Making Change or Making Noise: Obama's Healthcare Town Hall

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Last week, opponents of healthcare reform began their most recent strategy: raucous shout-downs at town hall meetings with U.S. senators and representatives. Tonight, President Obama is holding his first town hall meeting since the protests hit the news. The president will try to sell his plan to ordinary Americans in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We talk to Corey Lewandowski, who is organizing a protest in Portsmouth this afternoon. Princeton historian Julian Zelizer joins us to look at the role of grassroots protests in the current healthcare debate and throughout history.

Some listener suggestions:


  "This is Jay from Boston and I would urge everyone to just say no. No, no no.""



  "Here's what I would say, shut up, shut, shut up!."



  "Co-pay, go away! Co-pay, go away! Co-pay, go away!"


  "I say, it's broke, fix it. It's broke, fix it.""



Corey Lewandowski and Julian Zelizer

Comments [22]


True, from his rallies Not from the public debates.

What Obama has excluded on the national basis is ANYTHING but his leadership to a single payer program. Yes, now it's in big trouble so he's out there saying ANYTHING to woo the public whether it's true or not, "we've got AARP on board."
That was just a totally fabricated statement.

Aug. 13 2009 07:32 AM

It sounds like a sincere advocate who knows all about the issues. Although I don't agree with the ends you propose I appreciate your sympathies and understand your knowledge on the subject. So you must be outraged by having representatives who are voting on laws that they have not read? Am I right with that?

Aug. 13 2009 07:28 AM

What you're saying is $3,000 out of his own pocket is not worthwhile to save his life? I can't believe you believe that.

Aug. 13 2009 07:25 AM

The Bible says to care for the poor and the sick. Not derail government efforts to help the poor and sick.

Aug. 11 2009 01:29 PM

Most reliable news sources say 45-47 million. And your 12-20 million of illegal aliens is completely fabricated. And find me one person out of the supposed 20-30 million who "don't want health insurance". Find some facts, come back later.

Aug. 11 2009 01:27 PM

What garbage from Lewandowski. Bush ran two complete campaigns excluding anyone who disagreed with him from his rallies.

Aug. 11 2009 11:35 AM

This has saddened me a great deal. I agree that some of these events are staged, but not all are. I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio shows and they urge people to be disruptive at these meeting and cause a ruckus. Being disruptive will not solve anything, instead it will create more hatred towards our Government officials and perpetuate the animosity between the Republican and Democratic parties. These unruly behavior will also intensify the threat of the President being assassinated. The media is playing their part in reporting these incidents, which might look like American citizens are being thrown out just because they have an opinion, but that's not the case, it's the manner that they conduct themselves in are getting them tossed out these meetings. God Bless America.

Aug. 11 2009 11:34 AM
Al Want- Oklahoma City

Learning their lesson from the credit card companies which have scrambled to increase rates and fees BEFORE legislation takes effect, insurance companies are doing the same with premiums. My $5000 deductible policy for which I already pay nearly $600 a month is now going up almost 30 percent ahead of what they obviously perceive as the threat of reforms. The longer we dilly/dally about reform of the system and the longer we rail against a government option, the more gaming of the system the insurance companies will perpetrate

Aug. 11 2009 11:11 AM
Dan Gregory in Lubbock, Texas

My comments / chants to the president would be:

1. We don't want any MORE government in our lives, we want MUCH, MUCH, MUCH less...examples of government's incompetence in running things abound...more / higher taxes are NOT an option for most of us out already waste most of what we send you...let's try to leave something besides a huge debt for our posterity...

2. Please make public YOUR & Congress' healthcare system, & if YOU & THEY will participate in whatever you guys are wanting to foist on the rest of the country...

3. Ignore the GENUINE grassroots activity going on in the country at your & the Democrat's electoral peril next year...regardless of how the liberals in the media are trynig to spin this, there's a lot of people out here who see how far & how fast you're trying to take this country away from our Founders' Christian & Biblical principles...

Aug. 11 2009 11:10 AM
Leith from Detroit

Pertaining to the complaints of anti-health care protesters that the access to the presidents meeting is controlled, I would respond that the Bush administration was the ultimate practitioner of this sort of censorship, maintaining iron control over the message at all times, and allowing no room for dissent or dissenters. President Obama is already leaps and bounds ahead of his predecessor in attempting to nurture debate and discussion, and in going out to meet with the American people without cue cards and scripted questions.

Aug. 11 2009 11:08 AM
Mike Doyle

I am not much of a chanter (Canadians rarely get that worked up), but I would like to point out this curiosity: If America and the 'American Dream' is all about upward mobility, why is it that so many people want to trap themselves into their current jobs just so that they don't lose their health coverage? Wouldn't Americans want that health care safety net, especially during all this turmoil wherein people are losing their jobs unexpectedly on a constant basis?

