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DNC, Dionne Lament Focus on "Noise" at Town Halls

2:06 PM, Sep 3, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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The DNC sends around E.J. Dionne's column in today's Washington Post, called "The Real Town Hall Story," and note this key point: "There is an overwhelming case that the electronic media went out of their way to cover the noise and ignored the calmer (and from television's point of view 'boring') encounters between elected representatives and their constituents."

Where to begin. Yes, it is true that the electronic media, the cable channels, the country's major newspapers, all went out of their way to cover the noise and ignored the calmer encounters between reps and their constituents. Dionne is not making things up here. But Dionne also knows that didn't happen by accident. The DNC told reporters to jump and reporters, bloggers, and cable producers asked 'how high?'

Exhibit A: The DNC memo to reporters that preceded their all out push to make the August town halls about the "angry mobs" of "rabid right wing extremists" to "to disrupt thoughtful discussions about the future of health care in America." That memo closed with this over the top quote:

The right wing extremists' use of things like devil horns on pictures of our elected officials, hanging members of Congress in effigy, breathlessly questioning the President's citizenship and the use of Nazi SS symbols and the like just shows how outside of the mainstream the Republican Party and their allies are. This type of anger and discord did not serve Republicans well in 2008 - and it is bound to backfire again.

And of course, Dionne played along. Matt Welch points to a column by Dionne written just two weeks ago:

This is not about the politics of populism. It's about the politics of the jackboot. It's not about an opposition that has every right to free expression. It's about an angry minority engaging in intimidation backed by the threat of violence. [...]

It goes on like that from there. The DNC dictated the terms of the coverage of August town halls, they spent weeks building up the story of out of control right-wingers -- with plenty of help from the Democratic leadership in Congress (Pelosi and Hoyer called these voters "un-American"). It was always a risky strategy, and as predicted here the day it was launched, it backfired. After a month of hyping the "noise" -- and getting the media to play along -- it takes some nerve for the DNC and Dionne to turn around and point the finger at the "electronic media."