August 7th, 2009
08:41 AM ET
5 years ago

No angry mobs, but tough questions at Maryland town hall


OXON HILL, Maryland (CNN) - There were no angry mobs or Nazi SS symbols at a health care town hall in Maryland’s heavily Democratic 4th Congressional district on Thursday night, but the member of Congress in the spotlight did face some tough questioning from small but vocal crew of administration critics in the audience.

Rep. Donna Edwards, a Democrat who was re-elected in November with nearly 86 percent of the vote in her heavily African-American district, earned a round of applause at the beginning of her town hall forum when she said she would not tolerate any rude behavior.

“You have to be respectful,” Edwards said. “Because I don’t know what’s been going in every place else around the country. But I know that that is not the 4th Congressional district of Maryland.”

She rejected the “hyperbole” and “noise” from health care opponents and told critics in the audience that while the health care system may appear to be in good shape in wealthier communities, “it is broken for millions of Americans.”

During an hour-long question-and-answer session at a public library, Edwards denied that people would be fined for choosing not to purchase health insurance; pledged that undocumented workers will not be covered under a government plan; and said the health care plan will not hurt the majority of the country’s small businesses.

The mostly Democratic crowd shook their heads and muttered to each other when skeptics of the President raised doubts about his health care agenda. The conservatives in the crowd did the same when supporters of the President offered their opinions. But no one was shouted down.

The heated exchanges came after the meeting, when a handful of frustrated constituents griped to reporters that Democrats in Washington are doing too much, too fast on the health care front.

“Barack Obama is taking more time to find a church than he is with Congress putting this thing together,” said Steven Walton of Bowie, Maryland. “Health care is one sixth of the national economy. That’s huge. And they’re throwing it together in a matter of months?”

Mark King of Germantown - who warned that the President is implementing socialist policies - compared himself and other administration critics to those who rallied against King George during the American Revolution.

“If we just reflect a little bit, this is how the country got started - people came to town hall meetings and they expressed their opinions,” King said.

Another man, John Peele of Prince George’s County, made a different historical comparison, likening the Democrats to Nazis and suggesting that Obama is like Hitler because he began his term in office as a well-liked national figure before consolidating power. Peele also questioned Obama’s citizenship.

“It’s national socialism,” Peele said of the administration’s economic plans. “I don’t want national socialism. I want freedom. You don’t want to sign your life over to something that they have total control of.”

All of the health care reform critics at the town hall were residents of the 4th Congressional District and said they had come on their own volition as concerned citizens.

None of them said they had been directed to the town hall by interest groups opposed to health care reform – an allegation levied by top Democrats throughout the week.

However, one Democrat from a neighboring Congressional district, Eunita Winkey, said she had decided to attend the forum after receiving an e-mail from Jason Waskey, the Maryland state director for Barack Obama’s political organization, Organizing for America.


Filed under: Health care • Maryland • President Obama
soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. George

    The people who are happy with their insurance could care less about the ones that either don't have insurance, or are being ripped by their insurance companies. If you llike your insurance, you can keep it. The republicans want you to not believe this. If I were the dems in power, I would do the bill the way we want and forget the republicans completley. They want America and Obama to fail.

    August 7, 2009 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  2. CONNIE

    my God the government is trying to control the American people at these town meeting, they thing they are all conservitives but they aren't they American worrying about their health care. Its beginning to look like Obama is going to make this country is gearing to be communist. HI Obama

    August 7, 2009 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  3. Gerald

    What a joke , wake up folks. These are the same people that are managing medicare and social security , both of these are bankrupt.

    August 7, 2009 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  4. Stuffit

    None of them said they had been directed to the town hall by interest groups opposed to health care reform – an allegation levied by top Democrats throughout the week.

    However, one Democrat from a neighboring Congressional district, Eunita Winkey, said she had decided to attend the forum after receiving an e-mail from Jason Waskey, the Maryland state director for Barack Obama’s political organization, Organizing for America.

