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Leaked "Dump Dodd" Town Hall Strategy Memo: Disrupt, Avoid Intelligent Debate

by: tparty

Mon Aug 03, 2009 at 18:45:00 PM EDT

It's clear now that the top-down Republican strategy on health care for the month of August (a strategy made possible in part by the Blue Dog "victory" of delaying floor votes on legislation until September) will consist of organized and potentially violent disruptions of town hall meetings scheduled by members of Congress with their constituents in their districts.

On Friday, ThinkProgress posted a leaked "best practices" memo (PDF) written by Connecticut right-wing activist Bob MacGuffie based on his experience taking part in such an organized disruption of a Jim Himes town hall meeting in Fairfield back in late May. The memo includes such advice as:

- Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: "Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington."

- Be Disruptive Early And Often: "You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep's presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early."

- Try To "Rattle Him," Not Have An Intelligent Debate: "The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions."

As ThinkProgress notes, the tactics outlined in this memo are being used in an organized assault in congressional districts across the nation, led by organized and very well-funded right-wing groups.

Judging from the headline in the next week's Fairfield Citizen, MacGuffie's strategy certainly worked back in May:

"Himes faces tough crowd at library"

And even Rep. Himes, via Twitter after the event, seemed to voice some doubts about the nature of the tough audience he faced:

Town Hall meeting in Fairfield. People very worried about cap and trade. Some anger in the room. Hard to tell if organized or organic.

A few weeks later, on July 14th, MacGuffie described again disrupting a Jim Himes constituent event, this time in in Trumbull, while being videotaped by a "grassroots leader" of Rob Simmons' favorite right-wing activist movement, "Dump Dodd":

"About a dozen of us packed a meet-and-greet staged by our congressman, Jim Himes on Sunday in a supermarket in Trumbull, CT. The link below was posted by another grassroots leader as he filmed me giving Himes a reality check. All those voting for the socialist national agenda should receive a similar treatment. Watch for appearance announcements from your reps and give them a similar reality check. They need to go back to their caucus relating the same treatment from their constituents."

Whether through organized channels or merely through the broadcasts of Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck, Connecticut's fringe right-wing activists - the teabaggers, DumpDodders, birthers, and others - all seem to have gotten the same memo: attend these events, yell loudly, disrupt, intimidate, and above all, avoid anything approaching intelligent discussion or debate.

The fruits of those tactics were visible today in Hartford, at a Chris Dodd event on health care, as CT News Junkie reports:

Following the event Dodd conducted an interview outside the warehouse and at its conclusion he spotted the handful of protesters across the street and turned to his staff to ask who they were. As he pulled out of the parking lot Dodd pulled up to the protesters and asked if they wanted to discuss the issue with him.

Jim Bancroft, one of the protesters who is part of the Dump Dodd and Tea Party movements, said Dodd asked if he wanted to talk to him and [Bancroft] declined.

Bancroft, who is currently uninsured and on disability for a back injury, said if he needs medical attention he will pay for it himself. Estelle Stevenson, another protester who was standing next to Bancroft, said she has health insurance with a $5,000 deductible and had to refinance her mortgage in order to pay her insurance bills.

Those are two individuals who sound like they would benefit greatly from the heath care legislation that Sen. Dodd got through the HELP committee. And despite the fact that they were protesting the event, Sen. Dodd still made the effort to go across the street to try to talk with them about it.  But the marching orders had obviously already been given and received.

For the next year or so, Connecticut will likely find itself a national epicenter of teabaggers, DumpDodders, and birthers engaging in mob tactics like those outlined in the memo above.  Instead of writing articles about the "tough crowds" at these events, reporters and analysts would do well to avoid getting played and instead focus on the use of these tactics and the people responsible for them.

And Members of Congress who want to avoid getting played themselves would do well to cancel any currently scheduled town halls they have in their districts, if this type of organized disruption is what right-wing activists are intent on turning those events into.


Update: TPM spoke to MacGuffie today, and has more on how his memo was widely distributed to right-wing activists across the country:

MacGuffie and four friends lead a group called Right Principles, described as "a communication and organizing platform so those for whom our core beliefs...ring true." Despite his connection to Freedom Works, MacGuffie insisted to me that his group is unaffiliated with the wealthy conservative interest groups that have fronted the right wing tea party events.

But his memo nonetheless found its way to hundreds of tea party activists, including the very organizations MacGuffie insists he's unaffiliated with....

MacGuffie's memo was posted to the Tea Party Patriots' list serve, which is hundreds of members large, and includes representatives from not just small protest groups, but also major anti-health reform organizations such as Conservatives for Patients Rights, and Patients First, Patients United Now (an affiliate of Americans for Prosperity), and, yes, Freedom Works.

tparty :: Leaked "Dump Dodd" Town Hall Strategy Memo: Disrupt, Avoid Intelligent Debate
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An Excellent Piece (4.00 / 3)
Thank you for putting this material together; and no one deserves the sort of disruptions that are being orchestrated by the right wing.

