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Profile: Claire McCaskill
Claire McCaskill was a participant or observer in the following events:
The conservative lobbying group Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see April 15, 2009 and May 29, 2009), in conjunction with the St. Louis Tea Party Coalition, organizes a large protest at a town hall meeting organized by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Michelle Sherrod, a McCaskill aide, intends to discuss the senator’s opinion on the Obama administration’s health care reform proposals with the protesters, but AFP volunteers and associated protesters have a different agenda. The AFP Web alert says, “We hope we can have a vigorous yet courteous exchange Monday evening,” but according to liberal blog OpenLeft, whose contributors videotape part of the proceedings for YouTube, the conservative protesters—numbering somewhere around 1,000—are disruptive, often preventing Sherrod and other citizens from asking or answering questions. AFP later calls the protest a “smashing success.” The Fox News blog, Fox Nation, celebrates the protest with the headline, “Tea Party Protest Erupts During Senator’s Town Hall!” [Americans for Prosperity, 7/24/2009; Open Left, 7/27/2009; St. Louis Business Journal, 7/27/2009; Americans for Prosperity, 7/28/2009; Fox Nation, 7/29/2009]
Betty Anne McCaskill watches as her daughter Claire McCaskill addresses the audience. [Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch]Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) brings an effective ally to a potentially contentious health care reform discussion at Jefferson College in Missouri: her aging and ill, but outspoken, mother. Betsy Anne McCaskill, an octogenarian who suffers from diabetes and heart problems, calls herself “Exhibit No. 1” in the debate over reform. She interrupts the forum early on to give her daughter advice: “As Harry Truman said, give ‘em hell.”
Winning Over the Crowd - The McCaskills are interrupted at the outset by shouts and boos, but as the event continues, they win over the bulk of the crowd—some 2,000 strong, held in the campus field house—with what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch later calls their “mix of frank talk and tough love.” Senator McCaskill says after the event: “I just hope that the word goes out that every member of Congress can and should have these kind of meetings. I don’t think we should shy away from public discourse just because it gets a little rocky.”
Confusion over Contents of Bill - She fields a number of tough questions, and assures that the reform plans will neither fund abortions nor require citizens to change their health care plans or insurance providers. After the forum, many tell reporters that they aren’t sure McCaskill was entirely honest with them. One expresses a concern that many seem to share: confusion over exactly what is and what is not in the bill. “It doesn’t seem to be as transparent as [President] Obama promised. It seems to be a hurry-up-and-get-it-done attitude.” A Tea Party protester says he appreciated McCaskill’s openness and candor. “She’s got a lot of guts to be here,” he says. “I have to give her a lot of credit.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/12/2009]
One Arrest over Racial Confrontation - One man is arrested when he tears a sign from the grip of veteran Democratic activist Maxine Johnson. The sign is not about health care, but is a poster of famed civil rights activist Rosa Parks, depicted on the poster as the “First Lady of Civil Rights.” As posters and signs are not allowed in the hall, Johnson and several friends, who brought similar posters, had rolled them up once entering the venue and being “booed and berated” by the crowd, according to one reporter. A journalist asks Johnson to show her the poster; when she does, anti-reform protester James Winfrey rips it from her hands and begins crumpling it up. An angry Johnson is escorted from the building, but Winfrey is later charged with third-degree assault. One witness later says that Winfrey just “came over and grabbed” the poster from Johnson’s hand. Watching the brief conflict, McCaskill says from the podium, “I’ll bet you a dollar that’s all they show on the news tonight.” During the conflict, a security officer asks McCaskill if she wants to exit the forum for her own safety. She responds, “Not on your life.” [Talking Points Memo, 8/11/2009; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/12/2009; Huffington Post, 8/12/2009] According to liberal blogger Pam Spaulding, the apparent racism evidenced by Winfrey is not an isolated incident at the venue. One African-American woman is accosted by a white woman who tells her how tired she is of “n_ggers” and “baby killers,” and President Obama is depicted in signs, pamphlets, and posters outside the hall as, Spaulding writes, “some sort of Nazi, socialist, foreign born, communist, Muslim, euthanasia enthusiast, fascist who wants to tyrannically impose new environmental standards to perpetuate the dangerous myth of global warming all the while teaching the wee little babies about birth control in pre-school and plotting to knock off Grandma.” [Pam Spaulding, 8/12/2009]
