Health care reform: Protests, misinformation and Pawlenty

That’s not how we do it in Minnesota,” 1st District Rep. Tim Walz is quoted as saying regarding the shouting matches that have erupted at town hall meetings regarding health care reform. The quote comes from the Star Tribune’s The Big Question blog, in which Kevin Diaz explains how Walz intends to return civility to the discussions: Walz has invited Republican John Kline to join him at a forum next Thursday. Unfortunately, it seems Kline never received the invitation and has dismissed the whole thing as a publicity stunt.

In the meanwhile, the Star Tribune’s Chris Serres explores the causes of the angry town hall meetings and finds a lot of very worried and angry people, but very little real information — one of the strongest images from the story is of masses of town hall attendees frantically scribbling down Web addresses that purport to have information regarding proposed reforms, while others complain that the current bill is too big to print up from their home computer and too bewildering to understand. The fact that there has been a lot of misinformation hasn’t helped either. Serres quotes former U.S. Sen. David Durenberger, now a senior health policy researcher at the University of St. Thomas: “There are so many people out there today relying on punditry and talk radio for information that it’s hard to tell if this is real,” Durenberger tells Serres. “We’re better informed, but are we getting good information?

Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press likewise is intrigued by the protesters, and he profiles several on Robert Street in downtown St. Paul. Some of them are first-time protesters; “I never expected I’d ever do this. Years ago, I would have been embarrassed if my kids demonstrated,” one says. MinnPost’s Doug Grow followed a group of Tea Party Patriots into the office of 4th District Congresswoman Betty McCollum, where they demanded to express their anger over health care reforms to McCollum, who was in Japan at her son’s wedding. “Even if my son was being married right now, I would be at this meeting if I were a congresswoman,” Grow quotes a woman as shouting, before a McCollum staffer reminded them that the protesters had shown up unannounced.

Tim Pawlenty’s speech Friday to the the second annual GOPAC conference in Chicago makes it clear that the outgoing governor and presidential hopeful sees blood in the water regarding health care reform, as reported by Andy Barr of Politco. Among a series of typically quippy mots (a sample groaner: “It appears that President Obama is making great progress on climate change, he is changing the political climate in the country back to Republican”), Pawlenty had this to say about the subject of health care: “Medicaid is essentially bankrupt, Medicare is essentially bankrupt, why the heck would we give the federal government another entitlement program to manage?

As part of his own efforts regarding health care reform, Al Franken will be visiting Mayo Clinic today, but it’s another story that has put Franken in the news lately. As the Star Tribune’s Eric Roper reports, the senator has expressed displeasure with Arlington Cemetery after a Minnesota soldier who was killed in Afghanistan was buried with something less than the full honors that might have been accorded him (specifically, his funeral lacked a horse-drawn caisson) because of a backlog of military funerals, many from veterans of earlier wars who are dying of natural causes. Franken wrote an angry letter to Arlington officials, saying, “This is an intolerable and undue burden on a family that is already mourning the loss of a loved one, and the perception left by this incident is unbecoming and unacceptable.”

Is Michele Bachmann considering running for president? At the end of a long profile that can perhaps best be described as a gooshy love letter to the congresswoman, Drew Zahn from WorldNetDaily.com asked her outright. Bachmann’s answer: “If I felt that’s what the Lord was calling me to do, I would do it,” she answered. “When I have sensed that the Lord is calling me to do something, I’ve said yes to it. But I will not seek a higher office if God is not calling me to do it. That’s really my standard.” Perhaps feeling that she hadn’t been clear enough, she continued: “If I am called to serve in that realm, I would serve, but if I am not called, I wouldn’t do it.”

This may seem like a bit of waffling — after all, how can we know what God wants of us? — but Bachmann had pretty much credited every decision in her adult life to direct communications from the almighty, as demonstrated in this video of a speech given at the Living Word Church in 2006, in which she makes an inventory of major life events that she had no real interest in, including tax law and, er, marriage to her husband, which she then did anyway at God’s insistence.

If you’re not Michele Bachmann, however, it can be a bit harder to know the will of God. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), for instance, is having a convention in Minneapolis, starting today, that will wrestle with the question of gay clergymen. It’s a divisive topic, but it sounds as though nobody is expecting any big blowups: “We’re Lutherans; we’re insistent but polite,” says Phil Soucy in a Star Tribune story by Jeff Strickler; Soucy is the spokesman for a coalition of groups that support the ordination of LGBT ministers.

