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Polite Debate at Grassley's Iowa Town Halls

By Perry Bacon
AFTON, Iowa -- As Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) travels to town halls in his state, it seems conservative Iowans are either too polite to shout at him or really like their longtime senator, even as he has remains one of the few Republicans negotiating with President Obama and congressional Democrats on health care.

Back home for his first set of public events since Congress left its recess, Grassley has packed his town halls, which he holds in the same locations every year, more than ever. When he showed up in Winterset on Wednesday morning, his aides had already moved the event from a meeting room in the library to a nearby park, as a crowd that would normally be about 70 was instead several hundred. In Afton, an event that had been planned at the city hall was moved to a Methodist church nearby, and even then people were standing outside the door trying to hear the longtime senator.

And the questions suggest many of the people in attendance are conservatives, as several attacked President Obama for looking to increase vastly the role of the federal government in American lives, with one woman likening the new administration to Nazi Germany. They made charges that illegal immigrants could get health insurance, that the bill will raise taxes and that Obama's intention is to create a socialist country.

But in two town halls in central Iowa, Grassley has avoided the kind of hysterics that have made headlines across the country. With conservative groups in the state asking their members to show up at events, the senator is trying to address many of their concerns before people even ask him questions.

At the start of event, he gives a brief speech that carefully distances himself from Obama and puts him on the side of many of the conservatives in room, saying he opposes a government health insurance option because "I see government not as a competitor, but a predator." He notes he opposes any health insurance plan that will lead to "rationing" and says he will not back a bill other Republicans cannot embrace.

He avoids mentioning his potential backing of so-called health-care cooperatives that some Republicans in Washington say would be akin to a government option.

"I trust him; he's an honest man," said Margaret Turk, a Republican who attended the town hall in Afton and applauded him at the end, even though she opposes the health-care reform effort.

At the same time, Iowans just might be less eager to yell and be rude. When one man in Afton asked Grassley why he was eager to change a health-care system that many Americans like, the senator started referring to a private conservation he had with a Democratic senator on Capitol Hill.

"Which one?" the man shouted.

"I can't tell you that," Grassley said.

"Why not?" the man snapped back.

"Because it was a private conservation," Grassley responded.

"Oh, okay," the man said, and let the senator finish.

By Kendra Nichols  |  August 12, 2009; 3:59 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Town Hall Talk: Disruption in Mo., Pa.
Next: Grassley and Grandma


I got to be kidding me with this report did you hear him to people they should be afraid that democrats want to kill grandmas

Posted by: JonWa | August 12, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Gee, likening the Obama administration to Nazis and calling the government a "predator" doesn't seem all that polite to me. In fact, it seems a tad hysterical--but I guess those Iowans aren't screaming or packing heat so it doesn't matter how nuts their views are. Amazing how the crazy right has shifted the terms of what's considered respectable debate in this country.

Posted by: steveandshelley | August 12, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Grassley is no nut case. He simply reflects the fact that in voting for O'Bama we really did not know what we were doing. We voted for him instead of a senile senator from Arizona and his cynically chosen floosie from Alaska. But O'Bama is not an American as we think of an American. He is a semi-African, semi-Muslim, semi-Black, which means a full Black by American racial standards. We now know we have been taken. And we react violently.

Posted by: ravitchn | August 12, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

People probably though it would be a Democrat senator who was having a townhall thats why so many showed up then they realized it was a Republican. Besides why would they be angry? they were told what they wanted to hear, the senator talked about rationing, killing grandmas, no support for public option, talked about Government take over calling government the "predator". Why would a mob complain about a speech like that?

Posted by: angelou | August 12, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Sarah Palin and company have become "Political Terrorist," by spreading lies and fake outrage they are terrorising people. Death panel for the elderly and handicaped children?! like I said, Political Terrorist.

Posted by: angelou | August 12, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

"He is a semi-African, semi-Muslim, semi-Black".

To which I can say, without equivocation, that you are semi-literate (at best).

