by Max Brantley
Arkansas Repubs, with nothing to work with but fear, have been trying to erect a mountain from the molehill of carping about disruptive and poorly informed people who've turned out whenever a Democratic politician has tried to have a discussion about health care legislation.
The Arkansas Democratic Party says it's really Republicans who hate the First Amendment for supporting those who'd squelch others' efforts to be heard.
ALSO: The campaign of Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who made a thoroughly respectable statement yesterday to a Republican blogger about this tempest-in-a-teapot, calls down the GOP nonsense. (Lincoln's genial decency is one of her great strengths. Much as I disagree with her on some political issues -- estate tax comes to mind -- I don't understand the near hatred she inspires among some Democrats. Whiny Repubs, yes, I get where they're coming from.)
OK. Tit for tat. Can we now talk about health insurance?
PS -- The Republican Party chair, Doyle Webb, today said his party would have town halls on health care, details yet to come. How long does it take to say: "We vote NO to everything." And will Rep. John Boozman open himself to questioning. If so, is he a 1) birther? 2) deather?
DEMOCRATIC PARTY NEWS RELEASE
In response to continued Republican attempts to disrupt public dialogue between Arkansans and their elected members of Congress, Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Todd Turner today released the following statement.
"Even as Arkansas's members of the U.S. House and Senate fan out across the state listening to voters and continuing their dialogue on health care and other critical issues, the Republican Party is seeking to exploit the situation for political gain. Most disturbingly, Republicans are trying to hide their actions and motives behind a smokescreen.
"Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb called a press conference today to attack Democrats again, hoping to further disrupt and distract from the serious dialogue members of Congress are trying to have with Arkansans about weighty issues facing our nation. This is becoming a pattern. Friday, RPA Political Director Chase Dugger sent an e-mail attacking our Party's executive director, Mariah Hatta, for questioning the manufactured disruptions at Congressional town hall meetings across the state and country.
"If Mr. Webb and Mr. Dugger respect the First Amendment right of Arkansans to voice their positions and their questions to their Congressmen - as well as their right to hear answers without being shouted down - then I challenge them to quit playing games and do something about the problem they helped create. They should stop exploiting the current tension over public policy for political and partisan gains. The right to free speech and protest is a cornerstone of our democracy. It is sad that some special interest groups would attempt to stage efforts to deny that right to honest-intentioned Arkansans."
LINCOLN CAMPAIGN RELEASE
“The State GOP spokesman is playing gotcha politics instead of attempting to work with Senator Lincoln and other members of the delegation to confront the challenges we face.
Senator Lincoln has already addressed her remark from last week. As recently as yesterday, she commented to conservative blogger Jason Tolbert who posted her statement on his website (see below).
The Senator loves her state and she loves the people she represents. She wants to do the right thing by Arkansas and nothing has changed about that. The Republican Party operatives should spend their energy offering real alternatives, if they have them, rather than scoring political points in the news media. The Senator has a full schedule throughout our state and is interacting with her constituents about their concerns.”
U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln in interview with Jason Tolbert, 8/10/09
“I am sorry I said that because I believe that every American has the right and should have the opportunity to voice their concerns and to speak out. Certainly that is a part of our free experience in this country. I probably misspoke when using that word. But I also have to believe and I know that most Arkansans were raised like I was. My parents raised me to be the best possible American I can be, the best possible Christian I can be, the best possible neighbor I can be – to be respectful. And I think that is what is important… It was a poor choice of words and I never intended for it to be meant that way, but I think it is important for us to put aside the differences and making sure we remember that our conversations be respectful – that we can disagree without being disagreeable.”