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. S Callahan

    I think we have a right to know 'what' is in the Health Care package...clearly there are vast resources in America so that everyone can have good health care....but when it trumps someone's value system that is where the conflict comes in. I personally don't want a clause for payment for abortions...does that take away from the right to an it just drops the taxpaper from being fianancer. I have a chronic illness that is managed proactive...but when that day does comes and I'm ready to leave this beautfiul earth..I want it to be my choice through my Maker..and not the Goverments...those are very personal and sensitive issues. So what is holding up the agenda from honestly addressing them.

    August 9, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. Bruce P

    I can think about all the protests from the liberals over the years....yelling and screaming about wars, nuclear energy, gas, trees...the list goes on and on....I guess their yelling during speeches and other events is ok...I guess we should have gotten their permission before we actually did something that they do regularly.

    August 9, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. the one

    it comes down to one thing "he doesnt look like them" why whould the right wing keep saying he wasnt born here, and people saying they will "break him" doesnt that sound like what the slave master said to the slaves. please get over it the man is trying to help. i have good health care right now and still dont go to the doc because i know they will send to to half ass place to get more care, but a white man with the some health care as me will get better care , this is a fact (as shown on CNN) this is what they need to refrom frist so it will be totaly eqaul. My mother went to the doc to get her tonsil removed on a monday by wednesday she was very sick my grand mother call to say something was wrong the doc say she was "babeing her" and the insurance company didnt think she needed the meds she died on that friday, SO TO ALL YOU RIGHT WING PEOPLE OUT THERE UNTIL YOU HAVE SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPEN TO YOU, YOU WANT UNDERSTAND WHY WE NEED HEALTH CARE REFORM NOW!!!!!

    August 9, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |

    When the press does not go beyond the flash of the angry mob to find out what is behind it they are part of the PROBLEM. SHAME on CNN for making it look like mob rule is the way to go. True all points of view must be expressed and LISTENED TOO, but MOB SHOUT DOWNS is not productinve and does not allow otheres a chance to ask questions and get answers. JUST BECAUSE the answeer given is not what YOU WANT TO HEAR does not make it a LIE. It is an ANSWER you can either folloow up or do more research but to say the people are lieing because it is not in line with your pooint of view is NOT THE WAY TO CONDUCT TOWN HAL MEETINGS

    August 9, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. Independent

    I really think the goal of the right-wing white mob is to get someone seriously hurt or killed with their child-like ignorant behaviour

    August 9, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  6. annie for Palin

    Maybe people scream and shout because the people in congress who are suppose to be working for us totally ignore us!!! Maybe these so-called politicians should start wearing hearing aids! So let me see if I understand this – it is wrong for REAL AMERICAN TAXPAYERS to questioned an obama proposal BUT it is okay for obama to organize and send out (to these townhall meetings) acorn and seiu (which is how you call hogs) or it is okay for him to send Black Panthers to polling places but 'we the people' are basically told to shutup?

    August 9, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  7. buddy

    Why is being Republican equated with being ignorant and racist to so many of the respondents? Having a different opinion doesn't mean mine is right and yours is wrong or vice versa; it's just different. It would be nice to read a civil discourse on the topics without slamming one another. I have not read(entirely) the proposed bill, so I do have to rely on others for some of the specifics. Because this bill will affect me, my family, and so many others, we need to get it right.

    August 9, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  8. Marion

    I don't care whether it's orchestrated or not. There's nothing wrong with one side or another urging their people to show up. Is that being orchestrated? I don't know, but we've been doing that for the entire history of this country.

    HOWEVER, when these people, no matter their position, start screaming in order to prevent others from speaking and listening, that's wrong. You have the right to free speech, but you don't have the right to scream your opinions into my ear. That is beyond rude.

