Dacula Town Hall Remarks Generate National Controversy

Rep. Rob Woodall’s comments regarding the GOP Medicare reform plan have been criticized by national media. MoveOn.org’s Gwinnett chapter mobilized members to attend the meeting and pose questions.

Remarks made by Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA-07) at a May 21 town hall meeting in Dacula have generated national controversy after excerpts were published in an article on the Huffington Post.

The Huffington Post article focused on Rep. Woodall’s response to a comment regarding post-retirement medical benefits.

"The private corporation that I retired from does not give medical benefits to retirees," a town hall attendee remarked to Woodall.

"Hear yourself, ma'am. Hear yourself," Woodall replied. “It’s just a difference of opinion. We can agree to disagree. You want your government benefits. You want the government to take care of you because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, 'When do I decide I'm going to take care of me?'"

Woodall’s response was met by a standing ovation from the largely conservative crowd of about 75 people. The local enthusiastic response for that and other Woodall statements was not shared by some national news commentators.

“That sounds like he’s telling would-be Medicare recipients whose employer isn’t supplying insurance for retirees that they should fend for themselves, which seems decidedly off the GOP message,” wrote Greg Sargent in a May 24 Washington Post opinion piece.

The afternoon of May 24, Sargent wrote another piece referencing a comment from the town hall meeting in which Woodall criticized socialized medicine.

"If you want a socialized health care program, there are lots of places to find that," Woodall said. "But, for your children's sake, I beg you: There aren't many places to find the freedom to succeed by the sweat of your brow like we have here.”

Sargent wrote, “The whole episode struck me as the sort of moment that Dems would seize on as a revelatory one.”

In his article, Sargent included a statement from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who Sargent described as “the Dem messaging chief”: “No matter how hard you’ve worked your whole life, no matter how severe your medical hardship, the Republican motto is clear: you’re on your own. This lays bare the ideology behind their goal of ending of Medicare as we know it.”

According to Sargent, the from Saturday’s town hall meeting was circulated to reporters by the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

“It’s always hard to predict what sort of moment will become an iconic one,” Sargent wrote. “But the DNC just circulated the exchange to reporters moments ago, and I’m told more Dems may pounce on it, so at the very least, it could get some cable play.”

Joining the Washington Post and the Huffington Post in seizing upon the town hall exchange were numerous bloggers including Joan McCarter of the Daily Kos and Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly.

In his blog post, Benen described Woodall as an “extremist” and opined that his remarks came “at the intersection of candor, callousness, and conservatism.”

Several Woodall supporters in attendance at Saturday’s town hall meeting disagreed with Benen’s assessment.

said Rep. Woodall defended his conservative Republican values well.

“He believes in individual responsibility, smaller federal government, and understands that no government that spends more than it takes in can long remain viable,” Wilbanks said. “I was disappointed in the fact that other issues besides health care were not addressed by the audience. Obviously health care was on the mind of those in attendance. When mandated spending exceeds total income, we are in trouble as a country. I thought Rep. Woodall made that point well. I believe that Rep. Woodall’s values reflect the great majority of voters in the 7th District of Georgia, both Republicans and Democrats alike.”

Dacula resident Vanessa Green also had a favorable opinion of Rep. Woodall’s remarks.

“He was his usual, gracious, patient self,” Green said. “He answered all their questions to the nth degree. He was respectful to the audience. There was no anger, no dismissive attitude.”

Green however was angered and concerned that representatives from MoveOn.org were in the audience.

“I was told they were there,” Green said. “I don’t want them here. They don’t belong here.”

MoveOn.org, a political action group, has called upon its members to “help in the fight to save Medicare.”

A statement posted on the MoveOn.org website boasts, “MoveOn members across the country are already taking action to save Medicare by stirring up Republican town hall meetings. And it's working. The press is hot on the story, with the front page of The New York Times declaring: ‘Voters Attack Republicans on Medicare.’ We have to seize this moment, and to do that we need to deepen our campaign against the Republicans' horror budget and their plan to kill Medicare.”

