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The following appeared today in CNN's political ticker:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The president of a conservative group accused of "astroturfing" the recent protests at congressional town halls suggested Tuesday that a rift is showing in the Democratic Party on health care reform.
A day after Democrats took to the airwaves to push back on recent comments from an Obama cabinet member about the administration's possible willingness to compromise on a public health insurance option and two days after a longtime Clinton ally suggested Democrats should lay the groundwork to blame Republicans during the 2010 mid-term elections if health care reform legislation is not passed by year's end, the president and CEO of conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks said the health care reform debate is now "a debate between Democrats in their own party."
"I think you're seeing the White House and Democrats in Congress getting pulled in both directions," Matt Kibbe said. "They look schizophrenic and they are. One day they're for the government-run option and the next day they're for a compromise position."
"We are going to stop this process," Kibbe told a gathering of conservative bloggers and online activists, "and we probably won't see any bill this year. When we do that, we need to make sure that we offer a positive alternative." Kibbe described the current health care system as "wildly corrupted" by government regulation. "We have always believed in a system that is focused on what patients need – not what third parties need. . . . We really want to get at an individualized system where patients are in charge of things."
Kibbe denied that FreedomWorks had done anything out of the ordinary to precipitate the sometimes angry protests and confrontations that have occurred recently as members of Congress in both parties hold town hall meetings with their constituents during the August recess.
In an interview with CNN, Kibbe described conservatives who opposed health care reform as "a very loosely associated network of organizations that go all the way to citizens' kitchen tables. No one's being paid. No one's being orchestrated. We just get the word out to people. We've done this for every congressional recess for the last 20 years."
"The thing that's different is the Internet and more people can get more information quickly," said Kibbe. "And so they're able to find out where the town hall meetings are and they're able to find out more about what the issues are."
By Martina Stewart