But, we begin with the latest attempt to convince Americans that health care reform is really just a big secret plot to kill old people. MSNBC's own Pat Buchanan making that case in a column published today. And now, the conservative organization Club for Growth has launched a nationwide ad campaign to try to mainstream the idea that reforming health care is a secret plot to kill your grandparents.
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NARRATOR: That's wrong for America. Life and death medical decisions should be made by patients and doctors, not politicians and bureaucrats. Tell your members of Congress to oppose government-run health care.
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MADDOW: Like Medicare.
For the record, what's being proposed in Washington is not government-run health care. And for the record, the health care reform as a "secret plot to kill old people" conspiracy theory is based on the fact that health legislation being debated now would cover living wills. So, if you wanted a living will, the process of getting one would be covered. That provision was introduced into the health care debate by Republicans, including Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia.
And having a living will where you say how it is you'd like decisions to be handled at the end of your life, where you make your own decisions about that ahead of time-that is something the federal government has formally encouraged by legislation for at least 20 years, without controversy.
But politically, the facts don't really matter, right? Not if they can be distorted to scare people, particularly if they can be distorted to scare old people.
What's becoming clear now is that there is a connection between the two big things that we have observed recently about the health care fight. On the one hand, are these crazy, disprovable, but nevertheless, endlessly stoked conspiracy theories that health care reform is communism, that it's a secret plot to kill your grandpa, that it's a government takeover, it's something called Obama-care. It's going to mandate abortions. It's going to mandate sex change operations.
I would make up something that could be the next crazy thing, but everything I could think of that is that crazy has already been actually used by these people.
There are these crazy conspiracy theories about health care reform on the one hand. And on the other hand, there are these organized efforts to shut down political debate about health care, by using angry crowds to take over town hall meetings and chase congressmen through parking lots. These two observable facts about the anti-health care reform forces, it turns out, are really one big thing.
Do yourself a favor if you have a moment and you're online, and go to the Web site RecessRally.com. It's a very nice Web site. It's very slick.
It's got a big "stop" sign right there in the middle, above the list of all the town hall rallies they expect you to go to and disrupt. The tag line up there, you can see, is: "We the people say no to socialized health care."
We the people-that's how the Republican Party has been describing these town hall takeovers, too, putting out a statement today saying that Democrats should stop being so upset about them. Quote, "What Democrats call mob rule, the average American calls democracy. These kinds of despicable characterizations of middle-class Americans smacks of elitism."
The Republican Party says the town hall takeovers, the bullying and the intimidation we've been seeing, these are just average middle-class Americans spontaneously expressing their feelings.
Conveniently, the average middle-class Americans bringing you RecessRally.com are actually listed at the bottom of that Web site. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you can see there, national coalition of sponsors. You can see-there's like Michelle Malkin, she's one of the people on FOX News. There's Smart Girl Politics. That actually sounds very nice. RedState, a fairly prominent right-wing blog.
OK. So, those are sort of recognizable, or at least of interest, but who are all the other groups? Here is one called American Majority. Hmm! You know, the average middle-class Americans behind American Majority include the organization's president, Ned Ryun. He's a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
The executive director of American Majority's Minnesota office-kowinky dink, regional field director for Bush-Cheney '04. Executive director of their Kansas office would be a former Republican state legislator; executive director of their Oklahoma office, a former Washington, D.C. conservative lobbyist-you know, just your average middle-class Americans.
That organization, American Majority, is an offshoot of another Recess Rally sponsor, which is called the Sam Adams Alliance. Now, don't get your hopes up. It's not about beer.
The president of the Sam Adams Alliance is the former executive director of the Illinois State Republican Party. Sam Adams Alliance is also led by a former Dow Chemicals engineer who's also president of the nation's largest conservative state-level policy think tank-just your average middle-class Americans concerned about health care.
Who else have we got behind these recess rallies? Well, here's another one. They're called Let Freedom Ring. That sounds nice. The founder of that group is the moneyman behind the super offensive TV ads from the last election cycle that exploited the burning wreckage of 9/11 to help promote the Iraq war.
