there wasn’t much sneaking. The young man distributing the 16-page booklets strode confidently up and down stairs on both sides of the room, loudly hawking the slanderous hand-outs as though he was selling peanuts at Anaheim Stadium. “Sneaking” is hardly the operative term.
But regardless, the tone was set. The damage was done. Constituents read the trashy booklets, and they took them home for their families and friends to read. The angry and frightened became more angry and frightened. And rational discussion of health care reform became even more impossible.
I have no doubt this won’t happen again at Rep. Ed Royce’s town halls. I have little doubt that Rep. Royce is horrified that this rubbish was distributed. That’s not the point.
The point is that it was distributed. That his staffers could easily have stopped it. And that they didn’t have enough respect for non-conservative constituents in the crowd to stop it.
My suggestion for Rep. Royce is that he and his staff focus on addressing all his constituents at town halls, not only Republicans.