Posted by: caebling | August 12, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Grassley is no nut case. He simply reflects the fact that in voting for O'Bama we really did not know what we were doing. We voted for him instead of a senile senator from Arizona and his cynically chosen floosie from Alaska. But O'Bama is not an American as we think of an American. He is a semi-African, semi-Muslim, semi-Black, which means a full Black by American racial standards. We now know we have been taken. And we react violently.

Posted by: ravitchn | August 12, 2009 6:20 PM |


I appreciate that you're at least honest in admitting your aversion to President Obama is primarily racial. I'm frightened by your react violently statement, though. You live (I presume) in a country that allows you to decide who is the President. You are more than welcome to dislike our President, condemn him, run against him, and vote him out of office. There not only is no need for violence, any talk of it reveals a deep, anti-American streak that is disturbing and rooted in the worst kind of ignorance. Violence is the refuge of the intellectually deficient.

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | August 12, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Why would Republicans be angry at him? After all, Grassley is reinforcing their belief that they need to be afraid of "death panels" under Health Care Reform. There's no need to yell when a "leader" supports your fears.

Posted by: alysheba_3 | August 12, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Grassley trotted out the "government wants to kill grandma" lie and WaPo covers this as a "civilized" meeting? Please. You folks will cover the confrontational dramas when they flare up with Democrats appearing in districts that went for McCain, How about some meetings where we hear from people who are FOR reform- shouldn't be so hard when 70% of Americans actually want it!

Stop focusing on the teabagging losers who lost the election.

Posted by: marSF | August 12, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

I heard that Obamacare shrinks your balls. And I believe everything that anyone tells me.

Posted by: Terrorfied | August 12, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, the "righteous-reich" and insurance industry and their lapdogs the Republicans have managed to spread enough lies to scare Americans from even trying to learn the truth....

It's a very sad state of affairs in America where demagogues who have no other agenda/objective than power and their own narrow-worldview can spread lies and fear without being held accountable for lying.

Instead their lies are repeated as facts. (Hitler would be so proud of their behavior -- he used the same tactics.)

What has happened to decency and reason?

It went away with "Faux" News, the likes of Limbaugh, Beck, Dobbs, and "I want attention!" Palin.

Sad days in America, indeed.

Lincoln would be appalled at the Republican Party.

FDR would be appalled by the "blue dog" democrats.

I am appalled at the behavior of those who have media shows, like Beck, Limbaugh, etc., and politicians who have no conscience.

I am appalled at Americans who choose not to learn the truth for themselves....

Posted by: abby0802 | August 12, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Hey, ravitchn, that's nothin. Did you hear that Obama has BLACK KIDSS...! TWO OF them!!! Man, our country is gone. Frickin gone. Just like our minds. HA! Just kiddin dude.

Posted by: wbgonne | August 12, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

"I see government not as a competitor, but a predator."

So what, Grassley is afraid of ......himself? Was he afraid of Government when his corrupt, money wasting GOP had the White House?

Government is more "predatory" than a For-Profit Health Insurance Industry that constantly seeks to find insane excuses not to cover people or deny procedures?

Grassley is another festering example of a person who seeks a role in "public service" only to use that role to rail against anything that is actually in the best interest of the public. I wonder if he will come out and state his opposition to the VA System and Medicare since he really ought to be consistent.

Posted by: marSF | August 12, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

"I see government not as a competitor, but a predator."

Of course he does. A government health care system would interfere with the "campaign donations" he gets from the health insurance industry. Follow the money and you'll find the source of the opposition.

Posted by: caebling | August 12, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

rivacism or someone writes: "But O'Bama is not an American as we think of an American. He is a semi-African, semi-Muslim, semi-Black, which means a full Black by American racial standards. We now know we have been taken. And we react violently."

Jesus christ where you people come up w/ this cr@p?? Ya'll should be writing fiction novels, but I'm thinking Orwell is way above your heads.

Posted by: Terrorfied | August 12, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

"He is a semi-African, semi-Muslim, semi-Black, which means a full Black by American racial standards."

And you are a full racist, by any standards.