Aug. 11 2009 11:07 AM
Denise Shaughnessy

Let's keep government out of Health Care - give us choices.

Aug. 11 2009 11:06 AM
Philip Edmundson

Most people want health care reform in order to decrease the number of Americans without health insurance and hence to increase health care access. That is exactly what happened in Massachusetts since our health care reform bill passed in 2006. And it was done without a public insurance option.

So, my healthcare mantra (or chant or rant) would be: "Why do we need a public insurance option in order to achieve universal health care access given the Massachusetts success?"

I am disappointed at your reporting on this issue. Good reporting assumes that those who advocate change should be subject to your questioning. In other words, you should be reporting on and questioning the case FOR a public insurance option rather than assuming that it is best and reporting on why anybody would be AGAINST it.

Aug. 11 2009 11:06 AM
Charl Kroeger

At a town Hall meeting, I would be one who would ask, listen and try to get information. It infuriates me that the Astroturf thugs are prepared to take away my right to participate in civil political discourse, with their mob-tactics. If I am not able to interact with the person making decisions on my behalf, it takes me out of the equation, and these ‘shouters’ interfere with MY rights. How dare they?

Aug. 11 2009 11:05 AM
Dan Applebaum

To me, it is more important what is actually in the health care proposal rather than what some people THINK might be in it and don't bother to really find out. Are they real or are they tools of the insurance companies and GOP?

Years ago, I had been part of progressive groups that demonstrated on issues and there is a big difference between what we did and what many of these groups are doing, now. We worked for specific goals, whether it was for cheaper rents, better health care, etc, and we studied the proposals and knew what was being proposed. If we wanted to be loud, we stayed in the streets, but if we wanted to influence people at a meeting, we discussed and asked questions and waited for answers.

The thing that disturbs me is that you feature the shouters and rarely have people call that want to talk about the issues and their needs. I can't tell if you only get calls from shouters and none from people who really want to see change. If that's true, it says a lot about you.

Aug. 11 2009 11:04 AM
Vicke Adams

I have a 28 year-old brother who is uninsured. He almost died of diverticulitis in November. He got emergency surgery and now has a colostomy bag. He can't get the surgery reversed because he doesn't have $3000 to pay for the surgery. He is a tile-layer and can't work with a colostomy bag, so has no chance to earn the money so he can get the surgery. That is the health care system we have today. Is is broken and must be fixed!

Aug. 11 2009 10:54 AM

My sister (Rochester, NH) and my mother (Kittery, ME) both report to me by phone that they have witnessed conspiracies to disrupt President Obama's Town Hall in Portsmouth today. In Rochester a group was holding a "pep rally" at the fairground to practice yelling disruptive slogans and create confusion. In Kittery, a group described as "fishermen" were making threats against Obama and promising to be at the Town Hall. While both of my relatives were too intimidated to talk to these people and ask what group was behind the action, it clearly was organized, not "grass roots." Both of them are worried about violence at the rally today because of the threatening speech used by the demonstrators.

I hope that security in Portsmouth today is very high; and I hope the national media take this threatening atmosphere very seriously, and investigate the organizations who are intentionally creating it. This is not a joke, it is a threat to democracy.

Aug. 11 2009 10:27 AM

Purge the profit, purge the profit from health insurance.

Aug. 11 2009 09:18 AM

Where did Obama get the figure of 47 million not insured. 12 to 20 million of them are illegal aliens 20 to 30 million don't want health insurance period. Also he is trying to say it is a moral issue for these people . How about the moral issue for the American people that are going to be hurt under his plan.

Aug. 11 2009 09:11 AM
Jack Ford

My chant at all town hall meetings would be...


Aug. 11 2009 07:05 AM
Rick Evans

Let's accept that these 'grass roots' chanters are backed by corporate interests. Since when should elephants be fought by ants. The current health insurance bills are all being written by rent-a-lawmakers puppets whose financial strings are being pulled by the hospital lobby, the drug company lobby, the insurance lobby, the doctors lobby, the nurses lobby, the SEIU, etc.

All these members of the Medical Industrial Complex feed at the $2.4 trillion health care trough and hope to enlarge the trough. We spend $8000 per person per year on this industry which is double what other industrial countries spend. We can really reform health care funding without spending another dime.

Aug. 11 2009 07:03 AM

John, you stated to Corey Lewandowski, who represnts the interests of the New Hampsirians opposed to the President's plan, "well, 89% of the NH's have healthcare so they would be unaffected."
That's a big mistruth. If that was the case you wouldn't have all the protests.

The govt. cannot do what it wants to without the financial leverage of everyone's health care. Otherwise this would be a simple issue right? I mean you would just come up with a barebones program for the supposed 47 million people who don't have healthcare and leave the 253 million alone right?

John, I've listened to you from the start and believe you're genuine but in this case you're a little blind to the facts.

Aug. 11 2009 06:28 AM

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