That said, many of us who supported Jim Himes, and worked hard to elect him, have been extremely disappointed at his failure/refusal to take any serious position regarding health care legislation. Jim seems more focused on costs -- which would be fair enough; but he appears intent upon  protecting the very special interests that contribute heavily to these cost increases, with much less attention to the effects of a failed health care system on average people. He claims to support a Public Option, but has failed to respond to numerous requests that he clarify which so-called public option plan(s) he would support -- or where he would draw a line in the sand in terms of what compromises are, or are not, acceptable to him.

As a consequence, I imagine that many of his once most ardent supporters -- those of us who understand the issues, who could help to differentiate between the truth and those fictions being perpetuated by the naysayers, and who could ask appropriately substantive questions at his meetings -- won't take the time to show up.

That's the price you pay when you allow pharma to promote you in their ads and when you try to play two ends against the middle. . . .  

We only need to recall the Florida recount (0.00 / 0)
to remember the organizational goals and tactics.

And keep in mind that cross burnings on lawns as a common occurrence wasn't all that long ago.

Brooks Brothers riot (4.00 / 1)
That image came to my mind earlier today too. The tactics are largely the same, and born of the same authoritarian impulse. As Josh Marshall points out:

It's probably not too soon to note the thread connecting the Bush administration's practice of only allowing certified Bush-loyal attendees at their town hall events (from the Social Security phase-out day) and what's happening now with these tea-party activists ginned by Freedom Works with instructions to shut down Democratic town halls dealing with health care....

Both cases are distressingly telling examples of the authoritarian mentality so often found in right-wing politics -- force and mob action to shut down actual discussion. It two sides of the same coin -- the right in power versus the right out of power.

In November 2000, of course, the right was out of power. Just like they are today.

But similarities aside the frothing frenzy they're whipping up this time seems more genuine in its origins. And, especially given the recent increase in right-wing violence in this country, much scarier, at least to me.

[ Parent ]
I couldn't agree more. (4.00 / 1)
These people really are unhinged; and I think that right wing strategists deliberately are employing tactics that will result in more violence.  At what point can the instigators be held responsible?

[ Parent ]
Look who was in Stamford (0.00 / 0)
at a very expensive restaurant:

The Dish: GOP national chair seen dining in Stamford
By Susie Costaregni
The Dish
Posted: 08/01/2009 08:32:23 PM EDT

The Dish
Scene ... Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, was seen last week dining at
Napa and Co. in Stamford.

I was at the Trumbull event (with Lorenzo) - I swear, if this guy got me on camera.....

now that I think about it (4.00 / 1)
(especially after reading this memo concerning their focused attempt to disrupt Congressman Himes' meeting, I really see no problem in making a point of showing up and taking the teabagger's pictures.

I'm sure that if a person decides to go to a public meeting for the sake of disruption, there is no reason why they would object to having their picture, and perhaps name published in a blog, Facebook page or other outlet.

Let the sunshine in, I always say, and expose them to the light.  

Actually... (4.00 / 1)
Dodd spotted the activists when I said to him:

"Let's move over here because I don't want those wingnuts in the background while we do the interview..."

But hey. :)

Drinking Liberally in New Milford
ePluribus Media

I've Heard... (0.00 / 0)
...that Joe Courtney's upcoming Healthcare Forum (Thursday in Woodstock) is being targeted by the teabaggers. I created a Facebook event page to try to recruit a reform-friendly audience and counteract the naysayers.

I know there's some disagreement about tactics, but I think we can all agree it would be a Very Bad Thing® if Joe were shouted down by right-wing nutjobs and corporate stooges whose goal is no reform, ever! Let's not let that happen.

Bring video cameras (4.00 / 2)
And train them on the protesters trying to disrupt the event.  

[ Parent ]
When I got to the event yesterday (0.00 / 0)
They were screaming about socialism and communism. I filmed a few minutes but only got them calling national healthcare socialism. I wish I had more time because I really would have loved to get them saying the communism part too.

Try telling an American the medicare their on is communism... I am guessing they might just beat ya over the head with whatever is in their hands?

Drinking Liberally in New Milford
ePluribus Media

[ Parent ]
OPPS (0.00 / 0)
Try telling an American the medicare "they're" on is communism

Drinking Liberally in New Milford
ePluribus Media

[ Parent ]
Video tactics (4.00 / 1)
Might also be good to ask the protesters on video whether they want to eliminate medicare. Or social security. And whether or not they believe our President was born in the United States.

[ Parent ]
An excellent idea! (0.00 / 0)
Then publish the pictures; and name names.

[ Parent ]
truth squads (4.00 / 1)
Reps. should be ready to deal with these dopes at their town hall events.  They should be politely but firmly confronted at the first sign of outburst and then escorted out once its clear their sole purpose is to disrupt.  Recruiting members of the audience to aid so its not just their staff fighting back would also seem to be a good strategy.

The police need to be there and asked to remove the nutjobs (0.00 / 0)
Congressman Himes should not be shy about throwing those morons out of the hall.  They respect "law and order", so show them that we are all about "law and order".  

They'll understand.

[ Parent ]
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