Posted by: marmac5 | August 12, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

A lot of Americans would benefit greatly by 1. throwing out their TV's 2. putting down that donut or bowl of popcorn 3. loosing about 50 pounds and 4. taking responsibility for their health for a change ( Doctors, surgery and drugs can not make you a healthy person ) .

Posted by: spiritguide | August 12, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

In fact, Grassley's top contributors from 2005 to now include:

Blue Cross/Blue Shield - $26,750
Select Medical Corp - $23,000
National association of Heath underwriters - $10,000
DaVita Inc $18,000
American Academy of Dermatology Assn $10,000
American Assn of Nurse Anesthetists $10,000
American Osteopathic Assn $10,000
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance $10,000
New York Life Insurance $10,000
Renal Leadership Council $10,000
US Oncology $10,000
Mylan Laboratories $17,000

It's obvious why Grassley opposes health care reform. He is bought and paid for by the health industry.

Posted by: caebling | August 12, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Hey terrorfield... I heard Obamacare is going to cover tattoo removals too. Red-state republicans and Portland, Oregon natives with bad tattoos should be stoked! I also heard about the ball shrinkage thing which I'm not excited about. I believe everything I hear!

Posted by: metroselu | August 12, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I have never lived in Iowa, but I did live in Nebraska. My people are from Nebraska; and my wife and I are both graduates of University of Nebraska. Basically, we grew up on farms. I ssume that Iowa also has many farmers. Farmers are hard working, family oriented, and god fearin folks. Naturally, farmers don't have much use for the government; nor health insurance. However, these days, many large farms are run as a corporation, and even use lobbyists. Farm aid is a big deal; and paradoxically could be viewed as socialism.

My great-grandmother lived in our home until she died at age 93. My grandparents didn't have much use for senior centers or rest homes. Paradoxically, my dear mother died in health care "hospice center;" and that could be viewed as socialism.

My great-grandparents were born and raised in the Quaker faith; and that could be viewed as socialism. New barns were built by neighbors, and large celebrations with plenty of good food followed.

But if a sitting U.S. Senator actually said, "government is a predator," that is hard to accept as truth. Last time I checked, we have a government founded on the ideal of "WE THE PEOPLE" and self-government "FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, and OF THE PEOPLE."

If we have folks comparing OUR government to NAZI GERMANY, then we are disrespecting everyone who fought for "LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS." Crying "NAZI" is irresponsible, and actually more like "FACISM" not socialism.

Posted by: rmorris391 | August 12, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Mr Bacon, you have written an incredibly biased review of a disgusting example of pandering to the lowest common denominator of political discourse. There was no "polite debate", and Grassley wasn't shouted at, because his fans know he's not negotiating with Baucus and Obama, he's colluding with Baucus to delay and impede Obama in any way possible. Grassley has never negotiated in good faith on health care reform, and his fans love him for it. Try telling truth to power once in a while!

Posted by: kpkooiker | August 12, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

"I see government not as a competitor, but a predator."

It's this "Government is the Problem" mentality that has screwed up this country so badly. Why would anyone elect someone to government whose mission is to prove that Government can't work???

Stupid is as Stupid does.

Posted by: thebobbob | August 12, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Just remember folks that the Lat time we put the Repugs and there brainless minions in the Drivers seat they damn near drove America of a cliff, Dont let these mindless, Believe anything there told from Rush, Hannity and all the goose stepping, bible thumping, do as I say not as I do, Radio Freaks (The Biggest Threat to America). God forbid these Donught Eating Pork balls get off the Couch and do a little research on the facts when It's so much easier to tune in to Michel Wiener and his Cohorts and get there talking points. But at least they went to the Town Hall meetings, Probably because it was on there way to pick up there welfare checks.

Posted by: andre4 | August 12, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Hate, hate, hate. Ever consider that not all concerned conservatives are rude, noisy, and belligerent? It is quite embarrassing to see the behavior at some of the town halls. I am hoping that maybe, just maybe, sanity has taken hold.

