WASHINGTON – First it was “fake news.”
Are Republicans now the victims of fake anger at town halls held by members of Congress around the country?
The topic came up at Wednesday’s White House press briefing.
However, the real question may be: If the anger itself is not fake, just who is it that is so angry?
Fake protesters, pretending to be angry Republicans?
The left’s angry resistance to the Trump presidency began before the presidency itself, with sometimes violent protests in major cities across the nation held immediately after the election.
And, of course, Trump has been the recipient of considerable anger from certain mainstream media outlets after he accused them of manufacturing fake news coverage of the administration.
Undoubtedly, all that anger is real.
However, Trump tweeted on Tuesday, “The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!”
A reporter from one of those networks called out by Trump, ABC’s Jonathan Karl, asked White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday: Is the president “suggesting this is manufactured anger? That this is not real anger and real concern?”
Spicer replied that it was a “hybrid,” and, “I think some people are clearly upset, but there is a bit of professional protester manufactured base in there.”
“It is not a representation of a member’s district,” he continued, “It is a loud, small group of people disrupting something, in many cases for media attention, no offense.”
Spicer added, “Just because they’re loud doesn’t mean that there are many.”
Karl responded, “Does the president doubt there is real anger and real concern out there beyond just a few loud agitators – that there’s real concern that people may lose their health-care plans?”
“I just said that,” Spicer shot back.
He went on to describe hardships so many Americans are suffering under Obamacare, the damage it has caused, the administration’s empathy for its victims and the great efforts they were making to come up with a replacement plan that would work.
However, the anger at town halls may be more than just hybrid, as Spicer called it.
Reports appear to confirm the president’s claim that the anger is manufactured by leftist opposition to Trump.
On Saturday, the New York Post reported the activist group led by former President Obama called Organizing for Action, or OFA, had distributed a training manual for leftists agitators on how to disrupt town hall meetings held by GOP members of Congress in their home districts.
The manual also instructed agitators on how to give the false impression that it was the representatives’ own constituents who were angry.
An OFA post on Facebook called on activists to besiege Republicans until Feb. 26, when “representatives are going to be in their home districts.”
The Post reported the manual “advises protesters to go into halls quietly so as not to raise alarms, and ‘grab seats at the front of the room but do not all sit together.’ Rather, spread out in pairs to make it seem like the whole room opposes the Republican host’s positions. ‘This will help reinforce the impression of broad consensus.’ It also urges them to ask ‘hostile’ questions — while keeping ‘a firm hold on the mic’ — and loudly boo the GOP politician if he isn’t “giving you real answers.”
Protesters were advised to “express your concern [to the event’s hosts] they are giving a platform to pro-Trump authoritarianism, racism, and corruption.”
The Post said the goal was “to make Republicans, even from safe districts, second-guess their support for the Trump agenda.”
The manual advised, “Even the safest [Republican] will be deeply alarmed by signs of organized opposition, because these actions create the impression that they’re not connected to their district and not listening to their constituents.”
Activists were told to send video of angry protests to local and national media. Indeed, they did send footage to the networks of protesters angrily disrupting a meeting held in Utah by House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz. That was just one of many town halls upon which agitators swarmed earlier this month.
The manual even provided a script for agitators to follow, with such complaints as: “I’m honestly scared that a known racist and anti-Semite (apparently an unsubstantiated reference to Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon) will be working just feet from the Oval Office. … It is everyone’s business if a man who promoted white supremacy is serving as an adviser to the president.”
Although that may have been one of the most significant items discussed at Wednesday’s White House briefing, it was not the topic that caused the small room to be even more packed than usual.
Word had leaked that the Trump administration was preparing to reverse a regulation issued by the Obama administration allowing public school students claiming to be transgender to use bathrooms and locker rooms of either sex.
Spicer said there would be no announcement at the briefing, but he tipped the administration’s hand by noting the president had repeatedly stressed the issue should be left up to each state. Indeed, as WND has reported in depth, in the early evening the administration did announce it had rescinded the Obama-era guidelines.