The Gwinnett chapter of MoveOn.org called for members to attend Saturday’s town hall meeting and has since posted the following statement on their website: “Last week, MoveOnGwinnett (MOG) organized an action at Representative Woodall's Dacula town hall meeting ... MOG members met prior to the meeting and went over the plan to focus on the Medicare issue.”

The MOG website also included a link to the Huffington Post’s coverage of the meeting.

said he spoke with a man claiming to be a representative of MoveOn.org. Reeves said he initially thought the man was a media representative and asked him which news organization he represented.

“He replied ‘We're from MoveOn.org.’ He didn't say ‘I,’ but he said ‘we’,” Reeves said.

Attempts to reach a representative of MoveOn.org for comment were unsuccessful.

Despite the presence of representatives from MoveOn.org, Jennifer Drogus, director of communications for Rep. Woodall's office -- like the majority of those in attendance at Saturday’s meeting -- thought the town hall went very well.

“Some people went in with partisan, leftist scare tactics on the brain,” Drogus said. “I think folks left better informed.”

According to GOP lawmakers, proposed Medicare reform changes would not affect those currently 55 years of age or older. Under the proposal, eligible recipients would receive a federal voucher or subsidy for use towards the purchase of a private insurance plan. If the reform proposal is enacted, private insurers -- not the federal government -- would issue payments for medical care and compete for business from those covered under the plan.

Rep. Woodall said the goal of the Medicare reform proposal is to keep the program solvent.

“I know Medicare isn’t going to be there for me if we don’t make changes,” he said. “I know Medicare might be there if do we make changes.”

