From today's Washington Post editorial, "Scare Tactics Evade Debate on Real Health Care Issues":
EZEKIEL EMANUEL, one of President Obama's top health advisers, is a respected bioethicist who opposes euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. When the Supreme Court was considering the constitutionality of state laws that prohibit physician-assisted suicide, Dr. Emanuel was an outspoken opponent of the practice. He warned it could be abused "to justify using euthanasia for children, the incompetent, the mentally ill, and others who are suffering or who we imagine are suffering in some fashion." So it is grotesque that Dr. Emanuel has become the latest bogeyman -- the "Dr. Death" behind the "death panels" -- for opponents of the Obama administration's push for health-care reform.
Dr. Emanuel's writings reveal him to be a thoughtful person grappling with difficult ethical issues. The same cannot be said of his critics, who seem less intent on discussing what is in the health reform proposal than in deploying scare tactics to defeat it.
From Washington Post columnist Bill Kristol's August 31 Weekly Standard column:
Conservative policy wonks helped to explode the false budgetary and health-improvement claims made on behalf of Obamacare. Conservative polemicists pointed out how Obamacare--conceived in the spirit of budget chief Peter we-spend-too-much-as-a-nation-on-health-care Orszag and adviser Ezekiel we-need-to-stop-wasting-money-on-extending-low-quality-lives Emanuel--means, in effect, death panels.
So good for them.
Good hire, guys. Clearly a welcome and valuable addition to the Post family.
And yes, Kristol "deploying scare tactics to defeat" the health reform proposal rather than "discussing what is in" it was entirely predictable.
That's the sub-head that runs below today's "Prescriptions" column in the Times. (Online, "Prescriptions" is a Times blog devoted to the health care debate.) But one of today's "Prescriptions" items does absolutely nothing in terms of "making sense" of the debate. In fact, the Times item simply helps keep alive the phony "death panel" claim.
The item recounted the Daily Show appearance this week by Betsy McCaughey, who was a prime architect of the "death panel" lie; that the federal government, under the Democrats' proposed reform, would be in the business of selectively killing old people. On the show, host Jon Stewart called her out on the bogus claim, and McCaughey held her ground, insisting her sci-fi fairy tale was true:
But Mr. Stewart, at times reading from the same pages, argued otherwise. "It seems like this bill is allowing people more control over their lives, and that your reading of it is hyperbolic and in some cases dangerous," he told her.
Ms. McCaughey remained politely unfazed.
Period. End of report (Online, the item continued a bit longer.) In a column that claims to be "making sense of the health care debate," the Times left open the question whether the "death panel" claim was true. The Times simply reported on how Stewart and McCaughey disagreed over the matter.
The Washington Independent highlights Betsy McCaughey's resignation from the board of directors of Cantel Medical Corp., a medical products company, to "avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest." McCaughey's resignation coincides with her attempt to revive her false end-of-life counseling smears on The Daily Show.
According to Cantel's press release:
LITTLE FALLS, N.J., Aug 21, 2009 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX News Network/ -- CANTEL MEDICAL CORP. (NYSE: CMN) announced that on August 20, 2009 it received a letter of resignation from Ms. Elizabeth McCaughey as a director of the Company. Ms. McCaughey, who had served as a director since 2005, stated that she was resigning to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest during the national debate over healthcare reform.
Big surprise, right? Former Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge admits in his upcoming book that he was pressured by very senior Bush White House officials to raise the nation's terror level warning and to do it for purely for political reasons.
The story's a big deal and it's been widely reported and commented upon in the last 24 hours. Except at GOP-friendly Fox News, of course, which continues to play dumb about the news story.
According to TVeyes.com, since the terror level story broke yesterday, CNN has mentioned "Tom Ridge" on the air at least 41 times, MSNBC has done it 62 times, and CNN's Headline News, which covers fewer stories each day, mentioned "Tom Ridge" 18 times so far.
Any guesses for Fox News? Did I mention FNC was playing dumb on an epic level?
If you guessed t-w-o, you are correct. According to TVeyes, Fox News has been able to almost completely ignore the Ridge story. It basically does not exist. Four sentences. To date, that's been the sum total of Fox News' reporting on the Ridge controversy. The four sentences were aired on Thursday's Special Report, which was then re-broadcast during the overnight.
BTW, the other cable channels continue to cover the Ridge story today and by midnight I'm guessing MSNBC's total mentions of Ridge will approach 80-90, while CNN's will likely top out around 60. But if I had to place my money, I'd bet that Fox News' two reference will stand firm throughout the day.
Tom Ridge? Never heard of the guy?
Chris Cillizza: I think that McCain still holds serious power within the party despite the fact that he lost the 2008 presidential fight.
He is the best known Republican -- with the possible exception of his 2008 ticketmate -- in the country and when he speaks on an issue I think there is an audience for what he has to say.
As I wrote this morning, McCain has largely been shut out of the health care debate but I do think that how he positions himself has some influence over how some of his colleagues -- particularly the Senate moderates -- look at the bill when Congress comes back next month.
Um ... What?
Let's take these explanations in order. "McCain still holds serious power within the party"? Really? When did he ever hold "serious power" within the Republican Party? Even when they nominated him for President, he couldn't choose his own Vice-Presidential nominee.