    Health care reform is a complicated issue, and there are many different opinions. I've learned a lot and gained a different perspective just listening to my wife, who is a medical student. I don't know exactly what kind of reform I think is best, but I'm trying to work through this, but I'll tell you one thing: The people screaming their slogans haven't given me one bit of insight I didn't already have. If you think you're going to convince me of anything by acting like two-year-olds, then you're wrong. When you can grow up and behave like adults, then maybe I'll listen to what you have to say.

    August 9, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  9. pt

    If they are creating chaos, then the Republicans are finally starting to do the same things the Democrats have perfected and bragged about for years.
    Hint: Politicians, putting down people about their very real fears while not providing any undeniable proof tends to make people not trust you. Simple talk will not set aside these feelings in their "gut" and hearts.

    August 9, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  10. A conservative organization ???

    Patients First is a project of Americans for Prosperity–one of the key conservative interests groups helping to organize the town hall protests we've been covering. The speaker repeats the debunked conservative canard that Democratic health care reform will mandate physician assisted suicide. "Adolf Hitler issued six million end of life orders–he called his program the final solution. I kind of wonder what we're going to call ours."

    August 9, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  11. Joseph

    These idiots interrupted local town halls here in the St. Louis area as well. Screaming, yelling and blocking community dialog is not free speech. It is an intrusion on free speech.

    Republicans need to wake up and realize the voices of all citizens need to be heard. Rush, Sean and other commentators are just that: COMMENTATORS. They routinely break well known rules of respectful debate on their programs. They are a mockery of the word communication. Rather, they spew whatever garbage they want.

    Paid commentators is all they are. Collectively ignoring them is the right thing to do.

    August 9, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  12. usualone

    Some of these people are "plants" obviously and others are naive enough to be worked up by their comments. That is why some don't believe the "orchestration" claims. There were times when people would be bused to Washington to lobby Congress and they didn't even know what the issues were. They were promised free lunches. There is no reason to think this practice doesn't still exist and even operates in the states. The public needs to really read the issues and don't have knee jerk responses.

    August 9, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  13. Illinoistom

    So we're supposed to believe an unnamed lobbyist in Washington from Texas is behind all the protests of HR 3200..... and selling $100,000 of stock a day after a closed door meeting with Bernanke and Paulson is completely innocent. Dick, you're credibility gap widens by the day.

    August 9, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  14. Bill in Ct.

    I just love the way some of you on here and the media will try and tell people that this isn't orchestrated by the GOP and the insurance companies when there's a memo out here that clearly tells the people on the right what to do at these town halls. You see it all around the country, this play book in action. SHOUT, SCREAM, do what ever you can to stop the meeting from going ahead. These people out here that are doing it, I think it's a crying SHAME, that they do not realize that the insurance companies and the GOP are using them. If there is no reform, it will be business as usual for the insurance company. Denying people heath care, rising perm., most of their pay going to heath care, people losing their homes b/c of a health problem, and the insurance companies raking in hugh profits. So just keep doing what you're doing and when the day comes when they need that health care insurance, they'll be denied coverage from that some insurance company that their out here fighting for.

    August 9, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  15. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    The democrats think the American people (or the peasants, as they like to think of them) are so stupid and simple-minded that they are totally incapable of independent thought. Therefore, anytime they offer any resistance to or even question their left-wing socialist plans, the democrats automatically assume there must be an organization behind it telling them what to say and what to think. What a bunch of brain-dead idiots the democrats think we are. I can't wait until November 2010.

    August 9, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  16. Dave

    Rather than stopping town halls or doing "phone" town halls why can't they just implement simple rules of etiquette. You only speak when you have the microphone or you have to leave.

    August 9, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  17. Loup Garou 782

    I was witness to senator Durbins Nazi style democracy as I watched a video of obamas SEIU thugs, one of them walking around with a baton. They beat a young man and sent him to the hospital for distributing flags outside a meeting. obama uses nazi tactics while Pelosi calls Republicans nazis, Joe McCarthy where are you now when we need you.
    I'm ready for the return of David Duke.

