Pro-Obama-Care "Grassroots Advocates" - Controlled by the DNC

Advice for reporter Katharine Seelye: If pro-Obama "grassroots advocates" are operating "under the aegis of the Democratic National Committee," they aren't really "grassroots advocates."

More from the paper'sObama-care blog"Prescriptions." Reporter Katharine Seelye posted "Showing Support for Overhaul" on Wednesday morning, making the implausible claim that groups organized by the Democratic National Committee were somehow "grassroots advocates."

Democratic allies begin fanning out across the country on Wednesday in a final end-of-summer heave to demonstrate their support for a health care overhaul.

They hope to provide a bit of counterprogramming to the many skeptical and conservative voices that have slowed President Obama's push to change the health care system. The effort will promote a government-run health insurance plan - the so-called public option - which appears to be on life-support.

Under the aegis of the Democratic National Committee, various labor unions and grassroots advocates plan more than 1,800 events, including petition drives, phone-a-thons and rallies over the next two weeks. At the same time, a bus touting "Health Insurance Reform Now" will visit 11 cities, from Phoenix to Raleigh, N.C.

"Grassroots advocates" organized by the DNC? Isn't that a contradiction in terms?

The Republican National Committee didn't organize the conservative protests at town halls, but that hasn't stopped the Times from accusing town hall protesters of "Astroturfing" - Washington slang for a fake grass-roots effort.

Journalist Al Hunt of Bloomberg News penned an August 17 "Letter from Washington" for the Times' international edition, accusing health-care protesters of being "Astroturf" demonstrators.

The first week of the month, congressional Democrats, on their summer recess - or "district work period," as some call it - were on the defensive; the "Astroturf" anti-health-care-overhaul demonstrators took over constituent sessions, forcing Democratic members to cancel town hall meetings. Republican derision of the Obama stimulus plan dominated the political debate.

And ahostile front-page story by Ian Urbina on August 8 made the same insinuation, without using the A-word.

Earlier this week, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, compared the scenes at health care forums to the "Brooks Brothers brigade" in 2000, a reference to the protests that disrupted the vote count in Miami during the presidential election battle between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Portrayed at the time as local protesters, many were actually Republican staff members flown in from Washington.

For Representative Steve Kagen, Democrat of Wisconsin, Mr. Gibbs's criticism rang true.

After he faced heckling during a heated discussion about health care at a forum on Thursday, Mr. Kagen was confronted by a vocal opponent named Heather Blish, who identified herself as "just a mom from a few blocks away" and "not affiliated with any political party."

When interviewed by the local NBC affiliate, Ms. Blish insisted she was not a member of the Republican Party. But her page on the networking Web site Linked In said she was the vice chairwoman of the Republican Party of Kewaunee County until last year and worked on the campaign of John Gard, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Kagen last year.