BETSY MCCAUGHEY ALL OVER AGAIN! Deja vus are widely found as we get our butts kickedagain: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, AUGUST 27, 2009
Bob Schieffer rolls over and dies: Last Sunday, we made a point of watching Face the Nation. Charles Grassley was going to be a guest. We wondered if Bob Schieffer would challenge the GOP grandee about the things he had said in Iowa.
Confronted with Grassleys disgraceful misstatements, Bob Schieffer rolled over and died. Schieffer, your capitals supposed nicest guy, rolled over and died for Chuck Grassley.
Surely, everyone has seen at least some of what Grassley said. On August 12, in an outdoor appearance in Winterset, Iowa, he made the following statement to a crowd of 300 people. These were truly disgraceful remarks. Apparently, the remarks were simply too disgraceful for a certain host to acknowledge:
Those were disgraceful remarks. (To watch Grassleys statement, click here.) Grassley didnt used the term death panel, but he may as well have. There is counseling for end-of-life in the House bill, he said. And from that standpoint, you have every right to fear. He plainly suggested that people in Washington/people in Congress want to pull the plug on grandma. (Like Joe McCarthy, he was much too fair-minded to name these people.) He seemed to say there may be a government program that determines youre going to do that.
Along the way, Grassley misstated the simplest facts of the bill. You shouldn't have counseling at the end of life, he said. You ought to have counseling twenty years before you're going to die. But of course, the counseling in the House bill can occur as early as age 65, as soon as someone becomes eligible for Medicare. Grassley made it sound like the counseling in question only occurs right at the end of life. Assuming that Grassley is minimally competent, he was deeply dishonest this day.
Until he went on Face the Nation, when Schieffer rolled over and died, thus letting the grandee escape.
Just a guess: Grassleys remarks had been criticized to the point where Schieffer felt he couldnt ignore them. But when he played tape of what Grassley had said, he cut his tape way down. Viewers saw only a sliver of Grassleys remarksso tiny a fragment that Grassley could then lie his keister off about what he had meant by his statement. In his long rambling reply to Schieffer, Grassley is essentially lyingand Schieffer is positioning himself to put his feet in the air:
I know the Pelosi bill doesn't intend to do that, Grassley said, in his long rambling statement. (To watch the full exchange, click this.) He pretended he only said what he said because his constituents, who didnt understand the bill, were fearful of what it contained. He was relieving their fears! But quite plainly, that wasnt the intention of Grassleys statement that day. Plainly, he seemed to tell his frightened constituents that they were right to be fearful about the House bill.
Just a guess: No one in Winterset thought that hed been told that the House bill had no plug-pull provision. People in Winterset thought theyd been told that they did have something to fear.
Grassley was lying in Schieffers face. And Schieffer, refusing to challenge this nonsense, now put his feet in the air. He himself introduced a construction which let Grassley wriggle away:
Feet in the air, toe tag showing, Schieffer let the grandee escape. In Winterset, Grassley plainly suggested that this legislation would pull the plug on grandma. But so what? Schieffer let him pretend different. Grassley then offered that barely-coherent mess about doctors tak[ing] advantage of earning that $8 billion and constituents see[ing] that as an opportunity to save some money. In that ramble, Grassley engaged in some slick counter-messaging: In that statement, he still made it sound like voters might be right to fear that bill.
Schieffer poses as Washingtons nicest guy. In this passage, he refused to serve his function. But then, this is the man who moderated one of Bushs debates in 2004, even though his brother, Tom Schieffer, was one of Bushs top ambassadorseven though he himself was a long-time friend of Bush. In the past, the buddies took trips to spring training togetherbut the press corps agreed not to mention these facts. Schieffer thus ran a presidential debate in which one candidate was his personal friend.
On Sunday, Schieffer rolled over and died. One wag said that Schieffer complied with an order from a Grassley death panel.
PART 3BETSY MCCAUGHEY ALL OVER AGAIN: Melinda Henneberger was certainly right on one score (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/26/09). Barring miraculous changes, the same thing is happening all over again. Scanning the current health care debate, she pondered this puzzling, sad situation on last Thursdays Hardball:
It looks like the same thing is happening all over again, Henneberger said, voicing puzzlement. A day or two later, we thought of her comment when we reread James Fallows famous 1995 piece about the defeat of the Clinton health plan.
Fallows piece appeared in the January 1995 Atlantic Monthly (click here). It bore a sadly accurate headline: A Triumph of Misinformation. Regarding that misinformation, the piece carried this synopsis:
The American public was badly misinformed about what was in the Clinton health plan! Before we examine the source of that misinformation, lets marvel at how little has changed from that day to this.