    August 9, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  18. MatthewDetroit


    Democrats in the House order eight G5 Gulfstream jets for $550 million that will be used by the Pentagon to ferry around VIPs in Congress - even though the Pentagon says it does not need or want the planes. The response from the White House is silence. Democrats in the House make a down payment on 12 F-22s for the Air Force at a cost of $369 million and the White House threatens to veto the defense authorization bill and successfully defeats the funding. Just in case you had any doubt about this administration's spending priorities, as far as Obama is concerned the Congress can spend trillions on anything it wants. But he draws a line in the sand when it comes to providing our troops with the best equipment money can buy.

    August 9, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  19. benny

    Since this "movement" is being orchestrated and led by disgruntled Evangelistic, Conservative Republicans, - WHAT WOULD JESUS SAY????? Jesus said we MUST take care of widows and orphans, and feed and shelter the "poor"!! Being the RICH people the Evangelistic Right is, they certainly aren't practicing what the Bible preaches!!! An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth - AND WE ALL WILL BE BLIND AND TOOTHLESS!!!!!

    August 9, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  20. Neutralizer

    Sweeney, the head of AFL-CIO are asking all union members to go every Town Hall Meetings and silence anyone against Obambi socialized medicine; SEIU did just that during Russ Carnahan Town Hall Meeting. They've attacked people against socialized medicine of Obambi.

    You combine the worst of Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon, you'll have Barack Hussein Obama.

    August 9, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  21. America Shrugged

    Good job Mike A...Ive seen those very same passages as you posted, out there on the net. Oddly enough, I don't think you've read the bill either and think copy n paste will make it look like you have. I'm wading through the bill, and because of the way it's written, sure, it's confusing, but don't use that as an excuse to interpret the bill to fit your ideology. This is one of 4 or 5 proposals coming out of the house, and there isn't a bill yet from the Senate. Sen Durbin is correct..Freedomworks and conservatives for patient rights are behind this as well as the 60+ association..Go to their websites..Its all there, including who is on the boards of these groups. This is a concerted effort not to fix healthcare, but to destroy Obama, kill healthcare reform and make it his waterloo. Shame this is what America has become.

    August 9, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  22. Bpin

    The point that is missing among these jarhead congressmen is that is that more than ever the general American public has no say and are ignored. This will pass in some fashion and we will have to deal with it. End of story. The most powerful option that US citizens have is with that little lever at the voting booth (or do we even have those anymore). I believe that many US citizens are about to show these worthless crooks just how they feel about what is going on. Bush was horrible, Obama is horrible, hopefully by the grace of God some others that are running will really help us.

    August 9, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  23. annie s

    The irony is that some of these people showing up to protest don't even understand they are manipulated by the very people they should be standing against – people like Rick Scott, whose former for-profit hospital chain was fined 1.7 billions for submitting fraudulent Medicare claims!

    August 9, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  24. annie s

    We've already lost – so I hope all you pathetic selfish conservatives are happy. Without a public health option we have nothing except a way for the for-profit insurers to continue their obscene fees while they continue to deny and ration care. What an absolute disgrace that this "greatest country in the world" can't manage to deliver to its citizens what every other industrialized nation can – peace of mind that they will have access to medical care if an illness strikes and that it won't destroy them financially.

    August 9, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  25. Sam

    You conservatives are so naive to think that this current bill is government run health care. Its reform, so that everyone has access to affordable heath care. You can keep the current plan you have, or choose to switch, If you don't have health care, you can get it if you wish. If you actually had an independent mind instead of acting like cattle, you would read the bill yourself and then go to a community meeting with questions, not the pitch forks and torches you carry now. Go to I just find it funny that this is supposed to be the best country on earth, yet we are the 37th ranked on the WHO's ranking of health systems. And you people that claim that is socialism and that socialism and communism are bad... Next time you go to Walmart buy something that wasn't made in communist China. Also, these people disrupting the town halls, what gives them the right to stamp out another person right to free speech?

    August 9, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6