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The emerging narrative in a lot of the major press coverage of heatlh care reform is that President Barack Obama has lost control of his message, which is why he was out on the hustings today at a town hall meeting. But now The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder writes that he now senses a slight relief at the White House.

Why? Because, according to Ambinder, there’s a growing feeling that the Republicans may have lost control of their message and that GOPers at Town Halls have provided a picture of some of the party’s most extreme, angry elements — which won’t convince the Blue Dog Democrats to panic and not support the plan and could well scare off independent swing voters.

Here are key portions of what he says in a post titled “How Conservatives Are Blowing Their Chance.” He notes that the mood at the White House has changed from one week ago:

A week later, and the Atlantic’s tricorder readings are picking up much calmer electromagnetic energy from the White House. Getting Democrats to attend the town hall meetings was really an intermediate goal. But Democrats are beginning to notice that opponents of health care reform have discredited themselves. They ramped up much too quickly. When smaller, conservative groups Astroturfed, they inevitably brought to the meetings the type of Republican activist who was itching for a fight and who would use the format to vent frustrations at President Obama himself. There were plenty of activists who really wanted to know about health care, and some who were probably misinformed — scared out of their chairs — to some degree, but the loudest voices tended to be the craziest, the most extreme, the least sensible, and the most easy to mock.

Ambinder suggests that conservatives had a window of opportunity to make their case seriously which “required a certain restraint — and a willingness to traffic in at least approximate truths — and an ability to make distinctions within their own ranks about which tactics were valid and which tactics were venomous. It also required a sophistication about the media.”

And what about the media? Ambinder contends media reports were not helpful to the GOP because reports were done in either two ways: “they credulously reported the louder, angrier voices (inherently damaging to Republicans in this case) or they reported on the political architecture of the town hall meetings, which plays down the substance of the protests.”

The Blue Dog Democrats’ swing constitutes aren’t angry,” he writes, “and the Blue Dogs know this. They’re political independents for whom the sanctity of the process is important. These are the type of voters who like President Obama because he appears willing to bring people together even though they don’t agree with their policies.”

In short, he argues, the right has lost control of its message, much as the left did under Bush. Lawmakers of both parties:

…found their meetings full of engorged spleens. Unrestrained, these town hall meetings are going to turn off the type of voters Republicans most need to pressure Blue Dog Democrats — independents who don’t have red genes or blue genes.

This has been the problem with the GOP in recent years: most of its pitches, when the rubber meets the road, eventually boil down to arguments that seem aimed at wavering Republicans and the style and tone of the rhetoric is — as we have called it here — the confrontional, angry and demonizing talk radio political culture. That works fine with Republicans, but it can only cause a counter reaction in wavering liberal Democrats who began to sour on Obama and independent voters wanting to follow a debate don’t get much substance hearing people yell about socialism, Marxism, Nazi Germany or Obama death panels.

In the end, this may come down to which side discredits itself first. Getting media coverage isn’t always positive if the images that come out are unpleasing to others who are not just not on your side but on the fence deciding which is the side worth joining.

So does this mean that Obama is on the descent as Ambinder suggests due to the images the meetings are emitting?

Not necessarily. Political veteran David Gergen has a different take on it and can foresee health care reform being defanged or even derailed due to the angry protests, which he notes don’t just involve talk radio and special interest group types but other Americans who distrust the change:

In this week’s issue of the National Journal, correspondents Brian Friel and Richard E. Cohen provide a valuable insight into possible endgames. They report that there are four possible outcomes:

(1) A major bipartisan reform bill is passed;
(2) A major Democratic reform bill is passed over nearly united Republican opposition;
(3) The Democrats cannot agree among themselves and pass Health Care Lite, a very watered down version of reform;
(4) Failure

Looking at the chances today, in the midst of all this brouhaha, one would have to say that the odds for outcomes one and two are going down. It is hard to see how a lot of Republicans will sign up for a bipartisan bill in the teeth of this opposition; similarly, it may be tougher for moderate Democrats, especially new members from Republican-leaning districts, to sign on to a Democratic-only bill. That means the odds are going up for outcomes three and, yes, four.