Nonetheless, division is a real possibility, as Patrick Condon of the Associated Press points out, telling the story of the Rev. Dave Glesne of the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fridley, who opposes LGBT pastors. The story quotes Glesne about what his congregation will do if the ELCA votes to allow gay and lesbian clergymen: “The conversation we had left me no doubt that we will definitely have a discussion about leaving the ELCA.”

Of course, the big sports news this weekend was Tiger Woods’ loss at the PGA to Y.E. Yang; perhaps the best story is from the Associated Press, which retells the tale through the eyes of South Koreans who watched the match, and who, as the story reports, now want to redub Yang “The Tiger Killer.” But Woods’ loss isn’t the only sports tale worth telling: WCCO’s Mike Binkley takes a look at a group of senior citizens in Bloomington who have formed a hockey team. Binkley quotes one of the players: “I’ve had both shoulders done, biceps resected (removed) last year. I’m just coming off ankle surgery. I’m trying to get in shape. At our age, it gets harder and harder all the time.

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/17/2009 - 10:24 am.

    Telling what God wants of you is especially difficult if you have large numbers of deeply-buried, unacknowledged and unmet psychological needs. In that case, those needs tend to arise from within you and seem like God’s inspirations when they are nothing of the kind.

    Furthermore, there’s a tremendous danger in accepting any inspirations uncritically as “God’s will” since those who, without self-questioning or self-doubt believe themselves to be doing God’s will are capable of great evil which they take themselves to be working in God’s name, but which is really only a reaction to their own deeply-buried, unacceptable (to themselves), unmet needs.

    Thus we have Christ’s admonition to “take the log out of your own eye.”

    Those who are not emotionally/psychologically healthy themselves tend to create a false God in the image of their own needs, then seek to do the will of that God through attitudes and actions which completely contradict the attitudes and actions demonstrated by Jesus himself (or, really, whomever the primary focus of their religious expression might be.)

    Those who preach hatred, rejection, and exclusion in Christ’s name, for instance, are making as much sense as someone who claims to be a follower of Satan, preaching love, mutual care/concern, and acceptance of others.

    In neither case is the person involved keeping faith with the one by whom they claim to be inspired. It’s quite clearly not the object of their worship’s will at work, but their own.

  2. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 08/17/2009 - 11:33 am.

    God’s calling who?

    Ring,ring, ring.

    FATOEOTL (fellow at the other end of the line): “Whom shall I say is calling?”

    Michelle B. ” Michelle again…I’ve called you many times before, remember? My quest this time…shall I run for President?”

    FATOEOTL: “Sorry, you’re still dialing the wrong number…again. We’re ‘DOWN’, not ‘UP’, you know?”

    Michelle B: “Oh?” (slight pause and momentary silence)…”Okay.”

    FATOEOTL: “But let me tell you while I have your ear, again…you’re hot as Hades down here.
    So I say, go for it. Just be sure and tell them, “God almighty made me do it!”

  3. Submitted by Joe Williams on 08/17/2009 - 11:46 am.

    While it would be fun to watch Michelle Bachmann run for President, I think she has embarrassed our state enough. Considering that Palin hasn’t exactly faded into the background following her failed attempt at the office of VP, could we really expect Bachmann to disappear if she lost her bid for nomination?

  4. Submitted by Judy Finger on 08/17/2009 - 03:42 pm.

    Imagine! John Kline never received the invitation from Tim Walz to attend a public forum. That has been Rep. Kline’s purpose in office to avoid meeting with constitutents at all costs.

  5. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 08/17/2009 - 05:01 pm.

    Hey, a real Minnesota wrestling match for president between Pawlenty and Bachmann. Uffda! These two representing our state? How the mighty have fallen.

  6. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/18/2009 - 06:35 am.

    Because we can now get our news from sources that reflect our political views we can avoid sources that we find suspect,lies and misinformation tend to proliferate and linger. There have been several case studies, the Swift Boaters, the conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11, and claims that George W. Bush stole the 2004 election—and concluded that it’s now easier than ever before for people to live in worlds built entirely of their own facts. We’re becoming impervious to rational opposition. Once a substantial minority of the population believes a lie, it achieves the sheen of truth and becomes nearly impossible to debunk.

    PolitiFact link:
    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2009/jul/30/e-mail-analysis-health-bill-needs-check-/

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