August 7th, 2009
08:41 AM ET
13 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. 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 |
  2. Emma

    Good for you Donna Edwards. You represent me and if there are critical comments there is always a positive way to address any issue. Our children are watching us and if they adopt any of what I have seen lately at various Town Hall meetings, the school districts will be expelling a lot of students.

    How can we teach our children how to handle conflict when I as an adult need to also learn that same lesson.

    Disagree as adults not as idiots or bullies.

    August 7, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  3. Sniffit

    4th Congressional District? What's the demographic? Did ever single one of those people standing up to criticize have health care access and coverage? Aside from the idiocy of making nonsensical veiled references to revolution and using the word "socialism" as though it has something to do with "fascism" (two diametrically opposed concepts, by the way), implying that health care reform is being thrown together in a matter of months is completely insipid: we have known for decades that it was going to reach a head and become an absolute necessity and the people advising the POTUS and Congress on what needs to be done have been studying it for years on end, conducting research and studies and using facts, empirical evidence and (I know yo uhate this word GOPers) science to inform their decisions. The idea that this bill is the equivalent of a college term paper slapped together during an all-nighter is ludicrous.

    August 7, 2009 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  4. rand

    Wow, the GOP bus must have missed a stop.

    Glad to hear that a discussion was able to happen.

    August 7, 2009 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  5. mother and sister of soldiers

    Why don't they address why the health care system is broke? In Pennsylvania we need tort reform and I know first hand when my father faced an overwhelming medical crisis that had we not researched government programs, he would have lost everything. These people are NOT without care....they just need to learn what the hospitals will not tell them because it affect their bottomline. Stop scaring people and inform them of their rights to an already existing government health care and see that the providers follow thru. There is alot to be done in health care reform BUT it is not government run health care. Everyone will suffer for sure. All you need to do is look at Medicare and Europe. Talk to people and see how their care was managed. You will be shocked! Those who get good care in England pay for supplemental insurance. Sweden and France...forget it. Canada....they come to the US when necessary. Get real folks and ask tougher questions.

    August 7, 2009 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  6. Sarah Flinkingshelt

    The mass of people opposing this Health Care bill are showing their frustration at not being heard. Our elected officials are exhibiting their usual mind set, "The public doesn’t know what's best so we will decide for them". No matter how we express our disapproval of this bill the media & Obamanites are turning a deaf ear to us and say we are radicals. As voters and citizens we are tired of this!! We have tried emails, phone calls, etc. but to no avail and we have a right to be heard.

    August 7, 2009 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  7. Kelby In Houston, Texas

    “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.”
    We are not saying that. That is not what we are trying to accomplish. We are saying we want a public option. The key word is option. Another word for option is choice. We are not taking away your choices, we are adding to your choices. This increases competition and copetition will lower prices. Tax cuts and tax credits do not lower prices.
    We can tell that the opposition to universal healthcare did not send their minions to this townhall meeting because there was a healthy debate and exchange of ideas. They may have changed their tactics because they were so easily and publicly debunked and exposed for the organized, angry, misguided and misled mobs that they were.
    They know if an intelligent debate on this topic took place, they would lose.
    Peter Hamby, please proof read your article befor you post it on the internet.

    August 7, 2009 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  8. JP

    The congresswoman said that no undocumented workers would get this benefit. Since a lot of illegal aliens have forged or fake papers to get a job, how will we stop this. Obamas plan is to make them citizens so they will vote for him. This clown will destroy the country.

    August 7, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  9. Emmanuel Goldstein

    When you start to lose the base, it's a bad sign. Tea Party types from outside of PG county are not likely to venture into PG county to express their opposition. If Donna Edwards is getting grief in her overwhelmingly democratic PG county district, that is bad since that opposition is home grown democratic opposition.

    August 7, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  10. Henry Miller

    So it's just "hyperbole and noise" to consider it an idea bordering on insanity to waste trillions of dollars on a health care system that works fairly well for most people? In the current state of the US economy?

    There are few more contemptible than an "I don't care what it costs; those nasty rich people can pay for it" Liberal trying to buy votes with other peoples' money.

    August 7, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  11. Tom D

    Whether you agree or disagree with healthcare reform, it is nice to see at least during the forum that people acted like adults. This is a complex topic that is hard for anyone to wrap their hands around but the only way to understand it is talk about, ask questions, and hear from our law makers. The continued disruptions at these forums harm everyone because it reduces a complex topic to 2nd grade level.

    August 7, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  12. Stephanie

    Typical new slant of CNN a la John King...all comments were from critics of the President...not one in of the reasons you received a "D" as did the Republican "leadership" in your "report cards" last night.

    Why aren't these marks being presented along with the presidents?? Everyone is angry and confused and sadly no longer has a press that actually presents facts and balance!

    August 7, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  13. jp,michigan

    If our representative really took the time and listened to the questions and answered them honestly, there would be no yelling or screaming. The American citizens deserves and demands answers and not rhetoric. What even Health care changes are made, those on the hill ( President, vice President and members of congress) should be subject to the same health care they so strongly believe in!

