August 9th, 2009
05:05 PM ET
14 years ago

Durbin on town hall chaos - ‘This is clearly being orchestrated’

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate’s second-ranking Democrat slammed recent town hall protests Sunday as organized disruptions of the democratic process.

“We have these screaming groups on either side. That isn't helpful. Let's be honest about this. Town meetings are not bean bag, I've had hundreds of them and sometimes folks get upset. And that's part of America, part of our process,” Sen. Dick Durbin told CNN’s John King on “State of the Union.”

“But this is clearly being orchestrated and these folks have instructions. They come down from a Texas lobbyist in Washington..." he said.

"When there are a group of people honestly sitting in the middle trying to ask the important questions and get the right answers, and instead someone takes the microphone and screams and shouts to the point where the meeting comes to an end, that isn't dialogue, that isn't the democratic process. You know, we need to respect free speech, but we need to respect one another's rights to free speech too. When these people come in just to disrupt the meetings, no, that isn't right.”

He also defended the White House’s new effort to track and rebut rumors about the president’s health care plan, following Republican criticism that the move was intended to intimidate opponents.

“What I can tell you is that the White House is not trying to collect names of any Americans. What they're trying to do is post on some of these Web sites a rebuttal to some bad information,” pointing to inaccurate rumor provisions in the proposal might be used to fund abortions, cover undocumented immigrants, or raid Medicare funds. “There's so much bad information out there, you can understand the effort to at least let people hear both sides of the story,” said Durbin.

On Fox News Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the charge that the rowdy town hall disruptions were being organized, and ripped Democrats for alleging that critics were receiving instructions from outside parties.

"Well, look. I think attacking citizens in our country for expressing their opinions about an issue of this magnitude may indicate some weakness in their position on the merits," he said. "And I also think it's particularly absurd for the Democrats, who have over an $8 million e-mail list over at the DNC called Organize America, to be criticizing citizens for being organized.

"Frankly, the truth of the matter is we don't know who's organized and who isn't. The point is the issue, the substance. They need to deal with it. Americans are concerned about it. "

Both Durbin and Republican Sen. John Cornyn signaled the precarious status of any “public option” in the final version of any health care legislation, with Cornyn calling the idea a deal-breaker Durbin repeating a reluctant willingness to sacrifice the idea to assure passage of a final bill. The idea is not considered likely to be included in the final Senate version of the bill, although a modified public option remains in the House version of the legislation.

Cornyn did say one possible administration proposal might have GOP support: An extension of unemployment benefits.

“I think we need to take a close look at that. We don't want to provide a disincentive to work, but where people are out of work and they need - need some help, sure. We're - we're open to that,” he said.

Filed under: Dick Durbin • Extra • John Cornyn • State of the Union
soundoff (141 Responses)
  1. Scott L

    Ha hey idiot wake up it is NOT BEING ORCHESTRATED!

    My brother is fired up and he is going to the next town hall to protest.

    Guess what? NOBODY ASKED HIM TO!

    Pelsoi needs to wake up and realize those swastikas are being directed at her and this tyrannical regime that is in office.

    Everyone so upset over the Obama Joke Socialism poster, but this was done a year earlier about Bush. Where were you same people complaining about it being disrespectful back then? HYPOCRITES!

    Stop drinking the Jim Jones cocktail! 🙂

    August 9, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  2. Its OK to lie as long as we win

    They are paid rightwing lunatic fringe people,working for the Corporate Fascists that want to keep their bonuses and golden parachutes.

    August 9, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  3. Brian

    Watching the Opposition rant, and disrupt these Town Hall meetings,
    reminds me of the Brownshirt activity in Pre Hitler Germany- Basically –They stereotype and demonize and propagandize their ignorant followers into Anti- Anything mobs. Its almost a joke hearing these people warning about the Socialist Takeover- When their Collecting Socialist welfare checks, food stamps, social security etc. and utilizing our present Socialized medicine programs of Medicaid and Medicare- You Couldn't do a better job of proving them dumber than rocks then they indeed prove themselves !!!

    August 9, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  4. WIll 18E

    Look at the older folks in the pictures, these anti socialism, social security and medicare collectors conservatives. And if the they need a the police or fire department, there going to use 911. There hypocrites.

    August 9, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  5. 4 and the door

    Instead of coming back with reasonable answers to questions being brought up by the broad opposition to this plan, the administration has chosen to try and paint the opposition as a 'conspiracy'.

    Real answers to their questions would be a much more effective way to get support. In fact, Americans will not like the answers to their questions and that is the real basis for this widespread opposition.