Again and again, Fallows piece reads like something he could have written last week, about the fate of Obamas health plan. Talk about your deja vu! Fifteen years later, little has changed, just as Henneberger said. In many ways, its worse than that: We seem to be reliving history.
Lets run through some of the points of deja vu which litter Fallows important piece:
*Single-payer: Single-payer was ruled out at the start, Fallows wrote. [President] Clinton was dead set against a single-payer plan, arguing that it would require sweeping new taxes and would, in effect, abolish the entire medical-insurance industry. Sound familiar?
*Americans spend twice as much: Along the way, Clinton had to switch his sales strategy. Heres where Clinton had started:
Americans spend about twice as much money per capita? Seventeen years ago, as he campaigned, this is what Clinton had stressed! But according to Fallows, the administration had to switch its approach in 1994, as its efforts began to fail in the polls. According to polling, most people...believed that the plan would drive costs up, not downand so the Administration adopted a pitch which stressed the benefits of the plan to the individual. In effect: Whats in it for me? This prefigured the change is sales strategy Obama presented at his July 22 press conference.
*The need for sixty votes: Good God! The Administration's original strategy was to rush the health plan through as part of its first budget-reconciliation bill, Fallows wrote. The genius of this approach, little noticed by the public, is that it would have allowed the health plan to pass with a simple majority vote. How little has anything changed? In reality it takes sixty votes to end a filibuster, Fallows wrote, so Bill Clinton knew that the Senate's forty-plus Republicans could stop nearly any legislation they chose. This plan had to be dropped, Fallows wrote. The Senate's majority leader, George Mitchell, endorsed this strategy, but its de facto parliamentarian, Robert Byrd, objected, scuttling the plan.
*Bright early prospects: At first, the plans prospects seemed good. Here, let Fallows tells you:
Remember the heady days of August 2008, when the late Senator Kennedy addressed a roaring Democratic convention about the cause of my life? Remember the early polling on health reform, in this very year?
At this point in his famous piece, Fallows began to explain how the Clinton plan died. At this point, Hennebergers comment becomes unassailable: Now it looks like the same thing is happening all over again.
What happened to the Clinton health plan? For one thing, it was met by some silly objections which were politically potent. Deja vu, anybody? In one potent example, opponents claimed the plan was too long and too complex. It took to long to read the plan! The bill had too many pages!
The Clinton bill had too many pages! Fallows notes how phony this claim really wasbut the objection worked. Fifteen years later, this same objection has been aimed at Obamas planand it has proven quite potent.
But most of all, the Clinton health plan was buried under a mountain of misinformation, Fallows said. Now it looks like the same thing is happening all over again? In this case, even the names have remained the same in the last fifteen years!
Good God. Liberal lethargy and incompetence are tremendously powerful things! Your side of this fight is so inept, the same person who invented the bull about Clintons health plan has now done the same thing to Obamas! In this passage, Fallows describes what happened in 1994. But then, the same damn thing just happened, in the past few months:
Read the full piece to see how false McCaugheys claims were in those days. (Simple answer: Very false.)
Today, George Will restricts himself to groaning misstatements about climate change. But many others have taken his place in the health care fight. As the New York Times described in this detailed piece, many others have actively pimped Betsy McCaugheys latest misinformation. Most famously, Sarah Palin turned McCaugheys latest nonsense into that colorful death panel claim. If we might borrow from Fallows language:
The idea of death panels has stuck.
Truly, the situation we have described is a tribute to liberal incompetence. Fifteen years later, the same damn things have happened againexecuted by the very same people! McCaughey first destroyed health care in 1994. But so what? Your liberal world is so completely incompetent that, fifteen years later, she was able to waltz back out onto the stage and destroy health care again! Jon Stewart made her look foolish last week. But how did McCaughey still have enough credibility to lead the triumph of misinformation again?
More on that question to come.
Henneberger hit the nail on the had: The same thing is happening all over again, right down to the names of the players. It takes a truly incompetent movement to get taken apart this wayagain, but fifteen years later! We think of the questions which appeared last week during Rick Perlsteins on-line discussion (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/26/09). Lets recall what two questioners asked:
It isnt just that we get our keisters kicked by ridiculous and blatant falsehoods. We liberals get our keisters kicked by the same ridiculous falsehoods, from the same people, at fifteen-year intervals! Fifteen years later, the very same people say the very same things. On our side , were still unprepared to counteror preventsuch attacks.
Last week, Rick was asked a very good question: Why is our side so bad at this game? That may be the worlds most important question. Tomorrow: Ricks reply.
Tomorrowpart 4: What Rick said.
Next week: Ruminations on messaging.