Monday, August 10, 2009

Exciting town halls are not new

The media breathlessly report on the terrible people who are vigorously responding to the Democrats' health care takeover. They pretend there has never been a response like this before. They hope you have forgotten how Democrats disrupted meetings about President G W Bush's Social Security proposals 4 years ago. And James Glassman goes back 20 years. Town Hells? - TCS Daily: Actually, they aren't new at all, and, in ugliness, it is hard to match an incident that occurred almost precisely 20 years ago. The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee was accosted by constituents angry about the passage of the Catastrophic Coverage Act, which expanded Medicare benefits and funded the change with a supplemental tax. The Chicago Tribune reported on Aug. 19, 1989:
"Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, one of the most powerful politicians in the United States, was booed and chased down a Chicago street Thursday morning by a group of senior citizens after he refused to talk with them about federal health insurance. Shouting 'Coward,' 'Recall' and 'Impeach,' about 50 people followed the chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee up Milwaukee Avenue after he left a meeting in the auditorium of the Copernicus Center, 3106 N. Milwaukee Ave., in the heart of his 8th Congressional District on the city's Northwest Side. "Eventually, the 6-foot-4-inch Rostenkowski cut through a gas station, broke into a sprint and escaped into his car, which minutes earlier had one of the elderly protesters, Leona Kozien, draped over the hood. Kozien, one of more than 100 senior citizens who attended the gathering, said she had hoped to talk to Rostenkowski, her congressman, at the meeting. "But Rostenkowski clearly did not want to talk with her, or any of the others who had come to tell their complaints about the high cost of federal catastrophic health insurance. 'These people don't understand what the government is trying to do for them,' the 61-year-old congressman complained as he tried to outpace his pursuers."
In fact, writes Stephen Bainbridge, "I think they understood too well." I am indebted to Bainbridge, the UCLA law professor who writes the blog, for digging up the Tribune clipping ... and reminding people today of the anger directed against Rostenkowski and his colleagues at the time. David Hyman, on the excellent Volokh Conspiracy blog, points out a nice bit of irony: The leader of the protest against Rostenkowski was "Jan Schakowsky - then Director of the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens - and currently Democratic representative from the Ninth Congressional District of Illinois, and chief deputy whip to Majority Leader Pelosi."

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