JonJon May 25, 2011 at 10:36 PM
Watch the actual town hall meeting in youtube. Doesn't look good for the congressman saying he wants his free healthcare from the government but doesn't want it for anybody else. http://youtu.be/HUtKrApIH8c
Timothy Hammond May 26, 2011 at 02:36 PM
So Woodall is rich because he has an opinion different than yours??? A typical liberal/socialist comment!
John Cook May 26, 2011 at 11:42 PM
It's a shame that the moveon people went there with an agenda. If they had listened to what Woodall actually said instead of trying to get a partial quote to use as a soundbite, they might have learned something that would benefit us all. They didn't go to listen, so they didn't hear what was said.
Brian Crawford May 27, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Wow, just wow. This has got to be one of the most unbalanced "news" articles I've ever read. This is a great promo piece for Rob Woodall and "Ryancare". I was stunned by the the following exchange: << Dacula resident Vanessa Green also had a favorable opinion of Rep. Woodall’s remarks. “He was his usual, gracious, patient self,” Green said. “He answered all their questions to the nth degree. He was respectful to the audience. There was no anger, no dismissive attitude.” Green however was angered and concerned that representatives from MoveOn.org were in the audience. “I was told they were there,” Green said. “I don’t want them here. They don’t belong here.” >> So citizens involved in the democratic process by organizing within their community don't belong at a town hall meeting conducted by their democratically elected representative? Huh? What Editor Reed fails to disclose is that Vanessa Green is the Co-Director of Communications, Public Affairs and Web Technology (gosh that's a lot of directing) for a libertarian leaning grassroots organization named C.H.A.R.G.E. (Citizens Helping America Restore Government Ethics) that has ties to Representative Woodall. In fact later on the evening of the town hall, Woodall attended a C.H.A.R.G.E social event with Ms. Green who is also a frequent flyer on his FB page. I would love to know if Rep Woodall supports Ms. Green's assertion that groups like MoveOn.org don't belong in our democratic process?
Jimmy Orr May 27, 2011 at 06:03 PM
Brian, did you mean democratic process or socialist process? Isn't socialism what MoveOn.org is all about? Isn't the intent of MoveOn.org dedicated to eliminating our capitalistic market driven system of free enterprise? Of course MoveOn.org is always welcomed at our town hall meetings to participate in our democratic process. After your attendance, we always look forward to your latest distortions.
Diane May 27, 2011 at 06:45 PM
Let me get this straight. If you don't agree with the "Patch People" and the editor, you are a socialist. Some people just like to talk to hear their own voice.
Dave Emanuel May 27, 2011 at 09:51 PM
Town Hall meetings such as those organized by Mr. Woodall, are intended to provide a forum for discussions between an elected official and constituents. When outside agitators attend such meetings, which is their right, they compromise the original intent, and deprive constituents of full use of such forums. This is all part of the political process, but as a constituent, MS. Green has as much right to object to attendance by outside agitators, as those agitators have rights to attend. Had MoveOn representatives attended in an effort participate in honest discussion, I'm sure Ms. Green and others would not have objected so strongly. But honest discussion has never proven to be part of MoveOn's agenda.
Brian Crawford May 28, 2011 at 03:40 AM
@Emanuel. Outside agitators? These are members of your community. The purpose of Town Hall meetings is to hear all sides of an issue so that the body politic can decide the best solution. They're not intended to be two hour infomercials for partisan policy positions. Ms. Green has no right to suggest that certain members of the community should be excluded from participating in their democracy just because they belong to a particular civic organization. . Who do you want to ban next, the Kiwanis Club?
Really? Really? May 28, 2011 at 05:42 PM
Uh no, Timmy. He's rich because he's rich. It's known as a "fact", so you are gonna have a hard time with it. Or maybe you're saying that everyone making $180k per year should be eligible for public health care? But who will pay for it, Timmy?
Really? Really? May 28, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Brilliant, Jimmy. Just brilliant. The guy embarrasses himself and is now a national joke......and it was some kind of "gotcha". Again? Another "gotcha" on a smart conservative? How can that keep happening?
Really? Really? May 28, 2011 at 05:46 PM
The audio is there for anyone to listen to, Johnny. Why don't you paraphrase what he said for our benefit?
Really? Really? May 28, 2011 at 05:47 PM
The public process is only for old white people to wear flag clothes and scream at. How dare the rest of the public show up with questions and all that stuff.
Really? Really? May 28, 2011 at 05:48 PM
Something tells me you were OK with the Tea Party jokes doing the same thing though.
Really? Really? May 28, 2011 at 05:54 PM
Hilarious! You watched Woodall make a fool of himself, over and over, and you blame it on MoveOn.org? He's a socialist, by your definition. You won't need any kind of statue of yourself for a memorial, you can use your actual rock head. And just keep sending Poor Woodall more money. He's not able to pay his own health care on his measly $180k per year and all the dirty money he's acquired in a decade in Washington. Give him an extra donation, Jimmy and Andrew.....prove your patriotism.
