ABC and the Washington Post has released a new poll that is sure to get a great deal of attention, as opponents of a public health care plan will use it to claim that the public doesn't really support such a plan. Many reporters will, no doubt, interpret it the same way. But the poll's actual wording appears to stack the deck against a public plan.
Here's how the Post described the poll results:
Survey questions that equate the public option approach with the popular, patient-friendly Medicare system tend to get high approval, as do ones that emphasize the prospect of more choices. But when framed with an explicit counterargument, the idea receives a more tepid response. In the new Post-ABC poll, 62 percent support the general concept, but when respondents were told that meant some insurers would go out of business, support dropped sharply, to 37 percent.
So, it sounds like the ABC/Post poll asked whether people support a public option like the "patient-friendly Medicare system," then asked if they still support a public option if it meant some insurers would go out of business, right? The Washington Post presents this as framing the question "with an explicit counterargument."
But that isn't really what the poll did. Here's the actual wording of the two questions:
21. Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans? (IF SUPPORT) Would you rather have that plan run by a government agency, or run by an independent organization with government funding and oversight?
21a. (IF SUPPORT) What if having the government create a new health insurance plan made many private health insurers go out of business because they could not compete? In that case would you support or oppose creating a government-run health insurance plan?
Note that 21 does not actually include an argument in favor of a public plan. It doesn't indicate that a public option could be better and cheaper than private insurance. It does not link a public plan to "the popular, patient-friendly Medicare system," as the Post's write-up implied. But 21a does offer an argument against the public plan -- that "many" private insurers might go out of business.
The Post's write-up suggests that the poll shows what the American people think when presented with an argument for the public plan and an argument against it. In fact, it merely shows what people think when they hear only an argument against it.
From a June 24 Examiner.com article:
Right wing talker Michael Savage vowed yesterday during his broadcast that he will retaliate against media watchdog Media Matters for America by posting pictures and "pertinent information" about the organization's staff on his website. He made the comment almost in passing during one of his infamous rants, but did not explain what he expected his followers known as the "Savage Nation" to do with the information.
Against this backdrop the threat to post pictures and personal information about media watchdogs as a response to criticism can legitimately be perceived as a threat. Michael Savage may be famous for brash talk and incendiary language, but recent history must be taken into account as his "Savage Nation" may take the talker's inflammatory posting as marching orders to take action against his enemies.
I continue to be amazed at how the press is covering, or not covering, the latest poll results from the Washington Post/ABC, which tag Obama's job approval rating at an eye-popping 65 percent. The results completely muck up the preferred Beltway CW about how Obama's struggling in the polls and losing touch with Americans.
ABC News itself seems to have no interest in dwelling on the good-news-for-Obama polling data.
And neither does CNN. In a write-up about the survey, CNN.com never even mentions the 65 percent job approval rating. The finding is literally of no interest to CNN, which instead emphasizes that a "Slight majority approves of Obama's handling of Iran":
As the aftermath of the Iranian election continues to unfold, a new national survey out Monday shows a slim majority of Americans approve of how President Obama is handling the situation there.
And BTW, CNN's "slight" is false. According to the Washington Post/ABC poll, Americans by a wide margin of 52-36 approve of Obama's handling of the situation in Iran. "Slight" is nowhere to be found.
UPDATE: The Times of London today writes up yet another "honeymoon over" article pegged on polling data, yet somehow manages to avoid mentioning the latest national survey from Washington Post/ABC News which shows Obama's approval rating at an extraordinary 65 percent.
If you assume that Pat Buchanan's frequent inappropriate comments about race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and a variety of other personal characteristics are, from MSNBC's standpoint, a bug rather than a feature, it raises the question of what exactly Buchanan brings to the table that is valuable enough to justify putting up with his baggage.
Well, MSBNC viewers just got a taste of Buchanan's deep insights:
BUCHANAN: I think what he [Obama] did on health care, I saw that more as a response to problems he's got. You notice in that carefully-crafted open[ing] statement, Andrea, he said in effect, 'Look, we're not going to increase the deficits with this.' This is talking to the point about the growing concern apparently among the majority of Americans about spending and deficits.
So, when Obama said health care would not increase deficits, that was a response to concern about deficits. Gee, you don't say. Good thing Pat Buchanan was around to help sort that out. You just can't get cutting-edge political analysis like that anywhere else. No wonder MSNBC puts up with him.
As President Obama was walking away at the end of the presser, someone yelled out, "No questions about Iraq or Afghanistan, sir?"
Seems like that's a question for the reporters who asked questions, not for the President who answered them.
I'm not sure there's a better example than this column published online today by CNN.com. You have to go read it just to get an almost crystal clear vision of the CW that now dominates the Beltway about Obama, and how that CW probably could not be more removed from reality.