    August 9, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  6. fed up with politicians

    Hey Dick Durbin, you are supposed to be representing me and I for one am fed up and angry. You want to shove national health care down our throats, then post the plan in detail! Put it on a NATIONAL ballot for the country to decide. This is not something the president or congress should decide in their typical party method. This is serious business and can change the course of our nation. Yes people really are upset. Oh an I will no longer be voting for you come next election. You have shown that you cannot get past partisan politics and look at things objectively. You no longer represent the people of Illinois, you only represent the Democratic party. Sad but true. Shame on you.

    August 9, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  7. sensible Cape Coral FL

    I am suure there are many people like Scott's brother that have legitimate concrns about the Health Care Plan. However there is a polite, correct and democratic way of voicing those concerns. Screaming, yelling and insults are not among them"Me thinks he doth protest too much"

    August 9, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  8. rufus

    Oh come on Durbin ; 67 million Americans voted against you and your Messiah and his socialist power grab! They are all plotters and bad Americans ? Stop the partisan crap!

    August 9, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  9. Ray

    It's not true what the republicans are saying, they are all fabrications and you should no longer bother making an ass out of yourself acting out. Well don't stop, because I find it very very entertaining and funny all this childish stammering you are doing. My kids are smarter than you!

    There WILL BE a health care bill no matter if you like it or not. When that happens and you see nothing happened to you what will you complain about next??

    FEAR MONGERS, that's all you have ever been and that's all you will ever be.

    Republicans have only one direction = backwards and old ways.

    August 9, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  10. Tony D.

    What a coincidence, all the big mouthed people disrupting the meetings are white and over 50. Sounds like Republicans to me.

    August 9, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  11. My2cents...

    Hey Scott, if that was your idiot brother hollering there and keeping everyone else from hearing about this and asking legitamate questions...ask him when he is going to come up with something for the good of all Americans...ask him (if he so smart) why hasn't he ran for an office so that he can put his opinion in??

    Instead he wants to go to a tiny town hall meeting and beat on his chest and scream, rant and rave, just like any uneducated moron would do!!!

    August 9, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  12. joe

    People are angry, people feel they are not being heard, that always leads to passionate and albeit sometimes violent arguments. There are people that are trying to stop these town halls and it is the only outlet for a lot of outraged Americans, its not orchestrated – its human nature. There is a class of people Mr. Obama is ignoring and they want to be heard. He is not listening to all of America.

    August 9, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. Dennis

    Oh yeah there's a vast "Right Wing Conspiracy" . Who is paranoid now? The Democrats just can't believe that there are people who aren't buying what the "Messiah" is selling.

    August 9, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  14. mickey

    I am totally confused by the consternation shown by the Democrats.
    I thought that they were all for community organizers and grassroots organization of people to support agendas.

    August 9, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  15. Lois

    Of course this is all orchestrated. It is proof, once again, that the right wing, Republicans and neo cons do not know how to have civil discourse or debate. They only bully, lie and use fear tactics. Disgusting. Way to get back into office!

    August 9, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  16. MAButler

    I agree that the town hall disruptions are clearly orchestrated. Way back in 2000 I voted for McCain in the primaries. Ever since that time I have received calls from the RNC (or related groups) who think I'm a Republican. Far from it! Within the last two months (June-July 2009) I have received a questionnaire and a telephone call from Republican groups (whether one or more, I don't know) requesting my input. Clearly, the questionnaire was strongly biased against Democrats and meant to incite. I completed the questionnaire, answering the multiple-choice questions with my Democratic point of view. I became so disgusted with their rhetoric propaganda that I finally wrote all over it exactly how I felt about their questionnaire. More recently (mid-July) I received a telephone call in which someone asked me to listen to a tape-recorded message and then give my opinion. Again, this was clearly bigoted, biased verbiage specifically meant to incite hatred against Democrats. After the recording concluded, the man came back on the line and I let him know what I thought about his attempt to inflame me (since he apparently thought I was a Republican). He was a real jerk when he found out I was a Democrat! Yes, I believe that the questionnaire and the phone call I received were a direct prelude to the orchestrated town hall disruptions. Republican can dish it out, but they can't take it - hypocritical to say the least.

    August 9, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  17. best sellers list

    One of these shills will tell the truth soon in hopes of writing a book about how he or she was paid to disrupt the system for monotary gain.

