Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sen. Murkowski's Anchorage Health Care Town Hall - Observations - Updated

I attended the first half of Sen. Lisa Murkowski's "Town Hall" Forum on health care, held this afternoon in the Dimond High School auditorium. The crowd filled the hall to capacity, and at times there may have been almost 200 more gathered in the atrium outside, so almost 1,000 people attended. Murkowski's staff, aided by school district employees I recognized in the support team (who usually work at other schools), helped engineer an ambience that looked for possible contention at the event, but sought to defuse it quietly, in the background.

Murkowski herself, through the way she conducted the forum, sought to ease troubled people as she sometimes did well, trying to answer questions from the audience. The professionalism of her staff almost immediately showed when questions from people who couldn't be seated in the auditorium because of the overflow were brought to her, without fanfare, within the first half hour of the event.

Some of the overall questions and selections of people to be heard appeared a bit too pat, though. Someone might look into that.

I'm a single payer system advocate, if you haven't figured that out already, so I am at odds with a lot of the material her staff presented as handouts to attendees, and what Murkowski then detailed in her introductory remarks.

And I'm at huge odds with Murkowski on a host of other issues having to do with her enabling of President Bush's robbery of so many of our constitutional freedoms.

Here are some enumerated observations from the forum:

1) It's easy to see why she is the most popular politician in Alaska right now. Unlike the crazy lady, she failed to make a snarky, 8th grade, divisive, self-serving statement all night. Well, scratch the "self-serving." But Murkowski seems to realize that she is currently Alaska's most prominent representative in political life, and that an adult is needed to do that.

2) I'm getting better at spotting different groups from within the teabagger community. It is diverse, and some of the people involved in this amorphous mirage of a faux new revolution are good people. Being from the Valley, I know a lot of them. None of the nuttier ones were there tonight, and I only spotted two paid astroturfers, but they didn't say anything.

3) Although I'm more skeptical every day the health care dialogue continues, that we'll get what the country needs, I was impressed at how many questions were worth asking. The crowd was more conservative than I had expected, but the medical profession field was well represented from among those who asked Sen. Murkowski questions or who had valuable comments.

4) As already noted, the staff work was excellent. And Murkowski seems to have successfully convinced the Alaska media and some national figures that she is reaching out more to Alaskans on this than is her colleague, Sen. Mark Begich. .

5) The meeting was webcast and carried live on Anchorage's KBYR-AM. Afterward, KBYR ran Glenn Biegel, their most doctrinaire conservative local commentator for the rest of the 8:00 hour, fielding comments. The most widely read Alaska progressive blog, The Mudflats, live-blogged the forum. Murkowski's staff seems to have had a major hand in the video and audio coverage. The Alaska Public Radio Network, the Anchorage TV news crews, and my colleague Dennis Zaki from The Alaska Report were there too.

Even though I had to leave early, I was able to hear much of the rest of the debate and KBYR's coverage.

6) Don Young is in mourning, but he has a responsibility to make some pubic appearances, and answer questions publicly on health care before he returns to work.

Update I: Sean Cockerham's Anchorage Daily News article on the forum.

Update II: Linda Kellen, in her overnight post on the forum, notes:

I did not make it tonight, but I've gotten some email feedback from folks who were there that the majority of the speakers were clearly prearranged and reading from prepared material. These are a couple of the people quoted for Sean Cockerham's ADN article:

Dr. Ilona Farr

-- Donated $700.00 to Ted Stevens last year and $300.00 to Sen. Murkowski.
--Wrote letter to the editor in support of Stevens

Tom McGrath

--Owner of Frigid North and well-known Conservative
--Appointed by Sarah Palin to the State Officers Compensation Commission
--Donor to SarahPAC
--Ran for Anchorage Assembly

And here is a comment posted at The Mudflats late yesterday evening, by Writing from Alaska:

I just got home and sat through the whole thing. My impressions are somewhat different than others here, I think. She started out by using her handouts to show on a graph why health care reform is absolutely necessary based on the increasing and unsustainable costs. She advocated for making sure that people in places like Alaska could actually get health care – saying that having a card that said you are entitled to care and having a health care provider are not the same thing. The card will do you no good if you live in rural Alaska and have no one to provide you with health care.

She talked about the great complexity of the problem, about different proposals that had been made, about the legislative process and never talked down to her audience or pandered to the negativity, though I agree that she could have corrected a couple of folks on some ridiculous comments, but she did keep to the topic of health care.

She advocated for incentives for more people to go into health care fields including nurse practitioners, nurses and others who fill the gaps in places like Alaska rural villages where no doctor is willing to work and live.

Bottom line for Murkowski seemed to be – we can’t ignore this issue or wait for it to go away – it has to be dealt with. Health care reform has to happen but is it just health insurance or is it also health providers, tort reform, increased reimbursements for medicare and other issues? And she says wants to take the time to do it thoroughly and so that it will benefit Alaskans and other rural states.

