Name Calling

Calling those who protest against health care reform “Un-American” is not much better than calling them terrorists. Yes, I know they are spreading a lot of misinformation and otherwise misbehaving. We should be better than them and we must respect their right to protest.

And yes, many of those on the right who are upset are taking the comment out of context. It isn’t anywhere near as bad as actually used by Nancy Pelosi, but I’d still stay clear of such language. Her actual statement:

These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.

Health care is complex. It touches every American life. It drives our economy. People must be allowed to learn the facts.

Update: As I stated in the comments, It is not so much that I object to Pelosi’s actual statement but that I wouldn’t give the right even this amount of ammunition. When it becomes necessary to explain Pelosi’s statement this is just distracting more from the actual health care debate (which is probably what the people on the right want). She could have made her point while staying away from loaded words like “Un-American.” The fact that the right uses such language regularly does not mean that Democrats should.

Update II: The White House also disagrees with calling those protesting health care reform Un-American. White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said, “I think there’s actually a pretty long tradition of people shouting at politicians in America.”


  1. 1
    julie g says:

    I admit that I have not spent a lot of my free time researching the town hall fights. It is my understanding, based upon commentary that I have heard, that those attending the meetings are getting upset because they can’t get their legitimate questions answered by those who should understand the complex nature of this bill. It is their job to understand the bill. If they can’t understand it, or choose not to read it because they need a few attorneys to translate the language, they need to get off the Hill and let someone who can understand it take their place. How frustrating it must be to go to the person who supposedly represents you, who is there to vote on your behalf, and find that they have no clue what is going on…

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    The reports I’ve read make it sound like right wingers protesting the town halls are the ones preventing questions from being answered.

    The language really isn’t that hard. I’m sure they can understand it without attorneys to “translate.”

  3. 3
    giant slor says:

    Those who aren’t taking this unambiguous statement out of context are willfully mis-interpreting it. It’s pretty clearly not saying the people or what they’re saying is un-American. It’s the drowning out other people that is.
    The right has for years been calling leftist activists who drown out conservative speakers “un-American.” Not just their tactics, but the people themselves. The right wing doesn’t get to have their cake and eat it too. Homey don’t play that. If they can call leftists un-American, then Democrats sure as hell can say that right-wingers’ tactics of shouting down all discussion is un-American. Because it is.
    Conservatives play victims better than anyone, don’t they? And they always accuse liberals of playing the victim. I assure you that you would not have seen this kind of tsunami reaction from leftbloggers if the Republican leadership had written the same column about left-wing protesters.

  4. 4
    Infidel753 says:

    Pelosi isn’t actually calling “those who protest against health care reform”, or any actual group of people, un-American. She’s calling the action of “drowning out opposing views” un-American, which is not an unreasonable statement. In the case of those who are merely exercising a right to protest which we are bound to respect, and not interfering with anyone else’s First Amendment rights, Pelosi’s statement does not refer to them at all.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    Yes, conservatives love to play the victim, and certainly love to take statements out of context.

    It is not so much that I object to Pelosi’s actual statement but that I wouldn’t give the right even this amount of ammunition. When it becomes necessary to explain Pelosi’s statement this is just distracting more from the actual health care debate (which is probably what the people on the right want). She could have made her point while staying away from loaded words like “Un-American.”

  6. 6
    giant slor says:

    “It is not so much that I object to Pelosi’s actual statement but that I wouldn’t give the right even this amount of ammunition.”
    The Right will always distort and take things out of context. Pelosi and Hoyer could have written that the town hall disrupters’ behavior was “uncivilized” and all the Rightblog headlines would have said “Pelosi, Hoyer call conservatives “uncivilized”” Are we to sanitize all our language for fear that Republicans will distort it? I think not.
    The same thing happened with the Gates incident. Obama said the police “acted stupidly” and the Right started screaming that Obama had said police were stupid. The problem isn’t with anything he said. The problem was with the Right–and stupid people who don’t know the difference between calling someone stupid and saying that something they did was stupid.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    True, they will always take things out of context, but using words like “Un-American” just makes it too easy for them. Another problem is that the word is picked up in many headlines without the context.

