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White House

 

« Gibbs Won't Say If Obama Will Read Entire Health Care Bill | Blog Home Page | Scenes From The White House: Happy Birthdays »

Democrats Target "Orchestrated" Town Hall Opposition

Senate Democrats left a White House meeting singing President Obama's praises while echoing the latest party talking points by portraying rowdy town hall meetings as the result of an astroturf campaign by the leading opponents of health care reform.

"In spite of the loud, shrill voices trying to interrupt town hall meetings to throw a monkey wrench into everything, we're going to continue to be positive and work hard," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters after a luncheon with the president today.

"The American people do not like partisanship. But the American people also don't like groups of people trying to kill something that should be done," Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) listed potential positive outcomes from health care reform, then added: "We'll match that against their message of negativity."

Press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked to clarify whether the White House truly thinks some of the strong opposition being seen at town hall meetings is "manufactured."

"Do I think some of it is, yes," he said. "In fact, I think you've had groups today, Conservatives for Patients Rights, that have bragged about organizing and manufacturing that anger."

Asked how that differed from the so-called grassroots efforts organized by liberal interest groups, Gibbs said leaders of health care companies are bragging about the manufactured anger, including a former CEO "that was fined by the federal government $1.7 billion for fraud."

This new strategy of attempting to counter YouTube videos from several town hall meetings is rooted at least in part by focusing on a memo obtained by liberal blogs outlining a "right-wing strategy" to disrupt events this month. "The lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which orchestrated the anti-Obama tea parties earlier this year, are now pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform," ThinkProgress.org reported this week.

"I don't doubt that there are people that come to ask their members of Congress honest questions about the direction of the country," Gibbs said. "I also have no doubts that there are groups that have spread out people across the country to go to these things to specifically generate videos that can be posted on internet sites."

Meanwhile, the senators who spoke to reporters also tried to downplay internal disputes, while claiming their first goal is a bipartisan bill.

"The process is a dynamic one. It's open," Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said. "We're welcoming people who want to come to our table and share their ideas."

Reid also vigorously defended the White House's role when asked if Obama has not been specific enough in leading them.

"The president has been involved in this from the very beginning," he said. "Anyone that thinks President Obama and his people are not involved in health care reform haven't followed what is going on. There isn't a day goes by that I don't talk to several people in the White House about health care reform."

Reid said senators left the meeting with Obama re-energized, and said the president received multiple standing ovations.

"It really reminded me of the days when I was an athlete, and the coach was giving you a pep talk before the game," he said. "You come out ... ready to take on the world. We're ready to take on the world."

Baucus echoed a fellow senator's words: "It's just so wonderful to hear him speak. It's like a symphony," he said.