in Kulturkampf

Red Meat At Town Hall

Give Parker Griffith (D-AL) his props. He knew exactly what kind of a crowd to expect, and he had a strategy to win them over early: throw red meat.

Before a packed Norton Auditorium on the campus of the University of North Alabama, Griffith expressed his concern that illegal aliens would be eligible for the public option in H.R. 3200 — a long dismissed falsehood.

The first-term congressman later spoke of closing off the Mexican border. Over the course of the town hall, he made a series of such statements, each time winning the audience’s agreement.

The wolves’ hunger satisfied, Griffith won their attention with the story of a patient’s three year losing battle with stage 3 breast cancer.

The patient had waited too long to seek treatment because she lacked health insurance.

Griffith then explained the health insurance exchange. Foisting the House legislation in the air, he drew applause and laughter when he remarked that it weighed forty pounds.

Griffith drew enthusiastic agreement when he said he was against cutting Medicare spending to pay for the public option, another long-debunked rumor.

Griffith raised the red herring issue of tort reform, claiming that doctors’ practice of defensive medicine drives up costs.

Griffith had a personal complaint: H.R. 3200, he said, would do nothing to help end the shortage of doctors and nurses in Alabama, for which he blamed the priorities of state universities.

Griffith continued to muddy the waters. “We don’t want this to be like Waxman-Markey,” he said, referring to the ‘Cap & Trade’ legislation that barely passed the House in June. There was raucous applause.

Mention of the public option filled the room with boos. When Parker responded that he would not support a public option, there was another round of heavy applause.

Griffith was able to keep control of the crowd during his opening remarks. He responded to an attempted hijacking from the front rows by picking up the thread. “Thank you, I was making that point,” he said.

Griffith then admitted the scope of the health care crisis in Alabama: our population is 4.6 million, of whom 700,000 are on Medicare and 1.6 million on Medicaid. “Six hundred thousand Alabamians have no health insurance,” he said. “We have to extend it to them.”

Calling on the audience’s Judeo-Christian ethic, he inspired one questioner a half-hour later to remark on her offense at being preached to. Griffith did not debunk her “death panels” question, choosing instead to claim that offering end-of-life counseling “could become a standard for treatment. That needs to be clarified,” he said. Or, better yet, removed altogether. There was another round of applause.

Above all, Griffith’s fiscal restraint was the most popular theme, both in the audience and among questioners. “The less government is involved in health care, the better we’re going to be,” he said, opening the floor to questions.

During questions, Griffith complained that lifestyle choices accounted for the largest costs in Medicare spending. He made no mention of the prevention and wellness provisions of the bill.

Questioners began to ramble: would Griffith support term limits for Congress? “At my age, absolutely,” he replied.

The most thunderous applause of the night came when a woman claimed that H.R. 3200 was a government power-grab and the bill should be “trashed.”

Cross-posted at Left in Alabama

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