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“It’s Easier Than Honesty”: Winning A Debate By Quashing Scrutiny

In her party’s official response to the State of the Union a few weeks ago, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the House Republican Conference chair, shared an anecdote about “Bette in Spokane,” the latest in a series of “Obamacare victims.” As is usually the case, within a day or two, the story was debunked.

Once McMorris Rodgers realized her story was wrong, the congresswoman, instead of apologizing, tried to go on the offensive. “It’s sad partisan politicians are attacking Bette,” she argued.

In reality, no one had “attacked” the woman in the story. Rather, McMorris Rodgers’ anecdote was fact checked and proven to be wrong. To suggest that scrutinizing suspect claims is somehow improper is absurd, but that was nevertheless the congresswoman’s reaction.

It was apparently a sign of things to come.

Last week, the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity launched a new attack ad targeting Rep. Gary Peters, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Michigan. The spot features Julie Boonstra, a Michigan woman who’s paying less money for better insurance without having to change doctors, but who was nevertheless presented in the ad as yet another ACA victim.

Peters, not surprisingly, believes AFP should provide more information to bolster the claims in its ad. The right, no longer willing to defend the deceptive commercial, has decided to attack Peters.

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., wants to be a United States senator, but he has a problem. He’s engaged in a “war on women” – make that a single woman – whom he’s trying to silence because he doesn’t like the story she has to tell. […]

Julie Boonstra deserves a medal for what she is doing. Peters should hang his head in shame.

It’s a fascinating rhetorical gambit, worth appreciating for its rare combination of audacity and mendacity. What’s more, it’s increasingly becoming the standard response to one of the right’s more glaring problems in the health care debate: all of the conservatives’ evidence keeps falling apart.

Let’s say you have a movement of sorts and your goal is to deliberately tear down the nation’s health care system, no matter the consequences. Let’s also say you have the bright idea of using anecdotal evidence to highlight “victims” in order to prove how awful the system is, only to have pesky reporters discover that all of your evidence is bogus and the victims haven’t really been victimized at all.

At this point, you have a few choices. You could, for example, find a new hobby and stop trying to prevent Americans from having access to affordable health care. Or you could cast a new line, hoping to find some elusive, legitimate horror stories that won’t be debunked a day or so later.

But these are strategies based on conventional thinking. What you really need is a very different kind of plan: one in which you keep presenting bogus anecdotes, but discourage those who know what they’re talking about from pointing out your errors. What you want is to promote misleading propaganda with impunity – more mendacity, less scrutiny.

And how do you do that? By lashing out angrily against those noting the facts. Those who recognize the AFP’s Boonstra ad as misleading are obviously attacking a woman with cancer and should be ashamed of themselves – or so the story goes.

I suppose it’s clever, in an Alice in Wonderland sort of way, but it’s no way to have a credible policy debate. Indeed, it seems some of these conservatives are effectively giving up on the very idea of a serious discourse – they not only want to present misleading anecdotes, they also want to intimidate those who might dare to note reality by accusing them of being heartless bullies.

As Greg Sargent put it the other day, many on the right have essentially declared “that the emotional content of these victims’ stories should shield such ads from scrutiny.” Fact-checking suspect claims “will be met with charges of insensitivity to the victims.”

I guess it’s easier than honesty.

Postscript: The Wall Street Journal ran a piece yesterday arguing that the Affordable Care Act cost a woman her cancer medication. The piece was quickly embraced by the right, but it was debunked by Michael Hiltzik a few hours later.

If recent history is any guide, this means Hiltzik should expect to be accused of not caring about people with cancer. Sorry, Mike.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 25, 2014

February 26, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Americans for Prosperity, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Lord Of The Flies”: Mitt Romney Would Like Your Attention Now

Dan Hicks once asked, “How can I miss you when you won’t go away?” I find myself having a similar thought about Mitt Romney.

Last May, the failed presidential candidate was reportedly “restless” and decided he would “re-emerge in ways that will “help shape national priorities.’”

As we discussed at the time, failed national candidates, unless they hold office and/or plan to run again, traditionally fade from public view, content with the knowledge that they had their say, made their pitch, and came up short.

But Romney has decided he wants to keep bashing the president who defeated him.

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Thursday that President Barack Obama lost the confidence of the American people over broken health care promises.

Fox News host Megyn Kelly pointed out that Romney predicted during his 2012 campaign that Americans would be dropped from their insurance plans under Obamacare. “Do you believe the American people should trust this president?” she asked.

“Well, I think they’ve lost the confidence they had in him,” Romney replied.

First, if anyone should avoid the subject of honesty in the public discourse, it’s Mitt Romney. Ahem.

Second, if it seems as if Romney can’t stop talking, it’s because the former one-term governor keeps popping up – a lot.

He’s been praising Vladimir Putin. He’s still complaining about the debates he lost. He’s annoyed at how appealing the Affordable Care Act was to minority and low-income voters. He’s wistfully telling Fox News, “I wish I could go back and turn back the clock and take another try.”

