Helen Thomas Smackdown – Choreographing the Town Hall

Heritage Morning Bell via email:

Yesterday, President Obama held a town hall event in order to “sell his health care message to the public” during Congress’ July 4th recess. However, worried that the President cannot answer tough questions about his plan for health care reform, White House officials carefully screened each member of the audience in attendance and each question asked.

This time, the mainstream media took note, even grilling White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs on the choreographed spectacle. In fact, veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas, not known as a conservative sympathizer, even lamented:

“I’m not saying there has never been managed news before, but this is carried to fare-thee-well–for the town halls, for the press conferences. It’s blatant. They don’t give a d–n if you know it or not. They ought to be hanging their heads in shame.” She added: “What the h-ll do they think we are, puppets?”

The AP reported: “Some of Obama’s questioners Wednesday were from friendly sources, including a member of the Service Employees International Union and a member of Health Care for America Now, which organized a Capitol Hill rally last week calling for an overhaul. White House aides selected other questions submitted by people on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.”

With the elaborate choreography President Obama managed to talk a good talk, despite his rhetoric not matching his plans. For example he said: “We need a permanent solution that when you lose your job, or change jobs, you can still keep your health insurance.” Absolutely. Do you lose your car or life insurance when you change your job? Of course not. The same should be true for your most important coverage: health insurance.

Heritage’s Bob Moffit, at a recent Congressional hearing, testified that “Americans need portability. If we had portability in health insurance that was tied to the person and not where they worked, the numbers of the uninsured would drop dramatically.“ Unfortunately, the President’s plan doesn’t offer this portability. Obama went on to deliver another one of his prized pieces of health care rhetoric: “If [private insurance] is such a great deal, why are [insurers] so concerned about government competing with private plans?”

The President has been searching for the logic on this one, and luckily it’s easy to explain. There’s no real competition when the Referee making the rules is also playing the game; it’s a fixed competition. Congress’ ability to pay doctors and other providers less will hide the true cost of the public plan. Undercutting private insurance will drive enrollment to the public plan. That’s not competition on a level playing field.

While bemoaning that Congress moves slowly on legislation, he offered this analysis of our Constitutional government three days before the 4th of July, saying: “Part of that is the way the Constitution is designed. We don’t have coups [de’tat] or governments collapsing. The disadvantage is it’s hard for us to make great, big, bold steps.”

At Heritage, we tend to think that one of the more important aspects of the Constitution is the very fact that it is so difficult to take “great, big, bold steps.” Perhaps, on America’s upcoming 233rd birthday, this is a quaint idea. Some still tend to agree with us, however. The point is health care reform doesn’t need to be so radical that the Constitution holds it back. There are other ways to fix health care that won’t intrude into our daily lives or our personal choices.

Nevertheless, the President is going to ask you to hold his hand and jump off the cliff with him, saying: “We’re in one of those rare moments where everybody is ready to move into the future. We just can’t be scared.” Frankly, when a plan is so big, so intrusive and so expensive to every American’s life that the President feels the Constitution might hinder its approval, you should be scared.

Yes Helen, Puppets. Indeed!

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