Jim Greer Distances State GOP From Rowdy Townhalls
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer sought Wednesday to distance the state GOP from a series of feisty town halls on the health care plan being debated in Congress, including a meeting in Tampa for Rep. Kathy Castor last week that saw some physical altercations.
Greer said the town halls have not been as ugly as supporters of the health care plan being pushed by President Barack Obama have made them out to be, but that they have not been completely civilized either.
“What you see happening in my opinion is a political effort to influence the appearance of the outcome of these town hall meeting,” Greer said during a meeting with reporters at the state party headquarters in Tallahassee. “I do believe that the Democrats have created a political mechanism, but I also believe that we as Republicans need to ensure that we not do anything of this nature either -- that these town hall meetings be one where there can be some serious discussion about health care.”
Greer added that the people attending the town halls should be more respectful of the hosts, saying “I think it’s outrageous that people are screaming at members of Congress, whether it’s Republican or Democrat, but I also think members of Congress have an obligation to be able to provide the information.”
Greer sought to move the state party away from some of the more controversial assertions about the plan being made by fervent opponents, including critic's claims that it would allow panels created by the federal government to make end-of-line health decisions.
“I have not used the term ‘death panels’ nor would anyone at the party use the term,” Greer said. “I understand that term is being floated around out there, but I can only speak for me and this party in Florida and we would not use the term ‘death panels.’”
But Greer quickly made clear that he agreed with opponents who say the health care plan is being crafted too fast and is too reliant on government. “This is a philosophy of what health care should be and how it should be provided,” Greer said. “I have a fundamental difference (or opinion with Democrats), as I believe most Republicans do…that government intrusion in this area should be very limited.”
Prior to Greer’s remarks Wednesday, Democrats called on Republican elected officials to denounce the tenor of the recent town hall meetings after a shoving match at Castor’s meeting made national headlines.
“Enough is enough!” party spokesman Eric Jotkoff wrote in an E-mail to supporters. “First Florida Republicans used riots to stop the recount and make George W. Bush President. Now they're trying to use the Republican mob rule tactics to stop efforts to reform our broken health insurance system and obstruct President Obama’s efforts to bring change to Washington.”
Not only did Jotkoff say that Gov. Charlie Crist and Attorney General Bill McCollum, both candidates for statewide office next year, need to denounce the uncivil tone of the recent town halls, “but they also need to apologize for the violence that was witnessed…in Tampa.”
“If they don't they will be equally as guiltily as the protesters starting these fights,” Jotkoff said.