In the words of one woman at a McCain rally in Minnesota, Obama is "an Arab." Sen. John McCain reclaimed the microphone to set the audience straight, "I have to tell you. Sen. Obama is a decent person and a person you don't have to be scared of as president of the United States."
The audience booed their own nominee for president.
Almost a year later the same angry mob is trying its best to shoot down plans for health-care reform. On behalf of the health-insurance industry, talk radio, conservative advocacy groups, Fox News and elected Republicans are stoking the fires of disgruntled conservatives.
Fictions like "death panels," "rationed care" and "mandatory abortions" are taken as gospel by those citizens attending congressional town-hall meetings for the express purpose of restricting dialogue.
Not that it takes much effort to rile a group willing to believe the wildest conspiracies, including that the president was not born in the United States.
None of this should be a surprise.
If congressional and White House Democrats are waiting on a Republican of John McCain's stature to calm the seething GOP horde, they had better come up with a new strategy.
Yet, a New York Times story Tuesday reports that the Obama White House has been taken aback by the ferocity of foes of health-care reform.
This same strain of GOP conservatives led the charge to paint Obama as a secret Muslim who palled around with terrorists while becoming radicalized at the hands of militant Christian pastors and raging communists.
Please don't tell us the Obama team was expecting moderation and reason in a debate over reforming the U.S. health-care system.
It's time for Democrats to fight back, not with equally shrill mobs but with examples that prove their case.
A good reminder would be that Medicare was once opposed as "socialized medicine." In fact, the same loud voices fighting change today are the children of 1960's voices opposed to a government-provided health care for all elderly Americans. Today, Medicare is firmly entrenched as a treasured program. Many in August's town halls curiously opposed a more vigorous federal health-care option yet favored keeping Medicare.
Looking for the folly of a system where coverage is based on employment, look no further than east Alabama. Anniston Sportswear Corp. announced Monday it is closing, meaning 200 or so workers will soon start scrambling for health care. In Wadley, Meadowcraft employees stand to lose not only employment but also the means to afford adequate health care.
Of course, health-care reform advocates shouldn't stop there; stories of hardships exist across the nation. Stories of real people weighed down by the strain of the health-care system are the antidote to opponents' screaming tirades. This is a campaign Democrats should have begun weeks ago. Instead, they appear to be playing catch-up, caught off guard by the intensity of the opposition.