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Town Hall Talk: Massachusetts Crowd Cheers Kerry; College Students Tough on Steele

By Sarah Lovenheim
UPDATED, 1:40 p.m.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) "said he would take up one of Sen. Edward Kennedy's key political fights" at a town hall last night in a suburb of Boston, vowing to push the sort of health-care reform his former colleague had urged, according to the Associated Press's Steve Leblanc.

Kerry said that furthering Kennedy's goals "means taking on these battles in the way that Teddy would and I pledge to you that I will." His remarks to the crowd of more than 2,000 people at Somerville High School were reportedly answered with "loud cheers."

Kerry warned that if Congress doesn't pass the type of health-care reform legislation he believes the country needs, the nation could experience significant economic setbacks. Millions of Americans would lose their jobs in the next five years, he said, the Boston Globe's Travis Anderson reported.

Although some Democrats have come out against the idea of a public option plan, Kerry said he continues to support the idea, which is dear to many liberals. "Obviously we're going to have a difficult time on the public option debate," he said. "But that doesn't mean we won't fight the fight."

Kerry was more cautious during the Q & A. To a question about why Democrats haven't pushed harder for a single-payer system, he responded, "Even our good pal Ted Kennedy after 46 years of trying to close this deal was not arguing for single payer."

The town hall, publicized by groups such as Organizing for America, marked Kerry's first public event since Kennedy's death.

Meanwhile, in the District, reports from a town hall at Howard University Tuesday evening showed the featured speaker, RNC chairman Michael Steele, getting a very different sort of reception. The Atlantic's Mara Gray said Howard University had "no love for Michael Steele" and called his reception "viciously cold."

Ahead of the event, Howard University College Republicans chairman Brandon Cooper said the college group, which hosted the forum, aimed to provide a "vibrant political discussion on current issues that affect the student body and surrounding community."

Steele greeted his audience enthusiastically, "'What's up, Howard? How's it goin'?,'" only to be confronted with shouts "about how everyone in the country should have health care," wrote Salon's Mike Madden.

Yet "nothing about the speech was new or surprising," according to Gray. She said Steele's speech largely mirrored RNC talking points on health-care reform.

Unpacking why the first African American leader of the RNC would receive such a poor reception at a historically black college, The Root's Elon James said, "For all of his attempts to reach out to the black community with his Hip-Hop Republican ideas and possibly soul food assisted membership drives, Steele misses the one thing... that is needed to deal with black folk: Likability."

Watch a clip:

Here's a rundown of some of today's town halls happening across the nation:

Holbrook, Ariz. -- Rep. Anne Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) meets with consituents at Holbrook High School at 5:30 p.m.

Pine Bluff, Ariz. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ariz.) meets with consituents at the University of Arkansas at 3:30 p.m.

Watsonville, Calif. -- Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) meets with constituents at Watsonville City Council Chambers at 6 p.m.

Lafayette, Colo.Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) meets with consituents at
Lafayette Farmers Market at 5:30 p.m.

Fredericksburg, Va. -- Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) meets with constituents at the Fredericksburg Expo Center from 7 p.m . to 8:30 p.m.

Write us with news from today's town hall meetings at

By Washington Post editors  |  September 3, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  | Tags: town hall  
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Next: Town Hall Talk: Man's Fingertip Bitten Off at Health-Care Rally


So the pigs at the government trough think health care is a right, right?

And Lerch, (who served in Vietnam don't you know) promised them just that.

That's no news. It's more liberal democrat B.S. from one of their party's biggest liars and B.S.artists.


Posted by: LarryG62 | September 3, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Steele ain't alking to no ghetto trash, now; but I wonder if he can see that. It ain't likability, try brains.

I hope I am wrong but Kerry doesn't seem to have the right kind of roar to take the place of the "Lion" however, it's time for the Democrats to finish the health care camaign and "stop pussyfootin' around" as I recalls the Dixiecrat leader once said.

Posted by: glenglish | September 3, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Dems should leave the Repubs behind in the healthcare debate and pass their own version. Do it in reconciliation committee and avoid the whole filibuster threat.
A simple majority vote of 50 is all it should take anyway.

Posted by: gce1356 | September 3, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

No, Larry, the word contemptible would be better employed describing someone who anonymously and baselessly smears other and better people.

Posted by: benjaminanderson | September 3, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Typo on the list of town halls...Senator Lincoln belongs to Arkansas, not Arizona.

Posted by: ExpatAsia | September 3, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Why are republicans like LarryG62 so full of hate?

