TONER TAKES A PASS! They wont discuss health care, Edwards said. Once again, Toner proves it: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, AUGUST 6, 2007
LETTING RUDY BE RUDY: Does it even matter what candidates say? According to the Post, Sundays GOP debate began with the days sharpest exchange; the dispute concerned an automated telephone call the Brownback campaign is running in Iowa. During this sharpest exchange, Brownback and Romney seemed to contradict one another, quite directly. But readers, which of the hopefuls was telling the truth? Heres how Michael Shear reports this exchange in this mornings Post:
SHEAR (8/6/07): The sharpest exchange was sparked by the first question of the morning, when Stephanopoulos played for viewers a recording of an automated phone call by Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.) attacking Romney's antiabortion credentials. The call said, in part, that Romney's wife had contributed to Planned Parenthood.That was Shears full account of this sharpest exchange. In Shears account, Brownback says that his campaigns phone call is truthful; Romney says "virtually nothing in [it] is true!" But Shear makes no attempt to help readers know who might have been telling the truth. The Brownback phone call makes three different charges; Shear only mentions one (the most trivial), and doesnt explain if its true or false. Readers cant even begin to evaluate the facts of this sharpest exchange.
Simply put, Shear—and the Post—dont seem to care if these candidates statements were true or false. But then, big news orgs rarely seem to care about the things candidates say. In a rare exception, Adam Nagourney does some modest fact-checking in todays Times. He seems to question Giulianis claim that, when he was mayor, he raised extra revenue by cutting taxes:
NAGOURNEY (8/6/07): In response to questions, the candidates said they would not support raising the gasoline tax to finance spending on the nation's roads and bridges in response to the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis last week...Nagourney seems to imply that the actual source of the added revenue was unrelated to the mayors tax cuts. But during this debate, a number of candidates went on at some length about the wonders of raising revenue by cutting taxes. As weve long noted, modern news orgs routinely wink at this iconic talk-show fantasy, letting the public be badly misled in the process. Will any news orgs fact-check this part of Sundays debate? Yes, they will—on the same day that the cow jumps over the moon.
Then too, there was socialized medicine. Candidates blathered on about the horrors of European-style health coverage. As usual, Giuliani bull-roared the most. (I know the Democrats get upset when you say this, but they are taking us toward socialized medicine. If we want to have the kinds of results they have in England or France or Canada or Cuba, then we should go in that direction. But that would be a terrible thing to do.) Will any news orgs present the simple, elementary facts about the actual kind of results produced by these low-cost, single-payer systems? The cow will have to jump the moon—and Neptune too—before you see such a thing happen. (More on this topic below.)
In short, it doesnt matter what candidates say! In our current arrangements, GOP candidates are allowed to say the darnedest things—and big news orgs just sleep-walk and stare. Yesterday, viewers were told that cutting taxes yields extra revenue—and they were told that the worlds top-ranked health care systems get horrific results. But so what? Our biggest news orgs will sleep-walk and stare, as they have done for so many years now. Your big news orgs will let Rudy be Rudy. After all, hes Americas mayor.
Does it matter what candidates say? In our sleep-walking press corps, the answer is obvious. They simply dont care whats true and whats false. Hopefuls can say the darnedest things; the journalists dont seem to care.
Special report: Edwards speaks!
BE SURE TO READ EACH THRILLING INSTALLMENT: In Iowa, Edwards spoke—and he seemed to define the work of the press. Read each thrilling installment:
PART 1: Off in Iowa, Edwards spoke. This morning, the punishment starts. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/1/07.In Part 4, we review the Times latest health care report—and we see the Times taking a pass.
PART 4—TONER TAKES A PASS: Did Edwards say they love to talk trivia? This weekend, we think he was wrong about lobbyists. But he certainly got that one right!
Item: Good grief! Gail Collins does it again! In Saturdays column, she threatened to talk about Romneys proposals—then talked about his dog instead! Her tribute to our ADD-style press corps: Most politicians acquire weird little bits of biography that you just cannot shake out of your mind.
Item: On Sunday, the Post goes front-page about Fred Thompsons wife! At the Post, the following counts as a news flash: [I]n 2005, the Internal Revenue Service won a $270,000 judgment against him. Him is Chip Alvey, Jeri Thompsons former boy friend! Alvey tells the Post that he hasnt spoken to Thompson in four or five years.
Item: On Sunday, the Times goes front-page about Wife of Rudy! Drawing Fire, Judith Giuliani Gives Her Side, says the headline. In part, this may be a response to Collins previous inane column—the one before her new column about Romneys dog, and after her disingenuous, Edwards-bashing column about those tangerines.
Item: On Sunday, the Post Outlook section continues its slide into Twilight Zone status, printing bizarre articles about 1) Scientology and 2) the world of black talk radio—and printing the latest otherwise pointless attempt to help us understand the fact that Fred Thompson = Ronald Reagan. On its front page, it prints this piece about how great it would be have Michael Bloomberg as president. This follows earlier front-page pieces about how great it would be to have Thompson as president—and about how great it would have been to have Jeb Bush in the White House.
You could possibly tolerate all this nonsense if these newspapers did some substantial reporting. But:
Item: In Sundays Times, Robin Toner takes another stab at the growing health care debate. (Last month, Toner penned a bizarre report, claiming that Republican candidates are stressing this issue as much as Democrats are.) As always, the Times directs light jibes at Michael Moore, even in the new reports headline. As always, Toner quotes Giuliani and Romney mocking socialist health care—without letting her readers know the worlds most obvious facts:
TONER (8/5/07): On the presidential campaign trail, similar ideological lines are being drawn. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, announced a plan last week to use tax breaks to encourage Americans to buy private health insurance. The major Democratic alternatives—proposed by Mr. Obama, former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina and Senator Hillary Clinton of New York—amounted to a ''trap,'' he asserted, a slide toward a socialist health care system.Absent-mindedly, Toner forget to tell her readers the things that very few of those readers know: That 1) those European-style systems are much higher rated than their American counterpart. And 2) they deliver that higher level of care for roughly half the cost. Better health care at half the cost! To state the obvious, these facts are simply remarkable—and nobody knows them! In Sundays report, Toner absent-mindedly forget to cite them again.
Once again, Toner forget to give her readers the worlds most obvious facts. As we read her piece, we thought, once again, of what Edwards had said when he spoke:
EDWARDS (7/26/07): This stuff's not an accident. Nobody in this room should think this is an accident. You know, I'm out there speaking up for universal healthcare, ending this war in Iraq, speaking up for the poor. They want to shut me up. They want—that's what this is about.Was Edwards thinking of the Post and the Times when he spoke? We dont have the slightest idea. But over the weekend, the nonsense continued. They fed us more of their silly, frivolous, nothing stuff—and kept refusing to provide basic facts about health care.
But then, increasingly, the rules are clear: No one (but Krugman) is allowed to mention the things that matter. Last month, it was Krugman who responded to Sicko in the obvious manner—by giving readers access to the worlds most obvious facts about health. Few Times readers know such facts—because no one but Krugman reports them:
KRUGMAN (7/9/07): [E]very available indicator says that in terms of quality, access to needed care and health outcomes, the U.S. health care system does worse, not better, than other advanced countries—even Britain, which spends only about 40 percent as much per person as we do.Omigod! The World Health Organization ranks the British health system 18 in the world—and the US system is ranked 37! And the Brits get those better results at about 40 percent of the cost!
Almost no one knows these facts—because people like Toner refuse to report them. Its just as Edwards said when he spoke. Tomorrow, well review what Krugman said when he spoke, back in 2005.
TOMORROW—PART 5: Krugman speaks.