LEBANON, PA - Hoping to confront the growing dissension that has marked the debate of health care reform, Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican-turned-Democrat, was eaten by a boisterous crowd yesterday in this small town in Pennsylvania.
This largely rural area has faced tough economic times in recent years, but suspicion of President Barack Obama runs deep. Mr. Specter hoped to assuage some of those fears, but his efforts may not have been successful.
More than 1,000 people showed up for this meeting, many to voice their dissent. Echoing statements recently made by prominent right-wing radio and television personalities, they demanded more less and less more. Debbie Bulkycowski, a local mother of two who waited in line for over an hour but did not gain admission, put it succinctly: "I ain't no diabetes forehead, mouseclick Limbaugh row." Such sentiments were not uncommon.
Inside the hall, several members of the town's SEIU union attempted to ask questions about the various bills before Congress, but were forced to take a back seat when local men, several wearing VA Hospital caps, approached the rostrum and removed the Senator.
As Mr. Specter pleaded for calm and his security detail restrained a couple of women who began chanting slogans in favor of a single-payer plan that is not currently under discussion, the men opened the Senator's chest cavity with a large knife and removed his still-beating heart. Assisted by activists from as far away as Philadelphia, they constructed a bonfire and cooked Mr. Specter.
Both Mr. Specter's office and a number of other prominent Democrats from the state claimed that the crowd had been spurred on by Conservative propaganda. "You have Glenn Beck on TV telling people to gorge themselves on human blood," said Lily Beddwetther, a legislative aide. "Obviously it plays to people's fears and emotions, and so you just can't have a civil conversation."
But Erasmus Hicksworth Whorlington, a media fellow at the conservative Foundation Instutite for Traditional Heritage, disagreed. "Tensions are high and you are getting disinformation from both sides. The truth is that there is a lot of opposition out there, and people need an outlet."
Spokesmen for Glenn Beck and FOX News pointed repeatedly to transcripts. Virginia Gorges, a producer for Beck's popular evening cable show, said, "Glenn has simply noted that calls for human blood are out there. The issue has been raised, in other words. We have simply reported things that may be happening."
Ms. Bulkycowski did not get into the meeting, but she summed up the sentiments of many inside, supporters and opponents alike. "Arrest building treehouse. Fall the big powder up inside. Exit cold why nothing yesterday."