When I arrived at the Red Bank Middle School at 5:40, the parking lot was almost full. I got one of the last spots on Harding Rd. There were already about 200 people on line to get into Congressman Frank Pallone's Community Forum on Health Care.
One man close to the front of the line was standing over his severely disabled daughter in a wheel chair holding a large yellow sign that said, OBAMA MAY KILL MY DAUGHTER. Several others where holding anti-ObamaCare signs. A few volunteers where handing out pro-ObamaCare materials and professionally printed signs that said THANK YOU.
By 6 PM there were easily 400 people on line with a steady flow of people coming from all directions. It seemed to be that 5-10% of those on line were pro-ObamaCare. They were wearing stickers and carrying to professionally printed signs. At 6:45 the doors where open and the first 500 people started to orderly enter the school auditorium, which thankfully was air conditioned. There was well over 1000 people on line by that time. The forum was to divided into two one hour sessions.
What impressed me about the crowd was how well behaved it was. 1000 people were patiently waiting online to speak to their congressman. There was no hostility present between those who held differing points of view.
Once inside, the crowd became more animated and vocal. Red Bank Mayor Pat Menna and Pallone walked to the front of the room to a loud mixture of cheers and jeers.
Pallone spoke for a few minutes about the virtues of the bill that he made clear he was a prime author of and sponsor of as Chairman of the Health Care sub-committee. He went out of his way to make his bill, HR 3200, sound benign and not a major change, except for those who do not have health insurance. The crowd knew better and wasn't buying it.
Tommy DeSeno was the first speaker from the public. Tom respectively informed the congressman that he read the bill, and an decades old statute that is 1500 pages long and concluded that despite President Obama's and Pallone's comments to the contrary, HR 3200 does not require coverage of pre-existing conditions. DeSeno presented Pallone with a column that he wrote that laid that out and asked Pallone to have legislative services check it out and correct the bill if Tom's analysis was accurate. Incredibly, Pallone's response was a bunch of double talk that affirmed DeSeno's analysis.
It didn't take long for Pallone to prove Jim Hogan right. Pallone does not care what his constituents think and he doesn't mind saying so.
A gentleman from Monmouth Beach was the third or fourth speaker. He told Pallone that he works for the people of the sixth congressional district and that it was his job to represent those residents, not the interests of Speaker Pallone (he meant Pelosi) and his fellow Democrats in Washington. The gentleman scolded Pallone for voting for the stimulus package without reading it, for his vote on "cap and trade" and his sponsorship of HR 3200.
Pallone arrogantly, yet calmly defended the stimulus package as working, to the jeers of the crowd. He declared himself an environmentalist and said that cap and trade was the most important environmental legislation he ever voted on. After the boos subsided, he said he believed the majority favors his health care reform and declared his friendship with and admiration for Chairman Henry Waxman and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He declared that he was there as a congressman, not a candidate, as if he was invulnerable to the will of those who elect him.
The crowd booed and jeered but didn't throw anything. The pro-ObamaCare people wearing the stickers started to leave. The two of the three pro-ObamaCare people who spoke were insulting to the crowd, one declaring her embarrassment that "this is democracy" and the other imploring Pallone not to be bullied. The third implored Pallone to jam the legislation through given the Democratic majority in Washington, regardless of the voices of the people.
As I left the meeting after an hour, there were another 1000-1200 people waiting to get into round two of Pallone not caring what they had to say.
Chris Fotache at Right In Jersey reports that round two of the community forum was a good deal rowdier than the first meeting I witnessed. Perhaps the two hours standing out in the heat had an effect. Chris also reports that a third meeting was held to accommodate those who didn't get into either of the first two.
Give Pallone credit for having the third meeting, despite the fact that he could have held the meeting in a location that could have handled the entire group. A reliable source informed me that Pallone was offered a 3000 person venue at Brookdale Community College for his forum and turned it down.
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