There's an audience for what McCain has to say? Well, that's true: Washington, DC-based reporters. That has always been his audience.
McCain's health care positioning may have some influence over how "the Senate moderates" behave? Really? Given that the so-called "moderates" are already digging in their heels in opposition to a public plan, it doesn't seem like they're waiting around for McCain to weigh in.
Or perhaps Cillizza thinks McCain is going to come out in favor of a public plan, and bring some so-called "moderates" with him? That would be quite the surprise, given that McCain has been staunchly party-line in his Senate votes this year -- even voting with his Republican colleagues more reliably than Mitch McConnell. Yes, the same Mitch McConnell who is the Senate Minority Leader. And more reliably than Jon Kyl, the GOP whip. When you're a more reliable footsoldier for your party than the person who holds the job of keeping the party in line, you aren't much of a moderate or a maverick.
I'm sure Cillizza really believes all these reasons. But that doesn't mean they make the least bit of sense.
Brent Bozell's team is going to hate this first-person account by conservative journalist Conor Friedersdorf. He not only laments the constant state of victimhood espoused by the right-wing, but demolishes the notion that conservatives are somehow cast out of liberal newsrooms.
In fact, some journalists interviewed for the piece said it was a professional advantage to be conservative:
J.P. Freire, an editor at the Washington Examiner, is one young conservative journalist for whom this rings true. "I think it's kind of an ace in the hole," he says. "As a conservative in a liberal field, you come up with angles other people don't consider, get stories no one else thinks of doing." Freire wrote for a movement publication in college, worked as managing editor of the American Spectator (where he is now a contributing editor), and before that at the New York Times, where he served as an assistant to former op-ed columnist John Tierney. Later, he was offered a job heading up the team of Times newsroom assistants, which he's long regretted having turned down. "I liked the environment. I thought everyone was fine, and I was openly conservative," he says. "The reporters I talked to seemed very fair. I think most of them knew they were to the left and tried to control for it."
Eddie Barrera has had a slightly different experience. He's an editor at Adotas, a Web magazine devoted to media and technology. A onetime New York Post reporter who later worked for The Los Angeles Newspaper Group, rising from staff reporter to desk editor, Barrera says that though it may have once been true that conservatives had a tough time getting a fair shake, it's no longer the case. "As far as the bosses I've had, I've been treated very well in my career," he says. "I'm pretty outspoken, and I haven't always been treated well by all of my colleagues. But it hasn't hurt my advancement." Asked how he'd advise a young person starting out in the field, Barrera says that one rises in accordance with one's talent and work ethic.
Last night, Sean Hannity contemptuously declared that "it's obvious that the White House has done some focus groups and they've done some polling" because President Obama is now referring to "health insurance reform" and using "Republican words" like "choice" and "competition." Turning up his nose at this "clearly market-tested" language, Hannity implies that conservatives don't need to use such a "Madison Avenue media campaign" because their proposals are popular with the American people.
This is, of course, the same Sean Hannity who has hosted Frank Luntz -- who has built his career on using focus groups and polling to find the words that turn public opinion -- nine times in the last nine weeks. Luntz hasn't been on Hannity's show to share his vast knowledge of the intricacies of the health care system; he's been there to impart wisdom like this:
LUNTZ: There's something that came up. The language that's used before, you're calling it a public option, which is what the White House calls it. Are you sure it isn't a government option. It's sponsored by the government and paid for by the government. It's one of the most important points in this entire debate.
If you call it a public option, the American people are split. If you call it the government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it.
HANNITY: You know what? It's a great point. And from now on, I'm going to call it the government option, because that's what it is. I mean, it's not -- it's the public option, but it's known in the vernacular that's been used pretty much in the press, it's been that option. So that's a great point.
That happened on August 18, two nights before Hannity discovered his hatred for "market-tested" language. On the other hand, Luntz's office is in Alexandria, Virginia, not on Madison Avenue, so I guess that's totally different.
Here's how MNSBC's Andrea Mitchell just described Tom Ridge's statement that the Bush administration played around with terror alerts and threat levels for political purposes:
"Former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge is accusing former Bush officials of trying to use the politics of fear to get President Bush re-elected in 2004."
This is a grotesque understatement. Ridge's claims, if true, don't merely mean that Bush aides tried "to use the politics of fear" to win re-election. They mean the Bush administration put American lives at risk in order to win votes.
Baselessly screwing around with the terror alerts make people take them less seriously. If there is any merit at all to those alerts, their efficacy is lessened by the actions the Bush folks allegedly took.
Describing that as simply "using the politics of fear" is absurd. Saying "If you vote for the other guys, they won't keep America safe" is "using the politics of fear." Changing the terror threat levels for political purposes is reckless and dangerous; an abdication of their responsibility to govern according to the public interest rather than their political interest.
But to media elites, it's just a question of whether maybe the Bushies got a little rough in the way they practiced politics. Nonsense.
UPDATE: This attitude, by the way, helps explain the major media's reluctance to "look back" at what the Bush administration did. They seem to think it's no big deal; the Bush folks were just a little too aggressive politically. Well, no, that isn't really the problem at all.