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Town Halls Try Members’ Patience

Three weeks into the August recess, shouting matches at town halls are evolving into Democrats attacking each other and Republicans taking heat for making racially offensive remarks.Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, said Thursday that fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats opposed to a public insurance option are “brain-dead— and “just want to cause trouble.—“They’re, for the most part, I hate to say, brain-dead, but they’re just looking to raise money from insurance companies and promote a right-wing agenda that is not really very useful in this whole process,— Stark said during a conference call.Stark, an outspoken liberal, also took a shot at Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) for promoting a health care co-operative to reform the system. Stark suggested that the co-op proposal was such a vague entity that it may as well as be “a medical unicorn.—“There is no real example of either the regulation, or how you would establish them, or where they would get enough people to have a purchasing base. So you might as well talk about unicorns. You know, what is a medical unicorn? My kids all know what a unicorn is. But you don’t. You have never seen one. So I think this co-op is just a way of ducking the issue of having the public plan,— Stark said.During an Aug. 19 town hall, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) told participants that Republicans are looking for a “great white hope— to fight President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.“Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope. … I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington,— Jenkins said. She went on to name three House Republicans who could serve as potential challengers to Obama in 2012: Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Budget ranking member Paul Ryan (Wis.).“Great white hope— is a racially charged expression that was used by white Americans in the early 1900s; it referred to their desire to see heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, who was black, defeated by a white man. It has subsequently been invoked in sports and electoral contests that have featured black athletes or politicians facing white challengers.Jenkins’ spokeswoman later said the lawmaker wanted to apologize for her word choice, according to the Capital-Journal.Some lawmakers aren’t sorry for their words, however, when it comes to ridding their town hall meetings of disruptive attendees.Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took matters into his own hands when an angry woman wouldn’t stop shouting at his town hall on Wednesday: He threatened to have her thrown out.McCain hadn’t opened up his meeting at a Phoenix church to questions when an audience member continued to yell over him as he spoke.“You’re going to have to stop or you’re going to have to leave,— McCain told the woman. When security guards approached to escort her out, McCain told her, “Goodbye. See ya,— as attendees applauded.

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