It would be nice to wait until the bill is actually written before people decry its merits, or lack thereof. Until there is an actual bill to debate, there can be no intelligent debate, since all we hear are the empty talking points from both sides.

Posted by: duffmeister | August 12, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Other media sources have reported the comment from Gassley today about the "death panels". Why does your story make no mention of it? This is the man we are waiting on, the Republican Baucus is trying to appease and today he talks about "Death Panels" and you don't report it?

Posted by: ljines1 | August 12, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

ravitchn posted: "O'Bama is not an American as we think of an American. He is a semi-African, semi-Muslim, semi-Black, which means a full Black by American racial standards. We now know we have been taken. And we react violently."

So, the debate isn't really about health care reform anymore; it's about who fits a right-wing, conservative's definition of who is an American. Quit reading Sarah Palin's Facebook & Twitter pages, and listening to Rush Limbaugh. Watch clips of the McCarthy hearings on YouTube instead. McCarthyism was one of the ugliest period in history - a period where ignorance and hate-mongering thrived, and one that right-wing Republicans wish to relive again.

Posted by: girlieg33k | August 12, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

So am I to understand that Grassley is working undercover for Cheney The Torturer to inflame us against our Govt. I wonder if he got them foaming at the mouth yet.

Posted by: com1rich | August 12, 2009 9:18 PM | Report abuse

caebling your list of contributores to sen. Grassley (R-Iowa)is very interesting.
Could you be fair and also publish the Obama donators?
Oh, I forgot, they have not been released. We are not allowed to know where he gets his campaign money.
Please give both sides of the story and try to present an unbiased fair view.

Posted by: duif100 | August 12, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Hilary and her screaming (like a fish wife in the fish market) comments: We have a right to debate and then Al Gore (screaming at the top of his lungs): "They betrayed our fears" speech must be considered polite, well thought out and reponsible commentary. We can give some more examples of liberal democrat politicians doing the same.
You started that stupid strategy. Now hut up and live with it. Turn about is fair play.

Posted by: duif100 | August 12, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Attention Big Insurance: Be AFRAID, Be VERY AFRAID!
We are all learning the truth about you. The doctors and nurses don't need you to P|MP them out. We don't need you because you only take - you provide nothing but grief. You are the Predator -afraid to compete because you can't. You have been given too many chances already to be honest. This may be your last chance.

Posted by: com1rich | August 12, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Who were Teddy Roosevelt's contributors? He's the President who first called for nationalized health-care over a hundred years ago.

Posted by: com1rich | August 12, 2009 9:47 PM | Report abuse

how old is this nut? hes going to be out next election why vote for someone the govenment will kill in a year or two/

Posted by: donaldtucker | August 12, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Don’t believe obummer’s lie that there will not be death panels. Why do I know? There already are death panels in Oregon’s universal care system! They have had real people be refused treatment on account of cost. Those same people were however offered suicide drugs.

Nothing obama says has meaning because he can't be trusted.

Watch this video. You’ll see obama lie like a dog in his very own words.

People need to wake up and see this lying fraud for who he is, an America hating, Saudi King bowing, dictator loving, former cocaine addict, racist Kenyan usurper dirt-bag Chicago thug!

Posted by: steveb777 | August 12, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

I would have preferred that President Obama had first insisted that congress start by providing a single payer health insurance plan for all children, no adults. Children defined as those 18 or under and full time students until the age of 22 and grad students.

The plan would be patterned after Medicare.

It should be 100% funded in the following manner: the poor don't pay anything, middle income pay a sliding scale and the wealthy individuals and corporations pay extra taxes to make up the shortfall.

I think such an insurance plan would be acceptable to most Americans with only the lowest of knuckle dragging, right wing, cynical republicans screaming at it.

If parents understood that their child's health was taken care of, then they would gladly fend health care for themselves I believe.

Tie universal children's health care with a decent educational system, then American's economic future is taken care of with well educated and healthy workforce.

This would also have a lower total cost than the plan in today's form. This system would of not allow the insurance industry to manipulate health care in their favor as they are attempting to do now.