    Looks like the "astro-turfing" is coming from the left.

    August 7, 2009 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  5. Chris

    As a Jew, I am sick and tired of these ignorant idiots throwing around the Nazi and Hitler references.

    August 7, 2009 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  6. 60's survivor

    Florida and others take note. conversation respect reasonbleness. otherwise you accomplish nothing good. you have two ears and one mouth. take the hint!!

    August 7, 2009 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  7. LISA

    Yes, act like adults. You can voice your opinion and not act like a
    wild untamed animal. Because thats what some of you look like on TV.
    Is that how you teach your kids to act when there is a disagreement?
    Get the facts before you go on TV acting a fool! The media should be involves in stating whats true and not true. Lets get the facts people and stop listing those those crazy Republicans. They still wanna get their cut from the private insurance companies. So no that dont' want reform.

    August 7, 2009 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  8. Obama Socialism

    You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. The Obama/Pelosi Democrats are peddling Socialism.

    August 7, 2009 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  9. AXH

    That's a load of crap, many many poor and jobless people get plenty of freebies when it comes to healthcare.

    STOP this health care reform; its too expensive and we can't afford it!

    August 7, 2009 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  10. Doug

    Congresswoman Edwards needs to run for the US Senate seat up next year. She had a good meeting and said specifically what she supported in a plan period. It is time in Maryland to move past the status quo mostly decades holding politicians and get a new purpose to be in office, serving others,not themselves.

    August 7, 2009 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  11. Kevin in Ohio

    NONE of the gatherings have shown people to be brandishing swastikas.... Nacy pelosi is an OUTRIGHT LIAR. These are law-abiding Americans exercising their right to free speech. And the democrats and Obam's answer is to stifle it. Talk about Hitler and swastikas....... look in the mirror, lefties.

    August 7, 2009 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  12. cassamandra

    wow, CNN, "likening the Democrats to Nazis and suggesting that Obama is like Hitler: is " "a different historical comparison"? It's okay to report on morons, paranoids and the otherwise politically insance, but it's not okay to do so with a straight face, suggesting that this is somehow legitimate commentary. Surely, more intelligent arguments were presented?

    August 7, 2009 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  13. Libertarian

    Hrm...no angry mob in a predominantly black district? How could that be?!? It doesn't fit he stereotype! Methinks the white-republican buses wouldn't venture in there waving Nazi SS flags for fear of getting their butts kicked. LOL!

    August 7, 2009 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  14. Ms. White

    Why is all the "rowdy mob-like " crowds are in small towns with populations of 2000 to 5000 people, one ethnic group that suggest they never interact with other people outside their communities and lack reasonable knowledge such as:
    MEDICARE, MEDIAID, WELFARE, SECTION 8 HOUSING, FOOD STAMPS ETC ARE ALL GOVERNMENTAL PROGRAMS.... IDIOTS

    August 7, 2009 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  15. trice

    hold up hold up hold up!!!!!!!!!! LOL CNN post my comment: this dosent even sound right!!! Im from southern Md. Trust and believe these people you interviewed are not from 4th D.
    These criticism these folks expressed first of all are straight talking points from rush limbaugh and the right-wing nut machine.... and its funny that Hamby is emphasing that the district is majority AA and better believe I know this district like my back hand. i can bet 100000 dollars not near one of these people were AA or even a resident of 4th D.

    August 7, 2009 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  16. Terry from Texas

    The gathering of noisy groups of Conservatives who shout out the same slogans and carry preprinted signs is about as spontaneous as an Ahmadinejad election rally. Their methods of participating in these events is to disrupt the process and shout down any ideas that are not their own.

    What is ironic is that the appear to be middle class people whose lives and whose children's lives will deteriorate in quality due to the policies of those they support. For their loyal obedience to their masters, they will get crappy jobs, no benefits, lower wages, less accessible health care, unaffordable colleges, and a fragile global economy. The American flag bumper stickers on their cars are all printed in China.

