U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah) has been outed and convicted, drawn and quartered.
His crime: Arranging conversations with people who don’t toe the Republican line when it comes to health care.
Which in some Washington circles appears to be a capital offense.
Granted, the person with whom Kingston — and other GOP congressmen — conversed has the fashion sense of a clown. Which might also be part of the outrage.
On Monday, the conservative Washington Times dropped the following dime on the Savannah congressman:
Why were House Republicans holding an off-the record meeting on health care with the liberal Dr. Patch Adams Thursday morning?
An email about the meeting sent from Georgia Republican Rep. Jack Kingston’s office was obtained by the Washington Times from a disgrunteld GOP staffer who questioned why any Republican would seek Dr. Adam’s advice.
Adams, of course, was made famous in the 1998 film that carried his name, starring Robin Williams. Noodle baths, red noses, the works.
He is, Kingston admits, “a universal health care guy.”
But Adams is nothing if not an out-of-the-box thinker, who — despite the clown schtick — has given serious thought to making health care affordable, Kingston said. And Republicans need to make themselves part of the debate.
“Right now, health care is something feel passionately about. To me, we’re all part of it and everybody wants to move the ball forward,” the congressman said this morning. “If we’re going to fight our way back to the majority, we’ve got to be talking to everybody, to see what we have in common.”
Kingston hosts what he calls “the theme team” each Thursday at 9 a.m. It’s an unofficial attempt to stake out a message for the following week. Between 10 and 30 members of Congress attend. Staffers are permitted to observe, but not participate.
Two weeks ago, the guest was former Vice President Dick Cheney. Before that, former White House aide Karl Rove. This Thursday, it’s another Bush veteran, Dana Perino, who served as press secretary for George W.
The format: A five-minute presentation followed by nothing but the back-and-forth of questions and answers, which in D.C. is considered a refreshing change from congressional hearings driven by long, uninterrupted and formal statements.
Sessions are considered off-the-record, unless a disgruntled staffer raises a fuss.
Adams told the congressional gathering that he prepared for the session by dressing as conservatively as he has in years. You can’t tell from the photo, provided by Kingston’s office, but the hair on the other side of Adams’ hair was blue.
Adams, said Kingston, runs a communal hospital that doesn’t use malpractice insurance. Everyone pays according to his or her ability. Rich people write checks, poor people hold bake sales to raise what they can.
It is a community-based approach that Kingston likes, but provoked this question:
“Can you have creativity and community with a centralized government program?” Kingston asked. He doesn’t think so.
But Adams had one idea that Kingston said he could work with: A federal program that offers grants to prototype hospitals and clinics that can demonstrate how they’ll cut health-care delivery costs by 50 percent.
“What conservative wouldn’t like that?” Kingston said.
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