Posted by: nodebris | September 3, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

All the free loading leaches are crying as the public Dole health caregoes up in flames.
Yep Dems you just go ahead and pass it, you wont be around much longer than a year. Thats how stupid you are.
The REAL TAX PAYERS have had enough of you buying the LOSERS votes with our taxes

Posted by: myword1 | September 3, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Larry G62: Bravo! Your comment is not only the epitome of eloquence, but you've subtly articulated a truly profound and well-reasoned position that adds untold depth and insight to the public discourse. (Although you did spell "Lurch" wrong; but we must not expect a fount of ideas both creative and practical to be hindered by mundane trivialities such as proper orthography of colloquialisms.) Thank you so much for elevating us all by astutely postulating your nuanced solution to this issue. We all are indebted to your contribution . . .

Posted by: tomguy1 | September 3, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Where is the news on Democratic Majority Whip Steny Hoyer's town hall meeting that took place on September 1?

Posted by: Chatelaine | September 3, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

College students are Democrats until they get their first paycheck and find out what the govt is doing with their money.

Posted by: jschmidt2 | September 3, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

so it's kerry?
good luck.

BTW, pine bluff, arizona is such a special place.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | September 3, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Oh and a public option would lead to a single payer system when Congress priced the public option lower than private insurers. Congress has meeddled this way with every social program with Dems mving the SS trust fund into the general fund and opeing SS up to people who would not originally qualify. The dream of Obama, Franks and the Dems is a single payer system. Every country that has one has doctors not making enough, and hospitals consistenly losing money. Obama want to reduce medicare payments when we hospitals are always losing money now. Make the records electronic, allow subscribers to choose their own insurers with money paid into a fund, streamline drug approval process and regulations between state and Fed and of course, tort reform, force insurers to sign up people with pre-existing conditions and let insurers charge a fixed percentage more for that and prevent insurers from dropping people. Do those things first. Don't ruin a system for 85% of us where we have the ability to sue insurers if need be. Ever try to sue the govt?

Posted by: jschmidt2 | September 3, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

People "who think" do not buy the republican lies about healthcare and the insurance industry.

People who parrot AM radio, or live in fear of those who think for themselves, or who are too old to think cling to their failed arguments.

Posted by: onestring | September 3, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Read the comments here and look at the difference in tone between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats sound annoyed. Republicans just sound hateful, angry, mean. What is up with that? It's like the GOP's main plank is unfocused anger.

Posted by: nodebris | September 3, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

So, John Kerry is taking over "the mantle" of Ted Kennedy? Does this mean that he is going to have his own Chappaquidick? It would be a miracle if those cheering were NOT bussed in by the unions and Obama's own political army. But, seeing that this is MA, I'll give them the benefit of a doubt. After all, they have given us nothing but Kennedys - and that isn't saying much for MA.

Posted by: marine2211 | September 3, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

To those who don't think health care is a right, just a quick question.....If someone refuses medical treatment on religious grounds why do the courts order treatments stating that it is the right of the state to determine if medical treatment is necessary and appropriate?

As to Steele at this discussion, why were the first 2 rows filled by white Young Republicans at a meeting which was supposed to be an outreach to young blacks?

And Steele's response to a young woman who recently lost her mother because the mother could not afford medications for cancer, "It makes for great TV. You'll probably make it tonight, enjoy it.", was insulting. Comparing this woman, with a valid story and point, to right-wing screamers at town halls, screaming that Obama will kill grandma or Obama is Hitler, is the most sanctimonious action I have seen in a very long time.

Posted by: alysheba_3 | September 3, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

alysheba_3: Generally, courts can only order medical treatment for minors after it has been refused on religious grounds, on the basis that minors cannot make this decision for themselves and the state has an obligation to protect them where parents fail (which is why we have, for example, a Dept. of Child Services). It rarely happens for adults who refuse medical treatment . . . unless your name is Shiavo and the right-wing Republicants are in power at the time.

Posted by: tomguy1 | September 3, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Thanks tomguy1, that's what I thought. Different rules for Republicans.

Posted by: alysheba_3 | September 3, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: donn09 | September 4, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

So the pigs at the government trough think health care is a right, right?

And Lerch, (who served in Vietnam don't you know) promised them just that.

That's no news. It's more liberal democrat B.S. from one of their party's biggest liars and B.S.artists.


Posted by: LarryG62 |
While your post reminded me why I am not a Republican, I have a little bit of heartburn from your 'served in Vietnam don't you know' statement.

