The risks with health care town halls

Marketplace Staff Aug 5, 2009
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The risks with health care town halls

Marketplace Staff Aug 5, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: Members of congress are heading home for their August recess, which means the health care debate
might be coming to a town hall near you. Reporter Tamara Keith says those town hall meetings can get more exciting than anyone planned.


TAMARA KEITH: There are talking points, and web strategies, and carefully choreographed town hall meetings. But when you’re in a community rec room with a couple hundred people, things can get out of hand.

HEALTH CARE TOWN HALL VIDEO: Just say no, just say no.

This is video from a health care town hall held by Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett last weekend. It’s been viewed on YouTube about 400,000 times. Conservative or liberal, it’s pretty easy for activists to stack a town hall meeting. Which might explain why strategists are suggesting members try telephone town halls. Jack Pitney is a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.

JACK PITNEY: If I were a member of Congress, I’d be tempted to go the telephone town hall route. The only trouble is if you do that exclusively you expose yourself to the charge that you’re ducking from your constituents and that can be politically harmful too.

He says members of Congress face the risk of either being branded as cowards, or showing up on YouTube in an embarrassing video.

In Washington, I’m Tamara Keith for Marketplace.

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