Veterans' Clinic

Civility breaks out

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett on Thursday rolled out plans for a new veterans’ clinic to rise on 35 acres near the intersection of Montopolis and Metlink. The new 185,000-square-foot facility will replace the existing East Austin clinic by 2012.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett on Thursday rolled out plans for a new veterans’ clinic to rise on 35 acres near the intersection of Montopolis and Metlink. The new 185,000-square-foot facility will replace the existing East Austin clinic by 2012. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Maybe the conservatives just decided to cool it. Maybe the Democrats outmaneuvered them this time. Whatever the reason, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett's discussion of health-care reform at the Austin veterans outpatient clinic last Thursday went more like a discussion of the issues should go in a democracy.

Unlike the previous weekend's town halls, which drew national attention after crowds opposed to congressional Democrats' health-care reform bills shouted down Doggett (and other congressmen around the nation), this event actually had an exchange of viewpoints on the bill. It was in sharp contrast to footage all over YouTube (and subsequently cable news) from the Aug. 1 event, featuring a crowd simply yelling at Doggett and waving signs depicting him as the devil and comparing Obama to Hitler.

After a press conference announcing that construction would soon begin on a new state-of-the-art clinic to replace the current one, Doggett met with a small roomful of citizens. Perhaps due to the publicity, or perhaps because of an aggressive e-mail campaign by Democrats to rally the troops and counter the "mob" (as Doggett described it) that disrupted the prior weekend's event, opponents of the plan were clearly outnumbered and Doggett was met with rousing applause.

Doggett made a point to specifically call on opponents of the plan to speak, and the conservatives/libertarians responded well. "You and I politically are probably 180 degrees apart," said one audience member. "With that being said, I appreciate you coming out here, because this is an electrifying topic. People on both sides of the aisle aren't as accessible as you, so hat's off to you."

The only time the crowd got a bit unruly came when another speaker asked if Doggett could promise that the new health-care plan would not raise the federal deficit; when Doggett began his response by invoking former President George W. Bush's name, Dog­gett's critics let out a howl of protest. Doggett pressed on to raise valid points about the spending of the previous "conservative" administration.

"Being civil has been helpful to me," he said at the end. "I hope it's been helpful to you."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

health care reform, Lloyd Doggett, Veterans Administration, Austin Veterans Outpatient Clinic

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