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Live Blogging Specter at Penn Stater

10:03: As this comes to a close, I am feeling at once hopeful and depressed.  A life of anger and hate is difficult. It is painful to see it and to have it seep into the public discourse.

CpLatspecter.jpgHowever, there are many who live in anger and fear and who are here to express the sentiments that grow out of those emotions. I hear a fear that is corrosive.

My hope comes in the way the Senator has responded and listened.  I remain concerned that he is leaving with the impression that people are strongly against reform. 

Specter remains, happily, in favor of keeping a single payer option on the table and is trying to make good decisions.

9:58: A lot of small employers have dropped insurance over the past year. Employers can’t keep up with the cost.  How would reform help with this? Specter insists that insurance companies won’t be able to drop coverage and refuse it. The plan will cut costs he says … and I hope it is strong enough to do that.

9:53: Now the question is: if you vote yes to health insurance reform, should you be held criminally culpable?  Specter says: no. Simple, elegant.

9:45: On to abortion… Happily, Specter is in favor of both life and the right to choice.

9:38: It seems that to change one’s mind about the single payer option in the face of the attempt to garner support for reform (as Obama seems to have done) is to be a lair. Specter defends the notion that we need to be flexible and make changes to our position in the face of the interests of others.  

It is frustrating to hear that the flexibility required to come to agreement is caricatured as duplicity.

9:20: A man tells a compelling story about his wife who needed a heart transplant when they had no money. They prayed on it and God answered: his VA benefits came through and she had the operation and is now healthy. 

The lesson he takes from this: government is evil, prayer is the answer.

He is against healthcare reform because he does not want government to decide to kill his wife!??

Specter makes the obvious point that the VA is a government program.

Oh, and by the way, there seems to be an Obama goon squad somewhere around here. People are worried about it, but I only see a bunch of idealistic looking Specter staffers dressed in coat and tie … and I see John Eich.

9:13:  Apparently Specter is trying to kill us when he advocates for exercise, healthy eating, and regular checkups.  Not sure how that follows, but there it is…

killlawyers.jpg9:10: It seems that the lawyers are causing all the problems in America.  Here is a sign that suggests the lawyers be killed!

This civil discourse indeed!

Specter says that he decided not to shave his head and become a sex symbol after his cancer treatment. Good choice.

9:05: There are now a few more pro reform questions being asked thoughtfully. Specter restates that the single payer plan should be on the table.  He has retained his sense of humor and recognizes that when he advocates for the rights of states, he gets a lot cheers. He predicts it before he says it.

8:55: Watching this, I am increasingly aware of the anger and fear that is animating some people in the country. These are people who genuinely feel threatened by a changing world. I hear it in the loud opposition to the very idea of global warming and any intervention by the government in the lives of individuals.

8:45: Question about public leader’s arrogance, we are apparently on the road to socialism.  The war is allegedly for American freedom. Specter says that we are not moving to socialism, the boisterous people are booing because they don’t believe him.

Specter says he favors a public option.  Says he is here to listen, but I wonder what the impression he is getting about the position of the “American people” from this meeting.  There are just a lot of angry people in this room.

8:40: Second question is from a young man whose father is a plumber without insurance. Asks what they are going to do to help him. He is clearly in favor of insurance reform. Specter says that they are working for universal health insurance (claps and boos combined) and he speaks of a co-operative program.

Specter is talking about changing parties because the Republicans were not willing to engage in a discussion about the stimulus.  He says that when he voted for the stimulus, the Republicans censored him.  He is glad to be able to vote his conscience, not on a partisan label.

8:35: Specter says that your right to free speech ends when you interrupt others trying to exercise the right to free speech. The first question is more of a filibuster than question.  The questioner wants to know “why aren’t you taking more time?” Specter says that they are taking the time to get it right.

Specter is angry and feisty.  There is a strong anger in the hall, but Specter is firm. 

theline.jpg< /span>8:25: Waiting f
or Specter, here are some pictures of the line outside the hall.  It is hard to tell who is for what, but it feels like there are a number of people here early who are against reform.  They have signs, which were not permitted into the hall.  The first 30 people were given cards to ask questions.

Specter comes enters and is talking about the anger he has seen over the past few days as he goes through PA.

Luzier.jpg8:15: I am in the hall after waiting in line for about an hour.  I had a nice talk with Joyce Luzier (shown here on right) from Phillipsburg who is supporting health insurance reform. We had a nice discussion about the importance of reform and sighed as we saw the bus of anti-reformers arrive.


  • Thanks for doing this, Chris. Hugely valuable to those of us who couldn’t make it out this morning.


    Chris- keep going with this. I’m following you all morning. I can’t tell you how much I think we are witnessing a historic ‘battle’ in this country right now.


    Chris- keep going with this. I’m following you all morning.

  • Jim Erickson says:

    Thanks Chris for taking the time for the live updates. It’s interesting to see the dynamic through your eyes. Healthcare reform is a very complex subject and your assessment that there is fear of change is an important commentary.

  • Ugh. Thanks for this, Chris. Did you see much evidence of the kind of organized tactics that folks like Freedom Works recommended? (Spread throughout the room but weighted towards the front few rows, shout then sit down, etc.) One of my interests is democratic deliberation, and I’m pretty fascinated by the question of organized anti-deliberative activism….

  • Josh, the tactics you mention were used to a degree. There was not so much disrupting by standing, although there was frequent shouting in disagreement.
    One of the tactics of which I read, I did witness. This involved stacking the front rows (I was in the fourth row and was not one of the first 30 who were permitted to ask questions), asking a prepared question and then following up the answer with “I don’t believe you.” That line received much applause from the faithful.
    I came away with the sense that the underlying political ideology fueling these people is that of libertarianism. There was much talk of liberty and getting government out of our lives altogether. Even Bush came under attack for deficit spending by some of them.
    I will post more as I reflect on the experience. Plus, I will post some video later in the afternoon.

  • Janet Filing says:

    Healthcare Reform is vital for us all. Sadly,I feel this to be a concerted effort to attempt to undo our President. I hope it does not work. Now is the time and place for this to happen.
    Chris, I am very grateful to you for this update. Were Val, Chloe,and Hannah with you? Hope so because they have been All The Way With Obama and he needs us all now. Jan

  • Joyce Luzier says:

    Hi Chris, Thanks for including me in your blog! I’m so glad I have met you. It made it a lot more interesting to have someone to talk to who understood what was going on with all the anger, etc.
    I was so impressed with Senator Specter that he was able to keep his cool with all the shouting and name calling going on. He is a very strong, intelligent, thoughtful man who really cares for people.

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