Thursday, August 27, 2009

Republican Positions on Healthcare Reform - the straight face test FAILED

Today we finally got some clarity on the Republican Party’s official position on healthcare reform. That clarity came from Party Chair Michael Steele, in a morning drive time radio interview. The interview, on today’s Morning Edition on NPR was full of all sorts of contradictory double speak by Mr. Steele, and a lot of defense when Inskeep tried to call him on it. I hope NPR posts a transcript today, so that I can update this with quotes and highlights. The transcript is now HERE

In a nut shell, Mr. Steele proposed in a recent Washington Post Opinion piece, that we preserve Medicare as it currently exists, not impose any cost controls, but refrain from creating further government run healthcare. Mr. Steele’s point today, which is more nuanced then his written word, is that Medicare exists, it has been here for 40 years, so we shouldn’t mess with it. Republicans, he said, still oppose government run healthcare, though he failed miserably to explain how Republicans reconcile to two diametrically opposing views. Mr. Steele was consistent in his interview, however, that current healthcare delivery, including the “bureaucratic” decisions of private insurers relating to treatment availability, is just fine with him. Even the Post’s Steven Pearlstein – he of capitalism is generally the preferred answer – said this is bunk.

This isn’t the first times Steele has said flat out that government can’t do anything right – like create jobs – even while the market in which he places his faith fails so miserably to do what America needs. Mr. Steele has bought the Social Darwinist construct lock, stock and barrel. And as the spokesperson for the Republican Party, he gave us two important messages today.

First, if you are a baby boomer, you needn’t worry – the Republicans are going to take care of you by allowing Medicare to continue, and allowing it to swallow an ever large portion of our tax dollar. And if you are everyone else, Republicans will throw you into the market, despite a classic market failure, because government has NO BUSINESS delivering healthcare (except when t already does).

Even more telling, however, is that Mr. Inskeep tried harder then most journalists to dig into these contradictions. Already, the NPR commentors are dissing him for having the audacity to question Steele’s assertions. I sent an email to the show through their comment section letting him know I appreciated it.

I want to award a thousand bonus points to Mr. Inskeep for his interview today with Michael Steele. Mr. Inskeep did not, as too many in the MSM do these days, let Mr. Steele's contradictory assertions go unchallenged, and Mr. Inskeep managed to keep his cool (I can imagine him turning of the mike to laugh) even when it became exceedingly clear that Mr. Steele was speaking from both sides of his mouth.

FYI, I'll be blogging this later today at http:/

Keep it up!

Frankly, I think that if more journalists did this, we’d all be better off.

Contrast that with an email exchange I had with the Washington Post Ombudsman, Andrew Alexander over the same Op-ed:

There are rare instances when Post ombudsmen have addressed issues on the editorial page. But that has not often occurred. Indeed, a few months ago at the annual meeting of the international Organization of News Ombudsmen (incredibly, there is such a thing), none of those attending said they venture into editorial page matters. One reason is that you inevitably get bogged down in unresolvable debates over the validity of opinions. That said, I know that my predecessor wrote once about a lack of gender diversity on the editorial page. And there are a few similar issues that I may tackle. But they're pretty low on my priority list. Thanks again for writing.

Best wishes, Andy Alexander

Washington Post Ombudsman

Philip H 08/26/2009 03:38 PM


Subject RE: Michael Steele's op-ed on healthcare reform

Mr. Alexander,

Thanks for your prompt response. Given Mr. Hiatt's track record in the aforementioned George Will incidents, I am not at all confident that he would be open to my concerns. I understand your primary mission is to the newsroom, but if the Washington Post is going to have only one Ombudsman, that person may need to wade into the water of Op-Ed from time to time. Turning a blind eye to the Editorial Page (and thus to something that has enormous influence on how the paper as a whole is perceived) may not be in the Post's long-term circulation interests.


Philip L. H


CC: ombudsman@washpost.comSubject:

Re: Michael Steele's op-ed on healthcare reformDate: Wed, 26 Aug 2009 15:26:14 -0400

Thanks for writing. As the news ombudsman, I focus on the news pages. You may wish to redirect your e-mail to Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt (

Best wishes, Andy AlexanderWashington Post Ombudsman

Philip H 08/26/2009 12:44 PM

To cc

Michael Steele's op-ed on healthcare reform

Mr. Alexander,

As one of the legions of the Post's on-line readers (who also buys the Early Sunday Edition nearly every week at the news stand rate), I am aghast that your Editorial Pages would print the recent editorial by Michael Steele on the Republican's take on healthcare reform. Just as is the case with Mr. George Will's many columns on global climate change, Mr. Steele's piece is riddled with factual inaccuracies; it is in essence a bag of lies meant to derail meaningful reform. The Post holds itself out as a standard barer in print journalism, but the decisions to print these pieces, even as Op-Eds, reeks of sycophantic solicitousness of certain well moneyed, business oriented groups, most of whom have absolutely no interest in what is really the best thing for all Americans.The Post needs to do better in handling these. And your column and blog alone, while good at pointing out the factual errors, doesn't cut it. I'd really hate to have to switch to the New York Times to get my DC area news, but if this shoddy, blatantly partisan hacking that passes for journalism continues, I fear I will be left with no choice.


Philip L. H

Unlike Mr. Inskeep, and NPR, Mr. Alexander ducked any responsibility, essentially conceding that anyone can print any unfounded lie on the Editorial pages and he won’t go after it. I suspect he’s still feeling burned from the George Will affair earlier this year. And while I do feel a modest bit of sorrow for Mr. Alexander – he does have to work there, after all, the whole reason that Mr. Steele believe he can go on NPR and not be challenged on his statements is that people like MR. Alexander will not work on our behalf to keep him honest in other media venues.

Thus the healthcare “debate” rages on with little of substance for Americans to consider. Maybe it is better that Senator Kennedy is now gone, so he doesn’t have to watch this ugly, un-American episode in our history play out.

Over at Almost Diamonds, Stephanie talks about what "Pre-existing conditions" really mean in the health insurance "market." What I find so interesting about her comments, especially in light of Mr. Steele's position on behalf of the Republican Party, is that she illustrates the significant economic impacts that the current health insurance structure has on the U.S. If, as the Republicans postulate over and over, the U.S. is at its best when small business are opened, then removing barriers to that entrepeneurship SHOULD be important to Republicans. Stephanie's position illustrates how the Republican adherence to totally free markets stiffles that small business creation, by perpetuating a significant barrier - namely the exorbitnat cost of health insurance for small business owners. That Republicans are willing to do this -in the name of regional and national insurance companies that are, essentially, monopolies, should tell you something about how Free Market oriented they really are.


Here's who isn't served by the current market oriented approach. She has my daughter's eyes. And were my daughters not automatically covered by my plan, the older two would likely not have insurance, as they both have asthma and the middle one has a heart condition as well. Thanks to Stephanie for making the video for me to crib.