August 7th, 2009
08:41 AM ET
14 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. jrzshor

    "she would not tolerate any rude behavior" Oh, how motherly of her.

    when someone speaks ill of healthcare that is "rude behavior". BUT when people speak that bush et al are criminals that should immediately imprisoned without trail (unlike terrorists) that is ok?

    i get so confused by reality.

    August 7, 2009 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  2. Troop

    I find it humorous Bush had people sitting outside his ranch and everywhere else for years calling him a war criminal and a every other vile thing. Now you see mostly elderly in these meetings and the "Community Organizer" is against community organizing. I was willing to give Obama a chance but not anymore. He has gone too far and is more partisan than any president we have had in at least 20 years.

    August 7, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  3. Melissa

    Most of the people crying "socialism" don't even understand the meaning of the word.

    August 7, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  4. Andy J, NY, NY

    over 30 % of those uninsured make over $50,000 a year and are more than able to purchase their own.

    stop shoving stuff down our throats for the benefit of the few. the government can't run anything right.

    the Big 3 entitlement programs, medicare, medicaid, and social security are BROKE

    DO NOT add another entitlement program that we CANT pay for.

    August 7, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  5. Juan

    This is only the beginning of the revolt against the dnc, also known as the Socialist Party of Amerika.

    August 7, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  6. MomofFour

    This is a takeover of the Healthcare industry by the government. Plain and simple. The Democrats refuse to listen. They won't answer the questions because they can't answer the questions and when they do they are lying. People are angry because this administration refers to them as "mobs" and "astroturf". The Democrats are in this regard making a HUGE mistake. Only listen to the liberals and silence the conservatives. Only this time...EVERYBODY is concerned, not just the liberals.

    Americans are rejecting socialism straight up and this is what it is all about. Obama is losing support like a concrete block because the people are realizing what is happening to democracy in this country. When the White House blows off the people who are concerned and's a sad day in this country. Imagine if George Bush had done this to the war protestors!!! He had more class than Obama.

    August 7, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  7. Hypocracy is King in Washington D.C.

    Democrats are hypocrits. Republicans are hypocrits. While they both appear to have different agendas – they are really both the same. POWER! Both Republicans and Democrats spin half truths so as to "fire up" their constituents against their opposition. Why can't you half-wits figure this out? This is not a football or basketball game wherby you cheer your team and question every call against your chosen team! Wake Up! Politicians are only USING YOU!

    August 7, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  8. kenneth

    that"s what it is about talking about our differences TALKING

    August 7, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  9. Steve, Columbia SC

    I am not wealthy by any definition, and my health care is fine. Let's try to fix only what's broken, not the entire package.................

    You, the bureaucrats in government, are not responsible for my health care, not my wife's health care, not my children's health care. I AM.

    Stop trying to pull me into the total government trough.

    August 7, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  10. Pete East

    Rep Edwards stated that citizens will not be "fined" for choosing not to purchase health insurance. There is, however, this provision:


    ‘(a) Tax Imposed- In the case of any individual who does not meet the requirements of subsection (d) at any time during the taxable year, there is hereby imposed a tax equal to 2.5 percent of the excess of–

    ‘(1) the taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income for the taxable year, over
    ‘(2) the amount of gross income specified in section 6012(a)(1) with respect to the taxpayer.

    This is the actual language of the legislation. It my not be a "fine", but it certainly looks like a tax penalty. It also leaves up to the powers that be to decide the definition of "acceptable".

    August 7, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  11. RR

    "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."

    yep, dems bussing in people to pack the meetings with yes men.

    August 7, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  12. Mario, mtl, ca.

    Who says the right wing have their IQ over 80

    August 7, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  13. Gary

    Everyday average people have real concerns about the government getting too involved in our healthcare. They don't want a public option that is a trick to get more and more people on taxpayer subsidized health insurance. We tax the hardest working people to pay for the laziest people and we're kinda tired of it. Everyone (every adult) should work. Everyone should pay some federal taxes. Everyone should pay for their own food, clothes, house and healthcare. Then if everyone is working and contributing to society, a little help for the poorest people would probably be okay...but right now with 300 Million citizens we have a work force of less than 150 million (less than half) and of those only about 100 million actually pay federal income tax....this is not a sustainable system.

    August 7, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  14. Phil

    Wow, that bill, is 1,067 pages double spaced. For those of us that can actually read, that comes out to about 450 pages. Too bad the Red Neck Nation is illiterate; lest they would actually put aside their racism and read the dang bill.

    I have never before been more embarassed by my country. These people are fighting for big business that is putting the screws to them. i pray that when its their time to have illness or injury, that God will save them; becuae their insurance carrier surely won't.

    August 7, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  15. Navi

    You don't have to agree with the other side, but you do have to listen. Thats the way any discussion should be held, weather or not you agree. Pushing, shoving, heckling, that wont get your point across, liberal or conservative.

    August 7, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  16. Stuffit

    In today's environment, a toughtquestion = vast right wing staged conspiracy astro-turfing biscuit eatin' nutjobs.

    August 7, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  17. I am glad I'm not a Repulse-lican

    I live in Maryland and I will bet my life on this and that's none of these people especially the idiot referring to Barack as Hitler were from MARYLAND. Maryland is made up of mostly Democrates who are not that vocal and wouldn't disrespect the President in that way. What's funny is that of all the people there in support of the health care plan CNN only spoke to the couple that were opposed to the plan.

    Talk about biased reporting shame,shame, shame CNN.
    How much are the lobbyist paying you CNN?
    If your not guilty then post my comment

    August 7, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  18. michael

    This is the way Town Halls are supposed to be. You can express your anger and dismay. just don't deny someone elses' chance to express their viewpoint.

    Can someone honestly tell me what the difference is between the Social Security , Medicare ,Medicade programs and a new health care proposal? Everyone is crying "Socialism" because it was a word thrown around during the campaign to spread fear against the Democrats.

    The United States has been a "Social Democracy" for the last 80 + years. People who scream that president Obama is leading us into a socialist state will be hypocrites if they take social security, medicare, medicade, unemployemt or benefit from ANY social program that has already been in place for years.

    August 7, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  19. betagreg

    "None of them said they had been directed to the town hall by interest groups opposed to health care reform" - because those groups have been telling their sheep to say that they are speaking out on their own behalf...

    August 7, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
1 2 3