From the CNN essay written by Julian E. Zelizer (and cliché alert, its headline is "Is Obama's honeymoon over?"), the main point is that Obama's now teetering on the precipice and that his presidency might hang in the balance. No joke:
June has been rough for President Obama. After experiencing enormous success during his first months in office, some of his political vulnerabilities have started to emerge...Does this mean Obama is finished? Not at all...But in recent weeks a candidate who was once seen as invincible is now seen as potentially vulnerable. This is when the sharks start to circle in American politics.
Zelizer hits all the CW hot spots: Obama's reeling and might even be "finished."
The reality however, comes in the form of a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, which Zelizer carefully avoids mentioning in his doomsday analysis. The poll findings? Obama currently enjoys a sky-high 65 percent job approval rating.
Yet on this day, CNN publishes a column which raises the question of whether the Obama presidency is "finished."
Behold your press corps.
During the Bush administration, a lot of progressive media critics -- including me -- criticized reporters for allowing Bush and his press secretaries to get away with blatantly not answering questions.
If Bush didn't answer a question, we argued, the others in the room should ask it again rather than letting him off the hook.
And that's exactly what ABC's Jake Tapper just did. President Obama didn't answer a direct question about whether a public plan is non-negotiable. So when the president called on Tapper, Tapper asked him to answer the previously-asked question. Good for him.
In a June 23 post on her blog, conservative pundit Debbie Schlussel wrote that Michelle Obama is "the new pimp for Obamacare. And it has echoes--very, very scary echoes!--of Hillarycare. It's like deja vu with a bigger booty. Well, since we're comparing with Mrs. Clinton, maybe even that's the same, too." From her post:
I don't know about you, but when I entered the polling booth on Election Day, back in November of last year, Michelle Obama's name wasn't anywhere on my ballot. No mention of her or of Michelle LaVaughn Robinson or of Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Hussein Obama Idi Amin Dada.
But, for some reason, this First Lady is now a policymaker and spokeschick for a number of Obama causes. First, she addressed Department of Homeland Security employees and snubbed ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Then, she led cheers for Obama Supreme Court nominee Justice J-Lo a/k/a Sonia From the Block a/k/a So-So a/k/a Sonia Sotmayor.
Now, she's the new pimp for Obamacare. And it has echoes--very, very scary echoes!--of Hillarycare. It's like deja vu with a bigger booty. Well, since we're comparing with Mrs. Clinton, maybe even that's the same, too.
"My hope is that if I play a role in sort of ringing the bell of prevention and wellness and exercise."
You can best do that by telling your husband to stuff it . . . his absurd, socialist medical plan.
Whatever happened to the good old days . . . when First Ladies knew their place and stuck to reading books to children and visiting libraries and hospitals?
That was a whole lot preferable to unelected spouses who don hijabs for the Islamic world (Mrs. Bush) and pimp socialized medicine (Mrs. Obama).
Memo to the chicks of the White House: You weren't on the ballot. Stay out of policy and stick to the garden, china, and draperies.
Here's New York magazine on Hillary Clinton last week:
[S]he has turned herself into Obama's greatest asset, on Capitol Hill as much as around the world, in fashioning a national-security policy ...
On the inside, Clinton has steadily accumulated power while expending hardly any political capital. For one thing, she has stirred an effective mix of politicos and diplomats into the top tiers of the State Department. ... Lew helped Hillary secure a 10 percent increase in the State Department's budget from Obama while Tim Geithner was still figuring out how to turn the lights on in his office.
Further, Clinton hasn't made mistakes. ...
Meanwhile, nobody else has developed an alternative foreign-policy power center within the administration. Obama likes Biden, but the vice-president is no match for Hillary in mano-a-mano bureaucratic combat. For example, Clinton favored sending 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, while Biden opposed the move. The result: "She crushed him," according to Republican Mark Kirk of Ilinois. At the same time, National Security Adviser Jim Jones has been an utter cipher; when Time's Mark Halperin graded the Obama administration, he gave Hillary an A- ("significant, powerful, worldly, respected"), but had to give Jones an "incomplete." And Obama's presidential envoys, such as Richard Holbrooke in Afghanistan and Dennis Ross in Iran, are mostly old Clinton hands who aren't about to usurp any authority from Hillary.
And so on.
And Politico's Ben Smith, today:
It is an arrangement that, by all appearances, seems to suit Clinton and the Obama White House just fine, even as it has contributed to increasing chatter in foreign policy circles about her clout.
Some close observers think she has not done enough to preserve her department's influence, in part because several key issues-the Mideast peace process, Iran and Afghanistan - are steered by high-level envoys who work directly with the White House, albeit with coordination by State.
"You've got the empire of envoys that she acquiesced in, which sent into motion these little fiefdoms," said Aaron David Miller, a former longtime Middle East negotiator. "The general proposition is that in diplomacy and strategy, all power seems to be flowing away from the State Department.
And so on.
Those two reports aren't just inconsistent; they are nearly mirror-images of each other. Which is right? Are either? I don't know. But it's a useful reminder to take these types of stories with a grain of salt.