Yesterday's Health Care Forum at the Palm Beach County Government Center, sponsored by the Republican Party of Palm Beach County, was a fairly subdued affair. A total of two protesters turned up outside the center in support of Progressive Democrats of America: They held a banner favoring a single-payer system. It was nothing like the three-ring circus that had erupted outside the recent forum in Delray Beach. No high school marching band, for instance. Which only goes to show that right-wing radicals really know how to throw a hell of a party.
Inside, things were pretty sedate too. A lot of people were dressed in navy or steel gray, in handsome suits with handsomely coifed silver locks, holding expensive-looking briefcases or efficient clipboards. Mark Foley was there, dapper and grinning. So were former County Commissioner Addie Green and Town of Palm Beach Councilman Bill Diamond (Diamond called for the town to secede from Palm Beach County not long ago) and County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor.
Only one person carried a sign. The most interesting T-shirt in the crowd was worn by Jupiter resident and Navy veteran Stan Bloom, which read Tyranny Response Team in bold letters. Bloom, who had a long gray ponytail, said the tyranny referred to the "Obama Tzars."
By the time the meeting began at 1 p.m., there were still a few empty seats in the house. On the dais to discuss HR 3200 were congressional candidates Edward Lynch and Col. Allen West, Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings, and surprise dark horse Dr. Ben Graber, a Democratic former Broward County mayor and State House rep who's also a Coral Springs obstetrician. Wild and crazy Sid Dinerstein moderated. Somebody recited a weird blessing that started out sounding like the Lord's Prayer and then went AWOL (imploring God to spread his loving arms around us, etc -- maybe it was supposed to be nondenominational, I dunno), and then the games began. Hit the jump for our favorite sound bites.
1. Alcee Hastings: (in booming, stentorian tones) "There ain't no such thing as a death panel!"
2. Ed Lynch: "I would never post an immigration officer at the door of an emergency room. But I sure as hell would post one at the exit." (lots of applause, here)
3. Hastings (reading from a recent pay stub) "I paid $6,621 into FICA, $1,848 into Medicare, and $3,167 for health insurance." (hisses, shouts of "who cares?" from audience).
4. Col. West: "When I was in the Army, the officers stood at the end of the line at the mess hall. If the kitchen ran out of food, you didn't eat."
5. Hastings: "If anyone here thinks the insurance companies don't make decisions about the kind of health care you receive, you've got another thing coming."
6: Graber: "What insurance company performs surgery? What insurance company performs examinations? Their job is to make money."
7. Lynch: "This is the first time in my life that I have ever seen people who stood up and said, 'This is not the way things should be done!!!" (This was such a load of bull hockey that even this objective reporter let loose an audible snigger. Can't remember if Lynch was waving his "dogeared copy of the Constitution" at this point or if that came later.)
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8. Graber: (explaining why U.S. citizens go to Paris, India, and Germany for medical procedures): "Bush stopped funding medical research in this country for eight years."
9. Hastings: "Tax him, tax she, tax the guy behind the tree. But don't tax me!"
10. West: "We need to do three things. Recommit to values. Restore the rule of law to this republic. And reclaim American pride."
Zzzzzzzz. Yes, it was all very exciting. Wish you coulda been there.