Jack May 28, 2011 at 08:00 PM
Really? Really? is obviously a member of MoveOn, a group dedicated to dragging the U.S. into socialism. They want the government in charge of everything and believe they will be "leaders" in that new world of "hope" and "change". As evidenced by their press release on this meeting, they will not only lie, they will perform any underhand, even illegal stunt required to reach their goal. MoveOn is an atheistic organization financed by George Soros with chapters across the country specifically for disrupting democracy and fomenting discord. As with all liberals, Democrat or Republican, if their lips are moving, they are lying.
Jimmy Orr May 28, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Jack, I have just read your comment. One might surmise that the reason Really? Really? keeps "flooding" the comments section with his numerous ramblings is his way of attempting to sway other simple minded individuals into believing the MoveOn.org socialist agenda. The kid is a legend in his own mind.
Jack May 28, 2011 at 08:48 PM
MoveOn does not believe in democracy. Their methods are thugery and lies. Their organizational goals are a threat to democracy. Why would anyone want them as part of a democratic process? It is akin to inviting a bear to your family supper table.
Jack May 28, 2011 at 08:53 PM
Really? Really? is not a kid, nor necessarily male. However, MoveOn is a threat to our country and should be treated as such. They are thugs that do not believe in democracy. While they assert everyone should be "tolerant", they are intolerant of any views other than their own. Questioning a speaker is fine, and we need that to properly understand a speakers positions. Sending in a group of thugs to disrupt and foment chaos is not acceptable. In the 1930s, MoveOn would have been called the "brown shirts".
Janet Gibson May 28, 2011 at 09:29 PM
It looks like I'm not the only person who believes that it is way past time for MoveOn to actually MOVE ON and consider activities and ideas that might actually benefit humanity! Janet Gibson
Brian Crawford May 28, 2011 at 10:14 PM
@Orr. You folks obviously have no idea what MoveOn's mission is other than some sound bite you may have heard on FOX news. Socialists? You don't even know what the word means. I'm no socialist and I won't be until I start drawing my Social Security and Medicare, then I'll proudly join your club. @Jack. The only thuggery around here is coming from folks like you and Orr who want to bully people by calling them "socialists", "brown shirts" and "agitators" People like you know nothing about democracy. You hate democracy. You hate the fact that anyone other than yourselves has a voice. If it were up to you there would be no democracy, just one big plantation where the rich and powerful can boss around everyone who's not like them. The funny thing is, you're not so rich and powerful. You're just easy marks for those that are.
Jimmy Orr May 28, 2011 at 10:40 PM
Hey Jack, looks like you struck a raw nerve with your last comment. This insubordinate you know what wants to talk to us about democracy. He don't know that you are a USMC Vietnam War combat veteran or that I was jumping out of airplanes before he was jumping off of the school bus. Problem with this kid is that he has a one track simple mind.
Dave Emanuel May 28, 2011 at 10:46 PM
So you're telling me that you know absolutely that the MoveOn members who showed up at the meeting were residents of Dacula? And on the off-chance that they are, you're proposing that they have a right to speak their mind because they disagree with Mr. Woodall, but Ms Green does not have the same right because she agrees with him. Very democratic in deed. And just for the record, we do not live in a democracy. We live in a republic.
Dave Emanuel May 28, 2011 at 10:53 PM
Okay Brian, why don't you tell us what MoveOn's mission is. And while you're at it please define socialism. I'm not trying to be condescending or provocative-- I'd like to hear your explanations. I'd also like to understand why you'll become a socialist when you start drawing Social Security and Medicare.
Brian Crawford May 28, 2011 at 11:27 PM
To anyone interested in the facts. MoveOn was originally formed in 1998 by two west coast entrepreneurs, man and wife, who had previously started their own software company. They later sold their business for over $12 million dollars. You know, like all commies do. MoveOn was created in response to the Clinton impeachment. They felt Congress had more important business to attend to so they circulated a petition asking Congress to censure Clinton for his misdeeds and move on. Since that time they have advocated a progressive agenda supporting small business, the working poor, seniors, and the middle class. By nature this put's them at odds with wealthy corporate interests who demonize them every chance they get. I receive their emails and occasionally donate to their cause if I feel it's worthy. I certainly don't agree with them 100% of the time. They don't bus people to events and they're not owned by George Soros.
Jack May 29, 2011 at 01:08 AM
