It shouldn't have been surprising, either, that the tone of much of the commentary on the town-hall protests was what it was. There was Mark Halperin for one, senior political editor for Time, bouncing off his chair, Sunday, in agitation over all the media coverage of this rowdiness—"a horrible breakdown of our political culture, our media culture" and so "bad for America," as he told CNN's Howard Kurtz. "I'm embarrassed about what's going on, as an American."
It didn't take chaotic town-hall meetings, raging demonstrators and consequent brooding in various sectors of the media to bring home the truth that the campaign for a health-care bill is, to put it mildly, not going awfully well. It's not hard now to envision the state of this crusade with just a month or two more of diligent management by the Obama team—think train wreck. It may one day be otherwise in the more perfect world of universal coverage, but for now disabilities like the tone deafness that afflicts this administration from the top down are uninsurable.
Consider former ABC reporter Linda Douglass—now the president's communications director for health reform—who set about unmasking all the forces out there "always trying to scare people when you try to bring them health insurance reform." People, she charged, are taking sentences out of context and otherwise working to present a misleading picture of the president's proposals. One of her key solutions to this problem—her justly famed message encouraging citizens to contact the office at firstname.lastname@example.org if they got an email or other information about health reform "that seems fishy"—set off a riotous flow of online responses. (The word "fishy," with its police detective tone, would have done the trick all by itself.)
These commentaries, packed with allusions to the secret police, the East German Stasi and Orwell, were mostly furious. Others quite simply hilarious. Ms. Douglass, who now has, in her public appearances, the air of a person consigned to service in a holy order, was not amused.
Neither has she seemed to entertain any second thoughts about the tenor of a message enlisting the public in a program reeking of a White House effort to set Americans against one another—the good Americans protecting the president's health-care program from the bad Americans fighting it and undermining truth and goodness.
© Janet Crain
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