You’d think that a presidential campaign backed by 40 billionaires and untold numbers of bundled rich people wouldn’t worry about just one leaflet on Medicare for All.
But minutes after Pete Buttigieg finished speaking in an auditorium at Keene State College in New Hampshire on Saturday, a Pete for America official confronted me outside the building while I was handing out a flier with the headline “Medicare for All. Not Healthcare Profiteering for the Few.”
“You can’t pass that out,” the man told me. I did a double take, glancing at the small “Pete” metal badge on his lapel while being told that he spoke on behalf of the Buttigieg campaign.
We were standing on the campus of a public college. I said that I understood the First Amendment. When I continued to pass out the flier, the Buttigieg campaign official (who repeatedly refused to give his name) disappeared and then quickly returned with a campus policeman, who told me to stop distributing the leaflet. Two Keene city police soon arrived.
The Buttigieg official stood a few feet behind them as the police officers threatened me with arrest for trespassing. Ordered to get off the campus within minutes or be arrested, I was handed an official written order (“Criminal Trespass Notice”) not to set foot on “Keene State College entire campus” for a year.
So much for freedom of speech and open election discourse in public places.
Why would a representative of the mighty Buttigieg campaign resort to such a move? A big clue can be found in a deception that Buttigieg engaged in during the debate on Friday night.
Buttigieg’s dishonesty arose when Amy Klobuchar, a vehement foe of Medicare for All, attacked Bernie Sanders for allegedly seeking to “kick 149 million Americans off their current health insurance in four years.” Klobuchar was reciting a key insurance-industry distortion that neglects to mention how a single-payer system would provide more complete health coverage, at less cost — by eliminating wasteful bureaucracy and corporate profiteering.
But Klobuchar then pivoted to attack Buttigieg: “And Pete, while you have a different plan now, you sent out a tweet just a few years ago that said henceforth, forthwith, indubitably, affirmatively, you are for Medicare for All for the ages, and so I would like to point out that what leadership is about is taking a position, looking at things, and sticking with them.”
Buttigieg was far from candid in his response: “Just to be clear, the truth is that I have been consistent throughout in my position on delivering healthcare for every American.”
That answer directly contradicted an early 2018 tweet from Buttigieg: “Gosh! Okay. . . I, Pete Buttigieg, politician, do henceforth and forthwith declare, most affirmatively and indubitably, unto the ages, that I do favor Medicare for All, as I do favor any measure that would help get all Americans covered.”
No doubt if the flier I was handing out at Keene State College had praised Buttigieg, his campaign would not have called the police to have me ejected. But the Buttigieg for President staffer recognized that Buttigieg’s spin on healthcare was undermined by facts in the flier (produced and financed by RootsAction.org, which is completely independent of the official Sanders campaign).
“Buttigieg is claiming that Medicare for All would dump people off of health coverage and deprive them of ‘choice,’” our flier pointed out. “Those are insurance-industry talking points. He is deliberately confusing the current ‘choice’ of predatory for-profit insurance plans with the genuine full choice of healthcare providers that enhanced Medicare for everyone would offer.”
Apparently, for the Buttigieg campaign, such truthful words are dangerous.
Norman Solomon is cofounder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Solomon is the author of a dozen books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.