Are you saying that those of the right wing persuasion, those great patriots that want to send everyone else's kid to fight a war with the wrong country, those guys tjhat HID when it was their turn, are somehow more patriotic than the guy who went ?

I don't understand your logic. I'm fronm the midwest and we look at draft dodgers as the chickensh.its that they are. But then again, I'm a veteran of that particular time, you remember, when Bush was keeping Oklahoma from invading Texas before he deserted and Cheney was busy having other priorities and Tom Delay wasn't going because that would have eliminated a spot that some ghetto kid needed and Ashcroft was doing that ultra necessary job of teaching business, you remember, I'm sure. Of course, my dad and uncles and brothers and cousins and my son, who is a Marine veteran of two tours in Bush's folly, may not understand your statement either.

I guess in the big scheme of things it doesn't really matter because the facts are that Kerry went and Bush hid. And started a war with the wrong country.

But hey, the draft dodging little prick DID give up golf. What a hero.

Posted by: dennissuper | September 4, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Breaking News: Michael Steele's Violent Past -

Posted by: SandboxReport | September 4, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Judging from the previous comments, the "right wing-nuts" all went to "hate school", while the Dems. are trying to express our concerns for the future of OUR country, them included, don't they understand that if they are happy with their chioce of health care, they can KEEP IT!!!! Don't they understand the people they are listening to are lying to them, and you are voting against YOUR OWN best intrests?? That is what will insure their intrests, and their contributions from the powers that be, have they sent any of that cash to you?? I think not! While their vote is bought and paid for, they get yours for nothing!!!! While "rush limburger" spewes his venom, you are buying every word, from a convicted felon, who is mostly wrong because of his continued use of his favorite "substance"!

"FAUX" News is no better, but hopfully without the "substance", perhaps you should listen to another network to compare the messages, I suggest MSNBC, who regularly have Republicans as guests, who speak their minds, while debating with Dems. That will never happen on "FAUX" News.

Posted by: littlehootie | September 4, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, LarryG62, (age or IQ?) Senator Kerry served our country in Vietnam, and honorably. The dishonor falls on those swiftboaters who tried to change history to fit their politics. Especially the ones who said they were eligible for medals along with the senator that aren't giving 'em back and yet say what they were doing wasn't medal worthy. If his wasn't, neither were theirs. But hey, believe what you will. The republicans have been leading a majority of their constituents around by the nose for so long, why start thinking for yourself now? Your brain might overload and start smokin' or sumthin'.

As Senator Kerry has been the "junior senator" behind Senator Kennedy for all these years, he now moves into the senior senator position. He knows well what Ted Kennedy wanted and thought and how he operated. He wants to take up the fight that Ted Kennedy never gave up on. And yes, Larry. Health care should be a right. Many people have worked hard and not had an opportunity to get health care through their job. Hard work isn't only done by republicans. I have worked hard my entire life and paid taxes, as did my parents and grandparents. I don't know why so many of you republicans think Democrats and Liberals don't work and pay taxes because you are so very wrong. But not only do many of us work, we also volunteer in high numbers to help people that need it. We think we owe it to our fellow man to be there when they need help and to stand up for the voiceless. Which is precisely why health care is such a big issue. Too many hardworking people don't have, yet the people at the tops of companies that wouldn't exist without the hardwork of those much further down the totem pole, make outraegous salaries with bonuses and benefits that no one is worth. That is why we have to continue to fight for access to health care for all. With you or over the top of you, we need health care for all. (oh yeah, you aren't going to use Medicare are you? You wouldn't want to feed at the trough would you?)

Posted by: alaskan2 | September 4, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Alaskan2: Great post. We will miss Ted Kennedy in this fight, but I am glad John Kerry has stepped up in his place. He is well liked and will be diligent, I think, in his effort to reform healthcare.

I really don't understand where all of this fear is coming from. And since most of the Republicans on here are so hostile and vicious it is hard to have a rational conversation with them. I have a feeling that most of this fear is the idea that somehow they will lose some of their money if we implement healthcare reform. What they don't seem to understand is, if we can reform healthcare and save some of the exorbitant health costs we have today it would actually be good for the economy. It would be good for medicare recipients as well. My husband and I work hard also and have good insurance. We're not rich people, but I wouldn't mind paying a little more in taxes to ensure everyone had decent healthcare. Where is the downside in this?

Posted by: MaggiePi | September 6, 2009 1:15 AM | Report abuse

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