At Rick Larsen's Town Hall Meeting

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I went to the health care town hall meeting in Mount Vernon today. It's hard to tell how many people were for or against H.R. 3200 ... all I know is there were a ton of people. The facilities held about 150 people, I was told; outside on the lawn, with a speaker so people could hear, were several hundred more. Here's my quick two-minute video of the event (from the outside ... if you are going to the Everett meeting next week, get there at least two or three hours early, if you want to get inside).

On the theme of civility, I had some pleasant discussions with people who clearly disagreed with me about health care. I think I was able to explain my views and how they come from my first principles, how liberty must be respected; and I told them I understood they just wanted health care for everyone, no matter how it happened. Once they understood that, it made it easier to see why I believed the current plan was bad news. I don't know how much they really understood, but at the very least, some of them didn't walk away thinking all people who oppose health care are evil, selfish, people. And that's progress.

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) handled himself well. He helped keep the tone of the meeting civil -- mostly -- and open to all views (except the view that Obama is a Nazi), despite the vast differences of opinions and high-running emotions. He was asked a lot of questions about the plan, and he gave specific and factual answers (he noted that he read the whole bill, which is believable; the question is whether he understood it all, and I doubt anyone does). He even gave his own views about some things, except for the view most people wanted to know: whether he would vote for this bill (assuming it didn't change). He said he hadn't decided, which, frankly, I don't believe.

Larsen spoke favorably of much in the bill, and expressed misgivings about some things, like the public option. He candidly said he had no answer for a question of how the government could possibly do the job of managing these programs efficiently. But, he said, he liked a lot of other things in the bill, such as fixing Medicare payments and ending the practice of rescission (except in demonstrated cases of fraud).

The crowd was mostly attentive to what Larsen and his questioners were saying, and only occasionally let out a cry of approval or disapproval. A bunch of different people had signs, for and against the public option, and single payer health care, and higher taxes and so on. A typical civil, and opinionated, Northwest crowd.

The most notable signs -- Larsen, as noted above, singled them out disapprovingly -- featured Obama wearing a Hitler moustache. The people with these signs also handed out pamphlets with Obama and Hitler together. Now, this wasn't from any Republican or conservative group, but from the PAC for Lyndon LaRouche, ex-con and professional kook.

There was also a great big sign featuring a full-color aborted fetus, with the words, "Democrats vote for abortion rights." And then a woman decided she disliked the sign enough to try to do something about it, and she stood in front of them with her own sign to block it. Her sign was much smaller, so I guess it was just the symbolism of obstructing someone else's freedom of speech that appealed to her. Her name is Catherine Chambers, she is a Democrat running for Bellingham City Council, and she says on her web site that she understands "that the council is a non-partisan position and as such I will bring forth all of my experience working with diverse people and ideas." Unless they are ideas that -- as an endorsee of NARAL, I suppose -- she dislikes.

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"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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