The Corner

The Backlash That Wasn’t, Cont’d

Jesse Ferguson, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, took to Twitter this morning to spread word of the public’s “backlash” against the Ryan/GOP budget. He posted out about a dozen links to stories regarding eight individual GOP members, but quickly ran out of material.

And a closer look at some of the shared links reveals just how phony and manufactured (by liberals) this “outrage” narrative is, and how elements of the media, even all the way down to the local level are willing to play along. For example:

Rep. Nan Hayworth (R., N.Y.):

HUGUENOT — Rep. Nan Hayworth faced a barrage of pointed questions Thursday night about Republican plans to restructure Medicare and Medicaid, cut funding for veterans’ programs and Planned Parenthood and other elements of the 2012 budget proposal she and her House colleagues have supported.

First of all, the Ryan budget resolution — or any budget resolution for that matter — doesn’t “cut funding for programs.” Rather, it simply sets spending targets to be used as guidance by the various authorizing committees and subcommittees. Sure, it can imply that certain cuts are likely to be made, and cutting funding for Planned Parenthood is obviously something that Republicans would support, but to describe it as an “element” of the GOP budget is misleading at best.


“Most people support some form of fiscal restraint because they have to use it in their own lives,” Hayworth, R-Mount Kisco, told an audience of about 50 gathered on folding chairs in Deerpark Town Hall.

But audience members challenged her about aspects of the Republican budget vision — crafted by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan — during a question-and-answer period that followed.

Louise Vandemark, chairwoman of the Deerpark Democratic Committee, made an emotional statement about plans to cut Planned Parenthood, saying the organizations provides health services to young women who might not find it anywhere else. [emphasis added]

This formulation shows up a lot in these “backlash” stories. They’ll run with a headline like “Hayworth takes flak on GOP budget proposal,” and describe “audience members” challenging the GOP plan. But who is dishing out the “flak?” In this case, it’s the local Democratic party chairwoman. In others, it’s progressive radio hosts, activists, Paul Krugman acolytes, etc.

Rep. Lee Terry (R., Neb.):

Omaha, NE (AP) – U.S. Representative Lee Terry was peppered with angry questions and complaints about a GOP plan to privatize Medicare at a town-hall meeting Thursday night, and several times called for calm as those with opposing views shouted each other down.

[. . .]

Polls show the proposal is stirring opposition around the country, especially among seniors. Many have been speaking out at town hall meetings with their representatives during the current congressional recess.

Many Nebraskans are upset, as well, said Nebraska Democratic Party Chairman Vic Covalt.

Well, if he says so . . . Also, simply stating that polls show “stirring opposition” to the Ryan plan doesn’t make it true (See: here and here).

Rep. James Lankford (R., Okla.):

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma voters upset with a proposed GOP plan to overhaul Medicare peppered new Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford with questions Thursday over how future retirees would fare.

[. . .]

Democratic activists in Oklahoma encouraged people to attend town hall meetings scheduled by Lankford and the state’s other GOP congressmen and ask them to oppose spending cuts to Medicare proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.

“Of course we’re encouraging all of our members and activists to go and be heard,” said Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Todd Goodman. “We’re very concerned about the Ryan budget plan ending Medicare and Medicaid,[*] and we think Oklahomans should be aware of the drastic cuts that this will provide.”

Watch Rep. Lankford provide his own take of the situation here.

* For what it’s worth, PolitiFact has rated this statement (from this colorful DCCC ad) “pants on fire.”

Rep. Mike Pence (R., Ind.):#more#

One of the more appalling examples, particularly from a journalistic standpoint. Consider the headline: “Medicare, tax gripes pepper Pence event.” Now for the actual text:

The first comment Rep. Mike Pence heard at a town hall meeting Wednesday was a complaint about Republican efforts to revamp Medicare.

Randy Hisner of Decatur said Congress is “reneging” on its pledge to provide health insurance to older people.

“I don’t think any voucher will be big enough for me to buy private insurance” in retirement, Hisner said about the GOP proposal.

His turned out to be the last comment on the subject.

At least three congressmen – among them Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the architect of the House budget proposal – have been booed at recent town hall meetings because of their plan to privatize and subsidize Medicare for those currently younger than 55.

An audience of more than 100 people at Riverside Center spared Pence, R-6th. Instead, he listened to gripes about the threat of socialism, people who buy “junk” with food stamps, taxes on businesses and environmental restrictions on oil companies.

Okay, so one guy mentions Medicare, and everyone else “gripes” about taxes (because, it’s fair to assume, they think they’re too high). But wait:

Hisner also disapproved of Congress’ extension of income tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and what he considers low tax rates for the wealthy.

Hisner! I looked it up. To “pepper” means “to sprinkle liberally” (lower-case L). This is exactly what happens when the media become beholden to pre-constructed political narratives pushed by the likes of the DCCC. You start to see a lot of headlines that have absolutely bearing on reality (more on this here).

And finally, the budget point man himself, Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.):

GREENFIELD, Wisconsin — Angry voters jeered and booed as the architect of the Republican budget plan tried to explain why raising taxes on the rich wouldn’t help the United States deal with its deficit problems.

“It’s a start!” one man shouted. “Let’s do it!” another voice cried. “What about the wars?” yelled a third.

The rowdy Wisconsin town hall meeting — and scores of others across the country — was reminiscent of the verbal beating Democrats took from voters two years ago as they tried to explain the implications of President Barack Obama’s health care reform.

Gotta love that lead, not to mention the blatant kowtowing to the approved narrative. “Scores of others?” Where is the evidence? Even a reliably boosterish liberal like Greg Sargent suggests a number of “at least eight,” and admits “We’re still far from Tea Party levels of voter anger.” (See here for a reminder of what the “verbal beating” over Obamacare looked like.)

What follows is paragraph upon paragraph detailing the “outrage” at length, until we finally get to this bit at the very end:

But not everyone disagreed with Ryan’s plans. Applause often overwhelmed the boos and around a third of those handed the mike supported his plans, including a woman who urged Ryan to stop Congress from raising the debt ceiling and said Obama was at a “disconnect with the overall public.”

Ray Gwiazdowski, 60, was among the Ryan supporters at a midday meeting in nearby Oak Creek.

“I think Paul Ryan is the only one who seems to be acting like an adult,” he told AFP after the meeting.

“I think that spending is the problem… I’m a firm believer that everyone is paying too many taxes.”

As Bob Costa points out here, the organized Left has made a concerted effort to haunt Ryan as his numerous town hall meetings (19 over a two-week period). But what do they really have to show for it? There’s been a lot of focus on one incident last week where Ryan was booed, but does that accurately reflect the public receptiveness to Ryan and his ideas? Cleary not, as evidenced by this video (courtesy of John McCormack at The Weekly Standard):


I’m sure the media will give clips like these equal consideration. Right?

UPDATE: Paul Ryan pushes back:

Contrary to some of the angry scenes at some of his town-hall meetings, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Friday that the crowds are “overwhelmingly supportive” of his budget plan.

Ryan claims that his constituents know him well and appreciate that he is trying to reduce the nation’s debt and deficits with his 2012 budget plan, which is strongly opposed by Democrats.

“Oh, they are overwhelming supportive. Have you actually attended these meetings? The crowds are overwhelmingly supportive,” he said when asked if his constituents back his proposal during an interview with Bloomberg Television.

More here.

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...


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