Democratic grumbling about disruptive protests at health care town halls is simply an attempt at distraction and and admission of weakness, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared on Sunday.
In an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," the Kentucky Republican largely dismissed the bile seen this past week at the health care forums held by Democratic lawmakers. But when pressed to weigh in more fully on the matter, he deemed it evidence that his side was winning the debate.
"Look, I don't think either side ought to be trying to engage in disrupting meetings, either the Democratic side or the Republican side," McConnell said. "We ought to focus on the issue. And to demonize citizens who are energetic about this strikes me as demonstrating a kind of weakness in your position. In other words, you want to change the subject. Rather than talk about the half-a-trillion dollars in Medicare cuts, let's talk about somebody, in some town meeting, who misbehaved. That strikes me as missing the point."
McConnell is correct, to a certain extent. Democrats, including the DNC, have sought to put the spotlight on the tone and tenor of the town hall demonstrators. But it's part of a broader effort to underscore that opposition to the president's health care package has been driven by groups and individuals who, beyond anything else, want to be oppositional. The dialogue isn't real or constructive.
Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich seemed to concede that point during an appearance on ABC's "This Week."
"Members ought to go back home, hold as many town hall meetings as possible, let people get it out of their system and by September we could have a genuine dialogue in this country," said Gingrich, who went on to add that "the American way is to let it hang out."
Matthew Dowd: GOP Playing With Fire On Health Care
Former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd, who was something of a reliable GOP heretic during the 2008 campaign, offered another off-message moment on Sunday when he warned that the Republican Party was playing with fire on health care.
Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Dowd cautioned conservatives to not go too far in pushing back against Obama's agenda, lest they be blamed for actually preventing people from getting better health care coverage.
"I think the Republicans soon have to be careful of something," Dowd said. "I know Republicans are all patting themselves on the back and saying, "We've got the Democrats on the run, Obama on the run.' I don't think it's necessarily a good political place to be in by November if you've defeated any health care reform."
Dowd's remarks get at a looming reality in the current health care debate. There is a thin line between being credited for stopping the president and being blamed for defeating reform. While a vast majority of Americans like their current coverage, public polls show that similar or even greater percentages of the public believe the system is broken and in need of fixing.
The Republican Party certainly knows this. In an internal RNC poll, which the Huffington Post obtained and reported, 54 percent of respondents said that America had "the best health care in the world," but 70 percent said the system was "badly in need of reform."
Gingrich Defends Palin's Obama "Death Panel" Claim
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich defended the bizarre claim by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin that the president's health care plan would result in a "death panel" that could kill her Down Syndrome son.
"You are asking us to trust the government," Gingrich declared on ABC's "This Week." "You are asking us to decide to believe the government should be trusted."
"Communal standards historically is a very dangerous concept," he added.
Reminded by host George Stephanopoulos that there was no such thing as communal standards in any health care bill -- just language that would allow for optional Medicare consultations on end of life decisions -- Gingrich grew a bit flummoxed.
"The bill is a thousand pages of setting up mechanisms," he said. "You are asking us to trust turning power over to the government, when there are clearly people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards."
On Friday, Palin posted a message on her Facebook account warning that "death panels" would be set up to encourage euthanasia -- a wild and baseless complaint that has grown popular in conservative circles.
"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care," Palin wrote. "Such a system is downright evil."