Does this mean that reform is dying? Not at all. It is still possible that if the protests continue at a high decibel level, more people in the middle will grow disgusted and rally to the President. And given his political and rhetorical talents, it is more than possible that Barack Obama himself can turn this around. But for the moment, the raucous clips coming out of Senator Specter’s session with his constituents along with other clips from other town halls — as offensive as they are to many (including me) — are also presenting a growing threat to reform.

So pick the theory of your choice — and come September, see which proved to be correct.

The cartoon by David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star, is copyrighted and licensed to appear on TMV.

JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
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GeorgeSorwell
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GeorgeSorwell
7 years 1 month ago

A lot of the people I see in these video clips complaining about the evils of government-run health insurance are obviously old enough to be on Medicare, which means they’re probably hypocrites.

Maybe we’re not supposed to notice?

goodspkr
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goodspkr
7 years 1 month ago
The people on Medicare are not hypocrites, but know they are the sacrificial goat in the health care debate. First, Obama proposes paying for part of the cost by cutting Medicare. Second, if you want to “bend the curve” in spending, the only place that makes sense doing it is with the elderly (50% of the healthcare dollars you will spend in your lifetime are spent the last six months you are alive). Add to this the mandatory end of life counseling required by at least one of these proposals and you have to be a fool not to know… Read more »
HemmD
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HemmD
7 years 1 month ago

goodspkr

I can’t believe anybody could spout so many false talking points in such a short comment.

Ron Beasley
Guest
7 years 1 month ago
I think they may be able to stop reform for now but health care in the US will continue to deteriorate and so reform will come in a year or two and The Republicans may find they get something they think is even more onerous. But the bigger problem for the Republicans is that those protesters have become the face of the Republican Party. Not the sort of thing Independents or even moderate Republicans want to be part of. And it’s only a mater of time before one of the real nutcases inspired by Glen Beck ot Rush Limbaugh takes… Read more »
RevDave
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RevDave
7 years 1 month ago

“Ambinder suggests that conservatives had a window of opportunity to make their case seriously” And what serious case would they be making? No No No? It’s pretty clear their case is to do nothing at all and keep our dysfunctional system in place.

mjbednar
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mjbednar
7 years 1 month ago

How come I only see angry white people who don’t like Obama’s health care reforms at the town hall meetings?

AustinRoth
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AustinRoth
7 years 1 month ago

WE HAVE A WINNER! COMMENTATOR #4 PLAYS THE RACE CARD!

superdestroyer
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superdestroyer
7 years 1 month ago
You only see angry whites because all other demographic groups in the U,S. are overwhelmingly Democratic. And why are blacks, Hispanics, and recent immigrations overwhelmingly Democratic? Because the Democrats promise to tax the crap out of whites and give them the money. Thus. all other demographic groups (non-whites) support the nationalization of healthcare because they are very short sighted. There is a good potential that nationalized healthcare will destroy medicine/health sciences as a good career field and put it in the same, government control, low wage career field as teaching. I also doubt if any non-whites care about how the… Read more »
Guest
Guest
Guest
7 years 1 month ago
You only see angry whites because this is this the Glen Beck, Faux News demographic. It’s like watching the Republican convention… they pan over the same three black faces 15 times in the course of an evening. It’s hilarious how the right-wingnuts believe George Soros has undue influence. Rupert Murdock, a right-wing billionaire and a predatory control freak has got all his media properties and sockpuppets, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, Sarah Palin etc, ect in full “Attack President Obama” mode 24/7. With with her ghost-written book, Sarah Palin is getting Rupert’s Wingnut Welfare so she can attack Presidebnt Obama fulltime. Her… Read more »
stop your insanity
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stop your insanity
7 years 1 month ago

Yes, it is funny that there are few if any small black businesses in many economic sectors because the Latinos have squeezed them out. Illegal immigration has not only recreated indentured servitude in the US, it is an economic variable that facilitates for many businesses an unfair competition suppressing edge. It is for that and other reasons that I ask black Americans why they support a political party that appears to have done little for them in the last twenty years except further marginalize and stigmatize them.

