Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Health Care Tuesday: Brooks Brothers Edition

DougJ: This should be fun

Somewhat unexpectedly, at least to me, my part of the world has turned into a hotbed of teabag activity. There was a major tea-ruption at a recent Dan Maffei (NY-25) townhall meeting and a friend just forwarded me an email from some winger mailing list about plans to teabag all of Eric Massa’s (NY-29) townhall meetings. I’m hoping to get friends to send me a lot of good footage of this.

Now, I have to be honest, I’m afraid there is a real fear of a teabagger going too far and doing something violent. But I also think that best chance to stop from happening is to turn this into a political liability for Republicans and that probably involves mockery.

Marc Ambinder
sees the teabagging as a righteous display of God-fearing middle-American anger (neo-birfer Sully apprently agrees). The key with all of this is how it gets framed. If it continues to be framed as righteous red-state anger, it will probably continue until a teabagger shoots someone. If it’s mocked as the delusional right-wing craziness that it is, maybe it will be nipped in the bud.

  • DougJ on Brooks Brothers 2

    I’ve been hearing this around the comments here and elsewhere all day. One of Josh Marshall’s readers describes it quite well:

    I’m surprised that it’s your Republican pal that has to make this point: The precedent on the anti-health care protests isn’t Bush’s Social Security town hall meetings. The real precedent is the “Brooks Brothers riot” during the 2000 recount. The point is to create disorder, but get the media to cast blame on the underlying issue and NOT the protesters.

    That’s what happened during Florida: The “blame” was on the “chaos” created by the “unfair” counting methods brought on by Al Gore’s call for “selective” counting. No blame was focused on the young GOP activists upsetting the process.

    I’d like to try to do a little research on how the Brooks Brothers riot was treated at the time by the media. I do remember a WaPo columnist or reporter showing a picture and having readers ID the Brooks Brothers rioters—they all turned out to be Republican operatives —but other than that, I don’t remember much. Was it largely portrayed as the sham that it was? I’m guessing not.

  • from the comments:

    Sentient Puddle

    $20 says that if you flip the scenario and it was Democrats creating the chaos, the predominant coverage would be on the mischievous Democrats, not on the chaos.

  • The two people quoted in the second piece are Marc Ambinder and a guy from astroturf outfit FreedomWorks.

GOP thugishness August 3: During many town hall meetings, Democrats got ambushed about health care. Apparently the new conservative talking point is to push a "town hall gone wild" strategy. Do they really think this is going to get legislators to vote against the health care reform bill? Rachel Maddow is joined by MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson.

I always appreciate it when major news outlets do fact-checking items. They're often important, not only in helping news consumers separate fact from fiction, but also in offering at least some incentive for politicians and policymakers to tell the truth.

And in the context of the debate over health care reform, it's especially helpful, since so much of the discourse is dominated by ridiculous falsehoods. This AP piece from Charles Babington has the right idea, but has one key problem.

Confusing claims and outright distortions have animated the national debate over changes in the health care system. Opponents of proposals by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats falsely claim that government agents will force elderly people to discuss end-of-life wishes. Obama has played down the possibility that a health care overhaul would cause large numbers of people to change doctors and insurers.

Paul Krugman noted, "So Republicans are claiming that Obama will kill old people: meanwhile, Obama isn't going into all the wonky details about possible voluntary responses to the plan. Clearly, both sides are equally guilty of distortions!"

Right. Obviously, in any debate, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is the goal. On the other end of the spectrum is outright, bald-faced lying. In between, there are some gray areas, with degrees of spinning, shading, and fudging the truth, some of which is more offensive than others.

But there have to be some considerations for severity and detail. When House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) says reform "may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia," is that true? No, he's lying. When Rick Santorum says the House reform bill "is very specific that private insurance would be ended," is that true? No, he's lying, too. When House Republican Caucus Chairman Mike Pence says refom "will literally cost nearly a trillion dollars in higher taxes," is that true? No, he's lying, too. When President Obama hedges on a possible, hypothetical outcome involving how insurers might respond to an improved system, is he lying? Not really, no.

The AP report documents a series of health care-related claims, some of which are lies and some of which are, at best, sketchy. But looking over the larger debate, it seems pretty obvious that opponents of reform are making demonstrably, transparently false claims, while proponents of reform are making optimistic predictions that may or may not pan out.

What the article seems reluctant to tell us, however, is that there's a qualitative difference between the two. One side is lying; one side isn't. Reality may have a well known liberal bias, but there's nothing wrong in pointing out when a debate is dominated by those who feel compelled to base their case on falsehoods.


I'll give Sen. Mike Enzi credit for one thing: he has an overabundance of chutzpah.

Last week, Enzi the conservative Wyoming Republican who is part of the Senate Finance Committee's gang of six, said his little group's deal couldn't be tampered with after they're done with it. He issued a statement explaining that he "needs commitments" from the White House, the Speaker, and the Senate Majority Leader that the center-right compromise "will survive in a final bill that goes to the president." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) rejected Enzi's demands 24 hours later.

Today, Enzi had a new thought to share.

One of the three Republican senators working on a bipartisan agreement on healthcare reform legislation flatly denied Monday the Democratic claims that negotiators had set a mid-September deadline to complete their work.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), one of six senators on the Finance Committee working on the bill and also the ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, pushed back hard at assertions by Senate Democrats that the bipartisan group has vowed to complete its work by Sept. 15.

"I have not and will not agree to an artificial deadline because I am committed to getting healthcare reform right, not finishing a bill by some arbitrary date," Enzi said in a statement issued just minutes into a meeting on the bill in the offices of Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

Enzi, who no one has ever called a moderate, thinks six centrist and center-right senators should just keep talking, indefinitely, until there's a health care reform bill that Republicans are satisfied with in the Senate with a 60-vote Democratic majority.

On Friday, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said there's no reason to keep the talks going forever. The committee will move forward on Sept. 15, whether GOP lawmakers are satisfied with the legislation or not. The goal, apparently, was to spur some action from Republicans who might want a deal, but aren't in a rush. As Jonathan Chait noted, "[T]he only way those Republicans, except maybe Olympia Snowe, will support a bill is if they think there's a strong chance that Democrats will pass an even more liberal bill without their input. This would give them some incentive to compromise, but zero incentive to compromise quickly. Indeed, they have a strong incentive to drag out the negotiations as long as possible."

Enzi, in effect, told Baucus today, "I prefer to drag out the negotiations as long as possible."

Krugman had a good item last week, reinforcing a point that's too often overlooked: "The central fact of the health care debate is that there is essentially no agreement on anything -- values, philosophy, vision of how the world works -- between the two sides. Progressives want universal coverage, and see an expanded government role as essential to getting there. Conservatives believe, in the face of all evidence, that free markets are the answer. And Enzi is very conservative. According to Vote View, my site for left-right rankings, Enzi was the 8th most conservative Senator in the last Congress -- almost in the same league as Inhofe or DeMint. This is the quest for bipartisanship gone stark raving mad."

sgw: If You Don't Think There's A Problem...

Check out Republican Congressman Peter King here talking to MSNBC's Carlos Watson saying that the American people really don't care all that much about health care reform. Thankfully the DCCC caught it on tape and are going to use it against him.

Here is yet another clear example of why people don't want Republicans running the country anymore. The American people have been clear that they want health care reform and they want it now. Not only that but we NEED health care reform if we ever want to see the lower deficits. But Republicans don't care. They just think killing it will give them a political boost.

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