No one contests how MoveOn was supposedly started. And when George Soros funds MoveOn with donations like the 1.46 million in 2004, he isn't "buying" MoveOn, but merely gaining the clout to "assist" MoveOn select its targets and projects, including the joint protests with the Communist Party, U.S.A. this past Feb. 26th, and at other "rallies such as the one in Washington, D.C. A "progressive" agenda is the current buzz for "liberal", which is at least synonymous with socialism. Partnering with the Communist Party, U.S.A. makes that position suspect. Soros does not fund anything that does not promote moving the U.S. closer to socialism. That is why he is given the funds he has at his disposal. MoveOn working for small business, the working poor, seniors, and the middle class? Straight out of the communist/socialist/nazi play book. Ask the German and Russian gays, Poles, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, Rom Gypsies, blacks, disabled, priests, and pastors how that worked out for them during World War II. The nazis even took widowed and orphans if they failed to meet the Aryan criteria. MoveOn doesn't bus people to events? Do you also believe in the tooth fairy? Santa Claus? How do you think they go with Acorn and the communists to the rallies?
Dave Emanuel May 29, 2011 at 01:19 AM
Jack- please leave the name-calling to the liberals. It's their stock in trade, and frankly, conservatives don't need to resort to such antics. Mr. Crawford's description of MoveOn appears to be taken directly from the organization's web site. I was hoping for HIS definition of their mission and agenda and some perspective on his reasons for supporting them. Apparently that's not going to happen, and it doesn't really surprise me. Mr. Crawford is certainly entitled to his beliefs and I do not take exception to he or anyone else embracing different concepts than I do. The ability to do that is what America is all about. However, I do take exception to people simply parroting the thoughts of others, and and then castigating people who do not agree with them. Having been involved in numerous "discussions" with liberals, I can tell you that this response is "text book". The responses I get rarely stick to the issues, don't acknowledge an understand of the concept of individual opinion, and invariably resort to side-stepping of issues and name-calling. (Note that my question about becoming a socialist when he begins collecting Social Security and Medicare went unanswered.) I keep hoping for a different outcome because I believe open discourse often leads to better understanding on all sides. Unfortunately, my experience indicates my hope is in vain.
Kristi Reed (Editor) June 01, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Just a reminder - comments that violate the terms of use will be removed.
Steve Reuling August 13, 2011 at 02:56 PM
Reading and following this thread makes me absolutely sure that those of the right wing are without a doubt - perpetually ignorant. To believe people who are part of any political organization have no right to attend a meting with their Representative is unabashed idiocy. I guess those in Dacula who attended the meeting believe in the 'it is our town and you ain't welcome' attitude but sadly they are mistaken, The meeting was NOT just for Dacula residents but for any of those residents this child-like Congressman represents - regardless of any political movement they belong to. Maybe those residents of Dacula should start realizing who he represents or stay perpetually ignorant on local politics. I wonder if it is ok that Ms Green attended - afterall she too belongs to a political organization. OH wait - she lives in Dacula - one of the various towns Woodall represents. For all those Dacula residents - come to Monroe on Aug 20th at the County Government Building at 9:00 am - if you want to hear more from your hero - Woodall. We Monroe residents - welcome you even if you are a member of one of the right wing political organizations that those such as Ms Green belongs to. (That is called - CLASS not to mention DEMOCRACY.)
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew August 24, 2011 at 04:46 AM
Brian, It would appear that you have formed a position prior to the meeting and are sifting for factoids to support your presented conclusions. Whether you agree with Woodall or not, the man spends a great deal of time during and after events to address citizen concerns and the party affiliation doesn’t matter – the willingness to listen and discuss each topic does. I’ve have the pleasure of being a skeptic and stood around just listening long after the major crowd leaves. The positions you seem to have heard him state are incomplete. I know, I heard him present this material locally more than 10 times in various places. As to members of MOVEON being present in a meeting, if they are district 7 resident voters, they NEED to come out and I know they’re welcome. How do I know? Because I’ve seen the exchanges first hand. Since Greece gave rise to the concept of debate so many years ago, the selective hearing routine has become so ingrained and unfortunately, I personally don’t see a seismic shift anytime soon. I just hope it begins before we finally go the way of Greece.
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew August 24, 2011 at 04:55 AM
Steve, Please reread the article and then all the comments - it appears some facts are being overlooked, and in fairness, unless you pay a court stenographer you won't ever get a complete word for word report from only one scource.


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