Three Senate Republicans—Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), former presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ), and Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-MO)—hold a “Health Care Reform Forum” at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. The event is closed to the public. The attendees were invited either by the senators or the hospital administration. McConnell tells the audience that he believes it is time to “step back and start over” on health care reform. McConnell and McCain intend to take part in two more health care forums, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Hialeah, Florida, but both events will also be closed to the public. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who has taken part in several contentious town hall audiences (see July 27, 2009 and August 11, 2009), criticizes the Republican senators for not allowing citizens to take part in the discussions, saying: “I’m disappointed that the Republican leader of the Senate is coming to Kansas City on Monday and participating in a forum, but they’re not opening it up to the public. It’s invitation-only. I think it might be helpful for the leadership in the Republican Party to have some of the experiences I’ve had over the last week, where some of the meetings are wildly in favor of reform, and other meetings are wildly against it. I think having that pulse is important, and I think the Republican leader would benefit from that.” [Think Progress, 8/31/2009; Charlotte Observer, 8/31/2009]
Senate races are seeing the impact of huge “independent” expenditures that resulted from the 2010 Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010), and as in so many other instances, Republicans are reaping most of the benefits of these expenditures (see August 2, 2010, April 5, 2010, September 13-16, 2010, September 21 - November 1, 2010, October 2010, Mid-October 2010, October 18, 2010, Around October 27, 2010, October 30, 2010, Mid-November 2010, January 26, 2011 and After, March 2011, (May 4, 2011), May 5, 2011, July 12, 2011, August 4, 2011, October 27, 2011, November 8, 2011, December 1, 2011, January 6, 2012, January 23, 2012, February 6, 2012, February 9, 2012, February 21, 2012, February 21, 2012, February 21, 2012, March 9, 2012, March 26, 2012, Late March 2012, April 13-20, 2012, April 22, 2012, and May 2, 2012). Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and former Governor Tim Kaine (D-VA) are being outspent by more than a 3-1 ratio by their Republican opponents and the third-party groups that support those opponents. Brown and his allies have spent some $2.5 million on television advertising, but are being challenged by an $8 million expenditure by such groups as American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. Brown says: “These individuals, these billionaires, realize that small numbers of people can have a huge impact. It’s very one-sided. This outside money is bad for the system.” Kaine and his supporters have spent $385,000, but face a $1.9 million expenditure by such groups as the US Chamber of Commerce. Crossroads GPS is airing a series of ads accusing Kaine of having a “reckless” spending record as governor, including turning a $1 billion surplus into an almost-$4 billion shortfall, an assertion fact-checking organizations have declared to be false. In turn, Crossroads GPS spokesperson Jonathan Collegio upped the claim, telling a reporter that Kaine had left office with a $3 trillion shortfall. The Virginia Constitution requires the state to maintain a balanced budget, and factcheckers have said that Kaine balanced budgets during his term. Missouri Republicans are enjoying a $7 million-$2 million disparity in their challenge to Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). In Florida, US Representative Connie Mack (R-FL) and his supporters have run almost 6,500 television ads against Senate incumbent Bill Nelson (D-FL) with no response from Nelson’s campaign. One Mack ad accused Nelson of supporting a tax-funded program to research the effects of cocaine on monkeys, a claim factcheckers have found to be false. Another Mack ad attempts to link Nelson to the Obama administration’s health care reform legislation, which Republicans have dubbed “Obamacare,” and says 20 million people will lose medical coverage because of the reform, a claim factcheckers have found to be false. The re-election campaign of President Obama is hoarding resources, expecting to have to combat an onslaught of spending by Republican contender Mitt Romney (R-MA) and his supporters (see Late May 2012), and is thusly contributing little to Congressional races. Advertising executive Ken Goldstein says: “There’s so much oxygen being sucked up by the Obama campaign. Democrats are also not going to have the same kind of money that Republican outside groups are going to have.” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina confirms that the Obama campaign is not prepared to contribute large sums to Congressional contenders, saying: “Our top priority and focus is to secure the electoral votes necessary to re-elect the president. There’s no doubt that Democratic campaigns face a challenging new political landscape with special interests giving unlimited amounts to super PACs.” Scott Reed, a US Chamber of Commerce official who worked on the 1996 Bob Dole presidential campaign, says the sharp disparity in spending will not matter at the end of the campaigns: “It comes out in the wash at the end of the day in the sense that Obama is a ferocious fundraiser-in-chief. There’s no question the pro-business and pro-growth groups are spending early and more aggressively than ever because they recognize the stakes of the election are so high.” [Bloomberg News, 5/29/2012]
Entity Tags: Clarence W. (“Bill”) Nelson, US Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads, 2012 Obama presidential election campaign, Claire McCaskill, Sherrod Brown, Tim Kaine, Obama administration, Connie Mack, Jim Messina, Scott Reed, Ken Goldstein, American Crossroads GPS, Mitt Romney presidential campaign (2012)
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
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