    They have been hornswaggled by con-men in $3500 suits.

    Of course, the greatest problem in a democracy is that half the voters have a below average IQ.

    August 7, 2009 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  17. Jason

    She will tolerate whatever her constituents deem necessary to get her attention . . . but hey, she is evidently over an area that is use to welfare handouts so of course they will respect her because they don’t want to bite the hands that feed.

    August 7, 2009 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  18. tough questioning

    no Nazi symbols? O'Reilly wasn't there?

    Good for you Maryland and all the good citizens (GOP and Democrat) that put the tough questions to politicians

    That is how a good bill will get crafted

    August 7, 2009 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  19. Marty, Grand Rapids MI

    Asking "Hard" questions is fine, even if they are ignorant or purposely misleading. Terms like "national socialism", "Nazi" or "Not an American Citizen" are just example of how uneducated and/or lazy (to search for the truth) those constituents are. Questions like "Spending more time picking a church" may be more relevant but the guy needs to understand that Congress is just outlining the frame work of the changes needed, not implementing them. Months to plan a project are not unreasonable. The political reality is any changes that need to take place in health care need to happen this year otherwise we are stuck with rising health care premiums, more and more American's without coverage and increased insurance and drug company profits (Good for your 401k if you have one, bad for your health). All this when every other industrialized nation has some form of single payer process and they have no issues covering all of their citizens at half the cost (or less).

    August 7, 2009 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  20. mike

    During an hour-long question-and-answer session at a public library, Edwards denied that people would be fined for choosing not to purchase health insurance; pledged that undocumented workers will not be covered under a government plan; and said the health care plan will not hurt the majority of the country’s small businesses.

    well good then. I expect Ms Edwards to vote against any of the bills currently in or through committes because IT DOES cover illegals, does require coverage and does hurt small businesses.

    August 7, 2009 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  21. RDS

    This is exactly what is needed. When everyone is yelling and screaming at these town hall nobody is getting to ask the tough questions. Grown people need to verbalize what they don't like about the bills. 85% of the people screaming they don't want socialized health care have parents on medicare, have kids that go to public schools and like being protected by the police and fire departments all socialized programs.

    August 7, 2009 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  22. Sniffit

    "All of the health care reform critics at the town hall were residents of the 4th Congressional District and said they had come on their own volition as concerned citizens."

    I didn't rob that bank. I didn't beat my wife. I didn't shoot that man. The house caught fire all by itself. I mean, duh? The only thing that makes it even remotely believable that they might have come on their own is that they apparently didn't behave like foaming-at-the-mouth, talking point vomitting lunatics. The real question though, CNN, is what are these people saying? Does it have substance? Is it even remotely informed and factual? Focusing on "someone criticized health care reform" without stating what their criticism lends the criticism undeserved superficial legitimacy by avoiding addressing its substance...if it even had any. Commentary regarding Nazis and Hitler obviously does not and evinces a particularly disgusting breadth of ignorance.

    August 7, 2009 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  23. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Apparently these people were a little more polite than other people at other town hall meetings. I wonder how many of them would have come out if there were no major issues before Congress like a major reform of health care. I doubt that many would.

    August 7, 2009 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  24. ran

    Those who are against reform I believe protest too much.

    If so many are so happy with their plan then that plan will not go away.

    For us who are not happy give us the single payer non-profit option.

    My guess is more people are unhappy with their coverage and that would mean more people would want an option from the private insurance plan. That is were the problem lies. The fear by the private insurance companies that they will lose out on all that profit money.

    My health is not for profit. Keep your profit care just let me have single payer non-profit health care. I am not denying you yours why are you denying me mine. If your health care is so good then you will not be leaving it no matter what. Right?

    August 7, 2009 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  25. Pat F

    So the ONLY ones at the meeting who were "orchestrated" were the Democrats!

    Democrats = Lying, hypocritical, anti-people, pro-dictatorship.

    August 7, 2009 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
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