HemmD
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HemmD
7 years 1 month ago
jokenzee It’s clear that they support the Democratic party because the Republicans have the owners of all the business owners who use illegal immigrants at cut rate prices on their side. You know, it’s good business to screw your labor force and keep the padded profits for yourself. It’s also the Republican way. You really do need to try a different tactic. Trying to split blacks and Latinos in the Democratic party by playing one against the other is an old, old game. If you want to solve the illegal immigration issue, why not support labor laws that make it… Read more »
stop your insanity
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stop your insanity
7 years 1 month ago
HemmD “…make it a felony to hire illegal immigrants…” I’d settle for enforcement of the laws already on the books. I’m no Republican…I’m an independent now…I’ve been a registered Democrat bordering on Communist for most of my life. I’m not trying to play anyone against anyone else. My musing about black american support for the Democratic Party is not without merit. In fact it is based not just on insight but many conversations had with black construction contractors who’ve watched their share of that industry dry up while the Dems fall all over themselves to flood the market with more… Read more »
HemmD
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HemmD
7 years 1 month ago
jokenzee The point was was trying to make was that blaming Democrats for the “one against the other” game that hurts both blacks and latinos is exactly half right. The republicans that run manufacturing, processing, and housing are quite happy to use undocumented labor and charge their customers full price. They cheat their workers and pass the savings on to no one. I want to charge those who underpay, not those who are underpaid. Your right that blacks have gotten screwed by this cozy arrangement. So have Latinos. So have you and me by having to pay for a fiction… Read more »
HemmD
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HemmD
7 years 1 month ago

As far as the health care idea, my only concern would be where do the undocumented come up with $5000 if they’ve been working at illegally low wages.

I see where you’re going, but I can’t see how we’d get there.

AustinRoth
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AustinRoth
7 years 1 month ago

BTW Joe – keep fooling yourself into believing the public at large has not soured on ObamaCare, or it is only scare tactic and lies (the usual Left response when people refuse to go along with their ill-conceived land grabs).

One again, hubris will bring the Left down, as it assuredly did the Right when they thought they had all the answers, all dissent was invalid, and that they had a self-perpetuating majority and mandate.

Jim_Satterfield
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Jim_Satterfield
7 years 1 month ago

Displays of Republican rationality via Donklephant:

http://donklephant.com/2009/08/11/mccaskill-reveals-the-irony-and-misunderstanding-of-medicare/

http://donklephant.com/2009/08/11/north-carolina-republicans-dont-think-obama-is-a-citizen/

Yes, I know that undoubtedly some of the people in the McCaskill audience were Democrats. But all except the partisan Republicans know what’s going on in most of these gatherings. And yes, some of the Birther fools are Democratic too. The majority of this foolishness is coming from the Republicans, though.

elrod
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elrod
7 years 1 month ago

Seems Marc Ambinder read my piece… I said that Kenneth Gladney was a Democratic plant – not because he was, but because the bizarre, over-the-top contradictions of the anti-health reform side have effectively neutered the Right as a serious opposition.

mjbednar
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mjbednar
7 years 1 month ago

Yes, I played the race card because it’s true. I have yet to see on CNN, ABC, NBC, or CBS one African-American or other non-white person complain about Obama’s health care reforms. Thankfully, I don’t watch Faux News.

thomj
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thomj
7 years 1 month ago

mjbednar, You should be happy to know that I just watched a black woman escorted out of a town-hall meeting for getting physical. How much you wanna bet she supports the bill?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhA6jAtruto

daveinboca
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daveinboca
7 years 1 month ago
Herr Satterfeld, as usual your DNC training has taught you to consider this a partisan issue. Many and perhaps even most of the people who don’t like Health Care dislike the government screws up everything it touches, as even Obama admitted re the Post Office vs. FedEx & UPS. The Republicans are one minute, according to the DNC bloviation squads, totally disorganized and the next minute behind a vast conspiracy to overturn a specious bunch of overblown and half-baked “reform” proposals railroaded through a House led by a madwoman with a single-digit approval rating. Make up your minds over there.… Read more »
Jim_Satterfield
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Jim_Satterfield
7 years 1 month ago

If the government screws up everything it touches why do we give so many of their employees guns? Bombs? Tanks? Gee, it somehow just doesn’t make sense.

