Citizens opposed to Obama's health-care overhaul are not only white, irritable, and angry, as the New York Times has confirmed in two front-page stories -- they're ignorant as well.
That's the new wrinkle reporter David Stout brings to the debate, in his web-only report Wednesday afternoon on congressional town hall meetings across the country dominated by health-care concerns, "For Lawmakers, Health-Plan Anger Keeps Coming."
Lawmakers ran into fresh anger and skepticism on Wednesday as they fielded questions from constituents worried about changes in the health care system, and about a lot of other things having to do with government.
The queries hurled at legislators from the Atlantic Seaboard to the nation's midsection reflected deep-seated fears, a general suspicion of government and, in some cases, a lack of knowledge on the part of the questioners.
"Why does the government want to rush into this bill when many don't want it?" Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, was asked at a "town meeting" in Hagerstown. "Why are you rushing this?"
Calmly, the senator replied in a snippet shown on CNN, "We've got to take as much time as we need to get it right." And he added, "The status quo is unacceptable."
Stout raised a picky and condescending objection (and avoided the fact that Democrats control the House, Senate, and presidency):
The senator was too polite (or intent on survival) to correct his questioner by pointing out that there is not one bill yet, but rather several proposals working their way through five committees in both houses of Congress, and that to talk of "the government" as a single entity makes no sense, at least in this context, because of the divisions between Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, Capitol Hill and the White House.
The Times never went to such great lengths to correct left-wing anti-war protesters who carried "No Blood for Oil!" signs, or called President Bush a fascist.
Stout returned to the theme of ignorant constituents:
Senator Arlen Specter, the Republican-turned-Democrat from Pennsylvania, endured another day of hostile, sometimes fact-defying questions at a town meeting in State College, Pa., The Associated Press reported.
Stout also referred to "groundless assertions that health-care legislation would call for 'death panels' to determine who lives and dies (the AARP, the lobby for older Americans, calls such charges 'lies')."
The Times has bluntly called the "death panels" idea (first circulated on a Facebook post by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin) false on several occasions. Yet some liberal supporters of health care reform aren't so quick to dismiss concerns about allowing Medicare to pay for end-of-life counseling in the name of cutting costs.
Columnist Eugene Robinson and editorial writer Charles Lane of the Washington Post, while slamming Palin's "death panels" language as misleading and over-the-top, have also voiced qualms.
Though not mandatory, as some on the right have claimed, the consultations envisioned in Section 1233 aren't quite "purely voluntary," as Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) asserts. To me, "purely voluntary" means "not unless the patient requests one." Section 1233, however, lets doctors initiate the chat and gives them an incentive -- money -- to do so. Indeed, that's an incentive to insist. Patients may refuse without penalty, but many will bow to white-coated authority.