Specter Uses Teabaggered Health Care Town Hall to Court Progressives, Finesse Sestak

Crossposted from OpEdNews.com

On Sunday, PA senator Arlen Specter and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke at a town hall held at Philadelphia's Constitution Center.

It was not pretty. About 400 people showed up. About 70-100 of them were teabaggers -- right wingers, some of them Anne-Coulter-Ugly lookalikes -- who went there with the intention of disrupting the conversation. They were somewhat successful.

That didn't stop Sebelius and Specter from accomplishing their goals. Sebelius wanted to get the message out that the reform would make things better. Specter wanted to boost his campaign as a democrat running in PA.

The town hall started late, with the speakers showing up about 10 after 3:00. After precursory introductions by the head of the constitution center, we were informed that the Q and A session would last until 4:00. That gave us 42 minutes of "conversation."

The problem was, the teabagger right wingers, wearing bumper-stickers stating "Tell Washington No" were screaming and bellowing so loudly, it was hard to hear anything.

Before the town hall started, I circulated among some of these bumper-sticker wearers and displayers. Knowing they were right wingers, I chose a different tack. I asked them, "Do you believe Obama is a citizen." About nine out of the ten people I asked said "No," emphatically. The tenth said she thought he was a citizen but not an American, because he was raised outside the US.

Town halls are supposed to be about dialogue and conversation. These people were not in attendance for that reason. They booed when Specter and Sebelius walked out on the stage. They booed at almost anything they said.

When people were invited to line up to ask questions, a huge line-up of mostly angry right wingers queued up to ask their questions. Most were talking points taken right off the pages of the right wingers in DC.

Sebelius did a brilliant job spinning answers to the tough questions, putting health care reform in a positive light.

Specter started off by saying that he thought Single Payer should be on the table. He didn't say it once. He repeated it several times. I think it's a strategic move -- a smart one. Two weeks ago, Joe Sestak, who announced that he'll be running against Specter in the PA Senate primary, voted against a committee amendment offered by Dennis Kucinich, which called for giving states the right to pursue single payer insurance solutions without being hampered by ERISA regulations. That puts Sestak, so far, squarely opposed to single-payer. Sunday's statement by Specter put him somewhat on the good side of single-payer supporters -- the position most progressives in PA take.

Does that mean Specter will support Single-Payer if it comes up for a vote? We don't know the answer. No-one asked at the town hall. But there is a single payer health bill in the senate. Specter announced that he'll be visiting all 67 counties in PA during the coming months. Someone should ask him, if he thinks single payer should be on the table, why he isn't a signatory on the senate's single payer bill?

It's a smart move for Specter to take a seemingly more progressive stance on health care than Sestak.

Now, smart progressives should nail Specter down on where he really stands.

After the town hall, the teabaggers gathered outside with signs.