This afternoon, ThinkProgress was on a conference call hosted by RNC Chairman Michael Steele. In response to a question from The Washington Times about protests inside health care town halls, Steele distanced himself and the RNC from the protesters:
STEELE: I had nothing to do with that, I did not encourage that. And we’re not encouraging people to be angry I mean to the point of being nasty and brutish and ugly. That’s not what this is about. There’s no upside for the Republican Party or the people involved to do that. Now some people, you know, that’s how they express their frustration, that’s how they express their frustration. But that’s not something deliberately coordinated by me or any one state party.
In condemning these disruptions, Steele placed himself at odds with a number of other Republican leaders. Recently House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) promised that House Democrats would have a “very, very hot summer” when they had to face their constituents. Today, in fact, he even sent out a “GOP Leader Alert” that seemingly promoted the mob attacks on his colleagues:
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) has gone even further, bluntly telling the press that the time for polite town halls is now “over.” The NRCC also sent out a jubilant e-mail recently that praised the disruptions as “recess roasting.”
Steele may be distancing himself now, but in the past, he has embraced astroturfing tactics. In 2006, the Maryland GOP bused in homeless people from outside the state to hand out flyers on behalf of Steele, who was incorrectly identified as a Democrat.
The Washington Independent’s David Weigel, who was also on the call, noted that Steele said the stock market improving is a direct result of Democratic legislation slowing down in Congress.
Earlier today, Sen John McCain (R-AZ) voiced his displeasure with the town hall mobs via Twitter: “Town hall meetings are an American tradition – we should allow everyone to express their views without disruption – even if we disagree!”