What's the Uproar, Docs? 

What's the Uproar, Docs?
Some Nashville physicians are outraged at U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper and circulating an email accusing the congressman of "arrogance, disdain and disregard" for the healing profession. They say Cooper treated them rudely during a private meeting about health care reform.

According to the email, Cooper unleashed his inner Don Rickles, throwing one insult after another at physicians representing the Anesthesia Medical Group. A sampling of his remarks, all of which his office confirms he made:

* "Your Washington lobbyists are obviously doing a very bad job for you or you wouldn't be so misinformed."

* "[I] never cease to be amazed at how poorly informed physicians are about the health care system."

* "Since the '60s, real wages have remained flat. But physician reimbursements have grown 2-3 percent above the rate of inflation for the last 40 years. That's a transfer of about $800 billion. And you're not even grateful for it. Don't recall ever getting a thank you note for that...."

* "It's fine if you don't like my plan. Where is your plan? Physicians don't have a plan. You can't always be against something. You need to be for something."

* "You probably don't know this either, but did you know that a couple of Tennessee counties have the highest narcotic prescription use in the nation? Doctors passing out pills like candy. And you guys don't do anything about it."

* "[It's] almost impossible to get rid of bad doctors."

* "Wouldn't you think you'd be a little more educated about your own profession?"

* "Medicine used to be a profession. You've lost that. Now you just want to be employees."

* Lastly, to the group's CEO David Whitten: "You've obviously forgotten most of what you learned in business school."

"The meeting was an amazing display of arrogance, disdain and disregard," Whitten responds in the circulated email. "It would have taken some extraordinary effort for Mr. Cooper to have been any ruder than he was to us. His utter and complete lack of respect for physicians was completely and unapologetically evident. He clearly believes himself to be far better informed on health care than any of us."

Pith isn't sure what to make of all this, but it seems likely that if Cooper's pissing off doctors, he's probably on the right track here. Cooper's flack, Peter Boogaard, defends his boss for his honesty, saying it's not unusual for the congressman to speak candidly with players in the health care debate.

"Jim went to their offices, at their request, and asked him to speak frankly," Boogaard said via email. "He did. When the pharmaceutical people and the health insurance companies want to meet, he's equally as frank with them. He thinks the whole system is screwed up, and that EVERYONE has a role to play in fixing it. There are a lot of vested interests, and a lot of people don't want change. He even faults many already-insured patients, because so many people have no 'skin in the game' or price-sensitivity for all of the treatment that they receive that they often don't need, costs a lot, and can harm them. Shannon Brownlee's book Overtreated is one of the books that he recommends to anybody who wants to understand the whole system, because she sort of blames everyone." JEFF WOODS

Who let this moderate in the GOP?
As he travels around the state in his campaign for governor, Bill Gibbons experiences a lot of little Sister Souljah moments. Like Bill Clinton calling out the rapper in that famous speech in 1992, Gibbons is repudiating an extremist element within his own party. He's telling the GOP's Second Amendment freaks they've gone too far with their guns-in-bars law.

"He's been outspoken about it, that it just didn't make any sense," says campaign aide Joe Hall.

Gibbons isn't afraid to bring up the new law and cites cases from his own experience as Shelby County DA to prove his point, "including a sheriff's deputy in Shelby County who got in trouble for it and just got 20 years in state prison for it," campaign manager Josh Thomas says. "He went in [to a bar] without the intention of drinking and it got the better of him, and he shot and killed actually the wrong guy. He killed the DJ."

The Gibbons' spin is this: His position may be controversial, but it shows he's a stand-up guy and unafraid to tackle tough issues. It's definitely a way for a Tennessee Republican to set himself apart. Zach Wamp and Ron Ramsey would jump off a cliff if that's what the NRA wanted and, incredibly, Bill Haslam isn't absolutely certain what he thinks about guns in bars. But will it help Gibbons' campaign? His aides insist most Tennessee Republicans aren't as extreme on the gun issue as the NRA claims.

"We're definitely a pro-Second Amendment party," Thomas says, "but I do think the majority of our party has some concerns" about the law.

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