Lawmaker Explains Tactic Behind Giving Sebelius ‘Websites for Dummies’ Book

National Journal
Andy Meek
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Andy Meek
Nov. 4, 2013, 3:42 a.m.

Bri­an Kel­sey, a Re­pub­lic­an state sen­at­or from Ten­ness­ee, wanted to get his op­pos­i­tion to the Af­ford­able Care Act across in a cre­at­ive way when he heard Kath­leen Se­beli­us would be vis­it­ing a Mem­ph­is lib­rary in his dis­trict on Fri­day to talk up the le­gis­la­tion.

Be­fore Se­beli­us’ ar­rival, Kel­sey’s of­fice is­sued a press re­lease an­noun­cing he’d show up at the lib­rary “in protest of the vis­it,” though of­fer­ing no de­tails. He had something more spe­cif­ic in mind, though — present­ing Se­beli­us with a copy of the book “Web­sites for Dum­mies,” a jab at the prob­lem-plagued launch of the gov­ern­ment’s new health in­sur­ance web­site.

“I’ve been the most out­spoken op­pon­ent of Obama­care Medi­caid ex­pan­sion in Ten­ness­ee,” Kel­sey said af­ter­wards. “When I read Sec­ret­ary Se­beli­us was com­ing to my dis­trict, I wanted to con­vey to her that Ten­nesseans (don’t) want her design­ing an ex­pan­sion pro­gram for us. I had only two seconds to con­vey that mes­sage to her, so I thought the book would be a cre­at­ive way to en­sure she re­membered the mes­sage.”

As the event got un­der way, Kel­sey was vis­ible near the TV cam­er­as in the back, typ­ing on his phone. Se­beli­us was flanked on­stage by sup­port­ers and loc­al politi­cians as she urged the crowd to give the health care law a chance to work.

She ac­know­ledged prob­lems with the rol­lout of the web­site and in­sisted there’s still plenty of time for the pub­lic to use the site to en­roll in new health plans.

Kel­sey even­tu­ally made his way closer to the front of the room. When the event was over and the crowd began to dis­perse, with some people sur­round­ing the sec­ret­ary, Kel­sey ap­proached her and presen­ted her with the book.

She took it without re­spond­ing. She con­tin­ued walk­ing past Kel­sey, still hold­ing the book, and even­tu­ally passed it off to an aide. Kel­sey dashed off a tweet — “Just presen­ted Sec Se­beli­us with “Web­sites for Dum­mies.”

He didn’t think any­one had seen or paid at­ten­tion to the ex­change — ex­cept a news­pa­per pho­to­graph­er had, cata­pult­ing the mo­ment from a private en­counter to the broad­er Web, where it set off a tor­rent of so­cial me­dia chat­ter and garnered cov­er­age at sites like Buzzfeed, the Huff­ing­ton Post, Busi­ness In­sider, and a vari­ety of oth­er news blogs, in ad­di­tion to Na­tion­al Journ­al.

Late Sunday, Buzzfeed’s post about the in­cid­ent alone had garnered nearly 20,000 total views.

“Most epic move of the cen­tury? I say yes” tweeted Town Hall con­ser­vat­ive colum­nist Katie Pav­lich about the en­counter.

Kel­sey said his own Twit­ter ac­count had garnered barely a hand­ful of @men­tions in the past two years, and now he had new tweets dir­ec­ted at him each new time he checked.

When asked why he thought the en­counter res­on­ated so widely, he said: “The Amer­ic­an people are tired of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment spend­ing tril­lions of our grand­chil­dren’s dol­lars on pro­grams that don’t work.

“Ten­ness­ee is one of the last states that has not made a fi­nal de­cision on wheth­er to ex­pand our Medi­caid pro­gram un­der Obama­care. We simply do not have the money to pay for it. When Con­gress breaks its prom­ise to pay 90 per­cent of the fund­ing in the fu­ture, state tax­pay­ers will be left to foot the bill.”

What We're Following See More »
VOTE TO GO FORWARD
Collins, Cruz Appear to Oppose Health Bill
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

Republican opposition to the GOP health care bill swelled to near-fatal numbers Sunday as Sen. Susan Collins all but closed the door on supporting the last-ditch effort to scrap the Obama health care law and Sen. Ted Cruz said that "right now" he doesn't back it. White House legislative liaison Marc Short and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the measure's sponsors, said Republicans would press ahead with a vote this week." Collins said she doesn't support the bill's cuts to Medicaid, while Cruz said it wouldn't do enough to lower premiums.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login