Politics & Policy

Insult and Injury

President Obama likes to pose as the tribune of the common people, but Americans who show up at town-hall meetings to object to Obama’s plans to nationalize health care are, in the words of Obama’s Democratic National Committee, “the mob,” a bunch of “extremist” yahoos who must be publicly denounced and ridiculed. It’s a remarkable piece of condescension and snobbery, but one that is indicative of how President Obama thinks and does business.

Except when he condescends to make the occasional offhanded jibe about cops policing “stupidly” in Boston or hapless Special Olympics competitors, Obama famously likes to strike a pose of being above it all — but what country does he think he is president of, anyway? We cannot recall a similar episode in recent history in which a group of Americans bringing their concerns about a public-policy question to their representatives were told to sit down and shut up. It’s true that democratic discourse should be respectful and dignified — but it also should be two-way: Politicians should expect to listen as much as they expect to be listened to.

The DNC’s ad, “Enough of the Mob,” abominates those Americans who show up to address their congressmen and to exercise their constitutional rights to speak freely, to assemble, and to petition their government for redress of grievances. You know, that old pre-hope-and-change, hopelessly retro, pre-messianic democratic stuff. The ad is deeply dishonest, even by the standards of Washington discourse: The beginning and ending images, and many of those in between, are not those of people protesting Obama’s health-care proposals, but rather of the wacko fringe “birthers” (about whom much has been written here and elsewhere), who have nothing to do with either the town-hall meetings in question or with the Republican party as such. This is pure chicanery: The people protesting Obamacare have not gone out and comported themselves like a gang of buffoons, so Obama’s partisans simply took video of different people comporting themselves like a gang of buffoons and substituted it. That’s a low, shoddy, and intellectually dishonest way to operate.

#ad#It’s also a little ironic: This smear job is being shepherded by the DNC’s Brad Woodhouse, who back in his Americans United days acted as a front for the union bosses working to defeat President Bush’s Social Security reforms, doing precisely what he now accuses Republicans of doing — packing town-hall meetings with political activists and party operatives posing as regular people, shunting lobbyists’ money into phony grassroots action, etc. We’ll take Mr. Woodhouse’s tender concerns for decorum with a grain or two of salt.

Sen. Barbara Boxer has added to the national mirth, as she often does, by arguing that these people cannot possibly be real American voters. Why? Because they’re too “well dressed.” Presentable, peaceable protesters? It’s a set-up!

The Obama gang is derided, often and justly, for practicing cheap racial politics, but even more poisonous, if less remarked upon, is its class politics. The entire intellectual infrastructure behind the stimulus, the bailouts, the auto-industry takeover, and the proposed health-care takeover rests on the assumption that the people who staff the Obama administration are smarter, better, more caring, and more decent than you yahoos out there in the general public, who simply cannot be trusted to make your own decisions about important matters, such as what sort of health insurance to purchase or whether to buy a car that gets 20 miles per gallon or 22 miles per gallon. Given that line of thinking, it’s easy to understand why Obama’s partisans would dismiss those citizens who dare to criticize his proposal as “the mob.”

The most mockery-inviting aspect of all this is that Obamacare-supporting Democrats are now ducking constituent meetings back in their home districts, afraid to face questions from the people they are paid to represent. Given the Obama team’s contempt for these people, and its utterly dismissive attitude toward their concerns, is it any wonder “the mob” doesn’t want Obama in charge of their health care? Obamacare will constitute an injury to Americans’ well-being — and the president now adds insult to it.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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