ebyIn this space Aug. 24, when I wrote about Congress having no intention of reforming health care or anything else, even a cynic like me underestimated the extent to which Republicans and the insurance industry would stoop for a political win in their interests - not America's.

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John Eby: Campaign to kill health care reform not exactly secret

Published 11:02am Monday, September 21, 2009

Although I could smell an August Swift-Boating like the one I saw destroy Sen. John Kerry’s White House ambitions five summers ago.

Maybe you actually believe these orchestrated angry mobs passionately spouting conservative talking points, from socialism to higher taxes and illegal immigration, and taking over town hall forums sprang up spontaneously. If you do, cut back on your Fox consumption or balance it with some CNN or MSNBC (Keith Olbermann!)

There’s a lot going on under the radar while Glenn and Sean and Bill rant to distraction about ACORN.

Even folks who insist with straight faces that it’s coincidence that all these angry Americans coalesced at this moment in time to vent about the stimulus bill, the bailout and the economy and the imminent government takeover of health care.

Tim Dickinson in the Oct. 1 Rolling Stone connects some of the dots I sensed in my gut but couldn’t quantify with data with “internal documents obtained” from at least four conservative groups working as “coalition partners.”

“Far from representing a spontaneous upwelling of populist rage,” Dickinson writes, “the protests were tightly orchestrated from the top down by corporate-funded front groups as well as top lobbyists for the health care industry. Call it the return of the Karl Rove playbook.”

You know, the cynical document which exploits the fear and loathing of ordinary conservatives to further the unquenchable greed of corporate America.

So, no wonder it was reminiscent of the tarring of a decorated Vietnam war hero in 2004.
It’s even the same conservative dream team that shredded Kerry, smeared John McCain in 2000 (portraying the Arizona senator’s adopted daughter as his mulatto love child), scripted GOP obstructionism on global warming and sank the first health care reform Sen. Hillary Clinton led in 1993.

“The insurance industry is up to the same devious PR practices it has used for many years to kill reform,” says Wendell Potter, who until stepping down last year served as chief of corporate communications for health insurance giant CIGNA.

“I’m certain that people showing up at these town halls feel that they’re there on their own – but they don’t realize they’re being incited, ultimately by the insurance industry and the other special interests.”

Behind the scenes, the magazine identifies top Republicans working with townhall organizers as House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Minority Leader John Boehner and Jim DeMint, chairman of the GOP’s Senate steering committee.

Their goal is reportedly to not only block health care reform, but to bankrupt President Obama’s political capital before he can move on to other key items on his agenda, such as climate change.

This whole plot reads like a recent history book, with a script by Frank Luntz, pollster for Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract on America.

It’s not an accident that conservatives couch health care in such terms as “Washington takeover.” They test well with focus groups.

Luntz wrote in a May memo, “Takeovers are like coups – they both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom.” Luntz’s advice on how best to play the fear card: “It is essential that ‘deny’ and ‘denial’ enter the conservative lexicon immediately because it is the core of what scares Americans most about a government takeover of health care” – that a Washington bureaucrat will deny a procedure or a medication.

If you were listening, you also know this strategy wasn’t extreme enough for some, who further claimed Washington wanted “death panels” to pull the plug on granny.
The woman who drafted this made similar claims in 1993, when the world’s largest tobacco company, Philip Morris, was intent on derailing Clinton’s health care reform measure because it relied on a hike in tobacco taxes.

My jaw further dropped as I read that two of the primary groups mobilizing town-hall protests grew out of the 2003 breakup of one integral in defeating Hillarycare.
Philip Morris reportedly paid that group to engineer a “grassroots” revolt against health care reform by staging demonstrations in home districts of key congressmen. Deja vu!
“The goal,” states a memo, “is to show the Clinton plan as a government-run health care system replete with higher taxes … rationing of care and extensive bureaucracies.”

This time around optional Medicare end-of-life counseling was stepped up to a genocide comparison: “Adolf Hitler issued 6 million ‘end of life orders.’ He called his program the Final Solution. I kinda of wonder what we’re going to call ours,” mused an August speaker in Colorado.

