By Kevin OBrien
Cleveland Plain Dealer Columnist
I’m surprised — and not necessarily pleasantly — to see so many of you here. And so very well-dressed.
I really thought that scheduling a town hall at 4 a.m. in the worst part of town I could find would cut down on attendance, but it looks as if we’ve got a lot of early risers here in the district.
We’ve got refreshments in the back. Help yourself. It’s all decaf. Wouldn’t want anyone to go on a caffeine rampage, would we? Heh-heh.
Before I really get to bobbing and weaving in earnest, Marilyn from the AARP is here to provide me a little cover and set the tone for this morning’s session. How about we have her come on up and tell the old folks who are here today to just put a sock in it and do as they’re told?
Thank you, Congressman. First of all, if you’re over 50, please consider signing up for an AARP membership. There’s power in numbers and we use your dues money to work really hard for you in Washington. Now, rather than boring you with a lot of details about HR 3200, I just want to remind you that elderly people who ask too many questions are senile and get sent to the home. Congressman?
Thank you, Marilyn. Thank you, also, to the members of ACORN and the Service Employees International Union who have joined us this morning to provide security. It’s really great to have all of you big, strapping fellows here, just in case anyone might be tempted to become the least bit argumentative. I know I wouldn’t want to be on your bad side.
All right. So let’s get down to business, shall we? I know people have lots of questions about the health care bill Marilyn mentioned, HR . . . 3200, was it? And in conclusion, I’d just like to say that I didn’t write it, haven’t read it and don’t know much about it.
So, thanks for coming out. It was really courageous of me to spend some time with you, and since there are no questions, we’ll just . . .
Excuse me, Congressman, but the Congressional Budget Office keeps saying this bill is going to blow the federal deficit sky-high.
Look, lady, I don’t have to put up with this. I’m a member of Congress. You don’t raise your voice to me.
Sir, with all due respect, I’m in the back of the room. If I don’t raise my voice, you won’t be able to hear me at all.
My point exactly. Guards, please escort her out. She’s engaging in flagrantly un-American behavior. Thank you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I . . .
Just a minute, please, Congressman. Could you address the assertion that the bill includes something about end-of-life counseling?
My God! The impertinence of you people. As I told you, I haven’t read the thing. It’s more than 1,000 pages long and it’s all in legalese. I don’t know what it says about end-of-life counseling and I don’t care. But, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do: I’m going to ask four or five members of our security detail to escort you out to the hallway for a little end-of-life counseling right here and now. Look folks, I promised I would get the Speaker’s private jet back by 9, so I really do have to . . .
Congressman, is it true that HR 3200 would open up public funding for abortions?
Your rudeness is simply astounding. What if it does? The larger issue is this: You and every other American will be dead by Christmas if this bill isn’t signed into law this fall. Is that what you want? WELL? IS IT?
Pardon me, Congressman, but how is this bill not a federal takeover of one-sixth of the U.S. economy?
A pardon is out of the question. Take him away and give him 30 lashes.
Congressman, what do you say to the 80-plus percent of Americans who like their current health care and the growing majority who oppose HR 3200?
The same thing I’m going to say to you through my tightly gritted teeth: Sit down. Shut up. We won.
Really, I can’t believe you people. I take time out of my crushing congressional-recess schedule to come here in the middle of the night, and this is the thanks I get? A bunch of insolent questions from a foam-flecked rent-a-mob of right-wing crazies? Where is the respect? The unquestioning obedience? The abject subservience? Where is the basic civility?
Congressman, I work for an insurance company . . .