INFORMATION NO LONGER EXISTS! We were surprised by a factual claim about the Senate abortion provision: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, MARCH 15, 2010
Last call on a fascinating topic: We hope we wont visit this topic again. But we were fascinated by a statement from Fridays Maddow program.
Rachel Maddow was speaking with Annabel Park, founder of the Coffee Party movement. Park wants to create a more civil discourse. Maddow explained why thats an impossible dream, given the way some people arepeople like kooky Ben Nelson:
Poor Rachel! She tries so hard to be civil herself! But its very hard to do with people like Nelson around!
Rachel described an interview with Nelson about the 2009 stimulus package. In the interview, Nelson said school construction was one of the single, most purely efficient economically stimulative things that you could ever do, Maddow told Park. But omigod! He also then said he wanted less school construction in the stimulus bill. Rachel was flabbergasted!
So were we, when we looked at the transcript of Maddows interview with Nelson. But then, were often flabbergasted when we fact-check this cable talkers claims about things other people have said.
The interview in question occurred on February 9, 2009. Maddow raised the question of school construction three times, making a perfectly decent point: $15 billion in school construction had been removed from the stimulus bill, reducing the amount of stimulus included in the overall package. But Nelson never said anything dimly like the statement Maddow put in his mouth Friday night. If you doubt that, heres the transcript. Go aheadread the whole thing. (The interview with Nelson is about half-way in.)
We dont think weve ever seen anyone who misstates the truth in such matters to quite the extent Maddow does. On Friday, she did help us enjoy a good mordant chuckle. We cant have civil discussion due to people like Nelson, she complained. To prove her point, she baldly misstated what Nelson had actually said.
By the way, this is the way Maddows conversation with Nelson ended last year. Earlier, Nelson had claimed that the school construction money had to be cut to win Republican votes for the package. (Without those votes it couldnt have passed, since Democrats had only 58 votes at the time. He also said he agreed with some of their views on the school construction matter.) In closing, he alluded to this earlier claimand Maddow said she understood:
Maddow understood the political argument. (They had to drop the construction funding to win those Republican votes.) She appreciated Nelson coming on the show to talk, even though he knew she disagreed with him on the policy.
Nelson had been civil! Thirteen months later, Maddow was baldly misstating what Nelson had saidand she was telling Park that we cant have civil discourse with people as goofy as Nelson.
Weve never seen anyone quite like this. Should progressives really let GE select our leaders for us?
INFORMATION NO LONGER EXISTS (permalink): Here at THE HOWLER, we had mixed reactions to this mornings New York Times editorial about abortion coverage in the Senate health bill.
On the one hand, we share the editors concern that a handful of House Democrats who oppose abortion may end up defeating the bill. (The editors still think that perhaps a dozen House Democrats who voted for the House version may end up switching their votes over the abortion coverage issue.) On the other hand, we tend to be annoyed at the type of high-blown talk with which the editors open their piece:
The editors strongly support a woman's right to choose. They fail to mention that about half those 30 million people who will gain health coverage under the bill will gain it through enrollment in Medicaid, which doesnt allow abortion coverage at all. (Except in the seventeen states which provide such coverage out of state funds.) Medicaid recipients are lower-income people, as compared to the people who will get subsidies under this bill. Often, they simply cant afford to pay for an abortion, even though a first-term abortion is not an expensive procedure. Weve been puzzled and unimpressed in the past six months as fiery liberals who strongly support a womans right to choose thunder about the rights of middle-lass people who will get federal subsidies, but fail to mention why they never say boo about Medicaid restrictions.
They strongly support the right to choose? Or do they support that right for middle-class women, when it gives them a chance to posture?
In todays editorial, the editors thunder, clatter and wail, repeating some of the least likely claims made by those who oppose the Senate restrictions. On the third hand, the editors offer the following account of the Senate provision. Some of this seemed new to us:
Sorry. We just dont think its hugely complicated to write, or receive, two checks, not one. Were disinclined to credit claims made by people who thunder so loudly about such minor provisions. (This is a good way to make sure that others wont take you seriously.) That said, we were surprised by the passage we have highlighted above. Under the Senate bill, states could ban insurers on the state's exchanges from offering policies that cover abortion? In other states, insurance companies were required to offer a plan which excludes abortion coveragenot so for a plan which includes it?
We werent sure we had seen those provisions discussed before. We decided to make a search of the New York Times news coverage of the Senate provision.
Does information exist in our culture? Does it even remain as a concept? Well have to admit, we were a bit surprised by what we found in our search.
Its always dangerous to make claims about what hasnt appeared in a newspaper. In any search, some reports can be missed. Its safe to say that X, Y or Z has appeared. Its tricky to say that X, Y or Z hasnt appeared.
That qualification offered, we found amazingly little attempt to provide news coverage of this Senate provision. In theory, everyone agrees that health reform could fail due to the ongoing dispute about the Senate abortion language. That said:
Can you find a stand-alone news report in the Times explaining the Senate abortion provision? It seems strange, but we had to go all the way back to December to find such a report. And yes, we found two short descriptions of the matter we have highlighted above. This is Robert Pear, five days before Christmas, as the Senate bill neared passage:
On December 26, David Kirkpatrick reported this same provision: The Senate bill, approved Thursday morning, allows any state to bar the use of federal subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortion and requires insurers in other states to divide subsidy money into separate accounts so that only dollars from private premiums would be used to pay for abortions. But as best we could tell, that was the last time the Times reported this part of the Senate bill. Needless to say, there has been no reported discussion of how this provision would work in actual practice. By the way: Does this Senate provision differ from the Stupak language in the House bill, or from the original Capps language? Three days before Christmas, Alec MacGillis reported this part of the Senate bill in the Post, but he added a point:
That makes it sound like five states already have bans under state law which would eliminate abortion coverage in the exchanges. Would those bans also have eliminated such coverage under the Capps or Stupak provisions?
Our point about this is simple: Our two biggest newspapers have made virtually no attempt to explain how this Senate provision would work. Most likely, we read those fleeting reports at Christmas-time, although it was a time when we were on the move. But even in recent weeks, there has been virtually no attempt tin the Post or the Times to examine the way the Senate provision would work. On March 5, the Post did offer this front-page, stand-alone report, in which MacGillis described the abortion provisions in the Senate bill. But alas! Go ahead and read it! The fact that states could decree that no plans including abortion coverage be provided on the exchange in their state wasnt mentioned this time.
How would this provision work? Your big newspapers havent tried to explain! Your culture is very long on thunderand very short on explanation. Very few things ever get explained, though we do hear lots of loud noises.
By the way, one last time: Why arent the fiery editors upset about the millions of people who will get added to the Medicaid roles? They wont be getting abortion coverageand many of them will be too poor to pay for the procedure. Why dont the editors ever thunder for them? Today, the editors are upset at the thought of middle-class women being forced to write two separate checks. How about the rather tougher circumstances faced by low-income women?
We understand that the Medicaid precedent is quite clear, while there is no real precedent for subsidized coverage. But how strongly do the editors really feel if this problem never gets discussed?