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Profile: Maxine Johnson
Maxine Johnson was a participant or observer in the following events:
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]
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