Angry protesters shouted down Democrats at public events from Texas to Pennsylvania over the weekend, leaving the party only one real hope for getting its message out over recess: a backlash. In Austin, Texas, Rep.Lloyd Doggettwas drowned out by a group of noisy, sign-waving demonstrators who shouted, “Just say no” as he tried to talk abouthealth care reform. ... In Morrisville, Pa., Rep. Patrick Murphy was forced to scrap plans for a one-on-one meet-the-congressman session when people in the crowd started shouting. Murphy switched to a town hall format mid-event and even then had to ask the audience at times to “be respectful.” And at a healthcare event in Philadelphia, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were repeatedly interrupted by booing and heckling. “We can shout at one another, or we can leave the stage,” Sebelius said at one point. “It’s up to you.”
I'm old enough to remember not just Hillarycare, but also the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988:
The 1988 Catastrophic Act focused on providing protection against catastrophic medical expenses under Medicare. Specifically, the Act expanded the Medicare program to provide protection against catastrophic medical expenses and for the first time, provided coverage under the Medicare program for prescription drugs. To pay for these benefit expansions, a new supplemental premium tax on all persons eligible for Medicare was enacted.
Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means Dan Rostenkowski lead the charge for the 1988 Act and paid a price. The Chicago Tribune from August 19, 1989 tells the story:
Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, one of the most powerful politicians in the United States, was booed and chased down a Chicago street Thursday morning by a group of senior citizens after he refused to talk with them about federal health insurance. Shouting "Coward," "Recall" and "Impeach," about 50 people followed the chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee up Milwaukee Avenue after he left a meeting in the auditorium of the Copernicus Center, 3106 N. Milwaukee Ave., in the heart of his 8th Congressional District on the city's Northwest Side.
Eventually, the 6-foot-4-inch Rostenkowski cut through a gas station, broke into a sprint and escaped into his car, which minutes earlier had one of the elderly protesters, Leona Kozien, draped over the hood. Kozien, one of more than 100 senior citizens who attended the gathering, said she had hoped to talk to Rostenkowski, her congressman, at the meeting.
But Rostenkowski clearly did not want to talk with her, or any of the others who had come to tell their complaints about the high cost of federal catastrophic health insurance. "These people don't understand what the government is trying to do for them," the 61-year-old congressman complained as he tried to outpace his pursuers. [PB: I think they understood all too well.]
Representatives of several senior citizens' organizations had invited Rostenkowski to meet with their members, as a chance to hear directly from a congressional leader about the controversial Catastrophic Coverage Act. The law, which set up a supplemental insurance medical plan for senior citizens, has triggered a firestorm of objections from organizations that represent seniors. ...
As Rostenkowski, whose aides had earlier said he wouldn't meet with a larger group because "they were just going to boo him," walked through the dining area, there was some applause. But the clapping turned to boos as it became apparent the congressman was not going to stop and talk with the crowd. "Talk to us! Talk to us! You work for us!" people yelled as Rostenkowski walked out of the center.
Dozens of senior citizens followed the congressman outside, and when he paused for an interview with a TV crew about recent events in Poland, they surrounded hi
That's where Kozien, a petite, white-haired woman wearing heart-shaped, rose-colored sunglasses, who said she had never before been involved in a demonstration, came in. As Rostenkowski dashed through the crowd to a waiting car and locked himself inside, Kozien took up a position in front of the car, holding a sign that read: "Seniors for Repeal of the Catastrophic Act." After blowing the horn, Rostenkowski's driver edged the four-door sedan slowly forward, and Kozien was soon on the hood, determinedly holding her sign only inches from the windshield. Except for the glass, she was virtually face-to-face with her congressman. "I was a little nervous," Kozien said later. "But I could see through the car window that he looked more afraid than I was."
Others stood in front of the car and began to scream at Rostenkowski's driver: "You're hurting her! You're hurting he
At this point, Rostenkowski left the car and headed on foot up Milwaukee Avenue, with about 50 of the angry elderly in raucous pursuit. He cut through a gas station at Belmont Avenue and sprinted to his car, which by this time had managed to leave the community center. After he got in, the car sped away, tires screeching.
... Anna Witte, who was among those witnessing the incident on Milwaukee Avenue, said of Rostenkowski's behavior: "He must go home, go into a small hole and never come out." ...
It was what Obama likes to call "a teachable moment."