Romney’s defending Chris Christie. He’s dancing. He’s weighing in on GOP primaries. He’s trying to advise members of Congress. He’s hosting retreats.

This was not the most predictable course for Romney. It seems like ages ago, but in the aftermath of the 2012 elections, the Republican candidate was not popular – with anyone. By the time he told donors that Americans had been bought off in 2012 with “big gifts” such as affordable health care and public education, Romney’s standing managed to deteriorate further.

By mid-November, Romney was something of a pariah, with a variety of Republican leaders eager to denounce him, his rhetoric, and his campaign style. Remember this?

Mitt Romney, who just two weeks ago was the Republican Party’s standard-bearer, seen by many as the all-but-elected president of the United States, has turned into a punching bag for fellow Republicans looking to distance themselves from his controversial “gifts” remark. […]

Whether it’s an instance of politicians smelling blood in the water as the party, following Romney’s defeat, finds itself without a figurehead, or genuine outrage, a number of Republicans have eagerly castigated their former nominee.

Josh Marshall said at the time the GOP pushback amounted to “Lord of the Flies” treatment, which seemed like an apt comparison.

And yet, here we are, and Romney’s still talking. Whether anyone is enjoying what they’re hearing is unclear.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 14, 2014

February 15, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Mitt Romney | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sinister Policy Implications”: The GOP’s Glaring State Of The Union Hypocrisies

The 19th-Century British politician Benjamin Disraeli once said, “A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy.”  This was obviously a prescient review of the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

Mind you, it’s hard to know which Republican response to respond to, given that there were (at least) four.  But let’s start with the official one, delivered by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wa), the highest-ranking woman in the House Republican caucus.  With a lulling tone and a living room-like backdrop, McMorris Rodgers’s response was less like a speech and more like a bedtime story trying to use her sweet biography to mask more sinister policy implications.

McMorris Rodgers spoke of her son, who has Down’s Syndrome. The doctors, McMorris Rodgers said, “told us all the problems. But when we looked at our son, we saw only possibilities.”  That was the moral of her story, that we all have boundless and equal opportunity in life and the only thing getting in our way is government—because of Democrats.   What a nice story.  It just happens to be utterly untrue.

Take just one example—when McMorris Rodgers insisted, “Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s.”  Planned Parenthood quickly pointed out that just five hours before McMorris Rodgers spoke those words, House Republicans passed a set of sweeping bills that would significantly reduce the number of private health insurance plans that cover abortion.  That, in other words, is Republicans using government to interfere in the private marketplace and control the decisions that women about their own bodies.

Disraeli might be disappointed—a well organized hypocrisy would probably wait at least 24 hours before uttering such a flagrant contradiction.   But wait, there’s more.

McMorris Rodgers added, “whether you’re a boy with Down syndrome or a woman with breast cancer … you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you.”  What a great idea!  Hey, there should be a health care reform law that prohibits private insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions—which, of course, is only possible if we expand the pool of people in private insurance pools.  Republicans should, I dunno, get behind a law that supports that, doncha think?  Instead of voting again and again and again to repeal it?

McMorris Rodgers started her speech by noting that she worked at a McDonald’s drive-thru to help pay for college and then, after talking about her son, said, “whether we are born with an extra twenty-first chromosome or without a dollar to our name—we are not defined by our limits, but by our potential.”  Yes, but the problem is that Republican policies are expressly limiting that potential.  When we allow highly profitable corporations like McDonald’s to pay their workers poverty wages at the same time we give those big businesses giant tax breaks and government handouts, we are limiting the potential for hard work to pay off in America.  When instead of passing comprehensive immigration reform, we allow unscrupulous employers to exploit undocumented workers—driving down wages and working conditions for immigrants and citizens alike—we undermine equal opportunity.  When we fail to acknowledge the simple reality that women and people of color and rural white folks in America face profound wage and wealth disparities not because they don’t try hard but because of policies that have stacked the deck against them, policies Republicans have continued to embrace, we naively pretend that the playing field of opportunity in America is a level one.  It is not.

Talking about your son with Down’s Syndrome as a metaphor for the values of a Republican Party that cut federal funding for Down’s Syndrome research over the past several years is hypocrisy.  Being a major political party that represents millions of Americans and yet fails to grasp the very real barriers to opportunity those Americans face, barriers made worse by your own policies, is beyond hypocritical.  It’s sad.


By: Sally Kohn, The Daily Beast, January 29, 2014

January 30, 2014 Posted by | GOP, State of the Union | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitch Has Got Some ‘Splainin’ To Do”: McConnell Recycles His Own Ad, Ignores 188,130 Kentuckians Whose Insurance He’d Repeal

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) failed in his goal to make President Obama a one-term president, but he’s still one of the most crafty and ruthless campaigners in politics, as his latest ad proves.

