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Tom Temin


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Posted: 8/21/2009 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

The White House was wise to shut down its tip line for people to send in “fishy” rumors or allegations they’d heard about health care reform, so presumably the White House could refute the rumors. 

Remember Richard Nixon’s enemies list?  This flag@whitehouse.gov gambit smelled like the cyber version of that, or at least the beginnings of an enemies compilation.  And it was demeaning to the Obama administration to have started such an effort.  Maybe this how people like David “The Spammer” Axelrod think, but if they want to do well by their boss they should avoid personalizing the health care debate.
 
It was outrage from some congressional quarters, such as California Republican Darryl Issa, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
 
To be sure, the health care debate, or health insurance debate, depending on how you choose to view it, has gotten a bit hyperbolic.  About as over the top as, say, Senator Ted Kennedy’s infamous remarks about Supreme Court nominee Robert M. Bork.
 
Not to take sides here, but people really need to read the bill(s) because there is a gap between what the bills state and what the president is saying in his own town hall meetings.
 
Speaking of town hall meetings – the current use of the term referring to where Members of Congress meet with constituents or the president gins up a publicity event is a perversion of “town meeting” both technically and in spirit.  Having grown up in a Massachusetts town that operated under town meeting laws common in New England, and having been a rural reporter in New Hampshire at the outset of my career, I’ve attended and paid careful attention to town meetings.
 
At a town meeting, the entire voting population of a town, if it is a small one, or elected town meeting representatives meet along with the selectmen, budget committee, and hired officials to conduct the town’s yearly business.  Town meetings vote on budgets and other items on a warrant issued by the selectmen. Debates and votes typically take place according to Roberts Rules of Order under the watchful eye of a skilled moderator.  For many reasons, it is the purest and most honest form of self-government possible for civilized people when conducted properly.  Moderators don’t allow ad hominem attacks or shouting.  People tend to behave themselves because in a small town, you’ll probably run into that fellow town meeting member tomorrow morning in the coffee shop.
 
Postscript – this set of town meeting guidelines from the Vermont Secretary of State office cites a 1932 vote in the town of Whitingham to hire one doctor Walsh, for the annual sum of $2,000, to care for the town’s residents.
 
An early example of the public option?
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