Guest
Guest
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

Jim_Satterfield, don’t forget the VA hospitals.

I’m a Vietnam era vet and I get FREE government health care… and it’s excellent care.

I was in the VA hospital yesterday and my primary care doctor wants me to monitor my blood pressure over the course of a month… and they gave me a FREE blood pressure monitor.

The VA is socialist government run heath care…they are now doing a great job after all the Bush VA hospital scandals.

Dr J
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Dr J
7 years 1 month ago

“The VA is socialist government run heath care…they are now doing a great job after all the Bush VA hospital scandals.”

Dave, in other words the government does a terrific job sometimes. That’s not inconsistent with what the skeptics are saying. But we should aim higher than that.

Guest
Guest
Guest
7 years 1 month ago
superdestroyer: “I also doubt if any non-whites care about how the U.S. is going to fund free healthcare for millions of illegal aliens.” Loose the knee-jerk, right-wing talking points and use the brain God gave you. How do you think illegals use America’s heath-care now? HMO’s? Because they don’t has access to preventive health-care, they go to the emergency room for extremely expensive care including surgeries, scans, tests… healthcare that you and I pay for. Frankly I don’t know the solution but there needs to be one However, your statement about funding illegal heath care is a canard and probably… Read more »
superdestroyer
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superdestroyer
7 years 1 month ago

Davemartin7777

Emergency Rooms do not really lead to much in the way of expensive surgeries for chronic conditions. Of course, they do run up the costs of trauma. Now, if you could point to a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who has addressed the illegal immigrant problem, I would appreciate it. They just seem to providing benefits to blacks while taxing whites.

StockBoySF
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StockBoySF
7 years 1 month ago
The Republicans place political points above the interests of the American people, whether it’s Obama and our armed forces rescuing Americans held hostage for fourth world pirates, Obama figuring out how to save Americans from hard labor at the hands of some loony dictator, or whether it’s Obama wanting more Americans (including children, who have no choice) to have healthcare. I’m not too keen on Obama’s plan, but it’s better than the do-nothing crowd. There are plenty of issues that the Republicans could have input on, if they really cared for their constituents and the country. But all they can… Read more »
Dr J
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Dr J
7 years 1 month ago

“It’s easy to tune out stark raving looneys. Until they shoot someone.”

Then let’s just tax people to death. But gradually, so they can keep tuning it out.

GeorgeSorwell
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GeorgeSorwell
7 years 1 month ago

Dr J–

We’re actually running a huge deficit so people don’t have to pay taxes. In fact, George W Bush cut taxes in spite of running two poorly managed wars and creating the Medicare drug benefit.

Dr J
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Dr J
7 years 1 month ago

“We’re actually running a huge deficit so people don’t have to pay taxes.”

Don’t you mean “so people don’t have to pay *more* taxes”?

AustinRoth
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AustinRoth
7 years 1 month ago

The other point that I cannot avoid seeing is despite all the cries of astroturfing thrown at those who oppose ObamaCare, they show up with almost exclusively homemade signs (when they have signs), are not dressed in the same slogonized or logo shirts, and actually live in the districts.

The ‘supporters’ seem to have a plethora of pre-printed, matching signs and placards, wear similar or identical shirts and pants (to identify each other), and seem to go from meeting to meeting, regardless of where they live. But they are the ‘grassroots’ support.

