President Obama's grassroots organization is trying to fight back against critics of his healthcare plan, asserting that the same groups that "swift boated" Democratic nominee John F. Kerry in 2004 are trying to pull off a sequel.
Obama's allies point to the fact that Conservatives for Patients' Rights, which has already started to run ads on national cable warning of a government-run healthcare system, hired the same public relations firm that ran the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign questioning Kerry's Vietnam war record.
"We knew healthcare reform would face fierce opposition -- and it's begun. As we speak, the same people behind the notorious "swiftboat" ads of 2004 are already pumping millions of dollars into deceptive television ads. Their plan is simple: torpedo healthcare reform before it sees the light of day by scaring the public and distorting the president's approach," David Plouffe, Obama's former campaign manager and now head of Organizing for America, wrote supporters over the weekend in a fund-raising email.
"We need the resources to take them head on with an urgent, grassroots campaign to pass real healthcare reform in 2009. When the swiftboaters flood the airwaves with distortions, we'll flood the streets with volunteers armed with facts. When they send lobbyists to tell Congress to back down, we'll send millions of calls, letters, and stories from real Americans asking them to stand up."
Conservatives for Patients' Rights was founded by Rick Scott, who also helped finance the Swift Boat campaign and who is the former owner of the Hospital Corporation of America. Obama's allies, including the Service Employees International Union, also highlight HCA's spotty record and the investigations it faced.
Scott has responded to what he calls false personal attacks on the patients' rights group website.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.