One of the leaders in the current fight against reform Rolling Stone identifies as a front group for two oil billionaires who co-own the world’s largest private oil and gas conglomerate. They have ties to GOP activists who disrupted the Bush-Gore recount in Miami-Dade County.

Another group is headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

One group was founded by the former CEO of the world’s largest hospital conglomerate.
For overbilling taxpayers for Medicare treatment, it paid $1.7 billion in penalties.
He now runs a chain of urgent-care clinics that serve uninsured Americans afraid of being bankrupted by ER visits.

He hired the same PR firm that carried out the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Kerry in 2004.

Tea Party patriots even have a written playbook coaching how less than three dozen activists can silence a U.S. congressman:

“The goal is to rattle him. Yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements … have someone else follow-up with a shout-out. Set the tone for the hall as clearly informal and free-wheeling. It will also embolden others who agree with us to call out.”

In July, according to the Congressional Record, congressmen used the word takeover 273 times and bureaucrat 179 times, compared to about a dozen times each in May before Luntz’s memo.

To sum up, support for the president’s handling of health care plunged 17 percent among independents, seniors believe by a 3-1 margin that Obamacare would reduce their access to health services and the jubilant GOP is talking about retaking the House next year.
Only Democrats could let this happen while holding majorities in both houses of Congress.

John Eby is Daily News managing editor. E-mail him at john.eby @leaderpub.com.

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  • Username75

    We are so fortunate to have the G.O.P. to
    teach us how to think,our Preachers how to preach,
    our Lawyers how to interpret the constitution.
    the contract against America flowed them into a
    great Majority, and like any sore winner, they took
    full advantage of it.
    which allowed them enough rope to hang themselves.
    I would hope our time of National Insanity has finally
    come to an end.
    it is still in question, are the citizens so foolish,
    as to be lied to again, and fall further into that
    great black hole of Inequality of Wages, standards of Living
    and out right fraud and greed that we are now climbing out of.
    They actually want to deregulate wall street, and Insurance
    companies, and give them more tax subsidies, and exempt them
    from even paying taxes.
    But at least they don’t want to take away our rights of the pursuit of
    happiness, as long as it is only the right of pursuit is what we have.
    alas we have yet to learn Reagan was not an economist, and Greenspan
    was not a good one.

  • k. jacobs

    why can’t people organize against “obama care” oh thats right we are mobs raciest and nazis we are to stupid to understand we are unamerican gee i’m glad left wingers are here to save us they are so smart they know everything,rolling stone is a first class unbiased paper we need more like them oops i forgot about nbc cbs and abc they are sooo balanced and fair too golly us unamerican nazi stupid raciest should just shut up and left the brillyant left wing just runevery thing now that is amercan!

  • mikea0815

    Mr. Eby is a paragon of journalism in citing Rolling Stone as his major source in an opinion piece. Let me set one thing straight immediately. Americans, even those who belong to those “angry mobs” believe that there is a need for reform in the way health care is paid for and in its delivery. What we are angry about is the insistence that there be a so called “government option” that will ultimately lead to a “government mandate” that would eliminate all private insurers and bring about BARACK OBAMA’S wish for a single payor system that he has spoken about on several occasions. BARACK OBAMA also has stated that his plan (America has yet to see it) will be “revenue neutral” and not cause any increase in taxes. However the Baucus bill will cause an increase in “fees” assessed against citizens to help pay for the measure. BARACK OBAMA apparently does not see “fees” as taxes. The other method of payment would be to eliminate fraud and waste, but evidently unless the bill passes, the fraud and waste stays. Most Americans are at least satisfied with the health insurance that they pay for, and most are reasonably satisfied with the care that they receive in exchange for that payment. The issue here is, in truth, not health care, and Americans know it. It is about a fundamental change that puts government in charge of a very large portion of our economy, and will provide “equal health care” for all Americans. What that means is most Americans will receive less care and pay more. That is essentially what wealth redistribution does, lowers the standard of living for most in order that all can equally share misery. Americans do not want government health care, much like they do not want Cap and Trade, but BARACK OBAMA is bound and determined to force us into a society that shares equally. It will not happen.

