At the Capitol Hill rally against nationalized health care on Thursday, talk-radio host and author Mark Levin talked to the press: "These are citizen patriots out here, and I’m tired of them being smeared." Some didn’t get the message. In Friday’s Washington Post, columnist Dana Milbank played the usual game of quoting the wackiest signs and smearing thousands of people with them.
His column’s title was "No one said freedom was pretty." On the homepage of the Post website, it said: "Milbank: Michele Bachmann's anti-health reform event brings out the party of no taste." Here’s a sample of Milbank’s account:
In the front of the protest, a sign showed President Obama in white coat, his face painted to look like the Joker. The sign, visible to the lawmakers as they looked into the cameras, carried a plea to "Stop Obamunism." A few steps farther was the guy holding a sign announcing "Obama takes his orders from the Rothchilds" [sic], accusing Obama of being part of a Jewish plot to introduce the antichrist.
But the best of Bachmann's recruits were a few rows into the crowd, holding aloft a pair of 5-by-8-foot banners proclaiming "National Socialist Healthcare, Dachau, Germany, 1945." Both banners showed close-up photographs of Holocaust victims, many of them children....
"Who knew a casual comment on TV could generate this?" Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.) exulted as he stood in front of the Dachau banner.
Now, objecting to the health-care bill is one thing. But doesn't it send the wrong message for House Republicans to hold an event on the Capitol grounds full of hateful and gruesome words and images?
Milbank singled out anti-abortion protests with their bloody-fetus references. Question to Milbank: if abortion images are gruesome, aren’t pro-abortion policies the accomplishment of those gruesome images?
A week ago, Democrats had a tiny health-care rally on the Hill. Milbank also chronicled that one wearing his typical jester’s hat. But once again, he was upset at the tastelessness of anti-abortion protesters:
But for all the precautions, policy pep rallies have a way of taking unwanted turns, and Thursday's did so almost immediately after Pelosi stepped to the microphone. "Nancy Pelosi, you'll burn in hell for this," said a voice, amplified by a bullhorn, from about 50 yards away.
"Thank you, insurance companies of America," Pelosi replied to the man. Actually, they were abortion protesters, and they were loud.
"In this legislation, we will immediately begin to close the doughnut hole," the speaker proclaimed.
"We won't pay for murder!" a heckler heckled.
"Prevention and wellness are an important part of this legislation," the speaker declared.
"We won't pay for murder!" the heckler repeated. Finally, police were able to silence the activists, who held a gruesome poster showing an aborted fetus and signs demanding "Kill the bill."
Milbank pointed out that this rally had almost no attendance, aside from a smattering of Hill staffers. But at this one, Milbank’s incessant snarkiness broke, and he was moved:
Still, there were moving moments, as when Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (Ohio) spoke of her battle with multiple sclerosis. And Rep. John Dingell (Mich.), who succeeded his father in Congress in 1955, recalled the birth of Medicare in 1965.
"I did have the privilege of sitting in the chair when we passed Medicare," he said, and "I used this here gavel to preside over the House." The audience gave a hearty cheer this time when he held up the instrument. "And I'm going to lend it to whoever it is who gets to preside over this legislation, because a good piece of wood doesn't wear out with one great event."
It was a powerful image.
The only thing that ruined the liberal-Democrat nostalgia for him was U2 background music.