    August 9, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  18. Annie, Atlanta

    Conservatives recruiting people who can barely make ends meet (a lot who appear to already be on that evil socialist program Medicare) to protest against their own best interests and on behalf of corporate greed. You can't make this stuff up. folks. It would be laughable if it wasn't so dangerous in this economic and hate filled climate.

    Why doesn't anyone get that the insurance companies are making billions, and that's in jeopardy with health care reform that forces competition? It's not that hard to understand. It's full out war and they're using lies and fear to recruit the uninformed. And they have politicians in their clutches because of needed campaign funds. Wouldn't you like to be able to buy a lawmaker? Think, people, THINK, please! Our lives depend on it.

    August 9, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  19. Seth

    Republicans are willing to see America destroyed just to make sure Obama does not succeed in anything.
    The Republicans were against everything:
    1. Against Cars for Clunkers
    2. Against the Stimulus
    3. Against the Middle Class tax cuts
    4. Against the rise in minimum wages
    5. Against helping the Car industry
    6. Against health Care, keeping it even if you lose your job.
    Remember these were the same people who were against:
    1. social Security
    2. Against Medicaid
    3. Against Medicare
    4. Against the GI bill (past and present)
    Why are southerners still supportting the Republican Party?

    August 9, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  20. babs from Denver

    It is being reported that many of the "shouters" are indeed Republicans and in many cases Republicans with strong party affiliations. Just like the "tea party" idiots, these people will do or say anything to prevent a discussion of real issues. This is the party of NO, NO to everything.

    I am upset over some of what is contained in this proposed health care reform. I would love to go to a meeting and civilly asked what about this or that provision. Unfortunately, that is not possible when the party of NO shouts and screams so that the speakers cannot be heard.

    August 9, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  21. Kevin in Ohio

    The democrats are COWARDS. They are not orchestrated in the fashion of ACORN or CODE PINK, certainly.... and maybe there IS some organization. Burt what is wrong with that? The democrats have done this forever.

    August 9, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  22. Grace

    Wasn't Obama a community organizer? What about ACORN and the war protesters? Are people like Jeremiah Wright and Cindy Sheehan the only ones allowed to be yell? I am looking for a Town Hall meeting near me-a decision I made without anyone's help, thank you. The reason why people are so angry is because these Town Hall meetings were not held BEFORE they started writing the bill. Obama, with his socialist, elitist attitude just ASSUMED Americans wanted the public option! And now he's sending Congressmen and women to Town Hall meetings to SELL his plan. Not a wise move, and now he's paying for it. The swastikas people see are for his covert propaganda, which is the same tool Hitler used to sway minds on his agenda.

    I agree that there are some rumors, such as Palin's warning that the bill will kill her kid, but alot of the "misinformation" is Obama's fault. When he says "You can keep your insurance if you like" he is only telling a half-truth. He cannot promise/GUARANTEE that his bill will not eliminate the private insurance I now have. His problem, analysts point to, is the 83% of Americans who are happy with their insurance. While I am all for helping extend coverage to everybody, I won't do it if there is a possibility it will eliminate my insurance. There are other ways, but Obama is not even looking into them. Btw, we can also have INSURANCE POLICY REFORM without the public option! Think of vouchers, think of mandating coverage-explore other possibilities and take the time without ramming it down our throats or we will get angry. Frankly, reporting people who do not agree with his healtchare plan is also downright COMMUNISTIC.

    August 9, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  23. Katie

    The truth here is that it is UNAMERICAN to disrupt the democratic process. Every American, left-wing or right-wing, has the right to hear the discussion and debate that is going on and has a right to say what they want without fear. The fact that these town hall meetings have devolved into shouting matches of JUST SAY NO is UNAMERICAN.

    August 9, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  24. babs from Denver

    Oh and this just makes me angry, there are not 67 million people in Illinois so making a statement that 67 million people voted against Durbin is ridiculous.

    As far as the fools using the term "Messiah" dream on. No one but no one, has had a more lock step Congress than George Bush. Had he handed out a Jim Jones cocktail they would have all gladly drank it.

    August 9, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  25. Fed up

    Again, it has to be orchestrated. It can't be that people are clearly seeing what is happening in DC. It can't be that people honestly don't want what is being crammed down their throats. I say let the Democrats push through their bills, with their votes only. Then the country can speak in 2010 and 2012 as to whether they agree with the Democrats' policies. This way the political party will have to take responsibility for their actions. Elect an independent, if we have to, but enough is enough. These people get up there and forget who their bosses are. Maybe they are starting to remember, because some Dems are really leery of putting their names on these votes. Do a role call vote on any bills call to a vote regarding anything.

    August 9, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
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