Yesterday I attended the “House Call” rally on Capitol Hill organized by Michelle Bachmann to protest the health care bill. I saw men, women and children of all ages organized peacefully, singing patriotic songs like “God Bless America” and “The Star Spangled Banner,” and shouting chants like “USA, USA, USA,” “Kill the Bill,” and “Can you hear us now?” Shocking, I know. The people I saw were smiling, laughing, sharing personal stories, and exchanging contact information with new friends. They were expressing concern for their country over what they see as excessive government control and spending. And yes, some of them carried signs like this one, which I photographed:
At the end of the rally two huge copies of the health care bill were held up:
Then Congressman John Culberson of Texas threw the pages of the bill into the crowd and suggested those going to visit their representatives should take a page with them and ask their representative to explain it to them. (This was not the first time Culberson has thrown the bill to the people. In September he posted the bill on Sharedbook so that his constituents could review it and make annotations.)
After the rally ended, attendees peacefully walked across the street to the House office buildings and lined up at the doors to make their wishes known to their representatives in person.
(I substituted the picture I had here originally with the one above from Andrea Shea King because it is 100 times better than mine was.)
My friend Zan and I met up with Dan ehl and Mary Katharine Ham after the rally and we talked about how positive and peaceful the event had been. The picture I took shows the background where thousands of people had been standing just minutes earlier. After the people cleared there was not one soda can, plastic bottle, discarded sign, or even one scrap of paper to be seen in that area (in spite of the fact that thousands of pages had just been thrown into the crowd.) No one had come through to clean up. The attendees either picked up their own trash or didn’t drop any in the first place. The grass was pristine. I had read about the same behavior at the tea party rallies, but witnessing it firsthand I was amazed and impressed.
We talked a bit about the crowd and Mary Katherine said, “You have to be really determined to see bad in regular Americans to come out here and conclude these are mostly bad people.” I could not get what she said out of my head the rest of the day and thought about it again when I read some of the reports in the media this morning. There may have been a few inappropriate signs (I didn’t see any, but as many people as were there surely there must have been a few.) There were definitely some people there who wanted to jump on the success of the event and try to attract media attention. The anti-abortion activists there with Randall Terry’s group did that outside of Nancy Pelosi’s office, tearing up pages of the health care bill and littering her office with them. But that activity of a small few was not even unique to the Republican sponsored event since similar activity took place at a recent, but much smaller rally organized by Congressional Democrats in support of the health care bill. The vast majority of the crowd (I’d estimate 99.999 percent) were peaceful and polite, even when protesting.
Dana Milbank didn’t see those thousands. He was too busy focusing on the few writing, “…doesn’t it send the wrong message for House Republicans to hold an event on the Capitol grounds full of hateful and gruesome words and images?” (Look at the earlier link to Milbank’s account of the Democrat event for comparison.)
Milbank’s description was misleading to anyone who was not there. Dan Riehl addressed Milbank’s account.
I was at this event, walked it from back to front and side to side. I looked at the signs, I heard the calls. Honestly, I personally didn’t see anything that was over the line. The difference I suspect is, unlike Milbank and some others, I didn’t go there only to go looking for them.
What a worthless and totally disingenuous hit job on the wonderful act of democracy that took place on the lawn of the Capitol yesterday. Milbank’s twisted account driven by his own bias is worthy of nothing but dismissal.Tim Graham wrote at Newsbusters, “columnist Dana Milbank played the usual game of quoting the wackiest signs and smearing thousands of people with them. “
It is not as if this is anything new. During the rally, Mark Levin anticipated such coverage saying to the media, “”These are citizen patriots out here, and I’m tired of them being smeared.” Although not new, this is the worst case I have had so far of a personal experience at an event being so incredibly different than the account I read later in the media.
Another thing I wanted to point out deals with the issue, rather than the rally itself. In the same column, Milbank tried to make the point that since medical personnel from the Capitol physician’s office ably attended to a man in the crowd who had a heart attack, the message of the protesters was undercut since some that day were the recipients of “government-run health care.” It is hard for me to believe that Milbank does not realize the difference between what happened during the rally and the situation that exists all over the world in countries where the health care system is controlled by the government.
I see the difference because I have a daughter with a serious, chronic health condition that has required frequent surgeries and I have read accounts from others with the same condition in other countries who have had to wait months for a surgery that we were able to schedule in a matter of a few weeks. After the rally, while walking the halls of the Cannon Building, Zan and I met a man from North Carolina who has a dughter with a heart condition. His daughter has also required surgery and he had concerns similar to mine, wanting the best health care for his child as possible. Because a handful of government employees were able to respond to an emergency on the Capitol grounds does not mean that a government controlled health care system would provide the high quality care we currently have. That one example is a far cry from proving a government bureaucracy could provide various forms of treatment to millions of people with a multitude of conditions, some unique and serious, without waiting lines or reduced quality of care. Kind of like the handful of rowdy protesters do not accurately represent the thousands I saw in DC yesterday.
Update: I just noticed that I didn’t explicitly explain the title of this post, but it is a reference to the intent of those on the left and in the media who have portrayed the tea parties and rallies like the one I attended yesterday as nasty, negative and hate-filled. I don’t know if they do so out of ignorance because they have not attended, or because they are determined to intentionally mislead people, but I would encourage anyone who has not been to one of these events to attend and to decide for themselves.
Also, compare the attitude and opinions of those currently denouncing these conservative events to the attitude and opinions they expressed when they covered the anti-war protests. One last point — Milbank did not make this point so I forgot to bring it up, but there is something unmistakable about these events. If you are a liberal Obama follower you might genuinely believe a sign accusing his policies of being socialist is hate speech. I think that is ridiculous, but no doubt some on the left feel that way about the “socialist” label (to bad they don’t have the same aversion to the policies themselves.) But what is unmistakable is the sincerity of those attending these rallies. They are taking time off work, bringing their children, spending their own money, and even driving all night to to get there in some instances. For anyone to describe this as “astroturf” is absurd and marks those making such claims as either grossly uninformed, delusional or in complete denial. The homemade signs are one clue, but just talk to these people for two minutes and you’ll have plenty of proof. They care about these issues. Most of them would describe to you their personal reasons for demonstrating — whether it be medical conditions or economic interests or fear of loss of liberty. If this is not grass roots activism, I don’t know what is.
Update II: I don’t know how, but I missed Dan Riehl’s post today on the rally. It is inspirational and full of truth with a little defiance thrown in for good measure. Please read it all.
I just saw Robert Gibbs’ ridiculously uninformed comment about Hitler signs. “Imagine just a few years ago had somebody walked around with images of Hitler.” Where has this guy been living for the past eight years? Talk about “being out of touch” or about “ignorance or intentional deception” — he seriously can’t be this clueless about what those on his own side have been doing, can he? Mary Katherine Ham has the best post I’ve seen on it, doing Gibbs a great service by providing him a primer on the subject of Hitler protest signs. Don’t just read this one. Bookmark it so that the next time you hear someone on the left complaining about the angry mob or the use of Hitler images you can just shoot them a link to it.