Graeme FrostThe American people have many reasons to find the Republican Party and their deeply unpopular President repulsive. This gang of thugs abandoned every principle they ever professed and instead became the party of corruption, dishonesty, incompetence, coddling the privileged and systematically neglecting the nation’s needs, while debasing the nation’s honor with torture, kidnappings, warrantless spying, aggressive war and unparalleled lawlessness. It is a record unequalled in our history.

But even now, their capacity for meanness stuns us. That meanness is on full display in the right wing effort to smear and intimidate the Frost family for supporting SCHIP — and the Republican leadership’s silent acquiescence to having others do its dirty work. As Time Magazine noted, one “could never have imagined a day would come when a mere seventh grader could be swift-boated.” Welcome to the Republican Party in the Age of Meanness.

Democratic leaders have stepped forward to denounce the right wing Republican attacks on the family of the 12-year old who had the temerity to ask Americans to support a bill to provide health care to children. I like this statement from Senator Clinton:

“It pains me that in our country we have 9 million children without health insurance and now we have a President who doesn’t think they need health insurance. I thought I’d seen the depth of political partisanship and mean spiritedness but the Republicans and their right wing allies have really taken the cake this time.

There was a young boy who was 12 years old named Graeme Frost. He was in a bad car accident and he didn’t have health insurance but thankfully he had a program that I helped start in 1997 with Ted Kennedy and others called SCHIP. So Graeme was able to get health care, good health care, that made a tremendous difference in the outcome of his injuries. So when the President vetoed the extension of SCHIP, Graeme and his family stepped forward to illustrate why it was so important….

And boy the whole Republican and right wing attack machine went into overdrive. And they said ‘well, they have a house’ – yeah, I guess they could sell their house to give their child insurance.

I don’t mind if they pick on me. They’ve done it for years. I think I’ve proven I can take care of myself. But George Bush and the Republicans should lay off Graeme Frost and all the other millions of American children getting their insurance from SCHIP.”

Hillary Clinton has it right, both in deflecting the attacks onto herself and in nailing the right wing slime machine to the Republican Party and their President: it’s part of their machine and they need to stop hiding behind it and denounce these continuing attacks on America’s children.

Americans are paying attention to the SCHIP debate. They support the SCHIP bill by large majorities, and they want Congress to override President Bush’s veto. But thanks to the sheer meanness of the Republican right wing, the SCHIP debate is now more than just about whether America’s children deserve health care. This is about branding the Republican Party, and Bush’s Party is giving itself a very ugly brand.

Not only are the Republicans standing against providing health care for children; they’re standing for meanness, intimidation and smearing ordinary Americans who do nothing more than express their support for a public policy that most Americans support.

The Republicans in Congress have argued that if a 12 year old expresses a view on a public issue, he and his family are “fair game,” allowing the meanest of their supporters to investigate his family, expose their personal finances, publish their addresses and phone numbers (thus implicitly inviting right wing morons to harrass and intimidate these people).

But why shouldn’t that child or any of America’s millions of uninsured children be allowed to speak on this issue, let alone without intimidation? The issue is whether America should expand a workable program that provides health care for children whose families don’t have insurance. Millions of families don’t have insurance but their kids could get necessary health care under SCHIP. Why isn’t any child who receives care under SCHIP entitled to tell Americans that SCHIP deserves America’s support?

So exactly what it is about expressing such an opinion that turns this child or millions like him and their families into “fair game” for mean-spirited attacks, invasions of privacy, public exposure and threatening intimidation?

Who are these jerks who think children are “fair game”? And why does the Republican Party tolerate them, use them, invite them to the White House? Where are the condemnations from the Republican Congressional leaders, and especially this Republican President, who created this controversy by his misguided veto and misrepresentations? Do they have any decency left?

Digby has more “wisdom” from the right wing. And KO covered this on Countdown (h/t Kathleen).

Update: Bonddad takes a close look at the insurance “options” facing folks like Graeme’s parents. And ThinkProgess explains why Senator Mitch McConnell has been silent: his staff apparently helped disseminate the right wing hit pieces on the family.

Photo: Dennis Brack/Bloomberg News/Landov, via Time.