Racists against Obama-care? Congressional reporter Carl Hulse didn't take it quite that far, but he made a point to juxtapose protests against Obama-care to violent 1960s-era protests against black civil rights, as personalized in the main subject of Hulse's Monday piece, civil rights icon and Democratic Congressman John Lewis: "Lewis said he was not intimidated as he walked to the Capitol with his colleagues, including Ms. Pelosi. In 1965, Mr. Lewis was bloodied and beaten by the police as he marched for civil rights."
Hulse first laid into "venomous" conservative protesters on Sunday afternoon, in his contribution to the paper's live blogging of the House debate at nytimes.com. From his 3:25 p.m. post "Angry, Vituperative Protests."
The mood inside the House chamber was tense as lawmakers headed toward climactic health care votes on Sunday, but the atmosphere outside the Capitol was downright venomous.
As the House engaged in initial parliamentary maneuvering, hundreds of anti-reform protesters gathered on the south side of the Capitol between the building and the House office buildings across Independence Avenue, chanting and jeering Democrats and applauding House Republicans who egged them on.
After racial slurs and other derogatory terms were hurled at Democrats by protesters on Saturday, numerous Democrats walked en masse from the House office buildings to the Capitol, running a gantlet of jeering and booing demonstrators. One was heard calling Representative Barney Frank, the openly gay Democrat from Massachusetts, a "faggot."
"It is almost like the Salem witch trials," Mr. Frank said. "The health bill has become their witch. It is a supernatural force and you get hysteria. There is an anger obviously that goes beyond anything connected to the bill." Mr. Frank said he thinks the name-calling will backfire.
"I don't think this is the way you win over the American people," he said. "I think the average American says 'No, I don't like this anger, this bigotry."
The headline over Hulse's Monday print follow-up, which was framed around Rep. Lewis, explicitly compared Obama-care to the civil rights movement: "Past Strife and Jeers, Another Long March in the Name of Change." Hulse liked Frank's "Salem witch trials" comparison so much he repeated it. Yet interestingly, in a story framed by Lewis's life, Hulse failed to mention the racial slur allegedly shouted at the congressman, which he'd reported on the paper's website just the previous afternoon:
Forty-five years ago, John Lewis began the third of what became society-shifting civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. On Sunday, the anniversary of that famous trek, he joined hands with fellow House Democrats and marched past jeering protesters into the Capitol to remake the nation's health care system.
"Today we are walking again, and we will be walking into history," Mr. Lewis, a Georgian, said as the House neared the climax of a marathon health care debate that has stirred partisan passions across the nation and allowed Democrats to claim an achievement that has eluded them for decades. "This is our time."
Several hours later, Mr. Lewis and 223 other Democrats strode onto the House floor to formally record their yes votes to lift the bill past its main procedural hurdle, brushing aside Republican warnings of political doom and epithets aimed at them over the weekend from a few of the more strident opponents.
Hulse repeated his exchange with Frank, down to the "Salem witch trials" silliness:
Representative Barney Frank, the openly gay Massachusetts Democrat who had anti-gay slurs hurled at him by protesters, said the opposition had spiraled badly out of control.
"It is almost like the Salem witch trials," Mr. Frank said. "The health bill has become their witch. It is a supernatural force, and you get hysteria. There is an anger obviously that goes beyond anything connected to the bill."
Hulse concluded by juxtaposing the anti-Obama-care protesters to the violent racists that beat Lewis at civil rights marches 45 years ago:
Mr. Lewis said he was not intimidated as he walked to the Capitol with his colleagues, including Ms. Pelosi. In 1965, Mr. Lewis was bloodied and beaten by the police as he marched for civil rights.
"What was so different more than anything else," he said of Sunday's walk, "was we had the protection of the Capitol police."