How much attention should Obama opponents get?

Why wasn’t President Obama’s health care town hall forum in New Hampshire yesterday as raucous as some of the video clips we’ve seen at forums around the country recently?

“I doubt we’re seeing a representative sample of any series of town hall meetings despite the food fight on cable every day,” Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said at his daily briefing today. The Boston Globe reports:

“People want to take the opportunity to find out from the president — to have him answer their questions about why he’s doing what he’s doing and the concerns they may have on the legislation,” he added. “I think most people took that opportunity as something that was positive.

“I think some of you were disappointed yesterday that the president didn’t get yelled at,” Gibbs told reporters, chiding them for paying too much attention to the back-and-forth between protestors outside.”

“A bunch of your stories had more to do with the fact that the — the sideshow on each side of the street outside than what was actually going on inside of the town hall,” he said.

Nothing in politics happens in a vacuum, of course. Presidential town hall forums are staged affairs with attention to detail about how it’ll play on the TV screen in the evening.

They’re not inherently phony, of course, and provide a piece of a larger contextual story. But so do the sometimes staged affairs going on outside, too.

Meanwhile, the White House is pushing back in the public-relations war, creating a Health Insurance Reform Reality Check page.

Conservative sites are already setting up a Health Insurance Reform Reality Check reality checks.

  • Kriston couchey

    If you believe in freedom of speech and thought you would not be even asking the question.

    I thought this was a nation that allowed every voice of dissent to be heard, especially when it is MANY people protesting.

    How did you feel when the Republicans accused dissenters to the war as being unAmerican? Not very fair is it, how about doing the right thing and giving all voices equal time and listening.

    But then again, it is those whose political views are in power that always demonize and deligitimize the voices of dissent.


  • Bob Moffitt

    We Americans have short attention spans. Some other story will soon take the place of the town hall shouters. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame, boys and girls.

    The larger question will soon be answered: did it work? Will health care reformed be stopped, or will a bill be signed into law?

    If the opponents fail, then this tatic will be discarded by the professionals behind the curtains. If it works, well, say goodbye to the “town hall meeting.”

    Cue Thomas Swift comment in 4, 3, 2,….

  • Emily

    Everyone should get a fair chance to ask relevant questions. That being said… I think both sides have drowned each other out. Now these events that are meant to spur actual dialogue become spectacle. And those of us who don’t live in a state where any politicians visit (Nebraska) rely on the media to allow the facts to be said and the rumors on “Death Panels” to be laid to rest. Unfortunately we get coverage of a circus.

  • Tyler

    I hear again and again that the people yelling don’t understand that Medicare is government-run (more or less).

    The other thing I see on TV is that the majority (all?) of the people yelling have white skin.

    It’s not causation, but it makes me wonder if there are underlying issues that no one wants to bring up; namely, racism.

    I said it before, but regardless of how unhappy people are, it wouldn’t kill people to be a little more civil.

  • John P.

    Outside of MPR, just about the only thing I am hearing or seeing in the news is that there was a ruckus at the town hall meeting. There is little or nothing either challenging or corroborating the existence of things like the “death panels” in the legislation. Too many news outlets are content to report that there were protesters. Consequently, many assume it is all true.

  • bobbydole

    I was just noticing that today when i read all these article about Specter’s town hall experience. There wasn’t really anything about the actual health care bill, just on the pushing and shoving.

    I then went to and got the same thing, and wondered when the yelling at the town halls became the story and not the bill…

  • Bob Collins

    //when the yelling at the town halls became the story

    When they started yelling.

    This situation belongs to both. The Dems played the “their uncivil” card, which was a very questionable move in that it (a) took attention away from the health care reform initiative that they’d — up to then — done a pretty bad job of explaining and (b) invited the protesters to be even louder, which (c) led the media to cover the protests more and set their false messages onto the TV screen to be eaten up unquestionably y (d) people who are too lazy to question what they hear and see.

    that’s my version, anyway.

  • bsimon

    Kris writes

    “If you believe in freedom of speech and thought you would not be even asking the question.

    I thought this was a nation that allowed every voice of dissent to be heard, especially when it is MANY people protesting.”

    Protesting is fine. Chanting at protests is fine. Disrupting public forums is not. When people tried to disrupt the GOP Convention in St Paul, they were tossed from the room, as they should have been.

    Attending a town hall to ask your Congressperson tough questions is fine. Shouting down their answer is not.

  • matt

    Washington has earned a reputation. Party line rules – until re-election fears come to the surface. If you are against health care reform being pushed by a DFL held Washington you do not expect “questions” asked within the town hall to move a politicians position.

    If you can appeal to the voting public and move the approval needle enough that reps fear losing their seat that is the way to stop the bill. Latest Gallup numbers show the needle moving…appears to be a working (hard to say winning…) strategy.

  • bobbydole

    I think you’re basically right except that the media coverage has energized the protesters way more then the democrats have.

    Also I haven’t really read/seen much about what the protesters are saying, just that they’re mad, and they’re yelling a bunch of nonsense…

    Of course I don’t really care either, since they’re not really doing any thing productive, they don’t care about fixing health care, they just don’t want “death panels” or something equally as crazy.. And they think yelling will prevent it..

  • Bob Collins

    “Death panels” Well, yes. It’s an interesting topic. As I wrote via Twitter this morning, we have death panels now. They’re called “actuaries.”

  • JohnnyZoom

    >> […] we have death panels now. They’re called “actuaries.”

    1) Ouch

    2) News Cutters take note. You heard it here first.