The Democratic National Committee today launched a web ad slamming the GOP and allied conservative groups for sending activists to healthcare town halls where they are shouting questions and criticisms.
"The right wing extremist Republican base is back," the announcer intones, over scenes of disruptions at gatherings starting over the weekend as the battle over healthcare moves out of Congress and into home districts.
After losing congressional battles on the budget and after eight years of failed economic policies during the Bush administration, the narrator says, desperate Republicans are organizing "angry mobs."
"Their goal: Destroy President Obama and stop the change that Americans voted for overwhelmingly in November," the announcer says. "They have no plans for moving the country forward so they've called out the mob."
Michael Steele, a spokesman for House GOP leader John Boehner, responded to the ad:
"Out-of-touch Washington Democrats would love to blame their problems on Republicans, but they can't. Their problem in Washington is Democrats fighting against Democrats. Their problem across the country is Democrats fighting against the American people, by backing job-killing tax hikes and regulations in the middle of the deepest recession in decades."
UPDATE: The Republican National Committee also responded, sending out a list of polling results showing doubts about the Democrats' healthcare plans, and asserting that what Democrats call "mob rule" is merely small-d democracy.
"Today the White House and Democrats continue their callous and arrogant campaign to reduce the concerns and opinions of millions of Americans as 'manufactured' -- and have labeled them as 'angry mobs' and 'rabid extremists,' for voicing their opposition to President Obama’s government-run health care experiment," the RNC said.
"This 'mob' the Democrats are referring to include millions of American families, small business owners, doctors, veterans, seniors – and even House and Senate Democrats – who have real concerns over the president’s risky and costly government-run health care experiment. And they should be concerned – as this costly experiment will raise taxes without decreasing costs, increase the deficit, will lead to less choice and lower-quality health coverage.
"Before heading into recess, the Democrats should have read the dozens of public opinion polls showing that a majority of Americans believe President Obama’s government-run health care experiment is a bad idea. It’s no secret that Democrats aren’t even on board. Chaos in Washington has reigned over health care in the last several weeks. Are Democrats so out of touch that they are shocked to find concern among their constituents over their $1.6 trillion government-run health care experiment? Or are the Democrats once again waging a campaign of distraction to shift the focus away from their widely unpopular, big government policy?
"The bottom line? Americans, including Independents and some Democrats, do not like President Obama’s government-run health care experiment – and they are going to show up to say so. It’s called democracy."
Recent polls show that Americans are divided about the healthcare plans proposed by Obama and congressional Democrats. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released this morning found 50 percent backing Obama's plan, but 45 percent opposed.
While 30 percent said Obama's proposals would help them and 40 percent said it would help other families, 20 percent said the proposals would not help anyone.
In the survey, 71 percent said they were very likely or somewhat likely to attend a town hall even on healthcare hosted by their member of Congress.
As part of the counter-offensive, Obama's grassroots groups is organizing its own healthcare events and getting its members to the town halls.
"This is the moment our movement was built for," the president, himself, told Organizing for America supporters in an email this afternoon.
"For one month, the fight for health insurance reform leaves the backrooms of Washington, D.C., and returns to communities across America. Throughout August, members of Congress are back home, where the hands they shake and the voices they hear will not belong to lobbyists, but to people like you.
"Home is where we're strongest. We didn't win last year's election together at a committee hearing in D.C. We won it on the doorsteps and the phone lines, at the softball games and the town meetings, and in every part of this great country where people gather to talk about what matters most. And if you're willing to step up once again, that's exactly where we're going to win this historic campaign for the guaranteed, affordable health insurance that every American deserves.
"There are those who profit from the status quo, or see this debate as a political game, and they will stop at nothing to block reform. They are filling the airwaves and the internet with outrageous falsehoods to scare people into opposing change. And some people, not surprisingly, are getting pretty nervous. So we've got to get out there, fight lies with truth, and set the record straight."
About Political Intelligence
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 email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.