After playing a clip of Bill Clinton saying that as a matter of politics as well as policy, Democrats need to pass health care legislation, MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell asked Rep. Anthony Weiner:
Congressman, isn't it your colleagues in the House that are preventing something getting done, that they want all or nothing?
I've made this point before, but this is a ridiculously loaded question that could just as easily be asked of those who oppose, for example, a public plan -- but it never is.
Before I explain the double-standard, it's important to note that O'Donnell's question is simply false. House liberals aren't insisting on "all or nothing"; they have already made huge concessions. In fact, Weiner had said just seconds earlier that what he really wants is to "bypass the insurance companies altogether and have something like Medicare for all Americans."
But just seconds after being reminded that Anthony Weiner has already made concessions, giving up the single-payer plan he really wants, O'Donnell accuses him of stubbornly insisting on "all or nothing."
Now, the double-standard.
If people who want a public plan and won't vote for a bill without it can be described as "preventing something getting done" by insisting on "all or nothing," so can people who don't want a public plan and won't vote for a bill with it.
If two sides are fighting over an element of a bill, and neither will back down, it can't be the case that only one of them is stubbornly insisting on their way or the highway.
Finally, O'Donnell's question suggests that what's important is passing something, anything, rather than making sure it's something worth passing. That suggestion is dubious on both policy and political grounds, and isn't an assumption that should guide O'Donnell's journalism.