EEllis
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EEllis
7 years 1 month ago

My Asshat rep. Gene Green is doing a series of town halls. Here is the joke he voted against having ID to vote, but will require Photo ID to attend his town halls. I guess being sure who shows up to his town halls is much more important than who votes.

gmerits
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gmerits
7 years 1 month ago
The first theory ignores the real data – polls. Nothing is mentioned about the polls because the first theory fails on its merits if polling data is included int the analysis. Polling indicates a growing dissatisfaction with ObamaCare that drops by the day. He is losing seniors big time – and they are the largest voting bloc in mid-term elections. As the town halls became more vocal, support for ObamaCare eroded further – not something one would expect of a backlash. Blue Dogs and other Democrats are quite aware of this and it is the poll numbers that will dictate… Read more »
rudi
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rudi
7 years 1 month ago

Obama admitted re the Post Office vs. FedEx & UPS.

LOL This has more to do with the Internets and email, than that darn old Post Office. Why spend 45 cent when you can tweet or email for free.

DLS
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DLS
7 years 1 month ago

Any excuse the Usual Suspects have to mischaracterize all (widespread, unsurprising to all but the stupid) public opposition to the rash health care effort will be employed. This has been predictable. And after all, targeting select individuals for “special treatment” is no surprise from the lefties truly full of hatred.

DLS
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DLS
7 years 1 month ago
“The ‘supporters’ seem to have a plethora of pre-printed, matching signs and placards, wear similar or identical shirts and pants (to identify each other), and seem to go from meeting to meeting, regardless of where they live” It’s not just that. Obama joined the current crazy health care effort by continuing his campaign behavior (which now only appeals to the truly gullible; how pathetic can these people be? Of course, they’re also the ones who will unthinkingly insist that this health care effort succeed, ideal for staged shows to manipulate public opinion, even though fewer and fewer of the rest… Read more »
DLS
Guest
DLS
7 years 1 month ago

“Of course, nobody is listening to such nonsense.”

The Atlantic (resembling the Militant in this case) or the other liberal media? Their obscession with a few loudest protesters and their blatant mischaraterization of widespread public growing opposition to the Dems’ ever-progressively-worsening misconduct (not limited to health care, of course) and hatred for the public who isn’t mindlessly obeying Obama and the Congressional Dems’ edicts, only worsens their own reputation. It’s not surprising they’d collaborate with the Dems, but disgusting how low they will stoop.

DLS
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DLS
7 years 1 month ago
“He is losing seniors big time – and they are the largest voting bloc in mid-term elections” That’s a _huge_ issue missed or deliberately suppressed by the media. It’s not only the history of other government encroachment into health care such as the Oregon “list” of this being paid for, but not that, or liberal academics involved with “ethics” and the rationalization of rationing and disfavoring of the elderly (not to mention experience with government elsewhere such as the National Health Service in the UK). Simply the fact that one way quickly (rashly and cynically) decided to pay for part… Read more »
BruceMajors4DC
Guest
7 years 1 month ago

Funny how you claim only white men go to these things and yet the SEIU thugs Obama called out to try (you failed) to outnumber or intimidate the protesters have targeted blacks and women among the protesters for violence.

BruceMajors4DC
Guest
7 years 1 month ago
President Obama seems to be a congenital liar, and perhaps a little more stupid than his fans thought. A product of a long process of social promotion and congenial B studenthood, perhaps. (If he would release his transcripts we would know.) Faced with dropping poll numbers and nationwide protests by angry voters, President Obama conducted a Potemkin Village townhall in New Hampshire, much like Stalin created fake Russian villages with fake prosperity and villagers ordered to smile and answer correctly to Western journalists. The New Hampshire Potemkin townhall was pathetic. Over 1,000 anti-Obamacare protesters were outside. Inside, staged softball questions,… Read more »
charity01
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charity01
7 years 1 month ago

Who are these so called 70% of the people saying they are pleased with their healthcare! Polls only reflect the opinions of 1000 to 1100 so how can any say this speaks for millions of Americans. It doesn’t! The majority of Americans spoke on Nov 4th! This is a pathetic attempt to hang on to the status quo. Again, you don’t speak for me! I spoke on Nov 4th and will speak again in 2010 & 2012. Have these people not heard of lay-offs!

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