  8. 8
    Leslie Parsley says:

    I’m afraid I’m a bit guilty of this myself and was alreadytelling myself that I needed to tone it down some. It’s not always easy but I sure don’t want to be on their level. And it does bother me that they are yelling “freedom of speech” when they’re preventing others from having it.

  9. 9
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I think the idea of ‘not giving the right ammunition’ and of ‘taking the high road’ is one of the reasons Bush was allowed to run wild for eight years, even with a Democratic congress for the last two.
    Americans do not always see ‘taking the high road’ as a morally superior act, they often see it as ‘being scared of a fight’ or ‘wimping out.’
    I’m not trying to say that the Democrats should wade into the gutter, but they should not be afraid to hit Republicans as hard as Republicans hit them.

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    No, this has nothing to do with letting Bush run wild. It is possible to attack aggressively without using words like Un-American. One of  things which turns reasonable people off to the right wing is the way they label people Un-American and unpatriotic. We don’t want to give the appearance of doing the same. (Pelosi did not go this far in her exact words, but there is still the widespread appearance she did, especially as people see the headlines and don’t read the whole story.)

  11. 11
    Mr. Jeffersonian says:

    I’m not a supporter of Pelosi at all due to the fact that she usually fits the stereotype of “the Elitist liberal” who condescends to working people at best. With that said, she couldn’t be more correct in her assessment that these actions  of disruption and intimidation performed mostly by hired Tea Party goons are in fact unAmerican and should be condemned by liberals, moderates and true conservatives alike.
    Remember these same groups also had the audasity to make a big to do about being labeled “Racists” even after they had posted up a photoshop of Obama as a New Guinea head hunter. Need I say more there?

  12. 12
    julie g says:

    Regardless of which side of the isle you are on, you should be bothered by the fact that they can’t answer the questions. They can’t answer the questions because they haven’t read the bill. Their job is to read and understand the bill. I don’t care what the bill is about, they should understand EVERYTHING about it before they vote. If not, then why are they there? I think this is why these people are so angry. I’m sure party lines have something to do with it, but my inclination is that it has more to do with the incompetence of Congress.

  13. 13
    Ron Chusid says:

    It isn’t a question of understanding the bill or being able to answer questions. The problem is those spreading misinformation and interfering with the answering of questions. It is just another false right wing claim that members of Congress don’t understand the bill. This isn’t really all that complicated if you take the time to study the issue. Opponents of reform just want to give the impression that this is all too complicated. Of course they are the ones who really don’t know what is in the bill (or spread false claims as to what is in it).

  14. 14
    Mr. Jeffersonian says:

    If the Dems were smart they would put up a copy of the bill for all to see online not that these idiots will bother to look at it anyway. Of course they don’t know what’s on the bill otherwise why are they wasting people’s time quoting  Lincoln and the founding fathers or rambling about “Illegal immigrants”?

  15. 15
    Ron Chusid says:

    It is on line. Of course with the House Bill being over 1000 pages it is understandable if they don’t read every word (especially as it is not the final bill). What is not understandable is that they keep spreading false information about what is in the bill.

  16. 16
    Fritz says:

    BTW — is there a “the bill” yet?

  17. 17
    Ron Chusid says:


    Above I’m referrng to the current version of the House bill, which I assume will change by the time it goes through the full House, and change even more with reconciliation of whatever the Senate passes (with more than one bill bill being considered there).

  18. 18
    Eclectic Radical says:

    “BTW — is there a “the bill” yet?”
    Technically, as I noted the last time someone asked this, there are at least four or five… House, Senate as written by Teddy Kennedy, Senate as the Finance Comittee is trying to hash it out, the Wyden-Bennett Senate bill (which no one but Wyden and Bennett are really interested in), and Judd Gregg’s ‘CPR.’
    It is increasingly looking as if ‘the bill’ is going to be some compromise between the Finance Committee bill and the House bill that both Senate and House can agree on. Which doesn’t bode well for health care reform in a comprehensive sense, but is the furthest thing possible from anything like ‘socialism.’

  19. 19
    Ron Chusid says:

    But whatever comes out of Congress will be called “socialism” by the far right.

  20. 20
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Oh, certainly, not denying that. 🙂

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