    August 7, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  14. Terry, TX

    Shades of socialism.....people are upset and they should be.....these democrats are getting really about that snitch web page that the Obama administration put on the White House web page....and they too stupid to take it down.

    August 7, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  15. Vince

    I've been able to listen and listen to my party's interpretation of the president's healthcare bill and agenda. And I was fine with that. HOWEVER, as of late I'm beginning to feel that I'm being misinformed. I would like to be able to go to a town hall meeting and hear for myself the honest questions and answers. I think these disruptive tactics will only serve to hurt every last one of us in the end. I hope I'm wrong. But if there's nothing to hide, then let them have their little town hall meetings. Let them talk without our being disruptive. Let them be proven wrong by their own accord. Please! We are a better nation that this. This is NOT the America I believe in . . . and this new kind of GOP is not the party I belong to.

    August 7, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  16. kelly- fl

    why is it that most people who are at these meeting are retired, white folks, who are storming these town halls, maybe if we had a more bi-partisan view of things, their wouldn't be so much disrepect going around. I think we need intellegent questions asked, not I want my country back, or this Prez. is Hilter, etc. That's not the cause here folks, wake up and stop your maddness hate cause you lost, and can't stand a well educated, bright man. Regardless of his skin. Isn't he part white anyway!

    August 7, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  17. Change begins in 2012

    Real simple Donna, if you cut out the ILLEGALS, the people who CAN get healthcare but don't sign up for it, the 20 somethings that CHOOSE not to get it you are left with about 8-10 million people WHO WE SHOULD HELP, they are the ones that make TOO much to get he free care, but not enough to buy it on their own.

    Offer them vouchers to choose there own plan OR give the smaller companies the same buying power of the larger companies so that they CAN OFFER GOOD HEALTHCARE.

    Lastly, TORT REFORM will bring down all of our COSTS that work for a living instead of watching Judge Judy and Oprah everyday.

    This would solve the problem, YOU DON'T tear down the whole house if you have a little water in the basement, you FIX THE BASEMENT.

    WHY would we screw over 300 million people to fix the 8-10 deserving people?

    Sory Donna, you may have been elected, but I forgot more than you know, but you are carrying the water for the fraud in chief as expected.

    August 7, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  18. GI Joe

    They got their questions answered. That's how it should be.

    When one group yells and shoves and disrupts, they are bullies and hope to control everything and everyone. And THAT is scarey. THEY are like Hitler using their bullying tactics to control everyone.

    August 7, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  19. Mitchell

    Democrats need to be doing more at the meetings to make sure that the congressman and women know that we want to see progress. Just because a couple unhappy and delusional republicans want to do nothing,; which clearly is working for everyone now as they started the economic down fall and clearly did nothing for us the past eight years, that is not how the majority feels. I am sure many republicans will get upset with this comment but when a reporter ask an unhappy person what is their take on the administration and compares them to Nazi's they are nothing more than uneducated and quite frankly sad individuals.

    CNN and other news agencies need to stop playing dumb and start reporting these attacks as republican sponsored and concocted schemes to cause chaos and disruption to help out insurance companies. These "upset" guest could probably care less however someone in the republican think tank decided this would be a good move to attempt to slow down health care reform.

    August 7, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  20. T KS

    Now this is how civil discourse is supposed to work.

    August 7, 2009 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  21. southerncousin

    I love it the libs are now telling angry people the need to be calm and respectful, when they were leading the charge for people like Cindy Sheehan and the Code Pink organization 2 years ago Sure a lot of hypocricsy in the lib world isn't there?

    August 7, 2009 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  22. Bob in Pa

    We (the American people) give unemployment, food stamps, housing, tax credits and health care to those that are less fortunate.
    At what point do you say "enough, you must give something in return" ?

    It is ridiculous to say to someone who makes more money that they must pay for two familys health care premiums on top of their own.

    August 7, 2009 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  23. Carmen, Miami FL

    So all conservatives can gripe about is some vague sense of consolidation of power and the alleged quickness of the process? They can't talk about any specifics regarding healthcare reform? It seems like they're confused and afraid because they're completely in the dark about any of the facts.

    Republicans need to stop schilling for the insurance industry and start talking policy! Not having any reform is unacceptable!

    August 7, 2009 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  24. S Callahan

    I have to admit Edwards is right in saying that for millions the health care works ..but there are many it doesn't work for...and that is true...and again..can you see the picture...goverment is the one hurting those it's not working for (see Medicade)...too much greed flows through those easy channels.and who suffers for it....the toddler who is malnourished in America, the disabled who can't get the needed equipment to have a viable life...the elederly who can't get their medications to ease their sufferings.....there individuals are our spiritual brothers and sisters....those that have much are wrong to abandon them.

    August 7, 2009 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  25. rual Americans

    Another not-so-stealthy spin job by CNN socialist Peter Hamby.

    Journalism is dead in America due to the misinformation jihad on citizens by democrat shills like Hamby

    August 7, 2009 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
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