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Congressman Walz schedules town hall meeting on health care reform after all — Aug. 20 in Mankato

We’ve been following the dance of U.S. Rep. Tim Walz as he decides what to do on these health care meetings: town hall vs. teleconference; private meetings in homes, etc.

And he’s been targeted by the state Republicans with a television ad asking constituents to urge him (and Congressman Collin Peterson) to oppose the current reforms.

Now, Walz has decided to hold a town hall meeting next Thursday in Mankato. His office says he wants to “hear from southern Minnesotans about their ideas and concerns on health insurance reform. The general public, as well as members of the media are invited to the event.

It’ll be at Mankato East High School Auditorium from 6 to 8 p.m.

State Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton said: “I’m glad our pressure is working!”

In an editorial, the Rochester Post-Bulletin said the stakes are high for Walz, and for the GOP:

The GOP has identified him as a vulnerable Democrat in what traditionally had been a GOP stronghold, and this forum will give him the opportunity to prove he can take the heat in an unscripted, uncontrolled environment. Given his military background and his experience as a high school teacher, it’s not unreasonable for us to expect him to remain calm in the face of tough questioning or even rude comments.

But it won’t be enough for him to merely keep his cool. His task will be to make people understand how the current health care proposal would affect their lives — both for the better and perhaps for the worse — and also to explain how America can pay for it. If he can’t do that, or can only do so in general terms, it will be a long evening for him.

The GOP, on the other hand, would be wise to show some restraint. It will be fine to ask tough questions, or even to make short, impassioned speeches against the Democrats’ reform plan.

But if hecklers disrupt the meeting and prevent a meaningful conversation, Walz wins. He’ll be able to say, “My opponents would rather shout at me than try to fix health care. They’re wasting everyone’s time, as has been true in other meetings across the country.” If, however, any “reform skeptics” in the crowd are polite and ask substantive questions, the GOP will be able to say “What were you afraid of, Mr. Walz?”

Let’s hope that when the lights go off, the only obvious winners will be those who crave a cure for what ails our health care system.

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