Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- The people showing up at town hall meetings to voice their strong disapproval of President Obama's health care plan have been called thugs, extremists, mobs, terrorists and, this week, "un-American."

Ever since Democrats headed home for the one-month August recess to hear what constituents are saying about their pending health care reform bills, White House and Democratic Party officials have been attempting to demonize opponents who are packing congressional town hall meetings to freely express their opinions.

According to reports from around the country, most opponents are civil and respectful, but in some cases many are also angry; voices are raised, fingers are pointed and names are hurled. This is American democracy at work, spelled out in the Constitution's Bill of Rights, which guarantees "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

There's a lot in these health care bills to get angry about. The House bill mandates that small businesses struggling to get by must provide health insurance to workers, and pay an extra tax. Many if not most of them will also be hit by a top income tax rate of over 50 percent.

Seniors are worried, too, because the plan will cut deeply into Medicare -- costs that they fear, with great justification, will reduce their medical benefits and their health care.

But the White House, the Democratic National Committee, Obama's campaign apparatus, and their allies have been effectively smearing the town hall protesters -- portraying them as "threatening" and "disruptive" and accusing them of being part of a political cabal organized and paid for by powerful Washington special interests.

The well-tailored Obama White House even dismissed their protests as "manufactured anger" run by a bunch of people in Brooks Brothers suits. Brad Woodhouse, the DNC's take-no-prisoners communications director, sent out a hysterical broadside written by DNC executive director Jen O'Malley Dillon that broadly attacked those who dared to show their displeasure with the administration's government-run health care takeover.

Across the country, she said, meetings hosted by Democratic members of Congress were being besieged by "organized mobs intimidating lawmakers, disrupting town halls, and silencing real discussion...."

These were not concerned Americans with legitimate complaints and fears about the big spending health care bills in Congress. These were "thuggish crowds," she said.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.