Posted by: stonemen2 | August 12, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Who here likes the argument that insurance companies should be able to cross state lines?

Posted by: KD11 | August 12, 2009 11:18 PM | Report abuse

So who regulates the insurance companies in their respective states? The state governments. Who would regulate the insurance companies if the insurance companies were allowed to sell in all states? The federal government. So which way do you want it? Increase the size of the federal government? Or limit insurance sales by state? Or remove rules altogether? Isn't that a great idea!

Posted by: KD11 | August 12, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

What has become of the once vaunted Post?
Polite debate? The lead negotiator for the GOP in the Senate is espousing complete lies to play to the mob... yes mob, that he knows are lies!

How do you negotiate with that? The old Post would have noticed. You guys are becoming a tool.

Time to end these false bi-partisan negotiations and pass a bill that works for all Americans.

Time for leadership Obama, Pelosi and Reid. Do what you were elected to do!

Posted by: jsjonesjsj | August 13, 2009 12:02 AM | Report abuse

Grassley, in his comments at Winterset, I believe, has demonstrated to any who heard them that he is among the brain-dead republican remnant still clinging to power though well past his sell-by date. But Grassley did more: he lied to his constituents. In this he proved himself unfit to be in the Senate and he should be censured and expelled.
The good people of Iowa deserve better than the unfit lying bloviator Grassley has become.

Posted by: MichaelStrafford | August 13, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

"hand in the air"

Who here likes the argument that insurance companies should be able to cross state lines?

Posted by: KD11 | August 12, 2009 11:18 PM

Posted by: recon1 | August 13, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse


More than two thirds of the American people want a single payer health care system. And if they cant have a single payer system 76% of all Americans want a strong government-run public option on day one (85% of democrats, 71% of independents, and 60% of republicans). Basically everyone.

AND NO INSURANCE MANDATES WITHOUT A STRONG GOVERNMENT-RUN PUBLIC OPTION ON DAY ONE! An insurance mandate without a strong government-run public option choice on day one, would be a DISASTER! And it would be worse than the GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT HEALTH INSURANCE HORROR! SHOW you have now. YOU MUST MAKE CERTAIN!! THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN AMERICA.

The healthcare reform bills released by the first two committees of the House Of Representatives are excellent bills as I understand them. They are bills with a strong, robust, government-run public option, and an intelligent, reasonable initial funding plan to cover almost all of the American people. They are carefully written, and thoughtfully constructed, informed, prudent and wise. These bills will save trillions of dollars, and millions of your lives. They are also now supported by the AMA.

These are the type of bills that all Americans can feel good about. And these are the type of bills that have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of healthcare for all Americans. Rich, middle class and poor a like. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and all other party affiliations. These bills have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life of every American.

The house healthcare bills released by the first two committees should be viewed as the minimum GOLD STANDARD by which all other proposed healthcare legislation should be judged. All supporters of true high quality healthcare reform should now place all your support behind these healthcare reform bills released by the first two committees of the United States House Of Representatives, as the minimum Gold standard for healthcare reform in America.

You should all now support the first two committees bills with all your might, and all of your unrelenting tenacity. These first two House committees healthcare bills are VERY, VERY GOOD! bills for all of the American people. Fight tooth, and nail for every bit of these bills if you have too. Be aggressive, creative, and relentless for these bills.

From this time forward, go BIGGER and DEEPER with the American people every day until passage of healthcare reform with a robust, government-run public option.

FIGHT!! like your life and the lives of your loved ones depends on it. BECAUSE IT DOES!


Senator Bernie Sanders on healthcare (

God Bless You

Jack Smith — Working Class

Posted by: JackSmith1 | August 13, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

do you know WHY there was polite debate at the republican town halls and not at the democratic ones? Because its not the republicans trying to overtake the system that 75% (THOSE THAT ARE AT THESE TOWN HALLS) of people are happy with. The republicans want to FIX the system. The Democrats want to re-do the system in their image of dramatic wealth redistribution.

Posted by: visionbrkr | August 15, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

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