Web Ad Features Kratovil

Democrats Focus On Claims About Health Care Protests

August 06, 2009|By Paul West | Paul West,paul.west@baltsun.com

Washington - -A photograph of Maryland Rep. Frank Kratovil Jr. being hanged in effigy is prominently featured in a new national Democratic Party Web video that claims that public outbursts over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul plan are being manufactured by opponents.

The anti-Kratovil episode, during a small protest outside his Salisbury district office last week, gained notice at the time on the Internet and in the local news media. But the Democratic Party ad, and related comments by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, figure to generate wider, and unwanted, attention on the freshman lawmaker, already one of the most vulnerable House Democrats in the country.

Kratovil spokesman Kevin Lawlor, who spoke with the protesters on July 27 in the shadow of the effigy of his boss, said the congressman had not yet seen the Web video, produced by the Democratic National Committee.

The aide said that the Eastern Shore representative values the opportunity to talk with his constituents and "he can put up with people who do what many would say crosses the line."

Like other House Democrats in Maryland and elsewhere, Kratovil has encountered shouting critics of the Obama plan at public meetings over the past week. Kratovil is opposed to the health care proposal as currently drafted but hasn't ruled out supporting a revised version.

On Wednesday, the major parties escalated their charges about the outbursts at recent public meetings held by Democratic lawmakers.

The DNC, in a press release that also featured the Kratovil effigy image, said the "anti-reform mobs" are being "organized and largely paid for by Washington special interests and insurance companies who are desperate to block reform."

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele responded heatedly to the claim that conservative Republicans are orchestrating the protests.

"To sit back and say this is some Republican cabal is a bunch of baloney," the former Maryland lieutenant governor told reporters.

The RNC released a Web ad of its own, which wrote off Obama's presidency as "a failed experiment in just 200 days."

Steele said it was "a lie" for Democrats to label Obama's critics as "angry extremists," when just a year ago, Democrats were praising opponents of U.S. economic and war policies for standing up to President George W. Bush.

The "angry extremist" tag comes from the new Democratic Web ad. It features photos of Steele, Republican congressional leaders and Rush Limbaugh (who is heard saying, of Obama, "I hope he fails.") and blames "desperate Republicans" for disrupting public meetings held by House Democrats.

White House spokesman Gibbs referred this week to the Kratovil incident as the administration tried to push back against the sometimes angry protests by portraying them as an orchestrated campaign, rather than a genuine expression of grassroots anger.

With polls showing a drop in public support for the overhaul plan, Democratic leaders want the party's congressmen and senators to spend their August recess defending the administration proposal and accusing the insurance industry of blocking efforts to fix the health care system.

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