At around 2 p.m. on Wednesday, a few supporters and television cameras gathered near the Capitol to watch as two burly men unloaded 1.3 million signatures on 61,000 pages of paper from an ambulance onto a stretcher. The stretcher was wheeled over to a small stage stuffed with Republican congressmen and conservative talk radio hosts. There, speakers such as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, carrying a "National Health Care: A Lethal Injection" t-shirt, expressed solidarity with the petition-signers and spouted some vague but familiar talking points: 1) Reform may be necessary, but 2) it shouldn't drive up costs or taxes, and 3) we should help our neighbors so they don't need health care anyway. The petition was similarly fuzzy and brief, with a call for pleasant-sounding nouns like choice, access, fairness, and responsibility. There was no mention of death panels, abortions, or rationed care.
The event, in other words, hardly seemed to merit its own dramatic life-and-death entrance.