McConnell’s new ad recycles a message the senator knows works because it helped him win in 2008. The new ad is far more affecting. It focuses entirely on Robert Pierce, a worker from the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, where exposure to radiation left several employees with cancer. Pierce says throat cancer has weakened his own whispery voice, but he praises the senator for using his voice to help him.

McConnell is boldly trumpeting his help to the plant with the testimony of a man few will want to question. The record is much more complex, according to The Huffington Post‘s Jason Cherkis and Zach Carter.

The senator didn’t “spring into action” on Paducah until 1999, 14 years after the first workers became sick, when a Washington Post article uncovered that radioactive exposure was still occurring at the plant. But once the story was in the limelight, McConnell pushed for a practical solution: “He worked to pass what amounted to a new entitlement that allowed plant workers over age 50 access to free body scans and free health care.” Recently McConnell’s absence from the debate about the plant’s potential closing has led a union leader to say the senator has “given up on Paducah.”

An ad touting the ability to get people government-run health care is an unlikely way to open the campaign of a man who has vowed to repeal Obamacare “root and branch.”

Thanks to the president’s health reforms, 188,130 residents of McConnell’s state now have health coverage; of those, 100,359 have completely subsidized health insurance through Medicaid or SCHIP.

McConnell needs to explain what will happen to the more than 100,000 people who would lose coverage if his goal of repealing Obamacare is accomplished, says The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent.

“McConnell’s new ad tells us he should be re-elected because his efforts to bring health coverage to people who lack it shows his willingness to ‘knock down walls’ for Kentucky’s ‘working families,’ helping ‘save people’s lives,’” Sargent writes. “So what about all the working people who would lose coverage if McConnell got his way?”

Unfortunately for McConnell, 2014 isn’t 2008.

Six years ago the senator could brag about providing some deserving workers with government health care without having to go into his actual policies on health care. In 2014, Obamacare is no longer theoretical; millions of Americans have gained coverage through Obamacare exchanges or by remaining on their parents’ coverage until age 26, thanks to the law.

If McConnell is arguing he did the right thing by helping those in need, he must also explain what would happen to these people if he gets his way and they lose their coverage.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, January 22, 2014

January 23, 2014 Posted by | Health Insurance, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Happy New Year, Losers”: The “Supreme Court Gap” In Unversal Health-Care Coverage

Chief Justice Roberts wishes a Happy New Year to all those losers who will not get health care insurance, thanks to his clever reading of the Constitution. There are 4.8  million of these losers and 2.6 million of them are people of color, black and Hispanic mainly. Not that the Chief Justice and his right-wing colleagues on the Supreme Court would make racist distinctions. No, no, no. They assure us their decision is solely driven by a matter of high comstittional principle—States Rights.

The problem with these people is that they are low-income adults without dependent children—not quite poor enough to qualify for Medicaid nor old enough to qualify for Medicare. President Obama’s original legislation took care of them by expanding Medicaid coverage and putting up the federal money to pay for it. The Roberts decision insisted that state governmednts have a constitutional right to reject this financial aid from Washington. And twenty-five states took him up on the offer.

This odd failure will probably be blamed on Obama but should rightly be called the “Supreme Court gap” in unversal health-care coverage. Because these folks do not not quite earn enough to qualify for Obamacare’s tax credits to help people purchase health insurance. A report from the Kaiser Family Foundation outlined the consequences. “Most of these individuals have very limited coverage options and are likely to remain uninsured,” the foundation explained.

Of course, they could get a job that pays more. Or maybe get married and have children that would qualify them for Medicaid. State governments set many of the rules for Medicaid coverage and some conservatives think fedeal aid saps individual initiative and rewards indolence. It is not entirely a coincidence that many of these rejectionist states are the same states that defied the Supreme Court half a century ago and resisted racial integration and equal rights for minorities. Some of them are the very states that went to war to defend slavery. Republicans are sometimes called a “neo-confederate party.” After the Supreme Court gutted the voting-rights act, the neo-confederates were free to pass restrictive laws designed to shrink minority voting, and so they did.

The Kaiser Foundation doesn’t get into any of that but simply observed, “These continued coverage gaps will likely lead to widening racial and ethnic as well as geographic disparities in coverage and access.”

Don McCanne of Physicians for A National Health Program circulated the Kaiser report with this comment: “What a terrible way to start the first of the year of what is essentially the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. It seems pretty obvious what our New Year’s resolution should be. Let’s bring health care to everyone through an improved and expanded Medicare for all.”

Democrats ought to call out Republicans on these questions. And citizens generally ought to call out the Roberts court. The Supremes have done quite a lot in the last fifteen years to mess up our already weakened democratic system. They stole the presidential election in 2000. They cut loose big money to swamp elections by destroying lawful restraints. They are trying step-by-step to restore hoary old legalisms that favor capital over labor, corporations over individuals. Shouldn’t we be talking about how to stop them?

By: Wiliam Greider, The Nation, December 31, 2013

January 1, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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