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Daily Howler: It has been a very good couple of decades for pseudo-con hacks like McCaughey
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FLIGHT OF THE LIBERAL COLUMNISTS! It has been a very good couple of decades for pseudo-con hacks like McCaughey: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2009

You live inside a managed discussion: We thought Obama did several notable things in last night’s speech. Good God! A major Democrat stood up and said that the public is being handed lies! When has anyone ever done that? He even began to tell a Big Story, about the need for the nation’s government to regulate/supervise the nation’s Big Interests. This stands in contrast to the other side’s story: Big government never did anything right!

When did you ever see a Major Democrat do either one of those things? We’ll plan to discuss this next week.

That said, we thought one part of Obama’s address was remarkably bad. Late in the speech, he described the way health reform might bend that spending curve:

OBAMA (9/9/09): Now, add it all up and the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years, less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, most of these costs will be paid for with money already being spent—but spent badly—in the existing health care system. The plan will not add to our deficit. The middle class will realize greater security, not higher taxes. And if we are able to slow the growth of health care costs by just one-tenth of 1 percent each year —one-tenth of 1 percent—it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.

Now, this is the plan I'm proposing. It's a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight—Democrats and Republicans.

The highlighted statement describes a world in which both major parties have agreed that we are a corporate democracy.

Incredible! In a world where the following data obtain, Obama dreams of “slow[ing] the growth of health care costs by just one-tenth of 1 percent each year.” That’s an amazingly tiny goal in a world described by these data:

Total spending on health care, per person, 2007
United States: $7290
United Kingdom: $2992
Italy: $2686
Spain: $2671
Japan: $2581 (2006)

Look at those data—then look at that statement. Simple story: You live inside a corporate democracy, where the most laughable kinds of corporate looting won’t even be discussed. You also live inside a managed discussion. Every sector has agreed to avoid discussing what those data mean.

Go ahead: Explain it differently.

You live inside a managed discussion. Obama mentioned our comparative spending in passing last night, making his latest factual error. “Then there's the problem of rising costs,” he said. “We spend one-and-a-half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren't any healthier for it.” We do spend much more than any other country—although that statistic was blatantly wrong. More significantly: If we were spending that much more than any other country, why on earth would we only be seeking to slow the rate of growth—and only by the tiny amount described in that highlighted passage?

In our national pseudo-discussion, those comparative data get mentioned in passing. After that, they disappear. Every sector agrees: We mustn’t discuss their blatant and obvious meaning.

You live inside a bungled discussion: You also live inside a massively bungled discussion. Consider the Chicago Tribune’s recent attempt to describe the relative size of your nation’s health care spending.

We first saw the Tribune’s feature in the Baltimore Sun. It ran beneath a headline which grossly understates the central fact. (“Of industrialized nations, U.S. spends most on health.”) At any rate, this is the full Q-and-A about comparative health care spending in the Tribune’s feature. (To see the feature as it appeared in the LA Times, click here.) Kim Geiger and James Oliphant significantly bungle. But then, what else is new?

Q. It would be interesting if you compared the present cost of American health care based on a per-person basis, compared to the cost in Germany, France, Switzerland, and Japan. (I ask this question because I have read that they spend half our cost and live longer lives.)

A. Among industrialized countries, the United States spends the most on health care, both in terms of per-person costs and as a share of the economy.

Other countries such Germany, France, Switzerland and Japan have private providers and hospitals similar to the United States, but their insurance plans don't make a profit.

In Japan, per capita costs are estimated at $2,249, half of what we spend in the United States. France, ranked in 2000 by the World Health Organization as the country with the world's best performing healthcare system, spends $3,048 per person.

The U.S. ranked 37th in that study—just above Slovenia and below Costa Rica.

The reader, if there was a reader, was begging for information. She had heard that Japan spends half what we spend. She wanted to know if that was correct.

She went to the wrong place.

First, the less significant problem: Geiger and Oliphant are using OECD data for the year 2003. The data for 2007 have been in wide use for some time now.

The more significant problem: Japan does not spend “half of what we spend.” It spends considerably less than half. In 2003, Japan spent 39 percent as much as we did. (For the full set of data, click here).

The reader asked about spending and longevity. Geiger and Oilphant omitted the longevity—and bungled the spending.

It isn’t hard to give an accurate answer to that reader’s question. But as we told you yesterday: Journalists seem to be required to bungle this question. (Albert Brooks may have guessed why that is.)

We don’t spend “more” than comparable nations. We spend massively more. Japan doesn’t spend “half” what we spend. Japan spends much less than half.

Citizens deserve to hear such facts. Those facts are very important. It isn’t hard to state such facts—except for professional journalists.

Special report: Enabling the (un)real McCoys!

PART 3—FLIGHT OF THE LIBERAL COLUMNISTS: It has been a very good couple of decades for pseudo-conservative demagogues. There’s nothing such people can say or do to damage high-flying careers:

In 1994, Rush Limbaugh jump-started the ugly claim that Hillary Clinton had been involved in the death of her long-time friend, Vince Foster. Today, El Slimebo is still going strong. His claims only get more ludicrous.

At that same time, Jerry Falwell began pushing the claim that Bill and Hillary Clinton had been involved in a long string of murders. Falwell has moved on to his just reward. But he remained an honored figure on national talk shows until the time of his death.

In 1997, Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd invented the disastrous Love Story flap, dissembling and mind-reading as they did. (Michael Kelly and Mary McGrory pitched in. So did Cokie Roberts.) Today, they remain honored journalists. Rich remains a favorite of “liberals,” with no questions asked!

