The White House press office is now Miss Manners' office. President Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, took to the television airwaves this week to criticize congressional town hall protesters for "yelling." Gibbs' underling, Bill Burton, chastised voters not to "disrupt" and "scream." Instead, he advised America to engage in a "spirited debate about health care, a real vigorous conversation about it."
What constitutes "spirited"? How do they define "vigorous"? When does forceful dissent become intolerable disruption? Herewith, the Obama Etiquette Czar's Official Rules for Patriotic Protest. Keep this guide with you at all times to avoid being flagged by the Democratic politeness monitors.
-- No shouting. Congressional representatives cannot sell Obamacare with mobs of unruly senior citizens and small-business owners interrupting to press them on specific sections of the bill. Limit your objections to a library whisper and only challenge your lawmakers with hushed, dulcet tones. Otherwise, you will scare them, and they will be forced to hide behind teleconference calls, sick children at hospitals or union bosses.
If, on the other hand, you are attending a presidential town hall to show your affection and approbation, "spirited" chanting is acceptable.
Don't: "HANDS OFF HEALTH CARE!" and "READ THE BILL!"
Do: "I LOVE YOU, BARACK!" "AMEN!" and "YES, WE CAN!"
Also permitted: Shouting at historic inaugurations to protest war (as legions of Code Pink activists did in 2005 during the president's address) and shouting, "We didn't cross the borders, the borders crossed us!" to protest immigration enforcement (as thousands of illegal alien supporters did during raucous rallies in 2006).
Do refrain from boisterous shrieking against those who accuse you of lacking patriotism -- unless you are Hillary Clinton, who bellowed at the top of her lungs in 2003:
"I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration, somehow you're not patriotic. We should stand up and say we are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration."
-- No laughing. Snickering at proponents of nationalized health care is rude, bordering on political terrorism. Stifle all derisive chuckling at bogus statistics and denials that Obamacare will lead to long lines and rationed care. That would be "evil-mongering," as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put it on Thursday.
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