In making the announcement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “The Department of Justice remains committed to the proper interpretation and enforcement of Title IX and its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying and harassment.”
At the briefing, and before the announcement, Spicer was asked why there was a sudden urgency to address the issue on the part of the administration.
He replied it had not suddenly become a priority; however, there is currently a case before the Supreme Court addressing the issue. Therefore, Spicer said the administration was required to provide its input.
The most unusual question of the day took Spicer by surprise.
The press secretary was asked how President Trump would react should there be a “Meryl Streep moment at the Oscars” on Sunday.
He merely laughed softly, as did much of the press gallery.
Instead of answering directly, Spicer mused: “I’ve got to be honest with you, I think the president will be hosting the Governors Ball that night. Mrs. Trump looks forward to putting on a phenomenal event, and the first lady’s put a lot of time into this event that’s going to occur and welcoming our nation’s governors to the capital.”
He added, “I have a feeling that’s where the president and the first lady are going to be focused on Sunday night.”
Asked why so many actors have spoken out, he replied, “I have no idea. It’s a free country.”
Spicer added, “I think Hollywood is known for being rather far to the left in its opinions,” as if to say, should Streep go on another anti-Trump diatribe as she did at the Golden Globes, what else is new?
However, Trump did respond to Streep after her outburst at the Golden Globes, calling her “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood” and a “Hillary flunky who lost big.”
So, should Streep strike again, political reporters will undoubtedly be keeping a close watch on the president’s Twitter feed.
Reporters did manage to address other important matters of state during Wednesday’s briefing, including complaints by some conservatives that the drive to scrap Obamacare appeared stalled.
Spicer asserted the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare “remains a top priority,” but it is a complex task. He said it was not a “walk-and-chew-gum situation,” meaning the administration was able to pursue that and other priorities simultaneously.
Describing the magnitude of the problem, Spicer cited health care premiums that have risen by more than 100 percent in such states as Arizona and referred to communities across the country now down to just one medical center.
He said the Affordable Care Act had proven neither affordable nor accessible. The grim reality is, Spicer said, people are losing health care coverage because of a law “jammed through Congress” under Obama, and installing a replacement “will take a lot of work to get it right.”
The press secretary was asked if the president’s “rhetoric” had adversely affected his executive order implementing a travel ban from seven countries plagued by terrorism. That was a reference to a judge’s citing of Trump’s campaign remarks in putting the ban on hold.
Spicer replied that the president had been very clear that the ban was issued because there were not adequate vetting procedures in place for refugees or immigrants from the seven countries targeted. He called the issue primarily one of safety, above all else.
He reiterated his position from the day before that Trump is confident the executive order, currently tied up in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, will ultimately be upheld, even as his administration prepares a new executive order tailored to meet the court’s concerns.
Spicer said that new order was basically completed and the administration is now working with various agencies to ensure it will be smoothly implemented.
Asked if he expects it to get a fair hearing in the court system, Spicer said yes, and somewhat bitingly added that you don’t have to be that “high up in grade school” to recognize what the order does and what the law says.
The press secretary said Trump’s upcoming address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday will be a very strong blueprint of where he wants to lead the country.
“It will define what success is and how we get there,” Spicer said.
The speech will not be as detailed as some of the addresses of his predecessors but will focus more on the big picture, he revealed.
A reporter asked if the president did not have confidence in his Cabinet appointees to find staffers who agree with his agenda.
No, Spicer replied. The Cabinet members are great. The problem is there are so many posts to fill. And there are areas of key priorities the administration wants to pursue first, so the challenge is finding the right people to put in the key posts who agree with the president’s vision.
Spicer said not only isn’t this situation unusual, it’s par for the course for any new administration. He said it would be almost malpractice not to find people committed to implementing the president’s agenda, and he doesn’t think any other administration in history has done differently.