Rachel Maddow Slams Dick Armey for Stirring Up Hate in Town Halls
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David Gregory: This morning, a special hour-long discussion making sense of health care. What are the issues at the center of the debate? How would reform affect your health care? Separating fact from fiction in the fight. And what does it mean politically for President Obama? With us: former House majority leader Republican Dick Armey, now the head of FreedomWorks, a major organizer of protesters at town hall meetings; Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a medical doctor and member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; former Senate majority leader Democrat Tom Daschle, an informal adviser to the White House and author of “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis”; and Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Plus, additional perspectives from around the country: the chairman of the House Ways and Means
But first, making sense of healthcare reform, for the entire hour. And welcome to our panel here. You know, the president wrote on the op-ed page of The New York Times today that this is the great debate for America right now. And I think what the public also wants is a civil and informative debate, which is what I think we’re going to have this morning. I want to talk in just a few minutes about three major areas of contention in this healthcare debate. But first I do want to talk about the anger, the emotion and the fear that is out there.
And, Senator Daschle, let me begin with you. All of these town halls, have they altered or derailed the chance for reform this year?
Fmr. Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD): David, I think it’s actually been a good thing. I think that it’s drawn even greater focus on the issue. You’ve got President Obama out there in places all over the country talking and trying to set the record straight. Obviously, these are emotional issues. This is the noise of democracy. You ask 300 million people what they ought to do about health care and you’re going to get a lot of different ideas, some of them very deeply emotional. But the bottom line is I think this really does help a lot, goes a long way.
David Gregory: But it helps, it doesn’t hurt. You really believe that it doesn’t hurt?
Sen. Daschle: I—well, obviously there are—the misinformation hurts. Obviously if you, if you provoke fear, that hurts. But the opportunity that we have to set the record straight, to keep the focus on the issue, to recognize that there are millions of people out there who don’t have health care, to recognize that there are so many people out there that, that are left out, 12 million people have been, have been discriminated against because they have an illness. We’ve got huge cost problems, huge quality problems. And this is our opportunity really to lay the record straight, to put the focus where it belongs and to, and to get this job done for the first time in 70 years.
David Gregory: All right. But let’s talk about the tone of the debate. There have been death threats against members of Congress, there are Nazi references to members of Congress and to the president. Here are some of the images. The president being called a Nazi, his reform effort being called Nazi-like, referring to Nazi Germany, members of Congress being called the same. And then there was this image this week outside of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a town hall event that the president had, this man with a gun strapped to his leg held that sign, “It is time to water the tree of liberty.” It was a reference to that famous Thomas Jefferson quote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” That has become a motto for violence against the government. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, had that very quote on his shirt the day of the bombing of the Murrah building when 168 people were killed.