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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.”

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 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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