  • WFLW

    This commentary troubles me. It appears to assume that if I watch Fox News, my opinion tilts only to the right. I have watched Hannity and Oberman and I must suggest that BOTH are leaning only in one direction (one to the left, one to the right)

    I question the health care reform act(s) not because I am anti-Obama, but because “medicine” is being forced down my throat without any warning labels on the bottle. We don’t know what all is in the 1000 plus pages. We don’t know all the outcomes. We don’t know much more than we do know!

    There are always unintended consequences…some could be disasterous and we need to do due dilligence before we run off to the races.

    I have not attended any of the “Tea Parties”, but I do support the premise of “slow down and get it right…or don’t do it at all” Nothing now is far better than wrong now and forevermore.

    As for the “Swift Boating”…GET OVER IT!!! Quit looking back and start looking forward with positive ideas. Quit crying about what happened way back then. You are not going to change the results of that election. If you want to be a positive influence, come up with POSITIVE ideas as to what can move this country forward.

    Yes, there are organizations at work…for BOTH sides. Don’t pretend Liberal organizations are any different than Conservative organizations. Don’t play “Hollier than thou”.
    A lot of people disagree with much of what was written in this opinion piece…are you sure they are ALL wrong? Can you not see any validity of their side? If not…how could you possibly expect them to see any validity in your argument?

    Larry D. Wilson

  • Username75

    What in the heck do the G.O.P. think has happened since Reagan?
    redistributing wealth, funds gushed to the top, and are
    tinkled down upon the peons
    I quess the want Equality, and much more equality, than those
    whom are no longer blinded, by actually seeing the results of
    they deserve more equality than the rest, as they are RIGHT
    even though they are WRONG!
    legends in their own minds.

  • mikea0815

    The poster seems to think that there is a Democrat/Republican discussion going on here. Never once did I mention either Democrats OR Republicans. My response to Mr. Eby was to first of all, chide him in his choice of journalistic choices to use for reference, and two, to remind him that regardless of what RS says, THE PEOPLE of this country are trying to take it back. I would remind 75 that no where in the constitution is equality in social or economic matters guaranteed. The ONLY equality is before the bar. Our constitution is not intended to guarantee any sort of lifestyle, morality, or personal happiness. It is an outline of a LIMITED form of government, and tells the individual what government may not do to him/her. The states are another matter, but ultimately, the federalists have usurped the LIMITED powers, pushed the states into submission and given Americans the notion that government can solve problems. It cannot. Government has NEVER solved a problem, and never will. It merely postpones them. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs were meant to solve specific problems. They are bankrupt, fraught with corruption, and in need of overhaul, hence, these programs only postponed a problem to another generation. Universal health care will do the same, without providing the desired results. Forced equality does not work, and never will.

  • Username75

    you may not realize it BUT,,,you have
    universal health care now.
    You do pay for it.
    it resides in emergency rooms all over the Country,
    and there is no way to control it’s cost, If you have
    insurance you pay for it, If you do not have insurance
    you still pay for it.
    as far as redistribution of wealth the standards of living
    of the Working Class have basically regressed since Reagan,
    and you still complain Labor is paid too much.
    you are a libertarian and believe in an Aynn randian myth
    devoid of fairness, to You monetary justice, and equality is socialism
    and even worse.
    you will continue to pay for the Uninsured, until this is fixed, and if it
    is not it will break our economy.
    and our Health care will slip from 46th in the World even farther behind Zimbabwe
    and you vision of “Limited government” will destroy America, or
    usher in feudalism.

  • Username75

    the question IS……………..
    shall we close our Emergency Rooms, and trauma centers
    to only those whom can afford it?

    those that are still around that is.

  • Username75

    for the uninformed there are 3 major Political Parties,
    they are, The Democrats.
    this is the party of the 40 Acres and a mule.
    the Republicans , these want their slaves back.
    and the Libertarians, whom want the Slaves and
    the all the acres and the mules
    during Newts time the Libertarians invaded the Republican
    party, and took control of it, making moderate Republicans
    persona non grata.
    Great libertarians are Billy, O, and Glen Beck, Shawn Hannity,
    and FOX News

  • pabu

    A couple of questions.
    1. Shouldn’t there be tort reform in this bill?
    2. How will fraud be controlled? It’s already a problem with our current systems.
    3. How will it be paid for?
    4. Why don’t the Dems just pass it? They have the votes.

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