That was my take – and I have said before and will say again – I may not agree with her, but thank God for Republicans like Lisa Murkowski who has a brain and is willing to use it. I felt she was reassuring the more ‘conservative’ folks by listening to them while clearly conveying the message that health care reform is something that needs to happen for the good of the everyone – - one of the things she said was that it can’t be solved by the Democrats alone, because it isn’t a problem that only applies to Democrats – neither is it a Republican problem that needs a Republican solution. – I rather like that -

images - Sen. Murkowski coming onstage; the overflow at 6:05


Anonymous said...

Murkowski misrepresented the Democratic reform proposals, she's against a public option and supports her campaign donating insurance industry lobbyists in trying to torpedo Obama's push for health care reform.

But phil says Murkowski didn't say anything divisive.

As for Young, he's a co-sponsor of a number of Republican bills that cement corporate control of health care, there's no need for Young to 'go public', Young is a dyed in the wool winger who won't stray from the party line.

And neither will Murkowski, so heaping any amount of praise on Murkowski or Murkowski's staff won't amount to any progress for health care reform.

The Republicans, with the help of some moderate Democrats, are intent on killing any chance for a public option or a single payer system.

These obstructionists don't deserve any praise, they need to be scorned for their duplicity and their false image publicity stunts.

Murkowski and Young aren't advocates for what serves the public good.

Murkowski and Young are bought and paid shills for their corporate masters. Nothing more.

As such, they deserve only our common scorn.


HarpboyAK said...

Anonymous freeper, ya got that right. Murkowski gives good meeting, but when it comes to voting she's in lockstep with The Party Of No, which is not about to give Obama and the Congressional Dems one damn thing. It's about time they wake up and stop trying to placate the Repukes who want to water a bill down to meaningless drivel and then vote against it. It's time to simply use the House majority and let the Senate dingbats go ahead and filibuster themselves into oblivion. We need to pass the health care bill the country needs by using budget reconciliation if necessary, and then primary out the Blue Dogs that keep voting with the Repukes. It's time for Harry Reid to get some balls and show some leadership.

Philip Munger said...

Harry Reid is not about to grow a pair at this late stage in his political career.

clark said...

this time i totally agree with 'freeper'. the dems had better get this done, and without tort reform, and without taking it easy on the insurance companies.

Amy Jones said...

Well, I see others have differing opinions, perhaps I am just so glad to see a coherent politician in our state - and we do have TWO at least - that I am not as critical as others. At any rate, thank you Phil for including my comments in your round up of information on the evening.

I will be working on a blog tomorrow on how the ADN fell down on their job when reporting about the meeting. I thought they did a really bad job and did almost nothing to inform the public or share some of the valuable information that could have been useful in understanding the issue. - I have notes on almost every question and replies from Murkowski so hope to develop a cogent piece on the topic.

Amy Jones - aka Writing from Alaska

Anonymous said...

supposedly 'progressive' Alaska democratic party leader functionaries heaping praise on the opposition is self-defeating nonsense.

If 'growth' is needed, it's more likely growing a brain that's at the crux of the problem.

Passing real health care reform is not a complicated, complex, or esoteric question.

There is a very clear cut division, the GEE OH PEE wants to kill health care reform efforts to protect their corporate masters.

'Some Democrats' know that health care reform and reining in the health care industry is crucial to the over-all well being of the nation and the well being of every one of it's citizens.

There is no justification to cede anything to the Rethugnants. There is no rational justification to applaud Murkowski or the 'skills' of her staff.

Their aim, is to appear as a false 'image', create a p.r. image which portrays them as somehow being 'coherent' or desirable in some fashion, and some here have obviously been willing to swallow that whopper whole.

When this 'coherent' Repugnant drone votes to thwart and obstruct progressive ideals, all this praise will be shown to be self-destructive idiocy.

There is nothing to Murkowski that is laudatory, and very much to despise.

Get it right,

or take off that progressive tag and join the blue dogs like Begich has.

He isn't fooling anyone either,

unless, of course, they're perfectly comfortable with aligning themselves with the Republican obstructionists, or are willfully agreeing to be blind.

We need solid support for progressive ideals, not fawning lip-service and servile groveling before the opposition.


Amy Jones said...

"Passing real health care reform is not a complicated, complex, or esoteric question."

This issue is interrelated to programs in multiple agencies and reorganization of how services can be provided from multiple sources. No Child Left Behind was a 'simple' solution - with a great title and still 'sounds' good. We have been paying for the lack of attention to complexities ever since.

Anonymous said...

Let Don Young mourn, he can send a staffer.

And Zaki.....A "colleague" ?

I'd be careful how I referred to the guy.

How about Hack Faux Journalist ?

Anonymous said...


No Child Left Behind was never intended to accomplish substantive reform.

It sounded good just like Bush's Blue Skies Initiative sounded good.

The Blue Skies Initiative, despite sounding good, was an attempt to roll back the Clean Air act provisions that protected the environment from corporate exploitation.

Similarly, the No Child Left Behind farce was labeled so as to appear not only benign but something that should have been favored.

You failed in your lame attempt to conflate the two.

A cogent argument should be factual, logical and compelling.

Cogency is obviously not one of your strong suits.


Amy Jones said...

Yes, precisely, and thank you for proving my point. Believe I shall ignore the bait - all the best. :)