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Profile: Niki Tsongas
Niki Tsongas was a participant or observer in the following events:
Niki Tsongas. [Source: Boston Herald]Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA) holds a town hall to discuss health care reform in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. The crowd is relatively evenly divided between supporters and opponents. One audience member later writes about the event on the liberal blog Daily Kos. According to the blogger, some of the reform opponents sport the now-ubiquitous “Obama as Hitler” sign (see August 6, 2009); someone tells the blogger that the sign is being provided by an organization affiliated with the extreme right-winger Lyndon LaRouche. The school gymnasium hosting the event rapidly reaches its maximum capacity of 220, with people standing along the sides and in the back as well as occupying all of the available seats. The event is marked by frequent outbursts of shouting, booing, and name-calling, but Tsongas and the audience are somewhat able to ask and answer questions. The Lowell Sun later reports, “Supporters tried to counter with applause and cheer, but could not compete with the decibel level of the plan’s opponents.” One opponent screams, “We’re turning into a Communist country!” Others complain that illegal aliens will be covered, using monies that should be allocated for citizens’ care, and that health care will be strictly rationed, both claims that have been sharply disputed by President Obama and other Democrats (see August 8, 2009). Tsongas is frequently shouted down by protesters who, according to the Sun, “rush… the microphone” to ask questions and make statements. Exchanges among audience members are equally heated. One man receives cheers when he identifies himself as a retired Marine, but is booed when he declares his support for reform. A woman is booed when she identifies herself as a cancer survivor, but is cheered when she says she opposes reform. Listening to her tearful statement, one supporter calls out, “She’s an actress!” Another woman discusses her son, who has graduated from college but cannot find a job and suffers from debilitating kidney disease. When she asks Tsongas what her son can do, a reform opponent shouts, “He can go to work for McDonald’s!” A Sun reporter asks two elderly bill opponents about their views; the seniors refuse to give their names. “I won’t give my name because of the Gestapo politics,” one says. “The Obama administration will be investigating us if we give our names.” After the event, Tsongas says: “We managed to have a serious discussion. Different opinions were expressed and there were moments when people were very animated, but they respected the need to go forward.… Some people seemed genuinely concerned. I wasn’t suprised by it. We knew people would come and there would be strong opinions.” [Daily Kos, 8/8/2009; Boston Herald, 8/9/2009; Lowell Sun, 8/9/2009; MetroWest Daily News, 8/12/2009]
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