From today's WaPo chat (with WaPo columnist Ben Pershing):
Oklahoma City, OK: In yesterday's politics chat one of the posters wondered why it was "legal" for vocal critics of the administration to show up at congressional town halls and sometimes shout and yell. Does no one on the left recall eight years under George W. Bush when everywhere he went there were shrieking leftist protestors shouting "Hitler!" and hanging him in effigy? Some folks act like amngry fringe types are uniqie to the right.
Ben Pershing: That is a good point — it's certainly not a new phenomenon to have protesters show up at town halls and other political events and try to disrupt the proceedings. And there were plenty of fringe-y liberals who demonstrated loudly at Bush events. But I'm not sure if there was quite the level of coordination on the left as there is currently on the right, where conservative groups aren't just putting people at Democratic events, but actually encouraging them to yell at lawmakers.
Pershing is right. To be sure, there was vocal leftest protests at Bush events. The anger at Bush — especially during the run-up to the Iraq war was palpable.
… but shouts of "Hitler" at Bush? Hanging of Bush in effigy? That rarely if ever happened. And never was Bush shouted down to the point where he (and those he intended to meet with) were virtually silenced.
What's more, as Pershing notes, the left outrage was genuine outrage. Lobbying groups did not send out messages about how to disrupt town halls. The left's umbrage back then was a true grassroots protest based on factual information; the right's outrage today is all astroturf, based on misleading lies propogated by lobbying groups and insurance companies pulling the strings behind the scenes.
UPDATE: Here's a good idea to counter the protesters, Congresspeople. Hold your town hall meeting in a children's hospital.
UPDATE: A Tweet from this morning: