Andrea Mitchell to Sen. Bernie Sanders, moments ago:
"Why is this so important? Is it better to have nothing than to have a plan that does not include the public option?"
It seems to me that framing -- a choice between nothing and what liberals want -- is common, while conservatives don't face such questions in the health care debate.
So here's a challenge for Andrea Mitchell: The next time you interview a Ben Nelson or a Joe Lieberman or a Mary Landrieu or a Chuck Grassley, ask them "Is it better to have nothing than to have a plan that includes the public option."
The right-wing blogoshere remains a joke because it's led by dopes. (Simple answers to simple questions, right?) It's led by people like Andrew Breitbart who launched a site earlier this year, Big Hollywood, in hopes of leading conservatives out of the Internet wilderness. Supposedly, Breitbart got it. He got the blogosphere and pop culture and the future of mass communication, and he was going to help the Noise Machine play catch-up.
But it turns out Andrew Breitbart is just another right-wing conspiracy loon who couldn't get published anywhere that employed a fact-checker. Andrew Breitbart, as he proves week after week, is sorta nuts, which means the Rightroots movement will remain stuck in neutral as long as people like him are at the helm.
Behold the wonder as Andrew (call-me-Kenneth-Gladney) Breitbart explains how the world really works:
UPDATED: Here, a conservative writer laments Breitbart's constant embrace of (fictional) victimhood.
From the August 19 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
Goldberg actually scores extra points for hypocrisy because he embraces a blatant double standard while accusing others of having a double standard [emphasis added].
Now, I'm not asking you to do this so that you might be able to see through the glare of Obama's halo or the outlines of the media's staggering double standard when it comes to covering this White House. Rather, it is to grasp that the Obama administration has been astoundingly incompetent.
Lashing out at the town hall protesters, playing the race card, whining about angry white men and whispering ominously about right-wing militias is almost always a sign of liberalism's weakness - a failure of the imagination.
How has the Obama administration played "the race card" during the health care debate? Goldberg, as is his firm tradition of never actually practicing journalism, never bothers to explain or detail. He just likes the way the accusation sounds. Conservatives love to tar the other side by suggesting they have a habit of "playing the race card" and that it makes them weak and untrustworthy. Right-wingers like Goldberg can't stand it when folks start "playing the race card."
Except when Glenn Beck does it.
Except when Glenn Beck claims Obama has a deep seated hatred for white people and when Beck calls Obama a "racist." When Beck recent unfurled that shocking race-card claim, Goldberg (a frequent guest on Beck's show) shifted into apologist mode and quickly explained to National Review readers why it was perfectly acceptable. The way Goldberg saw it, if Goldberg thought the President of the United States was a racist, than he ought to say so. If Beck thought the incendiary claim was true, than Beck practically owed it to his fans to play the race card. Hard.
So to review: Goldberg concocted his claim the White House was "playing the race card" and then condemned the phantom ploy. This, just weeks after Goldberg defended Beck's race-based smear of Obama.
Great work, National Review.
UPDATED: Don't know if Goldberg is still on his comical search for Nazi and Hitler posters, references, etc. among town hall mini-mob members (he claims they don't exist), but if he is, he might want to check this latest viral sensation. And yes, she's a "conservative" "Republican."
By insisting on a government-run plan, liberals have played right into the hands of Republicans who aim to defeat any reform by mischaracterizing it as a government takeover.
Here's the thing: If Republicans are going to try to defeat any reform by mischaracterizing it as a government takeover, any reform you offer can be said to play into their hands. Their willingness to mischaracterize what you propose means that it doesn't matter what you actually propose; they'll mischaracterize it as a government takeover regardless.
Pearlstein's argument is blame-the-victim nonsense that is typical of the way the media has approached decades of Republican lies. Sure, they'll say, Republicans and the media distorted Al Gore's comments throughout the 2000 election -- but he shouldn't have given them the opening by being imprecise. Nonsense. People who are willing to lie about you and make things up don't need an opening to do so.
But reporters would rather blame the victim than acknowledge who is really to blame: Politicians who spread falsehoods, and the media who repeat them or do a lousy and ineffectual job of correcting them.
Maybe Pearlstein will understand if I put it this way: By Pearlstein's logic, his column opposing a public plan gives me an opening to point out that he's secretly on the payroll of health insurance companies who oppose a public plan.
Except I just made that up. Why would Pearlstein blame himself for something I made up?
From Times blogger, and Laura Bush's former flak, Andrew Malcolm [emphasis added]:
Now that they've seen Paris together this summer, you can also scratch Arizona's Grand Canyon off the Obama family's list of must-see sites.
The Chicago clan spent a little more than three hours Sunday not hiking but looking out at the large hole in the ground created by the Colorado River over more years even than Joe Biden served in the U.S. Senate. (See video below, much shorter than three hours.)
That kind of snide, derogatory language seems to be way out of bounds for a mainstream news outlet, especially considering Malcolm is a devoted critic of the Obama White House, and that the right-wing is pushing the claim that Obama is a corrupt Chicago pol.
Wednesday's New York Times article about the possibility of Democrats pursuing health care reform without Republican cooperation contains this passage:
The Democratic shift may not make producing a final bill much easier. The party must still reconcile the views of moderate and conservative Democrats worried about the cost and scope of the legislation with those of more liberal lawmakers determined to win a government-run insurance option to compete with private insurers.
Gee, reading that, you'd never know that Kent Conrad admits his co-op plan wouldn't do much to bring down costs, would you? Or that inclusion of a public plan -- which the conservatives are balking at -- would lower costs?
In fact, nothing in the article so much as hints at either of those things.
Just another way the media gives conservatives credit for wanting to control costs, even as they oppose policies that would actually do it -- and, thus, stack the deck against a public plan.
Health Care For America Now (HCAN) argues that a change in the NBC/Wall Street Journal's wording of a key poll question about health care reform produces skewed results.
In June, the NBC/WSJ poll asked:
In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance--extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important?
76 percent said it was extremely or quite important to include such a plan in health care reform.
In July, NBC and the Journal changed their wording:
Would you favor or oppose creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies?
That produced a much more negative response. There are indications that the new NBC/WSJ out this evening will repeat that July wording, with similar results.
Here's HCAN's take, backed up by quotes from two pollsters:
These polls are not comparable. The first poll (June) accurately framed the question - should people be able to choose a public health insurance option. The second poll (July and August) pushed them towards an answer by leaving out the essential question of choice and asking a yes or no question.
On Hardball earlier this evening, NBC's Chuck Todd claimed that they changed the wording because the word "choice" "biased" the question.
Todd didn't explain what is "biased" about describing a plan that offers people a choice between a public plan and private insurance as offering a choice between a public plan and private insurance.
Aside from the absurdity of describing the original question as "biased," it is important to note that the first question frames the topic of a public plan in terms of its effect on consumers -- it indicates that they would have a choice between a public plan and private insurance. The new wording frames it in terms of the plan's effect on private insurance companies by emphasizing that they would face competition. The new wording is only passingly about consumers.
It should come as no surprise that a poll question that adopts the insurance companies' point of view yields results less favorable for a public plan than one that focuses on the impact on consumers.
UPDATE: NBC posts a response -- sort of:
NBC pollsters Peter Hart (D) and Bill McInturff (R) released the following statement: "The only agenda that we have is to accurately measure changes in public opinion. To that end, we selected two questions which we think are the best barometers of how and if attitudes on health care are changing in view of the robust public debate that is occurring."
Peter Hart and Bill McInturff have forgotten more about polling than most of us will ever learn -- but their response is, well, non-responsive. First, they make no effort at all to defend the new wording, or to explain why they think it is better than the old. Second, if you're trying to measure "changes in public opinion," it helps to have a consistent question to track over time.
It should also be noted that NBC's Chuck Todd and Mark Murray misrepresent the wording change in their introduction to the Hart/McInturff statement:
Liberals and progressives -- including Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office and the group Health Care for America Now -- have raised questions why our poll measured whether Americans supported the "choice" of a public/government option in June, while in July and this month it removed "choice" and simply asked whether Americans favor or oppose the option.
The July and August polls didn't simply remove the word "choice," as Todd and Murray claim. It completely changed the perspective of the question, as I explained above. The original question focused on impact on the consumer; the new question ignores that in favor of a focus on impact on insurance companies.
NBC's Chuck Todd, a few minutes into a discussion with Chris Matthews about health care polling:
When you actually give them the president's plan, a majority approve of it, when you lay it out.
Well, that would seem to be a pretty key point, wouldn't it? That polling showing a lack of support for health care reform is based on a lack of understanding of it, and when it is spelled out for people, they approve of reform?
And yet Matthews and Todd quickly moved on, with Matthews asking why Democrats don't just give up already and pass whatever Chuck Grassley and Joe Lieberman want. Matthews doesn't seem to think the policy merits matter, doesn't seem to think informed public opinion matters -- he just wants Congress to pass a bill with the words "health care" in it.
This is a little old, but it's a valuable glimpse at how committed the media elite is to the idea that both the Left and the Right are equally guilty of whatever sins are relevant at any given moment -- and into the consistent failure of the media to accurately describe the Right's approach to public policy. Here's the New York Times' Gail Collins a few weeks ago:
I like partisanship. What I don't like, and what nobody likes, is the brain-dead variety we see in Congress where the minority party would rather make a bill worse in the hopes that it would fail than make it better in case it passes. So the Republicans make it impossible for the Democrats to put cost controls in the health care plan by howling "rationing!" And back when the Democrats were in the minority, they made sure that any attempt to contain the cost of entitlements was immediately branded "destruction of Social Security."
As Matthew Yglesias explained last week, the Bush administration was described as trying to destroy Social Security because ... it was trying to destroy Social Security.
But don't take Yglesias' word for it, or mine. The Bush administration itself admitted their proposals were not about improving the solvency of the Social Security system. They admitted it would have no effect whatsoever on solvency.
And yet Gail Collins clings to the notion that Republicans were simply trying to "contain the cost of entitlements," and "brain-dead" Democrats unfairly accused them of trying to destroy Social Security.
There's something brain-dead in all this, but it isn't Democrats' opposition to Bush's Social Security schemes. It's the knee-jerk assumption that both sides must be equally guilty of everything; it's the blind faith -- in the face of all evidence to the contrary, including their own admissions -- that the Republicans were simply trying to ensure Social Security's solvency. They weren't. They were trying to dismantle it. It didn't have anything to do with solvency. They even said so!