In this morning’s New York Times, the clownish fantasist, David Bossie, is moving toward his latest victory—in the U.S. Supreme Court!

It has been a good era for pseudo-conservative clowns. But no one’s story demonstrates this pattern quite the way Betsy McCaughey’s story does. Good God! Just consider this narrative:

In 1994, McCaughey invented ludicrous claims which took the Clinton health plan to defeat. Eventually, everyone came to understand that her claims had been grotesquely bogus. In 2006, The New Republic formally apologized for the fact that they’d ever published her piece. Even Andrew Sullivan, the editor who put it in print, has acknowledged that he knew it had problems.

(By the way: Sullivan has now been widely adopted as a furry liberal house pet. This has been a very good era for those who slime Big Dems.)

Back To McCaughey: Eventually, everyone knew that her claims against the Clinton health plan were bogus. And yet, this year, it happened again! McCaughey popped up with new tortured claims, this time about the Obama health plan—claims which roiled this year’s health care debate! McCaughey proves the pattern as few others can: In the past few decades, there has been no way that a pseudo-conservative can get herself discredited. No matter how clownish her claims might be, she will be live to clown another day.

Why in the world has this happened? What can possibly explain this disastrous cultural pattern?

For starters, consider the way McCaughey has been treated this year in the mainstream press.

To its credit, the New York Times has not rolled over and died for McCaughey this year. Indeed, McCaughey wrote her slick/slippery letter to the Times last week because she has been challenged and criticized in its pages—and this has happened quite a few times.

For starters, Rutenberg and Calmes smacked McCaughey around in this August 14 news report, which pulled few punches in its dismissal of the clownish “death panel” rumors. On August 25, Rutenberg was back, with a report on the way Ezekiel Emanuel has been slimed in the ongoing health care debate. Right at the start, Rutenberg noted that McCaughey has been “[l]argely quoting his past writings out of context this summer.” On August 26, local columnist Jim Dwyer profiled McCaughey, saying that she and Sarah palin “have driven some of the most disturbing, and distorted, claims about the [health care] proposals.” (Headline: “Distortions on Health Bill, Homegrown.”) On September 5, Rutenberg offered this unflattering profile of McCaughey and her endless buffoonism. In an early passage, Rutenberg captured the oddness of the age:

RUTENBERG (9/5/09): Ms. McCaughey's role as a central, if disputed, player in the national health care debate has surprised friend and foe alike, coming after a rise-and-fall story rare even by the standards of New York's wild and woolly politics.

Everyone is surprised to see her back! Translation: McCaughey’s serial clownishness seemed to have ended her career in the late 1990s. But this has been a very good age for pseudo-conservative demagogues.

It’s hard to say that the New York Times has looked away this time. The Washington Post has been different.

In the past few months, the Washington Post has gazed away, again, as McCaughey’s demagoguery has harmed the nation—again. On August 1, Ceci Connolly mentioned McCaughey one time in a front-page report about the “death panel” claims. Three weeks later, the Post’s editors battered McCaughey around pretty good in an editorial defending Ezekiel Emanuel. The following passage shows a key fact—the editors understand the oddness of this big kook’s resurrection:

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (8/22/09): The case against Dr. Emanuel, brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, stems from his writings on how to allocate medical resources in cases of scarcity—for example, who should get preferences for heart transplants or scarce flu vaccine. The furor was touched off when former New York lieutenant governor Betsey McCaughey, reprising her 1994 role as health-care misleader-in-chief, wrote an op-ed for the New York Post asserting that Dr. Emanuel advocates rationing care and believes "medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled." Dr. Emanuel's view, in Ms. McCaughey's caricature, boils down to: "Don't give much care to a grandmother with Parkinson's or a child with cerebral palsy." These statements distort Dr. Emanuel's thoughtful and nuanced positions. And they have even less to do with the pending health-care proposal.

The editors know that McCaughey was “misleader-in-chief” during the 1994 debate. They seem to see the irony and oddness in her return this year. But on the whole, this is a very forgiving culture for pseudo-conservative crackpot/dissemblers. McCaughey has been mentioned only one more time in the Post, completely in passing. The Post has never done a profile of our serial “misleader-in-chief.”

Remarkable, isn’t it? Acting as misleader-in-chief, you can bring down health reform in 1994. Fifteen years later, you can show up and do the same damn thing! But at a newspaper like the Washington Post, this seems to be viewed as business as usual. McCaughey got whacked once, in that editorial. But that has been where it ends.

This brings us to a third journalistic group: The weak-kneed, soft-headed men and women who get cast as our “liberal columnists.”

The Post and the Time are full of columnists who get advertised as “liberals.” None has stooped to tell the story of Betsy McCaughey this year. The big blowhard Rich worked hard, for years, to tell the world what a phony Gore was. (Through 2006! He pimped the crap about Clinton for years before that.) But neither he, nor Dionne, nor Cohen, nor Robinson, has been struck by the story of Betsy McCaughey—the serial misleader-in-chief.

You can lie about Dems as much as you like. These big weak blowhards won’t name you.

Thanks to the work of Potemkin liberals, this has been a very good era for pseudo-conservative hustlers like McCaughey. Such hacks have misled the public for decades. Of course, back in the Clinton-Gore years (and beyond), many of those liberal columnists were actively pushing the same story lines! They won’t likely step up to explain recent history to a bamboozled public.

The public needs to hear this story. “Liberal columnists” aren’t likely to tell it.

People like Rich, Dionne and Robinson have made life sweet for the phony McCoys. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the hapless way this era gets treated on cable. How can voters understand recent history when “liberals” all agree not to tell?