One of the other groups that's been promoting the town hall meeting sites and bragging about shutting them down also happens to be the same group that brought us the Swift Boat ads that attacked veteran John Kerry's war record. These are just totally disinterested, average middle-class Americans. It's very grassroots, really.
Here is another one, and maybe this one is the most illustrative of all. It's a group organizing the recess rallies that's called Americans for Prosperity. They've not only represented themselves as Americans for Prosperity here, they also are listed on the RecessRally.com page under the name of their own subsidiary, Patients First.
Now, who's Americans for Prosperity? Well, the director of Americans for Prosperity is a man named Art Pope. Art Pope. Art Pope.
Why does that name sound familiar? Oh, right! That's the headquarters of the North Carolina Republican Party. That building is named after Art Pope because Art Pope is a multi-millionaire far-right activist who's given the Republican Party in North Carolina so much money over the years that they could think of no grander gesture than to name their headquarters building after him. You know, just like other average middle-class Americans.
The national chairman of Americans for Prosperity is the 19th richest man in the world. A man named David Koch. He and his brother run Koch Industries, the largest privately-held oil company in this country, and prolific founders of far right-wing causes. They're just your average middle-class Americans-who also happen to be the 19th richest man in the world.
Americans for Prosperity in turn runs a group called Patients United Now and Patients First. These groups are currently busing people across the country to-you guessed it-demonstrate against health care reform. This is what these groups do. They're experts at fake grassroots campaigns that promote corporate interests.
Americans for Prosperity is the group that ginned up anti-stimulus rallies earlier this year. They also organized the Hot Air tour, to campaign against the whole idea of global warming. They were the ones who sent Joe the Plumber around the country to rail against the Employee Free Choice Act which is pro-labor legislation.
This oil industry and Republican operative millionaires' club is, according to the Republican Party spokesman today, just average, middle-class Americans-just regular American folks sitting around the kitchen table, thinking about whether they can get away with saying that the government continuing its long standing policy of encouraging living wills is really a secret plot to kill old people.
One other thing about Americans for Prosperity-their most visible spokesman is a man named Tim Phillips. He is the president of the organization and we've asked him to come on the show to talk with us about the group. Tim Phillips got his start in fake grassroots at a firm called Century Strategies run by Ralph Reed. Century Strategies is famous for having duped Christian groups into lobbying for energy deregulation-you know, like the Bible said? They were doing that at the behest of Century Strategies client Enron.
Tim Phillips and Ralph Reed were later made even more famous in the Jack Abramoff scandal, for duping Christian groups into lobbying against gambling, but only in areas where these guys happen to have competing gambling interests as clients. These guys are the pros. This is an industry.
Americans are showing up at these events to shout down the discussion and to chase their congressmen and they are enraged. And they're enraged at least in part because they're being riled up by over the top, fabricated conspiracy theories about health care. And they're being directed and orchestrated by the corporate interests that do this for a living and do it very well.
RecessRally.com is not some organic outgrowth of American anger. This is how corporate America creates the illusion of a grassroots movement to support their own interests. This is what they do. They are professionals. This is an industry.
To talk about these town hall events as some organic outpouring of average American folks who have concerns about health care is to be willfully blind as to what is really going on-which is professional P.R. operatives generating exploitive, manufactured, strategically deployed outrage in order to line their own pockets. These P.R. spinmeisters get paid a lot of money for doing it. The corporations they work for get to kill legislation that would hurt their profits.
And the real people who they launch into these town hall settings after they're told that health care reform is a secret commie plot to kill old people and to mandate sex changes-those real people get more and more and more angry, and more and more and more alienated. And ultimately, they get left, like the rest of us, with a health care system that is broken and doesn't work in the interests of the American people, but does work in the interests of the corporations that profit from the way the system is now.
This is professional, corporate-funded, Republican staffed P.R., and it should be reported as such.
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